Thursday’s Link Attack: NKorea Launches Missiles Into Sea; 2NE1′s New Album Sweeps Charts; Steven Yeun’s New Restaurant
Y. Peter Kang
Author: Y. Peter Kang
Posted: February 27th, 2014
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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
Korea Times

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
Korea Times

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
The Economist

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
Korea Times

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.

Anthony Bourdain: Korean American Chefs Leading American Cuisine
Y. Peter Kang
Author: Y. Peter Kang
Posted: February 26th, 2014
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Chefs David Chang, Wolfgang Puck and Roy Choi at the Hotel Bel-Air in June 2013. Inset: Anthony Bourdain.

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 »

South Dakota Lawmakers Call for Ban on Sex-Selective Abortions Due to Asian Immigrants
Y. Peter Kang
Author: Y. Peter Kang
Posted: February 26th, 2014
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(L to R) Republican representatives Stace Nelson, Jenna Haggar and Don Haggar.

State lawmakers in South Dakota voted overwhelmingly in favor of a bill banning sex-selective abortions, saying rising numbers of Asian immigrants could lead to greater abortions based on gender, according to Mother Jones.

Last week, the South Dakota House of Representatives passed the bill by a vote of 60 to 10. Representative Stace Nelson addressed the floor, saying his years living in Asia as a U.S. Marine showed him that Asian people do not value women’s lives as much as men.

“Many of you know I spent 18 years in Asia,” Nelson said, according to Mother Jones. “And sadly, I can tell you that the rest of the world does not value the lives of women as much as I value the lives of my daughters.” Continue Reading »

Wednesday’s Link Attack: Asiana Fined for SFO Crash; Glenn & Maggie Photo Spread; K-Pop at SXSW
Y. Peter Kang
Author: Y. Peter Kang
Posted: February 26th, 2014
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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
Arirang News

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
Korea Times

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 ( 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.

South Korean Emigration at Record Low
Y. Peter Kang
Author: Y. Peter Kang
Posted: February 25th, 2014
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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 »

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