Sunday, July 31, 2011

Cars in North Korea - Part 2 (License Plates)

Originally, I was planning on writing a two-part article on cars in North Korea. As my information collecting continued, however, I realized that there are a lot more information out there. So this second part of the series is going to be about license plates of North Korean cars.

Click on the pictures to enlarge.

Source : 지식의 수집광 (Korean Blog)


Not at all sure what to think of this. Just for your information, the Korean word/letter/character on that T-shirt is the word used for 'dung' (they actually sound quite similar, ddong). I'm not sure how they meant to use the word 'crap'... as in "aw crap, I just stepped on... crap).

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Cars in North Korea - Part 1

The little tank thing on the back of the truck is the wood-burning steam engine.
What comes to your mind when you think of cars in North Korea? Probably those old, old cars from 60~70s running on wood fuels, and a few Mercedes for Kim Jong-Il and his henchmen. 

Most people know very well by now that North Korea is one of the poorest countries in the world. They are also the most isolated and the least known. I've put together some interesting things about North Korea's cars in a two-part article. The part 1 is going to be about why these cars are so old, and some interesting by-product of the old cars in North Korea. The part 2 is going to be about what kind of cars are there in North Korea. More specifically, what cars North Korea has produced so far - did you know that they have their own car brand, Victory?

Here is part 1, I hope you find it interesting.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hyunbin (from Secret Garden) in Korean Marine Corps

Hyunbin from Secret Garden
 Hyunbin(현빈) is a popular Korean actor for various Korean drama and film, most notably Secret Garden.

On March 7th, 2011, Hyunbin enlisted with the marine corps of Republic of Korea. All Korean men must join military for approximately 2 years for mandatory service, and celebrities are no exception. Most celebrities, however, join the Army for the shortest service time and to join a specially designated unit for celebrities. Hyunbin took the hard road. Marines, no matter what nationality they are, don't screw around.

Hyunbin's current picture in the marines after the jump.

Rain bombs!

That's friggin' Gangnam!
It's been raining like HELL in Korea the past few days, especially yesterday. The whole nation has been hit, and a lot of rain damage reports have been coming in. If you're in Korea, I pray for your safety. Stay safe!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

'A Country is Hungry' by Cap Anamur

Click pictures for bigger image
A while ago, Stern, a German media network, featured a collection of pictures of North Korea, named A Country is Hungry. These pictures were taken by Cap Anamur, a German civilian aid agency. Cap Anamur was in North Korea in May when they provided a 200 ton food aid and supervised its distribution. These pictures were taken during that process, mostly outside of Pyongyang.

You may think, "Hey, I have seen this kind of photos everywhere!" True, but this is I believe the newest selection of North Korea photos. These poor starving folks are still there. Things have not improved.

I don't speak German, but there are various other Korean blogs and news articles about this collection, so I heard of this collection. If you know German and would like to read the original article and captions, go here : Exklusive Bilder aus Nordkorea Ein Land hungert.

Pictures below.

100% said Yes in North Korean elections

Continuing from the last article about the latest North Korea's election...

North Korea's state-run media claimed that 99.97% of all voters voted during this local election, and 100% of all who voted agreed with the candidates recommended by the dear Party. The other 0.03% was apparently working at sea or overseas, but foreign journalists could not confirm who voted or how the process worked. 
Kim Yong, Chairman of Sub-constituency No. 93 of Constituency No. 57 in Pyongyang, told KCNA that the election is an important occasion. "The election is of weighty significance as it is being held when all the Korean people have turned out in the effort to glorify the 100 year history of Kim Il Sung's Korea," Kim Yong said, referring to the former North Korean leader who was born in 1912 and led the country since its founding in 1948 until his death in 1994.
Just for your information, this sort of shenanigans isn't new at all. For example, Kim Jong-Il, the current leader of North Korea, was elected with 100% turnout and 100% Yes vote to continue his position in 2009. Only if I could find pictures of newspapers then... I just can't seem to find it!

Monday, July 25, 2011

North Korea to open one of the largest hotels of the world

That's the one, in 2009.
Ryugyong Hotel, a construction project that started in North Korea in the 1980s, is finally coming to an end. At the time, this was going to be the tallest building in the world. However, with the economy of the nation collapsing and the Soviet Union dissolving, the project lost its funding and put on hold indefinitely in 1992. For 16 years, it just sat there, looking like a dystopian relic you would only see in video games (picture above).

The pyramid-shaped hotel, the largest structure in North Korea and one of the tallest hotels in the world, will open in 2012, 33 years after it was originally set to accept guests.
Construction on the project was stalled for 15 years until 2008, when Egyptian conglomerate Orascom committed $400 million to finishing it, Architizer reported.
The tower's sleek and shiny facade was finally completed this year.
The hotel, which has more than 3,000 rooms, will reportedly have five revolving restaurants. It is the only hotel in the world with more than 100 stories (source)
Now, the hotel looks a lot less horrifying :

Sunday, July 24, 2011

North Korean Elections

The poster reads : EVERYBODY VOTE YES
On July 24th, North Korea had their elections for local government officials. Unlike what most people would think of elections where you have a set of qualified candidates and you pick the one you want, North Korean elections function a little differently, like all things North Korean. This election consisted of whether you agree or disagree with the 28,000 candidates the Labor Party (the governing body of N. Korea) picked. Look at that bright poster with the slogan : EVERYBODY VOTE YES! (translation : vote yes or you'll die in a labor camp)

The state media reported 99.97% turnout rate. Um, good for you, 'Democratic' People's Republic of Korea.

A glimpse into the daily lives of North Koreans

If the two Korea reunite, or North Korea opens up,
Pyongyang will make a great movie set for  future dystopia movies...
"Jean H. Lee, The Associated Press bureau chief in Seoul, and David Guttenfelder, AP's chief Asia photographer, have made numerous reporting trips to North Korea in recent years. They were granted unprecedented access on their latest journey to Pyongyang and areas outside the nation's showcase capital."

With AP and Reuters opening new bureaus in North Korea, the amount of coverage done in North Korea is increasing accordingly. This time, the AP bureau chief in Seoul, along with the chief photographer, went on a journey to North Korea - especially in the Pyongyang area, with 'unprecedented access'. 

Link is here :

For my thoughts, read more below.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Home 60 years later

Korean War Memorial in Washington D.C.
A heartwarming, yet sad news. An American soldier who went missing during the Korean War 60 years ago was finally identified, and will be laid to rest.

This soldier's name is Army Pfc. Peter Kubic, who went missing in South Korea during the war when he was 22. He will be laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.
On Feb. 12, 1951, Kubic was assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division in South Korea, when his division came under attack near Hoengsong. Following the battle, Kubic was reported missing in action, authorities said.
In the early 1990s, North Korean forces gave the United States 208 boxes believed to contain the remains of up to 400 U.S. servicemen, the department said.
Scientists from the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used mitochondrial DNA to match Kubic's remains with his sister, Elizabeth A. Keileher of Massapequa, N.Y., authorities said. Kubic's military identification tags were included with the boxes of remains handed over to the United States, officials said.
The beloved soldier unfortunately couldn't come home alive, but his legacy did. It's good to know that the US military is doing their best to honor the veterans from more than half a century ago. Private First Class Kubic, we thank you.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

CNN features Korean Susan Boyle

Remember this guy? Sungbong Choi, the geeky-looking kid that went on Korea's Got Talent to tell his life story , sing opera, and bring everyone to tears. (Sung-Bong Choi, "The Korean Susan Boyle")

He has been featured on CNN. Good for him, I hope this international attention will bring him a new path to a better life. The youtube video of Sungbong Choi has over 10 million views now. Check out the CNN article here.

Meet South Korea's answer to Susan Boyle

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tae Bo workout caused a 39-story skyscraper to shake?

A couple weeks ago, people in the TechnoMart building in Gangnam, Seoul felt the building shake up and down. Following the immediate evacuation, the whole country's attention was on this building - what happened? What caused the building to shake vertically?

Well it turns out, at least this is what the scientists have determined, this is what happened. (CNN article)
Seventeen people performing a vigorous Tae Bo workout caused tremors that forced the evacuation of a South Korean skyscraper earlier this month, the building's owners say.
Prime Group, owner of the 39-story TechnoMart commercial-residential high-rise in Seoul, said 17 middle-aged people were working out to the pop song "The Power" by Snap on July 5 when their movements set the upper floors of the tower shaking for 10 minutes.
 Alright, a couple things, besides the obvious that they should build stronger buildings that can withstand physical shock and whatnot. (Earthquakes rarely happen in the Korean peninsula. When they do, they're always really minor... which is why most buildings in Korea have more lenient building standards than say, California.)

Why is there a gym, especially for a sports that mostly involves a lot of people jumping up and down at the same time, on a 39-story skyscraper? Shouldn't something like this be like, I dunno, on the ground?

And is it just me, or do you think they would've figured this out in like 3 days if they just asked Mythbusters to figure this out on TV?

Freeway/Highway in North Korea

No, this is NOT North Korea. Hello Los Angeles.
Having lived in Los Angeles, above picture is about the only thing that comes to mind (I lived rather close to the 405-101 freeway intersection, known for the worst traffic jam in the nation). I am actually quite glad that I wasn't present in LA during the recent KARMAGEDDON. So if you live in an area where you just don't drive for the sake of sanity on Friday afternoons (if you live in a big city, you'd know what I mean), you might almost envy North Korea for rather creepy reasons. Pictures below.

Korean Ferrari dream come true

Three Korean students from Hongik University won the first place in Ferrari's World Design Contest 2011. These students, Kim Cheong Ju, Ahn Dre, Lee Sahngseok took first place with their "Eternity".
Four hundred different projects from 50 elite design schools and universities from all over the world competed in this epic design contest. Kudos for these students! I probably won't be able to afford a Ferrari anytime soon (if ever), but that sure looks like a sweet ride.

Monday, July 18, 2011

North Korea's solution to famine : luxury restaurant

Here we are again, in the magical place we call North Korea, where logic and reason don't ever seem to apply. If you've been paying attention to the happenings around the world recently, you probably have read a few articles about the food shortage in North Korea. So what does the North Korean government do?

Build an uber-luxurious restaurant.
Source : ABC

ABC recently has been reporting some unique news reports on North Korea. The most recent one is this.
The capital of North Korea has been previously best known for its gastronomic delicacy of cold noodles in broth – slyly called Pyongyang deoldeori, which translates to "shivering in Pyongyang."
More after the jump.

Daniel D. Yoo, First Korean American General (to-be) receives honor from Korean community in LA

More Korean-American power! Daniel D. Yoo, who is set to be the first Korea American general in the US Armed Forces, has been selected by the Koreans Abroad Foundation (미주동포후원재단, not sure the exact translation to English) from Los Angeles to receive "Proud Korean Award".
Col. Daniel D. Yoo
Daniel Yoo is a colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps, and he has been nominated to be the first general (Brigadier-General to be exact, one star) with Korean American descent in the U.S. Armed Forces. And the Korean community in LA is showing the appreciation for his hard work. Good for you, general!

Sources : (English) (Korean)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Newspaper in North Korea Part 2

The main source of this article, yet again, is Joo Sung-Ha's N. Korea blog - N. Korea Real Talk.
If you want to read the Part 1 of this article, go here.

From the blog :
Where would you find a newspaper with virtually no mistake, no typo, no misplacement?
Of course, nobody in the world reads every single newspaper in the world, and I don't either... but if I were to answer, I would say North Korea.
This looks like a public newspaper in a subway station in North Korea

Korean Slut Walk 2011

Slut Walk, began as a protest demonstration in Canada when a police officer basically blamed rape on women's responsibility, that a woman who dress like a 'slut' is asking for it (in a nutshell).

Well, it arrived in Korea too, in Hongdae. Korea is still a society where women are relatively treated worse than men (not that the situation hasn't improved, but I believe it's still got a long way to go). I thought of this event as a pleasant surprise, though most news media portrayed this event as a bunch of crazy slutty women making a ruckus.

I'm going to leave Roboseyo to comment on this event. He wrote a lengthy and very insightful blog post about it.

Roboseyo : Slutwalk Seoul 2011

North Korean Musk Deer Gland Doping Scandal

Remember when North Korea's Women's World Cup team supposedly got struck by lightening? Remember how two of them got busted for doping? Well... 3 more tested positive for doping.

...Doping with musk deer glands.

I'm not kidding, this is a quote from an AP article.
FIFA has already met with a North Korean delegation and heard arguments that the steroids were accidentally taken with traditional Chinese medicines based on musk deer glands to treat players who had been struck by lightning on June 8 during a training camp in North Korea.
The gland in question comes from musk deer living in a large swathe of Asia from Siberia to North Korea. The hairy 4-centimeter gland is usually cut open to extract a liquid that is used for medical purposes. 
Understandably, he FIFA officials are having a hard time with this case. Apparently this is the first time a hair-deer-sack doping case has ever happened to the organization. Also, the circumstances surrounding this doping case and the lightening strikes that apparently sent "more than 5 players to hospital" are also very hairy. Ahem. Read more about it here. North Korea Doping Scandal: 3 More Players Test Positive For Steroids At Women's World Cup

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Busy week!

I've been god-awfully busy this week, so there will be no post for a few days.

But if you're here reading this, a funny video!

Monday, July 11, 2011

North Korea, where the dead reigns

Official North Korean portrait of Kim Il-Sung
In reality, he looked more like this
In North Korea, Kim Jong-Il (who we know as the current leader of the nation) is the "Great Leader". His father  who founded North Korea, Kim Il-Sung, however, is the "Eternal Leader'.

So how do they keep him eternal? He actually still sits on the highest seat of the Party, as the supreme, eternal, and the greatest leader of all. His actual body still sits in a glass coffin, available for public view.

When Kim Il-Sung died in 1994, his body was processed for preservation by a Russian institute called "Biological Research Center", using a technology called 'embalming'.

First, the body was put in a container full of balsamic liquid. Brain, eyeballs, internal organs were removed and replaced with balsamic gel, then the body was dried in open air. Afterwards, to prevent the balsamic liquid from escaping the body, leather cloths were used to cover his body like a mummy, and make up cosmetics were used on his face. More after the jump.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Kim Jong-Il and his love for Basketball

Ri Myung Hun, 7 feet 8.5 inches. No joke.
I stumbled on this article from 2006, from San Diego's Union Tribe, named "The Oddest Fan".

The infamous reputation of Kim Jong-Il has been around for years. But why is it that all modern dictators are so comically evil in that they have really unexpected hobbies, and always take those to the extreme?

Don't know what I'm talking about? Here's one thing Kim Jong-Il absolutely loves : Basketball. His all-time hero is Michael Jordan, and he built a damn museum for his signball he got from the US. Like how US played "ping-pong policy" against China to ease the tension between the two nations years ago, apparently the term "basketball-policy" has been coined as well for North Korea.

Here's one from the article for your taste, check out the article here.
Chinese media have reported that the country even developed its own scoring system, with three points for a dunk, four points for a three-pointer that does not touch the rim and eight points for a basket scored in the final three seconds. Miss a free throw, and it's minus one.
Oh, and did you also know that the first Asian to almost play in the NBA was North Korean? His name is Ri Myung Hun, and he was 7 feet 8.5 inches tall. He was planning to play in the NBA during the 1990s until the State Department shot it down. Take that, Yao Ming.

North Korean Flag Redesigned

Saw this on, from their "If Flags Got Awesome Redesigns" segment. Much better than their current flag, which seems nowdays like a flag from a videogame.

Who the heck is that snowboarding (or flameboarding, I must say) in the back anyway?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

North Korea's Soccer Team hit by lightening... now doping test

In case you didn't know, Women's World Cup games are going on right now. And this made me crack up a little, then sad.

On June 29th, North Korea had a soccer game with the USA in Germany and lost by 2-0. After the game, the coach said during the interview that 5 of the players were hit by a lightening and got hospitalized. This made the front page titles then... and now...

FIFA announced this yesterday :
Defenders Song Jong Sun and Jong Pok Sim tested positive after North Korea's first two group games and were suspended for Wednesday's match against Colombia that ended in a 0-0 draw. Both teams were eliminated.
According to FIFA's doping test rules, the rest of the team will be tested as well. It'll be interesting to see how this will turn out.

More here :

Newspaper in North Korea

As you might expect, it starts with "The Great Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il..."
This article is about North Korean newspapers, and like all things North Korean, what's so extraordinary and weird about it. Main source of this article is the blog of Joo Sung-ha, a journalist from Donga media (webpage : 주성하의 북한 Real talk)

Generally, the purpose of newspapers is to inform people of current affairs and breaking stories. North Korean newspapers, however, exists to spread Party propaganda and "educate" people of the Party's notions. Total of 30 newspapers exist in North Korea, 16 of them are daily newspapers.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

North Korean Girl's Generation?

Excuse my TERRIBLE image editing skill. I'm really not cut out for this kinda work...
 but at least you can tell which one's which.
Recently, "North Korean Girl's Generation" had become a popular topic in Korean media. A Youtube-like Chinese website posted this video of 11 North Korean girls singing and performing. Although unclear, this video is thought to be a performance for Chinese tourists visiting North Korea, and some Chinese tourist filmed it and posted online.

So uh, that's the story. Korean media agencies spent a few days RAGING over this one-minute-long video.
Well... decide for yourselves...

But hey, if you're into this... uh, uber-conservative (in North Korea, skirts like that are considered very very inappropriate) performance with 1960s feel to it, North Korea has them. Kudos.

Daum App updates with SNSD (Girl's Generation) Themes

Daum Smartphone Application released ver. 2.7 of the app, with a SNSD (Girl's Generation) theme included in the update. The update began on the 29th of the last month, and in mere 4 days over 100,000 people applied this SNSD theme, which amounts to 60% of all users.

Skipping all the jargon about the app, let's get to the SNSD theme part. : ]

If you have an iphone, you can get 12 different themes including the members of SNSD, and movie themes for the group members.

If you have an Android phone, you can get 6 SNSD themes and 12 ordinary themes.

The developers of the app says that more will come, hopefully themes for other K-Pop members as well.

Source : 소녀시대와 함께 하는 다음 앱 ‘인기 급상승’ (Korean)
              Daum updates with new Girl's Generation Themes

Pyeongchang wins bid to host 2018 Winter Olympics

That's President Lee Myung-Bak, president of South Korea
Shortly after midnight, on July 7th, 2011, a whole nation celebrated. Republic of Korea (South Korea) was selected to host the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, after beating Munich, Anncy, and many other nations. At the International Olympic Committee in Durban, South Africa, president Lee Myung Bak, big chairman Yang Ho Cho, Korean Olympic Committee President Yong Sung Park, a Korean-adoptee and US Skier Toby Dawson, and the all-so-popular Olympic figure skating queen Kim Yuna and many other have been there, passionately promoting Pyeongchang for the upcoming event.

This will be the third time Winter Olympics is going to be held in Asia (first two being in Japan), and first time South Korea is hosting Winter Olympics. South Korea hosted Summer Olympics back in 1988, which is still greatly regarded as a cornerstone event for the nation's growth.

For an event that is still 7 years away, the whole nation stayed up late to find out if Pyeongchang had won. And it did - by a large margin as well. A lot of work and effort by many many people have paid off. It's a good day for Korea.

Source : IOC gets it right: Pyeongchang will host 2018 Winter Olympics
And many many many many many other Korean news articles.

EDIT : Ugh, this is officially the biggest news in Korea right now. If I hear any more "Pyeongchang" on television every 2 seconds I might go insane.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

This kid knows how to study

Heh, a funny picture I saw today... Taken from Chinese Twitter-like website, Weibo. This college student in China, in the middle of his finals, decided to find a more quiet and peaceful place to study. Well, there you have it. And yes, that is the entrance to the building he is quite literally sitting on.

Sorta wish I knew this way back in college... away from noisy roommates and neighbors. Hah.

Korean American HipHop artist : Dumbfoundead

Dumbfoundead is one of my favorite musicians of all. He is a underground hip hop artist in the Los Angeles area. I'm not big on hip-hop, but when I heard him first time (at a bar) I was totally hooked. Even if you don't think hip hop/rap is your thing, this guy is totally worth checking out. You can check out more information about him on his website here and wikipedia. Below are the video clips of some of my favorite DFD's songs.

SNSD(Girl's Generation)'s YoonA military-style

Click for full-screen size
YoonA, from SNSD (Girl's Generation) in Korena military uniform.

Only Korean men who have gone though Korean military would understand why this photo is... so great. (Okay, maybe it applies to all military men... but Korean men especially.)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Also, Happy Birthday America. Enjoy my share of fireworks too.

Fotopedia North Korea : Pictures in Apple App Store now

A screenshot from the appstore
Fotopedia has released a new app for Iphones/Ipad/Itouch called Fotopedia : North Korea. Here's what the fotopedia website says about the app :
Cross the border and explore the most secretive country on Earth.
In the era of satellites, the Internet, CNN and YouTube, it is still hard to even imagine what North Korea looks like.
This is the country with the fourth-largest army in the world, a ubiquitous cult of the personality for its Great and Dear Leaders, mass games (Arirang) with over 100,000 performers, amazingly empty large roads and a national airport offering only one international flight, on certain days.
Eric Lafforgue’s amazing photographic work tells the story with his unique style blending art and realism.
See it for yourself now. 
This application is FREE! So there is no risk in check it out. This app actually has very decent and positive reviews (34 reviews and 4.5 star rating), so it looks hopeful. 

This photographic collection was made by Eric Lafforgue, a French photographer who visited North Korea in 2008 and took 1142 pictures for this album. 

Fotopedia : North Korea Official Website
Apple Appstore page for the application

Related Articles : Fotopedia North Korea: A Glimpse into a Secret World

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Korean B-Boy Phenomenon

What is a B-Boy?
B-Boy(비보이) refers to a professional male breakdancer. B supposedly stands for 'break' of breakdancing. However, others point to the origins of breakdancing and claims that the 'B' stands for Bronx of New York City, where the dancing genre originated. When there is a competition for B-Boy dancing, they call the event a 'Battle.' Although created in the midst of gang violence and terror, many assess breakdancing as a form of art with a thirst for freedom and escape from violence, poverty, and oppression.

Now B-Boy dancing is an international phenomenon, with South Korea, Germany, Japan, USA, France, and Italy being some of the major players. South Korea's B-Boy teams are widely said to be the best leading group among all, sweeping through competitions like Germany's 'Battle of the Year', UK's 'UK B-Boy Championship', USA's 'Freestyle Session', and an international event 'Redbull BC One'. 

Female counterpart of B-Boy is called B-Girl (duh).

B-Boy in Korea
As said above, B-Boy dancing is very popular in Korea. The latest statistics(2006) say that there were at least 3,000 B-Boys in Korea, at least 100 being world-class dancers. Korean B-Boy dancing videos are like classic textbooks for lots of B-Boys across the globe. During 2008 Beijing Olympics opening ceremony, a Korean B-Boy group "Gambler" performed live, and in 2006 the world-first B-Boy theater opened in Seoul, Hongdae.

The 'first' generation B-Boy groups in Korea include 'People Crew', 'Expression', 'Visual Shock', 'Subway', and 'Spark'. Second generation includes 'Gambler', 'Reverse' and 'Extreme Crew'. Third includes 'Last for One', and so on. More videos and information below.