Tag Archives: south korea

dmz train

Across the DMZ: A Reunion Tale Retold on Audio

Pictured above: Imjingang Railroad Bridge, 2014. (Photo courtesy of Jeon Han/Korea.net)

Special to iamKoreAm.com

It’s been more than 60 years since Korea officially separated into two states.

Politics split the nation, but it was the people who ended up paying the price. Families were splintered by the Korean War and generations of Korean sons and daughters went on to live their lives never knowing whether their blood relatives beyond the DMZ still existed.

However, in 2005, a rare opportunity arose when the Red Cross tried to reunite some of these separated families through satellite video—if only for a brief two hours.

Mary Chi-Whi Kim, a poet, writer and professor at Savannah College of Art and Design, wrote a piece for the New York Times Magazine in 2006 recounting the experience of meeting her aunt, Bo Ok, for the first time this way.

Bo Ok is Mary’s father’s older sister, and the firstborn in the family. Bo Ok had headed north before the Korean War to pursue an expanded education, the article states. Mary’s father had not seen his sister since he was 14 and a boy living in South Korea.

It’s been seven years since the article, “Far Across the DMZ,” was published in the Times, but NPR’s Snap Judgment—a weekly non-fiction storytelling radio series and podcast—recently adapted the family reunion tale into an audio narrative.

“We don’t normally do these kinds of stories because Snap Judgment is a storytelling show that features a beginning, middle and end,” producer Davey Kim told KoreAm in a phone interview. “This story didn’t have all of those components, but it still resonated with me about what it’s like to have a family reunion five decades down the line, and I took this on as a side experimental story because it deviates from our usual material.”

The 15-minute segment, which first aired July 10 on NPR’s 300 member stations across the country, recounts the video reunion between Mary’s father, Chin Kyll, and Bo Ok. While it sounds as if Mary herself provides narration, her voiceover is actually taken from an extended interview with Kim.

“Mary Kim did a fantastic job and it sounds like she was narrating the story,” said Davey Kim. “But in actuality, I interviewed her for four hours and I cut those four hours of interview tape into the narrative.”

Mary discusses how her aunt appears on video, what she says about the North Korean regime, how her father had read a letter to his sister which he prepared beforehand, and Mary’s own realizations as an adult listening to her Korean immigrant father pour forth his emotions and memories to his sister.

Her aunt, Mary says in the segment, does not look as she expected her to look.

She is seen on video wearing 12 military medals on her black hanbok and had “plump cheeks,” much to Mary’s surprise.

“I had no idea how she might appear” she says. “I expected to see a living skeleton because of North Korea’s tendency to starve its own people.”

The segment, which features interspersions of Korean spoken by the character of Chin Kyll (voiced by Davey’s Father, Yongnam Kim), includes the episode where Mary’s father reads a six-page letter to his sister, describing his family’s life in the United States. In real life, that moment had lasted for an hour and a half—or 75 percent of the time allotted for the occasion.

Mary recounts how her father unleashes 50 years of repressed feelings regarding his separation from Bo Ok, sharing painful memories he had stored inside him all these years.

In response, Mary recounts, her aunt speaks only flattering words about the North Korean leadership and discusses her disdain for the United States. Bo Ok reveals how her leg was severed by a bomb during the war while her husband’s legs were injured and had to be amputated. Despite this, her aunt describes how the North Korean government had aided her own family, five children in all.

“We don’t have many years left now. All I want is to see our country unified…But we need to kick out the American bastards, then finally, we can meet and live happily together,” Bo Ok, voiced by Davey Kim’s mother, Mikyung Kim, says. “Such a good life in this socialist community wouldn’t exist in a capitalist nation.”

“I couldn’t tell if she was believing her own words,” Mary says, as she recounts seeing Bo Ok’s eldest son seated beside her, with cheeks resembling “cliff-like hollows.”

With time quickly running out from their reunion, Chin Kyll proposes that he and his sister sing a song over the satellite feed: Tong Il Jang, or “We Are One,” a composition created by South Koreans to meld the national anthems of both Koreas.

During the song, time unfortunately runs out on the satellite feed and the siblings’ reunion ends as the computer screen fades to black.

Ten years have passed since that video reunion with Bo Ok. While her father is not as hopeful in his sister’s fate, fearing that she may have met her end, Mary harbors a different sentiment. She still clings to the hope that her aunt is alive, and that one day, the family will reunite, despite the long odds.

“The reality is that many Koreans on both sides of the DMZ unfortunately will not be reunited in this lifetime,” Davey Kim said. “There are certainly cases where families have reunited and have gone on to live good lives but the reality is that this isn’t the case for everyone—this is the universal Korean story that I wanted to tell.”

To listen to the Snap Judgment segment in its entirety, click here.

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Anais & Sam: A Love Story of Twin Sisters Reunited After 25 Years


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Dead South Korean Agent Left Note Denying Spying on Civilians

Pictured above: The National Intelligence Service Headquarters in Seoul. (Screenshot captured via JTBC/YouTube)

by KIM TONG-HYUNG, Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A South Korean government agent who was found dead in an apparent suicide left a note denying suspicion that the National Intelligence Service has been spying on South Koreans by intercepting cellphone and computer conversations, police said Sunday.

The 46-year-old NIS agent was found dead Saturday in his car parked on a hill in Yongin, just south of Seoul.

In his note revealed by police on Sunday, the agent said that the intelligence service “really didn’t” spy on civilians or on political activity related to elections. He apologized to colleagues and NIS senior officials, including director Lee Byoung Ho, saying that overzealousness in doing his job might have created “today’s situation.”

The intelligence service told lawmakers on Tuesday it had purchased hacking programs capable of intercepting communication on mobile devices and computers in 2012 from an Italian company, Hacking Team, but that it used them only to monitor agents from rival North Korea and for research purposes.

The revelation is sensitive because the NIS has a history of illegally tapping South Koreans’ private conversations. The NIS is planning to reveal to lawmakers the details of how the programs were used to quell suspicions that it had been unlawfully monitoring civilians.

In the note he left behind, the agent also said that he destroyed surveillance material on the activity of North Korean agents because the data had created “misunderstandings.”

Police officials, who had initially refused to release the details of the note, didn’t reveal the name of the agent or what his duties were for the NIS. Phone calls to the NIS office rang unanswered Sunday.

The controversy surrounding NIS emerged earlier this month when a searchable library of a massive email trove stolen from Hacking Team, released by WikiLeaks, showed that South Korean entities were among those dealing with the firm.

Two NIS directors who successively headed the spy service from 1999 to 2003 were convicted and received suspended prison terms for overseeing the monitoring of cellphone conversations of about 1,800 of South Korea’spolitical, corporate and media elite.

On Thursday, South Korea’s Supreme Court ordered a new trial for another former spy chief convicted of directing an online campaign to smear a main opposition candidate in the 2012 presidential election, won by current President Park Geun-hye.

See Also


Daum Kakao Apologizes for Security Concerns, Vows to Protect User Privacy

North Korea Sentences 2 South Koreans to Life on Spying Charges


Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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James Moontasri Loses by Submission in First Round

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

James Moontasri lost his third bout in the UFC last night after submitting to Kevin Lee in the first round. The two lightweights were competing as part of the main card at last night’s UFC Fight Night 71 event at the Valley View Casino Center in San Diego, Calif.

After a few early kicks, the fighters exchanged simultaneous eye-pokes, causing the referee to call a dual recovery period. Once the fight resumed, Lee quickly got a takedown, transitioning into back control on Moontasri. From there, Lee eventually the rear-naked choke, forcing Moontasri to eventually tap out despite his efforts to struggle against the hold. The referee stopped the fght at the 2:56 mark of the first round.

Moontasri apologized for his performance, which he called “disappointing,” on his Facebook page. “I had a great training camp, and a great group of people that support me,” he wrote. “I just didn’t perform the way I expected.”

Lee’s UFC record now falls to 1-2 in his last three fights. This is his first professional loss that ended in a submission or other than a split-decision.

As Moontasri prepares for his next bout, be sure to check out our story on the fighter in the meantime.


Featured image via UFC/YouTube

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MMA Fighter James ‘Moonwalker’ Moontasri Gears Up for UFC Fight Night 71

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

There aren’t many Taekwondo fighters who successfully transition to mixed martial arts, but since committing to MMA seven years ago, James Moontasri is looking to buck that trend.

Moontasri, also known as “The Moonwalker,” boasts an 8-2 professional record. He’s won by knockout (three wins), submission (three wins) and by decision (two wins). His two losses were by split-decision.

The 27-year-old half-Korean, half-Thai fighter is up against Kevin Lee tonight in San Diego, Calif. at UFC Fight Night 71, which you can catch at 7 p.m. PST on Fox Sports 1. Both fighters weighed in earlier today, and neither wanted to back down first.

It’s hard to believe the stone-faced fighter is the same bright and jovial guy who sat down with us last Friday.

Born in Frankfurt, Germany, Moontasri and his family eventually settled in Colorado Springs, Colo., where his mother initially put him through piano and trumpet lessons at a young age. However, once taekwondo entered his life, Moontasri knew he was born to be a fighter.

The half-Korean fighter was only 14 years old when he competed at the 2003 Pan American Games for the national taekwondo team trials. The following year, Moontasri captured a bronze in middleweight at the 2004 Pan American Championships. In 2007, he earned silver medal at the Pan American Games and was also named the U.S. Taekwondo Male Athlete of the Year.

Although he didn’t make the U.S. Olympic taekwondo team in 2008, Moontasri became interested in mixed martial arts after watching Lyoto Machida fight in the UFC on TV.

“Machida walked out in his karate gi, with his black belt,” Moontasri recalled. “Right then and there, I knew that was something that I can do, because there’s really no professional level for taekwondo … [even] once you go to the Olympics, which is awesome.”

He added, “Seeing someone like Machida, who’s very respectable and has a traditional karate background, I felt like this is something I could achieve. As a fan, and being able to train with him now every single day, it’s still like a dream come true to train with one of your heroes.”

Moontasri SilvaAnderson “The Spider” Silva, left, grappling with Moontasri. (Photo via James Moontasri/Facebook)

Moontasri joined NuPacific Partners and Black House MMA—a training facility that represents a number of elite fighters, including Machida and Anderson Silva as well as twin brothers Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira and Antônio Rogério Noguiera. After years of training, Moontasri now boasts a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, a black belt in Muay Thai and a 4th dan black belt in taekwondo. At the same time, he says his passion also involves being able to teach martial arts, which he occasionally does at the Elite Training Center in Redondo Beach, Calif.

Tonight’s bout will be Moontasri’s fourth in the UFC. Later this week, the Korean-Thai American will be making his way to South Korea for a taekwondo exhibition. He hopes to be heading back later this year for UFC’s fist event in Korea, the UFC Fight Night Seoul, on Nov. 28.

 With a good showing tonight, chances are that Koreans will be able to see the Moonwalker in person.


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hornet app 1

Report: Samsung, Google Censor LGBTQ Apps in South Korea

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

Samsung and Google have banned a number of gay social networking apps in South Korea and in other countries in recent years, BuzzFeed News reports.

In South Korea, the censoring largely appears to be in line with the country’s lack of legal and social acceptance of homosexuality, but the company’s policies aren’t exactly consistent across the board. Samsung rejected an application from the gay dating app, Hornet, to be included in its app store in 2013, according to a screening report acquired by BuzzFeed News. Hornet is available in the U.S. and most LGBTQ-friendly countries through Samsung’s app store, although it remains banned in Iceland and Argentina, where same-sex marriage is legal.

Samsung’s Certification Team said in the report that Hornet could not be listed in South Korea “due to the local moral values or laws [regarding] LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi sexual, Transgender) content.” The team also listed the app’s icon and screenshots, some of which depicted users “partially clothed,” as not appropriate for all ages.

However, in the South Korean Google Play store, where majority of Android users (and Samsung smartphone users) download their apps, gay networking apps such as Hornet, Grindr and Scruff are available. Google did, however, remove the most popular gay dating app, Jack’d, a few years ago, apparently without notifying its developer. That hasn’t stopped the more than 500,000 reported South Korean users, who may be utilizing openly available VPN services to make it appear their phone is logging in from another country.

A Samsung spokesperson did acknowledge that the company does limit content in certain countries based on their respective “local laws and customs” and is”continuing to update [their] policies.”

Though South Korea remains largely anti-LGBTQ, a study by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies earlier this year found that younger South Koreans in their 20s and 30s are becoming more open-minded about LGBTQ issues. Older Koreans largely remain homophobic, with a vocal conservative contingent backed by the powerful Protestant church.

Politicians tend to follow suit, and tackling the issue is considered career-suicide for them. Seoul mayor Park Won-soon, a former human rights lawyer, reportedly told the San Francisco Examiner last October that he hoped to see South Korea become the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage, and as expected, his remarks drew heavy controversy. Park later backtracked on the comments, saying he did not intend to legalize same-sex marriage, but that “maybe” South Korea would become the first country to do so.

See Also


Christian Groups Drum Up Protest Against Seoul’s LGBTQ Pride Parade

Gay Rights Activists in Korea Step Up to Support LGBTQ Youth


Featured image via Queerty/Twitter

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comic con koreams

Koreans Speaking at San Diego Comic-Con 2015 Panels

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

San Diego Comic-Con, the biggest and most wonderful gathering of comic book and pop culture enthusiasts from around the world, is in full swing this week. Here are some of the talented Korean Americans who will be participating in panels during the 4-day convention!

Jim Lee



DC Comics artist, writer; DC Entertainment co-publisher

Follow @JimLee

Jim Lee is one of the most revered figures in the comic book industry. His travels range far and wide. Lee began his career at Marvel Comics back in the 1980s as an artist. In 1991, X-Men No.1, which he illustrated, became (and remains) the best-selling single comic book of all time.

Lee also helped form Image Comics in 1992, where he was able to publish his own creative content. Years later, after deciding to focus more on art, Lee left Image Comics and joined DC Comics, where he worked on iconic characters such as Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman. In February 2010, Lee and Dan DiDio were named co-publishers of DC Comics. The following year, Lee became one of the architects behind the New 52, a relaunch of 52 new series.

To learn more about Lee, read KoreAm‘s Dec. 2011 feature story on him here. Make sure to catch Lee at the convention’s DC Entertainment panel and his solo panel on Sunday.

Tony B. Kim


Tony Kim

Blogger and Comic-Con enthusiast 

Follow @Crazy4ComicCon
Website: Crazy 4 Comic-Con

It all began with issue No. 1 of The Man of Steel. As a young child of immigrant parents, Kim connected with Superman’s identity crisis.

“This man of steel always felt like he was created to make a difference but wrestled with compromising the two worlds of his heritage,” Kim writes in a blog entry. “I started to feel understood. I realized that pain and struggle is part of this journey into young adulthood and I was not alone on this path.”

As a passionate comic books fan, Kim considers himself a proud nerd. In 2005, the Superman fan moved to Southern California from Texas, finally making his way to the “Nerd Mecca” known as San Diego Comic-Con. Since then, Kim’s been a self-titled Comic-Con evangelist spreading the nerd gospel.

Kim will be one of the speakers at SDCC’s Geek Wars: The Nerds Awaken” panel on Friday at 10 a.m.

Soyon An


Soyon An

Costume Designer

Follow @SoysFashion

A graduate from the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) and Otis College of Art and Design, Soyon An has worked on So You Think You Can Dance as a costume designer for six seasons, as well as a fashion consultant for American Idol. Her latest project as costume designer is a live-action adaptation of Jem and the Holograms, which is now in post-production and slated for an October 2015 release.

At SDCC, An will be speaking at a costume panel on Friday at 1 p.m. and a design panel on Saturday at 11 a.m.

Greg Pak



Comic book writer and filmmaker

Follow @gregpak

Greg Pak is best known for his work on Action Comics, Batman/Superman, Planet Hulk, World War Hulk and Storm. His graphic novel Code Monkey Save World, which is based on the songs of Jonathan Coulton, holds the record for highest-grossing, original comics Kickstarter of all time.

On the film side, Pak directed the 2003 sci-fi indie film Robot Stories, starring Tamlyn Tomita and Sab Shimono, and wrote the screenplay for MVP, which premiered at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival.

Pak will be present at SDCC’s Super Asian America” panel on Sunday at 3 p.m. in Room 29AB, alongside Dante Basco (Avatar: The Last Airbender), Chloe Bennet (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D), Amy Chu (Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman) and other talented Asian American guests.

Moon Bloodgood



Actress on Falling Skies

Moon Bloodgood is best known for her work in TNT’s post-apocalyptic drama Falling Skies, which is now on its fifth and final season. Bloodgood will be joining her co-stars Noah Wyle, Will Patton, Drew Roy, Sarah Carter, Connor Jessup, Colin Cunningham and Doug Jones at SDCC this year for a Q&A panel on Friday at 11:15 a.m.

The actress has graced two covers of KoreAm, once in April 2007 and September 2012.


James Kyson



Actor on Nobility

Follow @JamesKyson

Heroes star James Kyson will be unveiling his new sci-fi dramedy series Nobility, which is described to be Firefly meets The Office, at the Nobility: These Aren’t the Heroes You’re Looking For” panel on Friday at 7:30 p.m. He will be joined by sci-fi veterans Walter Koenig, Doug Jones, Adrienne Wilkinson and Christopher Judge.

Ilram Choi


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Stunt Performer

Ilram Choi told KoreAm in 2012 that the superhero he’d most like to be would be Superman. But Spider-Man isn’t a bad choice, either.

Since moving to Los Angeles 11 years ago, the stuntman, who is trained in taekwondo, capoeira, aikido and jiujitsu, has worked on several action movies and hit TV shows, from the Transformers films to Avatar and TRON: Legacy.

Choi’s recent credits include standing in as a stunt double for Ki Hong Lee in the upcoming Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials; John Cho in Selfie; and Spider-Man in The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Choi will be joining Greg Pak at the Super Asian America” panel on Sunday.

Philip Kim


Philip Kim

Publisher of Famous Monsters of Filmland

Philip Kim is the publisher of Famous Monsters of Filmland, the world’s first monster fan magazine started back in 1958. Kim acquired the magazine in 2007. He will be speaking at a panel with the magazine’s editors Ed Blair and David Weiner on Friday at 5:30 p.m. in Room 26AB.

Michael Cho


Michael Cho

Korean Canadian illustrator and cartoonist based in Toronto.

Follow @Michael_Cho
Website: Michael Cho’s Sketchbook

Cho’s previously published works include Back Alleys and Urban Landscapes, a collection of sketches depicting Toronto’s cityscape. His graphic novel Shoplifter is centered on Corrina Park, a young aspiring writer who searches for happiness and self-fulfillment.

Cho will be teaching a SDCC workshop with Chip Kidd on Friday at 11 a.m. He will also participate in two art panels: “Celebrate 75 Years of Will Eisner’s ‘The Spirit'” and CBLDF: You Can’t Draw That! Live Art Jam.” 

Kim Jung Gi


South Korean artist 

Follow @KimJingGiUS
Website: http://www.kimjunggius.com/

Artist Kim Jung Gi is known for his ability to draw without any prior sketching or photographic reference. His work has attracted millions of views on YouTube over the last few years. Since 2007, he has published three sketchbooks that consists of more than 2,200 pages of his stunning art.

At SDCC, Kim will be teaching a drawing workshop on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in Room 2.


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smartphone train

South Korea Ranks No. 4 in Smartphone Penetration: Survey

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

One would assume that South Korea has the highest smartphone penetration in the world with its legion of KakaoTalk users and lightning-speed Internet. However, according to a survey conducted by KT Corporation’s research center Digieco, the country’s ranking of smartphone penetration now rests at No. 4.

Of the 56 countries surveyed, the average smartphone penetration rate stood at 60 percent. Topping the list this year is the United Arab Emirates, with 90.8 percent of its population using smartphones. Singapore and Saudi Arabia followed with 87.7 and 86.1 percent, respectively.

South Korea’s rate reached 83 percent at the end of last March, a 3.5 increase from two years ago when the country was second in the rankings. Nearly 4 in 5 people in Korea now own a smartphone.

Sweden, Spain, Hong Kong, Norway, Taiwan and Australia rounded out the top 10. Surprisingly, Japan ranked near the bottom of the list at No. 43 with a 53.9 smartphone penetration rate.

According to the Digieco report, the global market has changed with the emergence of new markets, such as Thailand, which had the largest growth in smartphone users this year with a 23.7 percentage point gain. Other emerging markets, including Brazil, Malaysia, Vietnam and Russia, saw a sharp increase in penetration of more than 15 percentage points.

South Korea’s smartphone market is still dominated by Samsung Electronics at 63.4 percent, with LG trailing behind at 20.9 percent and Apple at 13.1 percent, according to the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning, reports Yonhap News Agency.

See Also


South Korea Develops Smartphone Apps to Help Curb Student Suicide

Prying Parents: Phone Monitoring Apps Flourish in South Korea


Featured image Brent Schmidt/Flickr

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‘Northern Limit Line’ Sets Sail for USA and Australia

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

South Korea’s 3D maritime film Northern Limit Line will hit theaters in North America and Australia later this month, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Based on a true story, Northern Limit Line depicts the Second Battle of Yeonpyeong between North and South Korean patrol boats. The battle occurred during the 2002 FIFA World Cup when South Korea’s national soccer team was playing against Turkey in the semifinals.

Starting July 16, the maritime action flick is set to release in seven Australian cities: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. The following day, the film will hit 13 North American cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Atlanta and Dallas.

Northern Limit Line is also preparing to premiere in other Asian locations, such as Hong Kong, Macao, the Philippines and Myanmar by the end of 2015.

Despite its premiere date being postponed due to the MERS outbreak, Northern Limit Line had a record-breaking opening weekend. As of July 7, the film has earned about $22 million total.

The film initially made headlines when its director, Kim Hak-soon, launched a crowdfunding campaign to produce the film. More than 7,000 individuals contributed to the campaign, which amassed about a third of the film’s budget of $6 million.


Featured image via Next Entertainment World (NEW)

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