Tag Archives: Pyeongchang


Kenyan Man Headed for South Korea Accidentally Travels to Pyongyang, North Korea

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

Planning to attend the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics? Be sure to book your flight to the right Korea, unlike a certain Kenyan traveler who accidentally traveled to North Korea last September.

Daniel Olomae Ole Sapit, a 42-year-old representative for indigenous cow herders in the semi-nomadic Maasai tribe in Kenya, was invited to attend a United Nations conference on biodiversity in PyeongChang, a town that lies just 110 miles east of Seoul.

Instead, he found himself in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang.

“Pyongyang and Pyeongchang,” Sapit recalls. “For an African, who can tell the difference?”

The Wall Street Journal reported that the two similar sounding names had confused both Sapit and Shenaz Neky, his travel agent in Nairobi.”

Neky claimed that she was only given the name of the final destination and when she typed “PyeongChang” into the reservation system, it linked her with the closest match, Pyongyang.

“The name of the towns are very similar. Apparently it’s a mistake that is very commonly made,” she said. “This was the first time I’ve done a booking to North Korea.”

Even after boarding the Air China flight to Pyongyang, Sapit did not suspect anything to be wrong. It was only when he peered out the window as the plane descended into Sunan International Airport that the Kenyan national thought something was amiss.

“It seemed to be me a very underdeveloped country,” said Sapit, who was expecting to see the highly urbanized and industrialized cityscape of South Korea.

He said his suspicions were confirmed when he saw hundreds of soldiers and portraits of the ruling Kim family. Sapit was almost immediately apprehended after customs discovered that he did not have an entry visa.

BN-IA161_PYEONG_M_20150421183847Sapit takes a selfie after landing safely in South Korea. His expression reads: “Never again.”

After being interrogated in an inspection room for several hours and signing a form attesting to violating travel laws, Sapit was eventually allowed to leave the country and board a flight to Incheon International Airport from Beijing. However, he had to pay for his new ticket and a fine of $500 for entering North Korea without a visa.

Dick Pound, a Canadian member of the International Olympic Committee, said in 2002, there was “a bit of initial confusion” when PyeongChang was first announced as a bidder for the upcoming Winter Olympics, according to the WSJ.

The 2018 Winter Olympics organizing committee has already taken measures to rebrand the host town, changing the spelling from “Pyongchang” to “PyeongChang.” Even Wikipedia has included a disclaimer in the town’s wiki page that reads: “Not to be confused with Pyonyang.”

Sapit said he will never forget his memorable trip to Pyongyang, but strongly advised 2018 Winter Olympics attendees to “study the names like the fine print of insurance contracts.”


figure eight hotel

PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics to Open a Figure-Eight Shaped Hotel

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

Seoul-based architecture firm Planning Korea recently unveiled their design for a beachfront resort hotel that will host visitors during the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

Shaped like a giant infinity sign (or the “ecological structure of a plankton,” according to the firm), the futuristic hotel offers 946 rooms and sprawls across a 29,493-square-meter site in the city of Gangeung.


Tourists will be able to enjoy seaside activities on one side of the hotel and mountain activities on the other, according to Arch Daily. Rooftop gardens line the slopes of the building and opens up to an outdoor swimming pool suspended in a “belt” linking the building’s dual core.

figure eight aerial


On the ground level, Planning Korea plans to intersperse restaurants and shops in order to create a village atmosphere. The resort will also be situated just 3 miles away from the Olympic stadiums and facilities. How South Korea plans to complete construction of the gigantic hotel before 2018 is a mystery.



The PyeongChang Winter Olympics is scheduled to take place from Feb. 9 through Feb. 25, 2018. This will be the first Winter Olympic Games to be hosted by South Korea.


All images via Planning Korea

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South Korean Special Forces Train Shirtless in the Snow

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

While some of us are wrapping ourselves in parkas to keep warm this winter, about 200 South Korean soldiers are training in the snowy mountains of Pyeongchang–shirtless.

Since the two Koreas still remain technically at war with each other, South Korea’s Army Special Warfare Command (SWC) is responsible for handling special operations, including guerrilla warfare, assassinations and counter-terrorism. SWC soldiers are sent to the mountains every year to participate in a 10-day winter warfare training, in which they must acclimate themselves to harsh weather conditions. Temperatures in Pyeonchang can drop as low as negative 22 degrees Fahrenheit.

Below are some snapshots of the SWC’s intense training that were taken on Jan. 8. I recommend playing “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” from the Mulan soundtrack while scrolling through the following photos.

enhanced-buzz-wide-27046-1420833875-14Photo credit: Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters

SCW soldiers are required to jog shirtless in subzero temperatures as part of their training regimen.

enhanced-buzz-wide-7088-1420833885-11Photo credit: Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters

Soldiers must also perform general exercises, such as sit-ups, topless on the snow. The purpose of these exercises is to push soldiers’ endurance to the limit and to help them prepare for any harsh conditions they may face during missions.

enhanced-buzz-wide-12278-1420833885-16Photo credit: Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters

All members of the SWC are required to achieve a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

enhanced-buzz-wide-925-1420833879-8Photo credit: Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters

Soldiers wield combat knives as part of their weapons handling training.

enhanced-buzz-wide-26077-1420833900-11Photo credit: Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters

The SWC consists of seven special forces brigades: Eagle, Flying Tiger, Pegasus, Ghost, Golden Bat, Black Panther and Whole World  (formerly known as Black Dragon). In addition, there is a special mission battalion nicknamed “White Tiger.”

enhanced-buzz-wide-26996-1420833894-20Photo credit: Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters

In the picture above, SWC soldiers take their positions in a frozen river. The SWC brigades work closely with the U.S. Army Special Forces, also known as the Green Berets.

enhanced-buzz-wide-27102-1420833874-14Photo credit: Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters

Along with having the ability to withstand freezing temperatures, SWC members must have excellent marksmanship.

enhanced-buzz-wide-30144-1420833886-13Photo credit: Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters

During the winter warfare training, soldiers practice tactical skiing while shooting at virtual targets.

enhanced-buzz-wide-12278-1420833900-24Photo credit: Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters

All SWC members are volunteers who were handpicked to join the elite force.


Featured photo courtesy of Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters


South Korea Refuses to Share 2018 Winter Olympics with Japan

by STEVE HAN | @steve_han

South Korea announced Friday that it will not share its right to host the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang with Japan after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) suggested the idea of co-hosting to reduce cost.

IOC officials proposed the option of hosting bobsled and luge events of the 2018 Games in Japan to Pyeongchang’s organizing committee and recommended utilizing existing facilities rather than pouring resources into building new ones. This proposal sparked an angry response from South Koreans, many of whom still resent Japan over conflicting views on politics and history.

“There was no possibility of moving some events overseas, as the IOC suggested to Pyeongchang,” Cho Yang-ho, chairman of the Pyeongchang organizing commitee, said in a statement, according to the New York Times. “It was difficult for Pyeongchang to adopt [the IOC’s ideas] because the construction for all game venues has already started.”

The IOC’s proposal to South Korea came on Monday after its landmark decision to allow host cities of the Olympic Games to move competitions to towns in nearby countries in order to prevent potential bidders for future events from going into further debt. The Russian city of Sochi’s total budget of $51 billion for the 2014 Games has reportedly scared off potential bidders.

Although the South Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism’s estimated cost of the Pyeongchang Games is at $10 billion, the IOC suggested that utilizing the facilities in Nagano, Japan, which hosted the 1998 Games could save billions for Pyeongchang.

In 2002, FIFA made the unprecedented decision to allow South Korea and Japan to co-host the World Cup. The rivalry between the two countries was so fierce that it caused serious organizational and logistical problems. As a result, FIFA officially banned co-hosting bids in 2004. It’s safe to say that co-hosting the Winter Games with Japan will create similar conflicts as the 2002 FIFA World Cup.

Photo courtesy of Snowalps.com


Kim Yuna Named Honorary Ambassador for the 2018 Winter Games


Former Olympic figure skater Kim Yuna was named an honorary ambassador for the 2018 Winter Olympics held in Pyeongchang, the first South Korean host of the quadrennial competition.

Kim, 24, became South Korea’s first Olympic figure skating gold medalist at the 2010 Vancouver Games and ended her decorated career after winning silver at Sochi earlier this year. Often called “Queen Yuna” by her fans, Kim is South Korea’s most popular sporting figure and has appeared in numerous commercials. Her current net worth is estimated to be $21 million.

According to Yonhap, Kim was one of the key figures who helped Pyeongchang win the bid for the 2018 Games by giving an impressive presentation at the International Olympic Committee session in Durban, South Africa in 2011.

“As a former winter sports athlete and a South Korean citizen, I am very pleased to be able to contribute to the organizing of the Winter Games in my country,” Kim said in a statement on Tuesday. “I worked with the bidding committee three years ago, and I still vividly remember the moment Pyeongchang won the bid. I look forward to an exciting venture with the organizing committee going forward.”

Cho Yang-ho, head of Pyeongchang’s Winter Games organizing committee, said that the committee has high expectations of Kim and believes her new position as honorary ambassador will ensure South Korea’s first Winter Olympics to be a success.

“As an athlete, Kim dominated her sport with confidence and audacity,” Cho said. “I hope her international experience can translate into her activities as our honorary ambassador, and she will be the face of Pyeongchang in international events promoting the Olympics.”

Preparations for the 2018 Winter Olympics are underway, including the construction on six of the 13 competition venues.

Kim currently holds the world record for the highest ladies’ free skate score (150.06 points) and combined total score (228.56). She had set each world record three times and never finished a competition off the podium throughout her entire career.


Photo courtesy of Queen Yuna/Flickr

캐나다 국적 아이

South Korea Grants Citizenship to Pair of Canadian Pro Ice Hockey Players

Two professional hockey players who were born in Canada were granted South Korean citizenship last Tuesday, Yonhap News reports.

With the hopes of fielding a strong ice hockey team in time for the 2018 Olympics hosted by Korea in Pyeongchang, the government has relaxed restrictions on dual citizenships for “qualified” foreigners.

Brian Young, 28, and Michael Swift, 27, were naturalized via an expedited reviewing process that allows multiple citizenships for “talented foreigners, such as chiefs of government agencies, legal institutions and universities as well as leaders in fields of business, sports and science.”

Yonhap said 46 foreigners have obtained South Korean passports under the new law thus far.

In March 2013, Canada-born, former Edmonton Oilers NHL draft pick Brock Radunske was granted Korean citizenship.

Monday's Link Attack: Dokdo, Steven Yeun, Internet Addicts

Japanese Lawmakers Denied Entry in South Korea
New York Times

Airport immigration officials denied entry to three Japanese lawmakers on Monday, thwarting their plan to travel close to a set of tiny islands claimed by South Korea and Japan. The trio then refused for hours to board a return flight home in the confrontation, which has laid bare longstanding animosities between the two countries rooted in Japan’s colonialist past.

Troy actor Steven Yeun finds success in ‘Walking Dead’ on AMC
Detroit News

The Troy High School and Kalamazoo College graduate was just happy to play Glenn, the pizza delivery guy turned hero.

Now that the show has become the basic cable network’s top-rated offering, drawing a record 5 million viewers, Yeun is enjoying the buzz and his character’s development. There’s also more to love this time around now that the series has a 13-episode run. And when the second season of “The Walking Dead” roars back Oct. 16, fans will see Glenn get a love interest named Maggie (Lauren Cohan, “Chuck” and “Supernatural”) and suddenly have more to lose.

Charges laid in May shooting death
CTV News (Canada)

A man has been charged with first-degree murder on Friday in connection with the shooting death of John Kang in May.

Kang, 21, was shot outside a fast food restaurant near Victoria Park and Finch Avenue East on May 26.

L.A.’s Idea of Korean Food vs. What Koreans Really Eat
L.A. Weekly

Most Angelenos know at least a few Korean dishes. Beyond that, appreciation of the range and depth appreciation of Korean cuisine varies quite a bit. We’re never surprised about the wide swath of positive or negative things anyone has to say about Korean food.

Tens of Thousands Line Up to Sue Apple
Chosun Ilbo

Around 25,000 [Korean] users of iPhones and iPads are preparing to sue Apple for gathering information on their locations without their consent.

Mirae Law, which is representing the Apple users in the collective action suit, said on Sunday that around 25,000 people comprise the first group of litigants, and that it plans to submit its suit at the beginning of this month.

South Korean clinic treats web addicts
BBC News

Like all the children here, Ji-won is learning to spend time away from the internet.

It is something South Korea is increasingly concerned about. Internet addiction has long been recognised as a clinical condition here. And a number of high-profile cases of addicts who neglect themselves – or their children – to the point of death, have raised awareness even further.

A Korean ‘Sacred Duty’ Harbors a Dark Side
New York Times

Amid a rise in suicides and shooting incidents, South Korea’s mandatory military service comes under scrutiny.

Increasingly, the military’s ranks are filled with young men who have not experienced war and no longer consider their 21-month compulsory service a “sacred duty,” as their fathers did, but rather an inconvenient interruption of their civilian lives and careers.

That shift in attitude not only has worried superiors who count on a motivated force, but also has led to a generational clash. Many younger soldiers and marines are now unwilling to accept harsh treatment long tolerated and even encouraged in South Korea as a way of toughening up men for battle, including beatings severe enough to puncture eardrums and cut deeply into thighs.

YG Entertainment CEO Reveals Plans for Movement into the U.S. Market

The head of the highly successful Korean pop label, which includes popular groups such as 2NE1 and Big Bang, said that the company plans a foray into the U.S. market within two years.

I now see the possibilities of advancing into the American market from closely observing the changes that have taken place in the European market. The marketing potential for it is endless. I’m secretly looking forward to the US market as well. China and the US are actually the toughest markets. The US is also the market that most singers are targeting but it’s so big that I think it’s more effective to polish content made in Korea and inform them of it than to promote in the country directly.

A Utopia called Nami
The Nation

One of the most popular tourist destinations in South Korea, Nami Island is instantly recognisable as the backdrop for the popular 2002 Korean TV drama “Winter Sonata”.

Yet, without the efforts of Kang Woo-Hyon – “the CEO of Nami Island” – this privately owned getaway would still be quiet for much of the year.

Angels minor league report
Los Angeles Times

Catcher Hank Conger is batting .385 with 15 RBI in nine games since his demotion to Triple-A Salt Lake.

O.C. Koreans say Olympics will boost country’s standing
Orange County Register

South Korea’s winning bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics has drawn warm reactions from the Korean-American community in Orange County.

Home to approximately 55,573 Korean Americans, Orange County has the third largest population of Korean Americans in the United States (behind Los Angeles County and Queens County, N.Y.).

Korean-Americans interviewed hope the Olympics will show that South Korea deserves a greater voice in the world community.

Dia Frampton – The Voice Tour in Los Angeles

Tuesday's Link Attack: DREAM Act, Winter Olympics, North Korea

Korean-American student dreams big with passage of Dream Act

College student Jaime Kim was 10 years old when her family moved to Fullerton, Calif. from South Korea a decade ago. What she wasn’t told was that her family entered on tourist visas with no intent to return to Korea.

Kim earned mostly A’s [in school], and began looking at colleges and applying for financial aid. That’s when her mother broke the news – she was an illegal immigrant.

Because of Kim’s immigration status, she didn’t qualify for financial aid. “I was devastated. I was ashamed.”

Kim became active in the student movement to win financial aid for undocumented students and attended Gov. Jerry Brown’s signing of the California Dream Act yesterday. “This bill will allow me to continue my education,” Kim said.

Quiet digital revolution under way in North Korea
Associated Press via BusinessWeek

North Korea is undergoing its own digital revolution, even as it grapples with chronic shortages of food and fuel. It is still among the most isolated of nations, with cyberspace policies considered among the most restrictive in the world. Yet inside Pyongyang, there’s a small but growing digital world, and a whole new vocabulary to go with it: CNC, e-libraries, IT, an operating system called Red Star and a Web portal called Naenara.

In a world ever-wary of the unpredictable nation’s motives, some see in North Korea’s bid to train a generation of computer experts the specter of hackers launching attacks on the defense systems of rival governments. Others see the push to computerize factories and develop IT expertise as a political campaign designed to promote Kim Jong Un, the reputedly tech-savvy, Swiss-educated son being groomed to succeed his father as North Korea’s next leader.

The country remains one of the hardest to penetrate — by email, by phone, by Internet. But there are signs of curiosity about the wired world outside.

PyeongChang seeking to become tourism hub
Korea Times

As home to some of the most scenic nature and comprehensive leisure facilities in the nation, PyeongChang is hoping duplicate the success of Lake Placid of the United States during and after the 1980 Winter Games, in attracting tourists and international events.

Korea has grown into a winter sports powerhouse in Asia, finishing in the top 10 in the medal standings in the five previous Winter Games.