Foreign minister meets new U.S. ambassador
The new top U.S. envoy to South Korea, Sung Kim, paid his first visit to Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan Tuesday after taking office as Washington’s first Korean-American ambassador to Seoul.
Sung Kim, a career diplomat with expertise on the North Korean nuclear issue, arrived in Seoul last week as Washington’s top envoy to Seoul, becoming the first Korean-American to take the job since the two nations established diplomatic relations 129 years ago.
“I’m sure that your presence in Seoul will be a kind of symbol of the close relationship between our two countries,” the foreign minister told the ambassador.
Interview: Girls Generation Talk Fame, K-Pop, and World Domination
KoreAm contributor Jaeki Cho penned this lengthy Q&A with K-pop megagroup SNSD, a.k.a. Girls Generation.
Complex: I’ve noticed from footages that almost all the performances are done with heels on. How are your feet?
Sooyoung: We’re dying in pain! After a concert, our feet are literally burning.
Seohyun: A lot of calluses.
Yuri: Our feet are in bad shape.
Taeyeon: We take care of them, but they get messed up so easily.
Yuri: We’ve been wearing heels for so long, we’ve gotten so used to them that we feel more comfortable wearing them when we’re going up on stage. It straightens our postures; it makes us feel more confident. It’s not comfortable, but we’re so adjusted now that it feels weird without them.
K-pop: Soft Power for the Global Cool
In recent years, even I have noticed the increasing amount of strangers I meet (both Asian and non-Asian) who become keenly interested in me once they confirm my Korean background: What is Seoul like? Do I watch Korean movies? What are my favorite Korean foods? Who are my favorite music groups, and have I met any of them? (Quite a big change from my early childhood in the suburban Midwest where many people would take the liberty of assuming I was Chinese!)
As an avid cultural traveler, I truly appreciate these conversations with so many individuals who are utterly fascinated with Korean culture. While I do not believe that this is the sole result of K-pop music’s popularity, the initial platform of these early dialogues are usually based upon either Korean pop music or Korean films (quickly followed up by Korean food, education, and plastic surgery).
Undoubtedly there are skeptics of K-pop’s global influence and utility as a soft power tool — but I find such hesitation towards this cultural explosion to often: a) stem from a limited racial approach to the subject, and b) originate from taste levels so mainstream that there is little chance for awareness of trends and cultural currents not yet adopted by big corporations and media.
N.Korea Joins Twitter Era
The North Korean propaganda website “Uriminzokkiri” on Monday joined the global craze for social networking sites by adding Twitter and Facebook tags.
That makes it even easier for North Korean propaganda to reach South Korea unfiltered, since content can now be shared with the click of a mouse. The “share” function is limited to posts denouncing South Korea.
North Korean websites like Uriminzokkiri are blocked in South Korea but can easily be accessed overseas, and can then be shared by overseas Koreans to reach South Korean users.
Will the North Koreans rise up?
What we can say for sure is that the North Korean press has simply not reported on any of the popular uprisings of 2011, obviously for fear of sparking protests within North Korea. In fact, Pyongyang issued a statement in March simply saying Libya’s dismantling of its nuclear weapons program made it more vulnerable to western intervention. In other words, ‘We, the North Koreans, will keep our nukes as our insurance policy against regime change.’ So don’t expect Pyongyang to disarm anytime soon. The regime interprets the fall of Gadhafi as a cautionary tale. Don’t disarm; don’t try to talk to the west; don’t open up.
Meanwhile, the suffering of the North Korean people continues. Just last week, UNICEF reported that millions of children there are at risk of being severely malnourished. These children will be more vulnerable to disease and stunted growth. And there’s little hope that the government has the ability to help even if it wanted to.
[Korean] Bloggers Penalized For False Review
Wall Street Journal
Bloggers trying to profit from their daily activities are nothing new. But the government decided over the weekend that some South Korean bloggers have crossed a line.
On Sunday, the Fair Trade Commission sanctioned 47 bloggers and Internet café owners for “deceitful behavior” that helped them to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The antitrust watchdog levied a total of 20 million won ( $18,000) in fines on four influential bloggers – known in Korea as “power bloggers” — for not telling readers that they received a commission in return for writing favorable reviews of products and organizing group purchases. The fees ranged from 2% to 10% of the total sales.
Lebanon shocks South Korea in World Cup qualifying
AP via Globe and Mail
Lebanon pulled off an astonishing 2-1 win over South Korea in the Asian qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup in Beirut on Tuesday to stay firmly on course for a place in the fourth round.
Ali Al-Saadi gave Lebanon a shock 1-0 lead in the fifth minute but then cancelled out his earlier effort by conceding a penalty, converted by South Korea’s Koo Ja Cheol in the 20th. Abbas Atwi restored Lebanon’s lead from the penalty spot at the half-hour mark and his side held on to seal a priceless victory.
Group B leader South Korea has 10 points, the same as Lebanon, which trails on goal difference after five games. Third-place Kuwait has eight points, while United Arab Emirates has zero.
North Korea upsets Japan as tensions boiled in World Cup qualifier
AP via Herald Sun
Playing before a capacity crowd at Kim Il Sung Stadium, Pak gave North Korea a 1-0 lead in the 50th minute with an angled header beyond the reach of Japan goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa.
The match had no bearing on the outcome of the group – Japan has already qualified for the next stage while North Korea can not make it – but there is always tension in this fixture between two nations that do not have diplomatic ties.
This was the first time the Japanese men’s team had played on North Korean soil since 1989.
That tension bubbled over at times, with several shoving skirmishes breaking out. North Korea had Jong Il Gwan sent off in the 77th minute for an aggressive tackle on Atsuto Uchida.
Koreans to Benefit from Automated Immigration Checks in U.S.
Most Korean travelers can soon enter the U.S. without face-to-face interviews with immigration officers at the airport. Seoul and Washington in a meeting on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Meeting in Hawaii on Sunday agreed in principle to put them through electronic immigration gates instead.
Once the new program is in place, Korean visitors to the U.S. can avoid long immigration queues by putting their e-passports to the screen of an automated counter.
To benefit, travelers have to register with a smart entry system Korea implements to get approval from both governments as “trusted travelers.” “Trusted travelers” are those whose biometric information, including fingerprints and photos, is registered with the government, and who are deemed to present no risk.
U.S. soldier allegedly set fire to bar
A U.S. soldier in Korea will be questioned by South Korean police on charges of setting fire to a bar in Seoul, investigators said Tuesday, amid growing public outrage after series of rape cases by American soldiers.
The private first class, whose name was withheld, from the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) was suspected of setting fire to a pub in Itaewon, an area popular with foreigners in Seoul, at 2:30 a.m. by pouring oil on a stove, according to Yongsan Police Station which controls the area.
The Country That Loves PC Gaming So Damn Much
Unlike Japan, South Korea has been predominately a PC gaming country. One of the major reasons for the lack of game console penetration was due to protectionism that made it difficult, if not impossible for Japanese companies to sell their wares in Korea—and vice versa.
The cultures are changing. Japan is opening itself up to Korean products, slowly. Ditto for South Korea. Nintendo now releases localized versions of games and hardware. However, the relationship that Korean gamers traditionally have with gaming is through the PC. And the game of choice is traditionally StarCraft.
The crazy wonderland of Seoul’s party motels
They used to be called “love motels,” for obvious (and optimistic) reasons.
Heavily stigmatized, Seoul’s love motels were long regarded as nothing more than glorified DVD rooms, with decor straight out of adult movies. Horrified parents would hold public protests if any were built in their neighborhood.
In recent years, however, a new generation of Seoul’s boutique motels have started styling themselves as “theme motels” and “party motels,” and have made much headway in making motels become socially acceptable, and even sought after — day or night.