Tuesday’s Link Attack: NK Defector, Playwright Young Jean Lee, North Face Bullies
Y. Peter Kang
Author: Y. Peter Kang
Posted: January 17th, 2012
Filed Under: BLOG
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North Korea defector learns to trust the stranger who saved him
Los Angeles Times

On his first day of freedom, North Korean defector Kim Yong-chul sat crossed-legged on the floor of a small apartment without a stick of furniture. He ate fried chicken and pork belly, washed down with celebratory shots of soju from a paper cup, toasting the stranger he says saved his life.

Krys Lee is no stranger now. The Korean American writer is more like a fussy parent, worrying that the fortysomething refugee was drinking too much and might fall prey to other addictions in South Korea’s culture of plenty.

That morning, Lee had greeted Kim as he emerged from a high-security facility near Seoul, the South Korean capital, that serves as a decompression chamber for defectors from the North. Like other defectors, Kim had adopted a new name in hope of protecting relatives in North Korea. His was Yong-chul, “the wanderer.”

Krys Lee tweeted KoreAm yesterday that defector Kim recently found a job.

AP opens full news bureau in North Korea
AP via Google News

The Associated Press has opened its newest bureau here, becoming the first international news organization with a full-time presence to cover news from North Korea in words, pictures and video.

In a ceremony Monday that came less than a month after the death of longtime ruler Kim Jong Il and capped nearly a year of discussions, AP President and CEO Tom Curley and a delegation of top AP editors inaugurated the office, situated inside the headquarters of the state-run Korean Central News Agency in downtown Pyongyang.

The bureau expands the AP’s presence in North Korea, building on the breakthrough in 2006 when AP opened a video bureau in Pyongyang for the first time by an international news organization. Exclusive video from AP video staffers in Pyongyang was used by media outlets around the world following Kim’s death.

What It’s Like Chatting Up Kim Jong Nam
Wall Street Journal

So can just anyone talk to Kim Jong Nam these days? It would seem so after Korean newspapers reported on Monday that Kim Jong Il’s number-one son was spotted in the Beijing airport by several South Koreans on Saturday afternoon.

The Chosun Ilbo, South Korea’s largest paper by circulation, carried the news that one intrepid professor from Incheon went right up to Kim Jong Nam and engaged him in a brief conversation. The professor, it turns out, is the paper’s former Beijing correspondent Park Sung-joon, who now teaches Chinese studies at the University of Incheon.

“Kim Jong Nam had been on my wish list of people who I wanted to meet,” Mr. Park said in an interview Tuesday. He said he had no trouble recognizing Mr. Kim but was surprised to find him sitting on his own waiting for a flight from Beijing to Macau.

“I approached him and said, `Excuse me, are you Mr. Kim Jong-nam?’ Then he stood up from his seat and answered modestly, `Yes, I am,’” Mr. Park said.

Kim brother says N.Korea heading for collapse: book
AFP via Yahoo News

The eldest brother of North Korea’s new leader says reforms needed to avert the collapse of the country’s economy will lead to the end of its Stalinist regime, according to a book to be published this week.

Kim Jong-Nam, the half brother of Kim Jong-Un who took control of the hermit state on the death of their father last month, says the military has become so powerful it will step in and take over.

The comments come in a book by Yoji Gomi, a Japanese journalist who says he built a relationship with Jong-Nam after the pair met in Beijing in 2004.

“My father Kim Jong-Il and Me” will be published in Japan by Bungeishunju on Friday.

Koreans in US hop on new biz trend
Korea Times

Besides dry cleaners and video stores, computer repair, alteration and stationary shops are also losing steam, according to Korean associations.

So which businesses are up and coming? Bakeries, frozen yogurt shops, pet care units and postpartum care centers are among those that are emerging.

“We’re noticing that fresh Korean immigrants go for businesses that are less labor intensive and more service-centered,” says Lee, an official of the Federation of Korean Associations. “The key is to offer something that they can’t get from conventional American businesses.”

‘Hillary’s lawyer’ proud of motherland Korea
Yonhap News via Korea Times

Working as the chief legal adviser of the U.S. State Department, Harold Hongju Koh calls Secretary of State Hillary Clinton his “client,” rather than the boss.

Koh, a prominent Korean-American expert on international law, starts his working day by meeting with Clinton.

“I am the legal adviser of the U.S. Department of State, which means that I am a lawyer for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and I do the international law work for the U.S. Department of State. I supervise a law firm of about 200 international lawyers, which I think is the best international law firm in the world,” he said in an interview at his office in the department.

Korean festival blooms with cultural life
Orange County Register

Amid the scent of barbecued meat and the tinny voices of a Korean children’s choir, Shu Soon Ja’s brush strokes weaved pink orchids and green bamboo shoots on thin sheets of paper. As passersby stopped at the booth, Ja waved her hand at the pile of water-color florals, inviting people to select one that was most appealing.

Hundreds of people gathered at the Irvine Civic Center Plaza on Saturday afternoon to celebrate the city’s third annual Korean Cultural Festival. City Councilman Steven Choi started the festival to celebrate national Korean-American Day, designated Jan. 13 by Congress.

Beneath Pink Parasols, Identity in Stark Form
New York Times

Young Jean Lee is, hands down, the most adventurous downtown playwright of her generation. In previous shows this Korean-American writer has devised a comic revue about black identity politics, retailored Shakespeare’s “King Lear” and taken to the stage herself to perform a cabaret act mostly about death.

Ms. Lee has said in interviews that she is motivated, in part, by scaring herself nearly to death with each new endeavor. Her latest, called “Untitled Feminist Show” and presented as part of the Coil festival organized by Performance Space 122, may well be her most daunting attempt to push her talent in a new direction. This time she has dispensed entirely with words to create a frolicsome if fuzzy riff on the female body and the female spirit, through movement (and music) alone.

In South Korea, North Face jackets tied to wave of bullying, theft
Los Angeles Times

The winter jackets, long popular among grade-school and high-school students, have become the objects of robbery and bullying, authorities say.

In recent months, half a dozen students have committed suicide after being bullied at school, authorities said, leading beleaguered education officials to institute a rash of new security measures, including starting plainclothes-police patrols and prosecuting teenage suspects.

In many cases, the jackets are part of the bully’s agenda, officials said.

Victims have been forced to buy used jackets from other students, and jackets have been snatched and stolen. Students caught burglarizing a house outside Seoul told police they were trying to get money to buy North Face jackets, which range in price from $200 to $600.

Mina Cheon treats politics like lollipops
Korea Times

An enlarged DIY action figure of U.S. president Barack Obama rotates in the middle of the exhibition hall and dances to the “Hooked on a Feeling” ooga chaka refrain featured in the hit Fox-TV series “Ally McBeal” in a video installation titled “Obama Dancing.” This is “The “Obama Room,” a part of Korean-American artist Mina Cheon’s exhibition “Polipop” at Sungkok Art Museum in Seoul.

Is Hollywood ‘whitewashing’ Asian roles?

America’s embrace of Japanese pop culture, particularly manga and anime, hasn’t resulted in an embrace of Asian and Asian-American actors when those storylines go to Hollywood.

Two upcoming feature films based on Japanese material are already stirring controversy after rumors that white American actors will be cast as characters originally written as Japanese.

Tom Cruise is rumored to be in talks to play the lead role in the Warner Bros. adaptation of Japanese novel “All You Need is Kill,” replacing a Japanese main character. Warner Bros., which is owned by the same parent company as CNN, is also in the pre-production stages of making a live-action version of “Akira,” a graphic novel that was made into a landmark 1988 animated feature film in Japan. All of the actors rumored to be in consideration for the upcoming film’s main characters are white Americans, although casting calls invited actors of “any race” to audition.

That’s troubling to both the series’ devoted fans and advocates of diversity in casting.

Korean couple recalls 30 hours trapped in wrecked ship
Yonhap via Korea Times

A Korean honeymoon couple who survived a fatal cruise ship accident in Italy on Monday recounted their panic-filled 30 hours spent trapped inside the darkened and upended ship.

“We slipped into the corridor as water began to rise in our cabin. We then shouted ourselves hoarse calling for help and blew the whistles attached to our life jackets,” said Han Gi-deok, a 29-year-old schoolteacher, in an interview with Yonhap News Agency.

“We subsisted on a few bits of cookies and water, worrying that we may be trapped there for a long time,” said Han’s 29-year-old wife, Jeong Hye-jin, who also is a teacher.

The couple were rescued on Sunday morning after the luxury cruise Costa Concordia struck a rock and keeled over in shallow waters late Friday off Italy’s Tuscan coast with more than 3,000 passengers and 1,000 crewmembers aboard.

Researcher’s aim: discover, share Asians’ local history
Austin American Statesman (Texas)

A former railroad laborer who worked his way down to Central Texas during the 1800s,Joe Lung and his family served three kinds of food to Austinites. At Joe Lung’s Cafe downtown, the prime menu item was the 25-cent steak dinner, beloved by legislators on a budget. Nearby, Lung’s Chinese Kitchen offered the first tastes of Asian cuisine to many Austinites. The Lung family’s Cocina del Sur, in what was then North Austin, added to the city’s wealth of Mexican food.

Esther Chung, the Asian American community liaison at the Austin History Center, researched these long-closed eateries in 2010 while putting together “Pioneers from the East: First Chinese Families,” a tantalizing exhibit that inspired several articles and columns in this newspaper.

The stories keep on coming, especially as the city’s Asian American populace grows and transforms. Seoul-born Chung, 36, employs census data, city directories, architectural drawings, clippings files, biographical files, videos, oral history recordings and more than a million photographs in the center’s collection to help Asian Americans recover their cultural and familial legacies.

Margaret Cho: The Girl With the Genteel Tattoo
Wall Street Journal via YouTube

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