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
By NORIMITSU ONISHI
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? (^^;