Tag Archives: south korea


Family of SKorean Ferry Victim Files Suit Against Government

The parent of a South Korean ferry victim reportedly filed a lawsuit seeking damages from the government and the vessel’s owners, marking the first litigation move by any of the family members of the nearly 300 killed in the tragedy, according to AFP.

A court spokesman said the suit is seeking 30 million won ($30,000) in compensation from the government and Chonghaejin Marine Co., the company that owned and operated the 6,825-tonne Sewol ferry, which sank on April 16. Although 172 were rescued on the day the ship sank, no survivors were found since. Some 292 bodies have been recovered, and 12 are still missing.

The suit was filed by the mother of an unidentified student from Danwon High School, which had 325 students aboard the ferry for an annual school field trip to Jeju Island. About 80 percent of the school’s sophomore class was killed in the accident.

The suit claims that the ferry’s safety wasn’t ensured because it was overloaded with cargo. Results of the initial investigation into the sinking also revealed that water ballast was reduced to dangerous levels to create space for more cargo, which could have contributed to the ferry failing to handle a sharp turn before it tilted and capsized.

“Chonghaejin Marine Co., owner of the Sewol ferry and employer of the crew, was neglectful in safety education and the state was very lax in the management of operation and licensing,” the suit said, as reported by AFP.

The plantiff said she could raise the claim to as much as 600 million won, as more information becomes available from the ongoing investigation.


‘Well-Dying’ Courses Offered in SKorea to Counter High Suicide Rate Among Elderly


It’s well-documented that South Korea has the highest suicide rate among developed countries. But if you parse the numbers, there’s this equally disturbing discovery: it also has the highest elderly suicide rate. Nearly 5,000 people over the age of 60 took their own lives in 2012, up from 4,300 in 2007.

Such alarming figures have prompted the spread of “well-dying” courses, where the elderly can learn about how to appreciate life and make peace with their mortality, according to a recent article in Bloomberg.

Park Kyung-rye, 80, enrolled in one of these “well-dying” classes after having suicidal thoughts. The widower, a retired house cleaner with no pension, told Bloomberg that her “loneliness” pushed her to the edge. But, through the class, she joined about 20 other senior citizens in activities like writing their autobiographies, recording video messages to their families and even visiting a crematorium.

“I rediscovered life in the light of death,” she told Bloomberg. She also promised to “live as happily as possible until a natural death claims me.”

The South Korean government is funding these “well-dying” courses (a play off of the expression “well-being), which are cropping up throughout the country, in the hope of reversing the elderly suicide trend. But it’s a trend that’s being unfortunately fueled by alarming poverty rates among seniors.

While intense education pressure is often blamed for suicide among young South Koreans, experts point to poverty as a  major cause among senior citizens, the Bloomberg report said. The poverty rate among the elderly was 49 percent in 2012, making it the highest among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) members. The OECD estimates that 37 percent of Korea’s population will be older than 65 by 2050, bringing even more of an urgency to the issue.

“We’re headed for one unhappy society that’s both aged and suicidal,” Lee Jung Min, professor of labor economics at Seoul’s Sogang University, told Bloomberg. Lee went on to warn that, if this trend continues, the nation will see ripple effects in multiple aspects of society.

Financial Times article noted that, as South Korea has emerged as a more materialistic and highly competitive society, more traditional values like filial duty seem to be falling away. It cited a 2010 government survey that reported only 36 percent of respondents saw it as their obligation to care for their parents. In 1998, that figure was 90 percent. Meanwhile, the Times article said that spending for South Korean children’s education is climbing at a dramatic rate, often leaving little money for elder members of the family.

Caring for the elderly population emerged as a major issue in the 2012 presidential election, and President Park Geun-hye promised in her campaign to boost social spending, including for seniors. Only one-fifth of senior citizens receive a regular pension, said the Bloomberg article, citing OECD figures, while 70 percent receive a minimum old-age payout. Recently, Korea’s parliament agreed to increase this monthly allowance to 200,000 won, which amounts to less than $200.

Photo via Family Edge/mercatornet.com



Link Attack: Kim Jong-un Upset at Weather Guys; Korean Spa In Dallas; SKorean Prime Minister Nominee, Take Two

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un gets angry at the weather guys
Washington Post

Another week, another bit of absurdity from the world’s most isolated state. A report in the Rodong Sinmun, a state-run newspaper, shows North Korea’s porky despot giving “field guidance” to the national hydro-meteorological service. Although it’s written in awkward communist jargon, the report makes clear that Kim Jong Un was not pleased.

He said that there are many incorrect forecasts as the meteorological observation has not been put on a modern and scientific basis…


North Korea Threatens ‘Plot-Breeding’ U.N. Rights Office With ‘Punishment’

North Korea on Monday threatened a planned U.N. field office in South Korea set up to investigate human rights abuses in the isolated country, saying anyone involved would be “ruthlessly punished”. The United Nations in March called for the field office to monitor human rights in North Korea following the release of a 372-page U.N. Commission of Inquiry report that detailed wide-ranging abuses, including systematic torture, starvation and killings comparable to Nazi-era atrocities.

Get a Big Dose of Korean Culture While You Relax and Avoid the Heat at King Waterpark
Dallas Observer

If you haven’t been to King Spa & Sauna, you’re missing out on one of the most unique cultural experiences in Dallas. Called jjimjilbangs in Korea, these sometimes gender-segregated, sometimes co-ed bath houses offer an opportunity to detoxify (whatever that means) in ornately decorated saunas, eat Korean food, have a massage, sleep, maybe even sing a little karaoke while you’re there.

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Kim Young-sam to get doctorate from Russia
Korea Joongang Daily

Former President Kim Young-sam, who played a key role in building ties with the former Soviet Union, is slated to be awarded an honorary doctorate from the Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences today.

The degree comes 25 years after Kim’s pioneering visit to the Soviet Union, the first for a South Korean political figure, which helped pave the way for bilateral ties between Seoul and Moscow.

The Shipment, The Pit, Barbican, London – Review
Financial Times

The playwright Young Jean Lee habitually sets out to challenge herself and her audience. With The Shipment, which begins as a stylistically diverse mix of discrete scenes and routines before changing gear into drama, she, a Korean-American artist, sets out to make a theatre piece about African-American identity and experience, and dares us to… what exactly? To move past the aggressive accusations of racism in the opening spoken segment, a mock-stand-up comedy sequence that leads into a first-half “minstrel show”? To consider seriously the glib final twist in the more or less naturalistic drama that takes up the latter half of the performance? To be disconcerted out of our preconceptions?

Park Nominates Former Journalist as New South Korean Premier

South Korean President Park Geun Hye nominated a former journalist as prime minister to lead a government shakeup prompted by public anger over the Sewol ferry sinking. Moon Chang Keuk, who worked at JoongAng Ilbo newspaper and teaches journalism at Seoul National University, was picked to replace Prime Minister Chung Hong Won, presidential spokesman Min Kyung Wook said today at a televised briefing. Chung offered his resignation to assume responsibility for the April 16 sinking that left about 300 people dead or missing, most of them high school students on a field trip.

Can fans unravel the Babel of the world’s TV dramas?


A Korean TV show about an alien who arrived on Earth 400 years ago and falls in love with a modern actress becomes one of the top series watched in Hebrew and Arabic. A Thai drama about a sharp-tongued woman who ends up being the maid of a Hong Kong mafia member strikes a chord with Spanish speakers.

Viki, a site where dramas, telenovelas, comedies and movies from the globe are translated by fans, gives a glimpse into the cross section of the world’s entertainment interests. It’s where its 22 million monthly users find TV shows that have never made it on their local television sets.

Night Market Comes to Monterey Park
LA Weekly

The city of Monterey Park has approved the first long-term city-sponsored night market in the Southland. KCM Agency, the Korean-American event production and marketing force behind Kollaboration and K-town Night Market has signed an agreement to host six-hour long public nighttime soiree at Barnes Park every third Friday of the month.

In conjunction with Monterey Park Chamber of Commerce, KCM also plans to operate the first ever public beer and wine garden in Monterey Park, with three percent of its profits going to the Monterey Park American Legion Post.


Spider-Man Statue In South Korea Gets Removed For Having An Erection


This article contains images and content that some may find objectionable.

Spider-Man does whatever a spider can. According to one South Korean artist, Spider-Man also gets morning wood.

The Lotte Shopping Center in Busan, South Korea installed a statue of the classic superhero on the side of its building last year, according to Kotaku. Aside from the awkward pose, the sculpture by artist Eunsuk Yoo bears another difference to most other depictions of the web-spinning character: a very visible erection.


Images of the sculpture have gone viral as South Koreans have voiced their complaints. The fact that the sculpture was installed above the shopping center’s playground and rest area didn’t help. Yoo was apparently told to either take the statue down or “modify” it, which we can only assume means removing the bulge.  The artist decided to remove the sculpture completely.


“My reason for (making the sculpture),” Yoo wrote on his Facebook page, “was that I wanted to apply the natural physical phenomenon to a superhero depict what’s natural in the morning without lies and superficial-ness in a comical way.”

“…I understand that a piece that could be interpreted as lewd can be offensive at a place like a shopping mall. It’s disappointing, but I’ll reach out to the public with a better work next time.”

How this statue even got approved (or, er, erected) in the first place is beyond us.


Images via Kotaku


Inbee Park Wins Again At Manulife Financial LPGA Classic


And the victories keep piling on for golfing prodigy Inbee Park, who won the Manulife Financial Classic on Sunday, her first LPGA Tour title in more than 11 months.

Park, whose status in the Women’s World Golf Rankings was bumped to second place last week by Stacy Lewis, spoke to CBS sports about the win. “Obviously, with the U.S Open in two weeks, I think it’s a great confidence boost,” she said. “I think it’s great timing.”

KoreAm featured Park in a cover story last October, highlighting the golfer’s rise to success. She first picked up the club at the age of 10 when she saw her father celebrate South Korean Se Ri Pak winning the U.S Women’s Open, a monumental feat. A few years later, at age 18, Park started breaking records, too. She became the youngest player to win the U.S Women’s Open and also the first South Korean in LPGA history to win the Rolex Player of the Year.

But after the record-breaking start, her career hit a lull, and she staggered through a bout of winless streaks for several years. She told KoreAm, “My game was just not ready yet. But over time, I worked on everything very hard, and little by little, it improved, I think, every year.”

She came back in 2012, when she won her second LPGA title at the Evian Masters, and continued to triumph in 2013, becoming the first player to consecutively win three major championships—the Kraft Nabisco Championship, Wegmans LPGA Championship and U.S Women’s Open.

This win will be a great motivator for the golfer, as the tour will resume June 19-22 at the U.S Women’s Open in Pinehurst, North Carolina. Park will vie for the top spot at the event against Cristie Kerr, who she recently defeated on Sunday, and Stacy Lewis.

Image via Golf Digest



What’s Your Korean Age? Use The Korean Age Calculator And Find Out!


Think you know your age? What about your Korean age?

Here in the U.S., we start our journey in this world at age zero. In Korea, the formula is slightly skewed.

Traditionally in South Korea, everyone is automatically one year old at birth. As New Year’s Day comes along, another year is added. Therefore, a baby born on New Year’s Eve is technically considered to be two the next day.

And some Koreans calculate their birthday by the Lunar (Chinese) New Year, which starts in either late January or early February.

It’s all a bit confusing (hey, we’re not all good at math), which is why we were glad to stumble upon this handy Korean Age Calculator created by blogger Waegukin. Check it out. Though you’ll probably want to stick to your “younger” American age.

Photo via Ajumma Nation

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Korean American’s Facebook Appeal Damages Father’s Political Campaign


No one saw it coming. South Korean attorney and TV personality Koh Seung-duk was entering the June 4 local elections as the heavy favorite for Seoul’s superintendent of education, well ahead of his two rivals in polls. That’s until his 27-year-old daughter Candy Koh, who lives in New York, posted a dramatic appeal on her Facebook page to the citizens of Seoul—urging them not to vote for her father.

In her Facebook post on May 31, Candy described her father as a man who never “acknowledged his children’s experience [let alone] supporting their pursuit of education.” The superintendent of education is deemed a powerful post in South Korea, a nation that’s obsessed with education, and Koh’s daughter explained that a father who disregards his own family should not be given the power to be in charge of overseeing the education of children in the South Korean capital.

“I am not a citizen of your city, but I write you today out of urgency and dire concern for the future of your city’s education system,” the Facebook post read. “When his candidacy came to my attention recently, I could not, in good conscience, stay silent as his child. Seoul’s citizens deserve to know the truth about the person they may be choosing.

“I have next to no memories of his being present to teach me or my brother anything, even when I was old enough to have such memories. When my mother brought me and my brother to the U.S. to send us to a school in New York, Koh [Seung-duk] stayed in Korea and also decided to stop contacting us altogether.”

With only a few days to go before the election, the post went viral in South Korea and sparked scathing criticism of Koh Seung-duk. In response, the candidate, who divorced Candy’s mother in 2002, held a press conference soon after and accused one of his opponents, fellow conservative Moon Yong-rin, of using his daughter as a political tool to hurt his campaign. He also suggested that he was a humble man who had suffered “consequences” from being the son-in-law to Candy’s powerful maternal grandfather, Park Tae-joon, a founder of Korean steel giant POSCO, according to the Korea Joongang Daily. 

“I am having suspicions that my daughter’s post was made out of collusion between the late Park Tae-joon’s son and Moon’s campaign team,” said Koh, during the press conference.

He rejected his daughter’s accusation that he never contacted his family, saying he would meet his children during their visits to Korea and talked on the phone or by text messages. “It may be possible that she didn’t feel it was quite enough [from me as a father],” he said.

When criticism from the Korean public didn’t stop, Koh offered a dramatic public apology. During a speech on the busy streets of Seoul, he screamed a high-pitched “I’m sorry!” and raised his hand. The image of his apology quickly became a meme, as his photo was Photoshopped to depict him as a rockstar and comic book superheroes.

“It had come down to the last few hours of campaigning for him to say an apology to me, but it’s just really bad acting,” Candy Koh told Al Jazeera.

In the end, the victory went to progressive candidate, Cho Hee-yeon, a little known sociology professor who beat both Koh, who had been popular even among liberals prior to the Facebook controversy, and Moon.

Notably, Cho was one of 14 liberal candidates—out of a total of 17 candidates—who won their races for local education chief seats this week, marking a major shift politically from the 2010 election, when liberal won only six posts, according to the Wall Street Journal. The newspaper reported that some are attributing the shift to voters’ desire for a change from the status quo, and particularly, greater concern for children’s safety and overall welfare in the wake of the Sewol ferry tragedy. President Park Geun-hye is from the nation’s conservative party.


Dr. Esther Oh On Grieving The Loss Of One’s Child

A Parent’s Grief

Dr. Esther Oh talks about the importance of getting proper support when grieving the loss of a child.

(Above photo: Family members, holding the portraits of the victims of the sunken ferry Sewol, sit on a street near the presidential Blue House in Seoul on May 9,  AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

It was a parent’s worst nightmare. On April 16, a large ferry carrying 476 people, including more than 300 South Korean high school students on a school trip to Jeju Island, capsized and sank. Only 172 onboard survived, with 80 percent of the dead being second-year students from Danwon High School in Ansan. In the immediate aftermath, I remember reading about the anxious parents camped out at the Paeng Mok Harbor waiting for answers about their then- missing children’s whereabouts. Some parents were making statements that they didn’t want to live without their children, were refusing to eat or sleep, and expressed feelings of guilt, sadness and anger.

Since then, of course, the news only got worse, and no other survivors were found.

The death of a child is one of the most unfathomable things for any parent to imagine, let alone accept. Your child dying before you defies the natural order of life and death. It feels like a huge piece of you has been lost. Your child, after all, represents your hopes and dreams for the future. Such a loss is so overwhelming that parents often forget to take care of themselves.

This period becomes a psychologically vulnerable time, and can increase your risk for depression, suicide, anxiety, marital problems, health issues, substance abuse and dependence, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Especially in Asian culture where shame and guilt are typically internalized, the risk for suicide dramatically increases, as seen with the Danwon High School vice principal who survived the ferry disaster only to hang himself out of guilt.

When grieving the loss of any loved one, you will experience a wide range of emotions. They can range from: numbness and emptiness; to guilt because of things you may regret— things that you did or didn’t do; to fear and helplessness as you confront death, a subject many of us don’t want to think about. It’s possible that you may briefly experience hearing or seeing your deceased child.

It’s important to know that every person has a unique grieving process. Take your time and don’t force the process. Most people will go through the five stages of grief (the order and number of stages you experience can vary):
§ Denial
It is usually the first reaction to any loss. It is a natural defense to soften the shock and prevent you from mentally breaking down.
§ Anger
As reality and pain sets in, you may start to feel angry with anyone and anything, including your child who died.
§ Bargaining
Losing a child may create feelings of helplessness and loss of control. You may start to ask “only if” questions that you believe could have prevented the death.
§ Depression
As you mourn the loss and prepare to say your goodbyes, it is a normal reaction to feel deep sadness and experience difficulty functioning day to day.
§ Acceptance
At this stage, you learn to make peace with your child’s death. You move forward and start a life without your child.

Nothing can replace the loss of your child, but there are steps you can take to start to heal:
§Find support from others.
• Join a support group for parents who have also lost their child. Sharing your pain with others who have similar losses can be helpful. They can provide guidance and insight for you based on their own experiences.
• Reach out to friends and family. No one should grieve alone. Connecting with your loved ones, expressing your feelings to them and having them support you will help you to heal.
• Find comfort in your faith. Whether you are a member of a faith organization or not, engaging in spiritual activities such as prayer, meditation or talking to a religious leader can help bring comfort.
§ Don’t be afraid to express your feelings.
In order to heal, you must first acknowledge the pain you are feeling. Avoiding or suppressing your feelings of sadness and loss will only stall your grieving process and can turn into depression, anxiety and health problems. Talking about your painful feelings can be very therapeutic, even if there is nothing you can do to bring your child back. People who don’ t feel comfortable talking about their feelings should try journaling their thoughts, sending a letter to their deceased child or making a photo album of their child’ s life.
§ Take care of yourself.
Being a parent, it’s second nature to put your needs aside. You are used to caring for others. But being a good caretaker means taking care of yourself first. Getting good sleep, eating healthy and exercising are important. Avoid the use of alcohol or drugs to numb the pain, which are temporary solutions that can also pose a danger to you.
§ Seek help from mental health professionals.
Having a trained counselor or therapist to help you get through this very painful time can be helpful. If you feel life isn’t worth living, are unable to perform normal daily activities or have worsening depression, you should consider talking to a professional. (For more severe depression and/or anxiety, medications may be needed.)In some cases, acceptance of this overwhelming loss may be evasive, as you sink further and further into depression and find yourself paralyzed with grief. It’s very important to recognize what we doctors call “complicated grief.” The grieving person may struggle with symptoms like: intrusive thoughts or images of his/her child; denial of the death and imagining he/she is alive; feeling numb and detached from the world; or even suicidal thoughts and no desire to live. It is important to seek professional help when experiencing these symptoms.

Moving forward after your child’s death may feel impossible at first. The Compassionate Friends, a national support group for parents who have lost a child, tells newly bereaved parents that they will never “recover” from such a loss; rather, they are forever changed by it. But, in time, they will find the “new me,” the support group says. In time, as they work through their grief, they will be able to look back on the happy memories with their child, smile again, even laugh again.

Again, each person has his or her own way to grieve and heal, but I share this story about one of my patients, Amy, as a way to offer some hope. After Amy lost her 11-year-old son to cancer four years ago, she struggled with disbelief, sadness and anger. It was difficult to accept that her precious child was gone. But, eventually, she was able to talk about her feelings for her son and her happy memories of him. Eventually, she became an inspirational leader at a local child loss grief support group and also volunteered at the library where her son loved to read. She said she felt a new purpose in her life with these activities, and was also happy that she found a way to keep the memory of her son alive.

Dr. Esther Oh, a psychiatrist at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute, writes a regular mental health column for KoreAm. If you have questions, please email her at dr.oh@iamkoream.com. All correspondence will be strictly confidential and only accessed by Dr. Oh. Opinions expressed here represent those solely of the author.

This article was published in the June 2014 issue of KoreAm. Subscribe today! To purchase a single issue copy of the June issue, click the “Buy Now” button below. (U.S. customers only. Expect delivery in 5-7 business days).