If you read Metropolitician's site, then you know all about his latest venture, Yahae! magazine. And I say "latest" because he really does churn out an awful lot of projects.
I am ambivalent about this one. I have already said my peace about the title of the magazine over at ROK Drop...
“Yahae” seems like the kind of title a non-native Korean speaker would think sounds really edgy but a native Korean speaker would find very grating. At least one native Korean speaker concurred with that opinion, but that person is slightly conservative.Anyway, I'm putting up a post on this because somehow the Wall Street Journal's ROK(news)hound, Evan Ramstad, found out about the mag and decided to do a piece on it:
Anyway, nice to see Metro is putting up fashion photos of people who clearly know their picture is being taken. ...
But it’s your magazine to succeed with or fail, and I know I couldn’t convince you one way or the other. I think, however, you’re being a bit careless to dismiss anyone who might caution you against it as conservative and square, as some might enjoy the content but think the title itself may bring unnecessary stigma to your venture. Sometimes listening to critiques is a crucial step in success.
The South Korean media almost never miss the story when a Korean, or someone of Korean descent in another country, wins an international competition.I'm not so sure I agree with Mr Ramstad. If transgender/transsexual issues "don't jibe with South Korean cultural conservatism" to the point of mainstream media exclusion, then just what the heck was the whole Harisu phenomenon all about starting ten years ago?
But Han Min-i didn’t get much attention for winning the 2010 Miss International Queen Crown in Pattaya, Thailand, last fall. The beauty contest is for transgender/transsexual contestants, which doesn’t jibe with South Korean cultural conservatism that’s reinforced by its no-risk media.
Now, a new online fashion web site in Seoul called Yahae is trying to push the envelope. And in its first “issue,” Yahae over the next few weeks will publish a set of stories about the challenges faced by sexual minorities in Korea. Its cover photo features Ms. Han in shimmering silver.
Seriously, Harisu (하리수) was inescapable. The media followed her every move, with ubiquitous bikini pics, news stories, gossip columns, etc., etc. Even nudes (NSFW!). Even a tampon commercial (now, come on... that is edgy)! Most of the coverage was quite positive, and she was a hit. All in "conservative" South Korea, even in its most conservative mainstream media outlets.
So if there's anything that "doesn't jibe," it's Mr Ramstad's description of what has been going on. I'm not even sure if what he's saying about Han Mini "not getting much attention" is even true. Her name brings up 210K hits, and if you Google her name in Korean (한민희), 1위 (first place), and transgender (트랜젠더), you still get 18.5K results.
Granted, those aren't Harisu numbers (1.64 million!), but that could just be an indication of a relative lack of interest. I mean, seriously, are people required to be interested in a transgender beauty contest? Maybe, just maybe, the phenomenon is a bit old hat.
But that leads me to another point, and maybe I'll get flak for this, but to some degree, Metropolitician is engaging in something akin to cultural imperialism. He has decided that Korean society is too conservative and square because — in his view — there are few people who share in the envelope-pushing interests he has (e.g., acceptance of transgender people as exemplified by interest in international transgender beauty contests), and so he is going to foist it on them.
Now, to be fair, I may be making a facile judgement about Yahae! magazine based on what Mr Ramstad is writing about it. Mr Ramstad may have cherry-picked the most unrepresentative article in the early bunch and I shouldn't conclude anything from it. In fact, I do like some of the articles (the Korean-language HPV awareness one focuses on an academic interest of mine), and I think it is great that Metropolitician is able to create such a wide venue for his photography and fashion interests.
I do feel compelled to address one other thing. Frankly, as someone working his arse off to concurrently get a PhD and a master's degree while juggling some serious family issues, I would never label myself as a "professor" or effectively talk about my PhD as if I already have it. But Mr Ramstad seems to be elevating Metropolitician to such a level:
The founder and editor is Michael Hurt, an American professor in Seoul who is well known for his photography and advocacy of Korea’s budding fashion industry.I have utilized my master's degree to teach at two American universities and one Korean university, but I was a lecturer (강사), not a professor (교수), and I would correct people if they called me the latter. My résumé clearly says lecturer. If Metropolitician is teaching at a university that has given him the official title of kyosu, then so be it. But I'm skeptical, and PhDs are hard enough to earn that those who haven't yet done it (and I don't believe Metropolitician has, even though he talks about being "a Ph.D. candidate" from time to time) shouldn't be purloining that honor.
Actually, I do have a point that I wish I'd made some time ago, but if he hasn't completed his degree yet, it's still valid: at some point one is probably going to have to make a decision to pursue either these pet projects or the doctorate itself. Five years ago, Metropolitician wrote of being a PhD candidate, but he still seems to be no closer (I haven't heard or read anything about it). Either finish the doctorate or just admit that you've given up that goal and stop talking about it as if it's a credential you've accomplished. That's what you need to do to claim things like this:
I will be blunt – I am one of the most academically highly qualified and directly experienced foreign educators in Korea. Since I know that Korean society tends to respect credentials, I will begin there.I don't say this to be mean; I actually mean it as a form of tough love. My ex let herself get sidetracked from her master's degree for what turned out to be a very long sabbatical, and it was my egging her to just hunker down and actually do it or admit you've given up that nudged her back on track. It was tough, but she picked up the pieces again and finished it.
Okay, okay. This is beginning to sound like a Ramstad-Metro bash fest (not that I would ever be critical of Metro), but I don't mean it to be. I would really like to see Metropolitician's magazine succeed. Really. But I also would like him to realize that getting this project to the level of sustainability that others have not reached might require him listening to — and sometimes actually heeding — advice and constructive criticism that he in general is a bit loath to hear and follow.
And HERE, ladies and gentlemen, is the magazine's site itself. Go read.