Tag Archives: Seoul

Uber

UberTAXI Launches in Seoul, But Is It Legal?

by REERA YOO

Despite ongoing battles with Seoul’s city government and transport ministry, Uber has recently launched a new app called UberTAXI that allows Seoul residents to hail registered cabs, reported the Wall Street Journal.

Uber has contracted an undisclosed number of Seoul cabbies, who will receive a subsidy of 2,000 won ($1.8) per ride booked using the UberTAXI app, said a Seoul-based spokeswoman. She added that the new service was launched without consulting the city beforehand.

Seoul authorities have repeatedly cracked down on the California-based company’s services, claiming that they are illegal under local law. The city government has already banned the company’s premium limo service, UberBLACK, in July and started cracking down on UberX, a service that connects everyday drivers with passengers. In an apparent effort to drive Uber out of Seoul, the city is even planning to launch its own taxi-hailing app with features similar to UberTAXI.

However, Uber claims it has complied with all of Seoul’s local regulations and said that it services have increased business in Sinagpore, Tokyo and Hong Kong by up to 40 percent.

Despite the constant bans and pushback from Seoul, Uber said its long-term goal is to contract licensed freelancers in Seoul.

Photo courtesy of BusinessTech

Jeans

Seoul’s Jeans Exhibit Showcases History of Defiance and Style

by JAMES S. KIM

Fashion comes and goes, but denim has stood the test of time, and for many cultures, it has also stood as an icon of youthful defiance and identity.

South Korea is no stranger to jeans, but many don’t know about its humble beginnings and are unaware that the garment was first introduced to Koreans by U.S. soldiers after the Korean War. A new exhibition at the National Folk Museum of Korea in Seoul aims to show the modern generation the history of denim, from its introduction to how it became a symbol for Korean youth in the 1960s and ’70s.

Although the exhibition has a number of antique pieces, the focus is on the impact of jeans in Korea. Vanya Lee, the lead curator for the exhibit, told the Korea Herald that she interviewed nearly 500 people, mostly ordinary Korean citizens, for their own personal stories about wearing jeans.

Lee Jae-yeon, 68, was the first model to pose in jeans in Korea. He recalled in a media clip that plays in the exhibit that it was difficult to get a pair at the time, as the only jeans came through U.S. military suppliers.

By the ’70s, jeans were more commonplace, but they were unpopular and often criticized by the older generation. Singer Yang Hee-eun, whose 1971 debut album depicts her wearing a denim shirt and jeans, said other singers refused to stand on the same stage with her because she was wearing jeans.

Jeans2

Aside from old denim and interviews, the exhibition also showcases artworks by San Francisco artist Ben Venom and jeans from North Korea. There is also a recreation of a ’70s/’80s Korean music cafe, where young folks in jeans often hung out.

The exhibition runs at the National Folk Museum in central Seoul until Feb. 23 of next year, and admission is free. Check www.nfm.go.kr for details. If you’re in the area, be sure to check it out!

Jeans 3

Images via National Folk Museum of Korea

2_1

How ‘E-Sports’ Outgrew ‘Real Sports’ in South Korea

by STEVE HAN

FC Seoul, one of South Korea’s most popular professional soccer teams, collected about $500,000 in prize money in 2012 after winning the K-League, the country’s top flight soccer competition. Last week, Samsung White, a team of professional video gamers (yes, video gamers), took home $1 million for its win at the world championship for League of Legends, one of the world’s most popular PC games, which was held at the Seoul World Cup Stadium — home of the South Korean capital’s professional soccer team.

South Korea’s top professional gamers are regarded as national stars among its younger generation. The popularity of “e-sports” has long surpassed the likes of traditional sports such as soccer and baseball in South Korea. While FC Seoul’s average attendance per home game at the Seoul World Cup Stadium this season is 18,183, the same venue was filled with more than 40,000 spectators, who came to cheer on Samsung White as its players went on to defeat rival Star Horn Royal Club, a team which consists of three Chinese players and two Koreans.

Professionalization of e-sports has steadily made its way to the U.S. and Europe in recent years. At last year’s League of Legends world championship, around 11,000 people flocked to Staples Center in L.A. while an estimated 32 million streamed the games on various online platforms, including ESPN3.

But e-sports’ popularity in South Korea, where the phenomenon was born in the late 1990s, is unmatched. Naver, the Korean equivalent of Google, has its own section on the sports news page that’s solely devoted to covering the results of various competitions and other developing stories of the star gamers.

“Pro gaming exists in its current form and size in large part thanks to the people who made it possible in South Korea,” Dutch pro gamer Manuel Schenkhuizen told the New York Times. “Other countries took years to catch up and are to this date trying to mimic some of their successes.”

The quirky phenomenon of e-sports in South Korea was sparked by its government’s effort to recover from the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s. Then President Kim Dae-jung and his administration saw an opportunity in Korea’s growth potential in telecommunications and Internet infrastructure. As Korea’s Internet technology developed exponentially, online gaming became mainstream among young people, thanks to the increase in broadband availability and high connection speed that made it all possible.

By the early 2000s, PC bangs (Internet cafes) were introduced in the corner of nearly every neighborhoods in South Korea and became a popular hangout, especially for teenagers. It was the PC bang culture that cultivated a community of gamers, a phenomenon that’s comparable to professional basketball players whose journey started as street ballers in New York or street soccer players from South America

Professional leagues for PC games, mainly Star Craft, soon took off, and the Korean E-Sports Association was founded with the backing from the government. Korea’s TV stations began covering the games and developed an avid following to make e-sports a legitimate brand, so much so that the country’s leading conglomerates, such as Samsung, began sponsoring the gamers.

South Korea’s method of promoting e-sports, which started by fostering a local community of gamers and their supporters, could even become a reference point for many of its traditional sports, including soccer. While soccer remains a popular sport in Korea, the country’s national soccer team is often criticized for failing to meet the public’s expectations at international tournaments like the World Cup. In addition, there is a lack of organization and support for the sport’s growth at the grassroots level in terms of investment and strategic planning.

Today, e-sports has become such a big part of the daily lives of South Korea’s young people that it’s something many teens follow just to “fit in” and maintain their sense of belonging. Some have taken the culture to extreme measures, as evidenced by occasional news about young gamers dying of exhaustion after playing their favorite PC games for too long without resting. Alarmed by their addiction, the South Korean government began enforcing a law that prohibits children under 18 from playing online games at PC bangs after 10 p.m.

But Korean E-Sports Association chairman Jun Byung-hun told the New York Times that rather than frowning upon young people’s incessant passion for e-sports, it’s important for the older generation to make an effort to embrace the culture of their children. Jun recently took the initiative to help parents understand that e-sports isn’t necessarily detrimental to their children’s studies by convincing Chung-Ang University, one of Korea’s top colleges, to start admitting students based on their successful gaming careers.

“The best way to avoid addiction is for families to play games,” Jun said. “In Korea, games are the barometer of the generation gap. The best way to avoid addiction is for families to play games together.”

Featured image courtesy of Game DongA

South Korea Concert Accident

K-pop Concert Planner Found Dead in Apparent Suicide After 16 Die

KIM TONG-HYUNG, Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A South Korean man involved in planning an outdoor pop concert where 16 people were killed after falling through a ventilation grate was found dead Saturday in an apparent suicide, officials said, as doctors treated eight others facing life-threatening injuries from the disaster.

The man, 37, an employee of the Gyeonggi Institute of Science and Technology Promotion, was found dead at around 7 a.m. in Seongnam, the city south of Seoul where Friday’s accident occurred, said city spokesman Kim Nam-jun.

The site of his death was not far from where 16 people watching a performance by 4Minute, a girls band that is popular across Asia, were killed when the ventilation grate they were standing on collapsed. Eleven other people were seriously injured.

It was believed that the man, who was questioned by police Friday night over the accident, leaped from the top of a 10-story building, police inspector Park Jeong-ju said.

Gyeonggi Institute of Science and Technology Promotion was one of the sponsors of the concert, which was organized by the news site Edaily and was part of a local festival. About 700 people had gathered to watch the concert, which was abruptly halted after the accident happened.

In a televised briefing on Saturday, Seongnam City spokesman Kim Nam-jun said there was a possibility that the death toll from the accident could rise. Of the 11 people treated at hospitals, eight were dealing with life-threatening injuries to the abdomens or lungs, Kim said.

Most of those who were killed were men in their 30s and 40s, while five were women in their 20s and 30s, fire officials said.

Photos of the accident scene showed a deep concrete shaft under the broken grate. Kim said it was believed that the grate collapsed under the weight of the people.

A video recorded by someone at the concert that was shown on the YTN television network showed the band continuing to dance for a while in front of a crowd that appeared to be unaware of the accident.

Dozens of people were shown standing next to the ventilation grate, gazing into the dark gaping hole where people had been standing to watch the performance. YTN said the ventilation grate was about 3 to 4 meters (10 to 12 feet) wide. Photos apparently taken at the scene showed that the ventilation grate reached to the shoulders of many passers-by.

The collapse came as South Korea is still struggling with the aftermath of a ferry disaster in April that left more than 300 people dead or missing.

For a time, the sinking jolted South Korea into thinking about safety issues that had been almost universally overlooked as the country rose from poverty and war to an Asian power.

The tragedy exposed regulatory failures that appear to have allowed the ferry Sewol to set off with far more cargo than it could safely carry. Family members say miscommunications and delays during rescue efforts doomed their loved ones.

Analysts say many safety problems in the country stem from little regulation, light punishment for violators and wide ignorance about safety in general — and a tendency to value economic advancement over all else.

___

Associated Press writer Youkyung Lee contributed to this report. Photo courtesy of Lee Jin-man/AP. 

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 
South Korea Concert Accident

16 Dead After Ventilation Grate Collapses at K-pop Concert

KIM TONG-HYUNG, Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Sixteen people watching an outdoor pop concert in South Korea fell 20 meters (60 feet) to their deaths Friday when a ventilation grate they were standing on collapsed, officials said.

Photos of the scene in Seongnam, just south of Seoul, showed a deep concrete shaft under the broken grate.

Seongnam city spokesman Kim Nam-jun announced the deaths in a televised briefing and said 11 others were seriously injured.

Fire officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of office rules, said the victims were standing on the grate while watching an outdoor performance by girls’ band 4Minute, which is popular across Asia.

About 700 people had gathered to watch the concert, which was part of a local festival. Fire officials said many of the dead and injured appeared to be commuters who stopped to watch the concert after leaving work. Most of the dead were men in their 30s and 40s, while five were women in their 20s and 30s, they said.

Kim said it was believed that the grate collapsed under the weight of the people. Prime Minister Chung Hong-won visited an emergency center in Seongnam and urged officials to focus on helping the victims’ families and ensure the injured get proper treatment, Kim said.

A video recorded by someone at the concert that was shown on the YTN television network showed the band continuing to dance for a while in front of a crowd that appeared to be unaware of the accident.

Dozens of people were shown standing next to the ventilation grate, gazing into the dark gaping hole where people had been standing to watch the performance. YTN said the ventilation grate was about 3 to 4 meters (10 to 12 feet) wide. Photos apparently taken at the scene showed that the ventilation grate reached to the shoulders of many passers-by.

The collapse came as South Korea is still struggling with the aftermath of a ferry disaster in April that left more than 300 people dead or missing.

For a time, the sinking jolted South Korea into thinking about safety issues that had been almost universally overlooked as the country rose from poverty and war to an Asian power.

The tragedy exposed regulatory failures that appear to have allowed the ferry Sewol to set off with far more cargo than it could safely carry. Family members say miscommunications and delays during rescue efforts doomed their loved ones.

Analysts say many safety problems in the country stem from little regulation, light punishment for violators and wide ignorance about safety in general — and a tendency to value economic advancement over all else.

___

Associated Press writer Youkyung Lee contributed to this story. Photo courtesy of AP/Yonhap.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

duck

Giant Rubber Duck Goes Flat in Seoul

by REERA YOO

After its highly anticipated installation, Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman’s famous giant rubber duck was found deflated in Seokchon Lake, next to Lotte Group’s mega shopping complex.

According to the Korea Real Time, the duck inflated initially but started leaking air around mid-afternoon Tuesday. A Lotte official told the media that there was nothing wrong with the duck itself as the problem was with the air pump.

“It is being repaired now. It won’t take long before it becomes fully inflated again” the official said.

Despite Kim Jong-un’s reappearance after being missing for over a month, the famous yellow duck’s demise was the biggest news on South Korea’s social media Tuesday, reported the Korea Real Time. Here are some of the Seoul onlookers’ humorous reactions on Twitter.

“On its first day, the rubber duck feels grumpy.”

“Real ducks are watching the rubber duck”

“The death of the rubber duck is taking place… Don’t die”

“The rubber duck is temporarily taking a rest. Please give it strength so it can wake up soon!”

“We are coming to rescue you!”

Later that night, the giant duck was back on its webbed feet, fully inflated. Spectators, who were previously disappointed by the art project’s collapse, expressed their relief and excitement on twitter.

“After taking a nap, I can’t go back to sleep.”

6

Seoul Mayor Wants South Korea To Legalize Same-Sex Marriage

by STEVE HAN

Park Won-soon, the mayor of the South Korean capital Seoul, openly admitted that he supports same-sex marriage, sparking fierce debate in the country that still remains largely homophobic.

In an interview with San Francisco Examiner during his visit to the U.S. last week, Park said that he hopes to see South Korea become the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage. Although Park acknowledged that struggle for social acceptance that homosexuals face in South Korea will likely persist, he stressed that it is imperative for the country to protect the constitutional rights of its people.

“Many homosexual couples in South Korea are already together,” said Park. “They are not legally accepted yet, but I believe the Korean Constitution allows [same-sex marriage]. We are guaranteed the rights to the pursuit of happiness. Of course, there may be different interpretations to what that pursuit means.”

No Asian country currently allows same-sex marriage as of now, but Taiwan may be the first country to do so after its legislature recently began considering a bill to legalize it. When asked if he believes Taiwan could be Asia’s first Gay-friendly country, Park reportedly replied, “I hope Korea will be the first.”

As expected, Park’s interview drew heavy controversy back home. Shortly thereafter, he backtracked on his comments through a Seoul city official, clarifying that he was merely voicing a personal opinion rather than declaring that he will seek legalization of same-sex marriage. He also added that he did not use the word “hope” to express his wish for South Korea’s legalization of same-sex marriage.

Nonetheless, Park’s earlier comments shouldn’t come as a surprise to those familiar with the former human rights lawyer’s career in South Korean politics. As Park was running for reelection last year, he issued a permit for a gay parade led by more than 10,000 people in Seoul’s downtown amid strong opposition from Christian protesters, hundreds of whom blocked the street.

Christians comprise nearly one-third of the population in South Korea, a conservative country where Protestant churches are immensely influential. In a poll conducted by Gallup Korea last year, 67 percent of those surveyed said they oppose the legalization of same-sex marriage while only 25 percent said they would support it.

By his own admission, Park remains skeptical over the possibility of South Korea’s legalization of same-sex marriage, but he has been rather resilient in making an organized effort to raise awareness of LGBT issues in South Korea. In 2001, Park established the Beautiful Foundation (Park left the foundation in 2010 to run for mayor), which reportedly has been funding LGBT groups.

But critics still argue that Park is endorsing same-sex marriage as a tool to win political favor. They say that by promoting himself as a progressive thinker who supports same-sex marriage — in addition to free government health care for all Seoul residents, civil rights for undocumented immigrants and free lunches for students at public schools — Park is simply setting himself up against the country’s conservatives to garner public support among the young voters as he’s vying to run for the 2017 presidential election.

Although the majority of South Koreans oppose same-sex marriage, the perception has already changed among the younger generation. In the same Gallup Korea poll that showed 67 percent of the survey participants oppose same-sex marriage, 52 percent of those between ages 19 and 29 said they are in support while only 38 percent of them opposed the idea.

“Protestant churches are very powerful in Korea [so] it isn’t easy for politicians [to endorse same-sex marriage],” Park reportedly told the San Francisco Examiner. “It’s in the hands of activists to expand the universal concept of human rights to include homosexuals. Once they persuade the people, the politicians will follow. It’s in process now.”

Click here to read a related KoreAm feature story about South Korean efforts to support LGBTQ youth.

Image courtesy of Seoul Labor Party

Giant Rubber Duck

Giant Rubber Duck To Visit Seoul Amid Construction Tensions

by JAMES S. KIM

The world-famous, giant rubber duck will visit Seoul in what may be the highest-profile foreign visit to Korea since Pope Francis arrived via Kia Soul in August.

Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman’s 300-kg (~660 lbs), 54-foot tall giant rubber duck will be on display for one month, beginning Oct. 14, in Seokchon Lake, next to Lotte Group’s controversial construction project in Seoul.

The site hasn’t been all too popular with anyone lately. The city has demanded additional safety and transport measures before allowing it to open, and the general public wasn’t too happy about the sinkholes that appeared in the area as well as the drop in water level in the lake. Neither the holes or water decline have been linked to the construction of the complex, but they certainly haven’t helped its image.

The rubber duck has drawn millions of visitors since it began touring around the world in 2007. According to its official website, The Rubber Duck Project is intended to “heal wounds” and relieve tension.”

Image via Rubber Duck Project Seoul