▲ Some of the anchorwomen from Naked News Korea. Photo courtesy Naked News Korea
These girls will chat with you for hours. They will dance for you and even flash their cleavage if you are willing to spend a fortune — only they are paid in cyber-cash called “star balloons,” the prime incentive for their online flirting. After amassing enough star balloons, they can sell them back to the issuer Afreeca.com, a Korean live Web casting service provider.
Afreeca.com rose to prominence in 2008 when hundreds of eager broad-casting jockeys active on the site hit the road, armed with portable live Web casting devices. Among other things, they broadcast live candlelight vigils held against the import of American beef believed to be infected with mad cow disease.
Who would have imagined that Korean girls would soon be earning millions of won at Afreeca.com every night through selling their cute faces to hundreds of horny guys?
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 hotshot caster known by her Web handle of Eve Kim has netted more than 630 million won (more than half a million dollars) since she opened her private Web station at Afreeca.com early last year, according to a leaked screenshot of her cybercash earning log. The money was enough to buy her a new house.
Earning the attention of these cute girls is not easy though. For a fleeting glance, you might pay 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 1,000 star balloons per session. One hundred star balloons cost 8,000 won currently.
As the competition to score her increasingly tantalizing attention gets fiercer and fiercer, some pay out more than 4,000 star balloons at a time, which are worth more than $300. Afreeca.com earns both ways by selling star balloons to thousands of eager consumers of the online voyeurism and charging a handsome fee on the currency exchange from cyber cash to hard cash.
While the girls at Afreeca.com are earning money by capitalizing on mostly horny teenage boys, Korean online voyeurism among some grown-ups took an unexpected turn last summer.
Naked News Korea, the Korean branch of an international news franchise, shut down its Seoul office in July 2009, leaving nine unpaid Korean emcees behind.
The franchise earned its naughty reputation by broadcasting news narrated by semi-nude anchor-women flaunting their bare assets.
Its Web-only channel opened to Korean online users on July 2009 with much fanfare and had since attracted more than one million visitors. However, NNK’s female hosts failed to persuade them to join as paying customers and only about 30,000 viewers subscribed to a six-month plan. To make things worse for NNK, the Korea Communications Commission zeroed in on them for potential violations of the Communications Decency Act.
In hindsight, all the noise and circus hoopla seemed to be designed from the start as a clever hoax to earn quick money. It was revealed later that the channel had no official business ties with the head office in Canada but simply licensed its news brand from Naked News for its Korean operation.
The management fled town without paying salaries due to the Korean anchorwomen and the Korean media 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 — sex sells and it certainly sells well on the Web.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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