Tag Archives: south korea

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KakaoTaxi Hits the Road in South Korea, Challenging Uber

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo
reera@iamkoream.com

Daum Kakao on Tuesday launched its new cab-hailing app KakaoTaxi in South Korea to compete with Uber, which has recently been subjected to crackdowns by Korean authorities.

KakaoTalk is considered to be Korea’s most popular mobile messenger operator, boasting over 140 million users worldwide. The new taxi app is Daum Kakao’s first step towards transforming KakaoTalk from a SMS replacement to a lifestyle services platform, according to the company’s press release.

KakaoTaxi is reported to automatically set a pick up location and finds the nearest available cab based on distance and current traffic conditions. Once the request is approved, the app provides the passenger with the driver’s name, photo and vehicle description. Passengers can also send push notifications to their KakaoTalk friends that includes pick-up time, drop off location and estimated ride time. For further privacy protection, all chatroom exchanges are automatically deleted once the cab reaches its destination.

Earlier this month, South Korean authorities arrested the head of Uber Korea and 29 other company officials on suspicion of operating illegal taxi services.

Prior to the launch, Daum Kakao took careful steps to avoid the same mistakes as Uber by signing memorandums of understanding with organizations representing licensed taxi operators, including the Korean National Joint Conference of Taxi Association, the Seoul Taxi Association, the Federation of Korean Taxi Workers’ Union and the Korean Taxi Workers’ Union.

KakaoTaxi also signed an agreement with subway card maker Korea Smart Card Corp., which is 34 percent owned by the Seoul Metropolitan City Government. With this deal, passengers can pay for their cab rides with their T-money cards and the app can track the flow of commuters in Seoul—another advantage over Uber.

Fares can also be paid via online payment services KakaoPay or BankWalletKakao, according to a Q&A with Daum Kakao.

“KakaoTaxi was designed to make the taxi-riding experience as simple and easy as possible by eliminating the need to physically hail taxis or search for taxi service phone numbers,” John Jung, Head of KakaoTaxi TF said in a statement. “Daum Kakao will continue to improve the service so anyone that needs a taxi can use KakaoTaxi to get where they need to go quickly, conveniently and safely.”

KakaoTaxi is available for download at Google Play store, with an iOS version scheduled for release in April.

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South Koreans Spend the Least Time in the Kitchen: Survey

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo
reera@iamkoream.com

South Koreans apparently cook the least while Italians are the most passionate about food and cooking, according to a survey conducted by market research firm GfK.

The firm asked more than 27,000 people across 22 countries about how knowledgeable, experienced and passionate they are about food and cooking as well as how many hours they spend in the kitchen every week.

India and Ukraine easily topped the poll for spending the most time pottering in the kitchen per week, with an average of about 13 hours cooking. South Africa trailed in third place with an average of 9.5 hours, followed by Indonesia with an average of eight hours and Italy just topping seven hours.

Meanwhile, South Korea landed at the very bottom of the poll, with its respondents spending less than four hours per week cooking for themselves.

How is this possible? Well, South Korea is renowned for its accessible and affordable street food. Whether you’re craving ddukbokgi (spicy rice cakes), dakkochi (a skewer of grilled chicken and vegetables) or a corn dog lathered in tater tots, there’s a food stall for every snacking crave. South Korean supermarkets also hand out large amounts of samples to shoppers and convenience stores are stocked with shelves of ready-made food, such as ramen, meat buns and rice balls.

The international cooking average is reported to be just under six and a half hours per week.

GfK-Infographic Cooking Countries

When GfK asked survey participants how passionate they are about food and cooking, Italians seemed to be the most zealous foodies, with 43 percent saying that cooking is a personal passion. South Africa, Indonesia, Mexico and India trailed closely behind them on the poll.

South Korea again claimed last place on the poll, at just 13 percent.

Now, if there was a survey that ranked countries by their passion for eating, there’s a possibility that South Korea would rank a few spots above the bottom of the food chain.

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Featured image via Migrationology.com

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North Korea Arrests 2 South Koreans for Spying

Pictured above: Kim Kuk-gi (left) and Choe Chun-gil were accused of spying on behalf of South Korea’s spy agency. (Photo courtesy of Kyodo)

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo
reera@iamkoream.com

South Korea urged North Korea on Friday to immediately release two of its citizens who were detained in Pyongyang for alleged espionage, reports the Associated Press.

North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the two men were detained last year for collecting party, state and military secrets on behalf of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS). The two men identified themselves as Kim Kuk-gi, 60, and Choe Chun-gil, 55, and publicly apologized for their “anti-state” crimes during a news conference in Pyongyang.

On Friday, South Korea’s Unification Ministry confirmed that Kim and Choe were South Korean citizens but declined to the comment on their backgrounds. The NIS has also denied the North’s accusations of espionage, calling them “absolutely groundless.”

“We strongly demand North Korea to quickly release our citizens Kim Kuk-gi and Choe Chun-gil and repatriate them without hesitation,” said Lim Byeong-cheol, the unification ministry’s spokesman.

KCNA reported that Kim was detained last September in Pyongyang while Choe was arrested in December in Dandong, a Chinese city near the border with North Korea.

During the news conference, Kim said he had been paid thousands of dollars and given encrypted cellphones to gather information on the late North Korean leader Kim Jon-il’s plans to visit China in 2009. The KCNA report added that Kim ran also an underground church in Dandong.

Meanwhile, Cho said he had smuggled USB memory sticks containing South Korean movies and other illegal foreign information into the North, according to the New York Times. He also said that he was instructed by his spy master to collect soil samples near Yongbyon, North Korea’s main nuclear complex.

North Korea has repeatedly been accused of arresting several South Koreans and Korean Americans who either operated near the border or visited the country for humanitarian or missionary work. Last year, North Korea sentenced South Korean missionary Kim Jeong-wook to hard labor for life on charges of founding an underground church to undermine the ruling Kim family and spying for the South.

In February, a Korean Canadian pastor went missing during a humanitarian mission in the North. The pastor’s church in Toronto said the North Korean government had sent Canadian officials a confirmation of his detainment.

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Shinzo Abe Invited to Address Joint U.S. Congress Session

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

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will speak before a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress on April 29, reports Yonhap News Agency. House Speaker John Boehner officially announced the invitation on Thursday.

“As the United States continues to strengthen our ties with Japan, we look forward to welcoming Prime Minister Abe to the United States Capitol. His address will provide an opportunity for the American people to hear from one of our closest allies about ways we can expand our cooperation on economic and security priorities,” Boehner said in a statement.

“That, of course, includes working together to open markets and encourage more economic growth through free trade,” he added. “Prime Minister Abe will become the first Japanese leader to address a joint meeting of the United States Congress, and we are proud to host this historic event.”

Abe was poised to make a trip to the United States this spring in late April to early March before the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in August. He is expected to meet with President Barack Obama over discussions on security and trade agreements. His speech before Congress is expected to mark the partnership the two countries have enjoyed and the peaceful path Japan has taken since the end of the war.

There is intense speculation in Tokyo and other Asian countries about how he will mark the anniversary. Abe has stirred fierce controversy over signs that his government was looking to reexamine and revise previous statements and apologies from former Japanese leaders.

In response to speculation over Abe’s visit, a number of Korean American activists and U.S. veterans groups called on Abe earlier this month to issue a clear apology for Japan’s war crimes, including sexual slavery, committed during World War II. U.S. Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) also added that “nothing less than” a clear apology would be enough for Abe to be a global leader in women’s rights, as the prime minister said in a speech at the United Nations last year.

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South Korea to Join China-Led Infrastructure Investment Bank

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo
reera@iamkoream.com

South Korea announced on Thursday that it will join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) as one of its founding members, despite Washington’s opposition to the new multinational lender, reports the New York Times.

South Korea’s finance ministry said in a statement that becoming a member of the AIIB will help bolster the country’s influence in the international banking sector and help domestic firms secure deals in large-scale construction, telecommunications, transportation and other regional infrastructure projects.

Seoul’s decision comes a week after developed European economies France, Germany and Italy announced that they will be joining Britain in seeking membership. Australia is also expected to follow suit. More than 20 countries have said that they plan to become AIIB members.

China has already pledged to foot the bulk of the initial $50 billion needed to get the bank running, with donations from other members expected to increase the overall fund to more than $100 billion.

However, the United States has expressed doubts about the proposed multinational lender, which Washington sees a threat to the Wold Bank. The Obama administration has also raised concerns about the China-led institution meeting the rigorous standards of governance and transparency in enforcing environmental and labor standards.

Critics claim that Washington is simply opposing the AIIB because it is afraid that the new bank will undermine institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, where the U.S. wields great influence.

The question of joining the bank had also forced South Korea to delicately balance its ties with the U.S, its primary military ally, and China, its largest trading partner.

According to the Yonhap, AIIB participants have agreed that voting rights should commensurate with the amount of donations made, with Asian countries receiving 75 percent of voting rights and the rest going to countries outside of Asia.

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Featured image by Takaki Yajima/Reuters

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Hackathon

Global Hackathon Seoul Looks to Showcase Local ‘Hacker Culture’

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

The South Korean technology industry is often dominated by its electronic giants, but the headlines are slowly starting to change. Seoul has increasingly become one of the most promising scenes for startups, thanks to government support, including cutback on regulation on tech-related industries to encourage innovation and Park Geun-hye’s pledge to invest $3.7 billion in startups over the next three years.

This summer, South Korea’s capital will also host Global Hackathon Seoul at the COEX (Convention and Exhibition Center) in Gangnam, Seoul—a region that has quickly become a bright spot for Korean startups. The Global Hackathon plans to bring together some 2,000 hackers, from local South Korean developers to their international counterparts.

But the hacking doesn’t refer to the keyboard-slapping nonsense we see in Hollywood movies. There is a much deeper culture to the “hacker mindset” that the Global Hackathon sees in Seoul champions.

“The ‘hacker’ mindset is the art of building or putting things together in order to create a change or facilitate positive disruption in the world,” explains Ted Kim, Chief Operating Officer of London Trust Media, Inc., which owns title sponsor Private Internet Access (PIA). “In general, the hacker ethos is that nothing is impossible—anything can be hacked, created and conquered.”

PIA features a personal virtual private network (VPN) service that protects users when they are online, has been a leading sponsor of other major hackathons including, UCLA’s popular LA Hacks in April.

“As the advent of the Internet did not take the loss of privacy into consideration as a consequence, our goal is to protect the privacy of a society that has forgotten its rights to it. We hope that many hackers at the hackathon will build products that will enhance end users’ privacy,” Kim added. “We believe that supporting the next generation of startups and hackers is a logical next step to further our goal.”

Opportunities abound for startups at these hackathons, where they can showcase their own technology from wearables, virtual reality, cloud services, big data hubs, online security and other innovative ideas, such as KPOP UNITED‘s crowdfunding-based concert ticketing platform. On the other end, there are plenty of businesses and investors looking to work with the brightest and best hackers.

“Hackathons provide a wonderful opportunity for developers and businesses (and their recruiters) alike to meet each other,” Kim said. “Hosting Asia’s premier hackathon in South Korea is monumental because South Korea has been pumping significant funds into its technology startup scene. I wouldn’t be too surprised if many quick hack projects built during the Hackathon end up receiving investment and becoming new South Korean companies.”

KJ Yoo, the executive director of Global Hackathon Seoul, said he hopes the event will convince even more Korean students and recent graduates to look at the burgeoning startup industry for opportunities, rather than relying solely on established companies.

“Seoul already has an incredible infrastructure (fastest Internet/mobile speed), highest smartphone penetration and tech savvy people,” Yoo said. “What we need is a cultural shift. Through Global Hackathon Seoul and other awesome hackathons, I don’t want to just show people but let them experience the hacker culture, and collaborate with really different thinkers of this world. We have an opportunity to import the mindset and innovative trends of the best hacks from around the world.”

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Disclosure: Private Internet Access (PIA) and KoreAm Journal are both owned by parent company London Trust Media, Inc.

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‘Avengers 2′ Director and Stars to Visit Seoul in April

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo
reera@iamkoream.com

Brace yourself, Seoul. The Avengers are coming.

Alongside director Joss Whedon, a few members of the Avengers: Age of Ultron cast—Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans and Mark Ruffalo—will arrive in South Korea on April 16 to promote the blockbuster after its world premiere at the El Capitan Theatre in L.A, said the Walt Disney Company Korea.

The four men will be attending a press conference and an event for Avengers fans ahead of the South Korean theatrical release, which is slated for April 23.

For actors Downey and Evans, who portray Iron Man and Captain America, respectively, this will be their third trip to South Korea while it will be the first for Ruffalo, who plays the Hulk. Evans first visited South Korea when he was promoting Snowpiercer, a 2013 South Korean post-apocalyptic film.

Avengers 2 has been gaining traction in South Korea, as it was partly filmed in Seoul last year and features Korean actress Claudia Kim as a supporting character. The film takes place after the destruction of the espionage agency S.H.I.E.L.D. When Tony Stark attempts to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program, his plan backfires and the Avengers must reunite to stop the villainous Ultron from eradicating humans.

You can watch the trailer below:

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Link Attack: Roy Choi in Watts; Dogs Rescued From Meat Farm; Custom Emoji Keyboard

Video: Roy Choi Wants the Next Food Revolution to Start in Watts

The first location will be in Watts at a site that used to be smoke shop and a barbershop. Choi says that his team wanted to open a location somewhere in South Los Angeles, and they ended up focusing on Watts because of the sense of community they found there. (LAist)

Dogs Rescued from South Korean Meat Farm Brought to San Francisco

Thirteen frightened young dogs and puppies arrived in San Francisco in a van Thursday, some trembling, tails between their legs, others with sad but hopeful eyes, and all of them unaware of how close they came to an agonizing, gruesome death. (SF Gate)

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Memoji Keyboard Allows You To Emojify Yourself

Johnny Lin, an ex-Apple engineer, created a way for users to upload their own faces as emoji. Angry Asian Man Phil Yu tries it out.

‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ is Doing Shockingly Well in South Korea

Why is the movie such a huge hit in the South Korean film market? Cinema Blend speculates the reasons, from the visuals to the high fashion costume design to director Matthew Vaughn’s popularity in South Korea.

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23 Most Anticipated Korean Films of 2015

Modern Korean Cinema lists the Korean films they’re most looking forward to this year.

Homebrew and House Parties: How North Koreans Have Fun

“Despite restrictions on money and free time, partying is integral to North Korean culture. But how does it compare to cutting loose in the South?” writes The Guardian.

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Korean Star Jung Ho Kang May Be Much Better Than Advertised

“In so many words, clubs just didn’t see many reasons to be optimistic about Kang,” writes Bleacher Report. “But as early as it is, one wonders how many are thinking differently these days.”

Searing Complaint Against Korean Church

The Contra Costa Korean Presbyterian Church is being sued for negligence in their hiring of a youth pastor, who the plaintiff claims repeatedly sexually molester her and her sister.

Shinhan Bank President Cho Yong-byoung Pledges to Solidify Status as Leading Bank

In his inauguration speech on March 18, Shinhan Bank President Cho Yong-byoung emphasized, “I will solidify our status as a leading bank.”

Cho said, “Through ceaseless innovation, we must create new opportunities and values and maintain the highest level of profitability and soundness.”

GM Canada Gets New General Counsel and Assistant GC, Peter Cho

It won’t be Cho’s first time behind the wheel of an automotive law department. He was most recently general counsel, corporate secretary and head of government relations at Volkswagen Group Canada, and has also has worked with Volkswagen Group China and Kia Canada.

Olympic Gateway

K-Town Landmarks Hope to Begin Summer Construction

The Olympic Gateway, a long-projected landmark for Los Angeles’ Koreatown, as well as the Madang project at Da Wool Jung, are expected to begin construction as soon as mid-May.

Korean Calligraphy Exhibition Open at Chicago Korean Cultural Center

On display are about 70 works by students of Kit-beol Village Calligrapher Lee Chul-woo. (Korea Times)

Four Korean American Officers Join Fairfax County Police Department After Graduating Academy

Arthur Cho, John Hong, Seung Meang and Shane Oh were among the 60 new police officers and deputies who graduated from the academy. This is the first time in the history of the department that an academy class had this many Korean-American graduates. (Centreville Independent)

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