Merkel vows support for Korean reunification bid
AFP via Google News
Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged Germany’s support Wednesday during a visit by South Korea’s president for efforts to unify the Korean peninsular, saying its own reunification gave it a “duty” to help others.
“We would like very much to support Korea in this important issue,” Merkel told a joint press conference with President Park Geun Hye, who is on a state visit to Germany.
“Germany was divided for 40 years, Korea is in such a situation in the meantime” as the 1950-53 Korean War concluded with an armistice rather than a peace treaty, which means the two sides technically remain at war.
South Korea captures a North Korean fishing boat
A day after North Korea test-fired two missiles, South Korea captured a fishing boat from the North that had crossed into South Korean waters, officials say.
The boat crossed the sea demarcation line that separates the two Koreas and was captured by the South Korean navy Thursday, the South Korean Ministry of Defense said.
The action comes as tensions between the two Koreas are rising once again. On Wednesday, North Korea tested two medium-range ballistic missiles, firing them into the ocean.
N Korea and the myth of starvation
One of the most commonly cited cliches is that North Korea is a “destitute, starving country”. Once upon a time, such a description was all too sadly correct: In the late 1990s, North Korea suffered a major famine that, according to the most recent research, led to between 500,000 and 600,000 deaths. However, starvation has long since ceased to be a fact of life in North Korea.
Admittedly, until quite recently, many major news outlets worldwide ran stories every autumn that cited international aid agencies saying that the country was on the brink of a massive famine once again. These perennially predicted famines never transpired, but the stories continued to be released at regular intervals, nonetheless.
In the last year or two, though, such predictions have disappeared. This year, North Korea enjoyed an exceptionally good harvest, which for the first time in more than two decades will be sufficient to feed the country’s entire population. Indeed, according to the recent documents of the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations), North Korea’s harvest totaled 5.03 million tonnes of grain this year, if converted to the cereal equivalent. To put things in perspective, in the famine years of the late 1990s, the average annual harvest was estimated (by the same FAO) to be below the 3 million tonne level.
MANDATORY KIM JONG UN HAIRCUTS A BALDFACED LIE?
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s distinctive hairstyle is the ‘do of the day on the Internet, thanks to a viral report that every male university student in the capital is now under orders to get a buzz just like it. But it appears the barbers of Pyongyang aren’t exactly sharpening their scissors.
Recent visitors to the country say they’ve seen no evidence of any mass haircutting. North Korea watchers smell another imaginative but uncorroborated rumor.
The thinly sourced reports say an order went out a few weeks ago for university students to buzz cut the sides of their heads just like Kim. Washington, D.C.-based Radio Free Asia cited unnamed sources as saying an unwritten directive from somewhere within the ruling Workers’ Party went out early this month, causing consternation among students who didn’t think the new ‘do would suit them.
Video shows N. Korea karaoke salons
Bangkok Post (Thailand)
Rare video footage from North Korea has emerged showing men enjoying a night out in a karaoke salon catering to relatively wealthy North Koreans making money from often illicit cross-border trade.
The content of the hidden-camera footage, which could not be independently verified, was released by a South Korean pastor, Kim Sung-Eun, known for helping North Koreans escape to Seoul.
The grainy video included footage of a group of men and women, speaking with North Korean accents, drinking beer, singing, dancing and kissing in a South Korean-style karaoke “room salon”.
“This is a North Korean equivalent of a room salon, in the form of a restaurant combined with a karaoke where women serve male clients,” Kim told reporters in Seoul.
Breaking the Ice in East Asia [EDITORIAL]
New York Times
President Park Geun-hye of South Korea and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan met, at last, on Tuesday. The meeting — with President Obama on the sideline at the nuclear security summit meeting at The Hague — was the result of intense behind-the-scenes American diplomacy in an effort to mend the seriously deteriorated relations between the American allies in East Asia.
Ms. Park and Mr. Abe had not met since each came to power more than a year ago, breaking a tradition of South Korean and Japanese leaders getting together soon after taking office. Ms. Park refused to see Mr. Abe, saying his government showed a “total absence of sincerity” in addressing the suffering Japan inflicted upon colonized Korea during the first half of the 20th century. Mr. Abe made things worse in December by visiting the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan’s war dead, including war criminals. There was little chance of the two leaders beginning to mend relations without the American push.
Seoul, Tokyo Must Tackle Their Differences Head-On [OPINION]
The leaders of South Korea, the U.S. and Japan sat down together on Tuesday on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit at The Hague. The meeting, which took place at the U.S. Embassy in the Netherlands, came at the urging of U.S. President Barack Obama.
The three leaders vowed to stand together against threats from North Korea. “Over the last five years, close cooperation between the three countries succeeded in changing the game with North Korea,” Obama said. “Our trilateral cooperation has sent a strong signal to Pyongyang that its provocations and threats will be met with a unified response.”
President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe duly echoed the sentiment.
Korean business leader and shopping center owner Sim dies
Montgomery Advertiser (Alabama)
Sys-Con owner and CEO Su Yong Sim, the Korean businessman who helped revitalize East Boulevard, died Thursday morning after a prolonged illness.
Sim’s company built several major facilities, including the $65 million Hyundai Heavy Industries plant in Montgomery and a $48 million plant for Donghee America Inc. in Auburn.
His holding company bought Stratford Square shopping center on East Boulevard and built a $4.5 million bowling center there. It also bought the shuttered Up the Creek restaurant nearby, remodeled it and opened it as Sushi Yama.
Food waste around the world
The Guardian (U.K.)
Jeong Ho-jin dons a pair of plastic gloves to show off his most proud achievement as a district official in Seoul, and then uses his keys to unlock a large, rectangular contraption that looks like some kind of futuristic top-loading washing machine. Loaded with bins half-filled with decomposing ginseng, lettuce and other meal remnants, this, it turns out, is South Korea’s high-tech solution to food waste.
Jeong works in one of two districts in Seoul where the high-tech food waste management program is being piloted. The program works by giving each household a card that has a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip embedded in it containing the user’s name and address. They scan their card on a small card-reader on the front of the high-tech bin to get the lid to open, then dump the food waste into the bin and onto the scale at the bottom, which gives a numerical reading of the waste’s weight and disposal cost.
“Before this everyone paid the same flat rate [for disposal] and they would just throw their food waste away without thinking,” said Jeong.
Korean community centre seeks younger crowd
Vancouver Courier (Canada)
Vancouver’s only Korean community centre has undergone a facelift and will officially reopen its doors April 1.The centre, which is located at 1320 East Hastings St. and has housed the Korean Society of B.C. for Fraternity and Culture since 1991, received a grant from the federal government in April 2013 and began renovations the next month. The grant, from the Community Infrastructure Improvement Fund, provided $226,602 toward the project and the Korean Society and Korean Senior Society matched it with support from the Korean government and member donations. Vancouver boasts the highest Korean population in the country at over 50,000 people.
BigBang’s ‘Fantastic Baby’ tops 100 mln YouTube views
South Korean boy band BigBang saw the video of its 2012 hit song “Fantastic Baby” surpass 100 million views on YouTube Thursday.
The video, which was first uploaded in March 2012, had slightly more than 100 million views as of about 2 p.m., making it the forth South Korean video to hit the milestone, following Girls’ Generation’s “Gee” and Psy’s “Gangnam Style” and “Gentleman.”
BigBang became the first K-pop boy band to do so.
Korean Journalist Seeks To Find Out If Beanballs Hurt
One Korean journalist for KBS worked on a feature on baseball players being hit by pitches, and did some firsthand reporting to find out if it hurts to be hit by a baseball. It does!
The whole video report—which isn’t embeddable—is worth watching, and you don’t need to understand Korean to figure it out: Pitches to the head, whether intentional or not, are causing injuries in baseball. The best part is definitely the high-speed camera footage of baseballs hitting a wash basin and frying pan, set to music that sounds like the Halloween theme.
POT by Roy Choi, a Soulful Ode to Korean Cuisine
As promised, POT is a powerful ode to Korean cuisine by one of the most notable Korean-American chefs in the country. Roy Choi opened POT inside The Line Hotel to the public for lunch yesterday, introducing dishes that seem whimsical and inventive on paper, yet incredibly grounded, flavorful, and intense to a fault on the plate. Think “Boot Knocker” stew, Choi’s take on a dish that Korean mothers make after school’s. Filled with Lil’ smokies, Spam, ramen noodles, and more than a few dollops of red chili flakes, it’s about as rich as the cuisine can get, without getting too serious.
The gently wrapped Kat Man Doo dumplings come dressed in soy, chilies, and scallions for maximum effect, while chewy squid gets tossed with rice cakes, onions, and gochujang. In almost all steps, Choi is taking the cuisine of his motherland and putting an elegant, chefly touch that elevates and refines flavors.
Probably the Worst Diary of Anne Frank Cover Ever
Usually, covers of The Diary of Anne Frank feature black and white photos of its author, Anne Frank. Or, you might see tasteful illustrations. You don’t usually see photos like this!
As recently pointed out by Korean-born Twitter user Che_SYoung, a version of this book was apparently released in South Korea years ago by an unscrupulous publisher:
It looks like a Harlequin romance novel! For the past few years, the image of this cover has been floating around online (as I mentioned, it is supposedly real!), and it even pops up when you Google Image search The Diary of Anne Frank in Korean:
Bojagi workshop offered at LACMA
Korea Times LA
[Korean-born textile artist Lee Young-min] currently holds bojagi workshops and leads a community bojagi project at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). The program will take place on April 12, May 3 and June 7. The reservations of the workshops for April 12 have been already filled.
“Many parents with their children are taking part in the workshops. They are all beginners and not skilled but they return home with satisfaction of their completion of bojagi artworks,” she said.
She has organized numerous workshops, classes and demonstrations on Korean arts and crafts around the Bay Area. Recently she demonstrated her bojagi and “maedeup” or Korean knots in Asian Art Museum in San Francisco as part of the Asia Alive Program. Lee also participated in Oakland Museum’s Lunar New Year celebration with her bojagi and maedeup artworks.
Prepare for War in 2015, Kim Jong-un Tells Officers
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has mentioned the possibility of a war breaking out on the Korean peninsula in 2015, it was revealed Tuesday. According to a source, Kim told military commanders earlier this year that an “armed confrontation could take place on the Korean peninsula in 2015″ and ordered them to stock up on strategic supplies and remain combat ready.
The comments were made at about the same time that Kim spoke about improving relations with South Korea during his New Year’s address.
At a loyalty rally in Pyongyang on Feb. 25, Kim also spoke about an “all-out war with the enemy in the name of revolution and final victory.” Last year, Kim told key officials his aim of “reunification through force within three years.”
North Korea Launches Two Midrange Missiles
New York Times
North Korea demonstrated its ballistic missile capabilities by launching two midrange missiles on Wednesday, after the leaders of the United States, Japan and South Korea gathered in the Netherlands to discuss the North’s nuclear threats.
In North Korea’s first tests of midrange projectiles in nearly five years, two Rodong missiles blasted off from mobile launching vehicles from Sukchon, north of Pyongyang, early Wednesday and flew 403 miles before landing in the sea between North Korea and Japan, said Kim Min-seok, a spokesman of the South Korean Defense Ministry.
“By launching them from mobile vehicles which are difficult to monitor and allow North Korea to fire missiles from anywhere it wanted, the country appeared to show off its ability to attempt a surprise attack,” Mr. Kim said. “This is a serious provocation against South Korea and the international community.”
North Korea Displays Defiance on Cheonan Anniversary
Wall Street Journal
North Korea marked the fourth anniversary of the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan by repeating its assertion that it wasn’t involved in the incident and demanding Seoul lift related sanctions.
North Korea said Wednesday that South Korea was “beating the worn-out drum of escalating confrontation” with the issue and was hindering the improvement of bilateral ties.
The comments came hours after North Korea launched two mid-range ballistic missiles into the sea east of the Korean peninsula.
On March 26, 2010, the Cheonan was sunk in the Yellow Sea near the inter-Korean maritime border, leaving 40 dead and six missing, who are presumed dead.
Japan and South Korea: Don’t let history dictate the future
Christian Science Monitor
For South Koreans, Ahn Jung-geun is a “national hero” – the independence activist who in 1909 assassinated the Japanese colonial governor of Korea. He struck at the embodiment of a hated imperial power and sacrificed his life for national independence.
To the Japanese, he is a criminal, the man who killed a seminal figure in their nation’s history, a leading light in the modernization of Japan, a four-time prime minister who ensured Japan’s survival in a hostile world.
Those views reflect the opposing historical perspectives that are deeply tied to Japan’s and South Korea’s national identities – and that stand in the way of a needed warming of ties. As two key democratic powers and US allies in an increasingly tense region, their rapprochement would shore up neighborhood stability and present a united front to an assertive China and unstable North Korea. A new kind of statesmanship is required to heal such entrenched divisions.
Wartime Sex Slaves Ask Abe to See Scars to Prove Japan Abuse
Yi Ok Seon, an 86-year-old survivor of Japan’s wartime use of sex slaves, rolled up her trouser cuff to reveal the scar that she said Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should come to South Korea to see.
“I still remember vividly what they did to me,” says Yi, describing how military police slashed her right foot after she tried to escape from an Imperial Army brothel.
Yi, one of a handful of former “comfort women” residing at a shelter near Seoul, says she was abducted in 1942 at age 18 in the southeastern city of Ulsan while running an errand. “Beatings would follow if I resisted the rape,” she said. “I was helpless. When I look at my scars now, I am reminded how lucky I am to have survived those years.”
Leland Yee arrested in corruption case
San Francisco Chronicle
State Sen. Leland Yee was arrested on public corruption charges Wednesday morning in a federal investigation that also targeted Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, a notorious former San Francisco gangster, officials said.
The arrest of Yee, who represents San Francisco and a part of San Mateo County and is a candidate for California Secretary of State, came amid searches of his office in Sacramento and his home in San Francisco.
Sources told The Chronicle that the predawn, multiagency raids involving hundreds of federal agents and local cops stemmed from a fatal shooting about five years ago.
FBI spokesman Peter Lee in San Francisco confirmed that Yee and Chow had been arrested. Both are to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins in San Francisco on Wednesday afternoon.
Dallas-area delivery woman’s killer set to die
AP via Seattle Post-Intelligencer
A suburban Dallas man convicted of the robbery-slaying of a woman delivering doughnuts and tacos to his home 11 years ago is set for execution in Huntsville.
Attorneys for 29-year-old Anthony Doyle are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to stop his punishment set for Thursday evening.
Evidence showed Hyun Mi Cho (hYUN’-mee-cho) was fatally beaten with a baseball bat when Doyle tried to rob her as she made the food delivery to his parents’ home in Rowlett, east of Dallas.
Her body was found in a trash can in a nearby alley.
Wild party cited as cause of Mountain View house fire
San Francisco Chronicle
A fire that destroyed a Mountain View home this month was set by teenagers that had been hosting parties in the unoccupied house for several weekends, Mountain View police said Tuesday.
Twelve juveniles and two 18-year-old men were arrested on various charges of arson, burglary, car theft, drug possession and drug sale, according to police.
More arrests, investigators said, are expected.
Downtown New Haven deli shut over alleged wage violations
New Haven Register (Connecticut)
A downtown deli was shut down Tuesday by the state Department of Labor after an investigation found alleged wage violations by its owners.
The Labor Department said two people worked at J&B Deli Grocery, 1147 Chapel St., for about 60 hours a week without being paid at least minimum wage or overtime.
The business is operated by John and Cheong Rhee of Hamden. A stop-work order was posted on the store’s door.
The department alleged in a press release that the deli owners were paying workers in cash, were not keeping required payroll records, failed to make legal deductions and could not show proof of carrying workers’ compensation coverage, which is required in Connecticut.
U.S. Warns Seoul Of Exporters’ Concerns About Free Trade Deal — The Ball’s In South Korea’s Court
The U.S. ambassador to South Korea, Sung Kim, a Korean-American who visited North Korea 13 times for negotiations before his current appointment, likes to warm up relations with influential South Koreans over games of tennis on the spacious grounds of the ambassadorial residence.
It was on one such occasion that he and Korea’s finance minister, Hyun Oh-seok, talked over grave problems surrounding the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, which took effect in 2012 after several years of arduous talks that showed deep, enduring problems on both sides.
Hyun didn’t reveal the outcome of the tennis game but did say he and Sung Kim had “met frequently” to try and arrive at “an effective outcome” to troubles over KORUS. “It may be a natural force to have issues over trade,” he said in response to my question after he gave a luncheon speech at the Seoul Foreign Correspondents’ Club on March 25 that omitted any mention of trade problems.
2NE1 to Appear On “America’s Next Top Model”
Exciting news! The fabulous ladies of 2NE1 will be appearing on the final stage of the American reality survival program “America’s Next Top Model” season 21.
“America’s Next Top Model” is filming in Korea for Seoul’s fashion week, and according to broadcast and fashion industry sources, 2NE1 will be appearing on the final stage of the show’s activities in Korea. The final fashion show of the program will take place on April 2 at Banpo, and 2NE1 will be guests at that show. One source sated, “2NE1 was asked to be on the show because they are a representative K-Pop group and they are also well-known to be fashionistas.”
How Crayon Pop Came to Open for Lady Gaga
Korean girl band Crayon Pop will open an upcoming North American tour by Lady Gaga to promote her third album “Artpop” released in November last year.
The five-member girl band attracted Gaga’s attention when she came across their music video by chance during a break from practice.
Although Gaga initially asked Crayon Pop to open all 29 concerts in the North American tour, they could only agree to one month as they had prior commitment to work on their new album.
Q&A With Actor Hoon Lee
Don’t diss “Banshee” star Hoon Lee on Twitter, even if you’re just kidding.
Lee had tweeted about an upcoming guest appearance on an episode of “The Black List” and I replied, tongue in cheek, “You’ve been on my black list for years.” I was rewarded with a fan of Lee’s telling me to “Back the fuck up!”
After I assured the tweeter that I was only kidding and that I was writing a profile about him, she gushed, “Mr.Lee is an awesome actor! He takes you into the heart of the character.” She added, “and he’s CUTE as hell!” Others had similar thoughts.
After watching two seasons of Cinemax’s hit show “Banshee,” it’s easy to see why Lee has so many fans. Apart from his ample acting chops, Lee is the most imposing Asian male presence ever in an American series. The man is as muscular as an action figure and can hold the menacing gaze of a panther. Lee’s cut enough to go shirtless, but for “Banshee” he takes it to another level: He squeezes into tight skirts. Job, Lee’s character (pronounced the biblical way), is a cross-dressing hair stylist and genius computer hacker who snaps lines like, “Suck my tit!”
Police Produce Anti-Gang Documentary
Santa Barbara Independent
A documentary meant to dissuade at-risk teens from buying into the false gang life promises of quick cash and eternal loyalty premiered last week at the Edwards Stadium Theater in Santa Maria to a packed house of lawyers, judges, teachers, and city councilmembers, along with community leaders, area residents, and nonprofit groups. The 40-minute film, titled Life Facing Bars, was commissioned by the Santa Maria Police Department and created by Matt Yoon, a 2013 Cal Poly journalism graduate. It’s been uploaded to YouTube, and had attracted more than 25,000 views as of Monday afternoon.
Yoon said he was producing videos for his church last year when he was approached by Lieutenant Daniel Cohen. Interested in the prospect of interviewing ex-gang members — and needing to complete a senior project for his major — Yoon agreed to join forces for the unique crime-prevention venture and was soon headed to Kern Valley State Prison and Santa Barbara County Jail for notably unrestricted access to the facilities and their inmates.
LG Offers Fresh Peek at Its New Smartwatch
Wall Street Journal
LG Electronics has released fresh photographs of the G Watch, in an effort to sustain interest in the device that it hopes will help it make inroads into the steadily expanding market for smartwatches.
The South Korean smartphone maker is co-developing the smartwatch with Google and has said earlier that it expects to launch the device in the second quarter of this year. Google also has another smartwatch in the works dubbed the Moto 360.
While both LG and Google hope their smartwatches will be better than earlier offerings, it remains in question whether the G Watch will have a much bigger appeal than existing devices such as Samsung’s Gear watch and Sony Smartwatch, as it will function as an accessory to smartphones rather than as an independent product.
Obama Juggles Itinerary in Bid to Ease Tensions Between Two Asian Allies
New York Times
When President Obama brings together the estranged leaders of Japan and South Korea for a peacemaking session in The Hague on Tuesday evening, it will be the culmination of three months of intense behind-the-scenes American diplomacy.
The unusual effort included a phone call from Mr. Obama to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan; a follow-up lunch that the American ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, had with Mr. Abe; a decision to put both Tokyo and Seoul on Mr. Obama’s itinerary when he visits Asia next month; and a plan to resolve this neighborhood quarrel on the ultimate neutral ground: a stately Dutch city accustomed to litigating international disputes.
“The diplomacy of northeast Asia is a little like junior prom: Cathy won’t sit with Jamie, but maybe she would if Sally comes over and sits with them,” said Michael J. Green, a senior adviser on Asia in the George W. Bush administration. “The U.S. can never solve these problems, but we can be quite effective in managing them.”
S. Korea urges N. Korea to stop provocations
South Korea called on North Korea Tuesday to stop provocative remarks and actions, criticizing the communist country for tinkering with a nuclear card.
Seoul’s call came one day after Pyongyang’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Ri Tong-il, warned that his country will take additional “nuclear measures,” slamming the United States for conducting annual military drills with the South.
The envoy said during a news conference that his country “is ready to take a series of additional nuclear measures to demonstrate the power of the self-defensive nuclear deterrent,” warning that whether it would take those measures is entirely “up to the U.S.’ attitude down the road.”
North Korea Urged U.S. Changes Citing Talks With South
North Korea called on the U.S. to stop isolating it politically, militarily and economically, citing the totalitarian regime’s recent engagement with South Korea as proof of a commitment to relieving tensions.
In dealings with neighboring countries starting last month, North Korea participated in the first high-level talks with South Korea since 2007, allowed family reunions between the two Koreas and made plans to hold talks next week with Japan for the first time since November 2012.
“The DPRK did not hesitate to accept the request from South Korean authorities on holding the separated families’ reunion,” even though “in view of the harsh conditions of the political environment,” the situation “was not mature yet,” Ri Tong Il, a top North Korean diplomat at the United Nations, told reporters yesterday in New York. He referred to his country by the acronym of its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Court Ruling on Korean Tycoon Sparks Media Criticism
Wall Street Journal
South Korean media are abuzz over a four-year-old court ruling that allows a convicted tycoon to pay off a $23 million fine with just a month-and-a-half of prison labor, questioning the fairness of a decision that values his daily work behind bars 10,000 times higher than that of a regular convict.
The controversy erupted again when Huh Jae-ho, 71, the former chairman of now-defunct Daeju Group, returned home over the weekend to be taken to a prison labor facility after four years of living overseas to avoid paying the fine for tax evasion and embezzlement.
Handing down a suspended jail term against Mr. Huh, a local court in 2010 ordered him to pay the 25.4 billion won ($23 million) fine or do prison labor for 50 days–which valued his daily labor at 500 million won, compared with the usual 50,000 won a day for ordinary convicts.
Feds: Leaker’s plea spares secrets
Arguing that the move will prevent further damage to national security, prosecutors are urging a federal judge to approve a 13-month sentence for a former State Department contractor who has admitted leaking the contents of a highly-classified report on North Korea to Fox News.
In a filing Monday, the Justice Department urged U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly to accept the sentence the prosecution and lawyer for defendant Stephen Kim agreed on prior to his surprise guilty plea last month to a felony charge of disclosing closely-held national security information. Prosecutors also said the FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies “concurred” in the plea deal and proposed 13-month sentence.
“The agreement reflects a fair resolution of the defendant’s criminal culpability especially when balanced against the further harm to the national security that would likely result from a trial,” prosecutors wrote in a 13-page memo.
Chinese Records Shed More Light on Sex Slaves
China’s state archives in Jilin Province on Monday added to a wealth of proof on Monday that the Japanese Imperial Army forced Asian women to serve as sex slaves during World War II.
Among newly revealed documents is a letter written by a Japanese citizen who lived in China’s Heilongjiang Province in 1941 to a friend in Japan. “Some 20 Korean women were brought here forcibly under the national mobilization law to serve at a ‘comfort station’ in the Japanese army compound,” he wrote.
The 1938 law put the country’s economy on a wartime footing after the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War.
A spokesman for the archives said the specific reference to the “national mobilization law” clearly shows responsibility by the Japanese government.
Suicide Drama ‘Thread of Lies’ a Surprise Hit at South Korean Box Office
Thread of Lies, a local drama about a 14-year-old girl’s suicide, grossed more than $8 million at the South Korean box office, maintaining a stronghold in spite of competition from Noah, 300: Rise of an Empire and other imported films.
The small-budget film ($1.96 million, or 2.1 billion won) debuted first place over its opening weekend of March 14-16. Though it ceded the top spot to Noah over the past weekend, online reservation rates for the film remain strong according to its distributor, Movie Collage.
Korean offices use admissions as their main box office count, and more than a million people had seen the film as of Tuesday, according to the Korean Film Council.
Scalpers cash in on fans of TV star Kim
TICKETS for a meet-and-greet event hosted by Kim Soo-hyun in Shanghai yesterday changed hands for up to 25,000 yuan (US$4,015) as scalpers sought to cash in on fans’passion for the South Korean TV star.
The face value of the best tickets for the show at the Shanghai Grand Stage was just 1,280 yuan.
Scalpers began congregating outside the venue early yesterday morning. One of them, who declined to give his name, said he’s been working as a scalper for 10 years and never has a problem getting hold of tickets for the big events.
He said he was offering seats in the first 10 rows for between 15,000 and 25,000 yuan.
Linkin Park’s New Video is a Game: Exclusive Inside Look at ‘Guilty All the Same’
It’s a music video. It’s a game. It’s Linkin Park’s latest play on technology — a six-minute video game debuting on Tuesday (March 25) that’s based on the band’s latest single, “Guilty All the Same,” featuring Rakim.
Band members Joe Hahn and Mike Shinoda say they want their fans to literally play with their music. Fans can take it apart and remix both the song and the game any way they want, using the tools provided in “Project Spark,” a free software platform created by Microsoft Corp. that lets players make their own video games on Xbox One and Windows 8 computers.
In Linkin Park’s version of the game, the protagonist is a character haunted by guilt. The player navigates the character through a dark, slightly sinister environment that threatens to devour him as he tries to flee from the forces of his own guilt. The level resembles a mashup between the racing mechanic of “Temple Run” and the noir art style of “Badland.” The better the player performs, the richer the soundtrack for the song.
Is ‘Avengers’ shoot worth such a super hassle?
Korea JoongAng Daily
When Disney’s Marvel Studios decided to shoot part of the upcoming “Avengers” sequel in Seoul, the city government and state-run film agencies welcomed the decision with fanfare – and with rosy estimates about potential benefits from the elevation of Seoul’s image and the boost it will give to tourism.
But in the face of unprecedented traffic control on some of the city’s busiest districts for more than 10 days, some are questioning whether the government is offering too much support to the filming of “The Avengers: Age of Ultron” at the expense of citizens’ convenience.
The areas that will be blocked off will include major bridges on the Han River such as Cheongdam and Mapo bridges, and important arteries near Gangnam subway station and Digital Media City (DMC) in Sangam-dong, western Seoul, starting from March 30 through April 13.
‘Professional’ Yoon Suk-min adjusting well to life with Baltimore Orioles: interpreter
Justin Yoo, a Korean-American interpreter for the Baltimore Orioles’ South Korean pitcher Yoon Suk-min, has had a front-row seat on the player’s new life in the United States.
After nine mostly successful seasons in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), Yoon signed a three-year deal for US$5.575 million with the Orioles last month. Yoon was rushed to the team’s spring training, which had already been underway by the time he inked his contract, and he had to travel to Canada for a few days to receive his work permit before he was able to pitch in games.
Whether due to his lack of preparation or to the stiff competition for a spot on the big league club’s staff, Yoon was optioned to the Orioles’ Triple-A affiliate, the Norfolk Tide, after making his second preseason appearance last week.
S. Korean pitcher Lim Chang-yong released by Chicago Cubs
South Korean pitcher Lim Chang-yong has been released by the Chicago Cubs, the Major League Baseball (MLB) team announced Tuesday, possibly opening the door for his return to the native land.
The Cubs’ official website stated that Lim was “granted his unconditional release” on Monday local time. The 37-year-old is now a free agent.
The right-hander with a sidearm delivery made his MLB debut last September, after a call-up from the minors. He had Tommy John surgery to repair a torn ligament in his pitching elbow in July 2012 and spent the first half of 2013 in rehab, before making his first minor league appearance in July.
Texas Rangers offer “Korean Discount”
The Texas Rangers, whose outfielder Choo Shin-soo is one of Korea’s biggest sports stars, will offer a heavy ticket discount for the approximately 85,000 Korean Americans residing in Dallas and Fort Worth.
The team has offered a 41 percent discount to Koreans for its monthly home games held at Arlington’s Globe Life Park, according to the Korean Society of Dallas on Monday.
Choo is expected to be a left-fielder for the Rangers, and the club will reserve 500 seats near the third base.
They provided tickets to the organization for the April 1 game at $30, which is 41 percent off the regular price of $51.
S. Korea keeps wary eye on talks between N. Korea, Japan
South Korea has been keeping a wary eye on upcoming government-level talks between North Korea and Japan amid concerns that the diplomatic re-engagement between Pyongyang and Tokyo comes without any progress in efforts to denuclearize the North, two South Korean diplomats said Monday.
North Korea and Japan will reopen government-level talks in Beijing on Sunday for the first time in more than a year for discussions on a range of issues, including the North’s abduction of more than a dozen Japanese citizens decades ago.
The move comes as unpredictable North Korea is making a hawkish-dovish approach to the outside the world, while pushing ahead with nuclear and missile programs despite international sanctions.
Suicide Attempt Adds Another Twist to Korea Spy Scandal
Wall Street Journal
A South Korean intelligence officer attempted suicide on Saturday, marking another twist in the escalating spy scandal that has gripped the country in recent months.
The agent, identified only by his surname Kwon, was found unconscious in his car in a Seoul suburb, according to a fire department official, whose team first reached the site. Coal ash was found inside the car, in what appeared to be an attempt at carbon monoxide poisoning.
A spokesman for the National Intelligence Service on Monday confirmed Mr. Kwon’s suicide attempt and his hospitalization.
N.Korean Propaganda Against the South Is Failing
North Korean textbooks describe South Korea as a “fascist, military dictatorship” filled with “poverty and starvation,” but fewer and fewer North Koreans are buying the propaganda.
◆ “Living Hell”
North Korean textbooks teach that South Korea is dominated by “foreign powers” that trample on the Korean people and “taint” its history, language and way of life. A book of writings purportedly by former leader Kim Jong-il describes the South as a “living hell” dominated by the “terror and repression” of the U.S.
The North also teaches students that the U.S. must be driven out and South Korea liberated. Textbooks say U.S. soldiers stationed in South Korea “fire guns in broad daylight, plunder homes and rape women.” There are also rumors that North Korean defectors have their “eyes gouged out and limbs severed” if they go to South Korea.
‘I’d Been Brainwashed’: The North Korean Defector Living In London
Kim Joo Il, 39, served eight years in the North Korean army. In 2005, after realizing his country wasn’t quite the paradise he’d been led to believe it was, he escaped the Hermit Kingdom by swimming to China. He now lives in London, where he’s the vice president of the Association of Korean Residents in Europe, works with North Korean refugees, and raises awareness about the North Korean regime’s human-rights violations. I recently caught up with him, and this is what he told me about life in his native country.
When I heard Kim Il-sung had died, I was near the 38th parallel [the DMZ between North and South Korea]. There was no electricity in North Korea that day, but I was so near the South Korean border that I heard them announce his death over the loudspeakers. I thought to myself, That’s bullshit—he’s not dead. How can the Great Leader be dead? He’s immortal.
It was impossible to imagine. I cried. We all did. Every morning, soldiers would line up to put flowers on his memorial, and we were all crying, crying, crying. Everyone was saying, “How can we survive, how will we live, what’s our destiny, now that our leader has gone?” If you’re brainwashed, that’s how you think.
Obamacare: Asian-Americans sign up in droves; Latinos disproportionately stay away
San Jose Mercury News
You’ve heard about the achievement gap, the wide disparity in educational performance between disadvantaged minorities and the rest of the student population.
Now comes the insurance gap, and in California it’s playing out most notably in the number of Latinos and Asian-Americans signing up for private health plans under the new health care law.
Of the nearly 700,000 people who enrolled in a health plan as of Feb. 28 through the Covered California health insurance exchange and identified their ethnicity, 23.1 percent were Asian or Pacific Islander. Twenty-two percent were Latino.
But the statistics are startling when you consider that Latinos make up 38.2 percent of California’s population and Asians just 13.7 percent.
GROUPON seems to be confused. The American e-commerce company, best known for its “flash sales”, recently announced it would soon shutter its Korean subsidiary. Despite vigorous marketing since it entered South Korea’s thriving e-commerce market in 2011, Groupon Korea has remained a laggard behind the three big domestic rivals: TicketMonster—Korea’s first “social” e-commerce provider, launched in 2010—Coupang and WeMakePrice.
The decision to close its Korean subsidiary comes only a couple of months after Groupon bought TicketMonster (known locally as T-Mon, pictured) for $260m—making South Korea Groupon’s second-largest market outside America. Yet the two moves have a common root: the withdrawal is proof of how hard it is to crack the Korean e-commerce market—and the acquisition shows the best way how to go about it.
Groupon is not the only Western internet firm that has lost out to local champions and given up in recent years. In 2012 Yahoo stopped producing content for the Korean market, after years of trailing behind Naver and Daum, two home-bred search engines. Google accounts for a measly 4% of searches there. Auction, Gmarket and 11st Street, Korean hybrids of Amazon and eBay, do far better than its Western models. EBay was the first to take radical action: in 2009 it bought Gmarket for $1.2 billion. Groupon, too, plans to learn from T-Mon, its South Korean acquisition.
South Korea Will Finally File a Complaint About Kim Yu-Na’s Silver Medal
With World Championships of figure skating beginning on Monday, South Korean Olympic Committee has said that it will file a complaint to the International Skating Union about an alleged breach of the code of ethics during the ladies competition at the Sochi Olympics. It’s a complaint the Koreans are afraid they’ll be punished for.
The complaint named judges Alla Shekhovtseva of Russia and Yuri Balkov of Ukraine. Shekhovtseva is married to the head of the Russian figure skating organization and was the judge seen hugging gold medal winner Adelina Sotnikova moments after the competition, and Balkov, who allegedly has ties to Moscow, was suspended for trying to fix a result during the 1998 Olympics. Both judges scored the ladies free skating competition, which saw Sotnikova receive the highest scores of her life and Kim Yu-na a silver medal free skate that many experts say was underscored.
The KOC and Korean Skating Union are asking for a thorough investigation of the judging composition and whether it was biased toward Sotnikova. And they filed the complaint knowing that it might result in retaliation. “We had to be very careful since an appeal or a complaint could strain relationships with international judges and bring disadvantages to our players in international games,” a KOC official said on Friday.
‘Auburn is my No. 1,’ says 4-star offensive lineman Kaleb Kim
Offensive lineman Kaleb Kim of Hoschton, Ga., named Auburn his favorite school on Saturday and hopes to make his commitment when spring practices end in May, reports 247Sports.
“Auburn is my No. 1,” Kim said after watching practice during his third visit to Auburn Saturday. “I liked what Coach (J.B.) Grimes is doing, and his intensity. I was standing by him the whole time. He gets after it. He’s intense. Face to face, he’s the nicest guy, but on the field it’s all business and he’ll get after you and I like that.”
The 6-foot-4, 280-pounder added Georgia is his second favorite school. He also holds offers from Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, Florida State and Ohio State, among others.
Liverpool and Chelsea battle to land Barca wonderkid striker
Daily Star (U.K.)
Reports in Spain claim that both title chasing teams want to sign the young striker to his first professional contract.
Both clubs have been successful in snaffling up other promising cadets from the Nou Camp, but will have to move fast if they want to do the same with Woo Lee.
The youngster is understood to be close to completing a deal with Barcelona, who has also been offered bumper deals from the English teams.
Barcelona are known to have lost several of their most promising stars to their European rivals in recent years, with Julio Pleguezuelo, Josimar and Canos leaving Spain to join Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool respectively.
Seoul Restaurants’ Missing Ingredient: Chefs
Wall Street Journal
Korean cuisine arouses so much national pride that some South Koreans reach into their own pockets to advertise a single dish on major U.S. newspapers. So why are South Korean restaurants often ignored by food critics?
Hooni Kim, owner and chef of New York’s Danji restaurant–one of the few Michelin-starred Korean restaurants–says Seoul’s food scene lacks a key ingredient: chef-owned Korean restaurants.
Many of South Korea’s family-owned, down-to-earth restaurants specialize in a single dish that are based on recipes laid down by family matriarchs, but don’t have chefs who create their own sauce base, according to Mr. Kim.
Crisis in Korea as younger generation abandons kimchi
Its unmistakable smell permeates Seoul subway carriages during the rush hour, and aficionados claim it is the healthiest food on the planet.
Once valued as a source of vitamin C before the arrival of refrigerators, kimchi now crops up on menus far from its birthplace on the Korean peninsula. The spicy, garlicky cabbage dish is to be found as a pizza topping and taco filling in the UK, Australia and the US, where the Obamas are said to be converts. Kimjang, the traditionally communal act of making kimchi, was recently awarded world cultural heritage status by Unesco.
But despite its growing popularity in restaurants from Los Angeles to London, South Korea’s national dish is in crisis in its country of origin. To kimchi’s basic ingredients of napa cabbage, garlic, seasoning and copious amounts of chili powder, we can now add a trade war with China and fears of lasting damage to Korean cultural identity.
Inside South Korea’s Coolest Military Theme Park
This is the Wanju Military Theme Park in South Korea. If only more video game first-person shooters were this colorful!P
The self-described “military theme park” is an airsoft pellet gun map that uses the GunPower system. According to YouTube user Ds4odk, this system employs wireless BB detectors—one on the front, one on the back, one of the helmet, and one on the face goggles. Hits are signaled by LED light and electronic sound feedback, and kills are then registered on a central computer, and this particular map has closed circuit cameras.P
Do note that the “SF Special Force” logos throughout might be nod to online shooter Special Force, which is, as tipster Sang points out, called Soldier Front in the States.
BBC Apologizes Over Undercover Trip to North Korea
Wall Street Journal
A high-profile British Broadcasting Corporation documentary shot during an undercover trip to North Korea last year has ended with criticism from the public broadcaster’s oversight committee and an apology from the broadcaster.
John Sweeney, the reporter behind the BBC’s “Panorama: North Korea Undercover” program, joined an eight-day tour of North Korea early last year with students from the London School of Economics, posing as a doctoral student.
Mr. Sweeney, who made the trip with his wife, Tomiko Newson, who was also the trip organizer and a producer of the program, and a cameraman, were shown the major sights in Pyongyang and taken for excursions in nearby Nampho and the Demilitarized Zone.
Abductee’s daughter is favorite of Kim’s sister
Korea JoongAng Daily
The daughter of Megumi Yokota, a Japanese woman abducted to North Korea in 1977, is working with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s younger sister, Kim Yo-jong, and is being protected by the ruling dynasty, a South Korean activist working on abductee matters said yesterday.
Kim Un-gyong, the only daughter of the Japanese abductee to North Korea, works alongside the newly prominent sister at “a core organization” in Pyongyang, according to Choi Sung-yong, head of the Representative of the Abductees’ Family Union, a South Korean civic group working for the release of abductees in the reclusive state.
“Kim Un-gyong is a member of the top elite in North Korea, working with Kim Yo-jong in the same department,” Choi told the Korea JoongAng Daily by phone. “As far as I know, they are the same age.”
N.Korean Defectors Ambivalent About Life in the South
Many North Korean defectors in South Korea are satisfied enough with their life in the South to bring their family over but feel that fierce competition and discrimination are hard to overcome. Their feelings remain ambivalent even after a considerable time spent living here.
Pundits say this failure to integrate fully into South Korean society must be addressed before reunification.
In a survey by the Chosun Ilbo of 200 North Korean defectors at the end of January, 71.5 percent said they are satisfied with their life in the South, compared to 22.5 percent who said neither satisfied nor dissatisfied, and 4.5 percent who are not satisfied.
U.S. keeps pressing N. Korea to change first, with Chinese envoy in Pyongyang
As a top Chinese envoy on North Korea began an unexpected visit to Pyongyang, the U.S. government on Monday reaffirmed its willingness to engage constructively with Pyongyang.
But Washington continued to press Pyongyang to show its seriousness about dialogue through action, not rhetoric.
“The ball is in North Korea’s court,” Jen Psaki, spokeswoman for the State Department, told reporters via conference call on a snowy day.
North Korea should live up to its commitments to denuclearization, and adhere to its international obligations as well as deal peacefully with its neighbors and refrain from provocations, she said.
KAL Bomber Sparks Controversy With Malaysia Airlines Comments
Wall Street Journal
News Y, a South Korean cable-news channel, sparked controversy on Monday by inviting a former North Korean agent responsible for the bombing of a Korean Air flight in 1987 to discuss the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
Shin Yul, a politics professor at Myongji University in Seoul, invited Kim Hyun-hee on his program, Fair and Square, to share her thoughts on what might have happened to the Malaysian plane.
“I think it is likely that the plane went down while terrorists were trying to hijack it,” she said. Sporting a blue jacket, the bespectacled Ms. Kim said calmly that “in the case of KAL incident, parts and debris, like rubber boats and life jackets, appeared nearly 15 days after it exploded.”
Park likely to announce detailed unification plan with N. Korea during German visit
President Park Geun-hye is likely to announce more detailed policy ideas on her push to achieve unification with North Korea during her planned visit to Germany later in the month, sources said Sunday.
Park is scheduled to pay a four-day visit to Germany on March 25 to meet with President Joachim Gauck and Chancellor Angela Merkel, as well as those who are well versed in Germany’s unification experience there.
The sources said that Park may announce what could be named the “Park Geun-hye Doctrine” or the “Park Geun-hye Unification Declaration,” capitalizing on her visit to the country that succeed in unifying East and West Germany.
“As Germany has achieved its unification earlier and turned the experience into a foundation for the building of its international reputation, Park may possibly lay out her idea of ‘unification as a jackpot’ in more detail during the Germany visit,” one of the government sources said.
South Korea’s Governors of Northern Provinces Don’t—And Never Will—Govern
Wall Street Journal
Mr. Park [Yong-ok], 71 years old, was one of five governors assigned by South Korea to head provinces in North Korea—appointments that Seoul has made since the division of the Korean peninsula after World War II.
It may sound about as likely as having a Mexican governor of Texas, but it is part of Seoul’s continued claim—written into the South Korean constitution—to be the legitimate government of the entire Korean peninsula.
In South Korea, the governors spend much of their time in a cavernous, white five-story government building in the foothills of Mount Bukhan in northern Seoul, the official home for the Committee for the Five Northern Korean Provinces, a body set up by South Korean President Syngman Rhee in 1949.
36 Koreans attend foster home orientation in L.A
Korea Times LA
Korean children in need of foster homes with Korean families may soon be getting their chance.
Thirty-six interested Koreans attended an orientation on providing foster homes for Korean children, held jointly by Korean American Family Services (KFAM) and the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), on March 15.
The orientation, which was the first step in a program designed to help families obtain foster home licenses, awarded certificates of completion to those in attendance.
Spotlight on Hyphen Hero Eugene Ryu, Head of KABANC Free Legal Clinics
Many successful people donate money to charitable organizations. Fewer, however, give of their most precious resource: their time.
Eugene Ryu, partner at the prestigious employment law firm Littler Mendelson, gives plenty of both. He has served on the Board of Directors for the Korean American Bar Association of Northern California (KABANC) for over five years, where he leads the pro-bono committee that organizes a free law clinic twice a year.
“We help everybody,” says Ryu. “But originally, the clinic was focused on the first-generation, elderly Korean community who were having language difficulties.”
In its early days, the clinic primarily addressed immigration issues. Today, clients of all ethnicities walk in with other legal questions ranging from family law to small business practices — including hopeful entrepreneurs trying to launch start-ups.
Korean American poet shares life story
As many first-generation immigrants will attest, assimilating into a new culture is fraught with challenges ranging from communication problems to homesickness.
For Korean-American Choi Yearn-hong, poetry has always been the best way to forget such hardships.
Choi, founding president of the Korean-American Poets’ Group, says he will never stop writing because, “Poetry is the best way for improving intercultural communication.
Olympic medalists, world champs to perform at Kim Yu-na’s farewell ice shows
Olympic medalists and world champions will perform at South Korean figure skating icon Kim Yu-na’s final ice shows this spring, the skater’s agency said Tuesday.
According to All That Sports, Denis Ten of Kazakhstan, the reigning Olympic bronze medalist in the men’s singles, and Alexei Yagudin of Russia, the 2002 Olympic gold medalist and the four-time world champ in the men’s singles, will headline the star-studded cast.
Kim, who retired from competition after last month’s Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, will hold her farewell ice shows in Seoul from May 4 to 6.
Other medalists from Sochi will take the ice here in May, the agency said. Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia, the gold medal-winning duo in the pairs, will be joined by the bronze medalists in the same event, Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany.
On the Line: Eddie Choi of Milk + Honey, Part Two
Hardest lesson you’ve learned.
Never be lazy. Do what you got to do, and don’t move it to tomorrow. There’s always consequences to what you do, good or bad.
Last song playing on your radio:
Foster the People, Coming of Age.
For a small space, Milk + Honey has fantastic atmosphere. Who designed the patio?
The frame of the patio and plants were designed by the landlord of the mall. He is a designer.
Korean Bakery Chain Triumphs in Manhattan
A recently opened store of Paris Baguette in Manhattan is recording profits despite gloomy predictions that it was a flagship outlet too far.
SPC Group, the operator of the bakery chain, said on Monday that the outlet opened last Friday in an upscale neighborhood of 70th Street and daily sales have been surpassing overall costs.
It is unprecedented for a Korean bakery to put up good performance downtown in a major U.S. city. The group said its two other stores in Manhattan that opened last fall, on 40th Street and 50th Street are also posting profits.