Yeon J. Yue is an NYC-based photographer born in Seoul, South Korea, in 1979. After serving alongside US Air Force troops while in the Korean Air Force stationed at Osan Air Base, in the city of Pyeongtaek, South Korea, Yue became interested in documenting the lives of American military families. He came to America to attend Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, and went on to receive an MFA in photography from Columbia University. We talked with him about the family album as an art form, life on military bases, and the sometimes sad, ironic beauty of soldiers’ domestic lives.
 

South Korea’s Not-So-Subtle Racist Hiring Practices
Every year, hundreds of young English speakers drift into East Asia, looking to while away a couple of aimless years between college and the inevitable round of grad school applications that await them back home. Korea is an especially popular destination: The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education alone plans to hire 655 foreign teachers in 2014, a fraction of the 22,000 expat educators working in the country. But if you want to teach English in Korea, it’s a lot easier if you’re white.
For most would-be instructors, the racism begins before the even get through the door, thanks to the standard South Korean practice of requiring applicants to submit photos alongside their resumes. Some employers are more blunt: A recent Craigslist ad for English teachers from TalknLearn, a Seoul language academy, simply states, “Need: White” on its list of required qualifications. When black teachers do make it into the classroom, they’re often passed over in favor of their white counterparts.
“I’ve had kids pulled from my class and placed in Caucasian teachers’ classes due to the request of the parents wanting their child to learn from a white American and not a black one,” said Megan Stevinson, an American English teacher in Seoul, whose parents are black and Korean.
Continue

South Korea’s Not-So-Subtle Racist Hiring Practices

Every year, hundreds of young English speakers drift into East Asia, looking to while away a couple of aimless years between college and the inevitable round of grad school applications that await them back home. Korea is an especially popular destination: The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education alone plans to hire 655 foreign teachers in 2014, a fraction of the 22,000 expat educators working in the country. But if you want to teach English in Korea, it’s a lot easier if you’re white.

For most would-be instructors, the racism begins before the even get through the door, thanks to the standard South Korean practice of requiring applicants to submit photos alongside their resumes. Some employers are more blunt: A recent Craigslist ad for English teachers from TalknLearn, a Seoul language academy, simply states, “Need: White” on its list of required qualifications. When black teachers do make it into the classroom, they’re often passed over in favor of their white counterparts.

“I’ve had kids pulled from my class and placed in Caucasian teachers’ classes due to the request of the parents wanting their child to learn from a white American and not a black one,” said Megan Stevinson, an American English teacher in Seoul, whose parents are black and Korean.

Continue

North Korean Motorcycle Diaries

North Korean Motorcycle Diaries
Watch the new documentary now

North Korean Motorcycle Diaries

Watch the new documentary now

North Korean Motorcycle Diaries
For the past decade, New Zealanders Joanne and Gareth Morgan have been living the semiretired lifestyle of their dreams, traveling around the world on motorcycles alongside a few of their closest friends. They’ve traversed all seven continents on their bikes, with routes as varied as Venice to Beijing, Florida to northern Alaska, and South Africa to London, just to name a few. Gareth funds his own trips, many of which he uses to pursue philanthropic endeavors, particularly in the social-investment space. He is able to do so with money he’s made as an economist and investment manager—one who has earned the reputation for criticizing unethical practices in New Zealand’s financial-services industry.
In late August, the Morgans embarked on their most ambitious journey yet, at least physically. The real journey began years ago, when they decided they wanted to ride the Baekdudaegan, a mountain range that stretches the length of North and South Korea’s shared peninsula. After countless hours of negotiation and coordination with both governments, they were granted permission. It was, the Morgans believe, the first time anyone’s ever traveled through both countries like that since the partitioning of Korea in 1945. By making the trip they hoped to demonstrate how Koreans can come together over what they have in common. To symbolize this, the Morgans took some stones from Paektu, a holy mountain in the North, and brought them to Hallasan, a similarly sacred peak in the South.
Joanne and Gareth shot the entirety of their trip, the footage from which they have graciously allowed us to cut into a short film, which will air Tuesday, December 3 on VICE.com.
Watch the trailer

North Korean Motorcycle Diaries

For the past decade, New Zealanders Joanne and Gareth Morgan have been living the semiretired lifestyle of their dreams, traveling around the world on motorcycles alongside a few of their closest friends. They’ve traversed all seven continents on their bikes, with routes as varied as Venice to Beijing, Florida to northern Alaska, and South Africa to London, just to name a few. Gareth funds his own trips, many of which he uses to pursue philanthropic endeavors, particularly in the social-investment space. He is able to do so with money he’s made as an economist and investment manager—one who has earned the reputation for criticizing unethical practices in New Zealand’s financial-services industry.

In late August, the Morgans embarked on their most ambitious journey yet, at least physically. The real journey began years ago, when they decided they wanted to ride the Baekdudaegan, a mountain range that stretches the length of North and South Korea’s shared peninsula. After countless hours of negotiation and coordination with both governments, they were granted permission. It was, the Morgans believe, the first time anyone’s ever traveled through both countries like that since the partitioning of Korea in 1945. By making the trip they hoped to demonstrate how Koreans can come together over what they have in common. To symbolize this, the Morgans took some stones from Paektu, a holy mountain in the North, and brought them to Hallasan, a similarly sacred peak in the South.

Joanne and Gareth shot the entirety of their trip, the footage from which they have graciously allowed us to cut into a short film, which will air Tuesday, December 3 on VICE.com.

Watch the trailer

How a Group of Bikers from New Zealand Planned a Road Trip Across Korea’s DMZ
For the past decade, New Zealanders Joanne and Gareth Morgan have been living the semiretired lifestyle of their dreams, traveling around the world on motorcycles alongside a few of their closest friends. They’ve traversed all seven continents on their bikes, with routes as varied as Venice to Beijing, Florida to northern Alaska, and South Africa to London, just to name a few. Gareth funds his own trips, many of which he uses to pursue philanthropic endeavors, particularly in the social-investment space. He is able to do so with money he’s made as an economist and investment manager—one who has earned the reputation for criticizing unethical practices in New Zealand’s financial-services industry.
In late August, the Morgans embarked on their most ambitious journey yet, at least physically. The real journey began years ago, when they decided they wanted to ride the Baekdudaegan, a mountain range that stretches the length of North and South Korea’s shared peninsula. After countless hours of negotiation and coordination with both governments, they were granted permission. It was, the Morgans believe, the first time anyone’s ever traveled through both countries like that since the partitioning of Korea in 1945. By making the trip they hoped to demonstrate how Koreans can come together over what they have in common. To symbolize this, the Morgans took some stones from Paektu, a holy mountain in the North, and brought them to Hallasan, a similarly sacred peak in the South.
Joanne and Gareth shot the entirety of their trip, the footage from which they have graciously allowed us to cut into a short film that will premiere on VICE.com this month. In some ways, the footage makes the Korean coast look alternately like California, China, and Cuba. It’s a beautiful view few foreigners have seen, and even if planning the road trip straight through the Demilitarized Zone required working within parameters set by the highly choreographed and restricted confines of North-South Korean diplomacy, this was a journey worth documenting from start to finish.

The Morgans pay homage to Kim Il Sung, the “liberator” of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
VICE: Do you think negotiating your trip constituted a form of diplomacy? Would you like to be viewed as diplomats?Joanne Morgan: Gareth as a diplomat is actually quite funny. Gareth says exactly what he thinks, and I definitely wouldn’t put him into any diplomatic role.Gareth Morgan: With this trip, the real point [for us] was just to understand the Korean people. What spins their wheels? What’s their sense of identity? How are they handling this 68-year interruption to their 5,000-year history?Joanne: In the 80s, when I was standing in the DMZ on the south side looking across to the north, I saw a group of old men standing there gazing north and crying. It was very emotional and I couldn’t quite understand it. That’s always stayed with me, that huge longing that they had to reunite their families.
Continue

How a Group of Bikers from New Zealand Planned a Road Trip Across Korea’s DMZ

For the past decade, New Zealanders Joanne and Gareth Morgan have been living the semiretired lifestyle of their dreams, traveling around the world on motorcycles alongside a few of their closest friends. They’ve traversed all seven continents on their bikes, with routes as varied as Venice to Beijing, Florida to northern Alaska, and South Africa to London, just to name a few. Gareth funds his own trips, many of which he uses to pursue philanthropic endeavors, particularly in the social-investment space. He is able to do so with money he’s made as an economist and investment manager—one who has earned the reputation for criticizing unethical practices in New Zealand’s financial-services industry.

In late August, the Morgans embarked on their most ambitious journey yet, at least physically. The real journey began years ago, when they decided they wanted to ride the Baekdudaegan, a mountain range that stretches the length of North and South Korea’s shared peninsula. After countless hours of negotiation and coordination with both governments, they were granted permission. It was, the Morgans believe, the first time anyone’s ever traveled through both countries like that since the partitioning of Korea in 1945. By making the trip they hoped to demonstrate how Koreans can come together over what they have in common. To symbolize this, the Morgans took some stones from Paektu, a holy mountain in the North, and brought them to Hallasan, a similarly sacred peak in the South.

Joanne and Gareth shot the entirety of their trip, the footage from which they have graciously allowed us to cut into a short film that will premiere on VICE.com this month. In some ways, the footage makes the Korean coast look alternately like California, China, and Cuba. It’s a beautiful view few foreigners have seen, and even if planning the road trip straight through the Demilitarized Zone required working within parameters set by the highly choreographed and restricted confines of North-South Korean diplomacy, this was a journey worth documenting from start to finish.

The Morgans pay homage to Kim Il Sung, the “liberator” of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

VICE: Do you think negotiating your trip constituted a form of diplomacy? Would you like to be viewed as diplomats?
Joanne Morgan:
 Gareth as a diplomat is actually quite funny. Gareth says exactly what he thinks, and I definitely wouldn’t put him into any diplomatic role.
Gareth Morgan: With this trip, the real point [for us] was just to understand the Korean people. What spins their wheels? What’s their sense of identity? How are they handling this 68-year interruption to their 5,000-year history?
Joanne: In the 80s, when I was standing in the DMZ on the south side looking across to the north, I saw a group of old men standing there gazing north and crying. It was very emotional and I couldn’t quite understand it. That’s always stayed with me, that huge longing that they had to reunite their families.

Continue

Soju Is Responsible for the South Koreans Passed Out In the Streets
Soju doesn’t waste time. It cuts straight to the point and gets you drunk very quickly. This is something I’ve known since I was 16, when I was an underage drinking Korean-American teen growing up in Queens. But this concept didn’t fully register until I moved to Seoul for a short stint three years ago. It was my first night in South Korea’s capital city. I tagged along with my cousin and his crew of hard drinking buddies to hit the crowded streets that surround Kang-Nam Station. One of Seoul’s most frequented subway stops, the area was packed with bars filled with endless herds of partygoers who assemble there to partake in one of Korea’s national pastimes—getting sauced.
 
It was a sober hour in the early evening when our group hatched a plan for the drunken night ahead of us. Shortly before 7 PM, the sun was still out and the streets were teeming with thirsty imbibers, the cramped packs of competition in our race to grab a table at the closest bar. I took a moment to soak up my environment. For the first time, I was living in my parents’ homeland, where everyone looked like me and I was naturally supposed to blend in. This was the place where I was supposed to feel as one with my fellow Koreans, who I could connect with if we all sang Arirang, in a made-for-TV moment in my imagination. But the reality was a lot of drunk-ass people roaming the streets. 
Continue

Soju Is Responsible for the South Koreans Passed Out In the Streets
Soju doesn’t waste time. It cuts straight to the point and gets you drunk very quickly. This is something I’ve known since I was 16, when I was an underage drinking Korean-American teen growing up in Queens. But this concept didn’t fully register until I moved to Seoul for a short stint three years ago. It was my first night in South Korea’s capital city. I tagged along with my cousin and his crew of hard drinking buddies to hit the crowded streets that surround Kang-Nam Station. One of Seoul’s most frequented subway stops, the area was packed with bars filled with endless herds of partygoers who assemble there to partake in one of Korea’s national pastimes—getting sauced.
 
It was a sober hour in the early evening when our group hatched a plan for the drunken night ahead of us. Shortly before 7 PM, the sun was still out and the streets were teeming with thirsty imbibers, the cramped packs of competition in our race to grab a table at the closest bar. I took a moment to soak up my environment. For the first time, I was living in my parents’ homeland, where everyone looked like me and I was naturally supposed to blend in. This was the place where I was supposed to feel as one with my fellow Koreans, who I could connect with if we all sang Arirang, in a made-for-TV moment in my imagination. But the reality was a lot of drunk-ass people roaming the streets. 

Continue

Fake Funerals in South Korea
Despite its booming economy, the people of South Korea have never been more unhappy. With an average of 43 suicides per day, it’s the suicide capital of the developed world and Asia’s unhappiest nation.Unsurprisingly, this apparent paradox has provoked much soul-searching within South Korea. A result of this is the “Well Dying”—or “Near Death”—movement, which aims to give people a little taste of death to replenish their appetite for life.Perhaps the most bizarre manifestation of this movement is the rise of “fake funeral” services, where participants are lectured by a philosophical guru and told to write their own eulogies, before spending 30 minutes meditating inside a coffin.VICE Japan correspondent Yuka Uchida headed to Seoul to try to experience her own “death” at a fake funeral ceremony.
Watch the documentary

Fake Funerals in South Korea

Despite its booming economy, the people of South Korea have never been more unhappy. With an average of 43 suicides per day, it’s the suicide capital of the developed world and Asia’s unhappiest nation.

Unsurprisingly, this apparent paradox has provoked much soul-searching within South Korea. A result of this is the “Well Dying”—or “Near Death”—movement, which aims to give people a little taste of death to replenish their appetite for life.

Perhaps the most bizarre manifestation of this movement is the rise of “fake funeral” services, where participants are lectured by a philosophical guru and told to write their own eulogies, before spending 30 minutes meditating inside a coffin.

VICE Japan correspondent Yuka Uchida headed to Seoul to try to experience her own “death” at a fake funeral ceremony.

Watch the documentary

South Korean Parents Are Making Their Kids Get Plastic Surgery
As I’m sure you’ll know by now, plastic surgery is a pretty big deal in South Korea. Remember last week when those photos popped up of all the South Korean beauty-pageant contestants who looked exactly the same? Everyone was all, “Hey, those guys sure do love their surgery,” with a brief chuckle, before moving on to autotuned Charles Ramsey videos and forgetting about the whole thing. Then, of course, the internet lost itsshit in a monsoon of moral outrage and started to scrutinize why Korean girls are trying to look more Western and how awful that all is.      
I decided to call up my girl Sparkles (not her real name), who recently returned to live in her home city of Seoul, to find out what the reaction there was like to all this commotion. Turns out the plastic surgery trend has already become a running joke, with girls laughing about the fact they probably all have the same doctor and teasing each other about not having their eyelids torn apart enough.  
She also told me something else slightly worrying. Parents are pressuring their daughters into having cosmetic procedures. It all starts to get a little dark when weapons-grade stage moms are guilt-tripping their daughters into splicing up their faces. Anyway, here’s that chat.
VICE: What’s the surgery scene like nowadays?Sparkles: We have trends, like to tear the inner corner of the eye so it’s more almond shaped. Or, for a while, it was liposuction and putting that fat into your forehead. It’s hard to say if they’re conforming to a Western ideal of beauty, though—no one will take a photo of a caucasian celebrity to the surgeon and ask for that. That idea may have started off only because white people generally have taller noses and larger eyes, so it’s easy to describe it as a Western look, but no one in Korea will say they want to look Western. In Korea, we call doing your eyes and nose the “basics.” They’re the standard procedures.
That sounds like you’re ordering a burger; “I’ll just get the basics, thanks.”Yeah. Like, “Oh, you haven’t even gotten plastic surgery yet? You should get the basics!” That’s nothing. So many people do it that it’s got to the point where people say things like, “But you only got your eyes and your nose done, it’s not a big deal.” 
Continue

South Korean Parents Are Making Their Kids Get Plastic Surgery

As I’m sure you’ll know by now, plastic surgery is a pretty big deal in South Korea. Remember last week when those photos popped up of all the South Korean beauty-pageant contestants who looked exactly the same? Everyone was all, “Hey, those guys sure do love their surgery,” with a brief chuckle, before moving on to autotuned Charles Ramsey videos and forgetting about the whole thing. Then, of course, the internet lost itsshit in a monsoon of moral outrage and started to scrutinize why Korean girls are trying to look more Western and how awful that all is.      

I decided to call up my girl Sparkles (not her real name), who recently returned to live in her home city of Seoul, to find out what the reaction there was like to all this commotion. Turns out the plastic surgery trend has already become a running joke, with girls laughing about the fact they probably all have the same doctor and teasing each other about not having their eyelids torn apart enough.  

She also told me something else slightly worrying. Parents are pressuring their daughters into having cosmetic procedures. It all starts to get a little dark when weapons-grade stage moms are guilt-tripping their daughters into splicing up their faces. Anyway, here’s that chat.

VICE: What’s the surgery scene like nowadays?
Sparkles: We have trends, like to tear the inner corner of the eye so it’s more almond shaped. Or, for a while, it was liposuction and putting that fat into your forehead. It’s hard to say if they’re conforming to a Western ideal of beauty, though—no one will take a photo of a caucasian celebrity to the surgeon and ask for that. That idea may have started off only because white people generally have taller noses and larger eyes, so it’s easy to describe it as a Western look, but no one in Korea will say they want to look Western. In Korea, we call doing your eyes and nose the “basics.” They’re the standard procedures.

That sounds like you’re ordering a burger; “I’ll just get the basics, thanks.”
Yeah. Like, “Oh, you haven’t even gotten plastic surgery yet? You should get the basics!” That’s nothing. So many people do it that it’s got to the point where people say things like, “But you only got your eyes and your nose done, it’s not a big deal.” 

Continue

North Korea Is Open for Business (Sort of) - The Hermit Kingdom Wants Unity and Peace with South Korea
If North Korea didn’t exist, all those Kremlinolgists who were made redundant at the end of the Cold War would be lost without a trail of mystic socialist smoke-signals to semi-religiously divine meaning from. But luckily it does—Hooray!—so for now at least we can keep staring deep into Kim Jong Un’s pudgy, crystal-ball shaped head and continue second-guessing the obscure intentions of the eccentric, autocratic regime that built its people a world-class dolphinarium before it gave them a decent set of roads.


Yesterday Kim, now the world’s youngest leader, broke the silent tradition of his reclusive father and made a New Year’s speech to the people of North Korea, filling them in on his plans for a totally awesome 2013. It was the first time the country has been addressed directly by one of its autocratic czars in almost 20 years, and it seems the gesture was appreciated. The country’s recent rocket launch on December 12 captured the imaginations of the global media and gave North Korean morale an interstellar boost. Despite rumors that the satellite, after making it into orbit, hasn’t been functioning, Kim still felt emboldened enough to let the metaphor of space exploration underscore his rhetoric for a year of new frontiers back here on Earth.

He even gave 2013 a long and clumsy space-themed slogan: “Let us bring about a radical turn in the building of an economic giant with the same spirit and mettle as we displayed in conquering space!” Now, not to be a party pooper or anything, but it took China two decades to turn around its backward peasant economy into the global economic powerhouse it is today, so as North Korea analyst Stephen Haggard pointed out, any talk of miraculously becoming the next Hong Kong, Singapore, or *whisper it* South Korea in just one year is little more than the excited talk of an overly enthusiastic young man whose dad gave him the keys to a clapped-out old banger of a nation before he’d even learned how to drive.


Continue

North Korea Is Open for Business (Sort of) - The Hermit Kingdom Wants Unity and Peace with South Korea

If North Korea didn’t exist, all those Kremlinolgists who were made redundant at the end of the Cold War would be lost without a trail of mystic socialist smoke-signals to semi-religiously divine meaning from. But luckily it does—Hooray!—so for now at least we can keep staring deep into Kim Jong Un’s pudgy, crystal-ball shaped head and continue second-guessing the obscure intentions of the eccentric, autocratic regime that built its people a world-class dolphinarium before it gave them a decent set of roads.



Yesterday Kim, now the world’s youngest leader, broke the silent tradition of his reclusive father and made a New Year’s speech to the people of North Korea, filling them in on his plans for a totally awesome 2013. It was the first time the country has been addressed directly by one of its autocratic czars in almost 20 years, and it seems the gesture was appreciated. The country’s recent rocket launch on December 12 captured the imaginations of the global media and gave North Korean morale an interstellar boost. Despite rumors that the satellite, after making it into orbit, hasn’t been functioning, Kim still felt emboldened enough to let the metaphor of space exploration underscore his rhetoric for a year of new frontiers back here on Earth.


He even gave 2013 a long and clumsy space-themed slogan: “Let us bring about a radical turn in the building of an economic giant with the same spirit and mettle as we displayed in conquering space!” Now, not to be a party pooper or anything, but it took China two decades to turn around its backward peasant economy into the global economic powerhouse it is today, so as North Korea analyst Stephen Haggard pointed out, any talk of miraculously becoming the next Hong Kong, Singapore, or *whisper it* South Korea in just one year is little more than the excited talk of an overly enthusiastic young man whose dad gave him the keys to a clapped-out old banger of a nation before he’d even learned how to drive.



Continue