Obama Juggles Itinerary in Bid to Ease Tensions Between Two Asian Allies
New York Times
When President Obama brings together the estranged leaders of Japan and South Korea for a peacemaking session in The Hague on Tuesday evening, it will be the culmination of three months of intense behind-the-scenes American diplomacy.
The unusual effort included a phone call from Mr. Obama to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan; a follow-up lunch that the American ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, had with Mr. Abe; a decision to put both Tokyo and Seoul on Mr. Obama’s itinerary when he visits Asia next month; and a plan to resolve this neighborhood quarrel on the ultimate neutral ground: a stately Dutch city accustomed to litigating international disputes.
“The diplomacy of northeast Asia is a little like junior prom: Cathy won’t sit with Jamie, but maybe she would if Sally comes over and sits with them,” said Michael J. Green, a senior adviser on Asia in the George W. Bush administration. “The U.S. can never solve these problems, but we can be quite effective in managing them.”
S. Korea urges N. Korea to stop provocations
South Korea called on North Korea Tuesday to stop provocative remarks and actions, criticizing the communist country for tinkering with a nuclear card.
Seoul’s call came one day after Pyongyang’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Ri Tong-il, warned that his country will take additional “nuclear measures,” slamming the United States for conducting annual military drills with the South.
The envoy said during a news conference that his country “is ready to take a series of additional nuclear measures to demonstrate the power of the self-defensive nuclear deterrent,” warning that whether it would take those measures is entirely “up to the U.S.’ attitude down the road.”
North Korea Urged U.S. Changes Citing Talks With South
North Korea called on the U.S. to stop isolating it politically, militarily and economically, citing the totalitarian regime’s recent engagement with South Korea as proof of a commitment to relieving tensions.
In dealings with neighboring countries starting last month, North Korea participated in the first high-level talks with South Korea since 2007, allowed family reunions between the two Koreas and made plans to hold talks next week with Japan for the first time since November 2012.
“The DPRK did not hesitate to accept the request from South Korean authorities on holding the separated families’ reunion,” even though “in view of the harsh conditions of the political environment,” the situation “was not mature yet,” Ri Tong Il, a top North Korean diplomat at the United Nations, told reporters yesterday in New York. He referred to his country by the acronym of its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Court Ruling on Korean Tycoon Sparks Media Criticism
Wall Street Journal
South Korean media are abuzz over a four-year-old court ruling that allows a convicted tycoon to pay off a $23 million fine with just a month-and-a-half of prison labor, questioning the fairness of a decision that values his daily work behind bars 10,000 times higher than that of a regular convict.
The controversy erupted again when Huh Jae-ho, 71, the former chairman of now-defunct Daeju Group, returned home over the weekend to be taken to a prison labor facility after four years of living overseas to avoid paying the fine for tax evasion and embezzlement.
Handing down a suspended jail term against Mr. Huh, a local court in 2010 ordered him to pay the 25.4 billion won ($23 million) fine or do prison labor for 50 days–which valued his daily labor at 500 million won, compared with the usual 50,000 won a day for ordinary convicts.
Feds: Leaker’s plea spares secrets
Arguing that the move will prevent further damage to national security, prosecutors are urging a federal judge to approve a 13-month sentence for a former State Department contractor who has admitted leaking the contents of a highly-classified report on North Korea to Fox News.
In a filing Monday, the Justice Department urged U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly to accept the sentence the prosecution and lawyer for defendant Stephen Kim agreed on prior to his surprise guilty plea last month to a felony charge of disclosing closely-held national security information. Prosecutors also said the FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies “concurred” in the plea deal and proposed 13-month sentence.
“The agreement reflects a fair resolution of the defendant’s criminal culpability especially when balanced against the further harm to the national security that would likely result from a trial,” prosecutors wrote in a 13-page memo.
Chinese Records Shed More Light on Sex Slaves
China’s state archives in Jilin Province on Monday added to a wealth of proof on Monday that the Japanese Imperial Army forced Asian women to serve as sex slaves during World War II.
Among newly revealed documents is a letter written by a Japanese citizen who lived in China’s Heilongjiang Province in 1941 to a friend in Japan. “Some 20 Korean women were brought here forcibly under the national mobilization law to serve at a ‘comfort station’ in the Japanese army compound,” he wrote.
The 1938 law put the country’s economy on a wartime footing after the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War.
A spokesman for the archives said the specific reference to the “national mobilization law” clearly shows responsibility by the Japanese government.
Suicide Drama ‘Thread of Lies’ a Surprise Hit at South Korean Box Office
Thread of Lies, a local drama about a 14-year-old girl’s suicide, grossed more than $8 million at the South Korean box office, maintaining a stronghold in spite of competition from Noah, 300: Rise of an Empire and other imported films.
The small-budget film ($1.96 million, or 2.1 billion won) debuted first place over its opening weekend of March 14-16. Though it ceded the top spot to Noah over the past weekend, online reservation rates for the film remain strong according to its distributor, Movie Collage.
Korean offices use admissions as their main box office count, and more than a million people had seen the film as of Tuesday, according to the Korean Film Council.
Scalpers cash in on fans of TV star Kim
TICKETS for a meet-and-greet event hosted by Kim Soo-hyun in Shanghai yesterday changed hands for up to 25,000 yuan (US$4,015) as scalpers sought to cash in on fans’passion for the South Korean TV star.
The face value of the best tickets for the show at the Shanghai Grand Stage was just 1,280 yuan.
Scalpers began congregating outside the venue early yesterday morning. One of them, who declined to give his name, said he’s been working as a scalper for 10 years and never has a problem getting hold of tickets for the big events.
He said he was offering seats in the first 10 rows for between 15,000 and 25,000 yuan.
Linkin Park’s New Video is a Game: Exclusive Inside Look at ‘Guilty All the Same’
It’s a music video. It’s a game. It’s Linkin Park’s latest play on technology — a six-minute video game debuting on Tuesday (March 25) that’s based on the band’s latest single, “Guilty All the Same,” featuring Rakim.
Band members Joe Hahn and Mike Shinoda say they want their fans to literally play with their music. Fans can take it apart and remix both the song and the game any way they want, using the tools provided in “Project Spark,” a free software platform created by Microsoft Corp. that lets players make their own video games on Xbox One and Windows 8 computers.
In Linkin Park’s version of the game, the protagonist is a character haunted by guilt. The player navigates the character through a dark, slightly sinister environment that threatens to devour him as he tries to flee from the forces of his own guilt. The level resembles a mashup between the racing mechanic of “Temple Run” and the noir art style of “Badland.” The better the player performs, the richer the soundtrack for the song.
Is ‘Avengers’ shoot worth such a super hassle?
Korea JoongAng Daily
When Disney’s Marvel Studios decided to shoot part of the upcoming “Avengers” sequel in Seoul, the city government and state-run film agencies welcomed the decision with fanfare – and with rosy estimates about potential benefits from the elevation of Seoul’s image and the boost it will give to tourism.
But in the face of unprecedented traffic control on some of the city’s busiest districts for more than 10 days, some are questioning whether the government is offering too much support to the filming of “The Avengers: Age of Ultron” at the expense of citizens’ convenience.
The areas that will be blocked off will include major bridges on the Han River such as Cheongdam and Mapo bridges, and important arteries near Gangnam subway station and Digital Media City (DMC) in Sangam-dong, western Seoul, starting from March 30 through April 13.
‘Professional’ Yoon Suk-min adjusting well to life with Baltimore Orioles: interpreter
Justin Yoo, a Korean-American interpreter for the Baltimore Orioles’ South Korean pitcher Yoon Suk-min, has had a front-row seat on the player’s new life in the United States.
After nine mostly successful seasons in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), Yoon signed a three-year deal for US$5.575 million with the Orioles last month. Yoon was rushed to the team’s spring training, which had already been underway by the time he inked his contract, and he had to travel to Canada for a few days to receive his work permit before he was able to pitch in games.
Whether due to his lack of preparation or to the stiff competition for a spot on the big league club’s staff, Yoon was optioned to the Orioles’ Triple-A affiliate, the Norfolk Tide, after making his second preseason appearance last week.
S. Korean pitcher Lim Chang-yong released by Chicago Cubs
South Korean pitcher Lim Chang-yong has been released by the Chicago Cubs, the Major League Baseball (MLB) team announced Tuesday, possibly opening the door for his return to the native land.
The Cubs’ official website stated that Lim was “granted his unconditional release” on Monday local time. The 37-year-old is now a free agent.
The right-hander with a sidearm delivery made his MLB debut last September, after a call-up from the minors. He had Tommy John surgery to repair a torn ligament in his pitching elbow in July 2012 and spent the first half of 2013 in rehab, before making his first minor league appearance in July.
Texas Rangers offer “Korean Discount”
The Texas Rangers, whose outfielder Choo Shin-soo is one of Korea’s biggest sports stars, will offer a heavy ticket discount for the approximately 85,000 Korean Americans residing in Dallas and Fort Worth.
The team has offered a 41 percent discount to Koreans for its monthly home games held at Arlington’s Globe Life Park, according to the Korean Society of Dallas on Monday.
Choo is expected to be a left-fielder for the Rangers, and the club will reserve 500 seats near the third base.
They provided tickets to the organization for the April 1 game at $30, which is 41 percent off the regular price of $51.
The wildly popular song “Let It Go” from Disney’s Academy Award-winning animated classic Frozen has generated an array of musical covers by fans, but this Korean variety show’s comedic twist to the song is parody perfection.
Best known to be originally sung by Idina Menzel, this parody recreates an uncanny resemblance to the empowering scenes of Elsa unleashing her icy powers as she blasts snow from thin air and changes into her iconic blue gown.
With a dash of lip-syncing and a whole lot of passionate facial expressions, this version’s flawless portrayal of Elsa’s struggles and raw emotions as well as her transformation from a fearful girl to confident young woman will make it impossible for audiences not to laugh. Continue Reading »
The upcoming sequel of Hollywood blockbuster The Avengers will soon be taking over the streets of Seoul from March 30 to April 14, thanks to an agreement made between the Korean government, the Korean Film Commission and Marvel Studios.
Authorities have confirmed production of Avengers: Age of Ultron will shut down many major streets and locations that may cause quite an inconvenience for Seoulites.
During film production, residents will have limited access to places such as the Gangnam Subway Station, Mapo Grand Bridge, Cheongdam Grand Bridge, Saebit Dungdungseom islands, and parts of the Digital Media City in Sangam-dong. Detours will be created to minimize traffic caused by the film. Continue Reading »
Roots Run Deep For Run River North
The indie rock band’s music and identity find inspiration in its immigrant heritage.
by STEVE HAN
As Daniel Chae tells it, he and his bandmates often liked to jam inside their cars while on their way somewhere. They all lived in the suburbs of Los Angeles, meaning these could be long drives. Lead singer Alex Hwang would start strumming his guitar from the backseat, while the others would start singing and harmonizing. So as they prepared to release their first single in 2012 and were brainstorming of unorthodox—and low-budget—ways to shoot a music video, the idea of performing their song, “Fight to Keep,” inside lead singer-songwriter Hwang’s Honda Fit naturally came up. That’s when Chae said, “Let’s just put drums in the car and actually record it.”
The resulting video shows the musicians, sometimes in the backseat, sometimes in the front, headphones on, Chae and Hwang playing guitar, Sally Kang on tambourine. John Chong, over 6 feet tall, is hunched over in the compact trunk playing the drums, with a small camera strapped to his head. They take turns at the mic, as the car is seen driving around town, including through a McDonald’s drive-thru, and their sound gradually builds—and builds. “Fight to keep the fire burning,” their voices boom to the up-tempo chorus.
Without a label or an album at the time, the band uploaded the video to YouTube, and it also found its way to some unlikely fans: Honda executives. So impressed by the video, they invited the band to perform for hundreds of Honda employees, only to tell the band members when they arrived that the concert had just been canceled. Continue Reading »
Thousands Mourn Fallen LAPD Officer Nicholas Lee
Korea Times US
Hundreds of mourners, including Mayor Eric Garcetti and Gov. Jerry Brown, gathered on Thursday to pay tribute to Los Angeles police Officer Nicholas Choung Lee, who was killed when his patrol car was struck by a dump truck.
Lee, 40, died at the scene of the crash, which occurred around 8 a.m. Friday near Robert Lane and Loma Vista Drive in Beverly Hills, about one block across the city line. His partner, who was just three months out of the police academy, was hospitalized and released Saturday night. The two were responding to an “unknown trouble” call when the crash occurred.
An investigation into the crash is continuing, but Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck said last week the initial indication appears to be that the truck, which wound up on its side after striking the patrol car, may have lost its brakes.
Japan Prime Minister Says He Will Not Revise 1993 Apology to ‘Comfort Women’
New York Times
Moving to defuse a heated diplomatic dispute over World War II-era history, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Friday that his government would not revise a landmark 1993 apology to women forced to work in Japanese military brothels.
It was the first time since taking office more than a year ago that Mr. Abe has explicitly stated that his right-wing administration would uphold the official apology, known as the Kono Statement. That statement, issued by Yohei Kono, then the chief cabinet secretary, admitted that Japan’s military played at least an indirect role in forcing the so-called comfort women to provide sex to Japanese soldiers.
“I am deeply pained to think of the comfort women who experienced immeasurable pain and suffering, a feeling I share equally with my predecessors,” Mr. Abe told Parliament. Referring to the Kono Statement, the prime minister said, “The Abe cabinet has no intention to review it.”
N. Korean defectors who once settled in S. Korea face deportation from Canada
More than 600 North Korean defectors, who initially settled in South Korea, are on the verge of being deported from Canada while attempting to take refuge there, an informed source said Thursday.
The Canadian authorities accuse them of disguising themselves as those who just fled the communist nation, said the source from South Korean political circles.
They actually defected to the capitalist South and gained citizenship there, according to the source who is on a trip here after visiting Canada.
“The people with the nationality of South Korea, who fled North Korea, filed applications for a refugee status with the Canadian government. But their applications were rejected and they face deportation,” said the source.
South Korea to join search for missing Malaysia Airlines plane
South Korea has decided to send two military aircraft to join the international search and rescue operations for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, South Korea’s foreign ministry said on Friday.
The country plans to send a P-3C Orion patrol aircraft and a C- 130 military transport airplane to carry out search and rescue tasks, Xinhua news agency reported, quoting the ministry.
It has also ordered 39 South Koreans from the military to depart for Kuala Lumpur on Saturday to join the international search and rescue efforts, Xinhua said.
Seoul counselors help curb suicide
Thirty counselors at the Seoul Suicide Prevention Center (SSPC) are on standby 24/7 in a fight to bring city’s suicide rate down.
“Suicide is not a disease. An impulse to kill can happen to anyone. When it happens to you, you need people to talk to. That’s what we are trying to do for the callers,” Choi Min-jung, an SSPC counselor, said.
The SSPC, launched in 2005, is under the supervision of the Seoul Metropolitan Government.
This reporter spent two nights recently at the center, to observe the counselors’ work. The writer was not allowed to listen to callers for privacy reasons, but overheard counselors often begin the conversations with questions: “You seem angry. Would you mind sharing more about your feelings?”
Sex crimes against minors soars in recent years
Yonhap News via GlobalPost
The number of sex crimes against minors rose sharply in the past five years but more than 40 percent of convicted offenders were released on probation, government data showed Thursday.
According to the data by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, the number of sex crimes, such as rape, indecent assault and brokering prostitution, against children and juveniles rose 52.7 percent from 1,068 cases in 2007 to 1,631 in 2012.
The findings are based on a research conducted by the state-run Korean Women’s Development Institute on supreme court cases of sex crimes against minors during the 2007-2012 period.
Korea-U.S. FTA Scorecard Shows Seoul the Bigger Winner
Wall Street Journal
The U.S.-South Korean free trade agreement marks its second anniversary Saturday.
The landmark deal, effective since March 15, 2012, helped boost bilateral trade. A question is which side benefits more? The answer is Seoul, not Washington, according to trade data in South Korea.
Bilateral trade has risen 4.1% for the past two years with the South Korean surplus—or the U.S. deficit—growing, show Seoul’s trade ministry data. The data show South Korea’s surplus in trade with the U.S. widening to $17 billion for the first year after the pact took effect and $20 billion for the second year—from $12 billion for a year before the deal.
Beneficiaries from the two-year free-trade pact include South Korean auto-parts suppliers, petroleum-goods producers and processed-food makers as well as U.S. pumping-machine manufacturers, pesticide producers and fruit growers—whose exports to the other side grew sharply.
68-year old Korean American man left brain-dead after falling accident may save up to six lives as an organ donor
Korea Times US
A 68-year-old Korean American man who was left brain-dead after a falling accident may save the lives of up to six people as an organ donor.
Jung Sang-gil was the owner of Dae Hung Refrigeration who lived in Los Angeles’ Koreatown for 28 years.
He was declared brain-dead after he fell from a ladder on March 6 while climbing onto a market rooftop located on James M. Wood Blvd. and Bonnie Brae St.
Jung was a giving person who had made it known that he would donate his organs if necessary, his family said. He died on Sunday after his family made the decision to follow his wishes. His liver and kidneys have been donated through surgery, and the hospital will use his lungs and other organs after testing them for compatibility.
‘Clergy Academy’ trains recruits on mental health
Southern California Public Radio
In immigrant circles, depression and other mental health issues often carry heavy stigma. Those in crisis may forgo treatment and instead seek help from one of the most trusted people in the community: the local clergy member.
But church leaders lack the training to treat mental health, and the help they provide is often restricted to the spiritual.
“They just say only, “Let’s pray.’ And that’s about it,” said Young Ahn, a mental health services coordinator for Los Angeles County.
To better equip faith leaders in immigrant communities, the county’s Department of Mental Health this year officially launched a program called ‘Clergy Academy.’ Pastors and clergy who go through the 12 courses earn a certificate.
Asian Americans nominated for key White House admin positions
Northwest Asian Weekly
President Obama announced on March 6 that he will nominate Nani A. Coloretti to be the Deputy Secretary, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Erika Lizabeth Moritsugu as Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations, Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Coloretti is currently the Assistant Secretary for Management at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, a position she has held since November 2012. From 2009 to 2012, she served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Management and Budget. Prior to joining the administration, Ms. Coloretti worked in the San Francisco mayor’s office from 2005 until 2009, most recently serving as budget director. She was a budget analyst for the Department of Public Safety in the state of Hawaii from 1991 to 1992.
Iron Man and Captain America Bound for Gangnam
Wall Street Journal
“Avengers: Age of Ultron,” by the U.S.’s Marvel Studios, will be filmed in Seoul, possibly as soon as this month.
The Korean Film Council told Korea Real Time that the government-supported agency, together with the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, will sign a memorandum of understanding with Marvel Studios next Tuesday, when details about the location and timing of the shoot will be revealed.
Yonhap News Agency earlier reported that the Seoul Metropolitan Policy Agency had met with the relevant agencies on Wednesday to discuss possible traffic control and support for the shooting. According to the report, the movie will be filmed from March 30 until April 12 and various parts of the city, including the bustling Gangnam subway station, will be used as locations.
Examining the recruitment of Shin-Soo Choo
The Rangers made a big move in November trading for Prince Fielder. And, of course, there would be major ripple effects.
The deal came together so quickly that the Rangers didn’t get a chance to inform Ian Kinsler that he was leaving the team that drafted and developed him before Twitter was abuzz with the news.
General manager Jon Daniels closed the deal just before boarding a plane, but it required MLB approval. As is chronicled in an ESPN The Magazine story on Kinsler, the second baseman found out via text after news broke through social media. Daniels was 30,000 feet in the air, and before he could power on his Wi-Fi the blockbuster was national news.
Watch Roy Choi Use Google Glass To Make Irish Burritos (And Get His Recipe)
Roy Choi started a new age in the worldwide street food movement when he opened up his Korean fusion taco truck, Kogi. Since then he’s become the de facto spokesman for street cuisine, and the folks at Google have taken note.
It’s not all that shocking, really, considering that Kogi’s popularity spread like wildfire due to Twitter, technology, and mobile culture. Now Choi is one of Google Glass’ Explorers, testing out the technology and showcasing how it would work in a kitchen setting.
To be honest, the geeky glasses seem like they’d come in handy as a cook. We use our iPad as a recipe reference quite a bit, and the screen can get a little messy. With things perched on your head, it seems like there’s less room for water (or wine, if you’ve been known to sip and cook like us) damage.
Pot Cafe is open in the Line Hotel: French bread pizza, butter mochi bars and more
Lost Angeles Times
Pot Cafe, the bakery annex of Roy Choi’s Pot lobby bar and still-to-come Pot restaurant in Koreatown’s Line Hotel, is now open. Tucked into a corner of the main floor of the hotel, it’s Choi’s version of a Korean bakery.
“It’s set up like any bakery but instead of Danish and croissants and morning buns [there are] red bean buns, cream buns, French bread pizza,” Choi said. “If you walk into a Korean bakery, you’ll know what I’m talking about — like 85C, Paris Baguette. We want to take that whole culture and put our twist on it.”
So in the pastry cases are rows of Asian cream buns with fillings such as red bean, custard and cream; toasted bread-and-butter buns such as Bun B the G topped with honey butter, candied ginger and sea salt and the Kimchi Squat with kochujang chile butter and topped with nori; Hawaiian pull-apart bread; mocha chip cookies (including a gluten-free version); Ritz candy bars; and French bread pizza, including a sloppy joe pizza topped with beefy sauce and melted American cheese.
‘Top Chef’ finalist Shirley Chung’s culinary adventures in South Korea
Las Vegas Sun
“Top Chef” contestant Shirley Chung became a fan favorite as she won several weekly episodes of Season 11 in New Orleans, but there was a coast-to-coast collective sigh of sympathy when our Las Vegas chef was eliminated after making the final three and competing in Maui.
Celebrity chef and judge Emeril Lagasse raved about her cuisine during filming, so much so that one of her winning dishes was added to the menus at all of his restaurants, including here in Las Vegas.
During our weekly coverage of her progress, Shirley, who had worked here for acclaimed culinary kings Thomas Keller, Guy Savoy and Jose Andres, told me that she was weighing several offers to open her own dining venue here.