In a rare move by Pyongyang, a Korean American was given an honorary North Korean citizenship in the hopes of spurring future investment, according to news reports.
Sang-Kwon Park, chief executive of Pyeonghwa Motors, a joint venture of the Unification Church-owned Pyonghwa Motors of Seoul and the North Korea-run Ryonbong General Corp., said he received the citizenship last month, making him the second Korean American to receive the honor and first since Kim Jong-un came into power, according to AFP.
“This means that North Korea has acknowledged the trust they had put in me. They were also encouraging me to start new projects in the North, more freely and aggressively,” Park told Yonhap News.
Korean American Chin-kyung Kim, the president of Pyongyang University of Science and Technology was the first to receive honorary citizenship in August of 2011.
Mr Park also confirmed reports the Unification Church planned to sell its entire stake in the automotive company, as well as a hotel in Pyongyang, to North Korea. In return, he asked Pyongyang to allow him to start a new business, probably in distribution.
Pyeonghwa Motors, which started production in 2002, has been in the black for the past five years, Mr Park said.
Google’s Schmidt urges N. Korea to embrace Web
Google’s Eric Schmidt wrapped up a controversial trip to North Korea on Thursday during which he urged the isolated state to embrace the Internet or face further economic decline.
U.S. to send team of ranking officials to S. Korea, Japan next week
The Barack Obama administration is dispatching an inter-agency team of senior officials next week to South Korea and Japan for consultations with the allies as the two nations deal with power transitions.
Kurt Campbell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, is scheduled to arrive in Seoul on Tuesday for a two-day stay, according to his department.
He will go there with Mark Lippert, the assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, and Daniel Russel, the national security council senior director for Asian affairs, the department said.
Hanmi Said to Seek Sale
Hanmi Financial Corp. (HAFC), the second- largest U.S. bank catering to Korean-Americans, is looking for a buyer and hired DelMorgan & Co. to advise on a sale, said three people with knowledge of the matter.
The lender may attract interest from BBCN Bancorp Inc. (BBCN) and Wilshire Bancorp Inc. (WIBC), which like Hanmi are based in Los Angeles and target Korean-Americans, said two of the people, who asked not to be named because the process is private. Hanmi rose more than 8 percent today, giving the firm a market value of about $481 million. It has assets of about $2.8 billion.
At the Front Line of Suicide Prevention in South Korea
Wall Street Journal
Ha Kyoo-seob, president of Seoul National Hospital, has a side job trying to tackle one of South Korea’s biggest social problems as immediate past president of the Korea Association for Suicide Prevention.
He made news earlier this week when, following the latest suicide of a South Korean celebrity, he showed up unannounced in front of the press corps at the Ministry of Health and Welfare and said media sensationalism of such deaths wasn’t helping the nation’s crisis. He laid out data from several studies that showed how the number suicides rise in the wake of a celebrity’s death.
Newspaper editorials followed, but it’s unclear that his warning will forestall another round of gruesome, detailed reporting the next time a celebrity commits suicide.
Tackling South Korea’s suicide rate
Australia Network News
Mental health experts have called for a major shift in the way mental illness is tackled in South Korea, where the suicide rate remains the highest in the developed world.
Boyfriend ‘strangled pretty South Korean student he met at church after row over hair she left in the plug hole’
The Daily Mail (U.K.)
A 27-year-old man killed his South Korean girlfriend whom he had met at a church after a ‘petty quarrel about hair being found down the plug hole’, a court heard today.
Daniel Jones allegedly murdered Da In Lee, 22, on Easter Sunday last year and attempted to hide the body under a duvet at his flat in Tipton, West Midlands, before fleeing to Bristol.
Jones admitted to his ex-partner that he had killed Miss Lee, who studied international relations and sociology at Aston University in Birmingham, Wolverhampton Crown Court was told.
Korean Chef Dreams of Global Chain
Akira Back, touted as one of the top chefs in Las Vegas, has a wide following among politicians and celebrities such as Bill Clinton and Paris Hilton. He was recently nominated for the prestigious James Beard Foundation Awards, often called the “food Oscars” and named a “rising star” by American magazine Restaurant Hospitality.
Back is the head chef of the prestigious Yellowtail Japanese Restaurant & Lounge at the Bellagio, Las Vegas. He said he is constantly sketching and dreaming up news dishes which are delicious and look great. He said his philosophy is to awaken customers to their sense of taste.
Kim Yuna should be favorite to win world championships
Kim Yu-na officially qualified for the world championships, not that there was any doubt. The reigning Olympic champion won the South Korean nationals on Sunday, which was just her second competition after almost two years off. Kim fell in her short program but still posted a higher total score (210.77 points) than in her first outing back in December (201.61).
The Korea Skating Union charged admission to its national championships for the first time (not coincidentally, it was Kim’s first appearance there as a senior), and all 4,800 tickets were snatched within minutes of going on sale, according to Yonhap News.
She’s certainly not at her world-record best from the Vancouver Games (228.56), but Kim, 22, and her “Les Miserables” free skate should be favored for gold at worlds in London, Ontario, come March.
So you fancy John Huh?
John Huh could buck the trends and win this week’s Sony Open in Hawaii according to our expert Ben Coley.
Samsung, LG Unveil Curved OLED TVs
Samsung and LG both unveiled innovative curved-display OLED TVs at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Tuesday. They kept the new products under tight wraps until the launch.
The wide displays are concavely curved five or six degrees, which endures less screen distortion and has a similar effect to an IMAX screen, the two firms claim.
The unveiling was shrouded in secrecy. Samsung put its TV up and distributed a press release only 30 minutes before the opening of the show.
The Movies of Kim Jong Il, Now Available Via Bootlegs and YouTube
When he died in December 2011, Kim Jong Il left behind more than a dynastic regime and a closet full of drab pantsuits. Kim, who ruled the hermetic North Korea from 1994, when his father, Kim Il Sung, died until his own passing 17 years later, was a noted cinephile and something of a mogul. Films and film theory were hobbies of his, and as the whims of dictators tend to harden into real-world realities, Kim made the leap few less-connected dilettantes ever do: He got movies made — even if he apparently had to kidnap a great director to shoot them.
These films have rarely been screened outside North Korea. But thanks to bootleggers and YouTube, at least three now are readily available for your viewing.
What a Park Presidency Means for South Korea’s Foreign Policy
South Koreans used to joke that their country was a “shrimp among whales” because it is flanked by the giants China and Russia, as well as Japan and, of course, the other and more bellicose Korea to the north. Today, however, South Korea is an emerging power. It is the world’s 11th biggest economy, sixth biggest exporter and on track to become the eighth biggest trading nation. And because it lies in a geopolitical hotspot, with an economy dependent on exports, the new President’s direction of foreign policy will matter. “[South] Korea is one of the most connected countries in the world,” says Troy Stangarone of the U.S.-based Korea Economic Institute of America. “Both its role in Northeast Asia and globally will probably be shaped by the next administration.”
Park’s foremost challenge when she takes office in February will be North Korea. The outgoing government of President Lee Myung-bak, a no-nonsense former corporate CEO, reversed 10 years of so-called sunshine policy — a conciliatory approach to Pyongyang that saw two summits, the South’s investments in the North and reunions of family members separated by the Korean War. Lee adopted a stern approach, cutting off dialogue and humanitarian aid over Pyongyang’s unwillingness to drop its nuclear-weapons program.
Inter-Korean relations likely to change under Park presidency
South Korean President-elect Park Geun-hye’s election promise to mend fences with North Korea is spurring a mood of optimism for a turnaround in the frozen inter-Korean relations, but analysts said that the two Koreas may take some time before resolving long-standing issues, which stymied their ties under the outgoing government.
The first South Korean woman elected to the five-year presidency has pledged to depart from outgoing President Lee Myung-bak’s hard-line North Korean policy, in which the government has refused to engage with the North without the communist country’s apologies for the deadly 2010 attacks on the South Korean Navy vessel Cheonan and the border island of Yeonpyeong.
Did a Tantrum Kill Kim Jong Il?
Wall Street Journal
A year after the death of Kim Jong Il, little information has emerged about the circumstances of his reported heart attack other than the official narrative that he died from overwork at 8:30am on Dec. 17 aboard his personal train while heading out on another “field guidance” trip.
Doubts about parts of that account have been raised, including skepticism about whether Mr. Kim was actually on the train given his apparent habit of sleeping in late, and satellite images showing the train still in Pyongyang.
N. Korean leader to purge more of the old guard in new year: expert
As North Korean leader Kim Jong-un wraps up his first year in power, marked by the reckless purging of several old guard elites, he may replace the country’s No. 2 leader, Kim Yong-nam, and some other top officials next year, according to a North Korea expert here.
“Who replaces Kim Yong-nam may tell us about the future direction of the restructuring of the political system,” said Alexandre Mansourov, a specialist in Northeast Asian security. He now works as a visiting scholar at the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University.
He said Kim Yong-nam will likely “honorably retire,” rather than being purged.
Largest Korean-American Bank Seeks to Become Regional Player After Deals
American Banker (subscription req’d)
BBCN execs took a difficult path to build the largest Korean-American bank, but a successful merger in L.A. and a deal in Seattle have put it on course to become a West Coast player — and maybe more.
Check out our story on BBCN from the October 2012 issue of KoreAm.
Honey Pig Korean BBQ Opens In Irvine
OC Weekly (Calif.)
As Shuji reported a long while ago, Honey Pig, the Korean BBQ joint that specializes in samgyeopsal (pork belly), is coming to Irvine. It has finally opened. There are other Honey Pigs in LA’s Koreatown, in La Palma, and a Wako Honey Pig in Buena Park.
Some are related to the other by loose familial ties and they all have that specialty in common, as well as the domed cooking surface on which you sear and render your fatty pork slices into crispness.
Photo studio pervert does something unusual
A pervert in his 40s who ran a photo studio did something unusual; he would use a timer when taking photographs of female college students.
What he would do is rush to the back of his clients and drop his pants when the camera clicked. He would take the regular photographs but keep the pornographic shots in his computer.
The man was finally caught for what he was up to since the beginning of the year and was indicted last May under laws for the protection of youths. However, the court ruled that he was innocent of the crime.
Top ten Asian players of 2012
3. Koo Ja-cheol (South Korea and FC Augsburg)
The young midfielder ticked all the boxes in 2012 – impressive for the South Korean national team, very impressive with FC Augsburg in the Bundesliga and inspirational in leading his country to the bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics. The game for the bronze medal between Japan and Korea was perhaps the high point of 2012 on the pitch for Asia, and for Koo it was just the latest in a string of high-class performances.
While his spectacular strikes from the edge of the box have been catching the eye in Germany – as well as his contretemps with Franck Ribery – back in East Asia, fans know that Koo is developing into a fine driving midfield player who is set to be at the heart of the South Korean team for years to come. 2013 could be the year in which he makes it really big.
Korea drops Major Leaguer Choo Shin-soo from WBC roster
Yonhap via Korea Times
Choo Shin-soo, outfielder for the Cincinnati Reds in Major League Baseball (MLB), on Thursday was dropped from Korea’s roster for the World Baseball Classic next spring.
The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) said Choo had asked to be left off the national team for the March 2-19 tournament so that he can prepare for his first season with the Reds. He was recently traded from the Cleveland Indians to the National League club.
Lydia Ko, John Huh Named Among Year’s Top Breakout Golfers
Korean-New Zealander Lydia Ko and Korean-American John Huh were named among the top 10 breakout players of the year by the Golf Channel on Wednesday.
7 Questions With … Hines Ward of “Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off”
Channel Guide Magazine
He’s the legendary Pittsburgh Steeler who broke records (and one opponent’s jaw) on the field, then broke hearts in the Dancing With the Stars ballroom before retiring from the NFL last May to become an NBC football analyst. Now Hines Ward is testing his game in a whole new arena — the kitchen — as a contestant on Season 2 of Food Network’s Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off, battling Johnny Weir, Kathy Najimy, Carnie Wilson, Gilbert Gottfried and others for celeb-chef supremacy.
Photo via AFP
Nine months after Kim Jong-un replaced his deceased father Kim Jong-il as the leader of North Korea, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said that reunification with North Korea is just a matter of time.
“It is inevitable that [North and South] Korea will come to peaceful reunification at some point,” Lee told reporters in Oslo during his visit to Norway, according to AFP.
In a Starving Nation, Luxury for a Few
New York Times
The South Korean news media, which scrutinizes every photo of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, zeroed in this week on one particular photo released by the North’s state-run media on Tuesday. It shows Mr. Kim watching an art performance by soldiers during a military visit, the first reported in the North Korean media since he fired the top army leader, Vice Marshal Ri Yong-ho, on July 15.
But the photo also showed his wife, Ri Sol-ju, with something most North Korean women have never heard of, much less owned: a Christian Dior handbag.
South Korean journalists did not take long to identify Ms. Ri’s handbag and its going price in Seoul: 1.8 million won, or $1,600. That is about 16 times the average monthly wage of a North Korean worker in the Gaeseong industrial park, a joint venture between North and South Korea that provides some of the best-paying jobs in the impoverished North.
Violence and Making Sense
Cho was a Korean-American from the South who had entered college with dreams, however mangled and bizarre, of becoming a writer. That same sentence could have been written about me. As the evidence of Cho’s derangement began to surface in the videos, short stories and plays he left behind, it became clear that Cho had been trying to tell a righteous story, where the “rich kids” and “brats” were cleansed from the earth by a sort of Frankenstein’s monster of messianic figures and revenge-movie heroes.
Wesson accuses council of racial, geographic cliques
Los Angeles Times
In videotaped remarks posted online by a Los Angeles Baptist ministers organization, Wesson discussed the council’s recent, once-a-decade redistricting process, saying the council is divided into four factions: white, black, Latinos and those who represent the San Fernando Valley. He noted an ongoing split between himself and the council’s two other black council members, Jan Perry and Bernard C. Parks. And he said some of his colleagues deliberately tried to exploit that rift, which became public after Parks and Perry skipped the vote to make Wesson council president.
North Korea: Don’t Call Us “Naughty”
Wall Street Journal
North Korea gets referred to in less-than-glowing terms on a regular basis, and for good reason. But now it’s upset about being called something a lot less damning: naughty.
On Tuesday, the North’s official news agency lashed out at an Australian newspaper for its tongue-in-cheek reference to North Korea as “Naughty Korea” in an Olympic medals table printed last Wednesday. The free daily, mX, referred to South Korea as “Nice Korea” in the same table.
‘Comfort Women’ Billboard Goes Up in Houston
An advertisement titled “Do You Hear?” condemning the Japanese government for failing to apologize to women it subjected to sexual slavery during the World War II was set up on a highway billboard in Houston, Texas.
La Crescenta Library to Receive 10,000 Korean Books
About 10,000 Korean books were shipped by boat across the Pacific from Korea to Los Angeles, and will soon line the shelves at La Crescenta Library.
Crescenta Valley Town Councilmember James Suh, Ph.D., learned about a Korean language book donation program happening at a library in Cerritos. He contacted the Campaign Association of the Book Supplying for Overseas Koreans.
‘Go On’: Matthew Perry and John Cho share a moment
Zap 2 It
Perry plays Ryan King, a sports-radio host whose wife dies a month before the series opens. Cho is Steven, Ryan’s boss at the station, who orders him to attend group therapy to help cope with his loss.
As you can see, neither man is exactly at ease talking about the sensitive subject.
K-Town by K-Town: A Jokbal Platter + Seoul Train + Partying in Rounds
Chatter of K-Town, an unapologetic Asian American rendition of Jersey Shore, began in 2010. Rumors mixed among facts: R&B singer Tyrese Gibson is the executive producer; it was slated to air on a cable network; and it was about to drop any minute. Angry Asian Man kept tabs on when (and where) the show would premiere, while critics debated the merits and failures to both community and pop culture at-large. SNL even made a spoof. All this until it was apparent that K-Town was experiencing distributive difficulties.
Television network aims at growing US Asian market
New York Daily News
In hopes of seizing an untapped market, Mnet, the first round-the-clock Asian American entertainment network, has been expanding across the United States with programs ranging from Korean pop to US-produced animation.
Mnet, which entered Washington and Philadelphia in June as its latest markets, faces a complicated task ahead as it looks to appeal to one of the most diverse demographics in the United States.
Emmy nominee Margaret Cho: ‘The most alarming thing’ is that I look like Kim Jong-il
OMG via Yahoo Canada
Margaret Cho was recently nominated for her first-ever Emmy … but it’s for a guest role most viewers don’t even realize she’s playing. After all, who would ask a 43-year-old woman to portray North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il? “30 Rock” star and executive producer Tina Fey would (and did!) and Cho jumped at the chance.
“It seemed like a good fit. I was absolutely flattered. People don’t expect it to be me because I’m so disguised. But the way I’m disguised is just that I’m not wearing any makeup. That’s actually enough to transform me into him,” Cho, whose parents both emigrated from South Korea, explains of the comic-infused version of the notorious leader she’s played on the NBC sitcom for the last two seasons. “The most alarming thing is that I just look like that. There are a couple of different fat suits I wear, and I guess it’s in the performance, so that’s good. I’m proud that I get to play a man and be nominated as an actress. I feel like Cate Blanchett.”
Olympic Update: Japan to Battle Rival South Korea for Men’s Soccer Bronze
Wall Street Journal
Like Japan, South Korea missed the finals, unable to answer any of Brazil’s three goals during the semifinal match. But the Asian rivals’ dashed gold medal hopes mean fans back home will be treated to a fiery kicker.
Japan is chasing its first Olympic soccer medal in 44 years. South Korea wants its first ever. Now one of them is assured of walking away with both a medal and the satisfaction of thumping a rival.
Cerritos Native-Gold Medalist Reflects on the Olympic Moment That Almost Wasn’t
It was a golden moment that almost didn’t happen. Between waking up with a 102 degree fever that morning, and suffering a broken toe in his first bout that day, Jimmy Kim was ready to give up.
But after a few words of wisdom from his coach/father Grand Master Chan-Yong Kim, the 21-year-old Olympian fought through the pain and exhaustion that ravaged his body and instead became the first American male to ever win a gold medal in Taekwondo at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea.
Viewers’ guide to UFC 150
So when the former lightweight champion stares into the eyes of Benson Henderson on Saturday night in Denver (10 p.m. ET, PPV) and has a déjà vu moment, it’ll be a familiar feeling. The UFC 150 main event with Henderson, who dethroned Edgar in February, will be Frankie’s sixth fight in a row against someone he’s met in his last one or will face again in his next.
Park won’t be back with Penguins
Richard Park’s second stint with the Penguins officially ended.
The Penguins showed little interest in bringing the veteran center back for another season, and on Tuesday, he inked a two-year deal with HC Ambri Piotta in Switzerland.
Park enjoyed two previous stints in the Swiss Elite League. He scored seven goals and added seven assists last season in 54 games with the Penguins.
Say It Ain’t So — Kogi BBQ Truck Gets Rid of Select Menu Items
Looks like Chef Roy Choi of Kogi BBQ fame is back on his feet again and is planning to add new menu items to his world famous Los Angeles and Orange County based trucks.
Following a recent stint in which Choi stopped eating meat for a week and considered leaving the culinary world, it seems as if his passion for cooking has been reignited.
Boo, the World’s Cutest Dog, Calls a Facebook Employee “Mom”
Two of my tipsters say that Boo’s adoptive human mother of the past six years is Irene Ahn, a dyed-in-the-wool Facebook employee working in a leading position in the company’s finance department. After working for Yahoo and PayPal in the past, Ahn has been with Facebook since December of 2008.