Wednesday, November 30, 2011

More pictures of life in Pyongyang

Source : North Korea RT by Joo Sung-ha

The original source of these pictures is David Guttenfelder from Associated Press. I couldn't find more information about these photos, but as you can probably tell, these pictures are for PR purposes. Virtually all these pictures are staged. Enjoy the pictures, as these are from the most isolated regime of the world.

March 10th, 2011. Pyongyang subway
March 9th. A girl playing piano

CNNgo's 40 Essential Korean Food

Pajeon. I don't know what the official English name for this is, but I call it Korean pancake.
Another CNNgo article. CNNgo has featured "40 Korean foods we can't live without". It is a list of 40 popular Korean foods this writer picked. Certainly not the best list of good Korean food, but it is nevertheless a good read for anyone who wants to know more about Korean food. Take a look :

40 Korean foods we can't live without

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Fake City of North Korea, Pyongyang

Also, the ultimate movie-set for any future-Utopia settings
Recently, Pyongyang's been busy with building new apartment buildings and other high-rise buildings.

According to a Japanese news media, there are 14 building projects in process for high rise buildings of 14~45 stories. "Approximately 20,000 people are mobilized to work in rotating shifts," and the buildings are adding a new floor every 2 days, to finish up the whole project by March.

Besides these high-rises, North Korea is also building theaters, department stores, and an aquarium. Quoting North Korea's Central News Media regarding an aquarium with dolphins : "The Dolphin Hall will have a thousand seats to show off the talents of our dolphins."

North Korean government is calling this building project "The New Pyongyang Speed Battle", referring to the reconstruction project that took place after the Korean War. However, American experts are calling this movement "a show-only project for their Great Nation project." (North Korea has picked the year of 2012 as their year to become a 'great nation' of prosperity and whatnot) Experts agree that this building project is similar to what the Soviet Union did back in the day, building fake propaganda villages for advertising purposes.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Android game apps coming back to Korea

Remember how Apple re-opened the game market on its app store right before iPhone 4S was released in South Korea? Google has announced now, effective immediately, that Android app store will also re-open the game store in Korea as well. Cheers to all smartphone owners in Korea! You can now all go play Angry Birds.

Source : Games return to Android Market in South Korea


Steven Hawking would be jealous of.... whatever this is.
On the 26th, JKS (Jang Kun-suk) opened his solo concert 'THE CRI SHOW-BEGINNING' at the Tokyo Dome.

The concert, consisted mostly of his drama OSTs and his songs released in Japan, was filled up with all 45,000 seats of the concert hall. What a comparison considering that 3 years ago, he could not fill 2,000 seats at his first fan-meeting. After mere three years, he has impressed almost 50,000 people at his live concert.

For more information and fan accounts of the concert, check out this article : [Fan Account] THE CRI SHOW at Tokyo Dome

Thursday, November 10, 2011

North Korea, a presidential challenge

National Journal's World Map of Foreign Policy Challenge (Source : NJ)

National Journal, a non-partisan magazine on current affairs, wrote a list of "Ten Foreign Policy Challenges for the Next President." One of those ten presidential challenges is, not so surprisingly, North Korea. From National Journal :
~ ~ ~
North Korea remains the most reclusive and isolated nation on earth, and one of the most dangerous—thanks to its enigmatic leader Kim Jung-Il’s repressive regime, its dangerous military confrontations with South Korea, and its continuing pursuit of nuclear weapons. 

Last year, North Korean forces torpedoed a South Korean naval vessel, killing 46 sailors; and shelled a South Korean island, killing two marines. Seoul was restrained last year but has promised to retaliate against any more provocations from Pyongyang, worrying officials in the U.S. and Japan. 

So far, 2011 has been quiet, and last month the North Korean regime resumed denuclearization talks with the United States; previous talks have resulted in food aid for the famished nation. But Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, in Asia at the time, said he was “skeptical” and warned Pyongyang “continues to engage in reckless and provocative behavior.”

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

North Korea cuts airways with Middle East

From Yonhap News
With many Middle Eastern nations revolutionizing themselves and removing their long-term dictators, North Korea has started shutting itself away. According to Yonhap News, North Korea has recently cancelled airline service with Kuwait, without any known reasons.

Kuwait has been the only Middle Eastern nation reachable by airplane from North Korea. The airline service started in last May, one flight a week.

In addition to this, North Korea has been doing its best to block all information/personnel flow between North Korea and Middle Eastern nations, such as banning all workers from Libya from returning to North Korea.
Source : 北고려항공, 중동노선 폐지…`재스민' 차단?

Google Planning K-Pop Exclusive Channel

Google CEO Eric Schmidt with President Lee Myung-Bak (Source : Wall Street Journal)
According to the Wall Street Journal, Google is planning an exclusive Youtube channel for K-Pop. And Girl's Generation(SNSD)'s Yuri made it on the Wall Street Journal! From the WSJ article :

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt is in Seoul to meet with executives at several major IT companies over the next couple of days. One of the first stops was the Blue House, where he talked with President Lee Myung-bak about cooperation between Korean IT firms and Google, and Mr. Schmidt said Google intends to set up a YouTube channel for Korean pop music, or K-pop.

This is an exciting news, and it seem like Google's got a lot more plans for Korea in the future. For more, read the WSJ article : Google Plans K-Pop Channel, and More?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Rain to be an Army Assistant Instructor

Korean Pop star Rain (real name : Jung Jee-Hoon), who enlisted in Korean military this October, has been selected as an Assistant Instructor for the 5th Division's Recruit Training Center(RTC). According to ROK's Army, "Rain has been selected as an Assistant Instructor for RTC on the 4th of November. When he is done with training, he will be placed in his position on the 9th of December."

RTC Assistant Instructors are selected among the recruits with the best Basic Training results, if he agrees to do so. According to an Army official, "Rain was a good leader among his squad mates, finished his training with excellent results. He also wanted to become an Assistant Instructor, so he was selected."

Rain will continue his military service for the total duration of 21 months, and will be discharged in July, 2013.

North Korea Human Rights International Film Festival

NKnet is hosting the first-ever North Korean Human Rights International Film Festival in Seoul on November 10~11, 2011. This event will include documentaries, new film shorts, and commercial films.

The films featured are : North Korea VJ, Lonely Echo, The Daughter of Tonyeong, Winter Butterfly, Dooman River, Children of Ryanggangdo, Crossing, Elephant in the Room, Final Report, and Inside.

For more information, visit the event website here.
Below is their itinerary.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Flowers for Kim Il-Sung Statue

Source : Free North Korea Radio
From Free North Korea Radio (
When there are major events going on in North Korea, such as birthday of Kim Jong-Il or Kim Il-Sung, every statue of Kim Il-Sung in every North Korean city gets surrounded by bouquets of flowers. These bouquets do not come from local citizens voluntarily; instead, local factory organizations split the cost, and the local government office buys the flowers and puts them around the statue.

But when there are no events going on, there are usually only one or two bouquets around the statue. This is because local citizens put them there to make the statue not look so desolate, but it doesn't seem to help much.

The Kim Il-Sung statues in Pyongyang and Shin-ui-joo are always full of bouquets because foreign tourists like Chinese tourists are forced to buy and leave a flower bouquet at the statue. This is known to be a moneymaking scheme by the government.

A Chinese tourist that recently visited North Korea posted on his blog( that the flowers that are offered at these statues get 'recycled' and sold again.

According to his blog, "I bought a 20 yuan bouquet to offer at the Kim Il-Sung statue. Before I even bought the bouquet, the flowers were already dead. After we offered the flowers and toured around the museum, the flowers around the statue were all gone."

The government forces their own citizens and tourists to buy and offer flowers to the statue every time, but where do they come up with the money? Just sell them again after use.

나는 가수다(I am a singer) in the US?

Saw this off The Korean's facebook page. Translation below.
Inviting professional musicians and singers and putting them through a survival-elimination style program, I am a Singer(나는 가수다) of MBC has become very popular in Korea. And this program is about to go international in the United States! MBC has now finished contracting with a US firm.

MBC's CEO announced this news at an event for MBC's 50th year. He said, "The format of I'm a Singer was sold for a million dollars for the US firm, and it was also sold to a Chinese firm." Previously, one of the PDs for the show has said that they were considering selling the format of the show to producers in the US and Japan.

Although I'm a Singer has brought up problems like spoilers and the fact that professional musicians are scored solely by the audience, without any professional reviews, the popularity of the show was beyond anybody's imagination. As soon as the news about an American version of the show came out, Korean internet users have already started speculating about the show.

Currently, I'm a Singer is in its 9th round, getting ready for the second performance of the round.
(Sorry for the poor translation today. I'm just not myself right now...@_@)
Source : ‘나는 가수다’ 미국 간다

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Korean Cars dominate Canada?

2012 Hyundai Elantra
We all know that Korean automobiles have come a very long way. Korean automobile brands like Hyundai and Kia have become very popular virtually everywhere in the world. Even if you're not a fan of these brands, you must admit that Korean cars are generally a very decent buy, especially if you're on a lower budget.

Well, according to AJAC(Automobile Journalist Association of Canada)'s Testfest event, Hyundai and Kia came up as big winners of the contest. 

2012 Hyundai Accent : Best New Small Car (under $21,000)
2012 Hyundai Elantra : Best New Small Car (over $21,000)
2012 Kia Optima LX : Best New Family Car (under $30,000)

Seoul Lantern Festival 2011

From CNNgo :

Cool Seoul photo-op alert -- the annual Seoul Lantern Festival kicks off today at Cheonggyecheon in Jongno-gu. 
30,000 colored lanterns will float on the water and in the air along the 1.3-kilometer stretch from Cheonggye Plaza to Jongno-3-ga. 
The theme of this year's festival? "Seoul of yore," as told through lanterns shaped like traditional landmarks and historical figures from past dynasties.
The theme seems to be a loose one, however, as robots and cartoon characters will also be on display, as well as works from Japan and the Philippines. 
The lights will be on from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. daily. Admission is free. 
Besides all these, you will find special and traditional Japanese lanterns, and Philippines' beautiful Christmas lanterns too. Grab a camera and get out there!

For more : Seoul Lantern Festival

Thursday, November 3, 2011

CECC : 100,000 N. Korean Orphans in China

North Korean orphans. Source : Han-Schneider International Children's Foundation
You may have heard of human rights problems in China through the recently released US Congressional-Executive Commission on China. You can read more about the overall report in this Voice of America(VOA) article : US Congressional Report Notes Marked Drop in China Human Rights

But what you may have missed if you only read news articles is the part about North Korean refugees hiding in China. China has been forcefully sorting out North Korean defectors hiding in China, and deporting them back to North Korea. It is well known that those deported back are subject to death or labor camp. The biggest victims of this deportation policy, it was revealed, are women and their children. 

VOA Korea actually has an article focusing on this issue : 미 의회 중국위원회, `중국 내 무국적 탈북 고아 최대 10만 명’ Below is the translation.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

No more iphone game ban in Korea

Source : CNET
If you're an iphone user living in Korea, using Korean iOS, then rejoice! Same goes to game developers, because Korea is one of the biggest videogame markets in the world. Can you believe it? There was actually no 'games' tab if you went on itunes with your iphone in Korea. No Angry Birds! (though Angry Birds merchandises are everywhere in Korea... err)

As far as I know, the ban went on about 2 years ago. I was not in Korea at the time, I totally missed this news at the time (presumably too busy playing Angry Birds or something). According to my colleague, who is a software/game developer, this ban was placed primarily by the works of Ministry of Gender Equality (if you translate directly, it is Ministry of Women). Ministry of GE has been pushing a lot of regulations against video games, for developers and players alike. Android users have been suffering the same treatment, having to access international or US software markets/networks to access games.

Well, not anymore! Go enjoy some awesome games on your new iPhone 4S!

Dokdo Wine 799-805

Do you know what Dokdo is? Dokdo is a set of small islands located far off the east coast of the Korean peninsula. Dokdo also has been the center and symbol of the territorial dispute between South Korea and Japan. (I wrote an article about it before)

Well, to spread the awareness for Dokdo, a Korean American dentist in the US named Ahn Jae-Hyun has founded a winery called Dokdo Winery in the US, Napa Valley, and Dokdo winery will begin selling Dokdo wine in the coming weeks of November.

The wine brand is named 799-805, the postal code for Dokdo. The online store hasn't opened, but from what I can gather from the website and pictures, they'll be selling Merlot, Chardonnay, and Pinot, at least.

Check out the Dokdo Wine website here!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Event : London Korean Film Festival 2011

WhatThe 6th annual event, showcasing the very best in Korean cinema, with a number of premieres and events. 
When : November 3rd until November 17th
Where : Various locations in London, refer to the website
List of films : War of the Arrow, Sunny, The Front Line, Detective K, Dance Town, Leafie a Hen into the Wild, Poongsan, and many, many more!

From the website...
Every year the festival looks to spotlight certain aspects of the Korean film industry whether it is the role of women in front of or behind the camera or how the country has dealt with war through the ages. This year is no different, shinning a light on the North and South divide which has been prevalent across many of Korea’s films since the ‘Forgotten War’. We shall examine how Korea has dealt with and utilised this in a wide variety of films including The Front Line, Dance Town and Poongsan. Also the festival will look to highlight a more lighter tone of film than the British public is used too with Korean films with a number of comedies and family friendly films.
This year we will continue to promote one of the principle aims of the festival which Is to showcase K-Culture with a number of films explore many different aspects of Korean culture. K-Pop is one of the most up and coming elements of Korean culture that is becoming more and more popular in the UK which the festival will be looking to help to increase the profile in this exciting and fresh musical wave. This will be shown with a lie performance from KPop sensation SHINee.
For more information, visit the official website here