Belly Dancing and Indie Rock, March 21

Let’s call this experiment #2. This was taken at the Free Bird bar in Hongdae. Had never been there before. Place was pretty swell. I’ve done concerts before and have always loved shooting them.

As a warning, the monochrome was not for artistic purposes, but because I couldn’t take anything worth keeping in color. I wish color would have worked (and if any of you know how I could have shot clearly in color, tips would be much appreciated) since the outfits are shiny and bright.

Some of these seem to be out of focus as well, but I think they turned out okay.

But if there is one thing I’ve learned  from this experiment it is: Monochrome to a photographer is like butter to chef. If the dish tastes off add more butter. If the pics look off, make ’em black and white.


Out and About, From Sinchon to Gangnam, the Stalking Series

So, on Saturday, March 13, I struck out with the new camera to see how it could see. Nothing fancy. Just a trip around the old castle in Sinchon and then off to the Gangnam of Psy fame  to pick up the little lady. Only an experiment — and a little sleuthing thrown in for good measure.

I like the subway photos, in particular the one of the girl’s reflection in the glass partition as the train goes by. I also like the one of the two people sitting on benches taken from the opposite side of the subway tracks through the glass partition.


A March 3rd visit to Hanok Village

‘Female’ in the news

With the recent election of Park Geun-hye as the new president of South Korea, gender has seen more column inches in the local press than usual.

In the weeks following her election, every time her name was mentioned, it was followed (or preceded) by the clause “South Korea’s first female president.” Or something to that effect.

Gender became big news once she was elected … well, at least the gender of Park Geun-hye, with some criticism rightly targeting the anti-feminist rhetoric she employed during her campaign. But the frequent references to gender made this commentator more aware of other recent stories that highlighted the gender of their actresses.

One  example, in particular, broke while Park was still campaigning (and involving her campaign). A National Intelligence Service (NIS) employee was apprehended and questioned over allegations of using more than 120 false IDs to post politically sensitive writings online that favored Park Geun-hye’s campaign. What is striking about this story (other than the NIS allegedly tried to influence the election to crown a dictator’s daughter as South Korea’s president) is that the stories paid lede space to highlight the gender of the employee: female.

“A female national intelligence agent appeared for questioning by police Friday,” reads one story. Not a “national intelligence agent,” but a female one. Every article on this story spends pixels to point out her gender.

Another story which grabbed headlines earlier this month was about three American soldiers who were shooting a BB gun into a crowd in a popular Seoul nightlife district, before taking police on a high-speed car chase.

Here is an excerpt from a story about two of the American soldiers involved:

“South Korean police identified two of them questioned on Monday only as a 26-year-old staff sergeant and a 22-year-old female specialist.”

A female specialist and a staff sergeant, who is male of course. Goes without saying. Literally. By both the media and the police.

And not that it should be mentioned that he is male, but concerning these stories, how relevant to the reader’s understanding is it that two of the people involved are women?

That is why writers include particular information and leave others out; the reader only needs as much information as to understand what happened.

So, why go out of the way to mention that the NIS agent is female? This example appears the most striking of the two.

She is the only actor involved. It is not similar to the story of the American soldiers where there are several people of mixed gender. Here, it is just the NIS agent.

The story could have been: An NIS agent was apprehended Friday on allegations of electioneering by posting anti-opposition party writings on the Internet, police said.

The agent protests her innocence.

“I didn’t do it,” she said.

(quote was made up as an example on how to subtly reveal gender)

Would the gentle pronoun not have sufficed?  In the story excerpt at the top of this post, female is the second word of the story.

Is it such a rarity for women to be involved with either of these two situations that it is necessary to point out that they are not men?

How significant to the readers’ understanding of the events is it to know that the main actors were woman?

I prefer the use of the pronoun in this case for its economical, ethical, and artistic merits.

Was your understanding of the stories increased because you were specifically told that women were the main actors?

Think about it. I’d like to know.

What is in a name?

North Korea. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The communist country. The belligerent nation. The Stalinist regime.

All of these names, titles, euphemisms are used in reference to North Korea. In the West most of these are fair game and will be seen taking up column inches. Here in South Korea, the DPRK is one title that is somewhat avoided. You see, the DPRK is the name that the North bestowed upon itself; to call it by its self-christened name is to legitimize it as an independent country. Just like how talking about Japan’s claims to the Dokdo islets  legitimizes its claim. So its a topic best to be avoided, or if it must be addressed, acrobatic rhetoricians are usually called to arms.

A more relevant example of this is how North Korea — before the whole nuclear war threats — was asking for America to come to the table and have “disarmament talks.” If America agreed to sit down, then they would be agreeing that North Korea is now a nuclear country.


For some odd reason, this is an issue near and dear to my heart: titles. I love ’em. Seemingly harmless syllables that can encapsulate within its lettered membrane a gargantuan idea. Look at the Jeju Massacre. Pulled left and right (politically) distorting its shape and meaning until the true history is lost in rhetoric.

But More on that, I am sure, in future posts.

Now, with North Korea, what do we have? As a journalist, I know it is a pain to keep calling it North Korea, and working for a South Korean newspaper I know the cartwheels performed  to avoid the DPRK. But the others at the top of this list, they are used all time. But what are the implications?

I wonder this all the time. Whenever I write “communist country” instead of North Korea, I wonder if I’m being truthful, or am I misleading my reader.

These are big, important questions; is it a communist country? What does a Stalinist nation truly mean? How does this help the reader understand? Or worse, how does this hinder the reader’s understanding?

Speaking to scholars about North Korea, most say the goal is reunification. If that is the goal how does creating a binary outlook towards the two countries help achieve that?

Also, should media concern itself with trying to achieve that goal? Is it media’s responsibility? Is it ethical? Based on some books that I have read, keeping civil order is one of the functions of the news.

All of this is worth exploring. Antiquated Cold War rhetoric that has clung to Cold War relics that are so divided from that time most people assume all of these titles and appellations to be true.

But what are the consequences of believing the North to be communist, if it isn’t?