Tag Archives: kim jong il

North Korea's leader Kim Jong-Il  speaks

Kim Jong-il Demanded $10 Billion for Summit with South Korea

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim
jamesskim@iamkoream.com

When former South Korean president Kim Dae-jung met with the late Kim Jong-il on North Korean soil in 2000, it was seen as a landmark event and a huge step towards possible reunification. Whatever optimism the meeting inspired, however, was quashed when it was revealed the South Korean administration secretly paid hundreds of millions of dollars to make the summit happen.

According to former South Korean president Lee Myung-bak, Pyongyang set even steeper demands for a summit when Lee began his own term, which ran from 2008-2013. In his memoir The Times of the President, which is set to be published next week, Lee writes that Pyongyang demanded $10 billion in cash and half a million tons of food as part of a deal for Lee to meet Kim Jong-il.

“The document looked like some sort of standardized ‘summit bill’ with its list of assistance we had to provide and the schedule written up,” Lee writes, according to excerpts obtained by Reuters.

The “conditions for a summit” included 400,000 tons of rice, 100,000 tons of corn and 300,000 tons of fertilizer. The $10 billion would go towards setting up a development bank.

Lee flat out refused. “We shouldn’t be haggling for a summit,” he wrote.

Lee’s predecessor, President Roh Moo-hyun, traveled to Pyongyang in 2007 and met with Kim Jong-il as a follow up to the 2000 summit. However, the conservative Lee brought a more hardline approach when dealing with North Korea, and he left office without ever meeting Kim Jong-il or Kim Jong-un. Along with pushing the North to abandon its nuclear weapons program, Lee refused a meeting because Kim Jong-il denied any North Korean involvement in the 2010 torpedo attack on the Cheonan naval vessel.

Current North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean president Park Geun-hye have both brought up the idea of a possible meeting this year, but they’re still working on it. On Friday, North Korea demanded that South Korea lift sanctions imposed by Lee’s government following the Cheonan sinking as a condition for getting talks started again.

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Photo courtesy of Time

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Interview: Suki Kim, Author of ‘Without You, There Is No Us’

by STEVE HAN | @steve_han
steve@iamkoream.com

When author Suki Kim was offered a job teaching English to the sons of North Korea’s most privileged families in 2011, she knew it would offer a rare opportunity to dive more deeply into the walled-off country.

Kim, author of the 2003 mystery novel The Interpreter, was no stranger to official North Korea, having paid several visits over the last decade on reporting trips for the New York Review of Books, Harper’s Magazine and the New York Times.

Yet, the 44-year-old told KoreAm by phone, the more she traveled around the country, the less certain she became that she was sharing the real stories of its people.

“There are so few unfiltered portraits of life inside North Korea, and our understanding of this brutal nation remains dismal,” she wrote in a statement on her website.

Kim, who was born and raised in South Korea and came to the United States with her family at 13, applied in 2008 for a teaching position at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), an all-male private school founded and run by a Korean American evangelical Christian who runs a similar school in Yanji, China.

Between June and December 2011, Kim taught, ate and lived among her students in full immersion mode, taking great pains to secretly jot down her notes and observations amid heavy surveillance.

Her effort culminated in a memoir, Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea’s Elite, published by Crown Publishers in October. (The book’s title is taken from the lyrics of a famous North Korean song, “No Motherland Without You,” dedicated to the late leader Kim Jong-il, whose death occurred a day before the author left North Korea.)

Kim, who lives in New York, spoke with KoreAm about her experience writing the memoir. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Why did you decide to write this book?

I’ve been visiting North Korea since 2002. [When] I went back to Pyongyang [in 2008], it became clear to me that I couldn’t really write about my travel experiences with any meaning because [of] government propaganda. I wanted to find a way to be embedded in North Korea. So when this opportunity came up, I knew it was a unique chance to go in and really experience what the truth is.

What was the goal of your book?

I’m not a political pundit. I never approached it from a political point of view. I’m also not a regular journalist. As a writer, but also on a personal level, my goal was to humanize North Koreans by putting faces to their names. I wanted them to become real people for my readers. I wanted to get to know what the world was like for North Koreans. I went in there and came out with 400 pages of notes. It was important that my experience was about my relationship with the students.

What was it like teaching at the school? What were your students like?

I had to get each lesson approved by North Korean staff. Every class was recorded and reported on by a student. I had about 50 students, all boys, in my class. They were young, they were vulnerable. They were only [ages] 19 and 20, and they were really missing home. There was always a duality to the students. They seemed very curious, and yet wary—and understandably so. I was the first person from the outside world they had encountered. They were excited and distrusting at the same time.

Tell us about the living circumstances.

For the entire six-month period, we all lived together in an isolated compound, which we could never leave [without permission from the guards]. Because we were in such isolation, we spent a lot of time together. I ate three meals a day with [my students], I played sports with them. So there was definitely that familiarity that comes with close proximity. The proximity made us closer. When you eat three meals a day together, even when you’re watched all the time, some sort of bonding happens.

Were the students allowed any outside contact?

The students weren’t allowed to keep in touch with even their families, who presumably lived in the same city as most of North Korea’s elites in the capital. I was the only thing they had, and they were the only things I had. That helped to break barriers and develop an intimacy.

You had to record your notes in secret. Were you ever in fear of getting caught?

Yes, constantly. It’s a very, very frightening world there. I was watched 24/7. The fear is constant in the book. The fear was always a part of being in that country. I poured all of me into this book. It would be too dangerous for me to go back there today.

What other restrictions did you face?

I wasn’t allowed to speak to my students in Korean, but they knew I [was able to] because I would speak [Korean] to the staff. They also spoke to each other in Korean and would see me laugh whenever they said something funny. So, we had a secret language of communicating. [The students] also once told me they felt more comfortable because they were with a Korean teacher.

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You devote some sections of the book to discussing your personal con- nection to the Korean peninsula. How did your own past inform this memoir?

I was born into the Korean division in a way. Both sides of my family had relatives in North Korea, but they lost touch during the Korean War. Although I grew up with that sorrow since birth, it was never a journalistic interest. When I came to America at 13, I did not speak a word of English. I suddenly lost my language and home. I think that loss at such a sensitive age affected me. I was really haunted by the idea of home. When I first went to North Korea by chance, I really identified with it. When we talk about the Korean division, we’re talking about a generation that died missing the people they loved. So arriving in North Korea in 2002 as a writer, I wanted to find a way to experience that sorrow for the rest of the world.

What was the funding structure of the school?

The organization that set up the school basically funds the whole project; the whole thing was run by donations. [North Koreans were given the chance to] educate their kids in a top-notch facility without having to pay for it, which for North Korea is a good deal. It’s also propaganda, because it gives [officials] a facade of looking like the rest of the world.

A day before you left North Korea, Kim Jong-il died, and his son, Kim Jong-un, became the country’s new leader. How did your students react to the development?

I can only talk about what I saw [among] the small number of [my students], but what I saw was genuine. I wasn’t a journalist interviewing people on the streets. In my [view], the [students’ reverence for Kim Jong-il] was more than fear. And it’s not that hard to understand if you know their system. In a way, Kim Jong-il, and now Kim Jong-un, wasn’t just a leader. They are to North Korea what Jesus is to Christians. Kim Jong-il is the meaning for everything. He’s the reason for this world. He’s the savior. He’s the reason for you being alive. This is a country where all the books are about him, where all of what the television [broadcasts] is about him, where all the songs are about him. In that world, for Kim Jong-il to die, of course they were shattered. They were genuinely traumatized and heartbroken. It’s not an unfathomable sorrow.

What do you think the future holds in store for your students?

Back then, you wondered what would become of their world. But now, we know there haven’t been many changes. North Korea has just been referred by the United Nations to send their leaders to the International Criminal Court for crimes against human rights. I genuinely felt like these were my kids, but they were stuck in that gulag. That’s the world, ultimately, they live in. Their country has the worst human rights issues in the world. The sadness always came from being aware of the world they’re going to inherit and the world they’re going to actually run—and the world they are stuck in. It’s a horrible feeling.

What was it like leaving the school when it was time to return to the U.S.?

When you develop such a close bond with students, you care a great deal. I just couldn’t forget about the predicament my students were in. I mean, what will they even do after learning English in school? The fact is, they won’t even be allowed to leave the country—and they are the future leaders of North Korea. On my last day, when we were saying goodbye, I asked my students if there was anything they wanted to ask me. They asked me to address them in Korean, which was really heartbreaking. They weren’t allowed to express their feelings to me before that. I realized, at that moment, they really wanted a bond.

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Featured photo courtesy of Ed Kashi-VII.

This article was published in the December/January 2015 issue of KoreAmSubscribe today! To purchase a single issue copy of the December/January issue, click the “Buy Now” button below. (U.S. customers only. Expect delivery in 5-7 business days).
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Kim Jong-Un’s 27-Year-Old Sister In Charge Of North Korea

by STEVE HAN

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s younger sister Kim Yo-jong is reportedly in control of the hermit country in place of her brother whose illness has prevented him from making public appearances for almost a month, according to North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity (NKIS), a South Korea-based think tank.

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Kim Yo-jong, the youngest daughter of late leader Kim Jong-il, was unveiled as a “senior official” in March as she was seen alongside her brother at the Supreme People’s Assembly. She had reportedly taken over the role of her aunt Kim Kyong-hui, the wife of Jang Song-thaek, a former senior government official who was executed in December for allegedly committing “anti-party acts.”

Although Hwang Byong-so, director of the General Political Bureau of the Korean People’s Army, was believed to have assumed the status as North Korea’s No. 2 man behind Kim Jong-un, NKIS reported that it is Kim Yo-jong who is the communist regime’s second-in-command while Hwang is a mere “shadow.”

On Sept. 6, Kim Yo-jung led a meeting for the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, during which the North Korean regime has reportedly decided on four main topics. Those topics include:

1. Give special and extended medical treatment to Kim Jong-un until his health is fully restored.
2. All high level officials and party members must continue to follow Kim Jong-un’s previous orders.
3. The army should be on wartime-like alert while Kim Jong-un is out of commission.
4. Important government and other administrative matters must be reported to Kim Yo-jong.

Kim Jong-un last made his public appearance in early September when he was limping with visible discomfort in his right leg. North Korea’s state-run media reported that he is undergoing medical treatment from both domestic and foreign medical teams, but his prolonged absence is fueling rumors over his health issues.

While South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported that Kim Jong-un is suffering from gout, U.K.’s Daily Mirror bizarrely said that it’s in fact his addiction Swiss cheese that contributed to his deteriorating health. Recently, Free North Korea Radio reported that Kim is recovering from a successful ankle surgery.

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Joo Yang AMA

North Korean Defector Shares Eye-Opening Tales In Reddit AMA

by JAMES S. KIM

Plenty of political experts and researchers have discussed how to deal with the reclusive state of North Korea and its leader, Kim Jong-un. However, what often gets lost in that discourse is the state of the North Korean people.

Joo Yang defected to South Korea in 2011. Since then, she has worked as an activist with Liberty in North Korea (LINK), a nonprofit that helps rescue and resettle North Korean refugees, and as a participant on the television program “Now on My Way to Meet You,” which features North Korean women. She also participated in LINK’s two-day SUMMIT conference last weekend at Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA. KoreAm was able to attend, so look forward to our recap soon.

With the help of LINK, Yang participated in an “Ask Me Anything (AMA)” session on Reddit, providing honest and even a few eye-opening responses to the questions posed by Redditors. You can read read the full AMA here. Here are some highlights:

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You say that your parents defected first. Did the North Korean government know about this and did you face any repercussions?
In North Korea, it’s very hard to know the weather forecast because of frequent power cuts, unlike in South Korea. So we made a cover story that my father had died at sea and my mother and other family members had left our house to try to find any remains of my father. So I was in our house my myself, but the secret police came to ask me questions. I stuck to the story and told them that my family had become separated, and stonewalled their questions. I knew that the secret police used people in the neighborhood to monitor my behavior, but I just pretended not to notice and carried on living my life.

Since crossing the border into south Korea, have you encountered any negativity or prejudice from the South Korean people?
South Korean people can be quite discriminating, for instance against Korean-Chinese people living in South Korea. When I speak, I have a dialect and to many South Koreans it sounds like how Korean-Chinese people from Northeast China speak. Sometimes people have asked if I’m from there, and I felt negativity in their tone. Also, one time my auntie was riding in a taxi when the driver asked where she was from. When she replied “North Korea”, he stopped the car and asked her to get out! Even so, for me personally, I think that being open with where I am from helps me to adapt to life here in the long run.

Could you share a personal moment from your past that, looking back now, influenced you (and your parents) to defect?
My grandfather always told us that our generation must find freedom. And he told us about modern technology and advanced countries. Also, my father listened to foreign radio illegally since I was 9 years old. That had a really big influence. South Korean radio, Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Asia (RFA) … we could hear news including news from people who had defected first so we got courage from that and were able to plan our defection strategy.

What was it like to go from a world with very little of today’s modern technology to a world with the Internet and its capabilities to connect you with people and information all over the world?
First it was kind of like arriving in the modern world in a time machine. There were so many things I didn’t know, but as I learnt one thing after another by trying them, that was really fun. Even typing on a computer was really novel and fun at first. It’s been three years, but even now there’s still a lot of new things.

What’s the hardest thing you’ve had to adjust to?
There were a lot of new culture shocks to get used to and understand, for instance toilets and ATMs, and using an electronic card to ride the subway… Escalators, elevators, all of those things. haha. And in South Korea they use a lot of “Konglish,” or borrowed words, so I had to get used to that.

In North Korea, I never saw a sit-down toilet. We always used squat toilets. So when I first saw a sit-down toilet when I was in China, I didn’t know what to do. I actually climbed up and used it as if it was a squat toilet.

When I was in the South Korean National Intelligence Service debriefing facility [that all NKorean defectors go through] the South Korean officials used to plead with the defectors not to climb up on the toilet seat, but many defectors still wanted to because they felt they couldn’t go to the toilet otherwise! hahaha

If you ask any North Korean defector, they will also know what you mean if you say “bidet shower.” That’s because we’ve all experienced making the mistake of using a bidet wrong the first time we saw one, and getting water all over ourselves. I did that once too. But now we have a bidet in my house!

There must have been a ton of (obvious) reasons why you defected, but is there anything you miss from North Korea?
There’s lots! First, my friends. My neighbors were like family back home too, so I miss them. Also from my hometown, the air, the water, even the smell of the earth. I miss all of those things.

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How are North Korean weddings celebrated?
North Korean women really want to enjoy romance. In North Korea we wear traditional Korean-style clothes for wedding dresses (joseon-ot, or hanbok in South Korea), but more recently because of the effects of foreign media, some North Korean women want to wear a white wedding dress at their wedding! But that has not been possible in North Korea yet. So people are adapting the traditional style wedding dress and making it look more beautiful.

Another thing is that normally the wedding ceremony is done in the house of the groom and the bride, once each. But if it’s too expensive to get all the food for that, then sometimes they combine it and just do it once in one side’s house.

What kind of feelings did you have when you arrived in South Korea and saw the quality of life that many people have? How did you adjust to this?
When I got here I felt like South Koreans could eat the kind of food that North Koreans eat on special occasions every day. Most ordinary North Koreans eat “corn-rice” as their staple food, but that is rough. But on special days like Kim Il-sung’s birthday some people can eat white rice. In fact some people can’t even eat white rice on those special days. But in South Korea, even homeless people eat white rice!

As for how I adjusted … well it tastes pretty good, so I’m adjusting well! Even though sometimes I miss North Korean food too …

Do the people of North Korea really believe that Kim Jong-il and his father and grandfather actually have superhuman powers or do they just say they do out of fear?
I think that people believe it kind of like people believe in the bible. Well, that’s the case for children. But when you grow up, you realize those stories do not make sense, but you still have to memorize it well for the school tests in order to graduate from school well. More recently, amongst close friends, people will complain that this kind of ideological education will not actually help you in your life. I felt like that too.

Many people who travel to North Korea as tourists believe that, by engaging with North Koreans, they are able to humanize foreigners and perhaps help change North Korean’s minds about them. However, others believe tourism there is wrong because much of the money goes to support an oppressive government. In your opinion, do you think that tourism in North Korea is a positive force or a negative one?
Firstly, I think if there are chances for North Korean citizens to meet foreigners then tourism can be a good thing. This is because North Koreans are curious about foreigners, and if they can interact then they can feel more friendly towards them, and see them as normal humans. However I’m also personally not comfortable with the North Korean government making foreign currency from it. So there are pros and cons. So, I hope that if people are visiting North Korea and paying their way, then maybe they can make more requests to the government and see more than just the ‘good course’ around Pyongyang and so on.

Image via LINK

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SKorean Ferry: Search at Difficult Stage, NKorea Sends Condolences

Image via NoCut News: A table set by the families of the South Korean ferry victims

Hopes of finding survivors from the capsized South Korean ferry are dwindling as the death toll reached 159 as of 9 a.m. PST on Wednesday, according to Yonhap News Agency.

As the tragedy reached its one-week mark, 140 people are still missing as divers continue searching through cold and murky waters. Most of the victims were students from Danwon High School who were on a four-day field trip to South Korea’s Jeju Island.

Authorities told the Associated Press that the search operation has now reached a difficult stage of having to break down cabin walls in order to get to certain parts of the ship, where many of the missing are believed to be. They are reluctant to start a “salvage” operation, essentially searching for corpses, trying to be sensitive to families of the missing, some of whom still hold on to hope of finding survivors.

However, other families of the missing want the government at this point to do whatever they can to bring back bodies before they decompose even more.

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“It inflicts a new wound for the parents to see the bodies decomposed,” Pyun Yong-gi, whose 17-year-old daughter is among the missing, told AP.

Many of the retrieved bodies reportedly have had broken fingers, presumably from victims attempting to climb the walls to escape as the ferry was sinking.

“We are trained for hostile environments, but it’s hard to be brave when we meet bodies in dark water,” Hwang Dae-sik, one of the search divers, told Reuters.

It is still unclear what caused the ship to capsize. Investigators are looking at factors, such as wind, ocean currents, freight, modifications made to the ship and the fact that it turned just before it began listing, according to AP. Tracking data indicated that the ship made a 45-degree turn, AP reported, and that it turned 180 degrees in the course of three minutes around the period that the ferry began to list.

The vessel’s captain, Lee Joon-seok, who was reportedly among the first to escape, and at least eight other crew members have been arrested on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need. Investigators have also searched the offices of Chongjaejin Marine, the ferry’s operator.

Meanwhile, North Korea joined many other foreign governments in offering its condolences in a message sent recently through the two Korea’s Red Cross organizations. “North Korea expresses its deep condolences to many passengers who died or went missing after the ferry Sewol capsized, especially the young students,” the message from North Korea read, according to the JoongAng Ilbo.

Pyongyang stayed silent for a week after the ferry Sewol sunk on April 16 near the island of Jindo, off of the Korean peninsula’s southeastern coast. The last time one of the two Koreas sent its condolences to another was in December 2011, when the South sent its sympathies to the North over the death of its leader Kim Jong-il, the father of current leader Kim Jong-un.

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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 Link Attack: North Korea, Debbie Lee, SK Soccer

Kim Didn’t Die on his Train, says South Korean Spy Chief
The Week

According to The Times, Won Sei Hoon, director of the South’s National Intelligence Service (NIS), was reported by Seoul media as saying: “We confirmed through US satellite surveillance photos that Kim’s personal train was stationary in Pyongyang [before his death].”

“We kept tabs on Kim’s whereabouts until Thursday but could not locate him starting Friday. There are signs that he tried to go somewhere [on Saturday morning] but died.”

This is at odds with the official North Korean version. Kim is said to have died of a heart attack at the age of 69 while travelling on his official train due to “great mental and physical strain” brought on by a “high intensity field inspection”.

S. Korea’s Top Spy Under Pressure to Quit Over Kim’s Death
Bloomberg Business Week

Park and Kwon joined the growing criticism directed at the spy agency for its shortfalls in collecting intelligence on a regime that’s still technically at war with Asia’s fourth- largest economy. South Korea’s government wasn’t alone in being blindsided as President Barack Obama learned of Kim’s death half an hour after the North Korean broadcasts, according to the White House.

Kim Jong Il Rumors Take Flight
The Wall Street Journal

…since the blogosphere hates an information vacuum, there are numerous rumors flying around about the circumstances of the Dear Leader’s death and who knew about it first.

One of the most bizarre is that Samsung Group, South Korea’s biggest business conglomerate, knew about Mr. Kim’s demise a day ahead of the announcement to the world by North Korea’s state media.

The rumor was started by a local newspaper, which subsequently deleted its report. That didn’t stop the talk catching fire on Twitter and online forums. Samsung was forced to deny the rumor twice.

Aid Groups Don’t Want U.S. to Delay Food Shipments to North Korea
Los Angeles Times

U.S. State Department officials said they intended to wait out the announced 11-day official mourning period to mark Kim Jong Il’s death in North Korea before assessing the nation’s food needs.

“We’re going to have to keep talking about this, and given the mourning period, frankly, we don’t think we’ll be able to have much more clarity and resolve these issues before the new year,” spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told a news conference.

The regime is in the process of transitioning power to Kim’s youngest son and untested heir-apparent, Kim Jong Un.

Edgewater Woman Sentenced to Jail for Role in Fraud Ring
NortheJersey.com

Kim was among 53 people arrested in September 2010 following an investigation into a Palisades Park-based identity theft and fraud ring. She previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud, possession of 15 or more unauthorized credit cards with intent to defraud and aggravated identity theft.

Authorities said Kim also admitted to carrying at least 20 fraudulent credit cards to make purchases without ever intending to pay the bill.

An Identity Through Cooking
The Boston Globe

Before garnering fame by blending Korean and American Southern dishes as the second runner-up on season five of “The Next Food Network Star,’’ Lee endured taunting as a Korean-American growing up in Arizona. But her TV success helped her come to grips with her identity and launched a culinary career that includes a popular Los Angeles-based food truck and restaurant. This fall, she wrote “Seoultown Kitchen: Korean Pub Grub to Share With Family and Friends.’’

Nepali Student, 14, Adjusts to Life in Boston
Boston.com

This is an interesting story about a teenager from Nepal, one of the world’s poorest countries, who moved to Boston to live with a Korean American couple as part of a new social welfare program.

[14-year-old Manisha] Sapkota spent most of her childhood in the central Nepal village of Arba, in a three-room house with a large extended family — her great-grandmother, grandparents, two aunts, three uncles, her parents, her brother, and one cousin. Now she has her own room, like any other American girl, plastered with posters from the “Twilight” movies.

Chen originally planned for Sapkota to live with him and his wife in a Jamaica Plain triple-decker, but that became impossible when they agreed to take in another Trinity Academy student who needed a home.

Instead, she lives downstairs with their friends Dan Lee, 38, pastor of Highrock Covenant Church of Brookline, and Diana Choi Lee, 34, a seventh-grade history teacher at Weston Middle School, who both visited Nepal with Chen’s group and knew Sapkota before she came to the United States.

North Korea’s Tears: A Blend of Cult, Culture and Coercion
The New York Times

A day after North Korea announced the death of its longtime ruler, Kim Jong-il, televised video and photographs distributed by the reclusive state on Tuesday showed scenes of mass hysteria and grief among citizens and soldiers across the capital. The images, many of them carefully selected by the state Korean Central News Agency, appeared to be part of an official campaign to build support for Mr. Kim’s successor, his third son, Kim Jong-un.

Kim Jong-il, the Sportsman
The New York Times

In his first match at Pyongyang Lanes, Kim bowled a perfect 300, according to state-run news media, which did not say whether the bumpers were raised. But that is nothing compared with the five holes in one and 38 under par that Kim reportedly shot in his maiden round of golf. No word on whether the course included a windmill, lion’s head and pop-up gopher.

Of course, in a closed, isolated nation like North Korea, it is difficult to separate the milk of fact from the crème of fiction. Some accounts had Kim shooting 11 aces, not merely five.

Steelers’ Hines Ward had a ‘blast’ with ‘Dark Knight’ role
USA Today

[Hines Ward] and several other Steelers teammates were asked by producer Thomas Tull to take part in the Christopher Nolan-directed film, which is due out July 20. Ward normally does not take kickoff returns, but this is Hollywood, after all.

“I hadn’t run back a kickoff in forever,” says Ward of the scene, filmed at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. “It was a little bizarre. But I scored on the return and any time I score it’s a lot of fun.”

Choi Kang-hee is surprise pick as S. Korea coach
AP via SI.com

South Korea sprang a surprise by appointing Choi Kang-hee as the new coach of the national team on Wednesday despite the fact he had already turned down the job and that a foreign coach was widely anticipated.

Choi, who had been coach of club side Jeonbuk Motors, replaced Cho Kwang-rae, who was fired earlier this month after a shock defeat by Lebanon jeopardized the country’s chances of advancing in Asian qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.

Korea needs a draw against Kuwait on Feb. 29 to be certain of a place in the final phase of qualification, and the importance of that game was a decisive factor in Choi getting the job.

“We thought long and hard about it,” Korean Football Association technical chief Hwangbo Kwan said. “We decided to appoint Choi because we wanted to make the most of the short time we have before the game against Kuwait on February 29 and Choi can led the team in stable manner.”

Submission of the Year: ‘Korean Zombie’ Twists to the Top
USA Today

Jung learned his twister skills from Youtube videos of jiu-jitsu teacher Eddie Bravo, who took the basic technique from amateur wrestling, where the hold is known as a guillotine. He put out a DVD in 2005 and a detailed book two years later, but the twister before Jung was successfully applied only a few times in MMA, including twice by female fighter Shayna Baszler and once by Japanese fighter Shuichiro Katsumura, all on smaller shows.

By doing it at the UFC level, Jung exposed the twister to most MMA fans for the first time. Even Bravo was impressed.

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