Tag Archives: south korea

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Chan Ho Park Pays Visit to L.A. Exhibit That Celebrates Diversity in Baseball

story by STEVE HAN
photographs by MARIO GERSHOM REYES / RAFU SHIMPO

As Chan Ho Park strolled into the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo, with his wife at his side and holding hands with their two daughters, the museum’s president and CEO Greg Kimura greeted the family and then asked the girls, “I know he’s just a dad to you girls, but you do know that your dad is a legend, right?”

Park, who retired from professional baseball in 2012, paid a visit to the museum on Aug. 27 to view the baseball exhibit, “Dodgers: Brotherhood of the Game,” which explores and celebrates his career, as well as those of other former players (Jackie Robinson, Fernando Valenzuela and Hideo Nomo), manager (Tommy Lasorda) and executives (Branch Rickey, Walter O’Malley and Peter O’Malley), whose accomplishments on the baseball field go beyond statistics and wins. The exhibit recounts their contribution to shaping America’s racial diversity and the civil rights movement with stories, photos and original artifacts.

Peter O’Malley, the former owner of the Dodgers who signed Park and made him Korea’s first ever major leaguer in 1994, accompanied the family.

“I’m just so proud of him,” said O’Malley. “Chan Ho came to the Dodgers when no one at the organization spoke Korean. He didn’t speak much English. But he wasn’t reluctant at all. He wanted to face the best hitters in the major leagues and challenge them.”

After arriving in the major leagues, Park soon became one of the best pitchers for the Dodgers. He went on to win at least 13 games for five straight seasons between 1997 and 2001. His success in the major leagues opened something of a floodgate for South Korean ballplayers from Byung-Hyun Kim to Hee-Seop Choi to today’s Hyun-Jin Ryu and Shin-Soo Choo, both of whom landed multi-million dollar contracts with their respective ball clubs.

“We knew Chan Ho would be a pioneer,” O’Malley said. “We clearly knew that others would follow. More than anything, I wanted the Dodger team to reflect the community here in Los Angeles. Having Fernando [Valenzuela] was important for the community from Mexico. Having Chan Ho for the Korean American community, Hideo [Nomo] for the Japanese American community. I wanted our players to reflect what Los Angeles was all about. And they all did. They all did it very well.”

After touring the exhibit, Park spoke to KoreAm about his years in the major leagues, his impact on the Korean community and “returning the favor” to the kids from South Korea who recently won the Little League World Series.

_MG_0067Chan Ho Park, his two daughters and JANM president and CEO Greg Kimura

This exhibit celebrates the contribution of former Dodgers who contributed to America’s civil rights movement. In your perspective, what is it about your career that puts you on the same list as the likes of Jackie Robinson?

Throughout my 17 years in the major leagues, I’ve experienced both happiness and difficulties. But now that I look back, I feel like I tend to remember the tough times more vividly. At that moment, when things were really tough, I was desperate to forget those moments, but now that everything is said and done, I’m thankful for all the challenges I faced. For me, overcoming those obstacles allowed me to become who I am today. That’s why the fans appreciate me, and it’s what allows me to have the kind of relationship I have with them. If I can pick one thing that I’ve done really well in my playing career, it’s the fact that I never quit.

How does it feel to visit this exhibit to see your career being celebrated alongside some of these all-time greats?

I’m really grateful. When I began playing, I never imagined that I’d accomplish any of this. But now I understand that for people who appreciate baseball, coming to an exhibit like this is a way of celebrating history and reconnecting with moments when baseball left a positive impact on their lives. I’m so thankful that I played even a small role in making that happen. Now, the one thing that I do want to see is the Korean American community in particular being more proactive with hosting a similar event, so that the younger generation within our own community can have easier access to learning the messages that baseball conveys.

Why do you say that it’s important for the Korean American community to host these events?

There was a similar exhibit in Korea last year. It was about how baseball, my career in the major leagues in particular, played a role in giving the Korean people hope amid the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s. It wasn’t about celebrating winning or losing. It was about how baseball gave hope to people who were struggling at that particular time. At that exhibit in Korea, I was able to see firsthand how young people, many of whom weren’t even born or necessarily remember those times, were taught valuable lessons. I can no longer pitch on the mound. I’m too old! So I’m always so thankful when I see an exhibit like this that could help young people remember what I did, or what baseball did in the past. I just hope to see more of these in Koreatown now.

Speaking of young people, 11 to 13-year-old South Korean kids won the Little League World Series recently.

I had a chance to meet them during the tournament. It was surreal how kids are so different compared to my generation. Obviously, I’ve watched Hyun-Jin [Ryu, the current Dodger and Park's former teammate at the Hanwha Eagles and the Korean national team] pitch for the Dodgers and felt the same way. But after seeing our kids at the Little League World Series, I really feel like the younger generation changed a lot compared to us.

How exactly are kids today different?

You have to understand that these kids grow up watching the likes of Hyun-Jin and Shin-Soo [Choo of the Texas Rangers]. They grow up watching the major leagues and realize that it’s a realistic goal for them to play there themselves one day. When I was growing up, playing in the major leagues wasn’t even in my imagination! When Korea last won the Little League World Series in 1985, the kids then had no idea that playing in the major leagues was even possible. But for these kids now, they grow up in an environment where they can set the highest goals and they know that they can achieve their dreams. So it’s up to the adults now to help our kids realize those dreams. The Korean people these days are living in sadness because of all the things that have happened recently, and I’m just so proud that these young players have done something that our people could be proud of. The adults should return the favor now.

_MG_0089Chan Ho Park, with one of his daughters, shares a moment with Peter O’Malley.

What do you mean when you say that it’s now up to the adults?

I’m saying that we can’t just take the value of their win for granted. Now that they’ve come home after winning the World Series, people could easily just say, “Good job!” and move on. These kids have done something really special to make us happy when we felt like we’ve been down. So it’s up to us to create the kind of infrastructure for them so that as they grow, they continue to develop in an environment that helps them achieve their dreams. When we send our kids overseas for international tournaments, we shouldn’t just cheer for them and expect them to win and think that’s all we can do. It’s our responsibility to create meticulous plans to help them grow further and prosper.

So hopefully, we get to see more Hyun-Jin Ryus and Shin-Soo Choos in the future.

To me, Hyun-Jin is not just a successor of mine. He’s my child. I love him so much. But technically, I see him pitch in games in the major leagues and realize that he’s so much better than I was. He plays a higher quality baseball. I see him pitch and always tell myself, “Wow, Korean baseball has come so far.” Like I said, when Hyun-Jin first started watching the major leagues as a kid, that’s when I was pitching for the Dodgers. Today, the core group of professional baseball players in Korea grew up watching the major leagues. Kids who grow up watching baseball of the highest quality are different. And I’m just happy that I played a role in creating that kind of environment.

The “Dodgers: Brotherhood of the Game” exhibit began last March and will continue through Sept. 14 at JANM. For more information, visit http://www.janm.org/exhibits/dodgers/

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Daum Launches Detailed Maps of North Korea

by REERA YOO

On Friday, Daum launched a map service that covers North Korea’s entire territory, becoming the first South Korean Internet portal to offer public access to North Korea’s geographical information.

The map service shows all nine North Korean provinces and includes its administrative districts and their names as well as locations of mountains, roads, landmark buildings, and railroads. Users can now access the map for free through their personal computers and smartphones, both in satellite and electronic view, according to Daum.

daum map of nkoreaDowntown area of Pyongyang, as shown on Daum Maps on August 30.

The National Geographic Information Institute (NGII) had created the map on a scale of one to 25,000 and 50,000. Previously, they had only provided the information to state agencies that dealt with North Korean affairs until the Ministry of National Defense, Ministry of Unification, and the National Intelligence Service all agreed to opening the map to the public in March.

Since the geographic data was compiled between 2007 and 2009, the map is dated and the image resolution is not as sharp as Google Maps. However, Daum stated that its map depicts the most accurate and current information of North Korea.

“The date is a lot older than Google’s,” said Kim Chang Woo, a NGII researcher. “But the map covers all areas of the North while Google only provides a few big cities like Pyongyang and Sinuiju.”

While Daum updates their maps every year and has more current information with higher quality, the company has decided to only provide older maps of North Korea for national security reasons, reports Korea Joongang Daily.

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Study Forecasts South Korea May Become Extinct by 2750

by RUTH KIM

Just as it seems like Korea is taking over the world with its pop culture and technology exports, a new report suggests that the nation that brought us Girls Generation, the Kia Soul and Samsung smartphones is at risk of going extinct.

The study warns that South Korea may just go the way of the dinosaur by the year 2750, if the country fails to curb its falling fertility rate, the Chosun Ilbo reported.

South Korea’s birthrate, which was 1.23 in 2012, fell to 1.19 children per woman in 2013–one of the lowest numbers ever recorded.

The study, which was commissioned by the New Politics Alliance for Democracy party and conducted by the National Assembly Research Service, forecasts that South Korea’s current population of 50 million people will drop to 40 million by 2056, and 10 million by 2136. The port city of Busan would be the first to see its streets empty, suggests the simulation, since there has been a dramatic decrease in the number of young and middle-aged residents there.

According to the study, Busan’s last survivor will be born in 2413 and the last Seoulite in 2505, and if these projections become reality, then South Korea will be the first nation in the world to become extinct.

Meanwhile, in the midst of South Korea’s youth crisis, its gray population has been growing. The country’s National Statistics Office says that, by 2030, 24.3 percent of South Koreans will be 65 or older, and that figure will rise to 32.3 percent by 2040, according to the Agence France Presse. This imbalance of a booming older population and a shrinking youth generation seems to align with NARS’ grim forecast.

Notably, the forecast is based on a worst-case scenario and does not take into account possible changes caused by immigration policy.

The study not only sounds the alarms, but also raises questions as to why South Korea is facing this worst-case scenario. The Wall Street Journal points out that former President Park Chung-hee’s national family planning campaign may have worked too well. The policy, which started from the early 1960s and lasted well into the 1980s, encouraged families to have fewer children. One government poster read, “Even two children per family are too many for our crowded country.”

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The left poster reads, “Even two children are too many!” (Photo via TheGrandNarrative.com)

Another poster, which read, “Give birth without thought and keep living like a beggar,” highlighted the economic burden of raising children–and no less, a child–in South Korea, and this concern seems still prevalent in today’s society, where high education costs are considered heavy burdens to families.

Top photo: Getty Images

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So Yeon Ryu Wins Canadian Women’s Open, SKoreans Finish 1-2-3

by JAMES S. KIM

Oh, the sweet smell of victory.

“I smell like champagne right now, but I’m still so happy,” said a beaming So Yeon Ryu, who received the celebratory dousing after clinching the win at the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open on Sunday.

It’s been two years since the 24-year-old pro from South Korea won a tournament, but she did so handily, finishing at 23 under to break the Canadian Women’s Open 72-hole record for scoring in relation to par by five shots, according to the Golf Channel. Though Ryu said she was a little disappointed that she fell short of Annika Sorenstam’s LPGA Tour record of 27 under, she still savored the long-awaited victory.

“I’ve been waiting so long for the champagne,” she said. “I was ready to get champagne. I put champagne on Inbee [Park] maybe more than five times. Finally, she gave it to me.”

Ryu celebrated with her fellow Korean competitors, Na Yeon Choi, who finished at 21-under, and Park, who finished at 18-under—as they respectively placed 1-2-3 in the tournament. The trio of champions also happen to be close friends; Ryu and Choi will be Park’s bride’s maids at the latter’s wedding in October, the Associated Press reported.

That friendship did not stop the three from trying to outplay each other, however. On the back nine Sunday, Choi nipped away at Ryu’s five-shot lead, cutting it down to one of a birdie and a Ryu bogey. After that, though, Ryu steadied herself through the rest of the holes to claim her third LPGA title.

“Na Yeon almost chased me down, so I was pretty nervous at that moment,” Ryu told the Golf Channel. “The really good thing is I did trust myself. I was focused on my game.”

South Koreans have now won the last three LPGA tournaments after a slow start to the season, according to the Golf Channel. Inbee Park had the only South Korean LGPA title of 2014 coming into August. Mirim Lee won the Meijer LPGA classic on Aug. 10, and Park followed up with a win at the Wegmans LPGA Championship.

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Photos via Golf Canada/Bernard Brault

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SKorea Beats Japan, Advances to Int’l Championship in Little League World Series

by JAMES S. KIM

The South Korean Little League World Series team is headed to the International Championship game after edging out a very strong Japanese team 4-2 Wednesday in .

The matchup of the top two international teams did not disappoint. World Series defending champion Japan came in with a dominant pitching staff, while South Korea came in boasting one of the top offenses in the tournament thus far.

Scoreless into the third inning, pitcher and first baseman Choi Hae-chan helped his own cause with a two-run home run to right center field to give Korea the lead. Japan responded immediately by tying the game with two runs of their own in the bottom of the third, one off a sacrifice fly by Shingo Tomita and another off a wild pitch.

Both teams remained scoreless until the top of the sixth (the final inning per Little League rules), when Hwang Jae-yeong lifted a solo homer to score the game-winning run off of Suguru Kanamori. Sin Dong-wan added an insurance run with a double to center field.

In the bottom sixth, Hwang Jae Young struck out the first two Japanese batters before giving up a single. The next batter, Kanamori, flied out to center field to end the game.

South Korea now holds a 9-0 Little League World Series record, while Japan broke its 12-game win streak.

Japan isn’t completely out of it as it will play Mexico tomorrow for a chance to get back into the International Championship game on Saturday, where South Korea awaits.

At the time of publication, the top two U.S. teams are set to slug it out in an highly-anticipated game, featuring a potent offense in Nevada and the superstar Mo’ne Davis-led Pennsylvania team.

The winner of the International Championship will face the winner of the U.S. Championship game, also Saturday, for the World Series Championship game on Sunday.

Meanwhile, you can watch a couple of South Korea’s spectacular bat flips from the tournament. Mind you, they’re both on flyouts.

Photo courtesy of Korea Little Baseball Association

Pope Francis waves to Catholic worshippers as he arrives to lead a mass at Gwanghwamun square in central Seoul

Pope Francis Wraps Visit to SKorea With Message of Reconciliation

by JAMES S. KIM

While it was the images of Pope Francis riding around in a Kia Soul that went viral last week when he first arrived in South Korea, it was his calls for forgiveness and reconciliation that resonated on Monday before he left the country.

“Let us pray, then, for the emergence of new opportunities and dialogue, encounter and the resolution of differences, for continued generosity in providing humanitarian assistance to those in need, and for an ever greater recognition that all Koreans are brothers and sisters, members of one family, one people,” he said during a Mass in Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul.

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“Peter asks the Lord: ‘If my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ To which the Lord replies: ‘Not seven times, I tell you, but 70 times seven,’” he continued. “Unless we are prepared to do this, how can we honestly pray for peace and reconciliation?”

The New York Times reported that after the pope’s appeal, the South Korean government issued a statement asking North Korea to accept a proposal from last week to restart high-level dialogue. In perhaps a more conciliatory tone, Seoul said that if North Korea were to “behave responsibly,” it would be ready to “discuss any subject,” which includes the possible easing of economic sanctions imposed after the sinking of the Cheonan, a South Korean warship, in 2010. The South blamed the North for shooting a torpedo that sunk the warship, a charge the North has denied.

The high-level talks could also include restarting reunions for Korean relatives who were separated during the Korean War. When the governments met in February, the plan was to schedule one around the Chuseok holiday on Sept. 8, but those plans have so far fallen through, following the way of the talks.

The South Korean Catholic Church had invited a North Korean delegation to the pope’s Mass, but the North rejected the offer.

The pope also met with seven of the 55 surviving “comfort women” on Monday. The women, who were invited to sit in the front row during the Mass, presented a painting by a former sex slave who died in 2004 to Pope Francis. Titled “A Flower That Did Not Blossom,” the painting shows a Korean girl in a traditional hanbok among pink flowers.

Pope Francis 1Pope Francis meets seven comfort women, now in their 80s and 90s, at the Monday Mass.

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Pope Francis kisses a child upon arriving for Mass at Gwanghwamun square in Seoul. Reuters / Korea Pool / Yonhap

Prior to Monday, Pope Francis partook in a number of events that began last Thursday. He led a Mass to beatify Paul Yun Ji-chung and 123 other Korean Catholics who were killed by Korean rulers through the 18th and 19th centuries, when Catholicism was spreading rapidly and seen as a threat to the Confucianism-based society.

The pope also met dozens of sick and disabled people in a rehabilitation center in Eumseong, along with the grieving family members of those killed in the April Sewol ferry disaster, according to Yonhap News. He baptized a father of a victim at the Vatican Embassy in Seoul, when the man approached him with an impromptu request.

South Korean Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung presented two gifts to the pope after Monday’s Mass: a crown made with a part of a barbed wire fence in the inter-Korean border, and a statue of St. Mary, the symbol of the Cathedral of Pyongyang Diocese. As he left South Korea later that day, Pope Francis imparted one more blessing as his plane left for Rome:

“I invoke divine blessing upon you all as I renew my prayer for peace and well-being on the Korean peninsula,” he said, according to an air traffic controller.

Photos via Reuters/Korea Pool/Yonhap and European Pressphoto Agency

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SKorean Bar Slammed After Attempting to Ban Africans Due To Ebola Fear

by STEVE HAN

A bar in the Itaewon district of Seoul sparked public outrage after one of the workers, citing Ebola fears, posted signs saying the establishment was banning African customers.

JR Pub in Itaewon, considered one of the most racially diverse region in the country, posted two signs on Aug. 16 which read, “We apologize, but due to Ebola virus we are not accepting Africans at the moment.”

Following a series of scathing responses on social media, the pub replaced the signs with an apology from the owner, Troy Armado, who said he was oblivious to the original signs that went up allegedly during his absence. But the damage had already been done. Online discussions of boycotting the bar is ongoing among expats.

“I told them I was South African and after some deliberation they told me I could go in,” someone wrote on the Facebook page, HBC/Itaewon Information Board. “Apparently white Africans are okay. Total bollocks.”

Armado said that the sign was put up by a worker without his knowledge.

“I didn’t even know about this,” Armado told Asia news blog Asiapundits. “I just hosted the Gabon ambassador last night [at my other business] … 50 people from Gabon reserved the roof yesterday. I will talk to whoever put up this sign. I will clear everything up.”

An apology posted outside the pub is below. (Image via Asiapundits)

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The Kansas City Royals’ Biggest Fan Is From South Korea

by STEVE HAN

When the Kansas City Royals invited their superfan Sung Woo Lee from South Korea, neither the team nor the man himself expected that his 10-day stay would be this special.

The Royals went on an eight-game winning streak since the day Lee landed in Kansas City, a streak which allowed them to overtake the Detroit Tigers for first place in the American League Central. Lee, seeing his favorite team in person for the first time, tossed the ceremonial first pitch at Monday night’s game and has become something of a celebrity amid the outpouring of Midwestern hospitality.

Lee, who has never visited the U.S. before the Royals flew him in last week, traces back his fandom to the early 1990s, when he caught baseball highlights on Korean TV, which aired CNN’s sports news segments every day. Lee told MLB.com the Royals’ “beautiful K” on their hats “caught my eye,” and from then on would lend his unconditional support of the perennially underachieving franchise, which hasn’t made the playoffs since 1985 in the early 1990s after watching baseball.

Thanks to the Internet, Lee became an active member of the Royals’ online community and met local fans in Kansas City. Those locals, who’ve kept in touch with Lee for years, are the ones who launched a campaign to fly him in from Korea with the hashtag #SungWooToKC on Twitter.

“The dude is just diehard, and he never has a bad word to say about us, even when we were at our lowest of our low, and I was just really happy and honored to meet him,” said Royals pitcher Danny Duffy.

Set to return to Korea tomorrow, Lee has been embraced by the Royals community, which welcomed him with customized gifts and barbecue tailgate feasts in his honor.

“That’s just a credit to this whole community, this whole town,” Lee said, according to the Kansas City Star. “It’s just been this giant hug from this town. It’s been viral and insane.”