Many South Koreans are considering leaving KakaoTalk and switching to other mobile messaging applications due to concerns over a government crackdown on rumors circulating on social media, according to the Associated Press.
In mid-September, the South Korean government announced that it would be taking “proactive” measures to prevent the spread of false and malicious postings on major portal websites through the creation of a special investigative team. This means if someone were to cause a serious social controversy through false accusations and rumors, then that individual could face detainment or punishment for his or her actions. The investigative team would then potentially gain access to private chat histories to seek out the origins of these rumors.
The announcement hasn’t sat well with South Korean social media users. Many have accused the government of censorship and attempting to control public opinion, and in the last few weeks, a considerable number have weighed dropping Kakao Talk in favor of different mobile messaging options.
The most popular alternative messaging application has been Telegram, a free Russia-based app that was created to avoid surveillance from Russian officials. On Friday, it was the most downloaded free app on the Apple App Store in South Korea; on the Google Play Store, Telegram was the No. 2 downloaded free communications app behind KakaoTalk. A few of the app’s South Korean users said in reviews that they left KakaoTalk to seek “asylum” from government surveillance and requested Telegram to add a Korean language service.
A research firm said an estimated 610,000 South Korean visited Telegram last week, a 40-fold increase compared to the numbers before the crackdown was announced. Smaller South Korean messaging apps, such as DonTalk, have seen higher downloads in recent weeks as well, along with other messengers that have their servers abroad.
Despite this mass migration, it’s hard to picture South Korea without KakaoTalk. After all, Nielsen reported at the end of 2013 that 93 percent of South Koreans used the application. Telegram hardly comes close, especially since it lacks the language option and special features such as emoticons and games that KakaoTalk provides.
President Park Geun-hye’s administration has been sensitive to social media. Many South Koreans were critical of the government’s response to the Sewol ferry sinking in April, and a number of them said their houses and social media accounts had been searched with court approval.
Park also relayed her unhappiness over online rumors during a Cabinet meeting on Sept. 16. She said that slander and false rumors on the Internet were causing division in the nation, and she ordered the justice ministry to investigate unfounded rumors on the Internet, which led to the formation of the investigative team.
They didn’t waste much time. On Oct. 1, a woman accused of libeling President Park was sentenced to four months in prison with a one-year stay of execution. The woman, identified only by the surname Tak, was found guilty of spreading false rumors that the president had an extramarital affair with her former mentor and his son-in-law.
Civic organizations also criticized police and government officials for recently seizing KakaoTalk chats and personal information of Labor Party leader Jung Jin-woo and about 3,000 of his acquaintances. They had gathered to demand a probe into the Sewol ferry disaster.
Daum Kakao, which was formed by the merger of Daum Communications and Kakao, has tried to assuage Kakao Talk users by saying that authorities could not look at users’ messages without a court order. Co-CEO of Daum Kakao, Lee Sirgoo, told reporters last week that the company had “top security technology to prevent leaks and hacking,” and that KakaoTalk messages were only stored on servers for only three days before getting permanently deleted.
However, Lee said Kakao Talk was still “subject to South Korean law” and would still hand over information “when there is a fair execution of law.”
North Korea has banned foreign tourists from using wireless Internet access, according to reports from China, presumably in an effort to further clamp down on its citizens from gaining access to information technology in a country that enforces rigid censorship.
The North Korean government notified “nearly all foreign embassies, international organizations and other foreigners working in the country that wireless Internet access will no longer be granted to foreign tourists, China’s Xinhua news agency reported Wednesday. Moreover, authorities ordered to dismantle Wi-Fi installments before Sept. 11, according to the report.
Although average North Korean citizens cannot freely access the Internet, foreigners visiting the country on tourist visas until recently have had relatively free access to social media, including Twitter and Facebook on the Wi-Fi network operated by the state-run mobile company Koryolink. The tech firm is a joint venture with Egypt’s Orascom Telecom and has about 2.5 million subscribers.
In recent years, an increasing number of North Koreans in Pyongyang reportedly began moving to homes near foreign embassies to gain an illicit access to the Wi-Fi systems to bypass the tightly controlled flow of information in the country.
North Korea “warned that those who violate the regulation would be severely fined if the wireless connection signal is detected in the examinations, but no explanations or reasons were given by the officials,” Xinhua reported.
Steven Yeun: ‘The Walking Dead’ aims for my groin Zap2it
“It seems like ‘The Walking Dead’ just kind of aims for my groin,” Steven Yeun, who spent the latest episode dangling inches above a water-bloated zombie in a well, tells Zap2it.com.
‘Walking Dead’ Creator Talks Steamy Sex Scene MTV.com
This week’s episode finally turned up the heat and gave us a whole lot of flesh — but not the kind “Walking Dead” heads are typically used to.
We’re talking, of course, about the steamy sex scene between go-to odd-jobs man Glenn (Steven Yeun) and newcomer Maggie (Lauren Cohan), daughter of farmer Hershel Greene. After Glenn successfully roped in an incredibly gruesome zombie at the bottom of a well (seriously, did you see that thing? That’s Greg Nicotero at his finest!), the former pizza delivery boy clearly demonstrated enough cojones to win Maggie’s heart — or at least her body. But following the spontaneous sexual encounter, Maggie called it quits, leaving Glenn more than a little bit confused about what just happened.
Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt is in Seoul to meet with executives at several major IT companies over the next couple of days. One of the first stops was the Blue House, where he talked with President Lee Myung-bak about cooperation between Korean IT firms and Google, and Mr. Schmidt said Google intends to set up a YouTube channel for Korean pop music, or K-pop.
Judging by the response to a recent series of K-pop concerts around the world, that’ll get plenty of interest online.
Interview: Miss Korea 2011 talks fashion, her new job and plastic surgery CNNGo
For Miss Korea 2011 Yi Seong Hye, photoshoots, interviews, community service and learning how to do her hair and makeup herself are all part of her weekly official duties as the public relations ambassador for the country.
After spending 13 years in the United States — she attended high school in Boston and is currently on leave from studying at Parsons in New York — Yi had to learn a great deal about Korean culture upon returning to to the country of her birth.
“The pageant was actually not why I returning to Korea,” says Yi, who turns 23 this week.
“I came back to be back with my family and to learn about Korean culture, and then the lucky opportunity of entering the pageant came along.”
Boat With 21 North Koreans Found Off South Korea’s Coast New York Times
Twenty-one North Koreans, including women and children, were found adrift in a boat off the west coast of South Korea last Sunday and asked for asylum, the South Korean military said Saturday.
The five-ton boat was spotted by a South Korean Navy patrol 23 miles south of the maritime border disputed by North Korea. The people on board were transferred to a maritime police boat and taken to Incheon, a major port outside Seoul, the South Korean capital.
“When they were found, they immediately expressed their intention to defect,” the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. “A joint inquiry team from the related government agencies are investigating what motivated them to defect.”
N.Korean soldiers shoot refugee in China: activist
AFP via Google News
A refugee was shot dead by North Korean border guards last month after reaching Chinese soil in a strengthened crackdown on escapees, according to a South Korean activist.
“During my trip to a border area on October 22, I witnessed a man shot to death after arriving in China,” Kim Yong-Hwa, head of the North Korea Refugees Human Rights Association of Korea, told AFP.
The man in his 40s was apparently shot by the North’s guards from near the northern border city of Hyesan and died in front of Chinese soldiers, he said.
“After a sound of shooting across the river, I saw him groaning and crawling on the ground. Several Chinese soldiers were there but did not care,” Kim said.
8Asians.com Readers Asked, John Cho Responds! 8Asians
Do you think it’s harder for the Asian American community to catch their big break in the biz? Why do you think it is or isn’t? – Anunez587
JC: Obviously, it is. You just look around and it’s a numbers game. There are fewer parts for Asians. The concept of “the big break” is something that works against Asians in that the majority of parts available to Asians aren’t meant to break anyone’s career open — they’re modest roles. So even if a person has a long career, there may have never been a “break.” I don’t know if my career has ever really “broken,” or if I’m just descending step by step. The concept of a break implies these floodgates will open and I don’t even think that has happened for me or Kal.
Korean-Japanese billionaire to give away fortune Korea Herald
Han Chang-woo, a Korean-Japanese businessman who founded Maruhan Corp., Japan’s largest operator of pachinko parlors, said Saturday he will donate all his wealth, worth $1.7 billion, to help improve relations between the two countries.
“I’d like to give away all the money I’ve made before I die. I can assure that my personal assets, except for the company to be handed over to my son and some money for my wife, will be used for the inter-development of Korea and Japan,” Han told reporters in Busan.
The 80-year-old Korean immigrant was ranked Japan’s 17th-richest person by Forbes last year with net worth of 132 billion yen ($1.7 billion).
Miele Guide: Korean restaurant finally makes Asia’s Top 20 CNNGo
Seoul took a big step forward as a culinary capital as its chefs won Asia-wide accolades in Singapore last week.
For the first time a Korean restaurant, Pierre Gagnaire à Séoul, was listed among Asia’s Top 20 in The Miele Guide, a compendium of the continent’s finest dining venues, released annually.
Its Jeju pork belly and tilefish dish was highlighted as a great example of what the kitchen talents there can do.
New York City Mayor Bloomberg Opens Up to Flushing Times Ledger (Queens, N.Y.)
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a town hall meeting in Flushing that he would try to help do away with the fines Korean business owners receive for storing kimchee at room temperature.
Asian American Sports with Rick Quan: The Darwin Barney Interview Hyphen
Our friend and sports expert Rick Quan continues his series of interviews with Asian American athletes with a profile of Chicago Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney. The quarter-Japanese, quarter-Korean, and half-Caucasian Barney hails from Beaverton, OR where a love of sports was instilled in him by his father who — at 5’6″ — played point guard as a college basketball player and taught his son to never impose limits on his abilities. Check out the video and learn how the 25-year-old grew to love piano once his parents stopped forcing him to take lessons, how he once thought he was Hawaiian, and catch the classic expression on the face of Dan Uggla from the Atlanta Braves as Barney ended his 33-game hitting streak this past August.
America’s favorite American Idol auditionor has found a new gig – with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
After his Season 3 audition performance in 2004 of Ricky Martin’s She Bangs, William Hung became a viral hit and received a cult-like following, which led him to numerous talk show appearances, three studio albums, and his primetime television show debut on Fox’s Arrested Development. Now, it appears Hung has made a career shift.
According to TMZ, Hung is working for the LA County Sheriff’s Department as a Technical Crime Analyst, meaning he is analyzing trends and patterns in crimes. This can help law enforcement deploy resources in a more effective manner, as well as playing a role in apprehending suspects, solving crimes, and formulating crime prevention strategies.
Beckman’s Kim keeps coming Daily Pilot (Irvine, Calif.)
Running back has been a force for the Patriots, who will face Corona del Mar for the Pacific Coast League title on Friday.
Airport immigration officials denied entry to three Japanese lawmakers on Monday, thwarting their plan to travel close to a set of tiny islands claimed by South Korea and Japan. The trio then refused for hours to board a return flight home in the confrontation, which has laid bare longstanding animosities between the two countries rooted in Japan’s colonialist past.
Troy actor Steven Yeun finds success in ‘Walking Dead’ on AMC Detroit News
The Troy High School and Kalamazoo College graduate was just happy to play Glenn, the pizza delivery guy turned hero.
Now that the show has become the basic cable network’s top-rated offering, drawing a record 5 million viewers, Yeun is enjoying the buzz and his character’s development. There’s also more to love this time around now that the series has a 13-episode run. And when the second season of “The Walking Dead” roars back Oct. 16, fans will see Glenn get a love interest named Maggie (Lauren Cohan, “Chuck” and “Supernatural”) and suddenly have more to lose.
Charges laid in May shooting death CTV News (Canada)
A man has been charged with first-degree murder on Friday in connection with the shooting death of John Kang in May.
Kang, 21, was shot outside a fast food restaurant near Victoria Park and Finch Avenue East on May 26.
L.A.’s Idea of Korean Food vs. What Koreans Really Eat L.A. Weekly
Most Angelenos know at least a few Korean dishes. Beyond that, appreciation of the range and depth appreciation of Korean cuisine varies quite a bit. We’re never surprised about the wide swath of positive or negative things anyone has to say about Korean food.
Around 25,000 [Korean] users of iPhones and iPads are preparing to sue Apple for gathering information on their locations without their consent.
Mirae Law, which is representing the Apple users in the collective action suit, said on Sunday that around 25,000 people comprise the first group of litigants, and that it plans to submit its suit at the beginning of this month.
Like all the children here, Ji-won is learning to spend time away from the internet.
It is something South Korea is increasingly concerned about. Internet addiction has long been recognised as a clinical condition here. And a number of high-profile cases of addicts who neglect themselves – or their children – to the point of death, have raised awareness even further.
Amid a rise in suicides and shooting incidents, South Korea’s mandatory military service comes under scrutiny.
Increasingly, the military’s ranks are filled with young men who have not experienced war and no longer consider their 21-month compulsory service a “sacred duty,” as their fathers did, but rather an inconvenient interruption of their civilian lives and careers.
That shift in attitude not only has worried superiors who count on a motivated force, but also has led to a generational clash. Many younger soldiers and marines are now unwilling to accept harsh treatment long tolerated and even encouraged in South Korea as a way of toughening up men for battle, including beatings severe enough to puncture eardrums and cut deeply into thighs.
YG Entertainment CEO Reveals Plans for Movement into the U.S. Market soompi
The head of the highly successful Korean pop label, which includes popular groups such as 2NE1 and Big Bang, said that the company plans a foray into the U.S. market within two years.
I now see the possibilities of advancing into the American market from closely observing the changes that have taken place in the European market. The marketing potential for it is endless. I’m secretly looking forward to the US market as well. China and the US are actually the toughest markets. The US is also the market that most singers are targeting but it’s so big that I think it’s more effective to polish content made in Korea and inform them of it than to promote in the country directly.
Reports of North Korea food shortages overblown, say US, South Korea
Christian Science Monitor via Yahoo News
The US and South Korea disagree with the United Nations World Food Program about the extent to which North Koreans suffer from lack of food.
Delivery driver shot Tuesday afternoon recently started his own business The Baltimore Sun
Chong Wan Yim, who emigrated from South Korea, held a variety of jobs in Baltimore — from running his own restaurant to starting his own delivery business just months ago.
“I think he was a really hard worker. He was trying to make an honest living,” said his friend, Jay Park. “There are no words to say about what happened. We’re are realizing how vulnerable we are, even in the daytime.”
While making a stop in an unmarked box truck about 3 p.m. Tuesday at the Erdman Shopping Center in Belair-Edison, the 55-year-old was shot in the chest. He died at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.
S.Korea Soccer League ‘Could Close Over Fixing’
AFP via Yahoo News
South Korea’s only professional football league could be closed down if it becomes embroiled in another match-fixing scandal, a government minister threatened Thursday.
The K-League has been rattled for weeks by a match-rigging controversy, with 10 current players facing criminal charges so far and one more charged by military prosecutors. Another implicated player committed suicide.
For well-educated Korean women in their late 20s, there simply aren’t enough suitable boys to go around. This isn’t just powder room or water cooler talk. The fact is backed up by hard statistics.
Theater Review | ‘Hamyul/Hamlet’ – Hamlet as Eager Korean Prince New York Times
There’s not much indecision from Shakespeare’s prince in “Hamyul/Hamlet,” a Korean-language adaptation of the play at La MaMa. But boy, is there intensity. In a show that runs just 90 minutes, this is a Hamlet quick to rage and eager for revenge, one who jettisons his infamous uncertainty long before the final scenes.
David Cho is stepping down from his position as publisher of The Awl. He is relocating to Los Angeles on Sunday to work for Bill Simmons at Grantland, he told friends in a mass e-mail.
Kim Jong-il’s Train Stops Short of Russian Border Chosun Ilbo
An armored train believed to be carrying North Korean leader Kim Jong-il was spotted heading to the Russian border on Tuesday evening. Diplomatic sources in Seoul said U.S. and South Korean intelligence officials confirmed that the armored train left Pyongyang and headed toward Hamgyong Province, and Kim was expected to meet Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Vladivostok. But the train never crossed the border, according to a source.
South Korea is already known for being one of the most connected countries in the world, but it may become one of the speediest as well.
By the end of 2012, South Korea plans on connecting every home to the internet at one gigabit per second. If you’re not a techy, just know that’s really fast – over 200 times as fast as the average household setup here in the U.S.
And the South Koreans won’t have to pay obscene amounts either – customers currently part of a pilot project are paying 30,000 won a month, around $27, which is more than reasonable, considering the fact that Japan charges $70 a month, while Chattanooga, Tenn.’s citywide gigabit service costs an astronomical $350 a month.
And a look at your own internet bill will probably shock you into depression: Americans pay an average of $46 a month for incomparably slower service.
“The gigabit Internet is essential for the future, absolutely essential, and all the technologists will tell you this,” Don Norman, co-founder of the Nielsen Norman Group, a leading technology consultancy in Fremont, Calif, told the New York Times. “We’re all going to be doing cloud computing, for example, and that won’t work if you’re not always connected. Games. Videoconferencing. Video on demand. All this will require huge bandwidth, huge speed.”