The World Cup draw is a big deal for teams that spend years to qualify for the quadrennial showdown. When FIFA, international soccer’s governing body, unveiled the eight groups for 32 teams that will head to Brazil next summer for the tournament, South Korea wound up in Group H with Belgium, Russia and Algeria.
Although Korea is ranked lower than its three opponents in the FIFA rankings, many Koreans still breathed a sigh of relief as they avoided soccer’s traditional powerhouses, including host nation in Brazil, reigning champion Spain and perennial contender Germany. While Korea gears up to play in its eighth consecutive World Cup, neither Belgium nor Russia made it to the 2010 tournament and Algeria got eliminated early in the group stages. In that same tournament, Korea advanced to the round of 16 before getting knocked out by eventual semifinalists Uruguay.
At least on paper, the competition in Group H should be relatively manageable for Korea. It certainly could’ve been worse, as evidenced by the United States, which ended up in the so-called Group of Death with Germany, Portugal and Ghana. Continue Reading »
South Korea Cautious on North Political Shuffling
Voice of America
South Korea’s ministry in charge of relations with North Korea is urging caution over reports of a power shuffle in Pyongyang. Seoul’s spy agency said leader Kim Jong Un removed his uncle as second in charge and had two of his aids executed prompting a media frenzy of speculation.
South Korea’s National Intelligence Service late Tuesday said it believes North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s uncle was dismissed, and two of his assistants executed, on charges of corruption and disloyalty.
The uncle, Jang Song Thaek, was vice chairman of North Korea’s powerful National Defense Commission and mentor to the young leader after his father, Kim Jong Il, died two years ago.
A quiet party apparatchik rises in North Korea, but perhaps not for long
The man who has most to gain from the apparent decline of Jang Song Thaek, the second-most powerful figure in North Korea, is a party apparatchik who has been around the ruling Kim dynasty for decades but kept out of the limelight until three years ago.
Choe Ryong Hae now appears to be the most influential adviser to Kim Jong Un, the mercurial 30-year-old who heads the secretive nuclear-armed nation. That had been Jang’s role, but South Korea’s spy agency said on Tuesday that he had been removed from his official posts.
That fate could soon befall Choe as well, as Kim surrounds himself with more aides of his generation, according to analysts and defectors from the regime, often the only source of information for palace intrigue in Pyongyang.
Biden in Seoul After Urging China to Resolve Territorial Dispute
Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Seoul today after telling China’s leaders their declaration of a new air defense zone has raised tension throughout Asia.
Biden talks this morning with South Korean President Park Geun Hye on the final leg of a weeklong trip to Asia that has taken on greater significance as the U.S. seeks to navigate a territorial dispute between China and two American allies, South Korea and Japan.
China’s growing influence in a region that increasingly drives the global economy means it must take a bigger role in maintaining stability, Biden said in a speech yesterday in an address to the American Chamber of Commerce in Beijing and the U.S.-China Business Council.
US ambassador wins Korean-American Club Award
U.S. Ambassador to Korea Sung Kim will receive the first Korean-American Club Award at the club’s year-end gathering on Dec. 9.
According to the Korean-American Club on Thursday, Kim has contributed to the development of U.S.-Korea relations by serving as the U.S. special envoy for the six-party talks, chief of political military affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, and director of the Office of Korean Affairs in Washington.
“Kim has joined the ranks of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and has improved national prestige,” the Korean-American Club said in a statement.
North Korea’s Prison Camps Expanding, Amnesty International Says
Satellite images of one of North Korea’s largest political prison camps suggests its inmate population is expanding, Amnesty International said Thursday in a report detailing rape and torture in the North’s notorious gulag.
The report by the London-based rights watchdog included rare testimony from a former camp guard, as well as from former inmates about the brutality prevalent in the prison system.
“For Amnesty International, which has been investigating human rights violations for the last 50 years, we find North Korea to be in a category of its own,” said Amnesty’s East Asia researcher Rajiv Narayan.
Korea’s Domestic Cold War
Foreign Policy in Focus
They’re the last three hunger strikers standing. Actually, they’re sitting—just outside the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea. The weather is turning cold, and they’re bundled up against the wind.
The three men are legislators. Two of their number have already collapsed and ended up in hospital. In November, the government attempted to ban their political party—the United Progressive Party, the third largest in the country—for essentially being a proxy for North Korea. The party leader, meanwhile, is on trial for treason under South Korea’s National Security Law.
Elderly suicides in South Korea: Poor spirits
THEIR son-in-law’s visit was a customary show of filial piety for late November. But the homemade kimchi he brought to last his ailing in-laws through the winter would not be needed. “I don’t want to be a burden on my children”, wrote the 82-year-old in a note he left in the sealed house, along with two funeral pictures and a will. Media outlets were quick to note the parallels with the death of an elderly couple in “Late Blossom”, a rare Korean film on growing old that was a box-office hit in 2011.
That year more than 4,000 South Koreans over the age of 65 committed suicide: a rate five times higher than in 1990, and nearly four times the rich-country average (see chart). Yet these “silent suicides” rarely get the attention that teenage ones do, says Ahn Yong-min, a psychiatrist at Seoul National University (SNU) and head of the Korea Association of Suicide Prevention. Young deaths are seen as a cry for help and attract plenty of government funds, though their number is on a par with the OECD average. Attempted suicides among the old are ten times higher. It does not help that self-inflicted harm is not covered by the health-care system.
The World’s Largest Vessel Enters The Water In South Korea
Shell has just floated the hull of the world’s largest vessel out of its dry dock in South Korea. It’s so massive that if you stood it up, it would be 1,601 feet tall, reaching higher into the sky than the Empire State Building.
The vessel, called the Prelude, will actually be used more as a floating island than a ship. It won’t be able to travel under its own power. Shell plans to tow it and anchor it about 300 miles off the coast of western Australia for 25 years.
There, the 600,000-ton Prelude will serve as a liquefied natural gas, or LNG, facility, which lets the company tap into the natural gas deep at sea. The gas will then be chilled into a liquid, which makes the gas easier to store and ship.
Daniel Dae Kim still making waves in ‘Hawaii Five-0′
Daniel Dae Kim feels he’s more than justified in “trumpeting” his TV series Hawaii Five-0.
“Our show goes beyond a typical procedural in that it really does try to give the characters personal lives,” Kim says.
“That’s the stuff that kind of keeps me going, as I discover more about (Chin Ho Kelly, his character).
Amanda Seyfried Declares Love for Korean Saunas During Overseas Trip
Amanda Seyfried says she often goes to Korean “jjimjilbang” spas in Los Angeles, the actress told South Korean press Wednesday. The actress also shared other beauty secrets during the promotional tour for Japanese cosmetics brand Cle de Peau Beaute.
“I had the most amazing welcome to anywhere I’ve ever been, in Korea. And I think I have the best fans in Korea… I’ve never seen anything like it,” she said about the reception at the airport on Tuesday, which happened to be her 28th birthday.
When asked about her favorite physical traits, she said she was grateful for her lips. “I like to wear lipstick because my lips are big, and I know that it’s something women everywhere aspire to, with so many lip injections happening in America. So I’m really grateful for my lips,” said the actress, who appeared wearing bright red rouge and a dusty pink lace dress.
Girls’ Generation makes TIME’s Top 10 Songs of 2013
Girls’ Generation took the fifth spot on TIME’s Top 10 Songs of 2013 list with “I Got a Boy.”
Douglas Polk, who compiled the list, wrote, “The nine-woman South Korean group Girls’ Generation is a ridiculously effective hook machine, and a major phenomenon in Asia, whose biggest pop acts make One Direction and Katy Perry sound like audience-alienating avant-gardists.”
“Get Lucky” by Daft Punk and “The Wire” by Haim were 1-2 on the list.
Hyorin Talks Honestly About Recently Posted Unflattering Pictures
Sistar‘s Hyorin, who recently made her first solo comeback, talked about some issues regarding her unflattering and rather insulting picture taken from one of her performances for “One Way Love” on the SBS “Night of TV Entertainment” that was aired on December 4.
During the interview, Hyorin said, “There are some people who don’t really like the crab dance moves. Maybe I’ve gone too far for them.” When the reporter talked about whether the photographers are her anti-fans and showed her that very unflattering picture, Hyorin replied, “When I see this kind of picture, I’m just so shocked. I think about whether I really did dance like that. It’s an image of myself that I can’t really relate to.” She continued, “Sometimes, I get angry. Why would they take a shot of myself like that when they can perfectly take a picture of when I’m just standing. I think that’s the reason why I don’t push myself harder in performances. Because I’m afraid that if I do, this kind of picture will come up.”
At the end of the interview, the singer sent a video message to the photographers and fellow reporters to which she said, “I really would like it if you can take prettier pictures of me so that I can do better on stage and dance better,” and joked, “or, you can take this kind of pictures if you use photoshop!”
Korea Hopes for Lucky Break in World Cup Draw
The group draw for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil will take place on Friday at the Brazilian resort town of Costa do Sauipe. The 32 countries that qualified will be divided into eight groups.
Broadly speaking, each group will feature one team from each of four pots that were announced Wednesday, although there is an exception this year as there are seven teams in Pot 2 and nine in Pot 4.
The first pot features the eight top seeds, or the top seven teams according to FIFA’s world rankings in October plus host Brazil. These are, in ranking order, world No. 1 Spain, Germany, Argentina, Colombia, Belgium, Uruguay and Switzerland.
Mariners may prefer to sign Shin-Soo Choo and Kendrys Morales rather than Robinson Cano
The Mariners aren’t against spending buckets of money this offseason, but they may prefer quantity over quality.
It is no secret that the Mariners have tons of cash on hand and are willing to spend great sums of it in order to turn their perennial also-ran into a frontrunner this offseason. They have been rumored to be in hot pursuit of Robinson Cano, the biggest and most expensive name on the free agent board this winter. Cano is said to be demanding a contract north of $200 million, to which the Mariners are reportedly amenable. But some say the Mariners prefer to spend their money on Shin-Soo Choo and Kendrys Morales instead of Cano, according to the New York Post.
Korea Q&A: Beautiful Fat Korean Selfies
Questions include: “Why do Koreans look so good in pictures?” “What’s it like being fat in Korea?” “Is it safe for a young girl to visit Seoul alone?” “Is there a dating scene for Koreans over 30?” “How do I attract Korean boys?” “What’s an ulzzang (얼짱)?”
Kari asks: “Why did my Korean teacher ask us to take off the flash when we took a picture?”
Generally, Koreans (in particular girls) are quite self-conscious when it comes to pictures. Many don’t like unflattering pictures, especially if they end up on the internet. So Koreans have learned many picture taking tips and tricks to get the best looking pictures. Flash is one of them. The darker the picture, the better they come out (isn’t that why everyone at a club looks so good?). Another is the angle. There’s this crazy phenomenon of videos made by Koreans entitled “the importance of angles.” They all know how to work it!
The Korean Football Association appointed Hong Myung-bo as the head coach of its men’s national soccer team ahead of next year’s FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Hong, who led South Korea’s under-23 team to a bronze medal finish at the 2012 London Olympic Games, signed a two-year deal which will keep him at the helm until the 2015 Asian Cup. The 44-year-old will replace Choi Kang-hee, who recently helped Korea qualify for its eighth consecutive World Cup since 1986.
“From this point on, Korean soccer will go through a period of change and innovation,” Hong told reporters at the Incheon Airport after arriving from Los Angeles, where he lives with his family. “These are difficult times, but I’ll do my best for the Korean people and soccer fans.”
The timing of Hong’s appointment comes at a crucial point, as the highly anticipated World Cup is only a year away. Under Choi, Korea barely managed to squeeze into the tournament despite losing twice to Iran en route to an underwhelming overall record of 4 wins, 2 losses and 2 ties in the Asian section of the qualifying campaign. Continue Reading »
An egregiously lethargic South Korean national soccer team lost 1-0 to Iran in Ulsan, but the one-goal loss was enough to squeeze it into next summer’s World Cup in Brazil.
Despite dominating time of possession, the Koreans failed to create many clear-cut chances against Iran, which put 10 men behind the ball while playing off of counter-attacks.
Korean defender Kim Young-kwon whiffed the ball in his own half in the 59th minute, allowing Reza Ghoochannejhad to pick him off before slotting home the game’s only goal past Jung Sung-ryong. By defeating Korea, Iran finished in first place in Group A of Asian qualifying. Continue Reading »
The South Korean national soccer team muddled its way to a 1-1 draw against Lebanon on Tuesday in Beirut. Although barely managing to tie lowly Lebanon is undeniably an underwhelming result for the Koreans, they now sit atop Group A of Asian World Cup qualifying with only two games remaining.
Lebanon stunned the Taeguk Warriors with a goal in the 12th minute after a goalmouth scramble following a corner kick led to forward Hassan Maatouk blasting the ball into the net.
After Lebanon took the lead, an anemic South Korean performance followed for the rest of the match. Granted, Lee Chung-yong and Kwak Tae-hwi hit the post in the first and second half respectively, but a porous defense and lack of attacking thrust in midfield, highlighted by the absences of key players such as Ki Sung-yueng and Koo Ja-cheol, mired the Korean side in mediocrity. Continue Reading »