Korean singles fight back
through Internet humor

Park Chung-a

Korea Times

December 28, 2004

A drawing that has recently been floating around the Internet shows happy-looking couples skating hand in hand on an outdoor ice rink. The scene includes a young girl who has slipped and fallen, and is kindly being helped up by her boyfriend. With white snow falling lightly over the happy lovers, it's perfectly romantic and sentimental.

However, in the corner of this beautiful but contrived scene is a sullen-looking female crouching on a sleigh, looking sad and all alone. While the rest of the picture is rendered in soft pastel colors, she is in dirty gray and black and looks like a cross between Golem and a gargoyle. Her name is Solo, and according to the drawing's creator, she represents the fate of single people all over Korea.

The drawing is one of a series of nine works by Chung Son-young, titled ``I Am From the Invincible Solo Brigade.'' The series is tongue-in-cheek and is akin to ``Where's Waldo?'' except in Chung's illustrations, viewers are asked to find Solo in a crowd of couples.

Chung said the pictures were based on her own experiences.

``I often go shopping to buy things,'' she said. ``One day when I was on my way home struggling to carry a heavy shopping basket all by myself, I saw a woman whose boyfriend was carrying the bags for her. I was envious. I thought that it was very possible that other single people could also have the same kinds of experience. So I drew on it as work for my major subject.''

Her sad shopping experience became the inspiration for her first Solo drawing, which she uploaded onto her personal Web site (www.cyworld.com/son02da) in May. Since then, Chung, a 22-year-old illustration major at Kongju National University, has completed eight other pictures in the same vein, in such romantic settings as coffee shops, playgrounds, rainy streets and department stores.

Her drawings have struck a chord with singles in the nation. Hundreds of Internet users visit her homepage every day and each of the nine pictures are being continuously scrapped. Her message board is also overwhelmed with various comments from wishing her luck in finding a nice boyfriend to expressing their gratitude for having presented such pretty and funny pictures. One poster wrote that although the pictures were very funny, he felt somewhat bitter at the end, because he was reminded of his lonely situation as a single.

Chung's pictures are part of a loose movement of Internet artists called ``Solo Pudae (Singles Brigade),'' offering a humorous look into single life. The term was first coined last winter by 25-year-old university student Kim Min-hyung, who jokingly urged young single people to fight against the domination of Internet galleries by romantic couple pictures. Kim created parodies of propaganda posters from World War II and anti-couple slogans like ``Heaven for Single, Hell for Couples'' and ``Christmas Is Best When You Spend It With Your Family,'' rather than with a date.

``Solo Pudae'' went onto become one of the top search words in Internet portal sites last winter, and it is again so this holiday season. Also, a small cyber-battle began when couples then counterattacked with the creation of ``Couple Pudae (Couples Brigade).''

Along with Chung's popular Solo drawings, the ``Solo Brigade'' have rounded up other allies. Yang Jae-bong created an e-card titled ``Ill-Natured Carol Song,'' which is available at the Web site Barunson (www.barunson.com), where he works as a manager. It features songs and animations showing a single person who spends Christmas alone, determined to ruin the romantic mood of couples during the holidays. In contrast to the sweetness of the card's melody and the cuteness of the characters, the lyrics are quite hateful and bitter (``I'm the one who is single/ It drives me mad'' or ``You couples are all dead''). Nevertheless, it has become the most popular card on the Web site for four consecutive weeks since its first appearance on Dec.7.