Tag Archives: North Korea


Kim Jong-un’s Sister May Visit South Korea

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

North Korea has offered to send Kim Jong-un’s younger sister as an envoy to a Seoul food festival in March, an organizer told Reuters on Thursday.

The Association for South-North Economic Cooperation, a private South Korean business group with ties in the North, submitted an application to South Korea’s Unification Ministry for the joint festival, according to the Korea Economic Daily. The group claims that its North Korean counterparts provided them a list of officials to participate in the event, and Kim Yo-jong was listed as a participant.

However, there is some skepticism over the group’s application. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Unification Ministry said it could not “confirm the existence of the North Korean entity” and noted inconsistencies in the association’s proposal, including Kim’s official position in the communist state.

Kim, who is presumed to be 27, was identified by North Korea’s state media last month as the vice department director of the ruling party’s central committee, but the South Korean association’s application named her as the director.

The group was also not listed in business directories and its website could not be found on Naver, South Korea’s leading search engine. In addition, North Korea had not mentioned Kim’s visit through its state media.

The food festival is scheduled for March and is set to celebrate the Korean peninsula’s 70th anniversary of independence from Japanese colonial rule, said the organizers.

If Kim is approved to attend the event, then it would mark the first visit made by an immediate member of North Korea’s ruling family.

Photo courtesy of Wikitree

christmas structure korea AFP KIM JAE-MYUNG

South Korea to Rebuild Christmas Tower Despite North Korea’s Threats

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

The South Korean Defense Ministry announced on Tuesday that it will allow a Christian group to rebuild the Christmas tower near the inter-Korean border, infuriating North Korea, which had threatened to fire artillery at the old tower that once stood in the same spot.

In October, the South Korean military dismantled the 1970’s steel tower due to safety concerns for tourists. According to the New York Times, tests showed that the 59-foot structure had become unstable and dangerous, especially with the giant rusted cross sitting on top of the “tree.”

Conservative Christian groups and anti-North Korea activists, however, soon protested the dismantlement, accusing the government of caving into pressure from Pyongyang. The Christian Council of Korea (CCK) also began campaigning for a new tower to replace the old tower.

For decades, the tower had stood on a hilltop west of Seoul and just a few miles away from the North Korean town of Kaesong. During the holiday season, it had been lit with Christmas lights, which can be seen across the border.

North Korea, which forbids religious activities, frequently protested against the tower’s lights, calling them a tool for “psychological warfare.” When South Korea’s Defense Ministry accepted CCK’s request for a new tower on Tuesday, North Korea fired another round of protests, saying that the tower “is not just a means for religious events but a symbol of madcap confrontation racket for escalating tensions.”

In response, the Defense Ministry’s spokesman Kim Min-seok said, “We accepted the request to protect religious activities and to honor the group’s wish to illuminate the tower in hopes of peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

The new tower will be installed by the CCK and will be illuminated from Dec. 23 to Jan. 6.

Photo courtesy of Kim Jae-Myung, AFP.


North Korea Refuses to Deny Hacking Sony Pictures

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

New evidence suggests that North Korea may have been behind the cyber-attack that crippled Sony Pictures last week. The tools the hackers used are very similar to those used to attack South Korean television stations and ATMs in 2013, according to the Wall Street Journal.

North Korea was one of the initial suspects in the hacking, which disabled the Sony Pictures computer network and forced employees to work with their cellphones, pen and paper. Before screens went dark, they displayed a red skull and the phrase “Hacked By #GOP,” which reportedly stands for “Guardians of Peace.” A message also threatened to release sensitive data stolen from Sony servers if certain demands were not met.

The threat apparently didn’t include five Sony movies, including Fury and the unreleased Annie, as they were leaked to torrent sites over the weekend. Investigators and Sony executives have assumed the leaks were connected to the attack, although there is no evidence of that yet.

So far, North Korea has refused to deny their involvement in light of what has only been circumstantial evidence. BBC News reported that when asked, a North Korean spokesman for the government replied, “Wait and see.”

If North Korea is indeed behind the attacks, the Verge noted, it would be the first time a Hollywood studio has come under attack from a foreign power.

Investigators believe that Sony’s upcoming movie, The Interview, would explain a connection to North Korea. The comedy film that involves two journalists (James Franco and Seth Rogen) on a mission for the CIA to assassinate Kim Jong-un (Randall Park). North Korea has not held back in expressing their distaste over the film. Back in June, a Foreign Ministry spokesman promised a “merciless counter-measure” if The Interview becomes released and also denounced the movie as “the most undisguised terrorism.”

The Interview

“A film about the assassination of a foreign leader mirrors what the U.S. has done in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Ukraine,” read a statement by Kim Myong-chol, North Korea’s executive director of the Center for North Korea-U.S. Peace. “And let us not forget who killed [John F.] Kennedy—Americans.”

In the statements from the hacking group behind the attacks, the Verge found that one of the recent messages singled out The Interview in a similar manner:

“Our aim is not at the film The Interview as Sony Pictures suggests. But it is widely reported as if our activity is related to The Interview. This shows how dangerous film The Interview is. The Interview is very dangerous enough to cause a massive hack attack. Sony Pictures produced the film harming the regional peace and security and violating human rights for money. The news with The Interview fully acquaints us with the crimes of Sony Pictures. Like this, their activity is contrary to our philosophy. We struggle to fight against such greed of Sony Pictures.”

Another portion of the message reads, “We won’t give up this attack unless Sony Pictures collapse to the end.”

theinterview01Randall Park as Kim Jong-un.

Since August, Sony had already planned to edit out a few controversial portions of the movie, including a Raiders of the Lost Ark homage where Kim Jong-un’s face melts off in slow motion. They also digitally altered the buttons worn by multiple characters because they “depict the actual hardware worn by the North Korean military to honor” Kim Jong-un and his late father, Kim Jong-il.

The Interiew is still set to hit theaters on Christmas Day, at least in the U.S. It will not be screened in South Korea, however, as a Seoul-based Sony Pictures official cited concerns of inter-Korean relations.

Photo courtesy of The Verge

Suki Kim author image - photo credit Ed Kashi-VII

Suki Kim Faces Backlash for North Korea Memoir

by STEVE HAN | @steve_han

Suki Kim may have captivated her readers with her latest book, Without You, There Is No Us, which chronicles her six-month journey of teaching English to North Korean students, but it was apparently at the expense of her relationship with the North Korean school.

Teachers at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) criticized Kim, who taught at the school from June to December of 2011 for a myriad of reasons. A few of those include the Korean American author breaking a promise to not publicize her experiences at the private university in North Korea’s capital as well as allegedly writing factually inaccurate information about the school and its teachers, whom she described as Christian missionaries.

“Suki is a good writer, but she definitely wrote to her interest and did not really report the whole story,” Norma Nichols, the co-director at PUST’s international academic affairs, told KoreAm in an email. “She got some facts wrong. I was there during the time she was reporting, so I know that she overlooked some things.”

The North Korean government, largely known for its ban on religions and aversion to foreign influence, approved PUST in 2001. The school eventually opened in 2011 under the conditions that the funding will come from foreign investments and that the teachers would be subject to severe punishment for trying to proselytize students. The school, attended by the male children of North Korea’s most privileged families, was founded by James Kim, a Korean American entrepreneur who also runs a similar school in Yanbian, China.

Although the school admitted that its teachers are indeed Christians, it dismissed what Kim said about her fellow teachers, whom she said they allegedly set a “larger goal to convert” the North Korean students.

“I am really upset about the attitude, her writings, her telling lies, her cheating us,” James Kim, the school’s founder, told the New York Times. “[The North Korean authorities] know we are Christian, we do not hide that … But we are not missionaries. Christians and missionaries are different.”

As of now, PUST hasn’t faced any repercussions because of Kim’s book, but the North Korean authorities have reportedly questioned James Kim extensively since it was published.

Kim has already acknowledged that she is not a Christian and that she deceptively applied for a teaching job at the school, where she clandestinely took notes with the goal of writing about her experiences. Under heavy surveillance, Kim said she scribbled notes and destroyed them after transferring what she wrote to thumb drives, which she either wore around her neck or hid in the garbage can.

KoreAm will feature an exclusive Q&A with Suki Kim in its upcoming December/January issue.

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 1.30.09 PM

Kim Jong-un Sings Katy Perry in Final Trailer for ‘The Interview’

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

Sony Pictures has released its final trailer for the upcoming action-comedy film The Interview, starring Seth Rogen, James Franco and Randall Park.

Written and directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the feature centers on Dave Skylark (James Franco) and his producer Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen), who run a popular celebrity tabloid TV show. After discovering that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (Randall Park) is a fan of the show, Dave and Aaaron prepare to travel to Pyongyang to interview him in an attempt to legitimize themselves as real journalists. Their plans, however, are derailed when the CIA recruits them to assassinate the North Korean dictator.

While previous trailers have only shown glimpses of the film’s iteration of Kim Jong-un, the new trailer highlights Park’s strong comedy chops, as seen in the short scene of him singing Katy Perry’s “Firework” with Franco.

This year has been a particularly busy one for Park as he is currently filming for the upcoming ABC family comedy, Fresh Off the Boat, which is slated to air in early 2015. In addition, Park will also be featured on the cover of KoreAm‘s December/January 2014 issue! You can read Park’s final column for KoreAm here.

The Interview will hit U.S. theaters on December 25.

Peter Hahn School

Chinese Authorities Detain Aid Worker Assisting NKoreans


A Korean American aid worker was arrested by Chinese authorities on Tuesday on suspicion of embezzlement and possession of fraudulent receipts, reports the New York Times.

Peter Hahn, a 73-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen who escaped from North Korea many years ago, was detained on Tuesday in Tumen City, a trading town near the North Korean border in northeastern China. He ran a Christian aid agency that included a local school and also provided supplies to North Korean poor.

Other aid projects in his Tumen River Area Development Initiative included building fertilizer factories, food processing factories and fishing boat repair services in North Korea, along with 26 shuttle buses. His bakery also provided soy milk and bread for orphanages.

Authorities reportedly called Hahn in for questioning, then placed under detention after a six-hour interrogation. Hahn’s lawyer, Zhang Peihong, said that the charges were “groundless” and “impossible to stand up.”

The arrest follows a crackdown on Christian and other Western aid groups and NGOs along the North Korean border in recent months. The Chinese Foreign Ministry has not offered a reason behind them.

Authorities began investigating Hahn in April, asking him about his life and humanitarian work, according to his lawyer. Hahn’s wife, Eunice, said that in July, police closed their vocational training school and froze their bank accounts, then confiscated their vehicles, computer, books and photos. She has since moved to Seoul for safety reasons.

At the time, Hahn was told he was being investigated for “embezzlement, proselytizing and providing aid illegally to North Korean defectors,” allegations he denied, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. Since August, two more of Hahn’s colleagues, one Korean and one Chinese, have been detained.

Hahn’s wife and lawyer were both concerned about his health. He has suffered a number of strokes and was on medication before the arrest.

Kevin and Julie Garrat, a Canadian Christian couple who ran a cafe in Dandong, were also detained in July and accused of espionage and theft of state secrets about China’s military and national defense research. The New York Times said Peter’s Coffee Shop served as a “beacon of information for adventurous travelers” and Christians, as well as those looking for Western food. Kevin Garrat, a former pastor, would often converse with the travelers about North Korea.

The Hong Kong Economic Journal notes it is unusual for foreigners to be charged with violating the Chinese states secrets law. It is punishable by life in prison or death in the most severe cases.

Top photo courtesy of Hong Kong Economic Journal


SKorea Plans to Raise $500 Billion For Reunification

by STEVE HAN | @steve_han

South Korea’s top financial regulator said Tuesday that rebuilding North Korea’s moribund economy after an eventual reunification would cost about $500 billion, which the government says can be raised without increasing taxes, according to Yonhap.

Although South Korea’s Financial Services Commission (FSC) chairman Shin Je-yoon said that the figure of $500 billion is open for revision, it would be the estimate needed to stimulate North Korea’s depressed economy. FSC’s blueprint added that the estimated sum would be sufficient to increase North Korea’s gross domestic product (GDP) per capita from last year’s $1,251 to $10,000 in 20 years. North Korea’s current GDP total of $31 billion is equivalent to South Korea’s 1971 GDP and just 2 percent of its GDP from last year.

FSC said that South Korea would also spend an additional $175 billion on North Korea’s infrastructural and industrial developments.

South Korea plans to raise half of the estimated fund from its public financial institutions, notably the Korea Development Bank and Korea Exim Bank, in a similar manner to what the Germany’s government-owned bank, the KfW, did for the German reunification in 1990.

These institutions will play a similar role to Germany’s government-owned bank, the KfW, which provided a bulk of the finance into the West and East Germany reunification in 1990.

The rest of South Korea’s estimated funds could be financed by commercial banks, tax revenues, development projects in North Korea and overseas development aid (ODA).

“In the initial stage of unification, the government will lead the North Korean development by using state funds and projects, and then the ODA and private investments can be utilized,” said Shin. “We have to consider many factors, including the economic gap between the two countries and macroeconomic variables before introducing a currency system to the North.”

Under current circumstances, discussions of Korean reunification’s costs are practically moot as serious talks between the two Koreas about merging have not taken place since the Korean War. The two countries remain technically at war as the Korean War ended in 1953 with an armistice and not a peace treaty.

President Park Geun-hye said in a speech last year that a reunification would be a daebak, which roughly translates to “bonanza” in English, as the South’s capital and technology would go hand in hand with the North’s human and natural resources. However, her comments were met with scathing criticisms from the North, which accused her of “pipe-dreaming.”

Featured image courtesy of Abihollow


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