Tag Archives: south korea


Study: South Koreans Becoming More Open-Minded About LGBT Issues

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

South Koreans are becoming more open-minded and adopting increasingly favorable attitudes regarding LGBT rights and issues, according to a recent study by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

The South Korea-based think tank conducted five annual surveys of South Koreans from 2010-2014, noting that the trend was most noticeable among respondents in their 20s. In 2010, 26.7 percent said they were open-minded about homosexuality. By 2014, the figure nearly doubled to 47.4 percent.

The numbers also doubled for South Koreans in their 20s and 30s who supported the legalization of same-sex marriage, going from 30.5 percent and 20.7 percent respectively in 2010 to 60.2 percent and 40.4 percent in 2014.

But while more South Koreans are indeed changing their attitudes towards LGBT issues and same-sex marriage, they still represented a minority. The overall numbers are a bit more tempered: Respondents who had no reservations of homosexuality increased from 15.8 percent in 2010 to 23.7 percent in 2014, while those who supported legalizing same-sex marriage went from 16.9 percent in 2010 to 28.5 percent in 2014.

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 4.17.58 PMImage courtesy of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies


The numbers among South Koreans in their 50s and 60s remained relatively unchanged in the last five years. Among religious respondents, 70.6 percent of Protestants had reservations about LGBT issues, compared to 41.9 percent of Catholics.

Along political lines, progressives have a firmer stance on LGBT issues than moderates or conservatives. The majority of progressives supported LGBT rights and were quite open-minded about homosexuality: 83.6 percent said they would accept or at least make an effort to accept LGBT family members, compared to 60.9 percent of conservatives who answered the same.

When it came to actual political discussion, however, the Asan Institute projected that LGBT topics were still likely to be overshadowed by economic and national security concerns. Politicians, therefore, are unlikely to take up an active stance, especially when there are no voting blocs to pressure them. LGBT people in South Korea aren’t clustered and typically hide their identities, the study noted.

South Korea has supported international laws and norms, most recently joining an effort last year with the United Nations Officer of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to adopt international human rights standards to protect LGBT individuals from torture, discrimination and violence. When it comes to domestic politics, however, LGBT topics are a “major deal breaker.”

A 2007 anti-discrimination bill reinforcing basic human rights in South Korea ran into staunch conservative opposition due to sexual minorities being named as one of the principal beneficiaries. The bill was reintroduced in 2010 and again in 2013, but the National Assembly voted to repeal the legislation the last time. In October 2014, a bipartisan human rights education bill for government employees also met opposition from Christian and conservative groups who argued that the bill promoted homosexuality. The bill was repealed a month later.

LGBT issues perhaps garnered the most national attention in South Korea last year, when Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, a former human rights lawyer, said in an interview with the San Francisco Examiner that he “personally agree[d] with the rights of homosexuals” and hoped that Korea would be the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage.

His comments drew heavy controversy after South Korean media picked up on them, and conservative groups criticized the mayor of supporting homosexuality and only doing so to gain political favor. Park backtracked on his comments and one of his election pledges, the Seoul City Charter of Human Rights. The charter had included a clause that prohibited discrimination based on one’s sexual orientation and identity.

The Asan Institute noted that Mayor Park was the first prominent politician to bring LGBT issues to the forefront as a serious political and social issue. Although his backtracking may not serve as much confidence for future politicians to follow suit, the Asan Institute said LGBT activists can take over the conversation by “framing the issue within the universal context of anti-discrimination and human dignity” rather than “seeking privileges.” 

Park reportedly said something similar to the Examiner: “Protestant churches are very powerful in Korea [so] it isn’t easy for politicians [to endorse same-sex marriage]. 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.”


Recommended Reading: 

Gay Rights Activists in Korea Step Up to Support LGBTQ Youth

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‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ Stars Assemble for Press Conference

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

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 Avengerincluding 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.”

Casting-08.03.14.Claudia Kim poses beside Marvel merchandise. (Photo via Claudia Kim’s Twitter)

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 Korea on 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.


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The First Anniversary of the Sewol Ferry Sinking


Today (April 16), South Koreans mark the one-year anniversary of the Sewol ferry sinking, which killed more than 300 passengers–a majority of them high school students. In addition to our Q&A with two Sewol mothers, KoreAm has compiled a list of additional reading material on the lasting impact of the April 16 maritime tragedy.

“Bedrooms of the remembered” – BBC


This BBC piece shows haunting photos of Sewol victims’ families standing in the untouched bedrooms of the students who were on the ferry. Accompanying each photo are words from the family members. The images were taken by photographer Kim Hong-Ji, who states: “They stood calmly in front of my camera but I felt it was like a protest combined with deep sorrow, calling for their children not to be forgotten.”

“Legacy of a South Korean Ferry Sinking” – The New York Times


With an interactive timeline providing details over the span of a year, starting from the moment of the ferry’s departure, the New York Times takes a thorough and comprehensive look at the troubling legality issues behind the incident. “In an attempt to address such corruption in the shipping industry, the government revised laws in recent months to stipulate harsher financial penalties and longer prison terms for ferry crews and companies that violate safety rules,” the NYT writes. “Dozens of regulators, crew members, ship inspectors and officials with ferry and loading companies have been convicted or face trial for their roles in the Sewol disaster.”

“Keeping records of Sewol sinking” – The Korea Herald


This Korea Herald article focuses on “416 Memory Storage,” an archival project for the Sewol ferry disaster that started as a volunteer movement to keep record of the tragedy.

The photo of one of the student’s rooms “is one of 54 heartbreaking pictures of rooms that used to belong to student victims of the ferry disaster, currently on display at an exhibition in Ansan. It is also the first of a series of exhibitions and publications featuring records of the Sewol ferry sinking, its aftermath and impact on Korean society,” the Herald writes.


Featured image by Kim Hong-ji/Reuters

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manzanita-with prof kim

Sewol Moms Urge Aspiring Journalists: “Tell the Truth to Your Generation”

story by JULIE HA
photographs by ALEX COREY/EL NUEVO SOL

Dressed in yellow jackets, black T-shirts, dark slacks and sneakers, Park Hye-young and Hong Young-mee sat at the head of the classroom at the California State University Northridge campus, with their backs to the whiteboard and 35 students seated in front of them. The pair was far from home. Just two days earlier, the women had flown into Los Angeles from Ansan, South Korea, to embark on a press tour that would also take them to San Francisco, Chicago, Houston and New York. Their mission: to share their story, so that the truth about what cut their children’s lives tragically short would finally come out.

sewol intro

Park and Hong are “Sewol Ummas,” as one of them put it—their children perished in the South Korean ferry sinking one year ago, on April 16. Choi Yoon-meen, Park’s daughter, and Lee Jae-wook, Hong’s son, were among the 250 sophomores from Ansan’s Danwon High School who were aboard the Sewol, on their way to the scenic Jeju Island for a class field trip, when the ferry made a sharp turn, tilted and capsized off the coast of Jindo Island. A total of 304 people died, with 172 rescued, in one of the country’s worst maritime disasters, which had the East Asian nation in collective mourning for months.

That sadness soon turned into anger and resolve for the families of the dead, after it was revealed that the tragedy could have been avoided. In trials for the ferry company, crew and regulatory officials, prosecutors said that the Sewol had been carrying twice its legal limit of cargo and the original ship had also been unsafely remodeled to fit more passengers. The ship’s captain was convicted and sentenced to 36 years in prison for abandoning the ferry and not first evacuating passengers—many of whom were told by the crew to stay put. Even the Coast Guard was criticized for a botched rescue effort.

The incident seemed to hold a critical mirror to a nation that at once appeared an economic powerhouse and success story, but was in reality still mired in corruption and lax public safety, which have been the modus operandi for decades.

Those who lost the most are leading an effort to change their country, starting with a demand for the full truth behind what happened in the Sewol disaster.

Invited by a group of first-generation Korean American mothers supporting the Sewol moms, Park and Hong made a stop at the CSUN campus on March 6 to speak to a journalism class taught by Korean American professor Tae-hyun Kim. Kim happened to know one of the members of the Korean American group that organized and funded the mothers’ visit. He saw this as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” for his “Introduction to News Reporting” students.

sewol moms lanyards

It also apparently marked the first time Park and Hong, who wore lanyards with their children’s pictures on them, addressed a non-Korean audience during their U.S. tour, which also included a screening of Diving Bell, a film about the Sewol incident. The students in Kim’s classroom that day—including 20 students from a Spanish-language TV production class taught by Mexican American documentary filmmaker Anayansi Prado—was roughly 70 percent Latino and 30 percent white; there was one Asian in the class.

“They were very, very nervous before they came to campus,” said Kim, who interpreted during the Q&A of Park and Hong. “The mothers thought the students might not relate or connect with them. But they were really surprised that many of the students were well-informed about the details of the disaster and they asked very pointed, critical questions about the actions of the [Korean] media and government.”

A touching and unexpected discovery, Kim said, was how much the mothers’ story resonated with many of his Central American students, who pointed out that in their native countries, there have been tragedies involving drug cartel violence and missing children. They, too, have seen mothers protest their own government’s inadequate response.

“You would think they would care less about issues from a Far East country, but no, there was clearly a connection,” Kim said.

In fact, many of his students told him that they didn’t need to understand the language of the mothers to feel their anguish; their voices, their eyes, their tone “were enough to convey their horrifying experience and how much they are missing their children, how much they are disappointed with their government.”

“It was for me one of those defining moments,” said student Hunter Long. “It touched me enough that I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.” Long said he hopes, as a journalist, he can “help expose the maladies in society and make a difference in some way … to expose the truth.”

Following is an edited transcript of the students’ question-and-answer session with the Sewol moms.

Q&A with the Sewol Ummas


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Student Question: As we were discussing in class, we noticed there were inconsistencies in how journalists portrayed the events. What did you think of the Korean media’s reporting?

Park Hye-young: When we were first going down to Paengmokhang (the port in Jindo County), we were told in the news that all of our children were rescued. But when we arrived, we saw a list of survivors posted on the wall, and what we were told was that the rest of the children [who weren’t on that list] were on their way from where the ship sank. So we waited for two hours until we were told that there were no more people coming. That’s when the mothers started to sense that something was really going on.

Because the media reported that everyone was safe, I felt like that became a detriment to the beginning stages of rescue operations.

Hong Young-mee: The biggest problem at Paengmokhang was that, even though there were so many journalists there, not all the facts were being reported to the outside. I felt like there was someone behind the scenes who was preventing those facts from being publicized. The journalists interviewed us and photographed everything there, but we felt like not much of the information they acquired from us was actually being reported. For example, the media reported that everyone was rescued in the morning, but it was only in the afternoon when we learned that the reality was different. So we were left wondering where the rest of our children went.

What really should’ve been reported was the fact that many of the children were trapped in the ship and that the ship was sinking, but that’s not what the media was reporting. So the parents went down there and spent the entire day and night asking where our kids were. Ultimately, the media reports changed from everyone rescued to everyone dead. From then on, the media began reporting that the size of the rescue operations is the biggest in history of all maritime disasters and that the operations were ongoing even during the night, but what the parents saw there was that there was no sufficient lighting system for the rescuers to carry out proper operations. And the media used the same footage of the one time that the rescuers were going underwater for three days, when the reality was that the operations weren’t happening consistently.

What do you think is the root cause of the Korean media’s misguided reporting?

Park: In a way, the journalists weren’t confirming what they were reporting. They were reporting speculation. There was no fact-checking, and obviously that’s problematic.

Hong: There was no control tower. As soon as one media outlet reported something that wasn’t true, all of the other media outlets reported the same thing without verifying the information.

Park: At first, there wasn’t even an exact number of how many people were missing and how many were found dead. Those numbers varied depending on the media outlets, and we had no idea what the exact numbers were. The government couldn’t even verify the simple facts.

Is it true that people who were posting videos they recorded at the scene were punished?

Hong: There was a civilian rescue diver who was able to go underwater and see what was going on. When that person came out and spoke to us, the video of that started spreading through social media. And later, that diver was arrested and had to stand trial.

Park: What that person was saying was that there were many civilian divers who came to carry out rescue operations, but they were being blocked from doing that by the Coast Guard officials, who said that it was too dangerous.

Hong: There was also a situation when one of the civilian divers questioned the Coast Guard during a press conference. He was saying that what the Coast Guard officials were saying about the rescue operations wasn’t true and that the operations weren’t being carried out properly. But he was later physically forced to leave the room. Those kind of things happened quite frequently.

Now that it’s been a year, how has the government responded to all of this?

Park: The government doesn’t seem interested in checking the facts. What we want is not financial compensation. We just want to know why our children had to die. It is our feeling that the government is trying to cover up what happened, rather than making efforts to tell us the truth. The reason we’re going around to talk about this is because we’re trying to gather support to find out what really happened.

How much faith do you have in the group that was launched by the government to investigate the Sewol disaster?

Park: We cannot trust it 100 percent. What we wanted initially was a bill that would allow us [the family of the victims] complete control over investigating the issue, because we believed that was the only way to get what we really want. But instead, the bill that the government passed only fulfills half of what we demanded.

What can people in America do to help the Sewol victims and their families?

Hong: The whole incident itself and why such a tragedy occurred is something that’s really difficult to understand. Because of that, there are so many questions surrounding the issues. There are even conspiracy theories. Even though there is a list of questions, there are only question marks, but no real answers to the questions. The families of the victims are trying hard to find answers to those questions, while it seems like the government is trying to prevent that from happening, since such revelations could lead to bigger societal issues. What we ask of our supporters in America is to join us in making one voice in asking for the truth. If enough people around the world realize that there are hidden truths to be revealed and make an organized effort to demand what we want to know, it’ll help us find out why our children had to die.

Park: The government is trying not to reveal those things. The only thing we can do is to continue to put pressure on them. The families of the victims in Korea are trying our best to put pressure on the government and if people around the world can help us build stronger pressure by making our voices louder, that will be very helpful.

Are you worried about backlash you could suffer by confronting the government like this?

Park: We are parents who lost our children. No situation could be worse for us. We’re doing this to find out why our children had to die, so what the government may do to stop us or create distractions won’t matter. When my child died, I already acknowledged that half of me died, too. There’s nothing that will scare me. Of course, at first, we were worried about what may happen if we continued to fight against the government. But in the end, all mothers share the same feelings. Even if there may be consequences, I’m going to keep doing what I need to do.

Hong: When and if the government ignores the feelings of parents who have lost their children, that’s equivalent to the country turning a blind eye on its people. The families aren’t afraid at all about possible consequences.

sewol answering

As the ferry was sinking, were you able to exchange text messages or call your children?

Park: For me, personally, I saw the news on TV that the Sewol ferry was sinking. I called my daughter immediately. She picked up. It was around 9:30 [a.m.]. I asked if she was OK, and she told me that all of the kids were wearing life vests and were sitting in a line. She said that the ship was tilted, but that she was OK. So, as a parent, what I thought at that point was that everyone inside the ship realized that the vessel was sinking … It seemed like they were waiting to be saved. So I thought my child would be rescued in no time. I thought, “OK, no problem.” She wasn’t rescued. The last time I was able to talk to my daughter was 9:40 via KakaoTalk. I asked if everything was OK. She said, “I’m fine.” We’re guessing that the ferry capsized entirely at around 10:10.

What were you thinking when you weren’t able to get in touch with her anymore?

Park: I was told that everyone was saved at first. And I also realized that she was in the middle of the ocean. So when I couldn’t reach her, I assumed that she was already rescued and that she was staying on a nearby island, waiting to get sent back.

My child was found eight days after the ferry capsized. When we found her cell phone, we were able to retrieve a lot of important data, and also learned that her phone was fully functioning by 10:00.

Hong: I couldn’t speak to my son. I called him at around 9:40, but he didn’t pick up. So I texted him, but never heard back.

Will there be any anniversary events?

Park: In Korea, we’re gathering on April 15 at Paengmok. On the 16th, we will meet at the Memorial Center in Ansan, and later that night, we’re going to have a very big rally.

When you do rallies, have there been cases of the police trying to stop you?

Park: It’s not so much that they stop us, but when we have a rally with 200 people, we will have 2,000 policemen around us. They surround us, so that we can’t move around. We’re pretty much trapped with them surrounding us.

During rallies, are there suspicious people around you?

Park: All the time. We call them policemen in civilian clothes. We’ve been seeing them from back in Paengmokhang. When we were in Paengmokhang, there are three types of people. One group is the families, and then there are journalists and the other group is policemen wearing civilian clothes.

Why do you think that the Korean government is trying to hide the truth behind this tragedy?

Park: We have about 300 congressmen in our country. I don’t think the Sewol case could be seen as a simple accident. It happened because of a combination of different factors, including corruption and illegal political and business relationships. We talk about this amongst us all the time. The congressmen who’ve been re-elected two times or more are somehow associated with the Sewol tragedy one way or the other. And because it’s something that they’re directly associated with, they’re reluctant to open up and let the truth be told.

Realistically, do you believe that the victims’ families will get their wish?

Hong: Realistically, we think that it’s impossible under the current administration. But if we can reveal just a little bit more of what really happened behind this tragedy, we’re going to do everything we can. Obviously, we desperately wish to reveal 100 percent of the hidden truths, but that could take 20 to 30 years.

Park: We’ll never get to know if everything has been revealed. But we’re just trying to make the world a better place. What we consider important is the willingness to work for those things.

sewol groupshot (1)

What advice would you give to aspiring journalists who could one day cover a tragedy like this?

Park: Media plays such an important role. It’s simple. Report what you really see. Report the facts. In Korea, it’s a little different. Certain stories just can’t get out without approval.

Hong: All of you sitting here are future members of the media, and you’ll have the responsibility to tell the truth to your generation. My opinion is that the history of the world has so far has been written by people with power and it’s also been distorted by people with power. I just hope that the future journalists can have a sense of responsibility as people who have the power to write truthful history. As long as that sense of responsibility is there, I’m certain that the truth will always win out.

What’s the origin of the yellow ribbons?

Hong: The color yellow means a lot of things. Love, warmth, kind heart and sense of safety.

Park: It’s now become the color that symbolizes the Sewol tragedy.

—Translation by Steve Han


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S. Korea Lifts Travel Ban on Japanese Journalist Charged with Defaming President

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

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, Reuters reports.

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.


Featured image via Kyodo

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A Cube Entertainment Begins Global Auditions in Los Angeles

South Korea-based A Cube Entertainment is looking for their next generation of singers, actors, dancers and models as they begin their global audition process for 2015 in Los Angeles. Do you think you have what it takes to be part of the company that represents girl group A Pink and ballad singer Huh Gak?

A Cube is specifically looking for young talent around 11 to 20 years old (born between 2003 and 1994). From now until April 22nd, Los Angeles-based applicants must complete the following steps for the online audition:

Fill out the official application and send it to globalaudtion@a-cube.co.kr, along with a headshot and any relevant media (recordings, links to videos, etc.). Subject of the email must be [Name/Age/Sex].

A Cube Entertainment will announce the results individually by email, and for those who passed the online audition, A Cube will work out a time and place for an in-person audition.


For those interested who are not based in Los Angeles, stay tuned for more details on A Cube Entertainment’s 2015 Global Audition circuit.


Image via A Cube Entertainment. H/T to Koreaboo for additional audition details.

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Korean Parents Shell Out $640 for Japanese Backpacks

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

Buying school supplies can get pricey, especially if you’re a parent of an elementary student in South Korea. According to YTN, many Korean parents are paying up to 698,000 won (US $640) to purchase randoseru, Japanese leather backpacks, for their children starting elementary school.

Randoseru is derived from the Dutch word “ransel,” which translates to “backpack.” Traditionally, they’re made of firm leather and are built to last through all six years of a child’s elementary school life. Children have used these sturdy bags since 1885 when the prestigious private school Gakushin made them a school requirement.

Following the footsteps of North Face jackets, randoseru is the latest financial backbreaker for parents. Parents from even low-income households are purchasing these premium backpacks, afraid that their child might be ostracized or bullied in school.

Korean brands are also selling children’s backpacks for jaw-dropping prices. Fila Korea sells premium backpacks with printed images of Disney princesses and Marvel superheroes, with the price starting at 169,000 won ($154). Bean Pole Kids sells their latest designs for about 200,000 won (US $183) and even accepts reservations via their webpage to avoid large crowds.

2014110428080_0_1500x1500Bean Pole Kids’ coral leather backpack. Price: 155,000 won 

It’s not just backpacks that are expensive. Parents are splurging on pencil cases that cost about 80,000 won (US $73) and pens that go for more than 30,000 won (US $27).

For parents who can’t afford these expensive school supplies, there’s a workshop that teaches them how to sew backpacks and pencil cases by hand, according to MBC.

“Children nowadays are very aware of a product’s value,” said a YTN reporter. “They ask their classmates, ‘What neighborhood do you live in? What car does your father drive?’ They all know.”

One contributing factor to Korean parents’ excessive spending on their children’s schoolbags is South Korea’s low birthrate. As the number of one-child families continues to grow, the backpack market is targeting parents who wish to buy their only child the best of everything, and it’s working. Last year, children’s backpack market grew to 300 billion won, according to the Joongang Daily.



Featured image via Daimaru

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Benu Chef Corey Lee Announces Tour Dates for New Cookbook

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

Acclaimed chef Corey Lee will be hitting the road later this month to promote his new cookbook Benu, which was named after his three Michelin-starred restaurant in San Francisco.

The cookbook isn’t just your run-of-the-mill collection of recipes: The picture-heavy, 256-page hardcover work is presented as a 33-course tasting menu that includes Lee’s anecdotes and essays that showcase the inspirations for Benu’s cuisine.

Publisher Phaidon announced the dates for Lee’s book tour on Monday, just a few weeks after Lee was nominated for another James Beard Award for 2015. The events will feature book signings, conversations with other famous chefs and dishes highlighted in the Benu cookbook.

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Angelenos can look forward to seeing Lee next Wednesday with one of the most prolific Korean American chefs out there—Roy Choi will sit down with Lee for a chat after the reception, followed by a book signing in Santa Monica. On April 29, Lee will hit New York City and reunite with his mentor from The French Laundry, Thomas Keller.

Lee will then head to Asia in May, stopping by Hong Kong and Seoul before hitting the final leg of his tour in Toronto. The last event on May 27 will feature a conversation with another well-known Korean American chef—Momofuku’s chef and founder, David Chang.

For more information on Lee’s tour, you can take a look at the full schedule on Phaidon’s website. Tickets are available for his events in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Hong Kong. Tickets for Seoul and Toronto are TBA. You can also find more information on purchasing Lee’s cookbook, Benu, at the above link, as well as Amazon.

Benu was awarded three Michelin Stars by the 2015 Michelin Guide back in October 2014, and the recent James Beard Award nomination isn’t his first: He won the Rising Star Chef of the Year award while he was at The French Laundry in 2006.


Images via Phaidon Press

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