Weighing in on the Park Bom controversy

There are two reasons I’m writing this. The first reason, I’ll talk about a little later. The second reason is that I had trouble finding articles that explained the situation in a way that made sense to me. I don’t dislike Park Bom or 2NE1, but I’m not an active fan of either. Still, I think that some of the articles available in English about Park Bom’s “smuggling” issue use weighted, confusing, and stigmatizing language. Like many fans of South Korean TV who live in the US, I’m not Korean and don’t read or speak Korean. (This is one of the reasons I haven’t attempted any recaps yet; I don’t realize certain things are puns, cultural references  or pop-culture parodies, and I think it’s more interesting to read recaps by people who can point those things out.) Anyway, it took me reading several articles and comments about the issue to understand some of the finer points of what had happened.

This is what I understand. Four years ago, Park Bom, who spent a large part of her life in the US, received what is an illegal medication in Korea through the mail. She was investigated for drug smuggling but her case was suspended because she had a prescription in the US and was aware the drug was not available in Korea but didn’t understand it was illegal there. When this issue came out, a statement was written by her company president explaining that Park Bom had problems with depression, and she’d tried going without the medicine but found that other medications didn’t help her as much.

I’m not pretending I know anything about why she received the medication, whether she really was planning to use it to control a medical condition, or whether privilege played any part in her not being prosecuted. I do, however, think that many people who read articles are jumping to conclusions based on not having all the information.

The Name

The articles I read say that Park Bom was shipped 82 pills of “amphetamine.” This sounds pretty damning even if you live in a country where these pills are prescribed, because the only context one tends to hear amphetamine mentioned in is talking about illegal drugs like Speed and Meth-Amphetamine. I don’t know if people realize how many legal medications there are that share chemical features with illegal drugs, but there are tons. I once failed an employment drug test because I tested positive for barbiturates: it turned out to be my seizure medication, Phenobarbital, which is a barbiturate but is used legally as an anti-epileptic. So I think it would be better to be specific: she was sent Adderall, also known as amphetamine salts, which is available by prescription in the US.

The Use

Adderall is a commonly abused drug. It can help you stay up longer, focus longer, and lose weight, and therefore is a common “study drug.” Many have suggested that Park Bom receiving 82 pills is a clue that she was abusing the medication. Also, if you go the Wikipedia page, it will tell you in the first few sentences that Adderall is prescribed for ADHD and Narcolepsy, mentioning nothing about depression. Well, the second reason I’m writing this article is that I’m prescribed Adderall. I take a middle of the range dose, NOT the highest, and my monthly prescription is 60 pills. ( I take two a day. The dose is usually increased by increasing the number of times the pill is taken per day.) I do take it for ADD, but it is also a key part in controlling my medication resistant depression. This is a common off-label use for Adderall which you can find listed on any site that describes medications in detail. Before taking Adderall, my depression medicine helped but not as much as I needed it too. After, it was much more effective, and my doctor and I even experimented with going off the depression medicine entirely.

Getting Medicine from the US

The idea of getting medication shipped through the mail is also something that sounds weird. I have never been to South Korea. I can say that right off the bat. I also hate commenting on the culture or mindset of a country I’m not from. It makes my skin crawl. However, I can say that when I was researching teaching English abroad from the standpoint of someone who takes psychiatric medication, most of the recommendations were to go off medicines while applying for residency because if these medicines were found during the physical examination you would be denied. This doesn’t apply to Park Bom, but it does suggest that there is a strong stigma against mental illness. This isn’t surprising: there’s a strong stigma against mental illness in the US, probably stronger than most people realize because they don’t have to think of it it often. If you wanted to make sure your illness stayed private, another common recommendation from people on these boards was to, instead of finding a psychiatrist in South Korea, get certain medication shipped through the mail. My only point here is that what happened in Park Bom’s case is probably not an isolated incident.

Conclusion

I don’t really have a fancy “in conclusion” paragraph planned. I’m surprised I’ve written so much already. I have not tried to present my opinion as facts, but just clarify some things.

My thoughts on Hi! School-Love On’s casting

(I have seen multiple spellings of the title, so I am just going to go with whatever works for me as I’m typing.)

I was disappointed that High School- Love on didn’t air this week. It has elements I’ve been missing for several seasons, like the hint of fantasy and the high-school setting. Kim Sae Ron as Lee Seul Bi creates a complex, sweet, mischievous, slightly old-man-like character that I can’t help caring for. As a reaper who is unexpectedly made human, (a human teenager at that) she speaks to everyone as if she is on equal footing with them (including holier-than-thou entitled middle aged women) and doesn’t quite get why you can’t walk in the bathroom and stare at boys’ 6-packs while they shower. Fish-out-of-water characters are always refreshing, especially when they’re curious and enthusiastic instead of being freaked out. The fact that those around her are not sure if she’s crazy or not is also interesting, because while it’s played for laughs there is an undercurrent of serious concern for her well-being.

Since the 3rd episode didn’t air, I’ll take a minute to talk about an issue I’ve been thinking about off and on. The two main leads are played by members of the band Infinite. They were also both born in 1991, while Kim Sae Ron was born in 2000. As I have not heard of Infinite but am a fan of Kim Sae Ron, my first thought was that the casting was odd because it brought in grown men to act opposite a 13-14 year old. As I realized the two leading men might be the main draw to many to watch the show, I wondered whether I would have preferred an older main actress.

I came to the conclusion that I don’t really mind the casting, although I do have some reservations.

Why I think it’s Fine:

 

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Two sentence reviews on last week: Roommate, We Got Married, You’re All Surrounded, High School King of Savvy, Trot Lovers

Roommate

I still love roommate, but what was up with the last episode? It was disjointed, unfocused, and- well- kinda boring.

We Got Married

Key and Arisa

The end is near. How cute of Key and Arisa to try to convince us they like each other romantically; I’m not buying it, but cute.

Heechul and puff

These two really seem to care for each other. They make me dread the next episode because I know it will feel like a couple I ship is breaking up.

You’re all Surrounded

A little drawn out, a little angtsy, but with bromance, romance, and interesting characters to spare (possible little brother seems surprisingly smart,for instance.) If the next two episodes deliver, You’re All Surrounded will go in my “flawed but worth watching” file.

High School King of Savvy

I LOVE THIS SHOW way too much to be objective about these last two episodes, which I have re-watched about 8 times each. But now, since a couple has been formed and it’s only episode 8, I’m expecting all the secrets to come out and the whole thing to spectacularly fall apart.

Trot Lovers

My first impression of this show was that while it was entertaining it consists of pretty people, a great sound track, and an adorable child actress, all wrapped up in way too many cliches. I was worried that it couldn’t remain interesting; in the last two episodes, however, I felt it began using those cliches creatively enough to feel fresh.

P.S. (I can break my own two sentence rule if I want to, nyah nyah) The songs in Trot Lovers so far are just gorgeous.

(I like the version in the show better, but couldn’t find it)

 (Wait ’til she gets into it)

 

 

Boys Over Flowers drawing, still in Progress

bofinprogressThis is slowly coming along. I keep adding faces and then deleting them. I need to stop that. I was using a photo as a base, but as it progresses more and I have 80+ layers, I’m looking at a photo and just drawing.  Can you tell who it is?

This shirt is everywhere

angybunny

This Angry Bunny sweatshirt by Alexander McQueen seems to be in everything I watch lately. It was in Cunning Single lady, Let’s eat, another show I can’t remember, and I just saw it again on Trot Lovers. I love Alexander McQueen and I’m glad the line is continuing on after his death, but this is at the least a 250 dollar sweatshirt, yo. If one of the key points of her characters is her poverty, She should not be wearing Alexander McQueen. Even the T-shirt version is well over $100 US online.

So Ji Sub 18 years

To tell the truth, I’m don’t follow current music very closely. I mostly listen to music that was popular in the US from the 60s-90s. Still, I have picked up some K-pop favorites from watching variety shows, and I really like Korean rap, as long as it doesn’t dip too far into African American stereotypes.

I ran across 18 years by So Ji Sub and I thought it seemed really personal and compelling. I’ve only ever seen one interview of So Ji Sub, and I remember thinking that he seemed a bit introverted (the kind that can come off as stuck-up if you don’t know better.) I also thought he seemed way more into music than anything else, and that it must be weird to be kinda hip-hop inclined and forced to wear ascots and suits all the time. So Ji Sub has been forced to wear some pretty horrendous things in the name of modeling and acting. I loved The Master’s Sun, where some of those fashion crimes were committed, but at least that was a bit tongue in cheek. Beyond that, I wondered if acting was actually what he wanted to do. (Not that I don’t think he’s good, although I do think he’s better at action/revenge type films than romance.) I don’t usually spend time trying to figure out the inner thoughts of actors, especially ones I don’t really follow, but something about So Ji Sub seemed kinda, I don’t know, restless. This song underlines the feeling I got from the interview.

Anyway, the video sells the story. The song is good, but I think So Ji Sub needs to really focus on what makes his voice good. I think it’s best when he’s rapping fast and the higher timbre of his voice is audible.

This blog has an English translation of the lyrics.