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February 27 2014

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February 11 2014

South Korean Film About Samsung Worker's Death Slowly Winning Over Moviegoers

A film about the tragic death of a Samsung worker is slowly gaining traction in South Korea, the birthplace of electronics giant Samsung and a country notoriously nicknamed “The Republic of Samsung“ for the corporation's enormous power and influence there. 

“Another Promise” faced many hurdles from the very beginning. According to an extensive interview with local media [ko], the director recalls getting countless rejections from investors and production houses, adding that without the help of many generous citizens, the movie would not have been possible.

Poster Image of movie Another Promise, Fair Use Image

Poster for the film “Another Promise.” Fair use.

The film, which depends entirely on crowdfunding and small, private donations, tell the story of a Samsung worker who died from acute leukemia and her father's draining legal battle with the corporation as he struggled to prove that disease was linked with the company's harsh and unsafe working conditions. A series of legal fights continue between Samsung and labor groups who allege that employees suffering from leukemia and other rare diseases contracted them because of working at the company's factories.

Amid rising suspicions [ko] that some multiplex theaters are too afraid to expand the number of screens showing the movie even without pressure from Samsung, the movie seems to have deeply touched and inspired moviegoers, many of whom took their reviews to Twitter and popular South Korean online venues, encouraging other users [ko] to see the movie. 

After his daughter died in the back seat of his own taxi, the father calls the labor attorney and says, “Yumi has just passed away. There is no one around I can tell this.” No one to complain to, no one willing to take their side. There are over 58 cases of similar deaths. Watching this movie is listening to those voices.

It's my second time watching the movie. Since it is so realistic, it almost felt like watching a documentary, especially since I witnessed that particular scene with my very own eyes – where people blocked with the bus. But back then, I merely found that people's cries coming from inside were just bit too noisy. Why did I not take interest in what was going on in this society back then?

After watching a romantic film, people wish it would happen in their real life. However, after watching movies depicting ugly facts of reality, they wish to keep them where they were, as something that exists only on the screen. But actually, when these responses are reversed, people can bring positive changes to the real world. “Another Promise” is a reality which needs to be changed outside a movie theater.

Many of the comments were about the seemingly unfair treatment that the movie is getting – less active promotion by distributors and not many screens are showing the film. People also mentioned that the title of the movie, “Another Promise”, is a satirical use of Samsung’s famous advertising slogan “Another Family”. 

That ad slogan “Another Family” – they would have never imagine this would come back to bite them like a boomerang. I really hope they pay the full price for taking advantage of their “family” in the ad without really taking responsibility for the customers, labor workers and victims.

With members of my group “Power to the People”, I watched the movie “Another Promise”. I've tried to take a confirmation photo proving that we watched it, but there was no movie poster displayed inside the theater, and not even one banner stand. And they say the movie is screened only twice a day. What a pathetic situation. 

February 05 2014

North Korea Rips Off Mac OS X

North Korea has released its own operating system, Red Star Linux, which remarkably resembles Apple's Mac OS X. One tech writer calls it ‘basically a Linux distro skinned to look like OS X‘ and if you want to check yourself, visit North Korea Tech blog who explains in detail with many screen shots. 

February 02 2014

Korean Comfort Women Issue Explained by Cartoon

A special exhibition on ‘comfort women‘- young Koreans girls forced to work as sex slaves for Japanese army during the World War 2 era- was featured at one of the leading cartoon festivals in France. It made several headlines as the Japanese government tried to block it, but failed. Korean net users have shared an English translation of Park Gun-woong's cartoon ‘Tattoo- A Story of a Comfort Woman'. (The cartoon- which is based on a true story- depicts violent assault, torture and rape. Viewer discretion is strongly advised) 

January 31 2014

Have Acne? South Korea Will Tax Your Treatment

Who has the right to tax your pimple outbreak? In South Korea, it is the finance ministry.

Beginning of February, a new tax system that imposes a 10-percent tax on surgeries having to do with appearance and beauty will go into effect in South Korea. This so-called beauty tax not only includes well-known plastic surgeries such as nose job, double-jaw surgery or lip augmentation, but also ordinary skin care, such as acne treatment.

New taxation which was introduced last summer claims that it would rein in the country's rampant cosmetic surgeries, but it has been widely unpopular from the moment of its proposal. Critics argue [ko] that the scheme is simply a plan to increase tax revenue decorated as a public health law. Several web users pointed out [ko] that the tax won't tackle society's obsession with looks and people who have the means or who desperately want such procedures will not be affected. 

One the eve of the plan going into effect, one tax – 10 percent on pimple treatments – seems to have rekindled people's opposition to the bill. Below are some tweets from frustrated net users: 

As if it is not bad enough to have acne and hair loss. Now, we have to pay a tax for having those.  

The hyenas prowling, looking for things to tax, finally found the item – pimples!

To @mosfkorea [the official account of Korean Ministry of Strategy and Finance]: Who do you think you are to tax my pimples? 

So the Ministry of Strategy and Finance's logic is this: Since they don't think acne is a serious case of skin disease, whatever that cure the acne problem is categorized as a “beauty-related” surgery, it will be taxed. It was ridiculous enough to hear about the tax on cosmetic surgery and now this! Whatever the reason you give, will you just please stop taxing more? 

The medical community seems enraged by the news as well. The Korean Medical Association circulated the poster below explaining their frustration. The first sentence in bold letter laments that it is not the medical professionals, but the finance ministry who is making a judgement call on how to understand acne – not as a serious skin condition, but as a beauty-related inconvenience. Net users shared the image via Twitter and made fun of the current government's economic motto of “Creative Economy”, one user even invoking current President Park Geun-hye's notorious nickname “chicken”:

Taxing pimples… That is indeed “Creative”. 

Imposing an additional tax on skin treatment is bit too much. Acne patients are already paying considerable amounts of money to get proper treatment. And most of them are either teenagers in puberty or in their early 20s. It turns out that the chicken administration's “creative economy” actually means “creative ways to tax things”.

There is no country like ours where society is completely obsessed with looks. And the ones who helped shaped our society into how it this now tax each item related to enhancing ones look. This is ridiculous. 

Wow… How far will they go? Will the next step be taxing nail care and body slimming? It is not a sin to have some pimples. 

Old Video of Official Slapping Chinese Tennis Star Li Na Goes Viral

Video of Chinese tennis star Li Na, fresh off her Australian Open win, being slapped in the face by an official during an award ceremony of the China's 2001 National Games has gone viral on the Chinese web, sparking public anger about officials’ abuse of athletes.

In the video, Li is awarded a bronze medal from Jiang Xiuyun, the head of the national tennis team, who places the medal around Li's neck, then slaps her. 

Though local media outlets quickly followed up on the story with an explanation that the “slap” was actually an intimate gesture to cheer Li up, many did not buy the story. Li does disappointed when she receives bronze on stage, but appears taken aback by the “intimate gesture”, quickly bringing her hand up to touch her slapped cheek.

According the Jiang, she split Li and her teammate up during the match, which made Li unhappy. The gesture was an attempt to rid Li of her emotion. 

The sport system, managed by the Culture, Education, Health and Sports Committee on both national and provincial levels, is notorious for their attitude towards athletes. Citing the video, a non-profit organization worker, “Cai rang duo ji”, expressed irritation on popular microblogging site Sina Weibo for the humiliating action against Li:

李娜为什么不感谢祖国?在奴役与侮辱中长大,是大家共同的命运。无论是成功与否,谁也不会去爱,曾经奴役与侮辱过自己的土地。

Why didn’t Li Na express gratitude to the motherland? The common fate of Chinese is growing up in servitude and with insults. Nobody will love the motherland enslaving and insulting him or her whether successful or not.

His tweet won many echoes in the comment section. “Longxi Yize” wrote:

这是一个把强奸叫做爱的社会。

This is a society which calls rape love.

Another Weibo user, Jingya, watched the video and could not believe that it was an intimate gesture:

才看视频,说是亲昵鼓励,我打死也不信,亲昵该是挂完奖牌顺便抚摸一下,怎会有举手扫去的动作?看旁边人的表情也该知道。

I just watched the video. I would never believe that it was friendly encouragement. If it was an intimate gesture, you would caress the face, how could you raise your hand up high and slap it instead? The facial gestures from people next to Li Na also tell what had happened.

Netizens also took the video as an explanation of her poker face during her homecoming ceremony when she received a six-figure cash award from local officials. Li remained stone-faced throughout the event. 

Li Na left the national team in 2002 and began to play on an international level. Her triumph at the Australian Open provided Chinese authorities with a chance to show off the country's soft power. The welcoming ceremony was staged in her hometown with the presentation of 800,000 yuan (130,000 US dollars) to her as a gift from Hubei authorities.

Li Na's expression during the award presentation in the Wuhan airport was interpreted as a reject to political performance. Image uploaded by Lawyer Yuan Yulai from Weibo.

Li Na's expression during the award presentation in the Wuhan airport was interpreted as a reject to political performance. Image uploaded by Lawyer Yuan Yulai from Weibo.

Local news reports revealed that she had refused to attend any public function at first, but the authorities sent staff to Guangzhou airport and escorted her to Wuhan airport, where the ceremony took place. But when she met with her former tennis trainer from Hubei and received the prize from the provincial leader, she did not show any gratitude in front of the cameras.

The Chinese Communist Party mouthpieces are not happy about her performance. A Global Times’ January 29 editorial criticized Li has been mystified by some as an icon of “individual success” in order to undermine the authority of the national sport system. The Xinhua news agency also stressed that Li's success has been sponsored by the state.

Lawyer Yuan Yulai posted a photo of her straight-faced response to the ceremony and pointed out that her refusal to act is more important than the Australian Open championship:

我个人认为,@李娜 的不装,比获得澳网冠军的意义更大。

I personally think that Li Na's refusal to perform has greater meaning than winning the Australia Open.

Many joined the discussion and interpreted her cool performance:

守望-幸福V:谢谢李娜,让那些臭不要脸的官员们终于知道群众的真实了,也让那些拍马屁的狗奴才们看清他们的臭嘴脸了。

“Attending Happiness”: Thank you Li Na. Let the shameless government officials confront the real people. Let the ass-kissers have a good look at their stinky faces.

专治细胞缺水:80万是狗粮,想让李娜做政治道具。 穿道具很拘束,令人窒息。换哪个自由了的人都不开心

“Expert in curing cancer”: the 800,000 yuan [award] is dog food with an attempt to turn Li Na into political tool. The performance costume is suffocating. Anyone with a free heart will not be happy about it.

红砖碧瓦时代:以前不是很关心和了解她,现在感觉,李娜将是中国体育界被载入史册的人!

“The red and green brick time”: I wasn't paying attention to her in the past. Now I feel that she should be written into the Chinese sport history books.

saintpluto87:有人说李娜不会做人,其实当今社会正是需要这种不会做人的人,去涤荡由政府多年来积累的不良风气,从而真正推动社会的进步!

saitpluto87: Some said Li Na is an ill-mannered person. But our society needs this kind of person to do away with the culture of the government and promote social progress.

作家-天佑: 每个公民都有不向领导媚笑的权利。

“Writer-Tianyuo”: Every citizen has the right to refuse to perform for the entertainment of the leader.

This post is co-authored with Oiwan Lam

January 29 2014

Samsung Withdraws Controversial University Quota Policy in South Korea

Image of Info Session/Recruitment Scene

A recruitment and information session in South Korea for Samsung. Uploaded by Flickr User Samsungtomorrow (CC BY NC SA 2.0)

South Korea isn't notoriously nicknamed “The Republic of Samsung” for nothing. 

Amid harsh criticism, Samsung has withdrawn a new hiring policy [ko] that would have allowed applicants recommended by their university's presidents to skip ahead in the recruiting process. The change would have also put a cap on the number of students from each university using that recommendation.

Although the recommendation does not guarantee a position in Samsung, it gives a significant head start by allowing students to skip the résumé screening process – a big deal in a country where Samsung, one of the most coveted employers, receives several hundred thousand applications each year. There is even a market for books and costly crash courses [ko] on how to get high scores on Samsung's standard exam. 

Pointing out the quota was given disproportionately against [ko] women and colleges in certain provinces, net users on Samsung's home turf lashed out not only at the corporation, but also at universities, which were either elated or depressed by the quota dictated to them by Samsung. Two tweets below may best reflect one of the most frequently seen reactions from South Korea's Twittersphere about the Samsung's university quota:

The company are now acting as if they were the university's overlord and can do such an arrogant thing like “setting a quota for a university”. This shows that a monopolistic economic system has formed, prevailed and held a tight grip on our society. Additionally, it also reflects that hope is scarce in our current situation.

The moment that universities accept Samsung's proposal, the universities are no longer the place for academia, but they will have become a docile supplier manufacturing disposable goods for the company. 

January 28 2014

South Korea: ‘Less is More', Net Users Turn Sour on Typical Movie Poster

French Poster Image of Movie 'Frozen'. Fair Use Image

French Poster Image of Movie ‘Frozen'. Fair Use Image

A massive Disney hit movie, Frozen is rapidly gaining traction also in South Korea. However, more young Koreans are turning sour on typical Korean-style movie poster, which has long been criticized for being either too confusing or overly interrupted [ko] by extra-bold text dropping names or media/net users’ reviews ridden with cliche [ko]. One net user from the TodayHumor site compared different versions [ko] of Frozen poster (allegedly tailored for audiences in US, France, Japan, China and Korea) and Koreans exchanged heated discussions on what has made Korean movie distributors select such cluttered posters as one can see below. (In comparison, on the left is the poster released in France which has been lauded by many net users for its artistic simplicity) 

Three Korean Poster Images of Movie 'Frozen'. Fair Use Image

Three Korean Poster Images of Movie ‘Frozen'. Fair Use Image

 

Supporting the Rights of Malian Youth to Education

While Mali is trying to reunite in its large territory strained by a prolonged internal conflict between the north and the rest of the country, its young people are impatient to move forward to build Mali's future. My Rights, My Voice, Mali is a project led by Malian youth and supported by Oxfam to promote their rights to education and sexual and reproductive health.

Image from Facebook page for the My Rights, My Voice project. Used with permission.

Image from Facebook page for the My Rights, My Voice project. Used with permission.

The context

Although 80 percent of Mali’s children enrolled in primary school in 2010-11 school year, the system struggles to give them a quality education. Almost half abandon their schooling early, while many complete school without basic reading, writing and mathematical skills. The education system is also plagued by a lack of schools in rural areas, as well as shortages of teachers and materials.

High school students in Kati, Mali via wikipedia  Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license.

High school students in Kati, Mali via Wikipedia Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license.

Laya Diarra, a blogger for Afribone in Bamako explains that finishing primary school is often not enough to solve the literacy issue [fr]: 

Il a été constaté que les enfants qui terminaient le 1er Cycle de l’Enseignement Fondamental retombaient très vite dans l’illettrisme. Cet enseignement ne garantissait pas le minimum éducatif que le système se donnait comme objectif.

Statistics show that many children who completed primary school fell quickly back into illiteracy. This formation did not guarantee the minimum objectives that the educational system aims for.

Additionally, the gender gap in access to education is still a major subject of concern. In 2008, more than 80,000 students passed exams to enter secondary schools, yet around 17,000 — 40 percent of whom were girls — were denied placement in secondary schools. Marianne Opheim, an education researcher, explained that the gender gap is not as large as it may seem [fr]:

Tout en reconnaissant l'importance des facteurs particuliers au statut de la femme, je pense que la sous-scolarisation des filles est étroitement liée aux grands défis généraux de l'école malienne, tels que l'écart linguistique et culturel entre l'école et le foyer

While it is important to recognize the importance of specific factors linked to women status, I think the under-enrollment of girls in school is closely linked to the general challenges of the Malian school system, such as the linguistic and cultural gap between their school and their home.

Some solutions

Mali faces a shortage of teachers (only one per 100 pupils in some areas), poor teacher training, a lack of classroom materials and an outdated curriculum. Still, some schools are rising to the challenges, like the Mohamed Diallo Primary School. In the following French-language video, the director argues that despite many challenges, the school was able to meet its goals thanks to the dedication of the teachers:

The education authorities’ lack of accountability and transparency in financial management means legal standards are not upheld and policies such as the national girls’ education policy are not implemented.

Working with partners in Mali such as the Education for All coalition, My Rights, My Voice is advocating for an improved national curriculum, including life skills and sexual and reproductive health rights. They also train youth groups to monitor policy implementation so that they can hold the government accountable to its commitments to provide quality education for all Mali’s children and to promote girls’ schooling in particular. 

January 25 2014

“Find and Support all the Mandelas in the Villages” for Reconciliation in the Central African Republic

Residents of Bangui were asked about the current escalation of violence in the Central African Republic. Here are some of their thoughts as collected by ATD Fourth World :

Muslim and Christian leaders try to lead reconciliation in CAR via @faitreligieux

Muslim and Christian leaders try to lead reconciliation in CAR crisis via @faitreligieux1

It’s a question of dialogue, because there are two parties, the Seleka and the Anti-balaka. If there isn’t dialogue, it will get worse. It’s become a question between Christians and Muslims, and that requires working from the heart, forgiveness, patience, so that there is no more hate.

A huge reconciliation won’t do anything. What we need is to find and support all those Mandelas in the villages

Respect things, people, without trampling on the rights of others.

We need forgiveness. The radio says it too, it’s their slogan. We have to bring people to love each other again.

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