Rapper Awkwafina Releases Debut Album
Author: James S. Kim
Posted: February 11th, 2014
Filed Under: BLOG
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Photo by Victor Chu.

When Queens, N.Y.-based, Chinese-Korean American rapper Nora Lum, aka Awkwafina, graced our cover for the September 2013 issue, it hadn’t even been a year since she released her first single, “My Vag,” which immediately thrust her into the spotlight of feminist and Asian American audiences.

After a series of strong singles to follow up on her initial success, Lum is back with her long-awaited debut album, entitled “Yellow Ranger,” now available for download on iTunes and the Amazon music store.

For those who haven’t listened to Awkwafina’s music, the EP includes a number of her previous singles, including the title track “Yellow Ranger” as well as “Queef,” “NYC Bitche$” and “Mayor Bloomberg (Giant Margarita).” There’s also a “Vag Redux Edition” of her breakout hit “My Vag.” Continue Reading »

Tuesday’s Link Attack: Koreas to Hold Meeting; Girls’ Generation Announces New Album; Korea Beats Japan in Curling
Author: Cassandra Kwok
Posted: February 11th, 2014
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North and South Korea to hold ‘high-level’ meeting

North and South Korea will hold a “high-level meeting” Wednesday ahead of planned family reunions of people from the two countries, Seoul said Tuesday.

“No agenda was set prior to this meeting,” Kim Eui-do, a spokesman for the South Korean Unification Ministry said. “But we expect that there will be comprehensive dialogue on the smooth operation of these family reunions, holding the family reunions on a regular basis and other important areas of interest.”

The talks will start Wednesday morning at the Panmunjom Peace House, which is on the South’s side of the heavily militarized border, Kim said.

Pyongyang said last week it may back out of the reunions of the families — who were separated by the Korean War in the 1950s — if South Korean forces participate in annual joint military exercises with the United States later this month.

North Korea claims Kenneth Bae not a political pawn? Prove it
Seattle Times

North Korean officials said months ago that American prisoner Kenneth Bae would not be used as a political pawn. Their latest action suggests they’ve changed their mind.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki announced Sunday that North Korean officials had rescinded a second invitation for a special American envoy to fly to Pyongyang to meet with Bae. According to this Associated Press news story, the cancellation “signals an apparent protest of upcoming annual military drills between Washington and Seoul and an alleged mobilization of U.S. nuclear-capable B-52 bombers during training near the Korean Peninsula. North Korea calls the planned drills a rehearsal for invasion, a claim the allies deny.”

North Korean leaders would be wise to let Bae — imprisoned for 15 months now — return to his family before his health deteriorates any further. Bae is not a public official or representative of the U.S. government. He entered the country numerous times as a tour operator before he was detained in November 2012. He is a father, husband, son and brother, and a man of faith who has apologized (possibly under duress) to the North Korean regime for whatever crimes they claim he committed.

Ex-U.S. envoy visits Pyongyang: state media
Yonhap News

Donald Gregg, a former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, arrived in North Korea, Pyongyang’s state media reported Monday, a trip seen to help facilitate the release of a Korean-American man detained there.

In a brief report, the North’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Gregg, now chairman of the U.S. Pacific Century Institute, and other members of the institute are visiting Pyongyang.

The KCNA did not give specifics on the purpose of their visit to the communist state, but the report came one day after the U.S. said it was disappointed by the North’s decision to cancel its invitation to Robert King, the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues.

Amb. Robert King had planned to travel to the communist state sometime this month to discuss the release of Kenneth Bae, but Pyongyang canceled its invitation for King, citing an annual joint military drill between the U.S. and the South.

Time Running out on Former Sex Slaves’ Quest
ABC News

A single picture captures the regret, shame and rage that Kim Gun-ja has harbored through most of her 89 years. Dressed in a long white wedding gown, she carries a bouquet of red flowers and stares at the camera, her deep wrinkles obscured by makeup and a diaphanous veil.

A local company arranged wedding-style photo shoots as gifts for Kim and other elderly women at the House of Sharing, a museum and nursing home for South Koreans forced into brothels by Japan during World War II. Kim and many of the other women never married, giving the pictures a measure of bitterness.

“That could have been my life: Meet a man, get married, have children, have grandchildren,” Kim said in her small, tidy room at the nursing home south of Seoul. “But it never happened. It could never be.”

Japanese soldiers stole her youth, she says, and now, “The Japanese are waiting for us to die.”

South Korea’s LGBT Community Is Fighting For Equal Rights

Last September, two men held South Korea‘s first same-sex wedding on a bridge in Seoul, to the applause of hundreds of guests and the soaring voices of a choir. The ceremony carried no legal weight — same-sex unions are not recognized in South Korea — but the couple and their legal advisers are now moving forward with a legal challenge that they hope will put South Korea in the vanguard of same-sex equality in Asia.

The cause is being helped by the fact that the Kims are high-profile professionals from South Korea’s glamorous film industry. Kim Jho Gwang-su, 48, is a prominent director, while producer Kim Seung-hwan, 29, is CEO of Rainbow Factory, a production house known for its LGBT output. “We realized we could be an example to others and that it was selfish not to use our positions as public figures to push for change,” Kim Seung-hwan told TIME.

Change has been a long time coming for this socially conservative nation. Homosexuality is not illegal in South Korea (or expressly legal), but before the late 1980s the country was ruled by dictatorial regimes and citizens enjoyed few civil liberties, never mind sexual rights. A small and tentative LGBT movement emerged in the 1990s, but even in the year 2000, when prominent actor Hong Seok-chun came out as gay — the first Korean entertainer to do so — he lost all his TV, film and radio contracts.

Why South Korea is really an internet dinosaur
The Economist

SOUTH KOREA likes to think of itself as a world leader when it comes to the internet. It boasts the world’s swiftest average broadband speeds (of around 22 megabits per second). Last month the government announced that it will upgrade the country’s wireless network to 5G by 2020, making downloads about 1,000 times speedier than they are now. Rates of internet penetration are among the highest in the world. There is a thriving startup community (Cyworld, rolled out five years before Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook, was the most popular social network in South Korea for a decade) and the country leads the world in video games as spectator sports. Yet in other ways the futuristic country is stuck in the dark ages. Last year Freedom House, an American NGO, ranked South Korea’s internet as only “partly free”. Reporters without Borders has placed it on a list of countries “under surveillance”, alongside Egypt, Thailand and Russia, in its report on “Enemies of the Internet”. Is forward-looking South Korea actually rather backward?

State Rep. Patty Kim makes re-election bid official

State Rep. Patty Kim formally announced Monday she’ll seek another term representing the capital city.

Kim, a Democrat and former Harrisburg Councilwoman, represents the 103rd District: Harrisburg, Steelton, Highspire, Paxtang Borough and part of Swatara Township.

“Our community needs someone fighting for them in the State Capitol, and I want to continue to be their voice,” Kim said.

She still has work to do, particularly with respect to income inequality, according to the statement.

To that end, Kim has introduced bills that would increase minimum wage, and expunge records of non-violent offenders who have successfully and productively re-entered their communities.

Brentwood girl one of 40 finalists for $100,000 prize in science research

Brentwood High School Senior Joyce Kang is one of 40 finalists for the Intel Science Talent Search, a competition that challenges high school students to conduct innovative and unexplored research possibilities and possibly win $100,000.

Not your typical high school project; Kang’s project explores the development of a high-performance hybrid super capacitor.

The 40 finalists were chosen from among more than 1,800 applicants. Kang is the only finalist to come from the state of Tennessee.

She will attend the final round of judging and compete for more than $630,000 in prizes, including the $100,000 grand prize.

Girls’ Generation Announces Comeback Single ‘Mr.Mr.,’ New Album

Girls’ Generation has announced its return to the K-pop scene with a 40-second teaser video for new single “Mr.Mr.” that will lead off their new album.

Filimed on a chilling hospital video set, the nine members are seen in glitzy dresses and pricey jewelry as they wear oxygen masks, hold hands with a male model and check the vital signs of a teddy bear. The black-, white- and pink-themed visual is soundtracked by a crunchy, electronic/hip-hop-hybrid beat with an addictive, repetitive “Mista mista” hook.

Anticipation is high to see what the group can accomplish after an exciting 2013.

The outfit’s “I Got a Boy” video earned nearly 85 million YouTube views as well won the group Video of the Year at the inaugural YouTube Music Awards, where it competed against the most watched and shared videos of the year from Justin Bieber, One Direction, Miley Cyrus and more. The new single will also prove whether the act can garner enough U.S. views to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 after the chart added YouTube views to its formula. (The rule was not in place when “I Got a Boy” was released.)

S. Korean women’s curling team beats Japan in Olympic debut
Yonhap News

The South Korean women’s curling team defeated Japan 12-7 in its opening round robin match at the Sochi Winter Games on Tuesday, making a successful Olympic debut.

Led by skip Kim Ji-sun, the South Koreans handily prevailed over the mistake-prone Japanese with five points over the final three ends at Ice Cube Curling Center.

South Korean curler Lee Seul-bee (C) throws the stone as teammates Shin Mi-sung (L) and Gim Un-chi (R) watch during their round robin match against Japan at the Sochi Winter Olympics on Feb. 11, 2014. (Yonhap)

South Korea is scheduled to face Switzerland in the day’s second match at 7 p.m. here (midnight in South Korea).

South Korea Pained By Victor’s Bronze
Wall Street Journal

For South Koreans, the sight of a former favorite son winning a medal in Sochi on Monday was bittersweet.

Victor An took bronze in the men’s 1,500 meter short-track speed skating event for Russia. Only three years ago he was skating for South Korea. At the 2006 Olympics in Turin, he won three golds and a bronze for the nation under the name Ahn Hyun-soo.

But in 2010 he fell out with the Korean speed skating federation when a knee injury kept him from qualifying for the Vancouver Olympics. South Korea, fertile ground for competitive speed skating with plenty of up-and-coming candidates, had little room for injured athletes.

So Mr. Ahn chose Russia as his new homeland. Russia welcomed him. He changed his name to Victor An.

Ryu Hyun-jin checks in with slimmed down look
Korea Times

The Los Angeles Dodgers opened their spring training camp with much slimmer Ryu Hyun-jin.

Ryu still won’t reveal just how much he exactly weighs, but he did say it’s significantly less than last year at this time, as he checked in on Sunday. And, he even kept up with four other pitchers, including Clayton Kershaw, during a 20 minute run around the complex drill, unlike last year.

“Looks to me like he wants to be even better. That’s a good sign,” General Manager Ned Colletti said.

Ryu also said he’s more comfortable this spring. “I know the faces, and I have friends here. The first day doesn’t feel like the first day like last year, when I didn’t know anybody,” he explained.

Obituary: Suh Byung-hoo, Pioneering Music Journalist and Father of Tiger JK
Author: Steve Han
Posted: February 10th, 2014
Filed Under: BLOG
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K-pop is now a global brand. Today, it even serves as a spark plug to beef up the export sector of the South Korean government.

Decades ago, Suh Byung-hoo, better known as the father of South Korean rapper Tiger JK (Suh Jung-kwon), pioneered K-pop’s globalization. He was the first South Korean reporter and columnist for Billboard, serving as its Korea correspondent for 20 years since 1981.

Suh, after battling lung cancer for a year, passed away at his home in Uijeongbu, South Korea on Feb. 1 at the age of 71.

Born on March 24, 1942, Suh began studying English early on in life. During the Korean War in the early 1950s, he voluntarily befriended American GIs to learn English. Many of the GIs helped the teenager gain access to books to study English. Continue Reading »

January Cover Story: Korea’s Hip-Hop Legend Tiger JK is a Rebel with a Cause
Author: Julie Ha
Posted: January 31st, 2014
Filed Under: Back Issues , BLOG , FEATURED ARTICLE , January 2014
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Photos by Vince Truspin.

Against the Flow

Pioneering hip-hop artist and producer Tiger JK has long defied convention, so KoreAm decided to take an unconventional approach to covering him. First we look back at this Korean American rebel’s incredible 20-year career, which not only changed the face of music in Korea, but also planted seeds for a larger, lasting hip-hop movement. Then, we hear Tiger tell it like it was and is, in his own words, in a special interview conducted by the Smashing Pumpkins’ Jeff Schroeder.


The humility and soft-spokenness of Suh Jung Kwon are surprising—even disarming—upon first meeting him.

Better known as Tiger JK, or Drunken Tiger, the Korean-born rapper is a global superstar, or, as the media and his fans deem him, “hip-hop royalty,” “the godfather of Korean hip-hop,” “the Jay-Z of Korea,” the “most popular Korean rapper in America, Asia and the world.” It’s worth noting that the latter was a designation by the Los Angeles Times, not some gushing fansite.

But on this overcast late Friday afternoon in Los Angeles, Tiger JK extends a warm hand and bows his head as he greets the people waiting for him at a photographer’s cozy Hollywood studio—no swagger in sight. The only indication that there is a major celebrity in our midst is the entourage surrounding him—a handful of men in dark jackets, including a buff, bald bodyguard named Tiny. And then there is, of course, Tiger’s wife, Yoon Mirae (also known as Tasha), herself a bona fide star carrying the title of the queen of Korean hip-hop. The couple has just flown in from Korea, where they live with their son Jordan, for KoreAm’s cover shoot. They will also be performing, along with fellow Korean hip-hop artist Bizzy, at the magazine’s annual Unforgettable gala the following day.

Initially, Tiger JK sits in the center of the couch, his hands together on his lap, head facing forward, almost like a schoolboy, but there is a slightly guilty look on his face. Speaking in hushed tones, he confesses that he’s a bit hung over and apologizes for the cornrows in his hair, perhaps concerned that KoreAm readers might not like that kind of look.  Continue Reading »

Friday’s Link Attack: Japan’s Renewed Dokdo Claims; Korean American Foster Parents Needed; K-Pop Rankings
Author: Cassandra Kwok
Posted: January 24th, 2014
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In ‘open letter,’ N. Korea urges inter-Korean dialogue
Yonhap News

North Korea called again for inter-Korean talks Friday, this time in the form of an “open letter.”

“It is our determination to create an atmosphere of reconciliation and unity, completely halt hostile military acts, realize the reunion of separated families and relatives, resume the tour of Mt. Kumgang and reenergize multi-faceted north-south cooperation and exchanges,” the powerful National Defense Commission said in what it says is an open letter to South Koreans.

The move came after the South Korean government rejected the North’s dialogue offer, with “unacceptable” pre-conditions attached, earlier this month.

SEE IT: Marco Rubio stares down the barrel of a North Korean soldier’s camera lens
New York Daily News

Marco Rubio came face to face with a North Korean soldier Thursday at the DMZ but his Communist counterpart didn’t see the Republican as much of a menace, ditching a gun for a camera to snap the Senator’s pic.

Rubio (R-Fla.) appears somewhat dumbfounded as he stares through the thick glass at the “the edge of freedom,” that separates Kim Jong-un’s territory from South Korea.

The GOP star hit Korea on the last stop of his weeklong Asia tour, that also included stops in the Philippines and Japan.

S. Korea chides Japan for renewed claims to Dokdo
Yonhap News

South Korea criticized Japan Friday for renewing territorial claims to its easternmost islets of Dokdo, urging Tokyo to heed international warnings against its nationalist actions.

Seoul’s reaction came after Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida reiterated his country’s claims to the islets in an address to parliament and after the Tokyo government opened a website promoting its claims to the islets.

“Such groundless claims and useless attempts repeated over time only show the world that Japan is still under the spell of imperialism,” the foreign ministry here said in a statement.

It also shows how hollow Japan’s so-called active pacifist policy is, the ministry said, referring to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s hard-line policy seen as being aimed at exerting more diplomatic and military power in the region.

Virginia Senate passes bill on East Sea name
Yonhap News via GlobalPost

Virginia’s state Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill supported by the Korean-American community endeavoring to publicize the name East Sea for the body of water between Korea and Japan.

The 31-4 vote Thursday represents a significant victory for ethnic Koreans in the state against high-profile lobbying by the Japanese Embassy in Washington.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Dave W. Marsden (D-Fairfax), would require all new textbooks for Virginia schools to use the name East Sea as well as the Sea of Japan.

Noticing worries
The Economist

LAST month a business student at Korea University in Seoul posted a large bulletin on a wall in the university grounds. In bold black pen, Ju Hyun-woo recounted the week’s events: thousands of railway workers dismissed for striking; the suicide of a farmer in protest at the construction of electricity pylons near his village; and the conservative ruling party’s proposal to expel an opposition politician for questioning the legitimacy of the president, Park Geun-hye. Mr Ju asked readers: “How are you all feeling nowadays?”

Answers came in thick and fast, and most people said they were not fine. Within a few days dozens of handwritten posters—known as daejabo—were pinned up next to his, on issues ranging from high gas bills to gay rights. Now Mr Ju reckons almost 1,000 have been tacked onto university walls around the country. Students in Japan, America, China and Chile have followed, posting pictures of their posters on the “Can’t be OK” Facebook page, which gathered 260,000 followers in a week.

Social media have long been a haven for anonymous dissenting voices in South Korea. But Mr Ju says he wanted to “take responsibility” for his poster: he signed it and stood in front of it for ten hours, engaging passers-by. Breaking with a tradition of politically charged, militant daejabo, used in the past by Korean students to demand change, Mr Ju left readers to come up with their own grievances—and answers.

Seeing none, Korean-American community works to recruit foster parents
Southern California Public Radio

Recruiting foster parents in Los Angeles County is tough. Finding Asian caregivers, particularly Koreans, even more so.

Not one of the thousands of foster homes in Los Angeles County is Korean-speaking — which can make a stressful situation even worse for a foster child who only knows that language.

“Being in a non-Korean home is just shocking to them,” said Mike Oh, a county social worker who works with Asian-American foster children. “We’ve had a lot of calls from the foster parents saying that the child appears to be traumatized, and not eating, not sleeping.”

Asian Americans and the ‘model minority’ myth
Los Angeles Times

Previews of Amy Chua’s forthcoming book, “The Triple Package” (co-written with husband Jed Rubenfeld), detonated a social media uproar among Asian Americans. Many were infuriated by the New York Post’s report that Chua, the self-styled Tiger Mom, was identifying eight superior “cultural” groups in the United States: Jewish, Indian, Chinese, Iranian, Lebanese, Nigerian, Cuban and Mormon. For Asian Americans, the problem is about another Chua production that seems to perpetuate the “model minority” myth and, in particular, the notion that Asians are culturally — even genetically — endowed with the characteristics that enable them to succeed in American society.

Before the mid-20th century, the Tiger Mom did not exist in the national imagination. Instead, Americans believed that Chinese culture was disgusting and vile, viewing U.S. Chinatowns as depraved colonies of prostitutes, gamblers and opium addicts bereft of decency. Lawmakers and citizens deployed these arguments to justify and maintain the segregation, marginalization and exclusion of Chinese from mainline society between the 1870s and World War II. Those efforts were more than effective: to have a “Chinaman’s chance” at that time meant that one had zero prospects.

There is danger in offering culture as a formula for success, because our ideas of culture are hardly fixed. The history of Americans’ views about Chinese immigrant behaviors shows that “culture” often serves as a blank screen onto which individuals project various political agendas, depending on the exigencies of the moment.

English teacher extradited from Armenia over teen sex tape
Korea Herald

A 29-year-old American accused of having sex with a teenage girl and posting a video of it online was extradited from Armenia to South Korea on Wednesday, the Ministry of Justice said.

The ministry has been tracking down the suspect’s whereabouts since 2010, when he fled to China as the video stirred a firestorm of criticism in the Korean online community.

“The urgency of each case decides how fast the extradition will take place. In this case, it only took three months, whereas it could take up to three years for other cases,” a prosecutor in charge of the case told The Korea Herald.

Chang-rae Lee: By the Book
New York Times

The author of “On Such a Full Sea” has been rereading the classics he tackled in college — “big, complex works which I found arresting and difficult then and find arresting and difficult now.”

What’s the best book you’ve read recently? And your vote for best book of the last year?

Two first fictions dazzled me in the last couple of years, the novel “Mr. Peanut,” by Adam Ross, and “Battleborn,” a story collection by Claire Vaye Watkins. “Mr. Peanut” is a hybrid wonder, being at once a detective story, an arch gloss on that genre and a bravura romance, totally upended, that employs the possible murder of one’s wife as a means of revealing the manifold facets of truest, desperate love. All this is driven by the edgy sparkle of the prose, which acts not only as a mirror or lens but as an accelerant, lighting up every layer of his characters’ consciousnesses to a degree that feels almost dangerous. Watkins’s “Battleborn” is equally potent even though the stories range widely in setting, time and voice, the modalities coming at you with a ferocity and intelligence that seems like a magic trick. But there’s nothing artificial about these stories, for as you read them an indelible picture begins to emerge of a certain sensibility, maybe borne from the desert West — toughened, resourceful, both hellbent and eternally hopeful.

Korean American dude on the upcoming season of Survivor

His name is Woo, and he’s a martial arts instructor. His dad is a Tae Kwon Do expert, and he was brought up in the Tae Kwon Do tradition. He looks like a surfer dude, and in fact, he teaches surfing for a living. This season, the contestants will be broken down into three tribes: Brawn, Beauty, and Brains. Woo will be part of the Brawn Tribe.

Should be a fun season. I like this female contestant‘s quote:

Reason for Being on SURVIVOR: The chance to experience a once in a lifetime journey and to show everyone that just because I have huge boobs and a pretty face does not mean I am dumb, it just means I look better when I am winning.

I may have to cheer for her just for that.

Korean rock band forays into US, UK
Korea Times

Korea’s top rock band YB has signed a promotional contract with the former manager of Guns N’ Roses as part of an effort to make it into the American and British music markets.

The band’s domestic management said Tuesday that the five-member group, led by vocalist Yoon Do-hyun, will release its first English album in February and promote it with the help of Doug Goldstein, a former manager of the legendary American rock band.

Goldstein saw potential for YB’s success in Western countries after reviewing its music and performances, according to the band’s management.

Male And Female Idol Groups Ranked By Entertainment Reporters

ENews tvN recently ran a survey amongst 30 Korean entertainment
reporters to get them to rank male and female idol groups according to
various categories.

Find out where your favorite idol group is ranked in different categories like vocal skills and dancing skills.

Online gaming addictions: Sundance films explore a darker side of the Internet
Deseret News (Utah)

For weeks, the young couple would arrive at an Internet cafe in Suwon, South Korea, shortly after dinner and spend up to 10 hours playing an online game that involved raising a virtual child in a fantasy world.

Meanwhile, their real-life 3-month-old girl was home alone with a bottle. The neglect resulted in the infant’s death and involuntary manslaughter charges against the parents.

In mainland China, desperate parents are forcing their teen children into military-style government rehabilitation camps, hoping to cure the youths of a diagnosed addiction to online gaming, which has blurred their distinction between the real and virtual worlds.

Teen star Ko ready to go as LPGA season begins
AFP via Yahoo News

Lydia Ko has jumped to fourth in the world rankings as the LPGA season begins Thursday, but the 16-year-old South Korean-born New Zealander has not adjusted to her lofty spot.

“Not at all, ” she said. “I don’t think it’s something you kind of get used to.”

Ko will play her first event as an LPGA Tour member starting Thursday at the $1.3 million Bahamas LPGA Classic on Paradise Island.

Two more ski jumpers earn spots at Sochi Winter Games
Yonhap News

Two additional South Korean ski jumpers have earned spots at the upcoming Sochi Winter Olympics, an official here said Friday, doubling the size of the ski jumping squad.

Lee Myung-gyo, director of ski jumping at the Korea Ski Association, said Kang Chil-gu and Choi Seo-u will compete in Russia at the Winter Games set to begin on Feb. 7. The two will join Choi Heung-chul and Kim Hyun-ki, who’d earlier qualified based on their world rankings.

Under the qualification rules by the International Ski Federation (FIS), a country can only have a maximum of five male jumpers. If a country has more than five eligible athletes, then Olympic berths will be reallocated to next eligible athletes from another country.

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