Tag Archives: North Korea

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Steven Yeun To Adapt And Star In ‘The Aquariums of Pyongyang’

by RUTH KIM

In addition to killing off zombies in the post-apocalyptic world of The Walking Dead, actor Steven Yeun will take on a new role as North Korea defector Kang Chol-Hwan in a film adaptation of The Aquariums of Pyongyang.

Teaming up with Radar Pictures, Yeun will also executive produce the film, collaborating with producers Ted Field, Mike Weber, and Michael Napoliello, in partnership with Sean Lee, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

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Based on true events, The Aquariums of Pyongyang is Kang Chol-Hwan’s memoir. It was originally published in French in 2000, and later translated to English and Korean. Set in North Korea during the Korean War, Aquariums illustrates the stark contrast between the right-wing government of the South and the extreme communist stronghold of the North Korean powers. The story details the lives of Kang and his family members, suspected to be dissidents during their imprisonment at the Yodok concentration camp #2915. Over a period of 10 years, they suffered through starvation, torture, disease and public execution.

Kang’s memoir is one of the first published accounts that reveal the harsh reality of the North Korean prison system. Blending elements of horror, history, narrative, and politics, Aquariums reveals mankind’s resolve to triumph over unimaginable hardships.

Aside from Aquariums, Yeun has other projects in the works, including a role in I Origins and working as the lead voice over in the animated adaptation of Chew by John Layman and Rob Guillory.

Photo via The Hollywood Reporter

NKorean Building Collapses, Death Toll Believed To Be In The Hundreds

Hundreds of North Koreans may have died in a building accident after a 23-story apartment complex housing reportedly collapsed on May 13 due to slipshod construction.

North Korean officials issued an apology Sunday via the state-run Korean Central News Agency, taking responsibility for the collapse of the building in Pyongyang. An apology is extremely rare for the hermit nation which has total control over the information that’s available to its citizens, most of whom have no access to the internet.

KCNA, which virtually operates for the sole purpose of glorifying the communist regime, expressed its “profound consolation” for the tragedy and also heavily criticized Choe Pu Il, the minister of people’s security. The agency called Choe “can never be pardoned” for his crime and added that the country’s leader Kim Jong Un “sat up all night” in grief.

Although no photos of the accident site were published, Sunday’s newspaper showed an official bowing to a crowd of people in apology.

Attributing an anonymous report, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported that the collapsed apartment complex wasn’t complete, but that it is not unusual in North Korea for people to move into a building while construction is underway.

North Korea didn’t issue a death toll, but because North Koreans generally have families of four and 92 families reportedly resided in the building, hundreds are believed to have died in the accident. An “intensive” rescue operation was launched after the accident, which ended Saturday, according to the North.

Those who defected North Korea in recent years say that construction accidents aren’t uncommon in labor sites located outside Pyongyang, but a collapse of a residential complex in the capital city is rare. Pyongyang is available exclusively to the country’s “loyal” class as its limited resources are pulled to decorate the city as the showpiece of the communist regime.

The recent tragedy in Pyongyang occurred while North Korea has been criticizing South Korea for its response to a capsized ferry which contained more than 300 people who are either confirmed dead or still missing.

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Dennis Rodman Says NKorean Leader’s Uncle Is Still Alive

Photo by Alexander F. Yuan/AP

Eccentric former basketball star Dennis Rodman says North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s right-hand man and uncle, who was reportedly executed, is still alive.

In an interview with fashion and culture magazine DuJour, Rodman said that Kim didn’t execute his uncle, Jang Song-thaek, and that he even met him during his latest trip to the communist country in January. North Korea’s state-run media confirmed last December that Jang was executed for his “anti-state acts.”

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“You could say anything here about North Korea and people would believe it,” Rodman said. “The last time I went there, when they said they killed his girlfriend, they killed his uncle, they just fed him to the dogs … They were standing right behind me.”

 

When asked to clarify, Rodman repeated, “He was standing right there.”

The 52-year-old developed a friendship with Kim when he first visited Pyongyang last year. He has made several trips to the secretive state since and even took a group of retired NBA players there. They hosted an exhibition game earlier this year for Kim’s birthday. Rodman even sang “Happy Birthday” to Kim.

Kim reportedly became an avid fan of basketball and the Chicago Bulls as he grew up watching Rodman win three NBA titles alongside Michael Jordan in the 1990s when he was studying abroad in Switzerland.

Rodman added that the North Korean leader, whom he calls his “lifelong friend,” is eager to speak to U.S. President Barack Obama and that he “loves Americans.”

“He really, really wants to talk to Obama. He can’t say it enough,” Rodman said. “He’s saying that he doesn’t want to bomb anybody. He said, ‘I don’t want to kill Americans.’ He loves Americans.”

This isn’t the first time Rodman stirred controversy with an unexpected comment about North Korea. In January, he told CNN that North Korea shouldn’t be blamed for detaining Kenneth Bae, a Korean American man who has been imprisoned in the country for over a year.

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North Korea Unveils No. 2 Man To Replace Leader’s Executed Uncle

North Korea has named Hwang Pyong-so as the de facto No. 2 man in charge and replacement for leader Kim Jong-un’s executed uncle, Jang Song-thaek who was purged last December.

KCNA, North Korea’s state-run media, reported that Hwang is the newly appointed head of the army’s political department and will serve as the second-in-command in North Korea after Kim.

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It was previously believed that Choe Ryong-hae, not Hwang, would assume the role of the communist regime’s unofficial No. 2 after he became the vice chairman of the National Defense Commission following the execution of Jang, who was once a political mentor of Kim Jong-un.

However, Choe disappeared from public sight in recent months, which prompted rumors that he has lost his trust of the leader. But KCNA reported he is suffering from serious health problems.

Just days before the newly announced appointment, Hwang was promoted to the rank of vice marshal, a rank shared with Choe and four others.

Hwang’s appointment is the latest in an ongoing leadership reshuffling in North Korea. In February, North Korea promoted a number of key military officials, including the chief of its rocket unit, a department that oversees and operates the country’s missile program.

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North Korea Detains American Tourist

Airport in Pyongyang, North Korea

North Korea has detained a 24-year-old American tourist who allegedly sought asylum upon his arrival in the country on a tourist visa, according to Reuters.

The man, identified as Miller Matthew Todd, arrived in Pyongyang on April 10 when he was arrested for his “rash behavior,” reported KCNA, North Korea’s state-run news agency. He reportedly tore his tourist visa into pieces and shouted that he “came to the DPRK after choosing it as a shelter,” which is “a gross violation of [North Korea's] legal order,” the news agency said.

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Though identified as Miller Matthew Todd, it’s possible that KCNA used the Korean convention of putting the last name ahead of the first name. If that’s the case, the man’s name could be Matthew Todd Miller.

The U.S. has no diplomatic relations with North Korea, so the State Department has been communicating with the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang, after learning that a U.S. citizen had been detained.

“We don’t have additional information to share at this time,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said at a regular press briefing.

Meanwhile, Korean American Kenneth Bae is still being held in North Korea for over a year now. The missionary was arrested in November of 2012, and was later sentenced to 15 years of hard labor on a charge of state subversion.

A 75-year-old Australian missionary, John Short, was also arrested in February for distributing bible tracts at a Buddhist temple in Pyongyang, but was freed last month. North Korea said it released Short, partly in consideration of his age after issuing a picture of a handwritten apology letter which it said was written by the Australian. Before him, U.S. citizen Merrill Newman, an 85-year-old Korean War veteran, was detained in North Korea for 42 days last year, during which time he said he was coerced into confessing to “war crimes.” Pyongyang cited his age and a heart condition as reasons for his release.

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SKorean Ferry: Search at Difficult Stage, NKorea Sends Condolences

Image via NoCut News: A table set by the families of the South Korean ferry victims

Hopes of finding survivors from the capsized South Korean ferry are dwindling as the death toll reached 159 as of 9 a.m. PST on Wednesday, according to Yonhap News Agency.

As the tragedy reached its one-week mark, 140 people are still missing as divers continue searching through cold and murky waters. Most of the victims were students from Danwon High School who were on a four-day field trip to South Korea’s Jeju Island.

Authorities told the Associated Press that the search operation has now reached a difficult stage of having to break down cabin walls in order to get to certain parts of the ship, where many of the missing are believed to be. They are reluctant to start a “salvage” operation, essentially searching for corpses, trying to be sensitive to families of the missing, some of whom still hold on to hope of finding survivors.

However, other families of the missing want the government at this point to do whatever they can to bring back bodies before they decompose even more.

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“It inflicts a new wound for the parents to see the bodies decomposed,” Pyun Yong-gi, whose 17-year-old daughter is among the missing, told AP.

Many of the retrieved bodies reportedly have had broken fingers, presumably from victims attempting to climb the walls to escape as the ferry was sinking.

“We are trained for hostile environments, but it’s hard to be brave when we meet bodies in dark water,” Hwang Dae-sik, one of the search divers, told Reuters.

It is still unclear what caused the ship to capsize. Investigators are looking at factors, such as wind, ocean currents, freight, modifications made to the ship and the fact that it turned just before it began listing, according to AP. Tracking data indicated that the ship made a 45-degree turn, AP reported, and that it turned 180 degrees in the course of three minutes around the period that the ferry began to list.

The vessel’s captain, Lee Joon-seok, who was reportedly among the first to escape, and at least eight other crew members have been arrested on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need. Investigators have also searched the offices of Chongjaejin Marine, the ferry’s operator.

Meanwhile, North Korea joined many other foreign governments in offering its condolences in a message sent recently through the two Korea’s Red Cross organizations. “North Korea expresses its deep condolences to many passengers who died or went missing after the ferry Sewol capsized, especially the young students,” the message from North Korea read, according to the JoongAng Ilbo.

Pyongyang stayed silent for a week after the ferry Sewol sunk on April 16 near the island of Jindo, off of the Korean peninsula’s southeastern coast. The last time one of the two Koreas sent its condolences to another was in December 2011, when the South sent its sympathies to the North over the death of its leader Kim Jong-il, the father of current leader Kim Jong-un.

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Monday’s Link Attack: SKorean Credit Card Breach; LPGA Pro Called Jenner’s ‘Mystery Woman’; Pyongyang Marathon Hosts Foreign Tourists

Hurst laughs off being called Jenner ‘mystery woman’
NBC Golf Channel

LPGA pro Vicky Hurst unwittingly became “the mystery woman” hugging Bruce Jenner when paparazzi captured them outside a Chipotle restaurant Friday in Malibu, Calif.

The story ran under this headline in the British Daily Mail’s online edition: “Bruce Jenner wears wedding band on right hand embracing mystery woman in Malibu.”

Jenner, the decathlon gold medalist in the ’76 Olympics, is married to Kris Jenner, previously Kris Kardashian, mother to the Kardashian siblings of reality TV fame. Celebrity news sites have been abuzz over the separation and now reports of a possible reconciliation of the couple.

Citigroup Says Client Data Leaked at Korean Consumer Credit Unit

Bloomberg

Citigroup Inc. (C:US) and Industrial Bank of Korea (024110) said client information was leaked from their South Korean leasing and consumer credit units, the latest instances of data breaches at financial firms in the country.

Authorities found 17,000 instances of leaks of information including names and phone numbers, Citigroup Korea Inc. said in an e-mailed reply to Bloomberg News questionstoday. The company was informed of the breaches by the prosecutors’ office in February, it said. The same number of leaks occurred at Industrial Bank of Korea’s IBK Capital Corp., company official Shin Dong Min said by phone from Seoul, declining to elaborate.

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N. Korea blasts reunification offer as ‘psychopath’s daydream’
Yahoo

North Korea on Saturday blasted South Korean President Park Geun-Hye’s proposal on laying the groundwork for reunification through economic exchanges and humanitarian aid as the “daydream of a psychopath”.

The blistering attack from the North’s powerful National Defence Commission (NDC) was the first official reaction from Pyongyang to a proposal Park made in a speech last month in Dresden in the former East Germany.

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North Korea Marathon Opens Pyongyang Streets to Foreign Tourists

NBC News

Pyongyang was filled with runners from all over the world on Sunday for the annual marathon, open to foreign amateurs for the first time.

Nancy Q: Wie finds way to make odd putting stroke work
The Tennessean

The putting stroke is the one skill that can take on a totally different look from one player to the next. That has never been more evident then when watching the putting style of LPGA Tour player Michelle Wie.

Two years ago I witnessed Wie putting at the Navistar Classic. I was very surprised at how “bent over” she was in her setup. So was every other golf instructor and golf critic in the country! In an interview that week, I heard her say she was the one who decided on that putting style, not David Leadbetter, her teacher of many years.

Learning in reverse brought Kogi chef Roy Choi to the top
LA Times

All roads lead back to the Kogi truck.
“It’s like my ‘Sweet Caroline’ and I’m Neil Diamond,” Roy Choi said. “I’ll never be able to outlive Kogi. Kogi is a beast.”
The chef was attempting to articulate what spawning that marvel of Korean barbecued ribs enveloped in tortillas has meant to him in front of a crowd at the 19th-annual L.A. Times Festival of Books. The sprawling two-day event at USC features readings, screenings, musical performances and cooking demonstrations.

The kimchi revolution: How Korean-American chefs are changing food culture
Salon

In a recent interview with food writer Michael Ruhlman, celebrity travel/food writer Anthony Bourdain said that “when you look at all the people who are sort of driving American cuisine right now, they’re all Korean American.” By “all,” he mostly meant “both,” since his list boiled down to two: David Chang and Roy Choi.

Roy Choi is best known as the L.A. Korean taco truck guy, and David Chang is the founder of the Momofuku restaurant group as well as the cult food publication “Lucky Peach.” Bourdain probably intended to mention Edward Lee in this interview as well, insofar as he’d praised Lee’s cookbook, “Smoke and Pickles,” by calling him one of “America’s most important young chefs.”

World Bank’s Kim urges SA to cut red tape around investment
Business Day

WORLD Bank president Jim Yong Kim says countries such as India, South Africa and others in Africa with massive infrastructure programmes should limit red tape to make it easier for investors to bring in the billions of dollars such large projects require.

He was speaking on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) spring meetings on Thursday.

The South African government plans to invest more than R800bn over the next three years on energy, road, rail, school and municipal infrastructure and has called on the private sector to participate. It has identified infrastructure development as one of the areas that can create jobs and provide skills for millions of unemployed people.

Out of the blue
Economist

FORAGING in South Korea’s mountains may soon become more fruitful. Since a wild ginseng digger reported the wreckage of a small unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) on April 3rd, the South’s ministry of defence has been ruminating on rewards for anyone who spots an enemy drone. The report followed the discovery of two other similar aircraft: on March 24th in Paju, a border city; and on March 31st on Baengnyeong island, near the disputed Northern Limit Line which demarcates the two Koreas’ maritime border. North Korean inscriptions on the planes’ batteries; an ongoing military investigation into their engines, fuel tanks and weight; and the sequence of the photographs found stored in one of the plane’s cameras suggest the drones were sent from North Korea. For others, their sky-blue camouflage paintwork, identical to that on larger drones paraded in the capital Pyongyang two years ago, was a giveaway.

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NKorea to Consider Broadcasting ‘Teletubbies,’ ‘Top Gear,’ ‘Doctor Who’

Image via Reddit

The Doctor has traveled to the ends of the universe across time and space, but even he hasn’t been to North Korea. That may be about to change, however, as Pyongyang is in talks with the BBC to bring three of its most popular programs to North Korean viewers: Doctor WhoTop Gear and Teletubbies.

The BBC began an initiative last year to come up with a list of programs that North Korea could consider airing, according to The Independent. Foreign Secretary William Hague said it would be “a good way to improve understanding about the outside world within such a closed society.”

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Negotiations apparently didn’t go smoothly, as it took the North Korean delegation months to select the three shows. The BBC now awaits approval from Pyongyang.

It may prove to be a challenge to fit the programs into North Korea’s television schedule. The state broadcaster, Korean Central Television, is only on air for six-and-a-half hours every night, with a third of the time going to praising the government, while another third goes to telling citizens to work harder for the affection of their Dear Leader. Their weekly primetime slots go to It’s So Funny, a long-running slapstick comedy show featuring two uniformed soldiers, and Kim Jong-un’s weekly lectures.

Images via BBC

The programs will also likely undergo heavy editing to remove any improper elements. One possible idea that KoreAm, and apparently others on the Internet, have been tossing around: replacing the famous baby in the sun on the popular children’s show Teletubbies with a smiling likeness of the Dear Leader.

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