Café Seoul is back! Korea’s traditional culture is the topic of this episode, and we have one of the most knowledgable academics on hand to discuss the role that traditional culture, specifically performance art plays in modern Korean society.
Special Guest: Dr. CedarBough T. Saeji, Korea Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow in Korean Studies
Dr. Saeji moved to the Republic of Korea in 1996. Saeji has since spent more than fifteen years in Korea, where she completed an MA in Korean Studies (Yonsei University, 2006). Outside of Korea she has spent time elsewhere in Asia and completed the coursework for her PhD in Culture and Performance (UCLA, 2012). She currently teaches a course called Korea Popular Music in Context at the University of British Columbia.
How relevant to modern Korean society is Korean traditional culture? Many people who observe Korea suggest that Korea’s traditional culture is somewhat removed from its modern one, but is that really the case? In this episode we have the benefit of an academic expert to delve into this topic and find out exactly what role traditional culture, specifically performance art plays in Korea today. In addition to the overlying theme, we discuss some initial access points for Korean traditional culture and how one can go about learning more about and enjoying the rich traditional culture Korea possesses.
Here are some links for websites on Korean cultural performance.
KOUS— a lot of traditional dance performances, located at 삼성역
On the Pulse: Korea has a suicide problem, and we’ve invited Shaun Webb on the podcast to discuss his own attempted suicide and to discuss the very serious situation in Korea. Topics include the societal causes of the suicide epidemic, efforts the government has made for suicide prevention and how effective they are, and several suicide prevention resources.
Here are some useful links for anyone who might need them:
Disclaimer: This is is absolutely the longest episode we have ever recorded… Ever. But you know what? It’s a podcast and you can listen to it at your own pace and even skip around or skip past parts you find boring.
I know.. it’s a cheesy graphic, but whatcha gonna do?
Dr. Stephen Suh is is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Women’s and Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado – Colorado Springs. He is currently doing a research project about Korean-American returnees, that is, Korean-Americans who have for one reason or another moved to Korea as adults.
We at Café Seoul became aware of this project when we came across a post in the facebook group “Critical Korean Studies” where Stephen was looking for participants to interview. So this episode not only features an interview of Stephen for the podcast, but it also contains Stephen doing real live research as he interviews Eugene!
On the Pulse: Rob first interviews Stephen about his project, then Eugene participates. Here we can find out a lot about what some of the commonalities and differences between Korean-Americans who have chosen to live in Korea. You can also learn a lot about Eugene from some very interesting and sometimes difficult questions posited by Stephen.
NOTE: In the editing process Eugene attempted to bleep out all uncouth 4-letter words but ended up missing a few. So… this episode is explicit. Do not listen with kids who can’t handle s and f and p. Apologies in advance.
Well, we ended up nerding out again. How could we resist when the DC Cinematic Universe finally actually made a good film….?
Rob says Eugene should be calling her Wonderwo-Man
Emma Kalka and Dr. Michael Hurt also appeared in this episode to help us nerd it up a bit. Here are links to their respective blogs:
We first responded to Jacques, who commented on the previous episode about Asian-American representation in media. This led to a very long discussion on why talking about it is important.
We ditched the traditional format for this episode for these special segments:
Amazons of the Past – we discuss some of our favorite badass female characters from movies and TV, then hold a hypothetical single elimination tournament to find out which of these badass women reign supreme!
Everyone’s favorite Amazon – about an hour in, we finally start talking about Wonder Woman… and here we all explain how we came to encounter the character and some of our memories about her.
Amazons of the Present – Discussing and reviewing the 2017 Wonder Woman film.
Amazons of the Future – What impact this film will have on the trajectory of the DCU and super hero films in general
After a very popular article published on the Ask a Korean blog, it appears that the definition of the term “K-Pop” is under dispute. So in the second half of this episode Rob and Eugene try to hash it out and come to a more solid definition, but still end up not totally agreeing on it. Oh well!
“All of this music is post golden age… 1992-2002.” -hipster Eugene
So here is where we dive right in and get down to try to define K-Pop. After about 20-30 minutes of discussing it, we decide to make a scoring test to see if your group of choice is or is not K-Pop. We also spent a lot of time talking about a group called EXP Edition which has no Korean members, debating whether or not it is K-Pop… We said if they promote on Korean TV then they definitely are… and well….
Watch at your own risk… We are not fans…
Rob actually wrote a blog post on this subject where he published the rubric (or his later edited version of it) which I have copied into this post.
Group 1: Necessary? Sufficient?
__ Marketed toward Koreans in Korea (50 points)
__ Sung in Korean (50 points)
__ Marketed toward Korean diaspora (15)
__ Group is signed with either: A Korea-based, Korean-owned label (15) One of the “big three” Kpop labels (YG, SM, JYP) (30)
__ Group promotes itself on Korean shows like Music Bank, Inkigayo and Music Core (40)
__ Group is NOT signed with a Korea-based, Korean-owned label (-20)
__ Group/singer was active before the 1990s (DISQUALIFIED) __ Group/singer was active since 2007 (3 points) __ They play their own instruments at live shows (-80: they’re not K-pop anymore. They’re K-something else.)
Group 2: Makeup and Formation
__ Add 5 points for every member the group has after the first five (so, a six-person group gets 5 points; seven-person = 10 points; a 12-person group = 35 points)
__ Subtract 3 points for every member of the group who was not born and raised in Korea
__ Subtract (__) more points for every member of the group who could not pass for Korean in physical appearance (ethnicity/race is important to some people, who will want to put a point value here. I don’t really care as long as the next requirement is satisfied).
__ Subtract 8 points for every member of the group who is not fluent enough in Korean to make appearances on Korean television
__ Group was chosen and trained by the label (15 points)
__ Group members are on restrictive, probably unfair long-term contracts (7 points) __ Group members are all gorgeous by conventional standards of attractiveness. (12)
Group 3: Aesthetics
__ Creative choices for songs, videos and dances are made by the studio, not the performers (8)
__ Music videos all have a “concept” (5)
__ 3 points for each group member with a designated role (“the visual” “the bad girl” “the vocal”)
__ Music is driven by synthesizers and sounds like a mash-up of other popular music genres (4)
__ Features rap solos that add nothing to the songs, or dance breaks that sound like the trendiest EDM styles of the day. (4)
__ Cute poses and extreme close-ups feature prominently in videos (3)
Group 4: Promotion
__ Subtract 4 points for every single released only in a language other than Korean (lose too many points, and you’re not K-pop anymore: you’re Asian pop, J-pop or something else)
__ Subtract 2 points for every single released with a Korean version and a version in another language
__ Subtract 5 points if the group has a “sub-group” targeting markets outside Korea
__ The Korean government has actively promoted their music (12) __ Add 2 points for every advertising campaign they appear in in Korea. __ Add 1 point for every advertising campaign they appear in in the rest of Asia. __ Has an online fan club (10 points) with a quirky nickname (3 more points) run or closely managed by the label (8 more) pumping fans for more money through special offers and deals (5 more) whose fans will fucking dox you SWAT you and cut you if you diss their group (12 more)
Group 5: Other
__ White men over thirty living in Asia who don’t listen to it sneer at it contemptuously and talk about it as if they were experts on it (7 points)
__ James Turnbull has written 3000 words about them (3 points)
__ One or more performers were discovered on a Korean audition reality TV show (__) add value here: I don’t care about this but some might.
__ Nobody has suggested a different hyphenated K-genre for their music (For example, “She isn’t K-pop: she’s K-indie!”) 5 points
UPDATE!Here are some suggested additions to the checklist from Facebook. Thank you, Jon Dunbar!
__ Band is mixed-gender (-20) __ Band name could be mistaken for a chemical corporation (good one: wish I’d thought of it) (5) __ Band wears a uniform or uniforms (5) __ Minus one point for each year above 25 of the band members’ ages
(Rob riffing on those:) __ Band does a video in thinly veiled fetish gear (3) __ Plus 3 points for each year below 19 of the band members’ ages
So the presidential election is over here in Korea and the center-leftist candidate Moon Jae-in has won, beating out 14 other candidates that were attempting to replace the ousted Park Geun-Hye. A full Moon is rising. Perhaps he will invoke the Moonshine policy on North Korea. Umm, that’s enough moon puns for now.
Yes, we know that we’re late in getting this episode published. We promise you that when we recorded this episode the issue was current! You try editing one of these episodes when the only time you have to do it is when your toddler is sleeping and that’s also the only time YOU can sleep!
But yes, this episode you can hear two guys who aren’t black discuss blackface in Korea. As we try to keep our privilege in check, we find that blackface is a huge problem even today, and it keeps happening and it frankly makes us angry.
She was wearing WHAT??!?!?
More excuses before discussing this episode, the Bunker was unavailable this time so we recorded from Jesus Coffee in the Mapo-gu Office area. It’s also kind of noisy so we’re sorry.