Sunday, February 19, 2017

V Live fansubs in Naver Dictionary

I often use Naver Dictionary to look-up Korean words. It usually offers a variety of meanings and example sentences to help get a feel for how words are used. The other day I noticed that in addition to their normal academic corpus sources and user contributed translations, they are now also tapping into their V Live fan community translations.

Here's an example page of looking up a common Korean word that's integral to the Korea experience but is a bit hard to translate into English: 답답하다

Screenshot of Naver Dictionary entry for 답답하다, with V Live fansub contributions circled. Image: Naver

You can see the top definitions there, including:
(숨이 막힐 듯이) stuffy, stifling, suffocating
이 방은 너무 답답하다This room feels very stuffy.View 4 more meanings : (숨이 막힐 듯이) stuffy, stifling, suffocating

But scroll down below those, and you get K-pop fan contributed translations, like:
What a fool.
아주 답답하다.Say that you feel suffocated.
누구야? - "너무 답답하다".Who is it? - "Looks too stuffy".
와, 진짜 답답하다. 뭐하냐...Wow, it's so stifling. What is he doing... 

Those V Live fansub examples come from real K-pop idol music videos or reality shows, which the fans have translated in those videos. Source links to those videos are provided. I should admit though that in this example, the "translator" for these videos all seemed to be an account called "VSUB_official" so although the fan submitted subs are real, it's possible Naver includes only "officially" done examples here. 

Here they are up close. You'll notice the artists and video titles listed below them.

V Live fansubs that included 답답하다 across multiple videos, as seen in Naver Dictionary results. Image: Naver 

If they really are pulling fan-submitted translations, I think this is a pretty clever move. Naver is making smart choices leveraging their big data these days. Naver always had a big demand for providing subtitles for their entertainment content. Naver's "V Live" (their K-pop focused music video and reality shows site, if that wasn't clear already), already opened videos up for everyday fans to provide English and other language subtitles for the Korean subbed content. I think it's pretty genius to then scrape that content and re-utilize it here in Naver Dictionary. 

Sure, the translations may not be 100% accurate (which Naver warns you about), but they compliment the more legitimate sources with various real-life and human-curated examples. 

Read more ...

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Kakao Map gets English interface

KakaoMap (formerly the Daum Maps app) got updated recently from version 1.0.8 to 1.0.9, but don't let that tiny decimal fool you. This update included a hugely important feature: an English interface. Like with many other Kakao apps, you can comfortably use it with English menus, dialog boxes, directions, etc. This will doubtless be very useful for Olympics tourists coming to Korea next year.

Of course, most locations names are still handled in Hangul, but I found that major locations, like searching "Gwanghwamun" or "Gimpo Airport"or "Seoul Station" in English, returned the correct location results. So searching in English sort of works.

Let me show you a few of the English interface updates by comparing screenshots from version 1.0.8 (on the left) and version 1.0.9 (on the right).

Kakao Map: version 1.0.8 versus 1.0.9

Overall map

Map imagery itself is still only in Korean, but the search menu and "Recommendations" tab are in English.

 Local Area Info & Recommendations tab

When you drag-up while viewing a map area, you get the Recommendations and Info tab. This includes the local weather and air quality, restaurant recommendations with ratings, popular local searches, nearby popular attractions, upcoming festivals and special events, and movies showing in the area.

Side-bar Menu

The sidebar menu options and their corresponding screens have all been made English friendly. Interesting though that the English maps interface provides links to services like KakaoTaxi and KakaoNavi, which are still Korean-only. Although it's easy enough to use in Korean, Kakao would be smart to release an English version of KakaoTaxi by next year. I can't imagine the public transport in Pyeongchang is going to be great.

Public Transit Directions

Similar to the KakaoMetro app (Android | iOS), the directions, routes, and times for taking public transportation trips (here from Yonsei to Gangnam as an example) are all presented in English. There's that KakaoTaxi button which just launches that app. I find it a bit disappointing though that the actual step-by-step instructions are still in Korean. Hopefully that gets resolved in a later update. KakaoMetro presents a fully-English step-by-step guide, although that's just for subway trips. These bus trips still show everything in Korean, making it less than ideal for tourists. 

 Driving Directions

Again, info for the various driving routes appears in English, but unfortunately the turn-by-turn directions are still in Korean. You can always try Bing if you need English driving directions. Maybe Kakao can update at least the "turn left in 100m" type instructions by next year.

As an aside, I find that Waze works surprisingly well here, fully in English with even the road names Anglicized. It may not direct you via the most 100% optimal route, but it's sufficient if you need to be driving and are totally unfamiliar. Bit of warning: Waze is often outdated regarding traffic rules, so double-check that the U-turn Waze wants you to make is actually legal at that intersection.  

 Settings Menu

All the settings options are in English now too.

Problems with English-written names

I mentioned that some big-name places can be searched for in English and you get the right result back. Well, take that with a grain of salt. Some places are wildly wrong, and direct you to locations that just have that name in their own name, regardless of, let's call it "preeminence". Take a look at this example:

In the screenshots above, you can see that searching "Yonsei" brought up a glasses store called 연세안경 ("Yonsei Optometry"). I needed to search "Yonsei University" to get the place I obviously meant. This wasn't the only noticeable case. Searching "Everland" brought up some small shop in nearby Gwangmyeong called 에버랜드완구점 ("Everland Toy Store") instead of the massive theme park in Yongin. Searching "LotteWorld" took me to the correct theme park near Gangnam, but "Lotte World" brought me to an office-tel with the wildly euphemistic name of Lotte World Tower Office-tel.

It's possible that the app is preferencing places nearer to me (I'm just south of Seoul right now), but I'm sure when it comes to these big-name places, nobody searching the English names of big attractions is looking to get a pair of glasses or rent a studio apartment.

Final Thoughts

Hey, it's a step in the right direction. At least now you'll have another English option besides the questionable coverage of Google Maps here. I'm looking forward to it continuing to improve. This was only a decimal release, after all, and the first attempt in English, so let's give it some maturing time. Let me know if you find some other funny obviously mistaken results.

KakaoMap still unreleased for iOS at this time, although the older Daum Maps app is still available there, and was updated just two months ago weirdly:
→ 다음 지도, 길찾기, 지하철, 버스 - Daum Maps, Metro, Bus on the App Store

Anyway, grab KakaoMap for Android here:
→ Kakao Map (DaumMaps 4.0) - Android Apps on Google Play

Read more ...

Friday, February 17, 2017

Kakao releases a game on Steam

If you thought Kakao just makes cute character bubble popping games for your phone, think again. Kakao Games has recently released a title called "VR Golf Online" on the Steam platform. Yes, Steam, your favorite mainstream PC game service.

Screenshot of Steam page for Kakao VR Golf. Image: Steam 

It looks like the game is played on the HTC Vive headset in full VR. It was released February 8th. It's got a "Mostly Positive" review, from 8 reviewers. The price is listed as ₩ 21,000 for me, and a quick run through a US proxy shows the price at $ 19.99.

Here's the trailer video for it, from the Kakao Games VR YouTube channel:

Here's the official description:
ABOUT THIS GAME - The VR Golf Online - Kakao Games Corp.
When Golf meets the limitless possibilities of Virtual Reality, the green is only inches away! Practice your swing and develop your techniques to improve your handicap. Step onto one of the 36 realistic holes, with additional courses planned for the near future. VR Golf Online can be played as a singleplayer (practice) mode, or against AI opponents. Compete and become the golf pro you've always wanted to be!
Key Features
  • Realistic physics simulate the true joy of playing Golf 
  • Includes 36 golf holes (additional courses are planned to be released after launch)
  • Built for HTC Vive
  • Supports HTC Vive VR controllers
  • Various Modes: Singleplayer, VS AI, Online(To be updated)
  • Supports 8 languages (English, Français, Español, Deutsche, Pусский, 中文, 日本語, 한국어)
[VR Golf Online on Steam]

Just in case you were suspicious as to whether actual Koreans made the game, here's a little hint:
Thank you for your interest in our game. We aiming to be the number one Golf VR game.

Check here for the full list of Kakao games on Steam (this is the only one right now).

It looks like it's also available for the Oculus Rift at a cheaper price of ₩ 18,000 in Korea, $14.99 in America:
→ VR Golf Online | Oculus

And you can even follow them on Facebook at:

Read more ...

Monday, February 13, 2017

Bing Maps shows Korean traffic congestion in real time

Bing Maps (yes, Bing) got an update to show real time traffic congestion levels in many countries, including Korea. Here's what the traffic situation looked like on Bing Maps today, a Monday just before 6pm in Yeouido:

Bing Maps real-time traffic in Yeouido on 2017-2-13, 18:00. Image: Bing

Nice thick lines there. Easy to visualize, and pretty good detail down to each street. Of course the English interface is nice.

Let's compare that with Naver's real-time traffic map at the same location and point in time:

Naver Maps real-time traffic, same time/place. Image: Naver

The thinner lines seem harder to read well, and they stay thin when zooming in. But it looks like Naver's real-time traffic shows greater congestion. More red in those lines. Maybe it's more frequently updated? Maybe the source is more accurate?

Anyway, another weapon in your map arsenal.

I already showed that Bing can be used for English language driving directions in Korea, which neither Google nor Naver can do (Naver: only in Korean, Google: no driving directions).
→ 10원 Tips: Bing Maps shows driving directions in Korea

And if you're a total map masochist like me, you enjoy torturing yourself with this:
→ 10원 Tips: Comparing map sites in Korea: Naver, Daum, Google, Bing - a Map Battle Royale!

Read more ...

Friday, February 10, 2017

Korean films with English subtitles at Emu Artspace, Seoul

Emu Artspace is a cultural center in the heart of Seoul that frequently (nearly every week, sometimes multiple times a week) screens interesting Korean and foreign films with English subtitles. For example, they recently had Michael Moore's "Who to Invade Next," and the animated prequel to "Train to Busan" called "Seoul Station" (with Eng subs), and aside from those big name features there's plenty more indie and film-fest type movies.

Emu Artspace's offerings

The best part is that they well document all the upcoming screenings and make it very explicit which include English subtitles. Here's their latest timetable (as of this posting) for an example:

Emu Artspace film timetable for 1st week of February, 2017. Image: Emu Artspace

And here's a sample of their offerings for this month:

Emu Artspace February 2017 films.Image: Emu Artspace 

Follow them

They also make it easy to stay updated:

Note that if you follow them, especially on Twitter, keep an eye out for "(영어자막)" to know which movies have those English subtitles. 

I haven't been there personally, but online reviews indicate it's definitely got that small indie/arthouse vibe, so don't expect a CGV, or perfection. My friend had recommended 여교사, which I see was shown here. I think I know now why he liked it. Anyway, find it here:

For more places around Seoul where you can see films with English subtitles, check out my older post, or just click over to the links directly:

Read more ...

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Google Earth timelapses of Songdo, Busan, Gunsan

Google featured some neat timelapse animations of Songdo, Busan, and Gunsan recently, based on new imagery taken from Google Earth. I thought I'd share them with you now. The links in the captions go to the corresponding spot in Google Earth Engine, where you can scroll around and see the same effect for your part of Korea too.

Busan timelapse. Image: Google

Gunsan timelapse. Image: Google

Songdo timelapse. Image; Google

The imagery in Google Earth Engine is way better, so check it out. Neat to watch Songdo just rise from the water, and the same for Incheon airport filling in those formerly separate islands.The imagery does look noticeably better through 2016 now than it did the last time.

Source: Google Korea blog

Read more ...

Hardships of wheelchair users and buses in Korea (a personal story)

Today's post is really just a recounting of something I witnessed a few months ago. No tips or useful content here, but it is a slice of Koreana I guess. You see, I noticed two articles that came out this past week highlighting the difficult problems faced by disabled people in Korea using the bus system. I figured it's a good as time as any to do a quick write-up of an experience I had a few months back that really illustrated the difficulty these people face. The articles, which I recommend, are:

Ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday, disabled people try to board buses before a press conference by the group Solidarity Against Disability Discrimination (SADD) at Seoul’s Gangnam Express Bus Terminal on Jan. 26. The move was meant to demonstrate the lack of wheelchair access on the buses. (by Kim Bong-kyu, staff photographer).
Image/Caption: Hani

Now I'm not disabled, so this isn't a personal experience, but I was right there and saw it happen. It was kind of a surreal experience. But let me give a few warnings first.
  • Please excuse the vagueness of locations and details. I don't want you knowing too well where I live.
  • This is all just your old buddy Sam's personal story time here and I'm not a writer or anything. It's long and it might be boring but I tried to liven it up a little bit.
  • I'm not trying to be rude or crude, even if some parts might sound that way. I'm just trying to keep it honest about what I was thinking at the time. In other words, this is a trigger warning about how I tell stories. Even though I honest don't think there's anything offensive here, I guess the way I talk about certain things could be a little crass to some readers. 
  • I didn't know the guy's name, so I call him "Wheelchair guy" just because that's the most relevant part of him to this story. Please don't email saying I'm pigeonholing the man. Hell if anything I want to share this story hoping that he won't have to deal with this stuff again.
OK, here goes nothing. 

The story of Wheelchair Guy

So I was in central Seoul, late afternoon a few months back, waiting outside at a bus stop. This was for one of those big red inter-city buses, #1XXX. You know the ones. The ones that are usually standing room only at certain times of day, at least when they are nice enough to break the law and actually stop for you. [Side note: I swear I thought that whole "no more standing" rule would be great, but having bus after bus pass by you when you could have just stood for awhile made me change my mind. I don't take that route anymore, so I'm curious if they are still enforcing it or not?]

There was a line already forming at the bus stop sign, and I was maybe 7th or 8th in line. Suddenly this wheelchair guy rolls up (see what I did there) and just rolls right up to the front of the line. The person in 1st (2nd now) is obviously a little annoyed and doesn't know what to do or even if anything should be done, so she just sort of takes some awkward steps back. Wheelchair guy is just blazing confidence and seems like he's done this a hundred times before so I figure that maybe disabled folks are allowed on first? It's hard to guess his age, because he seemed to have maybe a bit of a mental disability too. Honestly I don't know much about that area so I couldn't say. Down Syndrome maybe? He could talk, but a bit slurred and slow. Still he seemed very confident in what he was doing and saying so I was sure he'd done this routine before. He was maybe late 20s, early 30s? But you could also he was early 20s and I'd believe you. 

Then it hits me. Wait a second... This bus is highly elevated. You have to climb a good four steps to get up on it, and besides that, the aisle is way too narrow for a wheelchair. I've been taking this bus long enough to know that there's no lift or "kneeling bus" feature. How the hell is this going to play out? Can this guy take this bus? 

So about 5 minutes before the bus arrives, wheelchair guy turns and looks at the girl behind him (whose place he stole), and asks:
"Can you carry my chair up?" he says, just fully direct like if you had asked a waiter "Hey could you get us some water?"
Girl is confused that a stranger even spoke to her at all, much less comprehends what he asked, and just goes "Huh?"
"Can you carry my chair up?" he asks with a very small tone of impatience, as if the waiter was bizarrely not comprehending your request for water.
"Huh?" she goes again. 
Then some awkward silence. By now one headphone is out of one of my ears since I can tell this is going to be weird. 
"Uh... I... huh?... I don't..."
So before she can finish, wheelchair guy rolls a foot or two over to Man #3 in line (formerly #2), and asks him the same thing. Man #3 seems like a college senior type guy, like he had done his army service and was finishing up school now. I don't know that at all, but I'm thinking it based on his whole look. Clearly a college kid, but also clearly not the goofballs that make up the freshman classes.
College Boy asks him "you mean you want me to carry your chair into the bus?"
"Uh... sure... OK."

Then the 5 minutes until the bus arrives, and I am just standing there now watching what's going on and real eager to see what happens. I had an idea of offering my own help, but of course I didn't. I was farther back in the line, and he didn't ask me, and it seemed like it was already taken care of, and I figured (just being honest) that this was shaping up to be a low level spectacle already, and adding a big foreign guy to the mix would just draw more eyes.

Now here's the real shocking part, where it really all came together for me.

When the bus pulls up and its doors open, Wheelchair Guy rolls right up to them, reaches his arms up to the handrails that lead up that small stairway, and just heaves himself right up out of his chair and onto the first step. This guy's upper body strength was insane. He proceeds to hoist his whole body, dead floppy legs under him and all, right up the way. Essentially he was dragging his body up the stairs. I kid you not, his feet just scraping the stairs as he heaves one arm up more, then the next a bit more, and so on. Imagine the monkey bars from school were at a 45 degree angle, and you were climbing up them but the rungs were gone and it's just the two parallel poles, and your legs are jelly. That was this guy. 

I'd be lying if I said everybody in that line, including me, didn't just stare at this. I'm sure a couple people were thinking:
“‘We don’t have time to wait for him! Why does he have to use the bus now?’ This is one of the most common comments I receive,” said Lim Tae-Wook, a 27-year-old man with a first-level physical disability which forces him to use a wheelchair to get around.
Even the bus driver was staring. No one had a clue what to do. Finally Wheelchair Guy heaves himself into the seat right behind the bus driver and calls down to College Boy below.

College Boy fiddles with the chair for a minute, getting it to collapse like an accordion. He lifts the thing up as he goes up, and slides it into the seat along with its owner. And then we start filing onto the bus, which luckily at this time of day is pretty empty. I halfway expected College Boy to sit right behind Wheelchair Guy, just for the sake of helping him down again later. But nope. He went straight to the back. I can't say I blame him, honestly. Who wants to get involved in other people's affairs? [Maybe Korea has finally gotten to me...]

Finishing up here, after everybody in line had boarded, Wheelchair Guy passed his wallet to the bus driver, who beeped it for him and passed it back, and finally we were off. I started wondering about why the driver didn't do anything but stare during this whole situation.

I don't know what happened to Wheelchair Guy. His stop was after mine. I do know that as people started finally getting off, he said goodbye to each one. Like I said, I'm pretty sure there was some issue other than just with his legs. 

Thoughts about all this

The shock of just how unexpected this scene was, and the kind of brutal image of this guy hoisting himself up like that, really stuck in my head after that. I really thought about my "privilege" of being able to easily take that kind of bus. How would the disabled get to Seoul without a subway station -and an accessible one at that- nearby? 

The other other time I have seen a disabled person take the bus here, it was a local blue bus, and it actually knelled down and had an extending ramp that came out of the bottom. Now even then, it took a good 5 minutes for the driver to try to buckle the man in, since he seemed pretty unfamiliar with the equipment. It looks like that's a common problem:
I could not get on the bus. This was because the drivers did not know how to seat the wheelchairs in the buses. The drivers turned away, saying that the system was not working. But it was perfectly fine.”
This was just a blue local city bus, and was a very newer one,  Those red buses from my story, and come to think of it, a majority of buses I've been on, have that stepped climb that a wheelchair user just couldn't surmount in any normal, convenient way. 

I also flashback to Wheelchair Guy whenever I see an old man on his Jazzy Scooter driving right down a busy road in traffic, with heavy cars, buses, and trucks blaring past him, often themselves sliding over into the other lane to avoid him. How freaking dangerous, but how else is he going to get around? The sidewalks are terrible and the road is smooth. It's that simple. How is Wheelchair Guy going to get around? The bus is not meant to accommodate someone like him, but how else was he going to get home? I mean this really says it all:
“Disabled people also want to travel and go home by bus, and it would be nice if they could,” she told the Hankyoreh in a telephone interview.

I don't know. I'm no public safety or accessibility expert or anything. I just hope the guy got home safe, and that soon some of these buses on important routes like that can be upgraded so that he won't have to ask anybody to carry his chair up for him [what if he'd been alone at that stop?] or have to carry himself up a staircase. 

You know, I always stand there in line cursing the bus and how annoying it is when it's late or it's raining or the driver's got the heat cranked way up or it's crowded or I get a seat where the back doesn't lock and it just falls back the moment you sit in it. But after that day a few months back, I try to keep those dumb thoughts in check. It could be worse. But for the handicapped just looking for a ride home just like I am, it is. 

Let's hope it won't be like that for long. And if you're interested in Korean public transport issues, as always I recommend checking out Kojects

Read more ...

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Watch Super Bowl 51 free via Naver

Super Bowl 51 is this weekend,. but here in Korea, that will be this coming Monday at 8:30am. As usual, Naver Sports will be offering a streaming feed of the game live. This is a great way to watch the game, as it won't need any VPNs or Passes or anything like that.

Naver Sports will offer two viewing sites again: one for PC/desktop (requires a Naver Video Chrome extension for the video feed, with optional .exe installer if you want HD video), and one for mobile devices which last year was obviously lower resolution but streamed fine with no special software.

Naver Sports 2017 Super Bowl 51 live feeds

Nothing is streaming now of course. Just wait until 8:30 Monday. Last year I was able to cast the mobile stream to my TV via a Chromecast, and the quality was decent enough for me. It was the live American feed and included all US commercials, which was nice. Felt like home, except the snacks were shrimp chips and Cass.

I'm no big fan of the Falcons, but I'm looking forward to them getting their first Super Bowl win, and also to the Pats losing.

Read more ...