Fewer North Koreans fleeing to South Korea, U.N. rights envoy says
Marzuki Darusman, the U.N. special rapporteur on the situation in North Korea, said that in the first nine months of this year 1,041 North Koreans arrived in South Korea, compared to 1,509 people for all of 2012 and 2,706 people in 2011.
“This represents a reversal of the trend of steady increase in the number of annual arrivals since 1998, possibly due to recently tightened border control and increased incidents of refoulement,” Darusman wrote in a statement presented to a U.N. General Assembly human rights committee.
Darusman said the international law principle of non-refoulement – an obligation not to return asylum seekers or refugees to a place where their life or liberty would be at risk – clearly applies to North Koreans who have left without permission.
North Korea Bars Defector-Turned-Lawmaker From Kaesong
Wall Street Journal
A group of South Korean lawmakers who handle inter-Korean affairs made a rare visit to the jointly-run industrial park inside North Korea on Wednesday but left behind a colleague that Pyongyang singled out as unacceptable.
North Korea said last week that Cho Myong-chol, a member of the National Assembly’s foreign affairs and unification committee, couldn’t come into the Kaesong Industrial Complex. The North didn’t specify why, Seoul’s Unification Ministry said.
The reason was clear for all, however: Mr. Cho is a rare defector from Pyongyang’s upper echelon and now a prominent North Korea expert in the South. He became a lawmaker last year.
U.S. Promises to ‘Review’ Snooping on Korean Embassy
The U.S. government promised Korea to “review intelligence activities” after Seoul asked whether the National Security Agency wiretapped the Korean Embassy in Washington. This is seen as tantamount to an admission that it did.
“Seoul had demanded that Washington verify rumors about wiretapping and make its position clear,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tae-young said Tuesday. “The U.S. has said it understands allies’ worries and promised to review intelligence activities.”
Cho neither confirmed nor denied that this was an admission that wiretapping occurred but merely said, “It’s up to the U.S. to answer the question concerning the interpretation of the words.”
As Power Line Grows, So Does Fight Between Ancient and Modern Korea
New York Times
The traditional farming villages within Miryang city, like so many in South Korea, are nestled against forested mountains. Rice paddies spill out into the valley, and persimmon and apple orchards line the roads.
Wooden farmhouses with their tile roofs were replaced long ago with concrete homes, but the rituals of a more ancient Korea remain. The farmers plan their lives around the growing seasons, and when they die, they are buried in plots that dot the mountainsides.
Now, a more modern Korea — in the form of imposing electrical power lines — is encroaching on the villages, including their burial grounds. The villages lie in the path of a major transmission route expected to distribute nuclear-generated electricity. Already towers are built along the spines of some nearby mountains, and 50 more are scheduled to be built in Miryang, some of them in the mountains.
Aging to Challenge South Korea’s Economic Transformation
South Korea has one of Asia’s fastest-growing economies, but one looming roadblock threatens its path to becoming an international powerhouse: a rapidly aging population.
According to a report by the Korea Statistical Office, the number of people aged 65 and above has surpassed 6 million for the first time, accounting for 11.7 percent of the population. What’s more, the ratio of senior citizens to working age people – currently 1 to 6 – is projected to shift to 1 to 1.5 by 2050.
“The aging population is one of the most fundamental, structural shifts happening in Korea and affecting the growth prospects for the country,” said Wonsik Choi, Senior Partner at McKinsey & Company in Seoul. “Just to give you an example, the working age population in Korea will peak at 37 million in 2016, three years from now and will diminish thereafter,” Choi added.
Education in Korea Class Struggle
AS THIS week’s special report on the Koreas points out, South Korea’s education system is both inspiring and intimidating. The country’s 15-year-olds ranked fourth in science (excluding Shanghai and Hong Kong), second in maths and first in reading in the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Its youngsters (aged between 16 and 24) did equally well in the OECD’s international survey of adult skills, released this month.
But South Korea’s enthusiasm for education has also been likened to a “fever”. Students spend long hours in hagwon, private cram schools, trying to outdo their peers in crucial exams and tests that have lasting consequences for their subsequent careers. In principle these tests are simply a measuring device, allowing universities and employers to rank students according to their underlying abilities. But the measure is fair only if everyone spends the same amount of time preparing for them. If one student spends his every waking hour (and some half-waking ones) preparing, then everyone else has to do the same, if they are to preserve their position in the rankings. Some of this competitive swotting no doubt improves students’ knowledge and abilities, to the benefit of society and themselves. But some of it is also a socially wasteful zero-sum game.
Professor Preserving Legacy of Emigrants
Korea Times US
A photo exhibition featuring the lives of early Korean emigrants overseas opened Tuesday at Kim Dae-jung Convention Center located in the southwestern city of Gwangju.
Professor Lim Chae-wan of Chonnam National University, who has been researching the Korean Diaspora overseas since 1991, organized the photo presentation project.
“I felt the urge to hold such an event as plenty of valuable, historic photos showing the developments of Korean Diaspora were stuck in a library and my research room. While databasing these materials, my colleague and I concluded that a photo exhibition could be a powerful presentation to show how early emigrants had lived in foreign lands,” Lim said during an interview.
Man in Wheelchair is Killed near Long Beach Intersection
Patch.com (Long Beach, Calif.)
A man in a wheelchair was killed Tuesday after he likely unexpectedly crossed in front of a motorist and was struck by the vehicle, Long Beach Police said today.
The crash was reported at 6:47 a.m. near the intersection of Orange and Alamitos avenues. Authorities identified the pedestrian as Bong Kim, 72, of Long Beach. He was a native of Korea, officials said.
Responding officers found Kim in the northbound lanes of Alamitos Avenue, according to a news release. Officers rendered medical aid until Long Beach Fire Department personnel arrived.
Woman dies after cosmetic surgery
A 22-year-old woman who had been in a coma for nine days after a cosmetic surgery procedure died Saturday, police in Busan said.
The college student only identified by her last name Kim received facial bone contouring surgery for more than five and a half hours on Oct. 7.
She was found unconscious by a nurse in the hospital’s recovery room that evening and immediately moved to a nearby general hospital.
Crackdown Needed on Substandard Plastic Surgeons
A 22-year-old university student died Saturday nine days after she underwent a bimaxillary or corrective jaw surgery in a cosmetic surgery clinic in Busan. In June this year, a woman in her 30s died a month after undergoing the same procedure in the hope of looking prettier.
Corrective jaw surgery is an extremely difficult procedure under full anesthesia that involves the use of surgical drills to carve away at bones, carefully avoiding muscles and nerves in the face.
The procedure was originally developed to treat patients with congenital defects that make it difficult for them to chew properly. But it has found more lucrative uses for people who want a slimmer jawline to conform to current ideals of beauty.
Musical move for Hangover star Ken Jeong?
London Standard (U.K.)
He is one of Hollywood’s best-loved comic stars, known for his outrageous humour. Now Ken Jeong has revealed he would like a new challenge — appearing in a West End musical.
The 44-year-old actor, best known as Mr Chow in The Hangover trilogy, was a doctor before getting his big break in 2007 comedy Knocked Up after doing stand-up in the evenings.
He told the Standard: “When I was in college, theatre was what I wanted to do.
Choi Division: Roy Choi, L.A.’s Street-Food King
New York Times
The Los Angeles chef and restaurateur Roy Choi was once a gambler and nearly a gangster, and a stoner from youth who was quick to fight, slow to wake. Born in Korea in 1970, he came to California two years later and grew up amid the dangerous currents of immigrant possibility: at his parents’ liquor store in Koreatown, until it failed; at his parents’ restaurant in West Anaheim, until it failed; at his parents’ jewelry store in Orange County, which made his family rich.
He was surrounded by latchkey knuckleheads, smart kids with bad attitudes, Armenian gem dealers, drug connects, college students, dishwashers, too many card players. It was a chef’s education — hardly obvious at the time — because even as he gambled, fought and schemed, he ate, voraciously, from every larder in town. Nothing fancy. Quite the opposite: his parents’ hot pots; dinners of ketchup-fried rice and Del Taco takeout; pho and cheeseburgers; kimchi and milkshakes at dawn. It was a life of late nights.
Eugene Ahn, a.k.a Adam WarRock, is used to being an outsider.
Growing up in Memphis, Tennessee, he was a “loner” caught between black and white in a region where racial tension is not uncommon. As a litigation lawyer with an Emory University degree, he was itching to get back to the music that inspired him.
It’s what one does with that angst that matters, believes Ahn. “I grew up pissed at the world,” he sings on his new album, “The Middle of Nowhere,” available Tuesday. “Now I put that (expletive) inside every MP3.”
Crayon Pop’s Unusual Road to Success Draws Media Interest
British weekly magazine the Economist published an article highlighting K-pop girl band Crayon Pop in its latest issue, which hit newsstands on Saturday.
As part of a 14-page special report on Korea, it wrote, “Crayon Pop are not a typical K-pop outfit. They look goofy rather than glamorous, like kid sisters not dream dates, and prefer plimsolls to stilettos.”
The success story of Crayon Pop’s song “Bar Bar Bar” was viewed as being different from that of other Korean girl groups. It “spread like a virus on YouTube,” the magazine wrote. “Whereas most songs peak early in the charts, then disappear, this one climbed to number one in some rankings months after its release.”
Samsung: We’re Too Big to Ignore
Wall Street Journal
At its first U.S. developer conference this week, Samsung Electronics005930.SE +0.67% had a message for Silicon Valley: We’re just too big to ignore.
Before some 1,300 software engineers and developers packed inside a San Francisco hotel ballroom, the Korean electronics giant trotted out a parade of executives and partners who introduced new tools to connect software with Samsung’s mobile devices and televisions.
Several executives came armed with statistics. Curtis Sasaki, a senior vice president of Samsung’s content and services business, noted that Samsung sold two televisions every second -– or some 7,200 by the end of the keynote. His message: stick with us — and our scale — if you want to reach customers.
Ice queen Yuna hones routines ahead of Sochi swan song
Informed she has taken a Korean Olympic Committee official’s seat by mistake, and her place is actually at the rear of the stage, the Vancouver Games gold medalist stifles an embarrassed smile and retreats to sit among her figure skating cohorts.
It might be the first time Kim has ever taken a back seat to anyone in South Korea.
With Wednesday marking the 100-day countdown to the start of the Sochi Games, the 23-year-old told reporters she was back skating and even doing jumps after taking time off to recover from a foot injury.
Kim, who blew away the competition in Vancouver to become the first South Korean to win an Olympic figure skating gold medal, said she was about “70 percent ready” and that she could return to competition in December.
Minnesota Twins keep tabs on Korean right-hander Suk-min Yoon
St. Paul Pioneer Press (Minn.)
Whether the Twins make a strong play for Korean right-hander Suk-min Yoon remains to be seen.
What seems clear is that Yoon, an international free agent represented by powerful agent Scott Boras, is on their radar.
“He’s got some talent,” Twins general manager Terry Ryan said recently.
Mike Radcliff, Twins vice president for player personnel, added recently that the team was “fully engaged” in the Yoon process after watching him pitch numerous times in Korea and on the world stage at such events as the Olympics and the World Baseball Classic.
A developmental deal to bring a popular time-traveling Korean drama to ABC is being spearheaded by former Lost actress Yunjin Kim, according to Deadline Hollywood.
Kim, who is playing one of the lead characters on ABC nighttime soap Mistresses, will be working with production company Fake Empire to develop an American version of Nine: Nine Travels, a 20-episode serial that aired on Korean cable channel tvN earlier this year.
The actress will serve as executive producer alongside three others. Continue Reading »
The Asian American band, The Slants, have been unsuccessful in trying to trademark their name. For four years, the six-member rock band hailing from Portland, Ore., has been fighting with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), which has denied approval, saying the name is disparaging for people of Asian descent.
Simon Tam, the founder and bassist of The Slants, responded by saying that the PTO has rejected their request on the basis of their ethnicity, while a Caucasian band would not be denied this name, NPR reported.
The group, which describes its sound as “Chinatown dance rock,” have already had several attempts shot down by the PTO. Continue Reading »
Katzenberg greets South Korean President Park Geun-hye, as Jennifer Yuh Nelson (left) looks on. Photo via Naver.
DreamWorks Animation is developing a feature animation based on Korean historical or mythological characters, CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg said on Friday in Seoul.
Katzenberg revealed little else about the project but said the company was looking to diversify its TV offerings and expand into Netflix and YouTube.
The DreamWorks CEO is on a four-day visit in Seoul with Korean American Jennifer Yuh Nelson, director of Kung Fu Panda 2 and the upcoming third installment, set for a 2015 release. They held a public discussion with Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho, director of the English-language sci-fi fantasy Snowpiercer, which has yet to be released in the States. Katzenberg and Nelson also held a pitch meetings with animation students in Korea.
DreamWorks has a long-lasting relationship with Korea, as the country’s largest entertainment company CJ Entertainment was one of its founding investors when Katzenberg and Steven Spielberg first started the company in 1994. Continue Reading »
Photo via sportsseoul.com.
A South Korean court sentenced Korean American singer Daniel Chae of DMTN (formerly known as Dalmatian) for distributing and using marijuana, according to allkpop.com. The singer, who came to Korea at the age of 16 to pursue a career in the music industry, was sentenced to one year in jail and a fine of approximately $6,700.
The court stated today that Chae “acted as the intermediary in the selling of marijuana 12 times and sold marijuana four times.” The statement also said that despite previous denials, Chae tested positive for marijuana after a hair strand test.
Chae and his lawyer had asked for leniency earlier in the investigation. His lawyer argued that growing up in the U.S. gave Chae a “more relaxed attitude towards marijuana.” The court, however, responded by saying that acting as the intermediary, selling and smoking marijuana is still a crime, despite “weak recognition.” Continue Reading »