Tag Archives: music


2NE1′s New Album Highest Billboard Chart Ever for K-Pop Act

K-pop group 2NE1′s recently released album Crush is at No. 61 on the Billboard 200, surpassing Girls’ Generation-TTS’ “Twinkle” EP to set the all-time highest-selling K-pop album in the United States.

“Crush” also sold over 5,000 copies in just four days and eclipsed BIGBANG’s 2012 album Alive, which started its first week with 4,000.


In Korea, every track of Crush made it into the top 40 slots of the K-pop Hot 100. “Come Back Home” was placed the highest at No. 2 behind “Some” by Junggigo & Soyou.

2NE1 released the video for lead single “Come Back Home” and album track “Happy” on March 2.



SXSW 2014: Korean and Korean American Groups Set to Perform

f(x) performed at last year’s K-pop showcase at SXSW.


A record number of Korean indie acts will have a chance to step into the spotlight at the South By Southwest 2014 Music Festival in Austin, Texas, from March 7 to March 16. But South Korea isn’t really quite known for its moody, alternative side.

In fact, Korea’s musical reputation on an international platform has not been very diverse. Homogenous dolled-up girl groups or idolized boy bands are the faces of South Korean cultural export, K-pop. But this uniformity notwithstanding, K-pop as an out-of-control, international phenomenon (which reached another level after PSY’s “Gangnam Style” in 2012) has benefited the Korean music industry and has paved the way for other Korean artists from various genre backgrounds to share their voice.


The widely popular SXSW festival recognizes the Korean talents of both the K-pop genre as well as indie rock and alternative groups. The festival will showcase 16 distinct and gifted Korean acts, from acoustic to punk rock, from well established to up-and-coming. Punk rock pioneers Crying Nut are making their first appearance at South-By and will be sure to have the crowd moshing in no time. Korean American Big Phony’s sincere sound and velvety voice will melt hearts, while EDM gods Idiotape will keep the party going all night long.

Read below for the rest of the lineup of these trailblazing Korean indie and rock bands, and pencil the names into your SXSW schedule—like their K-pop counterparts, they’re not to be missed.

1. Big Phony

Big Phony is no sham—Korean American singer-songwriter Bobby Choy is the real deal when it comes to soothing acoustic guitar tunes, often intertwined with catchy 80’s inspired sounds, and the kind of Elliot Smith-esque voice that has your heart strings tugging.


2. Glen Check

All U.S. dates have been canceled due to visa issues. Source: Glen Check FB page.

Recognized by MTV K for their boundary-pushing musical and visual experimentation, South Korean indie pop group Glen Check is making their name with electro, synth-rock, pop, and indie sounds that will keep your feet moving.

3. Jambinai

You’ve never heard rock like this before. Taking traditional Korean instruments like the haegum, piri, andgeomungo out of their usual element, Jambinai creates beautifully haunting and ominous melodies that gradually intensify into passionate, goose-bump raising metallic rock sounds.


4. Jang Kiha and the Faces

All U.S. dates have been canceled due to visa issues. Source: Booking company

Self-described as “a life boat of sanity in a sea of cookie-cutter bubblegum pop music,” Jang Kiha and the Faces bring a completely unique and fresh pop sound to the stage. Emphasizing visual aspects and spontaneity in each performance, this indie band will keep you on your toes.

5. Nell

Named after the movie Nell starring Jodie Foster, the band Nell takes eloquently written lyrics and puts it to catchy, psychedelic tunes that are considerably more profound than the typical K-pop song.

6. No Brain

No Brain is, really, a no-brainer. Originally part of Korea’s underground punk movement known as Chosun punk, the band brings raw and uninhibited punk rock vibes that will keep your head banging.

Click here to see the rest of the Korean performers at SXSW.



Chuck Kim Helps Youth Nurture a Passion for Music

At A Place Called Home in South L.A., Charles “Chuck” Kim is helping underserved youth retune their lives through music education.


During a jam session in the middle of June, about 10 people are crammed into a small recording studio. There are a handful of camera-shy pre-teen girls, who smile nervously, unsure of this reporter and a photographer who have just slipped in. Meanwhile, a well-dressed teen, his hair perfectly coiffed and shoes kicked off, sits behind a keyboard, as a smiling young man, at the far end of the room, strums his electric guitar. A male instructor puts on a voice track, and the musicians starts to jam, playing off each other, altering rhythm and speed, with others in the room throwing out suggestions to change things up or adding in some “oohs” and “yeahs.” At times, they break out into boisterous laughter.

All of this—the clamor of instruments and vocals, the group’s focus and engagement, the laughter, even the occasional discordant note—is music to Charles “Chuck” Kim’s ears. In these sounds, the 28-year-old hears more than just melodies; he hears a chorus of hope and transformation. And they are what beckon this Harvard Divinity School graduate to this unassuming space in South Los Angeles, where inner-city youth nurture a love for music and find educational opportunities that they otherwise might not have.


For over a year, Kim has served as the music department coordinator at A Place Called Home, an after-school arts program, originally established in 1993 as a safe haven for youth in the wake of the Los Angeles riots. In addition to music classes, A Place Called Home also offers visual arts, digital media and dance classes, as well as homework assistance, SAT tutoring and counseling, all free of charge to 8- to 21-year-olds living in one of the city’s most challenged neighborhoods.

At the nonprofit center, Kim not only teaches music and music theory—he plays the bass, guitar, piano and drums—but also oversees the department’s curriculum, managing teachers and helping run an accelerated program for advanced students. The center, in fact, has a partnership with the renowned Berklee College of Music in Boston.

A pastor’s son who grew up playing praise music, Kim says he realized early on how music has the power to uplift individuals even in the direst conditions. “Music was always a thing people could use to get to know themselves [better] and transform in a spiritual sense, but also a communal sense,” he said. “After people play together you really see the way their interactions change.”

F-CB-0813-3Home-Kids4 The youth of A Place Called Home. Photo by Mark Edward Harris.

For many youth who come to A Place Called Home, life in the inner city is marked by gang violence, poverty, crime and broken families. Kim sees firsthand how these conditions impact the lives of his students, but also how A Place Called Home offers them some respite and, more importantly, opportunities to better their future. He shared how one of his students had two brothers in prison and a third killed by gang violence. This student, who had been given a trumpet by someone at his school, was introduced to A Place Called Home in 2008 and participated in its programs throughout his high school years. After the two met at the center last year, they hit it off, and Kim would often counsel the youth and talk to him about musical composition.

“He told me how music had saved his life,” said Kim. “Because of his love for music, he didn’t get caught up in other things. Because of his love of music, he would sit in his room and explore and create worlds rather than get caught up in the world. Because of his love for music, he was able to learn discipline and focus.”


Today, this student is attending a University of California school and receiving a $7,000 scholarship from A Place Called Home, said Kim. “I love seeing that moment where a child just grabs hold of his or her life,” he said. You might say Kim, who grew up in the college town of Claremont, Calif., grabbed hold of his own, after his freshman year of college, when he decided to take a break from his studies at the University of California, San Diego. Working with the faith-based nonprofit Mission Year, he decided to move to Chicago and challenged himself to survive on $12,000, which he had raised before leaving for the Windy City, for the entire year. While there, he volunteered for the Chicago Legal Clinic, Inc., and a local public library. It would turn out to be an eye-opening experience—and, eventually, a life-changing one.

That winter in Chicago, Kim and his roommates decided to walk around their neighborhood and offered to Saran wrap windows as a form of insulation for residents who could not afford to heat their homes. He recalled one resident, a mother whose son Kim often babysat at the library, wept as she shared how difficult it was to choose between buying food to feed her child and heating her home.


Girls who care at the APCH youth center. Photo by Mark Edward Harris.

“I was sitting there listening to this, after having Saran wrapped her windows, and I came home feeling really heavy,” said Kim. “So I called my mom and told her what happened. My mom at that point just started crying. She said, ‘That’s just how it was with our family because, when your brother was born and we were bankrupt, I had to choose between diapers for your brother and buying food.’

“At that very moment, this low-income African American mother was connected to my Korean mother back in Claremont,” continued Kim. “I felt like I really discovered a large part of my Korean American identity that way. It’s not just about [from whom] and where you come from, but it’s about how your story interweaves and mixes with people wherever you are.”


Although Kim would return to college, graduate and later go on to earn his master’s from Harvard, he never forgot his experiences in Chicago. And by his mid-20s, he realized he didn’t want to work in academia, but rather longed to be out connecting with people and making grassroots change. His memories of the L.A. riots also had a profound impact. The riots were an expression of decades of economic frustration and racial injustice, and Korean American immigrants felt the brunt of that explosion, as many ran businesses in these low-rent areas.

“The L.A. riots is a time when, in my opinion, the Korean community fended for itself,” described Kim, who was only 7 at the time. “People were looting, people were angry at the cops, Koreans were defending their stores, everyone kind of got into a tribal mode in a very interesting way.”

In search of a fresh start for himself, he boarded a plane from Boston to Los Angeles in 2011. A trained jazz musician, he hoped to create a musical based on Saigu, the moniker (literally meaning 4-2-9, the month and day of the riots) many Korean Americans give to the event. He thought that, by working on the musical, he could better understand his own Korean American identity and bring together the stories of the diverse communities involved.

But, after arriving in the City of Angels, Kim learned about the position at A Place Called Home through a friend. He immediately applied, noting that the principles of the nonprofit aligned with his own. Ironically, Kim has had to put the Saigu project on the backburner, while he directly engages in a community so directly affected by the riots and struggling against many of the same conditions that led to the crisis.


Children playing at A Place Called Home. Photo by Mark Edward Harris.

But not everything is the same as in 1992, and A Place Called Home, which is a positive legacy of the riots, is trying to write a different future for the community’s youth. It has a partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School District on a high school dropout recovery program. Last year, the nonprofit provided support for 68 first generation college students in local schools and across the country. And at a time when arts programs are being cut in public schools, the value of that aspect of the center cannot be discounted, according to the youth themselves.

“I believe arts education is important to development, as a student and as a person,” said Reynaldo Cartagena, 19, a longtime student at A Place Called Home. He has been playing the guitar for 10 years. “It’s cathartic, it’s therapeutic,” said Cartagena, who participated in the afternoon jam session. “You’re able to express yourself in ways people maybe will or won’t understand.”


Jam session at A Place Called Home. Photo by Mark Edward Harris.

Even though Kim has only been with A Place Called Home for a little over a year, he says he has seen the “harmonizing effect” it has on the students and staff, who may come from different backgrounds. He notes that many do a double-take upon first seeing his Asian face in the building. “Racial and social lines don’t disappear, but there is more emphasis on the kind of person you are becoming, the kind of work you are doing and what you are building [together],” said Kim.

Reflecting on the traumatic clashes that occurred 21 years ago in L.A., Kim said A Place Called Home allows people to connect on a “human level,” and helped him see that if “you change the form, change the scenario,” the challenges and differences that drove people apart then can bind them now.

“Working here is a very different kind of collision [than the L.A. riots],” he said. “It’s the kind of collision that happens with sincerity and a true willingness to extend a hand and just get to know each other’s stories.”

This article was published in the August 2013 issue of KoreAmSubscribe today! To purchase a single issue copy of the August issue, click the “Buy Now” button below. (U.S. customers only. Expect delivery in 5-7 business days).


Concert Pianist Kim Cheol Woong is Not Your Typical North Korean Defector

Kim Cheol Woong defected from North Korea not because of hunger or fear of persecution, but for his music.


When concert pianist Kim Cheol Woong asks South Koreans to guess his profession, the most popular answer is insurance salesman. They are surprised, of course, when he tells them he’s an accomplished musician, but even more surprised when he tells them he defected from North Korea.

Tall, with a light complexion and broad build, Kim is aware that he does not match the profile of a “typical” defector.  Though now a music professor and concert pianist in Seoul, Kim is ever conscious of his status as an outsider.


“I do not look like a typical defector—is that true?” Kim, dressed in a tuxedo, jokingly asked the audience gathered at the Pilgrim Church in Burke, Va., last March for one of two concerts he performed. “What does a typical defector look like?”

His recent concerts in the U.S. raised funds to help support North Korean refugees. But Kim does not push any political agenda; he believes music transcends politics. In fact, the musician defected from North Korea simply because he could not play the kind of music he loved.

“I didn’t go to South Korea for political reasons,” he told the audience. “I came to play piano.”

Kim’s musical odyssey began at a young age, a time when his talents shielded him from the state-mandated obligations his peers had to endure. After graduating from Pyongyang Music and Dance University, Kim studied for four years in Russia. In Moscow he was exposed to music that he was unlikely to hear during a lifetime in North Korea, where musicians are trained to play patriotic tunes that praised then-leader Kim Jong Il and his party. It would be French composer Richard Clayderman’s “A Comme Amour,” a romantic jazz tune that would capture the pianist’s imagination while he was in Russia and eventually lead to his decision to defect.

Upon returning to Pyongyang, he played the Clayderman tune for a woman who attracted his interest. An official heard him playing the unfamiliar Western music, and Kim was consequently forced to write a 10-page self-criticism for the offense. Kim’s father’s status as a high-level Workers Party official likely saved him from more severe punishment.

In 2001, at age 27, he stole money from his mother and fled to China. After spending time there working illegally as a logger, he, with the help of a Christian network, was able to get to South Korea in 2003. There were scant opportunities to play in the intervening years, but he was determined to be a musician again. “I defected for the sake of my music, so I didn’t have any thoughts about giving it up,” he toldKoreAm.

He made his Carnegie Hall debut in 2009, fulfilling a dream. Before the performance, he told the New York Times, “I want to show my friends and those in North Korea who must be calling me a traitor that I made the right decision. I want to tell them: Look at me, I have found my music.”

Kim, who has also performed with the London Philharmonic, possesses a performer’s flair for the dramatic. This was something he had to develop because he was unaware of such stage flourishes while living in North Korea. Realizing that he suddenly had the freedom to choose any song he wished was also daunting. He confessed that one of his greatest adjustments as a performer in South Korea was developing a repertoire. In the past, solo performances meant just playing the piano.


“Before defecting, it wasn’t something that I had to think about,” he said. “There was so much variety. The variety was a complete surprise to me.”

Unaware that musicians are accorded high status in North Korea, South Koreans often ask Kim some startling questions, such as whether the country has pianos or profess surprise that North Koreans play classical music.

Thanks to his father and mother, who worked as a language instructor, Kim lived a life of privilege in Pyongyang. He was exempt from mandatory assignments on agriculture fields or labor recruitment initiatives after the school year that most students are obliged to complete. Mostly foreigners, not the general public, attended his performances, so his knowledge of national affairs was limited. Kim said he was unaware that his countrymen suffered from severe food shortages until after he defected.

“I had heard talk about people starving and dying, but I couldn’t believe it was true,” he said.

After he defected, Kim heard that his father grew ill and died. His mother defected to the South shortly after he arrived.  Kim secured her release through a broker, and she now works as a Korean languageinstructor at Hanyang University.

During his first performance in Virginia, at the Castleton Theatre House, Kim played a version of “Arirang” as part of a human rights concert. At the Pilgrim Church concert, he also played the beloved Korean folk song, along with the Clayderman tune that eventually led to his defection and a few North Korean tunes. Kim cautioned that he had no political agenda, but just wanted to give the audience a taste of North Korean music. He would like, however, to use his talent to help other defectors. He also dreams of having a combined orchestra of performers from North and South that would perform at the DMZ and Geumgang Mountain. He believes “what the military and politics cannot accomplish, music can do.”


K-Pop Concerts Across America: A Year in Review

Photos via MTV K

by Linda Son

Last April, when a car pulled up to the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, it became hard for those waiting in the crowd to breathe, let alone move, as throngs of young people flocked to the automobile.

The group of diehard fans of Korean pop music, or K-pop, whispered among themselves as they craned their necks and stood on tiptoes to get a clearer look into the car. “Who is it? Is it someone I know?” Their hopes were usually dashed as an average hotel guest would emerge from the car. But sometimes, the person in the car was actually the pop music celebrity they were waiting for to arrive and pandemonium would ensue.

The evenly dispersed group would transform into one enormous mass of people and many would find themselves being pushed into nearby strangers. Cameras would begin flashing and the air became filled with shouts of different Korean phrases: from simply calling out the artists’ name to declarations of love and adoration. Decked out in big sunglasses or hats to hide their makeup-less faces, the stars would try to make their way through the fans, sometimes stopping for a few autographs, never a picture, until their staff members or managers would usher them inside. When the star successfully made their way to the elevators, the crowd would simmer down until another car pulled up to the Sheraton, then the madness would start all over again and continue until the wee hours of the morning.

The hotel, famous for housing K-pop stars this time of year, sees this scene almost every April and this year was no exception to the fangirl madness as scores of people waited outside the Sheraton to catch a glimpse of their favorite singers. The reason? L.A.’s annual Korean Music Festival.


Nine years in the making, KMF, as it’s known to many of its patrons, has featured top K-pop acts such as TVXQ, Girls Generation, Big Bang, Wonder Girls and Super Junior. This year, the Korea Times and other sponsors brought out Jay Park, 4Minute, G.NA, U-Kiss, Secret, Sistar, Baek Ji Young, K.Will and DJ DOC among other singers of trot music and traditional Korean music.

“There is much more excitement in seeing the band you love live than through a computer screen,” said Ann Yang, a first-time attendee of KMF. For much of the show, Yang was up on her feet, dancing and singing to the songs she knew, along with the thousands of other fans in attendance.

G.NA and DJ DOC’s own Kim Chan Ryul played hosts for the star-studded event, which was seen by thousands of people who traveled from all over North America and beyond.

K-pop garnered more attention in 2011 than ever before. YouTube announced its official categorization of K-pop as a genre on its music page, providing easy access to videos. This year also showed K-pop’s popularity in the United States where a number of concerts were held and dozens of Korean artists not only delighted their overseas fans but also performed to sold out crowds or at venues that were near capacity.

The Korean Music Festival used to be the only concert where North Americans could travel a reasonable distance to see K-pop artists perform live. These artists, however, are more frequently stopping by the U.S. to perform for their international fans.

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Wednesday's Link Attack: Kim Jong Il, Hyuna, Seung Hoon Choi

From Miraculous Birth to ‘Axis of Evil’: Dictator Kim Jong Il’s Timeline

North Korea ends 12 days of official mourning today for Kim Jong Il, the dictator eulogized by his nation’s state media as “Dear Leader.”

Kim died of a heart attack on Dec. 17, brought on by exhaustion as he traveled the country by train offering guidance to his people, according to the official account of his passing.

Below is a timeline of notable events during the life of Kim, showing the contrast between the persona crafted by his state media and the accounts of outsiders and the international press.

Where in the World Is Kim Jong Nam?

Reports say Kim Jong Il’s eldest son is now under “Chinese protection” after leaving the island of Macau. But like most things in the Hermit Kingdom, it’s hard to know for sure.

Just how isolated is North Korea? 6 facts to consider
Christian Science Monitor

North Korea’s outlook has earned it the title of the ‘hermit kingdom.’ The country is both cut off from the wider world and intensely focused on its neighbors.


In South Korea, some praise North’s departed “Dear Leader”

Despite growth that has propelled South Korea to become the world’s 13th largest economy, a powerhouse that makes computers, mobile telephones and cars, there are some in the capital of Seoul who believe life is better in the impoverished North.

As the world watched Wednesday’s funeral of dictator Kim Jong-il, who presided over famine, a nuclear arms push and military skirmishes with the South, Choi Dong Jin, 48, told Reuters that Kim was “a great and outstanding person” for resisting U.S. imperialism.

Korean American pastor seeks reunification through humanitarian aid

When Chang Soon Lee reflects on his childhood years in North Korea, his joy quickly turns to deep sadness. Like millions of Koreans caught in the middle of the Korean War in the early 1950s, Chang at the age of 15 was forced to flee his native homeland.

His father, a prominent minister who survived World War II, disappeared just days after communist-led forces invaded Pyongyang. “After the (World War II) liberation of Korea, my father often visited churches and preached but one day we waited for him and he never returned home,” says Chang.

By the time an armistice halted the Korean War in 1953, nearly 37,000 U.S. troops had been killed and more than 400,000 North Koreans soldiers were dead, according to the U.S Department of Defense.

Chang eventually emigrated to the United States on a student visa and became a minister, co-founding a ministry for Korean immigrants at Wiltshire United Method Church in Los Angeles, home to the nation’s largest Korean-American population.

But Chang has never forgotten his homeland and he’s returned half a dozen times on humanitarian missions, taking tons of food to orphanages as part of a charity group he established in the United States. “Its a kind of symbolic showing for them that we love you, you are our brothers and sisters, we are tragically separated but we are one and we are concerned about you we are praying,” says Chang.


N.Korean Spy Kills Himself
Chosun Ilbo

A man who claimed to be a North Korean defector has committed suicide after confessing that he was sent to spy on the South.

During questioning the man, who was in his 30s, said he had received orders from Pyongyang to report on a South Korean organization that helps defectors from the North.

The National Intelligence Service said the man had hanged himself in a shower room. The source said North Korean spies held the man’s family hostage and that he felt pressured after his confession.

Adoption of Korean boys leads to full house
Journal Review (Crawfordsville, Ind.)

Paul and Stacey Leonard of Ladoga adopted sons Charlie, 1, and Reuben, 5, from South Korea. The Leonards also have a biological son, Peter, 8.

Injury costs Huskers one-time starting lineman for bowl
NBC Sports

Due to an injury to the regular starter, Nebraska Cornhuskers offensive lineman Seung Hoon Choi will be in the starting lineup when Nebraska takes on South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 2.

S. Korean short-track legend gains Russian citizenship to fulfill Sochi dream
Russia Today

Russia’s medal hopes at their first-ever Winter Games in Sochi have been given yet another boost as South Korean short-track legend Ahn Hyun-soo has finally been granted Russian citizenship.

The 26-year-old captured three golds and one bronze at the Turin Olympics back in 2006, becoming the most successful athlete there. He is also a five-time Overall World Champion.

HyunA & 2NE1 make it to Spin.com’s ‘Favorite Pop Tracks of 2011′ list

On December 27, the website for music magazine Spin revealed their favorite pop singles of 2011.

Among the various songs by A-list pop icons, two K-pop songs made it to the list. At #3, HyunA‘s “Bubble Pop” beat #4 pop princess Britney Spears‘ “Till the World Ends“, and 2NE1‘s “I Am the Best” took the #8 spot.


Far East Movement Shows LA Some Love

Photos by Michael Kovac/WireImage

Despite a late start, Far East Movement sent their diehard fans home happy following an impromptu performance last night at an event in downtown Los Angeles.

The electro pop group threw a party called “Dirty Bass Museum” at Hunter Studios to hype up their forthcoming album. Guests were encouraged to bring gifts for the Toys for Tots program which saw a $5,000 donation from the band in giant check format.

Legendary hip hop veteran DJ Quik was on hand to do a DJ set before giving way to FM’s DJ Virman. Kev Nish told iamKoreAm.com the band wasn’t scheduled to perform but being back in their hometown compelled them to get on stage.

FM whipped the crowd into a frenzy with their chart-topping hit “Like a G6,” followed by “Rocketeer.” They then played a track off their new album “Dirty Bass,” set for release early next year.

The group, in town on their off day between tour dates, will be playing at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Canada, tonight.

The cognac was flowing like water at the event, which was sponsored by Remy Martin. Delicious tacos were also flowing like water with catering by #1 Taco Shop.

Check out the photos and video after the jump: Continue reading

Tuesday's Link Attack: Roy Choi, 2NE1, Samsung

Street Food Guru Roy Choi on Sunny Spot, Food Trucks, Kogi & More
The Daily Beast

Food-truck godfather Roy Choi, the man behind the craze that’s swept the country, tells Jace Lacob about his new Caribbean roadside eatery Sunny Spot—and how embracing street food and putting aside our Western concepts of dining can save society.

2NE1 performs for 2,000 fans at New York’s Times Square

2NE1 has stolen the hearts of 2,000 American fans with their live performance at Times Square in New York. The girls were recently deemed as the ‘2011 Best New Band in the World‘, and so to celebrate, they held a concert at the MTV studio downtown.

Broadcast and streamed to fans worldwide, 2NE1 was ecstatically welcomed by thousands of New York fans.

LAPD probes racist graffiti at Korean church fire scene
Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles police Monday night were investigating racist scrawls left with a marker and baby powder at a Korean church where a small fire broke out earlier in the day.

Officers initially responded to a possible burglary call at the Valley Korean Central Presbyterian Church in North Hills and found a toaster oven on fire in one of the buildings on the property, a law enforcement source told The Times.

Racial epithets were scrawled with a marker pen on the walls and written with baby powder on the floor of the building, according to the source, who asked not to be named because the investigation is ongoing.

Party Crasher! Hyundai is headed upmarket
Los Angeles Times

But now Korean automaker Hyundai seems set to crash the luxury party. Hyundai’s first full-size luxury sedan, the Genesis, was released stateside in 2008. The company followed up with the overtly opulent and even larger Equus model two years later. Even Hyundai’s corporate cousin, Kia (Hyundai has part-owned Kia since 1998) is getting in on the act. Kia’s unveiling of its Maserati-esque GT Concept coupe at last month’s L.A. Auto Show is a fairly obvious signal that it, too, harbors upscale ambitions.


S.Koreans go mass-market, online for luxury goods

Sixty years ago, war-torn South Korea was one of the poorest countries in the world. Now it is the world’s 13th largest economy and a magnet for luxury goods, prying open the wallets of its wealthy people as well as tourists.

Pierpont Inn owner files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection
Ventura County Star

The owner of the Ventura Pierpont Inn has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection a year after signs of trouble emerged at the historic property.

Millions of dollars in debt, Grace S. Ahn filed for bankruptcy protection Nov. 25. Ahn is the trustee of The Ahn Family Trust, which bought the inn and spa in spring 2009.

Appeals panel hears new science about arsons that could free man
Fire Engineering

On Monday, a federal appeals court wrestled with Lee’s case – specifically, whether he should be given a new hearing to present evidence about the changed understanding of how fires burn, and whether he should be freed outright.

Defense attorney Peter Goldberger argued that Lee had been convicted only because of the testimony of fire investigators in Monroe County, and that their findings would not hold up today.

22-year-old becomes youngest mayor in O.C., probably the state
Los Angeles Times

Jeremy Yamaguchi still lives at home, is active in the Boy Scouts and voted for the very first time just a few years ago.

He’s also -– at the ripe age of 22 -– the youngest mayor in Orange County, and perhaps the state, the Orange County Register is reporting.

Yamaguchi was named mayor of Placentia last week, the youngest person to hold the post in the city’s 85-year history. He was elected to the council when he was 19, serving alongside council members who’d known him since he was in grade school. He was the top vote-getter in that election.

The Cal State Fullerton senior is set to take finals this week, the LA Times reported.

The Korean girlfriend gift guide

Visiting Supernormal, Cheongdam-dong boutique located right off the main “luxury street” is like entering a young, very rich, very stylish celebrity’s walk-in closet.

Fashionably daring Korean celebs such as 2NE1, Choi Ji-woo and Lee Hyori frequent the relatively small store to stock up on the latest in interesting fashion, while Japanese travelers also descend in small groups on the weekends.

Since anything in the shop has already been through extremely fashion-conscious screening, we consulted the Supernormal experts about putting together a fabulous girlfriend gift guide. Here are 10 unique gifts for the impossible-to-please, impeccably stylish ladies out there.

Samsung Was the Talk of Seoul, More than Usual, After Dealing With Hyundai
Wall Street Journal

Samsung has been the talk of the town on Tuesday for two reasons: the decision announced Monday to sell a big stake in an important affiliate to a Hyundai (yes Hyundai!) company and the list released Tuesday of annual promotions throughout the 60-plus Samsung companies.

As South Korea’s largest business group, Samsung is always the subject of a lot of attention, of course. But Tuesday’s chatter was particularly huge.