Friday’s Link Attack: NKorea’s Rare Earths Seen as ‘Game-Changer’; Fatal DUI Crash;Park Ji-Sung’s Return ‘Possible’
Author: Cassandra Kwok
Posted: January 17th, 2014
Filed Under: BLOG
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SKorea rejects NKorea’s conciliatory gesture
Washington Post

South Korea rejected North Korea’s offer to take a series of steps to ease tension that included canceling Seoul’s regular military drills with Washington, saying Friday that Pyongyang must take nuclear disarmament steps first.

The North’s powerful National Defense Commission on Thursday proposed the rivals halt military actions and mutual vilification to build better relations. The North, however, strongly hinted it would maintain its nuclear weapons program and urged South Korea to cancel its upcoming springtime drills with the United States.

The North’s overture is a sharp departure from its repeated threats of nuclear strikes against Seoul and Washington that raised tensions a year ago. Analysts say Kim Jong Un’s government hopes that improved ties with South Korea could help attract foreign investment to boost the communist nation’s lagging economy.

China urges Koreas to improve ties amid Pyongyang’s ‘peace offensive’
Yonhap News

China called on both South and North Korea Friday to take steps to nurture better cross-border relations, with Pyongyang’s “peace offensive” raising fresh concerns that tension on the peninsula may rise sharply again ahead of joint military drills between Seoul and Washington.

North Korea has proposed this week that both Seoul and Pyongyang stop military provocations and mutual slandering to improve bilateral relations, but demanded the cancellation of upcoming South Korea-U.S. military exercises.

South Korea brushed off the North’s proposal that strongly indicated that Pyongyang won’t give up its nuclear weapons program, questioning its sincerity. Some Seoul officials described the North’s latest reconciliatory gesture as a “camouflaged peace offensive.”

North Korea’s Rare Earths Could be Game Changer
Voice of America

A recent geological study indicates North Korea could hold some 216 million tons of rare earths, minerals used in electronics such as smartphones and high definition televisions.

If verified, the discovery would more than double global known sources and be six times the reserves in China, the market leader.

British Islands-based private equity firm SRE Minerals Limited announced the study results in December, along with a 25-year deal to develop the deposits in Jongju, northwest of the capital, Pyongyang.

#HowIMetYourRacism: How Asian-Americans on Twitter are telling Hollywood to back off
Southern California Public Radio

In recent months, some Asian-Americans have taken to Twitter to call out incidents in the media they see as racially insensitive, or downright racist — most recently the Kung Fu movie-inspired episode of the CBS sitcom “How I Met Your Mother.”

And they’re getting attention.

Asian-American viewers and others unleashed the #HowIMetYourRacism hashtag after watching the show’s most recent episode — which aired Jan. 13 — in which its white stars dressed up as Asian grandmasters who drank tea, ate noodles, killed flies with chopsticks — all the while Asian extras hovered in the background.

Breaking Brian Shin: portrait of a Bay Street master and suburban drug dealer
Toronto Life

Brian Shin seemed like the ideal employee. He worked long hours, dressed sharply and exuded sufficient swagger to fit in on Bay Street. His ­pedigree—a bachelor’s in commerce from U of T, a master’s in taxation from the University of ­Waterloo and work experience at the tax firm Deloitte—made him overqualified for his job at Lannick, a corporate recruiting firm. In two years, he placed roughly 100 managers and executives, and contributed $700,000 to the bottom line, making him one of the company’s top recruiters. He earned a salary of $130,900.

Shin was handsome, his hair neat and cropped short on the sides, and he was persistent and passionate in his work. He had a soft touch, too. When the mother of one of his former clients was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Shin made a point of offering his condolences. His boss, Joseph Diubaldo, considered Shin the best employee he’d ever hired.

In January 2012, Shin invited Diubaldo out for coffee, something they’d done regularly. But this time was different: Shin seemed agitated, and Diubaldo guessed that something was wrong. Then, Shin dropped a bombshell. For nearly half his life, he told Diubaldo, he had trafficked marijuana. He’d started in Grade 9 and worked his way up the food chain for 14 years—keeping his double life secret from his family all the while—and at his peak dealt upwards of 500 pounds of weed a year and handled $1.8 million in cash. He recounted how, in the summer of 2009, he’d been arrested at his stash house, how his parents, heartbroken at the news, had bailed him out, and how he was now awaiting trial. Working as a headhunter, he said, was a way to cover his legal bills, but the guilt of lying was gnawing at him. He was desperate to confess before Diubaldo read about him in the news.

More charges filed against Long Grove man in fatal DUI crash
Daily Herald (Chicago, Ill.)

A Lake County grand jury on Wednesday approved additional counts of reckless homicide against a Long Grove man accused of being intoxicated during a crash that killed a woman in September.

Stephen E. Tomczyk, 22, of the 3200 block of Middlesax Drive, was already facing three counts of reckless homicide for the crash that killed Jeewon Kim, 47, of Buffalo Grove on Sept. 5, 2013.

With the charges added Wednesday, Tomczyk now faces six total counts of reckless homicide.

“Hawaii Five-0′s” Daniel Dae Kim on a career in paradise
CBS News

For Daniel Dae Kim, working in paradise has been twice as nice. He played Jin-Soo Kwon on the series “Lost,” and now he stars on another show filmed in Hawaii. He plays Detective Chin Ho Kelly on CBS’ “Hawaii Five-0.”

Kim joined “CBS This Morning” and discussed his career, being able to work in Hawaii and his family with the co-hosts.

Growing up, Kim actually wanted to be a lawyer, not an actor. He told the co-hosts that, as an undergraduate, he wanted to be an attorney and study political science. He said he did one of those things and “ended up being an actor instead.”

“When I wanted to be an attorney, I think I wanted to be a litigator; I wanted to be in a courtroom,” he said, “and there are a lot of similarities between that and what I do today.”

PSY and Snoop Lion Slow Dance to G-Dragon’s Song at a Noraebang

Looks like we got a sneak preview of PSY‘s upcoming music video! Is that G-Dragon and Snoop Lion we see?

That’s right, it looks like G-Dragon and Snoop Lion (formerly known as Snoop Dog) will feature in PSY’s music video. In the photo we see the three at an old fashioned noraebang. They are wearing similar looking checkered suits, and PSY and Snoop Lion are getting very close with two very happy looking Korean women.

It had been previously reported that Snoop Lion was in Korea to film one of the PSY’s music videos. When PSY announced that he will most likely make a comeback in either February or March, it was also revealed that Snoop Lion would feature on one of his tracks. Later, YG Entertainment announced that PSY will film his music video in mid-January and that they are shooting for a early March comeback.

First Korean Indie band concert in LA
Korea Times US

America has Nine Inch Nails, and Korea has 10cm.

The Korean acoustic folk indie band 10cm will hold a solo concert in Los Angeles on Jan. 31. It will be the first concert hosted by a Korean indie band in the world’s biggest music market.

The venue is Club Nokia.

Making their debut in 2010, the duo act ㅡ vocalist Kwon Jung-yeol and guitarist Yoon Cheol-jong ㅡ had a meteoric rise to fame with several hit songs including “Tonight I’m Afraid of the Dark,” “Give a Hug” and “Fine Thank You and You?”

Reality Show Catapults Kim Hee-ae into Fashion Icon Status
Chosun Ilbo

Actress Kim Hee-ae is shaping up as a hot fashion icon, with the clothing, bags and accessories she shows off in a cable channel reality program frequently selling out nationwide.

tvN’s “Sisters Over Flowers” features episodes of a 10-day backpacking trip to Croatia and Turkey by four veteran actresses — Kim, Kim Ja-ok, Lee Mi-yeon and Yoon Yeo-jeong.

The trend started with a long black padded coat from Burberry Brit that retails for over W2 million (US$1=W1,063), which Kim wore in the first episode. Despite its expensive price tag, the coat soon vanished from department store shelves across the country.

Report: Park Ji-sung’s return ‘possible’ in March
Korea Times

Former national men’s football team captain Park Ji-sung could return to play in one of South Korea’s tune-up matches ahead of this year’s FIFA World Cup, the squad’s head coach said Thursday.

On the sidelines of the team’s training camp in the World Cup host nation, Hong Myung-bo said the former Manchester United midfielder may put on a South Korean uniform to face Greece on the road in March.

“It can happen,” Hong said. “There are many possibilities.”

Demand for W50,000 Bills Still Soaring
Chosun Ilbo

Due to explosive demand for W50,000 bills, the amount of new bills printed exceeded W9 trillion for the first time last year (US$1=W1,064).

The Bank of Korea on Thursday said total bills in circulation at the end of last year were worth W63.37 trillion, up 9.03 trillion or 16.6 percent from the previous year.

W50,000 bills accounted for 88 percent of that surge. As of the end of 2013, W40.68 trillion worth had been issued, up 24.2 percent from a year ago.

Eugenia Kim to Launch Shoe Line — For Real This Time

Exciting news on the Eugenia Kim front: The masterful milliner has officially expanded into footwear — high-end footwear, in fact — that for Fall 2014 draws on the dark side of 1970s rock ‘n roll, as well as lessons learned from the designer’s first stab at footwear back in 2003.

Kim’s first shoe launch was a success in many ways — the shoes were bought by big retailers like Saks and even won the designer a CFDA Accessories Designer of the Year award in 2004. Sadly, the shoe line fell by the wayside in 2005 when Kim, whose company was still fairly small, had to produce more volume than her factory could handle. “[The factory] couldn’t produce on time, so after a couple of years I decided to stop and focus on hats,” the designer explained to us in a phone interview Thursday.

“I was in my 20s the first time [I did shoes]. I learned so much during those two years,” Kim says. Now, with more experience under her belt, it’s a great time for the brand to be trying again, she says, in part because she’s noticed a “new vanguard of shoe designers” that she could easily become a part of, but also because she now knows a lot more about production. Kim says she has spent a lot of time working on developing the line — she began working on it in April of 2013 and even took a trip to Italy to visit her new factory, which also manufactures shoes for the likes of Manolo Blahnik and Christian Louboutin. Thus, the quality is high and the materials (mink fur, pearl cabochon, burnt ostrich) luxe. Prices will range from $535 to $1,095.

Wednesday’s Link Attack: NKorean Ski Resort Opens; Jiyoung to Leave KARA; Taeseok Kang Makes Vegan Handbags
Author: Young Rae Kim
Posted: January 15th, 2014
Filed Under: BLOG
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North Korean escapee recalls life in labour camp
BBC News

A man who was born inside a North Korean labour camp and escaped in 2005 has been speaking about his experience.

Shin Dong-hyuk, 31, escaped from the camp after climbing through an electric fence.

During his time inside, he was starved, tortured and saw his mother and brother executed.

Dong-hyuk recently wrote to former basketball player Dennis Rodman to ask if he would pressurise leader Kim Jong-un to deal with the camps.

On the piste in North Korea: Regime’s luxury ski resort opens for business

Skiing is not the first thing that immediately springs to mind when thinking about North Korea. But a luxury resort in the isolated nation is now receiving visitors.

Located in Masik, Kangwon province, the hotel and resort officially opened January 1 after reportedly encountering a number of setbacks.

Simon Cockerell of Beijing-based Koryo Tours was one of the first visitors invited to the resort — representing one of the few foreign tour companies operating in North Korea.

In memoir, Gates calls ex-Korean President Roh “crazy”
Yonhap News

Reading a new memoir by former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, South Koreans may be quite surprised by his characterization of the country’s late President Roh Moo-hyun as “a little crazy.”

Gates recalls a November 2007 meeting in Seoul with the liberal-minded president, whose diplomatic and security policy is still being debated.

He calls Roh “anti-American and probably a little crazy.” Roh was quoted as telling Gates that “the biggest security threats in Asia were the United States and Japan.”

The 618-page book, titled “Duty,” went on sale Tuesday and has already become sensational for the former secretary’s criticism of President Barack Obama for his strategy on Afghanistan.

Dead Bodies in the Philippines Identified as Koreans
Chosun Ilbo

Two charred bodies discovered on eastern Cebu Island in the Philippines in November last year are those of missing Korean used car dealers. Police are investigating, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

According to the ministry, police in the Philippines rushed to the scene of a fire on Nov. 19 and found two bodies in a charred Korean-made automobile. There was suspicion at the time that the bodies belonged to the two missing Koreans.

The prime suspect is a business partner named Warren Sia who is now being sought by police. Sia owed the Koreans W200 million (US$1=W1,061) and police believe he killed them to steal four cars valued at W100 million.

Report: Thinner doesn’t mean healthy for Asian-Americans
NBC News

Asian-Americans tend to be skinnier than white, black or Hispanic Americans, but that doesn’t necessarily equal healthy, new national data reminds. People of Asian descent still struggle with health issues associated with being overweight, like hypertension and high cholesterol.

The report found that Asian-Americans do tend to be thin: About 38 percent of Americans of Asian descent are overweight, meaning they have a BMI, or body mass index, higher than 25. Compare that to 66 percent of white Americans, 76 percent of black Americans and nearly 80 percent of Hispanic Americans. (Body mass index is a widely used way to measure body fat based on height and weight. Anything over 25 is considered overweight.)

But Asian adults were about equally as likely to have high blood pressure as white adults, and the rate of high cholesterol among Asian-Americans was about the same as it was among white, black or Hispanic adults in the U.S.

3 tapped to fill vacant position on Palisades Park Council

The Democratic Municipal Committee has submitted the names of three candidates to fill the council seat left vacant by the recent resignation of Jason Kim, who was the borough’s first Korean-American councilman. All three men have served as trustees on the local Board of Education. The candidates are Christopher Chung of East Central Boulevard, Thomas Matarazzo of East Harwood Terrace and James T. Ring of Grand Avenue. “They are all hard workers,” said Michael Pollotta, chairman of the committee, on Tuesday. “…They know a great deal about the issues in town, and any of them would be a great councilman.”

Local student wins national essay contest, donates prize to library (Northeast Arkansas, Southeast Missouri)

Suh Young Choi is a student at Valley View Junior High School. Last year her sixth grade English teacher, Joan Hannah, had the class write six essays in two days.

Hannah wasn’t punishing the children. Instead, Hannah said she “wanted the kids to understand real world deadlines.”

“It was kind of a killer,” Choi said. “But, we did it.”

Later Choi and Hannah were surprised when they learned one of those essays was one of 18 to win the Nestle Very Best in Youth 2013 contest.

“I knew her work was good enough to win, but I just couldn’t believe it,” Hannah said.

Kang Ji-young to leave KARA
Korea Times

Following Nicole’s departure from KARA, youngest member Kang Ji-young has given notice that she toowill quit the group.

According to DSP Media, Wednesday, the 20-year-old singer gave the agency written notice that she does not want to renew her contract once the present one ends in April. As a result, the popular K-pop girl group now has just three members — Park Gyu-ri, Han Seung–yeon and Goo Ha-ra — who renewed their contracts.

The agency said it will consider whether KARA should continue as a three-member-girl group or if new members should be added. DSP Media said that Kang had indicated her wish to study abroad. On Monday, DSP Media announced the official contract expiration of Nicole.

Tricks to keeping Korean traditions alive
News Journal (Longview, Texas)

Even though her mother is from South Korea, Abigail Lunde didn’t really like kimchi growing up.

“My mom would put a little bowl of water next to my plate and wash it off for me,” says Abigail Lunde, now 28, of the fermented side dish that almost every Korean (well, 95 percent, according to a recent survey) eats at least once a day.

“My mom wanted me to be Americanized,” Lunde says. “We would go back (to South Korea) every few years to visit, but I didn’t understand the culture. I don’t speak much Korean. The first Korean I learned to speak was ‘I don’t want any more, I’m full.’”

Any time she’d cook with her grandmother, either her mom would have to translate or they’d communicate by pointing and repeating words that neither totally understood.

It wasn’t until Lunde was in college and bartending and working at sushi restaurants in Springfield, Mo., most of which are owned by Korean families, that she really started to appreciate the culture.

Tobacco Returns To The Bar, This Time Inside Cocktails

Take a sip of the Oaxacan Fizz at Father’s Office in Los Angeles and you’ll discover the unmistakable taste of tobacco. That’s because this cocktail is sweetened with a small amount of tobacco-infused sugar syrup.

“A lot of people say, ‘I only smoke when I drink,’” says chef-owner Sang Yoon. “We say, ‘Now you can do both.’”

Mixologists are helping tipplers enjoy tobacco even as smoking bans spread to more than half the states in the U.S. Though some may drink the cocktail in search of a buzz, mixologists say tobacco adds an unexpected flavor profile that pairs well with dark liquors.

Creating the tobacco syrup was a trial and error process for Yoon. “We took a Marlboro Lights cigarette apart and tried doing an infusion, which turned out to be horrible,” he says. “We tried chopping up cigars; that tasted horrifying. We tried snuff, which didn’t work.”

Pipe tobacco was ultimately the winner. “It’s much sweeter aromatically and on the palate,” he says. And it echoes the smoky elements of the San Juan Del Rio mezcal, which forms the drink’s backbone.

Happy Hour Goes Korean at Namu Gaji
SF Weekly

There’s not really such a thing as a bad happy hour. When a couple of bucks are knocked off a beer, a glass of wine, or a cocktail, a feeling of contentment washes over us, and we’re able to forget the obstacles, transgressions, or missteps of hours past. When an establishment throws discounted food into the mix,this satisfaction is turned into sheer bliss, especially when these options include inventive, untraditional versions of tacos and fries.

At Namu Gaji, the much-loved NKA (New Korean American) spot in the Mission, you can knock back a few $2 soju shots, sip on $3 pints (current selections include Asahi, Linden Street’s Burning Oak Black Lager, and Magnolia’s Tillie’s Union Ale, a toasted rice ale brewed exclusively for the restaurant), or enjoy 15 percent off wine bottles (reserve list excluded) alongside their famed Korean tacos — your choice of chicken, short rib, or tofu, with seasoned rice, kimchi salsa, and remoulade, served atop a seaweed “shell” ($3-$5.50).

Or if you have partaken in a bit too much of the $8 “happy sake,” soak it up with the gamja fries ($11), a decadent and flavor-piquing take on the classic fried potato. Namu’s version tops it with a combination of short rib, kewpie (Japanese mayonnaise), gochujang, and kimchi relish, resulting in a dish that is savory, sweet, spicy and sour … basically everything you could ever want.

Flat Top Brings the Neighborhood to You
Village Voice

For chefs and restaurateurs, this truly is a town without pity. Rare is the Gotham restaurant that lasts longer than a mayoral term. Yet even with the endless cycle of openings and closings, losing a beloved haunt feels painful. It also intensely focuses attention on the latest darlings. Flat Top, from the team behind nearby hot spot Jin Ramen, is well on its way to achieving darling status.

A bistro nestled in the knolls of Morningside Heights, Flat Top glows with candlelight from inside its expansive front windows. A monochrome mural painted on brick depicts a bridge’s undercarriage, contrasting with a row of wooden booth-backed tables. It’s an inviting space that feels instantly familiar, and Flat Top would be a welcome addition to any neighborhood. On 121st Street and Amsterdam Avenue, it has garnered the attention of Columbia University students and faculty, area residents, and doctors, staff, and visitors from St. Luke’s hospital a few blocks south. Downtown dwellers have also been sniffing around, as word trickles out about chef Charles Cho’s competent cooking.

Choo Shin-soo itching to get going for new season
Yonhap News via GlobalPost

Leaving home on Wednesday to begin his first season with the Texas Rangers, Choo Shin-soo said he’s itching to get his offseason training underway.

Speaking to reporters at Incheon International Airport, the South Korean outfielder said he is a little behind in his training schedule after a whirlwind of activities at home.

“I’ve spent about two weeks here and I don’t even know how the time has gone by,” said Choo, who has made a series of corporate and charity appearances here. “I am starting my training about 15 days later than usual, and I’d like to get going quickly.”

Kim Yu-na feels no pressure to repeat as Olympic champ
Yonhap News via GlobalPost

Reigning Olympic figure skating champion Kim Yu-na said Wednesday she isn’t feeling any pressure to win her second straight gold medal next month at the Sochi Winter Games.

At a press conference held at the National Training Center in Seoul, Kim said she is preparing for the upcoming Winter Olympics as if it were just another event.

“I am not doing anything special in my training,” Kim said. “I am not trying extra hard just because it’s the Olympics. Before every competition, I try to put myself in the best possible shape, and it’s no different for the Olympics.”

Taeseok Kang designs vegan handbags with a difference

Experimental designer Taeseok Kang of EH London has designed a somewhat interesting handbag collection.

Totally vegan, the collection titled Sexual Humorous is entirely crafted from vegetarian leather, using plated brass for hardware fixtures and hair for tassels, braided handles and the like. So what’s the story?

X-Ray Reveals Hundreds of Gold Needles in Woman’s Knees
LiveScience via Yahoo News

When doctors examined an X-ray image of the knees of a woman experiencing severe joint pain, they found a gold mine: hundreds of tiny gold acupuncture needles left in her tissue.

The 65-year-old South Korean woman had previously been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, a condition in which the cartilage and bones within the joints degrade, causing pain and stiffness. But when pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs didn’t alleviate the pain in her knees and only caused stomach discomfort, she had turned to acupuncture, the doctors wrote last week in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Acupuncture is an alternative medical practice that uses needles to purportedly stimulate certain points on the body, to alleviate pain or to treat various diseases.

Tuesday’s Link Attack: NKorean Rumors; Adoptee Searches for Birth Parents; Big Bang Still Popular in Japan
Author: Cassandra Kwok
Posted: January 14th, 2014
Filed Under: BLOG
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North Korea: Kim family’s former sushi chef says uncle was executed over ‘pleasure brigade’
The Telegraph (U.K.)

Kim Jong Un’s uncle may have been executed for his taste in young women and role in maintaining a “pleasure brigade” for Kim Jong Il, a former chef for the North Korean leader has said.

Kenji Fujimoto, a sushi chef who worked for the Kim family between 1989 and 2001, has said Jang Song Thaek was given the task of recruiting women – some as young as 15 – to please the late dictator.

Mr Jang, the uncle to the young leader, would often abuse his position in the talent hunting process, and that may provide some insight as to why he was executed on 12 December 2013, he told NK News.

How is South Korea doing these days?
Guardian Weekly (U.K.)

“How are you all doing nowadays?” The question has been bothering South Korea ever since early December when Ju Hyun-woo, an economics student at Korea University, put up a dazibao – a handwritten poster commonly used by opponents of the dictatorship in the 1980s, taking a cue from the propaganda messages that flourished in China under Chairman Mao.

Appealing to his generation, thought to be largely apolitical, Ju asked: “Is it OK for you to ignore social issues since it is not your business?”

He went on to mention a strike by Korail staff, who fear the national rail operator may be privatised, and the way the state has been operated since Conservative president Park Geun-hye was elected in December 2012.

Korean cartoons on former sex slaves to go on display at French festival
Yonhap News

Cartoons about former Korean sex slaves to the Japanese military during World War II will be exhibited at the world’s largest comic strip and cartoon festival, the Seoul government said Tuesday.

Some 20 cartoons and four videos including animations by local artists telling tragic stories of the former sex slavery victims will be featured in a special exhibition of the 2014 Angouleme International Comics Festival, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family said.

The gender ministry sponsored the festival scheduled to run from Jan. 30- Feb. 2. in the southwestern French city of the same name.

North Korean Refugee Flow Still Suppressed
Wall Street Journal

The number of North Korean refugees arriving in South Korea held steady last year, reflecting continued tightened North Korean border controls since the rise to power of Kim Jong Un.

South Korea’s Ministry of Unification said Tuesday 1,516 North Korean refugees arrived in the South last year, up by 14 people from 2012. That brings the total official number of escapees to 26,124, the ministry statistics show.

While many North Koreans leave their homeland for good every year, the number arriving in South Korea tumbled 44% between 2011 and 2012. Activists and recent refugees attribute the decline to Pyongyang’s border crackdown following Mr. Kim’s succession in late 2011.

Key Obama Aide Tipped as Envoy to Korea
Chosun Ilbo

Mark Lippert, a key aide to U.S. President Barack Obama and chief of staff to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, is a strong candidate to succeed outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Seoul Sung Kim.

Kim is set to become a deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs.

Sources in Washington on Monday said Kim may be summoned back to the U.S. before his term ends in August of this year, because the current deputy assistant secretary James Zumwalt is likely to be appointed ambassador to Vietnam.

As Asian-Americans Age, Their Children Face Cultural Hurdles
New York Times

Two thick blankets wrapped in a cloth tie lay near a single pillow on the red leather sofa in Phuong Lu’s living room. Doanh Nguyen, Ms. Lu’s 81-year-old mother, had prepared the blankets for a trip she wanted to take. “She’s ready to go to Vietnam,” Ms. Lu said.

But Ms. Nguyen would not be leaving. The doors were all locked from the inside to prevent her from going anywhere — not to the coating of snow that had fallen that day outside Ms. Lu’s suburban Philadelphia home, and certainly not to her home country, Vietnam.

Ms. Nguyen has Alzheimer’s disease, and Ms. Lu, 61, a manicurist who stopped working two years ago when her mother’s condition worsened, is her full-time caretaker. In Vietnam, if a couple has children, the children must stay home and care for their parents, Ms. Lu said.

Palisades Park councilman steps down due to illness

Jason Kim, the first Korean-American to be elected to the Borough Council, has resigned his elected post citing health issues, but has taken a full-time job as deputy director of the borough library.

Kim resignation took effect Friday. On Monday, he said his decision to leave after reelection to a fourth term and days after being sworn in was not an easy one, but one he said he needed to make for his family. He declined to say what sort of health problems led to his resignation.

“I’m not going to quit everything, but I’m going to take it easy for a bit, but I still have a mission to help the Korean community, and Palisades Park,’’ said Kim. “… I may come back when they need me again, but right now my health issues have scared my family, and family always comes first.”

North Jersey Korean Americans celebrate another year of community’s emergence

The sounds of traditional Korean musical instruments boomed from a fifth-floor meeting room at the Bergen County Administration Building on Monday while about 100 people gathered to celebrate Korean-American Day.

The day marked the 111th anniversary of Jan. 13, 1903, when the first large group of Korean immigrants arrived in what is now the United States. There were 103 Koreans who made the journey, which ended in Hawaii, a U.S. territory at the time.

Since that day, the community has grown to about 1.7 million nationwide, according to 2010 U.S. Census. In Bergen County, there are about 58,000 people of Korean descent, according to 2012 estimates from the U.S. Census. They represent the largest Asian community in the county.

Adopted girl and her mom head from Sacramento to Korea in search of birth parents
Sacramento Bee

Dawson was born Aug. 9, 1992 at a home for unwed mothers in Andong, the “spiritual capital” of South Korea, three hours southeast of Seoul. Her birth mother, a 23-year-old former store clerk, named her Kwon Hee Joo – “Joyful and Pretty Kwon” – and prayed she would be adopted by a family that could give her a good home.

She found that home in Sacramento, and now the Jewish girl from Gold River has left for South Korea determined to find the young woman who gave her up. She wants to explore her own identity, and also to let her birth mother know she made the right decision.

Accompanied by her adoptive mom, Andee Press-Dawson, Fawn boarded United Flight 853 to Tokyo Friday, switching to United Flight 881 for Seoul. “I have such great parents and such an amazing older brother, David, who was also adopted from Korea,” Fawn said, “but something was always missing. Last October, I told them this was just something I had to do. I’m at the stage where I’m trying to find my own identity.”

Big Bang’s Tour Highlights Band’s Enduring Popularity in Japan
Chosun Ilbo

Big Bang’s concert at Kyocera Dome in Osaka on Monday showed how K-pop is still washing through Japan. The concert was an unscheduled last stop on their tour of the country but tickets still sold out.

The boy band launched their tour with a gig at Seibu Dome in Saitama on Nov. 16 and continued to Osaka, Fukuoka, Nagoya, Tokyo and Sapporo, drawing about 770,000 fans.

“Only a few top Japanese bands such as Mr. Children and EXILE have had such large-scale tours,” the band’s agency YG Entertainment said.

Drunken Tiger Talk Hip Hop’s Early Days in South Korea: “It Was a Secret Society”

Today, one of K-pop’s signature charms are its acts boasting the quintessential rapper—CL of 2NE1, Yubin of Wonder Girls, etc. But hip hop has only been a part of South Korea’s mainstream for a little more than a decade. Korean-American rappers Tiger JK and Yoon Mi Rae—who, along with their longtime collaborator, New Zealand MC Bizzy, comprise Drunken Tiger—are two of the country’s most respected rap artists. The real-life couple are known for leading the then-underground genre into the conservative nation’s consciousness in the late ’90s.

“Back in the day it was crazy underground,” Tiger JK tells Fuse News for this week’s FUSE LOVES SEOUL: From K-Pop to Hip Hop special. “Hip hop existed, but it was almost a secret society thing. [People would say things like], ‘I heard there’s somebody or a group of people that dress funky, they sag their pants, all their clothes are baggy and they battle.’ It was really crazy because you don’t hear them on the radio.”

Find out more about Drunken Tiger and their continuing quest to break into Korean pop tonight on Fuse News at 7:30/6:30C. Head back here after the show for the full interview.

Magik* Magik Orchestra maestro Minna Choi discusses concert, When We Were Young

Artistic Director of San Francisco-based, Magik* Magik Orchestra, Minna Choi formed the orchestra a mere five years ago and this year will celebrate it’s success with a grand fundraiser – “When We Were Young”. Choi wasn’t much older than five herself when a music teacher spotted her knack for picking out melodies on the piano. A natural talent that has been nurtured with a childhood of piano lessons and a love of pop music, it was not until her first job out of college at a New York studio that she felt the confidence to charge producers for her skills. This prompted Choi to return to formal schooling again and in 2007 she came home to the Bay Area to study at The San Francisco Conservatory of Music where Magik came into being.

What inspired the name Magik* Magik Orchestra?

Classical music seems to always have unpronounceable names. I wanted a name that was playful, whimsical and most importantly easy to pronounce. Also around the time I was dreaming of Magik, I saw a photo of myself as a 5 or 6 year old in a Yamaha Music School group photo with a banner above saying “Music Is Magic”.

Why did you come up with the idea of “When We Were Young”?

Almost every year, we have wanted to do a Magik celebration concert. But this year was the first time that our organization has hit a stride. We now have the bandwidth and creative time to see what is the next step. That we decided is education and outreach to children that we hope to do more intentionally. We get hundreds of requests but only a handful are educational. And I don’t think it’s because there is no demand. We hope to raise some funds so we can do some workshops and be proactive about marketing and letting people, schools, parents know that we are here.

MLB takes formal step for big league clubs to sign S. Korean pitcher
Yonhap News via GlobalPost

Major League Baseball (MLB) has requested a status check on South Korean star pitcher Yoon Suk-min, baseball officials here said Tuesday, a formal administrative step before a big league club can sign any professional player from Korea.

The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) said it informed MLB that Yoon is eligible for free agency after being asked about the 27-year-old’s status in the top domestic league.

The request is the second of its kinds after MLB first tendered a status check to the KBO in October when Yoon was still under contract with the Kia Tigers during the postseason.

Bobsledders Book Tickets to Sochi
Chosun Ilbo

Korea secured two berths in the four-man bobsleigh event at the Sochi Winter Olympics on Monday due to its strong performance at the America Cup.

At the eighth round of the Cup, the final event of the season, Korea ranked eighth overall due to the combined scores of its two teams.

Pilot Won Yoon-jong steered Team A to fourth place while Kim Dong-hyun guided Team B to seventh.

Bibimbap Recipes That Put All Other Comfort Foods To Shame
Huffington Post

We’re big fans of comfort food — we’ve eaten more grilled cheese sandwiches than we care to admit — which is why we love bibimbap. It gives us all the comfort of a bowl of mac and cheese, with the added bonus of not putting us into a food coma.

It’s the simplicity of bibimbap that makes it so special. This typical Korean dish is made up of nothing more than a bowl of white rice, topped with seasoned vegetables, and a chile pepper paste. It’s also sometimes accompanied with an egg and thin slices of meat. That’s it.

Yet somehow, when it all comes together, it tastes like the type of comfort food we’ve always wanted without even knowing it. Maybe it’s the perfect bits of crisp golden rice mixed into the bowl. Maybe it’s the piping hot stone bowl it’s served in. Or maybe it’s all the chile paste we can liberally add in. We’re not sure, but we know you’ll like it.

Photographer creates ‘Google street view’ of North Korea
France 24

A Singaporean photographer has offered up one of the most unique glimpses yet of life inside North Korea. He’s done it by capturing hidden corners of the country in a series of 360° photographs. And what’s more, the country’s authorities don’t seem to have a problem with it.

Last autumn, Aram Pan, originally from Singapore, was authorised to travel to North Korea. Once inside the country, he stitched together several photos of the same places to create unique 360° images, allowing people to navigate virtually anywhere inside the picture. Enthusiasts of the project are already comparing ‘DPRK 360′ [the name of Aram Pan's photography project. The initials DPRK stand for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea] to a North Korean version of Google street view. The photographer explains on his site that his work doesn’t seek to tackle politically sensitive subjects, but rather encourages the public to interest themselves in the country and ‘uncover its mysteries’.

His work shows that despite the draconian restrictions which stifle freedom of expression in North Korea, there is still a certain degree of coverage tolerated — so long as it’s not political.

Monday’s Link Attack: SKorea Ups US Military Spending; Lee Min-Ho Gets Soulful; David Chang & David Choe
Author: Young Rae Kim
Posted: January 13th, 2014
Filed Under: BLOG
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South Korea to contribute $867 million for U.S. military forces in 2014

South Korea said on Sunday it had agreed to pay 920 billion won ($866.86 million) in 2014 towards the cost of the U.S. military presence in the country, a rise of 5.8 percent from a year ago.

U.S. and South Korean officials have struck a five-year cost sharing plan for 28,500 U.S. troops in the country after a series of negotiations since early last year.

The deal, subject to South Korean parliament’s approval, comes after Washington’s decision to send more soldiers and tanks to South Korea next month as part of a military rebalance to Asia after more than a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Kim Jong-un’s Sister Put in Charge of Regime’s Coffers
Chosun Ilbo

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has put his younger sister Yeo-jong in charge of the regime’s coffers since the execution of his uncle Jang Song-taek on Dec. 12 last year.

Kim Jong-un ordered the restructuring of hard-currency earners, which used to be controlled by Jang, North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity, a group of North Korean activists in South Korea, quoted a North Korean source as saying. The source said Kim Yeo-jong has taken charge of Department 54 and other currency-earning agencies in the Workers Party.

Department 54 supplies electricity, coal, fuel, clothes and other necessities to the military but also runs a slew of other businesses. It was originally operated by the military but Jang placed it under the supervision of the party when the Army chief Ri Yong-ho was dismissed in 2012.

More than 1,500 N. Korean defectors arrive in S. Korea in 2013
Yonhap News

More than 1,500 North Korean defectors arrived in South Korea last year, the unification ministry said Monday, despite Pyongyang’s crackdown to stem the flow of defections.

The ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, said a total of 1,516 North Koreans settled in South Korea in 2013, up slightly from 2012 when 1,502 North Koreans arrived in the South, with women accounting for 76 percent of the total.

The ministry said South Korea is now home to 26,124 North Koreans.

Last year’s tally is the latest reminder that a steady stream of North Koreans has crossed the border into China to avoid chronic food shortages and harsh political oppression.

Why Does China Coddle North Korea? [OPINION]
New York Times

A month after the execution of Jang Song-thaek, widely viewed as North Korea’s second-most-powerful leader, China remains stymied in relations with its reclusive, defiant neighbor. This is not a new story. Though few in Beijing are prepared to admit it, China’s policies toward North Korea have long been a conspicuous failure.

China’s official reactions to the North’s internal power struggle have, thus far, been limited largely to formulaic calls for internal stability. But Mr. Jang’s ouster must be deeply disquieting to senior Chinese policy makers, who yet again find themselves on the outside looking in.

By nearly all indications, leaders in Beijing were blindsided by the latest events. By contrast, South Korean intelligence disclosed Mr. Jang’s fall from power a full five days before its stunning climax at a Politburo meeting on Dec. 8.

Housing Prices in North Korea Plunge on Black Market
Radio Free Asia

Prices of houses traded on North Korea’s black market are dropping precariously, causing panic among dwellers, according to sources inside the country.

Houses in impoverished North Korea are fully owned by the government and trading on them is forbidden. But some dwellers “sell” their homes illegally with the approval of corrupt officials to cash in on the acute shortage of homes.

Sources in provinces along North Korea’s border with China told RFA’s Korean Service that the value of their home transactions had fallen by as high as 85 percent from last summer.

“Housing prices in Gilju-gun, North Hamgyong province, dropped to around U.S. $500 from what was U.S. $3,300 last summer,” a source from the province told RFA’s Korean Service on condition of anonymity.

Dennis Rodman says he’s sorry about ‘certain situations’ in North Korea

Dennis Rodman is apologizing. Again.

Last week, he said he was sorry about his bizarre, drunken outburst on CNN about an American citizen held prisoner in North Korea. Now, Rodman says he’s sorry about what’s going on inside North Korea, a nation renowned for its human rights abuses.

But the eccentric former NBA star known as “The Worm” isn’t contrite about his latest puzzling visit to the secretive state. He said he did nothing wrong by organizing a basketball game last week at a packed stadium in Pyongyang, an event at which he sang “Happy Birthday” to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Agent defends Dennis Rodman

Dennis Rodman’s agent says the former NBA star did not take any payment from the North Korean government during his trip this week to the country.

Darren Prince said the North Korean government did not finance any part of the trip, adding that Irish betting company Paddy Power PLC covered expenses for Rodman and his team of former NBA players that included Charles D. Smith, Kenny Anderson and Cliff Robinson.

NBA commissioner David Stern told CNN this week that Rodman was influenced by “a flash of North Korean money” to stage an exhibition game in Pyongyang.

Rodman apologized Thursday for comments he made while in North Korea about detained American missionary Kenneth Bae, saying he had been drinking and was under pressure as he organized the game. He also sang “Happy Birthday” to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the start of Wednesday’s exhibition.

Korean American State Senator reverses his decision to resign [immediately]
Korea Times

Paull Shin, a Korean American Washington State senator diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, has changed his mind about immediately stepping down.

Shin, 78, had issued a statement Tuesday saying that he will no longer be able to “represent (his) constituents in the manner they deserve” on account of his recent diagnosis, but reportedly told people in his church that he intends to finish out his term, which will conclude at the end of this year.

He also confirmed his decision reversal in a phone interview with the Korea Times.

He explained that he had an attorney prepare the earlier statement and that there was a misunderstanding.

Hanmi Financial CEO Chong Guk ‘C.G.’ Kum charts course for growth
Los Angeles Times

The gig: Chong Guk “C.G.” Kum is president and chief executive of Hanmi Financial Corp., the oldest bank based in L.A.’s Koreatown. Nearly 10% of Hanmi’s loans were delinquent in 2010. But the bank has cut that to 1%, raised capital and in June it hired Kum, a veteran of mainstream community banks, to chart a course for growth. The mission, he says, is “to make Hanmi what it used to be: the premier Korean American bank.”

First big deal: The bank entered into an agreement last month to buy Central Bancorp, a troubled Texas bank with Asian American clients.

Personal: Kum (rhymes with “room”) left Korea in 1963, when his father became a University of Michigan professor. He earned a bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley, an MBA from Pepperdine and a degree from the Stonier Graduate School of Banking. He and his wife, Vikki, whom he met on a coed bank softball team, have two children in graduate school and one still at home in Calabasas. His hobbies include golf, tennis and running. A former board president of the Community Bankers of California, he has served on many nonprofit boards, including the United Way, Boy Scouts and Casa Pacifica Centers for at-risk youth.

South Koreans trek to China to see their sacred mountain
Global Post

The spiritual birthplace of the Korean people is a volcano steeped in myth and legend. But with the peninsula divided for decades, South Koreans longing to see it must first travel to China.

The peak — known as Changbai in Chinese and Paektu in Korean — and its spectacular crater lake straddle the China-North Korea border.

Small tour buses screech around hairpin curves before unloading South Korean tourists for a short walk to the rim to catch sight of the forbidden North — and dream of a future as one.

“Unification!” shouted a South Korean man at the site, one of the tens of thousands who make the pilgrimage every year.

Korean nonprofits combine in historic merger
Times-Ledger (Queens, N.Y.)

Two Flushing Korean nonprofits which have a shared mission of empowering children, women and families affected by domestic violence, merged last week.

The Korean American Family Service Center and the Women in Need Center signed an affiliation agreement Jan. 2, bringing the boards and staff of both organizations under one roof.

“We view the combined strengths of our organizations as truly collaborative as well as innovative, with more opportunities to provide better, comprehensive services to our clients,” said Dr. Eun Sook Bang, board chairman of WINC.

The merger is an historic one for Flushing’s Korean community, which has not seen an affiliation of this sort between two nonprofits before, said Hellen Kim, manager of community relations for KAFSC.

Restored Korean Friendship Bell rings again at ceremony
Los Angeles Times

More than 37 years after the Korean Friendship Bell arrived on American soil, officials from Los Angeles and South Korea came together Friday to rededicate the gift and celebrate its restoration.

Officials including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and South Korean Consul General Yeon-sung Shin spoke in front of about 100 people at Angels Gate Cultural Center in San Pedro before ringing the bell 14 times — 13 for each of the original American colonies and one for good luck.

“The coasts of Korea and … America aren’t thousands of miles away, they are connected as one,” Garcetti said. “The sound of this bell is the sound of the freedom — a universal cry for all peoples to be free, but also for the friendship to continue between our two great nations.”

Samsung Targets South Korea’s Best Soldiers
Wall Street Journal

South Korea’s military and Samsung Electronics are teaming up to give some of the nation’s conscripts a leg-up in securing a job at the conglomerate after completing their compulsory military service.

Citing the Israeli defense-technology unit called Talpiot as its inspiration, the defense ministry said on Monday the army would select 150 soldiers as recommended software engineers for Samsung. The company will then choose 100 of those for a four-month training program on software languages, programming and other projects, Samsung said.

Samsung declined to specify how many of those selected it expects to hire. None are guaranteed a job, the ministry said, which declined to detail the selection criteria for the program.

No what-ifs to Lee Min-ho
Korea Times

For an actor to take on a seemingly reprising role that launched him into stardom must have been a risky and weary decision, one that could easily prompt speculation about complacency and “what-ifs” in the case of failure.

But Lee Min-ho, 26, took on such a role in the SBS drama “The Heirs.” The result? Another layer of gold added to the star he first achieved with “Boys Over Flowers” (2009).

“I was pretty confident that I had surmounted the Goo Jun-pyo role of the ‘Boys’ with my other work, but I did have some concerns at the beginning of ‘The Heirs.’ So I went into the new role thankful that people still appreciated my former character and determined to show a whole new one,” said Lee in an email interview with The Korea Times.

His latest role is a far more soulful portrayal of a high-school heir who falls in love with the daughter of a housemaid than his truculent one in the “Boys,” which was a Korean adaptation of the popularJapanese drama “Hana Yori Dango.

The 10 Best Lines from David Chang & David Choe’s DVDASA Podcast
Eater National

Here’s video from Momofuku chef David Chang’s recent appearance on artist David Choe’s podcast DVDASA. In the course of their nearly three-hour conversation, Chang and Choe discuss career struggles, unexpected success, creativity, and boredom. ” Below are the top ten quotes and the video. Chang also talks about changes in the cooking field, saying that “overnight, cooking became white collar.” Have a look:

1. Choe, on mistaken identities: “When I lived in New York, never in my life had I been more mistaken for another than David Chang. I’d walk down the street and people would be like ‘Love your food!’”

2. Chang, on differences between now and when he first opened: “I think it’s harder to create now than it ever was before.”

3. Chang, on his time at Cafe Boulud: “It broke me down … The intensity. Something happened in cooking. Overnight it became white collar. The level of cooking at Cafe Boulud was so high, and the craftsmanship and the integrity … I was not doing well at Cafe Boulud. I worked my ass off, but I wasn’t crushing it.”

Danville native plays SF’s Warfield with Kpop band U-KISS
ABC News San Francisco

It’s one of the most popular band’s you’ve probably never heard of. U-KISS, a Korean boy band, has performed all over the world. Saturday night was very special as one member returned to his roots in the Bay Area to fulfill a childhood dream.

Through the piercing sound of screaming fans, U-KISS danced and sang their way through their first and only show in San Francisco on this tour.

And for 22-year-old lead performer Kevin Woo, this is a welcomed homecoming.

Leeteuk to Return to Military Service Today

Super Junior member Leeteuk will be returning back to his army base after taking a few days leave due to the death of his father and grandparents.

He was put on vacation from his military service on January 6, when he heard news that his father and his grandparents had passed away. Leeteuk, his sister (actress Park In Young), and their family and friends mourned for their loss at the funeral on January 8. Now that the deceased have been buried, he will finish his four nights and five day leave and head back to his base in Inje-gun, Gangwon-do.

It has been reported that Leeteuk quietly spent his vacation with his family. It is expected that he will finish up his remaining seven months in his military service. There have been some questions of whether he would finish his service earlier, because of the tragic family circumstances, but military officials expressed their doubts and explained that this would only be the case if Leeteuk became the legal and sole provider of his family.

More than a pipe dream
Korea Times

Kim Ho-jun, 24, Korea’s first and only Olympic snowboarder, is hoping to improve upon his “Vancouver lesson” at the upcoming Olympic Games in Sochi.

Kim finished ninth in the men’s halfpipe event in December with 67.25 points at the International Ski (FIS) Federation World Cup in Ruka, Finland. The result improved his chances of punching his ticket to the Olympics, to which 40 snowboarders will be invited, as it cemented his world rank as 36th on the table.

Another world cup, which will start on Jan. 19 (KST) at Copper Mountain in the United States, will confirm the final 40.

Although he became known to the public for the Vancouver Games, where he finished 26th at the preliminaries, he had been the nation’s number-one snowboarder for quite a long time.

Rodman Apolgizes for Rant, Blames it on Alcohol
Y. Peter Kang
Author: Y. Peter Kang
Posted: January 9th, 2014
Filed Under: BLOG
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Dennis Rodman issued an apology on Thursday for comments he made to CNN regarding Korean American Kenneth Bae’s incarceration in North Korea and admitted that he had been drinking prior to the televised interview.

The former professional basketball star’s publicist sent and email to the Associated Press on behalf of Rodman saying he took full responsibility for his behavior.

“It had been a very stressful day. Some of my teammates were leaving because of pressure from their families and business associates,” Rodman said in the statement. “My dreams of basketball diplomacy was quickly falling apart. I had been drinking. It’s not an excuse but by the time the interview happened I was upset. I was overwhelmed. It’s not an excuse, it’s just the truth.” Continue Reading »

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