K-pop group 2NE1′s recently released album Crush is at No. 61 on the Billboard 200, surpassing Girls’ Generation-TTS’ “Twinkle” EP to set the all-time highest-selling K-pop album in the United States.
“Crush” also sold over 5,000 copies in just four days and eclipsed BIGBANG’s 2012 album Alive, which started its first week with 4,000.
In Korea, every track of Crush made it into the top 40 slots of the K-pop Hot 100. “Come Back Home” was placed the highest at No. 2 behind “Some” by Junggigo & Soyou. Continue Reading »
N. Korea fires short-range missiles, South says ‘provocative’
AFP via Yahoo News
North Korea fired short-range missiles into the sea off its eastern coast for the second time in a week Monday, prompting a warning from South Korea of “reckless provocation.”
The missile tests have clearly been timed to coincide with annual South Korea-US military exercises which kicked off a week ago and run until mid-April.
Two missiles were fired Monday and both flew around 500 kilometers (310 miles) into the Sea of Japan, according to South Korea’s Defence Ministry.
Four short-range Scud missiles were fired in similar fashion on Thursday.
South Korea proposes regular family reunions with North
South Korean President Park Geun-hye made a formal proposal to North Korea on Saturday to hold family reunions regularly, uniting families separated since the 1950-53 Korean war, a sign Seoul is seeking to improve relations with the North.
The reunions used to be held roughly annually, but until this February had not taken place since 2010 when tensions between the two Koreas spiraled after the South said the North sank one of its naval vessels.
The latest family reunion was held on February 20-25 at the Mount Kumgang resort just north of the border and a total of 813 family members met in tears and joy.
“I propose to North Korea to make family reunions regular in order to ease the deep sorrow of the separated families as soon as possible. North Korea too has separated families and I believe it also has to relieve their pain and agony,” said Park in a speech marking the March First Independence Movement Day.
N. Korea’s No. 2 man arrested
North Korean government may have locked behind bars the state’s second-in-command Choe Ryong-hae for not fulfilling his duties and other allegations deemed disloyal, Free North Korea Radio (FNKR) said Friday.
According to the media’s state correspondents, the Korean People’s Army (KPA) Chief was arrested at his home on Feb. 21 at around 6 a.m. Some 30 military guards detained Choe who at the time was getting ready to go to work.
The guards, after the arrest, confiscated all documents and appliances at his office in the Ministry of People’s Armed Forces.
Choe is known to have been serving his jail time in a cell located inside the State Security Department since then.
Park Geun-hye Asks Xi Jinping…
Exit Emperor Kim Jong-Il
SK President Park Geun-hye is said to have asked China’s President Xi Jinping whether there was a plan for China to annex North Korea as the 4th province of the Northeast (Dongbei) in the event that North Korea’s governance structure completely breaks down. Xi is said to have answered, no.
Presumably, the new leaders of the respective countries had vetted this question/answer prior to their summit (Beijing, June, 2013). Nevertheless, it is a loaded question, and it had to have caused stir among policy wonks in Beijing.
Park’s question goes directly to her initiative in unification of two Koreas under the leadership of South Korea. She sought consensus among neighboring countries, and appears to have persuaded Xi, Putin, and Obama that Korean unification under the South Korean leadership was good for the region.
Ex-Premier Murayama Expects Abe to Stick by Japan’s War Apologies
Wall Street Journal
Tomiichi Murayama, the former socialist leader of Japan who apologized for Japan’s wartime aggression, is the latest ex-premier to come out of retirement and make current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe uncomfortable.
Mr. Murayama, who is celebrating his 90th birthday Monday, said in a recent visit to South Korea that he expects Mr. Abe to stick by the 1995 “Murayama statement” that contained the apology. Mr. Murayama also wants Japan to uphold a 1993 statement apologizing over the “comfort women” issue, made by Yohei Kono, Japan’s then-chief government spokesman. The term comfort women refers to women and girls, many of them Korean, who were forced to sexually serve Japanese soldiers during World War II.
At a news conference in Tokyo on Friday, Mr. Murayama stepped up his criticism of those who want to revise the apologies, describing the recent controversy surrounding the Kono statement as “meaningless.”
South Korea Assails Japan on Wartime Brothels
New York Times
Unleashing fresh criticism of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, President Park Geun-hye of South Korea on Saturday urged him to be honest and courageous enough to face his country’s history of aggression in the early 20th century, especially its enslavement of Asian women in Imperial Army brothels.
“True courage lies not in denying the past but in looking squarely at the history as it was and teaching growing generations the correct history,” Ms. Park said, referring to Japan’s often brutal colonization of Korea from 1910 to 1945. “The more one denies the history of the past, the more wretched and more isolated one gets.”
Just a day earlier, Mr. Abe’s government said it would re-examine a landmark 1993 apology it made to the sex slaves, commonly known by the euphemism “comfort women.”
Former White House staffer Ronnie Cho ‘seriously considering’ Arizona congressional run
Former White House staffer Ronnie Cho is strongly considering a congressional run in Arizona, sources tell the Washington Examiner.
Cho, the former associate director for the White House’s Office of Public Engagement, has been taking calls encouraging him to run in Arizona since Democratic Rep. Ed Pastor announced Thursday he would retire after his current term.
Sources close to Cho, a Phoenix native and Arizona State University alumnus, said he is seriously thinking of throwing his hat into the ring in Arizona’s 7th Congressional District. If successful, he would be the first Korean-American Democrat elected to Congress.
Cho also has been an editor at Newsweek/Daily Beast and worked at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as associate director in the Office of Legislative Affairs.
Gourmet Heaven owner charged with discrimination, wage theft
Providence Journal (Rhode Island)
Gourmet Heaven owner Chung Cho was arrested Monday on five charges of discrimination against workers and five violations of failure to keep wage records at its Connecticut stores, according to Connecticut court records.
Four days earlier, on Feb. 20, New Haven police arrested Chung on 21 felony counts of wage theft and 20 misdemeanor charges of defrauding immigrant workers, according to the court records.
Gourmet Heaven has two locations in Connecticut and two in Providence, one on Weybosset Street downtown and the other, more recently opened, on Meeting Street on College Hill.
The Providence stores are not under investigation, according to Nicole Armstrong, program coordinator for the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training.
Oscars: Karen O Performs Ethereal ‘Moon Song’ With Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig
Karen O took the Academy Awards stage Sunday with special guest Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig accompanying on guitar for their performance of Oscar-nominated original song from Her, “The Moon Song.”
Dressed in a deep-V red gown, a seated Karen O brought an ethereal mood to the Dolby Theatre with Koenig’s help on supporting vocals. The performance was in stark contrast to Pharrell Williams’ show-stealing performance of Despicable Me’s “Happy” minutes before, with dozens of dancers amping up the star-filled crowd. An image of a moon rose as Karen O and Koenig crooned “The Moon Song” with the rest of the stage in black.
The two teamed up for a new version of “The Moon Song,” which was co-written by Karen O and Her director Spike Jonze, as part of a three-song EP released on iTunes. Karen O also recorded a solo version.
2NE1 Vs. Girls’ Generation: K-Pop Girl Group Battle Raging on the Charts
As two of K-pop’s biggest international acts, Girls’ Generation and 2NE1 dropping albums within days of each other was sure to stir up a competitive chart battle in both their native South Korea and abroad. According to early chart forecasts, both Korean releases should be making exciting chart moves.
Industry forecasters suggest that 2NE1′s new album “Crush” might sell around 4,000 copies by the end of the tracking week on Sunday, March 2. Meanwhile, Girls Generation’s “Mr.Mr.” EP could sell 3,000.
If 2NE1′s latest effort sells 4,000, it would easily mark the act’s best sales week; the group’s previous high came when “2NE1 2nd Mini Album” EP sold 1,000 in its first week in 2011.
‘Frozen’ Crosses $75 Million in South Korea, Breaks Local Records
Frozen broke several South Korean box office records over the weekend as it became Sunday the first animated feature and the second imported film to cross 10 million admissions here.
As of Monday, according to the Korean Film Council, the Oscar-winning film has grossed $75.48 million (80.45 billion won), making Korea the most successful market for the Disney animation outside of the U.S.
The film’s directors, Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, expressed thanks to Korean fans with a hand-drawn picture of the character Olaf and the message, “Thank you Korea for loving me so much! I want to give you all a warm hug!!”
The Chinese obsession with Korean dramas is making bad Chinese TV look bad
Days after a woman suffered a heart attack after staying up late to watch the hit Korean drama “My Love From the Star” (来自星星的你), Xu Qinsong, a Guangdong delegate to the CPPCC (Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference), stood up for the poor souls working in the lackluster Chinese domestic television industry by saying enough is enough with China’s Korean drama craze.
In a recent interview, the venerable Mr. Xu lamented how the Korean Drama obsession is hurting China’s “cultural self-esteem.” And the truth is, he does kind of have a point.
“My Love From the Star,” which recently concluded its first season on February 27, weaves a deeply complex and nuanced tale of a young, beautiful Korean actress (played by the young and beautiful Jun Ji-Hyun) who falls in love with her young and beautiful alien boyfriend (played by the young and beautiful Kim Soo-hyun). The show has been broadcasted on China’s video platform sites LeTv.Com and iQiyi, where it has reportedly been watched 14.5 billion times on the latter site alone. Damn. On February 14th, over 100 fans took out a full-page advertisement in the Beijing News to wish male star Kim both a happy Valentine’s Day and happy birthday on February 16th.
Korea’s indie rock music survives in shadow of K-Pop
South China Morning Post
It’s Saturday night in Hongdae, one of Seoul’s best-known entertainment districts. Alleyways that are quiet by day have transformed into bustling passageways lined with busy bars and restaurants; street food vendors have pitched tents to serve soju and fried seafood; and young men and women prowl the streets in their nightclub finery.
With so much action going on, it’s easy to miss the entrance to Club Freebird, an obscure but influential music venue in the area. Inside the bar, surrounded by the blue haze of stage lights, a small crowd sways to Led Zeppelin-inspired guitars and the siren-like vocals of a singer in black eyeliner, fishnet tights and shorts.
Apart from the cheap drinks, every member of the audience is here to enjoy something that South Korea isn’t known for: indie music.
Yoo Jae Suk Gifts University Students Who Appeared on “Running Man”
Comedian Yoo Jae Suk gave gifts to the guest university students who participated in the March 2 broadcast of SBS’ “Running Man.”
According to a “Running Man” representative on March 3, “Yoo Jae Suk gave iPads as gifts to the university students who participated in the ‘Running Man 2014 University War’ special.”
The rep explained, “Yoo Jae Suk wanted to express his gratitude toward all of the university students who actively participated on the show. He was too shy to give the gifts in person, so he asked the production team to give out the gifts on his behalf. He wanted to let this pass quietly, but people found out.”
Nike yoga master trainer Leah Kim: I felt out of place in an office
Leah Kim, 34, was an unsporty child destined for a ‘proper’ job. Somehow, she became Nike’s global yoga master trainer.
Growing up in California, it was the norm to be health-conscious and yoga was around my entire life. But it wasn’t until I was at college at UCLA [University of California, Los Angeles] that I walked into class with the teacher who would become my mentor, and yoga became a huge part of my life. During that first class, I started experiencing the aspects of yoga that go beyond the physical, that ask you to look within. It seemed like there was so much to learn and I just wanted more.
I was definitely not sporty at school – not in the slightest. Sometimes it feels like a fluke that I’m now a ‘Nike athlete’ but I stepped into my body’s potential when I stepped on to the yoga mat. I’d gone to UCLA to study economics but I wasn’t passionate about it. Growing up, there was an inherent expectation that I would get a ‘proper’ job in some sort of business capacity. But once I got into my cubicle at my first job out of college, I felt out of place and uninspired. I found I was so much more contented at the yoga studio than anywhere else and wished I could spend all day long there. Then one day I had the realisation – well, maybe I can…
How Choco Pie infiltrated North Korea’s sweet tooth
The first time the South Korean factory owner watched his North Korean employees nibble on a Choco Pie, they appeared shocked — even overwhelmed.
He summed up their reaction to the South Korean snack in one word: “Ecstasy.”
Much like what Twinkies are to Americans, South Korea’s Choco Pies — two disc-shaped, chocolate-covered cakes, sandwiching a rubbery layer of marshmallow cream — are ubiquitous, cost less than 50 cents and are full of empty calories.
S. Korea holds live-fire drill despite North’s warning
South Korea on Tuesday carried out a live-fire drill on its northwestern islands despite North Korea’s warning of “grave consequences,” but the closely-watched exercise ended without clashes with the communist state.
South Korea has carried out live-fire exercises on the frontline islands every two or three months to improve Marine Corps’ readiness. The drills have often been met by protest from Pyongyang.
Ahead of Tuesday’s exercise, the North’s National Defense Commission sent a fax through the western military hotline to National Security Office chief Kim Jang-soo urging President Park Geun-hye to cancel it, defense ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said.
Korea slams Japan over Dokdo
South Korea Tuesday denounced Japan for Claiming Korea’s easternmost islets of Dokdo in its newly revised teaching manuals for Middle and high schools.
The denouncement follows the Japanese Education ministry’s Disclosure of new manuals stating that Dokdo is Japanese Territory, rejecting Seoul’s earlier Call to withdraw the Claim.
“Japan Will Face the consequences,” said Cho Tai-Young, a Spokesman at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Decision to keep U of I Urbana-Champaign campus open leads to twitter firestorm
Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Ill.)
No disciplinary action is planned against the students who sent racist, sexist and threatening tweets targeting University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise who declined to offer a day off due to the weather on Monday.
The tweets were sent after an email was delivered to all students in the Urbana-Champaign campus Sunday that advised them to bundle up and be careful Monday because of the extreme cold, said University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign spokeswoman Robin Kaler.
Kaler said they notified university police, who determined there was no “threat.” The university is not planning any disciplinary action, characterizing it as “a free speech issue.’’
Sacramento-area woman’s quest for Korean birth mother stalls
Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)
Fawn Press-Dawson’s quest to find her birth mother has stalled after two weeks in South Korea.
The 21-year-old from Gold River – whose well-chronicled search has drawn international attention – flew to Seoul with her adoptive mom, Andee Press-Dawson, on Jan. 10, armed with her adoption papers, her birth mother’s name and the knowledge that only a tiny number of Korean adoptees actually find their biological parents.
Last Thursday, Andee came home while Fawn moved into a guest house for Korean adoptees searching for their roots operated by South Korea’s Eastern Social Welfare Society.
Lawsuit filed in collapse of Rittenhouse fire escape
A civil lawsuit has been filed against the owner and landlord of a Center City apartment building where a fire escape collapsed, killing one man and seriously injuring two women.
The suit was filed on Monday on behalf of the families of 22-year-old Albert Suh and 24-year-old Laura O’Brien.
It was just before midnight on January 12th when Suh, O’Brien, and a thirdperson, identified as Nancy Chen, were standing on the fire escape outside their fourth floor apartment, located at 229 South 22nd Street in the city’s Rittenhouse section.
The roommates were throwing a party, and had allegedly stepped out onto the fire escape when the collapse occurred, sending all three plummeting 40 feet to the ground below.
Vienna man sentenced in largest-ever bid-rigging scheme
Oh Sung Kwon, 48, a Northern Virginia businessman, was sentenced yesterday to 46 months in prison on federal charges stemming from a bribery scheme in which he paid thousands of dollars to an Army official in return for government contracts, as well as a separate scheme involving fraudulent real estate sales and refinances.
Kwon, also known as Thomas Kwon, of Vienna, pled guilty in September 2012 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to one count each of bribery, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, and willful failure to file a tax return. He was sentenced by the Hon. Emmet G. Sullivan. Judge Sullivan also ordered Kwon to pay $1,188,500 in restitution and the same amount in a forfeiture money judgment. Upon completion of his prison term, Kwon will be placed on three years of supervised release.
Kwon was the co-founder and chief executive officer of Avenciatech Inc., a government contractor based in Annandale. He is among 17 people and one corporation that pled guilty to federal charges for their roles in the largest domestic bribery and bid-rigging scheme in the history of federal contracting. The investigation is continuing.
Internet Cafes Get a Makeover
Wall Street Journal
In South Korea, Internet cafes, known as PC Bangs, have long been places of refuge for hardcore video gamers battling it out in games like League of Legends.
But some now feel they’re under attack from a push to make PC Bangs more hygienic, including a complete smoking ban from this year. The core clientele of PC Bangs have long been predominantly male, many of whom enjoy a good smoke while gaming.
Some in the industry are scrambling to find ways to attract new clients by giving PC Bang interiors drastic makeovers and looking for alternative sources of revenue, such as by turning into hybrid restaurants. The changes aren’t being welcomed by regulars of these cafes.
‘The Bachelor’ week 4 recap: Juan Pablo takes ladies to South Korea
The fourth episode of this season’s “The Bachelor” saw Juan Pablo take the ladies outside of the country for the first time. JuanPabs and the ladies flew to Seoul, South Korea. There was a one-on-one date and two group dates.
Lots of kissing, flesh-eating fish, tears, a Korean pop group, eating octopus and, yes, more cattiness. Monday night’s episode had it all. When the episode finished, two more ladies were sent home and the plan to travel to Vietnam was revealed as the remaining ladies sipped champagne.
The group arrived in South Korea for a few days. Juan Pablo can’t even speak English all that well and now, going to Korea, he was forced to try his hand at another language.
The first date card arrived and read, “Pop!”
Korean SNL to meet original SNL
Hosts of the Korean version of Saturday Night Live (SNL) will fly to New York City this week to watch the live taping of an episode of the original SNL.
A spokesman for tvN, a cable channel that produces SNL Korea, said on Monday top comedian Shin Dong-yup and Yoo Se-yoon will depart for NYC on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, at the invitation of NBC, a major American broadcaster that created the widely beloved late-night live television sketch comedy show in 1975.
“The two will visit the live studio for SNL and meet with its directors,” tvN said in a statement. “They will discuss a variety of production issues with the directors. They also plan to participate in events promoting Korean culture.”
Kim Yu-na gets favorable draw
Figure-skating megastar Kim Yu-na is about as sure-fire a gold-medal candidate as there is among the athletes booked for the Sochi Winter Olympics.
Now, observers think her odds improved even further after she was placed in the fourth group of skaters competing in the women’s individual competition that begins on Feb. 20.
In the Olympics, athletes in figure-skating appear in reverse order of the world rankings.
While Kim, the reigning Olympic champion, is clearly the woman to beat at Sochi, her world ranking slipped to No. 15 as she missed several scheduled appearances during the 2013-14 season after suffering a foot injury in September.
On a sled and a prayer, Korea’s ‘Miracles on Asphalt’
For South Korea’s “Miracles on Asphalt” bobsleigh team, having ice on the track is a big problem.
Chilled to the bone by the biting cold of the Taebaek Mountain range, officials from the Korea Bobsleigh Skeleton Federation use shovels and mops to smash and sweep ice from the ‘push track’, which simulates the action at the start of a run.
The Alpensia Ski Resort in Pyeongchang, which is to host the 2018 Winter Games, has no proper ice track and athletes have to push their sleds on rails to practice the all-important start.
Despite the inadequate facilities, South Korea will compete in the skeleton at the February 7-23 Sochi Games, as well as sending two teams in both the men’s two- and four-man bobsleigh events and a two-woman bobsleigh team.
Lydia Ko’s profile expected to soar in the USA
Stuff (New Zealand)
Lydia Ko is already a huge name in golf, but one of the world’s leading golf writers predicts she could follow the likes of Tiger Woods and Michelle Wie and have an appeal that transcends the sport.
Two months after turning professional, 16-year-old Ko is the talk of the US golf scene as she heads to Christchurch to defend her New Zealand Women’s Open title at Clearwater, starting on Friday.
The start of her rookie season at the Bahamas Classic this week when she finished seventh equal made headlines as did her switch from Kiwi coach of 11 years Guy Wilson to David Leadbetter, the self-proclaimed “world’s leading golf instructor”.
One of the most popular female acts in K-pop are set to make a guest appearance on an upcoming episode of the American reality TV show, The Bachelor.
Bom, CL, Dara and Minzy show off their hip-hop dance moves as current bachelor, Juan Pablo Galavis, and six women take a trip to Seoul, South Korea.
The theme of the date will be centered on 2NE1, who recently collaborated with will.i.am. The K-pop girl group will teach Galavis and his lady friends the choreography to 2NE1′s hit song, “I Am The Best.”
The music video for “I Am The Best” has over 83 million views on YouTube, and the high energy dance moves are showing up on dance floors, not just in Korea but overseas as well. Continue Reading »
K-pop label YG Entertainment announced it will host a hologram concert in London next week which will feature giant 3-D images of Psy and popular girl group 2NE1.
It will be the first hologram performance outside of Korea and will be put on at the Korea Brand and Entertainment Expo 2013 from Nov. 4 to Nov. 6, and will have 45-foot projections of the singers performing their hits. 2NE1 will make an in-person appearance to promote the event although Psy is not scheduled to show up in the flesh.
YG has already implemented Psy’s hologram concert at the Everland amusement park in Seoul, where the show goes on every day of the year. It is described by the park as a concert that is “more realistic than the actual concert and beyond your imagination.” Continue Reading »