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Will Flirt for Money: Tales of Korean Online Voyeurism
Naked News Korea and Afreeca.com prove sex sells
Jean K. Min (jean)     Print Article 
Published 2009-08-08 13:12 (KST)   
These girls will chat with you for hours. They will dance for you and even flaunt their cleavage if you are willing to spend a fortune -- only they are paid in cyber-cash called "star balloon", the prime incentive for their online flirting. After amassing enough star balloons, they can sell them back to its issuer Afreeca.com, a Korean live webcasting service provider.

Afreeca.com rose to a prominence last year when hundreds of eager broadcasting jockeys active in the site hit the road, armed with a portable live webcasting device. They broadcast live the candle light vigils for 24/7, which was against the import of American beef potentially infected with mad cow disease.

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Who would have imagined that some Korean girls will soon be earning millions at Afreeca.com every night by selling their cute faces to hundreds of horny guys?

The gift-giving between online friends has been one of the most lucrative income sources for many Korean dot-coms, including Cyworld. But Afreeca.com tweaked the familiar model and allowed thousands of mostly teenage boys to pay the girls star balloons, turning the nature of the online transaction from one-to-one to one-to-many.

One star caster known by her web handle Eve Kim, earned over 630 million won or about half a million US dollars since she opened her private web station at Afreeca.com a few months ago. The money was enough to buy her a new house.

'Star balloon' sells for 80 wons each
©2009 Afreeca.com
Earning the attention of these cute girls is not easy though. For a fleeting glance, you might pay her 50 star balloons. If you want more than an elusive chat and wish to score an intimate dialogue with Eve or even a brief glimpse of her cleavage, you should be ready to give her at least 1000 star balloons per session. One hundred star balloons equal 8000 won currently.

As the competition to get her increasingly tantalizing attention gets fiercer and fiercer, some would throw out over 4000 star balloons at a time, which is worth over 300 dollars. Afreeca.com earns both ways by either selling star balloons to thousands of eager consumers of the online voyeurism or charging a handsome fee on the currency exchange from cyber cash to hard cash.

While the girls at Afreeca.com were earning a fortune by capitalizing on the mostly horny teenage boys, the crazy Korean online voyeurism among some grown-ups took an unexpected turn last week.

Naked News Korea ("NNK"), the Korean branch of the international news franchise shut down its Seoul office on July 28, leaving nine unpaid Korean emcees behind. The franchise earned its naughty reputation by broadcasting news narrated by semi-nude anchorwomen flaunting their bare assets.

Its web-only channel opened to Korean online users early July with much fanfare and has since attracted over one million visitors. However, NNK's female hosts failed to persuade them to join as paying customers. Only about 30,000 subscribed for a six-month viewing plan. To make things worse for NNK, Korea Communication Commission was zeroing on them for a potential violation of the Communication Decency Act.

In hindsight, all that noise and circus hoopla seems to be designed as a clever hoax from the start to earn quick money. It was revealed later that they had no official business tie with the head office in Canada but simply licensed its news brand from Naked News for their Korean operation.

The management seems to have fled town without paying due salary to the Korean anchorwomen except to leave them with some key studio equipment. Korean media has already named the farce the international hoax of the year.

Nobody with a sane mind would recommend these wicked business models to any entrepreneur outside Korea, but these two incidents seem to have proved the validity of a centuries-old lesson again -- that sex sells and it certainly sells well on the Web.
*For more musing on Korean tech issues and memosphere please visit my blog; Planet Size Brain (link: http://planetsizebrain.tistory.com)
©2009 OhmyNews

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