After Missiles, Seoul Seeks More Reunions
Wall Street Journal
When South Korea told North Korea that it shouldn’t link military exercises and family reunions, it meant drills now ongoing in the South.
Clearly it also means military activity in the North.
South Korea’s Defense Ministry has responded to North Korea’s series of missile launches over the last few days with harsh words about “provocations,” but over at the Unification Ministry there’s a new move for more meetings between families torn apart by the Korean War and North Korean abductions.
The ministry, which coordinates inter-Korean affairs, said Wednesday it had sent a proposal for working-level talks to take place in a week.
The North Korean defectors who want to return home
In the past two decades thousands of North Koreans have fled their homeland, seeking refuge in the South. So why are some now deciding to return?
Kim Hyung-deok met his wife at South Korea’s top university, has two children and a successful career. He has a house in the countryside outside Seoul and a taste for sharp suits.
Hyung-deok was born in North Korea, but about 20 years ago escaped to the South. He is one of about 25,000 to do so in the past two decades.
It is a long and dangerous journey, but once defectors arrive South Korean citizenship is guaranteed.
U.S. calls for ‘urgent’ restraint to ease Japan, South Korea tensions
The United States appealed to Japan and South Korea on Tuesday to work urgently to reduce the tensions between them, saying its two main allies in Asia could not afford to let their troubled history interfere with ensuring regional security.
“There is an urgent need to show prudence and restraint in dealing with difficult historical issues. It is important to handle them in a way that promotes healing,” Washington’s top diplomat for the East Asian region, Daniel Russel, said in prepared testimony for a U.S. Senate hearing.
Russel, the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said strategic cooperation between the United States, Japan and South Korea was essential for future security in Northeast Asia, given the threat posed by North Korea and other “regional uncertainties,” a reference to concerns about an increasingly assertive China.
Korea raises sex slavery issue at UN
Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se urged Japan, Wednesday, to take responsibility for forcing Korean women into sexual slavery during World War II and make sincere efforts to resolve the matter.
In a keynote speech to the 25th regular session of the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Switzerland, Yun denounced Tokyo’s recent move to revise its 1993 apology over “comfort women,” a Japanese euphemism for sex slaves, calling it “contrary to the U.N.’s repeated recommendation to resolve the issue.”
This was the first time since 2006 that the nation’s top diplomat attended the UNHRC session, and also marked the first time for a Korean foreign minister to make a speech there on the issue of women who suffered sexual enslavement by the Japanese imperial army.
Remembering Ahn’s Assassination – In Model Form
Wall Street Journal
In his latest China’s World column, WSJ’s Andrew Browne explores the significance of China’s move to set up a museum commemorating Ahn Jung-geun, the Korean assassin of the first Japanese resident-governor of Korea in 1909.
The move has delighted South Koreans, who see Mr. Ahn as one of the heroes of Korean history.
Mr. Ahn is also celebrated at a memorial hall at the foot of the Mt. Nam in central Seoul. Erected by the Park Chung-hee government in 1970 and partially funded through donations from the public, it was renovated in 2010 to commemorate the 101st anniversary the assassination in Harbin, China of Hirobumi Ito. There’s a 3m-high statue of Mr. Ahn in front of the hall.
South Korea’s Sexist Military [OPINION]
New York Times
The Korea Air Force Academy recently decided that it would grant its highest academic award for graduating seniors, the presidential prize, not to the valedictorian but to the salutatorian. Traditionally the prize is given to the student with the highest grade-point average, but the administrators said they chose the runner-up this year because he had performed better than the valedictorian in nonacademic areas like physical fitness and leadership, and in military studies.
But to many South Koreans, the real reason for the choice was obvious: The valedictorian was a woman and the salutatorian a man.
South Korea first allowed women into the military in 1950 during the Korean War. Back then, female soldiers mainly held administrative and support positions. Women began to take on combat roles in the 1990s when the three military academies, exclusive to men, began accepting women. In 2013, female soldiers numbered more than 8,200 in a total military force of 639,000 soldiers.
Running mate adds business focus to Rutherford bid for governor
As an immigrant from South Korea, Steve Kim was introduced to American culture through childhood conversations about politics with his father over the daily newspaper. But it would take several years and a college internship before Kim realized his personal politics were decidedly Republican.
While doing research for a Democratic congressman in Ohio, Kim found himself in disagreement with the party’s plans to tax and regulate businesses. Kim’s mom owned a dry cleaner in Skokie, and to him, lower taxes and less government involvement just made sense.
It’s a stance Kim has continued to champion as a candidate for lieutenant governor and running mate to Treasurer Dan Rutherford in the GOP primary for governor. He argues that Republicans for too long have ceded the support of immigrant communities to Democrats.
Girls’ Generation & BIGBANG Top, PSY Tumbles Down Forbes Korea’s Celebrity List
Is Girls’ Generation made up of nine Oprah Winfreys? According to Forbes, that may be true. The full list for Forbes Korea’s “2014 Power Celebrity 40″ shows the nine-member girl group reclaiming the No. 1 slot from PSY, who topped last year. The “Gentleman” rapper falls to No. 13 this year.
The Forbes Korea list is created based on exposure, professionalism and domestic and overseas earnings. The ranking methodology is similar to the U.S. Forbes “Celebrity 100″ list that Oprah topped last year with Lady Gaga in the runner-up position.
Girls’ Generation tops the chart after an exciting 2013 that saw its Korean-language album “I Got a Boy” released — with its title track earning a two-week K-Pop Hot 100 No. 1 — plus Japanese album “Love & Peace,” the group’s first Chinese-language single and a big international spotlight after winning the YouTube Music Awards’ maiden video of the year honor.
‘Frozen’-Crazy South Korea Spawns Countless K-Pop Covers of ‘Let It Go’ (Video)
Disney’s Oscar-winning animation Frozen has become nothing short of a phenomenon in South Korea. Since its local release on Jan. 15, the film has grossed more than $75 million here, making South Korea the movie’s most successful market outside the U.S.
It has also sold more than 10 million tickets — a record for an animated film in the country — meaning approximately one in five South Koreans have watched Anna on her adventure to break the wintery spell.
“I believe the film’s Broadway musical appeal attracted audiences,” said prominent local film critic Jeong Ji-ouk, noting the popularity of live musicals in Korea.
UC Berkeley plans to hold K-pop conference
Korea Times US
An in-school club at UC Berkeley will hold a two-day convention on the colorful and diverse aspects of the K-pop community. Under the theme “[Be] CHROMATIC,” KPOPCON will be held on March 8 and 9, in and around the university campus in Northern California.
“KPOPCON strives to gather fans from all backgrounds to celebrate the continuously evolving K-pop community in a social, creative, and academic setting,” said its organizer K-Popular. “While enjoying the hallyu content provided during the workshops, we hope fans will find their creativity and dreams.”
Since the student club launched the K-pop event in 2012, it has been providing a platform for studying the phenomenon academically as well as organizing dance competitions and fan meet-ups.
Opportunistic S. Korea beats Greece in pre-World Cup friendly
Opportunistic on offense and fortunate on defense, South Korea defeated Greece 2-0 in their pre-World Cup friendly match on Wednesday.
South Korea solved the usually stingy Greek defense once in each half, as forward Park Chu-young scored his first international goal in more than two years, and winger Son Heung-min added insurance later at Karaiskakis Stadium. The 61st-ranked South Korea improved to three wins and a draw all-time against the No. 12 Greece.
2014 Is the Year of the Night Market
The decades-old tradition of the night market (covered last year in Transpacific Routes) — the evening outdoor marketplace events in Asian cities known worldwide for their array of street food and haggle-happy merchandise vendor stalls — is still a nascent concept on this side of the ocean, but it’s already quickly writing its own history here.
After the initial 626 Night Market hit the streets of Pasadena in April 2012 — an event that was as heavily criticized as it was attended — the organizers worked out the logistical kinks with a larger location at the Pasadena civic center, before settling at their current home at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia last year. In June 2013, summer weekend Little Saigon Night Market premiered, as well as the inaugural San Diego Night Market in that city’s pan-Asian Convoy District.
Now, in 2014, even more night market events are setting up in the Southland, with the recent announcement of the KTown Night Market coming to L.A.’s Koreatown in April and the now-experienced 626 Night Market operators taking their show to the 714 (949, technically) and the 213 with events at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa in May and the Staples Center parking lot in Downtown Los Angeles in June. Later this summer, Asian American arts and entertainment organization Kollaboration and the Monterey Park Chamber of Commerce are planning to bring the night market experience to that city as well.
Early Korean Literature Goes Digital and Free
The Korea Times reports that the Literature Translation Institute (LTI) of Korea, to ensure that Korean modern literature is available to every “digital person” in the world, has placed 20 works of early-modern Korean fiction online, which can be accessed either as PDF files or through apps for smart phones, tablets, and other mobile Internet devices.
Charles Montgomery writes that “These twenty works are the equivalent of a free collection of modern colonial fiction of Korean that can give an overseas reader a snapshot of the first ‘modern’ Korean literature and its styles, themes, and discontents.”
LTI Korea President Kim Seong-Kon told Montgomery that, “The authors were chosen carefully to include all aspects of Korean life at the time, from the lives of peasants in villages, to the lives of stifled intellectuals in cities, the stories of the men and women who lived through the colonial era and in the industrialization era.”
A cast member of a South Korean blind-date reality show was found dead of what appears to be suicide on Wednesday as the show was being shot on Jeju Island, according to the Korea Times.
The 29-year-old office worker, surnamed Jeon, was found dead in a bathroom of her room at a bed-and-breakfast inn. The show’s crew reportedly forced their way into the locked bathroom after a fellow cast member became concerned.
Police found a note next to her body which stated, “I am very sorry to my mom and dad. I don’t want to live anymore because life is too tough.” Continue Reading »
As the Korean economy has grown over the last few decades, so has the number of obese and highly obese people, which experts say is correlated to income levels, the JoongAng Daily reports.
In the last 15 years, the percentage of people with “extreme obesity” — defined by a body-mass index above 30 — has more than doubled to 5 percent of adults, while those considered just obese — with a BMI above 25 — rose to 32 percent, up from 26 percent in 1998, according to a study released by the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
Experts found that poor people were more likely to be obese. About 34 percent of people at the lowest income level were considered obese in 2012, compared with 29.5 percent of above-average income individuals. Continue Reading »
North Korea launches missiles into sea
North Korea launched four short-range missiles into the East Sea — also known as the Sea of Japan — the South Korean Defense Ministry said Thursday.
The missiles, which do not appear to have been sent toward South Korean waters, were fired toward Russia, fell into the sea and are considered a very low-level matter, the Pentagon said.
The missiles were fired just days after the start of annual joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States that North Korea opposes. The joint military exercises routinely spark tension between North Korea, South Korea and the United States.
Public criticism growing against Ri Sol-ju
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s wife Ri Sol-ju is facing mounting criticism from the public for being “out of touch,” Daily NK reported Tuesday.
Still a patriarchal society, North Korea’s conservative culture, which is deeply rooted in every man’s and woman’s mindset, leaves little room for the young, ex-dancer, Dior-clothed Ri to be accepted as a woman to look up to.
High-ranking officials almost twice her age or older would do a full 90-degree-bow, and Ri would just smile and nod her head in return or sometimes offer a handshake, and the scene irks many in the country, according to the source, the paper said.
Seeking a New U.S. Approach to North Korea
Wall Street Journal
Has the U.S. outsourced its North Korea policy to China?
On his recent swing through Northeast Asia, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry emphasized the role that he wants Beijing to play in reining in Pyongyang’s nuclear program. China, he said after meeting its leaders, provided commitments for new action to steer North Korea toward denuclearization. No specifics were given.
On Wednesday, Mr. Kerry was asked on MSNBC how the issue of North Korea’s human-rights abuses should be tackled, following a United Nations’ report accusing it of decades of crimes against humanity.
Mr. Kerry praised the report and expressed sentiments shared by many in reading it: “There is evil that is taking place there that all of us ought to be, and are, deeply concerned about,” he said.
Ambassador Kim reaching out harder
I would ask U.S. Ambassador to Korea Sung Kim for an interview whenever I had the chance. Conservatively speaking, that would be no less than five times.
So when I extended my hand for a handshake before an interview at his residence behind Deoksu Palace, Thursday afternoon, he said jovially, “Finally.”
My interest in Ambassador Kim is not just because he represents Korea’s key ally, the United States, but because he was born in Korea and went to the U.S. at age 10 ― in other words, as a Korean-American he is somebody with whom Koreans can more easily associate with than his predecessors.
Koreans could relate well to Kim’s predecessor, Kathleen Stevens, who can speak Korean fluently and before her tour of duty here worked as a Peace Corps member.
South Korea’s internet giant: Now or Naver
DOWN jackets are typically stuffed with duck, not chicken, feathers. Why? “Ask Naver”. So ran an ad in 2003 for a South Korean web portal of that name featuring an innovative, crowdsourced question-and-answer service. In spite of such features, Naver’s chances looked slim as it was launched into a crowded market dominated by Yahoo of America and Daum, another South Korean company.
Last year Naver indexed its 100-millionth question: a user asking for the title of a particular song, that begins with a giggle. An answer took just 14 minutes to arrive: “Blow,” by Kesha, an American singer. Every day around 18m people visit its homepage. It has almost 80% of the South Korean search market, making the country one of just three where Google is not top (the other two are Russia and China). Google accounts for just 4% of searches; Yahoo, now trailing behind as the tenth most-visited portal, stopped producing specialist content for the South Korean market in 2012.
When Naver was set up, there were not many web pages written in Korean. So the Q&A service was a masterstroke—the users who answered others’ questions provided lots of free content. Naver handed out grades, from “commoner” to “superman”, to encourage them to keep writing. “Everyone wanted to be God in cyberspace”, says Lim Wonki, the author of “The Secret of Naver’s Success”, published in 2007.
2NE1′s new album sweeps charts
Yonhap News via GlobalPost
K-pop group 2NE1 released its long-anticipated second full-length album Thursday, nabbing the top spot on numerous music charts in a matter of hours.
Soon after its release on online music services at midnight, “Comeback Home,” the main track on the album “Crush,” topped real-time charts of 10 services, including Melon, Mnet, Olleh Music, Naver Music, Daum Music and Bugs.
Another major piece, “Gotta Be You,” came next on those charts while most of the remaining tracks also placed high.
“Crush” has 10 songs, all of which are new except for one that is the Korean language version of a song previously released in Japan. Among them, three were written and composed by the band leader CL.
Steven Yeun Of ‘The Walking Dead’ Brings Flavor Of Detroit To K-Town
Besides battling zombies and being a general bad-ass hero in The Walking Dead, Steven Yeun has more on his plate—that is, launching new restaurants in L.A. The actor linked up with his younger brother Brian Yeun to open up The Bun Shop, a Korean-Mediterranean fusion joint in Koreatown.
The restaurant opened up on Jan. 20 as an extension of 27-year-old Brian’s popular Angeleno food truck, The Bun Truck, which hit the streets running three years ago. Steven, 30, is an investor in his brother’s restaurant, and their other partner is Brian’s childhood buddy and former New York Morimoto chef, James Seok.
“Perks are delicious free food,” Steven tells LAist. “For me, how I saw it was that my brother and I are really tight and I really wanted to invest in his entrepreneurship.”
Edward Kim wins record 7th and 8th state titles
Sammammish Review (Washington)
Eastlake’s Edward Kim didn’t need directions to find the top of the winners’ podium at the 4A state swimming championships Feb. 21-22.
After all, the march across the blue, hex-shaped steps at Federal Way’s King County Aquatic Center had become a familiar path for the Eastlake senior.
He ascended those stairs for the last time in his storied high school career Feb. 22, after collecting his record seventh and eighth individual state titles.
“I’m kind of sad, but happy at the same time, because it was a great finish,” he said after his final race.
Subway bets on Korean market
An American fast food restaurant franchise Subway is betting on Korean market. Subway Korea says they are aiming to expand its market presence in Korea by diversifying its menu lineup to compete with McDonald’s and Lotteria.
“We will open up to 300 stores throughout the country within the next three years,” its CEO Colin Clark said in a recent interview with The Korea Times. Currently, the local franchise of the American fast food restaurant runs 78 outlets in Korea, with another scheduled to be opened soon.
Subway outlets all over the world are 100 percent franchise restaurants, which means no store is directly run by the company, an official at Subway Korea said.
Former chef and popular TV show host Anthony Bourdain said that Korean American chefs are at the forefront of American cuisine.
In an interview with food author Michael Ruhlman, Bourdain said a “reverse snobbery” currently exists among chefs and food aficionados, which dictates that in order to experience the best and most authentic food, one must seek out hole-in-the-wall mom-and-pop restaurants that don’t cater to the mainstream.
“That’s great but when you look at all the people who are sort of driving American cuisine right now, they’re all Korean American,” said Bourdain. “And they don’t care. They may know what straight-up Korean food is but they sure aren’t cooking it. And they’re pushing everything forward and they’re having an effect on the non Korean Americans. Eric Ripert is messing around with kimchi—how can that not be good?” Continue Reading »