Café Seoul Season 5, Episode 7: Nostalgic for the Unfamiliar

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!

News of the Weird:

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.

Café Seoul Season 5, Episode 6: Wonder Woman Spectacular

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:

Emma writes Discovering the Korean Underground.

Dr. Hurt writes Scribblings of the Metropolitician.

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

Café Seoul Season 5, Episode 5: What *is* K-Pop?

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

News of the Weird

We also talked about this picture. 100 million you say? Click to enlarge.



On the Pulse:

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

Café Seoul Season 5, Episode 4: Moon River





No, I am not Cornholio!


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.


News of the Weird


On the Pulse – We discuss the ins and outs of the election and our take on what the Moon administration will mean for Korea, what promises he can keep, and what policies will flourish under his reign.

Café Seoul Season 5, Episode 3: Blackface Again?

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.

News of the Weird

So, what if you’re both?

On the Pulse – An in depth discussion on blackface. The original sketch can be seen here

Café Seoul Season 5, Episode 2: What, Me Worry?

So, North Korea has been in the news again with their saber-rattling… but our reaction is pretty much summed up by this picture:


Every time North Korea starts something, I’m like…

News of the Weird:

On the Pulse

Why does nobody in South Korea care when North Korea starts acting up? We have a long discussion about this question, but it meanders so much in the beginning because we’re actually itching to talk about Star Trek, but we bring it back and actually have a decent discussion about it in the end. Long story short, it’s because North Korea is threatening just for show, as a means of projecting itself as powerful to their own people. But now with Trump in office, can they continue the same strategies as always?

Note: The air was bad when we made this episode, so you can hear a lot of coughing and hacking. Apologies!

Café Seoul Season 5, Episode 1: News and Fisting

Oh my gosh! Rob and Eugene are back after such a long long long long long long break! Yes! Season 5 is now underway, and as of this writing (on April 29th) there are actually 2 more episodes in the pipeline to be edited. So fear not, there is lots of Café Seoul headed your way so you can get your fix.

As we were planning the show, we decided that we’d do an entire episode of News of the Weird, and skip On the Pulse. because we’d been away so long. That WAS the plan, but in the first half of the show, we actually ended up having a very long discussion about whitewashing in western media and specifically about Marvel’s Iron Fist… so we’ll call that On the Pulse for this episode

So… why didn’t they just go with that guy in the center?

News of the Weird

And yes, at the end of the podcast, Eugene did mispronounce Rob’s family name, but his BS excuse is that he was mimicking how it should be pronounced in Rob’s native Canadian, know watm tokin aboot?

Café Seoul Season 4, Episode 25: Make America Never Say Never Again

We DID say that episode 24 was going to be our last of season 4, but with Donald Trump winning the presidential election in the US, we had no choice but to have an emergency final final episode. We thought he’d never win the presidency, but this election has taught us to never say never again. Wow, just wow America! WTF!

Ripped from the facebook page of Gabriel Pettyjohn

Ripped from the facebook page of Gabriel Pettyjohn

News of the Weird

Lifted from Angry Asian Man

Lifted from Angry Asian Man

WTF (On the Pulse) – What does a Trump presidency mean for Korea, US-Korean relations, Korean Americans, Expats in Korea, East Asian geopolitics and the world in general? Rob and Eugene were beyond shocked at the results of the 2016 election and we probably will be for some time. We try to go as deep as we possibly can to discuss the implications of this latest WTF moment of 2016.

Café Seoul Season 4, Episode 24: Storm the Gates!

At last, we are at the finale of season 4 on Café Seoul. This show is all about gates, but not about the kind of gates you’re thinking of. No, we’re talking about scandals. The spectre of corruption and the pressure to get results quickly are the causes of two very recent scandals that have severe political and economic ramifications for Korea.

News of the Weird – Reviewing an opinion piece regarding batterygate, Samsung’s exploding battery scandal.

Ask Rob & Eugene – Gatey McGateface asks why there’s no Bukdaemun, when there’s a Namdaemun, Dongdaemun, and there used to be a Seodaemun.

On the Pulse – A long drawn out discussion of Choi Soon-sil gate… the scandal involving President Park’s close friend, who has allegedly been manipulating her from behind the scenes.

Special thanks to Peter Daley for contributing to this episode!

Peter also appeared in season 3 to talk about cults, so you can hear that episode here.

For an excellent writeup about Choi Soon-sil gate, please check out Ask a Korean’s piece about it, which explains it in detail in a way that even people not totally familiar with Korea can understand it.

This graphic was obtained from the Korea Herald website. Click to Enlarge.

This graphic was obtained from the Korea Herald website.

Just for good measure...

Just for good measure…

Café Seoul Season 4, Episode 23: Studying in Korea

Café Seoul is back and in this episode we focus on coming to Korea to study with American millenial exchange students Sarah and Lizzie from the University of Maryland.

News of the Weird

Image shamelessly stolen from

Image shamelessly stolen from

On the Pulse – Sarah Eppley and Lizzie Drake join Eugene and Rob as the foursome discuss their experiences of Korean universities. Keep in mind that the ladies are here temporarily on study abroad and are relatively new to Korea (less than one year). Eugene and Rob are long timers, so that might account for some of the disconnect. People always say that when you study in Korea you get out of it what you put into it. It can have you flying high or it can be a bit of a skyfall, or both!