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‘Grand Theft Claw Crane’: Big Win at the Claw Machine Leads to Police Investigation in South-Korea

The art of claw craning recently made headlines when an all-too- successful game of claw crane led to a formal police investigation in Daejeon, South Korea. As the story goes viral on Chinese social media, responses show that South Korea’s ‘claw crane hype’ has also sprung up in China.

Manya Koetse

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The art of claw craning recently made headlines when an all-too-successful attempt at a claw machine arcade led to a formal police investigation in Daejeon, South Korea. The story’s popularity on Chinese social media shows how South Korea’s ‘claw crane hype’ has also sprung up in China.

Local police in the South Korean city of Daejeon recently had to deal with a remarkable ‘theft case’ when they received a report from the owner of a claw machine shop that all 210 plush toys out of his arcade’s five claw machines had disappeared.

The case made it to the news in South Korea and was also reported by various Chinese media (e.g. Sina News) on Weibo, where it soon triggered thousands of reactions.

 

“The two men had “a fixed method to operate the joystick.””

 

According to the police report over the claw machine mystery, the toys had an estimated total value of 2.1 million won (±1820US$). The incident happened at a time when no shop assistant was present at the claw machine arcade.


South Korean News on the Grand Theft Claw Game case.

After police investigated the case by looking at security camera footage, they discovered that the plush toys were not stolen, but were legitimately grabbed by two skillful 20-year-old South-Korean men. They succeeded in grabbing all toys within a time frame of 2 hours.

The claw machine hall has a fee of around 8US$ which allows players to operate the claw a total of 12 times. If the men would have succeeded in grabbing all toys within 1 attempt, it would have cost them approximately 140$.

According to Sina News, most people usually need around 20-30 attempts before succeeding in grabbing a toy with the claw. But the local police investigation pointed out that the two men from Daejeon only needed 1 or 2 attempts to win a toy.

In a police interview, the two men declared that they had found “a fixed method to operate the joystick.” Because they paid money for all of their attempts, did not damage any arcade material, and legitimately won their prices, they cannot be held accountable for the arcade hall losses.

On Weibo the incident triggered thousands of comments, also of netizens who feel frustrated with Chinese claw cranes: “This boss was actually sincere, but if you come and play the sh*tty claw crane here, you never win. I’ve spent 20 RMB (±3$) and nothing even moved.”

“I’ve spent 200 RMB (±30$) on claw cranes today,” another person comments: “I’ve only won 1 toy.”

“Maybe the claws in South Korea are less loose than here,” some wonder.

Although claw cranes are popular all around the world, South Korea has recently seen a claw machine ‘hype’, with claw game halls popping up everywhere.

In 2015, a Taiwan newspaper also reported that there was a ‘claw hype’ going on. The game is especially popular among people born in the 1980s and 1990s.

 

“The kids whose parents never gave them money for the claw machine have now grown up and finally have their own money to play the game.”

 

The countless responses on Weibo show that the game is also very popular (again) in mainland China. Some netizens share pictures of the toys they have recently ‘won’ and collected.

A collection of claw crane toys, shared on Weibo.

“The toys I’ve won last month,” one Weibo user says.

“I’ve grabbed them all” (Sina Weibo).

Some think they know why claw cranes have become so popular again. One Weibo user (@叶远远叶) says: “I suddenly realized that the recent growing popularity of the claw machine is because the kids whose parents never gave them money for the claw machine – thinking it was fraudulent – have now grown up and finally have their own money to play the game.”

The popularity of the game also might have to do with it being a typical ‘date activity’, where boys win toys for their girlfriends. “I am so good at grabbing plush toys from the claw machine, why am I still single?” one young man wonders.

A video showing techniques on how to grab toys from claw cranes is also widely shared Sina Weibo. In February, one Chinese man became known as the “Claw Game God” when he won over 3000 toys in half a year.


Claw Crane Technique Video on Weibo

Most commenters seem to agree that the machines in South Korea have a higher success rate than those in China. “We might be boycotting South Korea,” one person says (in response to recent THAAD controversy): “But at least their claw cranes are better than China’s.”

No matter how popular the claw crane game may be, for some people the game is over: “With the money I’ve spent on these machines, I could’ve bought at least a 100 toys – but I never even grabbed one single toy.”

– By Manya Koetse

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©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Brands & Marketing

About Lipstick King’s Comeback and His ‘Mysterious’ Disappearance

After Li Jiaqi’s return to livestreaming, the ‘tank cake incident’ has become the elephant in the room on social media.

Manya Koetse

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Earlier this week, the return of China’s famous livestreamer Li Jiaqi, also known as the ‘Lipstick King’, became a hot topic on Chinese social media where his three-month ‘disappearance’ from the social commerce scene triggered online discussions.

He is known as Austin Li, Lipstick King, or Lipstick Brother, but most of all he is known as one of China’s most successful e-commerce livestreaming hosts.

After being offline for over 100 days, Li Jiaqi (李佳琦) finally came back and did a livestreaming session on September 20th, attracting over 60 million viewers and selling over $17 million in products.

The 30-year-old beauty influencer, a former L’Oreal beauty consultant, rose to fame in 2017 after he became a successful livestreamer focusing on lipstick and other beauty products.

Li broke several records during his live streaming career. In 2018, he broke the Guinness World Record for “the most lipstick applications in 30 seconds.” He once sold 15000 lipsticks in 5 minutes, and also managed to apply 380 different lipsticks in another seven-hour live stream session. Li made international headlines in 2021 when he sold $1.9 billion in goods during a 12-hour-long promotion livestream for Alibaba’s shopping festival.

But during a Taobao livestream on June 3rd of this year, something peculiar happened. After Li Jiaqi and his co-host introduced an interestingly shaped chocolate cake – which seemed to resemble a tank, – a male assistant in the back mentioned something about the sound of shooting coming from a tank (“坦克突突”).

Although Li Jiaqi and the others laughed about the comment, Li also seemed a bit unsure and the woman next to him then said: “Stay tuned for 23:00 to see if Li Jiaqi and I will still be in this position.”

The session then suddenly stopped, and at 23:38 that night Li wrote on Weibo that the channel was experiencing some “technical problems.”

But those “technical problems” lasted, and Li did not come back. His June 3rd post about the technical problems would be the last one on his Weibo account for the months to come.

The ‘cake tank incident’ (坦克蛋糕事件) occurred on the night before June 4, the 33rd anniversary of the violent crackdown of the Tiananmen student demonstrations. The iconic image of the so-called ‘tank man‘ blocking the tanks at Tiananmen has become world famous and is censored on China’s internet. The control of information flows is especially strict before and on June 4, making Li’s ‘tank cake incident’ all the more controversial.

But no official media nor the official Li Jiaqi accounts acknowledged the tank cake incident, and his absence remained unexplained. Meanwhile, there was a silent acknowledgment among netizens that the reason Li was not coming online anymore was related to the ‘tank cake incident.’

During Li’s long hiatus, fans flocked to his Weibo page where they left thousands of messages.

“I’m afraid people have been plotting against you,” many commenters wrote, suggesting that the cake was deliberately introduced by someone else during the livestream as a way to commemorate June 4.

Many fans also expressed their appreciation of Li, saying how watching his streams helped them cope with depression or cheered them up during hard times. “What would we do without you?” some wrote. Even after 80 days without Li Jiaqi’s livestreams, people still commented: “I am waiting for you every day.”

On September 21st, Li Jiaqi finally – and somewhat quietly – returned and some people said they were moved to see their lipstick hero return to the livestream scene.

Although many were overjoyed with Li’s return, it also triggered more conversations on why he had disappeared and what happened to him during the 3+ months of absence. “He talked about a sensitive topic,” one commenter said when a Weibo user asked about Li’s disappearance.

One self-media accountpublished a video titled “Li Jiaqi has returned.” The voiceover repeatedly asks why Li would have disappeared and even speculates about what might have caused it, without once mentioning the tank cake.

“This cracks me up,” one commenter wrote: “On the outside we all know what’s going on, on the inside there’s no information whatsoever.”

“It’s tacit mutual understanding,” some wrote. “It’s the elephant in the room,” others said.

Some people, however, did not care about discussing Li’s disappearance at all anymore and just expressed joy about seeing him again: “It’s like seeing a good friend after being apart for a long time.”

By Manya Koetse 

Elements in the featured image by @karishea and @kaffeebart.

 

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China and Covid19

Happiest Lockdown in China: Guests Undergo Mandatory Quarantine at Shanghai Disneyland Hotel

“I wish I could be quarantined at Disney too!” The Shanghai Disney hotel apparently is the happiest place to get locked in.

Manya Koetse

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While many cities across China are experiencing new (partial) lockdowns and millions of people are confined to their homes, there was also a group of people that had to undergo mandatory quarantine at a very special place: the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel.

On September 7, social media posts started surfacing online from people who said they were required to quarantine while they were at the Shanghai Disneyland hotel. Disneyland reportedly had received a notification from the local health authorities that a visitor who previously stayed at the Disneyland hotel was found to be a close contact of a newly confirmed Covid case.

In line with the Center for Disease Control requirements, Disney created a ‘closed loop system’ by locking in all hotel residents and staff members and doing daily Covid tests. While the Disneyland theme park was open as usual, the hotel became a temporary isolation site where people’s health would be monitored for the next few days while all staff members would also be screened.

During their mandatory quarantine, guests stayed at the hotel for free and did not need to pay for their rooms. Room prices at the Shanghai Disneyland hotel start at around 3000 yuan/night ($433).

Some guests shared photos of their Disneyland quarantine stay on social media, showing how Disney staff provided them with free breakfast, lunch, a surprise afternoon tea, delicious dinner, fun snacks, and Disney toys and stickers.

On the Little Red Book (Xiaohongshu) app, one Shanghai Disney visitor (nickname @恶霸小提莫) wrote: “We have three meals a day, there is both Chinese and Western-style breakfast, we also get afternoon tea and desserts, they have shrimp, beef, scallops, drinks, French macarons, yogurt, ice cream, and much more. We watched so many Disney movies for free. We are given so many little gifts, they brought us gifts twice today as they also brought us toy figures at night. We watch the fireworks from our windows every night at 8.30 pm. Although we weren’t allowed to go out, we really had a pleasant stay.”

Another Disney guest named Zoea (Xiaohongshu ID: yiya0313) also shared many photos of the mandatory quarantine and wrote: “When the staff knocked on the door to tell me they were bringing dinner, I even wondered how it was possible that they brought food again. Afternoon tea during quarantine, can you believe it? And fruit before dinner? And midnight snacks brought to us after dinner? And it was so nice to watch all the Disney movies on tv. Disney really is the most magical place.”

“I’m just so happy,” another locked-in Disney guest posted on social media, sharing pictures of Mickey Mouse cakes.

Other guests also posted about their experiences on social media. “They probably feared we would get bored so they brought us glue, stickers, and painting brushes, the kids loved it and so did we!”

Reading about the happy quarantine at Disney, many Weibo users responded that they envied the guests, writing: “I wish I could be quarantined at Disney too.”

“I need to find a way to get in, too,” others wrote.

Earlier this year, one Chinese woman shared her story of being quarantined inside a hotpot restaurant for three days. Although many people also envied the woman, who could eat all she wanted during her stay, she later said she felt like she had enough hotpot for the rest of her life.

By Manya Koetse 

 

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