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Heat waves and pop waves

A teacher becomes a K-pop journalist the old-fashioned way, and New York’s mayor issues a surprise thermostat order

Heat waves and pop waves

Jason Yu (YouTube)

A New York moment: 

This week I talked to Jason Yu, a journalist who has covered Korean pop culture for the last decade, for a story I’m writing about KCON, a Korean pop culture convention that came to New York recently. Korean music has spread across the globe through social media, so now Yu’s primary way to report on K-pop is through his YouTube channel, Popsori, where about half of his audience is from North America. 

I enjoyed the story of how he got into his job. Yu is Chinese (and Catholic) but moved to Korea to teach English. Then he realized he had the journalism bug and wanted to cover the Korean music industry. He started by cold-calling massive entertainment companies, asking in broken Korean to interview musicians. The companies dismissed him. 

In what he calls a “God thing,” he called Cube Entertainment (another massive Korean company) and ended up on the phone with a Korean American who told him step-by-step what he needed to do to cover the music industry. The guy told him to start covering Korean indie groups, which he proceeded to do for three years as he became more fluent in Korean and worked as a teacher during the day.

“I was like Batman, except instead of beating people up I did journalism at night,” he said with a laugh. He gradually found work with Korean outlets like Yonhap News and The Korea Times, and eventually the big entertainment companies started inviting him to interviews and events. Now he’s brought his years of experience covering the industry to the United States, where he offers in-depth breakdowns of Korean pop culture trends and news in English. I respect that he found his way into journalism by the old-school, pavement-pounding route. 

Worth your time:  

The Wall Street Journal has an engaging story on a Chinese tycoon living in a New York hotel who has (in public) been a sharp critic of the Chinese government. But now he’s in a dispute with a U.S. business partner who alleges the tycoon is a spy for Beijing. This man has a long history of conflict with Beijing, so some journalists covering China are saying this allegation is a little bit of “seven-dimensional chess.” 

This week I learned: 

Last week during a heat wave, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio issued an emergency order to high-rises to set their thermostats at 78 degrees, upsetting business owners. It likely had little effect on the electrical grid, according to infrastructure geek Nicole Gelinas. Con Ed, the utility company here, had not asked for the emergency measure.

A court case you might not know about: 

A New Yorker has filed a lawsuit against Friendly’s, alleging that the company’s vanilla ice cream is not vanilla enough

Culture I am consuming: 

Continuing the Korean pop culture project, I’m listening to “Umbrella Calls for Rain” by Korean singer Heize. 

Email me with tips, story ideas, and feedback at ebelz@wng.org