Tag Archives: politics

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SKorean President Dismantles Coast Guard Over Ferry Disaster

by STEVE HAN

South Korean President Park Geun-hye announced Monday that she will scrap the country’s coast guard as a “reform and a great transformation” after hundreds of teenagers died in a ferry disaster last month.

Speaking on national television, Park bowed and offered an apology for failing to prevent the ferry Sewol from capsizing on April 16 when hundred of students from South Korea’s Danwon High School died after getting trapped inside. Although 172 passengers were saved within hours after the ferry sank, 287 are confirmed dead and 17 are still missing in the waters.


Park, who shed tears towards the end of the nationally televised speech, said she will dismantle the coast guard for its inability to save more lives due to poor rescue operations, which led South Korea to suffer one of its worst peacetime disasters.

“The ultimate responsibility lies with me, the president,” Park said. “The coast guard failed to fulfill its duties. The number of casualties could have been greatly reduced had it been more assertive in responding.”

When the first coast guard boats arrived at the scene on April 16, the officers only saved the ferry’s captain and other crew members who had told the passengers to stay inside the tilted ship. Passengers who fled the ship on their own were also rescued. The officers were repeatedly told to reach the passengers trapped inside, but responded that the ferry was too heavily tilted for them to board it, according to the transcripts of coast guard radio communications released this past weekend.

Although Park promised to overhaul her government to help it improve its disaster prevention and management, critics are calling Park’s measure an attempt to blame the coast guard by diverting attention from her own regime. The opposing party, the New Politics Alliance for Democracy, demanded further investigations into the government’s alleged failures.

South Korea’s central government officials are accused of failing to monitor the Korea Shipping Association, a lobby group, which approved the safety of Sewol, even though the officials overloaded the ferry with cargo that was poorly secured and lied about it in its departure report.

Founded in 1953, the South Korean coast guard has also been responsible for preventing Chinese fishing vessels from intruding the South Korean part of the maritime boundary. Some are also concerned that disbanding the coast guard could potentially increase drug smuggling from China and Southeast Asian countries due to weakened coastal protection.

Prior to Park’s controversial speech, the police detained more than 200 people who had tried to march into her office in a protest that demanded her to step down.

Photo courtesy of AFP


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Friday’s Link Attack: Shari Song Enters State Senate Race; Samsung Galaxy S5 Hits Shelves; In-bee Park Awarded Player of the Year

Shari Song to run for key state Senate seat Seattle Times

Democrats have finally recruited a candidate for the key state Senate race in South King County’s 30th district — Shari Song, a real-estate agent who last year unsuccessfully challenged Metropolitan King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn. Song, however, will have to combat carpetbagging charges as she is moving from Bellevue to Federal Way just in time for the race. In a Thursday news release, Song stressed her ties to the district, noting that she previously lived there for years, founded the Federal Way Mission Church Preschool and served on the Federal Way Diversity Commission. She said she was moving back to be closer to husband’s elderly parents.

Korean-Born Woman Back in French Cabinet Chosun Ilbo

Fleur Pellerin has been appointed to France’s top foreign trade post after the Korean-born woman stepped down as deputy minister for small business and digital economy. Pellerin (41) was named state secretary for foreign trade, tourism on Wednesday in the roster of new ministers after a cabinet reshuffle last week.

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Assemblyman Ron Kim slams Tiger Mom author Amy Chua for sending the wrong message Daily News

Call him the Tiger Mom slayer. Assemblyman Ron Kim, the first Korean-American elected to the state Legislature, slammed “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” author Amy Chua on Thursday, saying her latest tome about cultural distinctions “sends the wrong message.” Just two days before the Flushing assemblyman is slated to speak at a conference for Asian-American students at SUNY Albany, Kim took a shot at the controversial author’s new book, “The Triple Package,” which hit bookshelves January.

Apple and Samsung trial judge orders court to turn phones off Irish Independent

US District Judge Lucy Koh has become increasingly frustrated during the first few days of the trial of Apple versus Samsung as the many personal Wi-Fi signals interfere with a network the judge relies on for a real-time transcript of the proceedings. The phones also ring, vibrate and can be used to take photos; a serious violation of court rules.

Park In-bee Collects Female Player of Year Award at Augusta Chosun Ilbo

World No. 1 Park In-bee was officially named Female Player of the Year at the annual Golf Writers Association of America awards at Augusta, Georgia on Wednesday. She collected the gong one day before the Masters, the first major of the U.S. PGA season, got under way at Augusta National Golf Club in the city. Park claimed six titles on the LPGA Tour last year, including a historic run that saw her win the first three majors of the season. This helped her garner an overwhelming majority of 91 percent when the association held its ballot in January to determine who should receive the award for 2013.

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90% of Foreigners Would Date a Korean Chosun Ilbo

Some 90 percent of foreigners would be happy to date a Korean, a straw poll by a dating sitesuggests. Korea’s largest matchmaking company Duo and social media side Korspot in a survey asked 1,147 people in North America, Southeast Asia and Europe whether they would to date a Korean — 505 men and 642 women — and 90 percent said yes.

Can Samsung’s Galaxy S5 take on the next iPhone? CNBC

Galaxy S5 boasts a variety of new features, but does it have what it takes to prevent users from jumping back on the Apple bandwagon when the next generation iPhone with a potentially larger-screen is launched? The new flagship Android smartphone is being rolled out worldwide on Friday amid an increasingly tough environment for smartphone makers as the industry moves toward commoditization. The phone’s stand-out features are its ability to survive when submerged in water, or to act as a heart-rate monitor for personal-fitness tracking. There is also a fingerprint scanner for biometric screen locking – a feature introduced by Apple in its iPhone 5S last year.

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Holt under inspection after adoptee’s death Korea Times

Holt Children’s Service being inspected for its practice of sending adoptees in and outside of Korea, after a 3-year-old sent to the U.S. through the agency was allegedly beaten to death by his adoptive father. The Ministry of Health and Welfare said Wednesday that it has been inspecting the adoption agency since Monday over its adoption procedures, and the commission fees it receives from foster parents for adoption. Holt authorities said that inspectors were looking into its financial statements.

Survey shows the effects of smartphone addiction Korea Joong Ang Daily

One out of every five students residing in Seoul is addicted to smartphones, the city government announced on Tuesday, a trend it claims has contributed to a rash of societal problems, such as cyberbullying. The figure is part of the results of a survey of 4,998 students in the fourth through 11th grades across 75 schools in Seoul who were evaluated over two weeks last November on a diagnostic scale developed by the National Information Society Agency.

Yuna Kim to perform to ‘Frozen’ soundtrack in farewell ice shows NBC Sports

Yuna Kim‘s program for her farewell ice shows next month will include music from the Disney animated film “Frozen,” according to Arirang News. The 2010 Olympic champion and 2014 silver medalist will open her shows May 4-6 in Seoul by performing to the song “Let it Go” from the film. She will skate to other song medleys from “Frozen,” too, according to the report. Kim’s closing performance will be to Francesco Sartori‘s “Time to Say Goodbye.”

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April Issue: N. Virginia Korean Community Mobilizes Politically… Over Maps

Virginia House Delegate Mark Keam addresses the international media and members of the Korean American community, after the passage of Virginia House Bill 11 on Feb. 7. (Photo: Reuters)

Much Ado About Maps

Northern Virginia’s Korean community finally gets organized politically—about cartography.

by MIKE PAARLBERG

LOBBYISTS HAVE wet dreams about this scenario.

You’ve mobilized an entire constituent group, 80,000 potential swing voters in a swing state. It’s a growing immigrant population with a profile coveted by politicians: well-educated, relatively prosperous, suburb-dwelling, beholden to no party. State legislators and gubernatorial candidates meet with you and come to any press events you organize. They are prepared to speechify about whatever issue you tell them is dear to your community, and pledge that your cause is their cause. Any issue at all.

What do you tell them?

If you are Peter Kim, president of the Virginia-based Voice of Korean Americans, you tell them what your community really wants—more than anything—is for any reference in any school textbook to the body of water that lies between the Korean peninsula and Japan, commonly called the Sea of Japan, to say that it’s also known as the East Sea.

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With no prior political experience, the 54-year-old senior paralegal and Chantilly resident put together a lobby consisting of 49 Korean American organizations in the state. He met with legislators, got bills sponsored in both chambers, and got them out of committee. And when the Japanese government issued threats and the governor got cold feet, he locked down a veto-proof majority. Now equal time for the East Sea is on the way to Governor Terry McAuliffe’s desk. (Similar efforts are underway in statehouses in New York, New Jersey and Georgia, and there has been movement at the local level in Maryland, where county school boards, not the state, choose textbooks.)

 

It’s the first time the D.C. region’s Korean population—the third-largest in the country, after Los Angeles and New York—organized such an effort. Depending on your perspective, it’s either a community making its overdue debut as a political force, or an interest group hijacking the legislative process to settle scores that are decades old and thousands of miles away. Or both. What’s remarkable isn’t so much that Koreans are pushing an issue that’s of zero relevance to everyone else: That kind of rent-seeking is as proud an American political tradition as gerrymandering, and in this case, the cost is relatively low. (Many major textbook publishers, including McGraw Hill and Holt McDougal, already printboth names.) It’s that their inaugural issue is one that has such little impact on their own day-to-day lives. But the weight of history can skew priorities, and nationalism can trump local self-interest. Ultimately, the Virginia map saga shows both the emerging clout Korean immigrants can wield in the region—and the ways internal group dynamics influence how that political clout gets deployed once it’s stockpiled.

Despite his success, Kim has low hopes for the East Sea bills elsewhere (except Maryland, where five counties—Montgomery, Prince George’s, Anne Arundel, Howard and Baltimore County—have already adopted similar standards). He says Korean community leaders haven’t consulted him. “I don’t think they’re serious,” he says. “They want to get on TV and in newspapers, and nothing gets done. The politicians declared their support first, and the Korean leaders followed them. I don’t think that’s going to work. We’ve been through this process, and a couple politicians can’t do it by themselves. We need to have control, not them.”

VOKA, AN AD HOC organization Kim and a friend who serves as chairman, Jung Ki-Un, threw together for the bill, doesn’t have an office or any paid staff. So I meet Kim at his day job, at the office of Maury B. Watts III, a personal injury lawyer. It’s located in a faux-colonial office complex in the heart of the D.C. area’s main Koreatown, Annandale, which locals sometimes call Annan-dong. Just down the street on the main drag, Little River Turnpike, are landmarks like Shilla Bakery, Honey Pig and the K-Mart parking lot, a longtime site of community events, where hundreds of people gathered to watch South Korea play in the 2002 World Cup live on a giant projection screen. When Korea beat Italy that summer, at around four o’clock one morning, all of them hopped in their cars and drove around Annandale honking their horns. Neighbors called the police, who told the organizers they had to hold any future viewings indoors. Games now screen at one of the dozens of local Korean churches. By far the most important institutions for Korean immigrants, churches serve not only as houses of worship but also community centers and weekend Korean schools, where kids are expected to master the Hangeulalphabet, meet their future spouses and learn the proper names for bodies of water.

While Koreans have been migrating to the U.S. for more than a century, most immigrants didn’t get further than Hawaii until after the Immigration Act of 1965 eliminated quotas designed to block entry for nonwhites. The D.C. region’s Korean population, currently 93,000 (and mostly concentrated in northern Virginia), is still relatively new and growing fast. As recently as 1990, central Annandale was 73 percent white; over 20 years, it went from 18 percent to 41 percent Asian. (The Census did not allow respondents to specify their ethnicity within the “Asian” category until 2010.) As the Korean population has grown, it’s shifted further from the District. Today more Koreans live in Centreville, to the west; in Annandale, Vietnamese now equal Koreans in number. But the heart of the Korean community, where the oldest and most visible businesses and organizations operate, remains here.

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Kim introduces himself as a member of the “1.5 generation,” which within the Korean diaspora refers to those who were born in Korea and emigrated at a young age, typically before graduating high school. Distinct from both their first-generation parents, who emigrated as adults and remain cloistered within Koreatowns, seldom learning English, and their second-generation children, born in the U.S. and fully assimilated, ilchom ose, 1.5ers straddle both cultures nearly equally if not always comfortably. Which makes them the best go-between organizers.

Kim was born in Seoul, where he lived through junior high. His parents moved to Richmond in 1977, at the invitation of his mother’s sister, who was already there. He went to VMI, was commissioned in the U.S. Air Force for eight years, and left as a captain. Later, he worked for various defense contractors in northern Virginia before taking his current job at the law firm. Kim says he never had much interest in politics until a couple years ago. There had been chatter in the Korean community about how their children were being taught the wrong name for the East Sea in school. Kim took notice. His mother had been born under the Japanese occupation of Korea, and like others of her generation, had been prohibited from speaking Korean or using a Korean name, among other indignities. “So I asked my son Chris, he was a fifth-grader at the time in Fairfax County: ‘Do you know the name of the sea between Korea and Japan?’ And he said ‘Sea of Japan.’ I got really upset at him and he just said ‘Hey, that’s what I learned. It’s in the textbook’s maps.’ So that’s when I decided to correct it.

“When I started, I didn’t know what to do,” Kim says. He talked to friends in the Vietnamese community, which, a decade earlier, had its own experience trying to get the official flag of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam replaced with the yellow and red striped flag of the old South Vietnamese government at all Virginia public schools. (It had failed after then-Secretary of State Colin Powell said it was meddling in U.S. foreign policy.) Kim’s friends pointed him to We the People, the whitehouse.gov petition site set up by the Obama administration in 2011. Kim posted a petition on March 22, 2012, vaguely demanding to “correct a FALSE history in our textbooks” about the name of the body of water, initially intending to take out any reference to the Sea of Japan in all textbooks across the U.S. The petition shot to the No. 1 spot on the site and ultimately gathered 102,043 signatures, making it one of the most popular petitions in the site’s history.

That many signatures qualified it for an official response. Word from the State Department was blunt: The U.S., as a matter of policy, solely recognizes the Sea of Japan name, as established by the International Hydrographic Association. So Kim filed a second petition. This time he got a meeting with the White House’s Asian American liaison and an advisor to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who encouraged him to write to Duncan. He did. He eventually heard from Assistant Secretary of Education Deborah Delisle, who was finally the one to inform him that the federal government does not set standards for school textbooks; those decisions are up to state and local school boards. She gave him some basic guidelines for contacting legislators and board members. And he was off.

NOT SURPRISINGLY, Japan and Korea have sharply divergent views of the historical record on the matter of what the water between their countries has been called. Both can point to antique Western maps that use their preferred names. Exclusive usage of “Sea of Japan” didn’t start to gain widespread acceptance until the late 19th and early 20th century, solidifying with the Russo-Japanese War and the start of Japan’s domination of Korea. Before then, foreign cartographers referred to it by various names, including East or Oriental Sea or Sea of Chosun (the dynastic name for Korea). And Koreans, who used “East Sea” for 2,000 years, feel strongly that they never got to make their case to the world while under foreign occupation. Since liberation in 1945, as part of a broader decolonization process, successive Korean governments have made reasserting East Sea usage a priority. Already National Geographic, Google Maps, Nystrom and several other atlases use both names.

But this isn’t really just about maps. The name issue is but one of a much larger set of ongoing conflicts between Korea and Japan, which includes a territorial dispute over a pair of tiny islands Koreans call Dokdo and Japanese call Takeshima (population: 2), as well as compensation for “comfort women,” Korean women forced into sexual servitude by the Japanese Imperial army. Western media often describe this relationship as a “rivalry,” but that is imprecise. Korea would call it demanding recognition and recompense for the subjugation of its population and near erasure of its culture. Japan would call it petty and vindictive, if it paid attention, which it mostly doesn’t.

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It’s this imbalance over the perceived importance of Japan’s imperialist legacy for its neighbors that exacerbates these wounds and turns symbolic slights into full-blown geopolitical crises, complete with repercussions in the D.C. suburbs. When any Japanese prime minister visits Tokyo’s Yasukuni shrine, as Shinzo Abe did last December, it unleashes ferocious protests in Korea and China. The Japanese government always says it’s only honoring war dead enshrined there, some of whom just happen to be Class A war criminals. But visitors to the shrine’s museum get a tour of ultra-nationalist revisionist history, where they learn, for example, that Koreans asked the Japanese to invade, and those tens of thousands killed in the Nanking massacre were all “Chinese soldiers disguised in civilian clothes.” (Presumably all those women and children were soldiers, too.) After one such visit in 2001, a group of 20 knife-wielding Korean protesters calling themselves “Save the Nation Do or Die,” and rumored to be gangsters, held a demonstration at Seoul’s Independence Gate Park where, in front of an assembled crowd, they all chopped off their pinkie fingers and announced they would mail them to the Japanese embassy. Extreme as such reactions are, it’s hard to imagine German school textbooks today failing to mention the Holocaust, as Japanese textbooks for decades erased and continue to downplay references to wartime atrocities.

Every Korean family was affected by the occupation, including my own. My mother is Korean. Her father, my grandfather, was sent away by Japanese colonial authorities to a mining camp on the then-Japanese-occupied Russian island of Sakhalin, part of an effort to shore up the Empire’s war production. What became of him we’ll never know—if he died in the massacres by Japanese police or the invasion by the Red Army, or if he survived to work the mines under Soviet rule—because he was never heard from again.

So I understand the painful memories, the long shadow they cast on mundane names and symbols, and the desire to correct the historical record that continues to be distorted today, particularly for the oldest generation of Koreans who lived through that era.

But still. Is this really the best use of hard-won political capital?

“I know,” sighs Mark Keam, the sole Korean American in Virginia’s General Assembly. “I had to scratch my head myself. I don’t remember this being such a big deal when I grew up. But for folks in their 70s and 80s, it gives them closure. They grew up in a dark period and want to know their children and grandchildren won’t be held back due to their heritage or race.” It’s no coincidence that when the Korean American Association of Washington did turnout for lobby days, they bused 150 Korean senior citizens to Richmond.

Keam is hopeful. “If this will help my parents’ generation move forward, let’s let them.” But what then? What about issues, right here, that shape their children’s and grandchildren’s futures more than any nationalist campaign whipped up by politicians back in Korea?

THE CURRENT push wasn’t the first. The map issue had come up in Virginia political circles before. A few years ago, a small group of Korean businessmen had approached David Marsden, a Democratic state senator who represents Annandale and Centreville, with a complaint about the “Sea of Japan” name. He introduced legislation that only applied to online textbooks, but it died in committee in 2012.

Kim knew Koreans needed to adopt a different strategy if they were going to win. So he went to the Korean American Association of the Washing- ton Metropolitan Area, the region’ s oldest and largest Korean community group, and asked them to convene a meeting. They called on 47 other Korean nonprofits in the area. Kim made his pitch to a skeptical audience. “‘We’ve never done anything like this,’ they said. ‘Is it even possible?’ I said ‘It doesn’t matter. We gotta try.’ ”

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Kim put together the literature. It consisted of a single PowerPoint file, full of thick blocks of text and a barrage of citations of Korean-Japanese colonial history and mapmakers recognizing the East Sea name, which he emailed to every member of the General Assembly.

Then he followed up with phone calls. Some lawmakers invited him to events they were holding, where he spoke with them personally. With each, he asked for support in writing. He did the same with both Terry McAuliffe and Ken Cuccinelli, who were running for governor last year. Kim met McAuliffe at a campaign event in April hosted by the Korean Women’s Chamber of Commerce, and asked him for his support. McAuliffe said yes. Kim asked for a signed letter: “You know those guys, they don’t like to give you written confirmation,” he says. “But in the end they did.” Cuccinelli followed suit.

In the Senate, Kim asked Marsden to reintroduce his 2012 bill, and he agreed. But Kim felt Marsden, a Democrat, wasn’t enough in a General Assembly where Republicans control the House of Delegates and the Democrats control the Senate by just one vote. He started looking for Republicans and found Dick Black, who’d voted for Marsden’ s 2012 bill. Black’s affection for Koreans goes back to his days as a Marine helicopter pilot in Vietnam, where South Korean troops fought alongside Americans. “I flew hundreds of Korean Marines into battle”—the Korean Marine Corps was founded, he notes, by the USMC—“and there was a real bond of respect between American and Korean Marines,” Black says. Kim got Black and Marsden to introduce two separate bills in the Senate. In the House, he lined up Tim Hugo, who represents Korean-heavy Fairfax and Centreville and serves as GOP caucus chair.

The high-ranking Republican had no problem attracting co-sponsors.

It looked like a sure thing. What threw everyone for a loop was something no one—not Peter Kim, not his legislative allies, and probably not McAuliffe—anticipated. It turned out Korean Americans weren’t the only ones who could play state politics. “I got a call from Richmond from a friend saying, ‘Hey, the Japanese embassy hired this lobbyist,’” says Kim. Specifically, the embassy had hired McGuire-Woods, a high-profile consulting firm situated steps from the state capitol, for $75,000, according to a contract Kim provided me.

As it turned out, Kim knew the lobbyist McGuireWoods sent, Theodore Adams. They had been classmates at VMI. “At the first subcommittee hearing he said, ‘Brother rat! I recognize you!’ and I said, ‘Yeah! I recognize you, too!’ So we shook hands. He said, ‘I’m sorry, but I have to kill your bill.’ I said, ‘OK, you do your best, and I’ll do my best.’”

That wasn’t all. On Dec. 26, Japanese Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae sent a letter to McAuliffe. In it, he noted that “‘Sea of Japan is THE only internationally established name for the body of water between the Japanese archipelago and the Korean peninsula,” and that “Japan is the second largest source of foreign direct investment in Virginia,” accounting for a billion dollars in investments over the past five years and 13,000 jobs in the state. It closed ominously: “I fear, however, that the positive cooperation and the strong economic ties between Japan and Virginia may be damaged if the bills are to be enacted.”

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If it was intended as a threat, the letter provoked more confusion than anything else. “This is not an issue any Japanese person cares about. I don’t know why they got involved,” says Chap Petersen, a Democratic state senator from Fairfax, who lived in Japan and has a Korean wife. “And that was a contest they knew they were going to lose. What were they going to do, close down every Toyota dealership in the state? Stop buying Virginia wine and cigarettes?”

But it did put some kind of fear in McAuliffe, who suddenly reversed course. The governor’s friends in the Senate introduced amendments to kill the bill, though one version of it had already passed there. (On March 4, the House bill, having passed and been sent to the Senate, was killed in committee by Democratic Sen. Louise Lucas, who complained the Assembly wasn’t catering equally to African American constituents. Lucas claimed she acted on her own; the bill’s author, Tim Hugo, says McAuliffe was behind the move.) That only made the GOP push harder, hoping to embarrass McAuliffe. The afternoon of March 5, the House passed the Senate’s bill, sending it to McAuliffe. He has publicly told the Washington Post he would sign it if it reached his desk. (Neither the Embassy of Japan nor McAuliffe’s office responded to requests for comment.)

Sen. Black, for his part, has gotten a kick out of his newfound celebrity in the Korean community, even hearing from a friend in Seoul that he’d been on the news there. “They showed me a newspaper with my picture on the front page,” he says. “I couldn’t read a word it said.”

YEARS FROM NOW, Koreans in northern Virginia may look back at the East Sea bill as their political coming of age. Never before had the community put together a concerted campaign for statewide legislation. Win or lose, Koreans are proud of their accomplishment, and rightly so.

But the question remains: All this over a map? Seriously?

Seriously, say Koreans. And because Koreans say so, and there are a lot of them here (and a lot more than Japanese), politicians have to say so, too. “These folks went through 35 years of colonial rule,” says Marsden. “It was very tough. And when names were being passed out for oceans, they weren’t at the table.”

This is true. What’s frustrating, though, is the wasted potential. Koreans have long been the sleeping giant in the region’s political landscape. One need only look to Cuban Americans in Florida to see how a well-organized immigrant group that asserts itself and votes as a bloc can put their issues on the table, even change the course of national elections. There’s no reason Koreans couldn’t do the same here, for dozens of other issues that matter more on a practical level to them, and to non-Koreans, than the East Sea.

Issues like immigration reform.

When President Barack Obama was heckled at a speech last November by a protester demanding an end to his administration’s record-breaking rate of deportations, that protester was an undocumented Korean American: 24-year-old Ju Hong, who fell out of status when his parents overstayed their visas. He was clearly chosen by his organization to make the point that immigration reform is also an Asian issue, and that not all those here illegally snuck across the Rio Grande. Exit polls conducted by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund in 2012 indicate 72 percent of Korean Americans, and 73 percent of Korean Virginians support comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Or issues like health care and Medicaid expansion. A great number of Koreans in the U.S. are small business owners, and neither they nor their employees (often relatives) get health insurance from work. Keam suggests others: Adult education. More ESL teachers in public schools. Taxes that affect small businesses. He says he appeals to Korean community leaders to get involved in these campaigns. “They nod, say, ‘We get that.’ But unless it has to do with the Korean peninsula, it’s hard to attract interest.”

Kim replies that the community’s enthusiasm on immigration reform is nowhere near as strong as the East Sea issue. Daniel Choi, president of the Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans of Virginia, agrees. “There may be issues that directly affect them more, like voting rights and immigration. But no matter what, you need to ask, what does the community actually care about? And issues that get the most traction are those that involve their homeland.”

That’s consistent with ethnic politics in much of the rest of the country, particularly among groups whose identity is defined by some shared sense of historical injustice: Look at the Armenian American community’s persistent, fruitless attempts to win U.S. government recognition of the Armenian genocide. Sometimes their efforts can be so successful as to put U.S. foreign policy toward their homeland in conflict with the entire rest of the world, as with Cubans.

But at some point, most immigrant communities develop their own sets of interests and a political agenda that, if it doesn’t ignore the homeland, doesn’t put it front and center, either. Those interests need not conform with those of mainstream America, nor does this necessitate denying their heritage or minority status. But winning more than tributes for the mother country does require a sustained engagement with the political system of their adopted country, and with issues that affect communities besides their own.

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Why aren’t Koreans in the D.C. area doing that? Most Korean organizers I spoke with cited a lack of English among first-generation immigrants as the primary barrier to greater political involvement. Petersen, the state senator from Fairfax, notes that many Koreans emigrated during the Park Chung-hee and Chun Doo-hwan military dictatorships, which together lasted from 1961 to 1988 and did not exactly encourage an active citizenry. (Current South Korean President Park Geun-hye is Park’s daughter.)

Yet it’s wrong to conclude they’re apathetic. State campaign finance records show donations from 27 different Korean American organizations, from the Korean Senior Citizens Association to the Korean Dry Cleaners Association of Greater Washington. And they do get involved, if mostly for community and not political issues; for example, raising $1 million to build a Korean bell garden at a northern Virginia regional park in Vienna. Choi, who heads a multiethnic coalition, observes that “Koreans are respected by other Asian American groups for their ability to organize.”

And their vote is still up for grabs. Though Asians overwhelmingly vote Democratic in national elections, this trend is relatively recent; I can remember in my lifetime when Asians, generally thought of as church-going business owners, mostly voted Republican. (As Kim puts it, “They vote Democrat but they live like Republicans.”) This change is largely the result of Republicans repeatedly shooting themselves in the foot. On election night 2012, conservative pundit David Brooks was on PBS’s News Hour and was asked why the GOP lost the Asian vote so badly. “Well, I think our old Scotch-Irish philosophy of you’re on-your-own individualism doesn’t resonate as well with other groups that value the community. Like Asians. And Latinos. And Jews. And Catholics. And…” At that point Brooks seemed to realize what he was saying and stopped talking.

There’s no fundamental reason why Koreans can’t throw their weight around more in Virginia and other states where they have such a large presence. But that requires an issue that galvanizes the community as much as names on maps, which in turn requires a focus on domestic politics comparable to that on the nation Korean immigrants, even those who have lived here for decades, still refer to as oori nara, “our country.”

Should their agenda continue to give priority to historical grudge matches over material interests they share with others, they may find their next campaign short of allies, and the new golden age of the Korean lobby could be over before it starts.

Epilogue: Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has since signed the East Sea bill, as promised. This story was originally published in the Washington City Paper

This article was published in the April 2014 issue of KoreAm. Subscribe today! To purchase a single issue copy of the April issue, click the “Buy Now” button below. (U.S. customers only. Expect delivery in 5-7 business days).

 
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Thursday’s Link Attack: SKorea Detains NKorean Boat; Korea-Japan Relations; BigBang Reaches Milestone

Merkel vows support for Korean reunification bid
AFP via Google News

Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged Germany’s support Wednesday during a visit by South Korea’s president for efforts to unify the Korean peninsular, saying its own reunification gave it a “duty” to help others.

“We would like very much to support Korea in this important issue,” Merkel told a joint press conference with President Park Geun Hye, who is on a state visit to Germany.

“Germany was divided for 40 years, Korea is in such a situation in the meantime” as the 1950-53 Korean War concluded with an armistice rather than a peace treaty, which means the two sides technically remain at war.

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South Korea captures a North Korean fishing boat
CNN.com

A day after North Korea test-fired two missiles, South Korea captured a fishing boat from the North that had crossed into South Korean waters, officials say.

The boat crossed the sea demarcation line that separates the two Koreas and was captured by the South Korean navy Thursday, the South Korean Ministry of Defense said.

The action comes as tensions between the two Koreas are rising once again. On Wednesday, North Korea tested two medium-range ballistic missiles, firing them into the ocean.

N Korea and the myth of starvation
Aljazeera

One of the most commonly cited cliches is that North Korea is a “destitute, starving country”. Once upon a time, such a description was all too sadly correct: In the late 1990s, North Korea suffered a major famine that, according to the most recent research, led to between 500,000 and 600,000 deaths. However, starvation has long since ceased to be a fact of life in North Korea.

Admittedly, until quite recently, many major news outlets worldwide ran stories every autumn that cited international aid agencies saying that the country was on the brink of a massive famine once again. These perennially predicted famines never transpired, but the stories continued to be released at regular intervals, nonetheless.

In the last year or two, though, such predictions have disappeared. This year, North Korea enjoyed an exceptionally good harvest, which for the first time in more than two decades will be sufficient to feed the country’s entire population. Indeed, according to the recent documents of the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations), North Korea’s harvest totaled 5.03 million tonnes of grain this year, if converted to the cereal equivalent. To put things in perspective, in the famine years of the late 1990s, the average annual harvest was estimated (by the same FAO) to be below the 3 million tonne level.

MANDATORY KIM JONG UN HAIRCUTS A BALDFACED LIE?
Associated Press

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s distinctive hairstyle is the ‘do of the day on the Internet, thanks to a viral report that every male university student in the capital is now under orders to get a buzz just like it. But it appears the barbers of Pyongyang aren’t exactly sharpening their scissors.

Recent visitors to the country say they’ve seen no evidence of any mass haircutting. North Korea watchers smell another imaginative but uncorroborated rumor.

The thinly sourced reports say an order went out a few weeks ago for university students to buzz cut the sides of their heads just like Kim. Washington, D.C.-based Radio Free Asia cited unnamed sources as saying an unwritten directive from somewhere within the ruling Workers’ Party went out early this month, causing consternation among students who didn’t think the new ‘do would suit them.

Video shows N. Korea karaoke salons
Bangkok Post (Thailand)

Rare video footage from North Korea has emerged showing men enjoying a night out in a karaoke salon catering to relatively wealthy North Koreans making money from often illicit cross-border trade.

The content of the hidden-camera footage, which could not be independently verified, was released by a South Korean pastor, Kim Sung-Eun, known for helping North Koreans escape to Seoul.

The grainy video included footage of a group of men and women, speaking with North Korean accents, drinking beer, singing, dancing and kissing in a South Korean-style karaoke “room salon”.

“This is a North Korean equivalent of a room salon, in the form of a restaurant combined with a karaoke where women serve male clients,” Kim told reporters in Seoul.

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Breaking the Ice in East Asia [EDITORIAL]
New York Times

President Park Geun-hye of South Korea and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan met, at last, on Tuesday. The meeting — with President Obama on the sideline at the nuclear security summit meeting at The Hague — was the result of intense behind-the-scenes American diplomacy in an effort to mend the seriously deteriorated relations between the American allies in East Asia.

Ms. Park and Mr. Abe had not met since each came to power more than a year ago, breaking a tradition of South Korean and Japanese leaders getting together soon after taking office. Ms. Park refused to see Mr. Abe, saying his government showed a “total absence of sincerity” in addressing the suffering Japan inflicted upon colonized Korea during the first half of the 20th century. Mr. Abe made things worse in December by visiting the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan’s war dead, including war criminals. There was little chance of the two leaders beginning to mend relations without the American push.

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Seoul, Tokyo Must Tackle Their Differences Head-On [OPINION]
Chosun Ilbo

The leaders of South Korea, the U.S. and Japan sat down together on Tuesday on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit at The Hague. The meeting, which took place at the U.S. Embassy in the Netherlands, came at the urging of U.S. President Barack Obama.

The three leaders vowed to stand together against threats from North Korea. “Over the last five years, close cooperation between the three countries succeeded in changing the game with North Korea,” Obama said. “Our trilateral cooperation has sent a strong signal to Pyongyang that its provocations and threats will be met with a unified response.”

President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe duly echoed the sentiment.

Korean business leader and shopping center owner Sim dies
Montgomery Advertiser (Alabama)

Sys-Con owner and CEO Su Yong Sim, the Korean businessman who helped revitalize East Boulevard, died Thursday morning after a prolonged illness.

Sim’s company built several major facilities, including the $65 million Hyundai Heavy Industries plant in Montgomery and a $48 million plant for Donghee America Inc. in Auburn.

His holding company bought Stratford Square shopping center on East Boulevard and built a $4.5 million bowling center there. It also bought the shuttered Up the Creek restaurant nearby, remodeled it and opened it as Sushi Yama.

Food waste around the world
The Guardian (U.K.)

South Korea
Jeong Ho-jin dons a pair of plastic gloves to show off his most proud achievement as a district official in Seoul, and then uses his keys to unlock a large, rectangular contraption that looks like some kind of futuristic top-loading washing machine. Loaded with bins half-filled with decomposing ginseng, lettuce and other meal remnants, this, it turns out, is South Korea’s high-tech solution to food waste.

Jeong works in one of two districts in Seoul where the high-tech food waste managementprogram is being piloted. The program works by giving each household a card that has a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip embedded in it containing the user’s name and address. They scan their card on a small card-reader on the front of the high-tech bin to get the lid to open, then dump the food waste into the bin and onto the scale at the bottom, which gives a numerical reading of the waste’s weight and disposal cost.

“Before this everyone paid the same flat rate [for disposal] and they would just throw their food waste away without thinking,” said Jeong.

Korean community centre seeks younger crowd
Vancouver Courier (Canada)

Vancouver’s only Korean community centre has undergone a facelift and will officially reopen its doors April 1.The centre, which is located at 1320 East Hastings St. and has housed the Korean Society of B.C. for Fraternity and Culture since 1991, received a grant from the federal government in April 2013 and began renovations the next month. The grant, from the Community Infrastructure Improvement Fund, provided $226,602 toward the project and the Korean Society and Korean Senior Society matched it with support from the Korean government and member donations. Vancouver boasts the highest Korean population in the country at over 50,000 people.

BigBang’s ‘Fantastic Baby’ tops 100 mln YouTube views
Yonhap News

South Korean boy band BigBang saw the video of its 2012 hit song “Fantastic Baby” surpass 100 million views on YouTube Thursday.

The video, which was first uploaded in March 2012, had slightly more than 100 million views as of about 2 p.m., making it the forth South Korean video to hit the milestone, following Girls’ Generation’s “Gee” and Psy’s “Gangnam Style” and “Gentleman.”

BigBang became the first K-pop boy band to do so.

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Korean Journalist Seeks To Find Out If Beanballs Hurt
Deadspin

One Korean journalist for KBS worked on a feature on baseball players being hit by pitches, and did some firsthand reporting to find out if it hurts to be hit by a baseball. It does!

The whole video report—which isn’t embeddable—is worth watching, and you don’t need to understand Korean to figure it out: Pitches to the head, whether intentional or not, are causing injuries in baseball. The best part is definitely the high-speed camera footage of baseballs hitting a wash basin and frying pan, set to music that sounds like the Halloween theme.

POT by Roy Choi, a Soulful Ode to Korean Cuisine
Eater LA

As promised, POT is a powerful ode to Korean cuisine by one of the most notable Korean-American chefs in the country. Roy Choi opened POT inside The Line Hotel to the public for lunch yesterday, introducing dishes that seem whimsical and inventive on paper, yet incredibly grounded, flavorful, and intense to a fault on the plate. Think “Boot Knocker” stew, Choi’s take on a dish that Korean mothers make after school’s. Filled with Lil’ smokies, Spam, ramen noodles, and more than a few dollops of red chili flakes, it’s about as rich as the cuisine can get, without getting too serious.

The gently wrapped Kat Man Doo dumplings come dressed in soy, chilies, and scallions for maximum effect, while chewy squid gets tossed with rice cakes, onions, and gochujang. In almost all steps, Choi is taking the cuisine of his motherland and putting an elegant, chefly touch that elevates and refines flavors.

Probably the Worst Diary of Anne Frank Cover Ever
Kotaku

Usually, covers of The Diary of Anne Frank feature black and white photos of its author, Anne Frank. Or, you might see tasteful illustrations. You don’t usually see photos like this!

As recently pointed out by Korean-born Twitter user Che_SYoung, a version of this book was apparently released in South Korea years ago by an unscrupulous publisher:

It looks like a Harlequin romance novel! For the past few years, the image of this cover has been floating around online (as I mentioned, it is supposedly real!), and it even pops up when you Google Image search The Diary of Anne Frank in Korean:

Bojagi workshop offered at LACMA
Korea Times LA

[Korean-born textile artist Lee Young-min] currently holds bojagi workshops and leads a community bojagi project at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). The program will take place on April 12, May 3 and June 7. The reservations of the workshops for April 12 have been already filled.

“Many parents with their children are taking part in the workshops. They are all beginners and not skilled but they return home with satisfaction of their completion of bojagi artworks,” she said.

She has organized numerous workshops, classes and demonstrations on Korean arts and crafts around the Bay Area. Recently she demonstrated her bojagi and “maedeup” or Korean knots in Asian Art Museum in San Francisco as part of the Asia Alive Program. Lee also participated in Oakland Museum’s Lunar New Year celebration with her bojagi and maedeup artworks.

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meeting

Korean, Japanese Leaders Meet as Obama Brokers Talks

U.S. President Barack Obama held a meeting with South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in an effort to repair the strained relationship between the two East Asian countries and close U.S. allies.

Park and Abe greeted each other in The Hague with a courteous handshake while Obama looked on. The meeting came at the conclusion of the Nuclear Security Summit held in The Hague, Netherlands. Obama reportedly urged the two leaders to work with the U.S. as it plans to confront North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and regional “assertiveness” by China. Obama stressed that unity between Japan and Korea was critical to address the geopolitical issues of East Asia.

“Our trilateral cooperation sends a strong signal to Pyongyang that its provocations and threats will be met with a unified response,” Obama said. Both Park and Abe also agreed in their own statements that the three-way effort is needed to deal with North Korea’s aggression.

The meeting comes after North Korea launched dozens of missiles into the waters into the sea between the Korean peninsula and Japan, although the ballistic missiles fired by the North are banned by the UN. The face-to-face meeting was a first for both Park and Abe since taking office in 2013 and 2012, respectively.

Park had previously rejected multiple opportunities to hold talks with Japan. Since taking office in February of last year, Park has taken a firm stance on the current Japanese regime’s reluctance to admit and apologize for the wartime atrocities during its occupation of Korea from 1910 to the end of World War II. She previously said she would not meet Abe unless the Japanese government apologizes for its past, including its alleged use of sex slaves known as “comfort women” as well as its claim on the islets, called Dokdo in Korea and Takeshima in Japan.

Although Abe hasn’t given an apology himself, he recently told parliament that he would not revise Japan’s 1993 apology for the imperial Japanese military’s abuse of South Korean women.

Obama has been concerned with a lack of communication between its two allies in East Asia amid North Korea’s ongoing military aggression and China’s expansion of military influence in the region. Tensions between the U.S. and China rose last November when China announced an air defense identification zone it its eastern sea which covered islands that are currently in territorial disputes with Japan and overlapped with air zones of both Korea and Japan.

Strained ties between South Korea and Japan could also result in economic consequences for the U.S. as the two countries had bilateral trade of about $100 billion last year. The U.S. also maintains more than 65,000 troops in South Korea and Japan.

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Monday's Link Attack: Mary Hayashi, David Oh, Hee Young Park

Hayashi’s political career, legacy in jeopardy with charges looming
San Jose Mercury News

State Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi entered the political world as a survivor of a tormented childhood, losing an older sister at 17 to suicide and watching as her disgraced parents burned her sister’s clothes, cut her out of photos and never mentioned her name again.

Yet Hayashi quickly built a name for herself at the Capitol after becoming the first Korean-American woman to serve in the Legislature. She became part of the inner circles of two Assembly speakers. A magazine named her one of the 100 most influential Asian-Americans of the past decade.

Now, a new and puzzling source of shame is threatening to ground this once-rising East Bay Democrat and dash her plans to run for the state Senate: a bizarre grand theft charge that accuses her of shoplifting nearly $2,500 of clothes at San Francisco’s Neiman Marcus on Oct. 25.

While the case has embarrassed fellow lawmakers and could make Hayashi the first California lawmaker in 18 years to be ousted because of a felony conviction, it has focused new attention on what legislative staffers call Hayashi’s overly ambitious and sometimes erratic behavior.

Her criminal case has caused tongues to wag at the Capitol and jolted the tight-knit Korean-American community, where many view her as a role model.

“I’m saddened because she’s somebody that many in the Korean-American community have looked up to,” said Jiyon Yun, a Walnut Creek attorney. “She’s had so many accomplishments and contributed so much to so many efforts and projects, I hope this doesn’t take away from what she’s been working on.”

David Oh takes the cake in at-large Council race
Philadelphia Daily News

There will be no repeat of the nightmare four years ago, when attorney David Oh was ahead on election night for one of two City Council at-large seats set aside for the minority political party but lost after absentee ballots were tallied.

Oh today finally bested Al Taubenberger in last week’s election, after absentee, military and provisional ballots were counted. In the final tally, Oh led by 166 votes from election day ballots and absentee ballots. A count today of 755 provisional ballots, used on election day when there are questions about a voter’s registration, did not put Taubenberger ahead.

Oh said he was not surprised by the narrow margin, though he said it was unclear what impact a barrage of negative mailings, radio ads and robo-calls in the closing week of the campaign had on his campaign. That effort was run by a political action committee controlled by Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which supported another Republican in the race.

Hee Young Park wins LPGA finale
USA Today

Holding off some of the biggest names in women’s golf, unheralded Hee Young Park won the CME Group Titleholders on Sunday for her first career LPGA title.

Park, with a closing 70, finished at 9-under-par 279 to beat Paula Creamer and Sandra Gal by two shots at sun-splashed Grand Cypress Resort to win the LPGA tour’s season-ending event. Another shot back were Na Yeon Choi and world No. 2 Suzann Pettersen. Michelle Wie, world No. 3 Cristie Kerr and world No. 1 Yani Tseng, trying to win for the 12th time this season, made brief runs at the championship before finishing in a tie for sixth, seven shots behind.

Korean Tacos Bounce From LA to Seoul
Wall Street Journal

In an alley just off Garosoo-gil, the tree-lined street in Gangnam that has taken over from Apgujeong as the coolest place to be seen on weekends, is the three-month-old Grill5taco restaurant that has created its own version of Kogi’s fusion of Korean and Mexican foods.

Grill5taco was started by Ban Joo-hyung and Kim Hyun-chul and their original thought was to sell their tacos from trucks just like Kogi does. So they brought one over from the U.S. and hit the streets for a short time last year.

But the police kept slapping them with fines. Apparently, it’s OK to sell food from tents and from trucks that have permission to work in certain spots. But it’s against the law to just drive around wherever you want and sell food.

Mr. Kim said that’s when they decided to open the restaurant. “Garosoo-gil was the only neighborhood we considered,” he said.

Korea Still Sends Hundreds of Babies Abroad for Adoption
Chosun Ilbo

Korea is still the largest exporter of babies for adoption to the U.S., highlighting the need to strengthen child protection in the country. According to the 2011 Annual Adoption Report to Congress released Friday, out of the total of 2,047 foreign-born children adopted by U.S. families from October 2010 to September 2011, 734 or 36 percent were from Korea.

The Philippines was a distant second with 216, Uganda third with 196, India fourth with 168, and Ethiopia fifth with 126. Korea last topped the list in 2003 and since then it ranked fourth or fifth until it reclaimed first place this year.

Suspected N.Korean Spy Arrested After Posing as Defector
Chosun Ilbo

An alleged North Korean spy has been arrested after arriving in the country posing as a refugee.

The government said Saturday that a routine background check on the individual revealed he had been assigned by the North to conduct espionage activities in the South.

Authorities said the man entered Korea in April after traveling through China and Southeast Asian countries including Laos, Vietnam and Thailand in a bid to legitimately build his cover story as a defector.

A New Voice Grips South Korea With Plain Talk About Inequality and Justice
New York Times

Two days before Seoul elected a mayor last month, an unassuming man slipped into the campaign headquarters of Park Won-soon, an independent candidate. Amid flashing cameras, the man, Ahn Cheol-soo, a soft-spoken university dean who had earlier been seen as a contender for mayor himself, affirmed his support for Mr. Park, entrusted him with a written statement and then left.

“When we participate in an election, we citizens can become our own masters, principle can defeat irregularity and privilege, and common sense can drive out absurdity,” said Mr. Ahn’s statement, an open appeal to voters that quickly spread by way of Twitter and other social networks. “I’m going to the voting station early in the morning. Please join me.”

It was a pivotal moment in an election whose outcome has rocked South Korea. In a country where resentment of social and economic inequality is on the rise, and where many believe that their government serves the privileged rather than the common good, Mr. Ahn’s words — “participate,” “principle,” “common sense” — propelled younger voters to throw their support overwhelmingly behind Mr. Park, the first independent candidate to win South Korea’s second-most-influential elected office.

Korean-American businesses donate 600 turkeys
WNEM.com (Flint, Mich.)

Detroit police Chief Ralph Godbee says Korean-American businesses are donating 600 turkeys for distribution to the city’s needy.

Godbee says the 27th Korean-American Share Day is being marked with an event at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the department’s 12th Precinct station.

A Korean teacher cycling across the country stops in East Texas
KTRE ABC (Lufkin, Tex.)

It was a request like no other for the First Assembly of God. A 21-year old teacher from Korea cycled up to the church last Thursday, asking to spend the night in the front yard.

“He asked if he could put his tent up and stay the night to get some rest because he felt more safe staying at churches than he did just anywhere,” said First Assembly of God member, Lesa Rodgers.

“They told him yes he can camp here. So then, I come up. It was cold. So I said look just come on in the church. We weren’t going to leave him there,” said First Assembly of God pastor, Kenneth Reynolds.

Tungin Byun saved up money over the past year. Now, he’s using it to cycle around the US, stopping at churches for rest along the way.

North Korean celebrities are struggling because of the Hallyu Wave
allkpop

North Korean celebrities are suffering significantly due to the Hallyu Wave, mainly because South Korean celebrities are gaining much popularity, while North Korean celebrities are becoming forgotten. Multiple insiders state, “People related to the North Korean entertainment business ignore the demands of the people and solely focus on Kim Jong Il‘s propaganda. People can expect to see the end of North Korea’s entertainment industry“.

North Korean youths who defected from the country were able to name several South Korean films including ‘Stairway to Heaven‘ and ‘Scent of a Man‘, while they were unable to recall any names of actors/actresses from a particular North Korean film.

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N. Korea crowned world champs – unofficially
AFP via Google News

North Korea’s 1-0 win over Japan last week was not only a famous victory over their bitter rivals — it also made them the Unofficial Football World Champions, according to a tongue-in-cheek website.

The www.ufwc.co.uk site contends that the world title won by Spain in 2010 passed unofficially to Argentina after a friendly win, and then to Japan after the Blue Samurai beat Lionel Messi’s men in October last year.

So when Pak Nam Chol buried his 50th-minute header at Pyongyang’s bitterly cold Kim Il Sung Stadium last Tuesday, prompting rapturous celebrations, it was a goal that also put the secretive state unofficially on top of the world.

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Tuesday's Link Attack: Sung Kim, SNSD, SK Soccer Team Loses

Foreign minister meets new U.S. ambassador
Yonhap News

The new top U.S. envoy to South Korea, Sung Kim, paid his first visit to Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan Tuesday after taking office as Washington’s first Korean-American ambassador to Seoul.

Sung Kim, a career diplomat with expertise on the North Korean nuclear issue, arrived in Seoul last week as Washington’s top envoy to Seoul, becoming the first Korean-American to take the job since the two nations established diplomatic relations 129 years ago.

“I’m sure that your presence in Seoul will be a kind of symbol of the close relationship between our two countries,” the foreign minister told the ambassador.

Interview: Girls Generation Talk Fame, K-Pop, and World Domination
Complex.com

KoreAm contributor Jaeki Cho penned this lengthy Q&A with K-pop megagroup SNSD, a.k.a. Girls Generation.

Complex: I’ve noticed from footages that almost all the performances are done with heels on. How are your feet?

Sooyoung: We’re dying in pain! After a concert, our feet are literally burning.

Seohyun: A lot of calluses.

Yuri: Our feet are in bad shape.

Taeyeon: We take care of them, but they get messed up so easily.

Yuri: We’ve been wearing heels for so long, we’ve gotten so used to them that we feel more comfortable wearing them when we’re going up on stage. It straightens our postures; it makes us feel more confident. It’s not comfortable, but we’re so adjusted now that it feels weird without them.

K-pop: Soft Power for the Global Cool
Huffington Post

In recent years, even I have noticed the increasing amount of strangers I meet (both Asian and non-Asian) who become keenly interested in me once they confirm my Korean background: What is Seoul like? Do I watch Korean movies? What are my favorite Korean foods? Who are my favorite music groups, and have I met any of them? (Quite a big change from my early childhood in the suburban Midwest where many people would take the liberty of assuming I was Chinese!)

As an avid cultural traveler, I truly appreciate these conversations with so many individuals who are utterly fascinated with Korean culture. While I do not believe that this is the sole result of K-pop music’s popularity, the initial platform of these early dialogues are usually based upon either Korean pop music or Korean films (quickly followed up by Korean food, education, and plastic surgery).

Undoubtedly there are skeptics of K-pop’s global influence and utility as a soft power tool — but I find such hesitation towards this cultural explosion to often: a) stem from a limited racial approach to the subject, and b) originate from taste levels so mainstream that there is little chance for awareness of trends and cultural currents not yet adopted by big corporations and media.

N.Korea Joins Twitter Era
Chosun Ilbo

The North Korean propaganda website “Uriminzokkiri” on Monday joined the global craze for social networking sites by adding Twitter and Facebook tags.

That makes it even easier for North Korean propaganda to reach South Korea unfiltered, since content can now be shared with the click of a mouse. The “share” function is limited to posts denouncing South Korea.

North Korean websites like Uriminzokkiri are blocked in South Korea but can easily be accessed overseas, and can then be shared by overseas Koreans to reach South Korean users.

Will the North Koreans rise up?
CNN

What we can say for sure is that the North Korean press has simply not reported on any of the popular uprisings of 2011, obviously for fear of sparking protests within North Korea. In fact, Pyongyang issued a statement in March simply saying Libya’s dismantling of its nuclear weapons program made it more vulnerable to western intervention. In other words, ‘We, the North Koreans, will keep our nukes as our insurance policy against regime change.’ So don’t expect Pyongyang to disarm anytime soon. The regime interprets the fall of Gadhafi as a cautionary tale. Don’t disarm; don’t try to talk to the west; don’t open up.

Meanwhile, the suffering of the North Korean people continues. Just last week, UNICEF reported that millions of children there are at risk of being severely malnourished. These children will be more vulnerable to disease and stunted growth. And there’s little hope that the government has the ability to help even if it wanted to.

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[Korean] Bloggers Penalized For False Review
Wall Street Journal

Bloggers trying to profit from their daily activities are nothing new. But the government decided over the weekend that some South Korean bloggers have crossed a line.

On Sunday, the Fair Trade Commission sanctioned 47 bloggers and Internet café owners for “deceitful behavior” that helped them to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The antitrust watchdog levied a total of 20 million won ( $18,000) in fines on four influential bloggers – known in Korea as “power bloggers” — for not telling readers that they received a commission in return for writing favorable reviews of products and organizing group purchases. The fees ranged from 2% to 10% of the total sales.

Lebanon shocks South Korea in World Cup qualifying
AP via Globe and Mail

Lebanon pulled off an astonishing 2-1 win over South Korea in the Asian qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup in Beirut on Tuesday to stay firmly on course for a place in the fourth round.

Ali Al-Saadi gave Lebanon a shock 1-0 lead in the fifth minute but then cancelled out his earlier effort by conceding a penalty, converted by South Korea’s Koo Ja Cheol in the 20th. Abbas Atwi restored Lebanon’s lead from the penalty spot at the half-hour mark and his side held on to seal a priceless victory.

Group B leader South Korea has 10 points, the same as Lebanon, which trails on goal difference after five games. Third-place Kuwait has eight points, while United Arab Emirates has zero.

North Korea upsets Japan as tensions boiled in World Cup qualifier
AP via Herald Sun

Playing before a capacity crowd at Kim Il Sung Stadium, Pak gave North Korea a 1-0 lead in the 50th minute with an angled header beyond the reach of Japan goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa.

The match had no bearing on the outcome of the group – Japan has already qualified for the next stage while North Korea can not make it – but there is always tension in this fixture between two nations that do not have diplomatic ties.

This was the first time the Japanese men’s team had played on North Korean soil since 1989.

That tension bubbled over at times, with several shoving skirmishes breaking out. North Korea had Jong Il Gwan sent off in the 77th minute for an aggressive tackle on Atsuto Uchida.

Koreans to Benefit from Automated Immigration Checks in U.S.
Chosun Ilbo

Most Korean travelers can soon enter the U.S. without face-to-face interviews with immigration officers at the airport. Seoul and Washington in a meeting on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Meeting in Hawaii on Sunday agreed in principle to put them through electronic immigration gates instead.

Once the new program is in place, Korean visitors to the U.S. can avoid long immigration queues by putting their e-passports to the screen of an automated counter.

To benefit, travelers have to register with a smart entry system Korea implements to get approval from both governments as “trusted travelers.” “Trusted travelers” are those whose biometric information, including fingerprints and photos, is registered with the government, and who are deemed to present no risk.

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U.S. soldier allegedly set fire to bar
Yonhap

A U.S. soldier in Korea will be questioned by South Korean police on charges of setting fire to a bar in Seoul, investigators said Tuesday, amid growing public outrage after series of rape cases by American soldiers.

The private first class, whose name was withheld, from the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) was suspected of setting fire to a pub in Itaewon, an area popular with foreigners in Seoul, at 2:30 a.m. by pouring oil on a stove, according to Yongsan Police Station which controls the area.

The Country That Loves PC Gaming So Damn Much
Kotaku

Unlike Japan, South Korea has been predominately a PC gaming country. One of the major reasons for the lack of game console penetration was due to protectionism that made it difficult, if not impossible for Japanese companies to sell their wares in Korea—and vice versa.

The cultures are changing. Japan is opening itself up to Korean products, slowly. Ditto for South Korea. Nintendo now releases localized versions of games and hardware. However, the relationship that Korean gamers traditionally have with gaming is through the PC. And the game of choice is traditionally StarCraft.

The crazy wonderland of Seoul’s party motels
CNNGo

They used to be called “love motels,” for obvious (and optimistic) reasons.

Heavily stigmatized, Seoul’s love motels were long regarded as nothing more than glorified DVD rooms, with decor straight out of adult movies. Horrified parents would hold public protests if any were built in their neighborhood.

In recent years, however, a new generation of Seoul’s boutique motels have started styling themselves as “theme motels” and “party motels,” and have made much headway in making motels become socially acceptable, and even sought after — day or night.

Monday's Link Attack: Patty Kim, Seung Hoon Choi, Dumbfoundead

Harrisburg Councilwoman Patty Kim to challenge Rep. Ron Buxton
The Patriot-News (Penn.)

Harrisburg City Council Vice President Patty Kim will challenge state Rep. Ron Buxton for his House seat next year, she said today.

Kim, a six-year veteran on council, said fellow Democrat Buxton has not fought hard enough to stave off a state takeover of the city, which is more than $300 million in debt. “He has not rolled up his sleeves or taken any position that could positively contribute to a solution,” she said, pointing to the Capitol. “His seat is not a chair to hide behind. I’m calling him out on this unacceptable lack of leadership.”

The End of Delusion
Esquire.com

Joon Pahk’s Jeopardy run finally ended when he lost in the semifinals of the game show’s Tournament of Champions.

There is only one elite competition in which I still believed — honestly believed — I could be one of the best: Jeopardy!

I believed that until precisely 8:01 p.m. on Friday night, when I finished watching the third (and final) Tournament of Champions semifinal.

Even before the game, there was a feeling that this could be a bloody, epic, inter-planetary death match. It was the Jeopardy! equivalent of a title-unification fight. Roger Craig, Joon Pahk, and Mark Runsvold were pitted against each other. Never mind what they do in real life or where they’re from. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that they are the fourth, sixth, and tenth all-time money winners, not including tournaments, in Jeopardy! history. Craig also holds the record for the single greatest game ever, when he went home with $77,000. (Pahk and Runsvold also eclipsed the $50,000 mark during their original runs, a feat accomplished by only five men not named Ken Jennings.) Now the three of them were on the stage at the same time.

Walk-on Husker guards Long, Choi go the distance against Penn State
HuskerExtra.com

Seung Hoon Choi, a walk-on offensive guard from Lincoln Christian, had just played every snap in a crucial Big Ten triumph for 19th-ranked Nebraska.

Pretty satisfying, no doubt.

“Yeah, it’s all right,” Choi said with a grin, in his usual understated manner, after the 17-14 victory against No. 12 Penn State at Beaver Stadium.

If you haven’t already, it’s probably time to learn Choi’s name.

Nebraska assistant coach Ron Brown struggled to pronounce Choi’s name. He didn’t struggle finding words of praise for Choi and right guard Spencer Long, who also played every snap against the nation’s eighth-ranked defense.

Justin Chon celebrates the premiere screening of ‘Jin’ at the CGV Cinemas
Examiner.com

It was a cool Sunday evening at the CGV Cinemas in Los Angeles’ Koreatown as the red carpet was rolled out for the premiere screening of Il Cho’s short AFI Thesis Film, ‘Jin’ starring Justin Chon, Josiah D. Lee and Ben Baller.

Recently arriving from China for the filming of the upcoming “21 and Over” from the makers of “The Hangover,” Justin Chon definitely did not have a hangover as he walked the red carpet posing for the photographers and interviewing with various media outlets for the premiere of the short film. Chon mentioned that this film illustrated his more serious side as many people know him in real life as being a crazy, fun loving guy. Many may recognize the young actor from the “Twilight” franchise and also the tv show “Just Jordan.” Chon’s next big feature release will be “From The Rough” starring Taraji P. Henson and Michael Clarke Duncan.

John Cho’s Funny Christmas Story
Fresno Bee

Often actors will do interviews together, especially if they play characters who are closely connected. That meant Kal Penn and John Cho spent weeks together promoting “A Very Harold & Kumar 3-D Christmas.” It’s nice to have someone to carry the interview load, but it means the actors hear each other’s stories repeatedly.

Penn’s heard Cho talk about his belief in Christmas in almost every interview, but he hasn’t gotten tired of the story. In fact, he even brings it up if Cho forgets. That’s what happened during our talk.

“I came to America when I was 6 from Korea. We didn’t believe in Santa. When we came to the States, my parents were trying to be good sports and told us about Santa Claus,” Cho says at Penn’s insistence. “It sounded weird. A fat Caucasian old man invading your home, eating your food and either leaving gifts or fossil fuel. Santa is a creepy, obese home-invader.

“It was just a weird thing to believe.”

Despite his misgivings, Cho went along with what his parents told him. That belief didn’t last long because his Christmas present from Santa was wrapped in the box that held the vacuum cleaner his parents had purchased a few days before Christmas.

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Man Held in Beating of an Elderly Woman
New York Times

A homeless man accused of clubbing an elderly woman with a piece of wood on a Midtown street had to be subdued after acting erratically while awaiting arraignment on Sunday night, the authorities said.

The police said they did not yet know what prompted the assault, which occurred in front of 10 East 40th Street about 6:15 p.m. on Saturday.

The woman, whose name, Kim Chong, was confirmed by the police, is 74 and lives in Queens. After the attack, she was taken to Bellevue Hospital Center, where she was treated for a broken arm and received stitches for a head wound. The police said she had been struck with a two-by-four.

Ashes to beads: South Koreans try new way to mourn
AP via San Francisco Chronicle

The intense grief that Kim II-nam has felt every day since his father died 27 years ago led to a startling decision: He dug up the grave, cremated his father’s bones and paid $870 to have the ashes transformed into gem-like beads.

Kim is not alone in his desire to keep a loved one close — even in death. Changes in traditional South Korean beliefs about cherishing ancestors and a huge increase in cremation have led to a handful of niche businesses that cater to those who see honoring an urn filled with ashes as an imperfect way of mourning.

“Whenever I look at these beads, I consider them to be my father and I remember the good old days with him,” a gray-haired Kim, 69, told The Associated Press in an interview.

Dumbfoundead: A Rap Battle Vet Grows Up
MTV Hive

Some jokesters will forever be at the back of the bus, exhaling spitballs at the driver for cheap laughs, but Dumbfoundead is shedding that image and sitting with the big kids. A Korean-American by way of Argentina and Mexico, the L.A. rapper, born Jonathan Park, began his career at the informally famous open-mic Project Blowed in South Central. “I used to go every week to freestyle, battle and perform,” he tells Hive. “It was like rap school for me.” He made the transition from local celebrity to online monolith as he began making runs through the West Coast division of Grindtime, one of the most popular battle rap circuits, spinning off one hilarious, sharp Youtube victory after another.

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Coralville man who doesn’t want wife to wear dress accused of assault
The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa)

A Coralville man was charged with assault Sunday after police said he punched and kicked his wife.

Eung N. Kang, 37, of 2245 Oakleaf St., Apt. 201D, was charged with domestic abuse assault without intent causing injury at 11 a.m. Sunday at his residence.

Kang and his wife argued because he didn’t want her to wear a dress, Coralville police reported.

He ripped the dress and when his wife pushed him away, Kang punched her in the head and kicked her in the stomach, police said.

Two S.Korean climbers killed in Himalayas
AFP via Google News

Two South Koreans fell to their deaths while climbing a treacherous course in the Himalayas, weeks after three colleagues went missing and were presumed dead, according to mountain authorities.

Kim Hyung-Il, 43, leader of the K2 Extreme team, and Chang Ji-Myeong were killed on Friday when they fell as they were ascending on the notorious Cholatse north face, the Korean Alpine Federation said.

Their bodies were later recovered by two colleagues who left the base camp in search of them after radio contact was lost.

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North Korea ‘opens luxury goods store’
AFP via Google News

North Korea has opened a department store in its capital offering luxury goods for the ruling elite to try to bolster loyalty before a second dynastic succession, officials and reports said Monday.

The store named Potongkang opened in February, selling imported high-end brands such as Chanel and Giorgio Armani as well as medicine, furniture and food, a South Korean government official said on condition of anonymity.

Monsters Calling Home

Monsters Calling Home – Growing Up from dchae on Vimeo.