Tag Archives: south korea

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North Korea Believed to Still Be Digging Tunnels to Seoul

by REERA YOO

South Korea recently discovered tunnels believed to be dug by North Koreans, according to Gen. Hahn Sung-chu.

Hahn, a former two-star general who is now a tunnel hunter, used dowsers to detect three tunnels inside a Seoul apartment building’s basement. These tunnels were 13 to 16 feet wide at a depth of up to 39 feet. A team attempted to drill holes to lower a camera, but before they could, they detected two underground explosives and had to stop the operation. Hahn told CNN he is sure that the tunnels are the work of North Koreans and that they are signs of “a kind of invasion.”

Three tunnels were found in the 1970s and one was found in 1990, but no other tunnels have been found since. Despite this, the South Korean Defense Ministry believes that there may be 20 tunnels in total and continues to search for them.

Although the Defense Ministry is still hunting for “invasion tunnels” near the border, it is convinced that none would reach further than 6 miles from the Demilitarized Zone due to the Imjin River and the large amount of groundwater in Korean soil.

“From North Korea to Seoul is a considerable distance,” said Kim Min-seok, a South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman. “And the soil structure contains a lot of granite, so it’s not an easy dig like it was digging tunnels in Vietnam, for example.”

On the contrary, an anonymous former intelligence official from North Korea told CNN that a tunnel to Seoul, no matter how far-fetched it may sound, is possible. The defector claimed that North Koreans would remove soil and stones during nighttime to avoid detection and would dig in a vertical manner that allows the water to drain back to the North.

“I was told the tunnels are not directly connected to the streets of Seoul because of the risk of being detected. The tunnels are connected to the sewers linked to the relevant organizations,” the defector said.

He added that although the tunnel digging operations peaked in the 1980s, he believes that the North Korean capital would still protect the several tunnels it created over the decades.

In recent years, tunnel hunting has become a mere token effort by the South Korean government, which is now more concerned about North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

Featured photo via CNN

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The Kansas City Royals’ Magical Season May Stem From Their Biggest Fan

by JAMES S. KIM

The Kansas City Royals have had one heck of a season so far. After squeezing into the playoffs for the first time in 29 years with a berth in the Wild Card Game and then clinching said game with two insane comebacks, they went on to win Game 1 of the Division Series against the Angels last night with incredible flourishes of defense.

What’s the source of this baseball magic? It may very well stem from Sung Woo Lee, a South Korean Royals fan. Lee had never visited the U.S. before until the team actually flew him out August. A fan of the Royals since the ’90s, Lee became an active member of the Royals fans’ online community, and local fans launched a campaign to fly him out. He even got to throw out a ceremonial first pitch and was also showered with gifts and barbecue tailgate feasts.

In Lee’s first game at the Royal’s Kauffman Stadium, they showed him on the enormous jumbotron in the middle of the fifth inning. The very next batter, Alex Gordon, hit a home run to break a scoreless tie and put the Royals ahead. That was part of an eight-game winning streak that began the day Lee landed in Kansas City. Fast forward to the end of September, and the Royals were in the playoffs.

“We talked with him last Friday night when we clinched a playoff appearance and we were all in tears,” said Chris Kamler, who first invited Lee to Missouri. “He was on local radio the other day and said he feels ‘homesick,’ which is a huge credit to how much we all love him here and he loves Kansas City.”

Not to jinx anything, but if the Royals do make the World Series, Kamler said there were fans who would “throw money” at Lee for him to fly back and attend a game.

Lee wasn’t able to attend Tuesday’s Wild Card game against the Oakland Athletics this week, but what happened that night is pretty insane. In the bottom of the ninth, with the Royals down a run and three outs away from elimination, the Royals’ jumbotron showed a couple of fans who had unfurled a large South Korean flag. The 40,000 fans in attendence hoped for more magic from Sung Woo Lee.

The Royals went on to tie the game in that inning. After going down a run in the 12th, they came back again and then walked-off against the A’s to win the game.

Here’s another Korean coincidence for the Royals. Kansas City last won the World Series in 1985. The last time the South Korean team won the Little League World Series before winning it this year was 1985. Magic, or insanity?

Who knows? It’s baseball, so perhaps a bit of both.

The Royals will go at it against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim again in Game 2 of the American League Division Series tonight in Southern California.

Image via ABC News

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SKorean Military Punishes Generals Over Shooting Rampage and Private’s Death

by REERA YOO

The South Korean army said it has punished its two major generals over the two violent incidents that prompted criticism over the military’s long history of abuse and bullying this year, reported Yonhap.

Lim, an army sergeant in his early 20s, went on a shooting rampage near the North Korean border, killing five of his comrades and wounding seven others, back in June. He reportedly fled to the forest after the shooting, but was captured after he shot himself in his abdomen in a failed suicide attempt.

At the time of the incident, the military was unable to pinpoint Lim’s motive for the mass shootings, but said Lim was previously categorized as needing “special attention,” meaning he was determined to be at a high risk of committing suicide, according to ministry data. Investigators later discovered that Lim was bullied by his comrades before he went on his shooting rampage, reported Yonhap.

The military said it has cut one month’s wage from the major general in charge of Lim’s division as punishment. Another major general has been ordered to be on his best behavior for 10 days over the death of Private Yoon, who was bullied and fatally beaten to death by his comrades.

In April, Yoon died of asphyxiation after allegedly choking on food while he was being beaten by his comrades. The incident prompted the army chief of staff Kwon Oh-sung to resign as the public criticized the military officials for initially trying to cover up the abuse of the private.

The South Korean army has identified the generals only by their surnames, Seo and Lee.

Last month, two soldiers died during an anti-captivity training exercise, presumably due to suffocation. Since then, there has been even more public outcry over the military’s deep-rooted culture of abuse.

Featured photo via Yonhap

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SKorea Beats NKorea With Last Kick and Claims Asian Games Gold Medal

by STEVE HAN

South Korean under-23 men’s soccer team scored a dramatic last-minute goal in the gold medal game of the Asian Games’ soccer tournament for a 1-0 win over North Korea, marking the craziest finish to a final of the quadrennial event that has been held since 1951.

The two Koreas remained scoreless in the 90-minute regulation and in the 30 minutes of extra time. On a corner kick during the added one-minute time before the potential penalty shoot-out, rightback Rim Chang-woo blasted a strong shot past several opposing players after forward Lee Yong-jae’s shot was blocked by an arm of Ri Yong-jik, one of North Korea’s many defenders who swarmed their goal to desperately stop what was bound to be the last kick of the game.

North Korea’s head coach Yun Jong-su and his coaching staff were livid as they argued to the referee that South Korea’s goal should be disallowed since Ri’s hand ball offense came before Rim’s game-winning shot and that a penalty kick must be given instead. However, referee Abdullah Dor Mohammad Balideh explained that he simply used the advantage clause, a unique rule in soccer which allows the referee to not to call an obvious foul if stopping the play causes greater harm to the team that would have been fouled.

After the game, South Korea’s head coach Lee Gwang-jong credited his players, whose compulsory two-year military service is now exempted with the win, for South Korea’s first Asian Games’ gold medal in men’s soccer in 28 years.

“We played a really fun game against North Korea,” Lee said. “The hard work for our first gold medal in 28 years was all done by the players. They really played hard for it.”

Yun, who led North Korea to its first Asian Games final in men’s soccer since 1978, praised his players for playing through fatigue for two games in just three days, both of which went to extra time. However, he contended that the loss is unjust due to “questionable” refereeing.

“I thank my players,” Yun said. “But I said this even before the game. In our previous game versus Iraq, one of our key players was sent off [and became ineligible to play in the final]. Today, the linesman raised the flag [just before South Korea's goal] and confused our players. Refereeing has to be fair. It shouldn’t accommodate the home team. I ask you reporters whether today’s refereeing was fair.”

Going into the tournament, host team South Korea’s 20-man roster was considered as one of the weakest group of players it has fielded at the Asian Games. Son Heung-min, South Korean soccer’s star forward, was forced to pull out of the team after his German club Bayer Leverkusen insisted that it cannot afford to lose the 22-year-old for three weeks during the German Bundesliga season.

Yun Il-lok, one of the brightest young prospects in Korea’s domestic K-League, was expected to fill the void for Son, but he was also ruled out of the tournament after just two games with a torn knee ligament. Another star forward Kim Shin-wook was called up as one of the three overage players before he picked up an injury of his own in the second game and remained sidelined throughout the tournament until the last 12 minutes of the gold medal game.

Despite the absence of its key offensive players, South Korea clawed its way to winning the gold medal by playing stingy defense that didn’t concede a single goal in all seven of the team’s games.

But the real gem of the tournament for South Korea may just be the goalscorer Rim, whose menacing runs up and down the right wing gave the team’s lethargic offense a much needed spark. The 22-year-old lateral defender, who is currently playing in Korea’s second division team Daejon Citizen, opened the scoring for South Korea in this tournament by heading home the go-ahead goal in the first game against Malaysia and against North Korea. He notched the last goal that gave him and his team the gold medal.

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SKorea And NKorea To Square Off In Asian Games Soccer Final

by STEVE HAN

South Korea edged out its rival Japan and weathered the storm against dark horse Thailand, reaching the men’s soccer finals at the Asian Games for the first time in 28 years.

Awaiting the South Koreans in the finals is their arch-rival: North Korea.

The two Koreas defeated Thailand and Iraq, respectively, to reach the finals for the first time in decades. Just hours after North Korea’s dramatic 1-0 win over Iraq in overtime, South Korea cruised to a comfortable 2-0 victory against Thailand to set up the “all Korea final,” which will take place at Incheon’s Munhak Stadium on Thursday.

The North Korean soccer team has served two devastating losses to South Korea in recent weeks. Its under-16 boys came from behind to beat South Korea 2-1 in the final match of the 2014 Under-16 Asian Championships. On Monday, its women’s national team also eliminated South Korea in the semifinals of the Asian Games.

South Korea is desperately relying on the recovery of its injured players for the upcoming 2014 Asian Games soccer final. The 6-foot-5 forward Kim Shin-wook sprained his ankle in the second game of the tournament and missed four straight games since then. Leftback Kim Jin-su, who plays professionally for Hoffenheim of Germany, also left the semifinal game in the second half, experiencing discomfort in his left.

Meanwhile, the challenge for North Korea is regaining fitness after the extra 30 minutes of overtime they faced in the semifinal against Iraq in just two days. Known for their tireless work ethic and speed on the attack, North Korea’s key player is forward Pak Kwang-ryong, who plays professionally for Swiss soccer’s powerhouse FC Basel.

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Seoul Plans to Build Its Own High Line Park

by REERA YOO

Downtown Seoul will have its own grassy elevated park similar to New York’s High Line Park by the end of next year, said Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon.

A 17-meter-high motorway near Seoul’s main train station will be closed to motor traffic and converted into a park for pedestrians. The road has connected Seoul’s central business district with the city’s west since the 1970s, reported the Wall Street Journal.

Seoul said it drew its inspiration from New York’s High Line Park, one of the world’s most famous urban-renewal projects. The city expects to spend about $37.5 million on the project.

“The roadway is a historic heritage from the industrialization era, which means it is much more than a road,” Park told the Korea Times. “Once completed, it will be a tourist attraction. It will also help the regional economy around Namdaemun Market.”

Since 2000, Seoul has torn down more than a dozen elevated roads, stating that they are no longer useful in traffic management. At the suggestion of Mayor Park and a non-profit group, the demolition of the roadway in question was turned down in favor of preserving it as a public park.

“It is better to rejuvenate the city instead of destroying its cultural heritages for building something new,” Park said.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government is currently collecting ideas for the renovation and plans to hold a contest around October, according to the Korea Times.

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Japan Soccer Coach Wants To “Take Asian Games Away From Korea On Their Own Turf”

by STEVE HAN

South Korean under-23 men’s soccer team is vying for a gold medal at the Asian Games for the first time in 28 years, but it will have to overcome arch rival Japan in the quarterfinal match on Sunday to have a shot at achieving the ultimate goal in Incheon next week.

Host nation South Korea advanced to the quarterfinals after beating Hong Kong 3-0 on Thursday in the round of 16. Led by head coach Lee Kwang-jong, the team won all four matches in the tournament so far and has yet to concede a goal. But Japan will pose the biggest threat for the Korea, which hasn’t faced serious competition thus far as its opponents included minnows such as Laos and Malaysia.

“I wanted to play South Korea here,” Japan head coach Makoto Teguramori told Kyodo News. “It doesn’t get any better than this. I mean, imagine what it would be like if Japan took the tournament away from Korea on their own turf. I can sense how badly Korea want to win this competition … We’ve got to be prepared mentally. We cannot allow ourselves to get beaten mentally.”

Since 2002, teams are only allowed to include players younger than 23 for men’s soccer at the Asian Games. FIFA, international soccer’s governing body, levies the age cap on international tournaments sanctioned by organizations other than itself (including the Summer Olympic Games) as part of its plan to make the World Cup the most glamorous soccer event in the world. As a compromise, men’s soccer teams at both the Asian Games and the Olympics, both organized by the IOC, can have up to three players over 23.

Although the age cap is at 23, the entire Japanese roster consists of players aged 21 or younger as Teguramori wants the less heralded Asian Games as something of a dress rehearsal for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Japan also played at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, China with its under-21 team, consisting of players who would still be young enough to satisfy the age limit at the Olympics in 2012, and still impressively managed to win the competition.

Unlike Japan, no player in South Korea’s roster is younger than 22. Additionally, head coach Lee further emphasized his “win now” mentality by even utilizing all three of his over-aged player slots with those who represented Korea’s senior national team at this past summer’s World Cup in Brazil. Taking the all-or-nothing approach at the expense of drawing a larger picture for the bigger tournament in the Olympics remains a hotly debated topic for Korean soccer fans.

However, such a decision for the Koreans is also the most suitable way to accommodate their most talented players from obtaining military exemption, which is granted to all of South Korea’s gold medalists at the Asian Games. Many believe that the country’s 21-month compulsory military service for all able-bodied male citizens is detrimental to the development of young athletes whose careers are generally short-lived compared to other professions.

Image courtesy of KPPA

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3 Weird Things That Happened At The 2014 Incheon Asian Games

by STEVE HAN

South Korea’s port city of Incheon, about 15 miles southeast of capital Seoul, was given the honor to host the Asian Games, a multi-sport quadrennial event for athletes in the world’s largest continent. The Games began last week, with the likes of Psy starring in its opening ceremony on Friday.

Many of the athletic events are now underway, but quite a few non-sports related news from the Asian Games are making the headlines in South Korea. Here’s our top three weirdest things that have happen at the Asian Games so far.

A drunk 53-year-old South Korean man intrudes into North Korean athletes’ village. The man in question allegedly followed food suppliers into the restaurant of the village and began shouting at the players during their lunchtime. Police said North Korean judo athletes were at the restaurant, but the man’s verbal outburst wasn’t targeted specifically towards them.

South Korean Christian group tries to evangelize Muslim athletes. Countries participating in the Asian Games include those from the Middle East, where many athletes are devoted Muslims. Convinced that they can convert the Muslim athletes, some South Korean protestants were handing flyers containing bible passages written in English until they were stopped by the security guards.

Japanese field hockey team gives the rising sun flag to Korean high school students as “souvenirs.” The rising sun flag, a symbol of the imperial Japanese army during its colonization of much of East Asia, is seen in the same light as Nazi Germany’s Swastika. Walking off their temporary practice field at a local high school, the Japanese hockey team reportedly handed a fistful of pin badges with the rising sun flag symbol to the school’s students.

Photo courtesy of Sports Keeda