Tag Archives: k-pop

2ne1

2NE1′s New Album Highest Billboard Chart Ever for K-Pop Act

K-pop group 2NE1′s recently released album Crush is at No. 61 on the Billboard 200, surpassing Girls’ Generation-TTS’ “Twinkle” EP to set the all-time highest-selling K-pop album in the United States.

“Crush” also sold over 5,000 copies in just four days and eclipsed BIGBANG’s 2012 album Alive, which started its first week with 4,000.

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In Korea, every track of Crush made it into the top 40 slots of the K-pop Hot 100. “Come Back Home” was placed the highest at No. 2 behind “Some” by Junggigo & Soyou.

2NE1 released the video for lead single “Come Back Home” and album track “Happy” on March 2.

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SXSW 2014: Korean and Korean American Groups Set to Perform

f(x) performed at last year’s K-pop showcase at SXSW.

by RUTH KIM

A record number of Korean indie acts will have a chance to step into the spotlight at the South By Southwest 2014 Music Festival in Austin, Texas, from March 7 to March 16. But South Korea isn’t really quite known for its moody, alternative side.

In fact, Korea’s musical reputation on an international platform has not been very diverse. Homogenous dolled-up girl groups or idolized boy bands are the faces of South Korean cultural export, K-pop. But this uniformity notwithstanding, K-pop as an out-of-control, international phenomenon (which reached another level after PSY’s “Gangnam Style” in 2012) has benefited the Korean music industry and has paved the way for other Korean artists from various genre backgrounds to share their voice.

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The widely popular SXSW festival recognizes the Korean talents of both the K-pop genre as well as indie rock and alternative groups. The festival will showcase 16 distinct and gifted Korean acts, from acoustic to punk rock, from well established to up-and-coming. Punk rock pioneers Crying Nut are making their first appearance at South-By and will be sure to have the crowd moshing in no time. Korean American Big Phony’s sincere sound and velvety voice will melt hearts, while EDM gods Idiotape will keep the party going all night long.

Read below for the rest of the lineup of these trailblazing Korean indie and rock bands, and pencil the names into your SXSW schedule—like their K-pop counterparts, they’re not to be missed.

1. Big Phony

Big Phony is no sham—Korean American singer-songwriter Bobby Choy is the real deal when it comes to soothing acoustic guitar tunes, often intertwined with catchy 80’s inspired sounds, and the kind of Elliot Smith-esque voice that has your heart strings tugging.

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2. Glen Check

**UPDATE** 
All U.S. dates have been canceled due to visa issues. Source: Glen Check FB page.

Recognized by MTV K for their boundary-pushing musical and visual experimentation, South Korean indie pop group Glen Check is making their name with electro, synth-rock, pop, and indie sounds that will keep your feet moving.

3. Jambinai

You’ve never heard rock like this before. Taking traditional Korean instruments like the haegum, piri, andgeomungo out of their usual element, Jambinai creates beautifully haunting and ominous melodies that gradually intensify into passionate, goose-bump raising metallic rock sounds.

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4. Jang Kiha and the Faces

**UPDATE** 
All U.S. dates have been canceled due to visa issues. Source: Booking company

Self-described as “a life boat of sanity in a sea of cookie-cutter bubblegum pop music,” Jang Kiha and the Faces bring a completely unique and fresh pop sound to the stage. Emphasizing visual aspects and spontaneity in each performance, this indie band will keep you on your toes.

5. Nell

Named after the movie Nell starring Jodie Foster, the band Nell takes eloquently written lyrics and puts it to catchy, psychedelic tunes that are considerably more profound than the typical K-pop song.

6. No Brain

No Brain is, really, a no-brainer. Originally part of Korea’s underground punk movement known as Chosun punk, the band brings raw and uninhibited punk rock vibes that will keep your head banging.

Click here to see the rest of the Korean performers at SXSW.

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The One and Only Ailee

With several hit singles and a slew of musical accolades already in tow, the New Jersey-raised K-pop singer reflects on her journey from the object of netizen outrage to respected rising star.

by STEVE HAN

How could this happen? Why is a U.S. citizen going to sing our national anthem? What if she starts singing the American anthem instead? She only came here to make money!

Those were just a few of the jabs South Korean netizens hurled at Ailee, after the young Korean American singer was chosen to perform the Aegukga on opening day of the Korean professional baseball season in April 2012.

Baseball is arguably Korea’s most popular professional sport, and for K-pop artists, singing the country’s national anthem on the season’s first day is considered a high privilege. So, when news of the selection of Ailee—a fresh-faced K-pop singer whom most Koreans at that point only knew from her appearance on the MBC reality show Singer and Trainee—went public, netizens lit up the blogosphere with scathing criticism.

“I was really, really proud to sing the Korean anthem because I’m Korean!” recalled Ailee, 23, during an interview in February at the InterContinental Hotel in Los Angeles. “But I got a lot of unexpected criticism. I was really hurt. I mean … really, really hurt.”

But when the moment of truth came, the singer stepped up to the mike behind home plate and did what she had been doing throughout her young career—she sang from the heart. It may have been the anthem of her parents’ motherland, but it had deep meaning for her as a Korean American, too.

“When I finished the anthem and saw people applauding me, I was so, so thankful,” she said. “That’s when I really learned that music does speak louder than words.”

Although Ailee’s career got off to a rocky start, it seemed the more she performed before Korean audiences, the more they embraced her. Amid a big field of K-pop singers, Ailee stood out for her soul-laden, R&B vocals, as well as her captivating stage presence—she often ad-libbed vocal effects, something uncommon among her overly rehearsed peers.

“There are a lot of talented singers in K-pop, but Ailee has something beyond singing skills that doesn’t make her look awkward on stage,” Cho Hye-ri, a veteran pop singer known by his stage name, Wax, told the Korean website OhmyStar last November. “I had a feeling she’d make it big when I first saw her, and I’m happy to see her do so well now.”

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Indeed, Ailee today is a bonafide K-pop star, with three singles that have already hit Billboard Korea’s Hot 100.

Her debut song, “Heaven,” broke into the Hot 100 within days of its release in February 2012, and remained in the top 10 for seven consecutive weeks.  In addition, the smooth R&B hit would help her earn five different Best New Artist awards—at the Mnet Asian Music Awards, Seoul Music Awards, Golden Disk Awards, Melon Music Awards and Gaon Chart K-pop Awards.

Ailee released her mini-album, titled Invitation, last October when the worldwide euphoria of Psy’s “Gangnam Style” was at its peak. Just a month later, her track “I’ll Show You” overtook “Gangnam Style” for the No. 1 spot on Music Bank, Korea’s only chart-driven live music show on terrestrial television, after Psy’s viral hit had been on top for 10 straight weeks.

Coincidentally, KoreAm Journal interviewed Ailee on the day of the one-year anniversary of the release of “Heaven.” She was in Los Angeles in February to accept yet another honor—this time, Mnet America’s Rising Star Award at the network’s first Annual Pre-Grammy Party.

“I just can’t believe all this is happening,” said the young artist, dressed in a leopard-print blazer, with her hair swept up in a bun. “Last year, I could not have imagined that I’d be sitting in this room, having an interview.  “Even after I performed [Korea’s national] anthem, some people were still angry that it had to be me who sang the anthem,” Ailee said, with a grin. “A lot of people think that I came out of nowhere.”

Born in Denver, Colo., and raised in New Jersey, Ailee, then Amy Lee, had harbored a dream since childhood to become a singer. As she tells it, one “boring” day in February 2006, the sophomore at Scotch Plains High School in New Jersey decided to upload a 20-second YouTube video of herself singing “Amazing Grace.” Far from going viral, the video, a few weeks after going up, garnered only three comments—albeit, positive ones.  “Wow,” one person wrote in the comment section. “She’s good.”

But Ailee had already been told several times that she was good. It was just that the curious teenager was skeptical, and wasn’t sure if people around her were being honest.

“I’ve gotten a lot of good comments from people telling me that I can sing,” she said. “But I never believed them because I wasn’t too confident with my singing skills. I guess it’s kind of weird now because, when you say my name, people say, ‘Oh, [she has] so much confidence!’”

Ailee figured YouTube would let her know how good she really was. So, on another boring day at home, she posted a second video of herself, this time singing Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All.” Over the next few months, Ailee posted more covers of other popular songs by Rihanna, Alicia Keys and Jordin Sparks on her YouTube channel. Those videos, which clocked in over 2 million combined views on YouTube, went on to mark the beginning of a string of events so unexpected that Ailee may still wake up one night wondering if all of this is just a dream.

In less than a year, she had taken YouTube by storm and even attracted the attention of a TV producer from Maury, the syndicated tabloid talk show, who randomly left a comment one day on her channel, asking her to perform on the show. A delighted Ailee accepted the offer and performed “Unfaithful” by Rihanna, marking her American national television debut.  Maury is no Oprah, but Ailee said the performance marked a key moment in her career. “It was my first TV appearance, so it helped a lot with exposure because a lot of people didn’t know who I was,” she said. “I’m still proud of it.”

Although the appearance exposed her to a mainstream American audience, Ailee actually was more interested in getting the attention of record labels in Korea. Her dream since childhood was, in fact, to perform on stage in her ancestral motherland. Perhaps it may sound odd that a U.S. native envisioned achieving stardom in a country she had never before called home, but Ailee grew up speaking Korean, and being exposed to Korean TV shows and music during her upbringing in New Jersey.

“I wanted my first break to be in Korea,” Ailee said. “I grew up listening to K-pop. I grew up with S.E.S., G.O.D., and Fin.K.L. Oh—and remember Baby V.O.X.? I remember listening to their songs and copying their dance moves. I always wanted to do K-pop.”

Various Korean record labels did give Ailee offers, but she said she was waiting for the right match. “I like being free,” Ailee said. “I don’t like being so trapped, but all the companies wanted to put pressure on me.”

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The right offer finally came from Jin-A Entertainment in 2010, when she was attending Pace University inNew York as a junior communications major.  She was called in for an audition in Seoul, where she sang “If I Got You,” and was signed on the spot.

Jin-A Entertainment CEO Jo Bang-hun, known publicly by his stage name Tae Jin-ah, is a prominent Korean trot artist. The veteran singer-cum-entrepreneur launched a sub-label, YMC Entertainment, in 2011, and handed its operation to his son, Jo Yoo-myung, who grew up in New York. The mission of the sub-label was to promote younger artists, as his name was already so deeply associated with the trot genre, pop music designed to appeal to the older generation.

“My CEO [Jo Yoo-myung], he’s really, really chill. He treats me like a person, before I’m an artist,” said Ailee. “And that’s what got me to sign with him.”

Ailee made her Korean TV debut in September 2011 on MBC’s Singer and Trainee, which features aspiring artists performing various songs and being judged by a panel comprised of veteran singers. She first got the audience’s attention with a duet performed with Korea’s leading R&B singer Wheesung; however, it was her rousing solo performance of Beyonce’s “Halo” in the following episode that enthralled not just the audience, but some of the most recognized figures within K-pop.

“She has the voice to become a star anywhere in the world,” said singer BMK, director of the Soul Train Vocal Academy, who was one of the judges on the show.

Kim Bum-soo, another one of Korea’s respected R&B and soul singers, posted a link to Ailee’s performance of “Halo” via Twitter along with a message that read, “Korea doesn’t seem to be too far away from producing a world-class singer.”

She would win over even more fans when she earned a role on Immortal Song 2: Singing the Legend, a popular TV reality show that features K-pop idols performing remixes of classic hits.

On the show, Ailee performed legendary folk artist Yang Hee-eun’s “Morning Dew,” a tune from the mid-1970s that was considered highly controversial at the time because Korea’s then-military dictatorship interpreted the lyrics as anti-government and banned it. Though Ailee had never before heard the song, the lyrics so moved her that she wasn’t just shedding a few tears while performing it on national TV, she was balling her eyes out.

“Performing ‘Morning Dew’ was an extension of how I felt while I sang the [South Korean national] anthem,” Ailee said. “I learned that this song was essentially an anthem for Korean people who had to suffer. It’s a song about how they had to overcome difficulties.”

Because the singer was still reeling from the criticism from members of the Korean public, she said she could relate to this feeling of trying to overcome hardship. “So when I performed the song, I got really emotional.”

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Ailee, during an interview in Los Angeles in February.

Her appearance on Immortal Song would turn out to be a pivotal move for the artist. And in a way, her lack of familiarity with the old Korean songs and the tight schedule of the show, which gave artists about two weeks to learn and reinterpret an assigned song, played to Ailee’s strengths. Unlike many K-pop artists, Ailee isn’t one to rehearse religiously, and it’s not because she’s lazy.

“I don’t like being trapped in a box,” she explained. “That’s why I put in ad-libs and different melodies when I perform. When you practice too much, you get cornered into thinking that you can only perform a song in a certain way.”

What resulted was a growing respect for her commanding stage demeanor and, some might say, her out-and-out swagger.

“I think I’m more accepted because I’m real,” Ailee said. “I don’t try to be a teenybopper. I speak the truth, speak what’s on my mind, and people accepted that.”

Ailee would also make her acting debut in last year’s KBS television series Dream High Season 2, in which she played a member of a fictitious K-pop idol group called HershE.

“I definitely want to get into acting again in the far future,” Ailee said. “It was so much fun. I keep telling my staff members I want to do it again.”

As Ailee sits in the hotel lobby reflecting on a career that is still on the rise, she insists she is still in a state of disbelief. Just a year earlier, after all, she was being attacked for singing Korea’s national anthem at a baseball game. But the journey from there to here, in a way, helped the artist nurture the conviction that she could make it an arguably cookie-cutter industry just by being herself.

Incidentally, Ailee doesn’t see any conflicting loyalty in singing Korea’s national anthem. “Because I’m proud to accept who I am [as Korean American], I would feel just as proud to sing the American anthem, too,” she said.

The singer admits to entertaining the faint dream of bringing her career home to the States one day—and that opportunity may come sooner rather than later. When Ailee walked the red carpet at the pre-Grammy event last February, she did so with world famous record producer Tony Maserati, who incidentally won a Grammy in 2003 for his work on Beyonce’s smash hit, “Crazy In Love.”

“We talked, and he said it’d be really great to [work with] me here one day,” the singer said. “Then I was like, ‘I can’t believe he just said that!’”

But for now, Ailee, who is working on a new album that she hopes to release later this year, is taking it one day at a time.

“I still have a long way to go,” she said. “I’ve only done this for a year, and I’m happy with how I’m living right now. I’m too busy to think about what I want to do later. I know, it’s kind of sad.”

Or maybe, it’s just that the young artist is already living her dream.

“I always wanted to be a singer since I was a little girl,” said Ailee. “I don’t even remember when, or what triggered it, but ever since that became reality, I just want to live every day, and do my best at what I’m doing now.”

This article was published in the May 2013 issue of KoreAmSubscribe today! To purchase a single issue copy of the May issue, click the “Buy Now” button below. (U.S. customers only. Expect delivery in 5-7 business days).




K-Pop Concerts Across America: A Year in Review

Photos via MTV K

by Linda Son

Last April, when a car pulled up to the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, it became hard for those waiting in the crowd to breathe, let alone move, as throngs of young people flocked to the automobile.

The group of diehard fans of Korean pop music, or K-pop, whispered among themselves as they craned their necks and stood on tiptoes to get a clearer look into the car. “Who is it? Is it someone I know?” Their hopes were usually dashed as an average hotel guest would emerge from the car. But sometimes, the person in the car was actually the pop music celebrity they were waiting for to arrive and pandemonium would ensue.

The evenly dispersed group would transform into one enormous mass of people and many would find themselves being pushed into nearby strangers. Cameras would begin flashing and the air became filled with shouts of different Korean phrases: from simply calling out the artists’ name to declarations of love and adoration. Decked out in big sunglasses or hats to hide their makeup-less faces, the stars would try to make their way through the fans, sometimes stopping for a few autographs, never a picture, until their staff members or managers would usher them inside. When the star successfully made their way to the elevators, the crowd would simmer down until another car pulled up to the Sheraton, then the madness would start all over again and continue until the wee hours of the morning.

The hotel, famous for housing K-pop stars this time of year, sees this scene almost every April and this year was no exception to the fangirl madness as scores of people waited outside the Sheraton to catch a glimpse of their favorite singers. The reason? L.A.’s annual Korean Music Festival.

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Nine years in the making, KMF, as it’s known to many of its patrons, has featured top K-pop acts such as TVXQ, Girls Generation, Big Bang, Wonder Girls and Super Junior. This year, the Korea Times and other sponsors brought out Jay Park, 4Minute, G.NA, U-Kiss, Secret, Sistar, Baek Ji Young, K.Will and DJ DOC among other singers of trot music and traditional Korean music.

“There is much more excitement in seeing the band you love live than through a computer screen,” said Ann Yang, a first-time attendee of KMF. For much of the show, Yang was up on her feet, dancing and singing to the songs she knew, along with the thousands of other fans in attendance.

G.NA and DJ DOC’s own Kim Chan Ryul played hosts for the star-studded event, which was seen by thousands of people who traveled from all over North America and beyond.

K-pop garnered more attention in 2011 than ever before. YouTube announced its official categorization of K-pop as a genre on its music page, providing easy access to videos. This year also showed K-pop’s popularity in the United States where a number of concerts were held and dozens of Korean artists not only delighted their overseas fans but also performed to sold out crowds or at venues that were near capacity.

The Korean Music Festival used to be the only concert where North Americans could travel a reasonable distance to see K-pop artists perform live. These artists, however, are more frequently stopping by the U.S. to perform for their international fans.

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Wednesday's Link Attack: Kim Jong Il, Hyuna, Seung Hoon Choi

From Miraculous Birth to ‘Axis of Evil’: Dictator Kim Jong Il’s Timeline
Bloomberg

North Korea ends 12 days of official mourning today for Kim Jong Il, the dictator eulogized by his nation’s state media as “Dear Leader.”

Kim died of a heart attack on Dec. 17, brought on by exhaustion as he traveled the country by train offering guidance to his people, according to the official account of his passing.

Below is a timeline of notable events during the life of Kim, showing the contrast between the persona crafted by his state media and the accounts of outsiders and the international press.

Where in the World Is Kim Jong Nam?
Time.com

Reports say Kim Jong Il’s eldest son is now under “Chinese protection” after leaving the island of Macau. But like most things in the Hermit Kingdom, it’s hard to know for sure.

Just how isolated is North Korea? 6 facts to consider
Christian Science Monitor

North Korea’s outlook has earned it the title of the ‘hermit kingdom.’ The country is both cut off from the wider world and intensely focused on its neighbors.

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In South Korea, some praise North’s departed “Dear Leader”
Reuters

Despite growth that has propelled South Korea to become the world’s 13th largest economy, a powerhouse that makes computers, mobile telephones and cars, there are some in the capital of Seoul who believe life is better in the impoverished North.

As the world watched Wednesday’s funeral of dictator Kim Jong-il, who presided over famine, a nuclear arms push and military skirmishes with the South, Choi Dong Jin, 48, told Reuters that Kim was “a great and outstanding person” for resisting U.S. imperialism.

Korean American pastor seeks reunification through humanitarian aid
CNN.com

When Chang Soon Lee reflects on his childhood years in North Korea, his joy quickly turns to deep sadness. Like millions of Koreans caught in the middle of the Korean War in the early 1950s, Chang at the age of 15 was forced to flee his native homeland.

His father, a prominent minister who survived World War II, disappeared just days after communist-led forces invaded Pyongyang. “After the (World War II) liberation of Korea, my father often visited churches and preached but one day we waited for him and he never returned home,” says Chang.

By the time an armistice halted the Korean War in 1953, nearly 37,000 U.S. troops had been killed and more than 400,000 North Koreans soldiers were dead, according to the U.S Department of Defense.

Chang eventually emigrated to the United States on a student visa and became a minister, co-founding a ministry for Korean immigrants at Wiltshire United Method Church in Los Angeles, home to the nation’s largest Korean-American population.

But Chang has never forgotten his homeland and he’s returned half a dozen times on humanitarian missions, taking tons of food to orphanages as part of a charity group he established in the United States. “Its a kind of symbolic showing for them that we love you, you are our brothers and sisters, we are tragically separated but we are one and we are concerned about you we are praying,” says Chang.

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N.Korean Spy Kills Himself
Chosun Ilbo

A man who claimed to be a North Korean defector has committed suicide after confessing that he was sent to spy on the South.

During questioning the man, who was in his 30s, said he had received orders from Pyongyang to report on a South Korean organization that helps defectors from the North.

The National Intelligence Service said the man had hanged himself in a shower room. The source said North Korean spies held the man’s family hostage and that he felt pressured after his confession.

Adoption of Korean boys leads to full house
Journal Review (Crawfordsville, Ind.)

Paul and Stacey Leonard of Ladoga adopted sons Charlie, 1, and Reuben, 5, from South Korea. The Leonards also have a biological son, Peter, 8.

Injury costs Huskers one-time starting lineman for bowl
NBC Sports

Due to an injury to the regular starter, Nebraska Cornhuskers offensive lineman Seung Hoon Choi will be in the starting lineup when Nebraska takes on South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 2.

S. Korean short-track legend gains Russian citizenship to fulfill Sochi dream
Russia Today

Russia’s medal hopes at their first-ever Winter Games in Sochi have been given yet another boost as South Korean short-track legend Ahn Hyun-soo has finally been granted Russian citizenship.

The 26-year-old captured three golds and one bronze at the Turin Olympics back in 2006, becoming the most successful athlete there. He is also a five-time Overall World Champion.

HyunA & 2NE1 make it to Spin.com’s ‘Favorite Pop Tracks of 2011′ list
allkpop

On December 27, the website for music magazine Spin revealed their favorite pop singles of 2011.

Among the various songs by A-list pop icons, two K-pop songs made it to the list. At #3, HyunA‘s “Bubble Pop” beat #4 pop princess Britney Spears‘ “Till the World Ends“, and 2NE1‘s “I Am the Best” took the #8 spot.

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Tuesday's Link Attack: North Korea, 2NE1, Opera Singer Ji Hyun Kim

North, South Korea exchange recalls previous historic meeting
Los Angeles Times

REPORTING FROM SEOUL -– Though brief, Tuesday’s meeting between North Korean and South Korean leadership families smacked of another historic get-together more than a decade ago that led to one head of state winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

Lee Hee-ho, center, and Hyun Jeong-eun, right, in Paju, South Korea, on their way to North Korea on Monday to pay respects to Kim Jong-il and meet the North's new leader, Kim Jong-un.

New North Korean Leader Meets South Koreans and Assumes Leadership of Party
New York Times

South Korea had said it would send no official mourners to Kim Jong-il’s funeral, which angered North Korea as a sign of disrespect. But Kim Jong-un’s meeting with the private delegation of mourners, which included the former first lady of South Korea and a top businesswoman, appeared to be cordial.

The South Korean visitors, Lee Hee-ho, the widow of former President Kim Dae-jung, and the chairwoman of Hyundai Asan, Hyun Jeong-eun, which had business ties with North Korea, were the only South Koreans allowed by the government in Seoul to lead private delegations to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, to express sympathy over the death of Kim Jong-il on Dec. 17.

From Dear Leader to Marilyn Monroe, defector mocks Kim
Reuters

North Korean artist Song Byeok once proudly drew the “Dear Leader” in propaganda paintings. But he was sent to labor in one of the reclusive state’s notorious prisons after hunger forced him to try to flee.

Now a defector living in the South Korean capital, Seoul, Song has turned to mocking a ruler who led his country into famine, isolation and economic ruin.

“The day I finished this, he passed away,” Song said of his painting and the death of Kim on December 17.

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Did Kim Jong-il death ruin breakthrough deal on North Korea nukes?
The Christian Science Monitor

The death of Kim Jong-il has disrupted an American plan to encourage North Korea to curb its nuclear arsenal, and the uncertainties surrounding the “dear leader’s” replacement mean US officials have little choice for now but to sit tight.

Before the announcement of Mr. Kim’s death Sunday, the US was on the verge of completing a deal to exchange humanitarian assistance for North Korean steps toward denuclearization.

But as Kim’s replacement and youngest son, Kim Jong-un, tries to establish himself in his father’s place, it will likely be months – and potentially tense and surprise-laden months – before the North Korean leadership will be ready to reengage diplomatically, many North Asian analysts say.

North Korea Presses South to Implement Economic Pact
New York Times

In its first interaction with visitors from South Korea since the death of its leader, Kim Jong-il, North Korea on Tuesday called for the implementation of the inter-Korean summit agreements, which would have brought massive South Korean investments had the South Korean leader, Lee Myung-bak, not scuttled them.

Recalling a Trip to North Korea Before the Death of Kim Jong-il
New York Times

Mun Ho-yong placed the bouquet of flowers at the foot of the towering outdoor portrait of Kim Il-sung, the founder of North Korea. Then he turned to the Chinese businesspeople and tourists, and to the foreign journalists. “Now please bow to our leader,” he said.

Most of us had set foot in North Korea for the first time just hours earlier. We had no idea what protocol to adopt when faced with the “Great Leader,” as North Koreans call him. So we followed Mr. Mun’s lead. We bowed.

2NE1 and SNSD ranks in SPIN’s 20 Best Pop Albums of 2011
Soompi

Girl groups 2NE1 and SNSD are receiving worldwide attention.

The two groups, who are leaders in K-pop’s Korean Wave thanks to their unique performances and refined music this year, have been favorably noticed by famous foreign magazines. SPIN, a popular music magazine in the United States, announced their 20 Best Pop Album of 2011 on December 22 (local time) and the two groups were listed.

Five arrested including two members of Hawthorne Fire Department arrested after drug investigation

The Gazette (Hawthorne, N.J.)

A month and a half-long narcotics investigation resulted in the arrest of five Hawthorne residents, two of whom are members of the Hawthorne Fire Department, on Dec. 21.

At sentencing, Choi apologizes for slaying three in a Tenafly home
North Jersey

“We have three individuals who no longer walk the earth,” said Judge Donald Venezia. “You brought havoc to three individuals and to a community. Anything less than a life sentence and I’d be condoning what you did. There’s no way you’re getting a break. You did not give Mr. [Han Il] Kim a break.”

Before being sentenced, Choi apologized via his Korean translator.

“I’m very sorry to the victims and their families,” he said. “I’m sorry to my own family.”

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James Kim: Recent College Grad Feels Pain Of Uncertain Job Market
Neon Tommy

Kim, 23, is one of the “Millennials”- a group defined by a 2010 Pew Research study as 18- to 29-year-olds who are mostly newcomers to the American labor force and who, more recently, have become the last hired and the first to lose their jobs.

According to the study that surveyed 50 million Millennials nationwide, only 4 out of every 10 participants said they had full-time work, and the unemployment rate among the group was 37 percent – the highest it had been in over 30 years.

Ji Hyun Kim: New Face
The Telegraph (U.K.)

Who’s that bright and breezy young tenor playing Gastone in the current revival of La Traviata at Covent Garden?

He’s 28-year-old Ji Hyun Kim, currently a hard-working member of the Royal Opera’s Jette Parker Young Artists Programme.

Perilla, ggaennip, shiso: By any name, a fine addition to garden
L.A. Times

It’s telling that with such limited ground — not even 20 square feet — the gardeners at the Korean Resource Center have dedicated a majority of their space to the perilla plant, a member of the mint family known as ggaennip in Korea and shiso in Japan.

‘Brazen’ contracting scam: Records provide a window into audacious swindle
Washington Post

The plan was straightforward but effective: A tight team of savvy contractors and government employees allegedly inflated invoices by $20 million, approved them and split the proceeds.

And they lived large — on the taxpayers’ dollar. Porsches, real estate, flat-screen televisions and Cartier watches: The men bought it all with impunity, prosecutors say.

The Strangest Man in Ikea
Gizmodo

Taeyoon Choi isn’t at this Ikea, the second largest store location in the world, to buy a coffee table. He’s not there for delicious meatballs and lingonberry sauce, either. He’s in Ikea to create crazy-weird experimental noise machines.

7 best ski and snowboard resorts in Korea
CNN

Given that almost three-quarters of Korea is covered by mountains, it’s no wonder thousands of tourists fly in every winter to hit the slopes.

Now that it’s finally snowing, even in Seoul, here’s where to find the best snowy runs in Korea.

UNM students deface El Morro rock
Santa Fe New Mexican

Dana Choi, a Korean student at The University of New Mexico, admitted to etching the words Super Duper Dana’ into rock at El Morro National Monument in October. His graffiti covers a portion of an inscription that reads Pedro Romero 1758.’ Although officials at monument won’t talk about how they plan to erase the markings, the restoration costs have been estimated at nearly $30,000.

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Wednesday's Link Attack: North Korea, K-Pop, Dia Frampton

North Korea Reports Progress on New Reactor
New York Times

Earlier this month, the North’s state media reported that “the day is near at hand” when its new reactor will come into operation. The Web site “38 North” later published satellite photos that it said showed significant progress in building the new reactor. But it said it was unlikely to become operational for two to three years.

Six-nation talks aimed at ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons program collapsed in 2008 when North Korea balked at the American demand for intrusive inspections on its nuclear facilities. It has since raised tensions by beginning to restore the partially dismantled nuclear facilities in Yongbyon, test-launching a long-range rocket, conducting a second nuclear test and launching military provocations against the South.

Football Veteran Lee Young-pyo To Join Major League Soccer
Yonhap News

Lee, 34, retired from international play earlier this year, and ended a two-year stint with Al Hilal in Saudi Arabia in June. He said during the summer that he was mulling retirement.

Should he sign with Vancouver, it will be Lee’s sixth professional team. After starting out with Anyang LG Cheetahs, currently FC Seoul, in South Korea’s K-League, the versatile wingback has also played for PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands, Tottenham Hotspur in the English Premier League, Borussia Dortmund in Germany’s Bundesliga and Al Hilal.

Korean Pop Music Out to Conquer the World
Reuters

The structure of Korea’s relatively small music market is such that telecom companies control a large proportion of revenues, he said, meaning bands have an economic incentive to look abroad.

And K-pop acts, often created and nurtured by savvy record companies like S.M. Entertainment, are being groomed for specific markets — learning Japanese, for example, and fitting in with Japan’s musical mores.

One recent success story has been the nine-member South Korean girl band Girls’ Generation, whose first full-length Japanese album sold over 500,000 copies in Japan.

McClure also argued that Korean pop acts, though often manufactured, were generally more professional than their Japanese rivals and produced a better sound.

K-Pop Translation on Smartphone App
Korea Times

Pop!gasa is at www.popgasa.com and the app is available to download through Apple’s App Store. It is priced at $0.99 and available for free for a limited time as a promotion.

The app is user-friendly, sorting translated lyrics by artist, title and by show. Lee and Kim want to provide a nest for K-pop fans all over the world and have included a comment function to their app, so fans can share their thoughts and ideas through Pop!gasa.

“We want the app to reach as many users as possible but it has legal issues and we have to pay for copyrights to the Korea Music Copyright Association,” Lee said. “When this app makes a profit, the first thing we will do is develop it for Android.”

Coming Soon to the Sidewalks: A New Look for Scaffolding
New York Times

To replace those painted plywood sheds supported by pipes and protruding bolts that can rip pedestrians’ coat sleeves, a team consisting of Young-Hwan Choi, Andres Cortes and Sarrah Kahn from Agencie Group, a design firm based in New York, gracefully melded recycled steel and translucent plastic panels into a structure that resembles an open umbrella.

“I would say it is a really elegant take on protecting you instead of from rain from debris falling from a construction site,” Mr. LiMandri said.

Some version of sidewalk sheds with scaffolding above them have been placed at construction sites since builders began erecting Gothic cathedrals and probably since the pyramids, said Dan Eschenesy, the buildings department’s chief structural engineer.

Babysitter Arrested After Mom Tells Son About Penn State Scandal
ABC News

The mother of the two boys found out about the alleged abuse after she told her oldest son about the Penn State sexual abuse scandal.

“She was trying to describe some of the acts that are basically no-nos,” said Tom Lorenz, spokesman for the Glendale Police Department. “The child began to cry and said, ‘Mommy, the babysitter has been doing this to me.'”

Margaret Cho Says She’s Like Susan Boyle With Dirty Songs on Ferguson
AOL TV

In talking about her latest project, Margaret Cho admitted that it’s a mix of stand-up comedy and original songs on ‘The Late Late Show’ (Weeknights, 12:30AM ET on CBS). Craig Ferguson was surprised to hear that she did songs, as she’s not well known for that.

Watch the video here: LINK

Police Say Two South-Side Deaths Were Murder-Suicide
Anchorage Daily News

Tae Won Ro, 40, was found hanging by a rope in the second-floor living area, and an autopsy showed he had strangled, police spokesman Lt. Dave Parker said in a written statement. A medical examiner found that Yoo Jin Kim, 33, died from multiple stab wounds, Parker said. She was discovered lying on the home’s third floor, surrounded by blood, said Detective Mark Huelskoetter.

Ro apparently killed Kim, then hanged himself, Huelskoetter said. Crime scene investigators found evidence that Ro had Kim’s blood on his hands when he went to the first-floor garage to get a rope, the detective said.

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2 Koreans shot in Manila
Journal Online (Philippines)

Two Korean nationals were shot in two separate incidents in Manila — one in an ambush while he was driving his car and the other in a foiled robbery.

The first victim was identified as Jeong Mwan Choi, 39, a freelance tourist guide residing in Bustos, Bulacan.

‘The Voice’s Dia Frampton: ‘Don’t Kick the Chair’ Feat. Kid Cudi Lyric Video Premiere
AOL Music

She isn’t just a pretty ‘voice,’ but also one talented songwriter! Dia Frampton, who rose to fame as the runner-up on the inaugural season of NBC’s ‘The Voice,’ has a catchy new, Kid Cudi-assisted single out called ‘Don’t Kick the Chair.’ The Utah native puts the tune’s poignant lyrics in the spotlight for its brand-new video.

‘Don’t Kick the Chair’ also features an interlude by famed rapper Kid Cudi. “It was a pleasure having Kid Cudi on this song,” says Dia. “I’m a fan of his work and also am very happy with the positive lyrics he created. This song has a dark undertone, but overall, I wanted it to be optimistic.”

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Tuesday's Link Attack: Mary Hayashi, Dia Frampton, Debbie Lee

Hayashi arrest no laughing matter [OPINION]
Oakland Tribune via San Jose Mercury News

A Bay Area columnist weighs in after it was revealed that Neiman Marcus security had red-flagged state Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi during a previous visit. Hayashi, the first female Korean American to serve in the California Legislature, was arrested for felony theft on Oct. 25.

‘Voice’ Runner-Up Dia Frampton Works With Kid Cudi, Foster The People For Raw Debut
Billboard.com

“Red,” Frampton’s debut, arrives Dec. 6 on Universal Republic. She says the album is far more upbeat than Meg & Dia’s three albums and four EPs, owing to her collaborations with other writers in Los Angeles, Nashville and London. Without her older sister to split writer duties — “We don’t work together; she writes her songs and I write mine” — Frampton found the experience different from what she expected.

“This record is very personal, almost uncomfortable,” the 24-year-old artist says after doing a promotional concert at the Hollywood office of Reveille Productions. “I felt very alone on this record. On our last [Meg & Dia] record, we were stuck in this little cabin sharing bedrooms, just the five of us. The guitar amps were in the living room.

NKorea shows leader and his son watching massive live-fire drills amid tension with SKorea
AP via Washington Post

North Korean television has aired footage of leader Kim Jong Il and his son watching massive live-fire drills.

The footage aired on state television Tuesday showed Kim and his heir-apparent Kim Jong Un watching tanks, aircraft, warships and rocket launchers firing at targets on mountains. Dozens of troops were seen parachuting from a plane.

The two Kims were seen speaking to each other as they watched the drills from an enclosed viewing stand with senior military officers.

South Korean gamers suffer joystick curfew shock
The Register (U.K.)

A ban restricting all South Korean gamers under 16 from playing online games between midnight and 6am is now in full affect.

South Korea, boasting the fifth largest broadband penetration rate, is the first country to implement the controversial initiative under the Youth Protection Revision bill.

The bill, variously known as the Shutdown Law or Cinderella Law, had been contested but was eventually passed.

At this stage the ban only pertains to PC and console based networked games including Xbox Live, PlayStation and multiplayer dominions such as World of Warcraft. The government says that within two years networked games using mobile phones will be included in the ban.

News On-the-Go, Even in Pyongyang
Wall Street Journal

Like newspapers all around the world, North Korea’s biggest newspaper Rodong Shinmun is apparently adjusting to new technology.

Word is out that Rodong Shinmun is now providing news on cellphones in Pyongyang. Chosun Sinbo, a newspaper in Japan run by the General Association of North Korean Residents in Japan, published a story about it on Saturday.

It’s not quite right to say the newspaper has developed an “app” since there aren’t yet smartphones in North Korea. It appears Rodong Shinmun is sending out multimedia messages, or MMS, with stories.

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Lawsuit spurred by Virginia Tech student’s suicide settled for $250,000
Roanoke Times

The state has agreed to pay $250,000 and create a $100,000 scholarship fund to settle a $43 million wrongful death lawsuit brought against Virginia Tech by the family of a student who committed suicide, according to a court order

The state will pay up to $126,666 in legal fees to the plaintiff’s attorney. The family of Daniel Sun Kim is to receive at least $123,334.

Additionally, Virginia Tech will establish a $100,000 scholarship in Kim’s name, place a memorial plaque somewhere on campus and enact a policy of considering immediate notification of the parents or guardians of any student who is thought to be suicidal.

The Kim family brought the action in Fairfax Circuit Court in 2009 to “learn why Tech didn’t follow its protocols” in responding to a warning that Kim was suicidal, plaintiffs’ attorney Gary Mims wrote in a statement.

Ahn-Joo: Debbie Lee’s Korean Pub Food Restaurant, Her Cookbook + a Recipe for Chicken Meatballs
L.A. Weekly

Ahn-joo is the Korean word for pub food. It’s what Debbie Lee serves at her newly opened Ahn-Joo, a Korean snack bar in the Americana mall in Glendale. No liquor there, but Lee frequents Koreantown pubs so she knows the dishes well. And she adds her own spin to come up with a modern take, even turning rice cakes into nachos.

Nothing is cheffy or pretentious. “I’m a cook. At the end of the day, I want to serve people the food that I want to eat,” she says.

South Korea’s Hottest IPO: Boy Band, Inc.
The Atlantic

For the past month, the biggest story in South Korea’s stock market has centered on a five-piece boy band called Big Bang, and a couple puffs of marijuana.

News that the Big Bang’s front-man had reportedly tested positive for pot threatened to put a crimp in the initial public offering of YG Entertainment, the label responsible for some of the biggest acts in Korean Pop. The concerns were for naught. Last week, buyers snapped up YG Entertainment’s stock like teenagers trying to score tickets to their favorite boy band’s show. The company’s share price more than doubled on its first day of trading, reaching roughly $67 as buyers ordered 561 times more stock than was available. Its market cap now sits at roughly $340 million.

Samsung Lions beat SoftBank Hawks to win Asia Series
Yonhap News

South Korea’s Samsung Lions beat SoftBank Hawks of Japan 5-3 to capture the Asia Series tournament in a battle of league champions.

At Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium, the Lions, the 2011 champion of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) overcame an early deficit against the Hawks, the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) champion. Samsung’s starter Jang Won-sam settled down after a shaky start and the bullpen took care of the rest, as the Lions became the first KBO club to win the Asia Series since it began in 2005. The Lions also avenged a 9-0 loss to the Hawks in the round-robin phase of this tournament.

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