Café Seoul Season 5, Episode 14: The end? (Or is it?)

Hello subscribers and fans. Are there any of you left? This is the most recently recorded episode of Café Seoul Podcast. It was recorded in the summer of 2017. It’s now spring 2019 and there’s a reason why there’s been such a huge delay in getting this epsiode out.

Of course, procrastination is one of them, but after this episode Eugene uprooted his family and left Korea.

Not the actual route Eugene took to return.

I also didn’t want to work on the episode because honestly I am a soft guy and it made me sad that this very well could be the last one. I wanted to make it believable that this thing could still keep going, but things being how they are, raising a kid, getting established and right with all the various agencies, doing a job search, preparing for interviews, then focusing on work have pushed this episode to the back burner.

So why now? Because in the summer of 2017, Game of Thrones season 7 had just ended and we spent a lengthy part of this episode talking about what we hope to see in season 8. Season 8 is now less than two days away, and I have to get it out before that, even though most people listening may be doing that well after the whole series ended.

So you can thank Arya Stark for getting my butt in gear and making me finish this finally.

So without further ado, here are the various segments for this, the final episode of Café Seoul’s 5th season.

  • Review of Game of Thrones –  Most satisfying deaths, predictions, retrospective of the series so far, etc etc. It wouldn’t be Café Seoul without nerding it up.


  • The Best Goodbyes – Rob finds goodbyes from books, movies, songs and other forms of pop culture. Eugene has to guess where they come from.


  • Exit Interview – Rob and Eugene reflect on the past 10 years in Korea. Rob asks Eugene to make top three lists on various expat in Korea related topics while introducing some of his own. Rob also reads a sad sappy (heartfelt) letter to inflate Eugene’s ego (but really really appreciated).

A candid photo, taken in the spring of 2017, when both Eugene and Rob knew the end was near. Note the nervous expressions.

Café Seoul may be finished for the time being, but we do have plans to put out reunion episodes every now and then, so don’t unsubscribe! You may find more material pop up by surprise!

Café Seoul Season 5, Episode 13: Blackface Supplement – The Bigger Picture

I am guessing that subscribers are getting tired of me apologizing for taking so long to edit. There’s been a lot going on since these episodes were recorded. A lot. If you don’t already know, then you can find out about it in the next episode.  At any rate, I won’t be apologizing for the lateness to you subscribers for this episode, but I WILL apologize to our guest, Fatimaah-Joso Menefee. After our blackface episode (episode 3 of this season) aired, she took it upon herself to send us a critical email, where she was very appreciative that we decided to speak on the subject, but pointed out areas we were lacking in knowledge. This led to a back and forth email discussion, and we decided to invite her on the show.

But naturally, because of scheduling issues, it was not to be. She did however record her voice for us and we made a mini-episode about that.

From the program for the Busan International Comedy Festival. Picture Shamelessly Stolen from Brothas&Sistas of South Korea Facebook Group.

Also in this episode at the end, I mentioned that the Facebook group Brothas&Sistas of South Korea protested an event in Busan that was featuring blackface skits, and were successful on having the blackface removed. The exact details were unknown at the time of recording, but here is a link to the post which details exactly what occurred.

Café Seoul Season 5, Episode 12: “Out” in Korea

Wow, this episode is like 6 months late. Apologies to our guest Hyunsoo Kim, who was kind enough to visit with us in August of 2017 to discuss being “Out” in Korea. Out meaning… LGBTQ.

Obiwan seems to be cool with it.

News of the Weird:

On the Pulse: Discussion with Hyunsoo Kim regarding what it is like to be LGBTQ in Korea in comparison to other places she has lived. Many people who have lived in Korea for a long time have heard someone tell them that there are no gays in Korea. This is how dire the situation was… recently, but things are changing. But even though Korea is the bbali bbali country, this change can’t be fast enough, because Korea is still lagging socially on rights for sexual minorities. Outside of Korea it may not be such a big deal these days to be out… but within Korea, Hyunsoo says that very few people are really totally out to everyone.

Coming out isn’t easy, nor is being closeted. Many people need support for whatever situation they may be dealing with. During our podcast recording, Hyunsoo recommended Ddingddong, a Korean youth crisis center as a resource for people who may need someone to talk to.

Café Seoul, Season 5, Episode 11: Cut for the very first time

After a long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long period of being very very very very very busy, Eugene has actually finally found time to edit this episode.  Rydia is back and our subject today is plastic surgery.

This picture has been circulating the net for quite a while. It shows the contestants for Miss Korea 2013. Some people say they all have the same face. What do you think?

But rather than criticize all the people in Korea getting it, we are discussing why Rydia made the decision to get it in the first place.

During the initial banter of this episode we got some letters from Dave and from Kathleen. Dave’s letter sparked a discussion on Western remakes of Asian films. Kathleen’s letter caused us to discuss foreigner privilege in Korean settings.


News of the Weird:


Rydia Kim was once a co-host on Café Seoul, and she’s returned to discuss plastic surgery in Korea. As someone who recently got a procedure or two herself, she’s here to elaborate on her decision to get plastic surgery, and how her initial aversion to the practice was overcome. She also goes in detail about how the procedures have helped her to be confident and how it is important to have a positive body image. Later Rob and Rydia discuss why plastic surgery is such a trend in Korea, and how body alterations work in the context of Korea’s modern culture.

Rydia can be found @Rydia0722 on Instagram

If you’re an expat in Korea, chances are that you are her friend on facebook already, or are at least friends with someone who is her friend. She’s very popular afterall.


Café Seoul Season 5, Episode 10: There’s a HYPHEN!


Well what can we say we couldn’t resist. Yes, we are supposed to be a Korea related podcast but sometimes you just have to live a little and invite your nerdy friends to talk about super heroes. Given the overwhelming praise and high regard of the Wonder Woman Spectacular (by us recording it) in episode 6, we decided, what they hey… while we may in fact have great power due to this podcast, we don’t necessarily have great responsibility to anyone other than our own nerdy whims. So friends, we give you the Spiderman Spider-Man Homecoming Special episode. AND YES! IT’S SPIDER-MAN with a HYPHEN! It annoys Eugene to no end than people keep misspelling it, and this has of course become a running gag in Café Seoul history that Rob likes to tease him incessantly for. But whatever, you’re here to LISTEN to Café-Seoul, not worry about the silly details of behind the scenes running gags.

  • Teen Hero Popularity Contest – Similarly to what we did in the Wonder Woman episode, we talk about some of our favorite teen characters from movies and TV (and books), then make them face off against each other in a 1:1 battle royale to find out which one would hypothetically kick the ass of the others.


  • Spider-Man Orientation – Discussion of the Spider-Man character, and how we came to know him, as well as some of our favorite storylines, and ranking the movies he’s appeared in so far.


  • Spider-Man Homecoming – In depth discussion of the most recent film, Spider-Man Homecoming.

Special thanks to Emma Kalka for stalking us and using the dark side of the force to trick us into inviting her to appear in this episode.
Here’s the link to the film about Rufio as mentioned in the show. 

Café Seoul Season 5, Episode 9: Traditionally Speaking


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.

Image stolen from

News of the Weird:


On the Pulse:

Profile picture from the website of UBC

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.

Special thanks to Dr. Stephen Suh from episode 7, who answers a followup question from a listener in this episode.

Cafe Seoul Season 5, Episode 8: No, It’s not Painless

We’re behind in the editing, but better late than never. This episode is about Korea’s suicide crisis, so it is a little heavy. Special Guest: Shaun Webb of Shaun on Site


Unofficial Translation: “(life is) so tiring, isn’t it?”

News of the Weird

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: (Korean) 

seoul hotline: 02-916-9191 

love line counselling center: 02-715 8600 and you can search for the phone numbers, websites and addresses of other hotlines around the country.

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