Tag Archives: south korea

soompi sm theater

SM Entertainment to Release the World’s First Hologram Musical

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

SM Entertainment will premiere the world’s first hologram musical, School OZ, on Jan. 14 in Seoul, according to Soompi.

Based loosely on The Wizard of Oz, this hologram fantasy musical stars various SM artists, including Changmin of TVXQ, Key of SHINee, Suho and Xiumin of EXO and Red Velvet’s Seulgi. The story will center on the search for Dorothy, who mysteriously disappears before the day of the “Great Knight” championship. The 110-minute show will be screened at the SMTOWN Theatre, taking advantage of the venue’s high-definition screens, projectors and its start-of-the-art sound system.

SM Entertainment will also screen its hologram concert Girl Story, which stars Yoona of Girls’ Generation and SHINee’s Minho, on the same day of the musical’s premiere.

Tickets for both performances will be available starting Wednesday, Jan. 7 at 10 a.m. KST and can be purchased via the app “SMTOWN Theatre” or the agency’s dedicated website.

You can watch the trailer for School OZ below:


Featured image courtesy of Soompi


Former Korean Air Vice President Facing Indictment

by STEVE HAN | @steve_han

The embattled former vice president of Korean Air is facing indictment over a bizarre incident, in which she forced a taxiing plane to return to the gate, according to prosecutors in South Korea.

Cho Hyun-ah, also identified as Heather Cho, is the eldest daughter of South Korea’s No. 1 airline. However, she recently resigned from her post as the company’s vice president for cabin service after a national outrage over her murky conduct.

During an Incheon-bound flight in New York on Dec. 5, Cho had ordered the chief flight attendant to disembark the aircraft as she became furious over how she was served macadamia nuts– in an unopened bag and not on a plate. After Cho strangely threw a tantrum, the flight carrying more than 250 passengers returned to the gate as instructed and deplaned the chief attendant, arriving in Incheon International Airport 11 minutes behind schedule.

A local court in South Korea has been detaining Cho since Dec. 30 on charges that she abused her power and that the Korean Air has made organized efforts to cover up the incident.

Prosecutors at Seoul Western District Prosecutors Office will press additional charges, including violation of aviation safety regulations, assault on a plane as well as coercion and interference in the execution of duty.

The charges against Cho will be brought on Tuesday at the latest, said the prosecutors.


Featured photo courtesy of CNN


Slavery Thrives on South Korean Island Salt Farms

by STEVE HAN | @steve_han

It was an ordinary night for Kim Seong-baek in July 2012. He was sleeping in the corner of a subway station in Seoul, South Korea. He had been homeless for over 10 years when a stranger approached him with a job offer that would also provide him with a place to live starting at the crack of the dawn.

Kim, whose court records state that he has a 12-year-old’s social awareness, accepted the no-brainer of an offer.

But within hours, Kim was getting beaten by his boss Hong Jeong-gi in Siniu-do, an island on the southwestern coast of the Korean peninsula. For the next two years, the half-blind and mentally disabled Kim was forced to work 18 hours a day as a salt miner under inhumanely abusive conditions without pay.

Kim later learned that the man he met at the subway station was an illegal job agent who was paid by Hong. For $700, the man reported Kim missing and sent him to Hong who worked him brutally at his sea salt farm. Every time Kim tried to escape, he was rounded up by Hong’s guards.

After two years of trying to escape, Kim finally got his wish when he mailed a letter to his mother in Seoul. His mother then contacted Seo Je-gong, a Seoul police captain, and the two visited the island posing as tourists. They rescued Kim after arresting Hong, who now faces a 3-year prison sentence.

Sinui-do has a longstanding history of exploitation and enslavement of those subject to social vulnerability like Kim. However, not many are as fortunate as Kim, who had family searching for him.

South Korea’s human rights publication CoWalkNews reported in April that the lives of slaves on the island have become something of an open secret. In some cases, the families of the victims knowingly abandon them in Sinui-do after agreeing to get paid by the slave owners to stay quiet. After all, many of the victims are those who have been exiled from their families even before they become slaves.

Kim’s case sparked an intense public attention, which later prompted government investigations which found more than 100 victims similar to Kim, but the Associated Press reported that the nationwide probe has made little difference. Outside of the 50 island farm owners and job brokers who were indicted, thousands of other suspected slave owners have claimed that they have merely provided jobs for the disabled and homeless.

Regardless, the worldwide publicity on Kim’s case has tarnished the reputation of Sinui-do and its population of 18,000. The locals have complained that the alleged slavery was deployed by only a few farm owners on an island, where over half of its population work in the sea salt production industry, and expressed discontent at the media for tainting their home as the “slave island.”

Sinui-do, which produces over 50,000 tons of sea salt, is also a home to about 820 households, along with two elementary schools and a middle school.

“There have been many rape cases in Seoul,” a 52-year-old Sinui-do resident, only identified by his last name Hong, told News1. “So is Seoul now a city of rapists? It’s unjust to call our island an island of slaves.”

But the residents also sympathize with the alleged slaves who have been subject to abuse by their bosses.

“These are people who are neglected and mistreated,” said Hong Chi-guk, a 64-year-old salt farmer in Sinui-do, in an interview with the AP. “What alternative does our society have for them?”


Photo courtesy of OhMyNews.


South Korea, Japan and U.S. to Share Intel on North Korea

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

South Korea, Japan and the U.S. will sign their first joint intelligent-sharing pact on Dec. 29 to better prepare and respond to the increasing nuclear and missile threats from North Korea, reports the Associated Press.

Although the U.S. currently has separate, bilateral intelligence-sharing pacts with South Korea and Japan, the two Asian countries do not have such agreements, partly due to the unresolved tensions stemming from Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945. In 2012, Seoul and Tokyo almost signed an intelligence-sharing pact, but it was ultimately scrapped after public uproar in South Korea.

Under the new trilateral agreement, South Korea and Japan would share intelligence only on North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, with the U.S. serving as the mediator, according to a statement from Seoul’s Defense Ministry.

“We believe that the arrangement will be very effective in deterring the communist country from launching provocations in the first place,” a ministry official told Yonhap. “The cooperation between the three nations is expected to boost the quality of the intelligence on North Korea, which will enable the allies to respond to possible provocations in a swifter fashion.”

The agreement comes after Pyongyang’s recent threat to carry out nuclear strikes in protest of a United Nations resolution on the regime’s human rights abuses. North Korea has also threatened to retaliate against the U.S. over Sony Pictures’ satirical comedy The Interview.

The vice defense ministers of South Korea, Japan and the U.S. will formally sign the trilateral pact on Monday.


Photo courtesy of AFP Photo/Saul Loeb

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick works with fourth graders during Cooking Matters, a nutrition class taught by 18 Reasons, a local partner of Share our Strength at Glen Park Elementary School in San Francisco

South Korea Indicts Uber CEO

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

South Korean prosecutors have indicted the CEO and local subsidiary of Uber for operating an illegal taxi service, becoming the latest roadblock for the ride-sharing app, according to Reuters.

CEO Travis Kalanick and Uber’s partner MK Korea, a domestic rental-car service operator, were charged with violating a South Korean law that prohibits individuals or firms from using rental cars for paid transportation services without appropriate licenses, said the Seoul Central District Prosecutor’s Office.

The charges carry a maximum penalty of two years in prison or a fine of 20 million won (USD $18,121).

Uber said in its statement on Wednesday that it plans to fully cooperate with the investigation and that it is “confident” that the South Korean court will make a fair and sensible judgement.

“We firmly believe that our service, which connects drivers and riders via an application, is not only legal in Korea, but that it is being welcomed and supported by consumers,” said the California-based company.

On Friday, the Seoul city government passed a measure that offered a financial reward of 1 million won (USD $910) for those who reported Uber’s illegal drivers, according to Yonhap. The decision came after Seoul repeatedly accused Uber of engaging in illegal transportation services, which the company denied.

This year has been a rough ride for Uber as it weathered numerous scandals and sparked protests by cabbies around the globe. The company made headlines earlier this month when a passenger was allegedly raped by an Uber driver in New Delhi.

Photo courtesy of Reuters/Beck Difenbach


South Koreans Consume the Most Ramen in the World

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

The convenience of Korean instant ramen makes the dish a favorite among college students, single folk and the lazy alike, but there may be such a thing as too convenient.

South Koreans consumed the most ramen (ramyun or ramyeon) per person in the world last year, according to a study by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and the World Instant Noodles Association (WINA). The average Korean eats 74.1 servings ramen per year, followed by Vietnamese people, who consume about 60.3 servings a year. Indonesia, China and Hong Kong round out the top five out of a total 15 countries in the study.

Japan did not make the top five list for ramen servings per person, but they do consume the third-most amount of ramen as a country. Meanwhile, Hong Kong and China come in first place, followed by Indonesia Japan, and Vietnam. South Korea came in seventh in overall consumption.

According to the study, Koreans are also the most likely to purchase ramen at a convenience store: 25.6 percent of shoppers purchase ramen. Nongshim Shin Ramyun has been the most popular brand for four years, followed by Jjapaguri, Neoguri and Samyang Ramyun. The ramenritto, the ramen grilled cheese sandwich, the ramen pizza and the infamous ramen burger still have a ways to go to catch up.

The study also provided a number of interesting tidbits about ramen in general: From 2008 to 2013, South Korean ramen exports increased 64 percent, and cup ramen production increased 67 percent compared to 26.5 percent for bagged instant ramen in the same time period.

If you’re in the mood for Korean ramen, check out blogger Hans Lienesch’s list of Top 10 South Korean Instant Noodles for a few hearty recommendations.

Photo courtesy of Soompi

Nuclear power plant in Wolseong, South Korea

South Korean Nuclear Plant Operator Gets Hacked

by STEVE HAN | @steve_han

A group of unidentified hackers have stolen data from computer systems at a South Korean nuclear plant operator, said the Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Co Ltd (KHNP) on Monday.

The hacking raised concerns about the safety of nuclear facilities in South Korea, a country that sill remains technically at war with North Korea, and occurred after the United States formally accused North Korea of the massive cyberattack on Sony Pictures.
Although South Korea’s state-run KHNP assured that the hackers only stole “non-critical” data, there is a growing concern that its nuclear installations could be at risk.

“This demonstrated that, if anyone is intent with malice to infiltrate the system, it would be impossible to say with confidence that such an effort would be blocked completely,” said Suh Kune-yull of Seoul National University, who specializes in nuclear reactor design, according to Reuters.

“And a compromise of nuclear reactors’ safety pretty clearly means there is a gaping hole in national security,” Suh added.

The investigation on the hacking is currently ongoing, but the government has not yet identified who might be responsible.

Since the attack, a Twitter user who claimed responsibility for the hacking demanded a complete shutdown of the nuclear reactors by Thursday and threatened to post the stolen documents online if the reactors aren’t closed. The user also demanded money in exchange for the stolen data.

The KHNP said it could not verify the messages.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s energy ministry dismissed the notion that the hackers could pose a significant threat to the nuclear reactors.

“It’s our judgment that the control system itself is designed in such a way and there is no risk whatsoever,” Chung Yang-ho, deputy energy minister, told Reuters.

Photo courtesy of Udo Weitz/EPA


South Korea Bans Leftist Political Party

by STEVE HAN | @steve_han

South Korea chose to disband a pro-North Korean party on Friday, marking the first time the country has outlawed a political party since it adopted its constitution in 1948.

The 8-1 ruling in the South Korean Constitutional Court effectively ordered the Unified Progressive Party (UPP), established in 2011, to dissolve. According to the National Election Commission (NEC), the UPP has been forced to forfeit all of its state subsidies, and its assets have also been frozen. Furthermore, an alternative party with similar policies as the UPP will be prohibited from being founded.

“The genuine goal and the activities of the UPP are to achieve progressive democracy and to finally adopt North Korea-style socialism,” Chief Justice Park Han-cheol said in a nationally televised broadcast of the landmark ruling. “The UPP, with a hidden agenda to adopt North Korea’s socialism, organized meetings to discuss a rebellion. The act goes against the basic democratic order of the Constitution.”

Several members of the UPP, including Rep. Lee Seok-ki, were convicted of plotting to overthrow the South Korean government in the event of a war and were found guilty of conspiring with North Korea’s communist regime.

Before the landmark ruling, no other political party has been banned in South Korea’s modern history.

Eight justices who ruled in favor of the UPP’s dissolution agreed that the ruling was made to protect democracy in South Korea. Kim Yi-su, the only justice who opposed the ruling, maintained that only a few UPP members were involved in the recent scandal.

The ruling also dismissed five UPP legislators from their seats regardless of whether they were elected through popular vote or the proportional representation system.

Photo courtesy of YTN