Tag Archives: south korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivers a New Year's address

North Korea Demands Sanctions to Be Lifted for Family Reunions

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo
reera@iamkoream.com

North Korea urged South Korea on Friday to lift its sanctions as a condition for resuming dialogue on reunions of families separated during the Korean War, reports Reuters.

“If the South Korean government is sincerely interested in humanitarian issues, it should first remove the ban that was imposed for the purpose of confrontation,” the North Korean Committee for Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK) told KCNA, the North’s state-run news agency.

This is the first official response from Pyongyang to South Korea’s weeks-long offer to hold high-level talks. Last week, South Korean President Park Geun-hye renewed the call for dialogue and stressed the importance to staging an inter-Korean family reunion for Lunar New Year’s Day, which falls on Feb. 19.

South Korea imposed the sanctions on the North after a torpedo attack on its navy ship, Cheonan, in 2010. The attack killed 46 South Korean sailors, and the sanctions froze trades and investment with the North. However, North Korea has denied responsibility for the attack.

“It is regrettable that North Korea has linked the purely humanitarian issue of separated families to the May 24 measure, which is completely irrelevant,” the South Korean Unification Ministry said of the sanctions, according to Reuters.

Earlier this week, a South Korean activist group threatened to drop 100,000 DVD copies of The Interview if North Korea fails to respond to the South’s call for resuming dialogue.

Despite this, Lim Byeong-cheol, the South’s Unification Ministry spokesman, said there is no set deadline for Pyongyang to respond to family reunion talks.

“If enough time is secured for preparing a reunion, the reunion event could take place at any time,” Lim said.

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Photo courtesy of Reuters/KCNA

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Rebecca Kim

KoreAm U Weekly Roundup

Temple University student dies after falling eight floors
Family and friends mourn and pay tribute to Rebecca Kim (photo above) – ‘a humble, kind, intelligent girl.’

UPDATE: Third person arrested for involvement in homicide of University of Georgia Student Min Seok Cho 
Cho, 21, was fatally shot in the head during a marijuana deal that reportedly went bad on Jan. 13.

Korean language classes in NY aren’t just for Koreans anymore
Lessons previously geared toward young second-generation Korean Americans in the past now target a diverse group of students who take time out of their weekends to brush up on their ga, na and das.

2015 Youth Leadership Summit, March 26-28
Asian Americans Advancing Justice AAJC’s Youth Leadership Summit is a three-day leadership development program for college students. The summit provides a unique opportunity for young advocates from across the country to come to Washington DC to network and learn together. The deadline to apply is Feb. 14.

International and American students divided at the Ohio State University
Physical distances no longer divide OSU students, but distances in communication sometimes do. Some students say that the stereotypes — both of United State citizens and International students — often cause harm to chances of finding commonalities with each other.

University of Virginia students launch “Pear” matchmaking app
Joshua Choi

After finding limited success with popular dating apps like Tinder, second-year student Joshua Choi took matters into his own hands — developing the mobile app Pear, which launches in the Apple and Android stores this week. The app, Choi said, relies on users’ natural inclination to play matchmaker with their friends.

Sophomore Heein Choi selected as Charter Day student speaker at William & Mary University
Choi ’17, a double major in Asian American studies and finance, is a South Korean immigrant whose family moved to Silver Spring, Maryland, when he was four.

South Korean university students trust strangers more than politicians and corporations
The results of the survey of 2,300 students from 130 universities throughout the country demonstrate the high level of pessimism among the younger generation about the political and economic agents in the country.

Beyond Black and White: Asian-American Memories of Selma
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As the country marks 50 years since the historic 1965 voting rights marches from Selma to Montgomery with everything from individual memories to big-screen memorials, the stories of Asian-American participants, like Endo, are often lost in the mix, as are the motivations behind their solidarity.

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Let us know of the latest news from your own campus at koream.u@iamkoream.com!

Day care - child abuse

CCTV to Be Required at Day Care Centers in South Korea

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo
reera@iamkoream.com

Surveillance cameras will soon become a requirement for all day care centers in South Korea as part of an effort to prevent child abuse, according to Yonhap News Agency.

During a policy meeting on Thursday, South Korean lawmakers decided to pass a bill next month that will allow them to install surveillance cameras at about 45,000 day care centers nationwide. The law is expected to take effect in March.

The decision comes after a series of child abuse cases in Incheon. Last week, a video of a 33-year-old day care teacher physically assaulting a 4-year-old girl for not finish her meal went viral and shocked the nation. A similar case was also caught on camera back in December when another childcare worker flung a 2-year-old boy onto the ground multiple times. Both cases are still under investigation.

“Child abuse is a crime that cannot be tolerated under any circumstances,” said Welfare Minister Moon Hyong-pyo, according to the Korea Herald. “We also acknowledge that the problem is associated with the long working hours of day care workers. We plan to come up with plans to tackle this issue as well.”

Day care center employees work about 9.3 hours a day and their average wage is about 1.3 million won (USD $1,200) a month, according to Yonhap. Due to poor working conditions, it is difficult to recruit qualified people for the job. Local governments, however, are planning to offer financial support for the new policy.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government, for example, pledged up to 2.4 million won for day care centers to install surveillance cameras and plans to send counselors to help child care employees cope with their stress.

In addition to combating child abuse, South Korea’s Welfare Ministry plans to establish an agency for single parents struggling with child support payments in March 2015.

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Photo courtesy of Yonhap

Samsung

Samsung Loses Ground to Apple in South Korea

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim
jamesskim@iamkoream.com

Samsung has always marketed their smartphones as the “next big thing,” but when Apple went big with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in 2014, South Koreans flocked to the fruit.

According to Android Authority, Apple gained significant market share in Japan, China and Korea as Samsung lost ground. Sales for the iPhone reached record highs in October and November in Korea and Japan. Samsung, which has consistently held upwards of 60 percent of the smartphone market at home, saw their market share drop significantly.

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As seen above, Apple’s market share in South Korea pretty much doubled from 15 percent to over 30 percent during the latter months of 2014. Globally, Samsung saw its market share decline to 23.8 percent in the third quarter, down from 32.5 percent from the same period in 2013.

Last year was not kind to Samsung’s mobile division, as the company struggled against cheaper handsets, led by the Chinese company Xiaomi, which overtook Samsung’s majority market share in China. On the premium end of the spectrum, the Galaxy S5 and Note 4 didn’t stand up as well against Apple’s larger iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. That led to the company’s first annual profit decline since 2011.

It’s not all doom and gloom for Samsung, though. Their other divisions of the company, in particular television and memory chips, are going strong, and Samsung isn’t sitting pat. They replaced the head of its mobile design team amid criticism of the Galaxy S5 in May 2014, and recently added former Tangerine co-CEO Don Tae Lee as their global design team leader.

Lee was responsible for coming up with an award-winning design for British Airways’ business-class and first-class cabins, according to Korea Joongang Daily. He also worked with mobiles back in 2011 with Huawei and introduced some innovative design concepts that unfortunately never made it to production. At Samsung, Lee will be in charge of leading the design philosophy for not only smartphones, but other Samsung products including washers, televisions and refrigerators.

Lee is part of Samsung’s long game, though, and the company faces more immediate challenges. There will be a lot riding on the Galaxy S6, due out sometime in March, to be Samsung’s flagship on the premium front. Samsung’s $92 Tizen-powered smartphone, however, hasn’t been received too well in India, where the company hopes to gain traction on the mid to lower-end front.

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Photo via Bloomberg News

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South Korean Teen May Have Traveled to Syria to Join Islamic State

The Turkish border city of Kilis, where the missing Korean teenager met and vanished in an unmarked taxi with an unidentified man on Jan. 10. Photo courtesy of Yonhap.

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim
jamesskim@iamkoream.com

Seoul officials are speculating that a South Korean teenager who went missing in Turkey may have crossed the border into Syria to join the Islamic State.

The 18-year-old, identified only by his surname Kim, traveled to Istanbul on Jan. 8 and made his way to Kilis, a border town, along with a South Korean guide. The South Korean Foreign Ministry said Kim went missing on Jan. 10 after leaving his hotel. The guide, whose identity has not been disclosed, reported Kim’s disappearance to the Korean Embassy on Jan. 12.

Security footage showed Kim leaving the hotel around 8 a.m. and entering a van with an unidentified man about half an hour later. A foreign ministry official said the vehicle, which carried a Syrian license plate, was an unregistered taxi. Kim and the other passenger were dropped off at a camp for Syrian refugees east of Kilis, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Turkish daily newspaper Milliyet ran a story reporting that a South Korean national had joined IS, but the South Korean Foreign Ministry said the claim had not been verified, as there was no proof that Kim had actually crossed the border. However, the WSJ notes that travelers, including Islamic militants, have often passed through Kilis to get into Syria.

Milliyet also reported that Kim had exchanged emails with IS before traveling to Turkey. South Korean police said they found photos of IS members on the wallpaper of Kim’s computer at home, as well as tweets from a user presumed to be Kim saying he wanted to join the militant group, according to Korea Herald. Kim had reportedly told his family he was visiting a friend named Hassan, who he had apparently met online as part of his first overseas trip.

If it is confirmed that Kim had crossed the border into Syria to join Islamic State, he would be the first South Korean jihadist recruited to the group.

On Tuesday, South Korea extended travel bans on six countries, including Syria, along with Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Afghanistan and Yemen. Seoul and Damascus have no diplomatic relations as well.

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Activists Threaten to Drop ‘The Interview’ in North Korea

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo
reera@iamkoream.com

A South Korean activist group led by a North Korean defector vowed on Tuesday to send Pyongyang a massive number of DVDs of The Interview via balloons if it fails to respond to the South’s call for dialogue, reports Reuters.

Park Sang-hak, head of the Fighters for a Free North Korea (FFNK), said his group had secretly launched about 100,000 leaflets across the border on Monday, but no copies of the Seth Rogen comedy were included despite its previous decision to do so.

The launch comes after South Korean President Park Geun-hye renewed calls for high-level dialogue with North Korea last week and Seoul repeatedly requested the group to leaflet scattering.

According to Reuters, Pyongyang had claimed that the leaflets were damaging chances of holding inter-Korean talks and threatened military action if South Korea continued to allow protest balloons to be launched. This is no empty threat as North and South Korea have previously exchanged fire across the land border after protest balloons were launched from the South.

Despite this, the FFNK gave Pyongyang a deadline of Feb. 18 to respond to South Korea’s call for a meeting. If the communist state does not answer by Lunar New Year’s Day, the group said it will send North Korea about 100,000 DVD and USB copies of The Interview, which portrays the fictional assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Back in November, the U.S. directly accused North Korea of hacking Sony Pictures. While North Korea has described the accusation as “groundless,” the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) told the New York Times on Sunday that it had penetrated North Korea’s computer networks in 2010, an effort that ultimately helped provide enough evidence to prove Pyongyang’s guilt.

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Photo courtesy of Reuters

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‘Big Hero 6′ Stirs Controversy in South Korea

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo
reera@iamkoream.com

Although Big Hero 6 hasn’t hit theaters in South Korea yet, the Disney animated film is already stirring online controversy for allegedly featuring images of the Japanese Rising Sun flag.

For those of you wondering why some South Koreans are upset over this specific detail, the Rising Sun is considered offensive in South Korea and is viewed as a symbol of Japanese imperialism during the early 20th century. While Japan has been using the flag for centuries and still incorporates it into their commercial products today, to many Koreans, the imagery is tantamount to the Swastika.

So, it’s not surprising that a few Korean netizens became angry after spotting alleged Rising Sun emblems in the Big Hero 6 trailer. Here are some of the screenshots that have been shared on Korean media sites:

wdp7vvcnvemfnkmfi28zEWmleRy12E7gwxxrorPhotos courtesy of Kotaku and Hitgall

In response to the controversy, Disney said, “There are no Rising Sun flags on display in the movie, nor was it the intention to suggest the Rising Sun flag.”

An early concept artwork, however, suggests that Disney did at some point include a flag that resembles the Rising Sun symbol in Hiro’s bedroom. To be fair, the original Big Hero 6 comic is more explicit in its Rising Sun imagery, and it’s likely that the concept artist was just drawing elements from the source material. Still, Disney made a good call scrapping the flag in its final cut.

zjkthpek1au9rtw1kajaConcept art of Hiro’s bedroom. Photo courtesy of Hitgall.

collage22Big Hero 6 comic book covers. Image courtesy of WDWNTScreen Shot 2015-01-19 at 10.58.13 PMImage courtesy of bluehoung617/deviantart

Apparently, Disney took extra measures to dilute its Japanese aesthetics for the South Korean audience.

Hiro and Tadashi, for example, had their names altered in the Korean version of the film, erasing all indications that they are of Japanese descent. While Hiro’s name was tweaked to “Hero,” Tadashi was renamed “Teddy.” The brothers’ Japanese surname “Hamada” was also changed to “Armada,” which is a pretty cool last name. Hero Armada definitely fits the superhero bill.

According to Kotaku, Disney also removed Japanese-language signs that were featured in the U.S. edition of the film. Below, you can see that the Japanese letters on the cat’s stomach have been switched to English for the South Korean release.

cp0fdwekiupmmaiwyop0Image courtesy of Extreme Movie

Another change Disney made for the Korean release was the title of the movie. The film was retitled Big Hero to avoid the impression of it being a sequel.

Interestingly enough, there’s a good number of Koreans who worked on Big Hero 6, including its character design supervisor, Sang-jin Kim; lead character designer, Shiyoon Kim; animator, Hyun-min Lee; and voice actors, Jamie Chung and Daniel Henney.

Big Hero 6 will premiere in South Korea on Jan. 21.

South Korean President Park Geun-Hye speaks during her New Year news conference at the presidential Blue House in Seoul

President Park Offers to Meet Kim Jong-un Without Pre-Conditions

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo
reera@iamkoream.com

South Korean President Park Geun-hye said on Monday that she is open to holding a summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un without any pre-conditions, reports Reuters.

“My position is that to ease the pain of division and to accomplish peaceful unification, I am willing to meet with anyone,” Park said in her televised New Year’s Day speech.

Park’s appeal comes after Kim announced that he was open to resuming high-level talks if South Korea was sincere about improved inter-Korean relations and proper conditions were met.

“If the atmosphere and environment is there, there is no reason not to hold a high-level summit [with South Korea],” Kim said in his address broadcasted by the state media.

However, North Korea has been sending mixed signals. 

South Korea has repeatedly proposed opening dialogue with Pyongyang ever since the North Korean senior delegates made their surprise visit to the Asian Games in Incheon last year.

Despite this, the reclusive country rejected the South Korean parliament’s call on Friday for the resumption of stalled talks on various issues, including the North’s human rights and reconciliation projects. Pyongyang has also recently ignored Seoul’s call for inter-Korean negotiations.

On Saturday, North Korea offered to temporarily halt nuclear tests if the U.S. suspended its annual military drills held jointly with South Korea, but Washington immediately rejected the proposal after calling it a veiled threat.

While Park has insisted that there are no pre-conditions to holding a summit meeting with Kim, she has emphasized that North Korea should show “sincerity” in its decision to resume talks by taking steps towards denuclearization.

“North Korea should stop hesitating anymore and accept calls for dialogue,”

Inter-Korean Family Reunions

Park also stressed arranging a reunion of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War in time for Lunar New Year’s Day, which falls on Feb. 19 this year.

“The issue of family reunions is one that cannot be delayed anymore, given the age of those in the separated families,” Park said, according to Yonhap.

The last inter-Korean family reunion was held in February 2014 with 83 elderly South Koreans and 88 North Koreans in attendance, according to the New York Times. About 70,000 South Koreans, more than half of them aged 80 or older, are on the government’s waiting list for the chance to reunite with their families from the North. While South Korean participants are chosen through lottery, it is unclear how the North chooses their candidates for these rarely held reunions.

The Interview and U.S. Sanctions

Park admitted on Monday that she has yet to see the controversial Seth Rogen comedy The Interview, which depicts the fictional assassination of Kim Jong-un, reports the AFP.

The FBI formally accused North Korea of hacking Sony Pictures. Since then, the U.S. has imposed sanctions that target North Korea’s top government officials and its defense industry. Pyongyang has condemned these sanctions and repeatedly denied any responsibility for the cyberattack–though it called the crime a “righteous deed.”

According to Yonhap, Park described the U.S. sanctions as “appropriate” and argued that North Korea should stop provoking the international community.

Korean American Author Deported 

During her New Year’s speech, Park also defended her government’s decision to deport Korean American author, Shin Eun-mi, who was accused of making positive comments about North Korea in several lectures and online posts.

Shin was deported back to the States on Saturday after authorities claimed that she had violated South Korea’s National Security Law, which has often been criticize for being an infringement to freedom of speech.

Park, however, defended its use on Monday, saying that the law was necessary to “ensure security” as South Korea “remains in a standoff with the North.”

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Photo courtesy of Reuters/Jung Yeon-Je/Pool.