With Psy and currency swaps, South Korea grabs global influence
Its most recent effort to leverage brand “Korea” – three currency swap deals worth more than $20 billion that were announced this month.
South Korea had the seventh largest currency reserves in the world at the end of August, worth $331.1 billion, according to the Bank of Korea. It can easily afford to match cultural diplomacy with economic muscle as it competes with Japan and China for influence.
K-Pop icons such as Psy, whose “Gangnam Style” hit went viral in 2012, and even Korean food are used by Seoul to build South Korea’s brand, while Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Hyundai Motor Co are firms with global reach.
N. Korea accuses U.S. of fueling military threat
North Korea on Tuesday claimed that the United States is openly threatening the communist country with military force and warned it could respond to such provocations with war.
In a commentary carried by the Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), Pyongyang said Washington’s efforts to set up a missile defense system and station unmanned aerial vehicles in Japan by citing North Korea as a threat is utterly ludicrous.
The paper added that with Pyongyang committed to building an economically prosperous country and improving the lives of its people, it does not want tensions but a peaceful environment on the Korean Peninsula.
The photos North Korea didn’t want you to see
As the sole Western journalist covering a unique bicycle race in North Korea last month, I was provided with a personal guide, a car with a driver and the promise that I was free to take any photographs I wanted. As a journalist, it seemed like an incredible opportunity to document a small snapshot of what North Korea was really like.
However, the promise turned out not to be completely true.
At the border, before going back to China, a group of security guards confiscated my camera and erased all images they thought were inappropriate, or did not portray the country in a favorable light.
South Korean Military Agency’s Headquarters Raided in Growing Scandal
New York Times
Military investigators raided South Korea’s Cyberwarfare Command on Tuesday after four of its officials were found to have posted political messages online last year, in what opposition lawmakers have called a smear campaign against President Park Geun-hye’s opponents before her election in December.
Ms. Park defeated her main opposition rival, Moon Jae-in, by roughly a million votes in the election and took office in February. But in a snowballing scandal, prosecutors have since said that agents of the National Intelligence Service posted thousands of Internet messages during the presidential campaign supporting Ms. Park and her governing Saenuri Party or berating government critics, including opposition presidential candidates, as shills for North Korea.
Last week, opposition lawmakers alleged in the National Assembly that the military’s secretive Cyberwarfare Command had carried out a similar online campaign, separately or in coordination with the spy agency, to help sway public opinion in favor of Ms. Park before the Dec. 19 election.
Two Korean-American Women Finalists for Corporate Counsel Awards
Two Korean-American women attorneys are among the 32 finalists for the Los Angeles Business Journal’s 2013 Corporate Counsel Awards.
The award, in its fourth year, is described as a recognition “for exceptional legal skill and achievement for in-house responsibility and leadership as evidenced by the highest professional and ethical standards, and for contributions to the Los Angeles community at large.”
Candice Hyon, a graduate of UCLA and UC Davis Law school, has worked for clothing retailer Forever 21 for the past year. The La Canada native maybe short on experience, but it didn’t take long for her to be touted as a rising star in the industry.
Latest motorcyclist arrested for brutal beating of SUV driver on Henry Hudson Parkway has 18 prior arrests
New York Daily News
Cops have busted another motorcyclist for the vicious attack on a SUV driver who was chased off the Henry Hudson Parkway, police said Tuesday.
Jason Brown, 40, is the ninth person charged in the case.
He was slapped Monday with gang assault and felony assault charges for his alleged role in the terrifying beatdown.
Astronaut Agency Is Lost in Space, Opposition Says
Wall Street Journal
South Korea’s much-lauded space-development project came under fire at the National Assembly Monday, and fired back Tuesday.
Choi Jae-cheon, a lawmaker from the major opposition Democratic Party, complained during an annual audit session that the Korean Astronaut Program—after spending more than $20 million in taxpayer money to produce the country’s first space traveler back in 2008—has failed to lead to meaningful follow-up research.
“The fact that the symbol of (Korea’s) space science has gone to the U.S. to take an M.B.A. course, not working in the space industry,” Mr. Choi said, “demonstrates (the Korea Aerospace Research Institute) fails to nurture science talents in a systematic way.”
DMTN’s Daniel Appeals His One-Year Sentence
Daniel of idol group DMTN, who was sentenced to one year of prison, recently submitted his appeal to the Suwon District Court.
After his submission reaches the high court and a date is determined, Daniel’s lawyer will be notified within fourteen days.
Daniel, who admitted to his charges during the first trial, is claiming unfair sentencing in his appeal.
Hines Ward on His Emotional Ironman Finish
After 8 solid months of training for the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, race day finally arrived. It was a blur for me, filled with intense emotions. Was I ready? I HAD to be. My coach had done her best to turn me into an endurance athlete and with the support from my Become One teammates I was going to face the grueling 140.6 miles of the Ironman World Championship head on.
I woke up at 3:30 a.m. after barely getting any sleep – thoughts were racing through my mind all night and I was feeling super-anxious. When I finally got out of bed I stretched for 20 minutes and then met my teammates to go for body marking (writing my race number on my arm). We headed to the transition area and made sure our bike tires were pumped to the right pressure and that our water bottles and nutrition packs were full.
I went back to my room one more time before the race to try and relax and go through my race strategy in my head, and all I could think about was the finish line. I had my sights set on it since the first day of training. It seemed so close but so far away.
Do Ho Suh Turns Household Appliances Into Ghostly Specimens
Have you ever dreamed about the unlikely lovechild of a jellyfish and your fridge?
Artist Do Ho Suh’s upcoming exhibition transforms household appliances into polyester fabric forms, turning the clunky utilities into ghostly specimens. The sculptures will go on view in the aptly titled exhibition “Specimen Series,” at Lehmann Maupin Gallery in Hong Kong.
The Korean-born, United States-based artist, consistently returns to themes of architecture, personal space and the home in relation to feelings of belonging, conformity and isolation. For this particular exhibition, Suh focuses on the mechanical objects we expect to encounter — though don’t necessarily see — around the home, from a refrigerator to a toilet. He depicts these cumbrous commodities as glowing exoskeletons that look more like alien forms than working appliances.
Students design gowns based on old Korean hanbok
San Francisco Gate
Move over, Tim Gunn. Make way for Abra Berman.
In a challenge to rival any on TV’s “Project Runway,” the Art Institute of California and the Asian Art Museum are asking fashion students to create gowns for patrons to wear at the opening night gala for “In Grand Style – Celebrations in Korean Art in the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910),” this week.
Unlike the reality TV show, the students are not assigned to use bizarre materials like plastic garbage bags or hardware store finds for the full-length dresses.
Korea’s Cop Cats Will Arrest You with Cuteness
A police station in Seoul, South Korea is filled with more than just cops. There are two feline friends on duty—namely, sleep and snack patrol. It’s a heartwarming story how they got there.P
Meet Mango and Mango Kobun. According to the Seoul Police, a young man brought Mango to the station this past June. The cat, then about one month old, had seemingly been thrown away in a dumpster. If the cat’s owner weren’t found, the animal would have to be put to sleep.
Leftist Leaders Accused of Trying to Overthrow South Korean Government
New York Times
Agents from South Korea’s National Intelligence Service raided the homes and offices of an opposition lawmaker and other members of a far-left opposition party on Wednesday, detaining three of them on charges of plotting to overthrow the government.
The highly unusual raids and charges of treason triggered a political firestorm in a country already rocked by accusations of meddling in domestic politics by the country’s powerful intelligence agency.
Opposition politicians said that in conducting the raids, the conservative government of President Park Geun-hye was resorting to a Communist witch hunt to divert attention from its political scandal involving the spy agency.
Grand Jury Indicts Goldman Banker in Rape Case
East Hampton Star (N.Y.)
A grand jury in Riverhead indicted Jason Lee, a Goldman Sachs financial advisor, for rape in the first degree this afternoon.
Mr. Lee has been free on $20,000 bail since Aug. 21, when a 20-year-old foreign student told detectives he had assaulted her following a pool party at a rented East Hampton house. He is additionally charged with assault in the third degree and sexual misconduct, both misdemeanors. The assault charge means that the grand jury believed that Mr. Lee used a weapon, reportedly his forearm, to injure the young woman, who is said to have returned to her native country.
North Korea’s Olive Branch to U.S. May Not Bear Fruit
Wall Street Journal
With U.S. diplomat Robert King headed to Pyongyang this week, the focus turns from North Korea’s rapprochement with its southern neighbor to its still-tense relationship with the United States. There’s reason to be optimistic that trans-Pacific relations will improve, but many roadblocks still remain.
In recent weeks, North Korea has launched a full-scale charm offensive with the South, striking a deal on family reunions and agreeing to reopen a joint industrial zone. All the while, the North has issued official statements heralding a “hard-won atmosphere of dialogue between the north and the south.”
But the decision to meet with Mr. King, U.S. President Barack Obama‘s special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, is Pyongyang’s first public move so far to court the U.S., following months of saber-rattling since the North’s nuclear test in February.
South Korean hospital won’t transfer American home until $40K bill is paid: reports
New York Daily News
The family of an American man stranded in a South Korean hospital is asking for donations to bring him home.
Sean Jones, a young teacher from Oklahoma City, has been hospitalized since May with anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, a rare autoimmune disease that causes swelling in the brain.
Jones’ family wants him transferred to an American hospital for continued treatment, but Yonsei University Severance Hospital in Seoul reportedly refuses to release him until his bill of nearly $40,000 is paid.
Friends and family have set up a Facebook page and a Giveforward.com account to raise money for medical costs. So far they have raised about three-quarters of the goal, Sean’s mother, LaTanya Dodd, told The Korea Herald.
Jail, stigma await South Korean men who refuse military service
Reuters via GlobalPost
Sentencing a young man to 18 months in prison in July for refusing to do his mandatory military service, the judge in the South Korean city of Suwon burst into tears.
The judge had handed down verdicts that day in five other criminal cases without emotion, but the case of Im Chang-jo, a 21-year-old Jehovah’s Witness, brought out her sympathies.
Jehovah’s Witnesses, followers of a Christian denomination that claims about 8 million evangelical members worldwide, are well known for refusing military service and blood transfusions.
But Im, his brother, and hundreds like them have paid a heavy price for their beliefs in South Korea, a U.S. ally technically still at war with North Korea, its unpredictable relative with nuclear ambitions and one of the world’s largest armies.
[Exclusive] Former American Idol Contestant HeeJun Talks About Upcoming Debut
HeeJun made his claim to fame as a popular American Idol finalist for season eleven. He won over the judges and the audience with his frank sense of humor and husky voice. After finishing ninth in the season and touring the United States with other contestants, Heejun signed on with Korean agency Polaris Entertainment. Now HeeJun is gearing up for his official solo debut with “Bring the Love Back,” a catchy electronic dance track featuring rapper Pusha T.
For this exclusive interview with Soompi, Heejun shared his candid thoughts on life after American Idol, his family at Polaris Entertainment, and what he likes to sing at noraebang.
CallMeN00NA: How has the transition been from American Idol contestant to solo artist?
HeeJun: It’s been hard. When you’re in American Idol, you’re like Beyonce. Wherever you go people recognize you, pull a seat for you, reserve a hotel for you, and everything is set to go. But once you’re out of the contest, you’re on your own. It’s really hard to survive because you’ve never been on your own. It’s a wild, wild industry, and you might feel like you’re lost. I think I was lucky enough to find a good company. I hustled my way out and you have to do that to make it through after American Idol.
Crayon Pop Hoping to Become the Next Psy
The Korean music industry has been dominated lately by tons of group singers, both men and women, who perform with either sex appeal or lovable cutesy images. But one rookie “girl group” called Crayon Pop is bucking the trend with a completely flipped image: unique, quirky and to some extent bizarre.
The women, all in their 20s, stand out just by their wacky fashion: vividly colored polo shirts buttoned up to the neck, trainer pants topped with a pleated miniskirt, white gloves and a big motorcycle helmet.
Their song “Bar Bar Bar” has been No.1 on the Billboard K-Pop Hot 100 chart for weeks and is running red hot on the Internet, quickly picking up clicks on YouTube. New parodies are uploaded every day.
Shin-Soo Choo joins the 100-100 club
Hardball Talk (NBC Sports)
It’s not a crazy-special club — we’re not talking Barry Bonds territory here — but round number-lovers among you will enjoy noting that last night Shin-Soo Choo joined the 100-100 club, hitting his 100th homer.
He topped the century mark in stolen bases on Sunday when he snagged two, giving him 101 for his career.
Choo will be a free agent this offseason. Not too many guys with his power, speed and on-base ability will be available. I presume he’s gonna make a mint.
Anthony Pettis, Benson Henderson meet in UFC title rematch
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Anthony Pettis and Benson Henderson were destined to meet again.
Somewhere. Sometime. Somehow.
The moment Pettis launched himself horizontally off the cage fence and delivered a high-flying, gravity-defying, electrifying kick to Henderson’s face in the fifth and final round of their epic battle in December 2010, mixed martial arts fans started looking forward to the rematch.
It took time for the stars to align, but at long last Henderson gets a chance to erase “that Pettis stain on my soul” and Pettis gets his shot at an Ultimate Fighting Championship title.
Concrete Canvas: David Choe’s Love Affair with Denver
David Choe lives a crazy life and paints in amazing places. Denver is lucky enough to be one of them. Choe is an art school drop out, world renowned street-artist, law breaker, radio talk-show host and unexpected Facebook millionaire investor. Street art has taken him around the world. Today, his unbelievable murals line 13th and Champa in the alley behind the Denver Center of Performing Arts.
Choe painted four of the six jaw-dropping murals in 2012, which have lasted the test of time. Choe returned to Denver this year and added two more paintings to the wall. They are inspired, electric, colorful and chaotic. It’s as if they want to jump off the concrete. An ordinary grey wall is now a gallery commemorating the fast life and times of David Choe.
VIDEO: This Samsung ad that’s so bad … it’s become a smash hit!
New York Daily News
This is the latest Samsung ad that’s so bad … it’s become a smash online hit!
Actors in the leaked 3-minute clip promoting the tech giant’s new 840 EVO Series Solid State drive have been widely labeled as “the world’s worst.”
Actors have come under fire for their wooden acting and apparent inability to convince viewers of their excitement about the computer.
Openly gay and outspoken LGBTQ activist, Daniel Choi, has been found guilty of a criminal misdemeanor and charged $100 fine for handcuffing himself to the White House gate in November 2010 to protest the since-repealed “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military. The sentence was lighter than anticipated; Choi could have received as much as a six-month jail term.
Choi, a former U.S. Army lieutenant and Iraq War veteran, was dismissed from the military because of his sexual orientation as a result of the policy which banned gays from service. During his trial, Choi told the court that, “All I want at the end of this day is to return to the U.S. military,” the Washington Post reports.
Choosing to represent himself rather than seeking legal counsel, Choi’s behavior during his trial was described as “erratic.” Continue Reading »
Amid increased North Korean aggression in recent weeks, the United States said it signed an agreement with South Korea to back the nation “in countering North Korean provocations,” the New York Times reports.
The agreement has been in the works for more than two years and comes as a direct result of the 2010 shelling of the border island Yeonpyeong, which ended in the death of four South Koreans and a great deal of property damage. At the time, it was one of the most aggressive acts from the North against the South in two decades.
Despite reports of the nation-to-nation deal, the extent or reach of the agreement was not disclosed. The United States has agreed to back the South Korean government against “local” attacks from the North but terms of the deal are unclear. Continue Reading »
An American Army soldier was taken in for questioning in connection with a high-speed car chase. Photo via Yonhap
A high-speed chase in Seoul ended with a U.S. military serviceman shot by a South Korean police officer.
According to reports from Chosun Ilbo, on Saturday March 2, authorities arrived outside of the Hamilton Hotel in the Itaewon district of South Korea’s capital after receiving emergency calls about shots fired in the area. Officers attempted to detain two U.S. soldiers and one other individual outside of the hotel.
The three individuals resisted arrest and fled in a vehicle, hitting three pedestrians. During the chase, which hit speeds of over 100 mph, three other vehicles were struck. In a strange turn of events, police initially lost the men due to traffic but one officer jumped into a cab to follow the vehicle. Continue Reading »