Dictator or Hero?
Park Chung-hee ruled South Korea with an iron fist for 18 years. Now, he is the most popular South Korean ex-president ever, and his daughter just won the presidency last December. How did that happen?
by EUGENE YI
It starts, as it should, with a fight between my parents and me when discussing Park Chung-hee, South Korea’s longest-ruling autocrat. Korean politics run along strict generational lines, much more so than American politics, and feelings about Park, it would seem, follow that rule closely.
I was interviewing University of California, Berkeley, professor Elaine Kim, one of the grand dames of Asian American academia, and proudly left-wing when it comes to Korean politics. She once got a vanity license plate that read JUCHE, a “wonderful idea,” she said, of the eponymous philosophy of radical Korean self-reliance, introduced by North Korean leader Kim Il-sung in 1967, and later adopted by some far-left liberal South Koreans disenchanted with American meddling in local affairs. So perhaps it should come as little surprise when she said, “When I was a graduate student at Columbia [during the ’70s], there were people in the higher up that Park Chung-hee paid to watch what kinds of publications students were reading. They would report that [back to Park],” she said.
She told other stories: rough-looking Korean men suddenly appearing at community meetings in Oakland; the quick trial and execution of students in South Korea on trumped-up charges of being part of a Communist cell; Park’s personal flaws, including infidelity and domestic violence. She allowed that the nation did end up better off economically thanks to Park’s reforms, but she also emphasized the macro factors, especially the U.S. role in financing the South Korean economic miracle.
I asked my father for his thoughts. “She calls herself a professor? She doesn’t know anything,” he said. “She must be a communist.” Continue Reading »
by Anna Challet of New America Media
EDITOR’S NOTE: New America Media editor Andrew Lam has made his name as a journalist, but in his newest book, his past as a Vietnamese refugee reverberates through short stories about characters who fled Vietnam and made new lives in the Bay Area. Of his new work, writer Robert Olen Butler noted: “His stories are elegant and humane and funny and sad. Lam has instantly established himself as one of our finest fiction writers.” NAM reporter Anna Challet spoke with him about the collection, Birds of Paradise Lost (Red Hen Press, 2013), published this month.
Anna Challet: Birds of Paradise Lost is your first book of fiction – how did you come to publish a fiction collection after so many years of working as a journalist?
Andrew Lam: I’ve been writing short stories for twenty years now, on and off ever since I was in the creative writing program at San Francisco State University. Though I later found a career as a journalist and an essayist, fiction is my first love and I never left it, even though there was no easy way to make a living from it. The collection is a labor of love and devotion, and whenever I found free time from my journalism work, I’d work on one story or another, or at least sketch out my characters, and research various issues related to my characters’ dilemmas. After twenty years and thirty stories, thirteen pieces were finally selected and the collection was born. So far, the blurbs from [authors] Maxine Hong Kingston, Gish Jen, Robert Olen Butler, Oscar Hijuelos and others, have been most encouraging. Continue Reading »
Three of the four Asian Americans running for office in tomorrow’s election are running against each other.
by EUGENE YI
Four Asian American candidates running for Los Angeles City Council will have their political futures decided in Tuesday’s primary election. The downside: three of them — including two Korean Americans — are running against each other.
The bid to represent Council District 13 is the most crowded race in tomorrow’s election, with a total of 12 candidates. John Choi, a former commissioner on the city’s Board of Public Works, and Emile Mack, a retired deputy fire chief, are the two Korean Americans running in the district. Alex de Ocampo, the Filipino American manager with the Saban Family Foundation, is the third Asian American. The top-two vote-getters among the 12 candidates will move on to the runoff this fall.
The district stretches from Hollywood, through the hipster enclaves of Silver Lake and Echo Park, and includes a slice of Koreatown. The district is about 16 percent Asian American. About 10,000 registered voters of Asian descent are in the district, according to figures from last year’s redistricting commission. About half are of Filipino descent, a safe bet to be in Ocampo’s camp. About a quarter are Korean American. Continue Reading »
Are you OCD?
Dr. Esther Oh explains signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder and shares tips on how loved ones can help sufferers cope.
by DR. ESTHER OH
Have you ever used hand sanitizer before a meal? Gone back to a parking garage to make sure your car was locked? Ran back into the house to make sure you turned off the stove? Sure, we’ve all done things to give us peace of mind, but when those actions are taken to an extreme—scrubbing your hands vigorously multiple times, pressing the lock button again and again—you may have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
People with this anxiety disorder, which affects about 2 to 3 million adults and 1 million children in the U.S., have irresistible, intrusive thoughts that cause them to perform certain behaviors to get rid of those thoughts. These become time-consuming, cause distress, put a strain on relationships and interfere with daily living. People with OCD realize their symptoms are irrational, but feel they can’t control them. OCD can become apparent during childhood or adolescence and continue on through adulthood, getting better or worse based on stress level.
There are two main symptoms in OCD: obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are involuntary, overpowering thoughts, images or impulses that happen over and over in a person’s mind. They can be disturbing, distracting and uncomfortable. Compulsions are behaviors or rituals performed repeatedly in order to make the obsessions go away. The person experiences temporary relief, but the obsessions usually reappear more intense than before, leading to more demanding and time-consuming compulsions, which cause significant anxiety. What are some common types of OCD? Continue Reading »
by MONICA Y. HONG
Let’s get down to business. Kristen Kish is in the finale of Top Chef Season 10. It doesn’t matter anymore how she got here — all the heartache, the pain and frustration those darn reality show producers put us through — she’s in. And it’s a battle. And by battle, I mean all of a sudden for its finale, Top Chef has given birth to an alien baby that is 2/3 cup “Iron Chef”, two tablespoons “American Idol”, a pinch of “Fashion Star” and a dash of “The Weakest Link”. In other words, it’s a bowl of whipped crazy!
It is awesome to see two women in the finale cook for the $125,000 prize and the prestigious life-changing title of Top Chef. Either KK or Brooke Williamson will be named only the second ever female Top Chef. Pretty darn cool. But they have to compete under some major pressure cookers: five judges, all nine past Top Chef winners, a stadium full of fans and their families. The new format is a round-by-round judgment where the cheftestants plan on five courses, but have the potential to be eliminated sooner. There is side-by-side action too, where the chefs both have to serve scallops in the second course and red snapper during their fourth course.
The finale begins with Padma in a red dress yelling over the noise in what looks like “Kitchen Stadium” overrun with Top Chef alumni. Kristen has a team of three sous chefs including Lizzie the South African San Franciscan, Sheldon the King of Umami and Josh the OK mustache. Brooke chooses big big Ceej, Kuniko the One that Got Away and Stefan the Wannabe Husband. Did I mention Paul Qui is there too? Yee haw! Continue Reading »