Tag Archives: south korea

Scholarship Duksung

Five African Students Receive Scholarships to Duksung Women’s University

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

Five African students will be pursuing their Master’s degrees at Duksung Women’s University through the school’s global partnership with U.N. Women, reports the Korea Times.

The students were selected based on examinations and interviews and will receive a total of 200 million won ($186,000) in scholarship funding from the university.

U.N. Women, a United Nations agency dedicated to gender quality and empowerment of women, signed an agreement with Duksung back in 2011—its first partnership with a local university. The scholarship covers tuition, dorms, travel and living expenses, and the classes will all be taught in English.

All five students plan to return to their home countries after finishing their degrees to become professors. Ninsiima Jolly from Rwanda and four Ethiopian students—Mohammed Ousman Hassen, Abera Meron Hailu, Negera Yacob Bizuneh and Damtew Makeda Bizuneh—are all studying a variety of majors, from food science, textile design and Western painting.


Image via Korea Times

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Epik High Adds Additional Cities and Dates for 2015 North American Tour

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

Epik High announced today that five more dates and three new cities have been added to their 2015 North American Tour, making this the largest K-pop concert tour series in North America since 2010.

During the initial sale for tour tickets on April 15, the Vancouver and Toronto shows sold out within the first hour, followed by the New York show at the end of the first week. Due to high demands, additional shows have been added, including encore shows in Vancouver and New York.

Additional dates and venues include:

June 1: Vancouver, B.C. at the Vogue Theatre (encore show added)
June 2: Seattle, Wash. at The Showbox
June 4: Chicago, Ill. at House of Blues
June 7: Atlanta, Ga. at Center Stage
June 13: New York, N.Y. at Best Buy Theater (encore show added)

Tickets for additional stops will go on sale at 12 p.m. in each venue’s city on May 6 at the tour’s official website.

Last month, Epik High headlined the K-pop Night Out showcase at South by Southwest. Formed in 2001 as an underground hip-hop group, Epik High is considered one of South Korea’s most influential hip-hop artists.

Their eighth studio album SHOEBOX has been praised for its musical narrative and artistic lyrics, topping Korean and global music charts.

You can watch the music video for two of their tracks below:


Featured image courtesy of YG Entertainment

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Post 5

Post-It Notes Create an Unforgettable White Day Marriage Proposal

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

A single sticky note reminds us of what is important. It’s only fitting that this Korean man took three stories worth of windows and Post-its to ask the most important woman in his life for her hand in marriage.

The unnamed man took his girlfriend, Soojung, out on a date earlier this year on White Day, March 14. In South Korea, women present chocolate to men as a token of their affection on Valentines Day. The male recipients then reciprocate the romantic gesture with candy or an “answer” to a special lady’s confession on White Day.

This guy wrangled a number of people to give one heck of an answer. He takes her to a nice cafe with a wide view of the city and buildings nearby before he excuses himself. He gives her a call and tells her to look at a building outside, where he pops the question… through many, many Post-it notes.

Post 3

Post 2

It apparently took 250 people to get the message up, and the team rented out three stories of the building for that proposal. Anyone want to guess how many Post-it notes it took?

Post 4


H/T to Rocket News

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South Korea Pledges $1 Million to Nepal Earthquake Relief Efforts

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

South Korea has pledged $1 million in aid to Nepal after the country was struck with a magnitude 7.8 earthquake on Saturday morning, reports Yonhap News Agency.

More than 4,000 people were killed and at least 7,180 were injured in the aftermath of the Nepal earthquake, which struck near the country’s capital city of Kathmandu, according to the Associated Press. Tens of thousands are estimated to be left homeless.

Multiple aftershocks, including one registered at magnitude 6.7, crippled Nepal’s transportation network and caused sporadic power outages nationwide, making it difficult for relief teams to search for survivors under the rubble and deliver food, fuel, blankets and medical supplies. Conditions are reportedly far worse in mountain villages, where some roads and trails have become blocked by landslides.

“There are people who are not getting food and shleter. I’ve had reports of villages where 70 percent of the houses have been destroyed,” Udav Prashad Timalsina, the top official for the remote region of Gorkha, told the Associated Press.

The South Korean embassy in Kathmandu has already established a hotline for people to use to contact the mission as well as a help desk at the Kathmandu airport to assist Korean nationals wishing to leave the country by plane. According to Yonhap, about 650 South Koreans are living in Nepal and some 800 to 1,000 are believed to be visiting the country.

“The embassy has been bombarded by phone calls from South Korea asking the staff to contact relatives living or traveling in the country,” said Ambassador Choi Yong-jin.

PYH2015042707690034100_P2South Korean Red Cross prepare to send supplies to Nepal. (Photo via Yonhap)

On Sunday, the Korean Red Cross said it will give Nepal $10,000 in relief funds and provide thousands of blankets and emergency kits. It is also preparing to send a team of medical workers to the quake-hit country.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s foreign ministry announced on Monday that it will deploy a 40-member disaster relief squad in addition to pledging $1 million in humanitarian aid to Nepal.

Other Asian countries that have sent rescue workers, medical teams and other contributions to Nepal include China, India, Singapore, Malaysia and even the tiny Himalayan country of Bhutan. Taiwan has also offered to send a 20-man rescue team, but Nepal turned down the assistance, despite the island’s extensive experience in responding to natural disasters.

Taiwanese Vice Foreign Minister Andrew Kao said Taiwan will still send an advanced team to Nepal in case of medical assistance. Taiwan has also pledged $300,000 in aid and its Red Cross has already started a fundraising campaign to raise $1 million for Nepal’s post-disaster reconstruction.

This is Nepal’s most devastating earthquake since 1934, when the nation was struck by a magnitutde-8.0 quake that all but destroyed the cities of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan.


Featured image of Abir Abdullah/European Pressphoto Agency

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[VIDEO] Anthony Bourdain Hits South Korea in ‘Parts Unknown’

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

The fifth season of CNN’s travel show Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown premiered 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.

cnn livestream budaejjigae

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:


All images courtesy of CNN

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McDonald’s Korea Opens Big Mac Jingle Contest, Thousands of Koreans Compete

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

If you think you love McDonalds, just wait until you see what these South Koreans do to show their love for Big Macs.

Since 2012, McDonald’s Korea has annually held a Big Mac Song Competition, where thousands of South Koreans submit YouTube videos of themselves performing the “Big Mac Song” for a chance to be featured in a TV commercial.

Yes, there is a “Big Mac Song,” and it is so popular in South Korea that some Koreans could probably belt it out better than the national anthem. The song originated in the United States back in 1974, and it went something like this:

“Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame bun!”

It’s pretty catchy, right? The jingle was localized in different languages, so customers from all over the world could sing what ingredients make up McDonald’s signature burger.

In 2012, McDonald’s Korea held its first-ever Big Mac Song Competition in hopes of increasing brand awareness. The campaign was a phenomenal success, with a total of 13,000 video submissions. The following year, the fast food chain received about 40,000 entries. Here’s one of the winning entries from last year:

The Big Mac Song Competition recently kicked off its third season, and thousands of Korean fans of all ages have submitted creative renditions of the popular jingle. Some are cinematic and injected with a bit of storytelling. Some showcase incredible vocal or dance talents, while others are beyond bizarre.

Below are some of our favorite entries. You can watch all of this year’s entries on the official Big Mac Song Competition website.

Bikini-clad, synchronized male dancers. That’s all we have to say.

You got served–a “Big Mac Song,” that is.

This song also doubles as a good tourism commercial for Seoul.

Really smooth rendition of the “Big Mac Song.” Maybe after this contest, these guys should compete in the next season of K-pop Star.

These beauties keep Big Mac traditional and classy.

Warning: Do not watch if you’re afraid of killer clowns!

Adorable kids dressed in matching outfits? Give them the prize already!

Would you compete in the Big Mac Song Competition? If so, what kind of video would you make? Let us know in the comments below.


H/T to Rocket News 24

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Lee Wan Koo

South Korea’s Prime Minister Offers to Resign Amid Bribery Scandal

Pictured above: South Korean Prime Minister Lee Wan Koo arrives at the government complex in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo by Chun Soo-young/Yonhap via AP)

by HYUNG-JIM KIM, Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s prime minister has offered to resign amid a bribery scandal just two months after he took up the country’s No. 2 post, officials said Tuesday, in the latest political crisis to hit President Park Geun-hye.

Lee Wan-koo has been at the center of a corruption scandal that flared after a businessman killed himself earlier this month, leaving a memo listing the names of eight high-profile figures he claimed to have bribed. Most of the eight men, including Lee, are considered as close associates of Park.

Businessman Sung Wan-jong told a local daily before his death he gave 30 million won ($27,390) to Lee in 2013.

Lee has denied the allegation but he has seen growing calls to resign after South Korea’s media have reported alleged evidence that indicates his ties with Sung. Lee’s office said Tuesday he conveyed his resignation offer Monday to President Park, who was in Peru on a four-nation trip.

Park described Lee’s resignation offer as “very regrettable” and said she “felt the prime minister’s agony,” according to a statement posted on the website of the presidential Blue House.

Park also called for a thorough investigation into the scandal, the statement said.

Chun Hye-ran, a presidential spokeswoman in Seoul, said she has not been informed whether Park would accept the resignation offer.

The latest scandal comes as Park struggles to deal with criticism over her government’s handling of last year’s ferry disaster that killed more than 300 people. Violence broke out at a Seoul rally Saturday led by relatives of the ferry victims and their supporters, leaving dozens of people injured. Park has also faced criticism over what analysts say is her poor communication with the public and lack of transparency on personnel appointments. Some of her previous prime minister and Cabinet member picks have had to withdraw from the nomination process after allegations about their ethical lapses and problematic past behavior emerged.

Lee’s alleged involvement in the scandal came as a surprise as he announced a government’s plan in March to fight corruption in what critics say was an attempt to target associates of former President Lee Myung-bak, Park’s immediate predecessor and chief rival.

Sung, who was investigated after Lee’s anti-corruption campaign announcement, had complained about being betrayed by Lee and victimized, according to South Korean media.

South Korea’s executive power is concentrated in the president but the prime minister leads the country if the president becomes incapacitated.


Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Columbia Grad Student Creates K-pop Boy Band ‘EXP’ for Thesis Project

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

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

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