Tag Archives: North Korea

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LINK ATTACK: Ki Hong Lee, Millennials in NKorea, Veterans Day

How Millennials Are Shaking North Korea’s Regime
“My generation, they’re not really worshiping the Kim regime sincerely, just pretending. That’s what we call the black market generation,” Yeonmi Park tells NBC News.

SKorean Province Donates $100K for Jersey City’s Vandalized War Memorial
“The veterans never expected that the Korean people would remember what they fought for 60 years ago, but they do appreciate the sacrifice you guys made,” said Jersey City Councilman Yun.

Maze Runner Star Ki Hong Lee Navigates His Way Through Hollywood
“I feel that the Korean community has my back in terms of what I’ve done and where I’ve come from. I appreciate that very much,” Ki Hong Lee tells The Korea Times.

Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 4.10.39 PMPhoto courtesy of Ki Hong Lee

Korean Laker Girl Sujan Pang: Defying Expectations
Laker Girl Sujan Pang talks to Korea Times about her journey to joining arguably the most prestigious cheerleading squad in the sports world.

Sundance Institute/Asian American Feature Film Fellowship
The Sundance Institute is currently accepting applications from Asian American filmmakers for the Asian American Feature Film Fellowship. Deadline is Dec. 15.

Why “Selfie’s” Cancellation is a Massive Shame: This Was the Most Promising Interracial Couple on TV
““Selfie’s” cancellation is a blow for the movement of Getting John Cho Laid On-Screen — the superficial arm of the larger organization titled Hey TV, Not Everyone Is White, In Case You Hadn’t Noticed.”

selfiePhoto courtesy of ABC/Eric McCandless

A Brief History of Political Collaborations Between Latinos and Asians in America
Hyphen magazine covers the history of longstanding collaborations forged by Latinos and Asians in America.

Starbucks’ Foreigner-friendly Policy on WiFi Upsets Koreans
“Starbucks in Korea has come under criticism from Koreans who have discovered that the coffee giant has been demanding more personal information from Korean customers than foreigners to use its free WiFi service.”

Korean Officials Under Fire After Mentioning a Tax on Being Single
“Would more South Koreans shack up and produce offspring if the government raised the price of being single with a new tax?”

 

Veterans Day Remembrance: America’s ‘First Korean War Bride’ Comes Home
“Crowds cheered excitedly, whistles tooted. Seattle and the U.S. were welcoming the first Korean war bride to arrive in America, Mrs. Johnie Morgan, home with her sergeant husband.”

141110-wayne-miller-korean-bride-01Photo courtesy of Wayne Miller/Magnum

Two Korean Americans Throw in Names for L.A. City Council
“General elections may be over for 26 Korean Americans who ran for office, but for two more political hopefuls — District 4 candidate David Ryu and District 10 candidate Grace Yoo — the race for the Los Angeles City Council in next year’s March 3 election has just begun.”

First Look at the Coming-of-Age Teen Comedy Soul Searching 
“The upcoming indie feature film Seoul Searching is a coming-of-age teen comedy written and directed by Benson Lee. Set in the 1980s, the film is based on Benson’s personal experiences in 1986 at a government-sponsored summer camp for Koreans from around the world to learn about their heritage.”

Northridge Woman Recounts Challenges of Being First Asian-American Woman to Serve in U.S. Navy
“Susan Anh Cuddy was the first Asian-American woman in the U.S. Navy`s Waves program. She joined in 1942 and served during the cold war. Part of her duties included breaking enemy codes.”

5 Asian Authors Who Should Be Taught in Every High School
Audrey Magazine compiles five prominent Asian authors that should be introduced to the American education system.

Featured photo courtesy of Humanrightsfoundation.org

Kenneth Bae

Freed North Korea Detainee Kenneth Bae Focuses on Pizza, Prayer and Family

by DONNA BLANKINSHIP and JOSH LEDERMAN, Associated Press

SEATTLE (AP) — Rest, food and family are on the top of Kenneth Bae’s list since arriving home this weekend after years of imprisonment in North Korea.

His sister said he hasn’t spoken about his ordeal yet, but family and friends reconnected late Saturday night over pizza.

“Our family loves food, so we talked a lot about food,” Terri Chung said Sunday outside her Seattle church. They didn’t ask him a lot of questions. “We mostly wanted to hear from him.”

She said her brother had one stipulation for his first meal back home: No Korean food.

“He said, ‘I don’t want Korean food, that’s all I’ve been eating for the last two years,'” Chung said.

Bae and Matthew Miller, another American who had been held captive in North Korea, landed Saturday night at a Washington state military base after a top U.S. intelligence official secured their release.

“It’s been an amazing two years, I learned a lot, I grew a lot, I lost a lot of weight,” Bae, a Korean-American missionary with health problems, said Saturday night after arriving at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state. Asked how he was feeling, he said, “I’m recovering at this time.”

Bae, surrounded by family members, spoke briefly to the media after the plane carrying him and Miller landed. He thanked President Barack Obama and the people who supported him and his family. He also thanked the North Korean government for releasing him.

Chung said Bae was in better shape when he arrived than his family expected. The family has said he suffers from diabetes, an enlarged heart, liver problems and back pain. He had spent about six weeks in a North Korean hospital before his return, his sister said.

“That helped. As you know, he had gone back and forth between the labor camp and hospital,” she said, adding a doctor checked him on the flight back to the United States.

His plans for the near future include rest, food and reconnecting with friends and family. Neither his wife nor his children could make it back to Seattle in time for Bae’s homecoming, but the whole family plans to gather for Thanksgiving, Chung said.

Chung released a statement Monday, saying Bae wants to spend time with family and friends and will need time to decide what he will do next and where he will live.

Members of Bae’s family, who live near the sprawling military base south of Seattle, met him when he landed Saturday. His mother hugged him after he got off the plane. Miller stepped off the U.S. government aircraft a short time later and also was greeted with hugs.

U.S. officials said Miller of Bakersfield, California, and Bae of Lynnwood, Washington, flew back with James Clapper, the director of national intelligence. Clapper was the highest-ranking American to visit Pyongyang in more than a decade.

Their release was the latest twist in the fitful relationship between the Obama administration and the young North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, whose approach to the U.S. has shifted back and forth from defiance to occasional conciliation.

Bae was serving a 15-year sentence for alleged anti-government activities. He was detained in 2012 while leading a tour group to a North Korea economic zone.

Miller was serving a six-year jail term on charges of espionage after he allegedly ripped up his tourist visa at Pyongyang’s airport in April and demanded asylum. North Korea said Miller had wanted to experience prison life so he could secretly investigate the country’s human rights situation.

Bae and Miller were the last two Americans detained by the reclusive Communist country.

Last month, North Korea released Jeffrey Fowle of Miamisburg, Ohio, who was held for nearly six months. He had left a Bible in a nightclub in the hope that it would reach North Korea’s underground Christian community.

Speaking Sunday, Chung said her brother was enjoying visiting with loved ones.

“He was cut off from all of that for two years,” she said. “His only contacts were his guard, and maybe doctors and a handful of times, the Swedish Embassy.”

Chung said Bae “bears no ill will” over his ordeal and still has warm feelings for the North Korean people. He hasn’t told them many details, and Chung said she remains worried about her brother.

She thanked people around the world for their prayers and government officials and others for advocating for Bae’s release.

“First and foremost we thank God,” Chung said, adding soon afterward: “I have to thank President Obama.”

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Associated Press writers Manuel Valdes, Ken Dilanian, Matthew Pennington, AP Diplomatic Writer Matthew Lee, White House Correspondent Julie Pace, AP writer Nedra Pickler, AP National Security Writer Lara Jakes in Muscat, Oman, and AP writer John Seewer in Toledo, Ohio, contributed to this report.

 

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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North Korean Couples Tie the Knot with Mobile Phones

by REERA YOO

Young North Korean couples are choosing to mark their engagements with mobile phones instead of traditional engagement rings, reports the Daily NK.

According to a woman residing in the North Hamgyung Province, a mobile phone is the most commonly understood sign in North Korea that a young woman is getting married or is in a serious relationship.

 

“In small and medium-size cities, the top-ranking present for people trying the knot is the mobile phone, without questions,” the woman told the Daily NK. “Rings are the second most popular.”

Mobile phones have become a symbol of status and wealth among the younger generation of elites in North Korea as a basic mobile phone can cost as much as one-fifth of the average annual salary, according to the Telegraph.

“Apart from women from affluent families, it’s hard to own a mobile phone if you’re from a poor family or single,” the woman said. “Women have so much to invest in — like household goods, cosmetics and clothes — that it’s hard for them to think about getting one of those devices.”

She added that compared to domestic phones, South Korean handsets were more popular while smartphone were the most sought-after.

According to the Daily NK, the North Korean smartphone Arirang Touch Phone fetches $400 USD. Since 1kg of rice sells for around 6,500 KPW, it’s mainly the upper-middle class citizens who give their partners these phones as engagement gifts.

As of May last year, there are reportedly 2.5 million subscribers to North Korea’s mobile network, meaning that only one out of 12 citizens owns a mobile phone.

Photo courtesy of Roman Harak/Flickr Creative Commons

Kenneth Bae

North Korea Releases Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller

by MARK SHERMAN, Associated Press

The U.S. on Saturday announced the release of the two Americans in North Korean custody after a secret trip to the reclusive communist country by President Barack Obama’s national intelligence director.

“It’s a wonderful day for them and their families,” Obama said at the White House following his announcement of his pick for attorney general. “Obviously we are very grateful for their safe return.”

Matthew Miller of Bakersfield, California, and Kenneth Bae of Lynnwood, Washington, were accompanying James Clapper, the intelligence chief, back to the United States.

Miller was serving a six-year jail term on charges of espionage after he allegedly ripped his tourist visa at Pyongyang’s airport in April and demanded asylum. North Korea said Miller had wanted to experience prison life so that he could secretly investigate North Korea’s human rights situation.

Bae, a Korean American missionary with health problems, was serving a 15-year sentence for alleged anti-government activities. He was detained in 2012 while leading a tour group to a North Korea economic zone.

U.S. officials did not immediately provide other details about the circumstances of the Americans’ release or when they would return home.

Administration officials said the timing of the release was not related to President Barack Obama’s imminent trip to China, Myanmar and Australia.

Clapper traveled to North Korea as a presidential envoy, officials said, and apparently is the highest-ranking administration official to visit Pyongyang.

Obama said he Clapper was “doing a great job on what was obviously a challenging mission.”

Bae and Miller were the last Americans held by North Korea following the release last month of Jeffrey Fowle of Miamisburg, Ohio, who was held for nearly six months. He had left a Bible in a nightclub in the hope that it would reach North Korea’s underground Christian community.

Fowle said his fellow Americans’ release is “an answer to a prayer.” He said he initially thought Bae and Miller had been released with him last month. “I didn’t realize they weren’t released with me until I got on the plane,” he said.

Bae and Miller had told The Associated Press that they believed their only chance of release was the intervention of a high-ranking government official or a senior U.S. statesman. Previously, former Vice President Al Gore and former President Jimmy Carter had gone to North Korea to take detainees home.

The development does not mean a change in U.S. posture regarding North Korea’s disputed nuclear program, and the North still must show it is serious and ready to abide by commitments toward denuclearization and improved human rights, said a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss national security matters.

The official said there was no quid pro quo involved in the Americans’ release.

The U.S. notified allies of Clapper’s trip to North Korea and alerted members of the congressional leadership once his visit was underway, the official said.

Above photo: AP Photo/Wong Maye-E

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AP Diplomatic Writer Matthew Lee, AP White House Correspondent Julie Pace and Associated Press writer John Seewer in Toledo, Ohio, contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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LINK ATTACK: Jamie Chung, Hallyu Beauty Storm, Kim Jong Il’s Former Bodyguard

North Korean Defector: ‘I Was Kim Jong Il’s Bodyguard’
“When Kim Jong Il would arrive in his vehicle, 60- to 70-year old advisors would run away and throw themselves onto the grass. They had dust on their clothes but they wanted to hide from him,” said Lee Young-guk, who was a former body guard to the late Kim Jong Il for 10 years. “They are scared because even when he was happy he would be rude and could chop off their heads.”

Skin Care Products from South Korea Catch on in the United States
Although the beauty market has long been led by European countries, South Korean beauty products are starting to become a popular trend in the States.

Vietnamese Translation Errors Could Affect Prop. 46
“An error in translation for voter materials for Proposition 46, which would require drug and alcohol testing for physicians, could be affecting the way Vietnamese Americans vote on the measure.”

The Super Jamie Chung in Big Hero 6
KoreAm‘s sister publication Audrey Magazine interviews Jamie Chung, the voice actress behind the speed demon GoGo Tomago in Disney’s latest animated film, Big Hero 6. 

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The Odd Friendship Between North Korea and Its First American Surfers
Julie Nelson was one of the first people to ever surf in North Korean waters and led the reclusive country’s first-ever surf camp, which showed North Koreans what a surfboard looks like and even taught some locals on how to swim.

OC Korean American Voter Turnout Increased Twofold Since June
“The number of Orange County Korean American voters who participated in Tuesday’s general elections increased about twofold since June primary elections.”

Son of South Korea Ferry Owner Is Convicted of Stealing Millions
“The eldest son of the South Korean business mogul who controlled the company that ran the Sewol ferry, which sank in April, leaving more than 300 people dead, was convicted of embezzlement on Wednesday and sentenced to three years in prison.”

Asian American Horror Thriller The Unbidden Launches Kickstarter
The Unbidden follows the story of four women haunted by the ghost of a tortured man, who knows their dark secrets from their past and seeks vengeance. Starring an all Asian American cast with Tamilyn Tomita, Julia Nickson, Elizabeth Sung, Amy Hill, Jason Yee and Karin Anna Cheung, this psychological thriller delves into the issue of domestic violence and the morality of retribution.

7 Deadly Spicy Korean Ramens to Try
Think you can handle spicy food? Koreaboo lists seven of Korea’s spiciest instant noodle brands.

South Korean Monk Tends to Souls of Dead Enemy Soldiers
A South Korean Buddhist monk cares for the graves of 769 North Korean soldiers in a forgotten cemetery along the SFXI Highway that runs from Seoul to the barbed wire fences of the demilitarized zone.

Japanese Swimmer Denies Stealing Camera at Asian Games
Naoya Tomita, a Japanese swimmer who was accused of stealing a camera during the Asian Games in South Korea, denied the allegations earlier this week, stating that an unidentified male forcefully put it in his bag.

The Unbelievable Story of a Woman Who Taught North Korea’s Elite Undercover
Suki Kim, an American journalist born in South Korea, talks to Huffington Post about her surreal experience teaching at the all-male Pyongyang University of Science and Technology.

Heard in Seoul: Views on Reunification
Korea Real Time hits the streets of Seoul and asks South Koreans about their thoughts, hopes and concerns for a possible reunification with North Korea.

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A Journey to the Heart of Korean Cheese
“Imsil, in North Jeolla Province, was where Korea’s first cheese was produced in 1964 by Belgian missionary Didier Serstevens, who wanted to bring the community a sustainable income…”

South Korea Tries to Re-brand DMZ as Rare Animal Sanctuary
The South Korean government pushes for the construction of a wildlife sanctuary in the middle of the DMZ as part of a trust-building strategy between the two Koreas.

5 Most Innovative Korean Restaurants in NYC
Korean cuisine has been growing steadily popular among New York foodies. Here are five innovative Korean restaurants in NYC you don’t want to miss.

Stewardess

Photographer Aram Pan Presents a Different Angle to North Korea

by JAMES S. KIM

Most people have never stepped foot inside North Korea, let alone more than once. Singaporean photographer Aram Pan, on the other hand, has made four trips to the “hermit kingdom” so far, armed with his camera to capture images of what is widely considered the most isolated country in the world.

It all started with a bit of personal curiosity. Pan has shot interior and architectural projects for property developers and hotels since 2007, and his specialty is creating 360-degree panoramic virtual tours. One day, Pan decided to contact a few North Koreans about a potential photography project, and to his surprise, they approved the proposal after reviewing his portfolio. He made his first trip to North Korea in August 2013.

Pan’s project, DPRK 360, focuses on engaging North Koreans in a positive, friendly and non-political manner. With every subsequent visit, Pan noticed that the North Koreans were allowing him greater freedom and access to roam and take photographs, which has resulted in stunning photos and 360-degree panoramas of locations most tourists would have a hard time reaching.

Pan spoke via email with KoreAm about DPRK 360 and his experiences in North Korea. Even though the country recently closed its borders to tourists because of Ebola, Pan isn’t worried. He’s already making plans to return multiple times in 2015.

People

When did the opportunity to travel to North Korea first come up? 

Pan: I’ve always been curious about North Korea. So little is known about the country and even less images of them exists. I bet we have more photos of the deep ocean depths and far out galaxies than we have of North Korea.

One day I just decided to try contacting them to see if I could do some kind of photography project in their country. It wasn’t something I thought hard and long about but rather a spur-of-the-moment decision. I figured I’d probably never get a reply or at most, they might send a courtesy reply rejecting the project. I wrote a simple one page proposal with links to some of my works and my contact number. I faxed and emailed various North Korean contacts that you can easily find online and after about a month or so, someone actually called me up and arranged a meeting.

LieutenantThe Senior Lieutenant at the Panmunjom Joint Security Area is intrigued by Pan’s 360 panoramas.

GuidesPan’s North Korean guides during his September 2014 visit. Note the matching socialist fashion accessories.

I presented my portfolio and they said OK, you can do your project. Just like that, I got approval. The next step was to look for funding. For this project to grow long term, I decided to look for travel agencies specializing in North Korean tours who were willing to work together and look beyond just making money out of running trips into DPRK. I needed sponsors who had a sincere desire to help North Korea open up to the rest of the world.

I soon realized it wasn’t going to be easy getting different companies to become “team players” in a greater goal. Fortunately. I managed to find 3 different companies with an amazing love for the North Korean people. Closest to home is Universal Travel Corporation form Singapore, next is DPR Korea Tourism from Malaysia and finally, Juche Travel Services based in the United Kingdom. Three completely different companies, all marketing tours to North Korea have come together to sponsor my trips.

To date, I have made 4 trips into North Korea since August 2013. I’m planning more trips for 2015 to cover more areas. I’m still looking for team players out there who see that this is a grassroots attempt to reach out to the North Koreans. We believe that North Koreans need positive engagement in a friendly and non-political manner. This project is still in it’s infancy but already, the North Koreans are beginning to grant us greater and greater access to let us take a closer look into their lives.

“We believe that North Koreans need positive engagement in a friendly and non-political manner.”

 

BikePan said he was making funny faces at this girl as his car drove by their bike. All he got in return was a perplexed expression.

Besides your projects about North Korea, what other subjects do you cover as a photographer?

I’ve been shooting interior and architectural projects for property developers and hotels since 2007. My specialty is creating 360 degree virtual tours, so naturally I’m building an online catalogue of 360 degree panoramas around North Korea. I’ve created virtual tours in Greece and Israel for a travel company a couple of years ago, and I’ll be heading to Turkey and Israel from Nov. 5-22 for a commercial photo shoot for another travel agency (unrelated to any of the above mentioned). I’ll be covering places of historical and archaeological interest in my November tour.

When did you form the idea for your DPRK 360 project? Has the mission of the project changed at all since then?

Well, originally, the intention really was just to satisfy my own curiosity. But the moment the North Koreans approved my project, I realized that I had been given the opportunity to make a difference. I wondered, could it be possible for one man to have a positive effect on the destiny of a nation?

I decided I had to rise up to the challenge and take this project very seriously. The project evolved from just taking photos to trying to understand them and now, I’m figuring out what other ways can I develop avenues for more human interaction. I’ve got some concepts in mind for 2015, but I’m still developing them with my sponsors so I can’t reveal the plans I have yet.

Fields

Farm 1

What did you expect from the first time you visited North Korea? How have your expectations changed since then?

For my first visit, I decided that I would make absolutely no requests. I wanted to first listen to what they have to say and to see whatever they had to show me. As expected, my first visit produced a lot of images covering their monuments and their achievements. However for my second trip, things changed dramatically as I was granted a free-and-easy trip with no itinerary or schedule.

Is the itinerary given to you before you arrive in North Korea, or is it given to you upon arrival/when you’re about to head out?

My first visit to North Korea, we stuck to the standard tour itinerary. There was only one instance where we passed by a beach and I asked if we could just stop to have a look at the locals. However, for my second trip, there was absolutely no schedule. They would start each day asking me what I wanted to do and we would go do it. It was a refreshing change and did stuff I wanted to do instead of the visiting the usual tourists spots. I also got my first chance to just walk around the city late into the night. Some of the more notable stuff I did was go swimming with the locals, have my hair cut at an old school barbershop and visit a local trade show.

For my third trip, I followed a special aviation tour conducted by Juche Travel. The highlights of this tour were the joyrides on several Soviet-era planes still being used in North Korea. However, I did request to slip away from the main tour to do a couple of other stuff on my own.

I roamed the city streets and had some street food and even went to see a local fashion show.

My fourth trip was to try and capture some autumn colors. I wasn’t too successful with that as nature works on its own schedule, and since there wasn’t any itinerary planned, I decided to check out some other places like the Masikryong Ski Resort. The North Koreans preferred me to visit the place in winter when there’s snow and it’s fully operational but they still let me visit the place anyway.

Ski Resort 1

Ski Resort 3

Ski Resort 5

What are some little details that you’ve noticed in North Korean society that are overlooked in mainstream discourse? 

There is so much about the North Koreans that I’ve only begun to scratch the surface. I notice that women’s fashion is evolving. I personally believe their women of this generation is being empowered to dress up. Their fashion are getting brighter and bolder in colors and it’s reaching out even into the rural areas.

Fashion 1A model from the 12th Pyongyang Fashion Exhibition.

One completely overlooked aspect is intimacy. North Koreans don’t readily practice public shows of affection, but it exists. Catching it on camera is the hardest part. The quick arm around the waist or the lean on the shoulder; everything lasts just seconds.

I did manage to get one such shot, which to me is priceless and redefines the North Korean man. It was a glaring sunny day in Pyongyang and I was crossing the road, suddenly I noticed a woman reach out and hold her man’s arm. That would have been a great shot by itself. He then did something a little extra, he helped her carry her purse. They were crossing the road towards me and I didn’t know if holding up the camera would get their attention and possibly ruin the moment. I decided to casually hold my camera at chest level and fire off my Nikon D810 in burst mode without aiming. Thank goodness I managed one single good shot.

Man Woman 2

Man Woman 1

Is there any city you could compare Pyongyang to? What are the most unique aspects of the city?

There is absolutely no comparison to any other city on earth. It’s like an alternate reality to me. It’s unusual to not see any advertisements in the city. I’m so used to being saturated by advertising posters, large panel displays touting the latest products and piped in radio telling me there’s a sale somewhere right now.

The other thing is the whole imagery of Pyongyang. The buildings, public transport and people all look like they hail from yesteryear. You may think that everything that old is probably run down and in shambles but they are incredibly well-maintained. That really lends to the feeling that I’ve time-travelled.

Women 1

Women

Are there any North Koreans you remember in particular?

There’s the farmer whose home we visited. My guides originally brought me to a see a model home in Pyongyang, but upon my request, we drove out to the countryside and randomly knocked on doors until we came to a house that someone was at home.

The farmer welcomed me warmly and immediately proceeded to tidy up the place. I had to stop him because I wanted to capture the “essence” of his home. He said it was discourteous to present his home to a guest in a messy manner so I let him tidy up a bit more. When I told him I liked “messy,” he laughed. Here are the photos of his home.

Farmer 1

Farmer 4

Farmer 5

What is the most fascinating thing you’ve seen and/or recorded in your photos?

That would have to be the Arirang Mass Games performances I saw in 2013. Watching 100,000 performers execute everything to incredible precision was mind blowing. So many things were happening at once there was no way to capture it all in one sitting. I had hoped to see it again in 2014 but the stadium is undergoing major renovations this year.

Mass Games 1
Mass Games 5
Mass Games 2

In future visits to North Korea, what other places would you like to visit? Who else would you like to meet?

Well, I would definitely like to see and photograph a live performance by their Moranbong Band. They are the North Korean-equivalent of our pop groups. It would be even better if I could meet them in person.

I would also like to try more of their street food. Foreigners are always brought to eat at the local restaurants, and that can get boring real quickly. I did manage to finally eat at a roadside food stall after constantly nagging my guide, almost driving her insane. I couldn’t pay for the regular local food because they transacted solely in NK Won so my guide paid for my food just to shut me up. I’ll likely try to nag the guide again the next time I visit.

You mentioned that it took a lot of time to develop the trust between you and North Koreans. What opportunities do you think comes with this relationship?

They are beginning to understand what I’m trying to do. I’m not here to pass judgment or to focus on political issues. I merely want to try to understand what they are all about. I believe that over time, they will show me more and more stuff about what it means to be North Korean. I strongly believe that what I’m doing is paving the way for a peaceful option for them to open up to the world. The results won’t be immediate, but lets take it one step at a time.

Children

“I strongly believe that what I’m doing is paving the way for a peaceful option for them to open up to the world.”

 

Couple

In regards to the North Korean folk song, “White Dove Fly High,” when did you come across the song, and why did you choose the dove as the symbol for the DPRK 360 project?

When the North Koreans unexpectedly approved my project, I had to quickly come up with some kind of symbol that would represent my project. I automatically thought of a dove as that, to me was the universal symbol of peace. I did a google search with the worlds “North Korea” and “dove” hoping to find some inspiration for a logo design.

I was clicking through the different category tabs in Google search when I came to the video search section. Right at the first result, a video immediately caught my eye. It was a song sung by an American group, Casting Crowns that performed in North Korea in 2007. It was such a hauntingly beautiful song that I had goosebumps all over my body. I couldn’t shake that song out of my head for days after that. I searched other versions of the song title and discovered that it was originally a North Korean folk song. I decided to use the lyrics of that song in the homepage of my project because I feel it’s really the heart’s cry of everyone out there who is sick and tired of wars, and I hope that the spirit of the white dove will come and bring a lasting peace.

You can see more of Pan’s work on DPRK 360’s Facebook page, or on the DPRK 360 website. Check out a few of Pan’s panoramas below:

– Paektu Mountain

– Lake Samilpo

– Galma Beach

– Munsu Water Park

Images and videos courtesy of Aram Pan/DPRK 360.

Kim Pumpkin

All Hail the Pumpkin King, Kim Jong-un

by JAMES S. KIM

What’s big, round, weighs 374 lbs and looks like Kim Jong-un?

Why, it’s a giant celebrity pumpkin created by noted “pumpkinizer” Jeannette Paras, of course! Unlike most other pumpkin enthusiasts, who mutilate orange flesh for their creations, Paras paints her pumpkins in likenesses of celebrities. She’s been doing this since 1988, and her portfolio includes Miley Cyrus, President Obama, Prince Harry, Santa Claus, Kanye West and the Hulk.

You can check out all of Paras’s creations at her Facebook page, Paras Pumpkins.

Image via Paras Pumpkins

kim-jong-un-cane

The Mystery of Kim Jong-un’s Disappearance May Be Solved

by REERA YOO

South Korea’s spy agency claimed Tuesday that it has solved the mystery behind Kim Jong-un’s six-week public absence, reported Yonhap.

The National Intelligence Service (NIS) told legislators in a closed-door briefing that Kim underwent an operation between September and October to remove a cyst from his right ankle, according to Lee Cheol-woo of the ruling Saenuri party and Shin Kyong-min of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy.

“Give his obesity and excessive activities, the trouble could recur despite the surgery, said Lee, referring to Kim’s frequent inspection tours of military units, factories and construction sites.

The NIS added that a European doctor was specially invited into the communist country to perform the operation.

North Korea has a long-standing relationship with a small group of French doctors, according to the New York Times. These doctors have previously treated top North Korean officials and have even treated Kim’s father, Kim Jong-il.

After disappearing from public view on Sept. 3, Kim reappeared on Oct. 14, supporting himself with a cane, ending wild speculations about Kim’s critical illness and a possible military coup.

The NIS also disclosed that North Korea has expanded five of its political prisoner camps, including the Yodok camp, said Lim Dae-seong, Lee’s aide who also attended the briefing.

Lim added that the NIS also believes that North Korea recently executed several people who had been close to Kim’s uncle, Jang Song-thaek, who was suddenly executed in December 2013 for treason.