Korea This Week: October 23rd – 29th

In Korea This Week: a good K-drama remake, airport plastic surgery clinic struggles for liftoff, and the new taboo on penis touching


Coffee, Newspaper, and a Face Lift?

One of the things I love about Korea is how fast you can get certain things done. Repairmen often come the day you call them. Products ordered online cross the country in a day or two. Fried chicken is rushed to your door by a motorbike driver with a loose interpretation of traffic laws.

The list goes on, but a plan by Incheon International airport to open a plastic surgery clinic seems to have pushed the quick service concept a bit too far. The idea was to open the clinic in the transfer area, so that patients could receive treatment without having to pass through immigration and officially enter the country.

The plan has recently encountered some turbulence from Korean medical industry organizations, who have raised the rather excellent question of what would happen in cases where patients were not able to fly soon after their procedures, and it was further hampered by a lack of doctors willing to move in to the space designated for the clinic.

No word yet from prospective patients on whether they would consider doing something like this, but it doesn’t seem likely to fly.

When boarding an airplane, it is also helpful to resemble the person in your passport photo

The Good Remake

An American remake of the Korean drama The Good Doctor recently edged The Big Bang Theory as the most-watched Monday drama in the US. The new series, which focuses on a young autistic doctor with Savant Syndrome, has been extended to a full season of episodes.

The Good Doctor is only the second Korean drama given a remake by American producers, and is arguably the first one to show promise. The first K-drama remake, ABC’s Somewhere Between (based on the K-drama “God’s Gift”), failed to garner high ratings, but has yet to be cancelled or renewed for a second season.

Hollywood has long been mining Korean cinema, with mixed results. Spike Lee’s remake of Park Chan-wook’s masterpiece Old Boy was one notable flop. This 2013 piece in the Guardian notes some of the reasons why they often fall short.

Freddie Highmore plays Dr. Shaun Murphy, a surgeon with autism and Savant Syndrome in The Good Doctor

This Headline is a Grabber

Aaaaand the headline of the week belongs to this article in the Jeju Weekly titled “Touching a Boy’s Penis Was Once Part of the Korean Culture, But Now It Became a Crime”.

The piece refers to the once-common practice of mostly older Korean folks touching a young boy’s penis in an innocent way, perhaps (admittedly very roughly) analogous to the Western practice of tousling a kids’ hair, and how it is now considered to be unacceptable to younger generations, who are more likely to be taught that such contact, even if intended innocently, is always inappropriate.

Several people have run afoul of these new norms, including a guest on the show Running Man, who grabbed actor Choi Min-yong’s frank and beans during a playful wrestling match.

The article also refers to the rapidly disappearing practice of commissioning full-frontal portraits of male babies. Having a baby boy in Korea was for a long time a very big deal; so much so that the parents would shoot the baby’s first portrait with the proof his gender visible, front-and-center. There was one such portrait on display in the window of a photo shop I used to walk by every day in my old neighborhood – a small but pointed reminder that Korea was different from the place I had left.

A completely gratuitous photo of small weiners

And how was your week?