Separated Koreans part again in tears with no hope of reunion
Hundreds of South Korean and North Koreans burst into tears as they bade farewell, perhaps for good, to each other on Tuesday at a North Korean mountain resort after their first reunions since the 1950-53 Korean War.
Some of them sang doleful Korean folk songs as their long-lost relatives from North Korea were told to take buses at the end of their final reunions that lasted only about 50 minutes at Mount Kumgang, a scenic resort on the North’s east coast.
“Brother, brother, how can I live without you?” Park Jong-soon, a 68-year-old South Korean, wailed as she grabbed her 88-year-old North Korean brother’s hand sticking out of a bus window.
As tearful Korean reunions end, more seen unlikely
The 88-year-old North Korean man stretched his arms out the bus window to grasp the hands of his South Korean sister one final time before the end of rare reunions Tuesday between hundreds of family members separated for decades by war and politics.
“Brother, brother, my brother! How can I live without you?” the sister, Park Jong-soon, cried out from the parking lot at the North’s scenic Diamond Mountain resort, according to South Korean media pool reports.
Wiping away tears, Pak Jong Song shouted back: “Stay healthy! We’ll see each other again if we’re healthy.”
South Korea Committee to Prepare for Reunification with North
Voice of America
South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye, has announced a committee to prepare for reunification with North Korea. President Park said unifying with the north would be an economic bonanza, but analysts say the south would face a heavy financial and legal burden.
President Park announced the plans to create a blue print for reuniting South Korea with the North on Tuesday.
In a televised speech marking her first year in office, Park said she would form a preparatory committee directly under the presidential office. She said the committee will expand dialogue and private exchanges with Pyongyang.
N. Korean patrol ship violates sea border amid family reunions
A North Korean patrol ship violated the tensely guarded western maritime border several times Monday night, but it retreated after repeated South Korean military warnings, Seoul’s defense ministry said Tuesday.
The North Korean vessel crossed the Northern Limit Line (NLL), a de facto maritime border, at around 10:46 p.m. Monday, and sailed to a location about 23.4 kilometers west of South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island in the Yellow Sea.
The ship returned to its territory at around 2:25 a.m. Tuesday after the South Korean military broadcast warnings 10 times, the defense ministry’s spokesman said.
“The North Korean ship’s NLL violation is seen as part of military drills or an inspection of (the South Korean military),” Kim Min-seok said in a briefing. “It is believed that (the North Korean vessel) intended to test the South Korean military.”
Jang Song-taek ‘Killed for Sleazy Past’
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s uncle was executed chiefly for his role overseeing a thinly disguised prostitution ring for the nomenklatura, the Kim family’s former sushi chef claims.
Kenji Fujimoto claimed Jang Song-taek was eliminated because of his role supplying young women for a “pleasure brigade” for former leader Kim Jong-il, because his son detested his father’s womanizing.
Fujimoto told the U.K.’s Daily Mail on Saturday that when Kim Jong-un returned to North Korea aged 18 from study abroad, he “found himself exposed to his father’s ‘pleasure brigade,’” which are groups of beautiful young women who sing, strip and perform massages or sexual favors.
North Korea Cloaked in Darkness
Wall Street Journal
One of the most stunning—and revealing—photos ever taken of North Korea was a 2002 satellite image of the peninsula at night, shown by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in a Pentagon briefing.
The photo showed the lights of South Korean conurbations, and even large clusters of fishing boats, in stark contrast to an almost entirely black North Korea. Other than a small spot of light in the showcase capital Pyongyang and the outline of the country, North Korea wouldn’t have been visible at all.
“South Korea is filled with lights and energy and vitality and a booming economy; North Korea is dark. It is a tragedy what’s being done in that country,” Mr. Rumsfeld said.
Foreigners with Korean ancestry on rise in S. Korea
Yonhap News via GlobalPost
The number of foreigners in South Korea with Korean ethnic background surpassed the 200,000 mark for the first time last year, thanks in part to increased inflow of ethnic Koreans from China, data showed Monday.
According to the data by the Ministry of Justice, there were 233,269 foreign nationals with Korean ancestry residing in the country in 2013, a 24.3 percent jump from a year earlier.
The figure accounted for 14.8 percent of the total number of foreigners living in South Korea, the data showed.
South Korea’s ‘Running Man’ in Australia
Cast and crew of popular South Korean variety show Running Man have touched down in Australia to film a Down Under special.
The program, in which contestants are pitted against each other in a race against time to solve a series of physical challenges and puzzles in landmarks and cities, has a strong following in its native South Korea, and has been translated into English, Spanish and Arabic.
The variety show has previously visited countries such as Thailand, Macao and Vietnam but the upcoming Australia special will be the first episode of Running Man that takes place in a country outside of Asia.
S. Korean athletes return home from Sochi
Yonhap News via GlobalPost
South Korean athletes returned home Tuesday after two weeks of thrilling competition at the winter games in the Russian city of Sochi.
South Korea had its largest-ever Winter Olympics delegation, with 71 athletes competing in every sport except hockey.
It ended in 13th place, with three gold medals — one by speed skater Lee Sang-hwa and two by short tracker Park Seung-hi — along with three silver and two bronze medals, coming up just short of its stated goal of winning four gold for a top-10 finish in the medals.
Figure Skating at the Olympics: Justice served
THERE’S something about figure skating that makes it a magnet for scandal. Fans of other pastimes can try to get themselves worked up over performance-enhancing drugs, illicit payments to amateurs or team tax fraud. But when it comes to shock value, nothing can compete with the Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding imbroglio or the vote-trading ring at the 2002 Olympics. Judging by commentators’ hyperbolic reaction to the sport’s outrage du jour, Adelina Sotnikova’s victory over Yuna Kim on February 20th at the Winter Olympics, audiences could be forgiven for believing that the upset was a travesty of justice on a par with skating’s worst offences. But what the criticism really demonstrates is that in a discipline whose scoring is inescapably subjective, the media’s appetite for controversy will always trump their obligation to help the public understand what’s really going on in an event that only attracts mass attention once every four years.
Wie’s swing coach says ex-phenom refreshed after winter break
When do I get the 30 for 30 on Michelle Wie’s career? Do I have to wait until she’s done playing or can we start rolling tape on that thing right away?
Wie finished tied for fourth at the Honda LPGA Thailand tournament on Sunday, after swing coach David Leadbetter said he thinks she’s enjoying golf more than she has in a while.
“I think she fell out of love with the game to an extent,” said Leadbetter. He told Wie to take five weeks over the winter.
“I think it’s the first time since she was 5 years old that she has gone that long without touching a golf club,” Leadbetter said. “We had a little boot camp before the start of this year, and you could see she was really refreshed, really ready to go.”
Kakao to offer money transfers
Kakao, the operator of the country’s most popular messaging application KakaoTalk, will run a test of a money transfer service next month in cooperation with banks, the company’s chief executive said Monday.
“We have been working with banks over the past 12 months to start financial services for KakaoTalk. We are now fine-tuning the details of the business partnership,” co-CEO Lee Sir-goo told The Korea Times Monday (KST) on the sidelines of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona.
Kakao will partner with 16 commercial banks to allow its users to send and receive small amounts of money through the messaging app. For example, they will be able to transfer money gifts for weddings or condolence money for funerals, Lee said.
Koreas Plan Family Reunion Talks
Wall Street Journal
The two Koreas on Monday appeared to move closer to resuming reunions of families separated by the Korean War after North Korea agreed to hold preparatory talks at the border this week.
Breaking its weeklong silence on the South’s proposal that the reunions be held from Feb. 17 to 22, Pyongyang suggested a meeting on the northern side of the Panmunjom border village on Wednesday or Thursday
The South notified the North that it preferred Wednesday, Seoul’s unification ministry said. North Korea later agreed.
“Given the urgency of the family-reunion issue, the government will prepare for the reunions to resume as soon as possible,” ministry spokesman Kim Eui-do told a regular briefing.
French cartoon festival highlights sex slavery victims
A special exhibition about Korean women forced into sexual slavery during World War II attracted nearly 17,000 visitors during the four-day Angouleme International Comics Festival in France.
On Sunday, Minister of Gender Equality and Family Cho Yoon-sun welcomed the event for helping raise international awareness of the tragedy of wartime victims.
“The power of art is enormous. I feel vindicated that the wartime sex slavery issue has become a universal wartime human rights issue through the art of comics at this festival,” Cho was quoted by the ministry as saying.
The minister promised that she would continue to try and raise the issue at the international level through diverse forms of art.
Inside North Korea’s Western-funded university
In the heart of North Korea’s dictatorship, a university – largely paid for by the West – is attempting to open the minds of the state’s future elite. The BBC’s Panorama has been granted unique access.
Entering the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, it is immediately clear this is no ordinary academic institution.
A military guard salutes us as our vehicle passes through the security checkpoint. Once inside the campus we hear the sound of marching and singing, not more guards but the students themselves.
They are the sons of some of the most powerful men in North Korea, including senior military figures.
Wary NKorea struggles to stay afloat in info age
It’s late afternoon at the e-library in North Korea’s Kim Il Sung University, where row after row of smartly dressed students sit quietly, their faces bathed in the glow of computer displays as they surf the Internet. On the surface, it’s a familiar-seeming scene, which is exactly why officials are offering it up for a look.
North Korea is literally off the charts regarding Internet freedoms. There essentially aren’t any. But the country is increasingly online. Though it deliberately and meticulously keeps its people isolated and in the dark about the outside world, it knows it must enter the information age to survive in the global economy.
As with so many other aspects of its internal workings, North Korea has tried hard to keep its relationship to the Internet hidden from foreign eyes. But it opened that door just a crack recently for The Associated Press to reveal a self-contained, tightly controlled Intranet called Kwangmyong, or ‘‘Bright.’’
Document shows Japan’s aggressive lobbying against East Sea name
The Japanese Embassy in Washington signed a US$75,000 contract recently with a major U.S. public affairs firm in a bid to kill a legislation on the use of the “East Sea” name, according to a related document.
Yonhap News Agency on Sunday obtained the four-page contract signed in mid-December between the embassy and McGuireWoods Consulting LLC (MWC). It details the company’s strategy to block a legislative move in the U.S. state of Virginia on identifying the body of waters between Korea and Japan.
The legislation would require local school textbooks to name it the East Sea as well as the Sea of Japan.
MWC is developing “white papers and talking points on why the ‘East Sea’ proposal is bad public policy,” reads the document from the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) database of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Chun Doo-hwan’s Son Owns Prime Real Estate in U.S.
Disgraced ex-president Chun Doo-hwan’s son Jae-yong and his wife, actress Park Sang-ah, own a US$2.4-million home in Orange County, California, giving the lie to his claim that he is broke.
The property was discovered by journalist Ahn Chi-yong, who analyzed real estate registration documents and other materials for the Chosun Ilbo’s premium website on Sunday.
Prosecutors last month revised an arraignment of disgraced Chun Jae-yong and his uncle Lee Chang-seok, reducing the amount of taxes they allegedly evaded from W6 billion to W2.7 billion (US$1=W1,073). Prosecutors accepted Chun’s claim that he did not manipulate a real estate contract for the sale of a plot in Osan, south of Seoul to dodge W6 billion in taxes.
South Koreans drink twice as much liquor as Russians and more than four times as much as Americans
The biggest hard alcohol drinkers on the globe aren’t cuddled up somewhere in sub-zero Siberia; they’re sipping on Soju, in South Korea.
South Koreans drink 13.7 shots of liquor per week on average, which is the most in the world. And of 44 other countries analyzed by Euromonitor, none comes anywhere close. The Russians, the second biggest in Euromonitor’s sample, down 6.3 shots per week; Filipinos drink roughly 5.4 shots per week; and Americans consume only 3.3.
South Korea’s unparalleled liquor consumption is almost entirely due to the country’s love for a certain fermented rice spirit called Soju. The South Korean liquor accounts for 97% of the country’s spirits market.
S. Korea Crackdown on Underground Economy Stokes Angst: Economy
South Korean (KOGDPQOQ) bar owner Jeong Young Soo doused his body with paint thinner and set himself aflame, his final protest against a government crackdown to collect more tax from his industry.
The shock in front of Chuncheon city hall, northeast of Seoul, highlighted an underlying tension as President Park Geun Hye tries to squeeze an extra 27.2 trillion won ($25 billion) in revenue from the undocumented economy.
Extra pressure on groups from bar owners to doctors to mom-and-pop retailers contrasts with Park’s 2012 election-campaign focus on reducing the scope of industrial groups, known as chaebol, to create space for small- and medium-sized businesses. The clampdown may have the opposite effect, said Jean Lim, a Seoul-based economist at Korea Institute of Finance, a non-profit research center.
‘Frozen’ Sets South Korean Box-Office Record for Animated Film
Frozen has became the highest-grossing animated feature ever in South Korea over the weekend, while also selling the most tickets during the country’s long Lunar New Year break from Jan. 30 to Feb. 2. According to the Korean Film Council (KOFIC), the Disney film has grossed $44.17 million (47.7 billion won) in South Korea, passing prior record holder Kung Fu Panda 2, which pulled in $41 million (44.3 billion won) in 2011.
Frozen, about two estranged sister princesses trying to break a wintry spell that freezes their kingdom, has so far drawn more than 6 million admissions in South Korea as of Monday. It reached the box-office milestone in just 18 days, after taking only 17 days since opening on Jan. 16 to reach 5 million admissions. The film is expected to easily break 7 million admissions in the days ahead.
South Korea’s film offices often use admissions as their primary measure.
The Frozen soundtrack is also reportedly selling well, according to local music charts.
Expectations high for Korea’s Olympians
Figure skater Kim Yu-na and short-rack skater Shim Suk-hee are expected to lead South Korea to a respectable medal count behind traditional powerhouses at the Sochi Winter Olympics, according to recent projections.
In its preview of the Games, the Associated Press (AP) predicted Korea would win six gold, two silver and three bronze medals. That would put Korea in seventh place overall according to gold medal count.
Meanwhile, Sport Illustrated magazine predicted Korea would capture five gold, five silver and three bronze medals, finishing eighth in gold medals.
Both had Kim defending her gold medal in women’s figure staking over opponents such as Mao Asada of Japan and Julia Lipnitskaia of Russia.
James Hahn ready to make his move at Pebble Beach
San Francisco Chronicle
One year later, James Hahn still hears more about his dance moves than his golf skills.
Hahn stitched together a strong West Coast swing in 2013 – tie for fourth in Palm Springs, tie for 16th in Scottsdale, tie for third at Pebble Beach. Even so, most fans remember him for his animated, Gangnam-style dance off the No. 16 green at TPC Scottsdale (the party hole), after he rolled home a 20-foot birdie putt in the final round.
In nearly every tournament since then, spectators have asked Hahn to dance again. Even after a routine par on the first hole? Uh, no, he’s not really in the mood.
Pot Bar Now Opens Wednesday, Here’s What to Drink
The Line Hotel, a revamp of what was formerly known as The Wilshire Hotel on Wilshire Boulevard at Normandie in Koreatown, has a cool new minimalist look and a top shelf set of food and drink operators poised to make waves. While the hotel has been up and running for guests since early January, the property’s food and drink components are still in the works, but come Wednesday (yes, slight delay) The Line’s lobby bar, Pot Bar, part of Roy Choi’s Pot restaurant, will soft roll. Choi, who earned a name for his prized mashup of Korean and Mexican flavors at Kogi, has teamed up with eat-your-drink chef Matthew Biancaniello, a barman applauded for his own crazy mashup cocktails that sometimes involve uni and white truffles.
How Choco Pie infiltrated North Korea’s sweet tooth
The first time the South Korean factory owner watched his North Korean employees nibble on a Choco Pie, they appeared shocked — even overwhelmed.
He summed up their reaction to the South Korean snack in one word: “Ecstasy.”
Much like what Twinkies are to Americans, South Korea’s Choco Pies — two disc-shaped, chocolate-covered cakes, sandwiching a rubbery layer of marshmallow cream — are ubiquitous, cost less than 50 cents and are full of empty calories.
S. Korea holds live-fire drill despite North’s warning
South Korea on Tuesday carried out a live-fire drill on its northwestern islands despite North Korea’s warning of “grave consequences,” but the closely-watched exercise ended without clashes with the communist state.
South Korea has carried out live-fire exercises on the frontline islands every two or three months to improve Marine Corps’ readiness. The drills have often been met by protest from Pyongyang.
Ahead of Tuesday’s exercise, the North’s National Defense Commission sent a fax through the western military hotline to National Security Office chief Kim Jang-soo urging President Park Geun-hye to cancel it, defense ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said.
Korea slams Japan over Dokdo
South Korea Tuesday denounced Japan for Claiming Korea’s easternmost islets of Dokdo in its newly revised teaching manuals for Middle and high schools.
The denouncement follows the Japanese Education ministry’s Disclosure of new manuals stating that Dokdo is Japanese Territory, rejecting Seoul’s earlier Call to withdraw the Claim.
“Japan Will Face the consequences,” said Cho Tai-Young, a Spokesman at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Decision to keep U of I Urbana-Champaign campus open leads to twitter firestorm
Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Ill.)
No disciplinary action is planned against the students who sent racist, sexist and threatening tweets targeting University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise who declined to offer a day off due to the weather on Monday.
The tweets were sent after an email was delivered to all students in the Urbana-Champaign campus Sunday that advised them to bundle up and be careful Monday because of the extreme cold, said University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign spokeswoman Robin Kaler.
Kaler said they notified university police, who determined there was no “threat.” The university is not planning any disciplinary action, characterizing it as “a free speech issue.’’
Sacramento-area woman’s quest for Korean birth mother stalls
Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)
Fawn Press-Dawson’s quest to find her birth mother has stalled after two weeks in South Korea.
The 21-year-old from Gold River – whose well-chronicled search has drawn international attention – flew to Seoul with her adoptive mom, Andee Press-Dawson, on Jan. 10, armed with her adoption papers, her birth mother’s name and the knowledge that only a tiny number of Korean adoptees actually find their biological parents.
Last Thursday, Andee came home while Fawn moved into a guest house for Korean adoptees searching for their roots operated by South Korea’s Eastern Social Welfare Society.
Lawsuit filed in collapse of Rittenhouse fire escape
A civil lawsuit has been filed against the owner and landlord of a Center City apartment building where a fire escape collapsed, killing one man and seriously injuring two women.
The suit was filed on Monday on behalf of the families of 22-year-old Albert Suh and 24-year-old Laura O’Brien.
It was just before midnight on January 12th when Suh, O’Brien, and a thirdperson, identified as Nancy Chen, were standing on the fire escape outside their fourth floor apartment, located at 229 South 22nd Street in the city’s Rittenhouse section.
The roommates were throwing a party, and had allegedly stepped out onto the fire escape when the collapse occurred, sending all three plummeting 40 feet to the ground below.
Vienna man sentenced in largest-ever bid-rigging scheme
Oh Sung Kwon, 48, a Northern Virginia businessman, was sentenced yesterday to 46 months in prison on federal charges stemming from a bribery scheme in which he paid thousands of dollars to an Army official in return for government contracts, as well as a separate scheme involving fraudulent real estate sales and refinances.
Kwon, also known as Thomas Kwon, of Vienna, pled guilty in September 2012 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to one count each of bribery, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, and willful failure to file a tax return. He was sentenced by the Hon. Emmet G. Sullivan. Judge Sullivan also ordered Kwon to pay $1,188,500 in restitution and the same amount in a forfeiture money judgment. Upon completion of his prison term, Kwon will be placed on three years of supervised release.
Kwon was the co-founder and chief executive officer of Avenciatech Inc., a government contractor based in Annandale. He is among 17 people and one corporation that pled guilty to federal charges for their roles in the largest domestic bribery and bid-rigging scheme in the history of federal contracting. The investigation is continuing.
Internet Cafes Get a Makeover
Wall Street Journal
In South Korea, Internet cafes, known as PC Bangs, have long been places of refuge for hardcore video gamers battling it out in games like League of Legends.
But some now feel they’re under attack from a push to make PC Bangs more hygienic, including a complete smoking ban from this year. The core clientele of PC Bangs have long been predominantly male, many of whom enjoy a good smoke while gaming.
Some in the industry are scrambling to find ways to attract new clients by giving PC Bang interiors drastic makeovers and looking for alternative sources of revenue, such as by turning into hybrid restaurants. The changes aren’t being welcomed by regulars of these cafes.
‘The Bachelor’ week 4 recap: Juan Pablo takes ladies to South Korea
The fourth episode of this season’s “The Bachelor” saw Juan Pablo take the ladies outside of the country for the first time. JuanPabs and the ladies flew to Seoul, South Korea. There was a one-on-one date and two group dates.
Lots of kissing, flesh-eating fish, tears, a Korean pop group, eating octopus and, yes, more cattiness. Monday night’s episode had it all. When the episode finished, two more ladies were sent home and the plan to travel to Vietnam was revealed as the remaining ladies sipped champagne.
The group arrived in South Korea for a few days. Juan Pablo can’t even speak English all that well and now, going to Korea, he was forced to try his hand at another language.
The first date card arrived and read, “Pop!”
Korean SNL to meet original SNL
Hosts of the Korean version of Saturday Night Live (SNL) will fly to New York City this week to watch the live taping of an episode of the original SNL.
A spokesman for tvN, a cable channel that produces SNL Korea, said on Monday top comedian Shin Dong-yup and Yoo Se-yoon will depart for NYC on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, at the invitation of NBC, a major American broadcaster that created the widely beloved late-night live television sketch comedy show in 1975.
“The two will visit the live studio for SNL and meet with its directors,” tvN said in a statement. “They will discuss a variety of production issues with the directors. They also plan to participate in events promoting Korean culture.”
Kim Yu-na gets favorable draw
Figure-skating megastar Kim Yu-na is about as sure-fire a gold-medal candidate as there is among the athletes booked for the Sochi Winter Olympics.
Now, observers think her odds improved even further after she was placed in the fourth group of skaters competing in the women’s individual competition that begins on Feb. 20.
In the Olympics, athletes in figure-skating appear in reverse order of the world rankings.
While Kim, the reigning Olympic champion, is clearly the woman to beat at Sochi, her world ranking slipped to No. 15 as she missed several scheduled appearances during the 2013-14 season after suffering a foot injury in September.
On a sled and a prayer, Korea’s ‘Miracles on Asphalt’
For South Korea’s “Miracles on Asphalt” bobsleigh team, having ice on the track is a big problem.
Chilled to the bone by the biting cold of the Taebaek Mountain range, officials from the Korea Bobsleigh Skeleton Federation use shovels and mops to smash and sweep ice from the ‘push track’, which simulates the action at the start of a run.
The Alpensia Ski Resort in Pyeongchang, which is to host the 2018 Winter Games, has no proper ice track and athletes have to push their sleds on rails to practice the all-important start.
Despite the inadequate facilities, South Korea will compete in the skeleton at the February 7-23 Sochi Games, as well as sending two teams in both the men’s two- and four-man bobsleigh events and a two-woman bobsleigh team.
Lydia Ko’s profile expected to soar in the USA
Stuff (New Zealand)
Lydia Ko is already a huge name in golf, but one of the world’s leading golf writers predicts she could follow the likes of Tiger Woods and Michelle Wie and have an appeal that transcends the sport.
Two months after turning professional, 16-year-old Ko is the talk of the US golf scene as she heads to Christchurch to defend her New Zealand Women’s Open title at Clearwater, starting on Friday.
The start of her rookie season at the Bahamas Classic this week when she finished seventh equal made headlines as did her switch from Kiwi coach of 11 years Guy Wilson to David Leadbetter, the self-proclaimed “world’s leading golf instructor”.
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.”
Teenage golf phenom Lydia Ko snatched her first victory as a pro on Sunday at the Swinging Skirts World Ladies Masters in Taiwan.
The 16-year-old Korean New Zealander rallied from three shots behind midway through the final round and won by three strokes over So-yeon Ryu. LPGA Player of the Year Inbee Park came in third.
“Ryu is a great player,” Ko said at a press conference. “It’s just lucky I won three shots ahead.” Continue Reading »