Tag Archives: North Korea


Japanese Wrestler-Turned-Politician To Host Pro-Wrestling Event In NKorea


Hoping to “ease tensions” between North Korea and Japan, wrestler-turned-politician Antonio Inoki is organizing an international pro-wrestling tournament at the end of the month in Pyongyang, reports The Washington Post.

The most notable participant is American pro-wrestler and former mixed martial artist Bob Sapp, who’s popular in South Korea for fighting Choi Hong-man in 2005. At least 21 fighters around the world will head to Pyongyang for the event, including Eric Hammer, Bobby Lashley and wrestlers from Japan, Brazil, France, China and the Netherlands, according to Inoki.

“Sports events bring people together,” Inoki, a 71-year-old who achieved fame by fighting the likes of Muhammad Ali and Hulk Hogan, told The Post. “That’s what I’ve been saying for a long time. This is sports entertainment. Olympic Games are a competition between countries, but here spectators can freely choose which star to cheer for and unite as one.”


The 6-foot-3 Inoki is now a lawmaker in Japan’s upper house, but still wears his trademark red scarf from his wrestling days. He added that the event, which will incorporate techniques of Korea’s taekwondo and Japan’s aikido as well as pro-wrestling, will help ease the strained relations between North Korea and the rest of the world.

Inoki’s relationship with North Korea began in 1995 when he hosted a tournament in there that was also meant to smooth relations between countries. He was inspired by his mentor and the late Korean Japanese pro-wrestler Rikidozan, better known among Koreans as Yeokdosan. His trip next week will be his 30th visit to Pyongyang.

As a politician, Inoki boasts a track record of using sports to promote peace and humanitarian efforts. In 1990, he paid several visits to Iraq when over 100 Japanese citizens were abducted by Saddam Hussein’s regime to be used as shields during the Persian Gulf War, said The Post article. He hosted a wrestling-centered “peace festival” in Baghdad at the time, and that effort, along with the Japanese government’s negotiations with Iraq, eventually led to the release of the Japanese hostages a few days later.

The geopolitical relations between North Korea and Japan have been contentious, to say the least. While North Korea stands at odds with Japan’s reluctance to admit to its wartime atrocities, it didn’t help its own cause by abducting at least 17 Japanese citizens during the 1970s and ’80s to coerce them into teaching the Japanese language and culture to train North Korean spies.

fall6Fight between Antonio Inoki and Hulk Hogan on the cover of a wrestling magazine

Pope Francis waves to Catholic worshippers as he arrives to lead a mass at Gwanghwamun square in central Seoul

Pope Francis Wraps Visit to SKorea With Message of Reconciliation


While it was the images of Pope Francis riding around in a Kia Soul that went viral last week when he first arrived in South Korea, it was his calls for forgiveness and reconciliation that resonated on Monday before he left the country.

“Let us pray, then, for the emergence of new opportunities and dialogue, encounter and the resolution of differences, for continued generosity in providing humanitarian assistance to those in need, and for an ever greater recognition that all Koreans are brothers and sisters, members of one family, one people,” he said during a Mass in Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul.

Pope Francis 2


“Peter asks the Lord: ‘If my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ To which the Lord replies: ‘Not seven times, I tell you, but 70 times seven,'” he continued. “Unless we are prepared to do this, how can we honestly pray for peace and reconciliation?”

The New York Times reported that after the pope’s appeal, the South Korean government issued a statement asking North Korea to accept a proposal from last week to restart high-level dialogue. In perhaps a more conciliatory tone, Seoul said that if North Korea were to “behave responsibly,” it would be ready to “discuss any subject,” which includes the possible easing of economic sanctions imposed after the sinking of the Cheonan, a South Korean warship, in 2010. The South blamed the North for shooting a torpedo that sunk the warship, a charge the North has denied.

The high-level talks could also include restarting reunions for Korean relatives who were separated during the Korean War. When the governments met in February, the plan was to schedule one around the Chuseok holiday on Sept. 8, but those plans have so far fallen through, following the way of the talks.

The South Korean Catholic Church had invited a North Korean delegation to the pope’s Mass, but the North rejected the offer.

The pope also met with seven of the 55 surviving “comfort women” on Monday. The women, who were invited to sit in the front row during the Mass, presented a painting by a former sex slave who died in 2004 to Pope Francis. Titled “A Flower That Did Not Blossom,” the painting shows a Korean girl in a traditional hanbok among pink flowers.

Pope Francis 1Pope Francis meets seven comfort women, now in their 80s and 90s, at the Monday Mass.


Pope Francis kisses a child upon arriving for Mass at Gwanghwamun square in Seoul. Reuters / Korea Pool / Yonhap

Prior to Monday, Pope Francis partook in a number of events that began last Thursday. He led a Mass to beatify Paul Yun Ji-chung and 123 other Korean Catholics who were killed by Korean rulers through the 18th and 19th centuries, when Catholicism was spreading rapidly and seen as a threat to the Confucianism-based society.

The pope also met dozens of sick and disabled people in a rehabilitation center in Eumseong, along with the grieving family members of those killed in the April Sewol ferry disaster, according to Yonhap News. He baptized a father of a victim at the Vatican Embassy in Seoul, when the man approached him with an impromptu request.

South Korean Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung presented two gifts to the pope after Monday’s Mass: a crown made with a part of a barbed wire fence in the inter-Korean border, and a statue of St. Mary, the symbol of the Cathedral of Pyongyang Diocese. As he left South Korea later that day, Pope Francis imparted one more blessing as his plane left for Rome:

“I invoke divine blessing upon you all as I renew my prayer for peace and well-being on the Korean peninsula,” he said, according to an air traffic controller.

Photos via Reuters/Korea Pool/Yonhap and European Pressphoto Agency


China Executes 2 SKoreans for Drug Trafficking Crimes


Demonstrating its absolute, zero-tolerance policy for drug crimes, Chinese authorities this week executed two South Korean men convicted of trafficking drugs from North Korea.

The South Korean Foreign Ministry confirmed that the two citizens—a 53-year-old surnamed Kim and a 45-year-old surnamed Baek—were executed on Aug. 6, after being sentenced to death this past March by the Intermediate People’s Court in Baishan City, in Jilin Province, reported the Korean news site, The Hankyoreh.

Their crimes date back to 2011, when Kim was reportedly caught smuggling 14.8 kilograms of the methamphetamine, philopon, into China. Authorities said Baek purchased 12.3 kilograms of it.

Jilin Province, located in the northeastern part of China and sharing a border with North Korea, is notorious for drug trading between the two countries.


South Korean authorities apparently tried to appeal to the Chinese government to stop the executions, but to no avail. “The government provided all consular support starting from when the two men were caught,” said South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Noh Kwang-il, according to The Hankyoreh report. “After they were sentenced to death, the government also made requests at various levels to have the death penalty waived on humanitarian grounds.”

The executions were consistent with China’s harsh policy on drug offenders. Citizens from England, Japan and the Philippines have also been executed for drug offenses in the last five years, according to The Hankyoreh.

Another South Korean, arrested in the Shandong district in eastern China for drug smuggling in 2009, is currently awaiting execution, according to the International Business Times.


Exhibition Shows Off the ‘Tomorrowland’ Visions of a NKorean Architect


Whenever a movie set in the future premieres, it’s always interesting to what the director envisions society will look like decades or centuries from today. In such films, the future almost always is either littered with death and destruction (Terminator Salvation or Rise of the Planet of the Apes) or saturated with stunning neo-modern skyscrapers and superstructures (Cloud Atlas or The Fifth Element).


Hollywood’s take on futuristic architecture has been on display for quite a while, but for the first time ever, people now get the chance to see how a North Korean architect envisions buildings of the future. Currently on exhibition at the Venice Architecture Biennale in Italy is “Commissions for Utopia,” which depicts futuristic buildings designed by one of the country’s brightest young architects—someone who Wired reported has little exposure to modern architecture:

In the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, “architect” is a government job. There are no private projects, and young North Korean architects come out of school with only a faint understanding of the field as it exists outside their deeply isolated country. Recently, however, one young architect was given a rare chance at an outside commission by a client named Nick Bonner.

Bonner, a British filmmaker and founder of Koryo Tours, a travel company responsible for more than half of all the foreign tourists who visit the country, commissioned the architect to produce illustrations of futuristic tourist destinations for the world’s most isolated country. Bonner is convinced North Korea is bound to become a popular travel spot. According to Reuters, Koryo Tours has experienced “a tenfold rise in business in the past decade” and an estimated 6,000 Westerners travel every year from 700 a decade ago.

Wired magazine said the speculative drawings “could pass as concept art for the Tomorrowland section of Disney’s theme parks.” Here’s a sampling of the unnamed architect’s futuristic renderings:

img_4464-2Sustainability was a key theme for the artwork, and this self-sustaining silk cooperative receives energy from solar panels, wind turbines and watermills. The buildings are reminiscent of a “Korean hand wheel, which is used for weaving.” The randomly interspersed helicopter pads, cable lifts and the infusion of nature show why this location might be a pleasant destination for “workers of the countryside.”


img_4411-2Nature surrounds this “aerial hotel,” which emphasizes open space for customers—that is, as long as they’re not afraid of heights. The uniquely cone-shaped gliding mechanical object on the top left appears to be a futuristic helicopter.


img_4416-2One of the things that Seoul is known for is its sheer number of apartments that crowd the city. Well, in this image, North Korea seems to have solved the overcrowded atmosphere created by blocky apartments by constructing immense conifer-shaped buildings interconnected by cone-shaped tubes, which are apparently ski runs. Self-sustainability once again is evidenced by the solar panels, and interestingly enough, helicopters make another appearance on top of the apartments.


Forget the old RV trucks, travel in style inside you very own flying house, lifted into the air by a single propeller.


What appears at first to be a broken Rubik’s cube is a riverside guesthouse called “The Bird’s Nest.” The house is made up mostly of the surrounding woods and looks as if each pillar or section is its own bird nest. The horizontal pillars symbolize the connection of the house to its surroundings, and so a harmonic relationship between modernity and nature is once again established.

Illustrations via Koryo Tours


North Korea Says It Allows Religious Freedom, Lambasts U.S. for ‘Hypocrisy’


North Korea staunchly denied the veracity of a U.S. State Department report that criticized the isolated country for its “absolute prohibition of religious organizations” and “harsh punishments for any unauthorized religious activities.”

Though the U.S. report assessing international religious freedom is more than a year old, the North’s state-run news agency just this week launched into a tirade against the U.S. for its “hypocrisy” and insisted that North Korean citizens enjoy constitutional rights to practice religion freely.

The U.S. Department’s International Religious Freedom Report, released in April of 2013, didn’t mince words about what it characterized as North Korea’s oppressive restrictions on religious activities, alleging that citizens affiliated with missionaries are severely punished and even executed.

But in response, North Korea’s government on Tuesday went as far as uploading a video to its state-controlled YouTube channel Uriminzokkiri that profiled the newly renovated Chilgol Church, which Pyongyang claims allows Christians to freely worship. A minister surnamed Baek says in the video, “Many Christians come from South Korea and overseas to come to Chilgol Church. We have become a church that does good deeds for the reconciliation and unification between both Koreas.”

North Korea goes on to state how America has acted as a deterrent to religious freedom because its military bombed over 1,900 churches during the Korean War. It also accused the U.S. of fabricating such allegations in an attempt to damage North Korea’s reputation.


“Innumerable are the crimes committed by the U.S. in violation of religions in different parts of the world,” KCNA, North Korea’s state news agency, reported. “Former U.S. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and other reactionary ruling quarters of the U.S. worked with blood-shot eyes to crack down on Islam and bring down the social systems in Islamic countries under the pretext of ‘war on terror,’ not content with describing Islam as fascism.”

In the same broadcast, the North pledged to severely punish those committing “crimes against the law of the DPRK under the mask of religion.”

This statement seemed to apply to recent cases involving foreign missionaries like Kenneth Bae and John Short, who have been detained in the North for attempting to proselytize within the country. Short, an Australian, was released in March, but Bae, a Korean American Christian missionary from Washington state, is serving a 15-year sentence of hard labor after being convicted of allegedly planning to “bring down the government” through religious activities. He has been detained there for two years.

While North Korea’s constitution apparently guarantees religious freedom, Ji Min Kang, a North Korean escapee and contributor to the U.S.-based website NK News, said it’s quite another story in reality. “The basic principles of North Korean socialism are strongly opposed to and incompatible with religious beliefs,” he wrote in an article for NK News.

Kang goes on to state that while the presence of internationally prevalent religions like Islam and Christianity is very limited, folk religion and fortune telling are ingrained into their culture. Despite limited effort through propaganda to discourage fortune-telling activities, they are still very popular and even rumored to have drawn North Korean leaders also to participate.

Kang concludes, however, that although shamanism and folk religion may be prevalent in North Korea’s society, the one religion that citizens are obligated to follow is the ideology of the nation’s founder, Kim Il-Sung.

Photo of Chilgol Church in North Korea, via NK News.





dog soup

During Sambok Holiday, North and South Koreans Eat Similar Summertime Superfoods


It’s the Korean holiday you likely never heard of: Sambok.

Beginning around mid-July, Sambok spans three days, divided by 10-day and 20-day intervals, respectively. Traditionally, Korean farmers would take a break during this period due to the heat and focus on rejuvenating their tired bodies.

Certainly, next to Chuseok (Harvest Day) or Seollal (Lunar New Year), this traditional farmers’ holiday is not exactly celebrated today, even in Korea. However, you’ll know it’s Sambok when you see droves of people flocking to their favorite restaurants serving samgyetang, a Korean soup with chicken and ginseng, and even dog meat soup.

And apparently it’s no different in North Korea. The Daily NK recently reported how North Korean media often write articles in July about the different foods to eat during Sambok, a period known in Korea as the three hottest days of the summer.

Last July, the North’s Central News Agency reported, “With the start of Sambok upon us, many restaurants are serving customers foods to revitalize their bodies and increase their appetites against the heat.” The article then described why samgyetang, dog meat soup and other summertime superfoods are so beneficial. 

Sam means “three,” and according to the North Korean news article, bok means “to lie face down because the summer days are so hot that even a frog cannot endure it, lying flat with its stomach stuck to the humid earth.”


In the North, other popular dishes to eat during Sambok include steamed chicken and boiled rabbit, which is stuffed with chestnuts, dates, black soybean, and milk vetch root, according to the Daily NK article. The rabbit dish first became popular in the 1970s as part of North Korea’s “Kid Plan,” said the news site.

For North Koreans who can’t afford these dishes, yujigo, which consists of sticky rice, oil, eggs and sugar, is a popular alternative.

An anonymous defector told the Daily NK, “North Korean women work hard to make sure their husbands get to eat revitalizing foods. The most well-known food for revitalization is steamed chicken, but different regions have different specialties.”

Meanwhile, in South Korea, patjuk, or red bean soup, is also a well-known favorite during Sambok for its purported medicinal properties, which is said to fend off heat and illness. Patjuk was traditionally believed also to drive away evil spirits because these spirits avoid the color red. Jangoegui,or roasted eel, is also widely eaten because the vitamin A and E it contains is supposed to aid in blood circulation and prevent skin wrinkling.

This year Sambok began on July 18, with the second day yesterday, and the final day on Aug. 7.

Picture via The Waygook Effect


29 NKorean Defectors and Five Guides Arrested in China

Above photo: Demonstrators stage a rally at the Chinese Embassy in Seoul to protest China’s policy of arresting North Korean defectors in 2012. Source: Los Angeles Times


An activist group for North Korean defectors confirmed the arrest of 29 North Korean defectors and five guides in China, reports the Chosun Ilbo. It is said to be the largest arrest of North Korean defectors and guides recorded so far.


The individuals, who were divided into two groups, were arrested between July 15 and July 17, said the newspaper. Kwon Na-hyun, speaking on behalf of the activist group, said that 20 defectors were arrested in Qingdao, Shandong Province, and nine others in Kunming, Yunnan Province, as they made their way through an established escape route to Southeast Asia. Of the guides arrested, one of them, Na Su-hyun, 39, was a former North Korean defector who has a South Korean passport. The South Korean consulate general in China is expected to visit Na.

“Nine of them left for Kunming [from Qingdao] on July 14, because it would have been dangerous if all 29 defectors traveled together,” Kwon told the Chosun Ilbo. The defectors are being held in Tunmen, a town close to the North Korean border, and they face almost certain deportation.

Voice of America reports that the group of North Koreans consisted of four families, including a couple in their 60s and others in their 20s and 30s, as well as a 1-year-old baby.

The South Korean government apparently learned of the arrest on July 16 and is in the process of negotiating with the Chinese government for their release. A Seoul official told Voice of America that Beijing was very reluctant to release the North Koreans to South Korea. Meanwhile, China has not publicly commented on the issue.

Beijing’s policy for years has been to send North Korean defectors back, citing its border treaty with Pyongyang and illegal immigration problems as a whole. Instead of classifying them as refugees or asylum-seekers, the Chinese government classifies them as illegal economic migrants subject to deportation.

kim j un

NKorea Protests Chinese Video For ‘Compromising’ Kim Jong-un’s Dignity


It has only been about a week since North Korea filed a U.N. complaint to ban The Interview, an American comedy about a producer and talk show host’s attempt to assassinate Kim Jong-un. Well, July just doesn’t seem to be the young dictator’s month, as now, even a comedic video out of China, North Korea’s closest political ally, is ridiculing North Korea’s supreme leader.

The viral video, which pastes Kim Jong-un’s face over the bodies of people busting various dance moves and being the object of some nasty blows and kicks, is making its rounds in China’s immense interweb. Famous political leaders, including President Obama, make regular guest appearances both as Kim’s friends and foes in his fictitious, epic and disjointed journey.


According to the Chosun Ilbo, a source in China said North Korea feels like the video “seriously compromises Kim’s dignity and authority” and has demanded it be removed. Beijing has apparently not been able to take it down, however. The video was created by a man surnamed Zhang from Suzhou, a large city in the Jiangsu Province of Eastern China. He has reportedly studied at Kyonggi University in South Korea, the Chosun Ilbo reported.

The video features segments set to catchy Chinese techno music, which surprisingly fits well with most of the dancing. Each scene seems to get more bizarre as the video progresses, with Kim laying down some dance moves in random places.

Then the big finale happens: Obama, who is officiating a martial arts fighting match between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Kim, noticeably gets frustrated when the fighters don’t break apart and proceeds to beat up the two fighters. Of course, another referee, Russian President Vladimir Putin, tries to calm Obama down, but only to get shoved to the ground. Several clips later, things get a little uncomfortable as Kim fights a dragon costume and then moves on to disembowel the poor fellow.

Though the video is bizarre and over-the-top at times, it also carries an unexpected feel-good quality, as one gets to see political enemies dancing side by side and pranking each other—a sight difficult to imagine in “real life.”