Tag Archives: North Korea


North Korea Rejects Plans for Future Reunions

So much for reviving the family reunion program between North and South Korea.

The North rejected South Korea’s proposal Thursday to continue the humanitarian program that reconnects families separated by the Korean War from six decades ago, the New York Times reported.

The two Koreas held the reunions, which had stalled since 2010, late last month, but couldn’t ease the strained inter-Korea relations as the North launched short-range missiles into the waters between the Korean peninsula and Japan only a day after the reunions while South Korea and the U.S. held annual military drills. The missiles reportedly flew in the area of a Chinese passenger plane departing from Tokyo to Shenyang, China at the same time.


North Korea dismissed South Korea’s request to arrange additional family reunions in the future, saying the “circumstance and mood” aren’t appropriate to hold such discussions.

There isn’t much time left for separated Korean families to meet their long-lost relatives as most of them are now in their 70s, 80s and beyond.

South Koreans President Park Geun-hye said reunions could potentially help ease tensions between the two Koreas during a speech last Saturday.


South Korean Choi Gye-Wol (left) kisses the hand of her North Korean grandson Kim Chol-Bong as her son Kim Young-Nam watches, at a family reunion in North Korea in June 2006. Photo via Al Jazeera America.

North Korea Proposes to Resume Family Reunions

North Korea had a change of heart and agreed on Friday to resume a family reunion program proposed by South Korea, the New York Times reports. The program arranges meetings for the millions of Koreans that have been separated by the Korean War, over 60 years ago.

On Jan 9., South Korean President Park Geun-hye suggested that the reinstatement of the reunion program was an important step in rebuilding trust between the two sides. However, the North Korea rejected the proposal stating that “political mood” was not fitting, condemning the joint military exercises by South Korea and the United States.

However on Friday, the North Korean ambassador to the United Nations stated that his country wanted to “mend North-South relations”, while blaming the South for stirring up turmoil recently.

In his New Year’s speech, North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, made it a point to stress that the time has come for South Korea and United States to ease the tension between North Korea.

The agreement to resume the reunion program came just two hours after South Korea rejected Kim’s latest proposal to relieve tensions. The South asked that the North prove their sincerity through “action.”

South Korea quickly welcomed North Korea’s latest act of hospitality, but remained skeptical about the North’s motives. South Korea has pointed to the numerous times in the past where North Korea used its peace offerings to win economic aid without any intention of ending its nuclear program.

Under Park’s leadership, South Korea has lowered their tolerance for the North and have said that North Korea must first make the “efforts” to gain the trust of the South Korea before opening dialogue.

North Korea has left it up to South Korea to choose a date for the family reunions after the upcoming Lunar New Year and the two sides plan to discuss further details in the future.


The Korean War, 60 Years and Counting

War and Peace?

A photojournalist shares images that capture a 60-year and-still-counting legacy of war. 


July 27, 2013, marks the 60th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that stopped—but did not officially end—the Korean War. More than a million soldiers and civilians perished during this so-called Forgotten War, which also left another painful legacy: two Koreas, a peninsula essentially sliced through its heart by a 154-mile-long, 2.5-mile-wide demilitarized zone.

I have visited various points along the DMZ a dozen or so times since first visiting Korea in 1997. This includes two times from the North via Pyongyang; a three-day visit to the tourism enclave of Geumgangsan in 2006, long before it was shut down, following the 2008 killing of a South Korean tourist by a North Korean soldier; a visit to the South Korean village of Taesongdong (with a ROK military escort) located within the DMZ; and an overnight stay on the island of Yeongpyeong, after it was shelled by the North in 2010.

On its side of the demarcation line, the South has continued to build up the tourist infrastructure with state-of-the-art displays, a train ride into an incursion tunnel running under the North-South border, and souvenir shops. The North has a souvenir shop on its side of Panmunjeom, as well as a museum with various artifacts, including the ax that was used in the infamous 1976 tree-trimming confrontation in the DMZ’s Joint Security Area, which resulted in the death of two U.S. Army officers at the hands of North Korean soldiers. Notably, that incident led to Pyongyang expressing regret and accepting responsibility for violence in the DMZ for the first time since the armistice.

The one thing that is consistent on my various trips to, along, within, and through the DMZ is a feeling of amazement that a relative peace has been maintained along this heavily mined border for 60 years. But my question is, “How long can this continue?” If the U.S. had conducted a punitive strike against the North in 1976 or the South had gone beyond lobbing artillery shells back at the bases that were shelling Yeongpyeongdo, what would have happened? These are among the many questions that will remain open for the foreseeable future.

A South Korean soldier (left) inside the Joint Security Area’s Main Conference Building and his North Korean counterpart (right) on the other side of the Military Demarcation Line that separates the DMZ at Panmunjeom.

As part of the introduction to my latest book, North Korea, I reference a 1953 statement issued by U.S. General Mark Wayne Clark’s headquarters in Tokyo, addressed to all members of the United Nations Command: “I must tell you as emphatically as I can, that this does not mean immediate or even early withdrawal from Korea. The conflict will not be over until the governments concerned have reached a firm political settlement.” Six decades later, peace is still not at hand.


Two young girls at their school in Taesongdong, the only South Korean village allowed in the DMZ under the terms of the armistice. It is located directly opposite the North Korean DMZ village of Kichongdong.


At Imjingak, near the DMZ, a photo of a man separated from his family in North Korea hangs on a fence.
The text reads: “I must go, but….”


The Statue of Brothers at the War Memorial of Korea in Seoul depicts the actual incident where an older brother, an ROK officer, and his younger brother, a North Korean soldier, meet on a battlefield and express reconciliation, love and forgiveness. A crack in the dome represents the division of Korea and the hope for reunification.

On July 28, at 2 p.m., at the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena, Calif., Mark Edward Harris will give a lecture about his experiences creating his newly released books North Korea and South Koreafollowed by book signings.

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


Danny Lee, North Korean American

The 25-year-old defector from North Korea adjusts to life as an American citizen, but hasn’t forgotten about his friends— or the sunsets—back home.

story by STEVE HAN
photograph by KYUSUNG GONG

When he watches the sun set over Los Angeles at the end of every day, Danny Lee reminisces about the happy days back home. He looks every bit the part of an average young Korean American in Southern California, down to the long bangs that hang over his eyes. But those happy days were few and far between in his native North Korea. Looking back on it now, though, with an ocean separating the 25-year-old from his homeland, he finds himself able to indulge in nostalgia.

“There are times when I miss it,” Lee said, in Korean, to KoreAm Journal over a late lunch at a Manhattan Beach pizzeria. “When I see the sun go down, it reminds me of the times back home when I was outside playing with my friends until it got dark.”

Lee is all smiles as he recalls his past in one of the world’s most secretive countries. “I’m free now, and sometimes, it’s almost human nature to look at past hardship as a distant memory,” he said.

Lee escaped with help from Liberty in North Korea, also known as LiNK, a nonprofit that oversees refugees’ escape and relocation. It may seem odd that Lee chose to come to the U.S.  over South Korea. Of the tens of thousands of North Korean refugees living in northern China, barely more than a hundred have fled to the United States. It’s in the U.S., though, that Lee became something of a star. His dramatic life story has been recounted in a 30-minute documentary produced by LiNK, which ishosting screenings and workshops throughout the country.

The screenings have drawn “awesome” response from “insanely amazing people,” said Hyerim Ko, LiNK’s U.S. settlement coordinator. From 394 screenings across the country so far, LiNK raised over $60,000 from more than 23,000 people, which Ko says is enough money to rescue more than 20 refugees.

While the chance to adapt to a completely different lifestyle in the U.S. may have been attractive to Lee, he surely never imagined all of this.

Lee grew up in a village in Hwaeryong, located along the border that separates North Korea from China. Freedom wasn’t the only thing Lee didn’t have when he was growing up. The hunger was excruciating, he said, so much so that Lee’s mother risked her life to make several trips across the Chinese border to bring food for him and his grandmother. Had the North Korean or Chinese authorities caught her, she would have faced certain death at a concentration camp.

But when his mother went to China one day and didn’t return for five months, Lee decided that he, too, must escape to find her. Leaving his grandmother behind was heartbreaking for him, but he felt as if he had little choice. He could not even reveal to her that he was fleeing.

Lee paid a broker and crossed the border on March 15, 2005, by walking over the frozen Tumen River. The North Korean government tightened its border last year, replacing the border guards with the country’s special units. The effect is already showing. Korean TV news network YTN recently reported that only 1,400 North Korean defectors made it to South Korea in 2012, a significant decrease in comparison to 2,700 from 2011.

In China, Lee found his mother and stayed near Yanbian, a region inhabited by a large number of ethnic Koreans. He got a cleaning job at a restaurant, but lived with the constant fear of getting caught by Chinese police and being sent back to North Korea.

“In a way, living in China was worse,” Lee said. “I had to live in hiding for the entire time, and worked so many hours.”

Then, he found out from people who frequently trekked back and forth from North Korea that his grandmother was dead.

“Learning about my grandmother’s death … was the hardest thing to deal with,” Lee said. “She was the one who raised me. It still haunts me that I couldn’t tell her that I was leaving her, even as I was planning to escape.”

To this day, Lee doesn’t know the exact cause of her death, but he assumed that it was due to starvation. “I don’t know if there’s a grave of my grandmother, but I’m just hoping that some people were so kind as to do that for our family,” he said.

In China, Lee came across representatives of LiNK, which has overseen the escape and relocation of 154 North Korean refugees thus far.

“North Korean refugees realize that we are a non-political, non-religious organization,” said Sokeel Park, LiNK’s director of research and strategy. “We do not expect to be repaid for anything. They realize that we are motivated by humanitarian reasons, and that makes us easier to trust.”

Both Lee and his mother were supposed to be sent to the United States with LiNK’s help. The vast majority of North Koreans defect to South Korea, but some fear the discrimination they may face south of the 38th parallel, according to Ko.  Moreover, some feel that South Korea is too close to North Korea, a place they would like to be as far away from as possible, for their own safety. All of this makes the U.S. a more appealing destination for some defectors, as they perceive the States to be a place that offers “more freedom or more opportunity than South Korea,” she said.

Lee, also, seems to have been fueled by a sense of adventure.

“I only get to live one time,” Lee said. “Escaping North Korea was a life-threatening risk I decided to take, and I figured I might as well take the biggest risk possible by choosing to come to the U.S. I knew coming here would give me the chance to learn a new language and culture. I also liked that I could live in a racially diverse environment.”

But before Lee and his mother could escape, she got caught by the Chinese police. After a long dispute between the Chinese authorities and the U.S. embassy in China, she was sent to South Korea instead.

Lee stuck with his plan to get to the U.S. In 2007, he settled in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he made ends meet by working at a hamburger restaurant and the storage room of a clothing store.  There was still a difficult cultural adjustment to make as well.

“All of a sudden, I was free,” he said. “I had to consider myself a newborn baby growing up all over again. But this time around, in a capitalist society.” He added, pointing to his pizza, “I didn’t even know what this was before coming to America. I had to learn one thing at a time. I would’ve had a mental breakdown if I tried to process everything at once.”

Lee relocated to Los Angeles after a year because he thought a larger Korean population would make it easier for him to network, navigate U.S. society and find job opportunities.  Last September, Lee became an American citizen, a status which North Korean refugees can apply for after five years of residency.

“Ideally, I want to bring my mother one day, once I’m completely settled here,” said Lee, who speaks with her on the phone regularly, and visits her in South Korea. “I just want to live a life where I can be with my family. And perhaps if an opportunity comes where I can help people in North Korea in some way, I’d be happy to help.”

The opportunity to help other North Koreans came last year when LiNK approached him with an unexpected request. One of LiNK’s missions is its SHIFT Campaign, through which it seeks to take the focus away from the geopolitical machinations and bizarre cultural kitsch of North Korea, and back to the lot of its people. The nonprofit produces documentaries as part of the campaign, and the organization approached Lee about being the subject of a short film about his life.

“There is never any pressure on any of the refugees we work with to engage on the issue or be outspoken,” Park said. “But in the cases where some of our North Korean refugee friends do want to share their experiences for the sake of other North Korean refugees or people still inside the country, we think it’s important to empower them with opportunities to make their voices heard, so that we can help bring more attention and understanding to the perspective of the North Korean people.”

Lee gladly accepted, as he believed it would help to shed light on the lives of average North Koreans. “It was never about me getting media exposure,” he said. “What average North Koreans want more than anything is for the rest of the world to warm towards them. I wanted this film to be a gateway for the audience here to sincerely sympathize with North Koreans.  At the end of the day, that’s what North Koreans want, more than money or food. They just want to be understood.

“At first, it was weird for me to talk in front of the camera,” he said. “It felt awkward. But I realized that I had to look confident and assured, because I wanted to represent my people as those who are seeking freedom and happiness to overcome difficulties.”

Lee is present at some of the screenings to field questions, thrusting the young man into the role of spokesperson.

The most memorable screening so far was one that took place at Boston University, where Lee shared his personal story of his escape and brought many audience members to tears.

“After [the screening at BU], our team was flooded by people wanting to buy merchandise, find out more about our organization, and how to get involved through donations and internship opportunities,” Ko said. “This event was the example of how the power of great organization and collaboration can relay a message to people and really ignite them to act.”

Now, Lee balances his time between those activities and his personal goals: earning his GED, and becoming either a nurse or an accountant. And indulging in the occasional slice of pizza in Manhattan Beach with a reporter.

“I’m one of very few people who came here from North Korea,” Lee said. “I’m here having fun and living a happy life, but people over there are still living miserably. It makes me feel bad sometimes to be so happy. So I want to do whatever I can to help them.”

South Korea: over 20,000
Germany: over 1,300
UK: over 600
USA: over 400
Canada: over 300
Japan: over 100
France: over 70
Holland: over 30
Belgium: over 30
Australia: over 20

These numbers do not include refugees who gained permanent residence of the respective countries and those counted as undocumented.

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

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.


Tuesday's Link Attack: North Korea, 2NE1, Opera Singer Ji Hyun Kim

North, South Korea exchange recalls previous historic meeting
Los Angeles Times

REPORTING FROM SEOUL -– Though brief, Tuesday’s meeting between North Korean and South Korean leadership families smacked of another historic get-together more than a decade ago that led to one head of state winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

Lee Hee-ho, center, and Hyun Jeong-eun, right, in Paju, South Korea, on their way to North Korea on Monday to pay respects to Kim Jong-il and meet the North's new leader, Kim Jong-un.

New North Korean Leader Meets South Koreans and Assumes Leadership of Party
New York Times

South Korea had said it would send no official mourners to Kim Jong-il’s funeral, which angered North Korea as a sign of disrespect. But Kim Jong-un’s meeting with the private delegation of mourners, which included the former first lady of South Korea and a top businesswoman, appeared to be cordial.

The South Korean visitors, Lee Hee-ho, the widow of former President Kim Dae-jung, and the chairwoman of Hyundai Asan, Hyun Jeong-eun, which had business ties with North Korea, were the only South Koreans allowed by the government in Seoul to lead private delegations to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, to express sympathy over the death of Kim Jong-il on Dec. 17.

From Dear Leader to Marilyn Monroe, defector mocks Kim

North Korean artist Song Byeok once proudly drew the “Dear Leader” in propaganda paintings. But he was sent to labor in one of the reclusive state’s notorious prisons after hunger forced him to try to flee.

Now a defector living in the South Korean capital, Seoul, Song has turned to mocking a ruler who led his country into famine, isolation and economic ruin.

“The day I finished this, he passed away,” Song said of his painting and the death of Kim on December 17.


Did Kim Jong-il death ruin breakthrough deal on North Korea nukes?
The Christian Science Monitor

The death of Kim Jong-il has disrupted an American plan to encourage North Korea to curb its nuclear arsenal, and the uncertainties surrounding the “dear leader’s” replacement mean US officials have little choice for now but to sit tight.

Before the announcement of Mr. Kim’s death Sunday, the US was on the verge of completing a deal to exchange humanitarian assistance for North Korean steps toward denuclearization.

But as Kim’s replacement and youngest son, Kim Jong-un, tries to establish himself in his father’s place, it will likely be months – and potentially tense and surprise-laden months – before the North Korean leadership will be ready to reengage diplomatically, many North Asian analysts say.

North Korea Presses South to Implement Economic Pact
New York Times

In its first interaction with visitors from South Korea since the death of its leader, Kim Jong-il, North Korea on Tuesday called for the implementation of the inter-Korean summit agreements, which would have brought massive South Korean investments had the South Korean leader, Lee Myung-bak, not scuttled them.

Recalling a Trip to North Korea Before the Death of Kim Jong-il
New York Times

Mun Ho-yong placed the bouquet of flowers at the foot of the towering outdoor portrait of Kim Il-sung, the founder of North Korea. Then he turned to the Chinese businesspeople and tourists, and to the foreign journalists. “Now please bow to our leader,” he said.

Most of us had set foot in North Korea for the first time just hours earlier. We had no idea what protocol to adopt when faced with the “Great Leader,” as North Koreans call him. So we followed Mr. Mun’s lead. We bowed.

2NE1 and SNSD ranks in SPIN’s 20 Best Pop Albums of 2011

Girl groups 2NE1 and SNSD are receiving worldwide attention.

The two groups, who are leaders in K-pop’s Korean Wave thanks to their unique performances and refined music this year, have been favorably noticed by famous foreign magazines. SPIN, a popular music magazine in the United States, announced their 20 Best Pop Album of 2011 on December 22 (local time) and the two groups were listed.

Five arrested including two members of Hawthorne Fire Department arrested after drug investigation

The Gazette (Hawthorne, N.J.)

A month and a half-long narcotics investigation resulted in the arrest of five Hawthorne residents, two of whom are members of the Hawthorne Fire Department, on Dec. 21.

At sentencing, Choi apologizes for slaying three in a Tenafly home
North Jersey

“We have three individuals who no longer walk the earth,” said Judge Donald Venezia. “You brought havoc to three individuals and to a community. Anything less than a life sentence and I’d be condoning what you did. There’s no way you’re getting a break. You did not give Mr. [Han Il] Kim a break.”

Before being sentenced, Choi apologized via his Korean translator.

“I’m very sorry to the victims and their families,” he said. “I’m sorry to my own family.”


James Kim: Recent College Grad Feels Pain Of Uncertain Job Market
Neon Tommy

Kim, 23, is one of the “Millennials”- a group defined by a 2010 Pew Research study as 18- to 29-year-olds who are mostly newcomers to the American labor force and who, more recently, have become the last hired and the first to lose their jobs.

According to the study that surveyed 50 million Millennials nationwide, only 4 out of every 10 participants said they had full-time work, and the unemployment rate among the group was 37 percent – the highest it had been in over 30 years.

Ji Hyun Kim: New Face
The Telegraph (U.K.)

Who’s that bright and breezy young tenor playing Gastone in the current revival of La Traviata at Covent Garden?

He’s 28-year-old Ji Hyun Kim, currently a hard-working member of the Royal Opera’s Jette Parker Young Artists Programme.

Perilla, ggaennip, shiso: By any name, a fine addition to garden
L.A. Times

It’s telling that with such limited ground — not even 20 square feet — the gardeners at the Korean Resource Center have dedicated a majority of their space to the perilla plant, a member of the mint family known as ggaennip in Korea and shiso in Japan.

‘Brazen’ contracting scam: Records provide a window into audacious swindle
Washington Post

The plan was straightforward but effective: A tight team of savvy contractors and government employees allegedly inflated invoices by $20 million, approved them and split the proceeds.

And they lived large — on the taxpayers’ dollar. Porsches, real estate, flat-screen televisions and Cartier watches: The men bought it all with impunity, prosecutors say.

The Strangest Man in Ikea

Taeyoon Choi isn’t at this Ikea, the second largest store location in the world, to buy a coffee table. He’s not there for delicious meatballs and lingonberry sauce, either. He’s in Ikea to create crazy-weird experimental noise machines.

7 best ski and snowboard resorts in Korea

Given that almost three-quarters of Korea is covered by mountains, it’s no wonder thousands of tourists fly in every winter to hit the slopes.

Now that it’s finally snowing, even in Seoul, here’s where to find the best snowy runs in Korea.

UNM students deface El Morro rock
Santa Fe New Mexican

Dana Choi, a Korean student at The University of New Mexico, admitted to etching the words Super Duper Dana’ into rock at El Morro National Monument in October. His graffiti covers a portion of an inscription that reads Pedro Romero 1758.’ Although officials at monument won’t talk about how they plan to erase the markings, the restoration costs have been estimated at nearly $30,000.


Video Roundup: Weeping N. Koreans, Pacman Frog, 2NE1 Light Show

Here are some videos we’re watching this week at KoreAm.

North Koreans Weeping Hysterically Over the Death of Kim Jong-Il
The news of Kim Jong-Il’s death earlier this week rang through news stations across the world, causing shock for some and causing non-stop grief for the North Koreans in this video. Men, women and students all weep openly in large groups. In public squares and in front of huge statues of the former dictator, North Koreans cry and wail for their deceased leader.

Meme Proposal
Love them or hate them, it’s near impossible to avoid memes, if you frequent the world wide web. A man in Malaysia took his love, and his girlfriend’s love, for Internet memes a step further and allowed them to to do the asking when he had to pop the question. Tim used a variety of well-recognized memes and a small crew of cameramen to propose to his then-girlfriend, Audrey.

2NE1’s “I’m the Best” Christmas Light Show
Nothing says Christmas like a house decorated in bright, festive lights and we all know that one neighbor, or few neighbors, who have to go full out to be the best, the brightest, and the house with the biggest electricity bill. This house takes it to another level with an elaborate, dancing light show timed to 2NE1’s “I’m the Best.”

Pacman Frog Catches Touch Screen Bugs
The graphics of this touch screen phone must be extremely realistic, at least realistic enough to fool this African bull frog. The green amphibian unleashes its tongue in attempts to grab the onscreen insects but fail in its goal, although it scores on the app. In the end, it’s the frog’s owner that has to pay for teasing the frog.

Former Child Soldier Demines Cambodia With a Knife and a Stick
Aki Ra was forced into being a soldier of the Khmer Rouge regime where he learned to lay thousands of mines in the fields of Cambodia. As an adult, Aki Ra uses his skills to undo the damage caused by the Khmer Rouge. With no money for fancy demining tools, Aki Ra uses a stick and a knife to accomplish the task.

Best Table Tennis Shots of 2011
A British website compiles the best table tennis shots of the year. Matches of the world are featured with insane saves and crazy tricks to win the matches.

Seoul’s Balancing Expert
This Korean man can balance just about anything. As a part of the Visit Seoul campaign to promote tourism in South Korea, this man showcases his unique skill of balancing objects. From small cell phones to huge scooters, the man puts all sorts of items in unnatural positions.

If you have more videos, email them to linda@iamkoream.com.

Wednesday Link Attack: North Korea, Debbie Lee, SK Soccer

Kim Didn’t Die on his Train, says South Korean Spy Chief
The Week

According to The Times, Won Sei Hoon, director of the South’s National Intelligence Service (NIS), was reported by Seoul media as saying: “We confirmed through US satellite surveillance photos that Kim’s personal train was stationary in Pyongyang [before his death].”

“We kept tabs on Kim’s whereabouts until Thursday but could not locate him starting Friday. There are signs that he tried to go somewhere [on Saturday morning] but died.”

This is at odds with the official North Korean version. Kim is said to have died of a heart attack at the age of 69 while travelling on his official train due to “great mental and physical strain” brought on by a “high intensity field inspection”.

S. Korea’s Top Spy Under Pressure to Quit Over Kim’s Death
Bloomberg Business Week

Park and Kwon joined the growing criticism directed at the spy agency for its shortfalls in collecting intelligence on a regime that’s still technically at war with Asia’s fourth- largest economy. South Korea’s government wasn’t alone in being blindsided as President Barack Obama learned of Kim’s death half an hour after the North Korean broadcasts, according to the White House.

Kim Jong Il Rumors Take Flight
The Wall Street Journal

…since the blogosphere hates an information vacuum, there are numerous rumors flying around about the circumstances of the Dear Leader’s death and who knew about it first.

One of the most bizarre is that Samsung Group, South Korea’s biggest business conglomerate, knew about Mr. Kim’s demise a day ahead of the announcement to the world by North Korea’s state media.

The rumor was started by a local newspaper, which subsequently deleted its report. That didn’t stop the talk catching fire on Twitter and online forums. Samsung was forced to deny the rumor twice.

Aid Groups Don’t Want U.S. to Delay Food Shipments to North Korea
Los Angeles Times

U.S. State Department officials said they intended to wait out the announced 11-day official mourning period to mark Kim Jong Il’s death in North Korea before assessing the nation’s food needs.

“We’re going to have to keep talking about this, and given the mourning period, frankly, we don’t think we’ll be able to have much more clarity and resolve these issues before the new year,” spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told a news conference.

The regime is in the process of transitioning power to Kim’s youngest son and untested heir-apparent, Kim Jong Un.

Edgewater Woman Sentenced to Jail for Role in Fraud Ring

Kim was among 53 people arrested in September 2010 following an investigation into a Palisades Park-based identity theft and fraud ring. She previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud, possession of 15 or more unauthorized credit cards with intent to defraud and aggravated identity theft.

Authorities said Kim also admitted to carrying at least 20 fraudulent credit cards to make purchases without ever intending to pay the bill.

An Identity Through Cooking
The Boston Globe

Before garnering fame by blending Korean and American Southern dishes as the second runner-up on season five of “The Next Food Network Star,’’ Lee endured taunting as a Korean-American growing up in Arizona. But her TV success helped her come to grips with her identity and launched a culinary career that includes a popular Los Angeles-based food truck and restaurant. This fall, she wrote “Seoultown Kitchen: Korean Pub Grub to Share With Family and Friends.’’

Nepali Student, 14, Adjusts to Life in Boston

This is an interesting story about a teenager from Nepal, one of the world’s poorest countries, who moved to Boston to live with a Korean American couple as part of a new social welfare program.

[14-year-old Manisha] Sapkota spent most of her childhood in the central Nepal village of Arba, in a three-room house with a large extended family — her great-grandmother, grandparents, two aunts, three uncles, her parents, her brother, and one cousin. Now she has her own room, like any other American girl, plastered with posters from the “Twilight” movies.

Chen originally planned for Sapkota to live with him and his wife in a Jamaica Plain triple-decker, but that became impossible when they agreed to take in another Trinity Academy student who needed a home.

Instead, she lives downstairs with their friends Dan Lee, 38, pastor of Highrock Covenant Church of Brookline, and Diana Choi Lee, 34, a seventh-grade history teacher at Weston Middle School, who both visited Nepal with Chen’s group and knew Sapkota before she came to the United States.

North Korea’s Tears: A Blend of Cult, Culture and Coercion
The New York Times

A day after North Korea announced the death of its longtime ruler, Kim Jong-il, televised video and photographs distributed by the reclusive state on Tuesday showed scenes of mass hysteria and grief among citizens and soldiers across the capital. The images, many of them carefully selected by the state Korean Central News Agency, appeared to be part of an official campaign to build support for Mr. Kim’s successor, his third son, Kim Jong-un.

Kim Jong-il, the Sportsman
The New York Times

In his first match at Pyongyang Lanes, Kim bowled a perfect 300, according to state-run news media, which did not say whether the bumpers were raised. But that is nothing compared with the five holes in one and 38 under par that Kim reportedly shot in his maiden round of golf. No word on whether the course included a windmill, lion’s head and pop-up gopher.

Of course, in a closed, isolated nation like North Korea, it is difficult to separate the milk of fact from the crème of fiction. Some accounts had Kim shooting 11 aces, not merely five.

Steelers’ Hines Ward had a ‘blast’ with ‘Dark Knight’ role
USA Today

[Hines Ward] and several other Steelers teammates were asked by producer Thomas Tull to take part in the Christopher Nolan-directed film, which is due out July 20. Ward normally does not take kickoff returns, but this is Hollywood, after all.

“I hadn’t run back a kickoff in forever,” says Ward of the scene, filmed at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. “It was a little bizarre. But I scored on the return and any time I score it’s a lot of fun.”

Choi Kang-hee is surprise pick as S. Korea coach
AP via SI.com

South Korea sprang a surprise by appointing Choi Kang-hee as the new coach of the national team on Wednesday despite the fact he had already turned down the job and that a foreign coach was widely anticipated.

Choi, who had been coach of club side Jeonbuk Motors, replaced Cho Kwang-rae, who was fired earlier this month after a shock defeat by Lebanon jeopardized the country’s chances of advancing in Asian qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.

Korea needs a draw against Kuwait on Feb. 29 to be certain of a place in the final phase of qualification, and the importance of that game was a decisive factor in Choi getting the job.

“We thought long and hard about it,” Korean Football Association technical chief Hwangbo Kwan said. “We decided to appoint Choi because we wanted to make the most of the short time we have before the game against Kuwait on February 29 and Choi can led the team in stable manner.”

Submission of the Year: ‘Korean Zombie’ Twists to the Top
USA Today

Jung learned his twister skills from Youtube videos of jiu-jitsu teacher Eddie Bravo, who took the basic technique from amateur wrestling, where the hold is known as a guillotine. He put out a DVD in 2005 and a detailed book two years later, but the twister before Jung was successfully applied only a few times in MMA, including twice by female fighter Shayna Baszler and once by Japanese fighter Shuichiro Katsumura, all on smaller shows.

By doing it at the UFC level, Jung exposed the twister to most MMA fans for the first time. Even Bravo was impressed.