Are We Underestimating E-scooter Risks?

E-Scooters are rising in popularity across the globe, especially in Korea. But, are the regulations on these electric hybrids too lax?

A common dilemma for people working outside of their homes is transportation. How do you avoid traffic or crowded subways without wasting money on taxis? How do you get there on time while not having to put in the tiring effort of riding a bike? E-Scooters, which are easy-to-use, battery-powered transportation devices, seem to be the perfect solution. 

E-Scooters have had a notable rise in popularity in Korea. According to the Korea Startup Forum and the Shared Personal Mobility Alliance (SPMA), there are now 52,080 E-Scooters in Korea, which is a sharp increase from the 17,130 E-Scooters last year. E-Scooters are an excellent way to get to places on time and are accessible to a wide age range. However, with rising cases of E-Scooters accidents and breaches in public safety guidelines, concerns have been rising over the regulations in place over the use of these machines. According to an article from Yonhap News, certain E-Scooters regulations will become effective in December under Korea’s Road Traffic Act. The regulations include officially categorizing the E-Scooters as a type of bicycle, which allows E-Scooters riders who don’t have driver’s licenses to use bicycle roads. In addition, the age limit for riding an E-Scooter will be decreased from 18 to 13 years old. Additionally, the penalty for not wearing a helmet will no longer be in effect (Kim, 2020). 

Parents, teachers, and other worried citizens have spoken out against these lax regulations, insisting that the authorities must make them more strict. E-Scooters can be very dangerous on roads and sidewalks as people will be navigating through crowds or in front of traffic at speeds of up to 25 kilometres per hour. In addition, many people are seen without helmets on these fast moving vehicles, which poses a safety hazard to the riders. Another problem is that E-Scooter riders are often found riding these machines with two people on a single scooter. There are currently no regulations that address this problem. 

Many citizens have pondered over what would be the best ways to limit E-Scooter accidents. Some suggest having E-Scooter riders pay heavier fines when involved in an accident. Others suggest having a higher age limit (Kim, 2020). However, a solution brought up that I believe is the most effective and logical way is to implement  a separate law for E-Scooters, segways, electric skateboards, and other newly developed transportation machines. 

Perhaps, in the future, a separate road specifically for these types of devices could be created. They function at a different speed range and agility than typical bikes, and should therefore require a different set of rules. A regulation that enforces the use of helmets should most certainly be established, as well as speed limits in certain places (such as a lower limit in school-zones). There should also be several rules in regards to having more than one person on a singular scooter. The age limit of 13 years old is too young, and riders should at least be 18 before being allowed to ride E-Scooters without proper supervision. 

Accidents with E-scooters should be taken more seriously as they can have tragic and irreversible consequences. If you or a family member or friend rides an E-Scooter, make sure to take proper safety precautions, and to think logically about what the right way to handle these machines is. 

With all due respect, just wear a helmet.

– Michelle Lee ‘22

Featured Image: Let’sKick/Unsplash

The Uncertainty of Flu Vaccines in Korea

There has been a rise in deaths of citizens who recently received the flu vaccine. It is unlikely that the vaccine was the cause of their death, but what is the right course of action of vaccine-providers to ease public concerns?

With each spike in Coronavirus cases, hospitals have been on the verge of overflowing, without enough equipment or rooms for their patients. Now that the Flu Season is underway, South Korean officials are concerned over whether hospitals can handle the influx of flu patients on top of COVID-19 patients. In order to prevent an overload of patients in hospitals, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) has started a free flu vaccine program for which 19 million people are eligible (BBC News). However, concerns have been growing over the safety of these vaccines as several deaths possibly linked to vaccination were recorded. As of Friday, October 23rd, at least 48 South Korean citizens have died after receiving a flu vaccine (KBS World Radio). The highest recorded number of deaths that occurred after flu vaccination was six deaths in 2005. However, the number of people being vaccinated in 2020 is much higher, which could be the reason for the sudden spike in deaths (The Korea Times). In addition to the deaths, according to Jung Eun-kyeong, the KDCA Chief, there have been 353 cases of abnormal reactions linked to vaccinations this year. 

Although most of the deaths that occurred were among elderly citizens aged 70 or older, a few of which having underlying health conditions, a 17 year old boy died two days after receiving a flu shot. His vaccine was one of around 5 million doses that had been accidentally exposed to room-temperature. This batch of vaccines was re-collected and tested for quality control, however, the testers found no irregularities or toxic substances in the vaccines. The death of such a young person sparked fears amongst parents who were planning on getting their children vaccination as well. Lim Yi-young, the mother of a four year old son, stated that she was “too frightened to get him the vaccine” after hearing of the recent deaths (The Korea Times).

The KDCA has decided to continue with the vaccination program, assuring the public that there is no definite correlation between the casualties and the flu vaccinations. KDCA officials say that it would be difficult to suspend the program at such a critical time, emphasizing the number of deaths caused by the flu itself each year. However, the KDCA also states that the vaccination will be suspended immediately if any issues are found with the vaccines. On the other hand, the Korean Medical Association (KMA) has a contrasting stance, stating that the government should put the program on hold until the cause of the deaths have been confirmed. According to KDCA Commissioner Jeong Eun-kyeong, confirming the cause of death by conducting autopsies on the bodies would take around two weeks to complete. KMA President, Choi Dae-zip, states that the government should pause the program in order to identify the “cause of the recent deaths and ease the people’s concerns” (The Korea Times). 

Although the beginning of the flu season is a crucial time and the influx of patients could overwhelm hospitals across South Korea, reassuring the public and ensuring public safety is also extremely important. As Jeong Eun-kyeong stated, completing the autopsies and tests would take around two weeks to complete. Following the advice of the KMA, the KDCA should take the time to re-collect the released vaccines and conduct one more quality-control test on all of the vaccines as well as confirm the causes of the deaths. This will ease public panic, allowing more parents and families to feel comfortable getting vaccinated and ultimately having a positive impact on flu cases if completed in a timely manner. 

– Michelle Lee ‘22

Featured Image: Sam Moqadam/Unsplash

Anti-Government Groups Conflict With Enforcement of COVID-19 Safety Measures

Religious groups in South Korea as well as anti-maskers in the States have protested against the enforcement of Coronavirus safety measures, conflicting with efforts to limit the spread of the disease.

Between September of 1918 and April of 1920, the notorious “Spanish Flu”, or H1N1 influenza A virus, raged across the globe, killing over 50 million people and infecting nearly  500 million. The Philadelphia decided not to cancel the Liberty Loan Parade, a promotional patriotic parade scheduled for September 28th , despite the ongoing pandemic.. On the day of the parade, 200,000 people poured into Broad Street, cheering and celebrating shoulder to shoulder in large crowds. As a result, the cases in Philadelphia nearly doubled in the span of a week. 

Though we’d assume we would learn from our historical mistakes, these unfortunate events have promptly repeated themselves with the unfolding of the COVID-19 outbreak. With skeptical anti-maskers, restless party-goers, and an inadequate government response, the cases in the US have skyrocketed.

South Korea has been able to avoid the tragic situation of the US with a swift and efficient response from the leading health officials. However,with the reopening of schools and several businesses came a sudden upturn of COVID-19 cases. Experts suspect certain church groups who have shown resistance against COVID-19 prevention requirements and have continued to meet in groups that exceed attendance restrictions enforced by the government. Much to the dismay of students and faculty, schools have shut down and resumed online learning. A number of shops that have suffered from virus outbreaks have also closed their doors. 

The Sarang Jeil Church is a right-wing religious group of Christians in South Korea. The group has become a huge topic of controversy with their members packing together in anti-government protests, and even going as far as to believe that the virus could potentially be a communist terrorist attack on their religious group. They claim that the South Korean president Moon Jae-In will turn South Korea into a communist country under his rule. Despite many of the members and even the Pastor, Jun Kwang-Hoon, testing positive for the virus, the members continued to rally in the streets, fueling the rapid ongoing spread of the virus. 

Doesn’t this sound familiar?

Don’t the baseless claims of the anti-government Sarang Jeil Church group resemble the baseless claims of many anti-government US citizens? Haven’t the reasonless anti-maskers also fallen victim to the ailment of misinformation and corrupt media? According to Han Hwan-ho, a member of the Sarang Jeil Church, members rushed to unite with their fellow members in order to “to defend [their] country’s alliance with the United States and our freedom of religion”. Similar themes of freedom have surfaced in the United States with anti-maskers claiming that coronavirus safety measures are an infringement upon their personal rights. Protests by anti-maskers in the US, who rally without their masks and ignore social distancing, have contributed greatly to case spikes in several states. Similarly, gatherings of church members who ignore safety measures in Korea have also caused a sizable portion of increases in COVID-19 cases. These are the times in which listening to government authority is critical in preventing the spread of the virus, and citizen must protect each other by following safety guidelines. 

These unfortunate instances of ignorance and mistrust amongst anti-government protesters shine a bright light on the underlying social problems in both the US and South Korea as well as a multitude of other countries. Fake news and leaders who encourage irresponsible and illogical behaviour or beliefs have been shown to undermine attempts to mitigate coronavirus cases and have ultimately cost the world thousands of lives. Perhaps South Korea and the United States have more in common than we thought.

 -Michelle Lee (22′)

Featured Image: Ed Jones/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

The Myth, The Legend, The Cho Kuk

It has been a month since South Korea was outraged by the Cho Kuk scandal. Cho Kuk, a professor for law studies at Seoul University, was alleged with the exploitation of Kuk’s social status to help his daughter falsify her academic achievements. This provoked immense controversy as Korea has long been an academically competitive country with millions of students stressing over college admissions. This further aggravated when his family was given a travel ban due to allegations of illegal business practices, investments, and management. Despite all these debates, on September 9th, President Moon officially appointed Kuk as the Minister of Justice. Although Cho Kuk eventually stepped down, the scandal became a momentous subject to the whole nation. 

On August 27th, it was reported that about 20 locations were raided by the prosecutor’s office. The allegation was sparked off from the paper the daughter took part in an international medical research paper (Korea Journal of Pathology), listing herself as the head author, which is almost implausible for a highschool student to accomplish. Despite the fact that she failed her exams at Pusan National University twice, she not only did not get removed from the university but also got a scholarship for over six semesters (2016 to 2018). Moreover, she was accepted to Ewha medical school which triggered even more suspicion. Making matters worse, Kuk’s wife was also charged with forgery of administration documents. 

During an 11-hour long news conference, Kuk did concede to the aforementioned allegations that his daughter gained unfair advantages in her academics while maintaining that he did not violate any legislation. Within no time, students from all over Korea, including students from Seoul National University, protested against Moon’s decision and Kuk’s corrupt behaviors. Surprisingly, this incident led to a nation-wide candlelight protest against Minister Kuk, which was very similar to that of President Park’s impeachment. 

Moon’s presidency centered around the value of fairness and justness, deriving this driving value from Park’s corrupt presidency. Kuk’s scandal, however, proved that inequality still existed within this “just, established” system. Korea was once again was divided: the Democratic Party of Korea (the political party that Kuk is in) had ambivalent responses. Some had criticized Kuk and Moon while others defended him asserting that there are no illegal actions nor does Kuk’s action interfere with his role as the Minister of Justice. 

It has only been two years since Park’s presidency of threatening Korea’s democracy, yet Moon also faces massive outrage filled with protesters seeking impeachment. Cho Kuk resigned due to the massive appeal from the protests, but the heated discussion of current president Moon’s qualification still circulates around the political discussion. Was it right for Moon to impart a position to whoever he wants? Should Moon have also issued an apology or even resignation? But, most importantly, should one’s personal scandals be considered when examining his qualifications as a candidate? 

I still believe that these are the questions that should be asked in these heated political discussions. However, there is no doubt, unlike the past when corruption silenced the people’s voice, that people are more aware of their democratic rights. Citizens directly protest to their leaders if they see a flaw or exploitation in the system-an indication of a healthy democracy. Still, amends are needed in this current government. Like how President Park’s scandal dissolved into thin air, it will be only a matter of time. In such, we can only hope that this scandal prompted Korea’s democracy to be one step further and learn from its mistakes. 

-Mark Park ’20

Featured Image: The Hankyoreh

Extinction Strikes: Why the Youth Are Angry

From September 20th to September 27th, over 6 million people around the globe marched out into the streets to demand climate justice. With 2,500 events scheduled in over 150 countries, the protest turned out to be the largest climate mobilization in world history. The events were intentionally scheduled so that the United Nations Climate Action Summit (Sept 23rd) would be sandwiched between the two strikes, pressuring countries to take ambitious and transformative action.

The remarkable factor that distinguishes the climate strike from any other mass socio-political movement is that it is youth-led. Greta Thunberg, a 16-year old from Sweden, spearheaded the movement when a couple of years ago, she sacrificed a day of school to stand in front of the Swedish parliament and protest. This solitary ripple has inspired a wave of global protests where the youth are taking charge. Many public schools have been supportive of the student strikersmost notably New York City’s public education system that excused 1.1 million students to join the strike.


In South Korea, more than 5000 people joined the 9/21 Climate Emergency work strike, and 700 for the 9/27 School Strike. Although the turnout rate was lower than other countries, the strikes were the biggest climate mobilization in Korea’s history, indicating significant and meaningful progress in Korean environmental activism. Below is what a KIS student who participated in the strike had to say. 

“When it comes to climate change, people give up saying “What difference will I make.” But we need to realize that everyone can make a difference. Difference doesn’t mean solving the problem immediately. It means moving forward together.” -Alicia Lee (‘20)

The strike organizers chose the Korean government as their primary target, criticizing the administration’s defeatist claims that they were “already doing everything they could.” In response to the government’s investment in six new coal power plants, strikers gave the government a failing grade in the subject of climate action and demanded that politicians entirely halt coal investment starting from 2020.

During the UN Climate Summit, President Moon failed to announce substantial and concrete climate policy, instead making vague promises about ‘clear skies’ and increasing funding for environmental agencies. His response is lackluster at best, and detrimental at worst. It is far too late to enact tepid, small-scale policies such as “increasing funding.” Because behind its dismissive rhetoric that blames China for the entirety of its climate crises, Korea stands as one of the most environmentally careless nations. Korea is one of the top 4 ‘climate villains,’ a term referring to countries that have been most irresponsible and negligent about responding to climate change. It also is the OECD’s fourth largest emitter of CO2 and has the fastest growing rate of carbon emissions. And despite such outrageously deficient political action, there still seems to be a dire lack of urgency coming from the government. 

Behind closed doors, the government has continuously claimed that fulfilling the conditions of the Paris Agreement is realistically impossible and incompatible with economic development. It seems as if Korea’s environmental policies are a tool for advancing the country’s reputation in the global arena, not a genuine political issue of concern. What we need from politicians is simple: an acknowledgement of the climate crisis and the government’s role in aggravating it. Of course individual citizens’ efforts matter, but there is a firm limit to how much change can be incited solely through grassroots activism. In order for humanity to avoid extinction in the coming 50 years, there is no option other than bold, aggressive, and revolutionary political action. The younger generation deserves to live, and we aren’t going away until those in power value us over economic growth. 

– Yoora Do ‘20

Featured Image: Charles Park ’20

What the Kpop Digital Sex Scandal Reveals to Us

The scandal is more than a simple warning that there are perverts in the industry— it’s a reflection of the deeply entrenched culture of toxic masculinity in South Korea.

For the past few weeks, scandal after scandal in the Kpop industry has thrown an ugly picture of its inner workings in front of thousands. The controversy started gaining momentum with Burning Sun, a popular nightclub owned by Seungri, a member of one of K-pop’s earliest icons Big Bang. In November, a CCTV footage showing a woman being violently pulled away and assaulted by club guards and the police was revealed.

Little did the public know, at the time, that the footage was merely a small tip of a mammoth iceberg: beneath it hid years of un-investigated drug trafficking, tax evasion, prostitution, rape, and pornography distribution. Since this first scandal, major K-Pop idols including Jung Joon-Young and Roy Kim have been accused of belonging to a group chat in which members shared sexual videos of women filmed without consent, leading to an outpour of public apologies and early retirement.


If you think voyeurism is a newly emerging phenomenon, it’s not. Last year, about 1,600 people were secretly filmed in Korean motel rooms and live-streamed online. Seoul’s public toilets are still plagued with illegal spy cameras that are concealed in the holes of bathroom stalls. What’s most concerning is the overwhelming speed at which hidden pornography spreads; the transmission process is facilitated through forums and websites, namely SoraNet, that are dedicated to uploading illegal upskirting videos, spy camera footage, and revenge porn. Most victims are unaware of such recordings until months or years after the first upload, and in the face of an entire empire that helps the industry flourish, feel too defeated to take legal action.

Recently, Seungri has made a statement about the allegations.

“I admit all my crimes.  I filmed women without their consent and shared it in a social network chat room, and acted without feeling any sense of guilt doing so.”

A key phrase deserves our attention here: “acted without feeling any sense of guilt.” His numbness to the inappropriateness of his actions is not necessarily an indicator that he is psychopathic, but rather a byproduct of a culture that taught him to condone sexual exploitation of women and ignore the importance of consent.

The scandal is more than a simple warning that there are perverts in the industry— it’s a reflection of the deeply entrenched culture of toxic masculinity in South Korea: “the idea that the male role involves violence, dominance, and devaluing women.” Whether it’s from the longstanding Confucianist mantra that explicitly supports male dominance, K-Pop lyrics and music videos that normalize the sexual objectification of women, or high school culture that encourages boys to label anything slightly feminine as ‘gay,’ it is no secret that society breeds a dangerously wrongful understanding of what it means to be masculine.

What does all this have to do with the digital sex scandal? Lots. On the most basic level, voyeurism is grounded in the notion that women are closer to objects than humans- vehicles of pleasure rather than people with dignity. And why wouldn’t male celebrities think this when misogynistic lyrics are embedded in the most popular hip-hop tunes? When two-thirds of female idols are pressured by abusive agents to have sex to further their careers? When entertainment companies bind female singers by stringent contracts that dictate every inch of their movement because they are supposed to be ‘role models’ for the youth within their gender role: dainty, dumb, and sexually attractive?


Take Irene from Red Velvet. In 2018, many fans launched vitriolic criticism against her for reading a feminist novel, Ji Young: Born 1982 (82년생 김지영). Son Na-Eun from Apink was no exception when she was found sporting a phone case that read “Girls can do anything.” Even when one takes into account that feminism does not have a positive reputation in Korea, it is absurd to think that people were so emotionally invested into one woman’s choice of literature or accessory that they felt a legitimate need to burn pictures of her. Would this have happened to an ordinary female? Possibly, but it is undeniable that male fans’ expectations fueled the fire. It was not only a general distaste for feminism that triggered their anger, but the fact that these idols broke out of their “pretty girl that exists to please you” stereotype and began to demonstrate signs of independent thought.

Whether or not it is a result of K-pop’s pervasive influence in society, this culture persists outside of the industry as well. The uncomfortable truth is that Jung Joon-Young’s group chat is not the only one of its kind: there exist several chatrooms with the same nature in schools, workplaces- our very own community. The sexist, careless, and demeaning rhetoric we heard is not exclusive to these K-pop giants: we hear it in our locker rooms, classrooms, and hallways. Non-consensual filming is not unique to Burning Sun: spy cameras are hidden in thousands of other bathrooms in the streets we roam every day. When a controversy involving high-profile celebrities gives the illusion that the issue is distant, it is critical to notice that the same strands of misogyny are present around us. Yes, massive top-down change in the entertainment industry is imperative, but perhaps we should start by holding those around us accountable and finding hidden traces of toxic masculinity within ourselves.

– Janie Do (‘20)

Sexual Assault Allegations Shed Light on Korea’s Speed Skating Community

“I came here so that there will be no more victims like me.”

South Korea’s speed skating world has garnered international praise and a loyal following as the community boasts its 24 gold medals, toppling the record of other countries such as Canada or the Netherlands.

In the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics, perhaps the most noticeable win came from Shim Suk Hee when she secured the astonishing first place after stunning her Chinese opponent, Li Jianrou in a tense move on the final lap.

Many Korean citizens extolled the young, decorated speed skater as she led the women’s 3,000-meter track in the Pyeongchang Olympics to an ultimate victory. Yet, behind the poignant tears and gold medals lied the veil cast upon the community’s troubling flaws.

Back in September, Shim and her fellow teammates accused their former coach, Cho Jae-bom of physical assault. However, these accusations were then followed by the winning streak in the Pyeongchang Olympics; they were shadowed by these accomplishments. The accusations simply failed to get national attention. Nonetheless, The coach was fired shortly before the Pyeongchang Olympics after persistent accusations of mistreatment against Shim and her other fellow teammates. He was then sentenced 10 months in prison after being charged with physical assault against four elite skaters.

Former coach Cho Jae-bom being escorted to the courtroom for his interrogation.

Just last month, Shim has presented accusations against her ex-coach once again, immediately heightening the urgency of addressing the issue. According to these new allegations, Shim has been raped by Cho on a frequent basis since the age of 17.

Shim’s complaints have completely obliterated the rigid walls of Korea’s ultra-conservatism, sparking fury and shock throughout the entire nation. Furious citizens flocked to the Blue House petition website, demanding for a harsher sentence if Shim’s allegations are proven to be true. The Moon Jae-in administration has responded to this growing unreset, expressing its shame and revulsion: “[t]his unveils the humiliating underside of our country’s glorious facade as a sports powerhouse.”

In South Korea, it’s common for professional athletes to skip school and live with others in dormitories for the sake of dedicating every bit of their lives to their sport. Unfortunately, the frequent absences from school inevitably leave these athletes with a “one-way path” in their careers. This system strips athletes from their social and educational lives, tossing them directly into the hands of their coaches‐ without a sense of dependence. Those who speak out against their coaches are castigated as “traitors” and this pretty much sums up the persistent reluctance of these athletes to come out with their cases.

Coaches ostensibly train their trainees to success by utilizing certain measures to discipline and train them. Though, considering the cases of broken fingers and concussions Shim suffered from her coach, these “measures” are definitely inhumane and unnecessary.

I asked a KIS student-athlete on her thoughts on the relationship between an athlete and a coach to hopefully gain insight into the true role of a coach.

She says, “Even though the athlete and coach have to be in strict, disciplined terms in order to be successful, it should never be a fear-and-harm relationship. There are definitely lines between the two that either of them shouldn’t cross.”

Today, people around the world are observing this gradual momentum on addressing abuse and sexual assaults even in the Olympics arena. One year ago, the American gymnastics national team doctor, Larry Nassar, was sentenced to 175 years in prison after over a 140 victims delivered their testimonies in court. For decades, Nassar has been sexually abusing young gymnasts under the guise of medical treatment.

Shim’s allegations are giving us a renewed opportunity to reevaluate what South Koreans value through looking at competitive sports of great national pride and importance. On a broader note, this latest development will continue the momentum in South Korea for the broader movement seeking justice for countless victims of sexual assault.

– Hannah Jo (’20)

Featured Images: The Korean Herald

A Conspiracy Theory Worth Looking At

Can Korean media be trusted, or is it just conspiring to deceive the public by covering up political scandals? Read on to learn more.

My mom reads celebrity news every day on Naver, Korea’s biggest search engine. One Thursday night, as I was working on my homework, my mom, who had been on her phone for the past few minutes, read out a comment on an article she’d been reading. “Three new celebrity scandals surfaced today. I guess they’re trying to hide the fact that the government just let the Yemenis stay in our country,” the comment read.

I hadn’t heard about any updates on the Yemeni asylum seekers in Jeju Island until she told me. I did a quick Google search, and sure enough, articles from Time Magazine and the Washington Post popped up.

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Of the over 500 Yemeni asylum seekers who landed in Jeju earlier this year, fleeing what the UN calls “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis”, only 339 were allowed to stay in Korea on one-year humanitarian visas. 34 were denied the right to stay, and 85 applicants are still under review. All were denied refugee status.

It took me a while for me to scroll through the results and find any article by a Korean newspaper. I opened up the Korea Herald and searched for “Jeju.” There was one article about the decision on the legal status of the Yemeni asylum seekers from the day before. One dry article about one of the most divisive and controversial issues in Korea today. It was in stark contrast with the biting criticisms by New York Times and its likes; there was no mention of responses from the Korean public, the war in Yemen, the limits that the humanitarian visas placed on the Yemenis’ ability to find work or access healthcare, and the government’s much warmer welcome to North Korean refugees. The Korea Herald uploaded three articles on October 17 and 18 about President Moon’s meeting with the Italian president.

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Korea’s entertainment industry is fraught with sensational (and sometimes baseless) scandals all year round, but the third week of October was an unusually hectic one; the names of a TV producer and an actress suddenly popped up on Naver’s trending searches list, sparking waves of rumors about a possible affair between the two, a member of the popular boy band BIGBANG was caught hugging an actress on a date, and a recently married actor’s was rumored to have an affair with a singer who already has a boyfriend.

The cynical netizen that my mom found isn’t the only one to raise the alarm about the possibility of cover-up by the Korean mass media. Such concerns about government influence on the media is not new; these suspicions were confirmed when “Choigate,” a corruption scandal involving former President Park Geun-hye and her secret confidante Choi Soon-sil, revealed Park’s blacklist of media and entertainment figures. This list of over 9,000 people included Korean filmmakers, actors, writers, and artists who had either spoken critically of Park or expressed support for rival political parties. The list effectively excluded those listed from state-funded programs.

I’m not too big on conspiracy theories myself, but the possible relationship between celebrity scandals and controversial political scandals or news is worth a closer look. Research by a Korean student at NYU Abu Dhabi revealed that there is, in fact, “more celebrity news on days where there are political scandals,” and it’s not hard to find examples of this happening.

On March 21, 2013, the same day that comedian Kim Yong-man was summoned on charges of illegal sports gambling, the then vice minister of the Ministry of Justice was implicated in a sex scandal. On November 13, 2013, when the minister was cleared of rape charges, a list of celebrities being questioned for illegal gambling was revealed. When former President Lee Myung-bak was accused of corruption? A relationship between Lee Min-ho and Suzy, two A-list celebrities, was brought to light with an exclusive report by Dispatch, a Korean news agency infamous for infringing on celebrities’ right to privacy for the sake of creating sensational rumors.

It comes as no surprise, therefore, that many Koreans are doubtful about the reliability of the media industry; according to a Statista survey conducted late last year, only 52% of Koreans trust traditional and online-only media. Despite this skepticism, news consumption rates in Korea still remain relatively high. 71% of Koreans get their news through television at least once a week, and the weekly rates are even higher at 86% for news consumption online; 70% of Koreans get their news from web-portal sites such as Naver or Daum at least once a week.

We’ll never know for sure whether Korean news agencies strategically release celebrity news around the same time that political scandals are revealed, but harboring a healthy skepticism of what could be a modern version of a “circus” set up to distract the citizenry seems appropriate in the Information Age, especially because so many Koreans now get their news online. 

– Kristin Kim ‘20

Featured Image: Chosun Ilbo

PC Bang Murder: Millennials’ Lack of Anger Management

On October 14th, a PC Bang part time worker was brutally stabbed to death by a customer due to his bad service, yet his punishment has been mitigated, sparking a nationwide controversy in Korea.

On October 14th, Kim Sung Soo, a mentally ill patient diagnosed with impulse disorder, a 29-year-old, repeatedly stabbed a PC Bang part-time worker to death. Although this murder happened more than a week before, it still has shaken everyone into terror, reminding that it could happen to anyone, anywhere. This tragic incident has sparked nationwide controversy in Korea, consisting of hot debates on mental illness and its relation to violent crimes. Netizens have voiced further concerns on the government’s lack of management in mental health.


According to surveillance footage, Sung Soo asked the worker to clean his cigarette buds and food plates before he goes to the bathroom. Although the worker did not clean it when he came back, he did eventually clean it up in order to end the small quarrel. However, because of the “bad service,” Sung Soo asked to reduce the fees while verbally abusing the worker. His brother and the victim called the police, stating, “This is the PC Bang, there’s a customer here who keeps cursing. I would like you to come here and do something.” When the cops came, they deemed the fight to be nothing pernicious, thus, left the scene after 15 minutes. As the conflict escalated, Sung Soo left the PC Bang and came back with a knife, threatening to kill the worker. Witnesses started to call the police, describing that the suspect was continuously stabbing the victim while his brother held on to the victim. When help came, the victim died from the injuries of his wounds.


Right after the case hit the news, the role of his brother was put into the spotlight, questioning his intentions of holding the victim. The ambiguity of his actions perplexed the Netizens, prompting to speculate various theories. When the suspect was interviewed, he strongly denied the malicious intentions of his brother, arguing that he made the killing more “difficult.” Still, some believe his brother grabbed him in order to attest his innocence while helping the suspect; on the other hand, others asserted that his brother was completely innocent and maintained good intentions in his actions. Currently, his brother does not hold accountable for the murder but still faces outside controversy.

More than 800,000 citizens signed an online petition attesting against the mitigation of Sung Soo’s punishment due to mental illness (the number of signatures passes the minimum number-20,000 signatures in order to propel a formal response from the president). The petitioner for this case acknowledged Sung Soo’s depressive tendencies from his formal medication but have condemned the system, criticizing “when will this country stop reducing charges against criminals who claim to have depression or mental problems.”

Although the criminal justice system may seem like the sole problem, Korea’s mental health administration should be considered as the bigger flaw of the government. According to Korean Police statistics, one-third of the violent crimes are derived from accidental anger rages, depicting lack of anger management for many Korean citizens. Furthermore, the number of patients with impulse disorder has increased 21.3 percent compared to 5 years ago. This problem has yet to be recognized since there has been no call for action against these dangerous emotional tendencies.

Currently, the mitigation of Kim Sung Soo’s punishment is still hotly debated, questioning if it is acceptable to forgive these violent tendencies from someone who has an impulsive disorder. Although it is necessary to comprehend these disorders as natural incidents, the Korean government cannot mitigate any more “accidental” crimes. Many of these “accidental” and violent crimes are derived from small disorders that could be cured. Thus, it is unacceptable to pardon for mild emotional disorders. On the other hand, crimes caused by severe mental disorders such as schizophrenia should have alleviated punishments. It is apparent that these boundaries are indefinite-the main dispute for this case between among politicians. Therefore, there is only one thing that everyone could say: It matters case by case. The government must deal each case with a basic principle/law, constructing and amending their criteria as they judge more suspects.

So, what’s the case for Kim Sung Soo? Does he run along the lines of severity? Is it his burden to control his emotions when he is diagnosed to be incapable of it? Coming to the final conclusion, a mitigation would not compromise Kim’s deeds as he embodies a feeble mental disorder-impulse disorder. It is at his responsibility to care for himself, including medication and therapy appointments. He has failed to uphold this obligation, thus, bringing the consequences to himself. But what about his brother? In brutal honesty, it is nearly impossible to hold his brother accountable due to the lack of evidence. Despite this mystery, everyone must wait until another tragedy is reported, deemed as “accidental murder,” in order to see if his brother embodies that same sanity.

Featured Image: KBS

– Mark Park (‘20)

Shinsegae Food

Responding to the rapidly changing and increasingly challenging consumer demand, Shinsegae Food, the top Korean food company, now strives to accomplish customer satisfaction and create a healthy food culture. It is undeniable that Shinsegae Food has been widely successful in both its profit returns and shareholding management. The majority of its financial status currently derives from E-mart and Shinsegae Chosun Hotel that make up 46.1% and 8.6% of the overall Shinsegae stock market, respectively. Evidently, Shinsegae, not just its food department, is aggressively pursuing creation of its own brands and the profitable expansion of existing brands. Its business progression is evinced by the growth of Starfield Hanam, established by Shinsegae as a world-class “shopping theme park.”

With this food industry continuously innovating and aggressively expanding its influence in the domestic food market, the company now aims to uphold its corporate social responsibility through a business approach that endeavors economic, social, and environmental benefits while maximizing profits in order to cement its status as a  “powerhouse corporation” that is an industry leader, both domestically and globally. Unfortunately, mere premium dining services and restaurant businesses are too simple for the vision that Shinsegae Food strives to achieve. Most of all, there is a clear need for an effective platform that conveniently connects people to the services they need. Along with its successful moves toward embracing domestic growth​, a feasible future for Shinsegae Food is an extensive vision for international growth.

On its part, SSG already is planning an entry into the American culinary market by opening the “PK market” to provide a wide array of international tastes by 2019. However, its success may plausibly lie in Vietnam.

The demand for the the products offered by SSG is clear. According to The Korean Herald, “Asian production companies and Vietnamese viewers are eagerly emulating Korean lifestyle.” This translates to a growing Korean presence in Vietnam, with investment topping national ranking since 2014. As a matter of fact, more than 4,000 Korean companies, manufacturers like Samsung Electronics and LG, now maintain operations there with double the number of Japanese firms.

What makes Vietnam stand out from various other Southeast Asian countries, however, is that bilateral trade between Vietnam and Korea has already reached $63.9 billion in 2017, which confirms Vietnam as the fourth largest trading partner of Korea. Furthermore, Vietnam’s generally high level of public safety that ensures “good public order, stable politics, and a large number of young workers” further makes it an attractive market.

It is also noteworthy that its populace mostly consists of low-income laborers and workers who rely heavily on motorcycles as their main transportation system. With the number of low income laborers in Vietnam increasing from 53.3 million in 2016 to 53.7 million in 2017, SSG must be mindful of the increase in this population group in the Vietnamese society and create a business strategy that directly addresses the demands of this particular group of consumers. With these factors in mind, through a successful entry into the Vietnamese market, SSG can perhaps better attain its ambitious goal of international expansion.

– Jennie Yeom (’20)

Featured Image: Shinsegae Food