Tag Archives: south korea

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LINK ATTACK: Naomi Ko, Jeremy Lin Goes Undercover, ‘World War Z’ North Korea

North Korea’s Ebola Response Mirrors World War Z
Although the current Ebola outbreak is far from a zombie apocalypse, many readers have been comparing North Korea’s closure of its borders to the events in Max Brooks’ 2006 dystopian novel World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War.

Korean Adoptee Heather Schultz Starts the Search for Her Birth Family
“I remember thinking this is what mothers do — they leave you,” said freelance writer and editor Heather Schultz. Schultz, who is currently on a three-week trip to South Korea, discusses her early childhood as a Korean adoptee and how she came to discover her birth family’s stories.

heatherschutlz(Photo credit: Heather Schultz)

South Korea Launches “Happy Education” Policy to Shorten Study Hours
President Geun-Hye Park launched a “Happy Education” policy that aims to prevent students from measuring their success solely based on academics by placing a one semester ban on exams for 13-year-old students.

The South Korean Ferry Tragedy Has Exposed a Political Divide
More than six months after the Sewol ferry disaster, extreme right-wing groups are now protesting against Sewol victims’ families’ ongoing sit-in protests.

Why K-pop Idols Flee From Their Groups
The Joongang Daily explores the numerous reasons why K-pop idols choose to depart from their groups.

Why I Changed My Korean Name and Why I Changed It Back
“Growing up in Seoul, South Korea, I loved my name. … Butchered in foreign tongues, ‘Seonjae’ did not have the beauty and power that accompanied it back in Seoul.”

Rainbow House Aids Abused Women
Rainbow House, a shelter for abused women in Flushing, was founded by a Korean pastor, Rev. Keumhyan Yeu and provides meals and a full-time social worker to families struck by domestic violence.


Naomi Ko of Dear White People on Avoiding the Asian Representation Trap
Visibility Project interviews Naomi Ko, who talks about what it means to be a millennial of color and how the feature film Dear White People deconstructs racial stereotypes.



Japan Could Deploy Minesweepers off SKorea in War with North, U.S. Admiral Says
“Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s decision to let Japan’s military fight overseas could open the way for the country to deploy minesweepers in South Korean waters in the event of a war with North Korea, a senior U.S. admiral said on Friday.”


Top 10 Weirdest Places in South Korea
Korea Observer compiles ten bizarre places in South Korea, including the Suwon Toilet Museum and Love Castle, a sex museum in Gyeongju.

Whistle-blower Sees Little Change in South Korea 10 Years After Exposing Cloning Fraud
Whistle-blower Ryu Young-joon, who exposed groundbreaking cloning research as fraud, speaks for the first time about the fallout he faced from his tip-offs and discusses how South Korea is still tied down by values that allowed cloning fraudster Woo Suk Hwang “to become an almost untouchable national hero.”


Conductor Kristjan Jarvi on Giving ‘Gangnam Style’ a Classical Spin
Grammy-nominated conductor Kristjan Jarvi programs the viral song “Gangnam Style” to Pablo de Sarasate’s late 19th-century classic song “Zigeunerweisen.”

Cured of Ebola, Nina Pham Gets a Hug From Obama
Nina Pham, a nurse who caught Ebola while caring for a diagnosed patient in Dallas, was released Friday after making a complete recovery from the deadly virus. She met with President Barack Obama at the White House, where she received a thank-you for her medical service as well as a hug.


Jeremy Lin Goes Undercover as Adidas Store Employee
NBA star Jeremy Lin is back with another prank. In his latest video, Lin poses as an Adidas store employee in Taipei and interacts with several unsuspecting customers.

As Decades of Korean Adoptions Dwindle, Identity Issues Remain
“What I hope the legacy of Korean-American adoptees is,” Korean adoptee Joy Lieberthal said, “is that we’ve elevated the level of conversation of what it means to be Asian, Asian-American, Korean, Korean-American.”

Defense Secretary Hagel Meets With Korean Defense Minister At Pentagon

U.S. to Indefinitely Maintain Wartime Control of South Korean Military

The United States agreed to delay returning its wartime control of the South Korean military until its ally is determined fully equipped to fight North Korea, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

During the Korean War in the early 1950s, the U.S. assumed control of South Korea’s military to fight North Korea and to stand opposed to communism. Although the U.S. returned the peacetime control to South Korea in 1994, it still holds obligations to control the South Korean military in the event of another war.

Many South Koreans, mainly postwar generations, began protesting against the pledge, highlighting that allowing the U.S. wield such power is a slight to their national pride.

The opposition prompted the U.S. to initially accept South Korea’s request in 2007 to return its power by 2012. But in 2010, the handover of wartime control was postponed to 2015 after a South Korean warship was allegedly torpedoed by North Korea. South Korea requested another delay after North Korea successfully launched a long-range rocket in 2012, followed by its third nuclear test earlier this year.

In Thursday’s meeting, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and South Korean defense minister Han Min-koo agreed to take a “conditions-based approach” that will “focus on South Korea achieving critical defensive capabilities against an intensifying North Korean threat.” South Korean officials said the return of wartime control of the military is now expected to take place in the mid-2020s.

The new delay, which is essentially indefinite, will likely evoke heavy criticism from South Korea’s liberals. Many in South Korea have argued for years that further delaying the transition of wartime military control will be detrimental to inter-Korea relations.

Photo courtesy of AFP


UberTAXI Launches in Seoul, But Is It Legal?


Despite ongoing battles with Seoul’s city government and transport ministry, Uber has recently launched a new app called UberTAXI that allows Seoul residents to hail registered cabs, reported the Wall Street Journal.

Uber has contracted an undisclosed number of Seoul cabbies, who will receive a subsidy of 2,000 won ($1.8) per ride booked using the UberTAXI app, said a Seoul-based spokeswoman. She added that the new service was launched without consulting the city beforehand.

Seoul authorities have repeatedly cracked down on the California-based company’s services, claiming that they are illegal under local law. The city government has already banned the company’s premium limo service, UberBLACK, in July and started cracking down on UberX, a service that connects everyday drivers with passengers. In an apparent effort to drive Uber out of Seoul, the city is even planning to launch its own taxi-hailing app with features similar to UberTAXI.

However, Uber claims it has complied with all of Seoul’s local regulations and said that it services have increased business in Sinagpore, Tokyo and Hong Kong by up to 40 percent.

Despite the constant bans and pushback from Seoul, Uber said its long-term goal is to contract licensed freelancers in Seoul.

Photo courtesy of BusinessTech

A reconstruction of the dinosaur Reconstruction of Deinocheirus mirificusCredit:

Korean Scientists Reconstruct Weird-Looking Dinosaur


The fearsome Tyrannosaurus Rex had pretty much everything going for it — except for its itty bitty, poor excuses for arms that rendered its claws harmless. But when scientists in 1965 discovered the gigantic 8-foot-long arm, shoulder and claw fossils of a mysterious dinosaur, they thought there was a new killer to join the T-rex.

Deemed the Deinocheirus mirificus, the fossils were originally extraordinary enough for scientists at the time to declare the dinosaur a new genus and species. The name is quite literal, as it means “terrible hands that look peculiar.”

Fifty years later, scientists now have a completely different perspective on the animal. A Korean-led team of experts released a report on the dinosaur in the scientific journal Nature on Wednesday, reconstructing the creature in light of a recent discovery of two nearly complete 70-million-year-old dinosaur skeletons in Mongolia. Instead of being fearsome, scientists believe this dinosaur may have been more akin to a large ostrich-like Jar Jar Binks.

“Deinocheirus turned out to be one of the weirdest dinosaurs beyond our imagination,” study lead author Young-Nam Lee, director of the Geological Museum in Daejeon, South Korea, told the Associated Press.

With the new fossils, along with a skull and hand that had been poached and sold to private collectors, scientists built the first accurate representation of the dinosaur. The Deinocheirus apparently stood tall on its back legs, sporting long, clawed forearms and strong shoulders. One of the specimens found had grown to 11 meters long and weighed more than six tons, leading scientists to speculate that the species grew to that size to prevent being eaten by larger animals.


The dinosaur’s spine formed a hump-like sail on its back, and its duck-like bill (with no teeth) was geared to suck up soft vegetation or forage for food at the bottom of streams, including fish. It had broad hips and large feet to keep it from sinking on wet ground, suggesting it was not agile.

Add in a few feathers here and there, and all in all, the Deinocheirus wasn’t as much of a fearsome killer as it was an ostrich-like cow. With this new information, scientists now believe it belongs to a group of beaked omnivores called omithomimosaurs, an ancestral relative of the modern ostrich. A computer rendering of the dinosaur shows that it may have had the grace of the aforementioned Jar Jar Binks.

Even the scientists admitted they were surprised at how unusual the Deinocheirus turned out to be. “The discovery of the original specimen almost half a century ago suggested that this was an unusual dinosaur, but it did not prepare us for how distinctive the Deinocheirus is — a true cautionary tale in predicting body forms from partial skeletons.”

Images via Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources


Seoul’s Jeans Exhibit Showcases History of Defiance and Style


Fashion comes and goes, but denim has stood the test of time, and for many cultures, it has also stood as an icon of youthful defiance and identity.

South Korea is no stranger to jeans, but many don’t know about its humble beginnings and are unaware that the garment was first introduced to Koreans by U.S. soldiers after the Korean War. A new exhibition at the National Folk Museum of Korea in Seoul aims to show the modern generation the history of denim, from its introduction to how it became a symbol for Korean youth in the 1960s and ’70s.

Although the exhibition has a number of antique pieces, the focus is on the impact of jeans in Korea. Vanya Lee, the lead curator for the exhibit, told the Korea Herald that she interviewed nearly 500 people, mostly ordinary Korean citizens, for their own personal stories about wearing jeans.

Lee Jae-yeon, 68, was the first model to pose in jeans in Korea. He recalled in a media clip that plays in the exhibit that it was difficult to get a pair at the time, as the only jeans came through U.S. military suppliers.

By the ’70s, jeans were more commonplace, but they were unpopular and often criticized by the older generation. Singer Yang Hee-eun, whose 1971 debut album depicts her wearing a denim shirt and jeans, said other singers refused to stand on the same stage with her because she was wearing jeans.


Aside from old denim and interviews, the exhibition also showcases artworks by San Francisco artist Ben Venom and jeans from North Korea. There is also a recreation of a ’70s/’80s Korean music cafe, where young folks in jeans often hung out.

The exhibition runs at the National Folk Museum in central Seoul until Feb. 23 of next year, and admission is free. Check www.nfm.go.kr for details. If you’re in the area, be sure to check it out!

Jeans 3

Images via National Folk Museum of Korea


How ‘E-Sports’ Outgrew ‘Real Sports’ in South Korea


FC Seoul, one of South Korea’s most popular professional soccer teams, collected about $500,000 in prize money in 2012 after winning the K-League, the country’s top flight soccer competition. Last week, Samsung White, a team of professional video gamers (yes, video gamers), took home $1 million for its win at the world championship for League of Legends, one of the world’s most popular PC games, which was held at the Seoul World Cup Stadium — home of the South Korean capital’s professional soccer team.

South Korea’s top professional gamers are regarded as national stars among its younger generation. The popularity of “e-sports” has long surpassed the likes of traditional sports such as soccer and baseball in South Korea. While FC Seoul’s average attendance per home game at the Seoul World Cup Stadium this season is 18,183, the same venue was filled with more than 40,000 spectators, who came to cheer on Samsung White as its players went on to defeat rival Star Horn Royal Club, a team which consists of three Chinese players and two Koreans.

Professionalization of e-sports has steadily made its way to the U.S. and Europe in recent years. At last year’s League of Legends world championship, around 11,000 people flocked to Staples Center in L.A. while an estimated 32 million streamed the games on various online platforms, including ESPN3.

But e-sports’ popularity in South Korea, where the phenomenon was born in the late 1990s, is unmatched. Naver, the Korean equivalent of Google, has its own section on the sports news page that’s solely devoted to covering the results of various competitions and other developing stories of the star gamers.

“Pro gaming exists in its current form and size in large part thanks to the people who made it possible in South Korea,” Dutch pro gamer Manuel Schenkhuizen told the New York Times. “Other countries took years to catch up and are to this date trying to mimic some of their successes.”

The quirky phenomenon of e-sports in South Korea was sparked by its government’s effort to recover from the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s. Then President Kim Dae-jung and his administration saw an opportunity in Korea’s growth potential in telecommunications and Internet infrastructure. As Korea’s Internet technology developed exponentially, online gaming became mainstream among young people, thanks to the increase in broadband availability and high connection speed that made it all possible.

By the early 2000s, PC bangs (Internet cafes) were introduced in the corner of nearly every neighborhoods in South Korea and became a popular hangout, especially for teenagers. It was the PC bang culture that cultivated a community of gamers, a phenomenon that’s comparable to professional basketball players whose journey started as street ballers in New York or street soccer players from South America

Professional leagues for PC games, mainly Star Craft, soon took off, and the Korean E-Sports Association was founded with the backing from the government. Korea’s TV stations began covering the games and developed an avid following to make e-sports a legitimate brand, so much so that the country’s leading conglomerates, such as Samsung, began sponsoring the gamers.

South Korea’s method of promoting e-sports, which started by fostering a local community of gamers and their supporters, could even become a reference point for many of its traditional sports, including soccer. While soccer remains a popular sport in Korea, the country’s national soccer team is often criticized for failing to meet the public’s expectations at international tournaments like the World Cup. In addition, there is a lack of organization and support for the sport’s growth at the grassroots level in terms of investment and strategic planning.

Today, e-sports has become such a big part of the daily lives of South Korea’s young people that it’s something many teens follow just to “fit in” and maintain their sense of belonging. Some have taken the culture to extreme measures, as evidenced by occasional news about young gamers dying of exhaustion after playing their favorite PC games for too long without resting. Alarmed by their addiction, the South Korean government began enforcing a law that prohibits children under 18 from playing online games at PC bangs after 10 p.m.

But Korean E-Sports Association chairman Jun Byung-hun told the New York Times that rather than frowning upon young people’s incessant passion for e-sports, it’s important for the older generation to make an effort to embrace the culture of their children. Jun recently took the initiative to help parents understand that e-sports isn’t necessarily detrimental to their children’s studies by convincing Chung-Ang University, one of Korea’s top colleges, to start admitting students based on their successful gaming careers.

“The best way to avoid addiction is for families to play games,” Jun said. “In Korea, games are the barometer of the generation gap. The best way to avoid addiction is for families to play games together.”

Featured image courtesy of Game DongA


Ladies’ Code’s Fatal Accident Likely Caused by Speeding, Not Vehicle Defect


On Oct. 20, Yongin Seobu Police Station released the results of the detailed analysis submitted by the National Institute of Scientific Investigation (NISI) and confirmed that Ladies’ Code‘s fatal accident was most likely due to the driver speeding and not a vehicle malfunction, as first suspected.

According to Star News, the police analyzed the CCTV footage of the accident and determined that the driver was traveling 130 kilometers per hour (about 81 miles per hour) instead of the speed limit of 100 kph (about 62 mph).

The driver had initially told the police that he felt the wheel pop off before the van hit the guard rail, but the NISI’s results proved otherwise, stating that the wheel came off as a result of impact. It is most likely that the driver lost control of the vehicle due to speeding on a rain-drenched expressway at night .

The police plan to review the case further to see if additional questioning is necessary before submitting the case to the prosecutor’s office.

Ladies’ Code’s fatal accident occurred on Sept. 3, which claimed the lives of members EunB and Rise, leaving the staff and remaining three members injured. Currently, members Sojung, Ashely, and Zuny are continuing to receive treatment for their injuries.

Photo courtesy of Allkpop


Soju Makers Aim to Go Premium


Soju is one of the most widely consumed liquors in not only South Korea but also the world. However, South Korea’s soju market only grew 1.1 percent in volume from 2008-2013, according to market research company Eurocenter.

Korean soju makers aren’t standing pat. The Wall Street Journal reports that companies, including Hite-Jinro, are looking to go beyond the instantly recognizable green bottle for something a bit more fancy. Somewhat akin to the budding brewing culture in South Korea, companies are now experimenting with soju blends to establish a premium market domestically and overseas.

Hite-Jinro has been importing oak whisky barrels from Scotland and Tennessee since 2006, aging different soju blends in them at the company’s plant in Icheon. Early returns are promising: Sales of premium-branded soju have grown, including Hite-Jinro’s Ilpoom soju and most notably Kwangjuyo’s Hwayo soju, whose sales have increased 30 percent each year since 2010.

Your regular green bottle soju will run you about $3-5 in South Korean restaurants and in most Korean markets in the U.S., although that can shoot up to nearly $20 in some bars and restaurants in Los Angeles. Premium oak-aged soju, however, can go up to 168,000 won ($158) per bottle.

What’s the difference between the two, other than the oak barrels? Hite-Jinro’s Chamisul mass-market soju is made from fermented rice, barley and tapioca. The mixture is filtered through bamboo charcoal, then diluted with water to bring it down to about 17.5-20.1 percent alcohol by volume. The Icheon factory reportedly produces 5 million bottles each day.

Premium soju, on the other hand, is a bit more complicated. Hite-Jinro’s Ilpoom soju is made from a 100 percent rice solution, which is aged for ten years in oak. It has a “bouquet of green melon, rosemary, thyme and pine nettle” and is apparently softer with a cleaner taste than Chamisul. This kind of high-end soju is only available in South Korea.

Jinro Otsu is similar to Ilpoom but has a more milky texture and is available only in Japan. It apparently draws comparisons to sake, with banana flavors.

Myeongpoom soju is produced for the Chinese market and is described to be more potent and powerful. A Korean sommelier said it reminded him of his childhood. The soju smelled like burnt candy, he said, but tasted synthetic.

Another way to single out premium soju is to take a closer look at the packaging. Rather than the green bottle, premium soju bottles look more like vodka or higher-end sake bottles. Check your local Korean market’s liquor aisle if you’re interested!

Image via Hite-Jinro