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South Korean Cartoonists Cry Foul Over Edgy Simpsons Intro 299

Posted by Soulskill
from the boooo-urns dept.
theodp writes "When asked to animate a dark commentary about labor practices in Asia's cartoon industry — the edgy title sequence for the Simpsons' episode 'MoneyBART' — staff from the South Korean production company Akom raised a rare protest. Even after being toned down, the sequence created by British graffiti artist Banksy depicted a dungeon-like complex where droning Asian animators worked in sweatshops, rats scurried around with human bones, kittens were spliced up into Bart Simpson dolls, and a gaunt unicorn punched holes into DVDs. The satire, Akom founder and president Nelson Shin argued, gave the impression that Asian artists slave away in subpar sweatshops when they actually animate much of The Simpsons every week in high-tech workshops in downtown Seoul. Still, South Korean animators make one-third the salaries of their American counterparts, and Shin declined to comment on the full extent of the work his company has outsourced to SEK, a state-run animation studio of North Korea. Some argue that the Banksy sequence's gray and forlorn atmosphere more accurately depicts the sweatshop-like conditions in North Korea."
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South Korean Cartoonists Cry Foul Over Edgy Simpsons Intro

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  • I'm pretty sure... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by contra_mundi (1362297) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @08:19PM (#34076332)
    Nobody actually thought they were using unicorns to make DVDs.
    • by Nidi62 (1525137) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @08:31PM (#34076394)
      Of course not. Everyone knows unicorns are really used. They're killed, their horns ground up, and the powder made into the elixir that keeps Larry King alive.
      • by fishexe (168879)

        Of course not. Everyone knows unicorns are really used. They're killed, their horns ground up, and the powder made into the elixir that keeps Larry King alive.

        Well, at least they were, until they went extinct. That's why he retired: he realized after his current supply runs out he's done, and he didn't want to disintegrate live on air.

      • by Dahamma (304068)

        Close - but the unicorns aren't killed, they are tended in their later years by the sisters at Radiant Farms [thinkgeek.com] until they pass naturally.

    • by pookemon (909195)
      Yep - This "Shin" took offense to their work environment being depicted as a sweat shop (which has been done before in the simpsons in "The Barber Shop of Horrors" IIRC) - but not at the depiction of them "Splicing" (WTF - Shredding more like it) kittens.
    • I thought the commentary was on the practices of 20th Century Fox seeing as how that was the name over the prison camp at the very end - for the most part it seemed like they were the ones being blamed, not the people they hired to do the dirty work.
  • Modern South Korea (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    South Korea often gets downplayed, and I'm not sure why. After having lived in Korea for three years, I've got to say that Seoul is just as advanced as any other city I've visited, and in some ways, more so. (And in some ways, less so. But, well. You win some, you lose some.) I'll admit that the minimum wage here is pretty ridiculously tiny compared to back home, but even so, the standard of living is pretty damned decent.

    I'd love to live in Seoul. It's so vibrant, and the newest apartment complexes a

    • by MadAhab (40080)

      Ridiculous by North American standards?

      Clearly you aren't posting from Trump Tower, etc.

    • by Froomb (100183) on Sunday October 31, 2010 @12:14AM (#34077420)

      As a expat resident of Seoul who has been coming to Korea since 1976, I'll second this. The ROK has made huge strides over the past generations, from desperate poverty to relative wealth. South Korea is a member of the OECD and will host the G20 summit next month. There is a large and vibrant middle class, the economy is growing at a nice clip (~6%) and Korean companies are kicking Japan's corporate ass. Americans largely aren't tuned into Korean popular culture, but much of the rest of Asia is, with 1000s of Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Taiwanese, HKer, etc. arriving daily to shop and hang out in places made famous in Korean TV soaps and films. Essentially life is very good here (as a university professor) and a welcome relief from the insane political rhetoric in the U.S. There is universal literacy here, with a majority of South Korean high school grads going to university, although admittedly unemployment post-graduation can be daunting. The big problem in South Korea is the high cost of real estate, with an average 2-bedroom apartment in Seoul going for between $500K - $750K and 3-bedrooms, often over $1m in nicer neighborhood. For those not already in the real estate market, it's almost impossible to buy in without support from relatives.

      North Korea is another story, but even there a nascent market economy has arisen in the past decade, joint ventures with the South, show long-term promise, new universities have been founded with foreign support, and likely gains substantial economic support from NK refugees abroad. The NK workers lucky enough to work on animation likely enjoy a privileged status and consider themselves fortunate. It's the famers who have the hardest lot, as the north has never been all that productive given the harsh climate, and the small scale of production together with lack of advanced machinery and fertilizer put them at a major disadvantage.

  • I didn't think.. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by JPalms (1929020)
    I didn't think the intro was specifically directed at Korea, but just sweat shops in general. Although I'm sure North Korea is nothing short of horrible.
  • by OrangeTide (124937) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @08:34PM (#34076420) Homepage Journal

    We need to take a stand and start producing cartoons in sweatshops here in America!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by antifoidulus (807088)
      Actually South Park is pretty much totally made in the USA. They basically do everything in CG(Simpsons is still done with cel animation, but the color is now done digitally). Thats how South Park can actually parody fairly recent events, a show can be created within a week, for the Simpsons it usually takes about a year to go from script to finished product, a huge chunk of that is the time it takes to do the animation.
  • Hell, if they won't do anything about North Korea murdering dozens of their people in the sub attack, they won't do anything about a silly comic.

    • by hedwards (940851)
      There's a lot of South Koreans that genuinely have no idea what goes on in North Korea. There's a significant number of them that want reunification, not understanding that the two peoples are about as related at this point as say the French and Zimbabweans. And that it would almost certainly require the South Koreans to subvert themselves to North Korean rule.
      • by MightyMartian (840721) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @10:15PM (#34076892) Journal

        Even if North Korea reunited under South Korean rule, like German reunification, it would make the economic woes of German reunification seem insignificant. We're talking about a broke country, a complete basket case of an economy, a country that has lived under six decades of centralized tyranny. I wonder how many South Koreans would want to take on that burden. I know there are lot of West Germans who were, within a few years, a lot less enthusiastic about Reunification.

        But I have my doubts that we'll see the two Koreas joined any time soon. North Korea has mastered a pretty good strategy using its on-again-off-again nuclear program to extort needed aid from South Korea and other nations, and as long as everyone keeps throwing it life lines, it basically underwrites the Kim Dynasty and the Generals that support it.

      • WE genuinely have no idea what goes on in North Korea and can only rely on little bits of information. Even the Chinese mother of a friend of mine that originally came from the place and lived on the other side of the river from North Korea didn't know much more than rumour and a few stories from refugees after it became impossible to contact relatives and unsafe to travel back. The refugees don't seem to know a lot beyond what happens in their own towns - information and movement is tightly controlled an
  • Truth hurts. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sethstorm (512897)

    and Shin declined to comment on the full extent of the work his company has outsourced to SEK, a state-run animation studio of North Korea

    The hallmark of outsourcing, dishonesty. Shin needs to come clean first.

    That's what you get for Third World offshoring. Yes, that means South Korea too.

    • South Korea? 3rd world? I bet you think the Japanese still live in mud huts, too. A quick look placed South Korea at ~$18,000 GDP per capita, only about half of the US. North Korea is ~$1,000 per capita. If you call South Korea 3rd world, you're calling countries with similar economic profiles like Portugal and most of Eastern Europe 3rd world as well.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by TheClarkster (1130495)
        Um, wow. He was talking about South Korea outsourcing to North Korea, calling North Korea 3rd world.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hedwards (940851)
      That's an insult to the third world. North Korea is worse than most third world nations in pretty much every way.
      • I'm not too sure about that. Sierra Leone, Liberia, Somalia, or North Korea. Which one of those four would you rather live in?

    • I find it remarkable that a South Korean company is outsourcing to North Korea, to be honest.
    • That's what you get for Third World offshoring. Yes, that means South Korea too.

      South Korea? 3rd world?

      I was watching TV on my cellphone while riding the subway. I could hit record, change channels, go back, rewind, hit play. And this was back in 2007. And it cost me less than $30/month.
      My classroom had 2 giant interactive touch screen displays.
      This was a public school in a small village in the middle of nowhere, not some rich urban private school.

      The minimum wage might be low, and the work hours long, but from what I saw, the standard of living for a middle-class Korean family is o

  • by sethstorm (512897) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @08:42PM (#34076466) Homepage

    Shin was disappointed. The satire, he and other animators have since argued, gave the impression that Asian artists slave away in subpar sweatshops when, in fact, they animate much of The Simpsons every week in high-tech workshops in downtown Seoul. "Most of the content was about degrading people from Korea, China, Mexico and Vietnam," Shin fumed. "If Banksy wants to criticize these things ... I suggest that he learn more about it first."

    Perhaps Shin should learn more about the First World, and what it knows about those countries. It isn't good.

    Besides, if Banksy went to do his research, he'd get endless varieties of the same Potemkin Village. Not the actual conditions that Shin is wrong about on the large scale..

  • Can we stop... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 30, 2010 @08:55PM (#34076530)

    Can we stop comparing wages based on actual dollar figures, and compare based on standard of living (or something else)?

    I make 25% less as a System Administrator in a small remote town than were I working in downtown Toronto.

    But my house costs $200,000 as opposed to $1,000,000 for a house or condo in Toronto. Do I bitch that I don't make the same wage? No, because overall I I have the same standard of living / quality of life as everyone else (even better, I have a place to park!).

    Yes, food costs about the same (maybe 3% less), cars cost the same, etc, but when a good 40% of what I spent my income on (house, property taxes) is far less, it works.

    • by hedwards (940851)
      I'd mod you up if I could. Wages tend to mirror the cost of living to some extent. And while not all expenses are equivalent, some things are difficult or impossible to avoid. You're going to pay for food and some sort of shelter in virtually any case, same goes for health care and other basic necessities. It really doesn't matter whether you pay for them individually or via taxation per se, just the total amount you're paying for cost of living.
    • Can we stop comparing wages based on actual dollar figures, and compare based on standard of living (or something else)?

      How about the lack of standard of living?

      No minimum wage, no pesky labor laws, and no inconvenient safety regulations. That's where the real savings are realized.

    • Even cheaper (Score:2, Interesting)

      by phorm (591458)

      Actually, I moved from Toronto to a rather small town too. One thing I've found about the big city is that you really get *screwed* if you're working on salary (which is pretty much the norm). So while you may be making less per-annum, you may actually be making more overall depending on how much extra-time you put in.

      As for the costs. Food seems a bit more where I am (no local Chinese market), but not incredibly much. A car may cost the same or a bit more, gas is a little higher, but the cost of insurance

    • by timeOday (582209)

      I make 25% less as a System Administrator in a small remote town than were I working in downtown Toronto. But my house costs $200,000 as opposed to $1,000,000 for a house or condo in Toronto.

      While you have a good point, remember this: around the end of your career, you will own a home worth about $200,000, whereas that counterpart in Toronto will own a home worth $1M. He can move to your neighborhood and buy the whole block if he wants, or retire on a ranch. Where I live, it is Californians who are wel

  • Youtube link (Score:5, Informative)

    by Tapewolf (1639955) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @09:07PM (#34076588)
    For those who don't get to see anything on Hulu, this appears to be the intro in question:

    Moneybart intro [youtube.com]

  • Or maybe... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Black Parrot (19622) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @09:17PM (#34076646)

    ...it's just another Simpson's Halloween "horror" story.

  • What blows my mind is that there is a supposed "animation studio" in North-frickin-Korea. I thought they barely even had electricity up there, much less any sort of higher technology trade going on with the rest of the world. Interesting. Shows what I know.

    • by gman003 (1693318)
      North Korea is an... odd country. It's mostly a developing nation, with people still struggling to get reliable electricity, and a good chunk of the food is imported since the state-run agriculture is... about as bad as every prior state-run agriculture. But then you've got some parts where it's about equal to the US in the fifties. Namely, anything military, and anything the "Glorious Leader" thinks will make his country seem less backwards. Thus, animation studios, even some video-game studios. And, of co
  • by readin (838620) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @10:03PM (#34076846)
    It wasn't South Korea in the cartoon, it was China. South Korea doesn't have pandas. (They do have unicorns, but that's a state secret.)
  • by erroneus (253617) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @11:12PM (#34077142) Homepage

    Without knowing much of the detail provided here, I would have assumed the depiction was China. But the general impression I get is that much of Asia's mass-labor forces are more or less like this... well not exactly like this, but the impression is about the same when compared to any remaining mass-labor forces in the U.S. I happen to work for a Japanese company at present and I have to say, they are a LOT less fun. In fact, my boss is Korean and he seems to feel very strongly against the notion of "convenience" when working as he has said quite specifically that the company is not here for our convenience, that we are here for the company's convenience. That philosophy speaks volumes to me.

    My company is most certainly "less fun" because of the asian notion of what a workplace should be like. And yes, "overtime" is expected and nearly everyone is exempt.

    • So the Simpsons producers/writers can't tell the difference between China and South Korea? Better not tell the South Korean animators I bet that would be a much bigger insult!
  • by Have Brain Will Rent (1031664) on Sunday October 31, 2010 @12:00AM (#34077362)

    Shin argued, gave the impression that Asian artists slave away in subpar sweatshops when they actually animate

    ... in par sweat-shops? Subpar sweatshops not having all the amenities of an average sweatshop?

  • by OnePumpChump (1560417) on Sunday October 31, 2010 @01:29AM (#34077682)
    So who animated the edgy Simpsons intro?

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