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2018-04 17

[Opinion]Spring is Approaching

A wave of tension pervaded the country as April 3rd drew closer. It was the date of the North-South Joint Performance in Pyeongyang, the capital of North Korea. The abrupt developments in the relationship between North and South Korea following their co-participation in the Pyeongchang Olympics presented a peculiar situation for citizens. With conflicting sentiments of hope and wariness, the nation waited under a silent tension as the date of the performance grew near. The first cultural interaction of any kind between North and South Korea dates back to 1985. Most of the events were composed in a similar manner: the two countries would prepare a stage for performers and exchanged cultural contents in an effort to ease the sentimental disparities between the divided nations. However, such events were severely criticized by both sides, as they were evaluated as encouraging ideological competition underneath the formalities of the event. Accordingly, efforts to promote harmony gradually moved to the domain of sports, a realm more detached from political ideology. Such efforts eventually dried up as tensions between the nations heightened. The North-South unified team competing in the World Table Tennis Championship in 1991 (Photo courtesy of Yonhap News) Fortunately, this performance was a great success. It was a notable milestone, as it reestablished an air of hope for the public. It was one thing for us to see news reports on the recent growth of diplomatic interactions between North and South Korea, and another to see our favorite singers and K-pop idols performing in what we have grown to perceive as the most dangerous place in the world. Arguably being true, as the two countries are still in a state of ceasefire, the performers were technically behind enemy borders. Despite the nation’s composure, perhaps to the point of preceived indifference by the third party, everyone held their breath until the performers returned safely. Adding to the ripple of relief as the performance ended on a positive note, another noteworthy aspect of the event is its historical significance. Along with the co-participation in this year’s Winter Olympics, this was the first great amicable interaction between the divided nations in nearly a decade. The success of the event is even expected to facilitate further talks of cooperation in the North-South Korea Summit, which is scheduled to take place in the Joint Security Area of Panmunjeom on April 27th. The last summit was held in 2007, and this will be the third official summit between North and South Korea. A celebratory photo of the performers on the stage in Pyeongyang (Photo courtesy of Ilyosisa). The long drought of diplomatic and cultural interaction among the divided peninsula began with a gunshot incident in Geumgang Mountain in 2008, where a South Korean tourist was fatally shot by a soldier in North Korea. When North Korea failed to provide reliable support for their justification of the shooting, ties between the two countries began to crumble. The deterioration of the relationship quickly accelerated as North Korea began to pursue its military ambitions, engaging in nuclear experiments and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) development, to the dismay of international society. As a result of the North's aggressive stance, people were confused to see the recent eagerness for cooperation by North Korea, and rightfully so. In light of the historical context, how this momentum of reconciliation plays out will greatly shape the public's perception of North Korea in the future. This is especially true for the younger generation, who will witness cooperation between the two countries for the first time. The current situation will exert massive influence on their manner of interaction in the decades to come. Needless to say, every diplomatic step must be taken with great discretion. On that note, the successful completion of the North-South Joint Performance in Pyeongyang is an indicator of a great start. "A good start is half the work" is how the old saying goes, but a good start is nevertheless, only half of the work. Further dedication to establishing a solid foundation for reconciliation and stability will ensure sustainable benefits to be reaped by both nations, and will perhaps be the key to finally ending the war. Lee Chang-hyun

2018-03 12

[Opinion][Op-Ed] #MeToo

Min Byung-doo, a member of the Korean National Assembly who was accused of sexual harassment through the widely spreading Me Too movement in South Korea, announced his decision to resign on the 10th of March, 2018. He is the first to voluntarily resign as a result of accusations brought forth by the Me Too movement. Likewise, the movement is gaining much power and influence in Korea, helping women from all walks of life to make their voices heard. The #Me Too movement is now a global movement. How it all started Now a global movement for women’s rights, Me Too was started in the United States in 2006 by Tara Burke and was popularized by Alyssa Milano. The movement gained international acknowledgment just last year when the renowned movie director Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual harassment and non-consensual sex by more than 80 women. Among the accusers, famous actresses such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Eva Green were included. The phrase #MeToo started to be used on Twitter. The movement spread to other industries within the US, but also to other countries. Now it is estimated that the Me Too movement has been diffused to at least 85 countries worldwide including India, Canada, Japan, and the United Kingdom. Many of the cases involve people working in the same industry with male offenders in a higher position victimizing their female subordinates. Prosecutor Seo Ji-yeon on JTBC Newsroom. The screenshots subsequently say, 'What happened in 2010?' and 'Weren't there other people present, too?' (Photo courtesy of JTBC) Me Too, South Korea Korea, although a bit late, is catching up with the global trend. On January 29th, a brave prosecutor named Seo Ji-yeon reported her experience of sexual assault by her senior who, until this story was released on JTBC’s Newsroom, used to be the Justice Ministry’s Prosecution Bureau chief Ahn Tae-geun. She explained what happened at the funeral eight years ago, whether it was her intention or not, pulling the trigger of the Me Too movement in Korean society. Lee Jae-jung, previously a lawyer and now a congresswoman, showed her support the following day. Lee later shared her experience of sexual harassment, too. The Me Too movement in Korea then started to spread like a wildfire when students and staff anonymously accused renowned writers and celebrities. Poet Go Eun was one of the first big names to be reported. Lee Yoon-taek, Oh Tae-suk, Cho Geun-hyun, and the deceased Cho Min-gi followed in their wake. The movement that started with the legal industry was transmitted to the literary world and the film industry, where seniors and big names have god-like power over the wannabes. Men with power were accused of harassing or raping dozens of women in lower positions. Differences and problems; Korea is not a gender equal society Yet, there seems to be a significant difference between the Me Too movement in Korea and the US. While many famous actresses voiced out to report their experiences and publicly showed support to the movement in the US, the majority of the allegations made in Korea are anonymous. Some say that Korean women are putting less at stake by hiding behind anonymity, and that the movement can be misused to disgrace innocent people. There are already ‘believe-it-or-not’ stories of women threatening their ex-boyfriends or men they're in a hostile relationship with to ‘me-too’ them to the public. However, the truth behind so many Korean women choosing to wear the mask of anonymity to tell their stories is due to the presence of factual defamation and the secondary victimization by the public and the press. Factual defamation is a type of criminal offense where a person can be prosecuted for openly telling something about someone, although it is true. However, Korea still chooses to keep its factual defamation law, along with Myanmar, Kenya, and Indonesia, despite the advice from the United Nations Human Rights Committee to abolish the regulation in 2015. However, the Constitutional Court ruled factual defamation to be constitutional in the following year. It can be tough for victims of sexual violence to officially report the case to the police. That is due to the unique social atmosphere of Korea. Another reason is that there is an uncomfortable culture in Korea where the victim of sexual violence is often accused of being a gold digger or being the cause of the incident. Women luring men with the promise of sex and then threatening to report them to the police unless a settlement is paid is a scam called ‘flower-snakes (ggot-baem)’ in Korea. While only 0.05% of the total sexual violence cases turn out to be scams, it is often questioned whether the accusers are ‘real victims,' especially when the accused is a famous figure. The public's doubt and the press's articles written in an offender-friendly tone inflict secondary harm to the victims. In short, women in Korean society are already putting a lot at stake just by openly sharing their experiences. They could be prosecuted for hurting the offender’s reputation, be portrayed as a flower snake by the public, lose their job, or be counter-sued for calumny. Famous figures would have to put their entire career, as well as future opportunities, on the line to publicly support or participate in the Me Too movement. The fact that the participants of the movement are considered brave and the fact that women have to put their career at risk to tell the truth, shows how much is left for Korean society to improve to achieve equality. Kim So-yun

2018-03 06

[Opinion][Op-ed] The Backstage of the Olympics, Gwandong Hockey Center

The 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics finished successfully thanks to millions of people participating and lending a hand to the procedures of the Olympics. I myself also took part in the Gwandong Hockey Center, as a translator in the Sports Presentation Department (SPP) for 18 days. The actual field of the Olympics required much more work than normal people think and was concluded successfully due to the participants’ hard work. What was my job? The Olympics do not require solely the players on the field. For a game to run, announcers have to tell the crowd what’s going on and increase their excitement through music and videos. Various entertainment consisting of celebrity appearances and unique events during the intermission periods are also required. All of these tasks listed above are accomplished through the SPP. They mostly work inside the control room, divided as the audio, video, entertainment team and the announcers. Therefore, all of the videos, excluding the actual broadcast of the games, and all of the sound the spectators hear are the result of the SPP’s work. Within these complicated procedures, I worked as a translator on the video team, in the SPP of the Gwandong Hockey Center. The blue box seen in the center of the picture is the control room. As the Olympics are an international event, it is not only Koreans working behind the stage. On the video team, the team directors were American, with the rest of the video team – the editors, playback operators, camera directors and the runners being Korean. That meant that the translators had to know everything going on in the video team and had to make simultaneous translations during the whole Olympic period. Each person on the video team had their own roles, and translators had the extra job of writing daily reports related to all of the videos played that day. The SPPs schedule’ was decided by the number of games that day. People would go to work four hours before the start of the first game. The doors for the spectators open an hour and a half before the game, meaning they have to be fully ready in two hours. Therefore, when we had three games, we had to leave our accommodation at 7:20 a.m. in the morning and come back around 12:30 to 1:00 a.m. at night. People generally had four hours of sleep everyday and then continued their work. Playback operators checked new daily videos and kept track of them while the editors made new highlight videos of the games and various announcement videos. The camera directors and the runners went through the events and performances planned for the day, since their filming had to be played live on the electronic display board. All questions, instructions and comments were translated by me, including the cameras filming events and performances. Each and every one in the Olympics worked hard behind the scenes. The woman hockey, Team Corea Not only was Gwandong Hockey Center my workplace, but it was also the center of attention during the Olympics. North and South Korea’s unified team played in the Gwandong Hockey Center, pulling in great attention worldwide. Even though Team Corea lost their matches, media outlets around the world payed attention to the games and the incidents surrounding them. Personally, being able to watch all of the incidents going on in the arena, I was able to come back home with unique experiences. After Team Corea's game ended, loud cheers were heard in the arena. The cheer squad in red also caught the spectators' eyes during the game. During the first game of Team Corea, North Korea’s cheering squad was present in the arena. As I normally stand beside the stage before the game and during intermissions, I was able to have a full view of the spectators and was able to see flocks of red. Endless lines of women in red clothes entered, filling up the seats one by one in several groups all around the arena. They seemed to stay still, but all of a sudden, they started cheering all at once. They continued cheering during the pre-games and intermissions, with no one leaving for the bathroom whatsoever. Moreover, quite a lot of people from our country also participated in the cheers, making the arena even more active. This however resulted in all of the SPP outside the control room to have problems listening to the intercom, which was essential to continue our events and performances. As the translator, I stood with the camera director beside the stage and the speakers. I had already been struggling to hear over the loud noises, but I had to increase the volume of the intercom to the highest level in order to translate the director’s words accurately. The attendance of the cheer squad was indeed meaningful, but at the same time gave hardships to workers like us. There were a couple more incidents related to Team Corea’s games even after the first game. These gave me headaches as a staff. However, looking back at it, they were such unique experiences that no one else could ever have had. A group photo of the SPP crew. A lot more people than you think were behind the scenes during the Olympics. 18 days of lack of sleep and tension are now finished. Everyone was extremely stressed out and sharp to finish the Olympics successfully, but still had each other to rely on. I was able to meet such passionate, enthusiastic people in their own areas, and am extremely glad such a chance like this came across to me. On Jung-yun Photos by On Jung-yun