Senior diplomats from S. Korea, Japan, China hold talks amid strained ties
Ranking diplomats from South Korea, Japan and China met in Seoul on Thursday to discuss closer trilateral collaboration amid frayed ties over historical and territorial issues with Japan.
The meeting brought together Seoul’s Deputy Minister for Political Affairs Lee Kyung-soo, China’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Liu Zhenmin and Asia Bureau Director General Shinsuke Sugiyama from Japan’s foreign ministry.
The eighth meeting of the three countries’ ranking foreign ministry officials comes amid Japan’s unusually chilly relations with China and South Korea.
Park’s Japan Rebuff Has Domestic Roots
Wall Street Journal
Despite polling data showing public support in South Korea for a Seoul-Tokyo summit, President Park Geun-hye has labeled such a meeting “pointless” in an interview with the BBC. This rebuff has as much to do with current domestic political dynamics as it does with historical grievances with Japan.
President Park has declining but solid approval ratings in the low-60 percentage point range. But the key figure is that only 50% approve of her performance on domestic issues following a series of policy missteps and scandals. Thus, the administration has less wiggle room than is imagined when it comes to spending its political capital.
Because of this domestic vulnerability, there is little appetite to take the risk of moving first on Japan for uncertain rewards. Particularly important to understand is that such a move would invite her domestic critics to revive comparisons with her father, Park Chung-hee, and his complicated legacy.
North Korea says SKorean spy arrested in capital
AP via Yahoo News
North Korea’s security agency said Thursday it arrested a South Korean spy in Pyongyang who intended to rally anti-government forces, a claim that intelligence officials in Seoul quickly called ridiculous and groundless.
Pyongyang regularly accuses Seoul and Washington of working to sabotage its secretive, authoritarian system — statements that outside analysts see as a way to strengthen domestic support for leader Kim Jong Un — but specific claims that an individual spy has been captured, especially before an investigation is concluded, are unusual.
The few details in the statement by an unidentified spokesman for the North’s state security ministry couldn’t be independently verified. North Korea said the South Korean man confessed to illegally entering the country, but there was no statement from him and there were no details about his condition or legal representation.
Christian missionaries in North Korea: Inside the front companies Christians set up to reach the Stalinist dictatorship
For nearly two years, Kenneth Bae, an undercover missionary from Lynnwood, Wash., safely shuttled groups of Christians in and out of North Korea’s Rason Special Economic Zone. In November 2012, Bae’s crusade ended abruptly. The owner of Nations Tour, a China-based front company he formed as a cover to evangelize in the world’s last Stalinist state, Bae was arrested by North Korean agents as he passed through the Wonjong border crossing with a small group of European travelers. The 44-year-old Korean-American was charged with possession of “anti-DPRK literature,” convicted of encouraging foreigners to “perpetrate hostile acts to bring down [the] government,” and sentenced to 15 years hard labor.
It is relatively rare that North Korea arrests a foreign national, even rarer when one considers that a company like Nations Tour is hardly unique. The so-called “Business as Mission” movement, which instructs devout Christians to set up companies as vehicles for spiritual outreach, dates back to the 18th century but found new life at the beginning of the 21st. It’s a missionary model that, by definition, assumes a certain amount of risk for those setting out to reach the “unreached.” But the risks haven’t dissuaded the faithful from taking up the cause. Today, there is an extensive, well-financed network of for-profit missions, using shadowy front companies to evangelize in North Korea. Though precise numbers are impossible to pin down, missionary-businesspeople have set up a staggering breadth of enterprises, including tour agencies, bakeries, factories, farms, even schools and orphanages, all in the name of spreading the Good Word.
Fleeing discrimination at home, S. Koreans seek asylum abroad
His name, Ye-da, seemed somehow meaningful – a combination of the Korean words for “Jesus” and “Buddha.” But 23-year-old Lee Ye-da may never again be able to live with the parents who gave him that name. When we arrived at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle International Airport last August, we found it teeming with unfamiliar faces. Making our way to a tourist information booth near the second floor terminal, we saw a young Korean couple – tourists, apparently – chattering as they walked past. In their place appeared Lee Ye-da.
Lee, a South Korean national, lives in France as a refugee. His refugee status was recognized by the French Office for Protection of Refugees and Expatriates (OFPRA) two months before his meeting with the Hankyoreh and seven months after he first submitted his application.
State Sen. Donna Mercado Kim Running For Congress
Honolulu Civil Beat
Donna Mercado Kim, the Hawaii Senate president and longtime lawmaker, will announce her candidacy for Hawaii’s 1st District Seat in Congress today.
Brian Ahakuelo, the business manager of IBEW Local 1260, will also be on hand to endorse Kim’s campaign. The announcement will be in front of Iolani Palace.
A press release for Kim’s campaign initially said she would be the first Korean American elected to Congress. In fact, that honor appears to go to Chang Joon “Jay” Kim, a former politician from California, according to his Wikipedia entry.
BBCN in Los Angeles Hires Saehan’s CFO to Fill Strategy Post
The executive carousel keeps turning among Korean-American banks.
BBCN Bancorp (BBCN) in Los Angeles has hired Daniel Kim as its chief planning officer, effective Nov. 25. Kim, 46, will handle the $6.3 billion-asset company’s strategic planning department, which was created earlier this year, and will advise on acquisitions, revenue diversification and capital management.
Kim is chief financial officer, corporate secretary and acting president at Saehan Bancorp, which is in the process of selling itself to Wilshire Bancorp (WIBC). Kim joined Saehan in 2003 from Pacific Union Bank, where he was manager of the accounting, corporate planning and investment departments.
A swipe at profits
SOUTH KOREA is a notoriously competitive society. But how do those who play its fierce status games know when they have won? Probably when they are invited to apply for “the black”, a credit card issued by Hyundai Card, a subsidiary of Hyundai Motor. Cast in “liquidmetal”, a trademarked alloy suited to armour-piercing ammunition, the card is heavy. It is also rare. Only about 2,000 have been issued and only 9,999 ever will be. To qualify, a holder needs high social standing as well as high net worth. The card charges a stiff membership fee and offers a variety of benefits: members were, for example, invited to a mock Christie’s auction, featuring works flown in from New York. But the main reason people want the black card is that it is so difficult to get.
That elusiveness is unusual in South Korea, where credit cards are issued promiscuously. The country has the equivalent of 4.4 cards for every member of the labour force. Koreans made 129.7 transactions per person in 2011, according to Yonhap, a news agency, more than any other country. In comparison, Canadians made 89.6 transactions and Americans 77.9.
Best of South Korean Short Films to Stream on Web, Flights
The 11th Asiana International Short Film Festival takes place from Nov. 7-12 in Seoul, but the annual event supported by South Korea’s Asiana Airlines will also screen works online and on flights.
For the first time, 10 films featured in the Korean Competition section will be shown online through Naver TV Store, a channel on Korea’s largest portal site. Winning works are also available for view through Asiana Airline’s in-flight entertainment system.
“We’ve discussed ways to distribute short films by grouping them together [to meet the feature film running time] but this has not been pursued yet,” said veteran actor Ahn Sung-ki, who serves as the festival director. “Currently it is difficult to distribute short films in a consistent, long-term fashion but we are devising ways to do so.”
Trash, illegal flyers dirty Seoul’s main party drag
Korea Joongang Daily
On a recent Friday night, one of Seoul’s most popular thoroughfares, the street in front of Hongik University – known as Hongdae – was flooded with revelers, bar hoppers and college students.
Around 7 p.m., four street cleaners emerged and began the tedious routine of removing trash from the street.
They picked up discarded cigarette butts, paper cups and cans until 9 a.m. when the area was finally cleared.
But as they left, more people flowed into Hongdae and the situation began to change.
Mountain Kim Builds Character and Strength
The Connection (Virginia)
When Tae Kwon Do Grand Master Mountain Kim opened his martial arts school in Vienna about 35 years ago, it was the second of the eponymous Mountain Kim Tae Kwon Do schools in Northern Virginia. Now, there are approximately 20 Mountain Kim martial arts schools in the area, most of which are franchises. The Vienna and the Oakton schools are still owned and run by Mountain Kim’s family. In fact, should you stop by the Vienna school on Dominion Road, it’s not unusual to see the Grand Master there himself. He is not a titular face, either. Mountain Kim is hands-on in the practice studio and in the office.
“Every day, we teach respect, listening to parents, grandparents and teachers,” said Mountain Kim. “We and the parents and the school work together to teach respect, discipline.”
Mountain Kim calls himself “semi-retired,” but his passion for the values that tae kwon do instills in its practitioners is as self-defining as it was in the Grand Master’s earliest years. He says tae kwon do training is very good for children.
A Mysterious Realm of Exquisite Objects
New York Times
Here’s a good question for “Jeopardy!”: One of the world’s longest-running dynasties, it emerged around 57 B.C. and grew to dominate the Korean Peninsula in the seventh and eighth centuries before meeting its demise in A.D. 935.
The answer: What was Silla?
If the name Silla is unfamiliar, it might be partly because no major museum exhibition about this kingdom’s art, craft and culture has been mounted in the West until now. “Silla: Korea’s Golden Kingdom,” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, presents more than 130 objects dating from A.D. 400 to around 800, organized by Soyoung Lee, associate curator, and Denise Leidy, curator, in the Met’s Asian art department, with colleagues at the National Museum of Korea in Seoul and the Gyeongju National Museum.
Japan ‘disappointed’ by South Korea summit remarks
Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said Japan had outlined its position on the issues and he hoped South Korea would accept that.
He said Japan would continue to seek to build co-operation with Seoul.
President Park Geun-hye said Japan must apologise for war-time “wrong-doings”.
Japan raps S. Korea for islet claims, alarmed at China’s criticism
Japan’s Foreign Ministry in separate reports has criticized South Korea for selectively interpreting historical records to justify its territorial claim to a disputed group of islands in the Sea of Japan, while registering its concern about China’s stepped-up criticism of Japan over a separate island dispute through its state media.
Together the reports, submitted late last month to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s special committee on territorial issues, strongly suggest the ministry’s willingness to seek LDP support in pushing back on information campaigns.
In analyzing South Korea’s recent criticism of Japan, one of the reports says Seoul has interpreted relevant documents and materials over the history of Takeshima, a group of islets controlled by South Korea but claimed by Japan, “in a way that is consistent with its claims to make it look as if the islands are its own territory.”
North Korean Sailors Reported Killed in October Sinking; South Says There Was No Clash
New York Times
A North Korean naval vessel sank last month, killing an unspecified number of sailors, according to North and South Korean news media.
The news first appeared on Saturday when the North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported that the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, had visited a newly built cemetery for the sailors “sacrificed” on board the vessel, a submarine chaser, during “combat duties” last month.
The news agency gave no further details about what happened but quoted Mr. Kim as instructing his navy to “find all the bodies,” hinting at a sizable death toll. Photos of Mr. Kim visiting the cemetery with flowers showed a large mass tomb encircled by what looked like at least a score of headstones bearing the names and photographs of the sailors who had died.
South Korean Businesses Quit Kaesong
Wall Street Journal
South Korean businesses are exiting the Kaesong industrial park in North Korea, making Seoul’s efforts to attract foreign investment to the site an even tougher sell.
At least nine South Korean firms have ended or have decided to end business at the Kaesong Industrial Complex, just north of the inter-Korean military border, because of uncertain investment prospects and financial crunches following a five-month operational halt amid cross-border tensions.
Officials at the Unification Ministry in Seoul confirmed two of 123 South Korean firms in Kaesong had fully withdrawn from North Korea after selling out their business assets there. They withheld the names of the companies—one manufacturing electronics parts and the other textile.
Road Voyeurism Fueling Surge in Black Box Sales in Korea: Cars
In the world of the wired, South Koreans rule: millions got hooked on social networking years before Facebook; their mobile phones went broadband first; and Internet connections are faster than anyplace on the planet.
Now they’re going pedal to the metal on the next hi-tech craze: “black boxes” for cars, devices that automatically record video and audio as well as time, location and speed.
What began five years back as a way to protect local taxi drivers from passengers who run off without paying has caught on with other drivers — 2.2 million black boxes are already in use, more than the number of autos sold in Korea each year. Broadcaster SBS has enough clips from viewers that it aired more than 100 morning show segments on car crashes.
South Korea is stuck with Internet Explorer for online shopping because of security law
South Korea is renowned for its digital innovation, with coast-to-coast broadband and a 4G LTE network that reaches into Seoul’s subway system. But this tech-savvy country is stuck in a time warp in one way: its slavish dependence on Internet Explorer.
For South Koreans who use other browsers such as Chrome or Safari, online shopping often begins with a pop-up notice warning that they might not be able to buy what they came for.
“Purchases can only be made through Internet Explorer,” says one such message on the Web site of Asiana Airlines, one of South Korea’s two major carriers.
Michelle Rhee revolution faces massive threat — and new accusations
Education reform lightning rod Paul Vallas – who courted controversy helming school districts in Philadelphia, New Orleans and Chicago — isn’t on the ballot tomorrow. But a school board election in Bridgeport, Conn. – the latest district to tap Vallas to oversee reforms — could effectively spell his fate. Tomorrow’s vote will offer the latest referendum on the bipartisan, billionaire-backed mainstream education reform movement, and on a multi-year effort by local Democrats – aided by the likes of Michael Bloomberg and Michelle Rhee — to defeat or disempower labor-backed dissenters.
“As I’ve gone around the country, I always point to Bridgeport as one of the signs that the people can beat the power,” former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education and high-profile reform critic Diane Ravitch told activists on a conference call last month. Tuesday’s election is the latest round in a long-running war over ed reform, and who should shape it, in the largest city in one of the country’s most unequal states.
For the sake of shielding Vallas and his agenda, activists allege that the city’s Democratic machine has acted indifferent or even hostile to defeating Republicans tomorrow.
Convicted sex offender is charged
Wilkes Journal-Patriot (North Carolina)
A man is awaiting trial in Wilkes District Court on 41 felony counts of being a sex offender on the premises of a place where children gather.
Leonard Lee Yoon, 73, of 540 Obed Heights Drive in the Pores Knob community is also charged with one felony count of obtaining property by false pretenses for denying that he was a convicted sex offender when he signed a Wilkes YMCA membership form in April, said Lt. Jason Whitley of the Wilkes Sheriff’s Department.
Whitley said 40 counts of being a sex offender on the premises of a place where children gather resulted from Yoon being at the Wilkes YMCA and one count resulted from him being at the Wilkes County Library from April through June.
Why Girls’ Generation and K-Pop Won Big at the YouTube Music Awards
Wall Street Journal
Last night, K-Pop supergroup Girls’ Generation took top honors at the first-ever YouTube Music Awards, winning Video of the Year for their clip “I Got a Boy” — an eclectic, electric mashup of candy-colored visuals that parallels the song’s peppery stop-start aesthetic. In doing so, they beat out a fairly impressive list of video music titans — including Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, One Direction and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis — sending shockwaves of self-congratulatory glee across the K-Pop fanscape.
That’s because, given the YTMA’s parameters, the Girls’ victory was literally a win by, for and about the fans: Unlike the Grammys and the MTV Video Music Awards, nominees for the YTMAs were selected solely by algorithm, based on likes, shares, views and other metrics of “fan engagement,” and, according to YouTube, winners were chosen based on how many fresh shares the nominated videos got in the month-long runup to the actual event (with YouTube keeping the vote-with-your-browser window open right up to the actual show itself).
Kimchi advertised in New York Times
Korea Times US
An ad for kimchi, South Korea’s representative side dish, is featured in the Nov. 4, 2013 edition of The New York Times. Actress Kim Yun-jin, known for her role in popular TV series “Lost,” modeled for the ad arranged by South Korean Prof. Seo Kyung-duk, an active promoter of Korea.
Author Catherine Chung: ‘I Want To Embrace The Things That I Am’
Catherine Chung went from mathematics to writing, though she says words were always her first love. She was named one of Granta’s New Voices in 2010, and her first novel, Forgotten Country, received honorable mention for a PEN/Hemingway Award last year.
In Forgotten Country, Chung writes of a family with a curse that stretches back generations — from their time in Korea to their life in America. Since the Japanese occupation of Korea, each generation of the family has lost a daughter.
“I tried to pull my hand out of my mother’s grasp, but she held on. She had lost her sister; she had lived in the aftermath of war. This was always what it came down to, in the end. My grandmother had told me once that my mother had never gotten over the death of my aunt. ‘Never talk of it,’ my grandmother had said. ‘Never bring it up.’ “
Could the Royals land a Korean pitcher this winter?
Kansas City Star
There is an interesting prediction about the Royals at the MLB Trade Rumors site.
In a post about the top 50 free agents, the web site predicted the Royals would land two pitchers this winter:
Toronto’s Josh Johnson (no surprise to hear that) and South Korean Suk-Min Yoon.
Yoon, 27, is a right-hander who was the MVP of the Korean Baseball Organization in 2011.
However, this past season, Yoon had a shoulder problem for the KIA Tigers and finished with a 4.00 ERA in 87 2/3 innings. He moved to the bullpen from the rotation. He also pitched in the World Baseball Classic earlier this year, allowing two earned runs in 4 1/3 innings in a 5-0 loss to the Netherlands.
Oh Seung-hwan to Start Seeking MLB Club
Samsung Lions’ relief pitcher Oh Seung-hwan will start trying to negotiate a deal with foreign clubs as he looks to potential suitors in Japan and the U.S.
Oh is hoping to find a place for himself in U.S. Major League Baseball, where several clubs have reportedly expressed interest in him. But he apparently sees Japan as his most realistic next destination.
The righty played a crucial role in the Lion’s victory at this year’s Korean Series, which ended last week. Now baseball fans hope he can prove himself as a successful pitcher in the MLB like Los Angeles Dodgers’ Ryu Hyun-jin.
Glenview boutique owner driven by passion for fashion design
Glenview Announcements (Illinois)
Ask Grace Yoon why she decided to open up her Glenview women’s boutique, Ella Louvi and she’ll say her goal was to share her creativity — her clothing designs — with her customers.
“Owning the store isn’t my first passion,” said Yoon, who opened Ella Louvi last July, just months after she and her former business partner, Stella Chun closed their successful store, Stella + Grace. “I love my customers, and I love helping them pick out beautiful outfits, but designing my own line of clothing is my dream.”
Yoon, who came to the states with her family when she was nine years old grew up in the city and in Glenview.
Increase in Activity Reported at North Korean Nuclear Test Site
New York Times
North Korea has increased activity at its main underground nuclear test site, digging new tunnel entrances in what could be preparations for another nuclear test, a Washington-based research institute reported Thursday.
The U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, which based its conclusion on analysis of commercial satellite images of the site in Punggye-ri in northeastern North Korea, said there was no sign that a test was imminent.
The report came a day after North Korea’s Foreign Ministry reaffirmed that the isolated country would continue to expand its nuclear arsenal, despite warnings from the United States that it will not engage in the dialogue that Pyongyang is seeking until the North moves toward denuclearization.
Mother: Reunion with US man jailed in North Korea ‘emotional
The mother of American Kenneth Bae, who is imprisoned in North Korea, told the BBC his health had improved following two months of medical treatment.
But Myunghee Bae said her worst fear was that he would get sent back to a labour camp.
The Korean-American was arrested last November and sentenced to 15 years’ hard labour in May.
Mr Bae, described as a tour operator and Christian missionary, was accused of plotting sedition.
It’s Now Dr. Kim Jong Un, Thanks to Malaysian University
Wall Street Journal
A Malaysian university has given North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un a new title – Dr. – offering the controversial figure its first degree to a foreign head of state.
Mr. Kim Jong Un might seem like an unlikely recipient for a university’s degree. But, despite grabbing world-wide headlines through a series of nuclear missile tests and threats to strike U.S. cities, he received an honorary doctorate in economics from Kuala Lumpur-based HELP University.
Paul Chan, vice chancellor and president of HELP, said the award was meant to build “a bridge to reach the people” of North Korea. He said Mr. Kim accepted the degree through his ambassador in a ceremony that was held Oct. 3 in North Korea’s embassy in Malaysia.
‘Choco Pie’ on table for campaign to address N. Korean human rights problem
Call it the “Choco Pie Project.”
The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) plans to give away free Choco Pies near the White House next week in a bid to enhance public awareness of the human rights conditions in the communist nation.
The event will take place at Farragut Square on Wednesday, coinciding with the opening of two-day public hearings by a special panel of the U.N. Human Rights Council looking into the human rights abuses in the North.
Faced with overwhelming pressures, South Korean women have gone on baby-strike
Mothers with young children spend nearly five times as long looking after their family and home as fathers do, calculates Jayoung Yoon of the Korea Labour Institute. But at least the ratio is getting better. In 2009 men gave about half an hour a day more of their time to domestic chores than they had done ten years earlier, and women shaved off roughly 20 minutes. In the Korean sex wars, the front line moves slowly.
The burden of child-rearing poses a formidable obstacle to women’s professional ambitions. Women in their 20s now have higher labour-force participation rates than men, but many drop out in their 30s. They typically return in their mid-40s, though often not to the kinds of corporate jobs they held down before marriage. Instead they work for themselves or their families, often with lower pay and perks (see chart 1).
The 54th parallel
SITTING IN SEOUL’S Tapgol Park under the bronze statue of a patriotic hero, an elderly gentleman reads his newspaper with the aid of a pocket magnifying glass. When asked, he spells out his name (“Mr Jeon”) in the Chinese characters familiar to Korea’s pre-war generation.
In his younger days Mr Jeon worked as a carpenter and builder. Now 87, he is a regular member of the park’s greying congregation: “There’s no other place to go for an old person like me.” He and his companions spend their time complaining about their ailments and corrupt politicians. “In the daytime this spot is packed.”
South Korea is ageing faster than any other country in the OECD. Last year almost 12% of the population were aged 65 or over. By 2030 that proportion will double. The number of South Koreans of working age will peak in just three years’ time, according to the OECD’s Randall Jones and Satoshi Urasawa. By 2040 their number will drop by about a fifth.
Korean-Americans undertake campaign to help accused intelligence analyst
Korean-Americans are taking part in a campaign to help Stephen Kim, who has been waging a battle in the courts since US prosecutors charged him with violating the Espionage Act by leaking material related to national security in 2010.
“We’ve decided to hold our first fundraiser in Flushing, New York, on November 21,” said Lee Myung-seok, former president of the Korean-American Association of Queens, New York on Oct. 22. “We’ll establish a committee for helping Stephen Kim, and we’ll launch rescue committees in each major city.”
“We’re also planning to send petitions to the White House, the Justice Department, and major media outlets,” Lee said.
Wilmette man’s Barrington Hills home invasion trial begins
Prosecutors and witnesses described two hours of armed violence in a Barrington Hills home nearly five years ago as the trial of a Wilmette man on charges of home invasion and kidnapping got underway in Cook County Circuit Court today.
Kuhn Kim, 28, of the 1600 block of Sheridan Road, is also charged with armed robbery, aggravated battery and other crimes in a 22 count indictment stemming from the Dec. 5, 2008 incident.
The bench trial before Judge Kay Hanlon in Rolling Meadows branch court began following lengthy psychiatric examinations and several incidents in which Kim violated conditions of his $1.5 million bond, including a case of reckless driving and possession of drug paraphernalia. He has been in Cook County jail since his bond was revoked last year.
District man sentenced to 40 years in prison for 2010 fatal shooting of Fairfax man
A District man was sentenced to 40 years in prison Thursday for the 2010 slaying of a man who authorities say was shot in the face in Southeast Washington.
D.C. Superior Court Judge Russell F. Canan sentenced Marlon Williams, 34, in the Sept. 13, 2010, killing of Min Soo Kang, 37, of Fairfax County. According to prosecutors, Williams was identified after he stole Kang’s 2010 Cadillac Escalade after the shooting. The vehicle was equipped with OnStar GPS tracking, which enabled police to locate the vehicle. Prosecutors said that Williams’s prints were found in the vehicle.
Prosecutors said Williams shot Kang about 4:30 a.m. in the 3500 block of Croffut Place SE. Kang was shot multiple times in the chest, face, finger and forearm.
Seoul, San Francisco Mayors Pledge to Strengthen Ties
Voice of America
In South Korea, the mayor of Seoul has met with his counterpart from San Francisco to strengthen sister city relations, and discuss encouraging Internet-based business.
San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee and Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon affirmed nearly four decades of sister-city relations with pledges to strengthen economic, cultural and education exchanges.
Mayor Park praised San Francisco’s reputation for innovative business and said he hoped its Korean-American community could act as a bridge across the Pacific.
High-security isolation for South Korea’s exam-setters
AFP via NDTV.com
Every October, hundreds of South Korean teachers and professors are sequestered – like jurors in a mafia trial – in a secret, guarded compound: prisoners of their country’s obsession with education.
For one month, they are kept in complete isolation under conditions that resemble house arrest, with everything down to their food waste subject to rigorous examination.
Their sole task is to compile the annual college entrance exam – the importance of which in the minds of stressed-out students and their often equally stressed-out parents is almost impossible to exaggerate.
What’s it like to live on $26 a week?
Prince George Citizen (British Columbia)
As a registered dietitian, Erica Kang knows what it takes to eat a healthy, balanced diet, but this week she didn’t consume nearly enough calories and was short many vitamins and nutrients.
Kang didn’t slack off her regular eating routine because she wanted a break nor was she on the latest diet craze, instead she took part in the Welfare Food Challenge to both raise awareness about low social assistance rates in B.C. as well as learn what’s it’s like to live on a food budget of just $26 a week.
“Even for somebody trained, with five years of schooling, I wasn’t able to manage what was an adequate diet for my needs,” Kang said after completing the challenge this week.
Plastic Surgery Perfected With 3-D?
Wall Street Journal
3-D technology is helping plastic surgeons make more-precise cuts and easing patients’ anxiety by giving them an advance look at their future faces. The WSJ’s Kurt Achin reports from Seoul, South Korea.
Kenneth Bae’s mother tells of heartbreak after seeing, leaving imprisoned son
Walking into a Pyongyang hospital room to greet her imprisoned son, Myunghee Bae was overcome with emotion. Talking exclusively to CNN, Bae said it was a “very happy moment. At the same time, I could not believe he was a prisoner in North Korea; a new realization.”
Bae was granted a five-day visa to North Korea and three short visits with her son, Kenneth; a total of six hours, in which she says there was not one moment’s silence. “He said he’s being treated very fairly,” she said. “He was taken to a special labor camp, so he was the only prisoner, and a whole lot of people have to stay with him, guards and doctors.”
Kenneth Bae, an American citizen, was arrested in November of last year and sentenced in May to 15 years of hard labor. The North Korean regime says he was found guilty of “hostile acts” and attempts to topple the government. His mother says he has a profound love for the country and its people, and any offense he caused was not intentional.
Engaging with North Korea
Los Angeles Times
Pyongyang, North Korea — I became British ambassador to North Korea a year ago, and since then I have seen firsthand the nature of the regime. Its human rights record is appalling; it continues to develop its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and to sell its military know-how to other states. And yet, I’ve also seen that it is possible to engage with the regime constructively.
The United Kingdom is one of just a handful of Western countries that have diplomatic relations with North Korea (known formally as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) and that maintain embassies in Pyongyang. We are there because we support international efforts to encourage North Korea to engage positively with the outside world and to stop its provocative and repressive behavior. There is a better course for the government if it wishes to take it.
Make no mistake, North Korea continues to aggravate the international community in cycles of threat, provocation and conciliation that have become a familiar, even expected, theme.
MTA officer struck by car at Verrazano Bridge
ABC News (New York)
An MTA Bridges and Tunnels officer was critically injured when he was struck by a vehicle Sunday morning at the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
Authorities say 61-year old Thomas Choi, a 10-year veteran, had parked his wrecker truck near the entrance to the Brooklyn-bound lower level of the bridge near the facility administration building when he was struck by a Nissan Maxima with New Jersey plates at around 7:45 a.m.
The 26-year-old female driver from Bayonne remained at the scene. The cause of the accident is under investigation by the NYPD Collision Investigation Squad. The driver and four passengers inside the car were not injured.
Mayoral Candidates Court Asian American Vote, Fill Up On Soda Ban Debate
NY1.com (New York)
Friday afternoon Bill de Blasio got a warm reception in Chinatown, picking up the endorsement of the Lin Sing Association, a coalition of Chinese-American groups and local elected officials, including Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
“We’re going to make a very focused effort in the Chinese community,” De Blasio said.
It was a different scene in Flushing, where Republican Joe Lhota attended an Asian Americans for Lhota fundraiser at a Chinese restaurant. Attendance appeared to be sparse, though Lhota said many supporters were arriving later.
miss A’s Min gets embroiled in a racism controversy
Min recently posted a photo onto her Instagram that she apparently found funny – a photo that had Rick Ross’ head attached to Sunmi’s body. While that might not seem too offensive, the photo also included a fried chicken leg with the caption “Rick Ross – Lacking 24 servings”.
The fried chicken jab is a derogatory jab at many African Americans, and has a history back to when slaves would fry the leftover chicken from plantation owners to eat them.
The photo deeply offended many on the internet, and she has since deleted the photo from her Instagram. However, there are those defending Min since Rick Ross/chicken memes are popular. He is know for his love of chicken and even owns a chicken restaurant.
‘Konglish’ Is Pervasive in K-pop Songs
Finding a K-pop song with lyrics entirely in Korean is getting increasingly difficult. Behind the changes are musicians and producers who seem to regard the mixture of Korean and English as fancy, and more importantly, are trying to make K-pop more appealing to the global audience.
Yet English lyrics are not always worded properly. Many international K-pop fans say they are even frustrated by what they call “awkward” English terms or expressions in K-pop.
“They (international K-pop fans) become annoyed with strange English lyrics,” Mimsie Ladner wrote in an article she posted on the Huffington Post under the headline, “K-pop and the Future of Korea.” She went on to say they are also frustrated by “seemingly identical tunes that blare from just about every storefront of the country.” Another foreign K-pop listener echoed the view, saying, “If [K-pop musicians] are going to use English, they should use real English.” The listener, who refused to be identified, said, “It’s always random, meaningless words like ‘man,’ ‘girl,’ ‘you,’ ‘baby,’ ‘Come on,’ which only lower the quality of the songs.”
Accommodations | A New Hotel in L.A. Celebrates its Koreatown Surroundings
New York Times
In L.A.’s golden age, when streetcars clanged past urban orange groves and Carmen Miranda was Hollywood’s nod to ethnicity, the high life thrived on a stretch of Wilshire Boulevard near Vermont Avenue. Today, a generation after gang wars and riots sapped the life out of this district, it has re-emerged as the lively epicenter of the city’s Koreatown, bustling with restaurants, nightclubs and shops. The area has long been off the tourist map, but this is about to change with the opening of the Line in November.
The hotel’s creator, Andrew Zobler, is the man behind the Beaux-Arts-style NoMad Hotel in Manhattan and the cheap-chic Freehand Miami hostel. But the Line, designed by Sean Knibb, is something different for both Zobler and Los Angeles. Korean-American culture — or at least a high-end permutation of it — is the 388-room establishment’s organizing theme. ‘‘There is so much good stuff coming out of Korea today, and nobody has really captured that in a hotel,’’ Zobler says. Setting out to educate himself on Korean culture, he encountered the celebrated chef Roy Choi, who will preside over the hotel’s two restaurants: Pot, which serves a new take on hot-pot cuisine, and Commissary, a vegetarian eatery. The 24-hour thrum of the neighborhood inspired Zobler to make the hotel an all-hours social hub. There will be a late-night bakery, a newsstand that never closes and a nightclub that stays open until the wee hours, called Speek, created by the twin brothers Mark and Jonnie Houston, who grew up just four blocks from the hotel.
Shipbuilding in South Korea: Extreme drilling
SOUTH KOREA’S shipyards are having a busy time at the moment welding the behemoths of the shipping industry into shape. Clustered around Busan, the country’s second city, the big three yards—Samsung Heavy Industries (SHI), Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering and Hyundai Heavy Industries—are churning out Maersk’s “Triple-E” class, which at 400 metres in length are the world’s biggest container ships; an oil barge that at 460 metres long is just under half the height of England’s tallest mountain, Scafell; and some of the largest-ever jack-up oil rigs. Equally impressive are the latest “ultra-deepwater” drill ships. These are being built at SHI, and were described to your correspondent on a visit to the yard as “giant Black&Deckers” by one engineer. The first of these, the Viking, was christened recently by Maersk, the ship’s owner.
As inland and offshore wells nearer the coast run down after decades of exploitation, so Big Oil is being forced ever farther out to sea. The new type of drilling vessel is specifically designed to work in the very deepest of waters, mostly in the Gulf of Mexico or off the coast of west Africa. At 228 metres they are relatively short compared with the giant new container ships, but what they lack in length they make up for in technical wizardry. The Viking, which is going to be used by ExxonMobil, can operate in depths of more than 3,000 metres of water and then drill down through another 12,000 metres of earth.
Food Fair Highlights Health Benefits of Korean Food
Korean food and culture is based on health. And finding ways to incorporate foods such as seaweed into dishes—including ice cream, noodles, and other snacks—is a never-ending pursuit.
Seaweed is an extraordinary source of nutrients that includes protein, iodine, and vitamins. It has three times the amount of calcium than milk, according to the Korean Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corporation.
“I think the health benefits and varieties of Korean food is not very well known,” said Kim Jae Soo, president of the Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corporation. The Korean Food Fair, held in Times Square on Oct. 19–20, was organized by the corporation.
South Koreans Cut Back on Coffee
Wall Street Journal
The South Korean coffee frenzy seems to be waning, with data showing a drop in imports and average household spending on the popular beverage.
Almost every other building in Seoul and other cities houses a café, but South Koreans appear to have cut back on coffee as the country’s economic woes keep a lid on consumer spending.
Each household spent an average of 7,873 won ($7.4) on processed coffee or tea in the April-June period, down 1.8 percent from a year earlier. That was the second straight quarterly fall after a 1.4% drop in the January-March period, said Statistics Korea on Monday. The latest declines followed five years of nonstop quarterly gains until 2012.
14 Reasons Why Living in Seoul, Korea is Awesome!
1. Public Transportation in Seoul
Transportation in Seoul is very affordable. The 1050 won (approximately $1USD) base fare is the envy of commuters in other major cities with more expensive public transportation systems. Plus, public transportation in Seoul is super convenient. You can get to pretty much every corner of Seoul only relying on subways and buses. Public transportation is also very safe in Korea. Sure there’s a few crazies here and there, and some lines do tend to get more crowded than others, but that goes for any public transportation system in a major city. The majority of Seoul commuters are exhausted businessmen and students that just want to go home in peace. If you’re already living in Seoul, you know how valuable public transportation has been to you.
Gov’t Has ‘No Plans’ to Join U.S. Missile Defense
Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin on Wednesday played down suspicions that South Korea is about to join the U.S.-led missile defense program by the back door.
Kim told reporters South Korea “clearly will not participate in the U.S. missile defense program.” He said the military is not currently considering purchase of SM-3 or THAAD interceptor missiles that form the core of the program.
The SM-3 can destroy North Korean ballistic missiles at an altitude of 150 km and the THAAD at a lower altitude of 100 km.
What’s behind South Korean president’s new strategy on North Korea?
Christian Science Monitor
For nearly 20 years, South Korea and the world’s biggest powers have sought to pry from North Korea a promise – that it would keep – to end its nuclear weapons program.
They have used carrots and they have used sticks. As inducements, the powers offered to build North Korea a nuclear reactor, provided fuel, and gave food. When that failed they have tried punishments, freezing Pyongyang out of the world financial system and imposing sanctions to starve the government there of all sorts of goods.
Yet twin clouds of steam from North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear reactor, spotted last month in satellite images, suggest all those efforts have come to naught, and raise questions about how the international community – distracted by Iran and Syria – can deter North Korea’s seemingly insatiable desire for nuclear weapons.
North Korea Slams South’s Claim Kim Wants Reunification by Force
North Korea bristled at comments by the head of South Korea’s intelligence service that leader Kim Jong Un will seek to reunite the two countries by force within three years.
The remarks are a smear campaign against North Korea, and the head of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service will “meet the most shameful end” for it, the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said today in a statement distributed by the official Korean Central News Agency.
NIS chief Nam Jae Joon commented on Kim’s possible intentions earlier this month, according to South Korean ruling Saenuri party legislator Cho Won Jin. Cho didn’t say how Nam obtained his information.
N.Korea ‘Disguised Civilian Cargo Planes for Military Show’
North Korea flew civilian cargo planes painted in camouflage during a military parade earlier this year in an apparent attempt to make its arsenal seem bigger than it really is, U.S.-based website NK News said Tuesday.
The “Victory Day” parade on July 27 featured three Russian-made IL-76 military cargo planes, but they were actually civilian cargo planes owned by North Korean carrier Air Koryo, according to the NK News. The website claimed that they were recently spotted at an airport in Moscow with remnants of camouflage on their trail wings.
NK News said the ploy was designed to “exaggerate” the North’s military power.
Kim Tours South Korea, Lectures At Top Schools
Queens Gazette (N.Y.)
Assemblymember Ron Kim (D-Flushing), the first Korean American to be elected to office in New York state, accepted an invitation by the Overseas Korean Foundation to lecture at the number one women’s college, Ewha Womans University, and the top two high schools in South Korea (Cheong Ju Foreign Language H.S. and Korean Minjok Leadership Academy). His lectures mainly focused on the importance of developing leadership traits like determination, perseverance, and grit among our youth.
The Overseas Korean Foundation (OKF) is a department of the South Korean government that was founded 17 years ago to build and maintain close connections with Koreans all around the world. Every year, OKF sponsors political and public leaders worldwide to tour and lecture at some of South Korea’s top schools.
China, Spitting and Global Tourism
New York Times
That’s because spitting is a major reason Chinese tourists can feel unwelcome abroad, commentators say. And more are traveling: Chinese will make about 100 million trips next year, up from 82 million last year, and over 90 million this year, Shao Qiwei, the head of China’s National Tourism Administration, said in Chicago last week.
“In recent years the world has more and more opportunities to know China,” Sun Yingchun, a professor at the Communication University of China, wrote in Huanqiu magazine. “But discrimination and prejudice against Chinese people abroad hasn’t diminished,” he wrote. “Even though Chinese people bring tourist business with them they are also castigated by foreigners. Some foreigners don’t feel kindly toward Chinese tourists because they say they are ill-mannered.” He singled out spitting, loudness, line-cutting and littering.
No one agonizes about it more than some Chinese. Sun Yat-sen, the revolutionary leader and first president of the Chinese republic said in a 1924 speech, “Spitting, farting, growing a long fingernail’’ to pick one’s nose, ‘‘not brushing teeth,’’ in these things ‘‘all Chinese people are unrestrained.”
Anti-Bullying Programs Found to Produce Smarter Bullies and More Victims
Efforts to stop bullying in schools have produced unintended results, specifically more kids being picked on by smarter bullies.
Two academics examined bullying data involving 7,001 students from across the country, expecting to find that anti-bullying programs have mitigated this problem.
But Dr. Seokjin Jeong, a researcher and criminologist from the University of Texas at Arlington, and Byung Hyun Lee from Michigan State University were surprised to learn that the programs actually made things worse.
Their study found that students at schools with anti-bullying programs were more likely to be victimized than students at schools with no such programs.
What’s actually behind the low Asian-American obesity rate?
At first glance, it seems like most Asian-Americans pretty much have this whole obesity thing under control, by the looks of new national statistics. An estimated 11 percent of adult Americans of Asian descent are considered obese. Compare that to the nation’s obesity average as a whole, which stands steady at about 35 percent.
It’s the first time obesity estimates for Asian-Americans have been included in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a research program from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They haven’t been included before because people of Asian descent only make up about 5 percent of the population (though by 2042, that is expected to climb to 9 percent).
Why are Asian-Americans so much thinner? The answer may not be obvious, some experts say.
UCLA and Pepperdine Students Give K-Town Some Love
Students and staff members from UCLA School of Dentistry and Pepperdine University gave some love to Koreatown.
The UCLA School of Dentistry, in a collaborative partnership with Wilshire Bank, provided free dental care in Koreatown of Los Angeles last Saturday. The event took place at the Wilshire State Bank located at 3200 Wilshire Boulevard, and approximately 40 staff members and students from the UCLA School of Dentistry participated and treated about 250 Koreatown patients. 100 patients will receive follow-up care at the School’s Westwood clinic this Saturday.
Unemployment, Poverty Grow Among Asian Americans in Los Angeles County
Voice of America
More Asian Americans live in Los Angles County than anywhere else in the United States. A recent report by Asian Americans Advancing Justice L.A. found that, from 2000 to 2010, Asian Americans were the fastest growing group in L.A. County. The report also found that the number of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in L.A. County who are unemployed and living in poverty continued to grow. Long Beach, California, is home to the largest Cambodian community outside Cambodia.
Several Asian American communities have some of the highest poverty rates in Los Angeles County. Research analyst Kristin Sakaguchi said many people in Asian communities here diverge from the stereotype of Asian American success and easy assimilation.
“A lot of these communities are marginalized and not really focused on,” said Sakaguchi.
PSY And Steven Tyler Are Teaming Up
PSY took over the music listening world with the K-pop electro banger “Gangnam Style,” but the truth is that he looks to classic rockers for inspiration.
In an interview with Italy’s L’Uomo Vogue magazine, the singer said that he collaborated with Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler for a track on his new album.
“When I was in middle school, I literally cried when they were singing ‘Crazy’ or ‘Amazing’ or whatever, they were my lifetime role models, and now I am collaborating with Steven Tyler, what the fuck, man? I love my life,” PSY said.
Tom Hiddleston Dances, Sings His Heart Out On Korean TV Show
He may play the evil Loki in the “Thor” movies, but in real life Tom Hiddleston is all about sprinkles and sunshine — and these videos prove it.
The 32-year-old English actor channeled his inner Michael Jackson as he busted out his dance moves on a Korean television show, knocking over chairs and almost ripping his tuxedo pants while doing so.
But that’s not all …
The Art of Breaking Taboos
Wall Street Journal
For South Korea, Kim Ki-duk presents a dilemma. The internationally acclaimed director is one of the country’s best-known filmmakers. His films have collected a host of awards at some of the world’s most prominent festivals, including the top prize at last year’s Venice Film Festival for “Pieta.”
But his work often finds a warmer reception abroad than at home. Mr. Kim, whose other films include “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring” (2003) and “3-Iron” (2004), has hardly been a box-office darling—or even the critics’ favorite—in South Korea. (He once threatened to stop releasing his films in the country.) He is known for courting controversial subjects. His latest film, “Moebius,” offers a stark example.
The film—which is devoid of dialogue—follows an adulterous husband, his vengeful wife, their teenage son and the woman whose relationship with the husband puts the story in motion.
Suk-Min Yoon rumors: Twins interested in Korean pitcher
The Minnesota Twins will have scouts at Korean pitcher Suk-Min Yoon’s upcoming showcase and are interested in signing him, reports Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN.
Strengthening the Twins interest is the fact that Yoon is a free agent and will not require a posting fee to sign with an MLB team. However, Yoon is represented by agent Scott Boras, who is known for driving up prices of his clients.
The 27-year-old has pitched for the Kia Tigers since 2005, working as a starter up until 2013, when a shoulder injury caused him to lose velocity on his fastball and moved to the bullpen. He would likely be looked at first as a starting pitcher by MLB teams.
The Chicago White Sox Should Acquire Shin-Soo Choo
Chicago White Sox general manager Rick Hahn must find someone to bat leadoff and play center field if they are going to be competitive in 2014 and beyond.
Since the farm system is not prepared to help out in either capacity for at least two more seasons, and Avisail Garcia is seemingly the only outfielder with any long-term upside, Hahn needs to sign Shin-Soo Choo to a free-agent contract. It is a signing that must be made, actually. There is simply no other choice right now.
Let’s take a deeper look at why Choo makes so much sense for the White Sox:
Park In-bee Under Pressure to Seal Golf Title
Wall Street Journal
As the U.S. women’s professional golf tour winds down with its late-season swing through Asia, this weekend’s KEB-Hana Championship in South Korea should have been a comfortable victory lap for Park In-bee in front of her home supporters.
Instead, she’s looking over her shoulder.
The 25-year-old Seoulite blitzed the field by winning the first three major tournaments this year and appeared to be cruising toward becoming South Korea’s first winner of the Ladies Professional Golf Association’s Player of the Year award.
S. Korea’s Park teeing it up one last time this week
Grace Park is coming out of retirement this week for a special farewell appearance in her South Korean homeland.
Park, 34, will tee it up Friday in the LPGA KEB-HanaBank Championship at Sky 72 Golf Club’s Ocean Course in Incheon, South Korea. She will be paired with fellow South Korean legend Se Ri Pak and American Cristie Kerr.
Park announced her retirement at the Wegmans LPGA Championship in 2012. She hasn’t played in an LPGA event since but was offered a sponsor exemption to play this week. She’s considered one of South Korea’s pioneers of women’s golf, having joined Pak, Hee Won Han and Mi Hyun Kim as trailblazers making impacts in the United States and internationally in the LPGA ranks.
Asia’s parents suffering ‘education fever’
Zhang Yang, a bright 18-year old from a rural town in Anhui province in China was accepted to study at a prestigious traditional medicine college in Hefei. But the news was too much for his father Zhang Jiasheng.
Zhang’s father was partly paralysed after he suffered a stroke two years ago and could no longer work. He feared the family, already in debt to pay for medicines, would not be able to afford his son’s tuition fees.
As his son headed home to celebrate his success, Zhang Jiasheng killed himself by swallowing pesticide.
Zhang’s case is an extreme. But East Asian families are spending more and more of their money on securing their children the best possible education.
In richer Asian countries such as South Korea and emerging countries like China, “education fever” is forcing families to make choices, sometimes dramatic ones, to afford the bills.
Ginko Trees in Seoul – Pretty, But The Stench is a Problem
Wall Street Journal
When the Seoul Metropolitan Government first named the gingko tree as its official tree more than 40 years ago and started to plant it widely along city streets, one problem was overlooked: the stench.
The trees help cut pollution and dust in the city, cast shade in sizzling summer, and are loved by Seoul citizens most of the year, but turn into a headache in autumn.
The gingko trees and their yellow leaves make for beautiful scenery but the nuts they drop get crushed by pedestrians, making for slippery streets and foul odors.