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Yikes. This so-called “noodle snack” is basically a hunk of seasoned, uncooked ramen. Judging from the nutritional info, it should probably come with a warning sticker.
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North Koreans will go to the polls March 9 to vote for candidates to the Supreme People’s Assembly, the country’s rubber-stamp parliament.
A pretend legislature deserves a proper pretend election campaign, accompanied by pretend press coverage. The Korean Central News Agency is apparently happy to oblige.
”Election atmosphere is gaining momentum in the DPRK,” KCNA reports.
Boy, is it ever:
Seen in streets, public places, industrial establishments and co-op farms are “Let us all participate in election of deputies to SPA!”, “Let us all consolidate our revolutionary power as firm as a rock!” and other slogans.
And that’s not all:
Meanwhile, agitation activities are going on to encourage citizens to take active part in the election with high political enthusiasm and labor feats, amid the playing of “Song of Election”.
Even Kim Jong-un is joining the festivities, running (presumably unopposed) as a candidate in a district on 백두산. Does the Supreme Commander, who spends most of his time in Pyongyang, actually qualify as a local candidate? Someone really ought to look into that…
Pisces Steps (at Ihwa Dong, Seoul)
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The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has proposed fines totaling $1.9 million against ESPN, NBCUniversal and Viacom (the parent company of MTV, VH1 and Comedy Central) for repeatedly airing a TV ad that “misuses the warning sounds of the nationwide Emergency Alert System.” What was the ad for? A Hollywood movie about a North Korean terrorist attack on the White House.
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South Korean politics — usually such a depressing, soul-killing spectacle — has suddenly become somewhat interesting: Ahn Cheol-soo and the main opposition Democratic Party have announced their plans to join forces and form a new political party.
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After North Korea launched four short-range missiles into the East Sea Thursday, the Associated Press posted a video report on YouTube using footage from Yonhap’s cable channel news Y and information gleaned from AP’s story about the missile launch.
Unfortunately, whoever edited the video’s voice-over script seems to have been either in a hurry or really, really drunk.
AP story: “North Korea fired four short-range Scud missiles…in an apparent attempt to protest against ongoing U.S.-South Korean military exercises that Pyongyang calls a rehearsal for invasion.”
AP voice-over: “The South calls it a rehearsal for an invasion from the North and a response to South Korean military exercises.”
AP story: “North Korea…has recently sought better ties with South Korea in what outside analysts say is an attempt to win badly needed foreign investment and aid.”
AP voice-over: “Analysts say the launches are an attempt to win badly needed foreign investment and aid.”
* Express color of sea.
Ganghwado, Korea / Feb. 2014
Camera : Contax T3
Film : 135 FUJI VELVIA 100F
Scanner : Imacon Flextight X5
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The third and final round of inter-Korean family reunions at Mt. Kumgang concluded Tuesday with wrenching goodbyes. At 1:21, a South Korean man holds up a simple message for his departing North Korean brother to read through a bus window: “형님, 사랑합니다. 다음에 또 만나요. 항상 건강 하세요.” (“I love you, big brother. See you again next time. Please stay healthy always.”)
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Now that the press has published the score sheets from the women’s figure-skating finals in Sochi, the evidence looks sadly compelling: although Adelina Sotnikova's short program and free skate were very strong, biased judging was very likely the decisive factor in denying Kim Yu-na the gold medal.
But there’s a silver lining for Kim: her stature remains undimmed in the skating world and in the eyes of the media. And unlike previous Olympians who’ve been victimized by terrible judging or officiating (e.g. Roy Jones Jr. in Seoul, Shin A-Lam in London), Kim already has a gold medal.
A few closing thoughts on the Sochi Olympics:
1. Outrage in South Korea over Sotnikova’s victory was such that Kim still would have been hailed a national hero if she had pouted, stamped her feet and complained that she was robbed of her rightful place on the podium. But she didn’t do any of that. Instead, the 23-year-old Kim responded to the judging controversy with grace and class, providing a lesson in sportsmanship and humility for a country where athletes, coaches and fans have too often failed to demonstrate either.
2. Russia probably has an incentive to support greater transparency in the Olympic figure skating judging process. Why? There’s a good chance that the 17-year-old Sotnikova and her 15-year-old compatriot Yulia Lipnitskaya will be part of the figure skating team that Russia sends to the next Winter Olympics in 2018. Remember who’s hosting those Games? Notwithstanding the high road taken by Kim, you could already script a pretty good skit for “SNL Korea”: “That’s a really nice figure skating performance you got there. Be a shame if something happened to the score.”
3. South Korea finished the Sochi Games with just three gold medals, half its haul in each of the previous two Winter Olympics. Of course, the country would have racked up a higher tally if it could have included the two individual gold medals won by…
4. …short-track skating star Ahn Hyun-soo. Ahn, a South Korean who competed for Russia as “Viktor Ahn,” enjoyed a remarkably successful Olympics in Sochi, also winning a team gold medal and a bronze medal. South Koreans were supportive of his success, focusing their anger instead on the Korea Skating Union for allegedly driving him away. Ten or 15 years ago, Ahn would have likely been branded a traitor. But last week, a Dong-a Ilbo editorial reacted to his victory in the men’s 1,000-meter final with pride:
His nationality change has emerged as a hot topic of debate in Korea and it was even reported to President Park Geun-hye. Truth needs to be told about this – whether Ahn was the victim of political fights within the skating community or he changed his citizenship for his dream – but we should not be obsessed with the nationality issue…After tireless efforts, he overcame his injury and skated faster than others with excellent skills. This represents the victory of his unwavering will in the face of challenges. We give a round of applause to the short-track “czar” for his comeback.
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This is an unexpected treat: Clive Crook, the former deputy editor of the Economist and now a columnist for Bloomberg, shares the backstory on one of greatest newsweekly covers of all time.
It was mid-June 2000. South Korean President Kim Dae-jung had just traveled to the North to meet with Kim Jong-il for the historic, first-ever inter-Korean summit meeting. When the two heads of state embraced on the tarmac of the Pyongyang airport, countless jaws around the world went slack.
At the time, very little was known about Kim Jong-il’s personality. He rarely traveled outside the country and reportedly spoke at a public event only once (for about five seconds). But all of the sudden, there he was at the summit, grinning and shooting the shit with the South Korean president.
The Economist’s cover that week perfectly captured the utter surrealness of it all. Crook says the brilliant cover line came from an off-hand remark made by the magazine’s art editor.
“People still mention it to me unprompted as their favorite Economist cover,” Crook writes in a brief piece for Bloomberg. Then he shifts gears and turns his attention to the United Nations’ recent report on North Korean human rights abuses:
[R]eading the UN report on North Korean atrocities, I felt a small pang of shame. As Bloomberg View says today, the Kims are all too easy to mock, but mockery really isn’t the right response. The right response is disgust.
Disgust is most certainly what we should feel when we contemplate Pyongyang’s crimes against its own people. But I respectfully — and strongly — disagree with the implication that we should embrace a moratorium on jokes about the regime.
Publicly ridiculing the Kims would result in jail or death for any North Korean brave enough to do so. For that reason alone, regular mockery of the absurd and disastrous Kim dynasty is a vital expression of solidarity with the North Korean people. So please, go ahead and make all the Kim Jong-un jokes you want.
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The second of three rounds of inter-Korean family reunions got under way Sunday at Mt. Kumgang. In the clip above, KBS News focuses on the reunion of a father from the North and a daughter from the South who had been separated for 64 years, i.e., when she was only a year old.
Inter-Korean reunions trigger a tangled flood of emotions. There’s joy, yes, but it’s usually overwhelmed by the unfathomable sorrow of lost years and the pain of separation — a separation that will resume (almost certainly for good) once everyone returns home.
Policymakers in the South must surely feel a gnawing sense of impotence as well. The armistice agreement was signed six — six! — decades ago. And yet mostly due to stone-walling by the North, divided families are still forced to feel grateful when they’re granted a fleeting, one-time chance to embrace their long-lost parents, children or siblings.
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The Suwon District Court’s sentencing this week of Unified Progressive Party lawmaker Lee Seok-ki to 12 years in prison begs a question: has South Korea outlawed the right to be stupid?
Let’s not beat around the bush: Lee is a complete imbecile, as is anyone else who shares his sympathetic view of the Pyongyang regime. Back in the 1970s and 1980s when Park Chung-hee and Chun Doo-hwan stifled dissent at home, jailed and tortured pro-democracy activists, and limited access to information about North Korea, it wasn’t terribly surprising that some South Korean students became radicalized and naively turned to a brutal egomaniac like Kim Il-sung for inspiration. But given the voluminous information we now have about life in North Korea, you’d have to be a raving lunatic to admire the catastrophic Kim dynasty.
Of course, in a true democracy, raving lunatics have rights too, including the right to assemble and say idiotic things. Which brings us to the Suwon court’s sentencing of Lee. The charge against Lee — that he was allegedly plotting an armed rebellion against the South Korea government — sounded alarming. But it was based on evidence collected by the disgraced National Intelligence Service (NIS), which had a clear motive to divert the public’s attention from its central role in a huge election scandal. More recently, evidence has emerged in a separate case that the NIS used fake documents to support espionage charges against an ethnic Chinese refugee from North Korea.
The Hankyoreh and the Kyunghyang Shinmun ran editorials this week that raise important questions about Lee’s case.
As press reports have already shown, recordings from the meetings do include some rather startling language…Even so, whether this counts as conspiracy or incitement in legal terms is a different question entirely. Article 87 of the Criminal Act defines insurrection as “violence for the purpose of usurping the national territory or subverting the Constitution.” Not only would it have to be a genuine insurrection - enough to disrupt the peace in a specific region - but there would also have to be evidence of an actual conspiracy that goes beyond some kind of abstract agreement.
The ruling itself admits that the conspiracy “did not reach the stage of a detailed plan.” There are serious questions, then, about whether the criteria for a “specific insurrection plan” were met, or whether the members actually had the means to carry one out.
When news of an investigation into this case was first released, we had criticized the coarse and absurd understanding of reality that lawmaker Lee and his colleagues shared. Their idea, which seemed to turn the clock of history backwards, was difficult to understand even from an ordinary person’s perspective not to mention a lawmaker’s. But finding someone guilty or not guilty of such a serious crime like conspiracy to stage a rebellion at a criminal court is a completely different problem, which is why we would like to ask if the court’s decision was strictly based on fact and evidence.
During the trial, the informant, Yi either reversed his previous testimony or answered, “I don’t remember.” Even though he said he had joined the [revolutionary organization], he could not properly remember when and where he had joined the organization. The transcripts from the May 12 meeting also included incorrect recordings—“carry out propaganda” was recorded as “carry out a holy war”—and was revised due to hundreds of errors. Even if the court recognized the informant’s statements and the credibility of the transcript, there is room for an argument on whether Lee’s behavior was serious enough to “cause actual and obvious danger to the existence of the Republic of Korea and to the liberal democratic order.” In fact, in their ruling, the bench stated that Lee and his colleagues “had not gone as far as make a detailed plan of the riot.”
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Oh my, there certainly is a lot of heated indignation over the outcome of the ladies’ figure skating final in Sochi. Russia’s Adelina Sotnikova bested South Korea’s Kim Yu-na for the gold, a decision that’s being questioned by everyone from Kim’s cheering section back home to perplexed U.S. sports columnists who felt that “Queen Yuna” deserved to keep her Olympic crown.
Christine Brennan of USA Today points out that Thursday’s judging panel included the wife of the president of the Russian figure skating federation (!) and a Ukrainian judge who had been caught trying to fix the outcome of the ice dancing competition at the 1998 Nagano Olympics (!!). Just crazy.
Some of the judging did indeed seem a bit peculiar. Japan’s Mao Asada performed an absolutely brilliant free skate and, despite her sadly awful short program on Wednesday, should have finished better than Russia’s Yulia Lipnitskaya, who came in fifth. While Ashley Wagner of the U.S. didn’t skate as beautifully as Asada did, she nailed her performance Thursday and also should have placed better than Lipnitskaya.
But I have to admit that I don’t quite share the outrage over Kim coming in second to Sotnikova. The judges successfully completed their most important task: awarding medals to the three best performers: Sotnikova, Kim and Carolina Kostner of Italy.
If it had been up to me, I’d have given the gold medal to Kim. Her performance was pure fluid grace — there’s never been a more exquisite figure skater in my lifetime. But the scores for the top three skaters were very close after the short program and the Russian’s nearly flawless free skate was technically more challenging, thus giving her an edge.
Sotnikova wasn’t the most refined or graceful competitor on the ice. But you could make the argument that she was the most athletically accomplished. Figure skating is, at the end of the day, a sport, even though — as the likes of Kim, Kostner and Asada demonstrated Thursday — the line between sport and art can be blurred quite beautifully.
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