North Korea Releases Australian Missionary
Author: Steve Han
Posted: March 3rd, 2014
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North Korea released John Short after detaining the 75-year-old Australian missionary last month on a charge that he spread Bible tracts in Pyongyang, according to CNN.com.

The Australian government said North Korea recently notified it of Short’s release. Short’s wife, Karen, also confirmed that she had been told that her husband is now in Beijing after the North deported him.

“The relevant organ decided to expel him from the territory of the DPRK, thanks to the tolerance of the law of the DPRK and in full consideration of his age,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported Monday. Continue Reading »

North Korea Broadcasts ‘Apology’ of Detained South Korean Missionary
Author: Steve Han
Posted: February 28th, 2014
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Less than two days after the two Koreas held reunions for families divided since the Korean War, North Korea launched a series of short-range missiles and confirmed the arrest of a South Korean Baptist missionary for committing “anti-state crime.”

The North blasted the missiles from its Gitdaeryeong base on the eastern coast on Thursday afternoon amid military exercises being conducted jointly by South Korea and the United States. The four short-range missiles flew over 120 miles and landed in between the Korean peninsula and Japan, according to South Korea’s Defense Ministry.

On the same day, Kim Jong-uk, a 50-year-old South Korean missionary appeared at a government-arranged news conference and said he built underground churches in North Korea with a plan to overthrow its government. Kim apologized for his “criminal acts” and said the South Korean National Intelligence Service instructed him to commit the crime. Continue Reading »

Friday’s Link Attack: North Korea’s Missile Launch; SKorean Birth Rate at All-Time Low; Abuse of Koreans in Japan
Author: Cassandra Kwok
Posted: February 28th, 2014
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5 Things About North Korea’s Latest Missile Launch
Wall Street Journal

1. WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE LAUNCH?
Around 5.42 p.m. local time Thursday, North Korea fired what South Korea initially thought were four KN-02 type short-range missiles with a range of about 160 kilometers into the sea from its launch site in Kittaeryong in the southwest of the country. On Friday, South Korea’s Defense Ministry said the missiles were Scud-type weapons, of which North Korea has a few variants with ranges from 300 km to 700 km. The longer-range types could potentially reach any target in South Korea and western Japan.

2. WHY DID NORTH KOREA FIRE THE MISSILES NOW?
North Korea test fires short-range missiles into the sea a few times a year, usually during military drills. Winter exercises are ongoing in the North. The launches are also seen by officials in Seoul as a protest against military exercises in South Korea. The U.S. and South Korea began their annual drills this week, which will run through April. “With the exercises underway, we see the firings as a calculated, provocative act,” South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said Friday, also noting that a North Korean ship breached the west coast inter-Korean maritime border earlier this week. South Korea doesn’t always publicize military provocations from the North but did give details of missile launches last year around the time of drills in the South.

North Korea condemns Australian judge behind U.N. rights report
Reuters

North Korea on Friday condemned an Australian judge who led a U.N. investigation that concluded that North Korean security chiefs and possibly its leader should face justice for torture and killings comparable to Nazi-era atrocities.

North Korea’s state-run KCNA news agency, citing a pro-North Korean politician from Brazil, said the judge, Michael Kirby, had manipulated evidence at the behest of North Korea’s old enemy, the United States.

“(Kirby’s) mission is to manipulate ‘evidence’ on the orders of Washington, lie about (North) Korea and oppose the republic under an international alliance that is controlled by the United States,” KCNA said.

North Korean state media often uses comment from small, foreign support groups to criticize the United States and South Korea.

North Korea’s human rights atrocities continue, and the world doesn’t act
Boston Globe

CLIVE CROOK, who for many years was a senior editor at The Economist, wrote the other day that he used to think his finest moment at the magazine was in June 2000, when he approved what became one of the most memorable covers in the publication’s history — a photo of North Korea’s ruler Kim Jong Il, “looking wonderfully absurd” as he waved stiffly to an audience. The headline: “Greetings, earthlings.”

Now, having read the new UN report on the Kim regime’s institutionalized barbarity, Crook feels a “pang of shame” at the thought of that cover. North Korea jokes no longer seem so funny.

Indeed. It has been known for years that North Korea is a totalitarian hellhole ruled by megalomaniacs who have turned the country into a vast concentration camp. Millions of North Koreans have died from starvation caused by their government’s deranged policies; millions more have been victimized by its fanatical efforts to repress any hint of independent thought, and by its merciless assaults on human dignity. But the report issued by the UN panel this month, after a year-long investigation that gathered evidence from more than 320 victims and witnesses, paints such an extensive and meticulous portrait of evil that it compares in significance, as the Washington Post observed, to Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s devastating history of the Soviet labor camps, “The Gulag Archipelago.”

Jang Purge Yet to Hurt North Korea-China Trade
Wall Street Journal

When North Korea purged dictator Kim Jong Un’s uncle in December one question raised was whether the move would impact economic ties with China. Jang Song Thaek was seen as a key interlocutor with Beijing and a proponent of business links.

Initial data shows there’s been no immediate negative effect on the trade relationship between the countries.

Trade volume between North Korea and China rose 16% on-year to $546 million in January, according to the Korea International Trade Association, which compiles data based on Chinese customs statistics.

Among the litany of crimes attributed to Mr. Jang before his execution was an accusation that he sold off coal and other resources “at random.” That suggested North Korea would seek to renegotiate export deals with its only big trade partner, China.

Fewer and Fewer Children Born in Korea
Chosun Ilbo

Some 436,600 children were born in Korea last year, the smallest number recorded since 2005, Statistics Korea said on Thursday. Compared to 2012, the number dropped 9.9 percent from 484,550.

The total fertility rate, the number of children that would be born to a woman in her lifetime, stood at 1.19 children last year, even fewer than the 1.3 recorded in 2012.

The number of newborns is likely to drop below 400,000 in 2030 and to below 300,000 range in the 2050s if the trend continues.

Yoon Yeon-ok at Statistics Korea said, “The number of women of peak childbearing age between 29 and 33 declined by 360,000 compared to the previous year, while more women remain single or marry later in life.”

Poor construction blamed for deadly gym collapse: police
GlobalPost

Police on Friday blamed shoddy construction and poor materials for last week’s deadly gymnasium collapse that killed 10 people, mostly college students, and injured 128 others.

The roof of the gymnasium at the Mauna Ocean Resort in Gyeongju, a historical tourist city 370 kilometers southeast of Seoul, caved in on some 560 incoming freshmen of the Busan University of Foreign Studies on Feb. 17 during a welcoming party.

Announcing the interim results of their investigation into the tragedy, officers at the Gyeongju Police Station said that the collapse was the result of overall poor construction and lax management of the building.

Under siege by ultrafine dust
Korea Times

Seen from a subway train crossing a Han River bridge on a morning commute, Seoul remained in a thick fog of fine dust.

On the street, commuters were walking without masks, looking like disarmed soldiers going to war.

Many of them may have regretted listening to the weather forecast about the clouds of dust receding.

Erring on the safe side, they should heed severe yellow sand warnings for March.

3 hurt in vehicle collision north of Esparto
Daily Democrat

A portion of a northern Yolo County road had to be closed Wednesday morning while emergency crews extricated and then lifeflighted a motorist to a hospital following an accident.
The California Highway Patrol reported the accident occurred around 11:30 a.m. on County Road 19, just west of I-505.

Hae Jung Cho, 61, of Millbrae was driving a 2006 BMW X3 on northbound I-505 approaching CR-19, according to the CHP, at the same time Tommy Saeteurn, 29, of Winton was driving a 2002 Acura TL on westbound CR-19, approaching I-505.

Cho exited I-505 at CR-19 and proceeded up the off-ramp to the intersection. However, Cho failed to stop at the stop sign as he made a left turn toward westbound CR-19, and directly into the path of the Acura.

Saeteurn was unable to avoid the BMW, causing the front of the Acura to collide with the right side of the BMW.

‘Son of God’ Courting Korean Americans
Hollywood Reporter

Mark Burnett and Roma Downey are engaged in a full-court press to encourage Korean Christians living in the U.S. to see their upcoming film, Son of God, which has already been the recipient of a big marketing push in the Hispanic community.

LightWorkers Media, the production company founded by Burnett and Downey, recently hosted two screenings of the film with Korean subtitles, and the events attracted 800 influential members of the fast-growing community, including Korean journalists and faith leaders, The Hollywood Reporter learned on Tuesday.

Marketers for Son of God, a film about the life of Jesus based on the TV miniseries The Bible, also have visited at least 20 Korean churches and businesses distributing 3,000 posters and 10,000 flyers advertising the movie, which distributor 20th Century Fox will open wide on Friday.

Director-playwright hopes to jump-start Asian-American theater scene in Philly
philly.com

FOR ALL of the Philly theater universe’s often breathtaking diversity, Asian-American artists and productions are scarce almost to the point of non-existence.

But Rick Shiomi is hoping to change that.

Shiomi is the founder and former longtime guiding light of the St. Paul, Minn.-based Mu Performing Arts, an organization dedicated to Asian-American theater. He is currently in the midst of a part-time, four-month residency funded by a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and presented under the aegis of the Asian Arts Initiative and Center City’s Interact Theatre.

His time here, which began earlier this month, has Shiomi overseeing a series of readings of plays written by Asian-American authors. The works all deal with themes specific to the various cultures under the “Asian-American” umbrella. It’s the first volley in what he hopes will be a successful campaign to bring the local Asian-American community into Philly’s theatrical mainstream.

Huffington Post launches Korean edition
Korea Times

The Huffington Post, an online news site based in the United States, opened a Korean edition of the website (www.huffingtonpost.kr) Friday.

The Korean site is Huffington’s 11th international edition and the second Asian edition. A Japanese edition was launched in May.

The online news provider launched the Korean edition in partnership with Hankyoreh Media Group, a liberal newspaper. The content of the news site, however, will be provided independently from the Hankyoreh by a separate team of editors at the Huffington Post Korea. The editor in chief of the Korean edition is Sohn Mi-na, a freelance travel writer and former announcer on a local news channel.

Korean Skating Union: The ‘Biggest Loser’ in Sochi?
Diplomat

It was South Korea’s Winter Games of Discontent.

Coming off a historic performance at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, South Korea was supposed to assert itself as a winter sports power in Sochi, as it gets ready to host the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang.

Instead, the Korean contingent had the most disastrous Games imaginable. After taking home 14 medals, including six golds from Vancouver, South Korea totaled just eight medals (three golds) in Sochi, finishing 13th in the medal standings. The Wall Street Journal even piled on by naming the nation the biggest loser in terms of last-place finishes.

The raging controversy over Yuna Kim’s loss to Russian figure skater Adelina Sotnikova certainly affected South Korea in the medal standings, with the perception that Kim was robbed of a gold because of nebulous politics. But in the big picture, that merely affected the placement of one medal.

The true cause of South Korea’s downfall in Sochi can be summed up in the loss of one athlete: Viktor Ahn.

Koreans in Japan abused: U.S. report
Korea JoongAng Daily

A U.S. government report released Thursday shed light on social discrimination and harassment against ethnic Koreans in Japan, especially by right-wing civic groups in the midst of the growing anti-Korea sentiment under the nationalist administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The U.S. Department of State on Thursday released its annual report on human rights situations worldwide, titled “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013,” describing human rights violations in each country last year in detail.

In its section on Japan, the report states that entrenched societal discrimination against foreign nationals in the country, particularly against ethnic Koreans, was observed and recorded.

“During the year [2013], ultra right-wing groups held a series of demonstrations in predominantly Korean neighborhoods in Tokyo,” the report said.

Dennis Rodman’s North Korean Adventure to be Made Into Fox-Produced Comedy
Author: James S. Kim
Posted: February 25th, 2014
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Dennis Rodman’s exploits have always drawn a chuckle or groan or both at times, but his latest feat was arguably the most controversial. It is also apparently a comedy gold mine, as Rodman’s “hoops diplomacy” mission to North Korea is getting the silver screen treatment, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

20th Century Fox has bought the rights for Diplomats, which is being described as “a two hander that takes its cues from the antics of the 6-foot-7 former NBA player.” Ride Along director Tim Story will direct, while Peter Chermin is set to produce through his Fox-based Chernin Entertainment, the studio behind The Heat.

Rodman first visited North Korea last year, apparently befriending Kim Jong-un. He returned in January, bringing along a group of former NBA players and organizing a basketball game in Pyongyang. Highlights from the visit include Rodman’s bizarre rendition of “Happy Birthday” and a meltdown in front of the press, which was blamed on alcohol. Continue Reading »

Tuesday’s Link Attack: Korean Reunions End; SKorea Forms Reunification Committee; Michelle Wie Feels Refreshed
Author: Cassandra Kwok
Posted: February 25th, 2014
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Separated Koreans part again in tears with no hope of reunion
Yonhap News

Hundreds of South Korean and North Koreans burst into tears as they bade farewell, perhaps for good, to each other on Tuesday at a North Korean mountain resort after their first reunions since the 1950-53 Korean War.

Some of them sang doleful Korean folk songs as their long-lost relatives from North Korea were told to take buses at the end of their final reunions that lasted only about 50 minutes at Mount Kumgang, a scenic resort on the North’s east coast.

“Brother, brother, how can I live without you?” Park Jong-soon, a 68-year-old South Korean, wailed as she grabbed her 88-year-old North Korean brother’s hand sticking out of a bus window.

As tearful Korean reunions end, more seen unlikely
Washington Post

The 88-year-old North Korean man stretched his arms out the bus window to grasp the hands of his South Korean sister one final time before the end of rare reunions Tuesday between hundreds of family members separated for decades by war and politics.

“Brother, brother, my brother! How can I live without you?” the sister, Park Jong-soon, cried out from the parking lot at the North’s scenic Diamond Mountain resort, according to South Korean media pool reports.

Wiping away tears, Pak Jong Song shouted back: “Stay healthy! We’ll see each other again if we’re healthy.”

South Korea Committee to Prepare for Reunification with North
Voice of America

South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye, has announced a committee to prepare for reunification with North Korea. President Park said unifying with the north would be an economic bonanza, but analysts say the south would face a heavy financial and legal burden.

President Park announced the plans to create a blue print for reuniting South Korea with the North on Tuesday.

In a televised speech marking her first year in office, Park said she would form a preparatory committee directly under the presidential office. She said the committee will expand dialogue and private exchanges with Pyongyang.

N. Korean patrol ship violates sea border amid family reunions
Yonhap News

A North Korean patrol ship violated the tensely guarded western maritime border several times Monday night, but it retreated after repeated South Korean military warnings, Seoul’s defense ministry said Tuesday.

The North Korean vessel crossed the Northern Limit Line (NLL), a de facto maritime border, at around 10:46 p.m. Monday, and sailed to a location about 23.4 kilometers west of South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island in the Yellow Sea.

The ship returned to its territory at around 2:25 a.m. Tuesday after the South Korean military broadcast warnings 10 times, the defense ministry’s spokesman said.

“The North Korean ship’s NLL violation is seen as part of military drills or an inspection of (the South Korean military),” Kim Min-seok said in a briefing. “It is believed that (the North Korean vessel) intended to test the South Korean military.”

Jang Song-taek ‘Killed for Sleazy Past’
Chosun Ilbo

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s uncle was executed chiefly for his role overseeing a thinly disguised prostitution ring for the nomenklatura, the Kim family’s former sushi chef claims.

Kenji Fujimoto claimed Jang Song-taek was eliminated because of his role supplying young women for a “pleasure brigade” for former leader Kim Jong-il, because his son detested his father’s womanizing.

Fujimoto told the U.K.’s Daily Mail on Saturday that when Kim Jong-un returned to North Korea aged 18 from study abroad, he “found himself exposed to his father’s ‘pleasure brigade,’” which are groups of beautiful young women who sing, strip and perform massages or sexual favors.

North Korea Cloaked in Darkness
Wall Street Journal

One of the most stunning—and revealing—photos ever taken of North Korea was a 2002 satellite image of the peninsula at night, shown by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in a Pentagon briefing.

The photo showed the lights of South Korean conurbations, and even large clusters of fishing boats, in stark contrast to an almost entirely black North Korea. Other than a small spot of light in the showcase capital Pyongyang and the outline of the country, North Korea wouldn’t have been visible at all.

“South Korea is filled with lights and energy and vitality and a booming economy; North Korea is dark. It is a tragedy what’s being done in that country,” Mr. Rumsfeld said.

Foreigners with Korean ancestry on rise in S. Korea
Yonhap News via GlobalPost

The number of foreigners in South Korea with Korean ethnic background surpassed the 200,000 mark for the first time last year, thanks in part to increased inflow of ethnic Koreans from China, data showed Monday.

According to the data by the Ministry of Justice, there were 233,269 foreign nationals with Korean ancestry residing in the country in 2013, a 24.3 percent jump from a year earlier.

The figure accounted for 14.8 percent of the total number of foreigners living in South Korea, the data showed.

South Korea’s ‘Running Man’ in Australia
SBS Australia

Cast and crew of popular South Korean variety show Running Man have touched down in Australia to film a Down Under special.

The program, in which contestants are pitted against each other in a race against time to solve a series of physical challenges and puzzles in landmarks and cities, has a strong following in its native South Korea, and has been translated into English, Spanish and Arabic.

The variety show has previously visited countries such as Thailand, Macao and Vietnam but the upcoming Australia special will be the first episode of Running Man that takes place in a country outside of Asia.

S. Korean athletes return home from Sochi
Yonhap News via GlobalPost

South Korean athletes returned home Tuesday after two weeks of thrilling competition at the winter games in the Russian city of Sochi.

South Korea had its largest-ever Winter Olympics delegation, with 71 athletes competing in every sport except hockey.

It ended in 13th place, with three gold medals — one by speed skater Lee Sang-hwa and two by short tracker Park Seung-hi — along with three silver and two bronze medals, coming up just short of its stated goal of winning four gold for a top-10 finish in the medals.

Figure Skating at the Olympics: Justice served
The Economist

THERE’S something about figure skating that makes it a magnet for scandal. Fans of other pastimes can try to get themselves worked up over performance-enhancing drugs, illicit payments to amateurs or team tax fraud. But when it comes to shock value, nothing can compete with the Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding imbroglio or the vote-trading ring at the 2002 Olympics. Judging by commentators’ hyperbolic reaction to the sport’s outrage du jour, Adelina Sotnikova’s victory over Yuna Kim on February 20th at the Winter Olympics, audiences could be forgiven for believing that the upset was a travesty of justice on a par with skating’s worst offences. But what the criticism really demonstrates is that in a discipline whose scoring is inescapably subjective, the media’s appetite for controversy will always trump their obligation to help the public understand what’s really going on in an event that only attracts mass attention once every four years.

Wie’s swing coach says ex-phenom refreshed after winter break
CBS Sports

When do I get the 30 for 30 on Michelle Wie’s career? Do I have to wait until she’s done playing or can we start rolling tape on that thing right away?

Wie finished tied for fourth at the Honda LPGA Thailand tournament on Sunday, after swing coach David Leadbetter said he thinks she’s enjoying golf more than she has in a while.

“I think she fell out of love with the game to an extent,” said Leadbetter. He told Wie to take five weeks over the winter.

“I think it’s the first time since she was 5 years old that she has gone that long without touching a golf club,” Leadbetter said. “We had a little boot camp before the start of this year, and you could see she was really refreshed, really ready to go.”

Kakao to offer money transfers
Korea Times

Kakao, the operator of the country’s most popular messaging application KakaoTalk, will run a test of a money transfer service next month in cooperation with banks, the company’s chief executive said Monday.

“We have been working with banks over the past 12 months to start financial services for KakaoTalk. We are now fine-tuning the details of the business partnership,” co-CEO Lee Sir-goo told The Korea Times Monday (KST) on the sidelines of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona.

Kakao will partner with 16 commercial banks to allow its users to send and receive small amounts of money through the messaging app. For example, they will be able to transfer money gifts for weddings or condolence money for funerals, Lee said.

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