Defector couple returns to N. Korea
The Chosun Ilbo
In a rare publicity coup for the North Korean regime, a couple who defected to South Korea have apparently returned to the North.
The North’s official KCNA news agency on Thursday said Kim Kwang-hyok (27) from North Hamgyong Province fled to China in March 2008, while his wife Ko Jong-nam (29) followed him in September that year.
World Bank head holds out hope for Haiti
AP via The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
It was a whirlwind tour for World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, who helicoptered from the grounds of the demolished National Palace to his old stomping grounds in central Haiti where he once treated the rural poor as a doctor.
Then he flew off to visit a power plant north of Port-au-Prince and then spoke at a conference on poverty at a hotel that like the presidential palace down the hill is being rebuilt following its implosion in the 2010 earthquake.
Kim’s two-day trip to Haiti was no routine drop-in for the head of an international organization. This one carried special significance for Kim, a physician and anthropologist who is regarded for his pioneering work in development because of his ties to the Boston-based Partners in Health.
Cracks at South Korean nuclear plant raise safety concerns
Christian Science Monitor via Yahoo!
South Korea’s ambitious nuclear energy program is under intensive scrutiny and criticism after the discovery of microscopic cracks in the structure of a nuclear power plant and forgery of quality certificates vouching for thousands of components in at least two reactors.
Officials in all three major agencies responsible for monitoring the program said Friday there’s no danger to nuclear safety, but the government ordered the shutdown of the two reactors with the uncertified parts. At the same time, the head of the state company overseeing the program, Korea Electric Power Corp. has resigned for what he said were personal reasons.
‘Education key to sustaining hallyu’
The Korea Herald
The “triumph” of Psy and the smooth sailing of K-pop boy and girl bands in the international pop scene have heated the Korean cultural fever around the world more than ever.
A systematic and integrated approach is needed to retain the boom and develop it into other business opportunities now, said Yoo Jin-ryong, dean of Hallyu Graduate School at Catholic University. The school aims at cultivating businessmen with a sense of culture, based on their extensive studies into “hallyu,” or the Korean cultural wave.
Artist Song Byeok at Woolly Mammoth
Washington City Paper
Washingtonians might know Song Byeok from the small show he mounted at The Dunes back in April. But those who don’t need only glance at reproductions of North Korean propaganda art, and they’ll have an idea of what his work is all about. The painter, who defected after a devastating famine struck the Hermit Kingdom during the 1990s, once painted the ubiquitous socialist-realist images of heroic North Korean workers that are mandatory in many public and private spaces throughout the nation.
Psy brings ‘Gangnam Style’ to Oxford
Korean musician Psy spoke about the ups and downs of success before the prestigious Oxford University debating society.
A history of Korean girl bands
The Chosun Ilbo
K-pop girl groups have been captivating the public with with simple, catchy, lyrics and fancy choreography. Since the mid-2000s, thanks to the Korean Wave and K-pop fever, they have been admired elsewhere in Asia and beyond.
Counter Intelligence: The basics of life at Kang Ho-dong Baekjeong
Los Angeles Times
Meet Kang Ho-dong. Kang Ho-dong is a South Korean celebrity, a former wrestler turned TV personality whose ubiquity on Korean television approaches what you might get if you added Ryan Seacrest’s TV appearances to those of Charlie Sheen’s. Last year, before his career was briefly interrupted by accusations of tax evasion, since tossed out of court, Kang starred in four prime-time shows: three variety hours, plus a reality show that combined travelogue with aspects of “Celebrity Rehab.”
I spent a couple of hours last week watching Kang Ho-dong clips on YouTube, and I still find it no easier to explain the essence of his celebrity. He is an alpha-wolf extrovert who convulses with laughter at his own jokes. Like his near-look-alike Psy, the singer behind “Gangnam Style,” he is an uncouth, beefy man in a Korean pop culture that reveres exquisite beauty in its male stars. This week, he makes his triumphant reentry onto Korean television, after a 14-month-absence, returning as a host on “Star King.” The Korean gossip magazines can scarcely talk about anything else.
I bring this up because Kang Ho-dong runs a restaurant chain on the side, a dozen or so high-end Korean barbecue places in the motherland, plus restaurants in Honolulu and suburban Atlanta. His Los Angeles restaurant is in Chapman Market, a superb Art Deco complex designed in 1929 as a drive-through market but which is now a Koreatown wonderland of crowded nightclubs, year-round Christmas lights and beery restaurants.
North Korea, for better or for worse, has spent much of recent history being something of a punchline. From the goose-steppiest of goose-stepping soldiers, to the absurdly baroque placard-based animated scenes enacted during stadium events, to Kim Jong-il’s recurring role during his life as the feckless dictator du jour in everything from 30 Rock to Team America: World Police. Funny or not, North Korea as a meme obscures the ongoing humanitarian tragedy. To that end, the LA-based nonprofit Liberty in North Korea has launched SHIFT, a campaign to bring the focus back to the people. So watch the video above, and pass it along. Every view equals a 25 cent donation to the organization, which provides a host of services for North Korean refugees. The goal, according to president and CEO of LiNK, Hannah Song, is to help recruit as many “SHIFT talkers” as possible.
“The point of SHIFT is when the public talks about NK, it has to be about refugees plight,” she said.
If you’re interested in doing more, there’s more information on the LiNK website.
Update: John, a reader, pointed out that the numbers needed to reflect turnout, a good point given Asian Americans’ historically low turnout rate. Here are updated numbers.
The potential power of the Asian American vote became one of the stories floated during the run-up to the election (we helped put the story out there, too, of course). So how did the numbers break out?
The National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (National CAPACD) surveyed 800 Asian Americans nationwide on the weekend before the election, and found that 72 percent of Asian Americans would vote for Obama, while 26% would go for Romney. Their poll didn’t have a large sample size in Virginia or Nevada, two swing states where both campaigns fought hard to bring Asian Americans into the fold. And since the experience of Asian Americans differs by state so much, here’s a look at those two.
Obama won Virginia by 114,103 votes, according to the Virginia State Board of Elections’ unofficial results. Asian Americans comprised 3 percent of the total number of voters, according exit polling. That makes roughly 105,881 Asian American voters. Asian Americans went for Obama, 66 percent to 32 percent, or about 69,881 to 33,882. This difference of about 36,000 votes is a third of the margin of victory. Clearly Asian Americans had an outsized importance there.
Obama won Nevada by 66,398 votes, according to the Nevada secretary of state’s unofficial results. Asian Americans comprised 5 percent of the total number of voters, or 49,550. But Obama won the Asian American vote by only 3 points, 50-47. Obama won the Asian American vote by about 1500. The numbers are less compelling, and as further analysis emerges, it’ll be interesting to see why the Asian American population in Nevada was so much closer than the national totals. The underlying diversity of Asian America remains the story, though. For some reason, voting behavior of Asian Americans in Nevada was wildly different from voting behavior in Virginia. It speaks to the dangers of making broad generalizations about the Asian American population, as well as the challenges for any national campaign trying to target the demographic.
Tammy Duckworth becomes Illinois’ first Asian American to represent that state in the House of Representatives.
By EUGENE YI
An unprecedented number of Asian Americans ran for national office this year, and on Tuesday at least five newcomers were elected to serve in the 113th Congress. Among the winners are the first Hindu American, the first openly gay Asian American, the first Asian American female senator and the first Asian American representative for New York state. The result is the largest caucus of Asian American and Pacific Islander members in any single congressional session.
“I congratulate all of the newly elected Asian American and Pacific Islander Congressional candidates on their hard won victories,” said Rep. Judy Chu (CA-32), Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), in a statement released today. “Many have broken barriers and established historic firsts for their states and for their communities, and it moves me to see our nation’s elected leaders beginning to look more like the diverse constituencies that they represent.”
The congressional newcomers include:
Senator-elect Mazie Hirono (Hawaii)
Representative-elect Tammy Duckworth (Illinois’ 8th District)
Representative-elect Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii’s 2nd District)
Representative-elect Grace Meng (New York’s 6th District)
Representative-elect Mark Takano (California’s 41st District)
Exit Polls Show Asian Americans backed Obama by wide margin
Voice of America
Exit polls suggest Asian Americans overwhelmingly voted for President Barack Obama in Tuesday’s election that handed the incumbent Democrat a second term in the White House. Preliminary national exit poll data suggested that 73 percent of Asian Americans voted for President Obama, while only 26 percent supported his Republican rival, Mitt Romney.
2 South Korean presidential hopefuls join forces against conservative candidate
Two South Korean presidential candidates have decided to join forces in an effort to challenge the conservative front-runner in a move that could be a game-changer for the election next month. The election will determine who will lead South Korea, a key U.S. ally in Asia, for the next five years amid long-running tensions with the unpredictable, nuclear-armed North. In a closed-door meeting Tuesday, the two left-leaning presidential hopefuls, Moon Jae-in of the Democratic United Party (DUP) and Ahn Cheol-soo, a professor and former software mogul, agreed to field one candidate between them, according to a statement from the DUP.
In S. Korea, the best education means a sacrifice for parents
The Washington Post
When Choi Seo-yoon learned by e-mail in August that her only daughter had been accepted to an elite but faraway international school, she had a couple weeks to buy a new house — and divide her family. The family followed a course that once represented the extreme end of South Korea’s education-obsessed culture but increasingly stands for the norm: Choi’s husband, tied to work, stayed in Seoul. And Choi, along with her 6-year-old, moved to a town promising the best education — in this case, a planned community on a volcanic island one hour south by plane, where they expect to live for the next 11 or 12 years.
Korean Won Rises to 14-Month high as Obama wins U.S. election
South Korea’s won strengthened to a 14-month high as the re-election of U.S. President Barack Obama eased concern the Federal Reserve will rein in monetary stimulus, supporting inflows to emerging markets. Republican challenger Mitt Romney had said he wouldn’t reappoint Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke to a third term in 2014. The Fed said in September it will expand holdings of long-term securities with open-ended purchases of $40 billion of mortgage debt a month to support the economy. The Kospi (KOSPI) index of shares rose for a second day as overseas investors bought more South Korean equities than they sold.
8City, South Korea’s $290 billion gambling island paradise, aims to rival Macau
The Huffington Post
It is only a matter of years before the world’s super rich will have another place to gamble their money away.
Investors plan to turn the small South Korean island of Yongyu-Muui into a futuristic gambling resort projected to cost $290 billion, Agency France-Presse reports.
The new island, which is called 8City and was named for the Chinese lucky number 8, will be three times larger than the island of Macau, one of the major tourist destinations for gamblers worldwide. Developers say that 8City will include “casinos, hotels, shopping malls, theme parks, car racing tracks, ski slopes and a marina.”
Next Gen 2012: Hollywood’s Fastest-Rising Stars
The Hollywood Reporter
The L.A.-born Kang, 33, has been involved in the small-screen moves of Steven Zaillian, Seth Gordon and Guillermo del Toro. With a reputation for being shrewd and savvy, the UCLA grad also helped sell Matthew Parkhill’s Rogue spec to DirecTV, got pilots ordered at MTV and Syfy and counts Happy Endings’ David Caspe and Awkward’s Lauren Iungerich as clients.