What It’s Like to Meet a Brother You Haven’t Seen in Six Decades
At 73, Kwon Dong-yul is tall and upright, a dapper figure in a cap, scarf and wool coat. Last Friday, he took me to a coffee shop in northwest Seoul, not far from the city’s World Cup stadium, and settled into his seat. He took off his hat, and looked out the window, before leaning in.
“I’ve lived 73 years, and I’ve seen a lot,” he said. “But this is the most dramatic situation of my life.”
Kwon and several hundred elderly South Koreans were about to set off for North Korea. Their caravan of cars, buses and ambulances, would cross one of the world’s most militarized borders, and continue on to the Diamond Mountain Resort. There, on North Korean soil, would be family members they hadn’t seen in six decades. There, with luck, would be Kwon’s big brother.
North Korea’s Atrocities [EDITORIAL]
New York Times
The world has long been aware of North Korea’s repression and brutality against its citizens, through the stories of escapees and reports by human rights groups and the State Department. But a study by a special United Nations commission has produced the most authoritative indictment yet.
The report, released this month, accused North Korea’s government of crimes against humanity including murder, enslavement, torture, rape, forced abortions and persecution on political, racial and religious grounds. “The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world,” the commission said. It estimated that up to 120,000 political prisoners are detained in four camps and said starvation has been used to control and punish, both in the camps and in the general population. There is complete denial of freedom of thought, religion and movement. Women are forcibly trafficked from North Korea to China for forced marriages and prostitution.
The report might have provided even more detail had investigators been given access to North Korea, but the regime would never allow it. The commission compensated by holding hearings in Tokyo, London, San Francisco and Seoul, South Korea, taking public testimony from 80 witnesses and conducting 240 interviews with people who feared reprisals against families in the North. They told gruesome tales, including of guards clubbing starving children to death for stealing rice.
Japan’s 1993 Comfort Woman Apology Returns To Center Stage
Wall Street Journal
Recent comments by Japan’s top government spokesman suggesting a possible re-examination of Japan’s apology for its involvement in the systematic exploitation of so-called “comfort women” is giving a boost to the country’s nationalists who insist that the imperial military never took part in forcing women and girls, many of them Korean, to sexually serve Japanese soldiers during World War II.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said in parliament last week that “additional investigation from an academic standpoint by historians and experts is necessary” on the validity of the famed 1993 Kono statement–a document that acknowledges and apologizes that Japan’s “administrative/military personnel directly took part in recruitment” of comfort women.
The statement, which highlights the plight of comfort women from the Korean Peninsula due to Japan’s colonial control at the time, has repeatedly come under attack by Japanese conservatives and nationalists as a document drafted under pressure from the South Koreans. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during his first premiership in 2007 passed a cabinet resolution stating that the Japanese government has not unearthed any documents that directly support coercion by the military nor authorities.
Asiana Airlines fined $500,000 for failing to help families after July crash
The U.S. Department of Transportation on Tuesday fined Asiana Airlines $500,000 for failing to assist families following the crash of Asiana flight 214 in San Francisco in July.
The Korean airline was slow to publicize a phone number for families, took two full days to successfully contact the families of three-quarters of the passengers and did not contact families of several passengers until five days following the crash, authorities said.
The half-million-dollar penalty is the first time the DOT has issued a fine under a 1997 law that requires airlines to adopt and adhere to a “family assistance plan” for major accidents.
Korean firms moving money into Los Angeles
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti says the [construction of the Wilshire Grand Tower] has already given the local economy a boost.
“It’s a one-billion dollar investment in Los Angeles creating 11,500 construction jobs. We will have 1,750 permanent jobs when they finish their work as well. So I thank everybody that brought this day together.”
And, many other Korean companies like CJ, Hyundai and Samsung are also taking part in boosting L.A.’s local economy.
According to a report by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, Korea is ranked as one of the top sources of foreign investment in L.A. County. California United Terminals, a subsidiary of Hyundai Merchant Marine that operates out of the Port of Los Angeles has plans to develop a new terminal, while it has already invested tens of millions of dollars in the area.
Spring Fashion 2014: Affair To Remember
Los Angeles Magazine
On AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” Steven Yeun and Lauren Cohan play lovers Glenn and Maggie. We imagine the hopeful couple before the zombie apocalypse, in a sun-dappled park, dressed in spring’s lively florals and subtle pastels.
‘K-Pop Night Out’ Returns for SXSW 2014 With HyunA, Jay Park & More
Following the success of 2013′s inaugural “K-POP NIGHT OUT at SXSW,” Korean Creative Content Agency (KOCCA) will again support the showcase to expand the base of K-pop at one of the world’s biggest and most influential music industry event: SXSW 2014.
Taking place on March 11 at legendary live club Elysium in Austin, Texas, “K-POP NIGHT OUT at SXSW,” will feature a slew of top talent: K-pop stars HyunA and Jay Park; rock sensations Crying Nut, Nell, Kiha and the Faces; electronic trio Idiotape; plus, experimental-rock group Jambinai.
The seven acts will represent a diverse range of genres, showcasing their talents as well as exposing the universal appeal of Korean music to hundreds of influential attendees and global K-pop fans.
Veteran Korean rock band scheduled to hold concerts in Atlanta, Dallas and Los Angeles next month
Powerful drum beats open the track. The solo performance is soon overrun by the noisy but rhythmic sound of electric guitar.
The sound instantly stirs listeners to shake their shoulders and tap their feet. It goes on for seconds and then the voice comes in: “Cigarettes is what she sells, I never saw such a beautiful face. Long hair, smoky eyes looking prettier everyday…”
The vocalist sings the story of a man’s witty and tenacious attempts to go out with the girl and marks the end of the song’s first bar by shouting: “Saechimttegi,” a Korean term that can roughly be translated into “mean girl.”
Gov’t to release ‘Arirang’ album featuring K-pop musicians
Yonhap News via GlobalPost
The government will release an album containing different versions of “Arirang” in an effort to raise global awareness of the most famous Korean folk song, the culture ministry said Wednesday.
The song is often dubbed an “unofficial national anthem” of Korea and was put on the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage of humanity in 2012. There are 4,000 or more Arirang songs and 60 different versions on the Korean Peninsula, according to experts.
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism said the album, all of whose 10 tracks were made through collaboration between Korea’s leading contemporary and traditional music artists, will be put out Thursday.
The Bizarre Story of How South Korea’s Best Skater Won 1/4 of Russia’s Gold Medals in Sochi
While some in South Korea called Ahn a defector, most have rallied against the Korean speed skating federation, which rejected such a talented athlete. The controversy has grabbed so much attention in the country that President Geun-Hye Park has gotten involved, calling for a full investigation into any “impropriety or systemic problems” that may have driven Ahn away.
“We should look back on whether Ahn’s departure was due to irregularities prevalent in the (country’s) sports world, including factionalism, favoritism and corrupt judges,” she said.
16th-century Korean paintings found in Honolulu
AP via San Francisco Chronicle
The Honolulu Museum of Art has discovered two paintings from late 16th-century Korea in its collection, including one that has been called an “earth-shattering” find.
“This is like discovering a lost Vermeer,” said Shawn Eichman, curator of Asian art at the museum, referring to the Dutch master, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (http://bit.ly/1mwUgbk) reported.
The paintings are from the collection of the late Richard Lane, an art collector and dealer. Lane, who lived in Japan for about 50 years, helped catalog the museum’s James Michener collection of Japanese prints. He left his personal library to the museum when he died in 2002.
When museum officials went to Japan to claim the materials, they came across his separate personal collection. It contained some 20,000 items, including more than 3,000 paintings, books made from woodblocks, and other artifacts. The museum acquired the entire collection for about $26,000 in 2003. But without a catalog, it was unclear what it contained.
Just 302 people emigrated from South Korea last year, the lowest number since data began being collected in 1962.
These numbers have been on a steady decline since 2003, when the number of migrants dipped below 10,000 since hitting a peak of more than 46,000 in 1976. In 2010, migrants dropped below 1,000.
Experts say that the main reason for the falling numbers is improved living and economic conditions in South Korea. However, they noted that greater requirements for obtaining resident status in the United States — the preferred destination for South Koreans — has also contributed to the decline. Continue Reading »
Customers have been flocking to a small outdoor food stand in Seoul after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made an impromptu visit and ate some tteokbokki, or spicy stir-fried rice cakes.
“I came here for a taste after I heard that Kerry stopped by,” a customer told the Chosun Ilbo.
All 12 seats inside the small makeshift restaurant were full, along with six outdoor seats, which is double the number of the owner’s usual customer base. Continue Reading »
Long-separated relatives cried tears of joy, and in some cases, sorrow, during emotional reunions currently being held at a mountain resort in North Korea.
A 93-year-old South Korean man, Kang Neung-hwan, cried as he hugged a son he had never seen before, Yonhap News reported. Kang, not knowing his wife of four months was pregnant, fled for the South during the chaos of the Korean War.
“I never dreamed of meeting you like this,” Kang told his 64-year-old son, according to Yonhap. Kang, who did not remember his wife’s name, was informed that she died in 1971. Similar stories were recounted by other families divided by the war. Continue Reading »
North Korea Jokes No Longer Seem So Funny
I’ve often thought that my finest moment in more than 20 years working for the Economist was a cover we ran on North Korea in June 2000. The editor was away that week, so what we did with the cover was my call. The hitherto reclusive Kim Jong Il had just appeared before the cameras, looking wonderfully absurd. Graeme James, the paper’s (brilliant) art editor, showed me the photograph and said, “Greetings, earthlings.” I don’t know if Graeme intended it for the headline, but that was that.
People still mention it to me unprompted as their favorite Economist cover. Yet reading the UN report on North Korean atrocities, I felt a small pang of shame. As Bloomberg View says today, the Kims are all too easy to mock, but mockery really isn’t the right response. The right response is disgust.
North Korea’s crimes against humanity have ‘no parallel’ today [EDITORIAL]
NORTH KOREA’S four main political prison camps are known only as No. 14, No. 15, No. 16 and No. 25. All are modern-day gulags. According to a new report from the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea, the population of the camps, now about 80,000 to 120,000 people, may have declined somewhat because of releases from a fifth camp, but also because the remaining prisoners are being exterminated. The commission says “deaths on a massive scale occur in the ordinary course of events” and “the camps have the objective of gradually eliminating the camp population by working many prisoners to death.” The deaths are from “starvation, neglect, arduous forced labor, disease and executions.”
The exterminations, and many other human rights atrocities, have been documented in chilling depth by the U.N. commission, which worked from outside the country and was not allowed to visit. The chairman, Michael Kirby, a retired Australian jurist, has laid before the world a text that compares in significance to “The Gulag Archipelago,” Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s seminal work on the Soviet labor camps, on which the decades-old North Korean system was based. The commission found that the Pyongyang regime is carrying out “crimes against humanity,” specifically: “extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation.”
North Korea Detains Another Christian Missionary
Australian missionary John Short was scheduled to return to China this Friday from a group tour to North Korea. But a day after landing in the country last weekend, the 75-year-old was questioned and detained, his wife, Karen Short, says. She got the news Wednesday when his traveling companion journeyed back solo. “I pray for my husband to come back soon,” she told TIME.
North Korea has yet to comment on Short’s case, but his family believes he was probably apprehended for carrying Korean-language Christian pamphlets into the secretive state. On a previous trip to North Korea, Short read Christian literature in front of his guides, Karen told the press. She said he has also been arrested in China three times for evangelizing. “He knew that the documents he was carrying are illegal and that the information he wanted to spread is not welcome,” she said. “He is always going to places where religion is not welcome to spread the word.”
Korea’s Dokdo Campaign Backfires
Korea’s campaign to raise awareness of its sovereignty over the Dokdo islets seems to have backfired spectacularly, multiplying international references by the Japanese name “Takeshima.” The higher the profile of the Korean campaign, the more likely it looks that Japan’s flimsy colonial claim to the [islets] will one day be accepted as a bona fide territorial dispute.
A report issued last month by the U.S. Congressional Research Service uses both Dokdo and Takeshima for the Korean islets and another report in August last year referred to Dokdo by the old French maritime designation “Liancourt Rocks,” which Japan still prefers to the proper name.
It is unclear why the CRS ended up using these names, but its reports do affect U.S. legislation and thus accepted usage.
Nationalistic Remarks From Japan Lead to Warnings of Chill With U.S.
New York Times
A series of defiantly nationalistic comments, including remarks critical of the United States, by close political associates of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has led analysts to warn of a growing chill between his right-wing government and the Obama administration, which views Japan as a linchpin of its strategic pivot to Asia.
Rebuttals from the American Embassy in Japan have added to concerns of a falling-out between Japan and the United States, which has so far welcomed Mr. Abe’s efforts to strengthen Japan’s economy and military outreach in the region to serve as a counterbalance to China. The comments, which express revisionist views of Japan’s World War II history, have also led to renewed claims from Japan’s neighbors, particularly China and South Korea, that Mr. Abe is leading his nation to the right, trying to stir up patriotism and gloss over the country’s wartime history.
Chopsticks ad puzzles some foreigners
Some foreigners are puzzled over a recent “chopsticks-and-beans” advertisement in The Economist magazine by the Korea Trade Promotion Investment Agency (KOTRA).
KOTRA’s ad follows the same bizarre pattern as the Korea Agro-Fisheries and Food Trade (aT)’s “romantic mushrooms” video clip and the Korea Tourism Organization’s “champagne-samgyeopsal” ( grilled pork belly) ad featuring rapper Psy.
“I see Asia and Korea from the chopsticks,” said a native New Yorker who lives in Seoul. “But I don’t think many Americans would know that Koreans use iron chopsticks - and even if they did, how does that connect to growth?”
S. Korean teacher earns $4M a year, but isn’t proud of success
He commutes in a chauffeured Mercedes, makes more than $4 million a year — and he’s an English teacher.
Forty-four-year-old Kim Ki-Hoon is a private tutor who is thriving in South Korea’s test-score-obsessed, academic-crazed culture. Kim teaches in a “hagwon,” or “cram school,” part of the $17 billion after-school learning industry.
CBS News was with Kim at the school on a Saturday afternoon; he says studying on weekends is typical.
Koreatown undergoes a rebirth
For a time, Los Angeles’ Koreatown was defined in the minds of many out-of-towners by less-than-flattering events such as the 1968 assassination of Robert F. Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel or the vigilantism of shotgun-toting Korean shop owners protecting their stores from looting during the 1992 Rodney King riots.
Today, Koreatown, with its swelling number of restaurants, nightclubs and visitors, is growing so fast that, geographically, the district can’t even define itself. And that’s not a bad thing.
One of L.A.’s most densely populated areas, the district sits about three miles west of downtown and four miles southeast of central Hollywood. As of 2009, it packed about 125,000 residents in its 2.7 square miles, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Since then, the area’s boundaries, at least in some circles, have grown closer to five square miles, with a population of more than 300,000. And while Los Angeles tourism officials don’t track Koreatown visitor numbers, L.A. did attract a record 42.2 million visitors last year.
Now, some hoteliers are betting that a growing slice of those visitors are coming to K-town, whose population is actually about half Latino. (Read more about L.A.’s hotel scene in the related article, “L.A.’s nightlife hotels.”)
Your next big, addictive TV series could be from South Korea
Public Radio International
Joyce Brand browses popular Korean websites, searching for her favorite Korean soap operas — or K-Dramas, according to fans. Brand is 65, from Los Angeles, and not your typical K-Drama fan.
She admits she didn’t know anything about South Korean television, until a serial popped up on her Netflix recommendation list.
“I started watching it, and as soon as I saw the subtitles, I thought about turning it off. But then I thought, well, I’ll watch it for a few minutes, and within 10 minutes I was hooked,” she says.
The show? “City Hunter,” a hit thriller about a man who’s hunting down his father’s killer. “I watched the whole 20 hours. Marathon-ed it!”
Homeland’ Format Set For Korean Remake
“Prisoners of War,” the Israeli series that was adapted as “Homeland,” has been licensed as a format for South Korean remake.
The rights were sold by Keshet International to Star J Entertainment. The show is to be produced in partnership with Jeong Young-beom, Sebastian Lee and Teddy Zee. Rising star, Kim Nam-gil (Pirates: The Bandit Goes To The Sea,” and TV’s “Queen Seondeok”), is set to star.
Packaging the concept and the talent is common practice in Korea. No broadcaster is yet attached.
South Korea Box Office: ‘Frozen’ Becomes Second-Most-Watched Foreign Film
Not long since becoming the most successful feature animation title at the South Korean box office, Frozen has become the second-most-watched foreign film in the country after James Cameron’s sci-fi blockbuster Avatar.
On Wednesday, Frozen recorded 9.18 million admissions at the local box office, topping Iron Man 3′s score of 9 million.
The Disney Animation pic has so far grossed over $69.19 million (73.6 billion won), making the cume in Korea the highest for Frozen outside of the U.S., or close to 12 percent of its overseas box-office revenue.
SOCHI SCENE: Pyeongchang prepares
AP via San Diego Union-Tribune
The Sochi Games are heading into their final weekend, so the focus will soon start turning to the next Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Members of the Pyeongchang delegation have been in Sochi trying to learn from the Russian organizers to help them prepare for the 2018 Winter Games. Once the games in Sochi draw to a close, all attention will turn to South Korea, and IOC spokesman Mark Adams playfully teased Jerry Ling, the Pyeongchang 2018 head of games coordination, about the hot seat he’s about to take.
“I’m sure you’re quaking in your boots,” Adams said.
“Before I begin, can I ask for a request that somebody takes a photo of that picture for me, please, because I need to show my son that his father is working here,” Ling said with a big grin.