Wednesday’s Link Attack: Obama May Return Ancient Korean Seals; Sandra Oh Prepares for ‘Grey’s’ Departure; Legal Experts Outraged by Comfort Women Suit
Author: James S. Kim
Posted: April 16th, 2014
Filed Under: BLOG
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“Disgusting!,” Cry Legal Experts: Is This The Lowest A Top U.S. Law Firm Has Ever Stooped?

Would any self-respecting U.S. law firm represent a client who suggested the Jews deserved the Holocaust? Probably not. As a matter of honor, most law firms would run a mile, and even the least honorable would conclude that the damage to their reputation wasn’t worth it.

Where imperial Japan’s atrocities are concerned, however, at least one top U.S. law firm hasn’t been so choosy. In what is surely one of the most controversial civil suits ever filed in the United States, the Los Angeles office of Chicago-based Mayer Brown is trying to prove that the so-called comfort women – the sex slaves used by the Imperial Japanese Army in World War II – were no more than common prostitutes.

Obama may return ancient Korean seals on upcoming trip to Seoul
Yonhap News

The U.S. government may return a set of Korean national treasures, shipped out of the country by an American soldier during the Korean War, when President Barack Obama visits Seoul next week, diplomatic sources here said Monday.

“The two sides are in the final stage of consultations to complete relevant procedures,” a source said.

There is a possibility that the process will finish ahead of Obama’s departure for Asia next Tuesday, added the source.

Korean hair gripe goes to the top

North Korea’s displeasure at a poster in a hair salon that poked fun at their leader’s unusual hairstyle has reached the corridors of power in Whitehall.

The Foreign Office has confirmed it received a letter from the North Korean embassy earlier this week complaining about the picture of Kim Jong-un that was displayed in a London salon’s window emblazoned with the words “Bad Hair Day?”.

Mandarins received the letter earlier this week and are now considering a response, a spokesman said.

‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Season 10 Spoilers: Sandra Oh Posts Photo From Last Scenes With Kevin McKidd

Goodbyes aren’t easy and that’s something Sandra Oh is making clear. As the actress prepares for her last season on Grey’s Anatomy, she’s been posting emotional posts on Twitter.

The 42-year-old uploaded a photo of herself along with co-star and on-screen lover Kevin McKidd with the caption, “shooting one of our last scenes,” and a sad face.

“My dearest partner in crime,” McKidd, who plays Owen Hunt, tweeted back. “It’s too much to take! What we gonna do?”

Korean-American Band Talk About Rise to Pop Charts
Chosun Ilbo

The debut album of Run River North, a band consisting of six second-generation Korean-Americans in Los Angeles, has made it to No. 3 on the Billboard Heatseekers Albums chart.

Lead vocalist and guitarist Alex Hwang spoke to the Chosun Ilbo by telephone on Tuesday morning in a mixture of Korean and English.

Run River North are currently on a U.S. tour, stopping in Washington. Another member, Jennifer Rim, who plays the violin, also was on the phone.

Wie ready for LPGA Lotte Championship at Ko Olina

The LPGA Lotte Championship tees off Wednesday morning at Ko Olina Golf Club. The tournament marks a triumphant homecoming for 24-year-old Michelle Wie.

The Punahou graduate is off to her best start as a professional, recording six top-16 finishes to open the season, including a runner-up major finish at the Kraft Nabisco Championship two weeks ago.

“I’ve just been working hard the last couple of years,” Wie told KHON2. “Obviously I went through quite a bit of a struggle, and I’ve just been trying to improve a little bit here and there every day, trying not to do anything too drastic. I’ve just been patient. A lot of times it was hard being patient. I knew it was getting better and better, it just wasn’t showing. I feel like I’m improving a little bit here and there which is good.”

ISU receives South Korea complaint over figure skating judging
NBC Olympics

South Korea has officially filed its complaint over figure skating judging at the Sochi Olympics to the International Skating Union, nearly two months after Yuna Kim won silver behind Russian Adelina Sotnikova in a controversial decision.

The Korea Skating Union (KSU) filed a complaint over the makeup of the judging panel for the women’s free skate rather than the results of the competition, according to Yonhap News, reporting that the KSU believes the panel’s composition was in violation of the ISU’s ethical rules.

One of the judges from Sochi is married to a top Russian figure skating federation official and was seen hugging Sotnikova shortly after she won gold. Another was suspended one year as being part of the 1998 Olympic ice dance fixing scandal.

Sneak a Peek at Beverly Kim and John Clark’s Parachute Opening Menu
Chicago Eater

When Beverly Kim and John Clark open Parachute (probably next month), expect a different take on Korean cuisine. Kim and Clark are terming their first restaurant “Korean-American,” fusing the textures and flavor profiles of traditional Korean cooking with creative ingredients available to modern restaurants in Chicago.

“I don’t want to compete with mom-and-pop Korean restaurants,” Kim says. “I definitely grew up with those dishes, those dishes excite me, but with our experiences we can put a twist on it that makes it approachable for non-Koreans and Koreans alike.”

“It might take some time for people to grasp that.”

Korean Artist Creates Whimsical Self-Portraits Sans Photoshop
Author: Ruth Kim
Posted: April 9th, 2014
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Intricate, whimsical, dreamy and sometimes hauntingly captivating are just a few words to describe the innovative photography of Korean artist JeeYoung Lee. A recent graduate from Hongik University in Seoul, Lee creates simple yet surrealistic worlds that blur the line between reality and fantasy—and without the use of Photoshop!

Although she lives in a tiny 3-by-6-meter studio in the Mangwon-dong neighborhood of Seoul, there’s just no limit to her imagination. In this small space, she creates thematic sets that document her memories, dreams, emotions and whimsies, and then photographs herself in these environments.

The 30-year-old’s self-portraits were recently featured at the Opiom Gallery in France. Her exhibit, titled, “Stage of Mind (Prolongation),” depicts her character with giant ants, trapped in a warped room or being reborn in a huge water lily.

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Tuesday’s Link Attack: NKorea Acquires Ski Lifts; Japanese Singer Takes on K-Pop; Difficulties of Being Asian American
Author: James S. Kim
Posted: December 31st, 2013
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This photo of Kim Jong Un riding a ski lift is North Korea’s way of flipping off Europe
Washington Post

This photo of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sitting alone on a ski lift might not look like North Korea flipping Europe a giant middle finger. But that’s exactly what it is.

I’ll explain. Kim is thought to have developed a love for skiing when he went to boarding school (under a fake identity) in Switzerland. One of his pet projects since taking power two years ago has been building a giant ski resort, something that does not immediately serve the world’s poorest country but would be meant as a show of national greatness. So Kim made it a top national priority to build the resort, Masik Pass, and work has been proceeding feverishly.

But Kim’s pet project hit a major snag this August: ski lifts. Kim just could not get his hands on any ski lifts. North Korea doesn’t have the technology to build its own. And the countries that make them all tend to be in the West, where new sanctions imposed in March make it illegal to sell luxury goods to the Hermit Kingdom. North Korea tried offering millions of dollars to Austrian and French companies to import ski lifts, but both said no.

N. Korea may stage provocation against Seoul around March: think tank
Yonhap News

North Korea may stage provocations against South Korea early next year as part of efforts to further ensure internal unity following the execution of leader Kim Jong-un’s once-powerful uncle and his associates, a Seoul think tank said Tuesday.

The North executed Jang Song-thaek on charges of treason, along with other officials in early December. The shocking series of purges sparked concerns over potential instability in the isolated country.

“There is a possibility that the North could attempt provocations at a time when the defense posture is slackened right after the end of military exercises,” between South Korea and the United States, said the Institute for National Security Strategy, which is run by the National Intelligence Service.

S. Korean FM to visit U.S. to discuss N. Korea, regional issues
Yonhap News

South Korea’s top diplomat plans to visit Washington in early January for talks with U.S. officials on key regional issues, including North Korea, Seoul’s foreign ministry said Tuesday.

Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se is scheduled to meet with Secretary of State John Kerry and other senior U.S. officials, foreign ministry spokesperson Cho Tai-young said.

Yun and Kerry last had a face-to-face meeting in September in New York.

N.Korea Calls Back Diplomats Close to Jang Song-taek
Chosun Ilbo

Hong Yong, North Korea’s deputy chief of mission to UNESCO, returned to Pyongyang on Monday as part of a wider recall of diplomats who had been close to executed eminence grise Jang Song-taek. Hong follows Pak Kwang-chol, the ambassador to Sweden who returned to North Korea last Friday.

Before Jang was executed, the regime recalled Jon Yong-jin, Jang’s brother-in-law and ambassador to Cuba, and Jang Yong-chol, his nephew and ambassador to Malaysia.

“The ongoing purge of Jang’s associates is an ominous sign,” a source said. “It seems the regime is recalling any diplomats who are branded as Jang’s associates to Pyongyang.”

It’s Not Easy Being Asian-American

Last week, in a piece for Asian Fortune News, advocates Sharon Choi, Francine Gorres and Tina Ngo argued that many young Asian-Americans constantly struggle with their bi-cultural identities, expected to adhere to multiple sets of norms, none of which quite fit.

“Giving our young people opportunities to share their cultural backgrounds and learn about the experiences and traditions of others is important to youth being able to shape and understand their unique identities,” they wrote.

The issue Choi et al raise is an important one, particularly for many first or second-generation Asian-American millennials who feel they have to live up to two different sets of expectations. On the one hand, we’re encouraged embrace American culture and shed ties to our Asian heritage. On the other hand, we’re expected to maintain our ethnic identity and keep our parents’ traditions alive. Failure to live up to either set of expectations can sometimes lead to fear of rejection or ostracism — even an identity crisis of sorts.

10 Sexiest K-Pop Videos of 2013

Girl-on-girl kissing. Grinding. No shirts. This year saw K-pop videos provoke more than ever.

Typically, K-pop skews more cute than raunchy, opting to tease rather than let it all hang out. But 2013 was K-pop’s sexiest year by far. From camera angles highlighting the idol’s best assets to choreography that made viewers weak at the knees, the scene upped its raciness while still maintaining its stars’ dignity, unlike — not to name names — select stars of the West.

End your 2013 on a sizzling note with the year’s 10 sexiest K-pop videos.

Korean Cash Takes Broadway Bows
New York Times

SEOUL, South Korea — Only one Korean theater producer has a Tony Award for best musical, a Broadway honor that is coveted the world over. Yet the 2013 trophy for “Kinky Boots” sits inconspicuously here on Kim Byeong-seok’s cluttered bookcase, amid cheap memorabilia from “Cats,” “Grease” and “42nd Street.”

For Mr. Kim, of the entertainment giant CJ E&M, status symbols of Broadway are beside the point.

He put $1 million of his company’s money into the $13.5 million “Kinky Boots” in hopes of getting the attention of top New York producers — seven-figure investments are rare these days — to develop relationships for future ventures. CJ now has the inside track to mount the first Asian production of the hit show, which features songs by Cyndi Lauper, who has a strong fan following here. The goal is to open “Kinky Boots” next fall in Seoul, a hotbed of Western musicals with heart-tugging plots and charismatic characters, like this musical’s fearless drag queen, who saves a shoe factory.

Japanese from Osaka’s Koreatown pursues dream to become K-pop star
Asahi Shimbun

Although Asuka Suemoto has no Korean ancestry, she dreamed of becoming of a pop singer in South Korea while growing up in Osaka.

“It was natural to be around Korean culture,” says Suemoto, who was born and raised in the city’s Ikuno Ward, where one in four residents is said to have roots in the Korean Peninsula.

This fall the 23-year-old took a big step toward making her dream come true with her first appearance at the K-Pop World Festival, a Korean music contest, held in the city of Changwon, in southern South Korea.

Chang-Rae Lee charts a rocky course toward freedom in his dystopian novel ‘On Such a Full Sea’

Since his first novel, “Native Speaker,” in 1995, Chang-Rae Lee has been absorbed by questions of identity and culture, proximity and marginalization, “nativeness” and migration, risk.

His writing is supple and poised; his understanding of human nature, richly nuanced. A new book by Lee is cause for giddy expectation.

His latest, “On Such a Full Sea” (Riverhead, 368 pp., $27.95), is both a detour and a confirmation: a detour because, as a dystopian vision, it is unlike his previous narrative forms; a confirmation, because despite that difference, his prodigious talents are still everywhere evident.

‘Songs of the Dragons’ confronts with humor and fury
Boston Globe

With “Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven,” the Apollinaire Theatre Company reaffirms its reputation as the home of the area’s most provocative contemporary theater. Young Jean Lee’s confrontational comedy looks at racism and identity politics with an unflinching combination of humor and fury. Danielle Fauteux Jacques directs the play with a light hand, and yet elicits fearlessly transparent performances from her ensemble.

Lee has built her career around squirm-inducing experimental plays that rip open accepted assumptions around Christianity (“The Church”) and race relations (“The Shipment”). “Songs of the Dragons” explores Lee’s own experience with racism and stereotypes as a Korean-American, and, in keeping with Lee’s style, leaves the audience feeling both amused and unsettled.

“Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven,” opens in utter darkness and the audience spends the first few minutes listening to a director offering suggestions about the intensity with which one actor should slap another across the face. After a few minutes of listening, we watch a video of the repeated slaps, with the playwright as the recipient. It’s a disturbing introduction: Is this passive acceptance of violence a symbol of self-hatred? Before we have a chance to let that idea sink in, the lights change and we are greeted by a perky Korean-American woman (Nicole Dalton) who delivers a speech that is one part shocking and two parts hilarious, opening with the assertion that most Asian-Americans are slightly brain damaged from having grown up with Asian parents, and culminating with the statement that “The wiliness of the Korean is beyond anything. You may laugh now, but remember my words when you and your offspring are writhing under our yoke.”

Free agent pitcher Lim Chang-yong hoping for another shot at majors: agent
Yonhap News

South Korean pitcher Lim Chang-yong, recently non-tendered by the Chicago Cubs, is hoping for another shot at Major League Baseball (MLB), his Seoul-based agent said on Tuesday.

Kim Dong-wook, head of the local agency Sports Intelligence who recently signed on as Lim’s agent, said going to South Korea or Japan is not an option for his client at this point.

Kim was responding to a recent statement by the South Korean club Samsung Lions that they’d open contract negotiations with Lim if he is unable to land with a team in the United States.

Athletes in less popular sports dream Olympic glory
Korea Times

Figure-skating megastar Kim Yu-na and speed-skating champion Lee Sang-hwa are expected to dictate the media attention on Korean athletes at next month’s Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Korean athletes competing in less popular sports, however, are vowing to let their presence be known on the world stage.

Korea’s bobsledders are talking about medaling at the Olympics after winning the America’s Cup in March, which represented the first international title ever won by a Korean team.

The team of Won Yun-jong and Jung Jung-lin snatched the gold in the two-men race there.

Korean Sporting Icons Serve as Beacons of Hope in 2013
Chosun Ilbo

Athletes occupied the top three spots in a poll of 300 Chosun Ilbo reporters to determine which Korean celebrities had given the nation the most cause for joy in 2013.

Los Angeles Dodgers’ pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin, who had 14 wins in his debut season in Major League Baseball, topped the list with 43.01 percent of the votes.

Kim Yu-na, who won this year’s World Figure Skating Championships in Canada in March after returning to competition following a two-year layoff, came second with 8.6 percent.

Dining on dog in the South Korean capital
New York Post

Tomorrow night, I’m going to eat dog.

That is, if I take up a local friend-of-a-friend’s invitation to visit what he assures is Seoul’s “best restaurant for dog.” I debate my RSVP while navigating the hip enclave of Garosu-gil, Seoul’s SoHo equivalent, sipping a $6 Dutch cold-press coffee. Older Koreans believe that dog can cure illness and enhance sexual virility, while the younger ones wouldn’t mind seeing it disappear altogether. Me? I’m both intrigued and horrified. WWBD — what would Bourdain do? — I ask myself.

“OK,” I text him, “let’s go for it.”

Please, don’t hate me. Seoul may be a beautiful juxtaposition of urban cityscape and mountain greenery, but at first glance, the Korean capital feels like a homogenous, uniform mass. Most blocks seem like barely modified remixes of the one before, heavily populated with overpriced coffee shops — from Starbucks behemoths to indie cafes. No wonder I’ve grown famished for truly local, off-the-Google-map gems.

Aria Korean American Snack Bar: Hidden in Plain Sight
San Francisco Weekly

I’m taking a deep breath as I write this, because if there is one hole-in-the-wall in San Francisco that I genuinely (and completely selfishly) don’t want to become popular, it’s Aria. This tiny, ugly, clumsily laid out, two-table “Korean American Snack Bar” run by a sweet, late-middle-age couple on a gross stretch of Larkin Street is unfailingly delicious, yet I’ve never once had to wait for a table to open up.

And now they’ve doubled the size of the menu, so I feel compelled to share as I eat my way through it. Both types of Korean fried chicken are always excellent — as is the dukboggi, a hot and spicy rice cake that comes swimming in a sauce that’s like a hot, seasoned tomato soup. (They have a strangely enchanting density we’ve been assured is somewhat challenging to pull off.) Kalguksu, or knife-cut noodles, might not be the exact same thing as ramen, but they’re good for what ails you. I’m as excited by the japchae (a dish of sweet potato noodles with stir-fried vegetables) as I am by the sundae (which would be panfried Korean sausage, not ice cream). Even the oyster and mushroom porridge calls out to me, to be kept in mind for the next cold snap.

Tasting notes: Urbanbelly’s new menu
Time Out Chicago

Back in October, Bill Kim announced he was moving Urbanbelly, his tiny BYO Avondale noodle restaurant, to Restaurant Row, where it would share space with BellyQ (1400 W Randolph St), his Asian barbecue spot. The move was the result of the restaurant outgrowing its space and Cornerstone Restaurant Group, which already had a hand in BellyQ, taking an ownership stake in all of Kim’s restaurants. When Urbanbelly reopened in early November, there were other changes, too: a small wine, beer and sake list, a kid’s menu and a few new menu items, cooked in a new wok.

The new space is adjacent to BellyQ and twice as large as the old one. As before, you order at the counter, then grab a seat. The dining room has communal tables and one of the brick walls is covered with plants—it’s a pretty comfortable space to spread out and work through the menu.


Wednesday’s Link Attack: Researcher Fakes AIDS Vaccine Results; NKorean Defectors Celebrate Christmas; Korean Grub in Memphis
Author: James S. Kim
Posted: December 25th, 2013
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AIDS vaccine test results faked
USA Today

An Iowa State University assistant professor resigned after being accused of spiking rabbit blood to falsely show that an AIDS vaccine was working in the research animals.

Dong-Pyou Han was an assistant professor of biomedical sciences. He resigned in October after admitting responsibility, an ISU spokesman said.

The fraudulent results helped an ISU research team gain millions of dollars in federal money, according to James Bradac, who helps oversee AIDS vaccine grants for the National Institutes of Health.

More N. Korean defectors going back
Korea Times

More North Korean defectors are returning to their reclusive homeland, causing embarrassment for the South Korean government.

This trend could create a negative impression about living conditions here in the minds of the North Korean public, dampening their desire to seek alternatives to the dictatorial and hereditary leadership of Kim Jong-un.

Last week, North Korean media released an interview with a woman who returned home after defecting to South Korea in which she expressed contempt for her two-year stay here.

N. Korean Defectors Celebrate Christmas
Voice of America

North Korea, an atheist one-party state, does not allow celebrations of Christmas or other religious holidays. But, many North Korean defectors do mark the holiday, because they are rescued by Christian missionaries who convert them and bring them to South Korea.

A Christmas service is not unusual in heavily Christian South Korea but most of the Durihana church members are North Korean defectors.

In 14 years the church has rescued about 1,000 defectors, who flee through China to Southeast Asia, and many convert.

Korean scientists create a tool that can help separate fact from fiction on Twitter
Washington Post

Bigfoot was finally discovered in 2009 — at least according to rumors circulating on Twitter. With misinformation rife on social media, users could do with a tool that can sift truth from fiction.

Now Sejeong Kwon and colleagues at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology have designed an artificial intelligence system that, they claim, does this correctly around 90 percent of the time. If built into social networks, it could help people avoid embarrassing retweets or reshares of false information.

The system analyzed language used in more than 100 rumors — some later confirmed, others unfounded — that went viral on Twitter over a period of 31 / 2 years. The researchers found that false rumors were far more likely to contain negative terms such as “no” or “not” than positive terms such as “like” or “love.”

Korean noodle shop helps Memphis break character
Washington Post

This Mississippi River city is proud of its barbecue, its fried chicken, its soul food. But the food scene here is often stereotyped because of it.

Those foods are what tourists typically obsess over, standing in line at Central BBQ for smoky ribs or Gus’s Fried Chicken for juicy drumsticks. When told that there’s a place in Memphis that makes standout Korean food like soups and noodle dishes with meat and seafood, some may scoff.

But Crazy Noodle is real, and it might be proof that people in intensely Southern cities like Memphis, where collard greens are made correctly and macaroni and cheese is listed on some menus as a vegetable dish, are welcoming the cuisine of immigrant communities.

Experience Gangnam Style!
Korea Times

Gangnam, in southern Seoul, passes for a hip, savvy place in Korea among international visitors thanks to the popularity of K-pop sensation Psy’s music video “Gangnam Style.”

The song’s popularity is fading into history, but the district has become a tourist magnet, attracting internationals and K-pop fans alike. It has luxury brand stores and fancy restaurants lined along the streets. But, most of all, it is home to major entertainment agencies such as SM, JYP and Cube Entertainment. Some 150 small and big agencies prosper in the area.

Living up to its name, the Gangnam Tourist Information Center in Apgujeong offers K-pop fans unique experiences to feel closer to their beloved stars. While the first floor of its two-story building functions as a normal tourist center, the second is dedicated to “hallyu” or Korean pop culture.

Thursday’s Link Attack: ‘SKorean Spy’ Captured in Pyongyang; Christian Missionaries in NKorea; Hongdae’s Trash Problem
Author: James S. Kim
Posted: November 7th, 2013
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Senior diplomats from S. Korea, Japan, China hold talks amid strained ties
Yonhap News

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
The Hankyoreh

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
American Banker

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
The Economist

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
Hollywood Reporter

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.

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