The North Korean Purge That Didn’t Happen
Wall Street Journal
Call it a helpful reminder that much of what you hear about North Korea is probably not true.
A senior North Korean military official close to dictator Kim Jong Un reemerged in state media on Friday after disappearing from public view for a few weeks. Speculation had been building that Choe Ryong Hae might have been purged after a report from a radio station operated by North Korean defectors that Mr. Choe was arrested on Feb. 21.
The report said Mr. Choe had fallen short in his duties to keep troops sufficiently devoted to Mr. Kim, among other failings.
North Korean election provides clues to reclusive Stalinist state
Reading the official website of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and you would be forgiven for thinking the reclusive Stalinist state was the Cayman Islands of East Asia.
No taxes, zero unemployment and a performance-related reward-for-labor bonus regime, North Korea touts itself as having “a people-centered social system in which the masses of the working people are the masters of everything and everything in society serves them.”
This Sunday, North Koreans will be required to show their assent for this political system at general elections universally expected to return the current incumbent Kim Jong Un.
Pyongyang’s Hunger Games
New York Times
The United Nations Commission of Inquiry’s report on North Korea, released last month, contains so many tragic findings that it is difficult to grasp the scale of the crimes described. But the world owes it to the North Korean victims, both living and dead, to focus on a figure buried in paragraph 664 of the commission’s report: $645,800,000.
That is what the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, is said to have squandered in 2012 on “luxury goods,” including cosmetics, handbags, leather products, watches, electronics, cars and top-shelf alcohol. In that same year, Mr. Kim also spent $1.3 billion on his ballistic missile programs.
Mr. Kim’s profligacy should be weighed against two other statistics absent from the commission’s report. The first is $150 million. That is what the United Nations World Food Program asked donor nations to give for food and other humanitarian aid for North Koreans in 2013. The second is 84 — the percentage of North Korean households that, according to the W.F.P. and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, had “borderline” or “poor” levels of food consumption in 2013.
Four U.S. congressmen urge reunions of divided Korean-American families
Yonhap News via GlobalPost
Four U.S. congressmen submitted a resolution to a House committee calling for the reunion of Koreans in the United States with their long-lost families in North Korea, according to the Library of Congress.
The measure was sponsored by Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), Howard Coble (R-NC), John Conyers (D-MI) and Samuel Johnson (R-TX), all Korean War veterans.
“The division on the Korean Peninsula separated more than 10,000,000 Korean family members, including some who are now citizens of the United States,” said the resolution, referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs Thursday.
Japan’s Uphill PR Battle
Japan is involved in a worsening quarrel with its two neighbors, China and South Korea, not only concerning sovereignty over some tiny islets, but also its alleged tendency to whitewash its history of military aggression and brutal colonial rule.
One of the major points of antagonism is the issue of “comfort women” (or “sex slaves” as an angry Hillary Clinton called them), namely women in Japan-occupied Asia who were forced into prostitution serving Japanese soldiers. Despite the 1993 Kono Statement in which the Japanese government admitted that Japan’s military had coerced these women, a recent rise of nationalism has led a majority of Japanese to deny any such thing, giving rise to suspicion that Japan is again refusing to take responsibility for its war crimes.
On this issue, the Koreans are more militant than the Chinese and political ties between Tokyo and Seoul have been frozen since the hawkish Shinzo Abe returned to power, and has hardly bothered to hide his aim of repealing past Japanese admissions of sin regarding the comfort women. The right-wing prime minister actually represents a growing number of Japanese who believe that Japan did nothing wrong in the last world war and that the comfort women were only professional prostitutes. These Japanese are fed up with the Korean and Chinese demands for apologies and compensation.
Washington City Paper
Lobbyists have wet dreams about this scenario.
You’ve mobilized an entire constituent group, 80,000 potential swing voters in a swing state. It’s a growing immigrant population with a profile coveted by politicians: well-educated, relatively prosperous, suburb-dwelling, beholden to no party. State legislators and gubernatorial candidates meet with you and come to any press events you organize. They are prepared to speechify about whatever issue you tell them is dear to your community, and pledge that your cause is their cause. Any issue at all.
What do you tell them?
If you are Peter Kim, president of the Virginia-based Voice of Korean Americans, you tell them what your community really wants—more than anything—is for any reference in any school textbook to the body of water that lies between the Korean peninsula and Japan, commonly called the Sea of Japan, to say that it’s also known as the East Sea.
Flushing man to offer free meds, barber trims to the needy
New York Daily News
He wants to snip away at poverty. A Flushing man who gave away free bowls of soup to the poor at a Korean restaurant last month now has his sights set on the barber’s chair as a way to help out Queens’ neediest.
Jin Kim, 38, is working with a local pharmacy to hand out free meds and Queens barbershops to offer gratis haircuts.
“Not only me, a lot of people need help,” said Kim, a Korean-American immigrant and John Jay College Ph.D student who got the idea to start a charity when he first arrived in Queens 12 years ago and struggled to survive. “I think some people have more. Maybe they will share a little bit and help everyone. I want to be the connection.”
For Korean Kids, Mobile Chat Rules
Wall Street Journal
The verdict is still out on whether teens and tweens are a reliable predictor of tech trends, but if South Korean school kids make a good benchmark, chat is king.
A recently-released poll by the National Youth Policy Institute, a Seoul-based public research center, shows that the most frequently used feature among students in grades four to 12 on their smartphones was local messenger apps such as KakaoTalk and Line. Over a quarter – one third for girls – said it was their most-used feature.
The overall runner-up in the November survey was games (15.6%), followed by making calls (14.8%) and music (12.8%). Just 6.8% of the 10,000 students surveyed said social media was their most-used application, the same percentage as said browsing the Internet was what they do most on their phones.
S. Korean Dream Line: Rail Link Via N.Korean Eco Zone To Russia
Imagine a railroad linking the great industries of South Korea with Europe. The dream might some day come true as the South drafts elaborate plans for shipping goods through North Korea’s Rason special economic zone adjacent to the North’s 10-mile-long Tumen River border with Russia.
The South Koreans have the enthusiastic support of the Russians, who have long dreamed of shipping goods by rail from South Korean factories, through North Korea and then onto the trans-Siberian railway. They’ve already rebuilt the railroad into North Korea over which they once shipped oil and other products at prices way below their real costs.
The oil stopped flowing with the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, but Russia has never abandoned its historic interest in the Korean peninsula.
Police seek help in locating missing Staten Island man
Staten Island Advance (N.Y.)
Police seek the public’s help in ascertaining the whereabouts of a 60-year-old New Springville man reported missing on Thursday.
Kang Ok Cho was last seen two week ago on Friday, Feb. 21 at about 6 p.m., according to a written statement from the office of the NYPD’s deputy commissioner for public information. He was leaving for his job at a Flushing, Queens, car service, said an NYPD spokeswoman.
The reason for the delay in the report being made was not immediately clear.
TV Soap Revives Korean Craze in China
Korean soap “My Love from the Star,” about a woman’s romance with an alien, has taken China by storm, sparking fads for anything from food to books.
The Bibigo chain of Korean restaurants launched a new dish in outlets in Beijing on Wednesday consisting of fried chicken, pickled radishes and two bottles of beer, which is a popular combination among Koreans.
“We decided to add the new item to our menus due to the explosive popularity of ‘chi-maek’” — the Korean abbreviation for the combo.
So what’s going on here then? Jessica Gomes’ goofy snap with Walking Dead star Steven Yeun’s sparks romance rumours
Daily Mail (U.K.)
She split from her long term boyfriend Sebastian Drapac a few months ago, and now it looks like Australian model Jessica Gomes could be back on the dating scene.
The 28-year-old David Jones fashion ambassador posted a goofy candid photo of herself and 30-year-old Walking Dead actor Steven Yeun on Instagram earlier today, sparking speculation of a new romance.
The pair playfully pulled their tongues out, and fans commented asking if the model and actor were dating.
Iowa City native connects two cultures in film debut
Iowa City Press-Citizen
Christine Yoo made her first movie as a student at Shimek Elementary.
“In my reading group, we wrote and shot a construction animation piece about finding King Tut’s tomb,” she said, recalling that she was inspired by her art teacher, Mr. Ferguson.
Years later, the former Iowa City resident has made her first full-length feature film with “Wedding Palace,” a movie about a young Korean American man dumped at the altar and facing a family curse that requires all family members to marry before they turn 30. The film strives to connect two cultures.
Yoo said the movie has been described as the Korean-American version of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”
An account of Kim Yuna backstage at Olympics; Netizens moved
‘Yuna cried a lot backstage. That was why the awards ceremony was a bit delayed.’
In contrast with her calm appearance after the women’s singles figure skating competition, ‘figure skating queen’ Kim Yuna (24) looked extremely sad backstage and shed many tears, according to an eyewitness account that was uploaded to the Internet. It has caught the attention of many people, and many netizens are crying together.
In a popular Internet community on the 3rd of March, a post titled ‘Kim Yuna is a delicate athlete after all’ has recorded a high number of hits and has gained a lot of public interest.
10 Personality Traits about Koreans You Should Know!
The most Korean of athletes are always nationalistic. Whether it be olympians that dedicate their victories to their home country, or MMA fighters that dedicate their wins to the Independence Day of Korea (UFC Fight Night 37), nearly all Korean athletes are loyal to their country. Koreans are raised to put their country before themselves, and that leads to nationalistic activists that fight for Korea’s ownership of the Dokdo Islands (aka Liancourt Rocks), expansion of Korea’s airspace territory, or even Koreans abroad fighting for renaming of the Sea of Japan (contested as the East Sea). Koreans are bred to be nationalistic, mostly with the phrase: Daehanminguk manse (대한민국 만세)! Victory to Korea!
South Korea is definitely on the forefront when it comes to the term “Save the Earth”! We always try to save on energy and recycling. The Korean government initiated a program throughout the country back in 2005 that tries to limit green house gases by conserving the energy costs of businesses through the Cool Biz program. Korea also takes its recycling programs serious! Bio-waste matter (left over food) is recycled through yellow plastic bags that are meant specifically for compost matter (which is rumored to be super eco-friendly and fed to pigs!). In addition, everything is separated by glass, plastic, cardboard and cans. And if you don’t believe us, watch your trash not get picked up!
Tate Modern buys first collection of Paik Nam-june works
Yonhap News via GlobalPost
The Tate Modern gallery in London said Friday it has bought its first ever collection of works by late Korean-born American media artist Paik Nam-june and will put the new collection on display in the second half of this year.
Tate Modern, which mainly houses international modern and contemporary art from the 20th and 21st century, acquired nine media art pieces and video installations by Paik, the gallery said.
It added the purchase was funded by South Korea’s largest automaker Hyundai Motor Co. as part of a bilateral partnership deal signed between the two sides in January. The items will go on display in the second half of this year at the gallery, the gallery said.
Free Oriental Medicine clinic this Saturday in O.C.
The Korean American Federation of Orange County will offer free oriental medicine treatments and medical consultation at the Orange County Korean Cultural Center from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday.
Appointments are required due to the limited time.
Acupuncture treatment with a moxa system, as well as consultation, will be aided by Dr. Han Choong-hee, who operates an acupuncture clinic in Irvine.
North Korea’s Weapon of Choice: The Fax Machine
Wall Street Journal
North Korea has ramped up the rhetoric against South Korea again through its weapon of choice this year: the fax machine.
South Korea’s Defense Ministry said Friday a letter from the North’s National Defense Commission addressed to the South’s presidential office was faxed early Thursday via the military communication link between the two sides, threatening a “merciless” attack on South Korea.
The letter objected to the “repeated extra-large provocations to North Korea’s highest dignity taking place in the middle of Seoul” and warned of “a merciless retaliation without warning,” according to ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok.
Kim Jong-un’s Aunt ‘Seriously Ill’
Kim Kyong-hui, the wife of executed North Korean eminence grise Jang Song-taek, and aunt of leader Kim Jong-un, has had long-term treatment in Russia for heart problems but her health apparently continues to deteriorate, sources claim.
A source in Beijing said Kim was in Russia for some 40 days due to heart problems and returned to Pyongyang last month. The source added Kim’s condition is “serious.”
Her brother, former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, and father, nation founder Kim Il-sung, both died of heart attacks, making it likely that the disease is genetic.
I’ll look after myself: Korean man Min Tae Kim told friends before death
Courier Mail (Australia)
JUST weeks before heading home Min Tae Kim assured friends he would look after himself.
His two-year Australian adventure was coming to an end and friends were planning a welcome home get-together in Seoul.
With his itinerary posted on Facebook his friend ChanKwan Park wrote: “Please be careful until you come back.”
Chinese Respondents Top Materialism Poll
New York Times
A global poll of attitudes toward wealth has found what many domestic critics allege already: Chinese today are just too materialistic.
The survey was conducted by the French market research company Ipsos in September and polled more than 16,000 adults in 20 countries.
Chinese respondents topped the list in measuring success by their possessions, coming in more than double the global average, according to the results published last week. Seventy-one percent of Chinese respondents agreed with the statement “I measure my success by the things I own,” far higher than respondents from its East Asian neighbors South Korea, at 45 percent, and Japan, 22 percent. Respondents from developed economies generally disagreed with the statement. Just over 20 percent of Americans and Canadians agreed and only 7 percent of Swedes.
After 2 years, Jeon finds way home
Korea Joongang Daily
Actress Jeon Do-yeon, one of Korea’s most awarded stars, returned to the big screen for the first time in two years with “Way Back Home.”
In the film, Jeon plays an ordinary homemaker named Song Jeong-yeon, who is duped into carrying large bags of illegal drugs into France but is eventually caught at the border.
Based on the true story of a Korean housewife who got caught at an airport in France in 2004, the film influenced Jeon to strive toward realism.
Spike Lee’s “Oldboy”: Revenge is a dish best served Korean
Spike Lee’s Oldboy, a remake of the 2003 Korean film of the same name, is lacking a crucial element of the original Park Chan-wook version: it’s not Korean. It’s one thing to make a revenge movie—but only a Korean director can make a revenge meditation, a laser-sharp focus on a base, reptilian urge with that offers no redemption or satisfaction that justice has been done. Vengeance is part of the Korean collective unconscious, an ultra-distilled form of rage so unique that the Korean language has its own, nearly untranslatable word for it: han. In the han universe, characters don’t suffer or become evil because of early trauma: they suffer because life is horrible.
This is the driving force behind Park’s “Revenge Trilogy,” of which Oldboy is the second installment. Winning the 2004 Gran Prix at Cannes, the film became a cult classic worldwide, aided by the vociferous support of Cannes jury member, Quentin Tarantino. Based loosely on the Dumas novel The Count of Monte Cristo, Oldboy tells the lurid tale of a slovenly everyman, Oh Dae-soo, who is abducted and held captive in a private prison. When Oh is finally released 15 years later, for reasons as mysterious as his imprisonment, he is importuned by a smelly homeless man who hands him a cell phone and a wallet stuffed with cash. The cell phone rings. Oh answers it. It is his captor, daring Oh to find out what why he was imprisoned. What ensues is a glorious duet of mutual vengeance between two men, each of whom is simultaneously captor and prey.
Shin-Soo Choo’s special skill
ESPN Insider (Subscription Required)
If you find it strange that the Yankees offered the same number of contractual years to Shin-Soo Choo as they did to Robinson Cano, it’s worth remembering that Choo possesses a skill that does not disappear as quickly as defense or speed or fastball velocity.
The man has an acute ability to take a walk, and the folks who can do this tend to age well — a tremendous talking point for his agent, Scott Boras, especially as he talks to American League teams, who can envision Choo going through his golden years as a designated hitter.
Choo is 31 years old and his outfield range is generally regarded as below average but playable, at this stage is in his career. His declining power against left-handed pitchers has raised concerns.
Seoul, Beijing Find New Common Ground Against Tokyo
Wall Street Journal
History quite literally shapes the present in northeast Asia, where leaders refuse to let the past rest in peace as they tap into this infinite source of conflict – so much so that Japan seems unable to escape the diplomatic quagmire that it’s in with China and South Korea.
But while the source of the current strain between Japan and its neighbors tended to be territorial rows or about mid-20th century aggression by the imperial army and how the current Japanese leaders continue to offend, Seoul and Beijing have recently decided to go further back in time to denounce Japan, possibly driving the schism deeper between Asia’s top economic powerhouses.
On Monday, South Korean President Park Geun-hye thanked a visiting senior Chinese official for the progress made for a monument in Harbin, China, commemorating the 1909 assassination of Hirobumi Ito, who presided over the Korean Peninsula as governor when it was a colonial protectorate of Japan’s.
Japan envoy urges attention on Tokyo efforts to help comfort women
South Korea should acknowledge Japan’s efforts to help Korean women sexually victimized by Japan in the early 20th century, Japanese ambassador to Seoul said Tuesday, calling for cooperation in resolving the tricky issue.
“Acknowledging Japan’s efforts and taking a cooperative attitude are important in order to solve the issue of comfort women for Japanese soldiers,” Koro Bessho said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency to mark his one year on the job.
The Japanese government made efforts in the 1990s to help the female victims, establishing an Asian women’s fund to help them, sending apology letters to each of the victims and providing medical support for them, Bessho said. “But such efforts have not been properly assessed in South Korea.”
Seoul unveils lists of Korean victims of anti-Japan uprising, massacre
South Korea on Tuesday made public decades-old official lists of Koreans killed by colonial Japan during its independence movement in 1919 and victims of Tokyo’s massacre following a powerful earthquake four years later.
According to the National Archives of Korea, a registry recently found in the country’s embassy in Japan showed detailed information about 630 Koreans killed during the March 1 national uprising against its colonial rule in 1919.
The Korean Peninsula was under Japan’s brutal colonial rule from 1910-45.
Currently, a total of 391 people are officially recognized as victims of the independence movement.
The Fall of the House of Moon
: Sex rituals, foreign spies, Biden offspring, and the Unification Church’s war-torn first family
In Jin [Moon] had assumed control of the U.S. church at a precarious moment for Moon’s religious empire. Her father had come to the United States from Korea nearly 40 years earlier, aiming to “subjugate” America as the first phase in a plan to establish a new world order. Moon had gone on to amass extraordinary political influence, building a vast network of powerful right-wing organizations and forging alliances with every Republican presidential administration since Ronald Reagan’s. In 2004, he and his wife even staged an elaborate coronation ceremony in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, which at least a dozen lawmakers attended.1 Republican Roscoe Bartlett bowed down before the couple, and Democrat Danny Davis carried in one of two golden crowns that were placed on their heads. Moon then informed the audience that “kings and presidents” had declared him “humanity’s savior” and that Jesus, Buddha, Hitler, and Stalin had been “reborn as new persons” through his teachings.
But in recent years, Moon’s plans to remake America and salvage humanity had run into trouble. Followers had drifted away; his political influence had ebbed. With his ninetieth birthday approaching, he increasingly looked to his children to preserve his life’s work.
For Korean students, it is Harvard, MIT all the way
Korea Times US
No matter how trends change, it is still Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology all the way for Korean students.
That has held true even as the number of Korean students heading overseas for their studies has dwindled due to the ongoing economic downturn.
Despite a small reduction in the number of students heading to foreign countries, the ranks of those choosing top universities in the United States are still going strong.
Family’s future in Canada uncertain due to work permit wait
CBC News (Canada)
A man who brought his family to Winnipeg from South Korea five years ago says their future in Canada is uncertain due to immigration bureaucracy.
Kyung Sung Kim says he has been waiting for Citizenship and Immigration Canada to renew his work permit since it expired 2½ years ago.
While Kim, a carpenter, has been allowed to continue working in the interim, he said waiting so long to get his work permit renewed has been difficult for his family.
German game developer calls addiction bill ‘joke’
Khaled Helioui, CEO of Bigpoint, a Germany-based game developer, argues that a proposed bill on game addiction will hurt Korea’s gaming industry.
“This bill could be quite a big threat to the online game industry,” Helioui said during a recent interview. “The government might be putting at risk something they have built over the last 10 years.”
The bill was proposed by Rep. Shin Eui-jin of the ruling Saenuri Party on April 30 and places Internet games in the same category of addictive activities as drugs, alcohol and gambling.
Chinese Tourists in Seoul Spend Most on Shopping
Most Chinese tourists stay in Seoul for six days and spend an average of $250 a day, according to a recent survey. The results are based on a poll of 2.22 million Chinese who visited the country in 2011.
The results showed that 91.1 percent stayed in the capital for an average of six days and spent $250 a day, mostly on shopping.
Their favorite destinations were Myeong-dong (69.2 percent) and Dongdaemun market (66.7 percent).
‘Snowpiercer’ Wins Big at South Korean Film Critics Awards
Bong Joon Ho’s sci-fi blockbuster Snowpiercer won best film at the 33rd Korean Association of Film Critics (KAFC) Awards on Monday. It also took home best director and best cinematography.
Set in a dystopian future, Snowpiercer is one of the year’s highest-grossing films, with over 9.3 million admissions. It is most expensive Korean film to date. Bong’s first English-language film — starring Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton — it was also sold to a record 167 countries.
Hallyu is more than K-pop: Korean jazz artists gaining global attention
Korea Times US
Jazz is not a style of music for everyone’s taste and seldom sees commercial success — at least in Korea where K-pop is dominating the music industry.
Under this mercantile environment unfavorable to diverse musical genres here, some jazz musicians are turning their eyes to overseas fans, making a splash in the international jazz scene. Jazz songstress Nah Youn-sun and duo Winterplay are solidifying their strong fan bases around the world.
Son Heung-min Ranked Among Top Rated Young Players in Europe
Bayer Leverkusen’s Son Heung-min has been named one of the five top rated players aged 21 or under in Europe’s top five leagues this season by WhoScored.com.
The site, which collects statistics on the English, French, German, Italian and Spanish leagues, announced its verdict on Friday.
Its top five players were Brazil’s Neymar of Barcelona, Switzerland’s Ricardo Rodriguez of Wolfsburg, Italy’s Luca Antei of Sassuolo, France’s Paul Pogba of Juventus, and Son.
Cal’s Kim competing at Q-School this week
The 2012-13 Haskins award winner Michael Kim is competing in second stage of Web.com Tour Q-School, Nov. 19-22. The California junior will compete as an amateur at Bear Creek Golf Club in Murrieta, Calif.
Kim is exempt into second stage of Q-School after his 17th-place finish in June at the U.S. Open at Merion, which earned him low-amateur honors.
Kim and fellow first-team All-Americans – Daniel Berger and James Erkenbeck – are also competing in second stage this week. Berger, who turned professional after his sophomore season at Florida State, will play at Southern Hills Plantation in Brooksville, Fla., and Erkenbeck, who graduated from New Mexico, will play with Kim out in California.
Senior diplomats from S. Korea, Japan, China hold talks amid strained ties
Ranking diplomats from South Korea, Japan and China met in Seoul on Thursday to discuss closer trilateral collaboration amid frayed ties over historical and territorial issues with Japan.
The meeting brought together Seoul’s Deputy Minister for Political Affairs Lee Kyung-soo, China’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Liu Zhenmin and Asia Bureau Director General Shinsuke Sugiyama from Japan’s foreign ministry.
The eighth meeting of the three countries’ ranking foreign ministry officials comes amid Japan’s unusually chilly relations with China and South Korea.
Park’s Japan Rebuff Has Domestic Roots
Wall Street Journal
Despite polling data showing public support in South Korea for a Seoul-Tokyo summit, President Park Geun-hye has labeled such a meeting “pointless” in an interview with the BBC. This rebuff has as much to do with current domestic political dynamics as it does with historical grievances with Japan.
President Park has declining but solid approval ratings in the low-60 percentage point range. But the key figure is that only 50% approve of her performance on domestic issues following a series of policy missteps and scandals. Thus, the administration has less wiggle room than is imagined when it comes to spending its political capital.
Because of this domestic vulnerability, there is little appetite to take the risk of moving first on Japan for uncertain rewards. Particularly important to understand is that such a move would invite her domestic critics to revive comparisons with her father, Park Chung-hee, and his complicated legacy.
North Korea says SKorean spy arrested in capital
AP via Yahoo News
North Korea’s security agency said Thursday it arrested a South Korean spy in Pyongyang who intended to rally anti-government forces, a claim that intelligence officials in Seoul quickly called ridiculous and groundless.
Pyongyang regularly accuses Seoul and Washington of working to sabotage its secretive, authoritarian system — statements that outside analysts see as a way to strengthen domestic support for leader Kim Jong Un — but specific claims that an individual spy has been captured, especially before an investigation is concluded, are unusual.
The few details in the statement by an unidentified spokesman for the North’s state security ministry couldn’t be independently verified. North Korea said the South Korean man confessed to illegally entering the country, but there was no statement from him and there were no details about his condition or legal representation.
Christian missionaries in North Korea: Inside the front companies Christians set up to reach the Stalinist dictatorship
For nearly two years, Kenneth Bae, an undercover missionary from Lynnwood, Wash., safely shuttled groups of Christians in and out of North Korea’s Rason Special Economic Zone. In November 2012, Bae’s crusade ended abruptly. The owner of Nations Tour, a China-based front company he formed as a cover to evangelize in the world’s last Stalinist state, Bae was arrested by North Korean agents as he passed through the Wonjong border crossing with a small group of European travelers. The 44-year-old Korean-American was charged with possession of “anti-DPRK literature,” convicted of encouraging foreigners to “perpetrate hostile acts to bring down [the] government,” and sentenced to 15 years hard labor.
It is relatively rare that North Korea arrests a foreign national, even rarer when one considers that a company like Nations Tour is hardly unique. The so-called “Business as Mission” movement, which instructs devout Christians to set up companies as vehicles for spiritual outreach, dates back to the 18th century but found new life at the beginning of the 21st. It’s a missionary model that, by definition, assumes a certain amount of risk for those setting out to reach the “unreached.” But the risks haven’t dissuaded the faithful from taking up the cause. Today, there is an extensive, well-financed network of for-profit missions, using shadowy front companies to evangelize in North Korea. Though precise numbers are impossible to pin down, missionary-businesspeople have set up a staggering breadth of enterprises, including tour agencies, bakeries, factories, farms, even schools and orphanages, all in the name of spreading the Good Word.
Fleeing discrimination at home, S. Koreans seek asylum abroad
His name, Ye-da, seemed somehow meaningful – a combination of the Korean words for “Jesus” and “Buddha.” But 23-year-old Lee Ye-da may never again be able to live with the parents who gave him that name. When we arrived at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle International Airport last August, we found it teeming with unfamiliar faces. Making our way to a tourist information booth near the second floor terminal, we saw a young Korean couple – tourists, apparently – chattering as they walked past. In their place appeared Lee Ye-da.
Lee, a South Korean national, lives in France as a refugee. His refugee status was recognized by the French Office for Protection of Refugees and Expatriates (OFPRA) two months before his meeting with the Hankyoreh and seven months after he first submitted his application.
State Sen. Donna Mercado Kim Running For Congress
Honolulu Civil Beat
Donna Mercado Kim, the Hawaii Senate president and longtime lawmaker, will announce her candidacy for Hawaii’s 1st District Seat in Congress today.
Brian Ahakuelo, the business manager of IBEW Local 1260, will also be on hand to endorse Kim’s campaign. The announcement will be in front of Iolani Palace.
A press release for Kim’s campaign initially said she would be the first Korean American elected to Congress. In fact, that honor appears to go to Chang Joon “Jay” Kim, a former politician from California, according to his Wikipedia entry.
BBCN in Los Angeles Hires Saehan’s CFO to Fill Strategy Post
The executive carousel keeps turning among Korean-American banks.
BBCN Bancorp (BBCN) in Los Angeles has hired Daniel Kim as its chief planning officer, effective Nov. 25. Kim, 46, will handle the $6.3 billion-asset company’s strategic planning department, which was created earlier this year, and will advise on acquisitions, revenue diversification and capital management.
Kim is chief financial officer, corporate secretary and acting president at Saehan Bancorp, which is in the process of selling itself to Wilshire Bancorp (WIBC). Kim joined Saehan in 2003 from Pacific Union Bank, where he was manager of the accounting, corporate planning and investment departments.
A swipe at profits
SOUTH KOREA is a notoriously competitive society. But how do those who play its fierce status games know when they have won? Probably when they are invited to apply for “the black”, a credit card issued by Hyundai Card, a subsidiary of Hyundai Motor. Cast in “liquidmetal”, a trademarked alloy suited to armour-piercing ammunition, the card is heavy. It is also rare. Only about 2,000 have been issued and only 9,999 ever will be. To qualify, a holder needs high social standing as well as high net worth. The card charges a stiff membership fee and offers a variety of benefits: members were, for example, invited to a mock Christie’s auction, featuring works flown in from New York. But the main reason people want the black card is that it is so difficult to get.
That elusiveness is unusual in South Korea, where credit cards are issued promiscuously. The country has the equivalent of 4.4 cards for every member of the labour force. Koreans made 129.7 transactions per person in 2011, according to Yonhap, a news agency, more than any other country. In comparison, Canadians made 89.6 transactions and Americans 77.9.
Best of South Korean Short Films to Stream on Web, Flights
The 11th Asiana International Short Film Festival takes place from Nov. 7-12 in Seoul, but the annual event supported by South Korea’s Asiana Airlines will also screen works online and on flights.
For the first time, 10 films featured in the Korean Competition section will be shown online through Naver TV Store, a channel on Korea’s largest portal site. Winning works are also available for view through Asiana Airline’s in-flight entertainment system.
“We’ve discussed ways to distribute short films by grouping them together [to meet the feature film running time] but this has not been pursued yet,” said veteran actor Ahn Sung-ki, who serves as the festival director. “Currently it is difficult to distribute short films in a consistent, long-term fashion but we are devising ways to do so.”
Trash, illegal flyers dirty Seoul’s main party drag
Korea Joongang Daily
On a recent Friday night, one of Seoul’s most popular thoroughfares, the street in front of Hongik University – known as Hongdae – was flooded with revelers, bar hoppers and college students.
Around 7 p.m., four street cleaners emerged and began the tedious routine of removing trash from the street.
They picked up discarded cigarette butts, paper cups and cans until 9 a.m. when the area was finally cleared.
But as they left, more people flowed into Hongdae and the situation began to change.
Mountain Kim Builds Character and Strength
The Connection (Virginia)
When Tae Kwon Do Grand Master Mountain Kim opened his martial arts school in Vienna about 35 years ago, it was the second of the eponymous Mountain Kim Tae Kwon Do schools in Northern Virginia. Now, there are approximately 20 Mountain Kim martial arts schools in the area, most of which are franchises. The Vienna and the Oakton schools are still owned and run by Mountain Kim’s family. In fact, should you stop by the Vienna school on Dominion Road, it’s not unusual to see the Grand Master there himself. He is not a titular face, either. Mountain Kim is hands-on in the practice studio and in the office.
“Every day, we teach respect, listening to parents, grandparents and teachers,” said Mountain Kim. “We and the parents and the school work together to teach respect, discipline.”
Mountain Kim calls himself “semi-retired,” but his passion for the values that tae kwon do instills in its practitioners is as self-defining as it was in the Grand Master’s earliest years. He says tae kwon do training is very good for children.
A Mysterious Realm of Exquisite Objects
New York Times
Here’s a good question for “Jeopardy!”: One of the world’s longest-running dynasties, it emerged around 57 B.C. and grew to dominate the Korean Peninsula in the seventh and eighth centuries before meeting its demise in A.D. 935.
The answer: What was Silla?
If the name Silla is unfamiliar, it might be partly because no major museum exhibition about this kingdom’s art, craft and culture has been mounted in the West until now. “Silla: Korea’s Golden Kingdom,” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, presents more than 130 objects dating from A.D. 400 to around 800, organized by Soyoung Lee, associate curator, and Denise Leidy, curator, in the Met’s Asian art department, with colleagues at the National Museum of Korea in Seoul and the Gyeongju National Museum.
Signs Suggest North Korea Has Restarted Nuclear Reactor
New York Times
North Korea’s main nuclear complex was discharging hot wastewater in a further sign that the country has restarted a Soviet-era nuclear reactor there that it had used to obtain plutonium fuel for atomic bombs, an American research institute said on Thursday.
Using commercial satellite imagery, the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University has been monitoring the nuclear complex in Yongbyon, north of Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. Last month, it reported that satellite images from late August showed steam emerging from a generator building adjacent to the five-megawatt reactor, which it said suggested that North Korea was following through on its vow to restart it.
The restarting of the reactor means that the country can produce weapons fuel again. Until the reactor was shut down in 2007 in a short-lived nuclear disarmament deal with Washington, its spent fuel had been the source of plutonium fuel for the North, which conducted three underground nuclear tests between 2006 and last February. North Korea has also said it is running a uranium enrichment program that can provide it with another type of bomb fuel: highly enriched uranium.
The Venerable Jaseung has, of late, become good at saying sorry. When eight senior monks were caught smoking and boozing over a game of high-stakes poker in a hotel room last year, the leader (pictured) of the Jogye order, South Korea’s biggest Buddhist sect, led the 108-bow repentance. Many thought he should resign. He assured them he would not run for election again. But on September 16th, he belatedly entered the race—and swiftly apologised for doing so.
He joins four others in a bid to win an election on October 10th to lead 24 chief monks and 10m faithful, and manage 2,500 temples, an annual budget of 33 billion won ($30m) and millions more in property—including lucrative cultural monuments and tracts of land leased to the government as national parks. The Venerable Boseon, Venerable Jaseung’s main rival, says the gambling binge proves the order needs “a complete makeover”. Monks, he says, should return to meditation, and tougher penalties should be meted out for mischief.
‘We were placed in grave danger by a mob of reckless and violent motorcyclists’: wife of SUV driver attacked by bikers in upper Manhattan
New York Daily News
The wife of a man who was attacked after a hell-on-wheels chase through upper Manhattan released a statement on Thursday, saying that they were trying to escape a mad mob of motorcyclists when they struck a biker and fled.
Alexian Lien, 33, was beaten and slashed by the bikers in front of his wife, Rosalyn Ng, and their 2-year-old daughter after a terrifying 4-mile chase that erupted after a fender bender on the Henry Hudson Parkway on Sunday.
Ng — in her first public words since the harrowing attack — said there was no way to avoid the riders who interrupted what was supposed to be a pleasant afternoon with their family.
Jesuit volunteer dies on bike ride
Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Wash.)
Eunjey Cho, 25, had traveled the world before he arrived in Spokane as a volunteer for Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest in 2012. After serving here for a year, he set out on a fundraising bicycle journey across the country together with his friend and fellow Jesuit volunteer, John McGuin.
They named their journey “Spoke to Coaaaaaaaast!!” on the FirstGiving donation website and set a goal of raising $2,400 before reaching Cho’s hometown of Princeton, N.J.
Cho never made it home.
He was hit by a car Sept. 18 while riding his bike just outside Grand Junction, Colo., and died at a nearby hospital.
South Korean students are ditching US schools for Made-in-China degrees
In yet another blow to the US export machine, China may be trumping America in its offerings of college education for foreigners.
According to new data from South Korea’s ministry of education, South Korean students who have long been attracted to universities in the US are opting Chinese universities instead. The reason? China is undercutting US educators on price and offers the opportunity to learn Mandarin, now a coveted job skill.
The country has long been a major exporter of students, second only to China and India. Like China and India, the top destination for Koreans has been the US and other English-speaking countries. (An overseas degree is considered an advantage in South Korea’s extremely competitive job market.) But over the past few years, the number of Korean students studying in China has been rising faster than the rate of those going to the US. According to the government data, the number of Korean students studying in China more than tripled between 2001 and 2012, to 62,855, compared to 73,351 Korean students in the US, which was only a 50% increase over the same period.
Busan: Asia’s Stars, Industry Giants Gather for Festival Opening Gala
Some of the biggest names in Asian cinema gathered here on Thursday evening for the launch of the region’s biggest film festival, which kicked off with the world premiere of Bhutanese musical drama Vara: A Blessing.
Box office revenues are booming in Asia, and the region’s premier film event, which takes over the city’s Haeundae beachfront, is attracting more attention than ever this year.
“I’d like to welcome film fans from Busan and cineasts from near and far to the festival,” said Busan mayor and Busan International Film Festival chairman Hur Nam-sik. “The festival has established itself as a global event thanks to your passionate support. We are happy to present quality works in return.”
Kim Jee-Woon Directing Ed Brubaker’s ‘Coward’ (EXCLUSIVE)
Korean director Kim Jee-woon is turning to crime, coming on board to helm the movie adaptation of Ed Brubaker’s “Coward.”
The attachment comes on the eve of the premiere of Kim’s latest film, “The X,” at the Busan Intl. Film Festival. His best-known Korean titles are “I Saw the Devil” and “A Bittersweet Life”; he made his English-language debut earlier this year on Arnold Schwarzenegger actioner “The Last Stand.”
Jamie Patricof and Lynette Howell of Electric City Entertainment are producing. Nick Meyer’s Sierra/Affinity is attached to finance the project and handle international sales.
Postmortem on Cincinnati Reds’ season: Shin-Soo Choo’s future among hot topics after Reds’ loss
Shin-Soo Choo has no doubt the Reds will be back in the playoffs, but he doesn’t know if he will be with them.
Choo scored both runs in the Reds’ 6-2 wild-card game loss to the Pirates on Tuesday, homering in what may have been his final at-bat in a Reds uniform.
Choo said he certainly wanted more, hoped for more and thought the Reds had a chance to do more than play a single postseason game.
Inbee Park seeks to regain winning form at inaugural Reignwood Classic in Beijing
South Korea’s Inbee Park will seek to regain her dominant form with a strong showing at the inaugural Reignwood LPGA Classic in Beijing.
Park, the world No. 1, is being joined by third-ranked American Stacy Lewis at the tournament, which begins Thursday.
Park swept the first three major championships of the season, and has added three other U.S. LPGA Tour wins this year.
Faded Dreams of Riches Drive Pursuit of a Celebrated Fungus
New York Times
The dusty white pickup truck rolled to a stop on the edge of the Oregon woods, where a father-and-son team of mushroom buyers, the Souvannasays, had set up their tent and scale. “Five,” John Souvannasay said before the driver could even open his mouth. With a resigned nod, the man shoved the gear knob into park.
Some commercial hubs obsess over the price of stock shares, or real estate, or in centuries past, tulip bulbs. This dot of a town in south central Oregon, population 135, briefly flowers each fall into a global capital of the wild mushroom trade, with all eyes fixed on a commodity that few Americans have tasted, or perhaps even heard of: the matsutake.
South Korea Is Finally Getting a Robot Theme Park
Disneyland? Meh. Universal Studios? Been there, done that. Robot Land? Now, we’re talking.
For years now, there has been talk in South Korea about a robot theme park. Construction was supposed to start in 2009, but it never happened. (Heck, several years ago, I spent some time in South Korea talking to researchers about it for a magazine article.) There was a website and lots of talk, but construction never started. Until now.
Recently, the park held a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the start of construction. That means Robot Land is really happening. Or rather, building Robot Land is really happening! Above, you can see an image from the ceremony.
Newborn White Lion Cubs In South Korea
Voice of America
Officials at South Korea’s Everland zoo park displayed for the first time Tuesday two rare newborn white lions in the city of Yongin.
White lions are a rare color mutation, with only about 300 specimens left in the world.
The two newborns have brought the total number of white lions at the Samsung Everland’s ecological safari “Lost Valley” park to eight.