Monthly Archives: April 2016

Same gay planet, different gay worlds

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I’ve been going back and forth on doing a post like this for a while now, but I think the recent sanctioning of the Korean SNL provides a good opportunity to talk about how the issue of gay rights in Korea gets perceived by English-speaking K-Pop fans.

Anyone who witnessed the “Tough Cookie” brouhaha has to notice that the accidental use of an American homophobic slur in a song written by someone whose English is not so great got a LOT more attention in international K-Pop circles than an instance (not the first!) of institutionalized, government-sanctioned homophobia. Given the silliness of the skit, with this sanction the KCSC has effectively ruled that any portrayal of homosexual activity, regardless of context, is inappropriate for a teen audience.

Because the Sexual Orientation Fairy doesn’t visit until your 18th birthday, don’t you know.

Anyway, the commission took up this issue because the skit generated complaints (so these people were busy). It is going to be interesting to see if they also respond to this skit, which aired about a week later:

or if Jackson just doesn’t have sufficiently committed haters.

I do think it says a lot that this kind of government action didn’t touch a nerve internationally the way “Tough Cookie” did. I’m sure one reason is that K-Pop fans tend to perceive idols as these kind of puppets to judge and control. No one is getting in a lather because the KCSC isn’t shaving its head and groveling before them because it’s too abstract, and an entity like that isn’t going to listen anyway.

But I also think that this kind of homophobia is largely outside the experience of (oh my God I’m actually saying this) Young People in America Today. There’s this kind of naivete about how acceptable homophobia can be–which is a good sign, I think, but it can blind people. When I was in high school in the latter half of the 1980s, for example, nobody else at school knew what the word “homophobia” meant. When I explained it to them, they thought the concept was hilarious–There are people out there who actually think there’s something wrong with hating gay people!! HA HA HA!!!

Those were the days….

But having had that experience is why I didn’t assume Zico’s apology for “Tough Cookie” was bullshit, as so many other (younger) Americans did. As I hope the sanctioning of SNL made clear, “[Zico] has no prejudice or negative intention with respect to homosexuals, and he has respect for sexual minorities” was not a statement that his label had to release, otherwise he’d lose his audience because everyone would hate him–that’s just not the case in Korea (at this point).

That naivete about Korean attitudes toward homosexuality can be quite startling. For example, here’s an interview with a very out young gay man about how awesome it is to be in Korea and back in the closet.

The truly scary thing is, he doesn’t even realize he’s in the closet! He has fallen into the Tolerance Trap that was so very popular before AIDS came along–everyone “tolerates” you for being gay until they find out that you are gay. It’s exactly the same way we “tolerate” child molesters!

[ETA: And the video I put up in my next post has a great example of the kind of thing that can create the impression that Korea is really open to gay people–but that doesn’t really mean that at all.

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Yup, just a couple of dudes, sleeping on each other in the same bed. Looks pretty damned gay to us, but as Ask a Korean notes, that’s because we’re simply more aware that homosexuality is a possibility. The Zico/Park Kyung kiss got dinged because it removed all deniability from the subject.]

The communication gap runs the other way, too. I mean, obviously, if people aren’t going to accept “[Zico] has no prejudice or negative intention with respect to homosexuals, and he has respect for sexual minorities” as some kind of statement in favor of gay rights, then there’s not much hope. But it’s also true that things that Mean Something to Koreans don’t necessarily Mean Something to international fans.

Things like:

#블락비 #비범 이랑 #태일 이랑 방송준비. 내 조카가 너무좋아하는 블락비동생들 흥해랏

A post shared by Tonyhong1004 (@tonyhong1004) on

#블락비 동생들. 최고핫한 #아이돌 멋지고 착한

A post shared by Tonyhong1004 (@tonyhong1004) on

블락비 지코와

A post shared by Tonyhong1004 (@tonyhong1004) on

have a certain meaning in Korea, and it’s not “I hate gay people!”

Copying vs. copyright infringement

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The latest copying brouhaha involves Block B, so I thought I’d talk a bit about copying vs. actionable copyright infringement that you can actually sue somebody about. (Kpopalypse has done several posts about copyright that apply specifically to music: Go here and follow the links.)

I’m going to start by pointing out that 1. I am not a lawyer, and 2. the copyright laws I am familiar with are U.S. laws, which can be very different from laws in other countries. So why bring this subject up at all, if all I have is a layman’s knowledge of laws that may well not actually apply to Korea? Because U.S. copyright law (and U.S. civil law in general) is very focused on the notion of damages. What are damages? The actual impact someone’s misbehavior has caused you. If someone did something wrong, but it didn’t hurt you in any meaningful, material way, you cannot sue in the United States.

Even if damages aren’t key to the law in other countries, everybody takes them into account. If something doesn’t cause you significant harm, why would you go to the trouble of going to court about it? You hopefully have better things to do with your time! So, Block B lets things that might be actionable in Korea slide, because why bother?

With copyright law, one of the key questions courts look at when attempting to determine if sufficient damages have taken place is, Will people buy this thing instead of the thing made by the copyright holder?

If the answer is yes, then you are in trouble. For example, if you write under the pen name “Steven King,” and your novels include the horror titles Coju, Carri, and Pet Cemetery, chances are very good that you will have to give any the money you made (plus punitive damages) right back to Stephen King.

If the answer to that question is no, then you can’t get sued. This is why parodies are legal. It is extremely unlikely that someone will see something like this:

and regard it as equivalent to reading the 50 Shades of Grey book or seeing the movie. The Korean SNL skit isn’t cutting into 50 Shades of Grey‘s audience, so they’re not damaging E.L. James’ revenues, so she can’t sue (or maybe legally she can, but she’s not going to bother).

So, let’s look at this Twice copying Block B issue.

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Now, there’s been some back-and-forth because the idea of having someone show through torn paper is nothing new (and indeed those kinds of vague concepts can never be copyrighted). I personally do think that the two album covers are similar enough that, were I an executive at Twice’s label, I would be asking some pretty pointed questions of the graphic designer.

But none of that really matters. The question that matters is, Is Twice cannibalizing sales of the Japanese edition of H.E.R? Are people confusing this:

with this?

Uhhh…I’m going out on a limb here and guessing that the answer to that question is no. I’m going to anticipate that Seven Seasons will not take legal action on this one. (And it’s not like they’re afraid to!)

DEEP inside the mind of a WRITAH!!!!

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I looked at Netizen Buzz today (which I don’t make a habit of, because it’s usually dumb), and saw something pretty hilarious: The idiots on Pann are upset because someone crumpled up a radio script.

Oh, the pathos!

1. [+278, -8] ??????????? I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw this. He actually did this on scene at a radio recording???? That’s so disrespectful to the scriptwriters, how dare he does that to something they worked so hard on?

5. [+90, -1] Hul if I was the scriptwriter, I’d be like “what’s this ba$tard doing?”

10. [+50, -5] Hul, I interned briefly as a broadcast scriptwriter and what he did is extremely disrespectful. I was the total maknae intern and all I did was divide the scripts but I made sure that they weren’t wrinkled when they were handed out. Normally rookies try so hard to get on the scriptwriter’s good side so for a rookie to act like this…

That last one is especially hilarious, because the person doesn’t seem to grasp why it might be important for the intern not to crumple the scripts before they are used. And why it might matter less if they are crumpled after they are used. I totally understand why that internship was brief.

Of course it was still more work experience than anyone else on Pann has had, ever. So I’m going to let you in on what the writers were thinking when they saw that young man crumple that script. They were thinking:

You mind sticking that in the recycling bin there, buddy?

Yes, yes, there are writers who are very uptight about how the paper that contains their writing is handled. Those writers write books. These books can take a year–or a decade!–to write. A person might write only one book their entire lives!

Then you have people like the scriptwriters, who have to crank out a new script every week or maybe even every day. Those kinds of writers are a lot less uptight.

Here’s how I keep the newspaper and magazine articles that I wrote.

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You expect me to what, frame them or something? The only reason I bothered clipping them out before I (yes) crumpled up the rest of the publication and threw it away is because writers need clips to get jobs.

I also worked in book publishing. Would you like to see the books I worked on?

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You can’t! They’re in a closed-front cabinet so that I don’t have to look at them! I kept them for the same reason I kept the clips (and I keep them still because they’re out of the way and don’t bother me any).

And honestly: How much work did it take, exactly, to produce the script that kid crumpled up? Pretty much none, since presumably it was just one of many scripts all xeroxed off at the same time on the same copy machine. Did the kid say his fucking lines? Could you understand them when he spoke? Then he gave the scriptwriter’s precious, precious script exactly the respect it was due.

Where do these dumb-asses think those scripts go after people use them? Off to get bronzed?

Data and other random things

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The Gaon charts came out today, and Block B’s doing well:

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That’s kind of what you’d expect at this point, but I was interested to find out that Blooming Period is actually on Oricon, at least according to this. It’s #52, which means it’s not listed on Oricon’s Web page, so let’s hope that chart isn’t just a fraud. It was interesting anyway because I thought Oricon didn’t cover Korean releases. (It turns out that they cover CDs that sell from certain Japanese retailers within Japan. So while that chart leaves out a lot, as long as those retailers stock the Korean releases….)

Anyway, Block B sold less than 1,000 physical copies of Blooming Period, which I think shows just how important handshake tickets and the like are to selling CDs in the Japanese market. If you hold events, you sell 30 times as much!

* * *

Speaking of things that sound really interesting, but are potentially dodgy source-wise, the Korean media is reporting that 1. there will be a KCon France, and 2. Block B will play it. Now, I can’t find ANYTHING official about ANY of this–not a KCon France Web site, not a Facebook page, not a Twitter feed. Hopefully it is legit, though, and will go up on the Accor Arena and ticket sites soon. (ETA: It’s up on Live Nation and Accor, and they’re using the MNet MAMA Twitter account as the official Twitter–yeah, that’s not going to confuse anybody…)

* * *

And hey! Block B won a music show!

Hm, let’s see what impact that’s had on traffic to BlockB.com.

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Yeah. The big peak is the release of Blooming Period, then there’s the inevitable decline, then the gradual increase in visitors driven, I would assume, by their appearances on Music Bank/Inkigayo/Music Core. Then the slump when they took a couple of days off, which did not reverse dramatically when they won a big gold cup.

I would assume given what happened in the past that traffic may climb again during the week, since they have a lot of music-show appearances scheduled. But like the MAMAs, the main marketing value from the music shows seems to come from simply appearing on them–actually winning them may be fun, but it’s hardly crucial.

* * *

The most exciting news in my book came from here:

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The Jaehyo Travel Show we all wanted may indeed become a reality!

AOMG!!!

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So, it’s been quite the season for Korean hip-hop in the Pacific Northwest–last month, it was Dynamic Duo in Vancouver, and this month it was AOMG in Seattle.

(And the only reaction the line outside the venue got from passers-by was them honking their horns and whooping at us. Because we were going to party! It was a slightly less Asian crowd than Dynamic Duo but still largely Asian, so yeah. Seriously, I don’t know what’s going on in Vancouver, but whenever anyone complains that Americans are too politically correct about race, remember that there are worse things to be. Like hostile.)

Anyway, I hate to start off on a negative note, but I really disliked many things about the venue. The Showbox SODO is a club, not a theater, so the stage was like this:

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It was not that high compared to where we were standing, the floor did not slant up so that you could see over the people in front of you, and the layout was narrow and deep, so that you were always far from the stage. (I’m not going to have great pictures. Which is a shame, because SOMEBODY finally took his shirt off!)

Not helping matters was the AOMG light stick, which was this large tube with multicolored lights. They look really cool:

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But they’re thick and long and block your view like a motherfucker.

The lineup was Simon Dominic, Loco & Gray (who performed together), and Jay Park, with DJ Pumpkin as, you guessed it, DJ.

It started with the Reading of the Rules. I found this confusing, because it went like this.

CONCERT GUY: Flashing is not permitted.

ME (shouting): What sort of flashing?

CONCERT GUY (looking judgmental): I didn’t hear that.

He then made us repeat “No flash!”–and then he made a joke about flashing us. Even now, I have no idea if they meant that flash photography was not permitted, or if taking off your clothes was not permitted.

Rule #2 was that we should “respect the artists” and not throw anything at them.

Was either rule followed, and if not, what happened? Read on to find out!

Simon Dominic started out, and he was fucking amazing. He’s one of these guys who never seems to even breathe–he sounds like he could rap non-stop for the entire three minutes of a song without any trouble whatsoever. His English isn’t very good (which REALLY amused the two young Korean guys standing next to me), but he said nice things about Seattle and being happy to be here.

Then Gray and Loco came out–I think it was Loco first, then Gray, but they basically performed as a unit. Since their voices are at about the same range, they even split songs so that they could both perform them. At one point Loco screwed up and rapped when Gray was supposed to–it was pretty funny because Gray was just like, Dude! and Loco ended the line and Gray picked up the next one.

I was able to get fairly close to the stage, but as their set went on people started to crowd in because they were expecting Jay Park, and I got hotter and thirstier and hotter and thirstier…. Finally I realized that the one advantage of the venue was that their was no way for the performers to see if you snuck off and went to the bar for a bottle of water and a really horrible Cape Cod, so that’s what I did. (And that’s where I took the second picture from.)

After I drank, I went back down–I didn’t want to get into the scrum again, so I went around to the other side, and I was actually able to get fairly close.

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And Jay Park came out! He went from the sweatshirt to the tank top to no shirt at all, which was glorious (no lie–he looks really good), but unfortunately none of the shirtless photos came out, so you’ll have to be satisfied with this.

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He was great–the problem was that he didn’t perform as much as I would have liked. In fact, he had two Seattle rappers come on up there and perform their songs.

Now, I appreciate that Jay is a generous and wonderful human being who wants to promote new talent. That’s swell. But I bought a ticket to see AOMG, and instead I got four songs performed by people who frankly were not at that level. (Simon Dominic didn’t perform many more than four songs, and trust me, he shits better rap than these guys.)

The first guy was not too bad, but the second drove me into a stall in the ladies’ room, where I waited until he went away. Then I came back out, and Jay Park was like, I want to show you my AOM b-boy crew!

Well, I was thrilled–I’m always up to watch b-boying, and Cha Cha Malone was there–but there was a small problem: You couldn’t see the dancers. This had been a problem even before Jay Park came out, because (being AOMG) there were these really great backup dancers who would periodically come out, get low, and disappear entirely. Then when Jay came out himself, well, of course he loves to dance, so they’d all do stuff that looked like it might have been really cool, if only you could have seen it.

With the AOM crew–it was like a sick joke. They’d toprock (not that you could see their feet), and then they’d vanish. Then you’d see their little sneakers kick up in the air. Then you’d see Simon Dominic and Loco (who brought their cameras) smile with delight at whatever the fuck was going on there.

At this point, I was seriously contemplating just going to my car and heading home.

I didn’t, and I’m glad I didn’t, because the final part of the show was all four of them doing songs like “Bo$$” and generally burning down the house. It was really great–Simon Dominic spent an entire verse dragging Gray around by the face, it was hilarious.

And now: What happened with the Rules?

Was their flashing? I believe so, and of both kinds. I did notice someone’s phone flash go off once, although the person promptly fixed it.

I also noticed Simon Dominic looking very happy at someone close to the stage–he was grinning like a serious perv. Then he’d put his hand up in a sort of No/I’m blocking my view gesture. Then he’d drop his hand and grin some more. Then he’d put his hand up again.

Were objects thrown at the performers? Definitely yes. Someone threw a bra at Jay Park–and not a sexy bra, either, but a HUGE beige support bra. This kind of bra, except with the even-less-sexy foam-lined cups.

What did he do? Well, first he tried to put it on Loco, and then he tried to put it on himself, and then he left it up on the turntable.

They’re kind of into mixed messages over at AOMG….

Anyway–I am glad I went, and I would go see them again, but I would greatly prefer a different venue. (ETA: Am I jealous? Yes.)