The North Korean Purge That Didn’t Happen
Wall Street Journal
Call it a helpful reminder that much of what you hear about North Korea is probably not true.
A senior North Korean military official close to dictator Kim Jong Un reemerged in state media on Friday after disappearing from public view for a few weeks. Speculation had been building that Choe Ryong Hae might have been purged after a report from a radio station operated by North Korean defectors that Mr. Choe was arrested on Feb. 21.
The report said Mr. Choe had fallen short in his duties to keep troops sufficiently devoted to Mr. Kim, among other failings.
North Korean election provides clues to reclusive Stalinist state
Reading the official website of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and you would be forgiven for thinking the reclusive Stalinist state was the Cayman Islands of East Asia.
No taxes, zero unemployment and a performance-related reward-for-labor bonus regime, North Korea touts itself as having “a people-centered social system in which the masses of the working people are the masters of everything and everything in society serves them.”
This Sunday, North Koreans will be required to show their assent for this political system at general elections universally expected to return the current incumbent Kim Jong Un.
Pyongyang’s Hunger Games
New York Times
The United Nations Commission of Inquiry’s report on North Korea, released last month, contains so many tragic findings that it is difficult to grasp the scale of the crimes described. But the world owes it to the North Korean victims, both living and dead, to focus on a figure buried in paragraph 664 of the commission’s report: $645,800,000.
That is what the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, is said to have squandered in 2012 on “luxury goods,” including cosmetics, handbags, leather products, watches, electronics, cars and top-shelf alcohol. In that same year, Mr. Kim also spent $1.3 billion on his ballistic missile programs.
Mr. Kim’s profligacy should be weighed against two other statistics absent from the commission’s report. The first is $150 million. That is what the United Nations World Food Program asked donor nations to give for food and other humanitarian aid for North Koreans in 2013. The second is 84 — the percentage of North Korean households that, according to the W.F.P. and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, had “borderline” or “poor” levels of food consumption in 2013.
Four U.S. congressmen urge reunions of divided Korean-American families
Yonhap News via GlobalPost
Four U.S. congressmen submitted a resolution to a House committee calling for the reunion of Koreans in the United States with their long-lost families in North Korea, according to the Library of Congress.
The measure was sponsored by Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), Howard Coble (R-NC), John Conyers (D-MI) and Samuel Johnson (R-TX), all Korean War veterans.
“The division on the Korean Peninsula separated more than 10,000,000 Korean family members, including some who are now citizens of the United States,” said the resolution, referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs Thursday.
Japan’s Uphill PR Battle
Japan is involved in a worsening quarrel with its two neighbors, China and South Korea, not only concerning sovereignty over some tiny islets, but also its alleged tendency to whitewash its history of military aggression and brutal colonial rule.
One of the major points of antagonism is the issue of “comfort women” (or “sex slaves” as an angry Hillary Clinton called them), namely women in Japan-occupied Asia who were forced into prostitution serving Japanese soldiers. Despite the 1993 Kono Statement in which the Japanese government admitted that Japan’s military had coerced these women, a recent rise of nationalism has led a majority of Japanese to deny any such thing, giving rise to suspicion that Japan is again refusing to take responsibility for its war crimes.
On this issue, the Koreans are more militant than the Chinese and political ties between Tokyo and Seoul have been frozen since the hawkish Shinzo Abe returned to power, and has hardly bothered to hide his aim of repealing past Japanese admissions of sin regarding the comfort women. The right-wing prime minister actually represents a growing number of Japanese who believe that Japan did nothing wrong in the last world war and that the comfort women were only professional prostitutes. These Japanese are fed up with the Korean and Chinese demands for apologies and compensation.
Washington City Paper
Lobbyists have wet dreams about this scenario.
You’ve mobilized an entire constituent group, 80,000 potential swing voters in a swing state. It’s a growing immigrant population with a profile coveted by politicians: well-educated, relatively prosperous, suburb-dwelling, beholden to no party. State legislators and gubernatorial candidates meet with you and come to any press events you organize. They are prepared to speechify about whatever issue you tell them is dear to your community, and pledge that your cause is their cause. Any issue at all.
What do you tell them?
If you are Peter Kim, president of the Virginia-based Voice of Korean Americans, you tell them what your community really wants—more than anything—is for any reference in any school textbook to the body of water that lies between the Korean peninsula and Japan, commonly called the Sea of Japan, to say that it’s also known as the East Sea.
Flushing man to offer free meds, barber trims to the needy
New York Daily News
He wants to snip away at poverty. A Flushing man who gave away free bowls of soup to the poor at a Korean restaurant last month now has his sights set on the barber’s chair as a way to help out Queens’ neediest.
Jin Kim, 38, is working with a local pharmacy to hand out free meds and Queens barbershops to offer gratis haircuts.
“Not only me, a lot of people need help,” said Kim, a Korean-American immigrant and John Jay College Ph.D student who got the idea to start a charity when he first arrived in Queens 12 years ago and struggled to survive. “I think some people have more. Maybe they will share a little bit and help everyone. I want to be the connection.”
For Korean Kids, Mobile Chat Rules
Wall Street Journal
The verdict is still out on whether teens and tweens are a reliable predictor of tech trends, but if South Korean school kids make a good benchmark, chat is king.
A recently-released poll by the National Youth Policy Institute, a Seoul-based public research center, shows that the most frequently used feature among students in grades four to 12 on their smartphones was local messenger apps such as KakaoTalk and Line. Over a quarter – one third for girls – said it was their most-used feature.
The overall runner-up in the November survey was games (15.6%), followed by making calls (14.8%) and music (12.8%). Just 6.8% of the 10,000 students surveyed said social media was their most-used application, the same percentage as said browsing the Internet was what they do most on their phones.
S. Korean Dream Line: Rail Link Via N.Korean Eco Zone To Russia
Imagine a railroad linking the great industries of South Korea with Europe. The dream might some day come true as the South drafts elaborate plans for shipping goods through North Korea’s Rason special economic zone adjacent to the North’s 10-mile-long Tumen River border with Russia.
The South Koreans have the enthusiastic support of the Russians, who have long dreamed of shipping goods by rail from South Korean factories, through North Korea and then onto the trans-Siberian railway. They’ve already rebuilt the railroad into North Korea over which they once shipped oil and other products at prices way below their real costs.
The oil stopped flowing with the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, but Russia has never abandoned its historic interest in the Korean peninsula.
Police seek help in locating missing Staten Island man
Staten Island Advance (N.Y.)
Police seek the public’s help in ascertaining the whereabouts of a 60-year-old New Springville man reported missing on Thursday.
Kang Ok Cho was last seen two week ago on Friday, Feb. 21 at about 6 p.m., according to a written statement from the office of the NYPD’s deputy commissioner for public information. He was leaving for his job at a Flushing, Queens, car service, said an NYPD spokeswoman.
The reason for the delay in the report being made was not immediately clear.
TV Soap Revives Korean Craze in China
Korean soap “My Love from the Star,” about a woman’s romance with an alien, has taken China by storm, sparking fads for anything from food to books.
The Bibigo chain of Korean restaurants launched a new dish in outlets in Beijing on Wednesday consisting of fried chicken, pickled radishes and two bottles of beer, which is a popular combination among Koreans.
“We decided to add the new item to our menus due to the explosive popularity of ‘chi-maek’” — the Korean abbreviation for the combo.
So what’s going on here then? Jessica Gomes’ goofy snap with Walking Dead star Steven Yeun’s sparks romance rumours
Daily Mail (U.K.)
She split from her long term boyfriend Sebastian Drapac a few months ago, and now it looks like Australian model Jessica Gomes could be back on the dating scene.
The 28-year-old David Jones fashion ambassador posted a goofy candid photo of herself and 30-year-old Walking Dead actor Steven Yeun on Instagram earlier today, sparking speculation of a new romance.
The pair playfully pulled their tongues out, and fans commented asking if the model and actor were dating.
Iowa City native connects two cultures in film debut
Iowa City Press-Citizen
Christine Yoo made her first movie as a student at Shimek Elementary.
“In my reading group, we wrote and shot a construction animation piece about finding King Tut’s tomb,” she said, recalling that she was inspired by her art teacher, Mr. Ferguson.
Years later, the former Iowa City resident has made her first full-length feature film with “Wedding Palace,” a movie about a young Korean American man dumped at the altar and facing a family curse that requires all family members to marry before they turn 30. The film strives to connect two cultures.
Yoo said the movie has been described as the Korean-American version of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”
An account of Kim Yuna backstage at Olympics; Netizens moved
‘Yuna cried a lot backstage. That was why the awards ceremony was a bit delayed.’
In contrast with her calm appearance after the women’s singles figure skating competition, ‘figure skating queen’ Kim Yuna (24) looked extremely sad backstage and shed many tears, according to an eyewitness account that was uploaded to the Internet. It has caught the attention of many people, and many netizens are crying together.
In a popular Internet community on the 3rd of March, a post titled ‘Kim Yuna is a delicate athlete after all’ has recorded a high number of hits and has gained a lot of public interest.
10 Personality Traits about Koreans You Should Know!
The most Korean of athletes are always nationalistic. Whether it be olympians that dedicate their victories to their home country, or MMA fighters that dedicate their wins to the Independence Day of Korea (UFC Fight Night 37), nearly all Korean athletes are loyal to their country. Koreans are raised to put their country before themselves, and that leads to nationalistic activists that fight for Korea’s ownership of the Dokdo Islands (aka Liancourt Rocks), expansion of Korea’s airspace territory, or even Koreans abroad fighting for renaming of the Sea of Japan (contested as the East Sea). Koreans are bred to be nationalistic, mostly with the phrase: Daehanminguk manse (대한민국 만세)! Victory to Korea!
South Korea is definitely on the forefront when it comes to the term “Save the Earth”! We always try to save on energy and recycling. The Korean government initiated a program throughout the country back in 2005 that tries to limit green house gases by conserving the energy costs of businesses through the Cool Biz program. Korea also takes its recycling programs serious! Bio-waste matter (left over food) is recycled through yellow plastic bags that are meant specifically for compost matter (which is rumored to be super eco-friendly and fed to pigs!). In addition, everything is separated by glass, plastic, cardboard and cans. And if you don’t believe us, watch your trash not get picked up!
Tate Modern buys first collection of Paik Nam-june works
Yonhap News via GlobalPost
The Tate Modern gallery in London said Friday it has bought its first ever collection of works by late Korean-born American media artist Paik Nam-june and will put the new collection on display in the second half of this year.
Tate Modern, which mainly houses international modern and contemporary art from the 20th and 21st century, acquired nine media art pieces and video installations by Paik, the gallery said.
It added the purchase was funded by South Korea’s largest automaker Hyundai Motor Co. as part of a bilateral partnership deal signed between the two sides in January. The items will go on display in the second half of this year at the gallery, the gallery said.
Free Oriental Medicine clinic this Saturday in O.C.
The Korean American Federation of Orange County will offer free oriental medicine treatments and medical consultation at the Orange County Korean Cultural Center from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday.
Appointments are required due to the limited time.
Acupuncture treatment with a moxa system, as well as consultation, will be aided by Dr. Han Choong-hee, who operates an acupuncture clinic in Irvine.
N. Korea fires short-range missiles, South says ‘provocative’
AFP via Yahoo News
North Korea fired short-range missiles into the sea off its eastern coast for the second time in a week Monday, prompting a warning from South Korea of “reckless provocation.”
The missile tests have clearly been timed to coincide with annual South Korea-US military exercises which kicked off a week ago and run until mid-April.
Two missiles were fired Monday and both flew around 500 kilometers (310 miles) into the Sea of Japan, according to South Korea’s Defence Ministry.
Four short-range Scud missiles were fired in similar fashion on Thursday.
South Korea proposes regular family reunions with North
South Korean President Park Geun-hye made a formal proposal to North Korea on Saturday to hold family reunions regularly, uniting families separated since the 1950-53 Korean war, a sign Seoul is seeking to improve relations with the North.
The reunions used to be held roughly annually, but until this February had not taken place since 2010 when tensions between the two Koreas spiraled after the South said the North sank one of its naval vessels.
The latest family reunion was held on February 20-25 at the Mount Kumgang resort just north of the border and a total of 813 family members met in tears and joy.
“I propose to North Korea to make family reunions regular in order to ease the deep sorrow of the separated families as soon as possible. North Korea too has separated families and I believe it also has to relieve their pain and agony,” said Park in a speech marking the March First Independence Movement Day.
N. Korea’s No. 2 man arrested
North Korean government may have locked behind bars the state’s second-in-command Choe Ryong-hae for not fulfilling his duties and other allegations deemed disloyal, Free North Korea Radio (FNKR) said Friday.
According to the media’s state correspondents, the Korean People’s Army (KPA) Chief was arrested at his home on Feb. 21 at around 6 a.m. Some 30 military guards detained Choe who at the time was getting ready to go to work.
The guards, after the arrest, confiscated all documents and appliances at his office in the Ministry of People’s Armed Forces.
Choe is known to have been serving his jail time in a cell located inside the State Security Department since then.
Park Geun-hye Asks Xi Jinping…
Exit Emperor Kim Jong-Il
SK President Park Geun-hye is said to have asked China’s President Xi Jinping whether there was a plan for China to annex North Korea as the 4th province of the Northeast (Dongbei) in the event that North Korea’s governance structure completely breaks down. Xi is said to have answered, no.
Presumably, the new leaders of the respective countries had vetted this question/answer prior to their summit (Beijing, June, 2013). Nevertheless, it is a loaded question, and it had to have caused stir among policy wonks in Beijing.
Park’s question goes directly to her initiative in unification of two Koreas under the leadership of South Korea. She sought consensus among neighboring countries, and appears to have persuaded Xi, Putin, and Obama that Korean unification under the South Korean leadership was good for the region.
Ex-Premier Murayama Expects Abe to Stick by Japan’s War Apologies
Wall Street Journal
Tomiichi Murayama, the former socialist leader of Japan who apologized for Japan’s wartime aggression, is the latest ex-premier to come out of retirement and make current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe uncomfortable.
Mr. Murayama, who is celebrating his 90th birthday Monday, said in a recent visit to South Korea that he expects Mr. Abe to stick by the 1995 “Murayama statement” that contained the apology. Mr. Murayama also wants Japan to uphold a 1993 statement apologizing over the “comfort women” issue, made by Yohei Kono, Japan’s then-chief government spokesman. The term comfort women refers to women and girls, many of them Korean, who were forced to sexually serve Japanese soldiers during World War II.
At a news conference in Tokyo on Friday, Mr. Murayama stepped up his criticism of those who want to revise the apologies, describing the recent controversy surrounding the Kono statement as “meaningless.”
South Korea Assails Japan on Wartime Brothels
New York Times
Unleashing fresh criticism of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, President Park Geun-hye of South Korea on Saturday urged him to be honest and courageous enough to face his country’s history of aggression in the early 20th century, especially its enslavement of Asian women in Imperial Army brothels.
“True courage lies not in denying the past but in looking squarely at the history as it was and teaching growing generations the correct history,” Ms. Park said, referring to Japan’s often brutal colonization of Korea from 1910 to 1945. “The more one denies the history of the past, the more wretched and more isolated one gets.”
Just a day earlier, Mr. Abe’s government said it would re-examine a landmark 1993 apology it made to the sex slaves, commonly known by the euphemism “comfort women.”
Former White House staffer Ronnie Cho ‘seriously considering’ Arizona congressional run
Former White House staffer Ronnie Cho is strongly considering a congressional run in Arizona, sources tell the Washington Examiner.
Cho, the former associate director for the White House’s Office of Public Engagement, has been taking calls encouraging him to run in Arizona since Democratic Rep. Ed Pastor announced Thursday he would retire after his current term.
Sources close to Cho, a Phoenix native and Arizona State University alumnus, said he is seriously thinking of throwing his hat into the ring in Arizona’s 7th Congressional District. If successful, he would be the first Korean-American Democrat elected to Congress.
Cho also has been an editor at Newsweek/Daily Beast and worked at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as associate director in the Office of Legislative Affairs.
Gourmet Heaven owner charged with discrimination, wage theft
Providence Journal (Rhode Island)
Gourmet Heaven owner Chung Cho was arrested Monday on five charges of discrimination against workers and five violations of failure to keep wage records at its Connecticut stores, according to Connecticut court records.
Four days earlier, on Feb. 20, New Haven police arrested Chung on 21 felony counts of wage theft and 20 misdemeanor charges of defrauding immigrant workers, according to the court records.
Gourmet Heaven has two locations in Connecticut and two in Providence, one on Weybosset Street downtown and the other, more recently opened, on Meeting Street on College Hill.
The Providence stores are not under investigation, according to Nicole Armstrong, program coordinator for the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training.
Oscars: Karen O Performs Ethereal ‘Moon Song’ With Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig
Karen O took the Academy Awards stage Sunday with special guest Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig accompanying on guitar for their performance of Oscar-nominated original song from Her, “The Moon Song.”
Dressed in a deep-V red gown, a seated Karen O brought an ethereal mood to the Dolby Theatre with Koenig’s help on supporting vocals. The performance was in stark contrast to Pharrell Williams’ show-stealing performance of Despicable Me’s “Happy” minutes before, with dozens of dancers amping up the star-filled crowd. An image of a moon rose as Karen O and Koenig crooned “The Moon Song” with the rest of the stage in black.
The two teamed up for a new version of “The Moon Song,” which was co-written by Karen O and Her director Spike Jonze, as part of a three-song EP released on iTunes. Karen O also recorded a solo version.
2NE1 Vs. Girls’ Generation: K-Pop Girl Group Battle Raging on the Charts
As two of K-pop’s biggest international acts, Girls’ Generation and 2NE1 dropping albums within days of each other was sure to stir up a competitive chart battle in both their native South Korea and abroad. According to early chart forecasts, both Korean releases should be making exciting chart moves.
Industry forecasters suggest that 2NE1′s new album “Crush” might sell around 4,000 copies by the end of the tracking week on Sunday, March 2. Meanwhile, Girls Generation’s “Mr.Mr.” EP could sell 3,000.
If 2NE1′s latest effort sells 4,000, it would easily mark the act’s best sales week; the group’s previous high came when “2NE1 2nd Mini Album” EP sold 1,000 in its first week in 2011.
‘Frozen’ Crosses $75 Million in South Korea, Breaks Local Records
Frozen broke several South Korean box office records over the weekend as it became Sunday the first animated feature and the second imported film to cross 10 million admissions here.
As of Monday, according to the Korean Film Council, the Oscar-winning film has grossed $75.48 million (80.45 billion won), making Korea the most successful market for the Disney animation outside of the U.S.
The film’s directors, Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, expressed thanks to Korean fans with a hand-drawn picture of the character Olaf and the message, “Thank you Korea for loving me so much! I want to give you all a warm hug!!”
The Chinese obsession with Korean dramas is making bad Chinese TV look bad
Days after a woman suffered a heart attack after staying up late to watch the hit Korean drama “My Love From the Star” (来自星星的你), Xu Qinsong, a Guangdong delegate to the CPPCC (Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference), stood up for the poor souls working in the lackluster Chinese domestic television industry by saying enough is enough with China’s Korean drama craze.
In a recent interview, the venerable Mr. Xu lamented how the Korean Drama obsession is hurting China’s “cultural self-esteem.” And the truth is, he does kind of have a point.
“My Love From the Star,” which recently concluded its first season on February 27, weaves a deeply complex and nuanced tale of a young, beautiful Korean actress (played by the young and beautiful Jun Ji-Hyun) who falls in love with her young and beautiful alien boyfriend (played by the young and beautiful Kim Soo-hyun). The show has been broadcasted on China’s video platform sites LeTv.Com and iQiyi, where it has reportedly been watched 14.5 billion times on the latter site alone. Damn. On February 14th, over 100 fans took out a full-page advertisement in the Beijing News to wish male star Kim both a happy Valentine’s Day and happy birthday on February 16th.
Korea’s indie rock music survives in shadow of K-Pop
South China Morning Post
It’s Saturday night in Hongdae, one of Seoul’s best-known entertainment districts. Alleyways that are quiet by day have transformed into bustling passageways lined with busy bars and restaurants; street food vendors have pitched tents to serve soju and fried seafood; and young men and women prowl the streets in their nightclub finery.
With so much action going on, it’s easy to miss the entrance to Club Freebird, an obscure but influential music venue in the area. Inside the bar, surrounded by the blue haze of stage lights, a small crowd sways to Led Zeppelin-inspired guitars and the siren-like vocals of a singer in black eyeliner, fishnet tights and shorts.
Apart from the cheap drinks, every member of the audience is here to enjoy something that South Korea isn’t known for: indie music.
Yoo Jae Suk Gifts University Students Who Appeared on “Running Man”
Comedian Yoo Jae Suk gave gifts to the guest university students who participated in the March 2 broadcast of SBS’ “Running Man.”
According to a “Running Man” representative on March 3, “Yoo Jae Suk gave iPads as gifts to the university students who participated in the ‘Running Man 2014 University War’ special.”
The rep explained, “Yoo Jae Suk wanted to express his gratitude toward all of the university students who actively participated on the show. He was too shy to give the gifts in person, so he asked the production team to give out the gifts on his behalf. He wanted to let this pass quietly, but people found out.”
Nike yoga master trainer Leah Kim: I felt out of place in an office
Leah Kim, 34, was an unsporty child destined for a ‘proper’ job. Somehow, she became Nike’s global yoga master trainer.
Growing up in California, it was the norm to be health-conscious and yoga was around my entire life. But it wasn’t until I was at college at UCLA [University of California, Los Angeles] that I walked into class with the teacher who would become my mentor, and yoga became a huge part of my life. During that first class, I started experiencing the aspects of yoga that go beyond the physical, that ask you to look within. It seemed like there was so much to learn and I just wanted more.
I was definitely not sporty at school – not in the slightest. Sometimes it feels like a fluke that I’m now a ‘Nike athlete’ but I stepped into my body’s potential when I stepped on to the yoga mat. I’d gone to UCLA to study economics but I wasn’t passionate about it. Growing up, there was an inherent expectation that I would get a ‘proper’ job in some sort of business capacity. But once I got into my cubicle at my first job out of college, I felt out of place and uninspired. I found I was so much more contented at the yoga studio than anywhere else and wished I could spend all day long there. Then one day I had the realisation – well, maybe I can…
5 Things About North Korea’s Latest Missile Launch
Wall Street Journal
1. WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE LAUNCH?
Around 5.42 p.m. local time Thursday, North Korea fired what South Korea initially thought were four KN-02 type short-range missiles with a range of about 160 kilometers into the sea from its launch site in Kittaeryong in the southwest of the country. On Friday, South Korea’s Defense Ministry said the missiles were Scud-type weapons, of which North Korea has a few variants with ranges from 300 km to 700 km. The longer-range types could potentially reach any target in South Korea and western Japan.
2. WHY DID NORTH KOREA FIRE THE MISSILES NOW?
North Korea test fires short-range missiles into the sea a few times a year, usually during military drills. Winter exercises are ongoing in the North. The launches are also seen by officials in Seoul as a protest against military exercises in South Korea. The U.S. and South Korea began their annual drills this week, which will run through April. “With the exercises underway, we see the firings as a calculated, provocative act,” South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said Friday, also noting that a North Korean ship breached the west coast inter-Korean maritime border earlier this week. South Korea doesn’t always publicize military provocations from the North but did give details of missile launches last year around the time of drills in the South.
North Korea condemns Australian judge behind U.N. rights report
North Korea on Friday condemned an Australian judge who led a U.N. investigation that concluded that North Korean security chiefs and possibly its leader should face justice for torture and killings comparable to Nazi-era atrocities.
North Korea’s state-run KCNA news agency, citing a pro-North Korean politician from Brazil, said the judge, Michael Kirby, had manipulated evidence at the behest of North Korea’s old enemy, the United States.
“(Kirby’s) mission is to manipulate ‘evidence’ on the orders of Washington, lie about (North) Korea and oppose the republic under an international alliance that is controlled by the United States,” KCNA said.
North Korean state media often uses comment from small, foreign support groups to criticize the United States and South Korea.
North Korea’s human rights atrocities continue, and the world doesn’t act
CLIVE CROOK, who for many years was a senior editor at The Economist, wrote the other day that he used to think his finest moment at the magazine was in June 2000, when he approved what became one of the most memorable covers in the publication’s history — a photo of North Korea’s ruler Kim Jong Il, “looking wonderfully absurd” as he waved stiffly to an audience. The headline: “Greetings, earthlings.”
Now, having read the new UN report on the Kim regime’s institutionalized barbarity, Crook feels a “pang of shame” at the thought of that cover. North Korea jokes no longer seem so funny.
Indeed. It has been known for years that North Korea is a totalitarian hellhole ruled by megalomaniacs who have turned the country into a vast concentration camp. Millions of North Koreans have died from starvation caused by their government’s deranged policies; millions more have been victimized by its fanatical efforts to repress any hint of independent thought, and by its merciless assaults on human dignity. But the report issued by the UN panel this month, after a year-long investigation that gathered evidence from more than 320 victims and witnesses, paints such an extensive and meticulous portrait of evil that it compares in significance, as the Washington Post observed, to Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s devastating history of the Soviet labor camps, “The Gulag Archipelago.”
Jang Purge Yet to Hurt North Korea-China Trade
Wall Street Journal
When North Korea purged dictator Kim Jong Un’s uncle in December one question raised was whether the move would impact economic ties with China. Jang Song Thaek was seen as a key interlocutor with Beijing and a proponent of business links.
Initial data shows there’s been no immediate negative effect on the trade relationship between the countries.
Trade volume between North Korea and China rose 16% on-year to $546 million in January, according to the Korea International Trade Association, which compiles data based on Chinese customs statistics.
Among the litany of crimes attributed to Mr. Jang before his execution was an accusation that he sold off coal and other resources “at random.” That suggested North Korea would seek to renegotiate export deals with its only big trade partner, China.
Fewer and Fewer Children Born in Korea
Some 436,600 children were born in Korea last year, the smallest number recorded since 2005, Statistics Korea said on Thursday. Compared to 2012, the number dropped 9.9 percent from 484,550.
The total fertility rate, the number of children that would be born to a woman in her lifetime, stood at 1.19 children last year, even fewer than the 1.3 recorded in 2012.
The number of newborns is likely to drop below 400,000 in 2030 and to below 300,000 range in the 2050s if the trend continues.
Yoon Yeon-ok at Statistics Korea said, “The number of women of peak childbearing age between 29 and 33 declined by 360,000 compared to the previous year, while more women remain single or marry later in life.”
Poor construction blamed for deadly gym collapse: police
Police on Friday blamed shoddy construction and poor materials for last week’s deadly gymnasium collapse that killed 10 people, mostly college students, and injured 128 others.
The roof of the gymnasium at the Mauna Ocean Resort in Gyeongju, a historical tourist city 370 kilometers southeast of Seoul, caved in on some 560 incoming freshmen of the Busan University of Foreign Studies on Feb. 17 during a welcoming party.
Announcing the interim results of their investigation into the tragedy, officers at the Gyeongju Police Station said that the collapse was the result of overall poor construction and lax management of the building.
Under siege by ultrafine dust
Seen from a subway train crossing a Han River bridge on a morning commute, Seoul remained in a thick fog of fine dust.
On the street, commuters were walking without masks, looking like disarmed soldiers going to war.
Many of them may have regretted listening to the weather forecast about the clouds of dust receding.
Erring on the safe side, they should heed severe yellow sand warnings for March.
3 hurt in vehicle collision north of Esparto
A portion of a northern Yolo County road had to be closed Wednesday morning while emergency crews extricated and then lifeflighted a motorist to a hospital following an accident.
The California Highway Patrol reported the accident occurred around 11:30 a.m. on County Road 19, just west of I-505.
Hae Jung Cho, 61, of Millbrae was driving a 2006 BMW X3 on northbound I-505 approaching CR-19, according to the CHP, at the same time Tommy Saeteurn, 29, of Winton was driving a 2002 Acura TL on westbound CR-19, approaching I-505.
Cho exited I-505 at CR-19 and proceeded up the off-ramp to the intersection. However, Cho failed to stop at the stop sign as he made a left turn toward westbound CR-19, and directly into the path of the Acura.
Saeteurn was unable to avoid the BMW, causing the front of the Acura to collide with the right side of the BMW.
‘Son of God’ Courting Korean Americans
Mark Burnett and Roma Downey are engaged in a full-court press to encourage Korean Christians living in the U.S. to see their upcoming film, Son of God, which has already been the recipient of a big marketing push in the Hispanic community.
LightWorkers Media, the production company founded by Burnett and Downey, recently hosted two screenings of the film with Korean subtitles, and the events attracted 800 influential members of the fast-growing community, including Korean journalists and faith leaders, The Hollywood Reporter learned on Tuesday.
Marketers for Son of God, a film about the life of Jesus based on the TV miniseries The Bible, also have visited at least 20 Korean churches and businesses distributing 3,000 posters and 10,000 flyers advertising the movie, which distributor 20th Century Fox will open wide on Friday.
Director-playwright hopes to jump-start Asian-American theater scene in Philly
FOR ALL of the Philly theater universe’s often breathtaking diversity, Asian-American artists and productions are scarce almost to the point of non-existence.
But Rick Shiomi is hoping to change that.
Shiomi is the founder and former longtime guiding light of the St. Paul, Minn.-based Mu Performing Arts, an organization dedicated to Asian-American theater. He is currently in the midst of a part-time, four-month residency funded by a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and presented under the aegis of the Asian Arts Initiative and Center City’s Interact Theatre.
His time here, which began earlier this month, has Shiomi overseeing a series of readings of plays written by Asian-American authors. The works all deal with themes specific to the various cultures under the “Asian-American” umbrella. It’s the first volley in what he hopes will be a successful campaign to bring the local Asian-American community into Philly’s theatrical mainstream.
Huffington Post launches Korean edition
The Huffington Post, an online news site based in the United States, opened a Korean edition of the website (www.huffingtonpost.kr) Friday.
The Korean site is Huffington’s 11th international edition and the second Asian edition. A Japanese edition was launched in May.
The online news provider launched the Korean edition in partnership with Hankyoreh Media Group, a liberal newspaper. The content of the news site, however, will be provided independently from the Hankyoreh by a separate team of editors at the Huffington Post Korea. The editor in chief of the Korean edition is Sohn Mi-na, a freelance travel writer and former announcer on a local news channel.
Korean Skating Union: The ‘Biggest Loser’ in Sochi?
It was South Korea’s Winter Games of Discontent.
Coming off a historic performance at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, South Korea was supposed to assert itself as a winter sports power in Sochi, as it gets ready to host the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang.
Instead, the Korean contingent had the most disastrous Games imaginable. After taking home 14 medals, including six golds from Vancouver, South Korea totaled just eight medals (three golds) in Sochi, finishing 13th in the medal standings. The Wall Street Journal even piled on by naming the nation the biggest loser in terms of last-place finishes.
The raging controversy over Yuna Kim’s loss to Russian figure skater Adelina Sotnikova certainly affected South Korea in the medal standings, with the perception that Kim was robbed of a gold because of nebulous politics. But in the big picture, that merely affected the placement of one medal.
The true cause of South Korea’s downfall in Sochi can be summed up in the loss of one athlete: Viktor Ahn.
Koreans in Japan abused: U.S. report
Korea JoongAng Daily
A U.S. government report released Thursday shed light on social discrimination and harassment against ethnic Koreans in Japan, especially by right-wing civic groups in the midst of the growing anti-Korea sentiment under the nationalist administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The U.S. Department of State on Thursday released its annual report on human rights situations worldwide, titled “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013,” describing human rights violations in each country last year in detail.
In its section on Japan, the report states that entrenched societal discrimination against foreign nationals in the country, particularly against ethnic Koreans, was observed and recorded.
“During the year , ultra right-wing groups held a series of demonstrations in predominantly Korean neighborhoods in Tokyo,” the report said.
South Korea Gives Aid to North Amid Family Reunions
New York Times
South Korea on Friday approved a shipment of $988,000 worth of medicine and powdered milk for North Korea and promised more humanitarian aid as the two Koreas continued emotional reunions of families separated by the Korean War six decades ago.
The Seoul government’s approval of the aid shipment by two civic relief groups came a day after the two countries began the family reunions in an event widely seen as easing tensions on the divided peninsula. President Park Geun-hye has promised to increase humanitarian aid if the North improves ties with the South through “trust-building” projects like family reunions, which were last held more than three years ago.
The family meetings, held in the Diamond Mountain resort in southeast North Korea, highlighted the urgency for such reunions for Korea’s “separated families,” which were torn apart during the three-year war that ended in 1953 with the peninsula still divided.
At Reunions, Abducted Fishermen Stick to North Korea Script
Wall Street Journal
In the early 1970’s, just as South Korea’s economy was catching up with North Korea following the devastating civil war of 1950-1953, Choi Yong-chol took a job as a skate fisherman
From South Chuncheong province on the Yellow Sea coast, the Choi family, like many in rural South Korea, struggled to make a living. Skate fishing offered stable employment but was physically demanding and potentially dangerous: there were plentiful accounts of boats that disappeared at sea.
One day in February 1974, while close to the maritime border with North Korea, Mr. Choi’s boat and another nearby were approached by a North Korean coast guard vessel. The North Korean ship opened fire, sinking one of the boats and forcing Mr. Choi’s ship to North Korea with its crew, according to accounts from the time.
For many others, reunions put on shelf forever
While about 200 separated family members from South and North Korea are enjoying their long-overdue reunions at Mount Geumgang, many more here have to look to them with envy.
One of those is Jang Sa-in, a 74-year-old who lives in Sadang-dong, southern Seoul.
Jang pulled out a letter from his older brother from the North. He was told through a source that Sa-guk died last year.
“I never knew that time would pass so fast. Now I turned 80 and I still can vividly describe the scenery in our hometown… I suppose you already entered your 70s. I believe you and your sisters have served mother well so far,“ Jang read haltingly during an interview Thursday.
Humanity at its very worst
THE gruesome sketches need little explanation. They are based on the memories of Kim Gwang-il, a North Korean who spent more than two years in a prison camp before eventually escaping through China and Thailand to South Korea. The pictures show prisoners held in stress positions, skeletal bodies eating snakes and mice, and prisoners pulling a cart laden with rotting bodies. But none of the pictures, he says, was nearly as graphic as the reality of being forced to live in the camp.
Mr Kim was one of over 80 defectors, refugees and abductees who publicly testified before a commission of inquiry (COI) set up by the UN’s Human Rights Council in March 2013 to investigate systematic human-rights violations in North Korea. It interviewed another 240 victims confidentially (many fear reprisals on family members still in North Korea). After a year-long investigation, on February 17th the commission delivered its 400-page report.
The report, written by a three-member UN panel headed by Michael Kirby, an Australian former judge, is extraordinary in its detail and breadth. It includes a catalogue of cruelties meted out by the North Korean regime to its main targets: those who try to flee the country; Christians and those promoting other “subversive” beliefs; and political prisoners, estimated to number between 80,000 and 120,000. The regime is accused of crimes that include execution, enslavement, starvation, rape and forced abortion.
S. Korea raps Japan for casting doubt on comfort women testimony
Kyodo News via GlobalPost
South Korea “cannot accept” Japan’s move to re-examine testimony by South Korean women that led Tokyo to officially apologize in 1993 for the forcible recruitment of women into sexual servitude during World War II, a South Korean Foreign Ministry official said Friday, according to Yonhap News Agency.
“Our government cannot accept Japan’s attempt to question the forcible recruitment and management of comfort women even after the country acknowledged it in the past,” the unidentified official was quoted as saying in response to remarks made by Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on Thursday.
In Tokyo on Friday, Suga, the top government spokesman, shrugged off the reported comment by the official, saying at a press conference it is “natural for the Japanese government” to re-examine the accounts of 16 South Korean women.
Korean Americans push to rename Sea of Japan in state legislatures
A high-stakes struggle between Asian powers over territory and resources in the Sea of Japan has opened a new front in unexpected locations: American state legislatures. Now, the centuries-old feud between South Korea and Japan will soon impact some schoolchildren in the United States.
Korean American activists have pushed legislation in three states that would require new school textbooks to note that the Sea of Japan is also called the East Sea, the Korean name for the hotly disputed body of water.
Earlier this month, the Virginia House of Delegates passed legislation that would require textbooks to include both names by a wide margin. Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), who said during his 2013 campaign that he supported the measure, is likely to sign it once it reaches his desk.
Miky Lee tries to rise to challenge at South Korea’s CJ Group
Miky Lee, vice chairman of CJ Group, beams as she greets a visitor in the executive lounge of South Korea’s biggest purveyor of food, home-shopping services, TV programs and movies. The 55-year-old granddaughter of Samsung Group’s founder shows no sign that it’s been a traumatic few months.
Settling in for her first major interview, Lee opens up about how she’s leading the shaken Samsung offshoot after CJ Group Chairman Lee Jay Hyun, her younger brother, was arrested in July.
“I’m now working longer, talking to more people, taking care of a lot more things, including the balance sheet,” she says in a room dominated by a portrait of Lee Byung Chull, her grandfather. “CJ will get back on track.”
Navy chief sentenced to 5 years for attacking S. Korean woman
Stars and Stripes
A U.S. Forces Korea chief petty officer was sentenced last week to five years in prison for attacking a South Korean woman outside her Itaewon apartment last fall.
The Seoul Central District Court identified the 35-year-old man as Chief Petty Officer Christopher Wayne Chatman. The U.S. military refused to confirm the man’s identity because he was tried in a South Korean court, but released a statement that said, “This behavior does not reflect the high standards of conduct expected of U.S. servicemembers.”
According to USFK and Commander Naval Forces Korea, Chatman was convicted Feb. 13 of indecent assault resulting in bodily injury of a South Korean citizen. In addition to his prison sentence, he must complete a 40-hour treatment program for sexual violence offenders.
Korean Messaging Service Kakao Gets Ready For A $2 Billion IPO
Korean messaging leader Kakao is negotiating with Morgan Stanley and Samsung Securities Co. to file for an IPO in Koea, according to the WSJ. The seven-year-old company is mostly known for its dominant messaging app, KakaoTalk. 133 million people are using the app. It is also the primary platform for mobile games.
KakaoTalk is the undisputable winner in South Korea. But with a population of 50 million people, the company needs to find new areas to grow. Similarly, Kakao is launching new products to improve engagement from its existing user base.
The company’s revenue mostly comes from its mobile gaming platform. Many Korean developers use Kakao as a platform to launch their games. The company is now profitable thanks to this revenue stream.
Priscilla Ahn, ‘This is Where We Are’: Exclusive Album Premiere
Acoustic folk artist Priscilla Ahn released “This is Where We Are,” her latest studio album, last summer in Japan and Korea, but the Georgian delayed the release of the LP in her native United States until 2014. Now, the album is officially dropping in America later this month — and Billboard has the exclusive premiere.
“This recording process was different from most, as we only worked two days a week,” Ahn says of the album, her third release in the States. “I discovered that this is the most ideal way for me to record. I always get a little antsy after spending too long in a studio. So we would work together for two days, and then spend a week working on our own and coming up with new ideas for our next meeting.”
Ahn says she wrote the majority of the album “alone in the desert” — though she was “most definitely in an air-conditioned hotel room,” rather than the middle of nowhere. The album also differs from past releases in that it has more of a synth-pop edge than her previous albums. In particular, Ahn is fond of opening track “Diana,” which has minor electronic influences.
The Underdogs Talk Producing New Girls’ Generation Single ‘Mr.Mr.,’ Working in K-Pop: Exclusive
The duo further explains their process, adding, “We work with a Korean translation. We do the full record, we write it completely in English, sing demo and give them the vocal arrangement. Then there’s a Korean translator that translates it to sound cool and still relevant in Korea.”
Mason and Thomas add they are confident in the act’s international charm (the girls have recorded in English, Korean, Japanese and Chinese) can make the track appealing to non-speakers. “I think just Girls’ Generation appeals across the board and across the world,” Mason says. “The YouTube Award they just won is a testament to the size of their audience and how many people are listening and watching. It’s crazy.”
Chinese fried chicken businesses saved by Jun Ji-hyun
AI (avian influenza) has hit the poultry business in China, at least its fried chicken restaurants. But it was saved by hallyu (Korean wave) beauty Jun Ji-hyun’s line “When it snows, I gotta have Chi-maeck (chicken and beer),” in recent a hit drama “Man from Another Star,” Xinhua reported Wednesday.
China’s big cities such as Shanghai saw a sharp increase in their sales with customers not minding lining up for up to three hours to buy a bucket of fried chicken.
It also reported about a Hunan resident who has suffered irritated skin due to her fried chicken-only diet for eight straight days.
“Right before the Lunar New Year’s Day, we suffered a major dent in sales because of the outbreak of AI. This sudden happiness is a never-expected-surprise for us,” a local restaurant owner was quoted as saying.
South Koreans Pay Respects to Graceful Yuna Kim
Wall Street Journal
After a sleepless night, many South Koreans are thinking of Yuna Kim.
The 2010 Olympic champion looked in a good position to win gold again in Sochi. Expectations for this most popular South Korean skater were sky high as she went into the free skating competition in first place on Thursday.
Kim delivered a seemingly flawless performance. But her score of 144.19 wasn’t enough to see off the surprise challenge of 17-year-old Russian skater Adelina Sotnikova, who scored 149.95 points Thursday. Sotnikova’s total of 223.59 secured her the gold medal. Kim scored 219.11 and had to settle for silver.
“A gold medal wasn’t really important to me and being able to perform in the Olympics is meaningful enough. I made no mistake today and I am satisfied. I did everything I could,” Kim told reporters after the result.
How Sotnikova Beat Kim, Move by Move
New York Times
Sotnikova’s combination had a much higher base value because she chose to do the most difficult double jump, the double axel. She received high marks for her good flow, height and distance. She added a 10 percent bonus by executing the combination in the second half of the program.
The double jump Kim chose is one of the easiest, so it has a low base value. The entry was simple, and the jump ended with little speed.
Footwork and Layback Spin
On two elements, the footwork and the layback spin, Sotnikova had a difficulty level of 4, while Kim had a level 3. This meant that Kim had nearly a point deficit in the base value for the two elements combined. In her layback spin, Sotnikova changed positions with ease while maintaining speed and intensity, and the judges rewarded her with higher marks. She received nearly two points more than Kim did for the two elements
S. Korea secures at least silver in men’s team pursuit speed skating
South Korea on Friday secured at least the silver medal in the men’s team pursuit speed skating event at the Sochi Winter Olympics.
The men’s trio of Lee Seung-hoon, Joo Hyong-jun and Kim Cheol-min staged a comeback to knock off the reigning Olympic champ Canada in the eight-lap showdown at Adler Arena Skating Center. South Korea will take on the Netherlands in Saturday’s final.
The team pursuit event became a medal sport in 2006 and South Korea will earn its first medal in the event.
‘Abundant evidence’ of crimes against humanity in North Korea, panel says
A stunning catalog of torture and the widespread abuse of even the weakest of North Koreans reveal a portrait of a brutal state “that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world,” a United Nations panel reported Monday.
North Korean leaders employ murder, torture, slavery, sexual violence, mass starvation and other abuses as tools to prop up the state and terrorize “the population into submission,” the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights (COI) in North Korea said in its report.
The commission said it would refer its findings to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for possible prosecution. It also sent a letter warning North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that he could face prosecution for crimes against humanity, and said other options include establishing of an ad hoc tribunal by the United Nations.
South Korean Lawmaker Jailed on Treason Charges
New York Times
A South Korean court sentenced an opposition lawmaker to 12 years in prison on Monday for forming a “revolutionary organization” and conspiring to start an armed revolt to overthrow the Seoul government in the event of war with North Korea.
Lee Seok-ki, a politician affiliated with the far-left United Progressive Party, became the first South Korean lawmaker convicted on charges of plotting treason since the country’s past military dictators used them to silence dissidents decades ago.
The arrest of Mr. Lee, 51, in September and his subsequent court hearings drew intense public attention in South Korea, where an ideological conflict rooted in fear of the Communist North shows no sign of easing more than 60 years after the end of the Korean War in 1953.
New Jersey lawmakers cause international stir with bill to rename ‘Sea of Japan’
What does a sea on the other side of the Earth have to do with New Jersey?
To five state legislators from Bergen County who represent a large and politically active Korean-American community, the answer is simple: plenty.
For that reason, the lawmakers — all Democrats — want the state government to call the body of water between Japan and the Korean Peninsula both the “East Sea” and the “Sea of Japan.”
Western nations know the sea primarily as the Sea of Japan.
On Monday , the lawmakers introduced a bill (A2478) that would require the state and all its political subdivisions, “to the extent practicable,” to refer to the contested body of water between Korea and Japan as the East Sea.
Fresno man, 73, pleads guilty to money laundering and fraud
Fresno Bee (Calif.)
A 73-year-old Fresno man pleaded guilty Monday to six counts of laundering money in a fraud investment scheme, U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner said.
Court documents showed that in 2002, Kwan Yong Choi asked investors to invest in his company, Sun Min Trading Inc., which sold souvenirs to the White House, Wagner said. Choi said the business would make 30% profit, and 10% would go to a charity called “International Christian Mission Center,” which was supposedly affiliated with the Central Intelligence Agency. Furthermore, Choi promised investors 20% profit every quarter.
But Choi spent the money on personal business expenses, including payments on homes, cars and credit cards. Choi admitted investors lost about $2 million in the scheme, Wagner said.
Strategic bidding lands couple a Closter home
When buying a home runs head on into a bidding war, the first impulse may be to flex your financial muscles and knock out the competition.
Dentist Dr. John Rhee and his wife, Inae, a former kindergarten teacher, took the opposite approach.
The ex-Ramsey homeowners, both in their 40s, offered less than the $929,800 asking price for a five-bedroom colonial with mason/stucco exterior in Closter, and still came out on top.
2010 Champion Yuna Kim Taking Olympics Like a Job
Don’t judge Yuna Kim’s workouts by her body language. Nothing could be more misleading.
The defending champion figure skater from South Korea is approaching the Sochi Olympics like a job. So when she appears to be uninterested in practice, well, forget about it.
Kim gets it done. There’s little or no flair and she expresses virtually no emotion. Kim seems to be a totally different skater in training than when she is performing. She wasn’t particularly pleased with everything Sunday, cutting short her run-through halfway through the music.
A Battle for Gold and Posterity
New York Times
Kim Yu-na had arrived on a long flight from South Korea to defend her Olympic figure skating title. This was her first practice, near dusk on Thursday, and dozens of reporters and photographers recorded every jump and spin and mop of the brow. The whir of cameras made a hushed, clattering sound like cards in the spokes of a bicycle tire.
Afterward, Kim was asked about her presumed top challenger, 15-year-old Yulia Lipnitskaya, whose poise, youthful jumping, blurring spins and gymnastic flexibility helped lift Russia to a team gold medal and made her an international sensation.
Women’s skating does not begin until Wednesday, but expectation has been growing since last month when an emergent Lipnitskaya won the European championship. This is probably the most eagerly awaited competition of the Winter Games.
Yuna Kim is an even-money favorite for a second gold, Julia Lipnitskaia close behind
Are you the type of person who needs to sweeten the pot when the women’s figure skating competition takes place in Sochi on Wednesday and Thursday? Or are you maybe the type of guy who knows a guy who knows a thing about that thing over in Russia?
Well, you’re in luck!
Proving once again that sports bettors never met any action they didn’t like, it’s possible to place a bet on the gold medal winner in women’s figure skating. If that’s the type of thing that interests you, Bovada says that reigning Olympic champion Yuna Kim of South Korea is an even-money favorite (1/1) to repeat as the gold medal winner with 15-year-old Russian wunderkind Julia Lipnitskaia close behind at 6/5.
A Wink and Then a Nod
New York Times
The period during which Alex Chan and Sue Choe were on the Match.com dating site about four years ago wasn’t long, but somehow they both found that window, opened it and climbed through.
“When I met her I was about to discontinue my subscription,” said Mr. Chan, who had invested some time on the eHarmony site before giving Match.com a try.
Ms. Choe, a vice president of D. E. Shaw, a hedge fund for which she does professional and organizational development, had recently left a long-term relationship. “After that ended, I thought, I don’t know how to meet people anymore,” she said. She added that her brother had met his wife through the same site in 2004.
Taking advantage of a promotion the site was running, she joined.
K-PoP: Enter the Tiger, An Unsatisfying Evening with Amy Chua
With the sincerest intent of pretending to be open-minded, I attended Tiger Mom Amy Chua and (her sidekick co-author/husband/fellow Yale Law Professor) Jed Rubenfeld’s “discussion” last week. They were in Pasadena to promote their latest book, The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits blah blah blah.
I wanted to listen with an open heart, but I’ll be the first to admit I came in skeptical of the simplistic nature of it all. How three traits can explain success. How The Elite Eight — Mormons, Cubans, Nigerians, Indians, Jews, Lebanese, Persians, and Chinese — are masterful practioners of these “cultural practices.”
And to top it all off: I was hungry. Starvin’ like Marvin Hungry. How long would I last?
The interview began at 7:01pm. By 7:08, Rubenfeld had already casually name-dropped Yale Law School like a 1990’s 10th grader mentioned her Guess? jeans.
Strings of Astonishment
Clara-Jumi Kang had a devil of a time with her own fiddlestick once. She had posed for a cosmetics advertisement, and in Korea, that was not a ver–––y seemly thing to do, so she was criticised for it. But Kang, a veteran and winner of countless violin competitions, simply shrugged that off.
“What’s wrong with doing a little posing? I needed a new fiddlestick for my violin. And the best violin bows cost thousand and thousands of dollars. So I did what I had to do.”
Kang, 26, has been doing what she “has to do” since her childhood. And it has paid off. Four years ago, she won the gold medal at the 8th Quadrennial International Violin Competition of Indianapolis where she also won five additional special prizes. She was the winner of the Sendai International Violin Music Competition. She has been playing around the world.
Putting modern spin on ‘pansori’
Lee Ja-ram is called a prodigy of “pansori,” a traditional narrative song performed by a singer and drummer. While the form is centuries old, the 35-year-old never shies away from pushing its boundaries.
Lee, who surprised the world with her pansori rendition of Bertolt Brecht classics, is back at it again. This time she is the artistic director and composer behind a pansori re-imagining of the short stories of author Chu Yo-sup.
The show, titled “Chu Yo-sup’s Ugly Woman/Murder” will be staged at Doosan Art Center’s Space 111 later this week. Based on two separate stories, it is highly anticipated because it brings a modern edge not only to pansori but also Korean literature.
In Philadelphia, Korean art comes into its own
Perhaps it’s for the best that the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s “Treasures from Korea” will open with prayer: a Yeongsanjae ritual led by Buddhist monks.
A little divine providence couldn’t hurt, given the delicate nature of the works on display, dating from the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910) and, for the most part, leaving Korea for the first time. They include works on paper so fragile they can be shown for only 12 weeks at a time, and a 40-foot-high Buddhist banner painting that’s an official national treasure.
Despite its logistical challenges, the museum’s first marquee Korean art exhibition is quite timely, said Hyunsoo Woo, the museum’s curator of Korean art.