Reading The Straits Times, I came across extensive coverage of the South Korean protesters at the WTO summit in Hong Kong. One sidebar talks about professional activists and the training in martial arts that the Hong Kong police received. The other mentions that HK hasn’t seen violence like this since 1989, after the Tiananmen Square massacre. Reading about the Korean rice farmers and their preparedness in the local paper reminded me of my first visit to Seoul. I’d accompanied my mum as a teenager, in 1985, on a package tour of Japan and S.Korea. In the tour bus from Seoul airport to our downtown hotel, just after we arrived, we passed through the center of the city, when suddenly the guide gave us an urgent warning over the PA system to close all windows. We were passing through thick smoke from tear gas etc that the local riot control police were using against university students protesting the forthcoming Olympics in Seoul. That was my first introduction to Korea.
This led me to note the difference in emphasis in news coverage outside the continental United States. Much of the international news in the local paper is sourced from agencies as diverse as Agence France Presse and Reuters – it’s very diverse in it’s coverage. On TV, we get everything from Zee TV to Channel NewsAsia as well as the BBC and CNN. The juxtaposition of differing news agencies and their respective points of view has always been fascinating, a hobby I’d lost touch with during my sojourn in the USA. For example, back in July 1997, I remember flipping between the BBC and CNN in Delhi, comparing the live reports on Hong Kong’s handover back to China. The tone and approach were so vastly different that it was only too easy to read between the lines.
Jigme Singye Wangchuk, the Dragon King of Bhutan, will abdicate in 2008. Another longtime crush of mine, for he was cuter 20 years ago, back when his royal cousins shared the dorm at a women’s college I attended in Delhi University for a scarce six months. We saw his photographs in their room and sighed over his young cousins’ stories of "back home".
The Sunday Straits Times also had a factoid they’d picked up from this site, the mind boggling news that "Winter Sonata", a Korean teledrama, was the biggest hit in the Middle East – unlike Western soap operas, Asian stories are conservative and emphasize family values and modest behaviour.
"Though it is still in an initial stage, you could say that the Korean Wave has reached the Middle East."
The paper went on to quote a young Egyptian muslim woman whose romantic dreams about the star of the show, Bae Yong-joon, include wanting to marry him and convert him to islam. Um, how do you say kimchi in egyptian? The popularity of Korean fare in Egypt, or Bollywood and Chinese movies around the world, point to a different story about globalisation and one world – at least when it comes to entertainment. I wrote a post on global content just a few hours ago on CPH127, little thinking I’d come across this example so quickly.
Students majoring in Korean at Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt
hold pictures of Bae Yong-joon and Choi Ji-woo, the two leads of
"Winter Sonata," on Friday. A male student in the bottom of the picture
wears clothes based on the costumes worn by Bae in the soap. Image and caption courtesy asianfanatics.net