Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Kim Jong-Il Era over. Kim Jong-Un Era has arrived

So, after 10 days of mourning, today was Kim Jong-Il's funeral With the comically giant picture mounted on top of a car, hundreds of thousands of people stood in formation to cry as the face of the late dictator passed by. The question the rest of the world's been asking is : What is going to happen now? Well, I'm going to go ahead and just quote a Bloomberg article.
Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s new leader, stood on a balcony above Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung Square named for his grandfather, where tens of thousands of people gathered to hear eulogies that ended a period of national mourning for his father.
State television today broadcast Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, praising the achievements of Kim Jong Il, and images of a smiling portrait of the dictator erected in the square. Red banners adorned buildings with the words: “Let’s serve the idea and leadership of respected Kim Jong Un with steadfast loyalty!” (Source)
Well folks, I still hope for better changes in North Korea with the new leadership, but it seems to be starting out with the same ol' story. We're just gonna have to be careful and watch.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

North Koreans are running out of fake tears

Source : RFA
According to Radio Free Asia(RFA), North Korean citizens are forced to come out to mourning events for Kim Jong-Il, and are forcefully pushed to cry and mourn under heavy surveillance.
Some sources in North Korea complained, "we only hope that these annoying days will pass as soon as possible." Another source said, "there are times set for each factory and office to go mourning. Twice a day, at appointed times, we have to go mourn at the statue. On the way back, we have to stop by at the 'research room' and mourn for another hour."

Everyone must go in their pre-appointed groups to mourn at the statue, then come back to the mourning room at the 'research room' - also known as Kim Il-Sung Revolutionary Activity Center - and mourn while listening to mourning music. Sources complained that hours and hours of mourning day after day is draining out the last drop of their tears. One source joked that North Korea might as well start importing tears.

There are always at least a dozen guards supervising every mourning scene. If they find somebody not crying, they'll take the person out to interrogate. These people will get their name, address, and workplace written down, causing fears for mass crackdown after the funeral.
Source : 북 주민들, 억지 통곡에 지쳐

Monday, December 26, 2011

7 Best Ski Resorts in Korea (CNN)

Pictured : Yongpyong Resort
Alright folks, you'd know this already if you're in Korea, but it's freezing cold as frozen hell and it's been snowing outside! Perfect time to go skiing! (or snowboard, whatever floats your boat)

CNNgo has featured an article named "7 Best Ski and Snowboard Resorts in Korea". The list contains : Yongpyong Resort, High1 Resort, Phoenix Park, Vivaldi Park, Konjiam Resort, Muju Deukyusan Resort, and Alpensia Resort. My personal favorite is Yongpyong Resort, 'cuz it's the one my family always went to every winter.

If you like Skiing/Snowboarding and you think you're gonna be around the town, check out the CNNgo article here : 7 best ski and snowboard resorts in Korea

North Korea says : the mother nature mourns for the leader

Ice suddenly cracked. Mountains started glowing. Glorious and mysterious sunset was witnessed. Entire lake trembled with noise. Legendary birds appeared...

According to North Korea, this is how 'the nature is mourning the death of Kim Jong-Il.'
The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on its website that "peculiar natural wonders were observed on Mt Paektu, Jong Il Peak and Tonghung Hill in Hamhung City".
Ice covering Lake Chon was said to have cracked so loudly that the entire lake trembled with noise.
A nearby lake exploration group reported that a bitterly cold storm suddenly stopped and the clouds cleared across the lake.
Then "the sky began turning red with sunrise on the horizon" KCNA reported. "The peaks looked like a picture for wide and thick glow".
KCNA also noted that Kim's "autographic writings" were seen carved on the edge of a mountain, glowing in sorrow for the leader whose brutal 20-year dictatorship resulted in famine and economic catastrophe.
The state-controlled news service also reported how a crane flew around a statue of the president on Tonghung Hill and bowed its head before flying away.
"Even the crane seemed to mourn the demise of Kim Jong Il born of Heaven after flying down there at dead of cold night, unable to forget him," the news service said.
The list goes on and on...

Did you know that they have a whole government department devoted to making this kind of propaganda BS for North Koreans? It's basically like Orwell's '1984'...

Source : Huffington Post - 'Nature Mourning' North Korean Leader Reports State Media

Thursday, December 22, 2011

N. Korea blames South for showing condolence

Pictured : Kim Jong-Il's body on display for mourners
North Korea has harshly criticized South Korean government showing condolence to North Koreans for the death of their leader. This is North Korea's first move towards South Korea since Kim Jong-Il's death.

North Korea's propaganda website "Uriminjokkiri" commented on an editorial named "We are watching South Korean government."

The news media criticized South Korea for "showing 'condolence' to North Korean people with its "separation of the leader and people of North Korea policy'. They revealed their true evil intent through this act." Uriminjokkiri claimed that South Korean government's condolence is only a great insult to North Korea's dignity.

Also, regarding South Korea's decision of prohibiting civilians from visiting North Korea for Kim Jong-Il's funeral, North Korea claimed, "it is a barbaric crime against humanity."

Source : [김정일 사망]南 조의 표시에 첫 반응…北 "참을 수 없는 모독"

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Pictures : North Korean Fisherman's Life

 Source : Free North Korea Radio (

These pictures were originally on a Chinese news website, then published on FNKradio. The title of the article is "How's the life of those with the most popular job in North Korea - fishermen?"
This decent-looking rural village was made for propaganda purposes, towards foreign visitors.
A fisherman's family dragging a boat engine to the shore. They're so afraid of the engine going bad overnight, they take it home every day. There is virtually no way of fixing this kind of mechanisms in a village like this.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Life in the streets of North Korea

From the video, a homeless child(Kotjebi) smoking
This rare video footage by N TV and JoongAng shows what's been really going on in the streets of North Korea. It's very hard to get a glimpse at what's going on outside of Pyongyang, since foreigners are rarely allowed outside of Pyongyang.

This video mostly shows the lives of homeless children (Kotjebi). With the recent collapse of economy and continuing famine, the number of Kotjebi is only increasing. This, is the legacy Kim Jong-Il is leaving to the history of world. Video below.

Monday, December 19, 2011

More Interesting Things about North Korea

Kim Jong-Un, the new heir of North Korea... is hungry (Thanks, Reddit)
The whole world's going on and on about Kim Jong-Il's death, though nothing compares to how things are in South Korea right now. I'm sure you've heard and read enough about the dictator's death... so some interesting and hilarious things you might know about North Korea :

1. Kim Jong-Il Looking at Things : This is a photo-blog with photos of Kim Jong-Il... well, looking at things. All kinds of things.
2. 20 Ridiculous Things You Never Knew About Kim Jong-Il : Did you know that North Korea claims they invented... hamburger?
3. 9 Kim Jong Il Parodies: Was North Korean Dictator Known Best From 'Team America'? You know what's coming...
4. Kim Jong-Il, the master of the tubes
5. The True Cause of Kim Jong-Il's Death revealed?!
6. ESPN honors the death of the greatest sportsman

The Last Picture of Kim Jong-Il

Source : News1
Kim Jong-Il, shortly before his death, tours around a newly built supermarket. This supermarket was built by rebuilding one of North Korea's biggest shopping malls, after Kim Jong-Il toured around a Chinese shopping mall. This picture was released by North Korea on the 17th, the same day Kim Jong-Il died. Associated Press speculates that the timing of the release most likely signifies that this was the last picture of him.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Kim Jong-Il is Dead

Kim Jong-Il, the leader of North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea), died. According to some of the breaking news coming out in South Korea right now, he died on the 17th during his visit to a government facility. More to come.
[EDIT] News Articles :
Huffington Post
Fox News

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Economist : The Hellgate to College and Beyond in Korea

Source : The Economist
Personally, I moved to the US before I finished middle school in South Korea. And I finished my Bachelor's degree in the US, without having to deal with the harshest part of the Korean education system - the infamous College Entrance Exam. So I haven't experienced it first-hand, and I'm not an expert in this to really enlighten you. But I have seen, heard, and read a lot about this. In fact, I used to tell my lazy college friends that an average elementary/middle school student in Korea probably studies more than an average (lazy) college student in the U.S..

The Economist featured an article about this. Quite extensive, more so than I first thought. Of course, there is so much more to this phenomenon, and I don't agree entirely with the points made in this article. Nevertheless, it is a good read. You better realize that you had it pretty easy, my American readers. (Sorry, just another thing I like to tell my friends...)
A poll by CLSA, a stockbroker, found that 100% of Korean parents want their children to go to university. Such expectations can be stressful. In one survey a fifth of Korean middle and high school students said they felt tempted to commit suicide. In 2009 a tragic 202 actually did so. The suicide rate among young Koreans is high: 15 per 100,000 15-24-year-olds, compared with ten Americans, seven Chinese and five Britons. Min-sung’s older sister, Kim Jieun, who took the exams a few years ago, recalls: “I thought of emigrating, I hated the education system so much.”
Read the article here. The Economist - The One-shot Society

Korean War Veterans Digital Memorial Opened

Korean War, or 6.25 War as it is known in Korea, has a new memorial, now online. Korean War Veteran Digital Memorial was opened on the 15th.

This online library has interviews, videos, audios, pictures, diaries, maps, and documents from 30-or so Korean War veterans surviving in the US currently. Professor from Syracuse University, Prof. Han Jong-Woo, and his team founded this online collection of rare information. According to the professor, there are approx. 1,800 pieces of information in their database, and they tried their best to show the true memories of the war as objectively as possible.

Visit the KWVDM website here. It's worth a look.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

North Korea's War on Christmas

South Korean Christians sing a hymn in front of a Christmas tree on top of the Aegibong Peak Observatory just south of the demilitarized zone (DMZ), Reuters.

Nothing says “international feud” quite like Christmas lights. When relations between North Korea and South Korea fall on the friendly side, South Korea doesn’t light up towers on its border with Christmas lights. When things aren’t so lovely, they let the lights shine. This year marks a newfound effort to light towers with Christmas lights and North Korea is none too fond of it, warning of “unexpected consequences.”
The “psychological warfare” alleged by North Korea comes as South Korean officials have allowed Christian groups even broader freedom to decorate towers that line the border between the two nations.
South Korea held off on the traditional lighting in 2003 at the request of North Korea. But when the two sides fell back into their bickering, the towers were lit up once more last year.
As is tradition, the towers will shine for 15 days, starting this year on Dec. 23. Last year, thousands of lights on a nearly 100-foot tall tree-shaped tower about two miles from the border on the top of Aegibong Hill was reportedly seen from North Korea’s Kaesong city. The North Korean government feels a repeat performance amounts to an invasion of the Christian faith into their atheist borders.
Of course, South Korea hasn’t taken too lightly the invasion of space North Korea has shown by allegedly sinking one of its warships and killing 46 in March 2010 (North Korea denies involvement) and firing upon an island, killing four, in November 2010. South Korea must figure a few lights won’t do that much damage.
Source : Time - North Korea Threatens South Korea — Over Christmas Lights

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

UFC140 - The Korean Zombie Strike... fast.

Jung Chan-Sung, "the Korean Zombie" of UFC, has done it. UFC140, taken place a few days ago(Dec 11th, I believe), featured this Korean badass totally knocking out the opponent in.. like, literally 4 seconds. Watch and enjoy!

Now, two-month salary to ride a train in North Korea

Arirang Festival, part of North Korea's most popular tour program
Source : Radio Free Asia - 평양 지하철 요금, 외국인에 ‘바가지’

According to a Russian journalist that recently visited North Korea, subway fare for foreigners was 2 euros(approx. 260 N. Korean won), compared to 5 North Korean won for N. Korean nationals. 

Marc Bennetts from a Russian media outlet called Ria Novosti stated that he was very surprised at how expensive the subway fare had changed in the past few years. It wasn't just the subway; though the tour guide wouldn't tell him how much goods were priced for North Korean nationals, he noticed that "there [were] special prices and exchange rates in the country." 

In certain restaurants, they didn't even have the price chart for foreigners. They would first ask for their nationality, then write out the bill. 

This kind of rip-off move is thought to be another strategy to rack up on foreign currency, in preparation for their massive festivals and other events they are preparing for 2012, the year of becoming the greatest nation. 260 N. Korean won is about the two-month salary for average N. Korean workers.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Clinics in N. Korea lacking the most basic medical equipments

Malnourished children in a children's clinic in North Korea (Source : JSH's North Korea RT)
According to International Federation of Red Cross(IFRC) has reported that only 70% of medical clinics in North Korea can afford the most basic medical equipment and medicines due to the severe financial failure of the government. North Koreans living in rural areas have even worse access to medical facilities, IFRC also reported.

In IFRC's recently released report (IFRC's website link here), it was revealed that the overall medical privilege North Koreans have access to is very limited. People in rural areas have even more limited access compared to people living in urban areas. Due to the lack of medical care budget of the government, 3 out of every 10 clinics do not even have the most basic medicines ready.

You don't have to pay a dime to get medical services in North Korea, but it is nearly impossible to get the service at all for most regular citizens. For rural citizens to go to a hospital or get medicine, they often have to travel hours to get to a city. Most rural areas do have a clinic, but all they can do is treat cold or very minor injuries.

IFRC added that the majority of the clinic visitors are women and children.

Source : Radio Free Asia - “북, 진료소 30% 기초 의약품도 없어”

Sunday, December 11, 2011

CFR picks North Korea as one of the main threats of 2012

Pink-colored nations signify the Tier-1 threats
Posted a few days ago, Council on Foreign Relations(CFR) published Preventive Priorities Survey 2012, outlining the following :
- The Preventive Priorities Survey (PPS) is intended to help inform the U.S. policy community about the relative urgency and importance of competing conflict prevention demands. The Center for Preventive Action asked a targeted group of government officials, academics, and experts to comment confidentially on a list of contingencies that could plausibly occur in 2012.

The threats were categorized into tier 1, 2 and 3 in the descending order or urgency. North Korea was right up there in Tier 1, for the following reasons : 
- a severe North Korean crisis (e.g., armed provocations, internal political instability, advances in nuclear weapons/ICBM capability)

Read the rest of the survey here. It entails a lot of interesting factors, such as the Euro-zone dangers and domestic threats in the US.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

International Demonstration for Freedom and Human Rights in North Korea

December 9th is International Human Rights Day. Freedom and Human Rights in North Korea, an international organization fighting for the rights and liberty of North Korean people, are planning an international demonstration event across the globe for their very purpose. From the event website :

This is an international call to protest on December 9th, 2011, 63rd anniversary of the United Nations Genocide Convention which North Korea is violating in every possible way (For more information, please see “North Korea and the Genocide Convention”:
There are three main objectives of these international protests on December 9, 2011:
  1. To bring unprecedented pressure upon not only the NK regime but the international community to meaningfully address the horrific crimes being perpetuated systematically.
  2. To influence and awaken global public opinion to the real, genocidal nature of the NK regime.
  3. To create a watershed movement for the liberation of NK itself.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A cup of coffee for two months salary

Now it is not so hard to find western-style food in Pyongyang. Recently, a coffee shop specializing in European style 'Vienna Coffee' has opened in Pyongyang as well.

According to Germany's Frankfurt local news media, a Vienna coffee shop has opened in downtown Pyongyang recently. They featured a detailed article on the coffee shop.

I love coffee, but apparently this so-called Vienna coffee refers to the strong coffee topped with sweet whipped cream. This coffee is known for its smooth yet sweet taste. They named the article "Pyongyang's Whipped Cream Bubble".

The shop was opened by an Austrian investor, and is a relatively small coffee shop with eleven tables. North Korean employees have already been taught how to make coffee and bake bread.

According to a female employee, about 30~40 customers visit the shop every day, most of them foreigners and foreign diplomats. A cup of coffee costs about 2 euros, equivalent to about 5 thousand North Korean won (2 months salary). The newspaper reported that despite the high price of coffee, more North Koreans are visiting every day.

Even then, the newspaper reported that there were young soldiers and children practicing synchronized dances and parades, and they seemed rather malnourished. In the heart of this communist regime, where all are supposed to be equal, the gap between the rich and the poor seems to be widening endlessly.

Source : Radio Free Asia - 평양에 비엔나 커피 전문점 등장

Monday, December 5, 2011

7 ways to love winter in Korea (CNN)

Ice fishing, fun stuff!
It's wintertime in Korea. It's quite freezing early in the morning and night... soon it'll start to snow! If you're unfamiliar with Korean winter, this CNNgo article may be a good place to start.

CNNgo : 7 ways to love winter in Korea

Sunday, December 4, 2011

More pictures : Life in North Korea

Source : North Korea Real Talk by Joo Sung-ha
These pictures were posted on the North Korea RT blog, with commentaries by a defector from North Korea.

On top of the entrance to the building, it says : "Voting Booth"
1. Voting in North Korea is only a formality, as the results are predetermined before the election. Elections in North Korea takes place in schools and local offices, and they put together a dance festival and whatnot to create a joyous atmosphere for the event. Everybody must participate in voting. But nobody comes in for the sake of voting; instead, they come to enjoy the show like above. When voting begins, everyone is assigned a number and name. Then you walk in with the voting paper government agent gives you, and there are two agents guarding the door, and two more guarding the voting box. There is no real voting booth, because the paper has only one name - Kim Jong-Il - and all you have to do is put the paper in the box next to the agents. After the election, Kim Jong-Il takes the obvious winner with 100% support. Well, they used to say 100%, but now they have become more conscious of international criticism and started announcing 99% support instead.

North Korean Propaganda document

Source : Free North Korea Radio (

This is a propaganda lecture material from North Korea regarding South Korea. Considering this surfaced very recently, according to Free North Korea Radio, it is ironic how North Korea seeks to criticize South Korea's democratic economy and politics, with North Korea's own government and economy in crumbles. They also speak of political sovereignty. With international aids nearly cut off by various UN sanctions, isn't North Korea becoming another puppet nation of China? You decide.

Below is the translation of the image you see above :

Thursday, December 1, 2011

North Korea 'Worst' in corruption score

From Radio Free Asia(RFA) :

North Korea is the world’s most corrupt nation, according to a new report which ranked the pariah state for the first time. The country tied with Somalia for dead last among 183 nations and territories, the Berlin-based corruption watchdog Transparency International said in its annual Corruption Perceptions Index, released Thursday. North Korea was given a score of 1.0—the lowest of all rated countries—on a scale where 0 indicates “highly corrupt” and 10 represents “very clean” based on perceived levels of public-sector corruption.

For more, read the original article here : North Korea ‘Worst’ In Corruption