New Film Stars K-pop Star BoA and Dancing With the Stars’ Derek Hough
Author: KoreAm
Posted: April 18th, 2014
Filed Under: BLOG
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BoA and Derek Hough star in Make Your Move. Image via High Top Releasing


K-pop fans get a chance to see their “Queen of Pop,” BoA, in a whole new light, as she makes her American feature film debut in Make Your Move, co-starring Dancing With the Stars’ Derek Hough.

Set in the underground dance clubs of New York, the film tells the story of star-crossed dancers Aya (played by BoA) and Donny (played by Hough), whose respective families are competing to see who has the most successful dance club in the Brooklyn scene. Their brothers (Aya’s brother is played by Korean American actor Will Yun Lee) also are former partners who had a testy falling-out, making the pairing of Aya and Donny a somewhat forbidden one.

The film’s writer and director Duane Adler (Step Up, Save The Last Dance) said that he wrote the role of Aya specifically for BoA. “I got introduced to her personally years ago through a Korean filmmaker friend of mine who said, ‘You make dance films, you need to know who this girl is.’ So when I started writing this movie, I wrote it with her in mind,” he said, during red carpet interviews at a March 31 screening at The Grove in Los Angeles. Continue Reading »

March Issue: Something Worth Fighting For
Author: KoreAm
Posted: March 28th, 2014
Filed Under: Back Issues , BLOG , FEATURED ARTICLE , March 2014
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Soo Woong Lee, center, and his students pose with their tournament trophies, circa 1968-1969. To the left of Lee is Phillip Cunningham, followed by Furman Marshall; this pair would found the Simba Dojang, which carried on Lee’s teachings. In the first row, second from left, holding a trophy is Itch Wilkinson, who would grow up to be one of the nation’s elite taekwondo fighters. Photos courtesy of the Lee Family.

Taekwondo grandmaster Soo Woong Lee and his students created a special kind of magic in the 1960s and ’70s. It’s a legacy that continues to this day.

Something Worth Fighting For


It was 1968, when America was in the midst of racially integrating schools across the land. President Lyndon Johnson was touting his historic legislative coup featuring the “Great Society” and affirmative action, along with the “War on Poverty.” All of these momentous federal programs seemed to have skipped the southeast part of Washington, D.C., just a few miles from Capitol Hill. This impoverished, predominantly African American neighborhood was best known for drug abuse, more than anything else.

To say that it was desperate times is an understatement, according to community workers like Phillip Cunningham and Furman Marshall, who devoted themselves to keeping kids off drugs and avoiding the temptations of the streets. “We faced drugs, violence and school dropouts,” recalled Marshall. “It was hell for young people. Then, here comes an angel wearing a taekwondo uniform.”

That angel was Grandmaster Soo Woong Lee, then a young man of 26, who had just arrived from Korea. He was one of the first Korean taekwondo masters to arrive in the U.S. in the 1960s. One day, his mentor Ki Whang Kim took him to the “karate class” that Kim taught at the local YMCA (it was actually taekwondo, but the latter was not a household name back then) and introduced Lee to the youth. Lee didn’t say anything; he couldn’t speak English. But he proceeded to demonstrate his taekwondo form: leg splits high in the air, spinning kicks and punches so fast that his arms and legs blended into a blur, leaving the group of African American youth speechless. Continue Reading »

July Cover Story: ‘The Wolverine’s Will Yun Lee Talks Film, Fatherhood, ‘Friday Night Lights’
Author: KoreAm
Posted: July 16th, 2013
Filed Under: Back Issues , BLOG , FEATURED ARTICLE , July 2013
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Strong Will

Actor Will Yun Lee, a three-time KoreAm cover man, talks about some meaty roles he’s playing in film and life, the dream he’s still chasing and the gifts of fatherhood.

story by Rebecca U. Cho
photographs by Yann Bean | styling Juliet Vo | grooming Sonia Lee for Exclusive Artists/La Mer

Hunched forward in a Sherman Oaks, Calif., dessert shop under a plain black cap that casts his face in a shadow, actor Will Yun Lee is exhausted, but insanely happy.  Just five days before, Lee and his wife, Jennifer Birmingham, also an actor, became first-time parents to their son, Cash. That means bedtime for the new dad was 5 that morning.  “I think guys shouldn’t even complain because I watch my wife, and it’s a nonstop 24-hour feeding process,” Lee says, his voice slightly hoarse and subdued on this bright June afternoon a day before his first Father’s Day as a father.

On top of his daddy duties, Lee is busy this summer promoting his latest action role as the main villain opposite Hugh Jackman in The Wolverine. Set in modern-day Japan, the film opens July 26 and features Lee as the Silver Samurai, also known as Kenuichio Harada, a Japanese mutant who, in the Marvel Comics on which the film is based, appears in samurai-like armor and has the ability to charge his sword to cut through almost anything.  First introduced to many TV watchers in the TNT supernatural series Witchblade, Lee also was a series regular in the short-lived NBC show Bionic Woman, and appeared in a slew of high-profile films, such as the James Bond movie Die Another Day, Elektra and Total Recall. He has had a recurring role in CBS’s Hawaii Five-0. Continue Reading »

Thursday’s Link Attack: Another Comfort Women Memorial; Will Yun Lee; 2NE1′s CL in Vogue Korea
Author: James S. Kim
Posted: June 20th, 2013
Filed Under: BLOG
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North Korea Seeks New Talks on Its Nuclear Program, China Says
Bloomberg News

North Korea is ready to return to six-party talks on its nuclear program, China said, the third time this month that Kim Jong Un’s regime has proposed new dialogue after easing off threats of atomic attacks.

The North is prepared for “talks of any form including the six-party talks and hopes to peacefully solve the nuclear problem through negotiations,” China’s Foreign Ministry said on its website, citing comments Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan made while meeting his Chinese counterpart in Beijing yesterday.

Park Calls for ‘common sense’ in relations with North Korea
Yonhap News

South Korean President Park Geun-hye said Thursday she will stick to principles in dealing with North Korea in order to transform relations with the communist nation in a way that is in line with “common sense and international standards.”

“South-North relations are at a very important juncture right now. How we do at this point would affect not only the fate of the Korean Peninsula, but also those of Northeast Asia and the world,” Park said during a meeting with members of the National Unification Advisory Council.

“I believe we should break the vicious cycle of provocations and rewards … and lay the foundation for genuine peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula based on consistent principles and trust. For this, we have to build inter-Korean relations in which common sense and international standards work.”

Cheeseburger in Paradise Island
The Economist

Serendipity is not something the visitor to North Korea is likely to encounter often. Guides, with carefully planned itineraries, usually go to great lengths to avoid accidental brushes with ordinary North Koreans, whether they be women selling clothes or maize in the local fly-by-night “frog markets”, or men drinking in local bars.

It is a shame, because such encounters help humanise a poorly understood people: for instance, on a recent visit one 23-year-old North Korean told us shyly that she was besotted with Brad Pitt, which probably went further in busting stereotypes than she could have imagined. Happily, some non-governmental organisations are managing to break through this thick veil of mistrust to foster real engagement with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Singapore-based Choson Exchange, which promotes people-to-people contact between high-flying young professionals and bureaucrats of the DPRK and the outside world, is one.

South Korean Students Demand Faster Action in Election Probe
Wall Street Journal

South Korea student anger is growing over what many believe to be a slow and insufficient investigation into an allegation that the country’s top intelligence agency attempted to influence the presidential election last December.

Last Friday, Supreme Prosecutors’ Office indicted Won Sei-hoon, the former National Intelligence Service chief, on charges of violating the election law that bans a civil servant from intervening an election and the NIS law that prohibits its officials from meddling domestic politics.

According to the prosecutors, Mr. Won allegedly ordered his subordinates to launch a political offensive against opposition party candidates including Moon Jae-jin, the candidate from the main opposition United Democratic Party. Mr. Moon lost the election against Park Geun-hye by about one million votes.

Police seek arrest warrant for ex-vice justice minister over sex scandal
Yonhap News

Police said Wednesday they have sought an arrest warrant for a former vice justice minister who is accused of receiving sexual favors from a local contractor in return for business favors.

Police have been investigating allegations that a number of high-profile figures, including Kim Hak-ui and the head of a local general hospital, received sexual services from a dozen women hired by the 52-year-old construction contractor, surnamed Yoon.

Kim allegedly used his power to influence several court cases in Yoon’s favor in return for the services.

Glendale looking to memorialize ‘comfort women’ of World War II
Los Angeles Daily News

The city of Glendale and a local organization are looking to install a memorial to “comfort women” — the thousands of Koreans and others who historians say were forced into sexual slavery to soldiers during World War II by the Japanese military.

The memorial may be somewhat controversial, however, because while the majority of mainstream historians agree with the history, a vocal minority of ultranationalists and some politicians in Japan contest details of the comfort women story, including the numbers involved, whether the practice was sanctioned by the government and even whether the women were slaves or volunteers.

Today, the design of the proposed memorial will be unveiled before Glendale’s Arts and Culture Commission, an advisory panel to the City Council, which would decide whether to approve it.

Glendale man, 81, with diabetes, dementia reported missing
Glendale News-Press (Calif.)

[Update 5:42 p.m.] Glendale police found Byung Jin Choi just before 5 p.m. in the 300 block of North Glendale Avenue after a passerby reported an elderly person with a walker who appeared to need help. Police said they took him to Glendale Adventist Hospital and have alerted his family.

“He was treated for dehydration, but otherwise seemed fine,” said Sgt. Tom Lorenz.

Will Yun Lee On The Wolverine

Will Yun Lee has played a Marvel character before – he was big bad Kirigi in Elektra – but that’s not to be confused with his character in The Wolverine. We know he’s officially billed as Kenuichio Harada, but beyond that Lee can’t say much for fear of spoilers. Still, we did get a few snippets from him on his experience of filming, including Hugh Jackman’s thing with lottery tickets…

Tell us about your character…
I play a man named Harada and he’s kind of a mysterious character, and the way the movie is structured he’s definitely involved in a lot of the relationships between Hugh and Tao and some of the different characters, but you never really know what side of the line he falls on. He’s part of some of the great action sequences you’re going to see.

As Expected, 2NE1′s CL Looks Amazing In Korean GQ and Vogue
Pop Dust

CL’s recent solo debut may not have soared on the charts like it should have, but the trendsetting songstress proves she’s still the baddest female around when it comes to fashion and photoshoots. The 22-year-old, who’s so cool that both Rihanna and Rita Ora follow her on Instagram, is featured in this month’s issues of Korean Vogue and GQ, and as usual, she looks incredible.

Naturally, CL’s gone for an avant-garde, high fashion, you-can’t-afford-this-and-never-will kind of look for Vogue, whereas her GQ shoot is all posturing, gold grills, and bad girl swag.

You can look forward to more of CL’s untouchable style choices when she makes a K-pop comeback alongside 2NE1 early next month. Excited?

One Night Only: Chefs Chang, Choi and Puck
Wall Street Journal

Celebrity chefs David Chang, Roy Choi and Wolfgang Puck cooked and served a one-night-only seven-course meal at the Hotel Bel Air last night.  The event, floated on Mr. Puck’s Twitter account a few weeks ago, sold out within about an hour at $190 a head, plus $80 for wine.

Mr. Chang, famous for his Momofuku restaurant empire, said he flew across the country with some of his staff because, “Chef asked.  Wolfgang is one of the pioneers and the guy that without him, Roy and I wouldn’t really  be here.”  Mr. Puck said the purpose of the evening was to shake things up at his hotel restaurant and tap into the energy of the “new generation.”  Just before service in the kitchen, Mr. Choi watched Mr. Puck gobble up a piece of his sous-vide-and-fried Cornish game hen.  Mr. Choi gripped his head in disbelief.

Iconic Summer Dish: The Real Korean Tacos by Namu Gaji

LA’s Koji truck may have kicked off a national Korean taco craze, but San Francisco’s Namu Gaji is recognized for an original take on the idea. The Real Korean Tacos, as they’re called, use dried sheets of nori instead of tortillas as the vehicle for BBQ Kalbi short ribs and kimchee salsa. They are available at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and have also become a staple at summer fests like Outside Lands. Now that the restaurant has logged a couple of seasons in the Mission after moving from the original Richmond District spot, they’re a fixture at Dolores Park picnics and parties too.

IOC Inspectors praise Pyeongchang for 2018 Winter Games preparations
AP via Washington Post

IOC inspectors have concluded their second visit to Pyeongchang by praising organizers for making good progress on preparations for the 2018 Winter Games.

IOC coordination commission chief Gunilla Lindberg says the panel has “once again seen good progress” and “an excellent team effort” from the organizing committee, all levels of government and the Korean Olympic Committee.

The commission cited the launch of Pyeongchang’s new logo and finalization of venue plans.

Will Yun Lee and Brian Tee Cast as ‘Wolverine’ Villains
Author: Crystal Kim
Posted: July 10th, 2012
Filed Under: BLOG
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Will Yun Lee (Left) and Brian Tee (Right). Photo via Hollywood Reporter

Actors Will Yun Lee and Brian Tee will be joining the cast of The Wolverine, set in Japan and slated for a summer release in July 2013, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Tee, a Korean-Japanese American, has appeared in The Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift and Burn Notice. He will be taking on the role of Noburo Mori, the villanous minister of justice who plans to marry Wolverine’s love interest, the daughter of a Yakuza crime lord.

Korean American actor Lee of Witchblade and Bionic Woman will be playing the crime lord’s illegitimate son, Harada, also known as The Silver Samurai. Continue Reading »

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