The message is loud and clear.

I started this post, under the title above, on Monday (6th), but couldn’t bring myself through it. Then the week has taken more unbelievable turns since, and the post was going to end up in the forever-draft folder. That’s when I spotted that someone had just done the job for me.

RT @oldtype 1. South Korean liberals have a problem with normalizing sexual violence. A thread. (11 June 2020)

2. Actually, disclaimer before the thread. I am in no way implying that South Korean conservatives do not have a problem with normalizing sexual violence. But they’re also irrelevant. So I don’t write about them.

3. In 2018, poet/activist Ko Eun was accused of gross sexual misconduct spanning decades That July, he filed a $1 million defamation lawsuit against his accuser with Duksu, a prestigious public interest law firm known for its constitutional litigation championing liberal causes.

4. Duksu representing a credibly-accused sexual predator in a retaliatory civil suit against his accuser was odd, to say the least. While the lawsuit was being argued, Lee Suk-Tae, Deoksoo’s managing partner, was nominated by President Moon to sit on the Constitutional Court.

5. Also in 2018, former presidential hopeful Ahn Hee-Jeong was found to have sexually assaulted a staff member at least 4 times. In 2019 Ahn was convicted and sentenced to 42 months in prison. Recently, he was released on furlough to attend his mother’s funeral.

6. The funeral was attended by prominent ruling-party politicians, including likely 2022 nominee Lee Nak-yeon. But most notable were the flowers sent by President Moon, showing beyond a doubt that the liberal establishment still stood with Ahn.

7. This April, Pusan mayor Oh Keo-Don resigned after admitting to sexually abusing an employee days before the April 15 general election. Later, it emerged that Oh had signed a contact with the victim agreeing to resign in exchange for her keeping quiet until after the election.

8. After Oh’s resignation, it emerged that his problematic behavior had been an open secret. But for nearly 2 years, nobody intervened. Here’s a photo of him at an office dinner in 2018. Notice how he’s seated himself next to what appears to be the only three women in the photo.

9. 2 days ago, Seoul mayor Park Won-Soon was found dead. He was reportedly facing a criminal complaint for sexual harassment. While Park hasn’t been found guilty (and never will be now), you’d imagine the political reaction would be cautious given the allegations. It isn’t.

10. Park is being feted with a lavish five-day funeral held by the City of Seoul. All the same people who attended Ahn’s mother’s funeral (and more) are at Park’s. And they are waxing lyrical about his accomplishments as if the allegations never happened.

11. Minjoo Party chair Lee Hae Chan lashed out at a journalist when asked about the allegations, using profanity and saying the questioner had “no manners”. The President’s flowers, already in the public eye due to Ahn, are prominently placed here as well.

12. The Minjoo Party has not expressed any intention of conducting an independent investigation of the allegations against Park — which will remain forever unsubstantiated due to his death. They haven’t made any effort to stop internet trolls from doxing and harassing his accuser.

13. As a Korean man myself, I understand this, to a degree. Korean liberal politics is a tight fraternity. A lot of these people literally went through hell together in the 80s. I understand that it’s difficult to abandon your friends, even when they’ve done horrible things.

14. But these aren’t would-be revolutionaries hammering soju shots in a basement anymore. They are the most powerful men in Korea. Their refusal to speak out firmly against those in their ranks who commit sexual crimes perpetuates social attitudes that see those crimes as trivial.

15. Liberal politicos in Korea don’t have a monopoly on retrograde attitudes about sexual crimes, but they do have a monopoly on power. With that power comes a responsibility to set a better example. But if anything, they’re lagging behind their constituents.

16. Once or twice is an unfortunate mistake. This is a pattern. Between Ahn, Park, and the non-extradition of Son Jung-Woo, I can’t imagine how difficult of a week this has been for Korean women. /end

Metaphors we live by [3]

Came across, via @natasha_pulley, a remarkably thought-provoking interview with @Glamrou — especially 15:55 into the video where they were discussing “heteronormative Newtonian physics” versus quantum physics.

Unsurprisingly, the analogy has unleashed heated debates, mostly among people who are ‘doing’ quantum physics, below the line. Needless to say, my understanding of quantum physics is limited, but I am surprised that some seem more upset thinking that the interviewee has ‘defiled’ science with metaphorical language. And here I always thought mathematics and physics were born out of philosophy…

Anyway, seeing the Twitter debates reminds me of the following books.

In the meantime, I am also putting one more article up here in order for myself not to get carried away whenever anyone says a metaphor.

Blast from the past [3]

Came across this thread and memories flooded back.

RT @AskAKorean I’ve been pushing the “S Korean politics is a five year preview of the US politics,” but even I could have never imagined that US politics will follow S Korea’s “Kpop-ization of politics” trend. (21 June 2020)

Some pointers for the K Street types who are just waking up to this phenomenon:

The right way of thinking about “K-pop fandom” as applied to politics is “a mode of organization.” At least in this context, don’t get distracted by music, but focus on how K-pop fans organize.

K-pop fans gather online, around a shared interest over an idol star. Their organization is decentralized – there is no clear leadership or hierarchy, but they nonetheless coordinate smoothly to create high impact events both online and offline.

In Korea, this organizational behavior seeped into political organization. A politician plays the role of an “idol star”, and a “fandom” coalesces around him/her. This fandom has no discernible leadership, but will organize massive actions in favor of their “star.”

This may seem like a cult of personality, but it is not. The fans are not supporting the star just because they like the star. It’s more precise to say the fans are attracted to the star’s “narrative”, within which they play an active role. This is a crucial point to understand.

Consider BTS and ARMY, the most successful K-pop act and its fandom. ARMY doesn’t support BTS simply because they think BTS members are handsome or they like BTS’s music, although those are often necessary conditions for a fandom.

Ultimately, ARMY supports BTS because ARMY consider themselves to be a part of the “story of BTS”. To push the group from obscurity to superstardom, ARMY collectively worked to call radio stations, buy albums, reward positive coverage etc. They share the struggle with their star.

In Korean politics, Moon Jae-in has been a direct beneficiary of this type of fandom. Moon’s life story resonates: child of a refugee, former paratrooper, democracy activist, closest friend of a former president who tragically committed suicide. It’s a good narrative to join.

A politician gaining fandom based on a good life story is nothing new. What is new, however, is how that fandom behaves – this is what I mean by “Kpop-ization of politics.” Again, you have to think of K-pop fandom as a mode of organization.

Moon Jae-in’s fandom behaves very similarly to a K-pop fandom. They have nicknames for themselves – alternately Moonpa, Honey Badgers, etc. They have no discernible leadership and their activities are highly decentralized. Yet they organize effortlessly for rallies, GOTV, etc.

Just as much as DC lobbyists are confused now, Moon’s fandom confused the hell out of Korea’s old politicos. They were convinced that Moon must be secretly spending enormous amount of money to bribe them, for example, or an underground communist network was coordinating action.

Moon didn’t exactly plan for this; it’s more correct to say he stumbled upon it, but managed it well enough to carry him to presidency. But having seen the power of this, S Korea’s politicians now all try to recapture this magic somehow.

This, too, is an aspect of the Kpop-ization of politics – lots of idol groups (aspiring politicians) show up and they all try to drum up some kind of fandom. A lot of it feels awkward and forced. In the end, only a few emerge with a genuine group of fans.

I wrote my PhD thesis on Nosamo, the grandfather of digitally mediated political fandom we are seeing in Korea today. I would add some nuances to the remarks about the decentralised, self-organising character of Korean fandom, but otherwise I think the author is spot-on, especially about how and to what extent it differs from a cult of personality.

Has the game changed? [4]

How to safely and ethically film police misconduct (Palika Makam, Teen Vogue, 1 June 2020)

The title, the topic, the source, … everything about this article is telling us that the game has indeed changed. Pics or it didn’t happen, but can we trust the pics?

See also:

— Filming and photographing the police (ACLU)

— Fact check: Ordinance makes it illegal to record Tucson police in Arizona within a “restricted area” (Reuters, 12 June 2020)

— The Whistle (led by Ella McPherson)

— Witnessing the rawness of a tragedy [2] (@yawningtree, 7 July 2016)

— Activists are using traffic cameras to track police brutality (Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, Vice, 15 June 2020)

— If I go to a protest, what kinds of personal information might police collect about me? (Lauren Kirchner, The Markup, 16 June 2020)

Once the red pill is taken [3]

“Testimonial injustice” in action.

Black patients half as likely to receive pain medication as white patients, study finds (Holpuch, The Guardian, 11 August 2016)

Stop the office AC overload: Study shows women are more productive when it’s warmer (McGregor, The Washington Post, 24 May 2019; see also danah boyd’s opinion piece on Oculus Rift, 3 April 2014)

Key findings from Public Health England’s report on Covid-19 deaths (Siddique, The Guardian, 2 June 2020)

‘I was fed up’: How #BlackInTheIvory got started, and what its founders want to see next (Diep, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 9 June 2020)

— RT @DiscoverSoc GPs recognised women’s rightful feelings of frustration (12 June 2020)

The only world you know

In Korea, all who were born in 2013 (!) were supposed to start their very first year of primary school together in March, which has been delayed for obvious reasons and is likely to be further delayed due to the latest spike following a long weekend. Someone has shared an anecdote on Twitter that those little ones get super excited whenever they see another kid around the same age in the neighbourhood, rushing to ask which year and class they are in. If it turns out that they are indeed going to be classmates, out of joy, they lift their masks a little to exchange a peek at each other’s face.

I had been containing relatively well all these weeks, but something about this scene broke my heart. I hope this was some dystopian made-up story and I was only fooled by it.

Politics of counting [4]

13 hours of Trump: The president fills briefings with attacks and boasts, but little empathy (Philip Bump & Ashley Parker, The Washington Post, 26 April 2020)

RT @AshleyRParker Over the past three weeks, Trump has spoken for 13 hours at coronavirus pressers. In that time he has:
—Spent two hours on the attack.
—45 min praising himself/his team.
—9 min promoting hydroxychloroquine.
—Just 4.5 min offering sympathy for the victims. (26 April 2020)

260,000 words, full of self-praise, from Trump on the virus (Jeremy W. Peters et al., The New York Times, 26 April 2020)

By far the most recurring utterances from Mr. Trump in the briefings are self-congratulations, roughly 600 of them, which are often predicated on exaggerations and falsehoods. He does credit others (more than 360 times) for their work, but he also blames others (more than 110 times) for inadequacies in the state and federal response.

Mr. Trump’s attempts to display empathy or appeal to national unity (about 160 instances) amount to only a quarter of the number of times he complimented himself or a top member of his team.

The minefield that is being a woman [3]

Was just reading up on the latest general election in South Korea, which took place yesterday, and how women’s interests and voices were represented amid the pandemic, the new calculation system, and the old and new forms of misogyny including the “Nth Rooms” abomination

Then this video has turned up in my social media feeds, confirming my suspicions that South Korean women share more commonalities with women on the other side of the world than South Korean men living next to them.