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As some of you may already know, I own an iPhone, and iPad, and a Samsung galaxy tab. Upon hearing this, one might think that this is an utterly ridiculous situation to let oneself get into. But as you also might know by now, seeing an iPad and then seeing what it can do it in person are two totally different things. Likewise, seeing the galaxy time and touching one bar also two totally separate things. As many of you who follow me on Twitter or read this blog also know, I have been very down on the galaxy tab. But for some reason, when I had a chance to handle it and seal is form factor, I was actually quite intrigued. Intrigued enough, in fact to sign the contract for one. I won't go into the details or the rationale of that decision, other than to say that I have been supporting an extra phone number ever since switching over to the iPhone last year, and that it ends up only been a couple more green bills a month for me to actually switch that number over to the tab. But I am not intending this post to be the definitive review of these two devices. I won't even offer some quick tips and recommendations, as well as what I figured out these devices are good for, from direct experience.
First of all, the iPhone is one of the most amazing devices ever made. This thing gives you the most bang for buck: it is a device that started the true smartphone business, can run all those cool apps that you heard about and just about anything you can think of, and puts all media and communications literally into the palm of your hand. And that's where it's strength lies: all that power in the palm of your hand. You can send e-mail, quickly browse the web, and do just about anything you can do with your computer. Except for one thing, which is reading. It's been so small, it's just isn't something that you want to read on. Sure, checking things and sending quick messages, but it's not even the size of a paperback book. It's an all-in-one device designed for ultimate convenience.
What's the iPad for? Well, that's the question a lot of naysayers seem to ask when it first debuted. And then, a lot of people got their hands on one and actually then some people got to live with one. Many people who have not used in the iPad just think of it slightly as an overgrown iPhone. But that is exactly what it is not. From actually having used one, without getting into the minutia of small functions and complaints like front facing cameras or flash support, the iPad is a replacement for the netbook. More than that, it's a machine that turns the Internet into a portable document. What I mean by that is that the Internet has become an interval part of our lives. As have many other kinds of media, for pictures to movies to blogs to just about everything that contains information to be consumed. And now, all these things, from songs to movies to television shows to everything is in digital form. Have these things are exactly what Apple has been able to integrate into one device for easy consumption and portability. The Walkman is the iPad's most logical ancestor. Sure, the Walkman just put music or a big cassette player on your hip. Big deal, right? Absolutely right. So, in my own lifestyle after buying the iPad, it has suddenly become so much easier to present ideas, show someone a picture, carry around my portfolio, play some on the song, and do all kinds of things that were suddenly possible with the extreme portability and form factor of this device. Nowadays, rather than having to take a meeting to a computer, I take the computer or the Internet or whatever media I want to the meeting. And then there's the flip side of the form factor. I can download books and all sorts of other media for easy and convenient and non-eye-straining consumption anywhere I want to go. In this sense, so iPad is far more important than the walk, at least to the extent it alters one's life. If you just consider it a much lighter and more convenient alternative to a netbook, fine. If you consider it a great movie watching device, it is. It's also a great device to record with, take notes on, based presentations off of, and really alters your life and workflow in so many small ways, half of which I never thought about before getting the iPad, that it really is almost unnecessary device. Apple just happen to make it first, but the idea of the tablet, just like the Walkman and the many many companies who produced similar devices, is here to stay and is totally revolutionary. In short, it's that document sized viewer and presenter. And the key to that is reading, writing, and seeing at a normal size. That's the key to understanding the iPad.
Now, what about this galaxy tab? Well, my whole criticism of the form factor as summarized in the question, "what do you do with a 3-inch penis?" Was a bit premature and overly snide. When I held one in my hand for the first time I thought differently. And that's important to mention: when I felt one in my hand, singular. It's a device just like the one that Mr. Spock or Dr. McCoy used in Star Trek when they went down to alien planets. It's just the size and form factor of a tri-corder. It's the hitchhikers guide to the galaxy, which was a book/device that fits into your pocket, but was noticeably larger than something like an iPhone. It just feels good to have this device snugly in one hand, and your other hand free to. It's also nice because it does fit into a man's best pocket, or large winter coat pocket, and can be easily pulled out to navigate the city, look up something on a map app, bring up a note, make a quick appointment with, and lots of things that are easier to do on a larger screen. Basically, these are some things that you might not want to thumb-type. For example, I use the device to Twitter with, to bring up Google or Daum maps on, as almost the perfect reference tool.
The difference between that and the iPad, which is the real obvious question here, is that with the iPad, I feel like I'm making a big investment in motion and in the flow of my life. I feel like the iPad is just too big and too serious a thing to whip out in the grocery store, or while walking on the street, and it's just too conspicuous to casually use. Just imagine that you're walking around the streets with a huge dictionary as your daily planner. It's almost like some of those Franklin calendars that frankly got way too big for their own good. You're basically just bringing along a planning notebook, not trying to strategize and charge the movements of an entire marketing team or large organization. That thing just got too damn big. And the iPad kind of feels like that when doing lots of small things.
Now, this is not to beat up on the iPad itself, because it is very good for many of the things I mentioned above. If you go to a meeting, you want to bring the big presentation book, or have your schedule planner fully laid out, or a larger presentation boards to show charts and pictures, and so forth. If you're going to spend 12 hours on the plane, the iPad is the best companion in the world. There's a program that exists to use the iPad as a virtual whiteboard or display card, so you can write someone's name large and hold it up at the airport baggage exit door to greet a customer or client. I even used it to flag down taxis, by typing my destination in Korean and simply holding the iPad up. It's great for a foreigner in Seoul, because many taxi drivers assume you don't speak Korean and don't understand the multiple passenger system when it's raining. In other words, the iPad has many useful functions that are good for it because it's a big gun. It's larger form factor makes it very useful in those ways.
Right now, I use the tab much more often when walking around. I use it to do all those little things that it would just be too inconvenient to pull out the iPad for. It's really useful device, and it's my hitchhikers guide to the galaxy of Seoul. It's my tri-corder for use in navigating the bustling and busy, alien landscapes of the city. It's cool, convenient, and reassuring to have in your pocket all the time. However, the user experience and overall functionality of the android operating system has a tab leaves much to be desired. I figured that out from the first moment I played with it. It's not as sexy, nor cool, no more smoothly and well planned as the iPad. I don't think anyone can debate that, who has touched both devices. It's also a bit buggy and freaks out on you sometimes. But that aside, the form factor and its resultant functionality made it worth my while, and I still like it quite a bit. Despite being a prematurely pooped-out piece of crap. It's still that likable. The only thing that's a real drag to its functionality is the pretty lame battery life. I still feel like I have to be careful with usage, lest I end up with a brick in my pocket for the rest of the day. With either the iPhone or the iPad, I feel like I can freely use it throughout the day with a full charge.
All this being said, what should you do? Well, here are some tips and recommendations from me, based on my own experiences. I'll add one last note, which is that I have a Wi-Fi only iPad, while my galaxy tab makes more sense for me because it is 3G enabled. Just wanted to give a full background on that, which somewhat affects my rationale for the tab being my truly mobile, flip it out anywhere, super device. But also note that the galaxy tab has a phone number and phone service connected, whereas the iPad does not. For some people, the logic of replacing one's phone number and smaller phone with the galaxy tab maybe a no-brainer, depending on where you're starting from. So let me give you those tips and recommendations from that point of view:
-- If you don't have any kind of smart device, and just a normal career cell phone, I would say is the best bang for your buck would be to buy an iPhone. For those of you on a smaller budget like me, I would buy a used iPhone 3G, because so many careers have upgraded to be 4G iPhone, even when there are 3GS were working just fine. And the difference between the two phones is minimal: there's only the front facing camera and slightly higher resolution that really differentiate the two. Otherwise the software is exactly the same. So, starting from scratch, get the iPhone. I won't even go into debates about the galaxy smart phone. You iPhone just has more applications, a longer history and had start, and the operating system is just much much better, from my experience with the galaxy tab.
-- For those of you who already have a galaxy smart phone, you need to get an iPad. It just does not make any sense for you to get a cab that is only twice the size of your existing phone, and which has the exact same operating system. You already have the one handed portability of the smart phone, and many of the galaxies have larger screens than the iPhone, anyway. If you want a tablet computer, then go for the one that will maximize your set of functionality. And that's the Apple iPad. Don't worry about them coming from different companies, because they are their own self-contained devices, anyway. And unlike my other Apple equipment, the iPad is kind of a bitch to synchronize. I myself have only done it three times. But then again I feel very little need to, and have been doing okay so far. Most of the contents are produced on the iPad I e-mail to myself or otherwise sent out from the pad, anyway. Or I'm synchronized with Google's mail, calendar, and other programs, including notes. So I can lose or break my iPad tomorrow, and I really wouldn't lose any valuable information. So, galaxy at school nurse? IPad. And also, you get the best of both worlds: android and the IOS. I think that's a sweet combination.
-- IPhone owners? Now this is a little bit tougher. For the same reason that I recommend other smartphone owners to get the iPad, I also recommended for iPhone users. It's just a question of maximizing sets of functionality so they overlap the least and complement each other the most. However, if you want to taste the android, the tab is probably your best bet, but don't think it will be nearly as satisfying a user experience as the iPad, and there's no way you going to replace your iPhone with the galaxy tab.
For those of you in other situations, such as only owning and iPad, or having some strange combinations of phone service versus Wi-Fi only, I think you can extrapolate from the logic and recommendations mentioned here.
And finally, if you're going to go crazy like me, I would say have been an iPhone plus a Wi-Fi only iPad is a great combination that is supplemented by the Samsung tab. That way, you're not essentially pain for three phone services technically, although there are plans in Korea to share data on one plan, so the iPhone and 3G enabled iPad maybe economically feasible. In the end, however having all three with 3G access will probably still cost you per month less than happy and maybe one or two of them in the states. And that's the beauty of doing this in Korea on their cheap data plans and contract rates.
I hope you got a better sense of what these devices can do, especially in relation to each other. I know it's crazy to have all three, but it makes a certain kind of sense, especially since I will have to know the android market anyway, since I plan to be involved in the development of apps for both markets. And I certainly don't want want a galaxy phone, so…...
-- Dictated from my iPad on Dragon Dictation™
Back when it seemed unbelievable and everyone guffawed at me, I made a bet with my "Korean Wave and Media" class that I teach at Myongji University that Facebook would inevitably take over the Korean Internet.
Whoa, they said. That's crazy. Nothing can beat Cyworld. Because nothing ever changes on the Internet, right?
Or alternatively, as is always quoted when it comes to new things, "Facebook is not right for Koreans."
Yeah, just as pundits predicted Koreans would NEVER take to pizza because of unfamiliarity with cheese, or eat Western-style cereal with milk, or how YouTube Korea would be humbled and die a quick and dirty death (the Korea Times was yelling this to the hills, but all their links are dead) because some domestic portals had higher resolution at the time. Umm, right. (I think I remember saying something like, "It's the content, stupid!" at the time). From that list given in the Mashable link, MNCast and Pandora.TV are out of commission, and even from the beginning, most of the content on all those portals were videos from YouTube. Something the "pundits" would have gotten had any of the Western reporters actually navigated around any of the Korean sites. It's the content, stupid. And everyone in the world uploaded and uploads to YouTube. Not some idiotically-named site called "Mgoon." Sorry -- that name's just fucking stupid. And all the world's content is on YouTube. Oops!
I also remember very publicly saying back in 2006, when UCC was first rolled out, that it would fail. And booooy, did it ever, so fabulously, FAIL. ("It's the structural and cultural barriers to making diverse and sustainable amounts of content, stupid!" Said that in 2007.) All the "UCC cafes" and UCC-based marketing to sell camcorders and cameras is noticeably absent. That campaign went down here in Korea worse than Sony's Mini-disc format did in America. And that's bad.
My actual bet with my Myongji students was that, by the time Winter 2009 finished (and I made the bet at the end of spring semester 2009, just before summer), most of what I call "domestic Koreans" -- the bulk of everyday, non-overseas connected Koreans who don't have foreign friends, haven't lived abroad, prefer kimchijjigae over cream sauce spaghetti for lunch, and largely use Cyworld -- would at least have heard of Facebook and at least 1/2 of them would have accounts.
At the time, when I started the course, most of my Myongji students hadn't even heard of Facebook, as shows of hands in several classes showed, and using the site to introduce the problem of Korean media and Internet showed. The problem was this: Facebook was (and is) the most accessed site in the world, but the vast majority of Koreans had never even heard of it. This went to show what is a pretty typical Korean pattern: major ideas, trends, and sites that are used in the rest of the world never make it over the barriers put up around the "walled garden" that is the Korean Intranet (which is really what it is), and the major portal sites that all Koreans use (Naver, Daum, Cyworld/Nate) act like the hard industry conglomerates (chaebeols) that dominate the Korean formal economy (Samsung, Hyundai, etc.) Korea always seems cut off from the rest of the world, to an extreme degree, and is always running 3-5 years behind -- in 2006, most "domestic Koreans" had never heard of a "blog" in Korea.
OK, that's summer 2009. Most domestic Koreans hadn't heard of Facebook, and I predicted by winter 2009/10, most students and young people would have, and even have an account. Lo and behold, when I started my new semester in March, when I asked the same question about Facebook, more than half the students raised their hands. And most had accounts, with the question of whether they used them or not being a separate issue.
Now, I know this isn't scientific, and since I was the force that had introduced a good number of students to Facebook in the first place at Myongji (although I doubt 20+ students started any kind of wave there), I couldn't just use that as evidence. But all around me, I noticed my domestic Korean friends -- not my more international crowd of acquantainces from UNESCO Korea, or foreign language high schools, or students from more affluent and international schools such as Yonsei University -- were adding me to Facebook.
Tick. The girl I gave a business card to at the makkoli bar. My Korean aunt. Tick, tick. The girl I had gone on a few dates with some months ago, who works as a civil servant and has no foreign friends. The photographer I had shared the photo pit with in a previous Seoul Fashion Week. Tick, tick, tick. People who were very, very domestic Korean were hearing about Facebook, and it wasn't from me. And all of them were using their names in the Korean script, not English.
Tipping point? Yeah.
It was just like me, back in 2008 or so, and I had signed up for Facebook at some point, had heard of it before that point from some college kids, hadn't thought much of it. But then, somewhere in the late spring/early summer of 2008 EVERYFRICKIN' BODY WHO I KNEW FROM BACK IN THE DAY, IN THEIR 30'S LIKE ME, WAS ADDING ME AS A FRIEND. It was literally like several random add requests a day, from an 8th-grade girlfriend, high school prom date, buddies from my freshman dorm in college, grad school friends -- it was ON, and seemingly instantaneously.
And here we go again. Tick, tick, tick. And then there were other x-factors: the iPhone had come in, and Twitter has already become the de facto standard for instant social messaging. One random reason? Kim Yeon-ah, the champion Korean figure skater, was a twitter, tweeter, a twitterator -- whatever. Best publicity Twitter ever had here, besides being the default standard in the rest of the world and getting mentioned in the news all the time. And now, we had the iPhone.
iPhone, with standard Facebook and Twitter apps around from jump, was something that would help. Even now, I had a domestic Korean contact, a model, try to show me her pics from Cyworld on her Korean "smart" phone. Epic fail. Cyworld -- get your shit together. Oh, too late.
The "tick, tick" of my Facebook-o-meter is really starting to pick up, anyone remotely hip I now meet has an iPhone, wants to "Bump" me, and often tells me to become a "Facebook friend" with them, and many people now make the corny joke/literal translation of FACEBOOK (얼굴 책) in Korean, just like they did with HOT MAIL (뜨거운 메일).
Facebook's here in Korea, and for the same reasons that YouTube took over the market (being the international standard and possessing an international database of users, as opposed to merely being limited to domestic users, and despite refusing to cooperate fully with Korea's real-name system), for the same reason that UCC failed (the paltry amount and types of content could not support the full weight of the service, and like a dying star whose internal energies cannot support its own weight, collapsed), and because Korean sites/sights are so short-sighted (why couldn't Cyworld have simply internationalized its single portal, like Facebook always has, instead of trying to launch its lame-ass Japanese and US versions, while of course adding real functionality) -- Facebook is going to become the de facto standard here.
With a little help from friends who are already international, in terms of being open-source and standards unto themselves -- iPhone and Android. Because Samsung is lame and won't be able to compete in terms of the lame OS it has put onto their phones, they're going to do the smart (and only) thing and simply make kickass hardware for Android. And those two standards are going to have up-to-date and varied Facebook apps and options.
Again, leaving Cyworld, a Korean domestic company, alone to battle the full force and power of a platform that is international, has a huge head start in making apps open-source on their own site, as well as battling against the tendency to become the de facto standard on two international phone OS's.
Good fucking luck, Cyworld.
I feel the huge mass of the mainstream starting to quiver and creak, as it starts the slow tip over the other way. And how do you stop the slow-but-massive force of everyone-else-in-the-world, even if you are an island in the stream?
And that's game.
By the end of the year, Koreans will be Facebooking, while Cyworld becomes the new MySpace.
This is the first blog post I am making from my iPhone. I am dictating into it through the completely free Dragon Dictation app. It's really great to be able to dictate into software, then have the text come out nearly perfect every time. Seriously, right now I'm talking into the device in my hand and text is coming up on the screen. This is really sci-fi cool!
I'm not just talking as an Apple fan boy, but this is a device that really changes the way you do work. Of course, I'm a pretty fast hyper and I can belt out a post pretty quickly. But this really saves some carpal tunnel syndrome. I never really knew how good Dragon dictation software was, and it's been around for years, but now I really know.
And that's just the beginning of what the iPhone makes easy to do. I'm considering podcasting from this little thing. And the ability to check e-mail and all that other stuff really liberates me from sitting in front of my computer. I actually have going out and walking around and doing things for now, and the little tasks, like sending an e-mail or an attachment or something small little thing, now they can be done on the fly and they don't seem to be as annoying. I guess it's because it's not something that's waiting for me to do, all stacked up, when I get home.
As my readers already know, what I don't like is the difficulty in accessing the phone for foreigners. As you know KT is the sole carrier for the iPhone in Korea. Their policies are antiquated and outdated and ancient and any other adjective that will fit here, and the rules have changed even since I registered my iPhone last month. For example on an F4 Visa, now you have to have been in the country for at least two years before registering the iPhone. This is a rule that did not exist four weeks ago. If you are a foreigner not possessing Korean blood, then you simply have to buy the phone upfront. And then there are a lot of annoyances, such as having to use prepaid card service and probably other things are not even aware of. And with the impending announcement of the iSlate, or whatever it will be called in just about four hours, since it will probably be offered with cell phone service of some type, this also poses a problem for foreigners. Who will allow access to 3G networks? Since it will probably be our favorite Korean telecom company, does this mean that foreigners will also be pretty much sh*t out of luck when it comes to the iSlate as well?
In any case, my fire to fight the good fight has been somewhat damped by my success in actually getting an iPhone. And I don't want to give up just because I myself succeeded in getting one. My whole indignation in this issue has never been just about me not getting to have one. But I am a human being, and now that I have one in my hand, literally in my hand, while sitting on the toilet composing this blog post for you, inevitably, it becomes more difficult to maintain the fire in the belly that what happens when one is completely deprived. Now that I have eaten and am completely gorged and torpid from my share of sonic-electronic victuals, I admit that some of the fight has left me.
So, I ask my dear readers for suggestions about anything I can do to further the fight. While helping another friend register an iPhone, one who already has an F4 visa, I came across more difficulties in the process. There are simply new rules. And alas, we sealed. The new rule is that you have to have been in-country for at least two years before qualifying now, even on an F4 visa. This new rule, the employee told me, was issued during the last few days of December, a few days after I bought my phone. So goes the myriad, incomprehensible complexities that defines the way that company does business.
Anyway, I want to help. If that means finding new information and getting to the bottom of whatever new rules there may be, then hopefully that will help. I think my efforts helped at least clarify the process for Korean-Americans living in Korea. And I hope I can provide some assistance to those of you who are not in that category.
I hope you can give me some suggestions in this regard. Please comment about your own experiences, because even acting as a clearinghouse for such stories can help others who have similar difficulties or experiences. And figuring out what the real story is, what the real rules are as they change and evolve, can really help in terms of strategizing as to what to do. And I want to remind you again, dear readers, that although my personal desire to own an iPhone has now been satisfied, my irritation at the bumbling way the iPhone has been administered ro foreign customers in this country remains unchanged and unabated.
I really hope this doesn't become a compounded problem with the iSlate. Well, will see, especially if the idiotic KT continues to be the sole carrier for Apple. Since the 3G option will probably be just that on a theoretical iSlate, it probably won't be such an odious problem since there won't be a complete barrier to purchasing one. But it will still suck if one can purchase an iSlate in Korea, but can't use many of its coolest, Internet-enabled features. Anyway, will see in a few hours. Let's hope that whatever happens, the idiocy of Korean telecom carriers won't continue to prevent us from enjoying more of the fruits of Apple Computer's tree.
I'm tired of making all these predictions that come true in my media and culture classes, but then didn't formally write down to prove I said them. Now, that's gonna change. Sometimes, I reach a bit, but it's fun to also imagine. I got the plots of the new Star Wars episodes right, as well as predicted that UCC would fail out the gate, and that iPod Nanos would sell like hotcakes back when Koreans were really not buying iPods.
Let's get right to the points, though. Here goes:
The iPhone will gain 40%+ of the Korean smart phone marketshare in 2010.
Seems like a no-brainer, but remember all these nationalistic Koreans were naming reason after reason the iPhone can't/won't succeed in Korea. And espousing the same old "consumer exceptionalism" of the Korean market using the false assumption that consumers in Korea somehow operate under different rules here, especially as they relate to nationalism. To the contrary, I think they don't -- Korea just often has special circumstances, such as a protected cellphone market and the history of already having had a robust MP3 player market when the rest of the world had nearly none, which is when the iPod was introduced. The iPhone is not only better than its copiers, but also a better deal. Which has already forced companies such as Samsung to slash its prices and start doing silly dances to compete. Ah, the fresh air of a more open market. And speaking of Apple...
After the impending announcement of the iTablet or whatever it will be called, Steve Jobs will announce his retirement from Apple.
Just makes sense, doesn't it? It's the last major paradigm-shifting product, in the last remaining unconquered medium for Apple. Apple won't have conquered print by 2010 alone, but it's the beginning of the end of the Tree Holocaust. Apple will have revolutionized the worlds of the computer, music, television, film, and even audio content (audio books and podcasts), as well as the telephone. The only remaining area is print. The Kindle really made the big crack; the iTablet or whatever will have us bringing print with us in major ways that we didn't before. And with that, Steve Jobs will make take his much-needed rest.
Facebook is gonna "tip" this year in Korea, starting now, really cruising by the summer.
My "domestic" Korean friends have started adding Facebook, which is the last frontier here in Korea. Of course, many foreign-educated or experienced Koreans have Facebook accounts, which they generally don't use regularly, but now "domestic" Koreans have started popping up across my Add list. These are the people who have never been or rarely go overseas, effectively speak no English, and often have nationalistic attachments to things such as Naver or Cyworld. But enough international Koreans, along with younger college students, both international and domestic have started using Facebook -- and with the iPhone taking off, the apps that are well-integrated with that masterful machine (Facebook and Twitter) are going to drive their use even more.
Twitter, already tipping, is going to become all the more popular on mobile apps, under Korean versions of the program.
Again, the "YouTube Korea" effect will ensure Twitter's success. Remember when I was talking up YouTube Korea as succeeding when I participated in its launch party? Oh, so many scoffed, while people talked up the Korean streaming services' better image quality. Umm, where are they now? Even WITH -- and partly BECAUSE of trouble created by the government's "real name system" requirement, YouTube is the way people post things to the Internet here. To paraphrase Bill Clinton, "It's the vast user base, content, and reachable audience, stupid." And there it is -- the ever-present problem with Korean Internet companies: they think too small, rely too much on a captive Korean market. Why can't a Korean company launch a worldwide-level site/biz idea? One COULD -- but remember, this is an culture so conservative and incapable of thinking outside of the box that it take weeks or even months for spellcheck corrections to reach the English versions of corporate web sites here.
Does Korea have the raw capability to put together a world-class site, in terms of technical skills, raw English power, and infrastructure? Sure. Does it have the organizational, creative, or think-ahead abilities to do so? Not at all. In terms of Internet ideas, of creative content, of cultural content -- expect 2010 to continue the ongoing pattern of Korean companies copying or adapting to innovations coming from the outside, while contributing nearly nothing of their own.
For those who've been tuning in on Mondays at 11AM for the past several weeks, you'll know I've been a recurring guest on the Soul of Asia show, with Sara Kim.
Well, we're settling into a regular format now, so I'll be a regular guest talking social commentary and criticism on the air. We should have lots of fun topics -- so be sure to catch me on Mondays at 11 with Sara.
And it's live, so always wish me luck!
It seems that predictions I've made are coming true. Seems arrogant to say, but I make certain predictions, some people say I'm a blowhard, then when they come true, everyone forgets that I was...ahem...right.
If you read what I said in "Web 2.0 and Korean Media" in December 2006, the summer after they rolled out "UCC" (YouTube-style "user-created content" in the form of embeddable videos) a couple years after YouTube had hit it big, you'd remember I said:
Enter the Korean concept of "User Created Content." Sure, it's probably a term picked up in the communications field somewhere, but it's a Korean concept, deployed in a Korean way. The big companies here are pushing "UCC" to the people as ways they can "get in on the action" and create content (THAT WE'LL USE) with the implied promise of perhaps being able to become as famous as all those YouTube people you hear about in the news, like that guitar kid everyone is talking about and who got on Korean TV because of it.
Problem is, I think it's doomed to failure. The overall trends are going in exactly the opposite direction, and savvy Korean netizens are going to be demanding their real user power, and will resent being crippled by ugly Daum and Naver blog templates, and creating content for portal sites, which is essentially what they are doing.
The biggest sponsors of the UCC drives are, not surprisingly, big Korean media companies. I call this system the jaebeol media model, and it is particularly and uniquely Korean. Make video content and we will let you put it on our site, for the company's commercial benefit. It's pretty much using the content – with limitations, set templates, and rigid feature sets – for the benefit of the company...
...Maybe it's a peculiarly Korean way of doing things, but I don't think it can be sustained for very long, especially since the rest of the world is offering all kinds of free space, open-source freedom, and the ability for the market to grow and expand without control from the top. The Korean model offers – not surprisingly, given this country's style of business and governance – top-down, centralized control, limitations, and lack of a user-centric experience.
I remember people back then laughing at Google's increased vigor in making headway in the Korean market, since Naver will NEVER lose its dominance, right? People laughed and said Google overly-American dedication to simplicity would NEVER go over in Korea, and its little attempts at coloring up the Google Korea site with cute little animations was something akin to pitiful. People also laughed when YouTube Korea rolled out, swearing up and down that they'd be crushed by the better resolution of the domestic sites. Those techheads missed the point.
I've been saying, since that post, as well as in "The Mis-execution of Korean UCC" in April 2007, when I continued criticizing the utter lack of content on Korean UCC, that the Korean Internet is woefully devoid of ideas, and pitifully cordoned off from the rest of the world. Like the Korean economy, this is not just a side-effect, but totally intentional and a key part of how it succeeds.
In the 2006 post, I called the Korean Internet a "jaebeol" system, which I very much think it is. Inherent in the system isn't a core of intensely creative people and ideas that find expression in a myriad different ways, that come together and combine in unpredictable ways.
For instance, who knew how the synergy between blogging, embeddable video, other social media such as Twitter, social bookmarking, and other things would come together? It's led to new forms of media, business models, and ways of disseminating information itself. It's changed pop culture, politics, and so many other fields in a real -- not gimmicky -- way.
The Korean Internet? With broadband that leaves the US in the dust, no real problem of a "digital divide", computers everywhere, a high degree of technical skill with all kinds of programs and electronic devices, and a youth culture that is deeply socially invested in the Internet -- where's the beef? Meaning -- where's the content?
Where are the new ideas? Why didn't Koreans invent YouTube, Digg, or Twitter, or even the concepts of blogging, podcasting, or social bookmarking? Where are the funky new business ideas, new revenue models, or even (and especially) THE CONTENT?
That's the main problem you have with the Korean Internet. It's insular and doesn't think ahead. Take my piece on the stupidity of Pandora TV in "Pandora.TV Suck Rizzocks" in which I point out how ludicrously stupid it was to require ActiveX controls to watch a stinking video, and how dumb it was to require watching a 15-second commercial before EACH video.
Why can a non-specialist see how fucking braindead this was? Isn't the point of being a video portal to have as wide a database as possible? So what was with the labyrinthine registration process, ActiveX downloads, and watching commercials all damn day. I predicted that Pandora would drop that ActiveX shit like it's hot, but that's not even a good prediction; it's just common sense. The point of streaming video ISN'T to go to your stupid website and watch it THERE: YouTube's success was partially enabled by it being able to easily embed video ANYWHERE and EVERYWHERE ELSE, fools. Argh. Of course, Pandora.TV switched over to Flash-based video only a couple months after my rant. Could have saved a year of wasted time by just doing what YouTube had already been doing for years -- duh! If you're gonna copy, at least get the IMPORTANT part right, right? And in the fall of 2007, Pandora announced they were switching to Flash-based viewing as if they'd figured out some really cool shit for the very first time. Duh.
Or there's MNCast, which I'd always liked, and was always Flash-based and always easy to embed. The resolution was killer. It was kinda better than YouTube, minus the Korea-only database of content. But still.
WHY NOT MAKE IT AN INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SITE, with menus in English? Keep the Korean ones, too. It's the INTERNET. It doesn't matter where people are. When Metacafe and Revver were trying to do the same thing, MNCast could've been a player. But they weren't. Because it apparently never occured to them to market themselves as a general-purpose media site. After I'd had that ever-so-shockingly-revolutionary thought, MNCast later added some lame-ass English menu for whomever they thought international users were, or to make themselves seem more global...to themselves. Who cares? Too little, too late.
The Korean Internet is completely controlled by conglomerates, called "jaebeol" in Korean. The traditional jaebeol were and are Samsung, Hyundai, Daewoo, peeps like that. On the Korean Internet, they're called Naver, Daum, Cyworld, and other names. But the point is still the same: they control the production of nearly all the content on the Korean internet, their blogs, cafe bulletin boards, and other forms of content are proprietary and territorial. One has to login to Naver to even VIEW certain items for sale on one bulletin board, or open pages of a cafe or blog. Getting listed in Naver's search engine? Unless you paid money or are a Naver blog or other product, you're essentially not going to show up at all. Unless you pay the piper directly. Which is how Naver makes its money.
There is no room for real innovation, no incentive for it. Even the possible incentive would be to make an internet idea good enough for Naver to just buy it. Good, say you? Sure, that's the goal of many a startup. But the reason Korea will never invent a Facebook -- the most highly traveled site in the world -- is because if someone had that particular idea, it would just be bundled into the functions of the existing portal site, be in Korean only, require a Korean citizen ID number, and not at all be open-sourced for other parties to freely make applications for.
You'd just get Cyworld, which is a dying idea, akin to Friendster. Done Korean-style, you don't get a new PLATFORM that is compatible with other Web 2.0 company -- Flickr, Twitter, YouTube, anything can be integrated into Facebook. In Korea, you just get macro-sized monstrosities that simply suck in resources to themselves as Naver-Godzilla prepares for continued battle with King Kong-Daum.
Where's the room for the little guy? The startups? The good ideas that suddenly pop up from a college kid into one of the biggest sites on the Internet?
They get crushed by the jaebeol-monsters, of course.
And that's without having gotten to the cultural environment in which both the actual and virtual jaebeol exist within, but have also helped sustain -- the complacent, consumptive nature of social/Internet participation.
Now, I'm getting into territory that I can't "prove" or quantify materially. You either will or will not feel me on this issue, but I believe in what I'm saying here: there are too many cultural barriers here that prevent the production of "UCC" or the promulgation of innovative ideas. That's on top of the fact that there's a huge, gaping absence of business/capital infrastructure to support such ideas even if they DID exist.
Without getting into totally separate conversations, Korea is now facing a slow, core meltdown that is far different, more challenging to fix, and fundamental than most people tend to consider it. The ongoing failure of the Korean Internet to innovate is just another sign of the problem. It's possilby the best sign, too.
Simply put, Korean Internet infrastructure ROCKS. Korea's a small country with a centralized government that can wire everywhere on the peninsula with fiber-optic, supersonic, pro-bionic, high-ionic, gin-and-tonic Internet supercable in the blink of an eye. It doesn't cripple upload speeds to a fraction of download. Computers are everywhere, as are bootleg copies of Photoshop, Premiere, and Illustrator that are thought to be as automatically present as Clock or Calculator on a given Windoze XP install. The Internet is everywhere you wanna be in Korean society.
Except that every media form or function on the Korean internet was originally invented somewhere else (usually the American Internet) that was researched, reheated, and rolled into a "new" function on one of the Korean portal-jaebeols.
That's the key, and what Koreans are used to. Down even to the style of consumption, as when you leave your Samsung-constructed apartment building in your Samsung-built car and use your Samsung phone to tell your best friend doing laundry in a Samsung washing-drying machine to meet you at the Samsung Plaza to shop for clothes made by a Samsung designer. Isn't that scary?
No. For a long time, that's been very REASSURING to the average Korean consumer. And it's no different from Naver. Although things are fraying a bit a the edges, most people LIKE the fact that Naver is like a proto-god figure here, magically dispensing information with authority, hosting your blog, hobbyist cafe, filtering your news, and doing just about anything you can imagine. In fact, right now, Naver's social/psychological/cultural power simply can't be conveyed in terms that say, Americans, can understand. Because the WAY people relate to Naver ain't nothing but a Korean THANG, baby. Unless you use Naver every day like we over here do, you just can't understand.
But what one should understand is that this isn't thought of as a negative. In Korea, one doesn't use the Internet; ones uses NAVER. Of course, there are others, too. But you get the point.
You don't check the BBC for news. Or go to your favorite (and non-portal) social bookmarking site. Or update your blog at a non-portal, commercial blog service. Or even know what Wordpress is. Open-source? That's for Naver to use and base its private blogging service on -- not for YOU to do the same.
Partially because of the language barrier, partially out of habit, and partially because the portals keep people dependent on them and discourage weaning, the Korean internet is amazing insular. But that doesn't mean it doesn't get influenced from the outside, it just means that Korean Internet users don't often go outside the Korean Internet. Yet, it's those who parse, Koreanize, and implement outside ideas for the Korean Internet who make the big bucks.
Take Naver's recent makeover, for instance. I remember saying 4 years ago that Korean big media is losing touch with its base, and that Korean tastes have become far more varied, complex, and Americanized than Korean media realizes. I said this a lot in reaction to Koreans who often would categorically tell me that "Koreans only like variety shows" or "Koreans don't like American-style media." Then what's with the runaway success of pretty much every major American television show on Korean TV?
The same thing I said to those who would tell me "Koreans like complex things on Internet pages." Really? Or is that the assumption that leads to Korean internet pages always being complex and busy? I think that the Korean consumer -- especially on the Internet -- simply doesn't have many other options, and it's assumptions such as these that lead to a lack of new ideas, a willingness to take risks with any that are there, and help foster a deadly conservative Internet culture.
People laughed at YouTube when it opened here. They also scoffed at Google Korea trying to add a few doodads to its pages. Funny how the new Naver after the New Year has very much simplified and streamlined its notoriously busy front page in a way that I guess few would have imagined just a couple years ago. Because "Koreans like complex web pages."
Just like "Koreans don't eat cheese and pizza will never catch on" (80's) or "Koreans just don't use iPods." Uh-huh.
Let me make a 2009 prediction. I've seen the market share of iPods go from 2% in the brick-iPod days to 17% in the single year after the 1st-generation Nano was introduced. During Steve Jobs' speech, I rightly predicted that the market share would jump off the charts, simply because of 1) price, 2) form factor, and 3) aesthetics. iPods were simply too big, didn't have the megabyte-for-the-buck oomph, and simply weren't sexy enough. At that point, I knew they had the Korean market. And I was right.
I don't know what the present market share is, but anecdotally speaking, more than half of the MP3 players I see on public transportation and on the streets are iPods. Definitely at least half.
And there's a very high market awareness of the iPod Touch, and expectation about the iPhone, which should be able to make it to market this year in Korea.
I hereby predict that if the iPhone is released here, along with the opening of an iTunes Korea music store, podcasting will hit the critical mass it needs to take off here, mostly because of the pre-existing content out there, and not because so many Koreans will start producing their own podcasts. Even after the buzz has died down back in the West, I think podcasting is going to help drive iPod sales as more language and other programs recommend the hardware purchases, and as the platform of iPod users grows to the point that people start taking advantage of it.
In short, now's a good time to be podcasting, and I'm going to be restarting Korea's first podcast -- Metropoliticking in Seoul -- under a new name and format, and taking things a bit more slow and carefully. More on that later.
Ah -- this has been a truly Metropolitical rambling. The overall point was that the Korean Internet faces some huuuuge content-production problems, as does the overall "information economy." Korea's slowly coming up against a wall, and it's mostly determined by authoratative systems of control and education reinforced by top-down modes of social interaction and consumption, atop a social rigidity and risk-averseness seldom seen in other countries and cultures.
Korea, I think, is faced with more cultural/social rigidity that results in hardware being bereft of good software, to use that metaphor. The problem in the US seems to be just the opposite, as we let the "hardware" of our education system, science and math programs, and other aspects of the educational environment rot away; Americans are culturally/socially all about self-expression, high self-esteem, and a "look at me" culture in general -- that's not our problem. It's the hardware machine that's breaking down.
But if I were to pick between the two situations, I'd choose the latter. Hardware's easy to fix, especially if money and commitment can come; however, deeply-ingrained cultural/social patterns that refuse to budge even after infrastructure has seems to be a pretty nasty problem, especially when competing on a global level.
I hope all this gabbing and prognosticating has resulted in some ideas worth chewing on. I apologize for the length, but hey -- it's me!
Here's a response I wrote to Web 2.0 Asia's post about the death of Choi Jin-sil:
Well, one thing worth thinking about -- I think the nastiness is partially enabled by 1) lazy moderators on sites, and 2) the particularly extreme nastiness of the Korean internet.
Now, before people go off saying this is "racist" or whatnot, I'll say that I place this all squarely within a framework of causality -- not just "Koreans are essentially, genetically X."
There is an extreme amount of competition for scarce resources in this society, ranging from less space-per-person, how standardized tests rule everything, the extreme militarized hierarchy of society, and the general amount of mental trauma that has not at all been dealt with throughout the entire 20th century.
Take a country ravaged by invasion and colonization for 36 years, forced labor and military conscription through World War II, then "liberation" by a new set of neo-colonizers, then a devastating war that ravaged the nation and rent family ties asunder, which was then followed by dictatorship, torture, and the constant threat of force by the government on labor unions, activists, and anyone else who bothered to question authority, coupled with the crushing of organized labor and the democracy movement (within a nominal democracy, right? the irony) in Kwangju, and the constant "scare" and suspicion that one's neighbor was a "Commie" -- and then suddenly, the economy is great-n-the-80's, people are toting Prada bags and Beamers (or wanting to), and busy enjoying themselves -- or trying not to think about the massive collective trauma inflicted upon them.
It's like this: you female coworker who sits next to you in the office is kidnapped on Monday, invaded and abused on Tuesday, gangraped and beaten to within an inch off her life all day Wednesday, cruelly tortured and humiliated on Thursday, before being "liberated" in a violent commando raid with guns and explosions and tear gas bombs on Friday, taken home quivering and catatonic on Saturday, then given Sunday to rest and collect herself.
Then she returns to work on Monday, prim and proper, smile on her face, ready to work at her desk and take calls and send memos. And you're sitting there, staring at her in disbelief because you heard about all that happened to her on the news, thinking, "What the hell are you doing here? Are you OK??!?!?!"
And she answers, "Why, of course! Silly you! Why wouldn't I be?" and goes on cheerily typing a memo as if that entire previous week hadn't happened.
Would you not think her absolutely off her rocker? Sure, every nation has had trauma, but Korean society was so rocked and shocked and blocked and knocked again in soooo many fundamental ways throughout the 20th century -- and has the acute problem of still not being able to properly deal with its history, the huge and lingering social consequences of all that history that is apparent to anyone who looks objectively at Korea's uneven and rapid development.
Not only has that experience created the TRAUMA that filters down from the national to the individual level over the past century, it also is a source of the extreme distrust, negativity, and competitiveness that the system created by that trauma now engenders.
In short, to me, an American, envy takes place on a level here that truly perplexes me. The saying "when a cousin buys a piece of land, my stomach hurts" was a phrase that I found nearly mysterious, at least in terms of an emotional logic that I am used to. But once I came to understand it, once I saw that logic applied to people's lives here in case after case, it was one of those "cultural differences" that I just had to chalk up to not being able to surmount. One is, inevitably, the product of one's circumstances, education, and socialization.
Here, when someone has something you don't -- or even when a friend has something good happen to them, as in winning a prize, getting an opportunity, etc -- it is often very tricky to navigate. And from a management point-of-view, very real.
Illustrative Case 1:
In the 90's, our American director of a Korean-American joint office once implemented an "employee of the month" policy, where an employee was picked, and after 12 months, whomever got the most points or whatnot received a small bonus of something miniscule like $200 or something. After a couple months, the normally quite passive Korean workers signed a petition and demanded an end be put to the policy. They said it was eroding good relations and creating too much tension in the office. Even though the reward was minor, it loomed over everything.
Illustrative Case #2:
I knew someone who was hired as a personal assistant and translator for the director of a company. She had a desk near his and was expected to handle all the English correspondence, phone calls, and translate key documents. She was explicitly hired for that reason, and occupied a different job description than the many uniformed "office girls" who worked the front counters. From day 1, the girls hated her, and demanded that she be forced to wear the same blue uniform that they had to wear. The director explained that it was a different job, that she was an assistant, and that he wanted her to wear a normal suit. What really grated on them was the fact that she spoke English so well, and she could see them sneer and snicker at her every time she answered the phone. She quickly quit.
Illustrative Case #3:
Also in the 90's, I once was invited to play a cello solo with a girl from a local middle school for the Christmas/Winter school festival. Back then, foreigners in the countryside were rare, and playing a musical instrument was rare. The girl was shy and seemingly reluctant to do it, but many adults in the affair thought it would be good theater. What I found out was that it had made her, contrary to what I would have ever thought, a social pariah. The other girls in the middle school, it was reported to me through teachers, hated her for getting special time with "the foreigner" and thought her playing with me was "bragging." I responded that the girl seemed quite shy and quiet, quite far from any braggart -- the teachers replied that they agreed, but that's just the way things were. This was "Korean culture" at work, I was told.
Illustrative Case #4:
I made a UCC interviewing Korea's first astronaut before she had been chosen as the final candidate and uploaded them to YouTube. Before YouTube opened in Korea. Overwhelmingly, the response and comments from all over the world were positive. She was a woman, she was going to space, she was the first in her country, the selection process was truly different and democratic, etc. Great, right?
Then, when YouTube opened, Koreans came in. You couldn't believe the language and pure levels of rancor the comments held. It got to the point that whenever an email came that a new comment had been posted, if there was a Korean-sounding ID, I simply assumed I had to delete it, since there would almost always be a comment like "they shouldn't send that ugly fat bitch to space, it's a shame to our nation" and some such. I only include that kind of example to drive the point home:
Had there been an Internet at the time, would Americans had written that way about Sally Ride?
My point? I think there's something deeper and more complex going on in the Korean internet, as an extension of Korean societal norms and values. And when it comes to that peculiar sensation that Koreans describe in their "stomach hurting" when even a cousin gets something good, I think those subtle feelings of jealousy (that we all, as humans, can have) mix with the extreme frustration that a LOT of people are constantly forced to swallow in a culture of soul-breaking tests, long lines, too little space, cramped and overpriced housing, etc.
When my friend back home is the first one to get a 61" HDTV with surround sound and has a Super Bowl party, inviting all the friends over and enjoying it, there is just SOMETHING DIFFERENT about it than if it's the Korean case.
It's not academically "provable" or reliably quantifiable, but it's there.
I enjoy my friend's TV and may just think of some ways to come over and enjoy it more until I can get my own. I may envy him the OBJECT, but I don't experience negative feelings toward him. I don't get the feeling he is "bragging" toward me, and I don't return that with unspoken hostility that must be covered up and accounted for.
But we Koreans or those who've lived here a long time KNOW that this is different here. We all KNOW that you have to carefully navigate one's own good fortune or change in status against many eyes that can interpret things in negative ways. I still remember instance after instance of being accused -- only half-playfully -- of "bragging." Whether it was me using a white Mac notebook (yes, simply using an "expensive" and "luxury" Mac), or inviting Korean colleagues for a movie on the home theater (which even college kids back home buy in $300 mini-packages), or simple pronouncing English words properly when ASKED to (and greeted with a teasing "Oooooh! You sound so smart!") -- there are so many ways to incur envy, and to receive the benefits, as well as the negative consequences of it.
So imagine being a Korean "star." How much more must they deal with? How much more hated are they by the public, as much as adored? The fact that in the case of Yi Soyeon, several "anti-Yi Soyeon" cafes were created for doing nothing other than merely existing -- it's telling. The "anti" culture alone here is something to behold, and it goes far deeper, all the way to the core of that peculiar Korean envy.
It's my bit of armchair anthropology, but in a society so concerned with the fate of others vis-a-vis oneself, and where the net has allowed the most vicious of thoughts and sentiments to find expression without consequences -- for the frustrated to be able to vent with impunity -- it's no surprise that stars are killing themselves left and right.
I mean, the #1 cause of death for Koreans in their 20's and 30's is suicide -- so the fact that stars are killing themselves is statistically not at all unusual. They just garner more attention.
But the causes are apparent. It goes deeper than a real name system. Actually, that would tend to fix the problem, since the social consequences for venting the unventable would return; yet, this isn't best for freedom of expression and other issues. And yet, I think this is a peculiarly acute, Korean problem.
It's pretty much only in Korea that 1) it's so particularly nasty, and 2) where the recipients of abuse take it so seriously, for the same cultural reasons. So of course you're going to get consequences as these.
You either change the socio-emotional system, or you address it by changing the rules of the Korean Internet. Frankly, the latter is simply the easier choice, although not the more desirable. But realistically, what are people going to do?
Getting back to Choi Jin-sil and her profession, this is a country where it was scandalous for an ACTOR/ACTRESS to kiss onscreen only a decade ago, so let's not kid ourselves with being surprised by any of this.
Until the disparity between in-person and internet behavior is solved in Korea, this will continue to happen. That's as good as guaranteed.
And in terms of mental health, embarrassing deaths, and suicide, denial is the norm here.
When suicides happen in schools, the reaction is generally one of complete indifference. No time is taken away from classes, no memorial services or remembrances offered, no counseling services given -- nothing. One school a few years ago had two suicides nearly back-to-back, and the school forbade the students from even TALKING about it, let alone officially acknowledging it. The students were so angry, they actually staged a protest and refused to go to classes, conducting their own memorial service outside. You hear many stories like this from colleagues like mine working all across the countryside in public schools. I personally knew of about a suicide per year amongst the Fulbright ETA's for several years of their ongoing training -- it's quite sad to hear the stories, and the shock of the American teachers who have a student one day, then dead the next. And no memorials.
The way of dealing with shame, embarrassment, and envy is to bury it in Korean culture. Mental health services are nearly unheard of in this country, a place that perhaps needs it more desperately than many others. Even cases such as rape are not pressed by the parents of victims because the social repercussions are potentially far more embarrassing than those of pressing charges and demanding an investigation. Only here have I heard of the high-school age victims of a group of high school boys who committed repeated gang rapes against them receiving DEATH THREATS for daring to press charges. Or the recent case of the elementary school kids raped by other elementary school kids, whose parents stopped cooperating with the investigation because they just wanted to forget about it.
The cases are many. Most are anectdotal, so what to do? Guess they're not true. Subjective. Nothing to see here. Move along.
And that's the least prickly way to handle it all, right? Until you snap, or get the chance to snipe at someone you've never met but is the symbol of all you don't have, right? So "fuck that bitch for getting plastic surgery," right? "Fucking dirty cunt. She should die. She should be ashamed for daring show her face in public, because she's such a freakish monster. Instead of mutilating her face, maybe she should use the money for charity? Bitch." (But the celebrity YOU like is an angel, right? And HER plastic surgery was medically necessary because her eyelashes were hyper-angled, and national health insurance even paid for it...blah, blah, blah).
Sound harsh? Just be glad you don't speak Korean and cruise around the many places that don't take down comments JUST like that.
And in a far-flung, faceless society that still operates on the rules of a close-knit, face-to-face one that regulates social relations through in-person sanctions on violations of social rules and roles, one can see why this is an especially pernicious problem.
Is it any wonder the world's first true case of cyberstalking was right here, in the case of the infamous "dog poop girl?" Things have changed a lot since then, and as any old Korea hand knows, the society completely changes at the rate of every decade. It's hard to believe that just 12 years ago, most people didn't even know what the WEB or EMAIL were. Fast-forward a few years, and it's the country of cyberstalking.
Again, that ain't no mere coincidence, people.
And I continue to be, unfortunately for me and the hardened heart one must develop to live here, completely unsurprised by suicides such as these.
Because they happen every day, and will continue to. The only logical to wonder -- who's next? I just hope it's not someone I care about, and try to carry on with life. That's all an individual can do. Unfortunately, Choi was far from the first, and far from the last.
RIP, Choi Jin-sil.
In this 16th episode of Bomb English, Jennifer and Michael talk about mad cow madness. Have we eaten too much American beef? Are we crazy? Or are we just the only ones remaining calm? Wait -- did they say they ate American beef? Run! Run!
As someone always up for making creative points, would anyone with artistic skills like to assist in making a satirical cartoon illustrating the folly of making racism-tinged generalizations? Here's one that comes from a Korean blogger (HT to the Marmot):
I wrote a comment on his blog asking how Koreans would feel if American newspapers and bloggers started making cartoons based on sweeping generalizations of certain minority groups appearing in the news, as in the Koreans such as Cho Seung-hui or more recently, Choi Kang-hyuk.
A cartoon of say, a sweat-drenched, crazed Korean man clutching a knife dripping with blood in one hand, and a Tech-9mm in the other one outta do it. It would go in a mock post, and the point will be made that this is a shoe-on-the-other-foot kind of thought experiment, and not our actual opinion.
Of course, certain netizens would try to lie and say that we really believed in this, but those idiots would just spread the word, while hopefully the Korean press would get ahold of it. Who knows? The worst that'll happen is that it'll go unnoticed. The best is that it would be.
I'd do the illustration myself, but I can't draw to save my life. Anyone care to collaborate and make a point with me? Rather than phone calls that go unreturned, or online petitions/protests that go unnoticed, let's get creative.
And turnabout is always fair play, especially when the other guy is even more sensitive than you are to low blows. Playing to the Korean sense of national pride and "image" just might be an effective strategy in this case, methinks.
Before you say this site is "anti-Korean" or bashing Korea – read this: "Why Be Critical?" Chances are, if you're simply angry because I am a social critic in Korea but not actually Korean, see if your argument isn't just a kneejerk response that follows these patterns.
Session 1: Just the Basics Dealing with the basic operations and functions of your DSLR, explaining each function, button, and doo-hickey. The bulk of the session is likely going to stick around the relationship between aperture and shutter, as well as depth-of-field. Basically everything on your camera has something to do with this relationship.
Session 2: Composition and Shooting (Shooting Session 1) We'll take those examples and look at them on the big screen, while also answering the concrete questions that will pop up about the stuff we learned before. Then we'll talk about composition and other framing issues, including lens lengths and why some lenses are worth $100 bucks and some are worth $10,000.
Session 3: Flashes and Advanced Exposure (Shooting Session 2) Dealing with flash, in terms of compensating above and below exposure levels (bracketing), as well as other bracketing techniques in general.
Session 4: Final Session/Critiques Keeping it open, determined by the class.
Four 3-hour sessions, as well as shooting sessions, photo discussions, and critiques. An individual photo essay will also be done as part of the ongoing class assignments. Inquire at the email address at the top right of this page.
Here are some key posts, for those of you new to the blog, which are a sampling of some of my thoughts about race and ideology in Korea and in general, my view of what it means to be a true American, my answer to the question of "Why don't you talk about more positive things?", my thoughts on why the Korean media is so unprofessional, thoughts on the Korean education system (here and here), my post about and examples of racism in three countries' media and the difference in the way they're handled, my posts (here and here) channeling my anger about Katrina, my post about being black in Korea and the whole Hines Ward thing (here and here and here), a post directed against the fashionable racism of even so-called "progressive" Asian Americans, my first attempt at online activism – a petition against KBS, and even random posts such as why I love Apple and have used an Apple computer, why I think Korea doesn't like Star Trek but should really love Battlestar Galactica, and I am ashamed to say that I have even blogged about my cats (here and here).
As for my photo book (now in limbo due to editorial differences with the publisher), you can see the representative chapters from the "Seoul Essays" posts below. Note that Chapter 3 remains undone and in limbo on my computer:
Chapter I: On the Surface
Chapter II: Pleasures of the Everyday
Chapter IV: To Hell and Back
I have much, much more, but this is a random yet representative sampling of my work to start with.