Category Archives: the Korean thing

This is why it’s called a FOREIGN country


Of course the news that Zico will be appearing on one of Taeyang’s songs has lead to some discussion over whether or not Zico deserves such an honor, given his defective character. (Yes. You would perhaps expect Big Bang fans not to play this game, but . . . welcome to K-Pop.)

The specific context isn’t important, though–I want to talk about one particular exchange because it is something that I’ve seen happen repeatedly whenever Zico’s sins are under discussion.

First, some SJW comes up with a list of what he has done that is bad. I’m going to screenshot this one, because (quite possibly for the first time) it is factually accurate. These are things Zico actually has done–most other lists include a lot of fanciful inventions to make him look racist, sexist, or homophobic:

And the other person replies, Oh, but Zico got dragged by K-netz for all that.

That’s a pretty typical reply, regardless of the accuracy of the “Zico is racist/sexist/homophobic” list–whatever it was, K-netz dragged him for it!

But here’s the thing: Zico got dragged by K-netz for none of that. All that stuff upset American fans, but not Korean fans.

Would you like to see the list of things Zico has been dragged by K-netz for?

  • Dating Seolhyun
  • The Thailand scandal
  • Another member of his group wearing clothing with Japanese writing on it during a Korean Independence Day celebration (happy Korean Independence Day, by the way)
  • Kissing a man on Saturday Night Live
  • The rice-pizza scandal

Notice a gap there? No concern about racism; no concern about sexism; no concern about homophobia (quite the contrary, in fact). Case in point: The American controversy over racism and homophobia in “Tough Cookie” was SO big . . . it resulted in a couple of Pann posts explaining to Koreans that it existed. (Kissing a man? Government sanction of the show. No lie.)

Korea is 96% Korean. The use of American slurs or anything that requires knowledge of American history doesn’t have a huge impact there, because Koreans (including the Koreans who do these things) don’t understand–that is not an excuse, that is a fact. This is why you have really weird shit, like Koreans doing the minstrel Michol character, and then saying it wasn’t racist because they didn’t make him that dark.

None of that is the same as saying that Koreans are not capable of understanding that something is offensive and why (and then apologizing, and then having those apologies left off those SJW lists). But it does mean that education is required. It’s simply unrealistic to expect Koreans to have the same intuitive knowledge of what is offensive to Americans that Americans have (just like an American isn’t likely to have the same intuitive knowledge of what is offensive to Kore–Jesus Christ! Did you just give your money to that store clerk with one hand!?).

Education does work though, which I think is something these K-Pop SJWs like to ignore, because then they’ll have nothing to post about. (Other than, you know, shit that actually matters–but that stuff is scary and hard.Show Me the Money never even used to bleep the N-word out of raps; now it’s widely understood among Korean rappers that it’s better to avoid the use of that word (even though they’re not white). It’s an uphill climb, of course: Why would you expect anything else, especially given Korea’s demographics? Korea is a country with a 96% rate of ethic homogeny trying to remake itself into a multicultural society–that’s not going to happen without a few (more than a few) hiccups.


Korea Times Music Festival–whoot! whoot!


So, if I was able to fall asleep after, you know it must have been exhausting–the KTMF was four-and-a-half hours of long! But fun. Lots of fun.

Actually, the concert was four-and-a-half hours. (Bastarz sang all of three songs–if there’s only one group you want to see, this is not the venue I’d recommend.) Before the concert was the festival, which mainly seemed to be booths where they’d spin a wheel and you win stuff. Honestly, at this point in my life, I don’t feel a need for more stuff, but people seemed to enjoy it.

And there were a lot of people.

It had what I think every festival could use–a giant cup of ramen walking around.

Not shown: The concerned little girl who did not think that giant cups of ramen should be allowed to walk around.

My main regret from deciding to kind of avoid the festival side of things is that (since you can eat in the Hollywood Bowl) everyone around me had the most delicious-smelling Korean food, and I was very jealous (I made do with a lame sandwich from the concessions stand). If I do this again, and I might, I’ll have to investigate and figure out where that food came from.

This was my first time going to the Hollywood Bowl, which was really cool. (And I second the advice to walk there from the Hollywood and Highland Metro station–it’s less than a mile, and it’s a gradual slope. It only gets steep once you’re inside.)


I’m sharing so many pictures of the Hollywood Bowl because I was too far away and my phone camera was too crappy to get good pictures of the actual concert, especially once it got dark and everything was backlit.

But I did get a good one of Haha’s hair being blown so it looked silly (it was windy), while Tiffany’s hair just looked wind-blown and glamours. (They were the MCs.)

And I tried really hard with Bastarz and managed to get all of one shot:

As I mentioned, KTMF is really long–there were introductory performances as well, so I think we saw something like 15 or 16 different acts? It’s also attracts a range of ages, and the music isn’t just idol pop. (There were some grannies sitting near me, and it was funny to see what made them plotz. Believe it or not, a Black gospel choir from Crenshaw and DJ Doc both did the trick)

Because the festival was so big and diverse, it’s kind of hard to talk about it in a coherent fashion, so I guess I’ll talk about what stuck out to me.


I’ll start with them, because why not? Like I said, they only did three songs (“Make It Rain,” “Charlie Chaplin,” and “Conduct Zero”)–they were funny and weird, of course, and there were quite a few honey wands in the audience (alas, I forgot to pack my little one). There were three big video screens on the stage, and the cameramen were shooting the three of them so that each one appeared on a screen. But that actually made them look cool and organized, so it triggered the Block B Chaos Effect, and one of the feeds went dead and stayed dead for the rest of the concert. (You tempt the Block B Chaos Effect at your peril, show technicians!)

I don’t really like normal idol performances

It was interesting to see where Bastarz/Block B fits on the idol-other musician spectrum (basically: We’re trying to idol, but we’re not very good at it).

Most of the performers were not idol performers, and in all honestly I was very thankful for that, because I enjoyed the normal idol performances the least by far.

Why? Well, there’s just not a lot of actual stagecraft going on there. The boy groups (Victon, NCT 127) danced very well but didn’t do a whole lot in the way of singing, so it was like watching a dance troupe perform to a song they downloaded from the Internet. Apink and Tiffany sang more and danced less, but it was all devoid of spontaneity. No one was working the audience or getting everyone going, because there just wasn’t any room for that.

In contrast, the hip-hop groups (Skull & Haha, DJ Doc) were VERY good at riling up the audience. (And DJ Doc was just like, “GET YOUR FUCKING HANDS UP!!!”–they didn’t give a shit before they were respected industry seniors, and they certainly don’t give a shit now. The grannies didn’t mind.) The non-idol soloists (Kim Yeong Im, Cho Hang Jo, Chu Ga Yeoul, Min Kyung Hoon, and Gummy) were just amazing musically, so even though I wasn’t familiar with their stuff, I’d gladly watch any of them live again.

But all that musicality and stagecraft was just missing from the idol performances–even if I liked the songs, the idol format was just kind of blah.

Haha is a very funny man

Very funny. He barely speaks English, and yet I, who understand precious little Korean, thought he was hilarious (he and Tiffany kept sparring over the correct pronunciation of “McDonald’s”). When he came out to perform with Skull, he was wearing dark glasses, but then he whipped them off to sing “soulfully” into the camera for “Don’t Laugh”–and in the process he dropped them, so he had to retrieve them from an audience member afterward.

The English-only crowd should stay away

Not that they’d come anyway, but the whole thing was largely in Korean with only occasional English.

Which meant that the patter could get a little dull, but sometimes I understood it. Like Kim Yeong Im asked if we wanted an encore, which we most certainly did, and then she said something along the lines of how she was happy to hear it because she wasn’t sure how she’d hold up against all the younger idol groups, and then I believe she implied that Haha had given her a hard time about all that.

Then she performed and was great, and Haha ran out and threw confetti on her.

And NCT 127 will forever be to me The Group of Young Men Who Don’t Speak English Well and Are Very Self-Conscious About It…Plus Two Total Bros (yeahahahahah).

P.O actually gave English the old college try (“Yes!” “The weather is nice!”), which was delightfully awkward (although his pronunciation was very good). He read his patter from a card, which resulted in things like, “I’m so happy [pauses to squint at paper] to be here.”

[ETA: Here’s a fan cam:

So cute!]

So, I had a great time! And it was a handy excuse to travel someplace where you can actually see the sun, which God knows I needed!

ETA: I know some non-Americans were upset that there wasn’t a big crowd to greet Bastarz at the airport–guys, Americans don’t do that, certainly not like people in Asia. I think the members of Block B are used to that by this point.

Pajeon: The jeon of pa


In times like these, comfort food takes on a great importance, and one of the few things that have made me happy this past week has been the fact that I have finally figured out how to make a decent (in fact, quite delicious) version of the Korean savory pancake pajeon.

Pajeon is apparently quite a popular Korean staple, but I’ve never had it turn out right. It’s been surprisingly difficult to get the fillings to cook properly, and when they do, the result has been really boring, even after I bought some jeon mix in hopes of improving the outcome.

In fact, the only jeon I’ve liked the taste of is kimchi jeon. It worked taste-wise because I like kimchi, but like all recipes in which one fries vegetables in batter, you take a low-calorie, highly-nutritious food and, through effort and dedication, turn it into high-calorie, low-nutrient food. Let’s just say that I feel I have better things to do with my time than to make my own junk food.

(Pedantic language note: Pajeon literally means “green onion pancakes”–pa = green onion, jeon = pancake.

So, this was all about…green onions?

But strictly speaking, with pajeon you don’t mix the pa into the batter–you make a layer of batter, then a layer of pa or whatever you’re putting in there, and then another layer of batter. If you chop the pa up and mix it into the batter, technically you’re not making pajeon, you’re making buchimgae, which is Korean for, “Even Koreans use these terms interchangeably. Try not to get stressed–this is comfort food, after all.”)

So I had basically given up on jeon, but then I watched this:

And, man, that dish sounded really good–a blend of eggs, shrimp, and scallops? Plus I still had the better part of a bag of jeon mix in the freezer. I knew I could make this work!

What I wound up doing was basically melding this recipe with this one. (I used the dipping sauce from the Cooking Channel recipe, although since I didn’t have any rice vinegar handy, I just used a third as much distilled white vinegar, which worked fine.) The result was quite good!

What made a big difference was julienning the green onions–cut them into 2-inch lengths, and then cut those lengths vertically into itty-bitty strips. That way the green onion actually cooks through. (I used regular green onions, not the humongous Korean ones.) I also chopped up the seafood so that I wouldn’t have problems with it being undercooked.

So, here’s what I wound up doing:

Note: This made enough pajeon for two servings–at least, I could only eat half of it at one sitting. It was less good reheated, so if you’re making it for one, I’d halve everything–except you can’t halve the egg, so maybe cut back to about 1/4-1/3 c. of water. You want the plain batter to have a regular breakfast pancake batter consistency.

1 cup of jeon mix (I don’t think the brand matters, because I didn’t like the results with the mix I have until now)

7/8 of a cup cold water

1 egg

6 oz. raw shelled scallops, cut into a 1/2-inch dice

6 oz. raw peeled shrimp, cut into a 1/2-inch dice

5 green onions, julienned

2 cloves garlic, diced fine

Oil for cooking

First make the batter: Using a fork, beat the egg alone, and then mix together the jeon mix, water, and egg. As with breakfast pancakes, you want the batter to be mixed but lumpy–don’t go to the trouble of making it smooth, you’ll just have tough pancakes (this is also why you use cold water).

You’ll probably have to switch to a spatula now–mix the seafood, green onions, and garlic into the batter.

I followed Crazy Korean Cooking’s advice to use more oil and a higher heat for a crisper pancake–I heated the pan on high heat for a few minutes and threw in maybe 2-3 T oil for each panful of pancakes. (I didn’t measure, because like Park Kyung, sometimes I live dangerously.)

I know pictures of pajeon always feature these HUGE pancakes, but keep in mind that smaller pancakes are easier to flip. Again, it’s comfort food–you’re not trying to prove anything to anyone here.

Cooking the pajeon properly takes some attention, though: An undercooked pancake falls apart when you try to flip it. Plus, you want the seafood to cook through–but not to cook too much, because then it gets tough. To complicate things, this makes a thick pancake and the batter doesn’t bubble, so you can’t use the old trick for breakfast pancakes and just wait for it to firm up on top so that new bubbles can’t form.

What I did was cook the pajeon on high for a little bit, and then I turned the heat down to medium. Then I watched the side of the pancake–when it was firm and cooked about three-quarters of the way up the pancake, I flipped it. Then I put the heat back up to high to crisp the other side. Then I gave it a minute or two on medium just to make sure everything was well and truly cooked (my mother was a health inspector), and onto the platter it went!

Eat it with the dipping sauce, and it’s damned good!

I guess that would explain it….


One thing I noticed when I was reading about Block B at K-Con France was a lot of complaints about the convention side of things–there wasn’t much to see, people weren’t let in because it was constantly over capacity, etc., etc.

So, was it:

  1. Ordinary incompetence and poor planning?
  2. First-time jitters? Sometimes it’s difficult to accurately predict demand for an event the first time you do it.
  3. Part of an ENORMOUS PLOT to turn the entire apparatus of the Korean government into a personal piggy bank?

Whoa–#3 it is! You’re looking for subsection C.1.a. there. (Don’t you love lawyers?)

Yeah. That certainly would not have been my first guess back in June, but nowadays it makes total sense.

Wading through apologies


Yeah, this Korean SNL thing isn’t getting any better. The show and one of the comedians have issued apologies, and then more apologies, to B1A4. In return, B1A4 has issued apologies, and then more apologies (more on that in a minute).

And I think it says something about how topsy-turvy this situation is that I find myself agreeing the most with the K-netz translated by Netizenbuzz. In particular:

11. [+265, -15] Reflecting doesn’t exempt you from punishment

14. [+198, -17] So that’s it? A man ends up in jail but a woman can get away with a letter apology? Talk about double standards ㅋ

This is why I think it’s important for people to know what sexual assault actually is and to be able to identify it with some accuracy.

Remember this:


Sexual assault is not simply rudeness, it’s not just poor judgement, and it’s not sexual harassment (at least not the way Americans use the term). Sexual assault is a statutory crime that, in the United States at least, is typically punished with jail time. If someone sexually assaults you, and then apologizes for it, the state does not consider the matter settled (and neither should you).

But it’s K-Pop, so everything is all about the fucking apologies!

There seems to be a lot of focus by people on the fact that SNL has not yet apologized to Infinite. Why people give a fuck, I don’t know–it doesn’t fucking matter that they apologized to B1A4 no matter how many times they do it, and it certainly won’t matter if they apologize to Infinite. Nor does it matter if they apologize to the various celebrities whose dicks they didn’t touch. None of that makes what they did any better.

Again: Apologies do not fix sexual assault.

But hey, SNL isn’t the only one making fucked-up apologies–B1A4 keeps apologizing for having been sexually assaulted!

Netizenbuzz again!

2. [+529, -26] A weird situation where the victim is made to apologize. . . .

1. [+638, -57] You guys are the victims, why are you apologizing? Don’t be sorry at all. . . .

It is weird that B1A4 is apologizing . . . and it is also weird how Infinite is just totally laying low.

And isn’t it interesting that Koreans are writing stuff like, “B1A4 should go to court!!” when supposedly the entire reason K-Pop groups are docile and obedient is because of the larger Korean culture and its emphasis on hierarchy.

Hm, I wonder where I could find some insight into this . . . oh, Jesus! Netizenbuzz!

3. [+474, -27] You have to consider from B1A4’s perspective that it’s actually detrimental to their image to drag this scandal out. They just made their comeback, they can’t start it off with something so dirty like this. It’s better for the agency to wrap it up as fast as possible.

Yup. Once again the “It’s Korean culture!” explanations are just bullshit culturalism: It’s in the business interests of B1A4 and Infinite’s labels to have this go away as quickly and as quietly as possible. Taking people to court because you were sexually assaulted backstage doesn’t exactly fit into the Here’s Your Happy, Sparkly Oppa Prince Who Has No Problems! fantasy.

We’ll see what happens. As of 2013, most victims of sex crimes in Korea no longer have to agree to press charges (and men can be victims, too!), so given how clear the evidence is and the fact that it happened more than once, a prosecutor might go ahead with charges whether or not the groups or their management want it.

On the other hand: Yes, it took until 2013 for Korean law to recognize that adult men can be the victims of sexual assault. So we’ll see.

Fuck these apologies, either way.

ETA: Ah, this is more like it. It’s not like I thrill to see someone get into serious trouble, but I think it sends a terrible message to have something so illegal happen in such a blatant and public manner, and then have law enforcement do absolutely nothing.



Yes! I had to do another presentation in Korean class, and this time I did my secret obsession–Korean trot music!

So, instead of making you guess what these videos were about (which I was seriously considering doing), I’ll translate and expand upon my class presentation. My expansions will include 1. videos I discovered in my research for this presentation but didn’t feel were necessary (I had to speak Korean, so I was motivated to keep it short), and 2. responses from both my classmates and my teacher.

A quick note on my teacher: She is a 50-something (DON’T ASK) woman who hails from Busan. She was strongly interested in linguistics, so she very carefully learned the Seoul dialect (yes, of course, she learned it far more carefully than the average Seoulite), but she considers herself definitely a gyopo. Part of her gyopo-ness is that she’s a little old-fashioned–terms like daebak annoy the fuck out of her, but what really annoys her is that These Koreans Nowadays feel like it’s OK to refer to their parents using banmal. (It is NOT OK. Also, you should get off her lawn.)

Funny bit: When I told my teacher I would be doing my presentation on trot music, she thought I said “trout music.”

On to the presentation!!!

If you didn’t know: Korean trot was developed in the early 20th century, and it is considered the first K-Pop. Trot is generally considered to consist of two element: A simple, 1-2 beat, and a distinctive singing style.

(Ooooh! First significant expansion! What non-Koreans usually notice with trot singing is that they use a lot of vibrato–and it’s true, they do. But, according to my Korean teacher, what Korean regard as distinctive about trot singing is its use of 꺽임 (kkeok-im)–vocal slides.)

The 1-2 beat and the name “trot” comes from the American dance foxtrot.

Lucky you, here you get to watch professionals do it. In class, I did it. (Classmate reaction: Utter shock. Some may have died.)

Anyway, you’ll notice that foxtrot follows a 1-2 beat–step, step, step-step (which you have to get in quick before beat #2 arrives). Foxtrot was SUPER popular in the United States at the turn of the century because 1. not dancing back then was like not using social media these days–how, exactly, did you plan on making friends or finding a spouse?–and 2. it was an easy dance. Really, really easy.

To make it even easier, foxtrot music had a clear and simple 1-2 beat. Here’s an American foxtrot song!

Just say, hanna, dul. I can’t do it for you.

Around about the same time in Japan, a musical style called enka became popular. (No, I didn’t get into the occupation–remember how I had to do this all in Korean?)

Pretty much foxtrot beat + enka singing style = Korean trot.

There are fast and lively Korean trot songs as well. (This song was both wildly popular and wildly parodied. When I played it, my Korean teacher burst out laughing.)

So, the whole Tragic Decline of Trot I didn’t get much into in class, but rest assured, in the 1990s trot was NOT a hip genre. For a while there, the most successful trot performer was this guy–yes, all of his songs sound like this, plus he usually sang nonsense.

The person generally credited with saving trot from complete camp obscurity was Jang Yoon Jeong. She was young and cute, and she managed to prove that you didn’t have to be an old lady in a long sparkly dress to sing trot. (I know she doesn’t really do trot vocals in this clip, but she does with slower songs.)

(Sounds like polka, right? A lot of music we would consider to be from different genres just kind of gets absorbed into the trot scene in Korea.)

Now we’re getting into a lot of stuff I really didn’t want to get into during the (in Korean!!!) presentation. These days trot is no longer this obscure genre. (OK, I did pretty much say that.)

There is pure trot (plus trot purists) on Korean television.

And camp trot is alive and well.

But what I find interesting (and what made it into my presentation) is trot fusion. Here’s a trot-dance song.

Trot-rap also exists. Apropos of nothing, barring people from embedding videos is really obnoxious, especially when they have class presentations to do, but here’s U-Kwon doing Country Kko Kko’s “Oh Happy!” (the original exists, but the quality is shit).

And here’s FT Island doing a trot-rock song (which really excited my teacher for some reason–I think she’s in the Rock Is So Cool! generation).

And that was that!

Tricky sourcing


Getting the fun stuff out of the way first, because why would I dwell on enjoyable things? There’s a solid ton of K-Con France fan cams up on YouTube, so go check them out. I put some up here for now (and I totally recommend the Taeil/Luna duet), but of course there’s more.

(The con didn’t seem to get much coverage by the French press, but honestly, given everything that’s going on there right now, that doesn’t surprise me. Loads of coverage in Korea, though. And Park Kyung and P.O can continue their competition over who knows more fancy people.)

On to the housekeeping: This has been floating around.


It’s a poster for a festival, and it says that Zico’s going to be there.

There’s just one problem: The festival Web site, its Twitter feed, and the various ticketing Web sites don’t mention Zico–and this is a Korean festival, so it’s not like he’s not a big-enough name or anything.

Just F Everyone’s I–it’s not at all uncommon with festivals for the line-up to change, and the posters change as well. The thing is, the Korean fans will often post early drafts of the posters (yeah, someone’s got a mole in a printing shop) or other unconfirmed information that looks very official–and well it should, because it is indeed coming from an official source. (I remember one time a Korean festival’s Japanese Web site said that Block B would be at the festival in Korea–but that turned out to be miscommunication between the festival’s Korean and Japanese offices.)

Korean fans do this because it makes sense for them to know that a performer they’re interested in might appear at, I dunno, the local Earwax Festival. Then they can follow Earwax Festival news and jump on the tickets if it turns out that the performer actually is in the final line-up.

The problem is that this information can be extremely misleading to international fans who don’t know the drill and don’t have great Korean-language skills. Things like draft posters look official–and indeed they come from the festival organizers themselves–but they’re just drafts. If you’re thinking of going (because you live there or will be visiting), you have to be sure to check the final lineup before you pull the trigger.

ETA: OK, now he’s official!