Tag Archives: Lee Myung-bak

North Korea's leader Kim Jong-Il  speaks

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

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Photo courtesy of Time


5 Facts to Know About SKorea’s Prime Minister Nominee

South Korean President Park Geun-hye nominated a new prime minister to replace Chung Hong-won, who recently resigned amid backlash following the poor handling of the ferry disaster.

Ahn Dai-hee, 59, a former prosector and Supreme Court justice who has been touted as reform-minded, was named to replace Chung, who will remain in the job until the parliamentary confirmation hearing for Ahn.

“I have lived all my life to eradicate irregularities and corruption … since I was a junior prosecutor,” Ahn said, according to Yonhap News Agency. “I take the nomination as an order to stamp out evils accumulated over decades and push for reform.”

Ahn must first pass next month’s confirmation hearing—a prospect that got shakier in the last few days, as opposition leaders criticized him for making about $1.5 million over six months last year as an attorney. The news prompted suspicions that he benefited from his status as a former Supreme Court justice.

“I think the nomination for prime minister should be reconsidered,” Rep. Kim Han-gil, a co-leader of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, told Yonhap on May 25.

Here is a list of five facts you should know about Ahn Dae-hee:

1. In 2003, then-prosecutor Ahn led a high-profile investigation of political parties that collected illegal funds ahead of the 2002 presidential election. The probe revealed that Grand National Party, the predecessor of the currently ruling Saenuri Party, had taken bribes from businesses to fund the campaign. The investigation earned Ahn the nickname, “the people’s prosecutor” and drew heavy criticism of the Grand National Party, which later reformed as the Saenuri Party.

2. His status as “the people’s prosecutor” prompted a legion of South Koreans to create an “Ahn Dae-hee fan club.” The fan club chairman Jeong Seong-keun, a farmer in Yeoju, said he created the group because he felt it was important to show support for “someone who works for the people.”

3. Ahn joined the party he once scrutinized as a prosecutor. He became head of the Saenuri Party’s political reform committee while it was struggling to regain public trust ahead of the president election in 2008, helping it return to power with the election of Lee Myung-bak. His role in reforming Saenuri Party once again helped Park Geun-hye become president last year.

4. Despite his qualifications, Ahn’s role will be limited as prime minister unless the president expands his role. Power is concentrated heavily on the president in South Korea, which analysts say leaves the prime minister with a more ceremonial role. During her presidential campaign, Park pledged to give the prime minster greater power, but former prime minister Chung Hong-won’s role proved no different than his predecessors. Will it be different this time around?

5. Ahn’s nomination hints at a Cabinet reshuffle in South Korea. Park plans to reorganize the Cabinet after Ahn takes office, according to her spokesman. Ministers criticized in connection with the ferry disaster and others who have been accused of corruption are expected to be replaced. South Korean presidents have traditionally revamped  the Cabinet to regain public trust and show they’ve acknowledged their mistakes. Park also sacked the spy chief Nam Jae-joon and the national security adviser Kim Jang-soo.

Photos From the State Dinner

The White House State Dinner welcoming South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and his wife, First Lady Kim Yoon-ok, went off without a hitch last night and a good time was had by all.

Actor John Cho, who was born in Seoul, arrives for the Korean State Dinner at the White House. Cho had the good fortune to be seated at the head table with President Barack Obama and President Lee.

Dr. Peter Rhee, who helped save Rep. Gabrielle Giffords after her shooting, (pictured above with wife Emily), was also seated at the head table.

ABC News correspondent JuJu Chang (pictured above with husband Neal Shapiro) wore a deep purple dress made by Pamella Roland after putting it to an online vote. Chang told reporters at the event, “The wisdom of the crowd won out.”

The Ahn Trio (pictured above) attended the dinner and also gave a high-energy performance which was described as a fusion of jazz and classical music, according to the AP.

Cellist Maria Ahn (pictured in the blue dress) texted KoreAm: Obama gave me a kiss on the cheek after we played! Michelle gave me a hug like four times!! I can’t believe it still!!

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, dressed in a tuxedo, arrives at the State Dinner.

President Obama makes a toast during last night’s festivities.


Guest List Released For White House State Dinner

The White House revealed the guest list for tonight’s State Dinner in honor of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

The list included the regular who’s who of Washington along with a handful of surprise guests including actor John Cho. The Star Trek thespian was the only entertainer — aside from the Ahn Trio, who are scheduled to perform — to be invited to the dinner.

Award-winning novelist Chang Rae Lee got the invite, along with fashion designer Christina Kim of Dosa, Momofuku chef David Chang and Dartmouth president Jim Yong Kim.

Other notable Korean Americans on the guest list are involved in politics in some sense and included overachieving brothers Howard and Harold Koh, Washington State Senator Paull Shin, Irvine Mayor Sukhee Kang and Virginia Delegate Mark Keam.

Jai Lee Wong, the executive director of Women’s Leadership Circles in Los Angeles, was also invited.

Earlier today, the White House hosted a luncheon which was attended by actor Ken Jeong as well as Olympic figure skating gold medalist Kim Yuna.

Notable omissions for the State Dinner: Actress/comedienne Margaret Cho, former D.C. schools superintendent Michelle Rhee, actor Daniel Dae Kim and KoreAm publisher James Ryu, who was quick to point out that he was invited to the luncheon.

See the entire guest list here.


South Korea State Visit Links

S. Korean State Visit Highlights Bond Between 2 Leaders
New York Times

During the state visit of South Korea’s president, Lee Myung-bak, which began on Wednesday, he will be feted at a White House state dinner, invited to speak to a joint session of Congress, and treated to a road trip to Detroit with President Obama, where the two leaders plan to tour a General Motors factory together.

For a visiting head of state, the carpet does not get any redder than that, and it suggests that there may be something mysterious and powerful at play between Mr. Obama and Mr. Lee: Call it a presidential man-crush.

US, South Korean first ladies visit VA high school
AP via Google News

[First Lady Michelle Obama’s] trip to an area of northern Virginia with a large Korean population was part of the pageantry surrounding Thursday’s state visit by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and his wife, Kim Yoon-ok.

Mrs. Obama brought her counterpart along on the field trip. More than 10 percent of the high school’s 2,500 students are of Korean descent, the White House said, and the student body speaks several dozen languages.

Seated in the gymnasium, the two first ladies soaked up performances by a children’s choir, a trio of Ethiopian folk dancers, a harpist and drummer who performed a traditional Korean melody, and a musical selection by Korean-American violinist Jennifer Koh.

White House dinner icing on SKorea charm offensive
AP via CBS News

Obama has developed a special rapport with Lee: The two clicked during Obama’s first trip to Asia in 2009, and the signs of friendship were manifold during his visit to Washington.

Obama and Lee hopped into a limo and headed off to a Korean restaurant in suburban Virginia for dinner Wednesday night. And during dinner, Obama shared the long-awaited news — hot off his BlackBerry — that Congress had finished work on a free-trade agreement with South Korea.

Vice President Joe Biden got in on the charm offensive at a Thursday luncheon of lemongrass sesame chicken in the State Department’s opulent Ben Franklin Room. He took note of Lee’s nickname “Bulldozer” and said Lee, slight of build, doesn’t look anything like an NFL linebacker, but had earned his nickname by taking apart and reassembling a bulldozer to figure out how to make it work better.

State dinner guest David Kim, and how he almost missed it
Washington Post

Most people would be thrilled to be invited to a state dinner and David Kim is. . . now. But it took some persuading.

The 32-year old entrepreneur and founder of C2 Education Centers, Inc. in Atlanta received one of the coveted engraved invitations to Thursday’s state dinner for South Korean President Lee Myung-bak — but didn’t realize it until a co-worker pointed out the return address on the thick ivory envelope.

“I just assumed it was a wedding invitation,” said Kim, who had several friends get married this year. “It was literally lying on my desk for a week, in my inbox.”

South Korea state dinner fashion: Get ready for hanboks
Washington Post

Fashion-watchers keeping an eye on tonight’s state dinner will be noting the first lady’s choice of designer, but the White House’s Korean and Korean-American guests have a choice: Will they opt for modern glamour or for the flowing traditional dress of Korea, the hanbok?

D.C. children offered a taste of South Korean state visit

Establishing goodwill and building on an already strong foundation. That was the motive behind the “Taste of Korea” event in Washington.

A number of activities were held to help foster better understanding between Korean and American cultures. Youngsters enjoyed everything from a cooking lesson and arts and crafts to live music and a martial arts demonstration.

Twenty middle school students from Alice Deal Middle School in Washington were invited to the festivities. They were joined by twenty Korean American students – all of them children of employees of the Embassy of Korea.


A-listers, tweeple, protesters … South Korean president’s DC visit has guest lists for all
AP via Washington Post

The morning arrival ceremony, with its heavy dose of South Lawn pomp and ceremony, always is a sought-after ticket.

The higher-octane state dinner still is the ultimate black-tie invitation in wonky Washington.

But this state visit also will include a “tweetup,” an in-person meeting of people who use social media such as Twitter and Facebook, offering participants — tweeple — a chance to attend and live tweet the arrival ceremony for the leader of one of the most wired nations on earth.

It’s just one more way for President Barack Obama to make a grand show of hospitality for his South Korean guests at the first White House dinner for the country since 1998. The two leaders hit it off during Obama’s first trip to Asia in 2009, and have been allies on a number of key issues.

Wednesday's Link Attack: Priscilla Ahn, Moon Bloodgood, SNSD

South Korea’s Lee defends stance on North
Washington Post

Facing growing criticism that his hard-line stance toward North Korea has backfired, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak defended the strategy, and said there are signs his approach is beginning to work.

Lee has said that Seoul will provide aid and security to its neighbor only after Pyongyang denuclearizes. Speaking on Monday, he said that controversial strategy had yielded a breakthrough: In recent meetings between the Koreas, the North has been willing to discuss its nuclear program. Though talking about the arsenal is far different than dismantling it, the subject itself was previously off limits.

In Falling Skies Moon Bloodgood: Softer, more cerebral
Philippine Star

What do you like most about your character, Anne Glass?
I really enjoy the fact that she’s a doctor. I think she’s very admirable. She doesn’t talk about herself often, is extremely selfless, always calm, rational, fair, and with reason. I admire her because I’m not always that way, and she is always selfless and very maternal towards everyone.

What would be the most difficult part of doing the series?
The subject matter is heavy and there’s lot of depth and weight, and you have to take yourself to that level. You’re supposed to be hungry and scared and you’ve lost your family. When we were working, the subject matter weighed on me at times. Sometimes I wanted levity, so I’d go home, watch some comedy on TV and have a beer because I just needed some sort of change. But I think no matter how much I resist it, I gravitate towards these subject matters because I like the drama and that’s where I feel most comfortable.

All grown up: Q/A with Priscilla Ahn
Oregon Music News

When you aren’t making music, what do you like to do?
I started taking a pottery class at the beginning of the year. I sorta suck at that, but I’m glad I tried! [Giggles] Now that it’s fall, I’m really wanting to make soups, and make the house smell like pumpkins, and just do a lot of cooking and be a home maker. So, when this tour is over, I’ll be doing a lot of that. I’m a home body.

SNSD officially joins Universal Music Group for U.S. debut

SM Entertainment previously announced plans on releasing SNSD‘s upcoming album “The Boys“ worldwide, and it seems their plans on doing so have been officially confirmed!

On Oct. 12, SM Entertainment revealed that SNSD will release a maxi single (similar to a mini-album) in the United States sometime in November through the well known Universal Music Group under Interscope Records, which currently houses extremely famous talents such as Lady Gaga, Eminem and the Black Eyed Peas.

For Pyeongchang region, a golden opportunity in 2018
Travel Weekly

Now that South Korea has been named the host of the 2018 Winter Olympics, the Korea Tourism Organization is hoping that publicity building up to the sporting event seven years hence, along with associated infrastructure development, will spur foreign interest in, and visits to, the region surrounding host city Pyeongchang-eup.

Luis Maravi, spokesman at the KTO’s New York-area office in Fort Lee, N.J., said that Pyeongchang county, set in the scenic Taebaek Mountains about 110 miles east of capital city Seoul, is South Korea’s most popular outdoors-oriented getaway destination for domestic travelers. It might hold similar appeal for U.S. visitors, he added — if only they were also in the know.

The man behind Kim Jong-il Looking at Things
The Next Web

Undoubtedly, one of the most famous and most loved Tumblr blogs is Kim Jong il Looking at Things, which was founded one year ago by a 26-year old Portuguese guy named JR and has over 50,000 followers. In fact, when you search for “kim jong-il” on Google, his Tumblr is the 3rd result.

CBM: Who is the man behind Kim Jong-il looking at things?

JR: This is gonna be the most boring answer you’ve gotten. I’m just a regular guy, honestly. I’m 26 and I do what every regular, well-adjusted 26-year-old does, which involves lots of things I’ll probably regret in 15 years.


NKorean leader’s grandson arrives in Bosnia to enroll to an international high school
AP via Washington Post

Officials in Bosnia say North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s grandson has arrived in the country to enroll at a private high school made up of international students.

A border police spokeswoman said 16-year-old Kim Han Sol entered the country at Sarajevo airport Wednesday afternoon on a regular flight from Vienna.

Why David Henry Hwang Wrote ‘Chinglish’
Wall Street Journal

The Tony Award-winning Chinese American playwright returns to Broadway with his new play “Chinglish.”

The comedy, which begins performances at the Longacre Theatre tomorrow and officially opens Oct. 27, is about the hilarity and politics that ensue when a U.S. businessman tries to secure a lucrative contract in China for his family’s sign-making firm. The lead producers of “Chinglish,” Jeffrey Richards and Jerry Frankel, are bringing the play to Broadway after a sold-out run at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago.

“In its own way, I would call it a groundbreaking comedy,” Richards said in an interview. “There’s never been a play, a comedy like ‘Chinglish,’ on Broadway. It explores relations today between the Chinese and Americans and our relationship. It’s very much cutting-edge in its way.”

The play was inspired by Hwang’s own business trips to China, which he has taken in the past six years amid China’s interest in Broadway-style musicals. “I happen to be the only even nominally Chinese person who’s written a Broadway show,” Hwang said. “So people would call me over for meetings and there’d always be plans to build a theater district in China.”

What’s so great about Seoul? Residents and visitors disagree

Most of Seoul’s residents love living in the Korean capital. Most visitors love the city too. But when it comes to why, their opinions diverge.

The findings emerged from a survey of 3,827 citizens and foreigners carried out by the Seoul City government. Seoulites said that Han River was the most charming aspect of Seoul, while palaces came in second, reported Yonhap.

In contrast, visitors to Seoul liked Korean food best, and the city’s friendly people. A new addition to the list for visitors was Korean saunas (jjimjilbang), which came in eighth in terms of popularity.