South Korea Cautious on North Political Shuffling
Voice of America
South Korea’s ministry in charge of relations with North Korea is urging caution over reports of a power shuffle in Pyongyang. Seoul’s spy agency said leader Kim Jong Un removed his uncle as second in charge and had two of his aids executed prompting a media frenzy of speculation.
South Korea’s National Intelligence Service late Tuesday said it believes North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s uncle was dismissed, and two of his assistants executed, on charges of corruption and disloyalty.
The uncle, Jang Song Thaek, was vice chairman of North Korea’s powerful National Defense Commission and mentor to the young leader after his father, Kim Jong Il, died two years ago.
A quiet party apparatchik rises in North Korea, but perhaps not for long
The man who has most to gain from the apparent decline of Jang Song Thaek, the second-most powerful figure in North Korea, is a party apparatchik who has been around the ruling Kim dynasty for decades but kept out of the limelight until three years ago.
Choe Ryong Hae now appears to be the most influential adviser to Kim Jong Un, the mercurial 30-year-old who heads the secretive nuclear-armed nation. That had been Jang’s role, but South Korea’s spy agency said on Tuesday that he had been removed from his official posts.
That fate could soon befall Choe as well, as Kim surrounds himself with more aides of his generation, according to analysts and defectors from the regime, often the only source of information for palace intrigue in Pyongyang.
Biden in Seoul After Urging China to Resolve Territorial Dispute
Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Seoul today after telling China’s leaders their declaration of a new air defense zone has raised tension throughout Asia.
Biden talks this morning with South Korean President Park Geun Hye on the final leg of a weeklong trip to Asia that has taken on greater significance as the U.S. seeks to navigate a territorial dispute between China and two American allies, South Korea and Japan.
China’s growing influence in a region that increasingly drives the global economy means it must take a bigger role in maintaining stability, Biden said in a speech yesterday in an address to the American Chamber of Commerce in Beijing and the U.S.-China Business Council.
US ambassador wins Korean-American Club Award
U.S. Ambassador to Korea Sung Kim will receive the first Korean-American Club Award at the club’s year-end gathering on Dec. 9.
According to the Korean-American Club on Thursday, Kim has contributed to the development of U.S.-Korea relations by serving as the U.S. special envoy for the six-party talks, chief of political military affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, and director of the Office of Korean Affairs in Washington.
“Kim has joined the ranks of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and has improved national prestige,” the Korean-American Club said in a statement.
North Korea’s Prison Camps Expanding, Amnesty International Says
Satellite images of one of North Korea’s largest political prison camps suggests its inmate population is expanding, Amnesty International said Thursday in a report detailing rape and torture in the North’s notorious gulag.
The report by the London-based rights watchdog included rare testimony from a former camp guard, as well as from former inmates about the brutality prevalent in the prison system.
“For Amnesty International, which has been investigating human rights violations for the last 50 years, we find North Korea to be in a category of its own,” said Amnesty’s East Asia researcher Rajiv Narayan.
Korea’s Domestic Cold War
Foreign Policy in Focus
They’re the last three hunger strikers standing. Actually, they’re sitting—just outside the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea. The weather is turning cold, and they’re bundled up against the wind.
The three men are legislators. Two of their number have already collapsed and ended up in hospital. In November, the government attempted to ban their political party—the United Progressive Party, the third largest in the country—for essentially being a proxy for North Korea. The party leader, meanwhile, is on trial for treason under South Korea’s National Security Law.
Elderly suicides in South Korea: Poor spirits
THEIR son-in-law’s visit was a customary show of filial piety for late November. But the homemade kimchi he brought to last his ailing in-laws through the winter would not be needed. “I don’t want to be a burden on my children”, wrote the 82-year-old in a note he left in the sealed house, along with two funeral pictures and a will. Media outlets were quick to note the parallels with the death of an elderly couple in “Late Blossom”, a rare Korean film on growing old that was a box-office hit in 2011.
That year more than 4,000 South Koreans over the age of 65 committed suicide: a rate five times higher than in 1990, and nearly four times the rich-country average (see chart). Yet these “silent suicides” rarely get the attention that teenage ones do, says Ahn Yong-min, a psychiatrist at Seoul National University (SNU) and head of the Korea Association of Suicide Prevention. Young deaths are seen as a cry for help and attract plenty of government funds, though their number is on a par with the OECD average. Attempted suicides among the old are ten times higher. It does not help that self-inflicted harm is not covered by the health-care system.
The World’s Largest Vessel Enters The Water In South Korea
Shell has just floated the hull of the world’s largest vessel out of its dry dock in South Korea. It’s so massive that if you stood it up, it would be 1,601 feet tall, reaching higher into the sky than the Empire State Building.
The vessel, called the Prelude, will actually be used more as a floating island than a ship. It won’t be able to travel under its own power. Shell plans to tow it and anchor it about 300 miles off the coast of western Australia for 25 years.
There, the 600,000-ton Prelude will serve as a liquefied natural gas, or LNG, facility, which lets the company tap into the natural gas deep at sea. The gas will then be chilled into a liquid, which makes the gas easier to store and ship.
Daniel Dae Kim still making waves in ‘Hawaii Five-0′
Daniel Dae Kim feels he’s more than justified in “trumpeting” his TV series Hawaii Five-0.
“Our show goes beyond a typical procedural in that it really does try to give the characters personal lives,” Kim says.
“That’s the stuff that kind of keeps me going, as I discover more about (Chin Ho Kelly, his character).
Amanda Seyfried Declares Love for Korean Saunas During Overseas Trip
Amanda Seyfried says she often goes to Korean “jjimjilbang” spas in Los Angeles, the actress told South Korean press Wednesday. The actress also shared other beauty secrets during the promotional tour for Japanese cosmetics brand Cle de Peau Beaute.
“I had the most amazing welcome to anywhere I’ve ever been, in Korea. And I think I have the best fans in Korea… I’ve never seen anything like it,” she said about the reception at the airport on Tuesday, which happened to be her 28th birthday.
When asked about her favorite physical traits, she said she was grateful for her lips. “I like to wear lipstick because my lips are big, and I know that it’s something women everywhere aspire to, with so many lip injections happening in America. So I’m really grateful for my lips,” said the actress, who appeared wearing bright red rouge and a dusty pink lace dress.
Girls’ Generation makes TIME’s Top 10 Songs of 2013
Girls’ Generation took the fifth spot on TIME’s Top 10 Songs of 2013 list with “I Got a Boy.”
Douglas Polk, who compiled the list, wrote, “The nine-woman South Korean group Girls’ Generation is a ridiculously effective hook machine, and a major phenomenon in Asia, whose biggest pop acts make One Direction and Katy Perry sound like audience-alienating avant-gardists.”
“Get Lucky” by Daft Punk and “The Wire” by Haim were 1-2 on the list.
Hyorin Talks Honestly About Recently Posted Unflattering Pictures
Sistar‘s Hyorin, who recently made her first solo comeback, talked about some issues regarding her unflattering and rather insulting picture taken from one of her performances for “One Way Love” on the SBS “Night of TV Entertainment” that was aired on December 4.
During the interview, Hyorin said, “There are some people who don’t really like the crab dance moves. Maybe I’ve gone too far for them.” When the reporter talked about whether the photographers are her anti-fans and showed her that very unflattering picture, Hyorin replied, “When I see this kind of picture, I’m just so shocked. I think about whether I really did dance like that. It’s an image of myself that I can’t really relate to.” She continued, “Sometimes, I get angry. Why would they take a shot of myself like that when they can perfectly take a picture of when I’m just standing. I think that’s the reason why I don’t push myself harder in performances. Because I’m afraid that if I do, this kind of picture will come up.”
At the end of the interview, the singer sent a video message to the photographers and fellow reporters to which she said, “I really would like it if you can take prettier pictures of me so that I can do better on stage and dance better,” and joked, “or, you can take this kind of pictures if you use photoshop!”
Korea Hopes for Lucky Break in World Cup Draw
The group draw for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil will take place on Friday at the Brazilian resort town of Costa do Sauipe. The 32 countries that qualified will be divided into eight groups.
Broadly speaking, each group will feature one team from each of four pots that were announced Wednesday, although there is an exception this year as there are seven teams in Pot 2 and nine in Pot 4.
The first pot features the eight top seeds, or the top seven teams according to FIFA’s world rankings in October plus host Brazil. These are, in ranking order, world No. 1 Spain, Germany, Argentina, Colombia, Belgium, Uruguay and Switzerland.
Mariners may prefer to sign Shin-Soo Choo and Kendrys Morales rather than Robinson Cano
The Mariners aren’t against spending buckets of money this offseason, but they may prefer quantity over quality.
It is no secret that the Mariners have tons of cash on hand and are willing to spend great sums of it in order to turn their perennial also-ran into a frontrunner this offseason. They have been rumored to be in hot pursuit of Robinson Cano, the biggest and most expensive name on the free agent board this winter. Cano is said to be demanding a contract north of $200 million, to which the Mariners are reportedly amenable. But some say the Mariners prefer to spend their money on Shin-Soo Choo and Kendrys Morales instead of Cano, according to the New York Post.
Korea Q&A: Beautiful Fat Korean Selfies
Questions include: “Why do Koreans look so good in pictures?” “What’s it like being fat in Korea?” “Is it safe for a young girl to visit Seoul alone?” “Is there a dating scene for Koreans over 30?” “How do I attract Korean boys?” “What’s an ulzzang (얼짱)?”
Kari asks: “Why did my Korean teacher ask us to take off the flash when we took a picture?”
Generally, Koreans (in particular girls) are quite self-conscious when it comes to pictures. Many don’t like unflattering pictures, especially if they end up on the internet. So Koreans have learned many picture taking tips and tricks to get the best looking pictures. Flash is one of them. The darker the picture, the better they come out (isn’t that why everyone at a club looks so good?). Another is the angle. There’s this crazy phenomenon of videos made by Koreans entitled “the importance of angles.” They all know how to work it!
North Korean leader’s ousted uncle alive and safe: South Korean minister
The uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is alive and appears to be safe, South Korea’s unification minister said on Wednesday, a day after the South’s National Intelligence Service said he had been removed from two powerful positions.
Jang Song Thaek, considered the second-most powerful man in the impoverished, reclusive North, was last seen in public in early November at a basketball match between North Korean and Japanese teams in Pyongyang.
“I understand that Jang Song Thaek is not in any physical danger,” Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae told lawmakers gathered at an emergency sub-committee meeting in Seoul.
Signs of N.Korean Purge Spotted in September
The government is preparing to deal with the potential impact of the sacking of North Korea’s eminence grise Jang Song-taek for cross-border relations.
An intelligence official here said there are “no immediate signs of major changes in the North” and urged calm, but added that a “huge uncertainty” hangs over in the North Korean regime.
Intelligence officials had been monitoring Jang and his coterie since September. Not only had Jang’s public appearances with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un decreased significantly this year, but there were also rumors of a “bloody purge” targeting Jang’s circle.
NK leader following his father’s path in purging potential enemies: expert
North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jong-un, is apparently demonstrating swift ruthlessness in eliminating his potential political rivals with reports that his uncle Jang Song-thaek has been ousted from all of his key posts, a U.S. expert said Tuesday.
Alexandre Mansourov, who has long studied North Korean issues, said Kim seems to be following in his late father’s footsteps. His father, Kim Jong-il, purged his own uncle Kim Yong-ju, regarding him as a threat to his power bid in the mid-1970s, said Mansourov.
“If true, Jang’s removal from power will be a major development in North Korea’s post-Kim Jong-il history,” he told Yonhap News Agency.
South Korea in a daze over Chinese haze
Scientists in South Korea say the country must brace itself for a bank of smog rolling in across the sea from China, it’s reported.
The National Institute of Environmental Research says westerly winds are bearing a cloud laden with high levels of heavy metals such as arsenic and lead. They expect the whole country to be enveloped in what Choson Ilbo newspaper called the “new influx of toxic haze” that blanketed the western island of Baengnyeong at the weekend and went on to obscure the skyline of the capital Seoul.
Korea is the world’s top producer of unhappy school children
By many measures, Korea is doing incredibly well.
Unemployment is ridiculously low.
Exports are booming, driving the country’s record current account surplus.
And according to the just released-numbers from OECD, the Paris-based international think tank, South Korean students are some of the best performing in the world. Young South Koreans are especially far above average in math and reading, as measured by the percentage of students reaching the highest level of proficiency in those subjects according to the study of global student achievement known as the PISA.
But there is one measure of education where Korea is at the bottom of the list: happiness.
Can a Sunken Rock Unite Japan and Korea?
All the drama surrounding China’s declaration of a vast “air-defense identification zone” off its shores centers on the disputed islands known as the Senkaku by Japan, which administers them, and the Diaoyu by China, which challenges Tokyo’s claim. The new zone encompasses the airspace over the islands: Beijing wants any planes in the area to identify themselves beforehand or face unspecified, possibly military, action. Japan scoffs at this demand, as does the U.S., which has accused China of unilaterally trying to alter the status quo by threat of force.
The issue dominated U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Tokyo today — and will do the same when he travels to Beijing tomorrow. The Japanese have been pushing the U.S. — which has recommended that American airlines respect China’s rules even if the U.S. military will not — to take an even tougher stand against Beijing. If he really wants to undercut China, though, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should be focusing on another island entirely.
Lawyers for ex-State Dept. worker Stephen J. Kim urge Holder to drop leak charges
awyers for a former State Department employee accused of leaking sensitive defense secrets are urging Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to drop criminal charges, saying that the case might never have been pursued under current Justice Department guidelines on leak investigations.
Defense attorneys for former State Department arms expert Stephen J. Kim argue that the Department of Justice should abandon its case for multiple reasons — but largely because the new leak policy would have stopped investigators from obtaining some of the evidence they are now using to prosecute Kim.
Asian-Americans outspend other US households, Nielsen study shows
South China Morning Post
The spending habits of the mainland consumer have been well dissected, as have the buying preferences of their travellers. But what about their peers who go abroad and stay there?
Nielsen yesterday released the results of a study done on the consumption habits of Asian-Americans who come from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, including Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Korean and Japanese.
It found that Asian-American households outspend US households in general by an average of 19 per cent. They are also the number one demographic among online shoppers.
Seventy-seven per cent of Asian-Americans had made an online purchase within the past year, as against 61 per cent of all Americans.
Twelve per cent of Asian Americans spent US$2,500 or more a year on internet shopping, almost double the amount for the general population in the United States.
U.S. Senators Say South Korea Should Not Hire China Firm
New York Times
Two leading senators have asked the Obama administration to warn South Korea against allowing Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications firm, to build large parts of a next-generation network for the capital city of Seoul, arguing that it could give the Chinese government a way to enter the networks of a major American ally.
The issue appears almost certain to come up when Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. arrives in Seoul later this week, the last stop on his Asian trip.
At a moment when the United States is already protesting China’s establishment of an “air defense zone” over disputed territory in the East China Sea, the Huawei issue is bound to be another irritant in an increasingly contentious discussion with the government of the Chinese president, Xi Jinping.
Holiday Burdens from Korea
For those Koreans who live in the United States, it’s the price you have to pay for having friends or relatives in Korea. Sometimes you have no choice but to participate in the Black Friday frenzy.
Their requests keep on barging in every year, and it’s really no different than an uninvited guest popping up at your front door completely unannounced.
Only identified by last name and age here, 25-year old Los Angeles resident Kim says she had to buy five Coach brand purses last Friday at the Citadel Outlets. “It’s true that I saved as much as 60% since it was Black Friday, but they are not mine,” she explained. ”I was just doing favors for friends and relatives in Korea.”
Another Korean American, 36-year old Park, says she gets nervous when she gets text messages during this time of the year, especially on Kakao Talk, because of such requests. “They’ve either been here [before] to know, or heard about Black Friday sales through the media and they don’t hesitate to ask,” she says. “It’s not like I don’t have enough to do as it is, but it’s difficult to say ‘No.’”
Hotel Boom in South Korea Sparks Concern
Wall Street Journal (subscription req’d)
A record number of foreign tourists visiting South Korea in recent years has fueled in Seoul what property developers are calling the biggest hotel boom in the country’s history. But some industry participants say an overreliance on visitors from China and Japan leaves South Korea vulnerable to future overcapacity.
South Korea has seen its international profile as a tourist destination rise significantly in the past few years, helped by the splash Korean pop culture has made overseas.
The number of foreign tourists visiting Asia’s fourth-largest economy leapt past 11 million for the first time last year, according to the Korean Tourism Organization, marking the fourth consecutive year of double-digit percentage growth. By comparison, Japan, a neighbor almost four times the size of South Korea with similar climes, took in 8.36 million foreigners last year, according to Japan Tourism Marketing Co., a Tokyo-based tourism industry consultancy.
Amanda Seyfried puts on a stylish show in South Korea while Justin Long the supportive boyfriend waits in the wings
Daily Mail (U.K.)
She’s known as a screen siren, but Amanda Seyfried can also add ‘muse’ to her list of titles.
On Wednesday, Amanda Seyfried attended the Muse party in Seoul, an event that promoted cosmetic brand Clé de Peau Beaute.
As the official muse for the make-up brand, Seyfriend was the guest of honor at the shindig and held a press conference to welcome the media and fans.
It’s one thing to walk the streets of North Korea, but it’s another thing to see the reclusive Dear Leader, Kim Jong-un, walking your streets nonchalantly. That’s the joy Howard, a 35-year-old Hong Kong-born Australian, looks to spread as the world’s first professional Kim Jong-un impersonator.
Howard, who apparently refuses to give his surname for fear of reprisals from North Korea, according to the Daily Mirror, had been belted with jokes about looking like the dictator since Kim rose to power in 2011. Now, he has embraced his genetic circumstance, after a picture of him posing as Kim went viral on Facebook last April.
The key to becoming Kim, he said, is to “always look unhappy and dissatisfied.” Slick back the hair a bit, apply a bit of makeup and throw on a Mao suit, and the Dear Leader is ready to go. Continue Reading »
Ko Young-hee, the elder sister of Ko Yong-suk, with a young Kim Jong-un. Photo via Asia Times.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s maternal aunt has been living in the United States since 1998, according to South Korean daily JoongAng Ilbo.
Ko Yong-suk was responsible for looking after Kim when he was attending the International School of Berne in Switzerland during the late 1990s. Kim studied under Ko’s guidance for two years from 1996 to 1998, before she and her husband sought political asylum from the U.S. in May of that year at the U.S. Embassy in Geneva. They were later granted political asylum after their identities were confirmed.
A source told the JoongAng Ilbo that the couple escaped because they felt scared of “knowing so many secrets” of the ongoing internal issues within the North Korean hierarchy. The U.S. authorities who confirmed their identities 15 years ago gave them new identities. The couple also reportedly went through multiple plastic surgeries, which made them into “completely different people.” Continue Reading »
As Halloween approaches, the Internet is being bombarded with outrageous and costume ideas. However, this one from Hong Kong could just take the tteok.
Pictures of a man walking down the streets of Hong Kong dressed as North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un surfaced online and has South Korean netizens raving about the costume. People left comments expressing how they thought it was actually Kim, and praised the pseudo-Kim for the realistic costume.
The man nailed the look from head to toe, from the slicked-back parted hair complete with Hitler Youth whitewalls to the black button-up uniform. A crowd soon formed around him to take pictures on their phones. Unlike the real Kim, he was a good sport and played along by posing for pictures. Continue Reading »