Submit a link Features Reviews Podcasts Video Forums More ▾

Canada and South Korea manage a free trade agreement without crazy copyright provisions

Michael Geist writes, "Canada and South Korea announced agreement on a comprehensive trade agreement earlier today. The focus is understandably on tariff issues, but the agreement also contains a full chapter on intellectual property (note that the governments have only released summaries of the agreement, not the full text, which is still being drafted). The IP chapter is significant for what it does not include. Unlike many other trade deals - particularly those involving the U.S., European Union, and Australia - the Canada-South Korea deal is content to leave domestic intellectual property rules largely untouched. The approach is to reaffirm the importance of intellectual property and ensure that both countries meet their international obligations, but not to use trade agreements as a backdoor mechanism to increase IP protections."

Read the rest

Korean plastic surgeon removes towering jars of excised jawbones after fine

A Gangnam, Seoul plastic surgeon who did a roaring trade in excising womens' jawbones to give them V-shaped chins was forced to remove the towering jars of thousands of jawbone fragments with which he decorated his office. Photos of the jars spread online, resulting in a visit from a local official, who fined the surgeon about $3000 and ordered the display removed.

Read the rest

Scholar shows 'three strikes' programs don't reduce piracy

Evaluating Graduated Response, a new paper from Rebecca Giblin from the law school at Australia's Monash University, looks at the impact of "three strikes" and "graduated response" punishments for file-sharing. Countries including France, New Zealand, Taiwan, South Korea, the U.K., Ireland and the U.S. have adopted systems whereby people accused of file-sharing have their Internet access curtailed. This takes many forms, from losing access to YouTube and Facebook until subscribers complete a "copyright training course" designed by the entertainment industry to out-and-out disconnection from the Internet.

A good summary in IT News by Juha Saarinen discusses Giblin's findings from an in-depth survey of the file-sharing landscape before and after the introduction of three strikes rules: "There is no evidence demonstrating a causal connection between graduated response and reduced infringement. If 'effectiveness' means reducing infringement, then it is not effective."

Giblin is the author of 2011's Code Wars, an excellent book on the first ten years of file-sharing data.

Read the rest

777 from Korea crash-lands at SFO

An Asiana Airlines 777 from Seoul, Korea crash-landed at San Francisco International Airport last night. Two were killed, ten were critically injured, 181 others were taken to hospital.

David Eun, whose Twitter biography includes "frequent flier," was aboard the plane and tweeted a photo of the wreck as he was evacuated.

This Reddit thread contains a lot of great, breaking information, including audio from the SFO air traffic control during and after the crash, and eyewitness accounts from SFO and from diverted fliers who were landed elsewhere (SFO is closed until further notice).

It's not clear what caused the crash. Forbes has some early analysis of the debris field based on aerial photos. A prominent theory cited in several news reports is that the tail of the 777 caught the seawall and ripped free (this also suggests that the two fatalities were flight attendants in the rear jumpseats). Update: An Asiana Airlines rep has confirmed that the two dead were passengers; specifically, teenagers from China.

Bookcase/staircase/slide!


Architects Moon Hoon designed a house in Chungcheongbuk-do, South Korea, that uses a staircase as a slide, a library and a room-divider. My goodness, it is lovely.


The basic request of upper and lower spatial organization and the shape of the site promted a long and tin house with fluctuating facade which would allow for more differentiated view. The key was coming up with a multi-functional space which is a large staircase, bookshelves, casual reading space, home cinema, slide and many more…

The client was very pleased with the design, and the initial design was accepted and finalized almost instantly, only with minor adjustments. The kitchen and dining space is another important space where family gathers to bond. The TV was pushed away to a smaller living room. The attic is where the best view is possible, it is used as a play room for younger kids. The multi-use stair and slice space brings much active energy to the house, not only children, but also grown ups love the slide staircase…An action filled playful house for all ages…

Panorama House by Moon Hoon (via Neatorama)

South Korea lives in the future (of brutal copyright enforcement)

The US-Korean Free Trade Agreement came with a raft of draconian enforcement rules that Korea -- then known as a world leader in network use and literacy -- would have to adopt. Korea has since become a living lab of the impact of letting US entertainment giants design your Internet policy -- and the example that industry lobbyists point to when they discuss their goals.

One of the laws that Korea adopted early was the infamous "three strikes" rule, where repeated, unsubstantiated accusations of copyright infringement leads to whole families being punished through restriction of, or disconnection from their Internet connections. Now the Korean National Human Rights Commission has examined the fallout from the country's three strikes rules, and called for its repeal due to high costs to wider Korean society.

Here's the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Danny O'Brien with more:

The entertainment industry has repeatedly pointed to South Korea as a model for a controlled Internet that should be adopted everywhere else. In the wake of South Korea's implementation, graduated response laws have been passed in France and the United Kingdom, and ISPs in the United States have voluntarily accepted a similar scheme.

But back in Korea, the entertainment industry's experiment in Internet enforcement has been a failure. Instead of tackling a few "heavy uploaders" involved in large scale infringement, the law has spiraled out of control. It has now distributed nearly half a million takedown notices, and led to the closing down of 408 Korean Internet users' web accounts, most of which were online storage services. An investigation led by the Korean politician Choi Jae-Cheon showed that half of those suspended were involved in infringement of material that would cost less than 90 U.S. cents. And while the bill's backers claimed it would reduce piracy, detected infringement has only increased as more and more users are subject to suspensions, deletion, and blocked content.

This Wednesday, Korea's National Human Rights Commission recommended that the three strikes law be re-examined, given its unclear benefits, and its potential violation of the human rights to receive and impart information and to participate in the cultural life of the community.

Korea's three strikes rules are similar to the "Six Strikes" rules that America's leading ISPs have voluntarily adopted and just put into effect. If you want to see the future of American Internet policy, and its fallout, look at Korea.

Korean Lawmakers and Human Rights Experts Challenge Three Strikes Law

Jimi Hendrix on a gayageum

Luna Lee performs Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile" on a gayageum, a "traditional Korean zither-like string instrument" (Wikipedia). She freaking nails it. There's lots more if that strikes your fancy.

Voodoo Chile-Jimi Hendrix / Gayageum ver. by Luna (via Reddit)

Google adds North Korean death-camps to maps


Google Maps has added notorious, secretive North Korean prison camps to its maps of the country. The data is gleaned from user contributions, including a first-person account of Shin Dong-Hyuk, who escaped from Camp 14, a death camp where he was born and raised.

Called Map Maker, Google’s information for the country’s layout comes primarily from visitors and from former citizens who defected, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

The mapping idea stemmed in part from a 28-year-old South Korean who tried to use Google maps on a trip to Laos four years ago, but found it unhelpful, at best. He ultimately helped devise the Google map application for North Korea.

“I thought if I could fill in information on North Korea, it might be useful in an emergency or tragedy if Google can provide a map for aid agencies,” the South Korean told the Wall Street Journal.

Google maps North Korea, including prison camps [Cheryl K. Chumley/Washington Times] (via /.)

J Rabbit, "Happy Things" (music video)

A talented Korean musical duo on their way to becoming a YouTube sensation. Video Link They're on Facebook and Twitter, here's their website, and here's their YouTube channel. (via Reddit, where there is a gross and racist comment thread so just ignore that please, thanks Joe Sabia)

Covert assassin weapons from North Korea

CNN reports on the arsenal discovered on the North Korean assassin arrested in Seoul last year: a poison-dart pen, a pen-pistol, a flashlight-gun, and more.

Disguised to look like a Parker ballpoint pen, it contains a poison needle and is practically impossible to identify as a weapon.

The second pen shoots a poison-filled bullet which penetrates the skin and releases the toxin and the third weapon is a flashlight, loaded with up to three bullets. They all look completely innocuous but all three will kill...

... That target was anti-North Korea activist, Park Sang-hak, who has since been given round-the-clock police protection by South Korean authorities. We showed Park the footage of the weapons intended for him. He was shocked.

'Poison' pen mightier than sword for would-be North Korean assassin (Thanks, polymorf!)

Quack medicine pills made from babies and super bacteria smuggled from China to South Korea

The South Korean customs department is going to target its inspections in order to intercept shipments of Chinese quack medicine tablets made from the flesh of babies and foetuses, which are sometimes infected with superbacteria. From the BBC:

"It was confirmed those capsules contain materials harmful to the human body, such as super bacteria. We need to take tougher measures to protect public health," a customs official was quoted as saying by the Korea Times.

Inspections are to be stepped up on shipments of drugs arriving from north-east China, Yonhap news agency reported.

The Dong-a Ilbo newspaper said that capsules were being dyed or switched into boxes of other drugs in a bid to disguise them.

Some of the capsules were found in travellers' luggage and some in the post, customs officials said.

Allegations that human flesh capsules were being trafficked from north-east China into South Korea emerged last year in a South Korean television documentary.

The thing I don't get is why the rip-off artists who sell these things don't just fill the tablets with sugar and say they're full of powdered baby. It's not like the credulous dunces buying the stuff will be able to tell the difference, and surely sugar is easier to get hold of.

S Korea 'to target powdered human flesh capsules' (via JWZ)

Ai Weiwei’s “Gangnam Style” parody video

Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei covers PSY's viral hit. At WaPo, Max Fisher writes more about the video here. What's with the handcuffs he pulls out about halfway through? This. (thanks, Oxblood!)

Post-"Gangnam Style," America wakes up to K-pop

Factory Girls,” a [paywalled] New Yorker piece this month by John Seabrook, explores the rise of the two billion-dollar Korean pop music industry and "its fraught entry into the Western music market" despite the YouTube-driven viral success of PSY's "Gangnam Style.”

Typical K-pop “is an East-West mash-up,” writes Seabrook. “The performers are mostly Korean, and their mesmerizing synchronized dance moves, accompanied by a complex telegraphy of winks and hand gestures, have an Asian flavor to them, but the music sounds Western: hip-hop verses, Euro-pop choruses, rapping, and dubstep breaks.”

My brother Carl Hamm, a club and radio DJ who regularly spins K-Pop nights (including one this Friday night in Richmond, VA), says, "This is one of an endless stream of articles I have read that sort of 'warns' of a pending K-Pop invasion. But the fact is, it's already happened. Not just PSY, but groups like EXO (which they mention), BIG BANG, SNSD/Girls Generation, SHinee, and 2NE1. All are well on their way to being huge over here among young American kids. And yes, the whole thing about manufactured, assembly-line personas of the artists is, for the most part, true. But despite the much-rumored dark side of this business, many of them really are gifted performers who have worked hard to reach where they are, love their fans, and enjoy what they do." "Incidentally, Big Bang are playing 2 dates in Los Angeles and one in New Jersey this November," Carl adds. "Tickets sold out in less than 4 hours! And 2ne1 also recently played to huge crowds in the US last month. See here and here."

Read the rest

PSY foam-art


Redditor DivineBaboon posted an unattributed photo of an espresso drink with a beautiful PSY (of Gangnam Style fame) portrait in the foam.

My friend ordered a cappuccino and this is what he got.. (i.imgur.com)

Shamans of the modern age

Colorful flags snapped in the sea breeze as more than a dozen Korean shamans, dressed in bright colors, danced and chanted prayers in front of a huge cow's head stuck to a trident.

The ceremony on a ship was designed to exorcise demons that threaten fishermen and bring good luck to everybody on board. The presence of several hundred spectators underlined how the ages-old trance rituals were going strong again, having been shunned as recently as 30 years ago.

"People are trying to understand more, learn more, and see more. They are very interested in this," said Kim Keum-hwa, one of South Korea's most famous shamans, who led the ceremony.

Though an ancient practice, Korean shamanism - in which singing and dancing are used in trance rituals addressed to specific gods, often to get an answer to specific questions - had long been suppressed in Asia's second most Christian nation.

Read the rest