Se-Woong Koo

Se-Woong Koo

Se-Woong Koo earned his Ph.D. from Stanford University and taught Korean studies at Stanford, Yale, and Ewha Women's University. He has written for The New York Times, Foreign Policy, and Al Jazeera

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When the Foreign Husband Is a Nepalese Labor Activist

Udaya Rai is a Nepalese citizen and president of the Seoul-Gyeonggi-Incheon Migrants’ Trade Union (MTU), one of the most visible organizations to fight for the rights of migrant workers in South Korea. I recently profiled him for Equal Times, a publication of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). But our

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Korea, Thy Name is Hell Joseon

One of the biggest scandals of 2010 involved Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan, whose own daughter was found to have mysteriously qualified for a plum job inside the ministry, presumably with the father’s backing. This itself would not have been ordinarily such big news in South Korea, but the timing

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When We Became Gangnam

There are a few things I cannot forget from my childhood: picking mugwort with my sexagenarian babysitter at a nearby park, to dry and put in bean-paste soup; delighting in a cheap candy ring that came in a range of bright shades so pretty I dared not eat it; a

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South Korean Evangelicals' Anal Obsession

“They enter into carnal relations with multiple people several times a night, and wipe the semen, shit, blood, and lymphatic fluid from anal sex with discarded towels on the floor. Each morning the whole room is full of such towels and condoms covered in blood and feces. […] They reuse the

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Men Who Yearn to Be Erect, and the Women Who Bear Them

He leans in and caresses her face. He plants his lips on hers. She opens her eyes wide, looking utterly surprised. Then she gives in, chastely closing her eyes as she keeps herself perfectly still. When I get around to watching a South Korean drama, this is more or less

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When the Elite Don't Care

K.R.K. for Korea Exposé If Park Geun-hye chooses you for prime minister, beware because your political career is in peril. That is the joke in South Korean cyberspace where the biggest topic is the nomination of Lee Wan-koo, former floor leader of the ruling Saenuri Party, as

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Say You Love Kimchi, And Nothing Else If You Want in

When a Palestinian student — an avid K-Pop fan at the time — said to me some years ago that she wanted to visit South Korea, I told her she should just videotape herself in her usual hijab and abaya gushing “I love Korea. I love kimchi”. Then the government

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Chaebol Nutcase: Welcome to a Feudal Aristocracy of the Orient

Once upon a time, in a faraway land called South Korea, Heather was working at her father’s airline company as a high-powered executive. One winter’s day, Heather went on a trip to America, where a flight attendant on her company-owned jet offered her a bag of macadamia nuts

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Thank God for LGBT Rights

Homosexuality equals AIDS. Incest. National doom. With such rousing words, on 20 November, South Korea’s Evangelical Christian lobby effectively scuttled Seoul’s human rights charter that had been in the making for months, chanting “Amen!” to obstruct discussion at a town hall meeting attended by Mayor Park Won-soon. But

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Disposable Workers of Hyper-Capitalist Korea

A call-center manager beats her subordinates with an umbrella at an office in Jongno, Seoul. She slaps them in the face over and over. She pushes them around till they cry. All for not selling enough magazine subscriptions. As a contributor to the publication of the International Trade Union Confederation,

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Ilbe: South Korea's Angry Young Men

A hundred people gorge on pizza and snacks in the heart of downtown Seoul. Nothing is wrong with that picture, except that they do it next to men and women who are fasting to protest government inaction in the aftermath of the Sewol sinking nearly a half year ago. South

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No Country for Old People: South Korea's Dire Problem of Elderly Poverty

Living in South Korea, I find it hard not to notice the old. The subway is full of them at every time of the day, presumably because seniors over the age of 65 get to use the system for free. It is difficult to take a seat because soon enough