[KS] reprehensible journalism from Arirang TV

Michelle Cho mhcho at uci.edu
Fri Mar 25 16:48:53 EDT 2011

Dear Lauren, et al.,

I agree that it's important to think about the cultural norms that  
this video reflects, rather than isolating Arirang as the source of  
the problem (though I agree that the media should be held responsible  
for their integral role in circulating these sorts of images and  
"reports"). Many of the commenters on the Arirang youtube channel  
reserved their ire for Arirang and its tone-deafness, without  
mentioning the public's appetite for the manufacture of celebrity  
bodies whose "perfection" is precisely not "healthy" because, in many  
ways, it's not supposed to be human.

As a bilingual researcher, I found this video especially illuminating  
for the sense of estrangement it elicited in me, precisely because the  
report was delivered *in English*. This makes me wonder whether  
Arirang international simply translated and rerecorded the narration  
for an entertainment story that ran in Korean. (I don't know much  
about the English language Arirang channel and whether it produces its  
own content). Stories like this are not uncommon on Korean language  
television; it's likely that "healthy" was a poor translation (I can  
think of a couple words that can connote both "stocky" and "healthy"  
in Korean). But the main point I'm trying to make here is that the  
politics of language are certainly at play here and shouldn't be  

Finally, another aspect of the report that I found quite interesting  
had to do with the latent discourse of proportionality and phenotype,  
which came through in one of the "expert commentators" analysis of one  
of the celebrities' decision to wear ankle boots with a minidress. The  
commentator explains that it is difficult for East Asian women to pull  
off this fashion, because of their proportions, so the stakes of the  
standardization of correct proportions could also be read as an  
expression of anxiety regarding Western beauty ideals, at the same  
time that it signifies a desire to erase "East Asian" characteristics.  
(I hope I won't be misunderstood here--I'm not suggesting that any of  
these putatively ethnic characteristics be given any legitimacy, i'm  
just pointing out the way the discourse seems to be operating).

Echoing Lauren, my thanks for bringing this discussion to the list. I  
believe it's far more complex than it may seem at first glance, and I  
hope we can take this beyond criticisms of Arirang (though I think  
that was a good place to start.)

Yours sincerely,

Michelle Cho
mhcho at uci.edu
Department of Comparative Literature
University of California, Irvine

On Mar 25, 2011, at 7:55 AM, Lauren Deutsch wrote:

> Thanks, guys, for taking the conversation public. Is it being  
> debated likewise in Korea? Therein lies the clue to why the video  
> and its free-wheeling commodification of women’s bodies are  
> considered enough of a norm to be created and aired at all. It’s  
> easier to study the culture (and others like it) from afar, but to  
> willfully live in country gives this feminist pause for concern  
> about a quality of life.
> -- 
> Lauren W. Deutsch
> 835 S. Lucerne Blvd., #103
> Los Angeles CA 90005
> Tel 323 930-2587  Cell 323 775-7454
> E lwdeutsch at earthlink.net
> From: don kirk <kirkdon at yahoo.com>
> Reply-To: Korean Studies Discussion List <koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
> Date: Fri, 25 Mar 2011 00:37:05 -0700 (PDT)
> To: Korean Studies Discussion List <koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
> Subject: Re: [KS] reprehensible journalism from Arirang TV
> I'm just saying that I think you and one or two of your colleagues  
> went too far in attempting to get Arirang to take down or take back  
> this piece. Arirang had a right to air it, the piece was fairly  
> light-hearted commentary. You're entitled to your opinion and they  
> to theirs. Where you transgress, in my view, is to urge censorship  
> and retraction and withdrawal of commentary.
> By the way, another commentator, Roald M., rebuked me for urging him  
> to "keep your mouth shut" or some such thing. That's interesting he  
> should say that since, of course, that's exactly what I did not say,  
> and the fact that he should misquote me so freely is revealing in  
> itself. You have full right to express your views, as everyone knows.
> What is not right, in  my view, is to try to get a journalist or  
> news organization to retract a piece that it has every right to  
> report, much though you may dislike it. That's my point. In this  
> case, it looks as though you may have succeeded. Too bad.
> Don Kirk
> --- On Thu, 3/24/11, Stephen Epstein <Stephen.Epstein at vuw.ac.nz>  
> wrote:
>> From: Stephen Epstein <Stephen.Epstein at vuw.ac.nz>
>> Subject: Re: [KS] reprehensible journalism from Arirang TV
>> To: "Korean Studies Discussion List" <koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
>> Date: Thursday, March 24, 2011, 8:32 PM
>> Don,
>> I am willing to accept that suppressing the video is perhaps not  
>> the right tactic, and may infringe on expression of free speech.   
>> In fact, in retrospect, it probably would be better for the  
>> original to be up on the Arirang channel to allow it to take the  
>> scathing criticism it deserves and to encourage debate and draw  
>> attention to a serious problem in Korean society. I hardly wish to  
>> be part of a PC censorship brigade.
>> I also accept that the piece says something about current fashion  
>> and thinking. But it clearly crosses the line into promoting and  
>> not just reflecting that thinking. If you or anyone else really  
>> believes that this is a " simple feature piece that has colorful,  
>> fun, appealing images, pleasant and interesting commentary",  
>> wiithout real world consequences, then I merely ask that you read  
>> some of the comments from YouTube users, hardly "politically  
>> correct academics", on the original post from Arirang (I made sure  
>> to save them before the video might be taken down) and reconsider:
>> Since when was being "healthy" a flaw? Healthy legs are not a good  
>> thing to have? tons of women would kill to have the women on that  
>> list's legs!! This is disgusting: the girls you mentioned have  
>> fantastic figures. Note also that Suzy and Sulli are not even 18  
>> yet! :|
>> sashahawkins<http://www.youtube.com/user/sashahawkins> 20 hours ago 6
>> Again, I am highly disappointed in the way Arirang is encouraging  
>> UNHEALTHY body images. These girls have nice legs, with well- 
>> developed muscles. Why is that so wrong? Are girls supposed to  
>> project a helpless, useless image so that men will like them, is  
>> that it?
>> Shame on you, Arirang, for all of these stories. Help promote  
>> healthy, positive images for women in Korea and the rest of the  
>> world and stop telling them that "healthy" or "sturdy" or  
>> "muscular" is a bad thing.
>> saanrio<http://www.youtube.com/user/saanrio> 20 hours ago 4
>> This is dumb. You're promoting a ridiculous body image that will  
>> only make millions of girls insecure. These female celebs are  
>> perfect as they are. They don't need a stick thin legs to support  
>> their upper bodies. As a broadcast station that goes  
>> international to promote South Korea and its culture, this only  
>> shows how ridiculous the standard of beauty and body image in  
>> Korea. Please re-evaluate the content of your programs and scripts  
>> before airing it. Avoid offensive contents like this.
>> Qrizta<http://www.youtube.com/user/Qrizta> 21 hours ago 9
>> This is an awful message. Arirang you are promoting body shaming  
>> and purporting that healthy body images (actually all of the  
>> ladies in this video are probably TOO skinny) are wrong or  
>> unfashionable.
>> As someone who has had to deal with body issues and faced extreme  
>> pain over it, I hope you know that this video harms those in it and  
>> those watching it. Suzy is only turning 17 this year. As a teenage  
>> girl, Arirang, you have disgusted me with your lack of respect to  
>> the celebrities and ignorance.
>> bubblesnbroomsticks<http://www.youtube.com/user/ 
>> bubblesnbroomsticks> 1 day ago 108
>> Do you realize how disgusting and twisted and WRONG it is for you  
>> to describe what you call imperfections in their lower bodies as  
>> "healthy." If they are healthy, that means that don't need to  
>> improve because they're already perfect the way they are! The fact  
>> that you describe their supposedly imperfect legs as "healthy"  
>> implies that if they were to make the improvements you suggest,  
>> they would then become unhealthy. It's this logic that pushes  
>> already beautiful women into eating disorders.
>> Rivere<http://www.youtube.com/user/Rivere> 1 day ago 81
>> ________________________________
>> From: koreanstudies-bounces at koreaweb.ws <http://us.mc394.mail.yahoo.com/mc/compose?to=koreanstudies-bounces@koreaweb.ws 
>> >  [koreanstudies-bounces at koreaweb.ws <http://us.mc394.mail.yahoo.com/mc/compose?to=koreanstudies-bounces@koreaweb.ws 
>> > ] On Behalf Of don kirk [kirkdon at yahoo.com <http://us.mc394.mail.yahoo.com/mc/compose?to=kirkdon@yahoo.com 
>> > ]
>> Sent: Friday, March 25, 2011 10:03 AM
>> To: Korean Studies Discussion List
>> Subject: Re: [KS] reprehensible journalism from Arirang TV
>> Thank you for posting this piece back on you-tube. It's quite an  
>> amusing commentary, actually, on Korean fashion, "girl groups,"  
>> models and society. There's no reason to carry on a crusade about  
>> it. Arirang has a right to run such a feature. It seems extremely  
>> odd that academics, the first to defend freedom of speech and  
>> democratic rights, should attempt, in the name of political  
>> correctness, to want to suppress a simple feature piece that has  
>> colorful, fun, appealing images, pleasant and interesting  
>> commentary and actually something to say about current fashions and  
>> thinking.
>> There are views other than those of like-minded academics, who are  
>> not necessarily correct in all their political correctness. Shame  
>> on you, in the name of PC, for this disgraceful effort at  
>> suppression of free speech, free idea and free reporting.
>> Don Kirk
>> --- On Wed, 3/23/11, Roald Maliangkay <Roald.Maliangkay at anu.edu.au <http://us.mc394.mail.yahoo.com/mc/compose?to=Roald.Maliangkay@anu.edu.au 
>> > > wrote:
>> From: Roald Maliangkay <Roald.Maliangkay at anu.edu.au <http://us.mc394.mail.yahoo.com/mc/compose?to=Roald.Maliangkay@anu.edu.au 
>> > >
>> Subject: Re: [KS] reprehensible journalism from Arirang TV
>> To: "Korean Studies Discussion List" <koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws <http://us.mc394.mail.yahoo.com/mc/compose?to=koreanstudies@koreaweb.ws 
>> > >
>> Date: Wednesday, March 23, 2011, 7:49 PM
>> Dear all,
>> I have re-uploaded the video, but YouTube warn me that it is not  
>> "my" content and may therefore be removed again, so please have a  
>> look at it before Arirang TV dare have it removed and risk  
>> retaliation from the “strong muscles on my calves" next time I  
>> pass by their offices on the way to the Kungnip kugagwôn... ^^
>> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vVR_s6Uv1A  <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vVR_s6Uv1A 
>> >
>> Regards,
>> Roald
>> On 23/03/11 5:33 PM, "Tobias Lehmann" <Tobias53 at gmx.de <http://us.mc394.mail.yahoo.com/mc/compose?to=Tobias53@gmx.de 
>> > > wrote:
>> > Dear Stephen,
>> >
>> > the first link from the livejournal does not work out. I get a  
>> permanent
>> > warning that this website is X-rated...:-)
>> >
>> > Greetings,
>> > Tobias
>> >
>> >
>> > -------- Original-Nachricht --------
>> >> Datum: Wed, 23 Mar 2011 13:40:31 +1300
>> >> Von: Stephen Epstein <Stephen.Epstein at vuw.ac.nz <http://us.mc394.mail.yahoo.com/mc/compose?to=Stephen.Epstein@vuw.ac.nz 
>> > >
>> >> An: "Koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws <http://us.mc394.mail.yahoo.com/mc/compose?to=Koreanstudies@koreaweb.ws 
>> > " <Koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws <http://us.mc394.mail.yahoo.com/mc/compose?to=Koreanstudies@koreaweb.ws 
>> > >
>> >> Betreff: [KS] reprehensible journalism from Arirang TV
>> >
>> >> Dear all,
>> >>
>> >> I don't usually send out links to the list, but the below piece  
>> from
>> >> Arirang is one of the most absolutely reprehensible items of  
>> journalism that >> I
>> >> ever seen and deserves wide circulation, as it offers an  
>> opportunity to
>> >> combat the attitudes it reflects. The piece takes examples of  
>> female pop
>> >> stars
>> >> in Korea with "healthy" legs (yes, "healthy" is their word) but  
>> tries to
>> >> suggest that "healthy" (i.e. anything but very nalsshinhada) is,  
>> in fact,
>> >> bad. The promotion of extremely unhealthy body images and eating  
>> disorders is
>> >> the logical outcome here.
>> >>
>> >> The piece is getting hammered on YouTube (it's only been up a  
>> day so far
>> >> and running 15 to 1 dislike to like, maybe more, a ratio I've  
>> never seen,
>> >> and the comments have all been appropriately scathing.). In any  
>> case, for
>> >> those of you who ever have to teach anything about body image or  
>> plastic
>> >> surgery in Korea, this will be eye-opening for students; you may  
>> want to
>> >> download it as I suspect it will be taken down soon. Hopefully  
>> this piece
>> >> will get
>> >> wide attention (my own aim in sending this out) and Arirang will  
>> be forced
>> >> into issuing a high-profile apology
>> >>
>> >> http://community.livejournal.com/omonatheydidnt/6227567.html  <http://community.livejournal.com/omonatheydidnt/6227567.html 
>> >
>> >>
>> >> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZaPs7bMH2Vc  <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZaPs7bMH2Vc 
>> >
>> >>
>> >> Cheers, Stephen
>> >>
>> >>

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