Jackpot or Crackpot? Park on Korean Reunification
Wall Street Journal
The demure Park Geun-hye rarely startles. Yet South Korea’s president did just that on Jan. 6. In her first press conference after almost a year as president, Ms. Park raised eyebrows by calling Korean unification a “jackpot”. The usual fear of vast costs has it wrong, she argued. Rather, this will be “a chance for the economy to make a huge leap.”
She didn’t elaborate, but cited Jim Rogers in support. The US.. investment guru reiterated his own bullishness on a joint Korean future on Jan. 14: “… South Korea’s capital and technical skills, and North Korea’s labor and natural resources, [can] make Korea grow exponentially.”
Ms. Park’s jackpot talk gained her rare praise from the South Korean liberal opposition. Democratic Party leader Kim Han-gil said he was “glad [she] helped break the common misconception that reunification is a cost.” But Mr. Kim added a crucial condition: “Only a gradual and peaceful reunification is a blessing. Reunification by absorption [after] a sudden change in North Korea could be a catastrophe.” Or to be more technical, reunification will be path-dependent.
Are U.S. troops in South Korea still necessary?
Al Jazeera America
After meeting with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Jan. 7 that the United States would send an additional 800 troops to join the nearly 30,000 American service members already stationed in South Korea.
“We remain fully committed to the defense of the Republic of Korea,” Kerry explained, “including through extended deterrence and putting the full range of U.S. military capabilities in place.”
A day earlier, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel discussed with Yun “the importance of maintaining a robust combined defense of the Korean Peninsula as a strong deterrent against provocations from North Korea.”
Prosecutor indicted for peddling influence to help actress
An incumbent prosecutor was indicted Wednesday on charges of abusing his influence to help a female celebrity, prosecution officials said.
The 37-year-old prosecutor, only identified by his surname Jeon, is under suspicion of helping TV personality Lee Yoon-ji, better known by her stage name Amy, settle disputes with a plastic surgeon in 2012. An inspection division of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office (SPO) said it has brought charges against Jeon for violating the attorneys-at-law act.
Jeon first met Lee when he was prosecuting her case involving a psychotropic drug propofol abuse in 2011, the SPO said. Lee was charged for drug abuse and served two months in prison before being released on parole. After her release, Lee allegedly complained about the side effects of a cosmetic surgery she underwent, prompting Jeon to blackmail the doctor to let Lee undergo another operation free of charge, it said.
Jeon also allegedly collected 22.5 million won (US$21,000) in compensation from the clinic on her behalf, which he gave to the 32-year-old TV personality, SPO officials said.
US state universities recruit Korean students
The State University of New York (SUNY) and California State University held a briefing about their admissions policies as they relate to the recruitment of Korean students at the COEX in southern Seoul on Saturday and Sunday.
The session was organized by the Korus Education Institute which provides the Education Abroad program in partnership with American universities. About 200 students and parents attended the event.
The two U.S. state universities are in the process of attracting some 100 Korean students under the Education Abroad program. The deadline for applications is Jan. 23. Students applying to the program can prove their English abilities by taking the Proficiency of English for Academic Purposes (PEAP) instead of submitting TOEFL scores.
The Education Abroad program is one of the international exchange programs selected by 20 state universities in the U.S. such as SUNY and California State University. These universities have officially acknowledged PEAP as a replacement for other English tests.
South Korea’s New Hybrid Media: Wall Posters Gone Viral
For around a decade, South Korea has been a byword for advanced internet connectivity. With the world’s earliest mass adoption of broadband – and at the fastest speeds – this nation of 50 million is regularly cited as the “world’s most wired”. The introduction last year of LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) mobile communications means that Koreans now enjoy the world’s fastest wireless network as well.
And despite South Korea’s image as a follower (albeit a fast one), this country has been ahead of the pack on a surprising number of internet innovations. A firm named Saerom developed Dialpad, a VoIP service, three years before Skype came along. And when Facebook and even Myspace were mere minnows, millions of Koreans were already using a social network named Cyworld. Lee Jun-seok, a South Korean entrepreneur and political activist, fondly remembers e-mailing his Harvard classmate Mark Zuckerberg, “We already have Cyworld, a far better and more sophisticated website. Your start-up will fail soon.”
Famous last words, of course. But the most profound effects of Korea’s internet mania have been felt in the realm of politics, rather than business. In 2002, liberal candidate Roh Moo-hyun had been all but written off for that December’s presidential election race, but narrowly won following a last-minute surge led by online fan-club Nosamo (‘people who love Roh Moo-hyun) and the efforts of a then-fledgling ‘citizen journalism’ site named Ohmynews.
Hitches in Compromise at a McDonald’s
New York Times
Maybe it was the snow. Or a lack of communication.
For whatever reason, the compromise between a McDonald’s and a group of older Korean patrons — limiting the hours that the group can linger at the restaurant — seemed to have some loose ends on Tuesday, two days after the agreement was reached.
The compromise, brokered by Assemblyman Ron Kim, called for patrons to limit their loitering to less than an hour from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the McDonald’s at the corner of Northern and Parsons Boulevards.
Victim of motorcyle gang beating sues city, biker cops
New York Post
The lower Manhattan father who was swarmed and beaten up by a raging motorcycle gang last fall plans to sue the city and two of his alleged attackers, NYPD cops Wojciech Braszczok and Matthew Rodriguez.
Alexian Lien filed the complaint on behalf of his himself, his wife, Rosalyn Ng, and their 2-year-old daughter who were in the family’s Range Rover during the brutal confrontation on Sept. 29, 2013.
“A vicious and unruly mob of motorcycle riders” “attacked and assaulted” Lien and “vandalized his motor vehicle” by smashing a rear window where his toddler was sitting, according to his notice of claim filed on Dec. 24.
FOR the directorial debut of a former Korean “webtoon” artist, the accomplishment is remarkable. Based on a script he had mulled over since the 1990s, Yang Woo-seok’s “The Attorney” was originally intended as an indie movie for a small audience. But it has beaten Korean box-office records since its release on December 18th—at the end of a year in which Korean cinemas set a new record of over 200m ticket sales (in a country of 50m people). It hit the 1m-admissions mark after just three days, beating the other most popular movies of 2012 and 2013 (“Masquerade” and “Miracle in Cell no. 7”, respectively, which each took four days to do so). Its viewership is also growing at a faster clip than “Avatar”, an American blockbluster from 2009, which attracted the biggest Korean audience of all time (13.3m). On January 19th, just one month after its release, it entered the 10m-admissions club—joining just eight other movies in the history of Korean film.
Films based on real-life events have a special appeal for Koreans. With “The Attorney” counted among Korea’s 10m club, four of its nine members are now historical films. “The Attorney” is based loosely on an infamous court case which took place in Busan in 1981. Twenty-two university students were arrested, tortured and tried on the trumped-up charge of forming a book club to study seditious literature. The “Burim case” has long been seen as a massive frame-up of South Korea’s communist movement, aimed at bolstering support for Chun Doo-hwan, a strongman who had seized power in a coup the previous year. In “The Attorney”, an ambitious solicitor quits a high-earning job advising taxpayers to take on the political case in defence of the innocent students. The part is played by Song Kang-ho, who starred in three movies in 2013; the first two, “The Face Reader” and “Snowpiercer”, sold over 9m tickets each in Korea, earning him the nickname “the 20m man”.
Critics Pick ‘Snowpiercer’ as Korean Film of The Year
South Korea’s film press has voted English-language “Snowpiercer” as the best Korean film of 2013.
The annual Film of the Year Awards are organized by the Korean Film Reporters Association and were unveiled Wednesday at the Korea Press Center in Seoul.
“Snowpiercer” was the English-language directing debut of established Korean helmer Bong Joon-ho, who was also named director of the year. The film stars Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, Ed Harris and Tilda Swinton alongside Korean favourite Song Kang-ho and Ko Ah-sung.
Released in August, the film sold 9.34 million tickets and became a mega hit that belied its language and art-house roots.
Kim’s Convenience might be turned into a TV show
Before Kim’s Convenience made the jump from Fringe Festival hit to Soulpepper Theatre Company mainstay, nobody knew that the problems of a convenience-store-owning Korean family could be the stuff of compelling, popular theatrical drama. Now, after two years’ worth of successful remounts, the film industry evidently wants a piece.
In a press release issued on Tuesday, Soulpepper announced that it has entered into a partnership with Vancouver-based Thunderbird Films, a company that has produced TV shows like Package Deal and Some Assembly Required. According to a Thunderbird spokesperson, the company is in the process of scripting both film and TV adaptations of Ins Choi’s 2011 play, which takes place almost entirely inside a Regent Park mini-mart run by a gruff Korean pater familias and his wife.
Park Ji-sung to host charity football match before World Cup, return to nat’l team doubtful
Former South Korean football captain Park Ji-sung will host a charity football match in Southeast Asia only days before the start of the FIFA World Cup, his father confirmed Wednesday, leaving the player’s possible return to the national team in doubt.
Park Sung-jong, the player’s father, said the footballer will host the annual charity event either on May 31 or June 1 in Malaysia or Indonesia. Park Ji-sung launched his own charity organization called JS Foundation in 2011 and has been hosting an All-Star football match to raise funds for children since that year.
“This is something he’d planned to do all along,” the senior Park said. “He is executing plans that he’d made when he retired from international play three years ago.”
If the former Manchester United midfielder commits to his own event, it appears unlikely he will join the national team in Brazil for the World Cup in early June. The tournament opens on June 12, and South Korea plans to travel to the host country early in that month.
S. Korean pitcher Lim invited to Cubs’ spring training: agent
South Korean pitcher Lim Chang-yong, recently released by the Chicago Cubs, has been invited to spring training by the Major League Baseball (MLB) team, his Seoul-based agent said Tuesday.
Kim Dong-wook, head of the local sports agency Sports Intelligence, said the 37-year-old right-hander will try to make the big league team again when the Cubs’ camp opens in mid-February in Arizona.
The Cubs non-tendered Lim last month, making him a free agent on paper, but Kim said the Cubs have informed him that they still retain rights to the pitcher.
“We had no plans to move Lim,” Kim said. “He has been invited to the Cubs’ spring training.”
Socially speaking: LPGA’s best
With the 2014 season set to tee off on Thursday at the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic, we thought we would take a look at some of the LPGA’S best and brightest. In 140 characters or less and Earlybird filter usage, that is.
Fair warning: If you’re currently in an area covered in snow, you might not want to follow any of the women below this week. The pictures of the gorgeous Bahamian beaches and sunny skies might be too much to bear.
Short track: Russia’s Ahn looking to upstage Asian rivals
Russia’s Victor Ahn will be looking to upstage his native South Korea and put the Olympic hosts on the medals table for the first time in short track speed skating at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Ahn, formerly known as Ahn Hyun-Soo, is the only short-tracker to win four medals in one Olympics with his three gold and bronze in 2006 for South Korea before falling out with the team, and after failing to qualify for the 2010 Vancouver Games he switched citizenship to compete for Russia.
Russia warmed up for Sochi by dominating the European championships at the weekend with 28-year-old Ahn taking three titles as the Olympic hosts won ten medals in total including five gold in Dresden, Germany.
Dumpling party marks Korean New Year with hundreds of mandu and dozens of eaters
Grace Hong is pretty sure her mother would be appalled. Not at the fact that she and her husband celebrate the new year with traditional lucky mandu, dumplings made the Korean way. But possibly at every other aspect of their celebration. With 600 dumplings, 60 guests and an unmentionable amount of wine and beer, the annual fete they call Dumplingfest violates most, if not all, of her mother’s holiday traditions.
Hong, 40, grew up in Lyons, N.Y., not far from Rochester. “We were the only Asian family in town,” she says. And every New Year, for a small, family-only gathering, her mother would make duk mandu guk, a traditional Korean soup. She would fill a large soup pot with beef bones and aromatic vegetables to make the rich broth, in which she simmered meat-filled dumplings and glutinous rice cakes, symbols of prosperity.
Listen for sizzle of Korean street food
On the streets here, find your next meal by listening for the sizzle. Street food is everywhere, and food carts and stalls selling a short list of foodstuffs or specializing in only one item attract long queues at all hours of the day. A pojangmacha — a Korean word that translates as “covered wagon,” and refers to a movable, street-side restaurant draped in tarps — offers more of a complete meal: set menus, a greater number of options, more complicated dishes, and, often, tables for customers.
Street food plays a significant part in Seoul’s culture. Students might stop by their favorite stall for a quick, cheap bite after school or before going out for the evening. Crowds of professionals will descend after the workday ends, and on into the night. And then there are the late comers: taxi drivers and other graveyard shift workers who appreciate a hot meal or snack, at any hour.
Marja Vongerichten, wife of celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, hosted and co-produced the 2011 TV show “Kimchi Chronicles,” a travelogue-style exploration of Korean food, including street food. Marja Vongerichten was born in Korea (her mother is Korean and her father an African-American serviceman) and adopted and raised by a family in the United States. She learned about her culture through Korean food. She is also author of a cookbook based on the series, “The Kimchi Chronicles: Korean Cooking for an American Kitchen.”
This is the Closest Thing to a North Korean Google Street View
Despite North Korea’s notoriously strict limitations on tourists in general (not to mention those slinging around cameras), last autumn, the country’s officials decided to allow Pan to photograph non-military points of interest—so long as it wasn’t “political,” that is. And Pan seems perfectly all right with that. According to his site, his DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea) 360 project is not meant to address “any past, present, or future political issues that may be sensitive.”
For South Korea’s old, a return to poverty as Confucian filial piety weakens
There’s a dark side to South Korea’s 50-year rise to riches: The graying generation that is most responsible for that ascent is living in relative poverty.
In a fast-paced nation famous for its high achievers and its big spending on private tutors and luxury goods, half of South Korea’s elderly are poor, the highest rate in the industrialized world.
Some live in crumbling hillside neighborhoods that lack running water. Others wait in line at soup kitchens where there is no young face in sight. The worst-off comb through garbage, collecting cardboard and paper and lugging it to trash yards, where they can receive several dollars for a pile. It’s common in central Seoul to see hunched seniors gathering scraps.
Chinese Shrine to Korean Assassin Irks Japan
Wall Street Journal
Japan, South Korea and China are sparring over a new shrine.
The opening on Sunday of a memorial hall in China to the assassin of the Japanese governor-general of Korea in 1909 has drawn a sharp exchange of words between Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing.
The memorial hall was built at the railway station in the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin, where Korean national Ahn Jung-guen shot and killed Hirobumi Ito on Oct. 26, 1909.
Modeled on the original façade of the station and with a clock showing the exact time of the assassination, the hall is the fruit of a request by South Korean President Park Geun-hye to Chinese President Xi Jinping during a visit to Beijing in June last year.
South Korean Trade Official Abducted in Libyan Capital
New York Times
Gunmen have kidnapped a South Korean trade official in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, according to the South Korean government, which advised its citizens Monday to leave the country.
Han Seok-woo, 39, the head of the Tripoli office of the government-funded Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency, was on his way home from work on Sunday afternoon when four gunmen stopped his car and abducted him, officials with the South Korean Foreign Ministry said Monday.
Both the ministry and the trade agency said they were trying to gather information on the kidnappers and on Mr. Han’s whereabouts.
Bergen Dem Chairman Stellato backs Roy Cho in CD 5 race
There has been speculation for months about whether Bergen Democratic Chairman Lou Stellato would ultimately back Roy Cho, the Korean-American attorney from Hackensack who is the sole declared candidate to challenge Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett (R – 5).
The answer apparently came in the middle of the glittering Rockleigh Country Club ballroom at the Bergen Democratic Party annual Victory Gala on Thursday. And the message was conveyed not completely in English.
In an interview with reporter Yoojin Sung of Korean Radio Broadcasting, Stellato’s comments, later translated into Korean, show support for Cho’s candidacy.
China, South Korea face familiar woes in English quest
Japan isn’t alone in its struggles with teaching English. China and South Korea have experienced similar frustrations, but their responses and results have been quite different.
It’s easy to compare the three nations because of their similarities: English is completely different from their native languages; they’ve all had limited immigration and haven’t been completely colonized by an English-speaking Western power; and all three currently share low birth rates (though China has had an only-child policy that is just starting to be relaxed).
The most obvious difference between the three countries is scale. China’s population is 1.35 billion while Japan and South Korea’s are 127 million and 50 million, respectively. This is relevant to the number of English speakers education systems are producing — all three have a high-stakes college entrance exam on which English is a required subject. In 2013, 9.12 million students sat China’s exam, the Gaokao, 650,000 sat Korea’s College Scholastic Aptitude Test (CSAT) while 570,000 sat Japan’s National Center Test. Furthermore, one of the requirements for an undergraduate degree in China is passing the College English Test (CET); in 2013, 9.38 million students sat this exam.
What’s Unnerving About Angela Buchdahl? She Talks About God
Jewish Daily Forward
What has made some people nervous about Angela Buchdahl becoming the senior rabbi at Central Synagogue – one of the two largest Reform synagogues in New York and one of the biggest in the United States – is not that she’s the first Asian-American rabbi. It’s not that she’s a woman or, at 41, so young to lead a congregation whose membership will soon number 2,400 families. It’s not that she’s been working primarily as a cantor for most of her career. It’s not even that she’s the mother of three young children, though that has given some in her congregation pause, Buchdahl said. No, it’s because she talks about God.
“We become very nervous talking about God in the Jewish community,” Buchdahl tells Haaretz. “I made people on the search committee a little nervous about it.”
God is at the center of Buchdahl’s life. Born in South Korea and descended from a Korean king, she has prayed every night since she was a young girl in Tacoma, Washington, with a Korean-Buddhist mother and American-Jewish father. And in her new role at Central Synagogue, she is trying to put God at the center as well.
AB InBev to Pay $5.8 Billion for Korea’s Oriental Brewery
Anheuser-Busch InBev NV (ABI) agreed to pay $5.8 billion for South Korea’s Oriental Brewery Co. Ltd., regaining control of a company that became the Asian nation’s biggest brewer under KKR (KKR) & Co. and Affinity Equity Partners Ltd.
AB InBev will fund the acquisition with internal resources, according to a statement from the companies today. The Leuven, Belgium-based maker of Budweiser and Corona will receive about $320 million in cash when the transaction is completed.
AB InBev, the world’s biggest beermaker, is buying back a business it sold to KKR in 2009 for $1.8 billion when it sought to cut debt following InBev NV’s $52 billion takeover of Anheuser-Busch Cos. KKR subsequently sold 50 percent of the asset to Affinity. Since then, Oriental Brewery has become South Korea’s largest beermaker and more than doubled earnings, boosted by its Cass brand.
Living someone else’s life
Property theft can easily be punished as long as evidence points in one direction, hopefully the right one. But what happens in cases of identity theft?
As the online community continues to grow rapidly, netizens are finding themselves hesitant about uploading personal information online, where it can be easily stolen with none being the wiser.
Some websites have developed strategies to prevent this from happening by disabling the right-click button and requesting users to place watermarks on their photographs, but stealing photos and another person’s life still isn’t all that difficult.
3 Arrested in Massage Parlor Prostitution Sting
Bridgeport police arrested three women on Wednesday night during a sting operation at an illegal massage parlor, called the American Asian Modeling Studio.
The officers, dressed in civilian clothes, went to the Asian Modeling Studio at 3853 Main Street at about 10 p.m. on Thursday to conduct an undercover operation.
They said they spoke with to a woman through a barred door and received a price quoted price for massage and sexual services, but were told to come back because the woman working that night was busy with another client, police said.
Skokie Celebrates Korean Culture With 60-Event Series
Skokie Patch (Skokie, Ill.)
Taste kim chi, learn about what it was like for a teen boy to leave Korea when his parents opened a store in the U.S., learn a beloved Korean folk tale and more as “Coming Together in Skokie & Niles Township” launches Sunday, Jan. 26 and continues with programs for about two months.
“It will be a great opportunity for people to experience and learn Korean culture,” said Tom Suh, president of Korean American Association of Chicago (and Chicagoland) at a preview of the event Thursday.
This is the fifth “Coming Together” program, said Susan Van Dusen, who was one of five women who founded the event five years ago; it has previously focused on the Indian, Assyrian, Filipino and Greek cultures. It has grown every year, but has taken a big leap forward this year by including events at the Morton Grove, Lincolnwood and Niles libraries, and venturing into area schools with programs.
Jamie Chung On Once Upon A Time: ‘I Would Go Back In A Heartbeat’
Jamie Chung has a new primetime drama for NBC, but don’t count her out of future episodes of ABC’s “Once Upon A Time.”
“I think it would be really disappointing to leave the audience with this giant question mark,” Jamie told AccessHollywood.com, following the NBC “Believe” panel (her new show) at the Television Critics Association Winter Tour on Sunday. “I would go back in a heartbeat. I am committed to this show, but I don’t think that door is shut, so I’m hoping that there is something we can do to kind of answer more questions.”
Jamie plays Mulan on “Once,” and in recent episodes, her feelings for another, female character – Aurora (played by Sarah Bolger) – were alluded to.
North Korea to Play Asian Games
Wall Street Journal
The North Koreans are coming again.
Pyongyang said late Monday that both its men’s and women’s soccer teams would participate in the Asian Games to be held in Incheon, South Korea, later this year.
The announcement marks a continuation of interaction on the sports field even as ties between the two Koreas remain unstable. Last week, North Korea warned of an “unimaginable holocaust” if South Korea went ahead with military drills with the U.S. planned to begin next month.
South Korea rejected the North’s demand to cancel the drills.
Chef Sang Yoon’s prime rib with horseradish creme fraiche on THE Dish
Chef Sang Yoon was born in South Korea, schooled by some of the finest chefs in the U.S. and Europe, plays hockey and has been called “the godfather of the gastro-pub scene.”
Yoon began his culinary career as a teenager in San Francisco with Jeremiah Tower and Julian Serrano. He then attended the Culinary Institute of America and then spent two years working in Northern Italy and France.
He bought his first restaurant in 2002. It is a renovated dive bar called Father’s Office. It features the Office Burger, which was named one of the world’s best by Esquire magazine. The burger is controversial because Yoon does not allow any substitutions or ketchup in his restaurants.
WE: Chang-rae Lee’s “On Such a Full Sea.”
“More and more we can see that the question is not whether we are ‘individuals,’ ” Chang-rae Lee writes in “On Such a Full Sea” (Riverhead), his new, dystopian novel. “The question, then, is whether being an ‘individual’ makes a difference anymore.” It seems doubtful, in Lee’s sombre future. Afflicted by swine- and bird-flu epidemics and a profound change in the climate, America, now known simply as the Association, has split into three separate social groups. At the top sit the Charters, a small professional class that has corralled the country’s remaining resources and withdrawn into gated villages. Catering their dinner parties and keeping their cars perpetually waxed are the “service people,” who live in the land beyond, known as the counties.
MINTING JULEP: HOW A FORMER STARBUCKS EXECUTIVE IS USING HER BEST CUSTOMERS TO HELP IMPROVE THE BEAUTY-PRODUCT BUSINESS
She is reimagining the entire enterprise of selling beauty merchandise to women, from product design to the transaction experience. During her four years at Starbucks, Park developed a keen understanding of just how crucial the happiness of the customer is at every turn. “It’s about thinking through every step of the customer journey,” she says.
When she launched Julep, Park’s first move was to open a small chain of beauty parlors. These brick-and-mortar outposts–carefully designed to encourage social interaction via communal spaces with movable furniture–function as mini labs in which to test products on actual customers. Park trained facialists and vernisseurs (a term that is to manicurist as barista is to coffee pourer) to listen closely to reactions and report back. Julep uses that info to tweak details such as colors, packaging, and scents.
Big ambition, big pressure: Seoul’s new art museum is in the spotlight
South Korea’s $230 million National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) opened in November with a towering ambition — become what the MoMA is to New York and the Tate is to London.
The museum couldn’t be in a better location to attract attention — it sits just across the street from Gyeongbokgung, Seoul’s main royal palace, and adjacent to a neighborhood that’s one of Seoul’s most popular among tourists.
Other than Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, a private art museum owned by Samsung, Seoul has no other large museum housing Korean contemporary art.
Korea’s Teddy Bear Museum Makes the World a Cuter Place
Sometimes the world isn’t very adorable. If only it looked a bit more like this! You know, like it were filled with teddy bears.
As recently noted by Korea Realtime, South Korea’s Jeju Island is home to all sorts of interesting museums.
There’s a sex museum, a computer museum, and a teddy bear museum, which features teddy bear versions of famous works of art and celebrities.
North Korean escapee recalls life in labour camp
A man who was born inside a North Korean labour camp and escaped in 2005 has been speaking about his experience.
Shin Dong-hyuk, 31, escaped from the camp after climbing through an electric fence.
During his time inside, he was starved, tortured and saw his mother and brother executed.
Dong-hyuk recently wrote to former basketball player Dennis Rodman to ask if he would pressurise leader Kim Jong-un to deal with the camps.
On the piste in North Korea: Regime’s luxury ski resort opens for business
Skiing is not the first thing that immediately springs to mind when thinking about North Korea. But a luxury resort in the isolated nation is now receiving visitors.
Located in Masik, Kangwon province, the hotel and resort officially opened January 1 after reportedly encountering a number of setbacks.
Simon Cockerell of Beijing-based Koryo Tours was one of the first visitors invited to the resort — representing one of the few foreign tour companies operating in North Korea.
In memoir, Gates calls ex-Korean President Roh “crazy”
Reading a new memoir by former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, South Koreans may be quite surprised by his characterization of the country’s late President Roh Moo-hyun as “a little crazy.”
Gates recalls a November 2007 meeting in Seoul with the liberal-minded president, whose diplomatic and security policy is still being debated.
He calls Roh “anti-American and probably a little crazy.” Roh was quoted as telling Gates that “the biggest security threats in Asia were the United States and Japan.”
The 618-page book, titled “Duty,” went on sale Tuesday and has already become sensational for the former secretary’s criticism of President Barack Obama for his strategy on Afghanistan.
Dead Bodies in the Philippines Identified as Koreans
Two charred bodies discovered on eastern Cebu Island in the Philippines in November last year are those of missing Korean used car dealers. Police are investigating, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.
According to the ministry, police in the Philippines rushed to the scene of a fire on Nov. 19 and found two bodies in a charred Korean-made automobile. There was suspicion at the time that the bodies belonged to the two missing Koreans.
The prime suspect is a business partner named Warren Sia who is now being sought by police. Sia owed the Koreans W200 million (US$1=W1,061) and police believe he killed them to steal four cars valued at W100 million.
Report: Thinner doesn’t mean healthy for Asian-Americans
Asian-Americans tend to be skinnier than white, black or Hispanic Americans, but that doesn’t necessarily equal healthy, new national data reminds. People of Asian descent still struggle with health issues associated with being overweight, like hypertension and high cholesterol.
The report found that Asian-Americans do tend to be thin: About 38 percent of Americans of Asian descent are overweight, meaning they have a BMI, or body mass index, higher than 25. Compare that to 66 percent of white Americans, 76 percent of black Americans and nearly 80 percent of Hispanic Americans. (Body mass index is a widely used way to measure body fat based on height and weight. Anything over 25 is considered overweight.)
But Asian adults were about equally as likely to have high blood pressure as white adults, and the rate of high cholesterol among Asian-Americans was about the same as it was among white, black or Hispanic adults in the U.S.
3 tapped to fill vacant position on Palisades Park Council
The Democratic Municipal Committee has submitted the names of three candidates to fill the council seat left vacant by the recent resignation of Jason Kim, who was the borough’s first Korean-American councilman. All three men have served as trustees on the local Board of Education. The candidates are Christopher Chung of East Central Boulevard, Thomas Matarazzo of East Harwood Terrace and James T. Ring of Grand Avenue. “They are all hard workers,” said Michael Pollotta, chairman of the committee, on Tuesday. “…They know a great deal about the issues in town, and any of them would be a great councilman.”
Local student wins national essay contest, donates prize to library
KAIT.com (Northeast Arkansas, Southeast Missouri)
Suh Young Choi is a student at Valley View Junior High School. Last year her sixth grade English teacher, Joan Hannah, had the class write six essays in two days.
Hannah wasn’t punishing the children. Instead, Hannah said she “wanted the kids to understand real world deadlines.”
“It was kind of a killer,” Choi said. “But, we did it.”
Later Choi and Hannah were surprised when they learned one of those essays was one of 18 to win the Nestle Very Best in Youth 2013 contest.
“I knew her work was good enough to win, but I just couldn’t believe it,” Hannah said.
Kang Ji-young to leave KARA
Following Nicole’s departure from KARA, youngest member Kang Ji-young has given notice that she toowill quit the group.
According to DSP Media, Wednesday, the 20-year-old singer gave the agency written notice that she does not want to renew her contract once the present one ends in April. As a result, the popular K-pop girl group now has just three members — Park Gyu-ri, Han Seung–yeon and Goo Ha-ra — who renewed their contracts.
The agency said it will consider whether KARA should continue as a three-member-girl group or if new members should be added. DSP Media said that Kang had indicated her wish to study abroad. On Monday, DSP Media announced the official contract expiration of Nicole.
Tricks to keeping Korean traditions alive
News Journal (Longview, Texas)
Even though her mother is from South Korea, Abigail Lunde didn’t really like kimchi growing up.
“My mom would put a little bowl of water next to my plate and wash it off for me,” says Abigail Lunde, now 28, of the fermented side dish that almost every Korean (well, 95 percent, according to a recent survey) eats at least once a day.
“My mom wanted me to be Americanized,” Lunde says. “We would go back (to South Korea) every few years to visit, but I didn’t understand the culture. I don’t speak much Korean. The first Korean I learned to speak was ‘I don’t want any more, I’m full.’”
Any time she’d cook with her grandmother, either her mom would have to translate or they’d communicate by pointing and repeating words that neither totally understood.
It wasn’t until Lunde was in college and bartending and working at sushi restaurants in Springfield, Mo., most of which are owned by Korean families, that she really started to appreciate the culture.
Tobacco Returns To The Bar, This Time Inside Cocktails
Take a sip of the Oaxacan Fizz at Father’s Office in Los Angeles and you’ll discover the unmistakable taste of tobacco. That’s because this cocktail is sweetened with a small amount of tobacco-infused sugar syrup.
“A lot of people say, ‘I only smoke when I drink,’” says chef-owner Sang Yoon. “We say, ‘Now you can do both.’”
Mixologists are helping tipplers enjoy tobacco even as smoking bans spread to more than half the states in the U.S. Though some may drink the cocktail in search of a buzz, mixologists say tobacco adds an unexpected flavor profile that pairs well with dark liquors.
Creating the tobacco syrup was a trial and error process for Yoon. “We took a Marlboro Lights cigarette apart and tried doing an infusion, which turned out to be horrible,” he says. “We tried chopping up cigars; that tasted horrifying. We tried snuff, which didn’t work.”
Pipe tobacco was ultimately the winner. “It’s much sweeter aromatically and on the palate,” he says. And it echoes the smoky elements of the San Juan Del Rio mezcal, which forms the drink’s backbone.
Happy Hour Goes Korean at Namu Gaji
There’s not really such a thing as a bad happy hour. When a couple of bucks are knocked off a beer, a glass of wine, or a cocktail, a feeling of contentment washes over us, and we’re able to forget the obstacles, transgressions, or missteps of hours past. When an establishment throws discounted food into the mix,this satisfaction is turned into sheer bliss, especially when these options include inventive, untraditional versions of tacos and fries.
At Namu Gaji, the much-loved NKA (New Korean American) spot in the Mission, you can knock back a few $2 soju shots, sip on $3 pints (current selections include Asahi, Linden Street’s Burning Oak Black Lager, and Magnolia’s Tillie’s Union Ale, a toasted rice ale brewed exclusively for the restaurant), or enjoy 15 percent off wine bottles (reserve list excluded) alongside their famed Korean tacos — your choice of chicken, short rib, or tofu, with seasoned rice, kimchi salsa, and remoulade, served atop a seaweed “shell” ($3-$5.50).
Or if you have partaken in a bit too much of the $8 “happy sake,” soak it up with the gamja fries ($11), a decadent and flavor-piquing take on the classic fried potato. Namu’s version tops it with a combination of short rib, kewpie (Japanese mayonnaise), gochujang, and kimchi relish, resulting in a dish that is savory, sweet, spicy and sour … basically everything you could ever want.
Flat Top Brings the Neighborhood to You
For chefs and restaurateurs, this truly is a town without pity. Rare is the Gotham restaurant that lasts longer than a mayoral term. Yet even with the endless cycle of openings and closings, losing a beloved haunt feels painful. It also intensely focuses attention on the latest darlings. Flat Top, from the team behind nearby hot spot Jin Ramen, is well on its way to achieving darling status.
A bistro nestled in the knolls of Morningside Heights, Flat Top glows with candlelight from inside its expansive front windows. A monochrome mural painted on brick depicts a bridge’s undercarriage, contrasting with a row of wooden booth-backed tables. It’s an inviting space that feels instantly familiar, and Flat Top would be a welcome addition to any neighborhood. On 121st Street and Amsterdam Avenue, it has garnered the attention of Columbia University students and faculty, area residents, and doctors, staff, and visitors from St. Luke’s hospital a few blocks south. Downtown dwellers have also been sniffing around, as word trickles out about chef Charles Cho’s competent cooking.
Choo Shin-soo itching to get going for new season
Yonhap News via GlobalPost
Leaving home on Wednesday to begin his first season with the Texas Rangers, Choo Shin-soo said he’s itching to get his offseason training underway.
Speaking to reporters at Incheon International Airport, the South Korean outfielder said he is a little behind in his training schedule after a whirlwind of activities at home.
“I’ve spent about two weeks here and I don’t even know how the time has gone by,” said Choo, who has made a series of corporate and charity appearances here. “I am starting my training about 15 days later than usual, and I’d like to get going quickly.”
Kim Yu-na feels no pressure to repeat as Olympic champ
Yonhap News via GlobalPost
Reigning Olympic figure skating champion Kim Yu-na said Wednesday she isn’t feeling any pressure to win her second straight gold medal next month at the Sochi Winter Games.
At a press conference held at the National Training Center in Seoul, Kim said she is preparing for the upcoming Winter Olympics as if it were just another event.
“I am not doing anything special in my training,” Kim said. “I am not trying extra hard just because it’s the Olympics. Before every competition, I try to put myself in the best possible shape, and it’s no different for the Olympics.”
Taeseok Kang designs vegan handbags with a difference
Experimental designer Taeseok Kang of EH London has designed a somewhat interesting handbag collection.
Totally vegan, the collection titled Sexual Humorous is entirely crafted from vegetarian leather, using plated brass for hardware fixtures and hair for tassels, braided handles and the like. So what’s the story?
X-Ray Reveals Hundreds of Gold Needles in Woman’s Knees
LiveScience via Yahoo News
When doctors examined an X-ray image of the knees of a woman experiencing severe joint pain, they found a gold mine: hundreds of tiny gold acupuncture needles left in her tissue.
The 65-year-old South Korean woman had previously been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, a condition in which the cartilage and bones within the joints degrade, causing pain and stiffness. But when pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs didn’t alleviate the pain in her knees and only caused stomach discomfort, she had turned to acupuncture, the doctors wrote last week in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Acupuncture is an alternative medical practice that uses needles to purportedly stimulate certain points on the body, to alleviate pain or to treat various diseases.
North Korea: Kim family’s former sushi chef says uncle was executed over ‘pleasure brigade’
The Telegraph (U.K.)
Kim Jong Un’s uncle may have been executed for his taste in young women and role in maintaining a “pleasure brigade” for Kim Jong Il, a former chef for the North Korean leader has said.
Kenji Fujimoto, a sushi chef who worked for the Kim family between 1989 and 2001, has said Jang Song Thaek was given the task of recruiting women – some as young as 15 – to please the late dictator.
Mr Jang, the uncle to the young leader, would often abuse his position in the talent hunting process, and that may provide some insight as to why he was executed on 12 December 2013, he told NK News.
How is South Korea doing these days?
Guardian Weekly (U.K.)
“How are you all doing nowadays?” The question has been bothering South Korea ever since early December when Ju Hyun-woo, an economics student at Korea University, put up a dazibao – a handwritten poster commonly used by opponents of the dictatorship in the 1980s, taking a cue from the propaganda messages that flourished in China under Chairman Mao.
Appealing to his generation, thought to be largely apolitical, Ju asked: “Is it OK for you to ignore social issues since it is not your business?”
He went on to mention a strike by Korail staff, who fear the national rail operator may be privatised, and the way the state has been operated since Conservative president Park Geun-hye was elected in December 2012.
Korean cartoons on former sex slaves to go on display at French festival
Cartoons about former Korean sex slaves to the Japanese military during World War II will be exhibited at the world’s largest comic strip and cartoon festival, the Seoul government said Tuesday.
Some 20 cartoons and four videos including animations by local artists telling tragic stories of the former sex slavery victims will be featured in a special exhibition of the 2014 Angouleme International Comics Festival, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family said.
The gender ministry sponsored the festival scheduled to run from Jan. 30- Feb. 2. in the southwestern French city of the same name.
North Korean Refugee Flow Still Suppressed
Wall Street Journal
The number of North Korean refugees arriving in South Korea held steady last year, reflecting continued tightened North Korean border controls since the rise to power of Kim Jong Un.
South Korea’s Ministry of Unification said Tuesday 1,516 North Korean refugees arrived in the South last year, up by 14 people from 2012. That brings the total official number of escapees to 26,124, the ministry statistics show.
While many North Koreans leave their homeland for good every year, the number arriving in South Korea tumbled 44% between 2011 and 2012. Activists and recent refugees attribute the decline to Pyongyang’s border crackdown following Mr. Kim’s succession in late 2011.
Key Obama Aide Tipped as Envoy to Korea
Mark Lippert, a key aide to U.S. President Barack Obama and chief of staff to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, is a strong candidate to succeed outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Seoul Sung Kim.
Kim is set to become a deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs.
Sources in Washington on Monday said Kim may be summoned back to the U.S. before his term ends in August of this year, because the current deputy assistant secretary James Zumwalt is likely to be appointed ambassador to Vietnam.
As Asian-Americans Age, Their Children Face Cultural Hurdles
New York Times
Two thick blankets wrapped in a cloth tie lay near a single pillow on the red leather sofa in Phuong Lu’s living room. Doanh Nguyen, Ms. Lu’s 81-year-old mother, had prepared the blankets for a trip she wanted to take. “She’s ready to go to Vietnam,” Ms. Lu said.
But Ms. Nguyen would not be leaving. The doors were all locked from the inside to prevent her from going anywhere — not to the coating of snow that had fallen that day outside Ms. Lu’s suburban Philadelphia home, and certainly not to her home country, Vietnam.
Ms. Nguyen has Alzheimer’s disease, and Ms. Lu, 61, a manicurist who stopped working two years ago when her mother’s condition worsened, is her full-time caretaker. In Vietnam, if a couple has children, the children must stay home and care for their parents, Ms. Lu said.
Palisades Park councilman steps down due to illness
Jason Kim, the first Korean-American to be elected to the Borough Council, has resigned his elected post citing health issues, but has taken a full-time job as deputy director of the borough library.
Kim resignation took effect Friday. On Monday, he said his decision to leave after reelection to a fourth term and days after being sworn in was not an easy one, but one he said he needed to make for his family. He declined to say what sort of health problems led to his resignation.
“I’m not going to quit everything, but I’m going to take it easy for a bit, but I still have a mission to help the Korean community, and Palisades Park,’’ said Kim. “… I may come back when they need me again, but right now my health issues have scared my family, and family always comes first.”
North Jersey Korean Americans celebrate another year of community’s emergence
The sounds of traditional Korean musical instruments boomed from a fifth-floor meeting room at the Bergen County Administration Building on Monday while about 100 people gathered to celebrate Korean-American Day.
The day marked the 111th anniversary of Jan. 13, 1903, when the first large group of Korean immigrants arrived in what is now the United States. There were 103 Koreans who made the journey, which ended in Hawaii, a U.S. territory at the time.
Since that day, the community has grown to about 1.7 million nationwide, according to 2010 U.S. Census. In Bergen County, there are about 58,000 people of Korean descent, according to 2012 estimates from the U.S. Census. They represent the largest Asian community in the county.
Adopted girl and her mom head from Sacramento to Korea in search of birth parents
Dawson was born Aug. 9, 1992 at a home for unwed mothers in Andong, the “spiritual capital” of South Korea, three hours southeast of Seoul. Her birth mother, a 23-year-old former store clerk, named her Kwon Hee Joo – “Joyful and Pretty Kwon” – and prayed she would be adopted by a family that could give her a good home.
She found that home in Sacramento, and now the Jewish girl from Gold River has left for South Korea determined to find the young woman who gave her up. She wants to explore her own identity, and also to let her birth mother know she made the right decision.
Accompanied by her adoptive mom, Andee Press-Dawson, Fawn boarded United Flight 853 to Tokyo Friday, switching to United Flight 881 for Seoul. “I have such great parents and such an amazing older brother, David, who was also adopted from Korea,” Fawn said, “but something was always missing. Last October, I told them this was just something I had to do. I’m at the stage where I’m trying to find my own identity.”
Big Bang’s Tour Highlights Band’s Enduring Popularity in Japan
Big Bang’s concert at Kyocera Dome in Osaka on Monday showed how K-pop is still washing through Japan. The concert was an unscheduled last stop on their tour of the country but tickets still sold out.
The boy band launched their tour with a gig at Seibu Dome in Saitama on Nov. 16 and continued to Osaka, Fukuoka, Nagoya, Tokyo and Sapporo, drawing about 770,000 fans.
“Only a few top Japanese bands such as Mr. Children and EXILE have had such large-scale tours,” the band’s agency YG Entertainment said.
Drunken Tiger Talk Hip Hop’s Early Days in South Korea: “It Was a Secret Society”
Today, one of K-pop’s signature charms are its acts boasting the quintessential rapper—CL of 2NE1, Yubin of Wonder Girls, etc. But hip hop has only been a part of South Korea’s mainstream for a little more than a decade. Korean-American rappers Tiger JK and Yoon Mi Rae—who, along with their longtime collaborator, New Zealand MC Bizzy, comprise Drunken Tiger—are two of the country’s most respected rap artists. The real-life couple are known for leading the then-underground genre into the conservative nation’s consciousness in the late ’90s.
“Back in the day it was crazy underground,” Tiger JK tells Fuse News for this week’s FUSE LOVES SEOUL: From K-Pop to Hip Hop special. “Hip hop existed, but it was almost a secret society thing. [People would say things like], ‘I heard there’s somebody or a group of people that dress funky, they sag their pants, all their clothes are baggy and they battle.’ It was really crazy because you don’t hear them on the radio.”
Find out more about Drunken Tiger and their continuing quest to break into Korean pop tonight on Fuse News at 7:30/6:30C. Head back here after the show for the full interview.
Magik* Magik Orchestra maestro Minna Choi discusses concert, When We Were Young
Artistic Director of San Francisco-based, Magik* Magik Orchestra, Minna Choi formed the orchestra a mere five years ago and this year will celebrate it’s success with a grand fundraiser – “When We Were Young”. Choi wasn’t much older than five herself when a music teacher spotted her knack for picking out melodies on the piano. A natural talent that has been nurtured with a childhood of piano lessons and a love of pop music, it was not until her first job out of college at a New York studio that she felt the confidence to charge producers for her skills. This prompted Choi to return to formal schooling again and in 2007 she came home to the Bay Area to study at The San Francisco Conservatory of Music where Magik came into being.
What inspired the name Magik* Magik Orchestra?
Classical music seems to always have unpronounceable names. I wanted a name that was playful, whimsical and most importantly easy to pronounce. Also around the time I was dreaming of Magik, I saw a photo of myself as a 5 or 6 year old in a Yamaha Music School group photo with a banner above saying “Music Is Magic”.
Why did you come up with the idea of “When We Were Young”?
Almost every year, we have wanted to do a Magik celebration concert. But this year was the first time that our organization has hit a stride. We now have the bandwidth and creative time to see what is the next step. That we decided is education and outreach to children that we hope to do more intentionally. We get hundreds of requests but only a handful are educational. And I don’t think it’s because there is no demand. We hope to raise some funds so we can do some workshops and be proactive about marketing and letting people, schools, parents know that we are here.
MLB takes formal step for big league clubs to sign S. Korean pitcher
Yonhap News via GlobalPost
Major League Baseball (MLB) has requested a status check on South Korean star pitcher Yoon Suk-min, baseball officials here said Tuesday, a formal administrative step before a big league club can sign any professional player from Korea.
The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) said it informed MLB that Yoon is eligible for free agency after being asked about the 27-year-old’s status in the top domestic league.
The request is the second of its kinds after MLB first tendered a status check to the KBO in October when Yoon was still under contract with the Kia Tigers during the postseason.
Bobsledders Book Tickets to Sochi
Korea secured two berths in the four-man bobsleigh event at the Sochi Winter Olympics on Monday due to its strong performance at the America Cup.
At the eighth round of the Cup, the final event of the season, Korea ranked eighth overall due to the combined scores of its two teams.
Pilot Won Yoon-jong steered Team A to fourth place while Kim Dong-hyun guided Team B to seventh.
Bibimbap Recipes That Put All Other Comfort Foods To Shame
We’re big fans of comfort food — we’ve eaten more grilled cheese sandwiches than we care to admit — which is why we love bibimbap. It gives us all the comfort of a bowl of mac and cheese, with the added bonus of not putting us into a food coma.
It’s the simplicity of bibimbap that makes it so special. This typical Korean dish is made up of nothing more than a bowl of white rice, topped with seasoned vegetables, and a chile pepper paste. It’s also sometimes accompanied with an egg and thin slices of meat. That’s it.
Yet somehow, when it all comes together, it tastes like the type of comfort food we’ve always wanted without even knowing it. Maybe it’s the perfect bits of crisp golden rice mixed into the bowl. Maybe it’s the piping hot stone bowl it’s served in. Or maybe it’s all the chile paste we can liberally add in. We’re not sure, but we know you’ll like it.
Photographer creates ‘Google street view’ of North Korea
A Singaporean photographer has offered up one of the most unique glimpses yet of life inside North Korea. He’s done it by capturing hidden corners of the country in a series of 360° photographs. And what’s more, the country’s authorities don’t seem to have a problem with it.
Last autumn, Aram Pan, originally from Singapore, was authorised to travel to North Korea. Once inside the country, he stitched together several photos of the same places to create unique 360° images, allowing people to navigate virtually anywhere inside the picture. Enthusiasts of the project are already comparing ‘DPRK 360′ [the name of Aram Pan's photography project. The initials DPRK stand for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea] to a North Korean version of Google street view. The photographer explains on his site that his work doesn’t seek to tackle politically sensitive subjects, but rather encourages the public to interest themselves in the country and ‘uncover its mysteries’.
His work shows that despite the draconian restrictions which stifle freedom of expression in North Korea, there is still a certain degree of coverage tolerated — so long as it’s not political.
South Korea to contribute $867 million for U.S. military forces in 2014
South Korea said on Sunday it had agreed to pay 920 billion won ($866.86 million) in 2014 towards the cost of the U.S. military presence in the country, a rise of 5.8 percent from a year ago.
U.S. and South Korean officials have struck a five-year cost sharing plan for 28,500 U.S. troops in the country after a series of negotiations since early last year.
The deal, subject to South Korean parliament’s approval, comes after Washington’s decision to send more soldiers and tanks to South Korea next month as part of a military rebalance to Asia after more than a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Kim Jong-un’s Sister Put in Charge of Regime’s Coffers
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has put his younger sister Yeo-jong in charge of the regime’s coffers since the execution of his uncle Jang Song-taek on Dec. 12 last year.
Kim Jong-un ordered the restructuring of hard-currency earners, which used to be controlled by Jang, North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity, a group of North Korean activists in South Korea, quoted a North Korean source as saying. The source said Kim Yeo-jong has taken charge of Department 54 and other currency-earning agencies in the Workers Party.
Department 54 supplies electricity, coal, fuel, clothes and other necessities to the military but also runs a slew of other businesses. It was originally operated by the military but Jang placed it under the supervision of the party when the Army chief Ri Yong-ho was dismissed in 2012.
More than 1,500 N. Korean defectors arrive in S. Korea in 2013
More than 1,500 North Korean defectors arrived in South Korea last year, the unification ministry said Monday, despite Pyongyang’s crackdown to stem the flow of defections.
The ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, said a total of 1,516 North Koreans settled in South Korea in 2013, up slightly from 2012 when 1,502 North Koreans arrived in the South, with women accounting for 76 percent of the total.
The ministry said South Korea is now home to 26,124 North Koreans.
Last year’s tally is the latest reminder that a steady stream of North Koreans has crossed the border into China to avoid chronic food shortages and harsh political oppression.
Why Does China Coddle North Korea? [OPINION]
New York Times
A month after the execution of Jang Song-thaek, widely viewed as North Korea’s second-most-powerful leader, China remains stymied in relations with its reclusive, defiant neighbor. This is not a new story. Though few in Beijing are prepared to admit it, China’s policies toward North Korea have long been a conspicuous failure.
China’s official reactions to the North’s internal power struggle have, thus far, been limited largely to formulaic calls for internal stability. But Mr. Jang’s ouster must be deeply disquieting to senior Chinese policy makers, who yet again find themselves on the outside looking in.
By nearly all indications, leaders in Beijing were blindsided by the latest events. By contrast, South Korean intelligence disclosed Mr. Jang’s fall from power a full five days before its stunning climax at a Politburo meeting on Dec. 8.
Housing Prices in North Korea Plunge on Black Market
Radio Free Asia
Prices of houses traded on North Korea’s black market are dropping precariously, causing panic among dwellers, according to sources inside the country.
Houses in impoverished North Korea are fully owned by the government and trading on them is forbidden. But some dwellers “sell” their homes illegally with the approval of corrupt officials to cash in on the acute shortage of homes.
Sources in provinces along North Korea’s border with China told RFA’s Korean Service that the value of their home transactions had fallen by as high as 85 percent from last summer.
“Housing prices in Gilju-gun, North Hamgyong province, dropped to around U.S. $500 from what was U.S. $3,300 last summer,” a source from the province told RFA’s Korean Service on condition of anonymity.
Dennis Rodman says he’s sorry about ‘certain situations’ in North Korea
Dennis Rodman is apologizing. Again.
Last week, he said he was sorry about his bizarre, drunken outburst on CNN about an American citizen held prisoner in North Korea. Now, Rodman says he’s sorry about what’s going on inside North Korea, a nation renowned for its human rights abuses.
But the eccentric former NBA star known as “The Worm” isn’t contrite about his latest puzzling visit to the secretive state. He said he did nothing wrong by organizing a basketball game last week at a packed stadium in Pyongyang, an event at which he sang “Happy Birthday” to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Agent defends Dennis Rodman
Dennis Rodman’s agent says the former NBA star did not take any payment from the North Korean government during his trip this week to the country.
Darren Prince said the North Korean government did not finance any part of the trip, adding that Irish betting company Paddy Power PLC covered expenses for Rodman and his team of former NBA players that included Charles D. Smith, Kenny Anderson and Cliff Robinson.
NBA commissioner David Stern told CNN this week that Rodman was influenced by “a flash of North Korean money” to stage an exhibition game in Pyongyang.
Rodman apologized Thursday for comments he made while in North Korea about detained American missionary Kenneth Bae, saying he had been drinking and was under pressure as he organized the game. He also sang “Happy Birthday” to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the start of Wednesday’s exhibition.
Korean American State Senator reverses his decision to resign [immediately]
Paull Shin, a Korean American Washington State senator diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, has changed his mind about immediately stepping down.
Shin, 78, had issued a statement Tuesday saying that he will no longer be able to “represent (his) constituents in the manner they deserve” on account of his recent diagnosis, but reportedly told people in his church that he intends to finish out his term, which will conclude at the end of this year.
He also confirmed his decision reversal in a phone interview with the Korea Times.
He explained that he had an attorney prepare the earlier statement and that there was a misunderstanding.
Hanmi Financial CEO Chong Guk ‘C.G.’ Kum charts course for growth
Los Angeles Times
The gig: Chong Guk “C.G.” Kum is president and chief executive of Hanmi Financial Corp., the oldest bank based in L.A.’s Koreatown. Nearly 10% of Hanmi’s loans were delinquent in 2010. But the bank has cut that to 1%, raised capital and in June it hired Kum, a veteran of mainstream community banks, to chart a course for growth. The mission, he says, is “to make Hanmi what it used to be: the premier Korean American bank.”
First big deal: The bank entered into an agreement last month to buy Central Bancorp, a troubled Texas bank with Asian American clients.
Personal: Kum (rhymes with “room”) left Korea in 1963, when his father became a University of Michigan professor. He earned a bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley, an MBA from Pepperdine and a degree from the Stonier Graduate School of Banking. He and his wife, Vikki, whom he met on a coed bank softball team, have two children in graduate school and one still at home in Calabasas. His hobbies include golf, tennis and running. A former board president of the Community Bankers of California, he has served on many nonprofit boards, including the United Way, Boy Scouts and Casa Pacifica Centers for at-risk youth.
South Koreans trek to China to see their sacred mountain
The spiritual birthplace of the Korean people is a volcano steeped in myth and legend. But with the peninsula divided for decades, South Koreans longing to see it must first travel to China.
The peak — known as Changbai in Chinese and Paektu in Korean — and its spectacular crater lake straddle the China-North Korea border.
Small tour buses screech around hairpin curves before unloading South Korean tourists for a short walk to the rim to catch sight of the forbidden North — and dream of a future as one.
“Unification!” shouted a South Korean man at the site, one of the tens of thousands who make the pilgrimage every year.
Korean nonprofits combine in historic merger
Times-Ledger (Queens, N.Y.)
Two Flushing Korean nonprofits which have a shared mission of empowering children, women and families affected by domestic violence, merged last week.
The Korean American Family Service Center and the Women in Need Center signed an affiliation agreement Jan. 2, bringing the boards and staff of both organizations under one roof.
“We view the combined strengths of our organizations as truly collaborative as well as innovative, with more opportunities to provide better, comprehensive services to our clients,” said Dr. Eun Sook Bang, board chairman of WINC.
The merger is an historic one for Flushing’s Korean community, which has not seen an affiliation of this sort between two nonprofits before, said Hellen Kim, manager of community relations for KAFSC.
Restored Korean Friendship Bell rings again at ceremony
Los Angeles Times
More than 37 years after the Korean Friendship Bell arrived on American soil, officials from Los Angeles and South Korea came together Friday to rededicate the gift and celebrate its restoration.
Officials including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and South Korean Consul General Yeon-sung Shin spoke in front of about 100 people at Angels Gate Cultural Center in San Pedro before ringing the bell 14 times — 13 for each of the original American colonies and one for good luck.
“The coasts of Korea and … America aren’t thousands of miles away, they are connected as one,” Garcetti said. “The sound of this bell is the sound of the freedom — a universal cry for all peoples to be free, but also for the friendship to continue between our two great nations.”
Samsung Targets South Korea’s Best Soldiers
Wall Street Journal
South Korea’s military and Samsung Electronics are teaming up to give some of the nation’s conscripts a leg-up in securing a job at the conglomerate after completing their compulsory military service.
Citing the Israeli defense-technology unit called Talpiot as its inspiration, the defense ministry said on Monday the army would select 150 soldiers as recommended software engineers for Samsung. The company will then choose 100 of those for a four-month training program on software languages, programming and other projects, Samsung said.
Samsung declined to specify how many of those selected it expects to hire. None are guaranteed a job, the ministry said, which declined to detail the selection criteria for the program.
No what-ifs to Lee Min-ho
For an actor to take on a seemingly reprising role that launched him into stardom must have been a risky and weary decision, one that could easily prompt speculation about complacency and “what-ifs” in the case of failure.
But Lee Min-ho, 26, took on such a role in the SBS drama “The Heirs.” The result? Another layer of gold added to the star he first achieved with “Boys Over Flowers” (2009).
“I was pretty confident that I had surmounted the Goo Jun-pyo role of the ‘Boys’ with my other work, but I did have some concerns at the beginning of ‘The Heirs.’ So I went into the new role thankful that people still appreciated my former character and determined to show a whole new one,” said Lee in an email interview with The Korea Times.
His latest role is a far more soulful portrayal of a high-school heir who falls in love with the daughter of a housemaid than his truculent one in the “Boys,” which was a Korean adaptation of the popularJapanese drama “Hana Yori Dango.
The 10 Best Lines from David Chang & David Choe’s DVDASA Podcast
Here’s video from Momofuku chef David Chang’s recent appearance on artist David Choe’s podcast DVDASA. In the course of their nearly three-hour conversation, Chang and Choe discuss career struggles, unexpected success, creativity, and boredom. ” Below are the top ten quotes and the video. Chang also talks about changes in the cooking field, saying that “overnight, cooking became white collar.” Have a look:
1. Choe, on mistaken identities: “When I lived in New York, never in my life had I been more mistaken for another than David Chang. I’d walk down the street and people would be like ‘Love your food!’”
2. Chang, on differences between now and when he first opened: “I think it’s harder to create now than it ever was before.”
3. Chang, on his time at Cafe Boulud: “It broke me down … The intensity. Something happened in cooking. Overnight it became white collar. The level of cooking at Cafe Boulud was so high, and the craftsmanship and the integrity … I was not doing well at Cafe Boulud. I worked my ass off, but I wasn’t crushing it.”
Danville native plays SF’s Warfield with Kpop band U-KISS
ABC News San Francisco
It’s one of the most popular band’s you’ve probably never heard of. U-KISS, a Korean boy band, has performed all over the world. Saturday night was very special as one member returned to his roots in the Bay Area to fulfill a childhood dream.
Through the piercing sound of screaming fans, U-KISS danced and sang their way through their first and only show in San Francisco on this tour.
And for 22-year-old lead performer Kevin Woo, this is a welcomed homecoming.
Leeteuk to Return to Military Service Today
Super Junior member Leeteuk will be returning back to his army base after taking a few days leave due to the death of his father and grandparents.
He was put on vacation from his military service on January 6, when he heard news that his father and his grandparents had passed away. Leeteuk, his sister (actress Park In Young), and their family and friends mourned for their loss at the funeral on January 8. Now that the deceased have been buried, he will finish his four nights and five day leave and head back to his base in Inje-gun, Gangwon-do.
It has been reported that Leeteuk quietly spent his vacation with his family. It is expected that he will finish up his remaining seven months in his military service. There have been some questions of whether he would finish his service earlier, because of the tragic family circumstances, but military officials expressed their doubts and explained that this would only be the case if Leeteuk became the legal and sole provider of his family.
More than a pipe dream
Kim Ho-jun, 24, Korea’s first and only Olympic snowboarder, is hoping to improve upon his “Vancouver lesson” at the upcoming Olympic Games in Sochi.
Kim finished ninth in the men’s halfpipe event in December with 67.25 points at the International Ski (FIS) Federation World Cup in Ruka, Finland. The result improved his chances of punching his ticket to the Olympics, to which 40 snowboarders will be invited, as it cemented his world rank as 36th on the table.
Another world cup, which will start on Jan. 19 (KST) at Copper Mountain in the United States, will confirm the final 40.
Although he became known to the public for the Vancouver Games, where he finished 26th at the preliminaries, he had been the nation’s number-one snowboarder for quite a long time.