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 »
South Korea Gives Aid to North Amid Family Reunions
New York Times
South Korea on Friday approved a shipment of $988,000 worth of medicine and powdered milk for North Korea and promised more humanitarian aid as the two Koreas continued emotional reunions of families separated by the Korean War six decades ago.
The Seoul government’s approval of the aid shipment by two civic relief groups came a day after the two countries began the family reunions in an event widely seen as easing tensions on the divided peninsula. President Park Geun-hye has promised to increase humanitarian aid if the North improves ties with the South through “trust-building” projects like family reunions, which were last held more than three years ago.
The family meetings, held in the Diamond Mountain resort in southeast North Korea, highlighted the urgency for such reunions for Korea’s “separated families,” which were torn apart during the three-year war that ended in 1953 with the peninsula still divided.
At Reunions, Abducted Fishermen Stick to North Korea Script
Wall Street Journal
In the early 1970’s, just as South Korea’s economy was catching up with North Korea following the devastating civil war of 1950-1953, Choi Yong-chol took a job as a skate fisherman
From South Chuncheong province on the Yellow Sea coast, the Choi family, like many in rural South Korea, struggled to make a living. Skate fishing offered stable employment but was physically demanding and potentially dangerous: there were plentiful accounts of boats that disappeared at sea.
One day in February 1974, while close to the maritime border with North Korea, Mr. Choi’s boat and another nearby were approached by a North Korean coast guard vessel. The North Korean ship opened fire, sinking one of the boats and forcing Mr. Choi’s ship to North Korea with its crew, according to accounts from the time.
For many others, reunions put on shelf forever
While about 200 separated family members from South and North Korea are enjoying their long-overdue reunions at Mount Geumgang, many more here have to look to them with envy.
One of those is Jang Sa-in, a 74-year-old who lives in Sadang-dong, southern Seoul.
Jang pulled out a letter from his older brother from the North. He was told through a source that Sa-guk died last year.
“I never knew that time would pass so fast. Now I turned 80 and I still can vividly describe the scenery in our hometown… I suppose you already entered your 70s. I believe you and your sisters have served mother well so far,“ Jang read haltingly during an interview Thursday.
Humanity at its very worst
THE gruesome sketches need little explanation. They are based on the memories of Kim Gwang-il, a North Korean who spent more than two years in a prison camp before eventually escaping through China and Thailand to South Korea. The pictures show prisoners held in stress positions, skeletal bodies eating snakes and mice, and prisoners pulling a cart laden with rotting bodies. But none of the pictures, he says, was nearly as graphic as the reality of being forced to live in the camp.
Mr Kim was one of over 80 defectors, refugees and abductees who publicly testified before a commission of inquiry (COI) set up by the UN’s Human Rights Council in March 2013 to investigate systematic human-rights violations in North Korea. It interviewed another 240 victims confidentially (many fear reprisals on family members still in North Korea). After a year-long investigation, on February 17th the commission delivered its 400-page report.
The report, written by a three-member UN panel headed by Michael Kirby, an Australian former judge, is extraordinary in its detail and breadth. It includes a catalogue of cruelties meted out by the North Korean regime to its main targets: those who try to flee the country; Christians and those promoting other “subversive” beliefs; and political prisoners, estimated to number between 80,000 and 120,000. The regime is accused of crimes that include execution, enslavement, starvation, rape and forced abortion.
S. Korea raps Japan for casting doubt on comfort women testimony
Kyodo News via GlobalPost
South Korea “cannot accept” Japan’s move to re-examine testimony by South Korean women that led Tokyo to officially apologize in 1993 for the forcible recruitment of women into sexual servitude during World War II, a South Korean Foreign Ministry official said Friday, according to Yonhap News Agency.
“Our government cannot accept Japan’s attempt to question the forcible recruitment and management of comfort women even after the country acknowledged it in the past,” the unidentified official was quoted as saying in response to remarks made by Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on Thursday.
In Tokyo on Friday, Suga, the top government spokesman, shrugged off the reported comment by the official, saying at a press conference it is “natural for the Japanese government” to re-examine the accounts of 16 South Korean women.
Korean Americans push to rename Sea of Japan in state legislatures
A high-stakes struggle between Asian powers over territory and resources in the Sea of Japan has opened a new front in unexpected locations: American state legislatures. Now, the centuries-old feud between South Korea and Japan will soon impact some schoolchildren in the United States.
Korean American activists have pushed legislation in three states that would require new school textbooks to note that the Sea of Japan is also called the East Sea, the Korean name for the hotly disputed body of water.
Earlier this month, the Virginia House of Delegates passed legislation that would require textbooks to include both names by a wide margin. Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), who said during his 2013 campaign that he supported the measure, is likely to sign it once it reaches his desk.
Miky Lee tries to rise to challenge at South Korea’s CJ Group
Miky Lee, vice chairman of CJ Group, beams as she greets a visitor in the executive lounge of South Korea’s biggest purveyor of food, home-shopping services, TV programs and movies. The 55-year-old granddaughter of Samsung Group’s founder shows no sign that it’s been a traumatic few months.
Settling in for her first major interview, Lee opens up about how she’s leading the shaken Samsung offshoot after CJ Group Chairman Lee Jay Hyun, her younger brother, was arrested in July.
“I’m now working longer, talking to more people, taking care of a lot more things, including the balance sheet,” she says in a room dominated by a portrait of Lee Byung Chull, her grandfather. “CJ will get back on track.”
Navy chief sentenced to 5 years for attacking S. Korean woman
Stars and Stripes
A U.S. Forces Korea chief petty officer was sentenced last week to five years in prison for attacking a South Korean woman outside her Itaewon apartment last fall.
The Seoul Central District Court identified the 35-year-old man as Chief Petty Officer Christopher Wayne Chatman. The U.S. military refused to confirm the man’s identity because he was tried in a South Korean court, but released a statement that said, “This behavior does not reflect the high standards of conduct expected of U.S. servicemembers.”
According to USFK and Commander Naval Forces Korea, Chatman was convicted Feb. 13 of indecent assault resulting in bodily injury of a South Korean citizen. In addition to his prison sentence, he must complete a 40-hour treatment program for sexual violence offenders.
Korean Messaging Service Kakao Gets Ready For A $2 Billion IPO
Korean messaging leader Kakao is negotiating with Morgan Stanley and Samsung Securities Co. to file for an IPO in Koea, according to the WSJ. The seven-year-old company is mostly known for its dominant messaging app, KakaoTalk. 133 million people are using the app. It is also the primary platform for mobile games.
KakaoTalk is the undisputable winner in South Korea. But with a population of 50 million people, the company needs to find new areas to grow. Similarly, Kakao is launching new products to improve engagement from its existing user base.
The company’s revenue mostly comes from its mobile gaming platform. Many Korean developers use Kakao as a platform to launch their games. The company is now profitable thanks to this revenue stream.
Priscilla Ahn, ‘This is Where We Are’: Exclusive Album Premiere
Acoustic folk artist Priscilla Ahn released “This is Where We Are,” her latest studio album, last summer in Japan and Korea, but the Georgian delayed the release of the LP in her native United States until 2014. Now, the album is officially dropping in America later this month — and Billboard has the exclusive premiere.
“This recording process was different from most, as we only worked two days a week,” Ahn says of the album, her third release in the States. “I discovered that this is the most ideal way for me to record. I always get a little antsy after spending too long in a studio. So we would work together for two days, and then spend a week working on our own and coming up with new ideas for our next meeting.”
Ahn says she wrote the majority of the album “alone in the desert” — though she was “most definitely in an air-conditioned hotel room,” rather than the middle of nowhere. The album also differs from past releases in that it has more of a synth-pop edge than her previous albums. In particular, Ahn is fond of opening track “Diana,” which has minor electronic influences.
The Underdogs Talk Producing New Girls’ Generation Single ‘Mr.Mr.,’ Working in K-Pop: Exclusive
The duo further explains their process, adding, “We work with a Korean translation. We do the full record, we write it completely in English, sing demo and give them the vocal arrangement. Then there’s a Korean translator that translates it to sound cool and still relevant in Korea.”
Mason and Thomas add they are confident in the act’s international charm (the girls have recorded in English, Korean, Japanese and Chinese) can make the track appealing to non-speakers. “I think just Girls’ Generation appeals across the board and across the world,” Mason says. “The YouTube Award they just won is a testament to the size of their audience and how many people are listening and watching. It’s crazy.”
Chinese fried chicken businesses saved by Jun Ji-hyun
AI (avian influenza) has hit the poultry business in China, at least its fried chicken restaurants. But it was saved by hallyu (Korean wave) beauty Jun Ji-hyun’s line “When it snows, I gotta have Chi-maeck (chicken and beer),” in recent a hit drama “Man from Another Star,” Xinhua reported Wednesday.
China’s big cities such as Shanghai saw a sharp increase in their sales with customers not minding lining up for up to three hours to buy a bucket of fried chicken.
It also reported about a Hunan resident who has suffered irritated skin due to her fried chicken-only diet for eight straight days.
“Right before the Lunar New Year’s Day, we suffered a major dent in sales because of the outbreak of AI. This sudden happiness is a never-expected-surprise for us,” a local restaurant owner was quoted as saying.
South Koreans Pay Respects to Graceful Yuna Kim
Wall Street Journal
After a sleepless night, many South Koreans are thinking of Yuna Kim.
The 2010 Olympic champion looked in a good position to win gold again in Sochi. Expectations for this most popular South Korean skater were sky high as she went into the free skating competition in first place on Thursday.
Kim delivered a seemingly flawless performance. But her score of 144.19 wasn’t enough to see off the surprise challenge of 17-year-old Russian skater Adelina Sotnikova, who scored 149.95 points Thursday. Sotnikova’s total of 223.59 secured her the gold medal. Kim scored 219.11 and had to settle for silver.
“A gold medal wasn’t really important to me and being able to perform in the Olympics is meaningful enough. I made no mistake today and I am satisfied. I did everything I could,” Kim told reporters after the result.
How Sotnikova Beat Kim, Move by Move
New York Times
Sotnikova’s combination had a much higher base value because she chose to do the most difficult double jump, the double axel. She received high marks for her good flow, height and distance. She added a 10 percent bonus by executing the combination in the second half of the program.
The double jump Kim chose is one of the easiest, so it has a low base value. The entry was simple, and the jump ended with little speed.
Footwork and Layback Spin
On two elements, the footwork and the layback spin, Sotnikova had a difficulty level of 4, while Kim had a level 3. This meant that Kim had nearly a point deficit in the base value for the two elements combined. In her layback spin, Sotnikova changed positions with ease while maintaining speed and intensity, and the judges rewarded her with higher marks. She received nearly two points more than Kim did for the two elements
S. Korea secures at least silver in men’s team pursuit speed skating
South Korea on Friday secured at least the silver medal in the men’s team pursuit speed skating event at the Sochi Winter Olympics.
The men’s trio of Lee Seung-hoon, Joo Hyong-jun and Kim Cheol-min staged a comeback to knock off the reigning Olympic champ Canada in the eight-lap showdown at Adler Arena Skating Center. South Korea will take on the Netherlands in Saturday’s final.
The team pursuit event became a medal sport in 2006 and South Korea will earn its first medal in the event.
New York lawmakers worked alongside Korean American groups to help raise a second monument dedicated to the women forced into sexual slavery by Japan from the 1930s through World War II.
The monument was unveiled at Veterans Memorial in Nassau County on Long Island on Friday by New York State Senator Tony Avella, Assemblyman Chuck Lavine, Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel and leaders of Korean American and human rights groups.
The monument consists of two stone tablets that are inscribed with the comfort women resolution stating that the Japanese government “officially commissioned” the sexual servitude of “hundreds of thousands of young women from Korea, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Australia, the Netherlands and elsewhere.” The resolution was signed by the New York State Senate and Assembly in 2012. Continue Reading »
North Korea assembly vote set for March, to consolidate Kim’s power
North Koreans will hold elections for the country’s rubber stamp parliament in March, the first such polls under Kim Jong Un’s leadership, which are set to further consolidate his power after the purge of his uncle.
Kim’s uncle, Jang Song Thaek, was one of the most powerful figures in North Korea until his purge and execution just a few weeks ago. South Korean President Park Geun-hye has described recent events in North Korea as a “reign of terror.”
The reclusive North’s official media said on Wednesday that the election for its Supreme People’s Assembly would be held on March 9, without offering details.
N. Korea allows Americans to run in Pyongyang marathon in April
North Korea has said it will allow Americans and other foreigners to run in the Pyongyang marathon in April, a U.S. tour agency said Wednesday.
Uri Tours, a U.S.-based agency that specializes in trips to North Korea, said that Americans and other nationalities, whether they are amateurs or professional runners, can run in the Mangyongdae Prize International Marathon on April 14. Mangyongdae is the birthplace of the North’s founder Kim Il-sung.
“This is the first time that Americans are allowed to run as professionals in the marathon and also the first time that amateurs will be allowed to run in the marathon,” the agency said on its website.
S. Korea says N. Korean leader’s aunt likely in critical condition
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s aunt appears to be in a critical condition due to a heart problem, a senior South Korean official said Wednesday.
Kim Kyong-hui, 67, a senior party secretary and wife of the recently executed Jang Song-thaek, visited Russia between September and October last year for medical treatment, the official said.
“We believe (she) is in a critical condition,” the official said, noting that her heart problems appeared to have worsened due to alcoholism.
S Korean ‘comfort women’ still waiting for apology after 22 years
Supporters of South Korean women forced into sexual slavery in Japan’s military brothels during and after World War II have held a rally outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul.
Rallies in support of the victims – known as comfort women – have been held every week for 22 years.
They are calling for a formal apology and compensation for the thousands of women affected.
Korea’s Dementia Crisis
Wall Street Journal
The tragic deaths this week of the father and grandparents of Lee Teuk, leader of K-pop boy band Super Junior, are raising calls for South Korea’s government to do more to lighten the burden for dementia patient’s families.
The superstar’s father and grandparents were found dead at their home in southern Seoul. According to media reports, police said a note at the scene suggests Mr. Lee’s 59-year-old father, who for several years had been sole caregiver for his parents—both suffering from dementia—committed suicide after killing them. The case is still under investigation.
The financial, physical and psychological stress of dealing with dementia is hitting more and more people in South Korea, where looking after these patients is widely regarded as a “family matter.”
Ethnic Korean stars make splash here
Songwriter/singer Yoo Hee-yeol, who recently became a judge on a television audition program, said that when he first saw Han Hee-jun, he was admittedly waiting to see just how good the “American Idol” star was.
The 25-year-old from Queens, New York was the first Korean-American to make it to a final of “American Idol,” during season 11 of the hit show.
Han was a “star” in his own right and signed with Polaris Entertainment’s U.S. outlet. Polaris Entertainment in Korea is home to singers Kim Beom-soo and Ivy.
Photo Gallery: A Look Inside The Line, Koreatown’s Hip New Hotel
Los Angeles Magazine
Koreatown has bragging rights: Not only is it L.A.’s densest neighborhood it also boasts the highest concentration of late-night businesses. Now, Koreatown finally has the hotel it deserves. The Line, located in what used to be the Wilshire Plaza, “soft opened” on January 1. In keeping with the modernist style of the building, which dates back to 1964, the décor is minimalist with lots of exposed concrete, accents of orange, and occasional ornate flourishes.
“Everything we’ve done before is less spare, but this building called for a modern aesthetic,” says Andrew Zobler, CEO of Sydell Group, a company that develops “lifestyle-oriented hotels”—like the Ace hotels in New York and Palm Springs, the Saguaro hotels in Scottsdale and Palm Springs, and the NoMad Hotel in New York.
The overarching idea for the Line’s vibe and décor was “celebrating everyday stuff,” according to Zobler. Hence the art installation made of old t-shirts that hangs over part of the lobby and the colorful faux detergent bottles that sit on nightstands.
LegalZoom.com Plans To Pull Its IPO, Sell Stake to Permira
Wall Street Journal
Online legal services company LegalZoom.com Inc. is not going public after all, despite the hoopla that accompanied its Form S-1 filing back in May of 2012.
Instead, the company plans to sell more than $200 million of its equity to a company backed by Permira, a European private equity firm. LegalZoom sells low-cost downloadable legal forms and pre-paid legal plans that provide consumers and small businesses with access to a network of third-party attorneys.
“It’s a large capital raise,” LegalZoom chief executive John Suh told Law Blog on Monday night. “Our intention is to notify the SEC that we will be pulling the S-1 prior to the close of the deal. We have not formally pulled it yet.”
So whatever happened to pop music’s Korean Invasion?
Globe and Mail
Has K-Pop become a K-Flop?
Eighteen months ago, there was lots of talk in the press about the Korean Wave and how it was about to inundate North American airwaves with a flood of South Korean popular music, or K-Pop.
In 2012, Girls’ Generation, a smile-intensive, nine-member singing and dancing group, packed Madison Square Garden, charmed David Letterman, and was profiled in The New Yorker and The Wall Street Journal. Another K-Pop girl group, the Wonder Girls, were in a made-for-TV movie on Nickelodeon. And the hip-hop oriented acts 2NE1 and Big Bang were included with One Direction and fun on American MTV’s “Best Band Style 2012” list.
U.S. rappers film first-ever North Korean rap video
United Press International
Ignoring State Department’s Nov. 19 blanket warning against all American travel to North Korea, Washington, D.C.-based rappers Pacman and Peso used $10,400 in Kickstarter funds to secretly film a music video in the isolationist country.
Now they’re back, and they’ve offered The Guardian an exclusive preview of the video ahead of its official release on Wednesday.
The two D.C. natives joined a sightseeing tour of the country, which took them to government-approved sites around Pyongyang. They used a small camera to shoot improvised footage when their tour guides weren’t looking, without the benefit of microphones or headphones.
So far, Gangnam tourist site a flop
Korea JoongAng Daily
Boosted by the popularity of Psy’s music, the Seoul city government put 1.5 billion won ($1.42 million) toward the construction of the venue, the site of which is near a boutique-lined street in Gangnam’s Apgujeong-dong.
The complex contains general tourist information and medical tourism booths on the first floor and an entertainment hall on the second. The second floor – equipped with the latest virtual technology and handset devices featuring K-pop music videos – was expected to be the centerpiece of the tourist facility and to serve as an emotional connection with tourists.
Unfortunately, the complex has been met with little success.
Since it opened its doors in June, the facility has been cursed by a number of issues, including a lack of tourists, poor promotional scope and funding concerns.
On Such A Full Sea is unbearably mournful
Chang-rae Lee’s On Such A Full Sea is so elegiac that it almost collapses into a morass of sorrow, yet it’s so well crafted it’s impossible not to see the story to its end. With his latest novel, Lee creates a world far into the future, where the boundaries between countries have frayed and a semi-dystopian state has arisen. Although Orwellian themes linger in the background, the book itself is really about one woman, and the symbol she becomes to the village she leaves behind.
Fan is a fish-tank driver and resident of B-Mor (once Baltimore), and when the government takes her boyfriend Reg for undisclosed reasons, she leaves her village on a quest to find him. Set as a kind of dream-like picaresque, On Such A Full Sea follows Fan as she explores both the poor communities in the counties surrounding B-Mor and the rich Charter towns where the elite live out their days. Not quite an indictment of capitalism, the book instead shows Fan’s impact on many walks of life, suggesting that the bold act of leaving home can reverberate beyond a person’s immediate world. Told from the perspective of the townsfolk of B-Mor, the novel places the repercussions of Fan’s actions and her own tale side by side.
Chefdance 2014 includes five ‘Top Chef’ alum
Salt Lake Tribune
The line-up for Chefdance 2014 is filled with winners, all-stars and finalists from the Bravo reality television show “Top Chef.”
This is the 11th year of Chefdance, a private dining event that coincides with The Sundance Film Festival. It takes place in the basement of Park City Live at 625 Main St, Park City.
On Friday, Jan. 17, Chef Brooke Williamson, the runner-up from Season 10, kicks off the five-day series. Williamson will be joined in the kitchen with Tiffany Derry, who placed fifth in Season 7 and competed among the All-Star chefs in Season 8.
‘Makgeolli’ ad appear on WSJ front page
The ad features Korean actor Song Il-gook sporting a white hanbok and offering a bowl of the rice-fermented liquor to its viewers with the copy phrase “MAKGEOLLI?” American daily Wall Street Journal’s Europe edition published on Monday a front page ad for Korea’s traditional liquor “makgeolli.”
The sources told the ad was directed by Sungshin Women’s University professor Seo Kyoung-duk, 40, also known as the popular hallyu campaigner working mainly overseas.
Song made his appearance to the ad as a talent donation, while the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs covered the ad’s production costs.
Members of Japan’s House of Representatives are calling on the city of Glendale, Calif., to remove the recently-erected statue that honors 80,000 to 200,000 “comfort women,” who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese army during World War II, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Three members of the Japan Restoration Party, Mio Sugita, Yuzuru Nishida and Hiromu Nakamaru, called for the removal of the 1,100-pound statue in Glendale’s Central Park during a two-day study mission in Los Angeles. The Japan Restoration Party consists of conservative politicians who are actively seeking a smaller central government, tax cuts and stronger national security.
The trio also asked the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs to revise its account of the comfort women system and for the Parliament to retract its apology to comfort women in the 1990s. Continue Reading »