Merrill Newman, recently released from North Korea after weeks of detainment, returned to his Palo Alto home over the weekend. He reportedly said his stay in North Korea was “comfortable,” according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
Newman, an 85-year-old American, added that North Korean authorities kept him in a hotel room, where he was fed traditional Korean food.
North Korean police pulled Newman out of a plane that was set to depart Pyongyang and arrested him in October. Newman, who served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War six decades ago, was visiting the country as a tourist on a 10-day organized tour. (more…)
Manhattan’s Central Synagogue shook things up in their leadership board and announced that Rabbi Angela Warnick Buchdahl will succeed Rabbi Peter Rubinstein as the spiritual leader of the New York congregation.
Buchdahl will become the first woman to take the pulpit in the 174-year-history of the synagogue and her first service is scheduled for July 1. Over a decade ago, she became the first Asian-American rabbi and was declared “emblematic of the changing face of Judaism” by Newsweek.
Born to an Jewish American father and a Korean Buddhist mother, Buchdahl was raised Jewish in Tacoma, Wash. KoreAm published a profile of Buchdahl in 2011, where she explained the complexity of her own identity. (more…)
Upscale outdoor clothing brand Canada Goose is reportedly filing a lawsuit against a South Korean apparel company over allegedly making and selling counterfeit winter jackets.
“It’s the first time this happened in Korea [for Canada Goose], but there was a similar case in the U.S. which eventually led to Canada Goose filing a lawsuit,” a representative of Connexsolution, Korea’s distributor for Canada Goose, told No Cut News. “Canada Goose headquarters is definitely preparing a lawsuit.”
Canada Goose’s winter jackets are highly popular among young South Koreans, but can cost up to $1,000. The alleged counterfeits in Korea are on sale for $200 or less, providing an alternative for budget-minded consumers. (more…)
A North Korean man responsible for undisclosed financial matters of leader Kim Jong-un is seeking asylum in South Korea, in what is being described as the most significant defection in the last 15 years for the communist regime.
Officials in South Korea are reportedly protecting the man who requested asylum two months ago from China after serving as an aide to Jang Song-thaek, the husband of Kim’s aunt who has been a mentor for the North Korean leader and the right-hand man of his deceased father Kim Jong-il. Kim recently ousted Jang from his position.
South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) declined to comment on the defection of the man, whose name is not yet identified. (more…)
Biden Meets with South Korean President
Voice of America
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden met with South Korean President Park Geun-Hye on the lastest stop of an Asian tour dominated by tensions over China’s new Air Defense Identification Zone, or ADIZ.
Biden said at the presidential Blue House in Seoul on Friday that there should be no doubt about Washington’s commitment to preserving balance in the region. Biden told reporters that “the United States never says anything it does not do.”
At a working lunch, President Park spoke about regional issues, including territorial disputes with China, the threat from North Korea and diplomatic tensions with Japan.
No Stranger to Asia, Biden Deploys Political Experience
New York Times
Greeting Chinese leaders at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Wednesday, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. reminded them that he had first been there in 1979, as a young senator, to meet Deng Xiaoping, the reformist Chinese leader. He told President Xi Jinping, 11 years his junior, that he had met enough world leaders to take their measure.
The message was anything but subtle: Joe Biden was not born yesterday, and he is no stranger to Asia. Given the tension, finger pointing and mutual suspicions that he confronted on every stop of his weeklong tour of the region, Mr. Biden’s political instincts, honed over four decades of experience, came in particularly handy this week.
At times, traveling from Japan to China and finally to South Korea on Friday, the vice president seemed less a diplomat or grand strategist than a kindly but stern uncle, called in to smooth ruffled feathers and instruct Asia’s leaders to stop quarreling with one another.
Photos show scale of North Korea’s repressive prison camps — Amnesty
North Korea is showing no signs of scaling back its fearsome labor camp system, with torture, starvation, rape and death a fact of life for tens of thousand of inmates, according to human rights group Amnesty International.
The rights group released satellite images, purportedly showing evidence of expansion, including the construction of new housing blocks and production facilities, at two of the isolated regime’s largest camps or “kwanliso” –15 and 16 — used to hold political prisoners.
“The gruesome reality of North Korea’s continued investment in this vast network of repression has been exposed,” said Rajiv Narayan, Amnesty International’s East Asia Researcher.
‘The other side of North Korea’: A defected smuggler’s extraordinary story
Seongmin was 12 years old when he started smuggling goods in from China. It was the late 1990s, a time when North Korean border communities like his were beginning to change rapidly and in ways we are still trying to understand. The famine that had killed hundreds of thousands of Seongmin’s countrymen was finally winding down, thanks in part to new black markets that provided food where the state could not. The government had either become too weak to stop the smugglers or, perhaps fearing more starvation if they re-sealed the border, simply turned a blind eye.
The first time Seongmin crossed over into China, he says it was simply “out of curiosity.” He lived all of 500 feet from the Tumen River, which separates China from North Korea’s northernmost province, and it was easy enough to cross. He met another child there, who gave him his first piece of chocolate. When he got home, he decided to find something he could bring back to China the next day to trade for more chocolate. So he took the badge of national founder and Eternal President Kim Il Sung that his mother wore on her coat, as all North Koreans were required to do. He’d been told all his life that the badge was any family’s most valuable possession.
More Chinese tourists spend big in S. Korea: report
Chinese tourists are spending more money and staying longer in South Korea than ever before, emerging as the highest-spending overseas visitors to Seoul and some of the most important customers for outlets and shopping centers here, a report showed on Friday.
According to the report compiled by the Hyundai Research Institute, a total of 2.84 million Chinese tourists visited South Korea last year, sharply growing from some 480,000 in 2001.
The portion of Chinese visitors to all overseas visitors surged to 25.5 percent from 9.4 percent over the cited period, the report said.
Asian Americans’ shopping habits make retailers’ eyes light up
Los Angeles Times
In her Tory Burch flats and carrying the requisite Burberry bag, Linda Mar eyes the buttery leather designer purses, pausing to click off the labels: Phillip Lim. Chloe. Prada.
“I want the name brands,” the Taiwanese immigrant says, as she wanders the aisles of Saks Fifth Avenue at South Coast Plaza.
Mar is part of an emerging class of Asian Americans, identified as the “swayable shopaholics,” who now rank as the most prolific and impulsive buyers in the United States, according to a Nielsen report released Thursday.
Rescuers find missing Arcadia woman in Eaton Canyon
Pasadena Star News
A missing Pasadena City College student who sent despondent messages to an ex-boyfriend was found in Eaton Canyon on Friday morning.
Bora Kim, 19, of Arcadia was hoisted out by a helicopter from the Los Angeles County Fire Department, according to Lt. Elisabeth Sachs of the sheriff’s Crescenta Valley station.
Firefighter Brad Idol said Kim was suffering from exposure.
“She was above the second waterfall. I don’t know how she got to the spot where she was at,” Idol said.
Lorde: ‘I love K-Pop, I want Girls’ Generation to teach me to dance’
Lorde has opened up about her love of K-Pop – claiming that she’d to love write for Korean artist Lee Hi and be taught how to dance like Girls’ Generation.
The ‘Royals’ star has been vocal about her love of the genre before, but now in a new interview with Universal Music, she has spoken of her wishlist of collaborations.
“Personally, I really like K-Pop groups,” she said. “I particularly like the musician Lee Hi. I want to try a collaboration with Lee Hi. I also like 2NE1.”
She continued: “It is because their melodies and songs are very interesting. Their melodies are a lot more charming than the Western pop which I grew up listening to. If it is pop music, it should be to that extent.”
Admitting that she doesn’t rate her own dance skills very much, Lorde added: “I think I need to receive a dancing lesson from Girls’ Generation.”
South Korean manhwa seeking to seize manga crown
The Japan News
Look out manga, South Korea is stepping up efforts to spread “manhwa” comics to the rest of the world.
South Korea’s government is promoting manhwa exports by supporting companies distributing comics online and subsidizing translation of the works into English.
“We want to develop South Korea’s manhwa into a global brand and take the place of Japanese manga,” a South Korean government official said.
The South Korean government is encouraging domestic publishers with aspirations of selling comics globally to take part in overseas book fairs. The government set up a program to subsidize exhibition costs and even travel expenses for participants in such events.
Books Special Feature: Maurene Goo on How a Doctor and Lawyer Ended up Writing Young Adult Novels
Scratch the surface of every author, especially those who write for children, and you’ll find a former child booknerd. The kids who escaped their lives in piles of lovingly thumbed-through books. I was that kid. Lydia Kang and Ellen Oh were also that kid. But unlike them—two model Asian American children who earned law and medical degrees before selling their Young Adult (YA) novels to big-time publishers—my path was a little more meandering. A little less the jewel-in-my-parents’-crown and more that worrisome liberal-arts-major-where-did-we-go-wrong-let’s-lend-her-money-kid.
As a teenager, I wanted to be a hard-hitting journalist. But then I went to college and just wanted to write about Chicano literature and postmodernist films. The year after graduation was spent having a grand ol’ time in the midst of extreme aimlessness: working at a big-box bookstore, messing around with coworkers while reading any and all books during my lunch break (The DaVinci Code, anyone?). At some point, I realized I was interested in book publishing and earned a masters degree for it on the East Coast. Back in California, I found publishing jobs few and far between and eventually found my way back to my old flame—writing. I finished writing a young adult novel I had started as a sample for a grad school application, purely for fun, without any goals of getting it published. But as luck would have it, my friend read it and referred me to her agent who eventually sold my book to Scholastic. The book, Since You Asked…, was released this past summer and it chronicles the life of—surprise!—a Korean American teen who has her own newspaper column. It’s amazing to find myself having fulfilled a childhood dream, because it was never a tangible goal at any point in my adult life.
Party in Koreatown?
Los Angeles Times
The Line hotel, a fashion-forward new hotel at 3515 Wilshire Blvd. in Koreatown, will kick off a “soft opening” on Jan. 1 with rates of $168 nightly.
Before you rush to book — and from the looks of the hotel’s website, it is tempting to rush — bear in mind that the place isn’t finished. In January, while those discounts are offered, the hotel’s two restaurants-to-be, nightclub and pool won’t be open. In fact, there may be some construction on site. (The hotel’s opening has been delayed a few times.)
But in the longer term, the temptations are great. The 388-room lodging is surrounded by a big night-life scene, blocks from a snazzy 24-hour Korean spa, three miles west of downtown, six miles east of Beverly Hills. When they open, the hotel’s restaurants are to be Pot (hot-pot cuisine) and Commissary (vegetarian focus), run by Roy Choi, the prolific purveyor of Mexican Korean street food.