The 25-year-old defector from North Korea adjusts to life as an American citizen, but hasn’t forgotten about his friends— or the sunsets—back home.
story by STEVE HAN
photograph by KYUSUNG GONG
When he watches the sun set over Los Angeles at the end of every day, Danny Lee reminisces about the happy days back home. He looks every bit the part of an average young Korean American in Southern California, down to the long bangs that hang over his eyes. But those happy days were few and far between in his native North Korea. Looking back on it now, though, with an ocean separating the 25-year-old from his homeland, he finds himself able to indulge in nostalgia.
“There are times when I miss it,” Lee said, in Korean, to KoreAm Journal over a late lunch at a Manhattan Beach pizzeria. “When I see the sun go down, it reminds me of the times back home when I was outside playing with my friends until it got dark.”
Lee is all smiles as he recalls his past in one of the world’s most secretive countries. “I’m free now, and sometimes, it’s almost human nature to look at past hardship as a distant memory,” he said. Continue Reading »
Survivors recall terror after a bus crash in Oregon’s Blue Mountain range kills 9
New York Daily News
A charter bus carrying 48 tourists, many of them South Korean nationals, crashed through a guadrail near a spot called Deadman’s Pass. Survivors remember the horror of seeing bodies in the snow.
5 Korean Victims of Oregon Bus Crash Identified
Nine people were killed when a tourist bus carrying 48 people plunged 30 m down a steep embankment from a highway in the U.S. state of Oregon on Monday.
The Foreign Ministry here said Tuesday that five of the victims have been identified as Korean, three others were Korean American and one has not been identified.
North Korean Defector Arrivals Plunge in South in 2012
Wall Street Journal
The number of North Koreans defecting to South Korea after fleeing their impoverished and oppressive homeland fell sharply in 2012, apparently due to tightened border control.
The Ministry of Unification said 1,508 North Korean defectors arrived in South Korea last year, a preliminary figure that may be revised by next month when final count is reached.
The number is about half the 2,706 North Koreans who arrived in South Korea in 2011. It’s also the first drop below the 2,000-level since 2006.
Focus on North Korea’s detention of Lynnwood man
Seattle Times [EDITORIAL]
Kenneth Bae, 44, of Lynnwood has been detained in North Korea since November. There’s hope for the tour operator’s release, but officials must deal with the situation diplomatically.
North Korea’s caste system faces power of wealth
AP via Google News
For more than a half-century, a mysterious caste system has shadowed the life of every North Korean. It can decide whether they will live in the gated compounds of the minuscule elite, or in mountain villages where farmers hack at rocky soil with handmade tools. It can help determine what hospital will take them if they fall sick, whether they go to college and, very often, whom they will marry.
It is called songbun. And officially, it does not exist at all.
The power of caste remains potent, exiles and scholars say, generations after it was permanently branded onto every family based on their supposed ideological purity. But today it is also quietly fraying, weakened by the growing importance of something that barely existed until recently in socialist North Korea: wealth.
Google’s executive chairman to visit final frontier of cyberspace: North Korea
AP via Minneapolis StarTribune
Google’s executive chairman is preparing to travel to one of the last frontiers of cyberspace: North Korea.
Sources tell The Associated Press that Eric Schmidt will be traveling to North Korea on a private trip led by former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson that could take place as early as this month. The sources, two people familiar with the group’s plans, spoke Wednesday on condition of anonymity because the visit hadn’t been made public.
Korean American soldier acquitted of rape in Seoul
On the 1st the 27th criminal division (Judge Kim Hwan-su) of the Seoul Central District Courts acquitted 25-year old Korean-American soldier Mr. A of charges of sexually assaulting a woman he had met at a nightclub while she was intoxicated. He had been indicted on the charge of quasi-rape (준강간죄).
The court said that “it is difficult to see the situation in which the victim had sexual relations with Mr. A as one in which she was unable to resist or could not protest… simply because the victim does not remember what occured does not enable the court to determine her intention or judge her unable to have resisted.”
Bergen County municipal court judge Jae Y. Kim reappointed
County officials have announced the re-appointment of Central Municipal Court Judge Jae Y. Kim.
Kim, a Hackensack attorney, was first appointed by Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan in January of last year. He’ll be sworn in at a ceremony at the Bergen County Court House Wednesday afternoon.
Buck Gee and Vish Mishra: Silicon Valley and our Asian-American advantage
San Jose Mercury News (Calif.)
We believe that the key reason few Asian Americans become Silicon Valley executives is that many bring a cultural background and a focus on individual achievement that leaves blind spots in their understanding of organizational leadership, especially with soft skills and business vision. We have witnessed this in the reactions of participants in a unique advanced leadership program for Asian American executives at the Stanford Business School, a partnership with Ascend and Asia Society that we helped initiate three years ago. To paraphrase an Intel engineering director’s closing feedback last August, “unknowing to awareness in six days.”
But we worry that there is a different narrative in the community. In a 2009 survey, 71 percent of Asian Americans polled felt that they were disadvantaged in workplace promotions. This has not significantly changed since 1993, when another study found that 80 percent of Asian Americans in Silicon Valley thought that a glass ceiling existed.
Military issues cloud singer Rain’s love life
AFP via Google News
South Korean pop icon Rain has come under fire after reports revealing his relationship with a top TV actress suggested he might be flouting the terms of his compulsory military service.
Rain’s relationship with Kim Tae-Hee, a major TV drama star with a massive following in Japan, was first reported Tuesday by a tabloid magazine, sparking a fan frenzy on entertainment websites and social networks.
The magazine published photos showing Kim, 32, wearing a cap and surgical mask, getting into a car driven by the singer, who is halfway through the two-year military service that is mandatory for Korean men.
Kim Yu-na to skate in S. Korean figure championships this weekend
Figure skating star Kim Yu-na will compete in the South Korean national championships this weekend, her first appearance at the tournament in seven years, as she tries to qualify for the world championships this spring.
The Korea Skating Union (KSU) said Wednesday Kim will take part in the 2013 Korea Figure Skating Championships at Mokdong Ice Rink in western Seoul. The ladies’ short program is set for Saturday and free skating is on Sunday.
Footballer Ji Dong-won moves from England to Germany on loan
South Korean footballer Ji Dong-won, once confined to the bench in the English Premier League, has joined a first-division German club on loan, officials said Wednesday.
Ji’s new team, FC Augsburg in the Bundesliga, and his English side, Sunderland, both announced early Wednesday, Korean time, that Ji is moving to Germany on a loan deal. The transaction ended months of speculation on the future of the 21-year-old, who had not played a game for Sunderland in the ongoing season.
South Korean police failed to stop a civic group from launching anti-North Korea leaflets across the border, despite the North threatening them with a “merciless military strike.”
The police blocked the road and encircled the vehicles transporting the activists and 200,000 leaflets to the launch site near the demilitarized zone. The activists appeared to be retreating after a three-hour standoff, but it was later learned that 10 of the 80 activists managed to elude the police hours later and released half of their leaflets from Ganghwa Island.
Photo via Bloomberg
A North Korean teenage solider defected on Saturday after killing two of his superiors, according to a South Korean military spokesman.
The 17-year-old solider, only identified as a sergeant, reportedly killed his platoon and squadron leaders before crossing the demilitarized zone to defect. South Korean border guards observed a North Korean soldier crossing the heavily armed area shortly after hearing six gunshots across the border, said the spokesman.
The soldier dropped his rifle when the guards used a loudspeaker to confirm his intention to defect. He later confessed during investigations that he had killed two North Korean officers prior to defecting. Continue Reading »
Young North Korean Defectors Struggle in the South
New York Times
But when he finally made it to South Korea, and freedom, Mr. Kim faced an obstacle that even his considerable street smarts could not help him overcome. He had placed into a university under a new affirmative action program, but was haunted by the deprivations of his past and quickly slipped behind South Korean classmates who had already made it through years of an extremely competitive education system.
“I just couldn’t shake the memory of hunger from my mind,” said Mr. Kim, 26, who dropped out after just one semester and fell into a deep, alcohol-fueled depression.
It’s still ‘My Way’ or the highway under North Korea’s Kim
Los Angeles Times
So North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s recent embrace of Western songs, movies, cartoon characters and flashy fashion — public displays his late father and grandfather would have denounced as “spiritual pollution” — has set Korea analysts to pontificating on what the new leader’s cultural inclinations might signify.
Kim Jong-un Is Ardent Fan of Western Pop Culture
Highlights and the theme song from “Rocky 4″ were played during a performance by the newly-created Moranbong troupe in front of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last Friday. The show also featured groups of female singers dressed in mini-skirts, high-heeled shoes or off-the-shoulder tops reminiscent of the girl groups of South Korea, and performers dressed as Disney characters.
Top diplomats of two Koreas shun each other at ASEAN forum
Top diplomats of the two Koreas have pointedly shunned each other at annual security talks here, dashing hopes of a possible encounter and underscoring frozen inter-Korean relations.
Paying for Reunification: No Joking Matter
Wall Street Journal
When Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik came up with the idea of gathering donations from the public as a way to help cover the costs of Korean reunification, he raised more eyebrows than cash.
That hasn’t stopped him pushing ahead with the idea, and on Thursday evening he hosted a fundraiser-cum-comedy-show in northern Seoul to kick-start the program. The centerpiece of the event was the presentation of the first of his own hand-made ceramic “unification jars.”
Colin Farrell and John Cho square off in the new Total Recall clip
In less than a month the remake of the 1990 film TOTAL RECALL, from director Len Wiseman, will hit theaters and the marketing monkey is in full swing. Today we’re getting a newish clip from TOTAL RECALL which shows Colin Farrell going into the fantasy factory and having a short exchange with a bleach blonde Jon Cho. This remake doesn’t really give anything away since we’ve seen the majority of the clip in the previous trailers, but it’ll keep you all intrigued so you won’t forget to put TOTAL RECALL on your summer “to watch” list. We’re also getting a look at the international poster which features Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel, nothing special but nothing terrible either.
What they said: K.J. Choi
K.J. CHOI: You know, it’s bogey-free on the tournament in the 18 hole. Keep patient every hole. This week in birdie, good patient and good crowd. I love the people here.
Course is fantastic shape in the morning. More saving and greenside hit the putt. It’s a very good read. This really first time Graham caddie for me, so very good helping in this course.
Girls’ Generation’s YoonA earned $3.5 million USD in first half of 2012
Girls’ Generation is currently in the lead when it comes to being considered the nation’s girl group. Yet even among all the members who have each achieved such great popularity, member YoonA has earned the greatest salary. On top of the payments she receives as an artist, YoonA has landed a total of 20 advertisement deals and also completed another drama. As a result, YoonA’s total income has exceeded 4 billion KRW (approx. $3.5 million US dollars) after just the first half of this year.
Minjae Lee features iconic women in his upcoming work
Minjae Lee is a mostly self-taught artist who uses seemingly old-fashioned tools, such as markers, pens, crayons, and acrylics, to create art that focuses on ethereal women. His newest works will focus on iconic women that range in celebrity from actresses to singers to models. The chosen women to be featured in this series of artwork reflect both his Korean and worldwide influences.
22 stunningly photogenic destinations in Korea
While the book doesn’t necessarily make for the most exciting read (we would have loved some quirky/crazy personal stories featuring these destinations as settings), the 1,000-plus photographs are amazing, and the book is certainly crammed with historical and practical information.
Pet Dogs Abandoned and Sold by Owners for Korean Meat Market
At the height of summer, known in Korean as the Boknal, it has been reported that those who can no longer take care of their pet dogs take them to the Moran market outside Seoul in an attempt to sell them for meat, only to abandon them when merchants refuse to purchase a former pet [Moran is known for selling animals as both pets and meat].