Monday’s Link Attack: SKorea’s Spy Scandal; Korea to File Complaint for Yuna Kim; Top Football Prospect Eyes Auburn
Author: Cassandra Kwok
Posted: March 24th, 2014
Filed Under: BLOG
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S. Korea keeps wary eye on talks between N. Korea, Japan
Yonhap News

South Korea has been keeping a wary eye on upcoming government-level talks between North Korea and Japan amid concerns that the diplomatic re-engagement between Pyongyang and Tokyo comes without any progress in efforts to denuclearize the North, two South Korean diplomats said Monday.

North Korea and Japan will reopen government-level talks in Beijing on Sunday for the first time in more than a year for discussions on a range of issues, including the North’s abduction of more than a dozen Japanese citizens decades ago.

The move comes as unpredictable North Korea is making a hawkish-dovish approach to the outside the world, while pushing ahead with nuclear and missile programs despite international sanctions.

Suicide Attempt Adds Another Twist to Korea Spy Scandal
Wall Street Journal

A South Korean intelligence officer attempted suicide on Saturday, marking another twist in the escalating spy scandal that has gripped the country in recent months.

The agent, identified only by his surname Kwon, was found unconscious in his car in a Seoul suburb, according to a fire department official, whose team first reached the site. Coal ash was found inside the car, in what appeared to be an attempt at carbon monoxide poisoning.

A spokesman for the National Intelligence Service on Monday confirmed Mr. Kwon’s suicide attempt and his hospitalization.

N.Korean Propaganda Against the South Is Failing
Chosun Ilbo

North Korean textbooks describe South Korea as a “fascist, military dictatorship” filled with “poverty and starvation,” but fewer and fewer North Koreans are buying the propaganda.

◆ “Living Hell”

North Korean textbooks teach that South Korea is dominated by “foreign powers” that trample on the Korean people and “taint” its history, language and way of life. A book of writings purportedly by former leader Kim Jong-il describes the South as a “living hell” dominated by the “terror and repression” of the U.S.

The North also teaches students that the U.S. must be driven out and South Korea liberated. Textbooks say U.S. soldiers stationed in South Korea “fire guns in broad daylight, plunder homes and rape women.” There are also rumors that North Korean defectors have their “eyes gouged out and limbs severed” if they go to South Korea.

‘I’d Been Brainwashed’: The North Korean Defector Living In London
Vice News

Kim Joo Il, 39, served eight years in the North Korean army. In 2005, after realizing his country wasn’t quite the paradise he’d been led to believe it was, he escaped the Hermit Kingdom by swimming to China. He now lives in London, where he’s the vice president of the Association of Korean Residents in Europe, works with North Korean refugees, and raises awareness about the North Korean regime’s human-rights violations. I recently caught up with him, and this is what he told me about life in his native country.

When I heard Kim Il-sung had died, I was near the 38th parallel [the DMZ between North and South Korea]. There was no electricity in North Korea that day, but I was so near the South Korean border that I heard them announce his death over the loudspeakers. I thought to myself, That’s bullshit—he’s not dead. How can the Great Leader be dead? He’s immortal.

It was impossible to imagine. I cried. We all did. Every morning, soldiers would line up to put flowers on his memorial, and we were all crying, crying, crying. Everyone was saying, “How can we survive, how will we live, what’s our destiny, now that our leader has gone?” If you’re brainwashed, that’s how you think.

Obamacare: Asian-Americans sign up in droves; Latinos disproportionately stay away
San Jose Mercury News

You’ve heard about the achievement gap, the wide disparity in educational performance between disadvantaged minorities and the rest of the student population.

Now comes the insurance gap, and in California it’s playing out most notably in the number of Latinos and Asian-Americans signing up for private health plans under the new health care law.

Of the nearly 700,000 people who enrolled in a health plan as of Feb. 28 through the Covered California health insurance exchange and identified their ethnicity, 23.1 percent were Asian or Pacific Islander. Twenty-two percent were Latino.

But the statistics are startling when you consider that Latinos make up 38.2 percent of California’s population and Asians just 13.7 percent.

Groupon therapy
The Economist

GROUPON seems to be confused. The American e-commerce company, best known for its “flash sales”, recently announced it would soon shutter its Korean subsidiary. Despite vigorous marketing since it entered South Korea’s thriving e-commerce market in 2011, Groupon Korea has remained a laggard behind the three big domestic rivals: TicketMonster—Korea’s first “social” e-commerce provider, launched in 2010—Coupang and WeMakePrice.

The decision to close its Korean subsidiary comes only a couple of months after Groupon bought TicketMonster (known locally as T-Mon, pictured) for $260m—making South Korea Groupon’s second-largest market outside America. Yet the two moves have a common root: the withdrawal is proof of how hard it is to crack the Korean e-commerce market—and the acquisition shows the best way how to go about it.

Groupon is not the only Western internet firm that has lost out to local champions and given up in recent years. In 2012 Yahoo stopped producing content for the Korean market, after years of trailing behind Naver and Daum, two home-bred search engines. Google accounts for a measly 4% of searches there. Auction, Gmarket and 11st Street, Korean hybrids of Amazon and eBay, do far better than its Western models. EBay was the first to take radical action: in 2009 it bought Gmarket for $1.2 billion. Groupon, too, plans to learn from T-Mon, its South Korean acquisition.

South Korea Will Finally File a Complaint About Kim Yu-Na’s Silver Medal
The Wire

With World Championships of figure skating beginning on Monday, South Korean Olympic Committee has said that it will file a complaint to the International Skating Union about an alleged breach of the code of ethics during the ladies competition at the Sochi Olympics. It’s a complaint the Koreans are afraid they’ll be punished for.

The complaint named judges Alla Shekhovtseva of Russia and Yuri Balkov of Ukraine. Shekhovtseva is married to the head of the Russian figure skating organization and was the judge seen hugging gold medal winner Adelina Sotnikova moments after the competition, and Balkov, who allegedly has ties to Moscow, was suspended for trying to fix a result during the 1998 Olympics. Both judges scored the ladies free skating competition, which saw Sotnikova receive the highest scores of her life and Kim Yu-na a silver medal free skate that many experts say was underscored.

The KOC and Korean Skating Union are asking for a thorough investigation of the judging composition and whether it was biased toward Sotnikova. And they filed the complaint knowing that it might result in retaliation. “We had to be very careful since an appeal or a complaint could strain relationships with international judges and bring disadvantages to our players in international games,” a KOC official said on Friday.

‘Auburn is my No. 1,’ says 4-star offensive lineman Kaleb Kim

Offensive lineman Kaleb Kim of Hoschton, Ga., named Auburn his favorite school on Saturday and hopes to make his commitment when spring practices end in May, reports 247Sports.

“Auburn is my No. 1,” Kim said after watching practice during his third visit to Auburn Saturday. “I liked what Coach (J.B.) Grimes is doing, and his intensity. I was standing by him the whole time. He gets after it. He’s intense. Face to face, he’s the nicest guy, but on the field it’s all business and he’ll get after you and I like that.”

The 6-foot-4, 280-pounder added Georgia is his second favorite school. He also holds offers from Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, Florida State and Ohio State, among others.

Liverpool and Chelsea battle to land Barca wonderkid striker
Daily Star (U.K.)

Reports in Spain claim that both title chasing teams want to sign the young striker to his first professional contract.

Both clubs have been successful in snaffling up other promising cadets from the Nou Camp, but will have to move fast if they want to do the same with Woo Lee.

The youngster is understood to be close to completing a deal with Barcelona, who has also been offered bumper deals from the English teams.

Barcelona are known to have lost several of their most promising stars to their European rivals in recent years, with Julio Pleguezuelo, Josimar and Canos leaving Spain to join Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool respectively.

Seoul Restaurants’ Missing Ingredient: Chefs
Wall Street Journal

Korean cuisine arouses so much national pride that some South Koreans reach into their own pockets to advertise a single dish on major U.S. newspapers. So why are South Korean restaurants often ignored by food critics?

Hooni Kim, owner and chef of New York’s Danji restaurant–one of the few Michelin-starred Korean restaurants–says Seoul’s food scene lacks a key ingredient: chef-owned Korean restaurants.

Many of South Korea’s family-owned, down-to-earth restaurants specialize in a single dish that are based on recipes laid down by family matriarchs, but don’t have chefs who create their own sauce base, according to Mr. Kim.

Crisis in Korea as younger generation abandons kimchi
The Guardian

Its unmistakable smell permeates Seoul subway carriages during the rush hour, and aficionados claim it is the healthiest food on the planet.

Once valued as a source of vitamin C before the arrival of refrigerators, kimchi now crops up on menus far from its birthplace on the Korean peninsula. The spicy, garlicky cabbage dish is to be found as a pizza topping and taco filling in the UK, Australia and the US, where the Obamas are said to be converts. Kimjang, the traditionally communal act of making kimchi, was recently awarded world cultural heritage status by Unesco.

But despite its growing popularity in restaurants from Los Angeles to London, South Korea’s national dish is in crisis in its country of origin. To kimchi’s basic ingredients of napa cabbage, garlic, seasoning and copious amounts of chili powder, we can now add a trade war with China and fears of lasting damage to Korean cultural identity.

Inside South Korea’s Coolest Military Theme Park

This is the Wanju Military Theme Park in South Korea. If only more video game first-person shooters were this colorful!P

The self-described “military theme park” is an airsoft pellet gun map that uses the GunPower system. According to YouTube user Ds4odk, this system employs wireless BB detectors—one on the front, one on the back, one of the helmet, and one on the face goggles. Hits are signaled by LED light and electronic sound feedback, and kills are then registered on a central computer, and this particular map has closed circuit cameras.P

Do note that the “SF Special Force” logos throughout might be nod to online shooter Special Force, which is, as tipster Sang points out, called Soldier Front in the States.

Ivy League Football Player Turning Heads With Strong Play
Author: Steve Han
Posted: November 27th, 2013
Filed Under: BLOG
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When Dartmouth junior kicker Riley Lyons went for an easy 21-yard field goal as time was expiring, Lyons’ teammates raised their arms in anticipation of a last-minute victory over the University of Pennsylvania on Oct. 5.

But Penn senior linebacker David Park made a miraculous block on the kick to send the game to overtime. The block by Park — listed at 6-foot-2 and 240 pounds — became the turning point that led to one of the most memorable wins in the history of the Quakers, after four overtimes.

“This one had as many highs and lows as any game I could recall,” Penn coach Al Bagnoli told the Daily Pennsylvanian after the game.

As a 7-year-old in South Korea, Park dreamed of becoming a professional soccer player. When his family brought him to the United States, he picked up football as soccer wasn’t nearly as accessible as it was back home. Continue Reading »

Thursday’s Link Attack: Bikers Ride Across DMZ for Peace; X Factor Star Bullied as a Child; K-Pop Popsicle
Author: Grace Kang
Posted: August 29th, 2013
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Editorial: Bring Kenneth Bae home
Seattle Times

A SENIOR U.S. envoy’s mission to bring American Kenneth Bae home from North Korea is a breakthrough moment in a long, frustrating saga.

Though no formal relations exist between the U.S. and North Korea, this one-day trip is an opportunity to save a man’s life and ease tensions between the two countries following Pyongyang’s defiant efforts to build its nuclear program.

Bae, a 45-year-old who has lived in Washington state and father of three, has been held in North Korea since November and was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for “hostile acts” against the government. In detention, Bae has lost more than 50 pounds. He is reportedly hospitalized and suffering from several illnesses.

South Korean Spy Agency Probes Opposition Party
Wall Street Journal

South Korea’s spy agency continued with its second day of raids Thursday on members of a minor opposition party, in an expanding probe into allegations they sought to topple President Park Geun-hye’s government.

The United Progressive Party, which holds six of the 298 seats in the country’s parliament, has repeatedly denied the charges. On Wednesday, three UPP members were arrested and state prosecutors say they imposed an overseas travel ban on 14 party members. South Korea’s spy agency, the National Intelligence Service, raided the offices and homes of 10 UPP officials Wednesday.

Daily NK Seeks Help From Readers
Wall Street Journal

A news service staffed by North Korean escapees is reaching out to overseas readers and supporters to finance a major upgrade to its website.

Daily NK, a Seoul-based online news outlet with contacts inside the North, says it needs $10,000 for a revamp so it can reach a larger audience across multiple devices.

Though the site has garnered attention among North Korea watchers as a source for exclusive news from inside the country, Daily NK has faced challenges with funding, according to Greg Pence, director of development.

New Zealand bikers roar across Korean border on ride for peace

Five motorcyclists from New Zealand made a rare crossing of the world’s most militarized border on Thursday as part of a ride for peace from the top of North Korea at Mount Baekdu to the South Korean island of Jeju.

On a journey home from Russia’s Far East, the bikers were allowed by the two Koreas to cross along a corridor near the west coast that has been cleared of landmines and is used by South Koreans visiting the jointly run Kaesong factory zone.

“We’re riding between Baekdu-san and Halla-san to make the point really that Korea has a 5,000-year history. It’s an amazing history,” said Gareth Morgan, one of the riders.

Speak Up With Jimmy: Miss Universe 1997 Brook Lee Reacts to Asian American Racial Questions (VIDEO)
Huffington Post

“You’re Asian. How are your eyes so big?” “If you’re looking straight ahead, can you see the floor and the ceiling at the same time?” “So what is the deal with Asia?”

These are examples of offensive questions Asian Americans get asked about their race, compiled by NPR in May 2013. NPR examined the challenges of racial dialogue by asking people to share, via Twitter, questions they get asked about their race. The published results — in a piece entitled The Questions People Get Asked About Their Race — revealed questions that were awkward, offensive, and sadly, unsurprising.

I selected some of the questions submitted by Asian American people, and posed them to Brook Lee, Miss Universe 1997. Brook is multi-racial, grew up in Hawaii and represented Hawaii in capturing the Miss USA 1997 crown before winning the Miss Universe pageant. Watch Brook’s reactions in this video.

Koreatown Man Gets Prison in 40,000 Fake Erectile Dysfunction Pills Case

A man caught smuggling nearly 40,000 counterfeit erectile dysfunction pills at Los Angeles International Airport was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in federal prison, prosecutors said.

Koreatown resident Kil Jun Lee, 73, was sentenced Monday after being found guilty of smuggling and three counts of trafficking in counterfeit goods.

Most of the 29,827 imitation Viagra pills, 8,993 fake Cialis pills and 793 Levitra look-alikes were discovered in Lee’s golf bag by LAX customs officials in February 2012 when he returned from a trip to China that included a stop in his native Korea.

Between identity and assimilation
The Korea Herald

While literary works by Korean writers such as Shin Kyung-sook and Kim Young-ha are rising to prominence overseas, especially in the U.S., a scholar’s latest book focuses on something similar yet different: the works of literature produced by Korean immigrants in America and their descendants.

A meaningful scholarly achievement in Korean Diaspora studies, the book explores the lives of Korean-American writers and their often multi-layered and autobiographical works.

The book, titled “Understanding Korean-American Literature,” is a result of Yoo Sun-mo’s 10 years of research that began in 1996, and includes interviews with some of the most prominent Korean-American writers including Chang-rae Lee, Helie Lee, Susan Choi and Mira Stout.

Karen O Pens Intimate Lullaby ‘The Moon Song’ for Spike Jonze’s ‘Her’

When the song says “Karen O,” it really means Karen O, period. “The Moon Song” is a new song from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman that appears on Spike Jonze’s upcoming film Her, which also has music by Arcade Fire. The stripped-down acoustic ballad is about as cozy as joining O in her apartment. In fact, she recorded the song at home, evident from the sirens that cut across the opening seconds. Nothing much more here than shambling guitar and a pair of yearning, expressive vocal tracks. “Your shadow follows me all day / Making sure that I’m okay / And we’re a million miles away,” she concludes.

‘Some people thought I was stupid’: X Factor star Dami recalls terrible childhood
The Age (Australia)

She is the darling of The X Factor, loved by the Minogue sisters and one of the favourites to win this year’s series on Channel Seven. But when Dami Im was nine years old, Australia was a much tougher place to be.

Newly arrived in Brisbane from South Korea, she couldn’t speak English and was teased terribly by the other children at her primary school.

“People made fun of me and some people thought I was stupid because I couldn’t speak properly,” she says. “But I played piano during assembly and they were like, ‘wow, she’s really good’ and that’s when people stopped looking down at me.”

Korea United: Football hero Ryang Yong-Gi’s ambitious goal
CNN Sports

North Korea is one of the world’s most mysterious and secretive states, regarded as a political pariah and at bitter loggerheads with its neighbor South Korea.

Few people are allowed past its tightly-sealed borders but footballer Ryang Yong-Gi, who was born and raised in Japan by a loyally North Korean family, is in a privileged position when it comes to entering and exiting.

The 31-year-old is captain of top Japanese club Vegalta Sendai, and also plays for the national side of North Korea — which in the past has faced allegations of mistreatment of its sports teams after major events.

“My number one hope is for North and South Korea to become united,” he told CNN’s Human to Hero series.

Owner of S. Korean independent ball club to join U.S. team as pitcher
Yonhap News

Heo Min, the owner of a South Korean independent baseball team the Goyang Wonders, will join a North American independent league as a pitcher, the Wonders announced on Thursday.

The 37-year-old entrepreneur will pitch for the Rockland Boulders in the Canadian American Association of Professional Baseball, commonly known as the Can-Am League, the Wonders said, calling Heo “the first South Korean knuckleballer to reach a U.S. league.”

Headquartered in Durham, North Carolina, the league is made up of two teams from New Jersey, one team from New York and two from Quebec. These clubs have no affiliation with Major League Baseball (MLB) teams, and the level of play is said to be comparable to that of Class A in the minors.

Transformation of Hoover High football’s Alvin Kim
Glendale News-Press (Calif.)

Football wasn’t Alvin Kim’s first choice at Hoover High; it wasn’t even his second.

“I wanted to play golf when I came in as a freshman,” said Kim, a senior. “But that didn’t work out. And then I wanted to try out for the basketball team, but I missed the tryouts.”

Never having played organized football, Kim was convinced by his friend, Se Jun Kim, to try out for the Tornadoes football team. The only problem was the football season was more than half over and Alvin Kim had no idea what position he could play, or if he was any good at the sport.

“It was the seventh week of the season and I asked the coach if I could try out for the team,” Alvin Kim said. “He wouldn’t let me, but I begged him to please let me come out for the team. He finally gave in and said if I could run something like 14 laps around the track my freshman year that I could make the team. I was able to do that and I made the team.

Magnolia launches ‘K-Pop’ ice cream bar
Inquirer Lifestyle (Philippines)

Korean pop or K-Pop culture has caught the world’s attention with its peculiar, trendy approach to South Korean fashion, food, technology, and, most specially, pop music.

Now, even ice cream lovers can have a taste of Korean pop. Magnolia Inc., one of the country’s leading ice cream makers, has introduced to the market its newest product offering: Magnolia K-Pop, an ice cream bar featuring strawberry, honeydew, banana and mango flavors.

Magnolia K-Pop is not your ordinary ice cream bar. It is smooth, creamy, and has a rich, fruity taste.

Seoul’s Modern Architectural Marvels

After the end of the Korean war, Seoul, like many Korean cities, was left in shambles. Reasonably so, rebuilding efforts were focused more on practicality than aesthetics to reconstruct the city quickly and effectively. These days, however, Seoul’s skyline is an eclectic mishmash of modern architecture, from towering cement apartment complexes to eye-catching glass and steel marvels. Impressive modern buildings can be found just about anywhere in Seoul, a UNESCO City of Design, but there are a certain few that I think visitors should keep an eye out for while exploring the city. Check them out below.

Soccer Star Park Ji-Sung Dating TV Personality
Author: Steve Han
Posted: June 20th, 2013
Filed Under: BLOG
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Photo via Chosun Ilbo

South Korean soccer star Park Ji-sung is dating a television host, he confirmed at a press conference held in his hometown of Suwon on Thursday.

The Queens Park Rangers midfielder was spotted on Tuesday out on a date with Kim Min-ji, the co-host of a weekly soccer highlight program on South Korean TV network SBS. South Korean tabloid Sports Seoul ran 10 photographs of the couple enjoying a date at Hangang Riverside Park in Seoul.

The former Manchester United star, who has long been averse to opening up about his personal life to the public, admitted he was dating Kim. Continue Reading »

South Korea Beats Uzbekistan, On Brink of World Cup Berth
Author: Steve Han
Posted: June 11th, 2013
Filed Under: BLOG
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It didn’t come easy, but the South Korean national soccer team ground out a desperately needed 1-0 victory over Uzbekistan on Tuesday to close in on its eighth consecutive World Cup berth.

Akmal Shorakhmedov headed Kim Young-kwon’s left-footed cross from the right flank into his own net in the 43rd minute to decide the match.

The man of the match honor went to midfielder Lee Myung-joo, who made his national team debut in front of 50,000 fans at Seoul World Cup Stadium. The 22-year-old patrolled Korea’s midfield and filled the void left by injured Kim Nam-il, and other regulars such as Ki Sung-yueng and Koo Ja-cheol, both of whom were controversially left out of the squad. Continue Reading »

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