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2017-11 20

[Special]Ich hab geträumt von Manderley (I dreamt of Manderley)

On the 15th of November, News H visited Blue Square in Hannam-dong to watch the musical, Rebecca. Although there was more than an hour left until the show, the whole building was crowded with people taking tickets and pictures. The air was filled with joy and excitement. Continued from the last week’s ‘Stepping into the Life of Claude Monet’, this week’s special article would also review a cultural event. The Musical, Rebecca is performing in Interpark hall, Blue Suare. Delicate structures and highly complimented musical numbers are impressive. (Photo courtesy of EMK) Rebecca, where you may be ‘Ding ding’ the chime, commencing the start of the show, rang and all of a sudden, the 3-story full-house became quiet. The musical, Rebecca, like most of the musical pieces hitting the box office, is a translated production. This piece is also one of the renowned ‘one source multi-use’ product, originally based on Daphne du Maurier’s novel Rebecca (1938). Alfred Hitchcock also made a movie based on the story. Although most of the events happen in a peaceful costal town in the United Kingdom, the whole play is written in German and made in Austria. One of the interesting parts of the story is that Rebecca is dead from the very beginning and, thus, does not come on stage until the end. Moreover, the name of the main character ‘Ich’ (‘I’ in German) is not mentioned throughout the play and is only called as ‘ Winter’. This ‘Ich’ describes and leads the entire story. 'Ich' is singing the opening number 'Ich hab geträumt von Manderley (I dreamt of Manderley)'. 'Ich' leads the entire story until the end, but nobody knows her name. (Photo courtesy of EMK) ‘Ich’ does not come from a wealthy family background, so she makes her living by being a paid friend of a rich, old lady. One day, on a vacation in Monte Carlo, ‘Ich’ meets Maxim de Winter, a famous British noble. Like most of the story goes, they instantly fall in love and get married. However, the charm of this particular musical comes from getting rid of the cliché, ‘happily ever after’ storyline. ‘Ich’, happily married, expected her life to completely turn around and the rosy atmosphere to be there forever. Her life did turn around completely but not in a way she had expected. The deceased Winter, Rebecca was unimaginably beautiful, intelligent, and also had a powerful family background. All servants and maids in the house seemed to still miss her and had a hard time accepting the new Winter. Especially Mrs. Danvers, the head housekeeper still preciously takes her old master’s belongings and even her bedroom. Mrs. Danvers is also one of the leading roles in the show. In this particular show where News H paid a visit, a former idol Ok Ju-hyun played the role. Despite the widespread belief that idols do not sing well, and they cannot settle as a musical actor, Ok is now widely acknowledged as one of the top musical actresses. She made her debut in 2005 as ‘Aida’ in a Broadway blockbuster Aida. At that time, she was harshly criticized for her acts. Nevertheless, through hard work and practice, she is now a renowned actress with more than 18 awards in the musical area. Ok passionately acted and sung as Ms. Danvers on that day, too. More Koreans in the Korean Market As the full house of this particular performance shows, the Korean musical market is rapidly growing. Namely, Rebecca itself recorded a 300 thousand audience until today. Considering that, the last shows usually draw bigger crowds, the number is expected to grow even more. In Hyung-geun, an executive director in EMK musical company mentioned that the “Korean musical market has been commercialized for only 20 years now, and many factors such as strong copyrights and existing manias show a bright future for the industry." However, there are worries regarding the long-term sustainability of the industry. Most box office hits are imported and translated. This does generate a lot of fortune and records but does not foster domestic professionals. Robert Johanson, director of Rebecca speaks during the conference call. (Photo courtesy of mydaily) A musical is not just a simple show but a complex compound of art. It requires screenwriting, songwriting, singing, acting, stage design, directing, and more. However, if the current trend of import is sustained, the market and needs for domestic production will decrease, leaving less and less professionals who can produce Korean musicals. That does not mean that all original pieces are not doing well. There are a few hits such as Hero and Seopyun-je. In order to make more original products and even export them to the international market, we, the audiences would have to pay more attention to such plays. Kim So-yun

2017-10 17

[Special][Op-Ed] There is No Sacred Ground for National Tax Service

The Korean government has been trying to legislate the taxation of religious workers since 1968. However, due to various reasons, the legislation was dismissed several times. Now, after 50 years, the taxation for religious practitioners is waiting to be enforced starting next year. This specific article introduces the history of the legislation and current controversies, along with the expected results. Kim Dong-yun, the Finance Minister and the Minister of Strategy and Finance is visiting Jogyesa and meeting Reverend Jaseung to talk about a tax levy on religions workers. (Photo courtesy of Yonhap News) How has it been so far Taxing religious practitioners is not as surprising as some might think. Major countries such as the United States, Germany, Canada, and Japan have all been collecting tax money from religious workers. Even in Korea, some religions or a specific subgroup of a religion have been encouraging a voluntary tax payment. For example, monks in the Chogye Order (a branch of Buddhism) are paying income tax as a form of withholding tax, and priests and nuns in the Catholic church have been paying taxes since 1983. Not all protestant churches are against the taxation, too. Workers in the Full Gospel Incheon Church started paying taxes as early as 1983, and some others joined the wave. As mentioned above, many of the religious workers have been partially or fully bearing the tax duty despite the fact that there was no law enforcement. Therefore, the expected amount of increased tax is only 8 billion won, which is 0.01% of Korea’s 70 trillion won annual tax income. There have also been voices stating that because many of the religious practitioners do not make the minimal income, there is a high possibility of spending more than earning on subsidizing them. If a family does not own more than 140 million won and the annual salary is below 25 million in the case of a double income family, and 21 million for single income, the government provides EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit) to the family up to 2.5 million won per year. If many of the religious workers’ incomes do not reach the minimum income as some have speculated, there is a plausibility of more tax money being spent. Kim is having a conversation with the president of the Confucian body Sungkyunkwan, Kim Young-geun regarding the legislation. (Photo courtesy of Asian Economy Daily) Opposite opinions Most of the opposing voices come from the conservative Protestant church unions, namely The Christian Council of Korea. Several religious associations are part of this council, and the council used to be the biggest protestant consultative body until PCK (The Presbyterian Church of Korea) left the council. The Council is currently standing against the legislation for two main reasons. First, they view the work of religious practitioners, not as labor, but as more of a spiritual volunteer service. Therefore, the ‘income’ they make is more of a gratitude payment that should not be applied with secular rules. Moreover, some believe that through the annual report of the priests’ salary, the government will be able to legitimize a tax audit against religious groups, which is an invasion of religious liberty. Although these assertions are winning a minority of support, these opinions have their own flaws that can be tackled with. Kim is having a conversation with priest Eum Ki-ho, head of the Christian Council of Korea. Photo courtesy of News1 Then why should we levy the burden? Some might ask, then why is the Ministry of Strategy and Finance, or the politicians trying to impose a tax on the religious workers? And the answer to that question is simply the principle of fair taxation. In the Korean Constitution, article 38, it says, “All citizens shall have the duty to pay taxes under the conditions as prescribed by the Act.” A principle should have no exceptions to become a social consensus. Especially when the constitution explicitly mentions that, “All citizens shall have the duty to pay taxes,” and religious workers should have no exception. Kim So-yun

2017-09 04

[Special][Op-Ed] Right to Have Safe Periods

"Hey, do you have it?" "What?" "The thing, you know." "Oh, that thing. I have some." This conversation is likely to happen not only between illegal drug dealers but also ordinary women referring to feminine hygiene products. Mentioning about women's cycle or products related to it has been considered as not careful or virtuous. However recently, many women along with men are voicing out for the right to have ‘safe menstruation' after the fact that one of the best-selling sanitary pad contains toxins was revealed in March. Volatile Organic Compounds found in sanitary pads In the safety test conducted by Korean Women's Environmental Networks and Professor Kim Man-koo of Kangwon National University, 10 types sanitary napkins and panty liners were found to have more than 200 Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), including benzene, styrene, and Trichloroethylene. VOCs are organic compounds that can easily become vapors or gases. Not all VOCs are harmful, but some are known to cause cancer or sensory irritation. One of the toxins found in the pads, Styrene, is classified as a carcinogen by World Health Organization and a widely known reproductive toxicant, which can affect the menstrual cycle and volume. A protestor is requesting a full investigation on sanitary pads. (Photo courtesy of Money Today) Kim later unveiled that three items among the 10 are Kleannara's Lilian pads and panty liners. This made the public outrageous, requesting a full refund of the products. Kleannara initially denied the credibility of the test and announced that Lilian pads are authorized by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, therefore safe to use. Nevertheless, after being included in the list of investigation of the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, Kleannara decided to refund the problematic items on the 23rd. As the complaints grew steadily, the company also announced to fully stop the production and sales of Lilian products in the following day. Should manufacturers disclose full ingredients of feminine products? One of the main controversies around the current situation is whether consumers have a right to know the full detail of what makes menstrual products. Existing law does not require the manufacturers to fully disclose the components because the products are classified as sanitary aid. A revised pharmaceutical affairs act was passed last December to reveal all ingredients of sanitary aids in its package or bottle. However, sanitary pad, tampon, mask, and bandage were excluded from the revision because the products are not directly absorbed into the human body. Lilian pads and the Kleannara's announced that the pads are safe. (Photo courtesy of Kleannara) Many feel that the current legal system did not reflect the reality so well, as the outer vulva of female genital is vulnerable to contaminants and moist, being able to absorb some substances if regularly affected. Another revision that mandates feminine hygiene products is proposed in July, waiting to be passed in the National Assembly. I feel like this amendment being passed is not going to be the end of the story. Even if the sanitary products come with the full ingredient, it would be hard for the consumers to tell which product contains toxin or not. Also, the toxin standards of the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety has been left not updated for the past two decades. The chemicals in the center of the issue are not listed as toxic chemicals and have no standard whatsoever. This means that Lilian pads and other products in veil could still pass the safety test if the list is not going to be updated soon. Panty liners are also in the middle of controversies as some liners are not even classified as menstrual products. They are industrial products, and Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy is liable for its credentials. Panty liners, in this case, are not required to pass any specific test to be sold in the market. Some even say ‘do not use this product to absorb menstrual blood', which makes less sense. Members of various feminist organizations are having a press conference. On the right, the description on a panty liner says not to use the product to absorb menstrual blood. (Photo courtesy of Kyunghyang Shinmun official Twitter account) Conclusion Through the tragedy of toxic humidifier, the recent egg issues, and the present-day toxic feminine products, the life of Koreans are constantly in threat through the use of daily products. Although almost half of the nation's safety was and is being threatened, the size of the issue seems to be smaller than usual. Is the social atmosphere hushing on ‘magic' to blame? Or is it just we who are used to hearing such news about toxic daily items? I guess we have to wait and see. Kim So-yun

2017-07 31

[Special]Korean Films Drawing Attention from the World

A Korean historical movie on the May 18 Democratic Uprising ‘A Taxi Driver (2017)’ has been selected as a closing movie at this year’s Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal, Quebec. It was the very first Korean movie to close the festival. As more and more movies from Korea are invited to numerous international film festivals such as Fantasia, Cannes and Berlin International, attention from the world to Korean films are also growing year by year. Some movie journalists call 2017 as one of the most significant years in the Korean film history. The poster for the movie 'Okja (2017)'. Released in June 28th, it is available on Netflix and small theaters. Standing ovation in Cannes ‘Okja’ is a name of Director Bong Joon-ho’s most recent film but also a name of a super pig in the movie, which refers to a genetically modified species invented to feed millions with the least environmental impact. Another main character Mija is a farmer girl who is Okja’s best friend and family. She fights for Okja against people who try to take it. The movie tries to deliver the message of veganism and the cruelty within a meat diet. Bong revealed that he also turned vegan through numerous interviews. ‘Okja’ was spotlighted for various reasons. To begin with, it was produced by the world-wide video streaming service Netflix, with famous casts such as Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, and Lily Colins. It’s unprecedented way of distribution also brought attention to the film itself. Netflix’s decision to release it online only in most markets induced heated debates across the world. This is why Korean audiences cannot watch 'Okja' in major multiplexes in Korea such as CGV, Megabox and Lotte Cinema. Despite all the stories behind, the film was officially selected in Cannes and also got an unexpected standing ovation that lasted for four minutes in its premiere. Berlin best actress winning film also in Cannes From the left, actress Kim Min-hee and director Hong Sang-soo. Kim is holding her Silver Bear trophy from Berlin International Film Festival. Actress Kim Min-hee also received attention from world-wide by winning the best actress award at Berlin International Film Festival, for 'On the Beach at Night Alone (2017)'. Directed by Hong Sang-soo, two other movies of theirs also made it to the Cannes this year. 'The Day After (2017)' in competition, and 'Claire’s Camera (2017)' in special screening segment. This is the filmmaker’s fourth time competing in Cannes. The Silver Bear winner actress Kim Min-hee is on both of the movies, too. Unlike the speculation of many Korean press expecting one, the films did not win any awards. However, it definitely was a step forward to shed the light on Korean films and film workers behind the scene. Other than the movies made by renowned directors, movies such as 'Villainess (2017)' by Jung Byung-Gil and 'The Merciless (2017)' by Byun Sung-hyun also received invitations from the Cannes, both in the midnight screening area. This made two out of three cinemas in the area to be Korean. This opens many doors for Korean film industry to explore various themes with the support of international funds, even for people who are relatively new to the industry. For foreigners in Korea Demand for English, Chinese and Japanese subtitled Korean films has been increasing due to such international interests. Thanks to Seoul city and CJ’s ‘English Subtitles on Korean Movies Business’ in 2010, many foreigners can still enjoy some films without having to find illegal routes. Also, there are about a dozen of Korean movies including the famous “Okja” on Netflix, of course with subtitles for foreigners. Kim So-yun