Wednesday, August 30, 2017

How many people have visited Seoullo?

Just how many people have visited Seoullo 7017 - the horribly named elevated garden walk near Seoul Station constructed from an old overpass? It depends on which news outlet you ask.

Conflicting visitor numbers in headlines about Seoullo

Looks like either 3.6 million visitors, according to Yonhap and the Korea Herald's reprint:

Or  3.8 million, acccording to the Hankyoreh and Dong-a Ilbo:

Who cares. I'm surprised anybody wants to visit that monstrosity. I guess I just found it amusing that the liberal-leaning paper is one rounding up. Of course they are: this was a Park Won-Soon production. The slight numbers discrepancy is reflected in Korean headlines too.

I know this is minor as all get, but stuff like this amuses me. I'm always curious how the tone might vary between Korean articles and their English translations. Breezing through headlines to make snap observations like this is way easier. Any reason Korean Hani specifies 3.8mil in the headline, but English Hani bumps it to "near 4 million"? Are the translators fishing for good publicity? Am I insane for overanalyzing this? Probably a bit. 

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Sunday, August 27, 2017

Mastodon in Korea

Real quick here, I was just surfing around a bit checking out Mastodon (open source decentralized Twitter alternative) . I wondered what the Korean adoption of it was like.

Korean users on Mastodon. Image Source.

Is it popular in Korea? No, no it's not. But its popularity has slowly risen over the past year. 

Mastodon use in Korea. Source.

Numbers in Korea seems to fluctuate between 700~900 users. Compare that to nearly 1 million in neighboring Japan. 

Most populated Korea instance of Mastodon. Source.

  1. The most "popular" Mastodon instance (≈local server, sort of) is called Twingyeo (트잉여), at, even though a domain lookup says it's hosted in Japan. It holds 492 users (as of this post), so about half of all South Korean users. 
  2. The second most popular is Sakaba at which appears to be running in Japanese yet a lookup indicates it's from Busan, South Korea. Both appear to have userbases heavily from the otaku demographic. Some have been to the Google offices. Neat. 
  3. Coming in 3rd was with 48 users.

About page for Source.

I'm not surprised by the type of users, since Mastodon is still a fringe techie thing. There are a few Korean articles, but not much. Here's a Korean-language sign-up guide but you can follow along with the screenshots:

Finally, this article suggests why Japan has so many users:
Hint: lolicon

Will I use Mastodon? No. Should you? Probably not. Neat idea, but I just don't realistically see it ever gaining traction in the real world. 

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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Kakao PLAIN blogging app shut down

Awhile back I made a post about a simple, lightweight blogging app by Kakao called "PLAIN." It was a decent app and had some nice social features, but never really caught on. Who blogs anymore?

Kakao PLAIN logo

Unsurprisingly, PLAIN (I write it uppercase because that's how they style it) has shut down. The official announcement says it already happened last Friday, August 18th:

2017년 8월 18일 서비스를 종료 합니다. 그동안 플레인과 추억을 쌓아올 수 있도록 함께해 주신 모든 분들께 진심으로 감사드립니다.
플레인 | PLAIN

If by some chance you had made some posts there, you can still get your data out via their backup tool. Between July 17 ~ Sept 18, 2017, visit and log-in with your Kakao account. Click the big BACKUP button, and the file will be emailed to you.

I wonder how much longer KakaoStory will stay viable. I think incorporating some of its functionality right into KakaoTalk, like keeping a feed of former profile photos, is the right move. And I'm pretty sure people only use Cheez to get those above-the-profile-thumbnail flourish things.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

MacGyver returns to Korea as "MacGybeer" in Tsingtao ads

This is actually pretty funny, but it's going to take some background, so stick with me here. 

Jung Sang-hoon as MacGybeer. Image: [술빤광고] 칭따오 요원 맥가이비어 YouTube screencap


If you're a gentleman of a certain age (like I am), you will remember watching a late 1980s TV show called MacGyver. MacGyver could get his way out of all kinds of difficult situations with his cunning genius and practical know-how. MacGyver was also popular in Korea; so much so that what we tend to call a Swiss army knife in English is known as a "MacGyver knife" (맥가이버칼) in Korean. 

Jung Sang-hoon

Meanwhile, there is currently a well-liked actor in Korea named Jung Sang-hoon (정상훈, more about him here and here), who has appeared in a few films, dramas, and travel shows. He also was featured on the Korean version of SNL, where he delighted fans with his mildly un-PC impression of speaking Chinese by repeating phrases like "양꼬치엔 칭따오" over and over. Literally, he just blabbers "Lamb skewers and Tsingtao!" to get a laugh (lamb skewers are thought of in Korea as a Chinese/Mongol originating food, and Tsingtao of course is a Chinese beer). You know this kind of joke. Like when somebody goes "Bonjour si vous play le enchante mon ami" pretending to speak French. Hey, when you're drunk on a Saturday night, this kind of stuff gets laughs. 

Anyway, you'd think this kind of gag would get him in hot water with the censors, or the social justice warriors, or at least with the Chinese, right? Nobody likes this offensive content, especially in today's charged climate. Right? 

You don't know Asia. 


Because it turns out, the Chinese company headquarters of Tsingtao got wind of this, and smelled some creative money-making opportunities. This led to Jung being hired as their local brand spokesman and appearing in a commercial for Tsingtao  that was essentially a parody of his own parody. 

Now what does this have to do with MacGyver? 

Tsingtao recently produced two hilarious commercials featuring him as a parody of the mulleted man himself. In these two "operations" (as he calls them), MacGyver, styled as "MacGybeer" (맥가이비어), uses his cunning problem-solving skills to utilize Tsingtao beer in some way, to eliminate the awkwardness of difficult moments. 

Let's take a look.

MacGybeer's first operation: the hweshik

In the first "operation," a mandatory business dinner (hweshik, 회식) isn't going well. The mood is boring. Everyone is checking their phones, and most don't want to be there. What can solve this problem? MacGybeer comes in, rigs up a Tsingtao-powered disco ball, and it's party time. While drinking responsibly, of course. 

Image: YouTube screencap

Putting the fun in your hweshik. Image: YouTube screencap

Here's the video:

MacGybeer's second operation: the date

In Operation #2, we have a date that's gone wrong. The perfect kiss moment was ruined by a power outage. No problem. MacGybeer appears, rigs up a Tsingtao chandelier, and the moment is saved.  

Putting the fun into your romantic tension. Image: YouTube screencap
Here's the video:

Commercial win

The message is clear. This beer can MacGyver you out of any awkward situation. Order one now!

I think they made a smart move here. Even in Korea, Chinese beer doesn't have the greatest image. By capitalizing on Jang's bit and awkward nostalgia, Tsingtao has gained tremendous exposure, well beyond that of the first ad. Everybody in my office was laughing at this stuff today. These two new ads have hit the viral sweet spot of being hilariously 오글오글. Everything about these ads is oily, greasy, over-the-top, awkward, and funny. I like how he starts randomly humming the song himself. Damn, that really was a great opening theme. I miss that show. 

Anyway, I always think of stuff like this when I hear the old idea that "Koreans aren't creative."

If you're still here, check out another of my favorite Korean commercials:

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New Kakao Friends store open in Busan

The first stand-alone Kakao Friends store outside of Seoul is now open in Busan (부산 플래그십 스토어). I say "stand alone" because there are other Kakao Friends store branches inside various department stores, but only Gangnam and Hongdae in Seoul, and now Busan, have their own fully-stocked, self-contained "flagship" stores.

The store is open everyday 10:30am~10:00pm.
The address is 부산 중구 광복로 62 (광복동2가).

Kakao Friends store in Busan. Image: Hankook Ilbo

There were other pop-up stores around Busan earlier. This new store is four floors of Kakao Friends fun. Each floor is apparently themed. The 1st floor is the RYAN ZONE for that lovable little lion. And the 4th floor is the Apeach Cafe.

People are already posting photos on SNS. For example you can get a good look at the Apeach Cafe which actually looks pretty nice if that's OK for someone like me to say:

A post shared by 연듀 (@yeonju_lim_) on

Here's the store location on a Google and Naver map:

지도 크게 보기
2017.8.21 | 지도 크게 보기 ©  NAVER Corp.

Have fun.

Kakao Friends - Welcome!

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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Twitter shows 안중근's bloody hand emoji for Liberation Day 2017

During this week, any tweets containing certain hashtags related to Korean Liberation Day will trigger a special emoticon to display: the bloodied hand of extremely famous Korean independence activist An Jung-geun.

Twitter promotion of the "Sliced Ring Finger" symbol. Image: Twitter

Here's that hand image up-close:

안중근 의사의 '잘라진 약지' 손도장 모양

Ahn cut off a portion of his own ring finger (the "잘라진 약지") as part of the "signing" of an oath to assassinate a very high ranked official of the Japanese occupation government -- an oath that he kept on October 26, 1909. You can read more about it on Wikipedia.

The emoji will display between August 11~16, 2017. You can trigger it by using one of these hashtags:

  • #광복절
    (Liberation Day)
  • #광복72주년
    (72nd Anniversary of Liberation)
  • #국가보훈처
    (Department of Veterans Affairs)
  • #나라사랑
    (Love of country)
  • #독립운동가
    (Independence activists)
  • #대한민국만세
    (Long Live Korea!)

If you want to learn more about the contest held to design this special emoji, check the Twitter Korea blog.

Here's a photo of Ahn:

An Jung-geun.JPG
By Unknown - Japanese book "Japan-Korea Annexation and Korean Independence Movement" published by Roudoukeizai Sha., Public Domain, Link

So tweet your K-pride this week, and let your bloody finger fly.

Finally, you may remember Twitter also offered a special "fire chicken" emoji during Lunar New Year.

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Monday, August 7, 2017

Links for April-July 2017

It's time for another link round-up. As always, if you follow me on Twitter, you probably already saw most of these. I should post these more often. This is a monster list.

Unlike today, Haeundae then was a rather remote village, almost an hour by car from the heart of Busan, where I worked as a translator at the Busan Cultural Center of the U.S. Embassy.
Shortly before noon, when we ― about 30 in number ― became a little tired with somewhat hard games under the warm sun and were ready for the picnic lunch prepared by some of the female employees, a police patrolman approached us and started talking with our group's leader.
The leader then shouted, asking us to return to the bus that brought us to the picnic site that morning. We all wondered what had happened and began to leave, some grumbling while others wondered if we had done something wrong.
It soon became clear when we returned to the bus why we had to give up the rest of our long-awaited picnic. Our leader solemnly informed us that earlier in the morning (June 25, 1950) North Korea launched a full-scale armed invasion of South Korea across the 38th parallel, which had divided the peninsula since August 1945.
Sunday clashes developed into full-scale war

According to SKB, there were initially two ways to connect to Facebook in Korea: via a direct connection to Facebook’s server in Hong Kong and via rerouting to a local cache server in Korea operated by local telecom provider KT ... Facebook currently pays KT to use its cache server ... SKB argued that Facebook deliberately cut off its link to KT’s faster cache server last December and has since been clashing over network maintenance issues. KT is currently the only Korean telecom firm that has set up a cache server for Facebook. Others, such as SKB and LG Uplus, have been accessing Facebook’s content using KT’s network. SKB has argued that Facebook blocked SKB from KT’s cache server, diverting its users to the slower Hong Kong server.
[News Focus] Facebook in dispute over Messenger app, network maintenance costs in Korea

Tip: be careful pronouncing "Easter" (부활). With a lazy tongue it comes out as 불알 which is a very different thing. Shock and laughs result.

SuperAction channel apparently celebrating Korean election with a "Good Presidents" marathon. Now: Air Force One. Next: Independence Day

What's the only drink size they allow in North Korea?
A supreme liter
What's the only drink size they allow in North Korea? : Jokes

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RSS feeds for the Korea Economic Daily

Here's a list of RSS feeds from The Korea Economic Daily (한국경제), a Korean English-language newspaper that focuses primarily on, you got it, the business/economics/IT.

This is just a copy/paste of their RSS feeds (from for reference, since feed links these days often disappear from frontpages despite the fact that they still work fine.

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Saturday, August 5, 2017

Naver's "X-eye" will filter adult content from live broadcasts

Real quick here. You know, Naver has a lot of neat tech projects going behind the scenes. I read a bit about them but honestly most are too dull to write about here or just not of general interest to an English-speaking audience. But here was something that caught my eye.

Naver uses an AI technique called X-eye to filter adult content from image search results. Big deal, right? But in a recent blog post there was one paragraph that really caught me:

최근 이미지 필터링 관련해 이슈가 되고 있는 것 중 하나는 인터넷 방송에서의 음란 이미지 노출인데, 네이버 X-eye의 경우 증가하고 있는 개인 인터넷 방송 상의 음란물을 실시간으로 모니터링할 수 있다는 장점 또한 가지고 있습니다. X-eye는 곧 동영상 컨텐츠에도 적용될 예정인데, 그렇게 되면 영상의 각 프레임들을 추출해 이미지와 동일한 방식으로 실시간 모니터링이 가능해지게 됩니다.
AI를 활용한 실시간 성인이미지 필터링 시스템, 네이버 X-eye

So, this tech can process live video streams (internet broadcasts), checking frames for nudity exposure, and then block the feed (차단하다) if it goes into over-19 territory. That's pretty impressive tech. Definitely has some censorship and false-alarm sticking points, but imagine the possibilities of this kind of tech:
  • Parent monitoring software, to ensure your teen daughter's videochats with her boyfriend don't get too steamy.
  • CCTV live monitoring. Imagine training the AI to recognize dangerous objects like knives. Still shots could be relayed to precincts and officers dispatched potentially in time to prevent murders like this or even this
  • Scanning Facebook Live streams for people crying, who may be in need of help. 
I don't know, just blue sky thinking through this, but I wouldn't be surprised if these kinds of things become the norm soon. 

By the way, the system would still make use of a  human 검수자 (quality control inspector) to examine image stills flagged by the AI as potentially containing nudity to make a human determination. I can think of a few guys I know who would be perfect for a job like that. 

Update: Oops, apparently this isn't exclusive news. Just realized it was also posted on Pulse News a few days ago: Naver applies AI technology to filter obscene images online - Pulse by Maeil Business News Korea

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English tutoring gigs on a map

If you're looking for a part-time English tutoring gig, here's a neat site called KocoTutor. It displays current listings for English tutor positions in and around the Seoul metro area, but does it on a nice clean minimal Google map. screenshot

You browse the map, you click the pin, you read the details in the pop-up box, and you like it, you click "E-mail" to contact the customer directly. Neat idea if you're a teacher looking for gigs in a specific area, say near your home or near another gig.

I know these kind of job listing boards are a dime a dozen, but this one impressed me enough to throw up a quick post about it. Very convenient and organized. Beats trolling ▷▶Craigslist◁◀ or WorknPlay. The little pop-up boxes contain just the relevant info. No bullshit. And you click through them easily. OK honestly, I just love maps and clicking pins on maps to get boxes, so this thing was right up my alley.

You can do a text search too, but just clicking around the map is simplest. The text results are the same map listings, just in clean sort-able columns.

When you see something you like, click the "Email" link and it will bring up a filled-in mail like this:

Auto-filled application email

Note that right now these listings are all part-time gigs only, and listings expire after 12 days. The admin says you need to specifically register with this site to post an ad, and these are for legit customers or schools, not just dragnetting recruiters. So hopefully you can avoid some of litter of other sites.

Here's the link if you want to check it out:
→ Koco - Hourly English Tutoring Jobs Map

Disclaimer: The guy who made this site is a reader and sent me the link to check out. He seemed like a nice guy, eager to promote his project, so I said I'd do a quick post about it here. That was 6 months ago. I finally got around to it this week. 
You should see all the requests I get for how to get the most mundane K-pop related stuff, like "Ohmona, there was a BTS live stage on Mnet on 2017-04-23 where Suga changed a lyric and I only have the 720p plz how can I get the 1080p" and I sit there looking at these messages wondering if they're even speaking English. I feel for you, kids, but I promise getting an even higher resolution isn't going to make your Senpai 멋진오빠 notice you. 

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Friday, August 4, 2017

Naver Whale browser now in English

Naver's web browser "Whale" is now available in English.

As of the latest beta version, the browser interface is nearly 100% in English. I'm talking menus, settings, everything. Not only that, but the Whale Store is in English and the formerly-defunct English version of the Whale download site is back and totally revamped.

Naver Whale English download page. Image: Naver

If you've been curious about Naver's crack at a Chrome-based browser, here's your chance to dive in deep. But you know me, I love screenshots, so let's take a look.

Naver Whale browser in English

New tab page

Naver Whale - New tab page (Eng.)
Overall, it looks pretty good. Above is the new tab page. Not a whole lot there, but you can see the URL bar tooltips, as others, are in English now.

Context menus

Whale's context menu (Eng.)

All (right-click) context menus are in English. Now we can see that "Belli" really is the name of the "whale tail icon" built-in note storage app (Naver's version of Google Keep). I mean come on, obviously you're storing stuff in the "belly" of the whale, right? Maybe they just went for a stylization. Anyway have fun, Jonah.

Site translation via Papago

Built-in Papago translation of page to English 

Once you're set to English, pages in Korean (like this Naver News entertainment article) will show a little Korean flag in the menu bar, next to the capture tool. Click it, and the browser will offer to translate the page into your language (and give the option of always auto-translating). Here you see the icon is a US/UK flag, and the page has been fully translated.

I think this is really a key competitive feature of Whale, and likely the real reason Papago recently upped their character limit for translations. Good, because Naver's oldie Site Translator sucked. With this, Whale can handle smooth and accurate Korean-to-English translations on-par with Chrome. I can see the legions of loyal K-pop/Hallyu fans adopting Whale en-masse now. Let's see if my prediction proves right. You read it here first.


Whale sidebar Music Player gadget

The little widget/mobile site tools in the Sidebar got translated too, including Belli and Bookmarks and even the Music Player. This is another feature that could potentially be attractive to K-pop fans. I don't have an account with these services so couldn't try it. My friends and I have, *cough*, other ways of getting music. Ahoy.


Whale settings page in English

All the settings are in English too. Here you can see the language settings. They're all like this. Go ahead and dig deep. You can see the dreaded "Plugin compatibility mode" there for all your online banking .exe and Active X files. There are a very few minor elements still in Korean, but I promise you won't even notice them.

Whale Store 

Whale Store in English

Even the Whale extensions store got an English facelift, and noticeably more extensions since the last time I checked it out. See that extension there about popular girl group Twice? Did I mention I think K-wave fans are going to be interested? Otherwise, I don't see many real stand-outs here, but it does now offer extension import/export. I don't have time to see if Chrome extensions can be manually added (some, like Google Keep and Google Calendar, can't be added via Chrome store). I doubt anyone cares too.

How to set it to English

Before you complain that yours is still in Korean, note that you're going to need to make sure you're running the latest version ( beta). I was still running 9.34 so didn't have the language change option.

If you're already running Whale in Korean, there's no need to download a new installer. Either wait for it to auto-update, or visit the info page (whale://about/) and it will download the update and show a button to restart the browser.

Whale "About" page: update downloaded and ready to apply

If you're a Mac user, that's it! It will automatically change to English based on your system language settings. Damn you, Apple users, and your simplistic ways.

If you're part of the PC master race, then after you've updated:

  1. Go to Settings > Webpage > Language (of course in Korean it's 설정 > 웹페이지 > 언어).
    Or if you're using Whale right now just go to this link: whale://settings/webpage#language-setting
  2. Drag the English (영어) option up to the top of the list. Not American English (미국영어), just the plain basic English. 
  3. Click the 3-dot menu icon on the right
  4. Click the checkbox (it says to set this language as the browser interface)
  5. Restart browser (you can easily do it by clicking the 재시작 후 적용 message that appears)

Changing the language settings

By the way, you may notice that under the 언어 추가 setting you can add a large variety of other languages. These are pretty useless right now (they just indicate to the website which version of a page you prefer; it doesn't affect the browser). But it's possible the corresponding interfaces could be added later. Maybe we'll see a Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, or Spanish version of Whale soon.

Why use Whale?

Over on Reddit, there was talk about why somebody would want to bother using this Whale browser, instead of Chrome. I'll repost it here, edited it a bit for clarity.

It really depends on your browsing habits. You might prefer Whale if:

  1. You do a lot of online banking, shopping, or appointment reservations in Korean on Korean sites. Whale has a special "compatibility mode" that helps facilitate plug-ins designed for IE to run on this Chromium browser. Another called "Swing browser" had this feature too. If you're just a normal expat just accessing your bank account, and your bank offers a Chrome plug-in or some .exe file, then you might be OK. But many more minor Korean shopping sites don't have anything like that, so Whale can fill in that gap until all Korean sites go plug-in free (don't hold your breath).
  2. You prefer Papago over Google Translate. Papago is actually decent and has potential. Again, it's more a personal preference.
  3. You really like multi-tasking. I'm fine with just keeping YouTube/Facebook in another tab, but I have to admit having them pinned on the side is helpful when they're essentially acting as background noise anyway for me. And for doing internet research, it helps to be able to take notes right there in the sidebar while seeing the page you're on.
  4. You use the Naver ecosystem already anyway, so all your visited sites, bookmarks, and logins are already synced there.

Whale has a specific audience in mind. It's not going to be a Chrome killer, but it can be a worthwhile Chrome replacement for certain users (i.e. mainly real Koreans). The English version can be a ploy to get more international K-pop fans into the Naver ecosystem, which can then data-mine their history/bookmarks for serving up ads, since that demographic is sometimes obsessed with buying Korean goods.

Download Whale now

If you don't have Whale yet, you can download it from the English download site here:

Or click the cute button bellow.

The installer will run in English, so no problem. Once installed, you can create and sign-in to a Naver account to sync all your settings. All of that in English. Boy, times have changed.

By the way, did I mention Whale may find a receptive audience among K-wave fans? Well Naver seems to agree and ran an entire little SNS contest to encourage (Korean) fans to K-popify their Whale installation

More about Whale

If you want to know more about what Whale is and what it can do, you check out some of my other recent posts:

Or these news sources:

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