A fifth-grade teacher in South El Monte has been arrested on suspicion of inappropriately touching students, and investigators are trying to determine whether there are other potential victims, authorities said.

Joseph Baldenebro, 54, was arrested Wednesday and accused of multiple counts of molesting children and lewd or lascivious acts involving children, according to a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department news release. He is being held on $404,000 bail.

He is accused of inappropriately touching female students between the ages of 8 and 11 in the classroom and on school grounds, according to the news release.

Baldenebro is a teacher at Miramonte Elementary School in the Mountain View School District. He has been employed in the district for almost 21 years, said district spokeswoman Michele Earle.

He has been out of the classroom and on administrative leave since May 15, when the school’s principal notified the district that there was a report of an incident between him and a student at the school, Earle said. The district contacted law enforcement at that time.

A counseling team was at the school after Baldenebro was removed in May, and “we have a counseling team at the school right now for any kids who need to talk or are affected by his removal,” Earle said.

This is a different Miramonte Elementary School from the L.A. Unified School District campus of the same name that was struck by a similar scandal. The LAUSD in 2014 paid out about $139 million to dozens of families whose children said they were victims of sexual abuse at the hands of teacher Mark Berndt. Berndt pleaded no contest in 2013 to 23 charges of lewd conduct, including feeding children his semen in what he called a tasting game. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

The Sheriff’s Department said it believes there may be more victims. Anyone with information should call the sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau at (877) 710-5273.

Mountain View Supt. Lillian Maldonado French said in a statement that the district was “shaken by these allegations,” but “Mountain View School District is committed to creating and fostering an environment where its students, faculty and staff have the resources they need to achieve academic excellence in a safe and secure learning environment. This commitment is unwavering.”

Reach Sonali Kohli at Sonali.Kohli@latimes.com or on Twitter @Sonali_Kohli.



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A suspected carjacker who was fatally shot Tuesday by South Gate police was armed with a replica firearm, according to authorities.

The man, identified by coroner’s officials as 36-year-old David Pacas, had carjacked a woman at gunpoint about 7 a.m. in West Los Angeles, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

About 45 minutes later, South Gate officers who had been alerted to the stolen Honda Pilot tried to stop the vehicle. But Pacas continued driving and led officers on a pursuit through city streets, the Sheriff’s Department said in a statement.

Pacas eventually crashed into another vehicle at the intersection of California Avenue and Santa Ana Street, causing that vehicle to collide with a third car. Pacas then struck three more parked vehicles, authorities said.

Pacas exited the Honda and ran into an apartment complex in the 3400 block of Santa Ana Street, deputies said.

According to the Sheriff’s Department, Pacas was carrying “a dark colored firearm” as he ran away from officers.

Officers ran after him and a shooting occurred, authorities said. Pacas was struck in the upper torso. It was unclear whether he aimed or fired the replica gun at police. No officers were injured.

A woman was hurt in the collisions that ended the car chase, the Sheriff’s Department said. She was hospitalized and listed in fair condition.

veronica.rocha@latimes.com

Twitter: VeronicaRochaLA



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Dozens of animals had to be rescued after a fire broke out in the middle of the night in a South L.A. pet shop on Wednesday, fire officials said.

Video from the scene in the 4700 block of South Broadway showed dozens of firefighters moving quickly in and out of the burning building carrying bird cages and glass containers with mice, rats and other rodents.

The blaze was reported on the first floor of the two-story building about 1:35 a.m., said LAFD spokeswoman Amy Bastman.

The building contained a pet store on the first floor and apartments on the second.

Nearly 40 firefighters fought the blaze for about a half-hour and no injuries were reported.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

joseph.serna@latimes.com

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna on Twitter.



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A man was fatally shot by South Gate police Tuesday morning following a pursuit that ended in a crash involving multiple vehicles, authorities said.

The man was struck by gunfire and pronounced dead at the scene in South Gate, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which is assisting in the investigation. No officers were injured.

Capt. Darren Arakawa, a South Gate police spokesman, told KTLA-TV that officers were patrolling a neighborhood just after 7:45 a.m. when they received an alert about a stolen vehicle in the area.

As the officers investigated, they got additional information indicating the vehicle may have been linked to a carjacking in Los Angeles, he said.

A squad of police cruisers began following the vehicle and tried to stop it.

But the motorist continued driving and crashed into a vehicle at the intersection of California Avenue and Santa Ana Street, Arakawa told the news station. That vehicle collided with a second vehicle.

The suspect then struck three parked vehicles, the captain said.

After the crash, the suspect left the stolen vehicle and ran into an apartment complex, where the police shooting occurred, he said.

Two people injured during the crash were taken to hospitals in the area, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

veronica.rocha@latimes.com

Twitter: VeronicaRochaLA



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Pastor Kenneth Little knew the family renting out the church’s property across the street long before the violence began.

When they were younger, the tenants’ children sometimes walked over to Ebenezer Baptist Church to help out with small tasks and attend Bible study.

“They were good at first,” he said of the tenants in L.A.’s South Park neighborhood.

But over the last year there have been problems at the property, according to police, who say it has become a stronghold for the predominantly Latino Playboys gang.

Little said that shootings at the site during church services have spooked congregants, and he has had to cancel Bible study sessions.

In an effort to curb the violence, the city recently filed a nuisance abatement lawsuit against the church, alleging that the Playboys gather daily at the Avalon Boulevard property and engage in criminal activity.

Over the last year, according to the lawsuit, there have been five shootings at the site, as well as illegal narcotics and weapons sales.

In September, a person standing out front was shot and killed. In March, two people in the property’s parking lot opened fire on a truck carrying rival gang members. And from December to April, undercover agents purchased 20 illegal firearms, three silencers and 122 grams of methamphetamine there, according to City Atty. Mike Feuer.

“This is an extremely dangerous situation for everyone in the community, from church congregants to the kids that go to the neighboring schools and park,” Feuer said. “We hope to work with the church to eliminate the source of danger and make this a neighborhood where people can conduct affairs safely every day.”

The remedies, he said, include evicting the tenants and fencing off the property. The lawsuit also asks for an Internet-connected video monitoring system and better lighting on the site.

The church’s pastor expressed relief that the city was taking action. He said he had tried unsuccessfully to get the tenants to leave the property.

“I am grateful they stepped in because I didn’t know what to do,” Little said, sitting on a couch in his brother’s house next door to the church. “They can move forward in a manner that we weren’t able to do.”

The lawsuit is part of the city’s push to expand its nuisance abatement effort, which targets properties that are sources of drugs and gangs.

Since July 2013, Los Angeles has filed 53 abatement actions — 46 for sites in the LAPD’s South Bureau — and secured 58 injunctions involving nuisance properties. It has succeeded in closing nine gang- or narcotics-related sites, according to the city attorney’s office.

“This is a neighborhood that really needs our help,” Feuer said. “You can keep coming and arresting, but that’s not the same as preventing the problem in the future from recurring.”

According to Jorja Leap, an anthropologist at UCLA who has specialized in L.A.’s gangs, the Playboys formed in Central Los Angeles in the 1950s and fanned out across the city. They use the Playboy bunny as a symbol and refer to their meeting points as “rabbit holes,” she said.

“They’re a fairly entrenched group,” Leap said, adding that the gang has ties to the Mexican Mafia. “You have youth who are looking for their identity, and they are drawn by the reputation of the gang.”

LAPD Lt. Alex Baez, who heads the Newton Division’s gang unit, said that of the 30 active gangs in the area, “the Playboys are our main problem.” He said a recent search of the church-owned property, conducted with a warrant, produced handguns and evidence of manufacturing, including automatic rifles.

“It has been really ongoing here,” he said of the gang’s activities. “They’re enemies with several different rival gangs. It creates shootings… going back and forth.”

Baez said police were working to control the gang’s presence at the South Park Recreation Center, located a block from the church.

Victory Outreach Church frequently provides food and prayer services at the park. Summer Night Lights — a program of sports and other activities at many of the city’s parks that’s sponsored by the mayor’s office of gang reduction and youth development — gets underway June 28.

“You see a lot more people going to the park instead of being detoured,” said Adam Luna, an intervention specialist at Going Beyond Boundaries, a gang prevention program that has done work in South Park. Now more people show up with their kids.”

On Thursday evening, South Park was filled with families picnicking and playing soccer when gunshots erupted. A helicopter hovered overhead as parents ran to find their children. After a few minutes, some of the soccer games — briefly on pause — continued.

“Things are always hot,” said Maira Espinoza, who lives in the area.

Maria Morales, who helps run Chapi’s Place Beauty Supply, located a block from the park, said that she’s become used to the frequent sound of police helicopters. And while she thinks parents need to pay more attention to their children, she said it’s difficult when they’re focused on providing financially for their families.

“You let the youth do what they feel like in order to bring the taco home,” she said.

leila.miller@latimes.com

Twitter: @leilamillersays

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Seoul is a city on the forefront of technology and beauty, yet it has spawned few global luxury fashion labels.

There are some beginning to attract notice, one of which is Ader Error, a youth-culture driven brand that has grown an international following by forging its own marketing, retail and styling path. Even without significant distribution outside its native country, the brand has managed to amass in excess of 425,000 Instagram followers over four accounts with its “content-driven” approach to fashion design and execution.

More interesting than the metrics is how the brand has challenged South Korea’s hard-lined understanding of gender roles. All of Ader Error’s collections are unisex, and while often styled on female models, it is nearly equally purchased by men. Just three years old, the brand has grown 200 percent annually since its founding.

Ader is the work of an anonymous “crew” — a band of 20 or so employees from varying disciplines including interior design, fashion, architecture and finance. The entire staff is a subculture in itself — crowd-surveyed for opinions and ideas regarding all facets of the brand. These findings are then spun in the label’s Hannam-dong studio like a creative centrifuge — churning out an urban aesthetic that is simultaneously austere and helter-skelter.

The brand’s eccentric yet approachable designs have created buzz, emboldening its crew to begin wholesale distribution for the spring 2018 season, with a pop-up strategy it will unveil today at 10 Corso Como.

In May it also launched a new lifestyle brand of home objects and beauty items, Day After Day — DAD for short — that it projects will outpace sales of the Ader Error apparel line, with items such as candles, slippers and organic toiletries.

The label releases two main collections a year, with all apparel produced in South Korea, typically priced from $40 to $300. Ader purposefully limits each collection’s production to spur desire among its clientele. The label said more than 90 percent of each collection sells out.

More than 70 percent of the brand’s consumer base is under the age of 35, with 40 percent of its customers in Asia, another 40 percent spread across Europe and the remaining 20 percent in the U.S.

Ader Error was set up in 2014 by four anonymous cofounders. One of these individuals, who requested that his name not be published, met with WWD on the roof of Café Onion — a metal factory turned bobo hot spot in the developing neighborhood of Seongsu-dong. There, in what’s being referred to as “Seoul’s Brooklyn,” a skyline of converted shoe factories, warehouses and raised train tracks has become the backdrop for artist lofts, coffee houses and boutiques.

This individual said of Ader Error’s ideology: “The main reason why we started this brand was that we enjoying making content — it could be images, clothing, videos, but the first category was fashion. We started with T-shirts, sweatshirt, hoodies. We started with the easy things because our brand slogan is ‘But near missed things.’ This means we want to find our content and inspiration near our closest things.”

The label expanded its offering in 2015 to include more tailored items — overcoats, trousers and shirting. Each season builds upon the last, with esoteric themes projected onto its signature oversize T-shirts, turtlenecks, broad-shouldered coats and slim track pants at the whim of the Ader Error crew.

“There is no one concept, we are a crew so if we have to make a new concept we collect the opinions of our whole crew, we create idea boards and we summarize that into a concrete idea,” the cofounder said.

For us, clothing and fashion are a means for communication with other people. Our brand is based on simplicity, which has minimalistic and contemporary sensibility. We focus on mishmash styling, thinking about how we can show our design and sensibility through images. We call it the edit process, like a magazine,” the cofounder said of the brand’s final, articulated vision.

For spring 2017, Ader’s theme is “futro — it means retro with future, mixed” — which manifested more in its retail environment than the graphic clothes hanging on the racks of the brand’s Hongdae flagship.

Entering the three-story store, shoppers are greeted by a grand, nihilistic display. Music reminiscent of a superhero blockbuster blares, while an installation of two wrecked cars, piled atop each other, is inlaid with branding materials. Clothing racks share real estate with gallery space, curated from a rotating list of Ader-aligned artists. The full display is ripped up each six months – replaced with new theme materials conceptualized by the crew.

But bigger than Ader’s installations and branding tactics is the social change that the brand has helped herald. In South Korea — where male and female gender roles are well-defined and unrelenting — the success of unisex fashion is somewhat revolutionary.

“Our clothing is unisex and this kind of styling runs counter to the usual Korean dress culture. In the past, so many people felt strange, asking ‘Why do they do that?’ But these days it’s very trendy and people enjoy this kind of styling. We started to change people’s minds — we didn’t mean it at first when we started, it’s a coincidence. Now we are seeing the positive effects of what we’re doing. We feel that these kinds of changes can make Korean fashion more strong,” the cofounder said.

Now with a brand language in place, Ader feels it is ripe for expansion. It has partnered with Tomorrow Ltd. for global distribution — starting with the spring 2018 season. Ader Error’s only current retail outside South Korea is with Tom Greyhound in Paris, as well as two stores in Berlin and Fig Collective in New York. Tomorrow Ltd. feels the brand has exponential market value, but aims to keep Ader’s distribution small and fleeting — capping its stockist list at around 20.

Given Ader’s environmental approach to retail and branding, it will look to establish pop-ups in each stockist it takes on. The first to give this exercise a go will be 10 Corso Como, which will stage an Ader exhibition from June 16 to 20.

Said Tomorrow Ltd.’s Cesare Prevedello, responsible for Ader sales: “It’s all about the brand, it’s not the people designing, it’s not even about the product. We want people to be able to want to review the brand as immersive — all the things that are around you. There is no point to identify the brand with someone or something specific. It’s a new vision for fashion.”

Silvia Bertocchi, 10 Corso Como’s buyer, said of the label: “Ader Error’s clothing has many strong attraction points. We like the idea of a multidisciplinary collective behind the brand, all with different skills and personalities. Ader Error’s clothing is conceived with linear graphics — with details and a kind of imperfection — it’s different.”



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A gunman who wounded a Los Angeles police officer and K-9 during an exchange of gunfire Thursday night has been captured, authorities said.

The suspected shooter, whom officials did not immediately identify, was arrested about midnight, said LAPD spokesman Officer Tony Im.

One officer was shot in the elbow and the K-9 was wounded, authorities said. One bullet struck another officer’s tactical helmet but did not injure the officer, Im said. The suspect was booked on suspicion of attempted murder, among other charges.

The arrest concluded an intensive search after police reported being fired upon about 7 p.m. at San Pedro and 49th Streets, on the western edge of the South Park Recreation Center, Im said.

At least 13 officers were involved in the incident, with some returning fire on the gunman.

Just before the violence erupted, a group of children were playing soccer in the park, which has a pool, baseball diamond and tennis courts.

The burst of gunfire brought the game to a halt, and families and children ran for cover.

One woman ran toward the shooting, yelling, “Where’s my son? Where’s my son?”

Gregorio Garcia was with his wife, daughter and three sons, and when he heard the shots he threw himself and his family to the ground.

“This area is hot,” said Janet Aguilar, who was inside her car and lives nearby. “A lot of stuff going on like shootings. I don’t think I’ll bring [my kids] back for soccer practice.”

joseph.serna@latimes.com

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna on Twitter.

matt.hamilton@latimes.com

Twitter: @MattHjourno

leila.miller@latimes.com

Twitter: @leilamillersays



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A man armed with a rifle fired several rounds toward police Thursday night near a park in South Los Angeles, authorities said.

Officers in the area reported they were fired upon about 7 p.m. at San Pedro and 49th streets, on the western edge of the South Park Recreation Center, said Officer Tony Im, an LAPD spokesman.

Police set up a perimeter in the neighborhood to search for the gunman, who was described as an adult Latino male wearing a black shirt and blue jeans.

No injuries were reported, Im said.

Earlier in the evening, a group of children were playing soccer in the park, which has a pool, baseball diamond and tennis courts.

The burst of gunfire brought the game to a halt, and families and children ran for cover.

One woman ran toward the shooting, yelling, “Where’s my son? Where’s my son?”

Gregorio Garcia was with his wife, daughter and three sons, and when he heard the shots, he threw himself and his family to the ground.

“This area is hot,” said Janet Aguilar, who was inside her car and lives nearby. “A lot of stuff going on like shootings. I don’t think I’ll bring [my kids] back for soccer practice.”

As the sun set, more police descended on the neighborhood and at least one helicopter circled overhead.

leila.miller@latimes.com

Twitter: @leilamillersays

matt.hamilton@latimes.com

Twitter: @MattHjourno



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A senior U.S. naval commander insisted Thursday that American policy on the South China Sea has not shifted, despite uncertainty about President Trump’s response to Chinese militarization of the disputed waters.

“The policy is consistent between the two administrations,” said Adm. Scott Swift, who leads U.S. naval forces in the Pacific. “I don’t think anybody is expecting this huge reversal.”

Swift spoke aboard the guided missile destroyer Sterett during its scheduled stop in Zhanjiang, a seaside steel town on China’s far southern tip. The ship docked amid People’s Liberation Army ships at a Chinese naval base. The port city headquarters the military responsible for operations in the South China Sea.

The commander stressed continuity amid concerns Trump is looking the other way on China’s island-building in favor of its help thwarting North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

Allies received some reassurance last month when a U.S. warship sailed near artificial islands China claims, the first test of Beijing’s assertiveness since Trump took office. (Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang accused the U.S. of trespassing near islands where China has “indisputable sovereignty.”)

Swift stressed America’s “consistent presence” in the region, but also played down the focus on these freedom of navigation operations, or FONOPS.

“The amount of FONOPS we do is infinitesimal compared to our everyday exchanges,” he said. “I don’t see how those operations in the South China Sea should be viewed from a Navy perspective as any more consequential than anywhere else.”

Swift noted U.S. “ship days” in the South China Sea would likely reach 900 this year, up from around 700 annually. But he attributed it to carrier strike groups temporarily in the Pacific and cautioned against assuming a regular increase.

China claims almost all of the South China Sea and has intensified its grasp in recent years by converting submerged reefs into full-scale islands with runways and military installations. It vies against neighbors for stretches of the strategically vital and mineral-rich waters, through which more than $5 trillion worth of trade passes each year.

The fight is about sovereignty and security, but it’s also about the ability to drill for oil and fish in plentiful waters. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan all have competing claims.

American officials haven’t taken sides on the sovereignty dispute, but they have sought to reinforce the right to sail in international waters. Trump criticized China’s island buildup during the campaign, and then spoke less about the issue once he took office.

“The mixed messages are still there,” said Euan Graham, director of the international security program at the Lowy Institute in Australia. Officials “are trying to demonstrate consistency against a pattern of inconsistency at the White House.”

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, speaking at an international security conference in Singapore this month, attempted to find a balance. He pledged to work with China on issues they both care about while also criticizing its “indisputable militarization” of artificial islands and “excessive maritime claims unsupported by international law.”

The U.S., he said, “cannot and will not accept unilateral, coercive changes to the status quo.”

Swift and the ship crew sought to highlight the collaborative side.

The destroyer’s stop marks the first visit this year of a U.S. warship to mainland China. Officials billed the five-day layover as a chance to build maritime cooperation through pleasantries such as ship tours and a cooking exchange. Each side hosted an evening reception, where sailors exchanged belt buckles and uniform ornaments.

Swift’s wife accompanied sailors to a special education school. He gave Vice Adm. Wang Hai a tour of the ship.

The destroyer, deployed from San Diego in March, recently assisted in a training exercise with two Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers over the South China Sea. Cmdr. Sean Lewis, the ship’s executive officer, said they conducted three other operations there “showing our presence.”

Chinese analysts saw the visit as illustrative of the complex, ruffled rapport between the two countries.

“Two tracks are happening at the same time,” said Xu Guangyu, former vice president of the People’s Liberation Army Defense Institute of China. “There are actions that are provocative, yet this visit is just friendly. This reflects the internal contradiction in the U.S.-Sino relationship.”

Nicole Liu in the Times’ Beijing bureau contributed to this report.

Meyers is a special correspondent.

Twitter: @jessicameyers

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Nicky Kim wasn’t applying for work as a model.

But that didn’t matter to potential employers. In addition to a resume and references, they all wanted a head shot.

Kim, who grew up in England and graduated from college there, had just moved back to her native South Korea. She chalked it up to cultural differences and submitted a no-frills, passport-style snapshot.

Then came the real shock: Prospective employers weren’t impressed.

“You don’t look like this photo,” one told her. “Why did you choose this photo?”

Blatant discrimination based on looks is banned or at least discouraged in many countries. But in South Korea, oemo jisang juui — which translates to “look-ism” or “looks are supreme” — is standard practice in many workplaces.

Facing intense competition for jobs with benefits, many applicants feel compelled to enhance their appearances for an edge. Some resort to dermatology or plastic surgery.

Han Jeong-ae, a member of the National Assembly, recently introduced a bill that would fine employers who ask for a photograph or inquire about appearance, birthplace, marital status or the education of family members.

She said job applicants should be judged solely on their skills — and not be forced to endure the cost and stress of getting that perfect photograph.

“Attaching photos to resumes instigates look-ism and leads to burdening expenses for job applicants,” she said. “The bill must be passed without delay for fair employment to take place.”

The bill passed a legislative committee late last year, but it is stalled amid opposition from a key business trade group, the Korea Employers Federation. The group argued that appearance matters in the workplace.

Indeed, white-collar firms, government offices and the service industry routinely ask applicants for photographs. A recent survey of more than 900 businesses by the South Korean job website Incruit found that about 60% required one.

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea recently studied 3,500 recruitment posts and found that on average each included four “discriminatory” questions, including queries about age, appearance, gender, birth region, marital status, religion, military service records and pregnancy.

The authors of the report recommended legislative changes to increase “fairness” for applicants.

South Korea’s job boards are filled with listings that instruct applicants to attach photographs. They sometimes use terms like “neat” to describe ideal candidates, or explicitly outlaw mustaches or tattoos.

One recent advertisement that drew media attention here specified “C” as the ideal bra cup size. A post on a jobs blog said that big firms prefer “pretty eyes” and that government bosses like “high noses.”

Even the Ministry of Employment and Labor once tweeted a link mentioning plastic surgery that also encouraged job seekers to mind their looks. The tweet was later deleted, and the agency said it only meant applicants should “practice smiling in front of the mirror” to prepare for interviews.

Many young South Koreans already feel enormous pressure to find work at top companies so they don’t miss out on career trajectories that can be critical to long-term financial security. Although unemployment rate here is low, the rate for people younger than 29 is in the double digits.

“I don’t think it’s fair that employers judge someone for their looks or anything unrelated to work efficiency,” said Yoon-ha Cha, 21, an economics major at Seoul’s prestigious Yonsei University. “Of course, being good-looking or beautiful is great, but in relation to work, it should be their professionalism and skill that should be judged.”

But reality being what it is, she visited a dermatologist in hopes of improving her chances of landing a good job.

Such concerns would be troubling at workplaces in the United States, said Tom Spiggle, a Virginia-based employment lawyer.

In the United States, there is no federal law banning employers from asking for an application photo, but California prohibits it in most cases.

Even where it is allowed, it’s almost unheard in the United States, except for hiring models or actors.

“That is because it’s just asking for a lawsuit,” said Spiggle. “Physical appearance is too closely tied to protected categories, like sex and age, that can generally be easily discerned from looking at a photo.”

In South Korea, though, photography studios catering to job applicants are common.

One such business, known as Newface Studio, has opened near Sungshin Women’s University in Seoul. The business features a spacious photography studio and in-house styling, wardrobe and makeup services.

Customers watch as technicians remove blemishes or make facial features more symmetrical. Eyes shift ever so slightly. Scars and other dry skin patches disappear. Faces narrow to resemble movie and pop music stars that are held up as exemplars of beauty here.

The business, which has 12 employees and two locations, is busiest during South Korea’s two recruiting seasons: March to May and August to October.

“Even if putting photos on resumes is banned, [employers] will still consider looks during interviews,” said co-founder Kim Kwang Min, who operates the touch-up software while his business partner handles hair and makeup.

Looks should matter, he said: “There’s a saying that you can tell someone’s personality by their looks. … I don’t think people can be judged only based on what’s written on their resume, especially if they work in the service industry.”

Nicky Kim, 24, went to a professional photography studio, which digitally touched up her skin, nose and eyes and stray hair. “I looked gorgeous,” she said. “It’s funny. If I look at my photo taken in Britain and compare it with the one taken in Korea, they look like two different people of a different era.”

“You need a photo good enough to get you the interview, but not something that is too overdone,” she said.

Hers worked. Suddenly she suddenly got more interviews, landing internships and jobs, including a stint as a host on an English-speaking radio program.

After two years in South Korea, however, Kim concluded that professional life for women there was too difficult and decided to move back to England.

“My decision was a result of being exposed to Korean women who were smart, young, attractive, successful — but innately unhappy,” she said.

Stiles is a special correspondent.



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