Picking up steam: North Korea appears to be firing up its old nuclear reactor
Within days of the tenth anniversary of the first “six-party” talks, aimed at getting North Korea to give up its nuclear-weapons programmes, two columns of steam rose from the nuclear complex at Yongbyon, north of the capital, Pyongyang. Shut down in 2007 in a deal that supplied the North with fuel oil, Yongbyon’s gas-graphite reactor can produce a bomb’s worth of plutonium a year, according to a report by the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).
The news has put a damper on a recent upswing in relations on the Korean peninsula that followed North Korean tantrums, including a nuclear test, earlier this year. The two Koreas have restored military hotlines. On September 16th they reopened a joint factory complex at Kaesong, just north of the border. And on September 25th the regime in Pyongyang is to allow around 200 relatives separated in the Korean war to meet in the North in the first family reunions for three years. Even food and medicines have begun to trickle through.
A damper perhaps, but hardly a surprise. The North announced a reboot of its 1960s clunker in April, and satellite imagery of the complex has since revealed steady progress: expansion of its uranium-enrichment facility and the finishing touches on a new light-water reactor. But much is still unclear. International inspectors have not set foot there since 2008.
Why is Spam a luxury food in South Korea?
The pre-cooked tins of pork meat are the stuff of jokes, lunch boxes, wartime memories and, here in South Korea, a low-key, national love affair.
Spam has become a staple of South Korean life, and the country is now the biggest consumer of it outside the US.
Since Spam was first launched in the US before World War II, more than seven billion of these chunky little cans have rolled off production lines – like the ones at Spam’s South Korean factory in Chuncheong Province.
Here you can find Classic Spam, Mild Spam, Bacon Spam, Garlic Spam…. “If you’ve got Spam” the slogan on the can proclaims, “you’ve got it all!”
Facts and Tidbits About Chuseok Rice Cakes
Chuseok, or Korean Thanksgiving, is inextricably associated with songpyeon, or glutinous rice cakes filled with healthy ingredients. However, according to old documents and folklore, the rice cakes had nothing in particular to do with the harvest moon and were eaten on a number of holidays.
Some documents say that many different types of songpyeon were enjoyed in springtime, and some say they were eaten on the first day of the farming season. Land owners would make big rice cakes and give them to their slaves and farmhands, matching the number to their age and asking them to do good job.
According to a different source, people ate tteokguk or rice cake soup on the first day of the year, yaksik or yakbap (literally “medicinal rice”) or steamed glutinous rice mixed with chestnuts, jujubes and pine nut on the 15th of January, and songpyeon on the third day of the third month in the lunar calendar.
I Got Eyelid Surgery, but Not to Look White [OPINION]
Wall Street Journal (subscription req’d)
By Euny Hong
Last week, the Chinese-American talk-show host Julie Chen revealed on CBS’s “The Talk” that she had double-eyelid surgery early in her career, after a boss at an Ohio TV station insisted it was the only way she would get in front of the cameras. An agent told her the same thing. Plenty of people found fault with the TV executive and the agent for putting that kind of pressure on Ms. Chen, but critics—most of them Asian—have also laid into the broadcast journalist, claiming that blepharoplasty is a form of racial reassignment surgery, indicative of Asian self-hatred and white-worship.
The accusation is bogus. I should know: In 2002, I had the double-eyelid procedure. I did it because I was dissatisfied with my appearance, of course, but not because I wanted to look Caucasian.
Admittedly, my experience is different from Ms. Chen’s in that I’m a Korean-American who was raised in South Korea, where the procedure is extremely common.
19-year-old North Korean’s dangerous journey leads her to Boise State
Eun Hyang Kim is a quick-to-smile student at Boise State just beginning her academic career. At 19, it’s hard to believe she already has a full life of adventure behind her.
Kim escaped from North Korea in 2011. She’s enrolled in an intensive English program at the university.
North Korea, which has been controlled by a dynasty of dictators since World War II, is known as one of the most isolated, closed societies in the world. Just this week, North Korea refused to cooperate with a United Nations probe into alleged human rights abuses.
Kim’s journey took her through China, Laos and Thailand — across thousands of miles, over mountains and rivers.
Her route followed a circular route. She had to travel some 5,000 miles south to Thailand before circling back safely to South Korea.
Bicyclist killed by vehicle
Daily Sentinel (Colorado)
A male bicyclist is dead and the Palisade woman who was driving the vehicle that hit him was taken into custody Wednesday on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs, according to the Colorado State Patrol.
The cyclist, 25-year-old Eunjei Cho, died of injuries apparently sustained in the accident, the patrol said.
Colorado State Patrol Trooper Josh Lewis said the man’s next of kin had been notified of his death. Lewis said the family lives in New Mexico, but could not say if that’s where Cho was from.
Though not all the details of the accident were known late Wednesday, the cyclist was riding near Whitewater Hill on eastbound U.S. Highway 50 south of Grand Junction when the 29-year-old driver of a red Chevy Blazer, Tonie Rosales, “drifted” and hit one of two cyclists along the highway, according to the patrol and police on the scene.
Driver of car in fatal Chesterfield wreck charged with reckless driving
Times Dispatch (Richmond)
A reckless driving charge has been filed against the driver of a car that crashed Sept. 2 in Chesterfield County and fatally injured a passenger.
Chesterfield police today said Hui Kyong Maxwell, 62, of the 8800 block of Chester Forest Lane was charged with the Class 1 misdemeanor in relation to a crash that occurred when her vehicle ran off the road in the 6900 block of Hopkins Road and struck the Korean Baptist Church.
A passenger in Maxwell’s vehicle, Pyong Kil Kang, 75, of Sunnyvale, Calif., died at a hospital.
Elgin cop trains officers in South Korea
Daily Herald (Illinois)
An Elgin police sergeant spent a week training officers in South Korea, providing guidance on topics ranging from state-of-the-art equipment to surveillance.
Sgt. Jim Lullo, a 22-year veteran who supervises its gang crimes unit, returned to Elgin on Saturday after a week in South Korea, mostly in Asan, a town of 250,000 about two hours from the capital, Seoul.
He was part of a group of about 20 instructors from the U.S. and Kenya. Although he’s conducted numerous training across the state, this was his first outside Illinois.
Lullo trained South Korean officers on surveillance, including the use of technical equipment such as trackers, recording devices and covert cameras. He also took part in a four-day course on foot surveillance in the streets of Asan.
Jailed South Korean woman risks contempt of court by refusing access to disputed Brisbane property
Courier Mail (Austrailia)
The woman, who can only be known as KH, is in remand at Brisbane’s Women’s Correctional Centre and has been treating Queensland and the Supreme Court as a joke since December.
KH, 55, had been on remand over fraud and attempted fraud for a month when Supreme Court Justice Roslyn Atkinson sent her to jail in July for contempt. In December, Supreme Court Justice Anthe Philippides ordered KH to sign over properties in South Korea to a Queensland man, but she has repeatedly refused.
KH, who was denied bail for her fraud charges in June, knows that even if she transfers the property as ordered by the court she will remain in jail until her criminal case is heard at the end of the year.
Kickstarter. A plane ticket to North Korea. And then, superstardom for two local rappers?
A few weeks ago, a Kickstarter project was posted on the Internet featuring two young men who went by the names of Pacman and Peso. The duo and their producer were using the crowdsourcing site to raise money for a creative endeavor; they wanted to make a music video. A rap music video. They wanted to do it on a karaoke party bus. They needed only $6,000, a fairly modest sum, considering that this estimate also included lodging and two overseas flights. The video, you see, was going to be filmed in Pyongyang.
“This trip will be a fantastic opportunity for Pacman and Peso to meet young, dynamic people and significantly broaden their horizons,” read the proposal, which was posted Aug. 30, “in addition to jump starting their musical careers.” The title was straightforward and surreal: “Pacman & Peso Make a Music Video in North Korea.”
Because this is what North Korea has become: a place of hideous human rights violations but also a surreal punch line, a backward land where Dennis Rodman is our best diplomatic liaison to Kim Jong Un and where, if you’ve heard anything about its relationship to popular music, what you’ve heard is this rumor: In August, Kim’s ex-girlfriend, herself a performer and dancer, allegedly was discovered to have made a sex tape, and for this, was put to death by a firing squad.
Justin Bieber tweets about possibly performing with G-Dragon and Psy?
Justin Bieber is scheduled to hold his very first concert in Korea at Olympic Park next month on October 10 and the world pop star hinted that both Psy and G-Dragon could possibly perform or make an appearance.
Earlier today, Justin Bieber tweeted, “excited to get to Korea to perform on October 10th. Maybe u will see my guys @psy_oppa and @IBGDRGN. Get the bbq ready. #BELIEVETOUR”
British Chef Falls in Love with Korean Cuisine
Duncan Robertson is the head chef at N Grill, the revolving restaurant on the top floor of the N Seoul Tower in Mt. Nam. He previously worked in an obscure restaurant called L’Envie in the small French town of Brive and helped it win a Michelin star.
Robertson went to Harrow, the exclusive private school in England, and on to Cambridge University, where he studied law. But he ditched a career in the law in favor of cooking, taking classes at Westminster Kingsway College in London.
Robertson said he has no interest in fusion cuisine but rather wants to create the highest quality cuisine using locally available ingredients.
Watch Kristen Kish Break Down a Lobster Bare-Handedly
Kristen Kish, Top Chef winner and chef de cuisine of Menton, demonstrates how to break down a live lobster with bare hands in this video from Zagat, diving right in and twisting the tail and claws off as if it’s made of gingerbread. On choosing a good lobster to cook at home: “It’s gotta be feisty,” says Kish.
Inside the country’s only Korean rice wine brewery
Earlier this summer when a “sleepy” man allegedly plowed his red DeVille into a bunch of tables at the Chicago Korean Festival, he mentioned one damning word to the police: “makgeolli.” That is decidedly not the image the folks behind Slow City Brewery want Americans to associate with the unfiltered fermented rice beverage that Koreans—originally farmers—have been drinking since the tenth century. The milky, slightly tangy-sweet sauce is frequently referred to as rice “wine” or sometimes “beer,” but it’s really not quite like either—or anything else.
Slow City, headquartered in an industrial park in Niles, is the first makgeolli maker in this hemisphere, thanks to an arrangement between president John Oh and Korea’s Baesangmyun Brewery, producers of a range of distilled and fermented Korean beverages. That’s an important distinction: imported makgeolli is made shelf-stable with preservatives that kill its natural enzymes. It tastes the same on the day you open it as it did on the day it was bottled. Slow City’s makgeolli breathes through a cotton-lined cap that’s commonly used in Korea, but which presents some special shipping and storage challenges here. More on those later.
N. Korea urges resumption of six-party talks ‘without preconditions’
North Korea’s chief nuclear envoy called for nations involved in the long-stalled talks on the North’s nuclear program to resume the multilateral process “without preconditions.”
“We are ready to enter the six-party talks without preconditions,” the North’s First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan told a forum organized by China’s foreign ministry in Beijing.
Kim said “preconditions” set by South Korea and the United States, however, “are in violation of the spirit of the Sept. 19 Joint Statement,” referring to a landmark agreement reached in 2005 at the six-party talks.
Under the 2005 agreement, North Korea pledged to give up its nuclear weapons program in return for a U.S. promise not to attack or invade it and to work toward normalized ties.
The one-day forum has been arranged by China to mark the 10th anniversary of the launching of the six-party talks. The off-and-on forum that involves the two Koreas, China, the U.S., Japan and Russia has been stalled since late 2008.
‘Asian Eye’ Surgery and Media Racism
News anchor and TV personality Julie Chen said last week that, earlier in her career, she underwent plastic surgery on her eyes to make them look “less Asian.” Chen’s story publicly reinforces a narrative of “fixing,” that Asian Americans—particularly females—have heard many times in relation to the physical traits that make them “different” than the U.S. norm.
Chen recounted last week on The Talk a conversation she had with a former employer about filling in for anchors who were away for vacation. Her boss was frank: She could never sit at the anchor desk because being Asian made her dissimilar from the Dayton, Ohio population the station served, dissimilar enough that she was no longer “relatable.” Then came the whammy that did Chen in:
“Because of your heritage, because of your Asian eyes, I’ve noticed that when you’re on camera—when you’re interviewing someone—you look disinterested and bored because your eyes are so heavy. They are so small.”
Chen’s co-hosts gasped as she recalled this. There were murmurs through the audience.
South Korea on the Move
Wall Street Journal
South Koreans are bracing this week for one of the year’s worst traffic jams.
The land ministry forecasts more than 35 million trips will be made for the local Thanksgiving holiday, Chuseok, with 83.7% of travelers in individual cars. (The ministry counts one person going one way as a trip, so going and then coming back home counts as two—but it’s still quite a tally for a country with a population of 51 million.)
The 332-kilometer (206-mile) journey on the country’s busiest route – from Seoul to Busan, the second-largest city – is taking 8½ hours Wednesday, according to highway operator Korea Expressway Corp., for an average speed of 39 kilometers (24 miles) an hour. A survey by the land ministry said 33.8% of the holiday travelers are expected to move (slowly) along this route, which crosses the country from northwest to southeast.
As of noon Wednesday, 1.13 million cars had hit the country’s highways, with the majority moving away from Seoul and its environs, according to Korea Expressway. It forecasts nearly 400,000 more vehicles will follow in the afternoon and Thursday. Seoul and the surrounding Gyeonggi Province are home to 22 million people, or roughly 43% of the country’s population, according to official data.
‘War without guns’: SKorea’s passionate protesters
AP via Salon.com
South Korea’s most tenacious protesters compare themselves to warriors, and their demonstrations to a life-or-death struggle against evil.
They are known around the world for their passion, persistence and flamboyance. Their demonstrations — spontaneous and meticulously planned, large and small — form a near-constant backdrop for the 10 million people living in Seoul, the capital.
Their causes are rooted in the country’s tumultuous history: a brutal Japanese colonization until 1945, the subsequent division of the Korean Peninsula, three years of vicious warfare and decades of military dictatorship that gave way to democracy as South Korea became one of Asia’s strongest economies.
Ellicott City Man Arrested in Baltimore Food Stamp Fraud Sweep
Patch.com (Ellicott City, Md.)
An Ellicott City man was among nine store owners who face federal food stamp and wire fraud charges related to a scheme to illegally redeem nearly $7 million food stamp benefits for cash.
The indictments were handed up by a federal grand jury in Baltimore last week but unsealed Tuesday.
Jung Kim, 51, of Ellicott City, was one of the nine charged. He owns C&C Market at 4752 Park Heights Avenue in Baltimore. The indictment alleges that between November 2010 through April 2013, Kim allegedly obtained more than $600,000 in payments for food sales that never occurred.
South Korea Embraces Craft Beer
Wall Street Journal
In a tangle of nondescript alleyways in central Seoul’s Noksapyeong district, a handful of Korean and foreign entrepreneurs are pioneering a new market for homegrown craft beers.
Hidden opposite a side exit to the U.S. Army’s giant Yongsan garrison is trend-setting brewpub Craftworks Brewing Co. Defying its shabby surroundings, Craftworks’ interior is upscale. The bar’s eight taps pour artisanal ales, wheat beers, lagers and porters — each branded with a Korean name.
Canadian Dan Vroon opened Craftworks with six fellow expats in 2010. The concept: Sell Korean-made North American-style craft beers.
Korean startups finally get all the limelight at beGLOBAL event in Silicon Valley
This past Friday, Korean startup blog beSUCCESS inaugurated its first beGLOBAL conference in Silicon Valley, bringing Korean startups together with globally-minded investors, incubators, and seasoned entrepreneurs.
For an overview of the event, I talked with John Nahm, a co-host of beGLOBAL and a founding partner at Strong Ventures. Nahm’s firm initially funded beSUCCESS and its series of startup conferences, starting with beLAUNCH in Seoul’s Gangnam district and Friday’s beGLOBAL conference in the US.
“Korean startups don’t have clout in Silicon Valley, so we wanted to create a high quality event with a top-notch group of startups and speakers,” Nahm said. “We’ve not yet arrived like the Israeli startups have in the Valley, since we don’t have a proven track record.”
A South Korean government agency, KOCCA, recently selected a group of startups to debut in the Valley (at last week’s TechCrunch Disrupt conference), but Nahm had some strong criticisms of the Korean government’s startup selection process.
New York Fashion Week Was Chock-Full of White Models. Again.
Now that New York Fashion Week is over, we’ve crunched the numbers. Of the 142 shows out of the 184 that showed at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week for Spring/Summer 2014*, there were 4637 looks. Of those close to 5,000 looks, around 80 percent were modeled by white women. (80 percent. That’s a number that, if you look at the charts, we’re growing familiar with.) Fewer than 1,000 looks were given to women who were not white, mostly black and asian women, with some non-white Latina women sneaking in there. Women of other ethnicities, like Middle Eastern women, were barely seen.
Chef David Chang on the Joy of Cooking With Science
In June 2010, after six years of running a restaurant in New York City, I decided that we needed to learn about the science of what we eat. At the time, I had no idea how a cell broke down or what an enzyme or an amino acid was. It was all stuff I’d slept through in high school! But these are the basic processes by which cooking happens. The more we understand about the science of food, I realized, the better we would be able to cook.
The Momofuku Culinary Lab started as a space where we could focus on creating and innovating. I didn’t want us to worry about working on projects in a restaurant; there are just too many distractions in service and running a kitchen to be able to focus on creating your dishes. It didn’t need to be high tech, but we needed an environment in a vacuum. In retrospect, what I thought was a luxury was an absolute necessity.
We began working with a microbiology team at Harvard that had been examining microbes in cheese. We started by asking simple questions about foods we were experimenting with. Is this edible? Is this dangerous? We had to learn chemistry, then biology. We built up a working scientific vocabulary. Now we’ve begun exploring the processes behind ingredients we use every day in our kitchens: soy sauce, MSG, other sources of umami flavors. We’ve launched experiments in fermentation, using various strains of bacteria to create strange and wonderful new tastes.
Girls’ Generation’s Seo-hyun Hitting the Books for Acting Debut
Seo-hyun of of K-pop band Girls’ Generation will make her initial foray into the world of acting when she appears as a college student in an upcoming SBS weekend drama that is scheduled to air at the end of this month.
She said she has dreamed of being an actress since she was a child and has taken acting lessons since she made her debut as a singer.
“This is my first work as an actress, so it’s very special for me,” she said.
“I’m so enthusiastic about it that it fully occupies my mind these days.”
Foreign Loanwords in Korean
The Korea Blog
Like any other language, Korean has collected a lot of loanwords over the centuries. It doesn’t take long after learning a bit of Korean to start noticing the high number of foreign words all around you. You’ve probably heard all sorts of English loanwords, so I was more interested to skip by and look at some of the Korean words from other languages.
The origins of these loanwords are arranged chronologically, and you’ll see the correlation between age of the loanword and the complexity of the term, starting with basic Chinese numbering and going all the way to an Italian word for a specific type of cultural event.
It’s not surprising the Korean language has many loanwords from Chinese, seeing as how the language essentially used Chinese characters for over a millennium. Around 60 percent of the Korean vocabulary has Chinese origins, although most of them came over to Korean long ago and may not necessarily be recognised as Chinese anymore, the same way an English speaker might forget that “cafe” is originally French and “philosophy” is ancient Greek for “love of wisdom.” Also, many so-called Chinese words may have been developed long ago by Koreans using Chinese characters, predating the actual Korean language (would they still be considered loanwords in that case?).
South Korean soldiers shot and killed a man who was making a “rare” attempt to enter North Korea from the South at the demilitarized zone (DMZ), the South Korean Defense Ministry said earlier today.
The New York Times reports that the man, wearing civilian clothes, jumped into the Imjin River near the city of Paju, where the river meets the western end of the border of the Koreas before it empties into the Yellow Sea. Troops opened fire after the man apparently defied orders from South Korean border guards to turn around.
The Defense Ministry told the Associated Press that the man was carrying a South Korean passport. He had reportedly been deported from Japan in June. Continue Reading »
South Korea hoists national flag at weightlifting event in Pyongyang as tensions ease
South Korean weightlifters marched with their national flag Thursday at the start of an international competition hosted by bitter rival North Korea — something of a milestone for two countries that were trading war threats this spring.
It’s the first time South Korean athletes have attended an international sports event in North Korea, government officials in Seoul said. Both countries consider themselves the only legitimate government on the Korean Peninsula, which is still technically in a state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.
The concession by North Korea at the Asian Cup and Interclub Weightlifting Championship this week comes during a mellowing in animosity as the countries pursue diplomacy.
A Human Moment From the Most Isolated Place in the World
During my recent trip to North Korea, one particularly memorable moment took place at the DMZ from the DPRK’s side, where I saw both the North Korean and South Korean flags straddling the 38th parallel. I carefully struck up a conversation with a North Korean military officer in his mid-50s. At first, he scowled and demanded that I, a Korean-speaking American, stand away from him. I kept near him, pretending that I had no wiggle room amidst the dozens of fellow tourists who were also at the DMZ.
After his military colleagues cleared the area, the officer casually covered his mouth with a folder, looked away from me, and in a low voice started asking me questions about my life in America. After all, he couldn’t have his colleagues see him be so friendly with a foreigner, much less an ethnic Korean American. He asked me what life was like in America, what my parents did, and how I learned to speak Korean in America. His questions were rooted in sheer, nonjudgmental curiosity. For 10 minutes, we stood by each other in a crowd while looking in opposite directions, and carried this clandestine conversation in Korean while having both of our mouths covered. After telling me that he full-heartedly wishes that the two Koreas reunify so that all Korean people, hanminjok, can live together in peace, he asked me:
“Do I look like your father?”
I didn’t really know what he was asking, so when I asked him to ask his question again, he said:
“Well, I know that we’re hanminjok, but I’m curious if I look like a Korean man in the United States. Am I as tall as him? Same face?”
What’s next for the Kaesong Industrial Complex?
The agreement that emerged from the second meeting of the Inter-Korean Joint Committee for the Kaesong Industrial Complex on Sep. 11 can be understood as a mutually beneficial compromise, in which the North gave ground on the timeframe for resuming operations at the complex, and the South won systemic improvements including workers’ safety and access to the complex.
But from the outset, the meeting was no smooth sailing. Starting with a general meeting at 10 am on Sep. 10, North and South did not find middle ground until 6 am on Sep. 11, after a twenty-hour marathon round of negotiations that lasted until morning. During the negotiations, two general meetings were held, the joint committee chairs made contact five times, and the chairs of the subcommittee on entrance and sojourn met separately on three occasions. The reasons for this unusually long slog appear to be the pressure of trying to resume operations at the complex before Chuseok (the Korean harvest festival) and a political consideration that the South had to achieve something to coincide with Park Geun-hye‘s return from a trip to Russia and Vietnam.
It appears that the main point of dispute was the issue of guaranteeing workers’ safety in connection with entrance to and sojourn in the complex. South Korea requested that an observer be present when South Korean workers are questioned on suspicion of violating the complex’s laws. The South made clear that it did not want a repeat of what happened in 2009, when an employee of Hyundai-Asan at the complex was detained for a long period of time without being given access to a attorney.
South Korea: Families struggle with harvest festival cost
A poll of more than 1,200 people found that 11.6% would not buy presents for the annual celebration, says one of the country’s largest supermarkets.
Choi Choon-seok of South Korean hypermarket Lotte Mart expects “a noticeable trend toward inexpensive and practical presents” as households grapple with the continuing recession, says The Chosun Ilbo newspaper.
People buying presents are likely to spend an average of 196,000 won ($180; £115) on gifts of fruit and healthy food for others, but half of the people polled would like to receive gift vouchers in return.
It is traditional for South Koreans to celebrate the Chuseok holiday in the company of their families with a home-made meal, Songpyeon rice cakes, and ancestral rites.
Store owner gets 18 months in jail for sexually assaulting employee
Times Colonist (Canada)
A 58-year-old convenience store owner convicted of sexual assault causing bodily harm to one of his young employees has been sentenced to 18 months in jail plus two years’ probation.
In June, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Arne Silverman found James Hak Cho guilty of the offence, which took place at the store in March 2011.
Cho was acquitted on the charge of administering a stupefying drug to commit the sexual assault.
Oklahoma Man Stranded In South Korea With Rare Disease Returns Home
A national campaign finally pays off, bringing an Oklahoma man back home. Sean Jones has been stuck in a South Korean hospital for months.
He went to the country to teach English, but he got a rare brain disease there, and ended up in intensive care. South Korean doctors treated him, but they wouldn’t let him go until he paid all of his medical bills.
Now he’s back in Oklahoma, thanks to $50,000 in donations from around the world.
G-Dragon’s Favorite Songs From YG Entertainment
Of the three companies that dominate Korean pop—SM, JYP, and YG—it is the music of YG Entertainment that is most likely to sound familiar to American ears. Founded in 1996 by Yang Hyun-suk, former member of seminal pop group Seo Taiji and Boys, YG has always emphasized hip-hop and R&B as its musical foundation. From the start, the company enlisted Korean-American musicians, like early hitmaker Perry, to produce tracks that were in line with stateside trends, thus staying ahead of the curve in the domestic market.
It was the flashy music videos and aggressive rap singles of the late ’90s and early aughts by YG artists like Jinusean and 1TYM that initially attracted a young G-Dragon to the label. In 2006, YG further evolved as a K-pop powerhouse when GD debuted as the leader of influential boy band Big Bang, followed three years later by girl group 2NE1. And, of course, longtime YG artist PSY brought his label international recognition last summer with the explosion of “Gangnam Style.”
All of these international hits are no accident—YG is known for granting more freedom to its artists than rival K-pop powerhouses, creating space for a unique talent like GD to grow. So, to get a window into G-Dragon’s musical upbringing and the history of his label, here are G-Dragon’s Favorite Songs from YG Entertainment.
Q&A: f(x) Reacts to Topping K-Pop Hot 100 & World Albums Chart (Exclusive)
Girl groups were in short supply at KCON 2013. Though, given f(x)’s whirlwind 2013, they likely would have more than sufficed even without a last-minute addition of Crayon Pop at the American K-pop convention.
Despite being away from the K-pop scene for over a year, the female quintet saw their domestic and international popularity maintained with new single “Rum Pum Pum Pum” hitting No. 1 on the K-Pop Hot 100. Meanwhile, its accompanying full-length album, “Pink Tape,” not only topped Billboard’s World Album chart, but also placed on Billboard’s Heatseekers Albums chart — meaning a Billboard 200 entry wasn’t too far away.
Falling in line with past singles such as “Pinocchio (Danger)” and “NU ABO,” the 12 tracks on “Pink Tape” also mix fizzy electro-pop, icy harmonies and strange, yet addictive, hooks. One could argue the quirky confections on the LP represent the contrasting personalities of the five f(x) members — on display as the quintet sit down for an interview with Billboard hours before opening KCON’s grand finale K-pop concert.
‘Sympathy For Mister Vengeance’ Remake Taps ‘Paradise Now’ Helmer
Hany Abu-Assad has been hired to helm the English-language remake of Park Chan-wook’s Sympathy For Mister Vengeance. The Dutch-Palestinian director best known for his Oscar-nominated 2005 pic Paradise Now also recently won the Jury Prize at Cannes for his latest film, Omar. Mister Vengeance follows a man seeking a black market kidney for his sister whose plan unravels in violence and revenge.
Dodgers’ Ryu Hyun-jin shaky in loss to Diamondbacks
Ryu Hyun-jin of the Los Angeles Dodgers suffered his sixth loss of the Major League Baseball (MLB) season on Wednesday in a shaky outing against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium.
Ryu pitched six innings and allowed 10 hits and three runs, as the Dodgers lost 4-1. The lefty didn’t walk a batter and had one strikeout.
The South Korean dropped to 13-6 in his rookie season, and his ERA went up from 3.02 to 3.07. He also fell to 7-3 with a 2.23 ERA in 14 starts at home.
Dodgers will have to watch Hyun-Jin Ryu carefully down stretch
Los Angeles Times
That’s not a good review. It’s a so-so one. Not too good, not too bad.
Hyun-Jin Ryu made his first start in 12 days Wednesday after skipping a turn with a stiff back, and when asked to review his performance, Manager Don Mattingly said:
That should scare the living daylights out of the Reds, Cardinals and Braves.
“Really kind of what Hyun-Jin does,” Mattingly said. “Obviously he gave up a couple early. For the first time pitching in  days, I thought he was pretty sharp.”
Pretty sharp. Yep, a regular five-star review.
Ryu lasted six innings Wednesday, allowing three runs on 10 hits. If that’s pretty sharp, I have a pretty thick head of hair.
MLB Scouts Interested in Yoon Seok-min, Oh Seung-hwan
Two high-profile pitchers in the Korean Baseball League have been drawing considerable interest from overseas recently — Oh Seung-hwan of the Samsung Lions and Yoon Seok-min of the Kia Tigers.
Although Japanese teams are focusing more on Oh — in part because he holds the better record this season — U.S. Major League scouts reportedly consider Yoon to be the superior pitcher.
Scouts say Oh might be able to close for a lower team in MLB, but Yoon’s experience as a starting pitcher will ultimately raise his value higher. Both players will become free agents after this season.
Engineer Turns Entrepreneur With Online Bakery Service
Wall Street Journal
Yoo Min-joo, a 28-year-old engineering major, didn’t imagine running a start-up even as his college friends had huge success with their own–Ticket Monster, a daily deals site known locally as TMon.
But it was when he started writing a book about TMon that he thought that he could do something similar. The book told the story of five young Korean guys building a company that was acquired by LivingSocial of the U.S. in August 2011.
“I introduced them to each other and closely watched how they came up with ideas, executed their plans and how the business grew rapidly,” said Mr. Yoo in an interview. At the time, he was working at SK Hynix, a semiconductor maker.
This artist will make you question reality
Korean artist Kang-hoon Kang clearly likes to mess with our minds. His hyper-realistic paintings will make you wonder if “this is real life” or not (and you won’t even need to go to the dentist!) Check out his work above, and for more spectacular art visit his website.
Feminism and Race: Just Who Counts As A ‘Woman Of Color’?
Recommitting Feminism to Multiracial Solidarity
Roxane, Jill and Mikki-
After I shared an article that addressed the conspicuous lack of women of color on magazine covers, a friend exclaimed, “Let’s not forget there is a lack of our Latina and Asian sisters.” That comment, while coming from someone with all the best intentions in the world, prompted me to ask a series of awkward and sobering questions: When people say “women of color,” am I included in that equation, or does it not apply to Asian American women? What about Hispanic women? Do they have more of a claim to that label than Asians do? Or do they also not count? Do people really want to hear from someone who looks like me when they engage in conversations about racial justice?
Advocates for a more inclusive feminism cannot be content with calling attention to the tendency of feminist circles to focus solely on the issues that matter to privileged, white women. We must also rethink the ways we use the term “women of color.” Our community needs conversations that explicitly demonstrate how the struggles of Asian, Latina, and other women who fall outside the black-white binary are inextricably linked with the oppression of others. While I thoroughly appreciate the discussions that came from #solidarityisforwhitewomen, we must work even harder to ensure solidarity with all women who experience life at the intersections of race and gender.
North Korea’s Ten Principles Show Regime Rigidity
Wall Street Journal
Retired NBA superstar Dennis Rodman returned from another highly publicized visit to North Korea on Saturday without hospitalized Korean-American prisoner Kenneth Bae in tow. But he did have one piece of exciting news.
According to Mr. Rodman, youthful “compadre” Kim Jong Un “wants to really actually change things” in the country he inherited from his father, Kim Jong Il, at the end of 2011.
Other news tells a different story. Seoul-based website Daily NK exclusively revealed recently that Pyongyang has updated and confirmed its “Ten Principles for the Establishment of the One-Ideology System.” This move offers some of the strongest evidence yet that Kim Jong Un is steering a similar course to his father.
Student takes on Michelle Rhee
School reformer extraordinaire Michelle Rhee has begun a three-city event where she is hosting town halls in what she says is an effort to have a “real talk” with teachers, who for years have viewed her as anything but a friend. (The same could be said of one of her traveling companions on this tour, Connecticut educator Steve Perry, who is famous for referring to teachers unions as “roaches.”)
Rhee and her panel began their tour in Los Angeles earlier this week and will go to Birmingham on Sept. 12 and then Philadelphia on Sept. 16. One of the more interesting moments of the Los Angeles town hall was when a University of Southern California student, Hannah Nguyen, called out Rhee on her “school reform” movement.
It turns that Hannah Nguyen is a former big supporter of Rhee’s brand of reform, once belonging to Students for Education Reform. She changed her mind after looking at what really happens in schools and now is involved with Students United for Public Education.
S. Korean Rebellion Plot Turns Spotlight on Spy Agency
Voice of America
On September 4, South Korea’s parliament for the first time voted to prosecute one of its lawmakers for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government in favor of North Korea. The lawmaker and the North Koreans are denying the allegation and instead accusing South Korea’s spy agency, the National Intelligence Service, of fabricating it for political purposes.
Seoul’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) last week arrested Lee Seok-ki and three other members of his Unified Progressive Party for treason and violating the National Security Law.
The NIS alleges they plotted an armed rebellion against their own country in the event of war with North Korea.
Angry Asian Man Not So Angry
The Angry Asian Man isn’t always angry. Mostly he just wants to catch people’s attention. Host Michel Martin speaks with blog creator Phil Yu about the blog’s unexpected growth and some of the biggest issues facing Asian-Americans today.
Regional Police Report: Woman Killed in Route 83 Crash; Diamond Heist Investigated
Patch.com (Des Plaines, Ill.)
One Dead, Two Injured in Route 83 Crash
A Buffalo Grove woman was killed in a crash near Route 83 and Westmoreland in Long Grove Thursday evening.
Jeewon Kim, 47, of Buffalo Grove, sustained multiple traumatic injuries in the crash, said Lake County Senior Deputy Coroner Orlando Portillo.
A blue 2011 Honda CRV and a red 2007 Ford F150 collided in the intersection, said Sgt. Sara Balmes with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office. Kim was driving the Honda CRV.
Henney drawn to ugly character in ‘Spy’
Korea Joongang Daily
Actor Daniel Henney, 34, who became popular in the TV drama “My Name is Kim Sam-soon,” returned to the big screen in the new movie “Spy,” released in Korea yesterday.
Although he has the image of a romantic guy thanks to his TV drama role, his latest character is evil.
Henney plays a charming spy named Ryan, who in a bid to get closer to his target, Cheol-soo, attracts his wife.
“It is not fun when everyone acts as a comical character just because the movie is a comedy, and we need one character that is straightforward,” he said to the JoongAng Ilbo, an affiliate of the Korea JoongAng Daily.
‘Oldboy’ Choi Min-sik Signs on for Luc Besson’s Latest Flick
Choi Min-sik will appear in his first non-Korean film, “Lucy,” the latest flick by French director Luc Besson. It boasts a star-studded cast including Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman.
Choi has been receiving offers from around the world since the huge success in 2003 of “Oldboy,” directed by Park Chan-wook. Filming on “Lucy” will begin this fall, with a release date scheduled for next year.
A number of Korean actors have been expanding their international careers recently, with actors like Lee Byung-hun and Song Kang-ho probably the highest profile as they have both appeared in current Hollywood hits.
Alina Cho Leaves CNN
Alina Cho, who has been with CNN nearly 10 years, parted ways with the network last week. Most recently, Cho had been CNN’s fashion correspondent hosting half-hour specials on the industry.
“I am so thankful for all of the opportunities CNN has given me over the last decade,” Cho tells TVNewser. “I have been given a front row seat to military parades in North Korea, presidential elections and, yes, the Paris runways.”
Cho joined CNN in 2004 after stints at ABC News, affiliate service NewsOne, CNBC, and at local news stations in Tampa and Chicago.
15 Male Korean actors that should get more screen time in Hollywood
As the Hallyu wave gets bigger and bigger, it’s not just idols who are branching out into international markets! For actors, their biggest dream is to act in Hollywood. There are many actors who have started to branch into Hollywood movies, but who can get enough of these Korean hotties? Additionally, there’s also Korean American and other actors who have already established a foothold in Hollywood but they’re not being utilized as much as we would like.
Here is a list of more Koreans we’d like to see more often in Hollywood, in no specific order.
Veteran Pitcher Lim Chang-yong Makes MLB Debut with Cubs
Lim Chang-yong finally made his Major League Baseball debut in a home game against the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday, coming on the Chicago Cubs’ third pitcher in the top of the seventh with one out.
At the age of 37 years, three months, and four days, Lim became the second-oldest player to debut with the club since 1901. He gave up one hit and one walk, but wrapped up the inning with a double play, not conceding any runs in 2/3 innings.
Four Hour Lines at Ramen Burger’s Los Angeles Debut
Saturday morning, ramen lovers and food enthusiasts lined up as early as 6:20 a.m. at Torrance’s Mitsuwa Marketplace to be one of the first to try the newest oddball culinary mashup: the Ramen Burger™. Invented by Keizo Shimamoto and popularized for the last five weeks at Brooklyn’s Smorgasbord weekend food flea market, a mere 500 of the novelty burgers were supposed to be served starting at 11 a.m. Instead, an anxious line of over 800 people encircled the entire building, many for over four hours before getting a chance to grab the neatly wrapped burger.
Inside, just before the line was allowed to descend upon the food stall taken over by Shimamoto’s team, a mass of media rushed to capture the scene and interview staffers on the back story. Jeffrey Shimamoto, Keizo’s brother, seemed to be behind the operation’s business end, with a hint that a longer term presence in L.A. was in the store for the future. There was also a heartfelt moment when Keizo Shimamoto served his mother, who lives in Southern California, a ramen burger for the first time.
Giraffe’s Baby-Making Record Puts Koreans to Shame
Wall Street Journal
A giraffe is putting South Koreans to shame for their ultra-low birthrate.
Jang-soon, a giraffe based at a safari park just outside Seoul set a world record on Sunday after she gave birth to her 18th calf, park operator Samsung Everland said.
Until Sunday, Jang-soon had shared the record of 17 offspring born in a controlled environment with a giraffe named Lamba at Paris zoo, which died in 2005.
Sharon Lee Crafts Chic Wallpaper Inspired by Korean Folk Art
Los Angeles Confidential
After cutting her teeth working for White House interior decorator Michael S. Smith, artist/designer Sharon Lee opted to strike out on her own last year and hasn’t looked back. A Los Angeles native, Lee, 29, turned to her Korean American roots to craft a line of contemporary art—and new home goods—based on elements found in her culture’s folk art, oddly underrepresented in the realm of pan-Asian-inspired works. We caught up with the innovative talent at her home studio in West LA to talk about her new hand-screened wallpaper collection, being a Korean American artist, and what her future in the design world holds.
How did your interest in fine art develop?
SHARON LEE: I have been an artist all my life and have explored every medium under the sun—drawing, painting, photography, sculpture, and ceramics, along with set, costume, jewelry, and interior design. At UCLA School of the Arts I studied with Catherine Opie, under whom I created Dollhouse, a series of large-scale conceptual photographs exploring Asian stereotypes.
What was it like working as a designer for Michael Smith?
SL: It was an incredible experience where I gained a first-rate design education. I was exposed to many innovative designers and artists. When I had the idea to create a wallpaper line based on my artwork and go out on my own, the company was very supportive.
Korean Smokers Turn to Sucking Tobacco
Wall Street Journal
South Korea’s increasing crackdown on smoking appears to be spurring some tobacco fans to turn to a Swedish powder variety.
Steam-cured tobacco pouches known as ‘snus’ have begun appearing around South Korea since earlier this year, with their importers saying they present an alternative less damaging to health.
The moist powdered tobacco is packaged in a teabag-like pouch and is tucked under the upper lip to give off nicotine. Because it is ingested through the gums, advocates say it’s an easy way to quit smoking with no lung cancer risks. But critics, including the World Health Organization, say tobacco in any form poses grave health threats.