Love Songs for the Censors

K-pop’s sugary conservatism is making it possible for Middle Eastern youth to tap into its most anarchic, adolescent passions.

In a western area of Istanbul, about a hundred Turkish girls and a couple of Turkish boys file into the auditorium of the Bagcilar Family and Culture Community Center. A nervous teenage boy takes to the stage, accompanied by a girl of the same age who looks considerably more confident under the spotlight. When the two begin belting lyrics in Korean, the room bursts into encouraging applause. Their song choice is “Because of My Love,” a saccharine duet by the Korean pop stars Ruvina and Han Eun Ji. The crowd pulses in utter delight.

The event was organized by, Turkey’s premier source for all things Korean. With over 61,000 registered users and more than 2 million messages posted to their forums since 2012, the site serves as the largest virtual meeting place for the improbable Korean cultural craze now going on in Turkey. It is largely a product of the “Hallyu” (Korean Wave), an expression first coined by Chinese journalists to describe the massive increase in popularity of South Korean cultural products over the past 10 years. Fueled by a strategic effort by the South Korean government to fend off the encroachment of Japanese culture and bolster the South Korean economy, the nation’s pop music and soap operas (K-pop and K-drama) have found a particularly ardent fan base in Turkey, where veritable communities have arisen in the form of K-drama fan clubs, K-pop music groups, and websites like

The Hallyu arrived in Turkey when TRT, a government-owned TV station, began running episodes of “A Jewel in the Palace,” a wildly popular Korean soap opera set in the 15th century, about a kitchen cook who becomes the king’s first female doctor. Like many of its kind, the drama explores themes of class mobility and forbidden love. Heartbreak and romantic reconciliation are usually major plot points of all K-dramas.

These themes also pervade the lyrics of K-pop music, which taps into the mercurial passions of adolescence to maximum effect, with universal narratives about love, relationships, and belonging. In the K-drama and K-pop universe, princes commonly fall in love with paupers.

On the forums, young Turks speculate about potential plot lines and obsess over cast pairings. The site also releases a monthly e-magazine, Dong-Yul, which not only includes gossip about the cast members but also Korea-related news items. The magazine is written entirely in Turkish. A cadre of volunteer enthusiasts moderates the site. Among them is Begum Han, a 21-year old former university student. Han has been a rabid consumer of Korean culture ever since she watched Korean dramas like “I Hear Your Voice” and “Secret Garden.” She recently dropped out of school to work for Turkish Airlines, where she will be a cabin attendant on flights to and from Korea. She made the career move so she could visit Korea on a regular basis.

[quote position="full" is_quote="true"]On the forums, young Turks speculate about potential plot lines and obsess over cast pairings.[/quote]

“I want to learn a little bit. I have Korean friends, and I want to communicate with them a bit more clearly,” she says. Like many international K-drama fans, Han has picked up Korean phrases from watching Korean soap operas, and she’s used her elementary language skills to connect with K-drama and K-pop fans in Korea.

Gülizar Yilidirim, 18, has also learned to speak Korean from watching K-dramas.

“I have been watching Korean dramas for five or six years, so I’ve learned to speak some things,” she says.

Yilidirim remembers first falling in love with K-dramas after watching “My Girl,” a soap opera that first aired in 2005. Part of what makes these shows so accommodating to Yilidirim and other Turkish K-drama fans is their distinctly chaste depictions of teenage romance with very few physical expressions of love. A K-drama couple may go through a whole season without ever having kissed.

“In Turkish dramas, there are a lot of kissing scenes and a lot of bad scenes. In American dramas, too. But not in Korean dramas; it’s not like that,” said Yilidirim.

This makes Korean dramas easy to air for many Middle Eastern TV stations, many of which restrict images considered obscene or sexually provocative. It also allows local audiences to indulge their desire for sentimental dramas without violating any moral codes.

“I heard that Korean people don’t like Korean drama much because ‘It’s all about love stories!’” says 21-year old Merve Savun. “But I love love stories!”

Image courtesy of

via David Leavitt / Twitter

Anyone who has ever worked in retail knows that the worst thing about the job, right after the pay, are the unreasonable cheapskates who "want to talk to your manager" to get some money off an item.

They think that throwing a tantrum will save them a few bucks and don't care if they completely embarrass themselves in the process. Sometimes that involves belittling the poor employee who's just trying to get through their day with an ounce of dignity.

Twitter is rallying around a gal named Tori who works at a Target in Massachusetts after she was tweet-shamed by irate chapekate, journalist, and Twitter troll, David Leavitt.

Keep Reading

Childbirth is the number one reason American women visit the hospital, and it ain't cheap. In fact, it's getting more and more expensive. A new study published in Health Affairs found that the cost of having a baby with employer-sponsored health insurance increased by almost 50% in the past seven years.

The study evaluated "trends in cost-sharing for maternity care for women with employer-based health insurance plans, before and after the Affordable Care Act," which was signed into law in 2010. The study looked at over 657,061 women enrolled in large employer-sponsored health insurance plans who delivered babies between 2008 and 2015, as these plans tend to cover more than plans purchased by small businesses or individuals.

Keep Reading

A meteorite crashed into Earth nearly 800,000 years ago. The meteor was 1.2 miles wide, and the impact was so big, it covered 10% of the planet with debris. However, scientists haven't been able to find the impact site for over a century. That is, until now. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal believes the crash site has been located.

Tektites, which are essentially rocks that have been liquefied from the heat of the impact and then cooled to form glass, help scientists spot the original impact site of a meteor. Upon impact, melted material is thrown into the atmosphere, then falls back to the ground. Even if the original crater has disappeared due to erosion or is hidden by a shift in tectonic plates, tektites give the spot away. Tektites between 750,000 to 35.5 million years old have been found in every continent except Antarctica.

Keep Reading