Compilation of Asia’s Top Stars: Chinese, Korean, and Japanese – can you tell who is who?
Four years ago, I was at my friend’s house and another house guest of hers asked me what my ethnicity was. Before I could answer, he asked, “Are you Korean?” And I said no and told him I was Chinese. And he responded saying “You know that’s a compliment, right? Generally westerners agree that Koreans are the most attractive East Asians.”
At first I was flattered but then I became perplexed and even offended by his comment. Westerners really think Koreans are most attractive? Since when? Why do they think that? I knew Japanese culture was pretty big at that point, what with anime, its advanced technology and unique culture, but what did Westerners see in Korea that I didn’t?
Now putting aside the fact that some people may just be taking the comment as a pick-up line (the guy was clearly in his sixties), that was the first time in my life that I was exposed to a westerner’s perspective of Korean people. The exchange may have been brief and insignificant to some, but several years later, I would come to understand the meaning behind those words.
At that time I had no exposure to kpop and had no idea of the massive influence it would grow to have in terms of spreading the Hallyu Wave around the world.
It all changed when I traveled to China three years ago. At the time, I went into a CD store, looking for popular Chinese pop music to put on my iPod. However, as soon as I went in, a store worker came up to me and asked me if I had heard of a Korean boy group named Super Junior. I said no and she proceeded to show me posters of them and said that their latest album “Sorry Sorry” had sold more copies than any other album in the past couple of months. I was instantly attracted to the handsome faces, sleek and fashionable outfits and decided to give the album a go. When I listened to the music, I was greeted by fast-paced beats, catchy melodies, modern synths, and professional production quality I had not before heard from Chinese pop. And although I couldn’t understand a word that was sung (or rapped), I was instantly hooked.
This was the beginning of my complicated love affair with k-pop. Little did I know at the time that it would explode to become the biggest cultural phenomenon to come from Asia in decades.
At first, I was stunned to discover that there were many other k-pop fanatics just like me, living in countries around the world, some of whom had never met Asians before! So what was the big deal about k-pop? What metaphorical crack did k-pop hide in their songs and music videos that continued to draw in the crowds, gaining more and more devoted fans each and every year?
To be continued…
I’m not really big on drama recaps, because they take a lot of time to write and make, and I’m more about discussing the actual story line and plot developments versus the little minutiae of what happened.
Let me start off by saying I absolutely adore this drama. As much as I loved the first season, this second season has gotten me hook, line, and sinker. I don’t think I’ll ever love a drama (in whatever language) as much as I love this one. I’ve also been watching “Big,” but that drama just doesn’t get me in the heart or the gut. “I Need Romance” gets me everywhere. It’s a drama that absolutely, completely understands me and the complexities of the human heart.
I like discussing this drama based on relationships, rather than by episode, so I’ll start off with the season’s OTP:
Yeolmae + Seokhyun
What Yeolmae says about Seokhyun:
“This man, who exists to be the most distant and strangest person, sometimes approaches me , in an uncomparable way, as the closest person to me. I like that about this man. The reason why I got back with him five times after breaking up with him five times was because I loved that about this man.”
These two…they have so much backstory that I don’t know where to start with them. I’ve never had a 12 year-long relationship with any guy before, but I’d imagine it would be amazing. In the case of these two, it’s having grown up together, having broken up many times but having gotten back together an equal number of times, still loving each other despite full knowing each other’s flaws and ticks (and not necessarily positive ones).
Yeolmae states many times (to herself) that she loves Seokhyun and that she has never stopped loving him in their long 12 year relationship. She’s just like any other girl – she gets angry when he ignores her due to his own emotions and inability to express himself and she gets jealous when he flirts with other girls. What more can we expect from her?
In the last episode (6), we see that she goes to great lengths to find out if Seokhyun actually, truly loves her. He’s often affectionate towards her, but his eyes wander, so it’s no surprise she wants a definite answer from him. Hell, if a guy was playing around with my emotions like that, I’d want an answer too! But no matter what she does, Seokyun will not budge and tell her his true feelings. As the audience, we know that he loves her. We know that he looks after her when she’s not looking, and I like that in a guy. He’s does things for a girl but doesn’t tell her – he’s not the type to boost his ego by taking credit of every nice thing he does for the girl.
The one gripe I have to the Yeolmae character is that she feels the need to marry by the age of 30. As the audience, we can see that that was one of the biggest obstacles in Yeolmae and Seokhyun’s relationship. He loves her but he doesn’t want to get married. She is scared of being alone forever (I mean, she had invested 12 years of her life with this one man!), so she wants some stability. Personally, I don’t think making it legally bound (aka getting married) makes a relationship any better. If someone’s going to have wandering eyes when you’re just dating, they’re going to have wandering eyes if you’re married. It’s as simple as that. I think in the end Yeolmae realizes this – that marriage doesn’t define a relationship. It’s each other’s commitment that does, and she has never had a definite answer from Seokhyun. I can understand where she’s coming from. She’s not desperate; she just loves the man and she needs an answer from him. What’s desperate about that?
The one thing I really liked that Yeolmae did is that she jumped into the water, holding her breath under there, and said she wouldn’t come up until Seokhyun gave her an answer. I honestly thought that would persuade him to actually say SOMETHING but no, he just walks away! What if she had drowned, you jerk? I think he knows her well enough to know she’s not going to let herself drown, but still, cold-hearted much?
I think the series is hinting that we’ll continue to see more inside Seokhyun’s brain, which I’m really looking forward to. Right now, his character is a real enigma. His actions and his words are contradictory; his actions speak more to the fact that he does love her and his words are cowardly, showing no commitment or definite answers. I’m really curious to see how he really feels in the episodes to come.
Yeolmae and Jihoon
This is the second main pairing of the drama. As much as I didn’t want to like Jihoon (since I liked Seokhyun right off the bat), I’m really growing to like his character. Versus Seokhyun, who seems suffer from immature artist syndrome (he is a screenwriter after all), Jihoon is calm, collected, and oozes confidence and sexiness like no other cafe owner I’ve seen. I don’t know what it is, but I can see him having chemistry with any girl…hell any guy!…or even a cat. He’s just that sexy. He lights up the screen whenever he’s on it, and we haven’t seen too much of him yet, but boy am I excited for him to get more screen time now that he’s confessed to Yeolmae that he likes her.
What I like about this show is that Yeolmae, our female protagonist, isn’t drop-dead-gorgeous. She’s petite and pretty, like many other Korean drama protagonists, and the guys know this. Jihoon basically states outright (to the audience) that she’s not very pretty and that she doesn’t have a very good figure. He also said that she was on the short side. So the guys aren’t after her due to her stunning good looks, which makes me like these guys so much more. The guys have respect for her and aren’t just after sex. Good to know.
We haven’t seen too much of this couple yet, but it’s interesting to see the backstory between the two. Jihoon met Yeolmae when he took a guitar class and she was the teacher. She didn’t really recognize him, but years later, she ended up taking a coffee class where Jihoon was the teacher. Cool reversal, huh? Jihoon says that Yeolmae is his “fate girl” – not sure what that means, but sounds interesting.
Jihee and Her Jerk Boyfriend & Taewoo
Sorry, I legit forgot the jerk boyfriend’s name. But he really doesn’t even deserve to be mentioned by name, because from now henceforward he will forever be dubbed “The Jerk Boyfriend.” I don’t even know what to say about him, because he really is like the lowest of scum without cheating (hope he hasn’t been doing that!). I mean, what kind of boyfriend forces his girlfriend to have sex and then complain that she’s not making it fun for him? And then he goes ahead an installs a mirror above her dresser so he can see the two from an aerial view while they make out. What the hell???? He’s simply out of his mind. Dude, I know that you’re sick of “not getting any,” but indulging in your sick fetishes is just downright gross. Do the girl a favor and dump her, because she’s so scared of you she doesn’t have to courage to do it herself.
In comes in the Knight in Shining Armor, Taewoo. Granted, he’s not that perfect, which is probably a good thing. I don’t really find him very attractive (there’s just something about this face), but he’s like a million steps up form the Jerk Boyfriend, so I really don’t mind. Jihee’s character is definitely my least favorite out of the female trio, mostly because her character is the most naive and is such a pushover. She just lets her Jerk Boyfriend stomp all over her, and then when it comes to a guy that’s actually decent to her, she’s nothing but ungrateful towards him. What gives, girl? You need to come to your senses and realize who’s actually worth keeping in your life and who needs to go, go, go? I’ll give her some more time to figure out her life before I totally lose faith in her character.
Jaekyung and Cheating Husband & Jeongmin
Out of all the characters, I identify most with Jaekyung. She’s basically your ballsy, go-getter girl and she doesn’t take any bullshit. However, as strong as she is, she caved and married a rich announcer instead of the man she loves, Jeongmin. Actually, I might actually do the same thing in the future. I identify with Jaekyung because she’s very ambitious and stops at nothing (not even love) to get what she wants in life. If that involves marrying a man of means, it might as well be a done deal.
However, her husband has been cheating with her from day one, and as a woman in Korea, she has a lot fewer options than a man in the same situation would. Her husband is a well-known announcer, similar to level of a chaebol or a famous politician, so a scandal would most definitely be caught by the press and their breakup would be very damaging to the person the public deems to be in the wrong. In this case, Jaekyung’s scheming (and I hate to say it, but smart) husband beats her to the chase and frames her and her lover Jeongmin for cheating, while he tells the public that “suffered a lot because he truly loved her.” That’s what you get for having a lot of money and power, huh?
In the end, I’m glad Jaekyung was brave and faced the press like a champ and said that although her husband provided her with everything, she loves another man. Such bravery. And the advice came from none other than Seokhyun, who seems immature given his interactions with Yeolmae, but is actually incredibly intelligent and insightful. He basically said that although she’s the one who will be met with criticism and although it will be difficult, she has to overcome it by proving her competence and good character to everyone she meets. (Think of it as catching Hilary Clinton cheating on Bill. She would be met with dirty looks everywhere she goes in America. Korean society just doesn’t give women the same leeway it gives men, but that’s a story for another day). Jaekyung’s the one who was the good better person by not giving in to her husband’s scheming ways. She doesn’t have to feel any guilt for what happened. Her dignity is left in tact. And her husband? Forever burning in hell for his unforgivable actions. The drama basically implies that we humans don’t have to try to play the Grand Judge: karma will eventually come to bite those who are evil.
So that ends my rather long analysis of the relationships in I Need Romance, season 2 (up to episode 6). I’ll probably do another one of these at the end of the season, just to keep from making y’all bored by reading too much of my nonsense. And if you haven’t seen the drama, watch it here :)
I see a lot of people have been reading my post about the Korean Setting Perm. On it, I mentioned that the curls were quite tight, but that I thought they would loosen up over time. Well I just want to update and say that they no, they haven’t really loosened up at all, and it’s been over eight months. Eight months later and those curls are still holding tight.
Setting perm is described by Koreans as the “elegant” waves versus the digital perm, which is supposed to be curlier and more slightly more fun? I’m not sure how to describe it, but setting perm is what you see when you see classic, sophisticated Korean girls. I don’t think it turned out the way it was supposed to have on my hair because my hair is naturally very frizzy, so I’m sorry if my pictures weren’t of much help to you.
Funny thing I just searched up “setting perm before and after” and my picture came up. Maybe I shouldn’t have put such a dismal picture of the after shot (sobs).
In retrospect, the Korean magic straightener was not nearly as good as the Japanese straighteners I’ve gotten before, so here’s some real advice: definitely go for the Japanese straighteners over the Korean magic one if you want straight hair. Okay, that’s enough talking!
I’m not even joking here. The choreography for their latest song, Sherlock, is absolutely brilliant.
The music (which I’m just finally starting to like) and the music video aside (which was interesting, but did not properly showcase the choreo), SM finally released the practice video of Sherlock yesterday. And judging by all the comments on its YouTube page, people are really loving the choreography for this song. I personally have deemed it my favorite choreography in all of the k-pop dances I’ve seen (and trust me, I’ve seen a lot).
Here are the reasons why this dance stands out for me:
- The energy and freshness of the moves – I think I’ve seen this video like a bajillion times and I’m still amazed by how fresh the moves are. I’ve never seen these moves in k-pop before. It’s not your usual hip-thrusting and crotch-grabbing antics (which I’m not saying I dislike, lol NU’EST and EXO) – it’s really new and there’s no overt sexual moves, which I *really* like. Rookie groups, take some pointers from SHINee.
- How every member gets a chance to shine – the way this dance is choreographed, everyone has at least once or twice (usually more) to shine. When they’re in the spotlight, the other members are either completely still or doing a “backup” move. For Minho and Onew, the two weakest dancers in the group (but how much they have improved! So amazing!), they had many chances to be in the spotlight, and I really appreciated the choreographer for this.
- The collaborative nature of the dance – Most times, everyone in a group dance learns the same moves, and they try to make it as synchronized as possible. So you’d have 5-7 people on stage doing the exact same move at the exact same time, and if that was successful, then they would be praised for “amazing” dancing. (Infinite, I’m not criticizing you by any means) Take this move in which Jonghyun is in the center – all the members are collaborating to make a more impressive overall move. Coming from a theater background, I find this very impressive, and a big step in the right direction. K-pop, more of this, please :)
I think that’s the general gist of why I really love this dance. Plus, it really brings out the best in SHINee’s talents. Taeminnie’s rocking it as usual, Key’s fierce as usual, Jonghyun is surprisingly sexy here (like seriously outshining the rest in that category, sorry my bias Key haha), and Minho and Onew have improved a lot. I’m so impressed.
I cannot talk about the choreo without mentioning the choreographer, the world-renowned Tony Testa, who choreographed for the likes of Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson. He even flew to Korea to teach SHINee the choreo. K-pop, you’re really stepping up your game here, and I am more than happy to have been a loyal fan from the (almost) beginning.
And here’s the practice dance video again, for those of you who haven’t seen it yet.
And today I will take a break from what I usually post about to talk about one of the greatest joys of my life…being a fangirl.
I have to be totally 100% honest when I say that the reason I got into Korean culture and learning the language is because of k-pop. K-pop and Korean dramas, but mostly k-pop. K-pop, with their attractive boys and girls, pretty costumes, beautiful sets, catchy songs, and sexy dances, is really, really appealing. And, like many other young girls, I fell madly in love with perhaps the cutest boys on earth.
But it’s not just the visual factor that keeps me going. Reflecting back on my almost three years as a pretty fervent k-pop fan, I have come to realize that what makes me coming back for more is the incredible level of unity and friendship I feel within the k-pop community. It’s not just me and just me liking a song or a music video or a boy group. It’s me, spazzing out with thousands of other fangirls and fanboys AROUND THE WORLD when the music video comes out.
Lately I’ve been keeping up with the SHINee and Infinite fandoms on Tumblr, and I swear, the level of dedication of fans is so awe-inspiring and just downright incredible. When Infinite’s Woohyun celebrated his 21st birthday back in February, there were dozens upon dozens of Inspirits who created picture sets of his best photos and wrote long, emotional letters dedicated to him. And then the thousands of Inspirits liked and reblogged the crap out of the photo sets. I was among them. I even sent Woohyun a tweet saying happy birthday.
And I know there’s a little mistake in the last sentence, but that’s okay. It was my little contribution to the millions upon millions of fans that want to reach out to the idols. Hell, I’m learning Korean so that I can understand my favorite idols. When I understand a whole sentence they say, a little bit of my heart warms up, knowing that I’m a little bit closer to them. The fact that Woohyun probably never read my tweet is saddening, but I’m okay with it. He has so many fans that do so much for him and the rest of the Infinite members – I just wanted to show my support in the very small way that I could.
Now on to SHINee. The past two weeks have been crazy hell for Shawols everywhere. Ever since SM announced that SHINee would finally be making a comeback after 18-something months of Korean prime-time inactivity, Shawols have been ecstatic. Finally, their five beloved SHINee boys would be coming back with a new single!! I’d just joined the SHINee world about two months ago, so I can’t really express the emotions of a true die-hard Shawol, but I could really feel the amount of love for the boys hardcore Shawols have. Last week alone, Shawols on Tumblr were going crazy trying to predict when SM would be releasing each of the five members’ individual photo teasers. My Tumblr dashboard was filled each night around 7 pm with antsy Shawols wondering what the hell had happened to SM that they weren’t uploading the photo teasers. All of us waited and refreshed our Tumblrs with bated breath as the teasers finally came out, one by one. And when the photos came out, Tumblr Shawols did what they did best – edit and collage the hell out of them. And then the notes piled up. Soon, each of the members had collages with up to 2-3,000 notes. The power of Shawols.
This past Sunday, I woke up at around 6 am to find out that the music video teaser and the digital album would be released soon. Shawols once again scrambled together to wait for the teasers, and then also edited and gif-ed the hell out of the short 39 second teaser. But it wasn’t until this morning (Tuesday) at 11 AM that I truly felt the love. Apparently, at 11 AM Tuesday (00:00 Wednesday KST), the full music video was to be uploaded onto SM’s home page on YouTube. The time came and went, and with no music video uploaded, Shawols went absolutely NUTS. They spammed the comments section of the music video’s teaser video like there was no tomorrow. For a whole hour, I turned on automatic comments and just watched the comments streaming in like the opening of a dam. A dam that had been in hibernation for EIGHTEEN MONTHS. It was probably one of the most amusing hours of my life. Here are some memorable YouTube comments that I’ve saved:
did the uploader fall asleep?
guys. just breath…there OMG WHERE IS THE FUCKING MV???
sm is too busy preparing for exo’s new teasers
I’M GOING CRAAAAAAAAZZZY!!! >:((((((
STOP JOKING AND UPLOAD THE MV RIGHT NOW!!! -____-
Not here yet? I faked sick and didn’t go to school for this! *anxious*
I am eating popcorn while reading comments on atomatic mode LMAO (dead serious)
I could seriously wait hours while doing this lol so helarious XD
only SHINee can get a over a million views for a 39 second teaser :P
I am very very frustrated right now.
OMFG SM, YOU’VE JUST TROLLED US.
GET READY FOR SHAWOL’S REVENGE
BRING THE BOOOOOOOOOOOOYS OUT
IM SO FURIOUS YEAHHHHH~
maybe SHINee will upload short videos telling us where to look for the MV
Oh I’m so curious Yeah~
Oh I’m so curious(what SM is doing now) Yeah~
This is not the reality we wanted.
EVERY REFRESH = NEW TOP COMMENT. POWER OF SHAWOLS
Calm the fuck down, people. It’s not like SM had been punctual before. Give the slowpokes some time to figure this shit out.
people we broke youtube again ……
This went on and on. Until people had to go to sleep, or school, or work, or they simply grew tired of waiting and decided that SM simply wasn’t going to release the video at that time. It’s still not released, and we Shawols are at a loss of when SM will release it. But one thing is sure – through this ordeal, I learned the power of Shawols and k-pop fans. In the span of an hour, SHINee’s music video teaser accumulated over thousands of comments. Oh how I love you, my fellow Shawols.
When people think about the demographic of people who are k-pop fans, they think they’re all pre-teen Asian girls. They could not be more wrong. I’ve encountered k-pop fans from all around the world – England, France, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Malaysia, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore – just to name a few. People who don’t speak Korean at all and who cannot understand the language nonetheless devote tons of their time to Korean music and culture. This absolutely astounds me. How this has happened is completely beyond me, but it really floored me. At this time, I realize that I have never been more proud of being a k-pop fan. I truly believe k-pop has the power to change the world. It already has. It’s brought people from thousands of miles away with nothing in common to become a tight-knit community of people who have to come to understand and love each other. If that’s not world-changing, I don’t know what is. K-pop doesn’t have to be a charity to change lives. I know of countless people whose lives were changed by k-pop, and thus they give much of their time and energy to giving back to the stars who changed their lives.
As long as I live, I will remember this special and precious time of my life – when I was a k-pop fan. I don’t think it will last forever, and I certainly don’t believe any of the other k-pop fans expect it to either, but it’s just such a unique thing that I will forever remember and treasure. Thank you k-pop and thank you fellow fans, for making my life so much brighter and warmer.
Since I started this blog back in August, it’s been about eight months of me blogging about Korea and its beautiful language, people, culture, etc. And thank you lovely people for visiting my site, whether through references or just randomly stumbling upon it from Google search. I’m truly grateful.
Since I’m not longer in Korea right now, I haven’t been able to update the blog regularly with experiences and stories from Korea – because I’m no longer there. However, I’ve met a lot of people with equal amounts of enthusiasm for the language and culture, and I just wanted to plug them a bit.
If you’re looking for a network of friends to study Korean with you, go to Self Study Korean. The site is run by a bunch of really awesome people from all walks of life with one thing in common – their love for the beautiful language that is Korean. I’ve been frequenting it because not only does it help me in my journey to mastering Korean, there’s a feeling of community and belonging on the site.
If you’re looking for a Korean pen pal, go to Interpals. You can pick what language you want to be your target language, and you can make friends who you can share languages with. I think the website is fairly safe, and I haven’t heard any creepo stories from it, so I think you will be okay trying to find friends on it.
If you’re looking for a westerner’s perspective on Korean culture, go to Noonablog. Paula, the writer behind Noonablog, has been living in Seoul for the past couple of years, and she has a lot of insight into Korean culture. She’s also into fashion, so a lot of her posts are about fashion (happy for me ^^), and I’ve met her personally (she’s awesome), so I promise you you won’t be bored by her blog!
If you’re looking for a good website for authentic Korean merchandise, go to G Market. This website is one of Korean’s largest e-markets, and it has everything, from clothes to cosmetics to food to furniture. The prices are decent, and they have worldwide shipping. I haven’t personally bought from the website, but I have friends who have, and I’ve heard no complaints. If nothing else, the endless pages of cute clothes (and the guys’ clothing section has a lot of cute models ^^) should keep you occupied.
Right now, I’m a little out of ideas, but if you think of any other good resources for Korean-related things, let me know! And also, if you want me to blog about anything in particular, feedback is always appreciated <3
One of the main things I love about Korean culture is their food. Before I went to Korea, I hadn’t eaten too much Korean food, just bibimbap and Korean BBQ. But even then, I knew I loved the vibrant colors and intense flavor of Korean food.
One of the best things about living in Korea is being able to eat so much cheap, delicious Korean food just by stepping outside your doorstep. In every part of Seoul (and other cities, I’m sure), there are amazing little restaurants in every street corner owned by families – they’re cheap, authentic, delicious. I found it very difficult to find a restaurant in which I had a BAD meal. Plus, Korean restaurants (along with many other restaurants in Asia) don’t charge tax or tip, so it’s really easy and convenient just to eat out basically everyday.
Some of my favorite Korean dishes were kimchi jjigae, pudae jjigae, pajeon, and labbokki. I loved pretty much everything I ate in Korea, but these were the standouts for me.
Last week I decided to make some Korean food. Now, this is a big step for me, seeing as I groan whenever my mom asks me to try cooking. Cooking to me has always been a bit of a chore, because you need to go out and buy specific ingredients, and without the right ingredients, the food won’t taste right. I basically make only ramen and spaghetti, the two easiest foods to make. But seeing as I love Korean food, and that the closest yummy Korean restaurant is over 30 minutes away, I decided to give cooking Korean food myself a go.
So since I explained to you that I kind of hate cooking and that I have very little experience, I thought it’d be best for me to try an easy dish for my first Korean experiment. I chose Kimchi jjigae because it’s pretty simple – you just put kimchi and some other simple ingredients into a pot and let it simmer for a bit, and voila! You have kimchi jjigae. I have to give a lot of credit to Maangchi for her Korean recipes, because without them, I wouldn’t even had the confidence to try making anything. Her recipes are simple and easy-to-follow, and she often includes videos, which is very helpful.
Here are my kimchi jjigae ingredients:
And here’s my kimchi jjigae after being boiled:
It turned out a lot sweeter than it’s supposed to be (it’s not supposed to be sweet, more sour), so I’ll have to work on that for the future. Also, I used the wrong tofu – it’s supposed to be the slick, smooth one, but I bought tofu that said it was “soft” on the cover – clearly smooth and soft are not the same things. But my parents said they thought it was really delicious, so I was pleased ^^
Next, I tackled kkatdugi because my mom randomly brought me home a radish from the store. So I went on Maangchi’s site again, and of course, there was a recipe for kkatdugi (cubed radish kimchi). The ingredients required for this kimchi are really commonplace – garlic, ginger, green onions – so you won’t have to go too out of your way to buy them. The one weird ingredient that it calls for that I’d never heard of before is fish sauce. Apparently we had some in our garage that we never even opened. Go figure.
Here are the ingredients pre-mixing.
And here’s post-mixing:
I have yet to try it because it’s supposed to ferment outside for several days, so I will update you later once I taste it!
Hope you guys enjoyed this blog post and if you want me to try making any other Korean food, please let me know and I will try my best!