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 »
North Korea Seeks New Talks on Its Nuclear Program, China Says
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
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
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
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
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 (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 »
4.29 사이구 Plus 20: The Ricochet from LA
Wall Street Journal
The Wall Street Journal calls KoreAm’s oral history of the L.A. Riots by Eugene Yi “gripping reading.”
Unity Declaration Marks 20th Anniversary of Riots
Twenty years later, the atmosphere in Koreatown was calm as community leaders gathered at Robert F. Kennedy School to present a statement of unity. Held in conjunction with the “Diversity Is Our Strength” 4.29 Center Essay Contest organized by the Korean American Coalition, this was one of several events marking the anniversary.
Exclusive: U.S., allies urge sanctions for North Korea firms; China resists
The United States, European Union, South Korea and Japan have submitted a list of about 40 North Korean companies to the U.N. Security Council’s sanctions committee for possible blacklisting due to Pyongyang’s recent rocket launch, envoys said on Tuesday.
The committee, which includes all 15 Security Council members, received an initial response from China that it would only consent to adding two entities to the U.N. list of banned North Korean firms, which the United States and its allies see as too few, envoys told Reuters on the condition of anonymity.
‘North Korea jamming’ hits South Korea flights
Jamming signals thought to be from North Korea have affected GPS navigation on at least 250 flights, South Korean officials say. Nine South Korean and nine foreign airlines have been affected since Saturday, the Transport Ministry said. The flights had to rely on alternative navigation systems but were in no danger, the ministry added. The South has accused the North – with which it remains technically at war – of similar incidents in the past.
N. Korea believed to have enriched uranium for up to 6 bombs: expert
North Korea is believed to now have enough large stocks of weapons-grade highly enriched uranium for up to six bombs, a nuclear expert at the South Korean government said Wednesday, amid growing concerns that the North may be ready for a new nuclear test.
North Korea’s small pool of mobile phones pose a big political threat
The Globe and Mail
Despite these risks, North Koreans are becoming increasingly connected to the world beyond their hermit kingdom, where most foreign media are banned and the Internet is virtually inaccessible.
Rapid growth in the use of mobile telephones is aiding the flow of information, and creating severe challenges for North Korea’s rulers. Experts say it could gradually undermine both Kim Jong-un’s police state and his propaganda machine.
Travels in the Empire of Kim Jong Un
Spiegel Online (Germany)
North Korea may have a new leader, but it still has many of the same old problems. Despite efforts to modernize the capital Pyongyang ahead of 100th birthday celebrations for Kim Il Sung, the country still suffers from shortages of food, electricity, heat and hope.
DEA ‘accidentally’ left forgotten suspect in cell
San Diego Union-Tribune
A drug suspect was taken to a federal holding facility and “accidentally left in one of the cells” last month until he was found with methamphetamines and taken to the hospital, the Drug Enforcement Administration said Monday. The suspect was “left” on April 21, according to the agency. The paramedics were called on April 25, the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department confirmed.
Ninth Circuit Says Yoo Is Immune from Torture Claims
Wall Street Journal
One of the legal architects of the harsh methods used in the Bush administration to interrogate suspected terrorists is immune from a lawsuit by a U.S. citizen who said he was tortured while detained in a military brig, a federal appeals court ruled on Wednesday.
China, South Korea Start Talks on Free-Trade Pact
China and South Korea are starting discussions toward reaching a free-trade agreement and want to establish the accord as early as possible, Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming said.
The first round of talks will take place this month, Chen said at a briefing in Beijing today with South Korean Trade Minister Bark Tae Ho. The two countries’ goal is to lift trade to $300 billion in 2016, Chen said.
Intense Heat, But No Light, in Japan-Korea Hydrographic Battle
The Wall Street Journal
Unable to agree on what to call that body of water, delegates from the two East Asian neighbors have come home bruised but unbowed from last week’s meeting of the International Hydrographic Organization In Monaco.
The issue there was whether the world’s map makers would continue to call the body of water the “Sea of Japan,” as Tokyo wanted, or also label it the “East Sea,” as Seoul had been requesting. For weeks before — and then during– the meeting on the sunny Riviera, diplomats and maritime officials from Tokyo and Seoul had thrown uncharacteristically harsh words at each other.
The distance traveled to find family, measured in paper cranes
Anchorage Daily News
Smith was born in South Korea. Beyond that, she knows very few facts about the way her life began.
“I know I had a young single mother, and that’s it,” she said.
Smith imagines there was turmoil for her biological mother, maybe in her country or with her family or in her relationship. She went to a foster home as a newborn. At 4 months old, she winged her way to her family in the U.S. through an international adoption. That’s a fact of her life. Until lately she hadn’t given it much thought.
Adoptee rallies support for single mothers
They say an activist’s work is never done. For Jane Jeong Trenka, an advocate for Koreans adopted abroad, the adage couldn’t ring truer.
Trenka, head of the Truth and Reconciliation for the Adoption Community of Korea (TRACK) and a Korean adoptee herself, is now focusing her attention on single mothers, who she says face societal hurdles here that push them to resort to adoption.
Tribeca Film Acquires ‘For Ellen,’ Starring Paul Dano
The Hollywood Reporter
Tribeca Film has acquired North American rights to writer/director So Young Kim’s drama For Ellen, which stars Paul Dano as an aspiring rock star trying to reconcile with his young daughter. The cast also includes Margarita Levieva, Jon Heder, Jena Malone and newcomer Shaylena Mandigo.
Tribeca Film plans a fall release in select theatrical markets, beginning Sept. 5 at New York’s Film Forum. The movie also will be released via On Demand platforms on a variety of video-on-demand offerings as well as through iTunes, Amazon Watch Instantly, VUDU, Xbox and Samsung Media Hub.
Role Playing More Than a Game in South Korea
The Peninsula via Korea Economic Institute
Imagine Seoul, a city where there is a 24-hour PC room on almost every street, filled with people of various ages who stay there from anywhere to a few hours to over a day. South Korea is a country where celebrities aren’t just movie stars and singers, but are also pro-gamers, such as Lim Yo-Hwan (aka Slayers_BoxeR), who earns around US $400,000 a year. In addition to celebrity pro-gamers, as of 2002, many of Korea’s major companies, such as SK Telecom and Samsung Electronics, began to sponsor teams to compete in pro-matches and tournaments, some of which reached audiences of 120,000 on-site and over 1,000,000 through online streaming.
Citibank Korea globalizes all ATMs … spending money in Korea now even easier
Banking in Korea just got more convenient for foreign travelers who bank with Citibank. First time travelers to the country are often bewildered by how difficult it is to find an ATM that accepts their foreign card for cash withdrawals, as most local ATMs don’t accept them and “global ATMs” can be found only at a few select locations throughout the country.
Due to a steady and large influx of inbound travelers to Korea, and the forecast of millions of visitors expected to arrive for the Yeosu World Expo opening on May 12, Citibank Korea has decided to globalize every ATM at all of its 220 branches in the country.
Anthony Kim tries to shake injuries, struggles
Hidden from the view of spectators and his peers, Anthony Kim hit several bags of balls Tuesday behind the palm and oak trees that frame the short-game practice area at Quail Hollow Club. In search of a swing and confidence before Thursday’s start of the Wells Fargo Championship, the seclusion was a perfect fit for a man whose game is lost at the moment.
“I didn’t know what was going to happen. You saw me hit a shank, right?” Kim said. “I didn’t want to hit over there and have people say I’m hurt again. I wanted to get in a mind-set of being alone and being on a golf course.”
Ex-Bulldog Hines Ward hopes to catch on as analyst
Hines Ward could be offering up football commentary on TV before he coaches any football.
The former Super Bowl MVP wide receiver was back in Athens on Monday to play in the Stadion Classic Celebrity Pro-Am with Bulldogs offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, just days after Ward huddled with TV network honchos about a possible future in broadcasting.
The Training Diary of Will Yun Lee : Episode 2
Hollywood star Will Yun Lee continues his Training Diary documentary. He explores pieces of his past and the things around him that keep him motivated and grounded. In episode 2 entitled “Ties That Bind”, Will Yun Lee draws parallels to his acting career and his father’s passion to train others in martial arts. See how he’s used martial arts to stay focused and driven to succeed. Watch his inspiring story HERE.
Dia Frampton and Kid Cudi: “Don’t Kick the Chair”
NBC The Voice’s YouTube
Season 1 runner-up Dia Frampton teams with Kid Cudi on “Don’t Kick the Chair.”
Undocumented and Korean at UC Berkeley
New American Media
When Ju Hong stepped before his class at UC Berkeley to discuss his status as an undocumented immigrant, the response was telling. “A lot of the students were surprised at seeing a yellow face,” says the soft-spoken 22-year-old, who notes there is a trend among many of his peers to equate undocumented with Hispanic.
Man In Critical Condition After Found At The Bottom Of Pool
Fox News New York
A man attending a party is in critical condition after he was found at the bottom of pool.
Suffolk County Detectives say 21-year old Dale Ahn was attending a party at 3 Farmview Drive in Dix Hills when he discovered by two partygoers who pulled Ahn from the pool around 12:40 a.m. Sunday morning.
A South Korean’s unwanted war legacy from Japan
Los Angeles Times
In 1944, he was abducted from his village by Japanese soldiers and forced to dig tunnels at a World War II camp. In 2005, he learned he was mistakenly listed among Japan’s war dead at a Tokyo shrine.
Korea through retrojournalism
Here are some amazing and rare color photos from the Korean War, which spanned 1950 to 1953.
Bank software company invests in its people
Austin American-Statesman (Tex.)
This is a nice business profile of a small banking software company in Austin, Tex. with a very worker-friendly environment.
A sign hanging in the game room of Banker’s Toolbox sums up the software maker’s workplace motto: Be Nice or Get Out.
The 11-year-old company, which moved to Austin from Los Angeles last year, has grown by emphasizing a close-knit, team-driven culture, said founder Daniel Cho. Every day, its 45 employees gather for a catered lunch in the cafeteria. Everyone gets an individual office. And when the company makes money, it is shared by all.
The result, Cho said, has been steady revenue and profit gains, without raising any money from outside investors.
“It’s simple — I believe happy employees will create happy customers,” Cho said. “We try really hard to make work fun, and we also believe in sharing what we earn.”
Film Review: Where the Road Meets the Sun
To call “Where the Road Meets the Sun” a juggling act would suggest that all the figurative balls stay in the air. But quite the opposite is true in this ambitious but scattered multi-character drama, which aspires to Altmanesque complexity and ends up merely addled. The bright young cast may end up giving Mun Chee Yong’s debut feature a level of posthumous celebrity, a la “Empire Records” (“Look who was in this movie!”), but its own lifespan will be comparatively short and sparsely attended.
Dotted Lines [OPINION]
The Daily Californian (U.C. Berkeley)
Annual trips to Korea in my childhood gave me glimpses into the crowded streets of Seoul, where morning and night blend together and life thrives incessantly on the main streets of the city. I’ve seen the red tents that pop up in the early evening and stay up late into the night, under which steaming vats of street food are sold to tired students and drunk businessmen alike. If I think carefully, I can hear the way the roar of the trucks and the murmurs of sleepless youth meandering through the streets below slip through the window of my grandparents’ 30th floor apartment.
Park Ji-sung Renews ManU Contract
Park Ji-sung has renewed his contract with Manchester United in the English Premier League until at least the end of the 2012/13 season, the team announced on its website Friday.
Son Heung-min Scores in Hamburg-Hertha Berlin Game
Korean striker Son Heung-min scored a goal for Hamburg in a 2-2 draw against Hertha Berlin in the German Bundesliga.
Historic Korean figure gets the Broadway treatment
“Hero: The Musical” will be performed at Lincoln Center from Aug. 23 to Sept. 3.
“I want to wow the audiences in New York,” said Ho Jin Yun, producer and director.
The vehicle with which Yun hopes to dazzle ticket buyers is based on the story of a Korean martyr, An Chunggun, who fought Japanese annexation of Korea, killing a high-ranking Japanese official. He was executed in Japan in 1910.
“The subject is very heavy,” said Yun. “But it is a musical, after all, so it has humor and action as well. And Korean shows provide a bigger spectacle than Broadway does.”
MTY Foods to acquire Koryo Korean BBQ assets
Canadian restaurant holding group MTY Foods Group said it would acquire Korean Canadian restaurant chain Koryo Korean BBQ for $1.8 million, according to the Montreal Gazette. Koryo Korean operates 20 restaurants across Canada.
KAC national leaders gather in Dallas for 2011 KAC National Convention
Young Korean-American leaders from across the nation gathered in Dallas last week for the annual 2011 Korean American Coalition National Convention.