Korea This Week (June 11 – 17)

A selection of this week’s news and commentary on Korean culture


I must admit feeling very spoiled reading this recent WSJ piece about the difficulty (read: ‘virtual impossibility’) of wiring the rural United States for broadband. The problem of course boils down to too few customers spread over too large an area, which, barring some massive infrastructure spending initiative, makes laying the requisite amount of fiber optic cable unprofitable.


A Nebraska small-business owner waits for an e-mail to load.

Clocking in at 28.6 Mbps, South Korea still has the highest average broadband connection speed in the world, at something like a third of the price of broadband subscriptions in my country of birth (The U.S.), which just barely cracked the top ten at 18.7 Mbps. Three cheers for population density!



A recent viral video showing Korean lawmaker Kim Moo-sung shoving a wheeled suitcase through an airport arrival gate door without looking has touched some nerves in Korea. In the video, one of Kim’s aids scurries to collect the bag without receiving any form of greeting or even simple acknowledgment, and many people who have viewed the clip have pounced on what they see as a symptom of a work culture whose demands for deference go far beyond simple etiquette and often seem to require something closer to slavish devotion to the boss.

I don’t really have a dog in that race, but the video does strike me as somewhat unflattering to Mr. Kim, though to be fair, his no-look pass could have been intended to fake out someone off-camera, perhaps his wife, who had warned him not to come home with duty-free cigarettes and whiskey…


No-look pass (the cool kind)


Every week, I come across a few articles talking about the spread of Korean cultural products (film, TV, food, music, fashion) to some new corner of the globe, a wide-ranging trend/global marketing strategy better known as Hallyu, or “The Korean Wave”. Some of these articles are legit, others are promotional flak for Korea Incorporated, and some are a bit of both.

Others, like this one noting the popularity of Korean films and music in Northeastern India, are oddly fascinating. In 2002, the People’s Liberation Army banned Hindi films and television broadcasts and suppressed songs sung in Hindi in the Northeastern state of Manipur, where the PLA has been waging an independence movement for several decades. Because nature abhors a vacuum, the people of the region have turned to popular Korean entertainment, which, according to several sources, has become “the prime source of entertainment” in the region.


Pirated DVDs of Korean films and TV dramas have flooded Manipur’s markets

The trend was noted in this 2014 Al Jazeera piece, and by this young Indian blogger, who describes the Korean “cultural imperialism” that has many young people in Manipur greeting each other in Korean, imitating Korean hairstyles and fashion trends, and even heading to Korea for schooling.

As a citizen of the country that gave the world Starbucks, McDonald’s, and Hollywood, I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t occasionally cheer me to hear another country donning the “cultural imperialist” label for a change. It almost even makes up for the slow internet. Almost.

And how was your week?


  1. If folks back home in rural American want High speed broadband then let them dish out the dollars for it or maybe we can barter with them giving up some electoral college votes and we financing their high speed desires! That works for me. I’m glad Korean cinema is on the rise but the K-pop wave I have little invested in.

    1. Sounds like a fair deal, Brian. (Full disclosure: I’m from one of those big bad Blue States that nevertheless ends up paying for stuff like this for everyone else)

  2. Pretty funny post honestly. The spread of Korean culture in that corner of India is quite interesting. It truly is refreshing hearing other countries besides America being the topic of conversation when the world imperialism is mentioned. Nice writing!

  3. I miss the internet speed in Korea! It’s been two weeks since I left and I didn’t realize the value of it until I had to wait an hour to upload a one minute video in YouTube. As for the Korean Wave, it’s so legit, my blog posts about it months ago still gives me traffic in my blog.

  4. Korean music around the world- meh, Korean dramas – meh, but korean movies, on the other hand- yes, please! The quality of Korean thrillers and dramatic movies is really up there, but you don’t see them blowing up box offices with their rendition of the Wonder Woman…

  5. Whenever I skype with my friend in Canada and we experience internet interruptions, I’m quite happy to know that at least on my end, I have dependable internet! When I lived in Canada, monthly internet fees were also expensive as there are so few providers and more or less fix prices for rubbish service. Nice write-up!

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