Monthly Archives: December 2013

14 brilliant kpop songs & MVs for 2013

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Just a small selection of some of my favourite kpop songs and MVs from this year.  The selection is broader than the standard Kpop “Idol” music and also includes K-hip hop, K-indie and K-rock.

*where possible/available I have included MV’s with english substitles

1. G.Dragon – Crooked


And here we are at no#1.  G.Dragon starts and end this list, not only because he is one of my favourite Korean performers but because Crooked is my favourite song of his Coup D’Etat album.  I love everything about this song and MV.   I love that it is a sad song disguised as a more cheerful song – its indicative of the whole song, telling the tale of someone trying to pretend they are okay after a breakup, trying to have fun but not succeeding.  The MV is set in London and has a great feel too it.  It’s funny, amusing and sad at the same time.  I particularly like G.Dragon’s costuming in the MV and also the location choices are great.   Definitely at the top of my list for favourite kpop tunes and MV this year.

2. MFBTY/Drunken Tiger – Sweet Dream

MFBTY’s Sweet Dream has been one of my favourite songs all year.  A collaborative project between Tiger JK, Yoon Mi-rae and Bizzy, I love both the song and the MV. Yoon Mi-rae’s voice is beautiful and I love how it weaved through the song and bring the whole song together.  The video clip is not your normal MV and has a lot of great imagery and fun too it.  Although I had heard some of Drunken Tiger’s material before, it was this song that really got me listening to them as well as other work by Yoon Mi-Rae and Bizzy.  The song is featured on Drunken Tiger’s new album, The Cure, which is fabulous and like Lee Hyori’s Monochrome is one I have been listening too non-stop.

3. LeeHi -Rose

I fell in love with LeeHi’s voice the moment I heard it.  Not only is her voice gorgeous and something completely unusual for the kpop world, the sultry jazziness of it is just spectacular. It’s hard to believe when you hear Leehi sing that she is just 16 years old (or was when she released her album earlier in the year).  I live most of the songs off her album, but Rose is beautiful and suits the sultry nature of her voice.  The MV is stunningly  luscious, while full of romantic imagery doesn’t overwhelm the young singer.

4. Kim Hyun Joong  – Unbreakable (featuring Jay Park)

Kim Hyun Joong is definitely one of my favourite male kpop singers. I loved his Japanese releases earlier in the year and was keenly awaiting his Korean comeback.  Unbreakable certainly didn’t disappoint.  There is so much to love about this song and video.  I love the beat of the song, the hip hop elements and the feature by Jay Park.  The dancing is terrific and I love that its something a bit different for KHJ.  The MV is also beautiful and does a fantastic job of fusing  Western and Asian cultural elements and imagery.  The black and white of the clip also adds to making the clip look more sumptuous and gives it a very classic feel.

5. Junsu/Xia – 11 AM


Junsu makes the list twice! I have been raving about this song since it came out. I absolutely love, love, love it. I love the way in which it is stripped back to an accapella for the first half of the song and in the second half there is just a very simply piano accompaniment. The songs is gorgeous and shows cases just how good a vocalist Junsu really is.  I also love the MV, which was shot in long live take.

6.  Junsu/Xia – Incredible

My favourite kpop “dance” song released for 2013, Incredible by Junsu (aka Xia) from JYJ. A fun dance track, upbeat and catchy. Great for summer and putting you in a good mood 🙂  The MV is bright, colourful and a lot of fun as well.

7. B.A.P – One Shot

Another fairly new kpop group, which has also only been around for just under two years.  While definitely a kpop “Idol” group, their music style is also influenced by hip hop and rap.  One Shot is effectively a song about youth and making choices.  The MV for the song show cases the group’s singing, rapping, dancing and acting ability.  It is also one of the “surprise” videos of the year, so make sure you watch it through to the very end!

8. EXO – Growl

Despite only being on the kpop scene for a year and half, EXO, has already climbed to the top of the kpop world.  Comprised of 12 Korean and Chinese members, Exo released several tracks in 2013 but Growl is by far their most successful release.  I am more fond of the beat and the musical style of the song, than I am of the lyrics. In particular, I like that it has as hip hop beat to it, which feels sparse but addictive.  I also love the choreography used in the MV, as well as the look of the MV itself, which was shot in one long take.

9. Jaurim – Twenty-five, Twenty-one

Jaurim is without a doubt my number one favourite Korean indie group. And Kim Yoon-ah without a doubt is my favourite female Korean singer. I just love her voice, range and ability.  Jaurim is known for their tight musical arrangement, melodic sound and gorgeous lyrics.  Goodbye Grief is their 9th full length studio album and Twenty-five, Twenty-one is one of their sadder songs.   Dealing with desire and longing for love lost,  the full emotional impact and depth of the song is conveyed beautifully with Yoon-ah’s soaring vocals and the song has all the melodic and musical qualities fans have come to expect from Jaurim.  Beautiful, sad and heartfelt.

10. Nell – Ocean of Light

And here is no#11 – my second favourite Korean indie band ever, Nell.  I just adore Nell and I just adore Kim Jong-wan’s stunning voice.  Nell is known for having a more arthouse sound, with psychedelic overtones.  Their songs not only explore issues of love, friendship and alienation, but also regularly explored darker topics such as depression, anger, suicide. However, “Ocean of Light” is one of their more upbeat/uplifting tracks but still brings with it both Nell’s trade mark electronica and emotional intensity.

11. Trouble Maker – Now

To paraphrase Dorothy Gale: “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.  We must be over the [KPOP] rainbow!” Oh yes!! TroubleMaker – aka Hyuna (from 4 minutes) and Hyunseung (from Beast) – pulled out all stops with NOW breaking out of the usual kpop mould. This was actually the first song I had heard from TroubleMaker and I really loved it for a whole range of reasons – the first being that this is the first “sub-unit” of kpop performers I have come across which is a permanent pairing of a male and female performer and as such it gives a whole new dynamic to not only the song and music, but the performance as well.  Secondly, I love this particular song, as well as the MV for it.  The song is basically about a couple who are in a destructive relationship in a downward spiral, with this clearly reflected in the MV.  The MV incorporates a whole lot of images  (heavy drinking, smoking, sex scenes and inter racial sexual relations) which are not the usual fare for kpop videos.  This has lead to debate as to whether or not kpop is becoming to “Americanised” in order to break into the US market. I don’t think this is necessarily the case, but NOW definitely pushes the boundaries of what is the norm in kpop.

12. 2NE1 – Missing You

2NE1 is probably my favourite of the female kpop “idol” groups.  Out of the three songs released by the group this year, this is my favourite.  A pretty ballad about heartbreak and trying to overcome lost love.  What I really love about the song is the harmonies, as well as the haunting melodic feeling too it.  While its not my favourite 2NE1 song ever, it is one I can happily listen too over and over, as it showcases beautifully the voices of CL, Bom, Dara and Minzy.

13 . Lee Hyori – Miss Korea

No# 13 is the Kpop diva, Lee Hyori with “Miss Korea” –  a song tackling the issue of the self-esteem, plastic surgery, the beauty industry and the social pressure on girls and woman to attain an unattainable beauty image.  The song title no doubt draws on reports about the widespread practice of Miss Korea contestants going under the knife to achieve a particular look and also from the fact that South Korea has one of the highest rates of plastic surgery per population in the world (while the US has the highest number of plastic surgery procedures).

In the song, Hyori addresses the issue of self-esteem and challenges the idea that women need to go under the knife to be beautiful.  I love the MV, which not only includes the imaging of Hyori being surrounded by surgical instruments but also includes two well-know Korean drag performers, clearly also challenging the conservativism in Korea around LGBTI issues.  Miss Korea is Hyori’s first single in 3 years and the lead track off her Monochrome album, which I haven’t stopped listening too since I got it due to the wonderful musical diversity of the album.

14. G.Dragon – Who You



Coming in at No# 14 is kpop’s boy wonder himself – G.Dragon – with “Who You?” from his 3rd solo album, Coup D’etat. I love the “feel good” feel of the song and MV (although the song is actually a breakup song). The reason for the “feel good” feeling of the MV is because the video was conceived as a “thankyou” gift to G.Dragon’s fans and is a compilation of professionally shot footage as well as video footage shot by 1000 of G.Dragon’s fans who were invited especially for the MV production. I like the conception of the video, particularly the whole “glass box” and how it relates to “celebrity” (something he also explores in the Coup D’Etat MV). And I love how all the names of the fans are listed at the end of the MV!

 

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Two uplifting flash mobs from Spain

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In Janurary 2014, the Carne Cruda 2.0, a program on the leading Cadena SER Spanish Network Radio station organised a flashmob of a small orchestra and singer  to cheer people looking for work at an unemployment office in Madrid, Spain.

The Guardian newspaper notes: Currently Spain is enduring an unprecedented economic crisis caused by a property crash and public debt crisis. Unemployment, already at 26%, is expected to grow. Spain lost around 800,000 jobs last year and more than half of under-25s are unemployed. The Spanish government has resorted to severe budget cuts to reduce its deficit but austerity measures have also depressed the economy.

Oxfam says that previous crises in Latin America and Asia point to serious long-term damage if government austerity measures remain in place. “Poverty and social exclusion may increase drastically,” it says. “By 2022, some 18 million Spaniards, or 38% of the population, could be in poverty.”

 

Ode to Joy Orchestral Flashmob organised by Banco Sabadell on its 130th anniversary.  The flashmob inclued 100 people from the Vallès Symphony Orchestra, the Lieder, Amics de l’Òpera and Coral Belles Arts choirs.

Hollywood, sexism and positive body imaging

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Jennifer Lawrence, one of Hollywood’s big name young actors, while being acknowledged as a talented actor has also gained a reputation for being  funny, foul mouthed, irreverent and straight talking, in particular about women, girls and body imaging. Like fellow actor, Kate Winslet, Lawrence has been outspoken in her promotion of healthy bodies and positive body image among women and girls.

In the wake of the success of the movie rendition of Suzanne Collin’s dystopic teen novel, The Hunger Games, Lawrence who plays the lead role of Katniss Everdeen spoke about the pressure put on her to lose weight in Hollywood.  Responding to a review in the New York Times in May 2012 about the movie which said she was too “womanly” to play the role of Katniss, Lawerence responded by saying:  “This is hilarious. First, people say how so many actresses in Hollywood look anorexic, and now they are criticizing me for looking normal'”.

Several months later in August 2012 during an interview with Elle Magazine, Lawrence talked further about body image saying: “In Hollywood, I’m obese”. She went on to say, “I eat like a caveman, I’ll be the only actress who doesn’t have anorexia rumours …I’m never going to starve myself for a part … I don’t want little girls to be like, ‘Oh, I want to look like Katniss, so I’m going to skip dinner”.

In a November 2013 interview  with BBC Newsnight, Lawrence spoke about the portrayal of Katniss in the movie saying:

It’s called ‘The HUNGER Games’. She is from district 12, she is obviously underfed. She would be incredibly thin. But I kept saying .. we have the ability to control this image that young girls are going to be seeing [in The Hunger Games]… girls see enough of this body that we can’t imitate, that we will never be able to obtain. This unrealistic expectation. This is going to be their hero, we have control over that. It’s an amazing opportunity to rid ourselves of that in this industry”.

 

Research on body image has shown that negative body image can seriously impact on the health and well-being of young people, affecting their self-esteem and health, including resulting in depression, social isolation and extreme dieting. A person’s body image of themselves may in fact have no bearing on their actual appearance, with studies showing that nearly half of “normal” weight women over estimating their body shape and size.  A range of studies have shown that body image can be the single largest influence on the self-esteem of young women.  American studies have also found that approximately 91 percent of women are unhappy with their bodies and resort to dieting to achieve their ideal body shape.  However, only 5 percent of women naturally possess the body type often portrayed in the media.

Studies in the USA have shown that 95% of people with eating disorders are overwhelmingly young, aged between 12 and 25 years.  They have also shown that students, especially women, who consume more mainstream media, place a greater importance on “sexiness” and overall body appearance than those who do not consume as much.

A 2009 study found 50 per cent of girls aged between 3 and 6 think that they are too fat.  Researchers found that 86% of the children in the study expressed an aversion to chubby figures in photographs, with most of the girls choosing the photo of the “fat figure” as the “girl they would not like to look like at all”

In 2007, a report by the American Psychological Association found that the culture of wide-spread sexualisation of girls and women contributed to increasing anxiety amongst girls and women about their body image.  A 2010 study in the Journal of Strategic Marketing by Brett and Robina found that consumers felt more pressure from society to be thin after view advertisements with thin models but that this pressure decreased after viewing adverts with larger sized models.  The study also found that people had a distorted view of their own body size after viewing advertisements with thin models.

The role of the media was highlighted recently by Lawrence during her promotional tour for Catching Fire, the second Hunger Games movie.  In early November, responding to an audience member asking for advice about body image and how to deal with people disparaging others about their body size, Lawrence responded:

“Well, screw those people. “It’s something that everybody experiences. I experienced it in school. The world has a certain idea — we see this airbrushed perfect model image. … You just have to look past it. You look how you look. And be comfortable. What are you gonna do, be hungry every single day to make other people happy? That’s just dumb.”

“And there’s shows like the ‘Fashion Police’ and things like that are just showing these generations of young people to judge people based on things… that they put values in all the things that are wrong and that it’s OK to point at people and call them ugly and call them fat and they call it ‘fun’ and ‘welcome to the real world.’ And it’s like, that shouldn’t be the real world. That’s going to keep being the real world if you keep it that way. It’s not until we stop treating each other like that and just stop calling each other fat … with these unrealistic expectations for women. It’s disappointing that the media keeps it alive and fuels that fire.”

 

Lawrence’s outspoken views on body image should be welcomed.  Far too often the role models for young women and young girls, promoted in pop culture, in films, the media and advertising are ones which promote negative imaging and sexist stereotypes which are detrimental to young girls and women.   The main message which is presented is that women’s bodies are merely decorative ornaments and that women and girls bodies are simply there to titillate and to sell products.   This is because sexism is embedded in the capitalist system, with gender stereotypes portraying women as nothing more than decorations and sexual objects and/or squeezing them into particular roles (such as mother and wife) being enforced from a young age.

Under capitalism, sexism is not just an individual personal experience, instead it is as result of deeply embedded structural inequalities embedded in the capitalist system which marginalise and oppress women.   The sexism we see on our television and movie screens, on advertising billboards are just but one manifestation of sexism that exist within our society under capitalism.

Sexism and the oppression of women under capitalism is also evident, for example, in the disparity amongst the wages that are paid to men and women.  In Australia, for example, on average women make approximately 83% of the male wage.   Female dominated industries, particularly those in “caring jobs” such as nursing and teaching are the most undervalued economically, socially and politically. Sexism can also be found in the home and family.  Studies have shown that women still do three times as much childcare and housework as men, with women being disproportionately responsible for childcare, cooking, cleaning and looking after the elderly.  The unpaid labour of women in the home, across Australia, amounts to approximately 50% of the GDP.

The marginalisation and oppression of women in the home and in employment works to benefit those profiting from capitalism. Under capitalism, not only is the second class status of women reinforced and maintained through the structural inequality within the system but also by capitalist industries such as the beauty and diet industries which make billions of dollars off women by appealing to and cultivating their insecurities.  These insecurities are reinforced ideologically through the mediums of film, television, advertising and other media.

Lawrence’s refusal, like Kate Winselt, to bow to unreasonable expectations of weight loss and her outspokenness in relation to positive body image is a breath of fresh air and should be applauded.

K-Drama Review: The Return of Il Ji-mae

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  • English title: The Return of Il Ji-Mae
  • Alternative English title: Moon River
  • Revised romanization: Dolahon Il Ji-Mae
  • Hangul:돌아온 일지매
  • Year released: 2009
  • Episodes: 24
  • Director: Hwang In-Roe, Kim Do-Hyung
  • Writer: Kim Kwang-Sik, Woo-yeong Ko (comic)

  • Based on the serial comic strip “Iljimae” by Woo-yeong Ko, which appeared in the Daily Sports from 1975-1977.

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Jung Il-Woo Yoon Jin-Seo Kim Min-Jong Jung Hye-Young
Il Ji-Mae Wol-Hee Ku Ja-Myeong Baek-Mae


A Robin Hood story set in the Joseon period, the Return of Il Ji-mae is about an abandoned orphaned boy who grows up to fight corruption and greed and side with the poor and marginalised. The story is based on a manga/comic book hero, drawn from Chinese folk lore. While the drama offers all the fun and action of a Robin Hood story, it also avoids all the usual cheesiness that often goes hand and hand with such stories. Instead, it offers a beautifully told story which explores what it is to be human.
While it took me a few episodes to get into the drama, I soon fell completely in love with it.

Return of Il Ji-mae is blessed with a fantastic script, brilliant acting, gorgeous production, wonderful music, as well as reasonably positive gender politics in the portrayal of the female characters. The acting in the series is flawless, particularly from the two main leads and the two sub-leads. Jung Il-woo as Il Ji-mae is just brilliant.  He is an actor I already enjoyed watching, but he has now shot up to being one of my all time favourite Korean actors. This is the first drama I have seen Yoon Jin-seo in, but her depiction of Dal-yi and Wol Hee is just wonderful. Given she is playing two characters, she has done a wonderful job of giving them their own personalities and distinctiveness. I particularly love the fact that the drama also gives the two leads a realistic love story, devoid of all the dodgy gender politics found in many other kdramas.

Return of Il Ji-mae quickly climbed into the ranks of my top 5 Korean dramas. Without a doubt, I love the beauty and wistfulness of this drama, as well as the humour, adventure and nuanced story telling and acting. Definitely a 10 out of 10! My only serious criticism of the show is in relation to the action sequences – while the fight scenes are fantastic, diverse, well executed and a lot of fun, the wire work (at least in the early episodes) is rather amateurish. But if you can look past that in the first few episodes, you will probably also fall in love with the Return of Il Ji-mae.

Opening title sequence of Return of Il Ji-mae

Original Sound Track from Return of Il Ji-mae – Place of My Dreams by Yoon Jin Suh

The Art of Resistance in Palestine

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Art is not a mirror to hold up to society, but a hammer with which to shape it, so the quote often attribute to Bertold Brecht goes.   The place in which this often can be seen most clearly is in relation to resistance art.  In Palestine, cultural resistance to settler-colonialism, imperialism, ethnic cleansing, occupation and apartheid has always been part of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination and justice.   In the 1920s and 1930s, Palestinian poets and musicians wrote poetry and songs depicting the struggle in opposition to British imperialism and Zionist settler colonialism revealing that writers, musicians, poets and song writers and other cultural artists have always played a role in the national liberation struggle.

In the last 6 decades since the Palestinian Nakba, some of the best known resistance artists have include Ghassan Kanafani (writer and political activist) , Mahmoud Darwish (poet and political activist) and Naji – al- Ali (political cartoonist and writer).  However, Palestinian cultural and art resistance is everywhere in Palestine – it can be found not only in the form of traditional plays and dance (dabke) performances, but also at Israel’s checkpoints, on the apartheid wall, on the music of Palestinian youth and in the villages and towns of Palestine.  It can be found in murals, paintings, poetry, creative art displays, songs, visual art and much more.  Here is just a small sample of some of the art of resistance today by Palestinian artists and activists.

A Masterpiece of Resistance — The Artists of Palestine  by LAYLA QURAN

Art of resistance: Palestinians plant flowers in Israeli tear gas canisters by RT News

Global Street Art  – Palestine: Art in the Streets

Wall art video by PalestineIsraelLove

Palestinian art uses humour to resist – SBS News report

Palestinian hip hop group Dam with their song, Born Here – a protest song about the treatment of Palestinian citizens of Israel.

KPop Idol Kim Jonghyun supports Transgender/LGBTI rights and Annyeong Student Protests

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As any KPop fan (and yes, I am one) will tell you, political statements and public political stances are something that KPop Idols usually steer away from.  For those not into KPop, the term “Idol” is used to described popular KPop performers and singers trained through South Korean talent agencies such as SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment and JYP Entertainment.  During their training period, as well as their early years of performing, Kpop artists are tightly supervised by their management companies.  It has been estimated that the cost of “discovering” and training a Kpop “Idol” is around US$2.6 million dollars, so it is unsurprising that young Kpop artists are so tightly managed, to ensure that they do not get involved in any “scandals” or situation which may alienate them from their legion of fans and undermine their commercial marketability.  Thus Idol groups and singers are usually corralled by their entertainment company to stick to a fairly narrow line

However, this week two KPop idols made public their support for current student protests against privatisation and inequality in Korean society.  On December 15, Chansung from the Idol group, 2PM, tweeted to his (almost) 780,000 followers that he supported the “Annyeong” (Are you well?) protests, while Shinee’s Kim Jonghyun  – who has over 922,000 followers on twitter – changed his twitter profile photo this week to a hand written letter by a transgender student involved in the Anneyong protests. The note, written by the student, titled: “No matter what name you call us, we are not ‘Annyeong’ (well) highlights discrimination against the Transgender and LGBTI community in South Korea (for a full translation of the note, see below).

The student protests, known collectively as the “annyeong” Protests or “Are You Well? protests, have seen university and college students, as well as non-students take a stand against the privatisation of South Korea’s railroads and healthcare, as well censorship, electoral corruption and injustice within Korean society.

“Annyeong” is the Korean phrase which is commonly used in greetings to ask if someone is well or doing okay. As part of the protests, the protestors have carried and posted hand written notes with the phrase “I am not okay”, highlighting their opposition to the privatisation  attempts, as well as economic and social injustice and corruption.

The protests began on December 14, when a Korean University student, Joo Hyun Woo posted up a large handwritten poster on campus, asking if people were doing okay, because he wasn’t.  In his poster he addressed the strike by railroad workers protesting the government plan to privatise the Korean Railroad Corp.  He also addressed the issue of the accusations around a fixed presidential election and other acts of injustice and censorship taking place.  Joo’s action inspired other students who also began to write their own signs, expressing their unhappiness with the current political and economic situation in South Korea.  For the last week, students and their supporters have taken to the street with similar placards and signs.

anneyong 3 anneyong 4 anneyong 2Photos of Annyeong Protests via Netizen Buzz

Korea’s Netizen Buzz website has quoted several students on the protests:

One sociology major said, “Our society has difficulty differentiating between what is ‘different’ and what is ‘wrong’. We tend to overlook what is ‘wrong’ to be ‘different’. We need to be able to tell the government that it is ‘wrong’ to dismiss railroad union members for disagreeing with the privatization. I am here today because I refuse to stay silent. I hope that we will all be okay.”

Another student said, “Our college demands that we remain oblivious to issues regarding our government and society. We’re all just as frustrated (with this censorship) so I’m here today to say that I am not okay.”

Others said similar things to the line of, “I have to block the privatization of the railroads for my life to be okay”, “I am not okay because I am embarrassed to have my child born in this country”, “I am not okay because our society has taken away my right to express my anger towards injustice”, “Is a society just when I need to be brave just to have my voice heard?”, “I am not okay because I live in a society that censors me”…

The transgender student who wrote the note posted by Kim Jonghyun later revealed her identity and made it publicly known that he had contacted her about posting her protest note. The student,Kang Eun Ha, said she had been contacted by Jonghyun to let her know he was posting his note to his twitter profile and that he hoped that this would be okay and that she would not become the centre of unwanted attention due to his action.  Kang Eun Ha made public the exchange between herself and Jonghyun, in which he stated:

“I support you. As a celebrity, as a minority of a different sort facing the public, I also feel disappointment towards the world that does not accept difference. Of course, it can’t be compared to what you feel.”  In response, Kang Eun Ha replied:
Thank you so much. I don’t know with what words I can express my feelings…Thank you. Thank you so much. I will definitely stay strong. Please be careful of cold, and I hope you have a warm end of the year 🙂 Thank you!”

kang eun haImage via Omana They Didn’t Blog

South Korean society is still very conservative (as are a lot of countries) in relation to LGBTI rights.  So it should not be under estimated how much of a political and social “big deal” it is for an Idol star like Kim Jonghyun to take a public stance in support of Transgender and LGBTI rights in South Korea. It is something which very few public figures do, let alone young Kpop idol singers.

In September this year, one of the few openly gay film directors in South Korea, Kim Jo Kwang Soo and his partner, Kim Seung Hwan married publicly in order to draw attention to struggle of the South Korean LGBTI community for equal rights.  This month, Kim attempted to register his marriage but it was rejected.  Director Kim Jo Kwang Soo’s public campaign for equal rights is also noted in the Anneyong protest note posted by the Kang Eun Ha.


Here is a translation of Kang Eun Ha’s Anneyong protest note:

 No matter what name you call us, we are not ‘Annyeong’ (well)

Last April, the third attempt to enact anti-discrimination legislation was turned down because of those who loathe equality. In September, Kim Jo-kwang-soo and Kim Seung-hwan publically held a same sex wedding for the first time in Korea. There were disturbances such as human excrements being thrown onto the stage, but Kim Jo-kwang-soo and Kim Seung-hwan marched down the aisle with pride as to prove that “love is stronger than hate.” But a few days ago, their marriage registration was denied. Also, some people voiced ridiculous claims that textbooks should discuss the issue of the humans rights of sexual minorities as a topic you agree or disagree with.

Many of you who read this will think like this: how on earth does this concern me or the state of current affairs? But because I know him [Kim Jo-kwang-su], I can tell you this. Whether you are pleased with this or not, this is the story of the world that sexual minorities, including myself, live through, who dine, take classes, study, and have debates with with all of you. This is another side of the current affairs of the society we live in.

Yes, I am a sexual minority. I am a male to female transgender person and I am bisexual. I am a woman. I am of the “880,000 Won” generation. I am a college student. I am one of the inheritors of the working class. What more names can you call me by? There will be no end if you tried to enumerate them one by one. It’s not just me, but probably all of you are living in the present, being called by numerous names.

But I am not okay, not at peace at any moment, whichever name I am being called. Today’s Korean society not only can’t enact an anti-discrimination law, but discriminates against sexual minorities on a daily basis, throws rampant unfair criticism and hatred towards females, exploits the young generation, forces college students to be absorbed with employment instead of academics. Which name should I be called in order to be at ease?

Someone asked us this. Are you guys Annyeong, whether we are doing well. That’s what I’m saying. Are we all well when we’re relieved that anothers’ pain is “not mine,” growing accustomed to closing our eyes and blocking our ears in order to protect our own lives? How well can we be in a cold-hearted world when it continuously presses us to give up empathy?

I’m not saying that we all should pour out on the streets and start throwing stones. It’s just that, if this story of asking whether all of us living today are Annyeong (doing well) provides an opportunity to look into the face of the person next to you and call their name, I think this has been worthwhile. As the world becomes lonelier, I think, contrary to our belief, the way for us to become ‘well’ is nearby. Right now, please ask the person next to you, “Are you well?”

Translation of terms used in Kang Eun Ha’s note (via Omona They Didn’t blog):

T/N: Annyeong: the literal definition of the greeting is ‘a state of tranquility’

T/N: 880,000 Won Generation refers to the demographic of Korea in their 20’s that suffered employment instability around 2007. Multiplying the average paycheck of part time workers, 1,190,000 won (1130 USD), by the average salary rate for people in their 20s, 73%, results in 880,000 Won. This is the first amongst many generations in Korea to play the “Game of the Winner Takes All.”

This term was first used in the book 880,000 Won Generation, published in August, 2007. The author, Woo Suk-hoon says “Only the top 5% of people in their 20s will have a stable job above middle management and the others will live on part time employment with an average wage of 880,000 Won.” [naver encyclopedia/ MK Business News]

The Left and Russell Brand

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* This was posted originally on my tumblr page for Red Butterfly Effect, when Brand’s interview first came out in mid October 2013.


Like well over 10 million other people around the world I have watched Russell Brand’s interview with Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight. Personally, I have never been a fan of Brand, his humour doesn’t really appeal to me and I think there are many things Brand can be criticised for, such as his sexism and sexist attitudes. However, I have been quite astounded at the reaction of “the Left” and self-identified progressives to Brand’s well articulated opposition to capitalism and call for “socialist egalitarianism” and revolution in his interview on Newsnight with Paxman.

Among the criticisms I have read about Brand’s interview, both in articles from authors who apparently identify with “the Left” or from a whole variety of Facebook friends who also usually identify with either “the Left” or radical side of the political spectrum are:

Brand is:
(1) a celebrity and a poseur so not qualified to comment on capitalism, about revolution and/or social change
(2) has considerable personal wealth, so is a hypocrite and is not qualified to comment about capitalism, the corporate profit system, revolution or social change.
(3) isn’t a “real” revolutionary so isn’t qualified to comment about capitalism, revolution or social change
(4) offers no concrete program for revolution.
(5) is promoting apathy.

Noticeably what all these criticisms of Brand have in common are:

(1) Brand is not being criticised per se for the political critique he is offering up – that capitalism does not serve the majority of people, that it alienates, marginalises and exploits them etc. What he is being criticised for is his celebrity and wealth – a very poor criticism, which is extremely lacking because it actually fails to deal with his political arguments and;

(2) they misrepresent what he actually argues in the Paxman interview (for example, that he supposedly argues for “apathy”, something he actually doesn’t argue for. Instead, he points out that the current system creates apathy and that it is the system which is apathetic to the needs of the poor, marginalised and exploited and we need to actively seek to change this).

What so many who offer up these criticisms seem to be missing is that Brand is giving a popular exposition of alienation, exploitation and marginalisation under the capitalism and the corporate profit system, the need to challenge the system and to ferment change in order to benefit the mass of the population and calling for socialist revolution. AND THAT THIS IS A GOOD THING!!!

Many of us on the Left have been arguing EXACTLY the same thing for years, we have explained to any and all who will listen the very same things that Brand articulates in his interview with Paxman. As a result, I find it astounding that so many self-identified progressives and members of “the Left”, including the “radical Left” seem to be more intent on ignoring Brand’s highly articulate anti-capitalist argument and his popular exposition about the need for revolution and socialism.

One video of Brand’s interview with Paxman, which is now on youtube, has had almost 7 million, while another version of it on youtube has had almost 2 million views. Dozens of other posts of the same interview have had hundreds of thousands of views. When was the last time the radical and/or revolutionary left in Australia, the USA or the UK were able to directly reach such a massive audience with a well articulated critique of capitalism, the alienation it causes and the need for revolution and socialism?

Yes, Brand is not a “revolutionary” in the terms that many of the Left identify as a revolutionary. Yes, he is a celebrity and very often a poseur. Yes, he has accumulated personal wealth under the current corporate capitalist system. But none of this invalidates his very articulate and very correct critique of capitalism, the corporate profit system, the exploitation, marginalisation and alienation of the vast majority of the population under capitalism. Nor does it invalidate his call for social change, socialism and revolution.

One just has to read the avalanche of articles and comments coming from “the Right” and their side of the political spectrum to see that many of the criticism coming from “the Left” are not that dissimilar. So my question is: why are we doing their job for them?

This, of course, does not mean we ignore problematic issues such as Brand’s sexism but instead of dismissing his his anti-capitalist views and call for socialist revolution out of hand simply because of his celebrity or his wealth, the Left (especially the radical left) should be seeing this as an opportunity to popularise our ideas, to reach out to people and to get them active and organised into struggle to bring about a socialist society which benefits the vast majority of the population.