The fifth season of CNN’s travel show Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknownpremiered Sunday night, opening the episode with a scene of Bourdain nursing a bottle of soju alone at a pochangmacha, or a street food vendor.
“So, we begin at the end. After a wild week in Seoul, there was, I believe, something called ‘soju’ involved,” Bourdain says, retracing the previous evening’s activities as the entire episode plays in reverse, Memento-style. “Like returning a dog returning to its own vomit, I keep flashing back to—what was it, last night? The night before?”
During his epic weeklong trip to South Korea, Bourdain eats a couple of adventurous dishes, including beondegi (silkworm larva) and sannakji (live octopus), as well as some all-time favorites like Korean-style fried chicken, barbecue and budaejjigae (army base stew). Needless to say, endless glasses of soju and beer were consumed.
In the episode, the host also partakes in mukbang (eating live-streams), sings karaoke with a group of salarymen and plays an online game in a PC bang.
“PC bang sounds like a male porn star, I know,” Bourdain says, as his Red Riding Hood avatar gets slaughtered during an online gameplay. “But this one has a smoking lounge and a well-stocked snack bar.”
As for what he believes defines Korean culture, the host tells the viewers that it is “the drive to succeed–a churning engine fueled by decades of han, a remarkable ability and a remarkable willingness to anticipate the future.”
You can watch the full episode below:
To learn how to make budaejjigae, watch Bourdain cook the dish for Anderson Cooper below:
South Korea announced on Wednesday that it would attempt to salvage the Sewol ferry that sank last year, killing 304 people, most of them high school students.
Last April, the overloaded ferry capsized off the southern coast of Jindo island, and it now lies 144 feet below sea level. Described to be “severely weakened” by the Ministry of Public Safety and Security, the vessel weighs more than 6,000 ton, considering the weight of water, mud and cargo.
The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said on Wednesday that it had submitted acomputer simulation that showed that the ferry could be raised by using offshore cranes to slowly lift the vessel off the seafloor and move it onto a floating dock, according to the New York Times. It estimated that the operation would take 12 to 18 months and cost up to 150 billion won (US $138 million).
Salvage operations are expected to commence in September, according to the public safety ministry. The ministry hopes to recover the bodies of nine missing victims from the sunken vessel while minimizing risk to the divers.
Since the Sewol ferry disaster, bereaved families have urged the South Korean government to salvage the ship and even rejected compensation.
On the one-year anniversary of the disaster, tens and thousands of protesters rallied at Seoul’s Gwanghwamun Plaza, denouncing the government’s poor handling of the maritime disaster.
Riot police used water cannons and pepper spray to break up the crowd, arresting dozens of protesters on Sunday, reports the Associated Press. More than 70 police buses were used to barricade streets leading to the Blue house.
A British Korean War veteran has donated 10 military medals to South Korea on Tuesday in honor of the country and its people.
William Speakman, 87, presented a total of 10 medals he earned during his 23-year-long military career to the South Korean people on Tuesday, three of which were awarded for his service in the Korean War over 60 years ago, Yonhap News Agency reported.
One of the donated medals was the Victoria Cross (VC), Britain’s highest military decoration for valor. Among the four former soldiers who received a VC for their heroism during the Korean War, Speakman is the sole living holder of the medal.
“I donate my medals to the people in South Korea because what they have done since the war finished has really touched me,” Speakman said in a press conference at the War Memorial of Korea in Yongsan, according to the Korea Times. “They rebuilt South Korea. I am very proud of what [they’ve] done.”
Although the original VC awarded to Speakman is currently preserved in the War Memorial in Scotland, the replica will be on display at the National War Memorial in Seoul, alongside nine other medals the veteran has donated, including the British Korean War Medal and the United Nations Service Medal. Speakman said that they will hopefully serve as reminders of the past.
“I sincerely hope that the future generation of South Korea will follow their forebears and look after this beautiful place of yours,” he said.
During the 1950-1953 conflict, Speakman earned the VC for fighting against Chinese and North Korean forces on November 4, 1951, using hand grenades while under a series of attacks until reinforcements came, according to BBC. The donated medals are also a tribute to British troops that fought bravely in the Korean peninsula. About 100,000 British military personnel were involved in the Korean War with over 1,000 killed.
“I want my ashes scattered in No Man’s Land,” he said, referring to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating North and South Korea.
Speakman, who arrived in South Korea on Monday with a group of fellow British war veterans, expressed his hope for the reunification of the two Koreas, calling for North Korea to realize the consequences of separation. The veterans will visit the U.N. Memorial Cemetery in Busan and DMZ before leaving on Saturday, according to the Korea Times.
When fans of K-pop boy group EXO recently heard about a non-Korean boy band debuting in Korea as “EXP,” they weren’t having it. Especially when they found out that this EXP group would be using the tagline “EXP Planet,” just one letter off from EXO’s “EXO Planet.”
The group was no joke. EXP’s Instagram claimed a week ago that the “first and only NYC-born K-pop band” would be dropping their new single, “LUV/WRONG,” on iTunes very soon. The boy band also announced that it would make its debut at the Columbia University MFA Thesis Show in NYC on April 26. Wait, what?
As it turns out, EXP is the product of a thesis project by a Columbia graduate student, Bora Kim, an interdisciplinary artist and sociologist from Seoul. Kim began the project, titled “I’m Making a Boy Band” (IMMABB), in October 2014 as an “ongoing collective experience, in-depth research, experimentation, filmmaking as well as business endeavor.”
The ideas had already been running through her mind since the success of PSY’s “Gangnam Style” back in 2012. Kim said she was interested in researching how K-pop had finally “made it” in the Western world.
“The Korean pop industry has always appropriated its concepts from the West, and also the West through Japan, until not, and the reverse was a shock for the Korean public,” Kim explains in an interview with Columbia University. “‘Idol Groups’ became national heroes and K-pop became part of a proud national identity. But there is a double standard at play here. … K-pop had been looked down upon until outsiders started to consume it and its related products as well.”
Kim found that K-pop exports were directly tied to an increase in profit for Korean IT products, such as mobile phones–in fact, she says the biggest beneficiaries of the Korean Wave are companies like Samsung and LG.
But why make a boy band?
“I was interested in K-pop and idol groups on this level initially as I was thinking about cultural flow, or the relationship of dominant culture and peripheral culture, and how that is interwoven with one’s identity or one’s national identity,” Kim says. “I wanted to see what would happen if I made American boys into K-pop performers, by teaching them how to sing in Korean and act like Korean boys, and complicate this flow/appropriation even more.”
“Complicating the flow” also meant exploring how masculinity is portrayed in boy groups.
“These boys are tailored to attract straight young females, originally,” Kim says. “but the presentation of their sexuality is very complicated. … For example, a young group of pretty boys with great skin start rapping in a hip-hop music video while wearing a lot of make-up. What does this mean? Who is the target audience? It is totally gender-bending and experimental, but, at the same time, it is very typical, mainstream K-pop.
“And the acceptance of this strangeness (in the eyes of Western audiences) started to happen when Korean economic prosperity reached a point where it was enough for the entertainment industry to produce high-quality pop culture products,” she adds. “Cultural barriers or mistranslation are overcome by the shiny framing/packaging of K-pop.”
Kim’s partners, Karin Kuroda and Samantha Shao, each brought their own expertise and perspectives to the project. Kuroda’s studies focused primarily on art criticism, photography, sculpture and fashion, while Shao studied arts administration and cultural theory at Maastricht University, Netherlands.
“The ‘I’m Making a Boy Band’ project aims to examine critical aspects of pop/business culture through the lens of an artist,” explains Kuroda, who first befriended Kim at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. “By asking oneself what it means to assimilate or twist the rudimentary formula in K-pop ‘idol’ culture, this project highlights social issues on a global and personal level.”
Shao and Kim discussed the differences between Asian pop culture–particularly Taiwanese and Korean–with American pop culture, as well as the connection between popular culture and fine arts.
“By changing the working process (of making ‘art’), we intend to re-think and re-define what it means to communicate with the art world and its audience,” Shao says. “Since the main characters of this work are people–not only band members, but also collaborators–we try to challenge ourselves by giving up authorship from time to time.”
Shao adds that she believes IMMABB focuses more on communicating with the audience throughout the process rather than the outcome of the band. The project “welcomes interactions, encourages questions and provokes confrontations.”
You can read more of Bora Kim’s interview with the Columbia University School of the Arts here. You can also follow EXP’s exploits at their Instagram, exp_theband.
All images via Columbia University School of the Arts
On Thursday, Avengers: Age of Ultron director Joss Whedon and actors Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans and Mark Ruffalo landed in Gimpo International Airport and were greeted by a swarm of Korean fans with what Downey calls “civilized enthusiasm.”
Their arrival to South Korea comes three days after Age of Ultron‘s worldwide premiere in Los Angeles. Whedon, Downey, Evans and Ruffalo are expected to attend a press conference at a Seoul theater to promote the blockbuster sequel during their visit.
Age of Ultron has drawn much attention in South Korea as some of its climactic scenes were filmed in Seoul last April. Not to mention, Korean actress Kim Soohyun, or Claudia Kim, plays the substantial supporting role of “Dr. Helen Cho” in the highly anticipated sequel.
South Korean multiplex cinema chains, such as CGV, Lotte Cinema and Megabox, have already received more than 170,000 ticket reservations ahead of Age of Ultron‘s domestic theatrical release on April 23.
The firstAvengersfilm was a smashing box office hit in South Korea, grossing more than $50 million domestically. Korean film industry officials expect the sequel to sweep local theaters as there is no competition being released on its opening day, according to the Korea Herald.
This is Downey and Evans’ third visit to South Korea while it is the first for Ruffalo. Evans first visited the country as a cast member of Bong Joon-ho’s dystopian action flick Snowpiercer.
Over the weekend, the director and cast of Avengers: Age of Ultron assembled for a press conference at Disney’s Main Theatre to discuss the highly anticipated blockbuster ahead of its world premiere in Los Angeles.
After the first installment of The Avengers grossed more than $1.5 billion worldwide, $50 million of which came from South Korea, Marvel filmmakers felt it was only right for the sequel to be filmed in different countries around the world.
“We’ve always considered the Avengers to be sort of the world’s heroes,” Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios and producer of Age of Ultron, said in a statement. “We wanted to send the Avengers to the far reaches of the globe so it’s legitimately a globe-trotting adventure.”
“South Korea is the perfect location for a movie of this magnitude because it features cutting-edge technology, beautiful landscapes and spectacular architecture,” he added.
On March 2014, Joss Whedon flew his crew to Seoul to shoot some of the sequel’s most climactic scenes. Korean fans spotted Captain America on the Mapo Bridge by the Han River and Black Widow zipping through the streets of the Sangam-dong district on her motorcycle. Of course, Scarlett Johansson, who portrays Black Widow, left the driving to her stunt double since she was pregnant during production.
“I don’t think you’re allowed to ride a motorcycle when you’re that pregnant,” Scarlett Johansson joked at the press conference. “I embarrassingly rode some sort of mechanical bull type of motorcycle, which goes nowhere and doesn’t look cool at all.”
To capture the epic action sequences in Seoul, producers enlisted the expertise of brothers Menstru Pa, the Korean National Champion in drone flying, and Park Min Keu, the Korean National Champion in remote car racing, to operate cameras attached to remote control drones and cars. Other filming locations included London, New York City, South Africa’s Johannesburg and the Aosta Valley in Italy.
While the stars of The Avenger—including Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo and Jeremy Renner—returned to don their superhero costumes for the second installment, there are a few new additions to the cast. Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson have joined the fray as Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, respectively. James Spader also lent his booming voice for the villainous robot Ultron—who, by the way, does a terrifying rendition of Pinocchio “I’ve Got No Strings.”
South Korean actress Kim Soohyun, also known as Claudia Kim, is featured in a substantial supporting role in the film. She portrays Dr. Helen Cho, a world-renowned geneticist whose research and technology help keep the Avengers alive.
“There’s like 47 of these people,” Whedon said dryly, gesturing at the long line of cast members beside him. “I really didn’t think that through and I regret very much doing this at all.”
When asked what drew him to making an Avengers sequel, the writer-director replied that it was the “little moments” and emotional exchanges between the superheroes. He added that one of the greatest challenges in making the blockbuster sequel was balancing the multiple character arcs.
“It’s just making sure that everyone’s got their moment and everyone’s got their through-line and that it’s connected,” Whedon said. “At some point during the editing process, I could not have told you who they were, who I was, or what movie I was making, but I think it came together. It’s all about making these guys look good, which takes a long time.”
Feige agreed with the director, saying that the sequel had “crushingly overwhelming expectations.” However, the producer expressed pride in how the franchise pushed boundaries.
“It’s incredible. You look down the line and the table keeps getting bigger and bigger. It’s the greatest ensemble ever assembled in cinematic history,” he said.
For the first quarter of the press conference, Whedon and Feige answered reporters’ questions about the creative process. When Robert Downey Jr. was finally asked a question, he stood up and unleashed his Tony Stark persona.
“I must be mellowing with age, but I want to say this very clearly. The next time I’m not asked the first question, I will f—ing walk out,” the actor said, making the room to erupt in laughter.
Downey, along with his co-stars Evans and Ruffalo, will be heading to South Koreaon April 16 to promote the film. In 2013, the actor made South Korea his first stop during his Iron Man 3 tour and received a very warm welcome at the Incheon International Airport from Korean fans.
Perhaps, Downey will have better luck getting asked the first question at the Korean press conference. Avengers: Age of Ultron premieres in South Korea on April 23. Meanwhile, the blockbuster is slated to release worldwide on May 1.
South Korea announced that it has lifted the travel ban on Tatsuya Kato, a Japanese journalist charged with defaming South Korean President Park Geun-hye, Reutersreports.
On Tuesday, South Korean prosecutors said that the lifting of the ban was made on “humanitarian consideration” to allow Kato to see his family. Kato’s mother is reportedly in poor health, and he has been apart from his family for eight months.
Kato, the 48-year-old former Seoul bureau chief of Japan’s Sankei Shimbun, was indicted back in October for publishing an article in August that speculated on President Park’s whereabouts during the Sewol ferry sinking, which killed more than 300 people. The article supposedly contained details from a Chosun Ilbo column and rumors from Korea’s financial industry that said Park’s absence during the maritime disaster was due to her meeting an unidentified man in an alleged secret meeting.
The presidential office denied the claim, while Seoul prosecutors said Kato’s article was based on “false information.” Although Kato was not placed under arrest, he was barred him from leaving the country. The indictment has since led to fierce criticism of South Korea’s press freedom and concern over bilateral relations from Japanese officials.
The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, however, responded saying the case was “irrelevant to ROK-Japan relations” and “not appropriate to make the issue into a diplomatic problem.”
The Sankei Shimbun welcomed the lifting of the travel ban but continued to demand that South Korea drops its charges against Kato.
Seoul is about to see its first-ever “vertical farm,” an eco-friendly agricultural production system inside a skyscraper.
Ecologist Dickson Despommier first introduced the concept of vertical farming at Columbia University in 1999, claiming that a 30-story vertical farm could grow enough food to feed 50,000 people, according to the Hankyoreh.
This form of urban agriculture allows crops to cultivate in controlled environmental conditions, including light, temperature, humidity and CO2 density. In 2012, Sky Greens developed the world’s first commercial vertical farm in Singapore, which now grows Chinese cabbage, spinach, lettuce and several Asian leafy greens.
The Seoul government announced on Monday that a redeveloped apartment complex in Yangcheon district will be the city’s first vertical farm building.
The farm will be built three stories high, with the second and third stories designated for cultivating leafy vegetables and other plants, said Jung Gwang-hyeon, manager of Seoul’s public livelihood and economy department.
Since vertical farms still lag behind in terms of productivity and require a large amount of seed money, the Seoul government emphasized that purpose of Yangcheon’s farm is to promote the development of new technology and expertise in the area instead of achieving commercial success.
In 2009, South Korea attempted to build its first vertical farm in the city of Namyangju in Gyeonggi Province. However, plans fell through when the city failed to secure the necessary funds.