Monday’s Link Attack: Politician Predicts ‘First Asian U.S. President Will Be Korean’; Korea Sheds Anger Over Yuna
Author: Cassandra Kwok
Posted: February 24th, 2014
Filed Under: BLOG
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U.S.-South Korea Begin War Games as Family Reunions Continue

The U.S. and South Korea began annual military exercises — denounced by the North as preparations for war — that coincided with the first reunions of families separated by the Korean War in more than three years.

The Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises began today as scheduled, U.S. Forces Korea spokesman Kim Yong Kyu said by phone. The two sets of drills, one based on computer simulations and the other involving field training, will draw thousands of additional U.S. troops into the country, according to USFK. The two allies say the drills are routine and defensive.

North Korea had initially threatened to pull out of the family reunions if the military drills weren’t canceled. Instead, the agreement to hold the reunions led to two rounds of high-level talks between the two countries, and today South Korea offered negotiations on providing assistance to stop the spread of the foot-and-mouth disease in the North.

California Korean Community on ‘East Sea’ Movement
Arirang News

The U.S. state of California.

Home to the largest population of Korean-Americans and Japanese-Americans in the country. Some may see this as the next ground for a political battle over how to refer to the body of water between Korea and Japan in school textbooks.

Virginia State will soon require the Korean-preferred title of “East Sea” to be used alongside the “Sea of Japan” in its textbooks, while in New York a similar bill has also been proposed.
But the issue has not stirred up much attention yet in California.

“LA The president of the Korean American Federation in Los Angeles says the greater L.A. area has been, and still is* busy trying to protect the so-called “comfort women” memorial statue in Glendale Central Park from being removed. So right now is not the most suitable time to raise another issue and divert attention – whether it be the East Sea bill, or anything else.

‘Korean to be first Asian US president’
Korea Times

It wasn’t long ago that Koreans barely had a voice in American politics. Now, they’re quickly emerging as one of the most influential among Asian politicians, so much so that one notable legislator says the first U.S. president of Asian descent will be Korean.

“I think of all Asian-American ethnic groups, I would say at this stage based on our history and trajectory, the first U.S. president of Asian descent will be Korean,” Mark Keam, a third-term delegate of the Virginia state Legislature who co-sponsored Virginia’s East Sea bill, said in an interview with The Korea Times.

There are several reasons, he said, but one of the foremost is because the growing Korean population in the U.S. is creating a larger pool of solid potential politicians.

“In the ‘80s, I didn’t run across a single Korean in Washington D.C. You just didn’t see any,” said Keam, who first began his political career as a college intern on Capitol Hill. “That’s 25 to 30 years ago. Now, things are a lot different.”

A Yu turn for a long-shot Senate candidate
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Eugene Yu, the Korean American businessman who joined the crowded race for U.S. Senate, said Saturday he would instead challenge Democratic U.S. Rep. John Barrow.

Yu always faced long odds in the race to replace Saxby Chambliss, with three sitting congressmen and two other prominent Republicans in the mix on the GOP side. The Augusta businessman may have decided he had a better shot challenging Barrow, one of the most targeted Democrats in the House, than maintaining an expensive statewide bid.

Barrow, seen as one of the most vulnerable moderate Democrats in the nation, faces heated competition every two years. This election is no different. Yu now joins businessman Rick Allen, long-time GOP aide John Stone and state Rep. Delvis Dutton in the GOP contest to unseat Barrow, who was first elected in 2004.

Sentencing begins in convenience store food stamp fraud cases
Baltimore Sun

Two Korean citizens have been sentenced to prison for their roles in a food stamp fraud scheme and may face deportation, the U.S. Attorney in Baltimore announced this week.

The cases were part of a food stamp fraud sting that implicated 10 convenience store owners in the Baltimore area in September. Authorities said the defendants, eight of whom have pleaded guilty to food stamp fraud or wire fraud so far, would illegally redeem food stamps in exchange for cash.

Hyung Cho, 40, of Catonsville, was sentenced to 38 months in prison and three years of supervised release, and his mother Dae Cho, 67, of Catonsville, was sentenced to 18 months in prison. The Cho’s, who operated K&S Market, a convenience store at 3910 West Belvedere Avenue, were both ordered to forfeit more than $371,000 and pay restitution of $1.4 million. They did not have legal immigration status, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and have “agreed not to object to any proceedings that may be brought to remove them from the United States upon completion of their sentence.”

Justices refuse appeal from killer set to die
Houston Chronicle (Texas)

A convicted killer facing execution next month for a Dallas-area slaying 11 years ago has lost an appeal at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Anthony Doyle is set to die March 27 for the 2003 beating death and robbery of 37-year-old Hyun Mi Cho. She was delivering a doughnut and burrito order to a house in Rowlett. Her body was found in a trash can behind the house. Doyle was 18 at the time and on probation for theft. He also had a juvenile record.

The high court Monday, without comment, refused to review his case.

Doyle told police he intended to rob the woman and struck her with a baseball bat when she told him she had no money. Evidence showed he took her car and used her credit cards.

Girls’ Generation Achieves All-Kill and Sweeps Charts All Over the World

Girls’ Generation has finally returned with a new single “Mr.Mr” and have been sweeping music charts not only in Korea but all around the world.

On February 24, Girls’ Generation released their fourth mini-album online. In just a mere hour upon release, “Mr.Mr” was the #1 song on seven different music charts including Melon, Mnet, Olleh Music, Bugs, Genie, Soribada and Monkey3. In a couple more hours, “Mr.Mr” rose to the top on Naver and Daum Music as well.

Overseas reactions and interests are also getting higher and higher. “Mr. Mr” was ranked #2 in Thailand, #5 in Malaysia, #14 in Hong Kong, #21 in Taiwan, #52 in the Philippines and #63 in Indonesia, making “Mr.Mr.” enter the Top 100 chart in six different countries within an hour after release.

Shortly afterwards, “Mr.Mr” was ranked #2 in Thailand, #3 in Vietnam, #4 in Singapore, #5 in Malaysia, #6 in Indonesia and Kazakhstan, #14 in Hong Kong, #21 in Taiwan, #55 in the Philippines, #97 in Sweden and #99 in Macao within two hours upon release.

South Korea Puts Anger Aside After Olympic Skating Disappointment
New York Times

Kim Yu-na was a perfect heroine for her country. Like postwar South Korea, she rose from a humble start, skating on a tatty rink as a 6-year-old, to win gold for a nation that had felt sidelined in a sport dominated by Western athletes.

So when she was dethroned in Sochi by a Russian teenager in a much-debated decision, it was not surprising that Ms. Kim’s country, which has long tied international sports achievements to self-worth, reacted with anger.

A popular novelist said he would remember these Games as the “Suchi Olympics,” using the word for “humiliation.” A petition on calling for an investigation by the International Skating Union drew more than 1.9 million signatures, most of them from South Koreans. And many online commentators said Ms. Kim had been cheated of a gold medal because her country was “small and weak.”

Yuna Kim Has Not Had Plastic Surgery, and Koreans Love Her For It
New Republic

When the Olympic judges placed South Korean figure skater Yuna Kim second to Russian Adelina Sotnikova yesterday, her fans wouldn’t have it: Nearly two million have already signed a petition to have the judging re-opened. American skating enthusiasts might know Kim for her artistic style or her signature “camel spin”, but in South Korea—where she’s known as “Queen Yuna”—there’s another reason women love her: Unlike most Korean celebrities and “pop stars”, she appears not to have had plastic surgery—even though she has the kind of eyelids that would send many Korean girls running to the doctor.

“Most Korean girls want plastic surgery,” said Lee Tea Yang, a trader in Seoul. “Yuna Kim made a new era. There has never been a star like her.”

Though statistics are hard to verify, South Korea consistently ranks in the top few countries worldwide for per capita plastic surgery. One of the most popular procedures is “double eyelid surgery”, in which doctors use a combination of cutting and stitching to create a crease in Asians’ typically flat upper eyelids, giving the eyes a larger, rounder, arguably Westernized appearance.

South Korea Had the Most Last-Place Finishes in Sochi
Wall Street Journal

After a respectable 14 podium appearances in Vancouver’s 2010 Winter Olympics, South Korea’s outlook was bright coming into the 2014 Games. The Koreans weren’t able to live up to expectations, earning only eight medals in Sochi, but they were the best in the world in one unfortunate category: finishing last.

For the third consecutive Olympics, The Wall Street Journal awarded lead, tin and zinc medals to the three worst performers to complete a given event (based on time or score of last-place finishers in every Olympic event; no disqualifications or non-finishers were counted). South Korean Olympians finished in the bottom three places in an astounding 19 different events, more often than any other participating country.

Canada came in second with 16 medals, with the U.S. (15) earning the third most not-so-precious medals. Since the U.S. and Canada have large Olympic delegations, it isn’t entirely surprising to see such large pools of Olympians finish all over the field of competition: These two countries earned 28 and 25 real Olympic medals respectively in Sochi.

Defection row overshadows South Korean Viktor Ahn’s skating victory for Russia
South China Morning Post

It was a night when Viktor Ahn should have been out celebrating becoming the most successful short track speed skater of all time but instead he was quizzed from all sides at the Sochi Olympics about why he defected to Russia.

Ahn confirmed his place among the greatest Winter Olympians when he won the 500 metres individual event then returned to the ice about 45 minutes later and helped Russia win the 5,000m relay. Ahn also won gold in the 1,000m at Sochi and now has six Olympic gold medals in total – more than any speed skater either in short track or the more traditional long course.

If the skater formerly known as Ahn Hyun-soo, who won three golds for South Korea at the 2006 Turin Olympics, thought he would clarify his position once and for all at a packed news conference starting after midnight he was clearly mistaken.

Far from Sochi, North Koreans hone skiing skills
Washington Post

For North Korean skiers, Sochi was a distant dream. The country didn’t send a single athlete to the Winter Olympics and has never won a downhill medal. But as the rest of the world watches this year’s Olympic pageant wrap up in Russia, North Koreans are flocking to the slopes of a lavish new ski resort all their own — and many have a gold medal in mind four years from now, when the winter games will be held in South Korea.

Of course, that’s a tall order.

Even by official estimates, only about 0.02 percent of North Korea’s 24 million people have ever strapped on ski boots. But with the blessing of leader Kim Jong Un, who has made building recreational and sporting facilities a priority, in part to boost tourism as a source of hard cash for the economically strapped nation, skiing is now almost a national duty for those who have the time, money or opportunity to hit the slopes.

South Korea Awaits 2018 Games With a Different Plan
New York Times

The sun was shining once more by the Black Sea and the jackets were off with the Olympic flame still a few hours away from being extinguished.

“You better bring your jacket to Pyeongchang,” said Kim Jin-sun, head of the organizing committee for the 2018 Games in South Korea. “Much colder than Sochi.”

As the Russians and the members of the International Olympic Committee begin recovering from the sleepless nights that surely accompanied their wild, seven-year ride to Sochi’s closing ceremony, the cosmic question is where the Winter Games go from here in a world of climate instability, declining winter sports participation numbers in the West and spiraling costs and scale for Olympic organizers?

Rangers like what they are seeing with Choo
Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Texas)

Scouting Shin-Soo Choo has become an easier task over the years. He’s established himself as an on-base machine with speed and power.

In the beginning, though, nobody knew how Choo would pan out. Just ask Jim Colborn, the Rangers’ senior adviser for Pacific Rim operations.

“The big problem with scouting him is that he’d walk about three times a game,” said Colborn, a scout for the Mariners at the time.

“They’d never give him anything good to hit and he’d take his walks. So it was tough to grade him.”

Whiz Now Open Serving Philly Cheesesteaks in Koreatown
LA Weekly

For all those times you’re in Koreatown and have a hankering for a cheesesteak sandwich as opposed to, say, a sizzling bowl of soon tofu: Whiz opened in the neighborhood last Saturday, Feb. 15, a small shop on the corner of 6th Street and Oxford Avenue, or right around the corner from craft beer bar Beer Belly.

This location is no coincidence, as the shop is brought to you none other than Beer Belly’s owner Jimmy Han and executive chef Wes Lieberher. You could have guessed as much just by the artwork: MR44, who did the mural at Beer Belly, collaborated with artist Swanski to create a beautiful piece outside Whiz.

Friday’s Link Attack: SKorea Sends Aid to North; How Sotnikova Beat Yuna Kim; Jun Ji-hyun Eats Chicken
Author: Cassandra Kwok
Posted: February 21st, 2014
Filed Under: BLOG
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South Korea Gives Aid to North Amid Family Reunions
New York Times

South Korea on Friday approved a shipment of $988,000 worth of medicine and powdered milk for North Korea and promised more humanitarian aid as the two Koreas continued emotional reunions of families separated by the Korean War six decades ago.

The Seoul government’s approval of the aid shipment by two civic relief groups came a day after the two countries began the family reunions in an event widely seen as easing tensions on the divided peninsula. President Park Geun-hye has promised to increase humanitarian aid if the North improves ties with the South through “trust-building” projects like family reunions, which were last held more than three years ago.

The family meetings, held in the Diamond Mountain resort in southeast North Korea, highlighted the urgency for such reunions for Korea’s “separated families,” which were torn apart during the three-year war that ended in 1953 with the peninsula still divided.

At Reunions, Abducted Fishermen Stick to North Korea Script
Wall Street Journal

In the early 1970’s, just as South Korea’s economy was catching up with North Korea following the devastating civil war of 1950-1953, Choi Yong-chol took a job as a skate fisherman

From South Chuncheong province on the Yellow Sea coast, the Choi family, like many in rural South Korea, struggled to make a living. Skate fishing offered stable employment but was physically demanding and potentially dangerous: there were plentiful accounts of boats that disappeared at sea.

One day in February 1974, while close to the maritime border with North Korea, Mr. Choi’s boat and another nearby were approached by a North Korean coast guard vessel. The North Korean ship opened fire, sinking one of the boats and forcing Mr. Choi’s ship to North Korea with its crew, according to accounts from the time.

For many others, reunions put on shelf forever
Korea Times

While about 200 separated family members from South and North Korea are enjoying their long-overdue reunions at Mount Geumgang, many more here have to look to them with envy.

One of those is Jang Sa-in, a 74-year-old who lives in Sadang-dong, southern Seoul.

Jang pulled out a letter from his older brother from the North. He was told through a source that Sa-guk died last year.

“I never knew that time would pass so fast. Now I turned 80 and I still can vividly describe the scenery in our hometown… I suppose you already entered your 70s. I believe you and your sisters have served mother well so far,“ Jang read haltingly during an interview Thursday.

Humanity at its very worst
The Economist

THE gruesome sketches need little explanation. They are based on the memories of Kim Gwang-il, a North Korean who spent more than two years in a prison camp before eventually escaping through China and Thailand to South Korea. The pictures show prisoners held in stress positions, skeletal bodies eating snakes and mice, and prisoners pulling a cart laden with rotting bodies. But none of the pictures, he says, was nearly as graphic as the reality of being forced to live in the camp.

Mr Kim was one of over 80 defectors, refugees and abductees who publicly testified before a commission of inquiry (COI) set up by the UN’s Human Rights Council in March 2013 to investigate systematic human-rights violations in North Korea. It interviewed another 240 victims confidentially (many fear reprisals on family members still in North Korea). After a year-long investigation, on February 17th the commission delivered its 400-page report.

The report, written by a three-member UN panel headed by Michael Kirby, an Australian former judge, is extraordinary in its detail and breadth. It includes a catalogue of cruelties meted out by the North Korean regime to its main targets: those who try to flee the country; Christians and those promoting other “subversive” beliefs; and political prisoners, estimated to number between 80,000 and 120,000. The regime is accused of crimes that include execution, enslavement, starvation, rape and forced abortion.

S. Korea raps Japan for casting doubt on comfort women testimony
Kyodo News via GlobalPost

South Korea “cannot accept” Japan’s move to re-examine testimony by South Korean women that led Tokyo to officially apologize in 1993 for the forcible recruitment of women into sexual servitude during World War II, a South Korean Foreign Ministry official said Friday, according to Yonhap News Agency.

“Our government cannot accept Japan’s attempt to question the forcible recruitment and management of comfort women even after the country acknowledged it in the past,” the unidentified official was quoted as saying in response to remarks made by Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on Thursday.

In Tokyo on Friday, Suga, the top government spokesman, shrugged off the reported comment by the official, saying at a press conference it is “natural for the Japanese government” to re-examine the accounts of 16 South Korean women.

Korean Americans push to rename Sea of Japan in state legislatures
Washington Post

A high-stakes struggle between Asian powers over territory and resources in the Sea of Japan has opened a new front in unexpected locations: American state legislatures. Now, the centuries-old feud between South Korea and Japan will soon impact some schoolchildren in the United States.

Korean American activists have pushed legislation in three states that would require new school textbooks to note that the Sea of Japan is also called the East Sea, the Korean name for the hotly disputed body of water.

Earlier this month, the Virginia House of Delegates passed legislation that would require textbooks to include both names by a wide margin. Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), who said during his 2013 campaign that he supported the measure, is likely to sign it once it reaches his desk.

Miky Lee tries to rise to challenge at South Korea’s CJ Group
Washington Post

Miky Lee, vice chairman of CJ Group, beams as she greets a visitor in the executive lounge of South Korea’s biggest purveyor of food, home-shopping services, TV programs and movies. The 55-year-old granddaughter of Samsung Group’s founder shows no sign that it’s been a traumatic few months.

Settling in for her first major interview, Lee opens up about how she’s leading the shaken Samsung offshoot after CJ Group Chairman Lee Jay Hyun, her younger brother, was arrested in July.

“I’m now working longer, talking to more people, taking care of a lot more things, including the balance sheet,” she says in a room dominated by a portrait of Lee Byung Chull, her grandfather. “CJ will get back on track.”

Navy chief sentenced to 5 years for attacking S. Korean woman
Stars and Stripes

A U.S. Forces Korea chief petty officer was sentenced last week to five years in prison for attacking a South Korean woman outside her Itaewon apartment last fall.

The Seoul Central District Court identified the 35-year-old man as Chief Petty Officer Christopher Wayne Chatman. The U.S. military refused to confirm the man’s identity because he was tried in a South Korean court, but released a statement that said, “This behavior does not reflect the high standards of conduct expected of U.S. servicemembers.”

According to USFK and Commander Naval Forces Korea, Chatman was convicted Feb. 13 of indecent assault resulting in bodily injury of a South Korean citizen. In addition to his prison sentence, he must complete a 40-hour treatment program for sexual violence offenders.

Korean Messaging Service Kakao Gets Ready For A $2 Billion IPO

Korean messaging leader Kakao is negotiating with Morgan Stanley and Samsung Securities Co. to file for an IPO in Koea, according to the WSJ. The seven-year-old company is mostly known for its dominant messaging app, KakaoTalk. 133 million people are using the app. It is also the primary platform for mobile games.

KakaoTalk is the undisputable winner in South Korea. But with a population of 50 million people, the company needs to find new areas to grow. Similarly, Kakao is launching new products to improve engagement from its existing user base.

The company’s revenue mostly comes from its mobile gaming platform. Many Korean developers use Kakao as a platform to launch their games. The company is now profitable thanks to this revenue stream.

Priscilla Ahn, ‘This is Where We Are’: Exclusive Album Premiere

Acoustic folk artist Priscilla Ahn released “This is Where We Are,” her latest studio album, last summer in Japan and Korea, but the Georgian delayed the release of the LP in her native United States until 2014. Now, the album is officially dropping in America later this month — and Billboard has the exclusive premiere.

“This recording process was different from most, as we only worked two days a week,” Ahn says of the album, her third release in the States. “I discovered that this is the most ideal way for me to record. I always get a little antsy after spending too long in a studio. So we would work together for two days, and then spend a week working on our own and coming up with new ideas for our next meeting.”

Ahn says she wrote the majority of the album “alone in the desert” — though she was “most definitely in an air-conditioned hotel room,” rather than the middle of nowhere. The album also differs from past releases in that it has more of a synth-pop edge than her previous albums. In particular, Ahn is fond of opening track “Diana,” which has minor electronic influences.

The Underdogs Talk Producing New Girls’ Generation Single ‘Mr.Mr.,’ Working in K-Pop: Exclusive

The duo further explains their process, adding, “We work with a Korean translation. We do the full record, we write it completely in English, sing demo and give them the vocal arrangement. Then there’s a Korean translator that translates it to sound cool and still relevant in Korea.”

Mason and Thomas add they are confident in the act’s international charm (the girls have recorded in English, Korean, Japanese and Chinese) can make the track appealing to non-speakers. “I think just Girls’ Generation appeals across the board and across the world,” Mason says. “The YouTube Award they just won is a testament to the size of their audience and how many people are listening and watching. It’s crazy.”

Chinese fried chicken businesses saved by Jun Ji-hyun
Korea Times

AI (avian influenza) has hit the poultry business in China, at least its fried chicken restaurants. But it was saved by hallyu (Korean wave) beauty Jun Ji-hyun’s line “When it snows, I gotta have Chi-maeck (chicken and beer),” in recent a hit drama “Man from Another Star,” Xinhua reported Wednesday.

China’s big cities such as Shanghai saw a sharp increase in their sales with customers not minding lining up for up to three hours to buy a bucket of fried chicken.

It also reported about a Hunan resident who has suffered irritated skin due to her fried chicken-only diet for eight straight days.

“Right before the Lunar New Year’s Day, we suffered a major dent in sales because of the outbreak of AI. This sudden happiness is a never-expected-surprise for us,” a local restaurant owner was quoted as saying.

South Koreans Pay Respects to Graceful Yuna Kim
Wall Street Journal

After a sleepless night, many South Koreans are thinking of Yuna Kim.

The 2010 Olympic champion looked in a good position to win gold again in Sochi. Expectations for this most popular South Korean skater were sky high as she went into the free skating competition in first place on Thursday.

Kim delivered a seemingly flawless performance. But her score of 144.19 wasn’t enough to see off the surprise challenge of 17-year-old Russian skater Adelina Sotnikova, who scored 149.95 points Thursday. Sotnikova’s total of 223.59 secured her the gold medal. Kim scored 219.11 and had to settle for silver.

“A gold medal wasn’t really important to me and being able to perform in the Olympics is meaningful enough. I made no mistake today and I am satisfied. I did everything I could,” Kim told reporters after the result.

How Sotnikova Beat Kim, Move by Move
New York Times

Double-Triple Combination
Sotnikova’s combination had a much higher base value because she chose to do the most difficult double jump, the double axel. She received high marks for her good flow, height and distance. She added a 10 percent bonus by executing the combination in the second half of the program.

The double jump Kim chose is one of the easiest, so it has a low base value. The entry was simple, and the jump ended with little speed.

Footwork and Layback Spin
On two elements, the footwork and the layback spin, Sotnikova had a difficulty level of 4, while Kim had a level 3. This meant that Kim had nearly a point deficit in the base value for the two elements combined. In her layback spin, Sotnikova changed positions with ease while maintaining speed and intensity, and the judges rewarded her with higher marks. She received nearly two points more than Kim did for the two elements

S. Korea secures at least silver in men’s team pursuit speed skating

South Korea on Friday secured at least the silver medal in the men’s team pursuit speed skating event at the Sochi Winter Olympics.

The men’s trio of Lee Seung-hoon, Joo Hyong-jun and Kim Cheol-min staged a comeback to knock off the reigning Olympic champ Canada in the eight-lap showdown at Adler Arena Skating Center. South Korea will take on the Netherlands in Saturday’s final.

The team pursuit event became a medal sport in 2006 and South Korea will earn its first medal in the event.

KBS to Host Free K-Pop Concert in Los Angeles in April
Y. Peter Kang
Author: Y. Peter Kang
Posted: February 19th, 2014
Filed Under: BLOG
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Some big names in the K-pop world will be descending on Los Angeles for a free concert hosted by KBS America and the Korean American Federation of Los Angeles, according to news reports.

The concert, which will be held on Saturday, April 12 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, is called “Open Concert (L.A. K-Pop Festival)” and will celebrate the 111th anniversary of Koreans living in America.

The three-hour concert will reportedly feature performances by 2PM, SHINee, Sistar, CNBlue, Dynamic Duo, Girl’s Day, and Kim Taewoo with other acts to be announced. Continue Reading »

Tuesday’s Link Attack: North Korea’s Crimes Against Humanity; Yuna Kim Favored for Gold, Oddsmakers Say
Author: Cassandra Kwok
Posted: February 18th, 2014
Filed Under: BLOG
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‘Abundant evidence’ of crimes against humanity in North Korea, panel says

A stunning catalog of torture and the widespread abuse of even the weakest of North Koreans reveal a portrait of a brutal state “that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world,” a United Nations panel reported Monday.

North Korean leaders employ murder, torture, slavery, sexual violence, mass starvation and other abuses as tools to prop up the state and terrorize “the population into submission,” the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights (COI) in North Korea said in its report.

The commission said it would refer its findings to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for possible prosecution. It also sent a letter warning North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that he could face prosecution for crimes against humanity, and said other options include establishing of an ad hoc tribunal by the United Nations.

South Korean Lawmaker Jailed on Treason Charges
New York Times

A South Korean court sentenced an opposition lawmaker to 12 years in prison on Monday for forming a “revolutionary organization” and conspiring to start an armed revolt to overthrow the Seoul government in the event of war with North Korea.

Lee Seok-ki, a politician affiliated with the far-left United Progressive Party, became the first South Korean lawmaker convicted on charges of plotting treason since the country’s past military dictators used them to silence dissidents decades ago.

The arrest of Mr. Lee, 51, in September and his subsequent court hearings drew intense public attention in South Korea, where an ideological conflict rooted in fear of the Communist North shows no sign of easing more than 60 years after the end of the Korean War in 1953.

New Jersey lawmakers cause international stir with bill to rename ‘Sea of Japan’

What does a sea on the other side of the Earth have to do with New Jersey?

To five state legislators from Bergen County who represent a large and politically active Korean-American community, the answer is simple: plenty.

For that reason, the lawmakers — all Democrats — want the state government to call the body of water between Japan and the Korean Peninsula both the “East Sea” and the “Sea of Japan.”

Western nations know the sea primarily as the Sea of Japan.

On Monday , the lawmakers introduced a bill (A2478) that would require the state and all its political subdivisions, “to the extent practicable,” to refer to the contested body of water between Korea and Japan as the East Sea.

Fresno man, 73, pleads guilty to money laundering and fraud
Fresno Bee (Calif.)

A 73-year-old Fresno man pleaded guilty Monday to six counts of laundering money in a fraud investment scheme, U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner said.

Court documents showed that in 2002, Kwan Yong Choi asked investors to invest in his company, Sun Min Trading Inc., which sold souvenirs to the White House, Wagner said. Choi said the business would make 30% profit, and 10% would go to a charity called “International Christian Mission Center,” which was supposedly affiliated with the Central Intelligence Agency. Furthermore, Choi promised investors 20% profit every quarter.

But Choi spent the money on personal business expenses, including payments on homes, cars and credit cards. Choi admitted investors lost about $2 million in the scheme, Wagner said.

Strategic bidding lands couple a Closter home

When buying a home runs head on into a bidding war, the first impulse may be to flex your financial muscles and knock out the competition.

Dentist Dr. John Rhee and his wife, Inae, a former kindergarten teacher, took the opposite approach.

The ex-Ramsey homeowners, both in their 40s, offered less than the $929,800 asking price for a five-bedroom colonial with mason/stucco exterior in Closter, and still came out on top.

2010 Champion Yuna Kim Taking Olympics Like a Job
ABC News

Don’t judge Yuna Kim’s workouts by her body language. Nothing could be more misleading.

The defending champion figure skater from South Korea is approaching the Sochi Olympics like a job. So when she appears to be uninterested in practice, well, forget about it.

Kim gets it done. There’s little or no flair and she expresses virtually no emotion. Kim seems to be a totally different skater in training than when she is performing. She wasn’t particularly pleased with everything Sunday, cutting short her run-through halfway through the music.

A Battle for Gold and Posterity
New York Times

Kim Yu-na had arrived on a long flight from South Korea to defend her Olympic figure skating title. This was her first practice, near dusk on Thursday, and dozens of reporters and photographers recorded every jump and spin and mop of the brow. The whir of cameras made a hushed, clattering sound like cards in the spokes of a bicycle tire.

Afterward, Kim was asked about her presumed top challenger, 15-year-old Yulia Lipnitskaya, whose poise, youthful jumping, blurring spins and gymnastic flexibility helped lift Russia to a team gold medal and made her an international sensation.

Women’s skating does not begin until Wednesday, but expectation has been growing since last month when an emergent Lipnitskaya won the European championship. This is probably the most eagerly awaited competition of the Winter Games.

Yuna Kim is an even-money favorite for a second gold, Julia Lipnitskaia close behind
Yahoo Sports

Are you the type of person who needs to sweeten the pot when the women’s figure skating competition takes place in Sochi on Wednesday and Thursday? Or are you maybe the type of guy who knows a guy who knows a thing about that thing over in Russia?

Well, you’re in luck!

Proving once again that sports bettors never met any action they didn’t like, it’s possible to place a bet on the gold medal winner in women’s figure skating. If that’s the type of thing that interests you, Bovada says that reigning Olympic champion Yuna Kim of South Korea is an even-money favorite (1/1) to repeat as the gold medal winner with 15-year-old Russian wunderkind Julia Lipnitskaia close behind at 6/5.

A Wink and Then a Nod
New York Times

The period during which Alex Chan and Sue Choe were on the dating site about four years ago wasn’t long, but somehow they both found that window, opened it and climbed through.

“When I met her I was about to discontinue my subscription,” said Mr. Chan, who had invested some time on the eHarmony site before giving a try.

Ms. Choe, a vice president of D. E. Shaw, a hedge fund for which she does professional and organizational development, had recently left a long-term relationship. “After that ended, I thought, I don’t know how to meet people anymore,” she said. She added that her brother had met his wife through the same site in 2004.

Taking advantage of a promotion the site was running, she joined.

K-PoP: Enter the Tiger, An Unsatisfying Evening with Amy Chua

With the sincerest intent of pretending to be open-minded, I attended Tiger Mom Amy Chua and (her sidekick co-author/husband/fellow Yale Law Professor) Jed Rubenfeld’s “discussion” last week. They were in Pasadena to promote their latest book, The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits blah blah blah.

I wanted to listen with an open heart, but I’ll be the first to admit I came in skeptical of the simplistic nature of it all. How three traits can explain success. How The Elite Eight — Mormons, Cubans, Nigerians, Indians, Jews, Lebanese, Persians, and Chinese — are masterful practioners of these “cultural practices.”

And to top it all off: I was hungry. Starvin’ like Marvin Hungry. How long would I last?

The interview began at 7:01pm. By 7:08, Rubenfeld had already casually name-dropped Yale Law School like a 1990’s 10th grader mentioned her Guess? jeans.

Strings of Astonishment
Bangkok Post

Clara-Jumi Kang had a devil of a time with her own fiddlestick once. She had posed for a cosmetics advertisement, and in Korea, that was not a ver–––y seemly thing to do, so she was criticised for it. But Kang, a veteran and winner of countless violin competitions, simply shrugged that off.

“What’s wrong with doing a little posing? I needed a new fiddlestick for my violin. And the best violin bows cost thousand and thousands of dollars. So I did what I had to do.”

Kang, 26, has been doing what she “has to do” since her childhood. And it has paid off. Four years ago, she won the gold medal at the 8th Quadrennial International Violin Competition of Indianapolis where she also won five additional special prizes. She was the winner of the Sendai International Violin Music Competition. She has been playing around the world.

Putting modern spin on ‘pansori’
Korea Times

Lee Ja-ram is called a prodigy of “pansori,” a traditional narrative song performed by a singer and drummer. While the form is centuries old, the 35-year-old never shies away from pushing its boundaries.

Lee, who surprised the world with her pansori rendition of Bertolt Brecht classics, is back at it again. This time she is the artistic director and composer behind a pansori re-imagining of the short stories of author Chu Yo-sup.

The show, titled “Chu Yo-sup’s Ugly Woman/Murder” will be staged at Doosan Art Center’s Space 111 later this week. Based on two separate stories, it is highly anticipated because it brings a modern edge not only to pansori but also Korean literature.

In Philadelphia, Korean art comes into its own

Perhaps it’s for the best that the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s “Treasures from Korea” will open with prayer: a Yeongsanjae ritual led by Buddhist monks.

A little divine providence couldn’t hurt, given the delicate nature of the works on display, dating from the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910) and, for the most part, leaving Korea for the first time. They include works on paper so fragile they can be shown for only 12 weeks at a time, and a 40-foot-high Buddhist banner painting that’s an official national treasure.

Despite its logistical challenges, the museum’s first marquee Korean art exhibition is quite timely, said Hyunsoo Woo, the museum’s curator of Korean art.

Friday’s Link Attack: NKorea Agrees to Reunions; Girls Generation May Delay Album; Park Ji-Sung Refuses World Cup Spot
Author: Cassandra Kwok
Posted: February 14th, 2014
Filed Under: BLOG
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South Korea asks for trust; North agrees, lets families have reunions

In stark contrast to the bellicose gesturing that has haunted relations in the recent past, North and South Korea took conciliatory steps in each other’s direction Friday.

Both sides will halt the harsh rhetoric, they agreed at a bilateral meeting on the heavily militarized border that divides them.

They hope that this and other agreements will serve to build trust between Pyongyang and Seoul, Kim Kyou-Hyun, a high South Korean security official, said after the meeting wrapped up.

Pyongyang has been particularly irked by joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States, and would like them to cease.

Why was North Korea so quick to agree to family reunions?
Christian Science Monitor

South and North Korea agreed to allow reunions next week of nearly 100 families divided by the Korean War in a breakthrough agreement that appeared to signal Pyongyang’s deepened interest in easing tensions on the peninsula.

North Korea surprised South Korean negotiators Friday by completely dropping its demand that the United States and the South cancel military exercises set to begin during the reunions.

The North, analysts say, may be prioritizing smoother relations with its southern neighbor while it grapples with internal problems after the execution of long-time regent-mentor Jang Song-thaek and the purge of hundreds of his followers.

Kim Jong-un ‘Successfully Tightens Grip’
Chosun Ilbo

U.S. intelligence services believe that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has succeeded in tightening his grip on power through a generational shift in the party and the military.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that two years after he took power Kim has further consolidated its position as sole leader and final decision maker.

He has tightened controls and ensured loyalty through personnel reshuffles and purges, Clapper said.

North Korea Sent Kenneth Bae to Labor Camp to Protest B-52 Flights
ABC News

Imprisoned American Kenneth Bae was sent to a North Korean labor camp in part due to the regime’s anger over supposed American B-52 bomber flight drills around the Korean Peninsula last week, officials told ABC News.

North Korean officials broke the news by telling Donald Gregg, a former ambassador to South Korea and an ABC News consultant who was on a rare visit to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.

“Rhee Young-Ho, a first vice minister, said that the memory of the B29 air raids are in the [North Korean] DNA,” Gregg told ABC News today during a stopover at the Beijing International Airport while en route back to the U.S. “[Rhee said] to have the B52s which are nuclear capable fly over their air space is seen as a really terrible, terrible threat.”

The Pentagon has acknowledged the “rotational presence” of bombers in the region, but would not confirm the details of the mission that angered the North Koreans.

Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea, U.N. Panel Finds

A U.N. Commission of Inquiry has found that crimes against humanity have been committed in North Korea and recommends that its findings be referred to the International Criminal Court, two people familiar with the commission’s report have told The Associated Press.

The commission, which conducted a yearlong investigation, has found evidence of an array of such crimes, including “extermination,” crimes against humanity against starving populations and a widespread campaign of abductions of individuals in South Korea and Japan.

Its report, due for release Monday, does not examine in detail individual responsibility for the alleged crimes but recommends steps toward accountability.

Korean businesses booted from the Exchange Building
Northwest Asian Weekly

The line at The Original Deli in downtown Seattle is usually full of businessmen and women grabbing whatever lunch they can within the short break they have. The mom-and-pop delicatessen, tucked on the first floor of the Exchange Building on Marion St. between First Avenue and Second Avenue, has been a favorite to many over the years. Relationships and stories have emerged since its opening 44 years ago. But that’s all gone now.

The Original Deli went out of business on Feb. 7, after the owners were told to leave when the building began going under major renovations. Deli owner Un “Missy” Bang was heartbroken and clueless as to what the future might hold.

“This is everything we have,” Bang said.

Beacon Capital Partners bought the Exchange Building for $66 million last year and decided to remodel. In the process, it forced two Korean-owned businesses — The Original Deli and The Goodie Box — to close down. Other businesses in the building have not been affected.

Landlords are having to ditch a century-old rental system
The Economist

MOST South Korean urbanites would leap at the chance to part with $150,000 to rent a smallish flat for three years in Seoul, the capital. These days, however, most Korean landlords would spurn such a measly deposit.

Korea’s unusual rental system, known as jeonse, does not involve monthly rental payments. Instead, tenants provide landlords with a deposit, typically between a quarter and half of the property’s value, to invest for the duration of the lease. Property owners keep the returns and then repay the lump sum at the end of the tenancy.

Average deposits have now risen for 76 consecutive weeks in Korea, the longest streak ever. Thousands of jeonse leases in the capital are now as high as 90% of the value of the house; they sometimes exceed it in areas where property prices have fallen since leases were agreed.

The dangerous myth of “The Triple Package”: What Amy Chua gets wrong about Asian-American communities

Here we go again. Tiger mom Amy Chua is back, reinforcing stereotypes and presenting glib solutions for attaining success. Her new book, “The Triple Package,” jointly authored with husband Jed Rubenfeld, argues that certain ethnic and religious groups — namely Jews, Indians, Chinese, Iranians, Lebanese, Nigerians, Cubans and Mormons – possess qualities that make them more likely to succeed in life. Chua and Rubenfeld claim that these groups have “three cultural forces” — a superiority complex, insecurity and impulse control — that drive them to achieve.

Aside from the innately offensive nature of such stereotyping, reviews and commentary have already pointed out that the book props itself up with flimsy data and questionable evidence. It comes as little surprise that Chua’s newest publication is accompanied by skepticism and controversy. Her previous book, “The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” and its accompanying Wall Street Journal article made unfounded racial assertions and coined a parenting philosophy out of thin air. The terms “tiger mom” and “tiger parenting” entered our vocabulary, becoming shorthand for a strict, no-excuses style of parenting supposedly commonplace and traditional across Asian and Asian American households. This further reinforced the “model minority myth” of Asian American students as stellar accomplishers with an almost supernatural ability to overcome all odds and pull themselves up by their bootstraps to achieve the American dream. In reality, no one had heard of the tiger parenting philosophy before Chua wrote about it because, like the mythical “model minority,” it doesn’t exist.

Classically Trained, Unlikely Rockers
Wall Street Journal

Just months ago, Daniel Chae was working in finance. Now, he is staking his future on an alternative folk-rock band composed of six Korean-Americans. “We found the American dream in music,” says Mr. Chae, 25 years old, who quit a job at a large bond-trading firm in Los Angeles last summer to devote himself full-time to playing electric guitar and violin in the band Run River North.

Formed in 2011, the Los Angeles-based ensemble performs original compositions, many of them about the Korean immigrant experience. Its members are classically trained musicians, thanks to parents who goaded them to study piano and violin. One of them, violinist Jennifer Rim, was barely familiar with pop music until she joined the band.

Run River North is no K-Pop confection—its music will never be confused with flamboyant Korean pop like Psy’s “Gangnam Style.” The group’s soothing melodies are more in line with Simon and Garfunkel’s, and they appeal to a diverse audience. Last year, Run River North was signed by an indie label after appearing on ” Jimmy Kimmel Live” and playing to sold-out crowds at Los Angeles’s legendary Troubadour nightclub. The band’s self-titled debut album is set for release this month.

Karen O Performing ‘Her’ Song at Oscars

Karen O will perform “The Moon Song” from “Her” during the Oscars, producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron announced Thursday.

“The Moon Song” was written by Karen O and “Her” director Spike Jonze and is a best original song nominee. The upcoming performance marks the first time the Yeah Yeah Yeahs front-woman will perform the track for a global television audience.

The three other Oscar-nominated songs in the original song category are “Let It Go” from Frozen, “Happy” from Despicable Me 2 and “Ordinary Love” from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom — all of which are also set to be performed on the show.

Girls’ Generation mulls album release delay after losing video footage
Yonhap via GlobalPost

Girls’ Generation, one of the most popular South Korean pop groups, may postpone the release of its new album after footage for the video of the album’s title track was accidentally deleted, the group’s management agency said Friday.

The K-pop group originally planned to end a one-year hiatus with the release of its fourth mini-album titled “Mr.Mr.” on Feb. 24. Before the official release, the group was scheduled to release the title track “Mr. Mr.” on local online music services such as Melon, Naver Music and Genie on Wednesday.

On Thursday, the group was scheduled to resume local broadcasting activities on cable TV network Mnet’s music program, “M!Countdown.”

U-Kiss Is One Of The Most Popular K-Pop Groups In The World, So Why Aren’t They Huge In Korea?

In the lobby of New York’s Best Buy Theater on a night in mid-January, 100 fans are getting ready for some high fives from their favorite boy band. They’re there for a “high touch” session, a type of meet-and-greet popular in Asia where — in lieu of a standard autograph session common in the States — artists hold out their hands to give high fives to a passing line of stunned, crying superfans.

As the group enters the room, the screaming starts. The thought of hand-to-hand contact with six pristinely made-up, extremely attractive young guys sends the fans into overdrive; the noise level skyrockets.

These are KissMes — fans of U-Kiss, a K-pop boy band in town for their first-ever concert in New York City, the start to a short three-city U.S. tour. The fans’ moniker is a spin on the group’s name, which is an acronym for Ubiquitous Korean International Idol Super Star. U-Kiss debuted in South Korea in 2008 and are known for their English-speaking members, as well as their catchy mix of tunes that perfectly encapsulate both Korean ballad pop sounds and equally slick American R&B. Like other group acts in Korea, U-Kiss incorporate visually compelling dance moves and aim to please with their fan service — little gestures and interactions that get fans squealing.

Olympic champion Yuna Kim takes Lipnitskaia mania in stride
Yahoo Sports

The defending Olympic champion in women’s figure skating is not concerned by the rapid emergence of Russian teenage sensation Julia Lipnitskaia.

Yuna Kim was considered an overwhelming favorite to win a second straight gold after her triumph at the 2010 Vancouver Games, but her apparent stranglehold on the Olympic title has been thrown into some doubt by the performance of Lipnitskaia, who dazzled last week in helping Russia win gold in the team competition.

The South Korean arrived in Russia on Thursday and has already practiced twice ahead of the ladies’ short program starting on Wednesday.

“It will be a great opportunity for her as the Olympics are taking place in her home country,” Kim told reporters. “Thinking about who may or may not do well won’t help me at all. What’s important is I do everything I’ve been preparing so hard to do.”

Lonely at the top for South Korea’s Lee
Yahoo Eurosport UK

Speed skater Lee Sang-hwa cut a lonely figure on Friday as the Olympic 500 metres champion reflected on South Korea’s struggles at the Sochi Winter Games.

The top speed skating nation at the 2010 Vancouver Games with three gold and two silver medals, South Korea have endured a Games to forget on the ice so far in Russia with Lee’s victory on Monday the Asian nation’s only medal in the sport in Sochi.

Four years ago, ‘Empress Lee’ was joined by all the Korean medallists to address the media.
On Friday she sat alone.

“In Vancouver, I was with my fellows skaters seated side by side in the news conference, but here I’m alone today and that makes me feel sorry,” Lee told reporters in Sochi.

Korean curling team hits Great Wall
Korea Times

Korea’s female curlers lost to China 11-3 after their worst performance at the Ice Cube Curling Center, Friday (KST), moving further away from their hope of reaching the semifinals on their first Olympic appearance.

Buoyed by a win over Russia hours earlier, Korea looked to establish a bridgehead to the semifinal over China but failed to beat the world No. 5 due to a lack of strategy and too many mistakes.

China went ahead in the second end, where it scored three, after giving up the first end without any points. Korea, the world No. 10, cut the deficit to 3-2 in the second end, but the tension didn’t last long.

In the fifth end, China added three points as Korea started to lose its concentration and determination to win. After scoring just one more point in the next end, Korea fell to 11-3, the biggest loss so far at the Sochi Games.

Park Ji-sung won’t return for World Cup
Korea Times

Park Ji-sung, former captain of the South Korean men’s national football team, won’t return for the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Brazil, the team’s head coach said Friday.

Hong Myung-bo, who will lead South Korea to its eighth consecutive trip to the World Cup this summer, said Park told him he will not come out of international retirement for one last hurrah. “I had a heart-to-heart with Park Ji-sung,” Hong told reporters at Incheon International Airport upon returning from his trip to the Netherlands. Park is currently playing for PSV Eindhoven in the top Dutch league. “He said his knees are worse than he’d feared and that will prevent him from playing for the national team,” Hong said of the veteran with a history of knee injuries. “And I decided to respect his decision.”

Park’s status for the big tournament has been a hot potato in South Korean football so far this year. The 32-year-old said he would no longer play for the national team in January 2011 and has repeatedly said he won’t change his mind.

12 Things Never to Say to an Asian Woman

1. Where are you from?
This is usually followed by an intense stare as the person, most likely a dude, is trying to figure out if I’m Chinese, Thai, Korean, Japanese, or something else “exotic.” When I say New Jersey (the most exotic of the states), this leads to question #2.

2. No, really where are you from?
Let’s get to the point. You want to know where my family is from. Taiwan. Are you happy now? Where are you from? Because I’d really like to know so I can avoid going there.

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