Tag Archives: kim jong il

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:

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.

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

20140421142220752_001_prev_59_20140421143906

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.

[ad#336]

“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.

[ad#336]

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.

[ad#graphic-square]

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.

[ad#graphic-square]

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.

[ad#bottomad]

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.

[ad#graphic-square]

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.”

[ad#graphic-square]

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.

[ad#bottomad]

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.

[ad#graphic-square]

Link Attack: Kim Jong Il Edition Part 3

The power brokers behind North Korea’s next leader
Yahoo! News

The late Kim Jong Il had 20 years of preparation at the side of his father, North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, who died in 1994. Experts say that because Kim Jong Un doesn’t have that kind of experience, the youngest member of the political dynasty will need the brains and political brawn of his father’s closest confidants before formally taking power.


Defectors: Death Won’t Bring Change Anytime Soon
Wall Street Journal

Though the despot is gone, rapid change in North Korea seems unlikely any time soon, defectors said Tuesday.

In a meeting with reporters, Rim Chun-ryong, who served in the North Korean army for 17 years before he fled the country in 2000, said people support the regime and that it is much stronger than outsiders presume.

[ad#graphic-square]

S. Korea expresses sympathy to N. Korean people
CNN

The South Korean government expressed its sympathy to the people of North Korea following the death of Kim Jong Il, South Korea’s unification minister said Tuesday.

Kim Jong-il’s death brings end to era of cruelty, mystery
Christian Science Monitor

Kim Jong-il’s death at the age of 69 ended an era of profligacy and harshness that included reports of both his wild living in his many mansions and stories from defectors of extreme cruelty in a gulag system to which 200,000 people were constantly consigned.

The report of the demise of the man known as North Korea’s “dear leader” – who reportedly imported cognac along with Swedish hostesses and dined on fine food dished up by a Japanese chef who dedicated a special brand of sushi to him – confirmed speculation that he had been seriously ill for awhile.


Future N. Korean Leader attended attended Swiss School
Reuters

Former pupils of a school in Switzerland believe the young lad who loved playing basketball and watching action movies and was always “good for a laugh” may have been none other than Kim Jong-un, son and anointed successor of the late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

N. Korean Leader Seen Extending ‘Kim Brand’
Bloomberg

“Jong Un’s main claim to leadership is that he looks very similar to his grandfather,” said Bradley K. Martin, author of “Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty” and a former reporter for Bloomberg News. “What you have here is branding. The Kim brand.”

Kim’s Death: Who Knew When?
Wall Street Journal

After being caught completely off-guard by Kim Jong Il’s death Monday, local politicians and the public are asking what may be a painful question for intelligence and defense officials: why didn’t Seoul know about this sooner?

It’s no secret that the South Korean government devotes a considerable amount of resources in gathering intelligence about what’s going on north of the border. But when prodded by the perceived lapse, various arms of Korean government declined to discuss Seoul’s intelligence gathering process, including how they first heard of Kim Jong Il’s death or the precise time that became aware of it.

New Weight on U.S.-South Korea Relations
New York Times

“I think right now the North Koreans are themselves going to go into a period of national mourning,” said Victoria Nuland, the State Department spokeswoman. “We need to see where they are and where they go as they move through their transition period.”

Metro Detroit Koreans hope for better future
Detroit News

For Kiyon Ahn, a Metro Detroiter who grew up in Busan, South Korea, but left the country for the United States 36 years ago, the news prompted thoughts about the future of the region and its heir-apparent, Kim Jong Un, the youngest son of Kim Jong Il.

“A lot of people are thinking whether (North Korea) will be better or not better,” Ahn said on Monday. “He’s too young. He doesn’t have enough experience.” He is believed to be in his late 20s.

Comics won’t have Kim to kick around any more
Reuters

But in life and even in death, Kim, who reportedly died on Saturday at 69, was comedy gold to foreign satirists — among the few outsiders who will miss the late North Korean leader and his elevator shoes and bouffant hairstyle.

In Kim’s Undetected Death, Sign of Nation’s Opacity
New York Times

For South Korean and American intelligence services to have failed to pick up any clues to this momentous development — panicked phone calls between government officials, say, or soldiers massing around Mr. Kim’s train — attests to the secretive nature of North Korea, a country not only at odds with most of the world but also sealed off from it in a way that defies spies or satellites.

Kim Jong Il’s Death: 5 Memorable Parodies of the North Korean Dictator (Video)
The Hollywood Reporter

From “Team America: World Police” to “30 Rock,” the late leader — and dedicated film fan — has been spoofed frequently in pop culture.

But he’s also been the object of many a parody in Hollywood, from Team America: World Police to 30 Rock. Here are five memorable spoofs of the late North Korean dictator.

[ad#graphic-square]

Link Attack: Kim Jong Il Edition Part 2

What’s Next for North Korea After Kim’s Death?
ABC News via Yahoo News

The death of Kim Jong Il likely puts the leadership of North Korea into the hands of an even more mysterious man, his son, Kim Jong Un, fueling speculation about a struggle for power in the reclusive nation, and with that control of a nuclear arsenal and the world’s fourth-largest military.

Former US Ambassador to South Korea Donald Gregg says he is more optimistic about the future of North Korea with the death of its “dear leader,” because Kim Jong Un may be able to move the country more in line with the west.

“There has been a generational change in the top leadership. Some of the 70- and 80-year-olds, really hard-line people, have faded away,” said Gregg.

Gregg says the change in leadership does not mean the country will flex its nuclear muscles, because Kim Jong Un will “need to provide stability in a changing time and that could mean no rash moves.”

“This is potentially a very positive development because the upcoming year is a year of transition,” Gregg said.

Kim Jong Il death: Who’s who in the Kim family?
Los Angeles Times

Who’s who in Kim Jong Il’s family? Here’s a primer on the Kim family, which led one of the world’s most enduring dictatorships, a repressive regime that has long defied predictions of its demise. It survived from the end of World War II into the 21st century while many of its people went hungry.

Kim Jong Il death: Powerful uncle could overshadow Kim’s son
Los Angeles Times

North Korean media extolled Kim Jong Un on Monday as the “great successor” and the “outstanding leader of our party, army and people.”

But it’s not so simple. The young man is likely to be overshadowed by a powerful uncle, Jang Sung Taek.
Jang, 65, is married to Kim Jong Il’s younger sister and has spent three decades in the ruling Workers’ Party, holding key positions in the military and secret police and running North Korea’s special economic zones. His family members also hold powerful jobs with the military.

In contrast, the chosen successor has a thin resume. He attended a German-language public high school in Bern, Switzerland, where he was registered as the son of a North Korean diplomat. His classmates described him as crazy about basketball and computer games.

Until September 2010, when the overweight young man with a dimpled face was named a four-star general, he was almost entirely unknown to the North Korean public. Even the exact spelling of his name was a state secret.

In O.C., relief, worry over Kim’s death
Orange County Register

The headlines in the Korean press were greeted with relief and worry in Orange County’s Korean-American community: “Kim Jong Il Dead,” and nobody was quite sure what would come next.

Tens of thousands of Orange County residents come from South Korea, and thousands more have family ties to the nation that has long lived with the threat of the north and its mercurial leader. They followed the news of Kim’s death with the safety of friends and family in mind.

“The situation in the Korean Peninsula has been very fragile” even before Kim’s death, said Joe Pak, a board member of the Korean American Federation of Orange County. “We’d like to have a very stable situation with North Korea.”

Kim Jong Il Dead: Top 10 Crazy Facts
ABC News

Kim the Movie Buff
Kim was a major film buff, and reportedly owned 10,000 to 20,000 DVDs, many of which were Hollywood films. Some of his favorite movies include the 1980s slasher flick “Friday the 13th,” the Sylvester Stallone action flick “Rambo” and the Japanese classic “Godzilla.”

[ad#graphic-square]

Kim Jong Il’s death: North Korean defectors speak out
Los Angeles Times

They are a group with much to lose in the aftermath of the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il: defectors who have fled the secretive regime and have little access to information about family members back home.

On Monday, several former North Koreans now living in Seoul talked about their feelings concerning the death of a man many called a dreaded tyrant.

“I didn’t get chance to call my hometown yet because it costs a lot of money. I am not so worried about my relatives. If they were elites, I would be extra-concerned, but my folks are common people,” said Kang Cheol-ryong, a 28-year-old defector who’s now attending a university in Seoul. “But I know that dangers lurk. Until the mourning period ends, they should not drink, sing, have fun, play or laugh. So they should be careful.”

Kang, who is president of his college’s Students for Peace and Unification Assn., said he fears for his countrymen as Kim Jong Il’s youngest son, Kim Jong Un, is set to assume control of the Pyongyang regime.

[ad#graphic-square]

Europe Cautious in Reaction to Kim Jong-il’s Death
Chosun Ilbo

European officials reacted with a mix of hope and watchfulness to the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and apparent power transition to his son. Reactions in Europe have been slow and cautious to the news of Kim Jong-il’s demise.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague sounded a hopeful note, suggesting the North Korean leader’s death from an apparent heart attack could be the turning point for the Asian nation.

In a statement, Hague expressed hope the new North Korean leadership would engage with the international community and work for peace and security in the region.

Germany’s Foreign Ministry said there is always hope for change, but that Western expectations remain the same — that North Korea give up its nuclear program and improve the plight of its people.

Margaret Cho: I Was Once Kim Jong Il
Wall Street Journal

North Korea is an unsolved mystery. I once had family there, and now the family ties, cut for so long because of the separation of the Koreas into north and south, have healed over into non-existence. Perhaps there is a scar there, an infinitesimal tear in some great grandmother’s conscience, but I don’t even know her. No one in my family remembers her name, so it’s like she never existed. We from the south and we from the north now are separate and at best, indifferent. At worst, hateful in the terrible way of civil war and the brutal animosity of a country divided is capable of. Do we despise ourselves more when we are ourselves?

When I got the part of Kim Jong Il in the fantastic television program “30 Rock,” I approached the role with the zeal of Cate Blanchett transforming herself into Bob Dylan. I remembered once I heard a story of the celebrated actress Glenn Close being seen wearing dark glasses and waiting for a wheelchair in an airplane, feeling the air in front of her as if she were blind, and thinking this is what an actor must do to prepare. Live it. Do it for real.

[ad#graphic-square]

Link Attack: Kim Jong Il Edition

Shock, worry, uncertainty as LA’s Koreatown learns of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s death
AP via Washington Post

Many in the largest Korean enclave in the United States took word of the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il with disbelief, saying it was a day they thought they’d never see. But when their shock wore off, most in Los Angeles’s Koreatown shifted to quiet concern for the future of their native country and its neighbor to the north.

“Kim Jong Il died? You’re sure about that? No way! I thought he was going to live forever!” said Brian Shin, a 30-year-old native South Korean as he smoked a cigarette in front of his high-rise apartment building on Wilshire Boulevard. He kept expressing doubts until his wife ran downstairs to tell him it was true.

But while he knew the event was huge, he didn’t think it would lead to significant changes.

Kim Jong Il death: Koreatown reacts with joy and worry
Los Angeles Times

In grocery stores, shopping plazas and all-night diners in L.A.’s Koreatown, the news of Kim’s death was greeted with both unrestrained joy and a deep sense of concern.

Yoon-hui Kim, a defector who fled North Korea about 10 years ago by crossing the border into China, said refugees were all on edge waiting to see what would happen next.

Many still have family back in North Korea and are deeply concerned about what fate their relatives may face in the immediate future, she said.

“It was no surprise, since we all knew he was ill,” said Kim, who is in her late 30s, but was careful with personal details about herself. “The most worrying is what will happen to the North Korean people.”

Kim said she felt the situation was particularly volatile and unpredictable because neither South Korea nor China would be in a position to influence the country.

“All we can do is wait and see,” she said.

OC Korean leaders react to Kim Jong Il’s death
Orange County Register

Korean leaders in Orange County are anticipating new “challenges” and “opportunities” after the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

Irvine Mayor Sukhee Kang had just finished speaking at a Christmas gala for the Korean American military cadets in Buena Park when the news broke. He was cautiously optimistic.

“It’s important to monitor the situation as they unveil more information,” said Kang, who emigrated from Korea. “But in terms of human rights, his death is a very positive outcome for the people of North Korea.”

Irvine Councilman Steven Choi also attended the Christmas party. Choi said that although the Korean dictator’s regime was unstable, his presence at least ensured that a status quo would remain in place.

Now, he said, the South Korean military would be on high alert, and those with relatives in the Korean peninsula would have to brace for the possibility of conflict.

“I don’t think there is a positive or negative,” Choi said. “It’s a nervous time. It will bring about some new challenges and some new opportunities.” Choi emigrated from South Korea in 1968 and some of his family still lives there.

[ad#graphic-square]

Hope, worry in Seattle after Kim Jong Il’s death
Seattle Times

Leaders of Seattle’s Korean-American community reacted with a mix of fear and hope Sunday to the death of North Korea’s much-despised leader.

John Oh, president of the Seattle chapter of the National Unification Advisory Council, which wants to see the Korean peninsula peacefully reunited, couldn’t contain his relief — or his anxiety.

“This is great news to me,” said Oh, who was driven out of North Korea during the war in the 1950s. “I’m so glad to hear this dictator is dead. But now I’m worried about military action.

With Word of Leader’s Death, Come Tears on State TV
New York Times

As my colleagues Choe Sang-hun and David E. Sanger report, Kim Jong-il, the mysterious and mercurial dictator of North Korea, has died. The news ripped across the globe Sunday night after the country’s official news media proclaimed the leader dead by way of a tearful television announcer. The video above shows an anchorwoman who appears to be struggling through her emotions to deliver the news.

Young Heir Faces Uncertain Transition in North Korea
New York Times

With the abrupt death of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, the fate of his isolated, nuclear-armed regime has dropped into the hands of his youngest son, Kim Jong-un, who is such an unknown that the world did not even know for sure what he looked like until last year.

But the biggest enigma may be whether the younger Mr. Kim will be able to hold onto power in this last bastion of hard-line Communism, much less prevent its impoverished economy from collapsing.

For now, the reclusive regime is acting true to form, offering few clues as to what, if any, changes the death of the dictator could bring. It does, however, appear to be offering the first glimmers of an answer to one question that has long dogged North Korea watchers: whether the powerful military and other parts of the nation’s small, privileged ruling elite would go along with the Kim family’s ambitions to extend its dynastic rule to a third generation.

Within hours of the announcement on Monday of his father’s death, North Korea’s ruling Workers Party released a statement calling on the nation to unite “under the leadership of our comrade Kim Jong-un.”

[ad#graphic-square]

North Korea mourns dead leader, son is “Great Successor”
Reuters via Yahoo News

North Korea’s official KCNA news agency lauded Kim’s youngest son, Kim Jong-un as “the outstanding leader of our party, army and people.”

A KCNA dispatch said North Koreans from all walks of life were in utter despair but were finding comfort in the “absolute surety that the leadership of Comrade Kim Jong-un will lead and succeed the great task of revolutionary enterprise.”

But there was uncertainty about how much support the third generation of the North’s ruling dynasty has among the ruling elite, especially in the military, and concern he might need a military show of strength to help establish his credentials.

“Kim Jong-un is a pale reflection of his father and grandfather. He has not had the decades of grooming and securing of a power base that Jong-il enjoyed before assuming control from his father,” said Bruce Klingner, an Asia policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation in Washington.

North Korean Dynastic Succession Tested in Tapping Kim’s Son
Business Week

The stability of nuclear-armed North Korea may hinge on whether its military and the family of deceased dictator Kim Jong Il agree that his little-known, twenty-something son can extend six decades of dynastic rule.

Kim Jong Un was named to high-level military and party posts in September 2010. Kim Jong Il, who died of a heart attack Dec. 17, groomed his son for succession by featuring him prominently at a party congress and having him meet with foreign dignitaries.

The younger Kim is slated to take the reins of an economy whose 24 million largely impoverished people — five percent of whom serve in the military — have almost no access to outside media and suffer from chronic malnutrition. North Korea shows no signs of abandoning its nuclear weapons program in the face of global sanctions and any sign of concessions from the new leader could undermine his position.

“It’s not going to be an easy succession,” said Hong Yung Lee, a professor of East Asian politics at the University of California at Berkeley, in a phone interview. “The most important institution is the military. How will it handle Kim Jong Un?”

‘Team America: World Police’ surges as Twitter topic following Kim Jong Il’s death
New York Daily News

The death of Kim Jong Il has brought renewed interest in the North Korean dictator’s most high-profile performance on this side of the Pacific — as a singing puppet in “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s 2004 comedy “Team America: World Police.”

The marionette movie became a high-trending Twitter topic almost immediately after North Korean television announced Sunday night that the country’s “Supreme Leader” had died of a heart attack in Pyongyang at the age of 69.

[ad#graphic-square]