Category Archives: media

“Does he even have a lot of haters?”

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Oh, thank you, DKDKTV.

They start discussing the existence or nonexistence of Zico’s haters again at the 5:30 mark, and it’s pretty funny given how hard these haters try to be relevant. I mean, here are two younger Korean men, living in Korea, who are sufficiently into K-Pop that it’s a big focus of their YouTube channel, and they’re forced to conclude in the absence of any other evidence that, since even they have haters, Zico must have them, too.

So, yeah. Keep that in mind if what you see in the English-language K-Pop press starts to worry you.

Just some highlights of Zico’s history with the Korean K-Pop media

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There’s been a lot of traffic to these two posts. And I realize that there are some people who are working very hard to convince themselves that Zico’s media relations are some kind of real problem (imposed on him, of course, by his evil, evil label–run away with me, Zico!!!!), and I don’t expect this post to have any impact at all on those folks. But if you are kind of new to this (because for some strange reason you haven’t been spending the last four years obsessively following this issue), you might wonder why I and apparently every Korean on Nate find the notion that Zico owes the Korean K-Pop media anything at all to be genuinely hilarious.

If you’re not familiar with how the K-Pop press operates in Korea, Zico might seem to be acting unfairly. I mean, yeah, he wasn’t too happy about having his relationship with Seolhyun exposed, but…it’s not like that wasn’t true, right? (Mostly, anyway.) Why is he so closed off?

But the Korean media has also reported many things about Zico and Block B that are not remotely true. This happens all the time and is actually a big part of why NetizenBuzz exists–the “professional” media in Korea will print just about anything, including utterly stupid netizen comments, whether or not it’s true or of any significance. The only thing that matters is getting clicks.

Example #1 of the shit work the Korean media has done for Zico and Block B is, of course, the Thailand scandal.

If you click through that link, you will see that that post was inspired by an extremely sensible question: Why was the scandal such a big deal in Korea if Koreans had the capability of understanding that Zico’s remark in Korean was mistranslated into Thai? And the answer is: The media in Korea sucks ass.

Example #2: The rice-pizza scandal was reported, as a scandal, in the Korean media.

Actually, that one’s unusual because it was true–the members of Block B did indeed say they didn’t care for rice pizza. Of course, the whole bit where that makes them terrible people….

Example #3: They cropped Paloalto out of a publicity photograph taken for “Dark Panda” to create the impression that Zico and Hyolyn were dating.

Example #4: They cropped Henry Lau out of a picture of Zico and Lee Sung Kyung to create the impression that those two were dating.

That particular cropped photo was run in the Korean media–no lie–for months. Lee went on television and said they weren’t dating, and then Zico went on television, said they weren’t dating, showed the original photo, and showed how it had been altered. Even after all that the Korean media reported that Zico and Lee were dating using the doctored photo as “evidence.”

Whatever gets the clicks, baby!

So, yeah. This is not some one-time problem–the Korean K-Pop media is consistently terrible. Zico quite sensibly is not going to trust the media in his country, and his label is not, by any means, going to encourage any such trust.

And, honestly, why should he? I used to be a reporter, and all I can say is, you get what you give–if you want people to trust and respect you as a journalist, you need to behave ethically and be worthy of that trust and respect.

A cranky observation about the media & the management

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The latest “controversy” about Seven Seasons/KQ’s handling of the media just emphasizes something that bugs the hell out of me: The assumption that Seven Seasons is never helpful and always wrong.

Let’s look at that account of what happened in 2013.  (The people who think that reporter was Block B’s very best friend were sure to look up his and his outlet’s coverage of the Thailand scandal beforehand, right? I mean, no fan would ever blindly side with media outlets that have quite the history of trying to fist-fuck the group or anything, right?)

Enough questions! Presumably everyone remembers how careful Block B was with their “Very Good” promotions. If you don’t, they were super-duper careful, and it worked! For once Block B didn’t have a comeback ruined by scandal or lawsuits!

Yes, they! were! careful! They were such good boys, trying so hard to be proper idols, and always being careful about what they said and who they said it to, carefully, in order to avoid scandal.

Boy, did the fans sing praises about how careful Block B was. Such careful people.

And I’m sure they were careful, but–whaddaya know: They had help being careful. They (like most entertainers, who are typically people-pleasers and have a very hard time saying no) had a big mean scary high-ranking executive (sometimes it’s a manager, sometimes it’s a lawyer, sometimes it’s a family member–but it’s always someone) who ran around being the bad guy and saying “No way! Get the fuck out!” to people and situations they thought were probably trouble. (Added bonus: Whenever some reporter was disappointed, it wasn’t Block B’s fault. It was the fault of mean old Seven Seasons!)

It’s almost like–stay with me–things are set up this way on purpose in order to protect celebrities’ images!

Oh, but we didn’t see the sausage factory, so it must not exist–such is always the case with management. Instead, the boys–seven completely perfect humans–naturally handled everything with aplomb, and because God invariably rewards the virtuous with material success, they pulled off that vital return to the industry without a hitch!!

Like the divine beings they are.

“The essence of a press conference” is a combination of unflattering lights, boredom, and unfortunate smells, by the bye

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Zico gave a press conference where he didn’t answer reporters’ questions!!!

Wow, yeah. I think “This article wasn’t written in an attempt to brandish unfair power. It’s an attempt to find the essence of a press conference” is one of the funniest things I’ve read in a long time, especially coming right after Eric & Na Hyemi’s “controversy.”

Reporters get pissed off about shit just like anyone else does. Of course, you usually keep it to yourself so that you don’t come across as an entitled, unprofessional, biased pussy. But I guess when you’re not accustomed to actually leaving the office for any reason, it makes it soooo hurtful when you do attempt the most basic level of reporting, and that canned event doesn’t work out exactly like you expected!

Since I am a former reporter, I of course have sneaky, back-door access to all other reporters’ questions, including the ones they weren’t allowed to ask Zico! Here they are!

  1. Why don’t you take responsibility for Block B?
  2. Is the line, “Why did she date such an unrefined delinquent?” about Seolhyun?
  3. How did she feel about it?
  4. So you’re still in touch/no longer in touch with her?
  5. Why don’t you take responsibility for Seolhyun?
  6. Why don’t you take responsibility for AOA?
  7. Why don’t you take responsibility for your antis?
  8. What is your ideal type?

Aren’t you all torn up inside that Zico and his mean, horrible label didn’t respect “the essence of a press conference”?

(Of course this “controversy” is having the same kind of impact they always do.)

ETA: And this too–I’m speechless as well, but probably for very different reasons than the original poster. I mean, this so-called journalist is carrying a grudge from 2013, and he can’t seem to understand why Seven Seasons would have been very careful about Block B’s media exposure after the Thailand scandal. Not like that’s their job or anything. Unprofessional and entitled as fuck–he’s openly carrying the hatchet for Seven Seasons because of something that happened four years ago.

EATA: Oh, God, I’m finding myself COMPLETELY agreeing with the people on Netizen Buzz! This is always so disconcerting when it happens….

More top-quality Korean K-Pop journalism

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Not for the first time, the Korean media is demonstrating that it is completely unreliable even when reporting on issue of great seriousness: A woman claimed that she was sexually assaulted by an unnamed idol, and then retracted the claim that the idol was involved, so a Korean media outlet posted a picture of a particular idol–you know, just some guy they picked out of a hat or something–along with the story. Because why wouldn’t you?

Fucking Christ.

Again, remember that, with K-Pop news, the best case scenario is that you are reading an accurate English translation of some incredibly shitty journalism.

ETA: Oh, nice, a Japanese K-Pop news Twitter account put a Block B hashtag on a Tweet about the story (it’s been deleted, and they’ve apologized). Good to know that shitty, irresponsible K-Pop news reporting is truly a global phenomenon! The best bit is that Block B was IN FUCKING JAPAN when the assault happened!

Since it appears to be mental-health awareness week in K-Pop….

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Between TOP’s apparent suicide attempt and Gain’s back-and-forth with the police, it seemed to me like a good time to make some observations about mental health, both in general and in the peculiar world of K-Pop.

1.  Medical translation is its own area of specialty. Getting medical information translated correctly is a huge challenge even in hospital settings, where the stakes are very, very high.

And any time these types of stories come up, you’re actually dealing with several layers of communication problems. The first layer of problems happens when a medical specialist attempts to communicate with a lay journalist writing for a lay audience. (No lie: I used to joke when I wrote about medical issues that I was actually a translator.)

It’s not like Korean journalists are particularly hard working or competent. So, it’s Korean medical specialists => Korean reporters => Korean news stories, and then Korean news stories => English news stories.

So when police in Korea say what is translated as “TOP’s not unconscious; he’s just asleep!” (and of course the asshole haters say, “He’s just taking a nap!” because they are 1. assholes, and 2. haters)–well, yes, the police are probably trying to minimize what happened to TOP, but in all likelihood that statement wasn’t anywhere near as egregious as it comes across in English.

What would they say in English? Good luck figuring that one out–they’d probably just stick to the fact that he’s not in critical condition and is capable of being roused. Maybe they’d say that he’s unconscious but not in a coma, but maybe not. Even terms like “unconscious” and “coma” are less cut-and-dried than people often think: We have a widely used coma scale, but it’s considered kind of unhelpful in medical circles for a lot of reasons.

2. Disorders are called disorders for a reason. Honestly, I really hate the slack-jawed gaping that happens when people clearly have significant mental-health disorders. You get this audience that’s like, “Wow, look at these people!!! Why are they acting so crazy!? Why are they so ridiculous? Where’s the popcorn?”

Yes, Gain overreacted when a buddy suggested she smoke pot, and she didn’t anticipate that the police would be interested even though Korea has very strict laws regarding marijuana. Gain has a panic disorder. That fact explains everything about her behavior.

Do you think well when you are panicking? No. Irrational thoughts are a hallmark of panic and anxiety disorders! Her buddy suggested pot, and Gain freaked the fuck out because she has a panic disorder. She panicked when she shouldn’t have; hence the term panic disorder–if her panic were under control, she wouldn’t have a panic disorder. Gain was unable to realistically predict the consequences of her actions because she has a panic disorder. Her excessive panic caused her to make bad choices; this is why it’s called a panic disorder, not a panic all-is-well-you’re-doing-great-everything’s-in-order!

(Personal note: You should have seen the shit show when a totally qualified mental-health professional suggested that one of my relatives go on a common prescription medication for their panic disorder. This is why I don’t work in mental health.)

Why is it called a broken leg? Because your leg is broken. Why is it called a ruptured spleen? Because your spleen is ruptured. Why is it called a panic disorder? Because your panic is fucking up your life.

Why is Gain acting the way she is? Because she has a panic disorder. She told people she has a panic disorder, she’s acting like someone with a panic disorder, and people just can’t put two and two together to figure out what the holy heck is going on with that Gain gal!

3. Being super-judgmental is not helpful. It’s not just the people blathering on about how someone who attempted suicide is “weak” (dicks). It’s also the people saying that Gain is a stupid bitch. Anyone with a serious panic disorder is 1. stupid (i.e. not thinking well, because panicking), and 2. a bitch (i.e. not much fun to be around, because panicking).

It’s especially obnoxious when, hello, the person informed everyone about their mental health issue. “I have a broken leg.” “People just say that because they want sympathy!” “I have a broken leg.” “Why can’t you walk?” “I have a broken leg.” “Why ain’t you running?” “I have a broken leg.” “Why are you lying on the ground?” “I have a broken leg.” “Stop making excuses, you rotten lazy bum!”

But the main problem with laying into people who are suffering from depression or any kind of anxiety disorder is that they are already laying into themselves. You don’t attempt suicide out of an excess of self-love.

It’s also important to keep in mind that everyone is just one hardship or catastrophe away from experiencing a depressive/anxiety/post-traumatic-stress disorder of their very own. You don’t develop these disorders because you’re weak (dicks) any more than you rupture your spleen because you’re weak.

4. Self-reflection is not some panacea. I’m all for people being self-aware, but the whole emphasis on self-reflection in K-Pop…a-ha-ha-ha. I mean, the people telling TOP that they wanted him to reflect, not commit suicide–oh my God, what a bunch of self-deluded control freaks. “Oppa, I wanted you to hate yourself this much, not that much!”

This is I think where the fact that many K-Pop fans are very young comes into play: People seem to honestly believe that they can send an adult with problems into a corner to think about what he’s done, and once the timer runs out he’ll stop spitting into the other kids’ milk and everything will be taken care of.

The problem is that depressed and anxious people are already thinking about themselves–specifically about how much they suck. They’re thinking about that a lot. The psychological term used for this is rumination, and it’s regarded as a pathological thought pattern that is important to break out of if you want to get better.

PSA Time!

On the off chance that you’ve been feeling “weak” or like a “stupid bitch,” rather than suggesting self-reflection, I’m going to list some books that I have found helpful with my own mental-health issues (caused by my own deep-seated and inherent inadequacies, of course). I also see a therapist, get regular exercise, and get as much sun exposure as I can during the dark & gloomy months, but I started with books, because they were easy and cheap, and they did help.

Honestly, a big part of the battle is taking that first step.

  • Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns
  • Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think by Dennis Greenberger & Christine A. Padesky
  • Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love & Wisdom by Rick Hanson
  • The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach To Getting the Life You Want by Sonja Lyubomirsky

Just because it’s not in English….

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A few weeks ago (God, this is a timely blog) a hardworking BBC translated some Korean netizen comments onto OneHallyu, and one of OneHallyu’s patented anti-Block B fuckwits got annoyed by it. (Yes, because someone did a translation, which wasn’t the approved hate. I would like to take this moment to not only thank that BBC for her hard work, but also to commend her for her willingness to put up with the idiots on that site. She is a better person than I am.) Anyway, another BBC made an eminently logical reply, pointing out that a lot of positive news about Block B never makes it into English.

And that’s very true.

I don’t think that’s because all the English-language K-Pop sites have this terrible bias against Block B or anything–but that filter against translating positive stories does exist, and it exists all the time. Even if what’s going on isn’t egregious, in general the English-language K-Pop sites do focus on the negative, simply because they do fewer stories and tend to pick out the really juicy ones.

I think this creates the impression that the Korean K-Pop press is hugely focused on scandals–which it kind of isn’t, for reasons I’ll get to in a moment. And things can be really confusing for English-language observers, because it seems to us like one minute, say, IU is a vicious pedophile who everyone hates, and the next she’s a painted saint who everyone loves and who is being unfairly targeted by the evil LABOUM, who everyone hates. This time.

But that’s because we see only what comes through the filter.

What isn’t there?

A whole lotta stuff!

This is a screencap of the results of a Google News search for “피오”–these are most (not all) of the results from May 5, and these stories focus P.O’s appearance on the pilot of Secret Variety Institute.

Here’s the thing: Very few of these stories are what I’d consider actual news. A handful of them mention the show’s ratings (which were pretty good–yay!), but the vast majority of them are the Korean equivalent of those stories you see in American news outlets that say, “Saturday Night Live did a skit about Kellyanne Conway!” and then the story itself just tells you that…Saturday Night Live did a skit about Kellyanne Conway. Like, yeah, the skit was funny, and I don’t like the Trump administration any more than anybody else does, but writing a story about what was on television last night is not exactly what I consider serious reporting.

You can really see what I mean in this case because AllKpop actually did two English-language versions of these articles. Their titles are, “Block B’s P.O Confesses He Is Lonely These Days” and “Block B’s P.O Reveals Whom He Would Date on ‘Secret Variety Institute’.” Neither article tells you anything you wouldn’t learn by actually watching the show (which I totally recommend–I saw it here but there are also English subs here now), and both focus on P.O’s dating life (of course).

There were dozens of these kinds of articles in the Korean K-Pop press. Dozens! For just one day!

This is what English-speaking K-Pop fans don’t see, and this is what makes what might seem like a big scandal here just a blip in Korea. When P.O wore clothing with Japanese writing on it to a Korean Independence Day festival, those stories were promptly buried by stories about Zico appearing in a photograph with Hyorin (THEY MUST BE DATING!!!!) and Paloalto (…we’ll just crop him out). When Zico dissed his haters while he was dating Seolhyun, it got pretty much equal coverage with an Instagram photo Jun Hyun Moo posted of him standing with Zico and Park Kyung (…but are they dating?).

That was in the Korean K-Pop press.

The fact of the matter is that the Korean K-Pop press is massively lazy. (I know I keep saying that, but that’s because it’s always true.) The laziness makes it easy to plant negative stories, of course, but it also results in a ton of positive stories–if you’re going to just write about what you saw on television and on celebrities’ social media without doing any additional reporting, then of course you’re going to produce a huge number of stories that read, “P.O was so cute on that show! He smiled and laughed!” or “Zico looked so fashionable in that photograph! He wore a sweater!” Pretty much the only twist that you can put on these things is to speculate about dating, so that’s what they do. Hey, it beats reporting!

For the most part, the English-language sites don’t translate more than a fraction of these kinds of stories, and I don’t really blame them–these stories are so repetitive and so trivial, and there is just a blizzard of them. They are the reason why, years ago, I turned off my Google News alert for “블락비,” and I’ve never, ever been tempted to turn it back on.

But it also means that, yes, what you see in English isn’t truly representative of what’s appearing in the Korean press. It’s skewed towards the negative and away from the positive, most definitely. Likewise the volume of stories is far less. If all that truly bothers you, I’d suggest creating a Google News alert for “블락비” (or the Hangul name of any other Korean group or celebrity)–your desire for a flood of positive stories will soon be satiated.