Issue #2: Chil-su and Man-su and TWICE

*lives in Korea once*

Simone Polanen

Ooookay you’re reading this newsletter two weeks in a row?? You’re absolutely addicted to me and my sharp prose and perfect opinions. And unfortunately, doctors have yet to find a cure. You’re afflicted, babe!

Since you’re so desperate to click on two perfectly curated links, I’ll give them to you.


This week’s HIGHBROW selection is Chil-su and Man-su (칠수와 만수), the 1988 film directed by Park Kwang-su, starring hottie-boom-bottie Ahn Sung-ki and cutie-pa-tootie Park Joong-hoon.

Set in 1980s Seoul, the film part buddy comedy, part incisive socio-political criticism. Chil-su, a young painter of movie billboards (Paris, Texas is shaking!) loves Western culture, loves going to Burger King to flirt with Jina, and loves wearing every form of light-wash denim possible. Man-su, a bit older, a bit more beaten up by life, struggles to make ends meet, and feels less-than-optimistic about a rapidly changing Korea. The two men spend their time working, drinking, sharing regrets, planning for a better life that seems to never arrive. It all culminates in a 25-minute scene that is just as funny as it is heartbreaking.

The Capital-W-West is everywhere in this film set entirely in South Korea, from the music they listen to — sadly, they dance to Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up — to the billboards that they paint, to the conspicuous presence of the American military. Chil-su celebrates it. For Man-su, it’s much more complicated.

The film delivers a moving story about two men stuck at the bottom of the totem pole with charm, beautiful cinematography, truly incredible 80s fashions, and dulcet melodies of London Boys.

This one’s available on Youtube WITH English subtitles (just turn them on by clicking the closed captioning icon).


This week’s LOWBROW selection is a deeply personal one. It is an alarmingly huge part of my life. But it wasn’t always this way. It started off ignorant. Slowly progressed to casually engaged. And then seemingly overnight, it became more important to me than the breath in my very lungs. Warning: From here on out, most of these newsletter will touch on this thing.

And this thing? Is K-pop.

[holds for deafening, earth-shattering applause]

And it is my honor to kick off my very first K-pop recommendation with my queens, TWICE.

TWICE is a nine-person girl group. And no, nine is not too many people for a pop group. Neither is twelve, but we’ll get back to that another time.

You want me to rank them? That’s like asking me to choose my favorite child, but sure, off the top of my head I’d have to say Nayeon, Jihyo, Sana, Momo, Chaeyeong, Jeongyeon, Tzuyu, Mina, and Dahyun. But that’s only roughly based on personality, contribution to the group, special talents, growth over time, and physical attractiveness (in the context of K-pop this one is very important and commonplace, therefore not weird or problematic).

TWICE was formed from the reality competition show Sixteen, which pit a bunch of teenage girls against one another for the chance to earn a spot in a K-pop girl group (don’t bother looking it up — I will recommend a much better show with a very similar premise in a future newsletter. It involves 101 teenage girls dancing in unison).

TWICE regularly dominates the K-pop charts. They have it all: bops, bangers, great dances, a bevy of lewks, good faces and bodies (again, normal for me to say this in this context).

My favorite song of theirs — one could call it the ground-zero of my K-pop obsession, if one wanted to be tone-deaf and very stupid — is TT. It’s about being lovesick. Get it? TT? TT looks like two crying eyes. If you don’t see it, you’re too left-brained and that’s sad.

You can watch my bby girls in their TT music video here, or check out their INSANE dance rehearsal video here.

That’s it for this week.

Thank you for reading, and also you’re welcome!!