Tag Archives: politics

July Issue: Arrest of U.S. Journalists Was Planned Spy Operation

Photo credit: Mark Edward Harris

When journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling were arrested by North Korean authorities for illegally entering the isolated country in March 2009, many wondered who betrayed them and how had they been caught so easily.

A recent report from the Chosun Ilbo revealed that it was a carefully orchestrated operation masterminded by North Korea’s State Security Department deputy chief Ryu Kyong.

Using a well-established network of China-based operatives, Ryu obtained intelligence that Ling and Lee, journalists working for Current TV, were doing a story on North Korean refugees and planned to make a trip to the China-North Korea border.

Ryu then instructed his spies to bribe a Korean-Chinese guide to lead the two women into a trap on the banks of the Tumen River, where they were caught by North Korean guards. The Chosun Ilbo reported that Ryu was then “hailed as a national hero” for prompting former President Bill Clinton to make a face-losing diplomatic trip to secure the release of Ling and Lee.

The celebration apparently didn’t last long, however, as Ryu was reportedly executed earlier this year in what is being deemed by North Korea experts as a Pyongyang power struggle. Some have speculated that Ryu was getting too powerful, while others suspected him of being a double agent for South Korea, according to the Chosun Ilbo.

This article appeared in the July 2011 issue of KoreAm.

Thursday's Link Attack: Winter Olympics, Ken Jeong, Korean Suicide

Persistence Pays Off as South Korean Town Wins Olympic Bid
The New York Times

If the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics were a coming-out party for a young democracy that was building a fast-growing economy from the ashes of the Korean War and through earlier military dictatorships, then holding the Winter Olympics, South Koreans say, will give a lift to their country’s “national prestige,” as all national dailies editorialized Thursday.

‘Hangover 2′ Star Ken Jeong to Receive Just For Laughs Honors
The Hollywood Reporter

Bridesmaids director Paul Feig is to receive the comedy director of the year award at the upcoming Just For Laughs festival, while The Hangover 2 star Ken Jeong will pick up the breakout comedy star of the year trophy at the Montreal yukfest.

Dia Frampton and Miranda Lambert May Record Together

“Once Dia figures out what her plan is, you’ll probably see her and Miranda write together,” Shelton revealed. So even though Frampton, who shook the rafters with her reimagining of Kanye West’s ‘Heartless,’ did not have ‘The Voice’ crown placed atop her head, her future is still limitless. Shelton even said that his wife was rooting for Frampton just as hard as he was.

Stressed and Depressed, Koreans Avoid Therapy
New York Times

It can sometimes feel as if South Korea, overworked, overstressed and ever anxious, is on the verge of a national nervous breakdown, with a rising divorce rate, students who feel suffocated by academic pressures, a suicide rate among the highest in the world and a macho corporate culture that still encourages blackout drinking sessions after work.

More than 30 South Koreans kill themselves every day, and the suicides of entertainers, politicians, athletes and business leaders have become almost commonplace. The recent suicides of four students and a professor at Korea’s leading university shocked the nation, and in recent weeks a TV baseball announcer, two professional soccer players, a university president and the former lead singer in a popular boy band killed themselves.

Pakistan’s nuclear-bomb maker says North Korea paid bribes for know-how
Washington Post

The founder of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb program asserts that the government of North Korea bribed top military officials in Islamabad to obtain access to sensitive nuclear technology in the late 1990s.

North Korea steps forward as new cyberwar villian
IT World

In March North Korea — whose impression of a cartoonishly extreme Evil Empire has set the standard for smothering repression, campily ridiculous Fearless Leaders and quiet dignity among the starving masses – launched a DDOS attack that knocked down a handful of South Korean web sites, according to an investigation conducted by security software vendor McAfee.

Except for the home page of the U.S. Forces Korea – which is primarily a PR site used by the U.S. Eighth Army to distribute information to civilians, not for actual military communications – all the 14 sites hit were South Korean companies with no particular political significance, despite indications North Korea is training a coterie of cyberwarriors at foreign colleges.

The tipoff that the attack wasn’t just part of an extortion attempt or bit of ordinary vandalism was that it was far too meta to be the work of casual or commercial hackers, according to a report from McAfee, which assembled its information with the help of the U.S. and South Korean governments.

Continue reading

Irvine Mayor To Run For Congress

Irvine Mayor Sukhee Kang announced Wednesday he intends to become just the second Korean American to hold a seat in Congress, according to the Voice of OC.

Kang, a Democrat, will likely be running against Republican incumbent John Campbell in the 2012 election. The California Citizens Redistricting Commission is still drawing the boundaries of the new district that will include at least parts of Irvine.

Kang was elected mayor of Irvine in 2008, making him the first Korean-American mayor of a city with a population more than 100,000. He was reelected last year in a landslide vote.

The Orange County Register said the race for congressman for the redrawn district will likely be the “most competitive race in years” in the Republican-dominated coastal Orange County area.

The first-generation Korean immigrant might benefit from Irvine’s burgeoning population of Asian-Americans, who make up about 40 percent of city residents.

But given the demographics of the area, incumbent Campbell would be a tough opponent to beat, The Voice of OC reported.

Campbell was first elected in 2005, and last year while hardly campaigning, he trounced Irvine Councilwoman Beth Krom, a Democrat.

Kang said he would run on fairly commonplace issues: the economy, public education, Medicare and military veterans issues.

“It’s not going to be an easy election,” Kang told the OC Register. “But when I first ran for City Council seven years ago, nobody believed I was going to win.”

Jay Kim is the only Korean American to have held a seat in Congress, serving from 1993 to 1999 for District 41 in San Bernadino County, California.

Wednesday's Link Attack: Sung Kim, Sung Kang, NK Soccer

Obama’s nomination for Seoul envoy ‘great choice': U.S. ambassador
Yonhap News

Outgoing U.S. ambassador to South Korea Kathleen Stephens praised President Barack Obama’s nomination of Korean American Sung Kim to be the new ambassador. Kim will be the first Korean-American to hold the post.

“I think President Obama made a great choice,” U.S. Ambassador Kathleen Stephens said in an article she posted on her embassy’s blog. “I’ve worked with Sung Kim for years and I know him to be a talented diplomat who will work tirelessly to strengthen the U.S.-ROK (South Korea) relationship.”

Actor Sung Kang Beneficiary of Affirmative Action In Hollywood?

Tom Jane tells movie blog Collider he was fired from his role opposite Sylvester Stallone because producer Joel Silver said the buddy cop flick needed an ethnic actor.

Well, Joel Silver came onboard the project and said that he has a quote-unquote ‘formula’ for these quote-unquote ‘buddy movies’ and it has to be a white guy and a quote-unquote ‘ethnic guy.’ And they relieved me of duty and basically paid me off, which I was really upset about, you know? I didn’t get a call from Stallone. I was a little upset about that. Maybe they didn’t want anybody on the movie with a bigger dick than him.

North Korea, Russia abandon plans for Kim meeting

The leaders of North Korea and Russia appeared Wednesday to have canceled plans for a summit in the Far East when the Kremlin said President Dmitry Medvedev had no meetings scheduled with Kim Jong-il.

Battle over shark fin soup heats up in California
Los Angeles Times

Environmental groups are pushing the California Legislature to ban the sale and possession of shark fins, causing an emotional split among Chinese Americans for whom shark fin soup is a traditional delicacy.

North Korean Coach Gives Electrifying Excuse for Loss to US in Women’s World Cup
Fox News

1.21 gigawatts? The reason North Korea’s women’s soccer team lost to the United States 2-0 on Monday was because they were still recovering from the effects of being struck by lightning, according to The Guardian (U.K.).

Kim Kwang Min told bemused reporters in the German city of Dresden that several players, including the goalkeeper, were still suffering the ill-effects of being struck by lightning.

The incident apparently happened during a practice session in North Korea on June 8, leaving more than five players hospitalized, Kim said.

“When we stayed in Pyongyang during training there was an unexpected accident so our team was not capable of playing,” he told Tuesday’s post-match press conference. “Our players were hit by lightning during a training match.”

Ex-S.Korea footballer admits match-fixing

Another South Korean footballer has admitted involvement in match-fixing, an official said Wednesday, joining other players ensnared in a scandal that has rattled the professional K-League.

Choi Sung-Kuk, a former national team forward, admitted his involvement in throwing games while playing for a military soccer team last year, said Ahn Ki-Heon, the K-League secretary-general.

Korean ‘Errand Men’ Operate In Shadows
Los Angeles Times

Landlords, businessmen, and even a Seoul city office, are turning to so-called errand men, hired street muscle, to resolve property disputes the police won’t, such as chasing away squatters or street vendors.

Random Web Site of the Week
Laura Morita Photography

I found this site while trolling Facebook. The photos just seemed to grab my attention.

Random Video

Check out this male cheerleader from China. He turned in the megaphone and slacks for a skirt and pom poms. The funny thing, he’s exquisite. Check out the video after the jump: Continue reading

North Korea On Verge Of Famine, Smuggled Video Shows

North Korea could be on the verge of a famine similar to the one in the 1990s estimated to have killed well over one million people, according to video footage recently smuggled out of the isolated and mysterious country.

The video was surreptitiously filmed by a North Korean journalist and smuggled to Japan via China. Australian Broadcasting Corp. was the first to acquire the footage, according to the Washington Post.

In the video, young children blackened with dirt beg for food, including an eight-year-old boy who tells the reporter, “My father died and my mother left me. I sleep outdoors.” The boy is one of many orphans in the country whose parents died of starvation or in forced labor camps.

The army, too, is starting to go hungry, with one soldier saying that he estimates half of of the soldiers are malnourished. The state no longer has any rations to give them. In the video, a party official demands a donation of rice from a stallholder, who protests that his business is bad.

Wednesday's Link Attack: Ban Ki-moon, Cartoonist Derek Kirk Kim, NK's Jong Tae-se

UN Gives Ban Second Term With Unanimity
JoongAng Daily

Ban Ki-moon secured a second term as secretary-general of the United Nations after the United Nations General Assembly unanimously re-elected him Tuesday, according to the JoongAng Daily.

“By acting decisively to renew my mandate, you have given the gift of time – time to carry on the important work that, together, we have begun,” Ban said after taking the oath of office at the UN on Tuesday, New York time. “Together, no challenge is too large. Together, nothing is impossible.”

The second term for Ban, who ran for reelection unopposed, will span Jan. 1, 2012 to Dec. 31, 2016.

The decision came on the heels of a recommendation last week by members of the Security Council that South Korea’s former foreign minister be re-appointed. Ban has been in office since January 2007.

Iris member Lee Eun Mi stabbed to death by her ex-boyfriend

A 24-year-old Korean pop singer was found dead of multiple stab wounds inflicted by her ex-boyfriend, according to an article published by allkpop.

Saheung police revealed that they had issued an arrest warrant for Cho for stabbing Lee several times while she was on her way home.

Investigations revealed that the two had discussed marriage plans before Lee broke off their relationship, causing Cho to feel overrun by anger which eventually ended in murder.

Cho, 28, was later arrested at a rest stop, according to the article.

Panavision Ups Suh to Prexy-CEO

The motion picture equipment maker named John Suh president and chief executive on Wednesday.

Suh, formerly the chief financial officer overseeing the company’s North American business and responsible for worldwide operations, joined Panavision in March 2007. He spent more than 15 years at Technicolor, working in finance and strategic planning, before joining Panavision.

Trippy webcomic from Derek Kirk Kim relaunches
USA Today

The Korean-American cartoonist is back to updating his thrice-weekly Web comic Tune.

The complex premise, as condensed by the publisher: “Tune is a sci-fi slice-of-life romantic comedy adventure of inter-dimensional proportions. When art school dropout Andy Go resigns himself to a lackluster day job, he unknowingly corners himself into a life of incarceration. In a parallel universe.”

Defectors Report N. Korea Jail Abuse
AFP via Yahoo News

A group of North Korean defectors filed a complaint with South Korea’s human rights organization, saying they were abused in two North Korean prisons, according to news reports.

One case involved a woman, who fled to China to escape hunger only to be captured, repatriated and imprisoned at the Jongori prison. She was pregnant when she was jailed.

“She was forcibly injected for abortion but the baby came out alive. Then prison guards killed the baby,” Secretary General Kim Hee-Tae of the Meeting of Promotion for North Korea Human Rights told AFP.

In another case, a defector alleged he had seen around 800 dead bodies during an 18-month jail term in the Jungsan County prison between 2000 and 2001.

Malnutrition, disease and abuse were the likely causes of death, the former prisoner said, adding that the prison was filled four times higher than capacity. Continue reading

Asian Am Mayors Rep SF Bay Area

It’s a big month for Asian Americans in politics – especially up in Northern California.

Jean Quan became the first Asian American female mayor of Oakland, as well as the first Asian American female mayor of any major U.S. city, upon her inauguration on Jan. 3rd, while Ed Lee was sworn in as interim mayor of San Francisco on Jan. 11th.

Quan, who was previously on the Oakland School Board for 12 years, has stated that “crime, jobs and young people” are her priority.

Lee was voted in unanimously by San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors and promised to be “a mayor who tackles things head on, and moves the bar forward.”

Congratulations to both Lee and Quan!

Tina Tchen, Chief of Staff to First Lady

The White House announced on Wednesday that Christina “Tina” Tchen, formerly the Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Public Engagement, has been promoted to Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to the First Lady.

“When selecting a replacement, I looked for someone who had the right experience to lead my team and am grateful to bring on Tina, whom I’ve known and respected for 20 years.  Tina’s success leading the Office of Public Engagement, reaching out to people across the country and encouraging Americans from all walks of life to feel connected to this White House, makes her uniquely qualified to step up to this position,” said First Lady Michelle Obama in a statement.

Tchen, a Chinese American, is a former corporate lawyer, who began working for the Obamas during the 2008 campaign. She was also (and will still remain) the Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls.

“The new year is a time for new beginnings, and I am thrilled that for me, it is an opportunity to take on a new and exciting role here at the White House and support the First Lady’s incredible initiatives in the years ahead,” sad Tchen in a statement.