Traditional Korean gayageum player Luna Lee is one step away from winning ESPN’s SportsCenter’s Fan Jam contest.
The “Fan Jam” contest challenged participants to come up with the best original cover of its iconic “da-da-da, da-da-da” opening theme song. The competition began with eight contestants who showcased a variety of talents, from solo electric guitar to beat-boxing.
Lee, who we featured in a Video of the Week playing Jimi Hendrix, is going head-to-head against acoustic guitarist Trace Bundy. The winner will receive a trip to ESPN headquarters in Connecticut to perform as its “house band” for the day. Voters, who can vote for their favorite cover until Thursday on the SportsCenter Facebook page, determine the winner. Continue Reading »
Separated Koreans part again in tears with no hope of reunion
Hundreds of South Korean and North Koreans burst into tears as they bade farewell, perhaps for good, to each other on Tuesday at a North Korean mountain resort after their first reunions since the 1950-53 Korean War.
Some of them sang doleful Korean folk songs as their long-lost relatives from North Korea were told to take buses at the end of their final reunions that lasted only about 50 minutes at Mount Kumgang, a scenic resort on the North’s east coast.
“Brother, brother, how can I live without you?” Park Jong-soon, a 68-year-old South Korean, wailed as she grabbed her 88-year-old North Korean brother’s hand sticking out of a bus window.
As tearful Korean reunions end, more seen unlikely
The 88-year-old North Korean man stretched his arms out the bus window to grasp the hands of his South Korean sister one final time before the end of rare reunions Tuesday between hundreds of family members separated for decades by war and politics.
“Brother, brother, my brother! How can I live without you?” the sister, Park Jong-soon, cried out from the parking lot at the North’s scenic Diamond Mountain resort, according to South Korean media pool reports.
Wiping away tears, Pak Jong Song shouted back: “Stay healthy! We’ll see each other again if we’re healthy.”
South Korea Committee to Prepare for Reunification with North
Voice of America
South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye, has announced a committee to prepare for reunification with North Korea. President Park said unifying with the north would be an economic bonanza, but analysts say the south would face a heavy financial and legal burden.
President Park announced the plans to create a blue print for reuniting South Korea with the North on Tuesday.
In a televised speech marking her first year in office, Park said she would form a preparatory committee directly under the presidential office. She said the committee will expand dialogue and private exchanges with Pyongyang.
N. Korean patrol ship violates sea border amid family reunions
A North Korean patrol ship violated the tensely guarded western maritime border several times Monday night, but it retreated after repeated South Korean military warnings, Seoul’s defense ministry said Tuesday.
The North Korean vessel crossed the Northern Limit Line (NLL), a de facto maritime border, at around 10:46 p.m. Monday, and sailed to a location about 23.4 kilometers west of South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island in the Yellow Sea.
The ship returned to its territory at around 2:25 a.m. Tuesday after the South Korean military broadcast warnings 10 times, the defense ministry’s spokesman said.
“The North Korean ship’s NLL violation is seen as part of military drills or an inspection of (the South Korean military),” Kim Min-seok said in a briefing. “It is believed that (the North Korean vessel) intended to test the South Korean military.”
Jang Song-taek ‘Killed for Sleazy Past’
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s uncle was executed chiefly for his role overseeing a thinly disguised prostitution ring for the nomenklatura, the Kim family’s former sushi chef claims.
Kenji Fujimoto claimed Jang Song-taek was eliminated because of his role supplying young women for a “pleasure brigade” for former leader Kim Jong-il, because his son detested his father’s womanizing.
Fujimoto told the U.K.’s Daily Mail on Saturday that when Kim Jong-un returned to North Korea aged 18 from study abroad, he “found himself exposed to his father’s ‘pleasure brigade,’” which are groups of beautiful young women who sing, strip and perform massages or sexual favors.
North Korea Cloaked in Darkness
Wall Street Journal
One of the most stunning—and revealing—photos ever taken of North Korea was a 2002 satellite image of the peninsula at night, shown by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in a Pentagon briefing.
The photo showed the lights of South Korean conurbations, and even large clusters of fishing boats, in stark contrast to an almost entirely black North Korea. Other than a small spot of light in the showcase capital Pyongyang and the outline of the country, North Korea wouldn’t have been visible at all.
“South Korea is filled with lights and energy and vitality and a booming economy; North Korea is dark. It is a tragedy what’s being done in that country,” Mr. Rumsfeld said.
Foreigners with Korean ancestry on rise in S. Korea
Yonhap News via GlobalPost
The number of foreigners in South Korea with Korean ethnic background surpassed the 200,000 mark for the first time last year, thanks in part to increased inflow of ethnic Koreans from China, data showed Monday.
According to the data by the Ministry of Justice, there were 233,269 foreign nationals with Korean ancestry residing in the country in 2013, a 24.3 percent jump from a year earlier.
The figure accounted for 14.8 percent of the total number of foreigners living in South Korea, the data showed.
South Korea’s ‘Running Man’ in Australia
Cast and crew of popular South Korean variety show Running Man have touched down in Australia to film a Down Under special.
The program, in which contestants are pitted against each other in a race against time to solve a series of physical challenges and puzzles in landmarks and cities, has a strong following in its native South Korea, and has been translated into English, Spanish and Arabic.
The variety show has previously visited countries such as Thailand, Macao and Vietnam but the upcoming Australia special will be the first episode of Running Man that takes place in a country outside of Asia.
S. Korean athletes return home from Sochi
Yonhap News via GlobalPost
South Korean athletes returned home Tuesday after two weeks of thrilling competition at the winter games in the Russian city of Sochi.
South Korea had its largest-ever Winter Olympics delegation, with 71 athletes competing in every sport except hockey.
It ended in 13th place, with three gold medals — one by speed skater Lee Sang-hwa and two by short tracker Park Seung-hi — along with three silver and two bronze medals, coming up just short of its stated goal of winning four gold for a top-10 finish in the medals.
Figure Skating at the Olympics: Justice served
THERE’S something about figure skating that makes it a magnet for scandal. Fans of other pastimes can try to get themselves worked up over performance-enhancing drugs, illicit payments to amateurs or team tax fraud. But when it comes to shock value, nothing can compete with the Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding imbroglio or the vote-trading ring at the 2002 Olympics. Judging by commentators’ hyperbolic reaction to the sport’s outrage du jour, Adelina Sotnikova’s victory over Yuna Kim on February 20th at the Winter Olympics, audiences could be forgiven for believing that the upset was a travesty of justice on a par with skating’s worst offences. But what the criticism really demonstrates is that in a discipline whose scoring is inescapably subjective, the media’s appetite for controversy will always trump their obligation to help the public understand what’s really going on in an event that only attracts mass attention once every four years.
Wie’s swing coach says ex-phenom refreshed after winter break
When do I get the 30 for 30 on Michelle Wie’s career? Do I have to wait until she’s done playing or can we start rolling tape on that thing right away?
Wie finished tied for fourth at the Honda LPGA Thailand tournament on Sunday, after swing coach David Leadbetter said he thinks she’s enjoying golf more than she has in a while.
“I think she fell out of love with the game to an extent,” said Leadbetter. He told Wie to take five weeks over the winter.
“I think it’s the first time since she was 5 years old that she has gone that long without touching a golf club,” Leadbetter said. “We had a little boot camp before the start of this year, and you could see she was really refreshed, really ready to go.”
Kakao to offer money transfers
Kakao, the operator of the country’s most popular messaging application KakaoTalk, will run a test of a money transfer service next month in cooperation with banks, the company’s chief executive said Monday.
“We have been working with banks over the past 12 months to start financial services for KakaoTalk. We are now fine-tuning the details of the business partnership,” co-CEO Lee Sir-goo told The Korea Times Monday (KST) on the sidelines of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona.
Kakao will partner with 16 commercial banks to allow its users to send and receive small amounts of money through the messaging app. For example, they will be able to transfer money gifts for weddings or condolence money for funerals, Lee said.
Japan is considering revising its 1993 comfort women apology, and it is not in a manner that will please South Korea, or anyone for that matter, AFP reports. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Monday that the government was planning to set up a verification team that would look at accounts of the 16 Korean women that formed the basis of the statement.
Then-chief cabinet secretary Yohei Kono offered “sincere apologies and remorse” to the women and promised to face historical facts squarely, acknowledging Japan’s official complicity in the coercion of women in sex slavery. The move to revisit the apology, however, is the latest in a series of actions by Japanese senior officials that have infuriated South Koreans over the issue of comfort women.
“There were no materials that directly substantiate forcible recruitments by the Japanese government or by the military, but considering their testimonies we could not deny there was that sort of conduct among recruiters,” said Nobuo Ishihara, a former deputy chief cabinet secretary who played a key role in working on the Kono statement. Continue Reading »
The Next Chapter
Reflecting her own personal life changes, indie singer/songwriter Priscilla Ahn ventures into new sounds with her latest album, This Is Where We Are.
by YOUNG RAE KIM
Every songwriter has his or her own process. For artist Priscilla Ahn, she waits for the song to come to her. Much like her free-flowing personality, her songwriting is organic and natural, never forced.
“I’m not one of those musicians who wakes up every day and says, ‘I’m going to write a song,’” said Ahn, who made her debut with A Good Day in 2008. “For me it always feels a bit not genuine.”
However, as Ahn was working on music for her next album, she noticed the songs were taking longer than usual. In fact, for the first time in her life, the words and melodies stopped flowing completely.
The reason for her writer’s block was not due to a lack of material. It was quite the opposite. During the past three years, Ahn married actor Michael Weston on the island coasts of Hawaii. The two moved into a home in Los Angeles and started to build a life together. In this new chapter of her life, Ahn was in love and happier than ever. However, the singer had a hard time transferring all of these unfamiliar emotions and feelings into her music. Happy tunes were not in Ahn’s repertoire.
“Most of my songs came from a place from feeling alone or sad,” said Ahn. “But now I was really happy, and I didn’t feel a need to grab my guitar.” Continue Reading »
U.S.-South Korea Begin War Games as Family Reunions Continue
The U.S. and South Korea began annual military exercises — denounced by the North as preparations for war — that coincided with the first reunions of families separated by the Korean War in more than three years.
The Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises began today as scheduled, U.S. Forces Korea spokesman Kim Yong Kyu said by phone. The two sets of drills, one based on computer simulations and the other involving field training, will draw thousands of additional U.S. troops into the country, according to USFK. The two allies say the drills are routine and defensive.
North Korea had initially threatened to pull out of the family reunions if the military drills weren’t canceled. Instead, the agreement to hold the reunions led to two rounds of high-level talks between the two countries, and today South Korea offered negotiations on providing assistance to stop the spread of the foot-and-mouth disease in the North.
California Korean Community on ‘East Sea’ Movement
The U.S. state of California.
Home to the largest population of Korean-Americans and Japanese-Americans in the country. Some may see this as the next ground for a political battle over how to refer to the body of water between Korea and Japan in school textbooks.
Virginia State will soon require the Korean-preferred title of “East Sea” to be used alongside the “Sea of Japan” in its textbooks, while in New York a similar bill has also been proposed.
But the issue has not stirred up much attention yet in California.
“LA The president of the Korean American Federation in Los Angeles says the greater L.A. area has been, and still is* busy trying to protect the so-called “comfort women” memorial statue in Glendale Central Park from being removed. So right now is not the most suitable time to raise another issue and divert attention – whether it be the East Sea bill, or anything else.
‘Korean to be first Asian US president’
It wasn’t long ago that Koreans barely had a voice in American politics. Now, they’re quickly emerging as one of the most influential among Asian politicians, so much so that one notable legislator says the first U.S. president of Asian descent will be Korean.
“I think of all Asian-American ethnic groups, I would say at this stage based on our history and trajectory, the first U.S. president of Asian descent will be Korean,” Mark Keam, a third-term delegate of the Virginia state Legislature who co-sponsored Virginia’s East Sea bill, said in an interview with The Korea Times.
There are several reasons, he said, but one of the foremost is because the growing Korean population in the U.S. is creating a larger pool of solid potential politicians.
“In the ‘80s, I didn’t run across a single Korean in Washington D.C. You just didn’t see any,” said Keam, who first began his political career as a college intern on Capitol Hill. “That’s 25 to 30 years ago. Now, things are a lot different.”
A Yu turn for a long-shot Senate candidate
Eugene Yu, the Korean American businessman who joined the crowded race for U.S. Senate, said Saturday he would instead challenge Democratic U.S. Rep. John Barrow.
Yu always faced long odds in the race to replace Saxby Chambliss, with three sitting congressmen and two other prominent Republicans in the mix on the GOP side. The Augusta businessman may have decided he had a better shot challenging Barrow, one of the most targeted Democrats in the House, than maintaining an expensive statewide bid.
Barrow, seen as one of the most vulnerable moderate Democrats in the nation, faces heated competition every two years. This election is no different. Yu now joins businessman Rick Allen, long-time GOP aide John Stone and state Rep. Delvis Dutton in the GOP contest to unseat Barrow, who was first elected in 2004.
Sentencing begins in convenience store food stamp fraud cases
Two Korean citizens have been sentenced to prison for their roles in a food stamp fraud scheme and may face deportation, the U.S. Attorney in Baltimore announced this week.
The cases were part of a food stamp fraud sting that implicated 10 convenience store owners in the Baltimore area in September. Authorities said the defendants, eight of whom have pleaded guilty to food stamp fraud or wire fraud so far, would illegally redeem food stamps in exchange for cash.
Hyung Cho, 40, of Catonsville, was sentenced to 38 months in prison and three years of supervised release, and his mother Dae Cho, 67, of Catonsville, was sentenced to 18 months in prison. The Cho’s, who operated K&S Market, a convenience store at 3910 West Belvedere Avenue, were both ordered to forfeit more than $371,000 and pay restitution of $1.4 million. They did not have legal immigration status, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and have “agreed not to object to any proceedings that may be brought to remove them from the United States upon completion of their sentence.”
Justices refuse appeal from killer set to die
Houston Chronicle (Texas)
A convicted killer facing execution next month for a Dallas-area slaying 11 years ago has lost an appeal at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Anthony Doyle is set to die March 27 for the 2003 beating death and robbery of 37-year-old Hyun Mi Cho. She was delivering a doughnut and burrito order to a house in Rowlett. Her body was found in a trash can behind the house. Doyle was 18 at the time and on probation for theft. He also had a juvenile record.
The high court Monday, without comment, refused to review his case.
Doyle told police he intended to rob the woman and struck her with a baseball bat when she told him she had no money. Evidence showed he took her car and used her credit cards.
Girls’ Generation Achieves All-Kill and Sweeps Charts All Over the World
Girls’ Generation has finally returned with a new single “Mr.Mr” and have been sweeping music charts not only in Korea but all around the world.
On February 24, Girls’ Generation released their fourth mini-album online. In just a mere hour upon release, “Mr.Mr” was the #1 song on seven different music charts including Melon, Mnet, Olleh Music, Bugs, Genie, Soribada and Monkey3. In a couple more hours, “Mr.Mr” rose to the top on Naver and Daum Music as well.
Overseas reactions and interests are also getting higher and higher. “Mr. Mr” was ranked #2 in Thailand, #5 in Malaysia, #14 in Hong Kong, #21 in Taiwan, #52 in the Philippines and #63 in Indonesia, making “Mr.Mr.” enter the Top 100 chart in six different countries within an hour after release.
Shortly afterwards, “Mr.Mr” was ranked #2 in Thailand, #3 in Vietnam, #4 in Singapore, #5 in Malaysia, #6 in Indonesia and Kazakhstan, #14 in Hong Kong, #21 in Taiwan, #55 in the Philippines, #97 in Sweden and #99 in Macao within two hours upon release.
South Korea Puts Anger Aside After Olympic Skating Disappointment
New York Times
Kim Yu-na was a perfect heroine for her country. Like postwar South Korea, she rose from a humble start, skating on a tatty rink as a 6-year-old, to win gold for a nation that had felt sidelined in a sport dominated by Western athletes.
So when she was dethroned in Sochi by a Russian teenager in a much-debated decision, it was not surprising that Ms. Kim’s country, which has long tied international sports achievements to self-worth, reacted with anger.
A popular novelist said he would remember these Games as the “Suchi Olympics,” using the word for “humiliation.” A petition on Change.org calling for an investigation by the International Skating Union drew more than 1.9 million signatures, most of them from South Koreans. And many online commentators said Ms. Kim had been cheated of a gold medal because her country was “small and weak.”
Yuna Kim Has Not Had Plastic Surgery, and Koreans Love Her For It
When the Olympic judges placed South Korean figure skater Yuna Kim second to Russian Adelina Sotnikova yesterday, her fans wouldn’t have it: Nearly two million have already signed a petition to have the judging re-opened. American skating enthusiasts might know Kim for her artistic style or her signature “camel spin”, but in South Korea—where she’s known as “Queen Yuna”—there’s another reason women love her: Unlike most Korean celebrities and “pop stars”, she appears not to have had plastic surgery—even though she has the kind of eyelids that would send many Korean girls running to the doctor.
“Most Korean girls want plastic surgery,” said Lee Tea Yang, a trader in Seoul. “Yuna Kim made a new era. There has never been a star like her.”
Though statistics are hard to verify, South Korea consistently ranks in the top few countries worldwide for per capita plastic surgery. One of the most popular procedures is “double eyelid surgery”, in which doctors use a combination of cutting and stitching to create a crease in Asians’ typically flat upper eyelids, giving the eyes a larger, rounder, arguably Westernized appearance.
South Korea Had the Most Last-Place Finishes in Sochi
Wall Street Journal
After a respectable 14 podium appearances in Vancouver’s 2010 Winter Olympics, South Korea’s outlook was bright coming into the 2014 Games. The Koreans weren’t able to live up to expectations, earning only eight medals in Sochi, but they were the best in the world in one unfortunate category: finishing last.
For the third consecutive Olympics, The Wall Street Journal awarded lead, tin and zinc medals to the three worst performers to complete a given event (based on time or score of last-place finishers in every Olympic event; no disqualifications or non-finishers were counted). South Korean Olympians finished in the bottom three places in an astounding 19 different events, more often than any other participating country.
Canada came in second with 16 medals, with the U.S. (15) earning the third most not-so-precious medals. Since the U.S. and Canada have large Olympic delegations, it isn’t entirely surprising to see such large pools of Olympians finish all over the field of competition: These two countries earned 28 and 25 real Olympic medals respectively in Sochi.
Defection row overshadows South Korean Viktor Ahn’s skating victory for Russia
South China Morning Post
It was a night when Viktor Ahn should have been out celebrating becoming the most successful short track speed skater of all time but instead he was quizzed from all sides at the Sochi Olympics about why he defected to Russia.
Ahn confirmed his place among the greatest Winter Olympians when he won the 500 metres individual event then returned to the ice about 45 minutes later and helped Russia win the 5,000m relay. Ahn also won gold in the 1,000m at Sochi and now has six Olympic gold medals in total – more than any speed skater either in short track or the more traditional long course.
If the skater formerly known as Ahn Hyun-soo, who won three golds for South Korea at the 2006 Turin Olympics, thought he would clarify his position once and for all at a packed news conference starting after midnight he was clearly mistaken.
Far from Sochi, North Koreans hone skiing skills
For North Korean skiers, Sochi was a distant dream. The country didn’t send a single athlete to the Winter Olympics and has never won a downhill medal. But as the rest of the world watches this year’s Olympic pageant wrap up in Russia, North Koreans are flocking to the slopes of a lavish new ski resort all their own — and many have a gold medal in mind four years from now, when the winter games will be held in South Korea.
Of course, that’s a tall order.
Even by official estimates, only about 0.02 percent of North Korea’s 24 million people have ever strapped on ski boots. But with the blessing of leader Kim Jong Un, who has made building recreational and sporting facilities a priority, in part to boost tourism as a source of hard cash for the economically strapped nation, skiing is now almost a national duty for those who have the time, money or opportunity to hit the slopes.
South Korea Awaits 2018 Games With a Different Plan
New York Times
The sun was shining once more by the Black Sea and the jackets were off with the Olympic flame still a few hours away from being extinguished.
“You better bring your jacket to Pyeongchang,” said Kim Jin-sun, head of the organizing committee for the 2018 Games in South Korea. “Much colder than Sochi.”
As the Russians and the members of the International Olympic Committee begin recovering from the sleepless nights that surely accompanied their wild, seven-year ride to Sochi’s closing ceremony, the cosmic question is where the Winter Games go from here in a world of climate instability, declining winter sports participation numbers in the West and spiraling costs and scale for Olympic organizers?
Rangers like what they are seeing with Choo
Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Texas)
Scouting Shin-Soo Choo has become an easier task over the years. He’s established himself as an on-base machine with speed and power.
In the beginning, though, nobody knew how Choo would pan out. Just ask Jim Colborn, the Rangers’ senior adviser for Pacific Rim operations.
“The big problem with scouting him is that he’d walk about three times a game,” said Colborn, a scout for the Mariners at the time.
“They’d never give him anything good to hit and he’d take his walks. So it was tough to grade him.”
Whiz Now Open Serving Philly Cheesesteaks in Koreatown
For all those times you’re in Koreatown and have a hankering for a cheesesteak sandwich as opposed to, say, a sizzling bowl of soon tofu: Whiz opened in the neighborhood last Saturday, Feb. 15, a small shop on the corner of 6th Street and Oxford Avenue, or right around the corner from craft beer bar Beer Belly.
This location is no coincidence, as the shop is brought to you none other than Beer Belly’s owner Jimmy Han and executive chef Wes Lieberher. You could have guessed as much just by the artwork: MR44, who did the mural at Beer Belly, collaborated with artist Swanski to create a beautiful piece outside Whiz.