Walking through the streets of Munich on a trip to Germany this past winter, I witnessed a new phenomenon: everywhere I went, I saw interracial couples holding hands, especially Asians with non-Asians. Considering Germany’s relative homogeneity and xenophobia, this brought me to think that Europeans were possibly beginning to emulate Americans in their dating habits—in my opinion, a refreshing change for the better. It turns out, however, that the U.S. and Europe may be headed in two different directions in terms of interracial dating.
According to a March 30th article in the New York Times, the number of Asian Americans intermarrying with other races is actually decreasing. Through a series of quotes from newly-wed Asian Americans, the article suggests that common “cultural sensibilities” are a possible reason for the change in preference. And due to the large recent influx of Asian immigrants over the past three decades, it’s become easier for Asian Americans to find mates of the same race.
While I understand this logic, the article’s emphasis on cultural similarities is troublesome. I won’t deny that having an Asian American background and identity—be that Chinese American, Vietnamese American, Filipino American—must bring with it some inherent experiences and values, but I do feel that these common “cultural sensibilities” that the article suggests are not quite as pronounced as one might think.
Earlier I wrote a post about SMTown Los Angeles 2012 at the Anaheim Center, and how skeptical I was of the whole affair, with its obscenely high prices and the last-minute notification of the concert. Well, despite my friends’ raving reviews of the concerts, it looks like I had a right to be skeptical. As much as I don’t want to taint anyone’s memory of the event, when comparing this concert to previous SMTowns, it seems to me that SMTown LA-goers got shafted, and here’s why:
North Korea has always been portrayed to me as an uncanny real-life version of Orwell’s 1984. According to this BCC documentary, each family has a state radio in the kitchen, and while the volume can be lowered, they can never be turned off. Portraits of the Kim family, the leaders glorified as deities that brought peace and freedom to the people, are also found everywhere. Regardless of how “Western” these views are, or how oppressive the country may be, it is true that people around the world are curious about the secret lives of North Koreans: their daily lives, beliefs, and most importantly, are they truly—as what the government claims—the happiest people on earth? Are they aware of the different lifestyles that exist outside their borders?
Perhaps they are. Recent studies show that foreign sources—such as music, news, and entertainment—have become more accessible to North Koreans; they are no longer only reserved for the top officials. The study written by Nat Kretchun and Jane Kim highlights some of the changes to the country: ”As the information environment opens, the North Korean government no longer maintains a total monopoly over the information available to the population and, as a result, North Koreans’ understanding of the world is changing.”
I think it is comforting and encouraging that more and more people are finding ways out of the government-controlled information vacuum. Testimonies like this lead me to believe that while it may take time for North Korea to overcome totalitarianism, there is always hope, because lives are improving as we speak:
At first I watched outside media purely out of curiosity. However, as time went by, I began to believe in the contents. It was an addictive experience. Once you start watching, you simply cannot stop.
I don’t often bring up my racial identity, but let it be known that I am a black k-pop fan. And as a Korean pop fan, I’ve been exposed to some Korean media—I’ve watched a bunch of variety shows, talk shows, interviews, and even a drama or two. A few weeks ago, one of these variety shows got into a bit of a scandal due to one of its skits, which featured two Koreans performing in blackface and a laughing live audience.
And let me tell you, as a black k-pop fan, I was not amused.
"The boys are back!" the Internetcried, reinstating the relevance of all-male pop groups. Women have had a strong run dominating the Top 40 pop charts, no doubt, but thanks to some international imports, we may be about to hear a lot more harmonizing than we have in the last few years.
Korean pop and One Direction meet again! This time, in a Time magazine article that talks about the rise of the boyband. The boyband addict in me may or may not be fangirling right now at the thought of Big Bang and One Direction being mentioned in the same news article. Talk about fandom clash.
One of the trademarks of Dhaka city, these canvases on wheels are sure to give you a ride to remember. Rickshaws have convertible roofs as well as polythene curtains to save you from the sun and rain, and each has a bell that rings to no avail from the car owners ahead. They are everywhere and can take you anywhere at anytime. They are also affordable and green, perfect for the already over-polluted air of Dhaka.
Richshaws are also credited for the pop art trend that had started in Dhaka: Rickshaw art. The art is extremely colorful—almost psychedelic—and consists of flowers, birds, popular actresses, or whatever the driver desires to put. Jatra, a major lifestyle outlet in Bangladesh, was the first to market their products using Rickshaw art.It has since become a “superhit blockbuster” (referring to the theme of Bangla movie posters in the paintings itself) trend, whether in coffee mugs, pen-holders for decoration, or printed in salwar kameez for fashion.
I know any Dhakaites living abroad reading this must be dying to get a ride on one because it is really more than a cheap, easy to go, colorful transport. To us, it is part of our culture, part of our memories as it is an ever-present character in the drama of a Bangladeshi’s life.
Khan Samiuzzaman is a guest blogger from Dhaka, Bangladesh.
One of the biggest Korean pop labels called SM Entertainment (often referred to as “SM”) recently released news that it was going on another “SMTown World Tour” in 2012, the first stop being Los Angeles. Excitement ensued, until the prices were released.
For those who don’t know, SMTown concerts are concerts featuring all the major artists under SM Entertainment. The past line-up has included the groups Super Junior, Girls Generation, DBSK, SHINee, F(x) and the soloists Kangta and BoA. Considering that Kpop concerts in the U.S., especially of this scale, are extremely new and rare occurrences (there have only ever been two SMTown concerts in the U.S., the first occurring in 2010), having an SMTown here is kind of a big deal.
REPORTING FROM SEOUL — On his third visit to South Korea, President Obama seems to have caught the “Korean Wave.”
The term for the surge and spread of Korean pop culture — “hallyu” in Korean — popped up in the president’s speech on Monday, along with a sprinkle of other in-the-know references intended to show he could hang with the kids of Hankuk University, the audience for his otherwise policy-heavy speech. Before launching into a review of his nuclear weapons policy, Obama name-checked South Korea’s hugely popular social networking sites — Me2Day and Kakao Talk, the latter claiming to transmit 1 billion messages daily. He praised the young Koreans’ optimism and promise — and tech savvy.
“It’s no wonder so many people around the world have caught the Korean Wave — hallyu,” Obama said, in one of his biggest applause lines.
My president mentioned Hallyu. I’m only slightly freaking out (in a good way).
Engineers are pumping fuel into a rocket that is set to carry a satellite into space, according to officials at the North Korean space agency’s central command centre…Paek Chang Ho, chief of the launch command centre, told reporters…the rocket was ready for liftoff as early as Thursday, the start of a five-day window set for the controversial launch timed to coincide with mid-April celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of North Korea founder Kim Il Sung.
North Korea’s decision to launch the Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite has triggered a series of criticisms and precautionary plans from surrounding Asian countries, as well as the United States. Hilary Clinton stated that the US will take “appropriate actions” should the launch turn into a threat. The Japanese military has set up several antimissile weapons in open fields, and no-fly/no-sail zones were placed into effect in Philippines in case debris from the launch endanger any citizens. Even China, North Korea’s usual ally, was unsettled and threatened to stop food aid for the impoverished country.
Nevertheless, North Korea seems determined. In an interview, Paek Chang Ho stated that North Korea “does not care about the opinions of foreign countries,” and that they are “going all the way” for the nation’s own interest and development. Only time can tell what will happen to North Korea and its various international ties.
Japanese manga artist and director Hayao Miyazaki (宮崎 駿) is known for his award winning anime films such as My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and Castle in the Sky. In particular, his 2001 film Spirited Away won Best Animated Feature at the 75th Academy Awards, and became the most successful movie in Japanese history. As a feminist, his films oft-times deconstruct gender roles with strong female protagonists, such as Kiki and Chihiro from the above-mentioned movies. While the 1997 film Princess Mononoke shares similar feminist qualities, it is in some ways very different from him other films.
From Reuters - Myanmar's Suu Kyi poised to win parliamentary seat
Myanmar held a landmark election Sunday that was expected to send democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi into parliament for her first public office since launching her decades-long struggle against the military-dominated government.
Sunday’s by-election, to fill a few dozen vacant seats, followed months of surprising reforms by a nominally civilian government that does not relish ceding ground to Suu Kyi, but which must appear more democratic in order to emerge from decades of international isolation that have crippled the Southeast Asian nation’s economy.
Suu Kyi’s party and its opposition allies will have almost no say even if they win all the seats they are contesting, because the 664-seat parliament will remain dominated by the military and the military-backed ruling party.
But if Suu Kyi takes office as expected, it would symbolize a giant leap toward national reconciliation after nearly a quarter-century in which she spent most of her time under house arrest. It could also nudge Western powers closer to easing economic sanctions they have imposed on the country for years.
In Seoul, everybody seems to be cashing in on the K-pop boom. As the fanbase for the catchy melodies performed by polished dance groups, pop bands, and soloists is growing, the spinoff industry around their pretty ranks is growing even faster. Tours from Japan and China bring busloads of teenagers and middle-aged women to come see K-pop concerts and do some shopping while they’re at it. Fashion houses pump out imitations of designer items that K-pop stars are spotted in. Reality shows looking for the next big talent are popping up on every channel, while dozens of cram schools in Seoul teach students how to prepare for the rigorous auditions held by management companies.
Wow, what is with all the international buzz surrounding Korean pop lately? First the New York Times wrote about it, and now TIME Magazine has this article at the front and center of their official website. Be sure to check it out!
On March 7, Sina Weibo (China’s Twitter equivalent) got a newcomer, an account by the name of “North Korea Today”…So how well is this “old friend of China” claimed by the Chinese government received among Chinese netizens? It was welcomed wholeheartedly by surprise, contempt and ridicule. Tweets by North Korea Today received an average of 200 to 2000 comments, with supportive ones very rarely spotted, if at all existed.
This is the most fascinating news I’ve seen in quite a while, and it immediately prompted me to do some research on the Sino-North Korean ties. Here’s a little history lesson. :)
China formed an alliance with North Korea when it entered the Korean War in 1950. 11 years later, the two countries signed the “Sino-North Korean Mutual Aid and Cooperation Friendship Treaty,” valid until 2021, stating that China will provide military and other aids to North Korea in times of need. In recent years, however, North Korea has become more or less a burden to China because of its economic dependence. In fact, the main reason why China is reluctant to sever ties is to prevent a possible collapse of the North Korean government and the subsequent mass refugees fleeing into China. An article on the Guardian suggests that Beijing has grown tired of North Korea, calling Pyongyang a “spoiled child” for carrying out threatening missiles and nuclear tests in 2009.
Aside from almost-hourly posts mourning the late Kim, there are several about how China and North Korean will “forever remain as old friends and brothers.” But Chinese netizens think otherwise. I am quite curious to see how things will develop between the two countries (especially when 2021 comes around), as well as this little Weibo account that has sparked the interest of many.
The 6-foot-3-inch point guard was mostly sidelined by his New York Knicks basketball team until a recent chance opportunity on courtshot him to stardom a week and a half ago…But basketball’s latest wonderboy may now find himself caught in a competition of a different sort, as both China and Taiwan seek to claim the Asian-American as one of their own. Lin’s parents were born in Taiwan, but Communist Party officials in China claim his origins lie in the eastern Chinese city of Jiaxing.
After becoming a starter for the New York Knicks in mid-February, Jeremy Lin (林書豪) led his team to seven consecutive wins, quickly propelling himself to fame. His success story—Linsanity—has taken the Asian community by storm. Just a couple weeks ago, social media pages were filled with posts about this new point guard (they still are!), and not just by basketball fans. As stereotypical as it may seem, Asian parents are Linsane about him too—I mean, he did graduate from Harvard with a degree in Economics. My roommate’s mother even sent her an hour-long interview (in Chinese) with Lin, and if I ever need an update on how he’s doing, a simple visit to her mom’s Facebook page is all I need. Yet, fangirling (or fanboying) isn’t all that’s happening lately.
"China vs. Taiwan" is a very sensitive topic for many people, myself included. While this topic is largely political, Linsanity has recently triggered arguments between cross-strait citizens about whether Lin is, well, “Chinese” or “Taiwanese.” This CNN article discusses the controversy of “where he belongs”, and though I have my own opinions on this matter, I do think it’s more important to keep sports and politics separate. And apparently, so does Lin.
I’m really proud of being Chinese, I’m really proud of my parents from Taiwan, and I just thank God for the opportunity.
After all, working hard in the NBA and being himself is more important to him than the attention he’s been getting. The Asian community is proud of what he’s doing, and that’s all that matters, right? :)
An interesting article written by the New York Times about the recent role of social media in the Korean Wave as well as an appraisal of K-pop’s potential success in the West and the strategies that will and won’t work.
Hey readers! As this is my very first post, I decided that I would start out by briefly introducing myself and asking a very fundamental question: why Asia?
I come from a small, white town on Long Island, which I can attest is one of the most segregated suburbs in the world. The all-boys Catholic high school I attended wasn’t much more diverse; non-Caucasians accounted for maybe 5% of the student body.
So what brings a narrow-minded American like me to spend time blogging on a site like this rather than eating hotdogs while watching the Yankees on T.V.? What makes me—or anyone, for that matter—interested in Asia?
In an earlier post, I wrote about how k-pop bands are starting to edge into the American market. Well, it seems like “Popdust”, an American website dedicated to giving the latest news and music-centric analyses of pop culture, has picked up on this in their latest edition of “Pop-off”, a poll in which voters choose “this week’s most awesome new track”.
"NATO has withdrawn all its personnel from Afghan ministries after two senior US officers were shot dead in the interior ministry building in Kabul…
… Afghan security has signally failed to find a strategy to prevent the killing of NATO forces at the hands of Taliban infiltrators and rogue soldiers. One senior Afghan general said it was “a nightmare that refuses to go away” and one presidential aide called it a major obstacle that has created mistrust, anger and frustration between NATO operatives and their Afghan counterparts…”
"Amarnath Tewary was subjected to a prolonged assault in a public area" (BBC)
It appears that the BJP has once again struck out against those who speak out against its policies, though the target of the attack caught me by surprise. I didn’t think the BJP would have the temerity to attack a BBC journalist considering his connections with Western media. It is unfortunate, but not altogether surprising, that the police are unwilling to conduct a full investigation into the motives behind the attack. It is this impunity for wrongdoing that has contributed to Bihar’s reputation as India’s most lawless state.
My only hope is that media intervention might compel the state apparatus to conduct a fair investigation in effort to stifle these vigilantes. The implications of unchecked rogue forces are pernicious as Bihar remains one of India’s powder keg of caste and communal (religious) tensions. Historically, the BJP thrives in such environments (for ex. national elections in the aftermath of the destruction of Ayodhya Mosque) and recognized the need to silence those who might shed light on this truth.
There’s more about this in the BBC article (link).
Japan’s Emperor Akihito, left, along with Empress Michiko, heads to the University of Tokyo Hospital, by car, in Tokyo, Japan, Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012.
Emperor Akihito assumed the throne in 1989, and serves as the head of state in Japan. Previously, Japan was an absolute monarchy and its Emperors had full governing authorities. Postwar-Japan adopted a constitutional monarchy, and under the 1947 Constitution of Japan, the Emperor became “the symbol of the State and of the unity of the people.” Executive and legislative power were subsequently transferred to the Prime Minister, his cabinet, and Japan’s bicameral legislature, the Diet.
The Emperor also serves as the head of the Shinto (神道) religion. Shinto, meaning “the way of the gods (kamis),” is the indigenous religion of Japan, and it is said that everyone who is born in Japan belongs to Shinto, even though they may have embraced other religions. However, Shinto today is slightly different than State Shinto, which was instituted in the 1870s as the official religion of Japan. Emperors were considered divine figures, but the Constitution ended State Shinto and declared them head of the religion instead.
Just a little history on the Japanese Emperor and his roles in the government. :)
Girls’ Generation with Kelly Ripa on the “Live! with Kelly”
It seems as if the current trend in k-pop involves attempting to break into the American music market. Now Korean pop, originally only popular in Asia, has been making its way around the world the past few years thanks to promotion from the fans on sites like Youtube, Facebook, Tumblr, and fan pages. Recently, k-pop bands have worked with American producers and choreographers and hosted concerts in countries outside of Asia, and now the major labels are actually having their bands debut in the U.S.
To pay for these dreams, Mongolia is being dug up and sold to China. Already, more than 80% of its exports are minerals, a proportion expected to rise in a few years to 95%…
…Not everyone in Mongolia looks at the growth projections and goes giddy with delight. Many worry about the economic, environmental, social and strategic costs of becoming “Minegolia”. Economists fret about a “resource curse”, or “Dutch disease”. If even the Netherlands can be vulnerable to this—whereby wealth floods in as natural resources are exploited, pushes up the exchange rate, inflation, or both, and renders other industries uncompetitive—how is poor Mongolia to cope?
The telling reasons why, at least in football, China is unlikely to rule the world in the near future…
…Solving the riddle of why Chinese football is so awful becomes, then, a subversive inquiry. It involves unravelling much of what might be wrong with China and its politics. Every Chinese citizen who cares about football participates in this subversion, each with some theory—blaming the schools, the scarcity of pitches, the state’s emphasis on individual over team sport, its ruthless treatment of athletes, the one-child policy, bribery and the corrosive influence of gambling. Most lead back to the same conclusion: the root cause is the system.
And the photo caption:
The Buddha tells the people he can fulfil only one of their wishes. Someone asks: “Could you lower the price of property in China so that people can afford it?” Seeing the Buddha frown in silence, the person makes another wish: “Could you make the Chinese football team qualify for a World Cup?” After a long sigh, the Buddha says: “Let’s talk about property prices.”