The Handmaiden: My Pleasure

Jenny Jin Lee | REVIEW

 

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Park Chan-wook returns with the Handmaiden and brings out all things taboo in Korean society

Based on the UK’s best-selling thriller novel Fingersmith, Park Chan-wook’s the Handmaiden unfolds the erotic fate of a mistress and her maid intertwined in their machinations to destroy each other. Before its commercial release, the movie received much media coverage for its homoerotic theme as well as its positive reception at Cannes 2016 – understandable, given the difficulty for a South Korean film to achieve either. However, upon seeing the film, it becomes evident that the most noteworthy factor of the movie had been thoroughly unmentioned in the marketing hype. The Handmaiden is a story not of love, or lust but pleasure.

Throughout the film, sexes and sexualities are juxtaposed in the way the characters approach their object of pleasure. Men are misogynistic and defiled, yet completely passive and even reserved in their sexual practice. They dress up in expensive suits and gather to listen to the heroine’s narration of erotic tales to relieve themselves of their pornographic fantasies. In contrast, women are unafraid to expose and feel up their bodies in active pursuit of pleasure, and eventually of freedom from repression.

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Kim Min-hee and Kim Tae-ri maintain their sexual tension throughout the movie in splendidly subtle (and sometimes not so) ways

 

Min-hee Kim, regardless of her recent scandalous affair with a married man, dances through her mistress character that must exhibit dual personality, homosexuality, and repression – all in a foreign language (Japanese). Kim is never out of the spotlight amidst the aesthetic splendor of Park’s mise-en-scene and when coupled with the debuting actress Kim Tae-ri’s convincing performance as the mistress, the film tastefully unfolds the sexual fairy tale to the eye level of the guilty audience. While LGBT rights in South Korea are still yet to be fully recognized either legally or socially with just one (one!) person officially come out as gay in the entire Korean industry, the Handmaiden successfully deals with the subject of homosexuality in its attempt not only to drive the narrative forward but also the entire Korean film industry.

Here is the international trailer for The Handmaiden (2016) 

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Beneath the Korean Wave: Top five hidden treasures of the K-Culture

In spite of the massive Korean wave that has hit the world in the last few years of K-Pop madness, the real treasures that bear the cultural significance of South Korea failed to see the light. Amidst the fever for the stylish K-Drama stars and addictive K-pop music, various pieces of the Korean culture and its market attracted consumers from all over the world. While South Korea’s own fashion items, cosmetic products, local eateries have all garnered global attention, what Koreans consider the actual sources of their long lasting pride still remain buried under the popularity of the results of K-Pop marketing.

Here are the top five hidden treasures of Korea we have chosen:

  1. Indie rock bands

South Korea’s indie rock scene has boasted unique underground culture of its own, defining the hipster nightlife and neighbourhoods tucked away from the mainstream K-Pop fandom. Most of these bands are based in the artsy streets of Hongdae, akin to London’s Soho, as home to the city’s artists and art lovers that gather to relish in the hipster ambience together formed by the coffee-roast aromas and washed out colours on vintage outfits. In comparison to the mindlessly repetitive lyrics that barely make sense for even native Korean speakers as well as the auto-tuned voices that sing these incomprehensible lyrics, South Korea’s indie bands feature poetic language and experimental sounds that failed to reach the ears of global K-Pop fans due to their inconspicuous activities away from national television and the absence of big-label management companies. While the artists’ visuals admittedly are far from the more “traditional beauty” of our favourite K-Pop stars, their pure passion for music nevertheless shows off what the artists of South Korea are actually inspired by.

  1. Makgeolli (Rice Wine)

Korean barbeque and bibimbap have recently been gaining popularity among the more well-known Asian dishes such as Pad-thai or sushi, thanks to the K-drama fandom in search for the foods featured in the latest dramas and thousands of tourists to South Korea. Coupled with Korea’s very own hard liquor soju, the largest selling alcohol in the world, South Korean eateries offer the best go – to option for anyone seeking excellent alcohol-food pairing. However, the real gem of Korean drinking culture is makgeolli, the cloudy, white goodness made from rice or wheat. The fermented bubbles create a carbonated feel to the milky sweet wine for the drink to be imbibed with seafood or greasy pancakes. About 6~8% alcohol, makgeolli is traditionally served in wooden bowls, as a way to break the ice among the drinkers and lighten the mood for the night. Due to these brusque manners associated with the drink, makgeolli had long been thought of as a macho drink for “crazy old Korean men” but in the few years, its appeal has reached out to the younger generation to enjoy in its classic form as well as in different fruity or nutty flavours.

  1. Teuroteu

Recognized as the oldest form of K-Pop, teuroteu music is the all-time favourite genre for both the old and the young of South Korea. Driven from the duple rhythm of foxtrot, the genre generally features traditional seven-five syllabic stanzas and an R&B-esque vocal style, combined to give off a distinctively country sound unique to Korea. While music critics denounce the genre for its unpolished lyrics and less than sophisticated melodies, dubbing it as a low-brow class of music, teuroteu maintains the first form of what evolved to be today’s most popular components of the K-Pop wave. For this reason, teuroteu is still considered the defining frame of the epicurean pursuit inherent to the Korean culture of fun and entertainment and is thus recommended for all K-wave fans to enjoy the Korean spirit in its fullest. In fact, many K-artists have covered various teuroteu songs in hopes to target the older audiences less acquainted with the latest K-pop trends.

  1. Webtoon

Cheese in the Trap, Misaeng, Lucky Romance – these seemingly unrelated latest K-Drama hits have one thing in common: their webtoon-based contents. Webtoon, which specifically refers to the digital genre of web-comics periodically published online, is increasingly becoming one of the most popular forms of pastime for South Koreans, especially with the rise of smartphone use. In fact, the amount of material published in the webtoon format is now equal to that of offline comics with its equally diverse spectrum of contents. Web providers Naver and Daum have now begun publishing English translations for international fans in hopes of meeting the demands in the manga market that has long been dominated by Japanese comic artists. Merely regarded as a part of the online subculture for the overzealous otakus and “geeks” in the past, more mainstream webtoon contents are now available for different generations and now it has not become uncommon for any Korean to have at least one webtoon series that they follow for weekly updates.

  1. Afreeca TV

Before the age of Facebook and Twitter, social media was already popular and a surge of user-generated contents took over the Internet several years before the rise of Youtube and forums. And now, the current trend among the digital users in South Korea is Afreeca TV, a  P2P technology-based video streaming service, where any user is able to create their own show and broadcast it live to an audience that is able to give immediate feedback in a real-time discussion board displayed on screen. The platform itself ranges anywhere from TV broadcasts, live video game broadcasts, artist performances and personal daily-life video blogs and now even renowned celebrities use the channel to directly interact with their fans and therefore is definitely worth checking out.

Why G-Dragon is popular around the world

Zhou You 丨Explain

As more emphasis is given on Hallyu,the term created to explain a influx of South Korean popular culture,particularly the most representational form of K-Pop,G-Dragon,a successful K-Pop star has been one of the hottest celebrity all over the world.Why he is such famed and focused that he can attract so much attention among public?

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It is undoubtedly that G-Dragon is a musical successor. As the front-man for the famous boy band Big Bang ,in addition to the reputation and glories from the team,he also does really well in a solo career. In fact ,he has separated himself from the group of Idols who are paying more attention to appearance or other artistic skills and overly dependent on fans, he has become a professional musician.By that I mean,the music produced by himself has combined with lots of musicality and his own personality.Moreover,his creation is not restricted to local Korean element,but synthesize the Asian and Western cultures.For instance,some of his music uses surprisingly idiomatically correct English such as R.O.D and Coup D’etat. He has already worked with Justin Bieber and American DJ Diplo,who promote his music around the world.

When it comes to G-Dragon, no one can ignore his influence in fashion. Everyone can see him on websites like Vogue,NY Magazine and Le-21eme. He.He is a front row fixture at just every Chanel show, and Saint Laurent ,Rick Owens as well.It is not unrealistic that the fashion designers have  increasingly focused on him because of his popularity and enormous selling power. In terms of his own fashion, G-Dragon is a major fashion fan and he is good at styling. His makeup and appearance are colorful , vaguely dandy-esque and sort of effeminate,which,in some ways, is avoided by most of Western male pop stars but shows the K-Pop boys’ typical images.

This year, watch the MOST EXPENSIVE Korean TV drama

HAONAN YUAN|REVIEW

Yesterday, as the third episode of Descendants of the Sun released, it successfully broke KBS2 record with a rating of 23.4%. Many people felt it undeserving that the drama was imported to Chinese video platform with $230,000 per episode. But now it can be seen the price is worthwhile—viewing of “ Descendants of the Sun” tag is over fifteen hundred million times on Chinese mainstream social media.

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The drama describes the love story between a young Special Forces team leader and a beautiful surgeon in Uruk. As soon as it first came out last week, this production of love and conflict was reviewed as a creation with quick pace and powerful plot. Settings of battlefield and hospital perk up an otherwise predictable story line, make a responsive chord in hearts of audience. Kim Eun-sookm, the drama’s writer, who is well known for her exquisite storyline, chooses to use large-scale exterior, including Korea and Greece, to provide more humanism as well as amusement.

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This is the first time for Korean cable Television to make pre-production. It’s also the hero, Song Joong-ki’s first filmography since he left the army. Faded feeling of juvenile, he shows higher similarity of the character and has richer expression in performance. The director also asks the heroine, Song Hye Kyo to break her customary sweet image. Greater space for their creativity makes Descendants of the Sun full of tension and surprise.

Generally, it is definitely worth watching. In the spring of 2016, how about having a healing romance on screen?

TOP 5 Controversial K-POP Dance (19+)

YOU ZHOU|LIST

NO.1  Wiggle Wiggle by HELLO VENUS

Hello Venus new single “Wiggle Wiggle” released with a music video, in which members of the group only wear vests and shorts. The dance moves is quite sexy, however, it has nothing to do with lyrics in the song. This makes public start to wonder, is Korean entertainment circle going to the stage of catching attention by ridiculous vulgar content?

NO.2  Cha Cha by Rainbow Blaxx

The Rainbow group consists of seven-members, however,in this music video, only Rainbow Blaxx squad with four members appear:Jaekyung, Woori, Seungah and Hyunyoung. Unlike the original group’s albums, this single prefers to show so-called another face of those young girls; instead of colourful and sweet dressing up, they pretend a mature sexy sense.

NO.3  Miniskirt by AOA

The song belongs to AOA’s fifth single to show another side of them after their powerful fourth single “Red Motion.” The hit song “Miniskirt” warns a boyfriend who lost interest in a relationship by showing aggressive and sexy moves that only AOA can perform perfectly. The improved rap skill of the leader Ji-min can also be found in the song. This single makes AOA won their first champion on stage of Music Show Inkigayo.

No.4 Marionette by Stellar

In the music video, Stellar have changed lovely pure image by showing different performances to attract the public to show their unique and sexy charm. This MV was at first place of Korean search engine and three of main music charts for a long time, which push Stellar back to one of the popular girl groups in Korea again.

NO.5 Up & Down by EXID

As the song firstly released, result was a total failure. However,  because of a video of member HaNi’s performance on EXID’s live stage by one of their fans, netizens dug out more about the group and called them back to music live show on several cable TV stations. Now they have many fans . Back to the song itself, its digital music has been sold for over 1.3 million copies in South Korea, with views over 40 million on YouTube.

World-wide popular game: Blade & Soul

YOU ZHOU|REVIEW

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Blade & soul is a 3D online multiplayer fantasy action game developed by NC Soft. Korean producer Bae Jae Hyun leads the art design with illustrator Hyung-Tae Kim and the Japanese musician Taro Iwashiro is the music producer for the game.

“Blade & soul ” for the players to show the oriental martial arts world, characters, dodging secrets, fighting experience during the fight, and task plot. In 2012, award the president’s Award for the highest honor of Korean online games. On September 13, 2012, NCSOFT announced that Blade & Soul would release their products in countries outside of Korea on January 19, 2016.

This game provides four kinds of races which is Gon, Jin, Yun, Lyn – it features eight different classes, Blade Master, Destroyer, Summoner, Force Master, Kong Fu Master, Assassin, Blade Dancer and Warlock. The plot revolves around the adventure unfolded before them. It is worth mentioning that player have more freedom about the character design, they can design out their own favorite characters. Perfect role customizes the system (system pinching people), small pupils to large body proportions, all created by the players, personality expression system also gives players a completely different sensory experience.

The fighting spirit will be more fully demonstrated martial arts genre, blade master Sword surgery, draw a sword, Kong Fu master skills with strokes, ninja assassin, assassination, let players experience the spiritual head of the sword martial esoteric. Precise movements, combined with the actual situation, adopted piecemeal, non-injury fighting, counter kill.

Fighting ideas is quite similar with the PC game, you need to disassemble or disqualified or skills to fight back against the opponent then attack, a relatively strong strategy, so the war has become very interesting and great changes. It should change skills combined with a strong sense of combat, it makes Blade & soul fighting spirit rise to the realm of art. By the way, the high-skill players would be more popular in this game.

What worked in 2012 that doesn’t seem to in 2016?

JENNY JIN LEE | OPINION

 

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Psy’s Gangnam Style took over the internet in 2012. 4 years later, the question of how still bugs the kpop companies that haven’t followed up to its success. 

When a seemingly random – if not crudely low brow – music video from an Asian country became an online phenomenon, no one had thus seen the true power of “viral contents” in the wired world of the internet and beyond.

For the summer of 2012, Psy had simply released a long-awaited single completely and perhaps too obviously aimed at the local fans, titling the song with a cheeky reference to the affluent neighbourhood of the capital city. The now famous music video for Gangnam Style poked fun at the elitist lifestyle pursued by the residents of the titular neighbourhood, through showing the discrepancy between his pretentious lyrics and the comical reel of everyday activities considered “mundane” in South Korea. The inclusion of Psy’s absurd dance moves, commonly known as the “horse dance,” is also a signature feature of his works, recognisable to anyone familiar with Psy’s song – virtually everyone in South Korea.

So the question is: How did this extremely localised music video become a global sensation?

The technicalities to the “how” are actually simple. The international fans of the young and beautiful kpop stars decided to check out the latest single from YG Entertainment, which manages globally popular kpop idol groups like Big Bang and 2NE1. And the pandora’s box of addictive melody, slapstick humour and exotic culture drove people to share the link to the crazy music video – to the point that it became the number one most viewed video on Youtube.

However, while the Korean wave was something that was starting to get momentum in different parts of the world, the success of Gangnam Style seemed isolated from the rest of the wave. Unlike the strategic marketing schemes behind the scintillating beauty of idol stars and their perfect choreography, Psy offered a familiar look of a chubby, middle-aged Asian man with a clashing unfamiliarity of strange dancing with a stern face. While JYP, SM and YG were struggling to appeal to the global mainstream culture, Psy had won the heart of the world by sticking to his unique “Korean-ness.” That he would soon abandon in his subsequent works.

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Hangover featured Snoop and slices of Korean culture but failed to meet the success or the quality of Psy’s older works. 

Psy retrograded into a certain formulaic pattern in his works, attempting to find Korean words that foreigners could easily sing along to and putting in distinctly Korean elements into his music videos. However, having abandoned his witty charm and artistic creativity, Psy failed to overcome, or even regain, his worldwide popularity but more importantly, his reputation in South Korea.

With every song released since Gangnam Style, local South Korean fans that had stayed loyal to his works since he started his booming career in the late 90s have expressed disappointment with Psy’s struggles to please the fleeting international fans. But they are still waiting for the return of the relatable lyrics and the catchy tunes of Psy’s former style of work.

In memory and hope of Psy’s charm gone by, here is an example of what the South Korean fans miss:

Fan Base: Scourge of K-pop? Lie.

HAONAN YUAN|OPINION

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So, K-pop fans are known to be the most aggressive people along with Korean Wave right now. You may have seen story about company hiring security guards to use force to keep them away. Even though fan base culture is a target of public criticism, I think there are more highlights in it.

In fact, fan base has a long history in South Korea. You might still remember the “red sea” during World Cup in Germany. The way public spontaneously gather as wearing the same colour is a kind of culture as well as an embodiment of national unity.

K-pop fans are everywhere in the world. But none of them are like the Korean fans—structured and organised. One reason is that the government itself guides an environment of outputting K-pop as an important economic policy. For better propaganda, all entertainment companies establish a fan system as their idols have the first debut. Besides use of official colours and badges to show cohesion, fans always have some other supportive methods, including doing social good to set up great reputation and escalate influence for idols. For instance, rice always takes place of flower baskets to appear in press conferences. After events, fans will donate rice to charity under names of idols.

More people ignore the bright side to simply despise fans. Even some idols hate them for “invading” their personal lives. But it doesn’t matter what you say, they are still cornerstone of K-pop. Not to mention direct or indirect effects of their idols actually. Who can tell that those encouragements have nothing to do with fans’ cultivation? Maybe they are just crying “stop thief” themselves.

Five K-pop songs you should listen in February

HAONAN YUAN| LIST
Which k-pop songs are really hot in this month? At the end of February, let’s do a quick summary and below are five super popular ones you might like.

1.You are the best (MAMAMOO)

After first debut in 2014, girl group MAMAMOO won the majority of fans with a lively and healthy image. This year, their hit song You Are the Best within the first album Melting, which was launched on 26th February, combining characteristics of their representative songs: Mr. Ambiguous, Piano Man and Um Oh Ah Yeh—just like MAMAMOO cannot be defined with only one concept. From the beginning to the end, the changing melody will never let listeners feel bored.

2.Everytime (EXO-CHEN; Punch)

The OST for KBS 2TV drama Descendants of the Sun by EXO’s member, CHEN, soon swept Korean music charts. It was released last Wednesday with first play of drama and then beat G-friend’s Rough as long-term monopoly at seven major music websites. CHEN’s exquisite singing style perfectly sets off love line between hero and heroine and pushes audiences’ emotion to a climax while watching the drama.

3.Rough (G-friend)

With their  average age of 18, G-friend is popular for their theme as  high school teenage girls. They released the third album Snowflake on 25th January with title track Rough, which uses dulcet melody and difficult group dance to successfully continue G-friend’s style, establish their position in ever-changing K-pop circle. The song achieved “perfect all kill” on main seven music rankings up to 121 hours, including the Spring Festival holiday.

4.Rain (Taeyeon)

The member of Girl’s Generation, Taeyeon released her new single Rain as the first project of SM Entertainment this year. This medium tempo song with full of jazz soul is quite impressive for its unique melody and rhythm. Poetic lyrics draws an analogy between memories about a leaving lover and the rain, describes a romantic story. Taeyeon’s voice is always so tactful that lead us into the “rain” and that dream world.

5.Press Your Number (Taemin)

Member of SHINEE, Taemin came back with his first solo album Press It. The title song Press Your Number, produced by Bruno Mars and Stereotypes, is pop dance music, which describes an urgent mood waiting for lover. Toxic melody, movie-like circumstances in MV with a colourful and mysterious atmosphere make people addicted. This is also the first time for Taemin to participate as a lyricist.