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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
*dies laughing* Worst part? They're serious!!! 
23rd-Aug-2005 03:09 pm
Though, before I start mocking what is so abundantly-available in this article to mock, I must note that it effectively makes South Korea look like one of the more pathetic and laughable countries in the world. I wonder why...? Political agenda? Nah. This is The New York Times, after all.

Still, the Hallyu hasn't touched the shores of the East Coast quite yet, that's for sure. Not surprising that Americans, who know next to nothing about Korea besides the DMZ and Hyundai and Samsung, are more eager to read about Korean idiocy than Korean advancement:

A Tourism Plan's Itsy-Bitsy, Teeny-Weeny Miscalculation

The New York Times
August 23, 2005

BYEONSAN BIKINI BEACH, South Korea - It seemed like a good idea, a surefire way to catapult this beach into the ranks of Bali and Waikiki: a 10 percent discount for anyone in a bikini.

It all started back in 2003 when local officials here, racking their brains over how to lure visitors to this stretch on South Korea's rural west coast, decided that a name change was due. Byeonsan Beach was reborn, with "Bikini" in its name.

While the change might not persuade modest locals of the merits of bikinis or Speedos overnight, the reasoning went, it could attract less inhibited visitors from Seoul. But after droves of bikini-wearers failed to turn up last year, the locals had to come up with something else.

"Since it's called Bikini Beach, we thought we should give visitors an extra incentive," said Gang Heung Ueon, a spokesman for Buan County, sitting at a beachside fish restaurant specializing in clam porridge and raw cod.

A poster of a bikini-clad woman in the restaurant explained the new incentive, in effect since July 7: "Show off your bikini! Get a 10 percent discount on top!"

Of the 45 restaurants, motels and other businesses in the area, 38 were participating. But so far, bikinis have proven elusive, Mr. Gang said. Only 10 percent of beachgoers have opted for skimpiness, he said - a figure that, on later inspection, seemed a stretch.

Still, on a recent Saturday, expectations were high. The Miss Byeonsan Bikini Contest - called the Miss Byeonsan Beauty Contest until last year - was taking place. The contestants themselves would at least wear bikinis, or so went the promise.

"This beach might be compared one day to Bali or to other famous beaches in Southeast Asia," Mr. Gang said.

"It's," he added, "a long-term goal."

Byeonsan, like other local governments in the country, had little need to conceive of creative ideas until a decade ago. The central government had simply appointed administrators from Seoul to run local governments until 1995, providing little incentive for local officials to try to stand out.

But now "a lot of creative ideas are coming out of the regions from ambitious politicians who want to move on to higher office," said Ahn Young Hoon, a scholar at the Korea Research Institute for Local Administration.

Suffering a scarcity of industries and depopulation, rural areas are trying to create a distinct image - a "C.I.," or "company identity," in the jargon popular among local government officials - to attract tourists and investors. The word "amenity," used in English and unfathomable to most Koreans, has become the guiding principle for several local governments.

"You look behind the times if you don't use it at least three times in a presentation," Park Hyung Jae, a spokesman for the Namhae County government on the peninsula's southeastern shore, said of the "amenity" catchphrase.

After - or perhaps despite - looking up the word in a dictionary, Mr. Park concluded that it meant "regional, agricultural, environmentally friendly, pollution-free, primitive, natural, pure." The county now boasts of its "green amenity."

"It's now familiar because nowadays we use it as often as we eat kimchi," Mr. Park said, mentioning Korea's national dish.

In Seocheon County, directly north of here, "Amenity Seocheon" is the motto used to advertise the region's unspoiled wilderness. The county also proposed a dog-eating festival for lovers of the meat, which is considered a delicacy in Korea.

"But some pet-lovers opposed the idea and we dropped it," said Lee Jin Hee, a county official.

Byeonsan County, too, drew opposition from a women's group after announcing its bikini discount, Mr. Gang said.

Under a blazing sun, with many local men in shirts and trousers and women holding parasols, the bikini contest began at 2 p.m. on the beach. A few dozen local young women appeared on stage, wearing cancan dresses and then changing into one-piece swimsuits.

Few women in bikinis or men in Speedos could be seen on the beach. When asked about their choice of swimwear, several women in bikinis ran away.

"A lot of women won't wear bikinis because they don't want to get sunburned," said Choi Eun Jeong, 28, who wore a bikini but had not received the discount yet.

"I think it would have been better as a nude beach," her boyfriend, Lee Woo Ho, 32, added, drawing an angry glance.

The beauty contestants, still in their one-piece swimsuits, showed off their talents. A few sang. One would-be flight attendant gave airplane information in Korean, Japanese and English. Another walked suggestively around the stage. An especially tall contestant danced a sexy dance, towering over the M.C., who compared her to an eel.

Watching the contest, standing atop a five-inch mound of sand he had built, Byun Young Il, 35, bemoaned the fact that few men had chosen to wear the same kind of short swimsuit briefs he was wearing.

"In reality, it's better for Korean men to wear Speedos because their legs tend to be short and it makes them look taller," Mr. Byun said, a cigarette pack and orange lighter sticking out of the back of his briefs. "But they tend to be shy."

Professional models came on stage, sporting bikinis and swimsuit briefs. But as the bikini contest unfolded, chances that it would live up to its billing seemed to dim.

At the grocery store where Roh Yong Hwan, 24, worked, only about 10 people had asked for the discount since it went into effect.

"If what they're wearing is a little skimpy, or if they're at least wearing a bikini top, we'll give them the discount," Mr. Roh said.

The contest, as well as this summer day, was nearing its end. The beachgoers began packing up their belongings. The eel woman was crowned "Miss Byeonsan Bikini Beach."

And the bikini, as elusive as ever, would be for another summer day.


*howls with laughter* They're trying to sell bikinis to a people who carry parasols on their way through the parking lot to the car and think that any shorts or skirts that hit above the knee are scandalous!

*continues to chortle* They think the word amenity means, "regional, agricultural, environmentally friendly, pollution-free, primitive, natural, pure."

Man-oh-man, how in the heck did I survive there? *shakes head* How did I survive? (^^;
23rd-Aug-2005 07:44 pm (UTC)
sitting at a beachside fish restaurant specializing in clam porridge and raw cod.

I think I know what the REAL problem is in attracting foreign tourists ^^;;

"I think it would have been better as a nude beach," her boyfriend, Lee Woo Ho, 32, added, drawing an angry glance.

And that, was my very thought as well ^_~
23rd-Aug-2005 07:50 pm (UTC)
I think I know what the REAL problem is in attracting foreign tourists ^^;;

I think they're trying to attract *domestic* ones, never mind foreign tourists. Off the beaten path in Seoul, there really isn't *that* much in the way of amenities available for foreign tourists in the first place.

And that, was my very thought as well ^_~

*shakes head* It would never fly in Korea, for the same reasons that the bikini beach isn't. :P
23rd-Aug-2005 08:02 pm (UTC)
*shakes head* It would never fly in Korea, for the same reasons that the bikini beach isn't. :P

Yeah really, if they're too reserved for skimpy bathing suits in public, total nakedness probably would have even less popularity.. Probably part of that damn Catholic infiltration ^_^;;
23rd-Aug-2005 09:26 pm (UTC)
*snorts* It has nothing to do with Catholicism. Think Neo-Confucianism. Not to mention a tradition of swathes of baggy clothing.
23rd-Aug-2005 10:29 pm (UTC)
Darn that Confucius!! So the missionaries didn’t have to go about teaching people to be ashamed and cover their bodies >_< I think Thailand has some good beaches anyway....
24th-Aug-2005 12:47 am (UTC)
Korea prides itself on being the most Confucian country in the world, but I don't know how much truth there is to that. At the very least, there really is no tradition of female power/defiance as even there is in China and Japan.

Though traditional Thai dress for women is about restricted movement, as it is in China and Japan. Korea's the only country in Asia that goes for the "hide the body" route.
24th-Aug-2005 09:31 am (UTC)
I think traditional Thai dress was pretty lax really when you consider it was usually made up of two wraps of silk. One that goes around the woman's breasts and the other around her legs, leaving lots of exposed flesh.

It was only in the Fifth dynasty, very recent, that shirts came into fashion for women via WEstern influence of course.
24th-Aug-2005 11:10 am (UTC)
One that goes around the woman's breasts and the other around her legs, leaving lots of exposed flesh.

It restricts the movement of the legs though, doesn't it?
24th-Aug-2005 11:31 am (UTC)
Honestly? I'm not sure it did. There are paintings of women from that time doing everything from carrying water jars to harvesting the rice fields in those long skirt-like things. Even the historical dramas where actresses re-enact those scenes seem to be done easily.

And later on, women wrapped the length of fabric between their legs to create something that looked like knee length trousers not only for doing housework but for battle as well.
24th-Aug-2005 11:35 am (UTC)
I'm just going by what friends in college told me. Taiwanese, Japanese, Thai, and Korean students were discussing the traditional dress of their respective countries, and they all noted, except for the Korean girl, of course, that their dress requires that you take little "feminine" steps. ^^;
24th-Aug-2005 11:41 am (UTC)
You certainly can't run in a traditional dress, but it's all right for movement around the house. Most of the activities require free hands and arms, which is probably why sleeves didn't exist in Thai dress.
24th-Aug-2005 11:45 am (UTC)
You certainly can't run in a traditional dress

*chuckles* That's what they were talking about. My Japanese friend, Chris Katano (you look a bit like her, incidentally), talked about how, when women wear a kimono, because they can't run, when they're hurrying they lean forward as they walk quickly...as if leaning forward will get them faster.
24th-Aug-2005 11:55 am (UTC)
Okay, let me play devil's advocate here^^ But this theory that because you can't run in a dress, means you are not free seems a bit extreme to me.

A multi-layered kimono is restricting movement, an arab Darra'ah is restricting in its floor-length and long sleeves fashion. But just saying that you're not wearing pants means it's a male conspiracy to confine you to the house is taking it a little too far. If women couldn't go out of the house in the past, it was more because of ridiculous notions of physical fragility and impropriety.

The dress was only an accessory, not the real reason for women being locked up in their houses.
24th-Aug-2005 12:01 pm (UTC)
Well, I would argue that skirts in general, whether tight or lose, are about restricting movement. As your many complaints about them evince, they do not allow for as much freedom of movement as pants, and while that doesn't mean you are confined to the house in a chair just because you're wearing a skirt, a skirt makes certain types of work impractical. Would you go hunting through the underbrush in a skirt, for example? Probably not, as it would get caught on things. Would you go fishing on open water? Maybe not; the fabric might drag you down if you fell in. And so forth.
24th-Aug-2005 12:05 pm (UTC)
I agree of course, but I think what I'm trying to say is that citing clothing as a primary example of chauvanism seems like we're only scratching the surface of the real problem for women. *shrugs* Guess I'm a little tired of seeing it cited again and again, even if it's true^^
24th-Aug-2005 12:07 pm (UTC)
citing clothing as a primary example of chauvanism

Heh. When did I say I was?

This whole bikini beach gimmick is more exploitative than traditional Thai, or Korean, dress.
24th-Aug-2005 12:16 pm (UTC)
Not you^^ I was just thinking about other instances of discussing the clothing issues with other people.

And I didn't comment on the bikini thing because it's simply too ridiculous for words^_^
24th-Aug-2005 12:18 pm (UTC)
And I didn't comment on the bikini thing because it's simply too ridiculous for words^_^

It's like they're trying to become fashionable vacation hotspot...except the beachgoers aren't complying. I love it. :P
24th-Aug-2005 12:26 pm (UTC)
In a conservative country like that? Honestly, what were they thinking? Ot were they thinking at all.
24th-Aug-2005 12:30 pm (UTC)
Ot were they thinking at all.

Apparently not. I can't believe that the local government would come up with a scheme like that. Guess it just goes to show you that the Korean government is detached from its own populace. I could say the same of my own, actually.
24th-Aug-2005 12:41 pm (UTC)
A lot of politicians and governments seem to be divorced from the people these days. With the often bad results that occur from such things.
24th-Aug-2005 12:50 pm (UTC)
*groans* Don't get me started. When I hear a politician saying something that *actually* reflects my views these days, I rejoice. Most of the time, they are "bicycling to nowhere," as Maureen Dowd puts it.
23rd-Aug-2005 07:58 pm (UTC)
It's better to laugh. I...there are so few words for much they just don't get it.
23rd-Aug-2005 09:50 pm (UTC)
I think I'm close to tears at this point...
24th-Aug-2005 05:21 am (UTC)
South Korea is like the drunk uncle of Asia, concocting grand schemes while mumbling incoherently and passing out halfway through.

'Amenity' ::chortles::
24th-Aug-2005 11:11 am (UTC)
'Amenity' ::chortles::

Thank goodness I didn't ever see that usage while I was there. I would've been asking questions, and it would not have been good. :P
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