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Retired South Korean pitching star Chan-ho Park (박찬호) has published his autobiography, “끝이 있어야 시작도 있다“ (“There Has To Be an End for There To Be a Beginning”). According to Yonhap, the book reflects on his decade and a half in Major League Baseball and his thoughts on how to improve the game in South Korea. Park signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1994 straight out Hanyang University, the very first of a wave of Asian players — including Hideo Nomo, Hideki Matsui and Ichiro Suzuki — who would ultimately cross the Pacific to play in the Majors. I’m curious to see if the book finds a publisher in the U.S.
Sundown over Seoul Timelapse
Awesome clip, beautifully executed.
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Citing an anonymous “trusted source who serves as a DPRK official in China,” New Focus International reports that Kim Jong-un distributed copies of Adolf Hitler’s fascist manifesto “Mein Kampf” in January to senior officials of his regime. The source also alleges that Kim is urging officials to draw developmental lessons from the Third Reich. For example, he wants to grant special privileges to families with at least three children, a move reminiscent of Hitler’s policy of encouraging Germans to have more babies. New Focus International was founded by Jang Jin-sung, a North Korean defector who served as a poet and propagandist for Kim Jong-il.
Jalgachi Fish Market, Busan, South Korea.
Difficult place to shoot! Crazy busy and full of life. We had a lady yell at us and a guy buy us drinks, all in 10 minutes. More to come when I have editing time! Thank you to Ian for assisting. Would love feedback on these.
Great shots, so evocative of the atmosphere around Jagalchi (not Jalgachi).
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This is what Pyongyang’s offer to open high-level talks with the U.S. sounded like on North Korean state television. The National Defense Commission’s full statement can be read on the Korean Central News Agency website. It starts out by claiming that the U.S. has been “deceiving the world” by leaving the impression “that the DPRK is to blame for the tensions that have so far mounted on the peninsula,” when it fact it has been “none other than the U.S. which has steadily strained the situation on the Korean Peninsula century after century and decade after decade.” After declaring that North Korea supports the denuclearization of the peninsula, the NDC finally gets to the heart of the matter:
We propose senior-level talks between the authorities of the DPRK and the U.S. to defuse tensions on the Korean Peninsula and ensure peace and security in the region.
If the U.S. has true intent on defusing tensions on the Korean Peninsula and ensuring peace and security in the U.S. mainland and the region, it should not raise precondition for dialogue and contact.
The talks can have broad and in-depth discussions on defusing military tensions, replacing the armistice system with peace mechanism and other issues of mutual concern including the building of a “world without nuclear weapons” proposed by the U.S.
The U.S. can set the venue and date of the talks to its convenience.
Consistent is the stand of the DPRK to defuse tensions on the Korean Peninsula and ensure peace and security of the region.
If the U.S. truly wants to realize a “world without nuclear weapons” and bring detente, it should positively respond to the DPRK’s bold decision and good intention, not missing the opportunity.
All the future developments entirely depend on the responsible option of the U.S., which has strained the situation on the Korean Peninsula.
As a US State Department spokeswoman made clear Monday, Pyongyang will have to do more than simply issue a public statement to convince Washington and the rest of the world of its sincerity in wanting to start a substantive dialogue.
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North Korea has made yet another dramatic gesture, calling for high-level talks with the U.S. and claiming that it is open to negotiating a peace treaty and discussing denuclearization. The offer comes about a week and a half after Pyongyang suddenly proposed direct government talks with Seoul. The earlier diplomatic initiative was driven in large part by a realistic goal — the reopening of the inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex. But the offer to open peace talks with Washington feels like snow job.
For starters, Kim Jong-un knows full well that US President Barack Obama won’t engage in such talks unless Pyongyang ditches its nuclear weapons program. And despite offering to put denuclearization on the table, there isn’t a chance in hell of that happening, not when North Korea reasons that the downfall of Libya’s Muammar el-Qaddafi can be traced back to his 2003 agreement to abandon his nuclear program.
Moreover, the pursuit of a full-blown peace treaty seems laughably ambitious for a still-green leader who’s most notable diplomatic guest to date has been Dennis Rodman. And while this is hardly the first time that North Korea has expressed an interest in signing a peace treaty with the U.S., you might recall that the Supreme Command of the Korean People’s Army threatened just a few months ago to declare the Korean War armistice null and void. This isn’t even the first time that Kim Jong-un has suggested that he’d be willing to denuclearize. In February 2012, he agreed to suspend the country’s nuclear program in exchange for food aid from the U.S., only to undermine the agreement the following month by announcing a planned satellite launch. Acting irrationally may be Pyongyang’s calling card, but as Kim’s father Kim Jong-il and his grandfather Kim Il-sung understood, it also has to be accompanied with at least a modicum of predictability.
So why would Kim Jong-un even bother making such an offer? The most likely explanation: to get China off his back. Chinese President Xi Jinping has repeatedly voiced his displeasure with North Korea’s development of nukes. In a not-so-veiled swipe at Pyongyang, Xi said at an economic forum in April that, “No one should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gains.” When North Korean Vice Marshal Choe Ryong-hae’s visited Beijing last month, Xi told him that “all the parties involved should stick to the objective of denuclearization.” And during their recent summit meeting in California, Xi and Obama agreed that North Korea must denuclearize. While North Korea has regularly flouted China’s wishes before, Xi’s recent statements make clear that he isn’t about to let the boy prince of Pyongyang play him for a fool, not when he’s got more important things on his plate.
That said, anything that could potentially reduce tensions on the Korean peninsula is not something that should be dismissed out of hand. For the time being, Washington is right to be deeply skeptical of the overture. It’ll be interesting to see how — or whether — Pyongyang follows up on its offer for talks.
This 18th century Chosun Dynasty dance mask is on display at the Guimet Museum in Paris, a major repository of Asian art. It looks strikingly different from most other Korean masks that I’ve seen before.
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A maddeningly stubborn flu bug knocked me out of commission this week, so I’m only now getting around to digesting the cancellation of this week’s ministerial-level talks between North and South Korea. No doubt it was a disappointing setback for efforts to restart the two sides’ joint economic projects. But it’s probably a bit hasty to assume that the two sides won’t be returning to the negotiating table anytime soon. Here’s why:
1. Both sides genuinely appear to want ministerial-level talks to happen
After the North conducted its third nuclear test in February and ratcheted up its rhetoric after that, relations between Seoul and Pyongyang had appeared to sink to another low. And yet last Sunday and into the wee hours of Monday, we were treated to the spectacle of representatives from the two Koreas earnestly hunkering down in Panmunjom for 17 hours to work out their plans to hold ministerial-level talks in Seoul. Although they emerged with an agreement that subsequently fell apart, they clearly want to find a way to make things work. Even the North’s subsequent salvos against the South for rejecting its choice of chief delegate to the ministerial talks came off — by its own standards — as relatively restrained.
2. China still wants the two Koreas to make up
It’s impossible to ignore the fact that North Korea’s sudden June 6 proposal to hold direct government talks with South Korea came not long after Kim Jong-un’s special envoy Vice Marshal Choe Ryong-hae visited Beijing, where he came under pressure to convey to his boss the importance of patching things up with Seoul. That pressure won’t let up any time soon.
3. Economic imperatives require the restart of inter-Korean projects
By withdrawing all its workers from the Kaesong Industrial Complex, North Korea shut off a desperately needed source of foreign currency. Given that China remains its only major trading partner, the Kaesong pullout was, to put it technically, really dumb. This week’s talks were also to include discussions about restarting South Korean tours to Mt. Kumgang, which the North is eager to develop into a bigger travel destination.
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My cousin Jayoung “Jane” Kim (김자영) is a 3D computer artist who is quite talented with ink and paper as well. Her work in the latter medium will be the subject of her first solo exhibition, which opens today at 5 p.m. at the Topohaus Art Center in Insa-dong and will run through Tuesday, June 18. Here’s a brief write-up (in Korean) that appeared in “Asia Today.”
The exhibition will feature 자영’s striking pen drawings, most of them featuring words integrated into the artwork. See that butterfly pictured above? Its wings spell out “beauty” and “full.” Needless to say, I’m a big fan and a very proud 오빠. If you’re in Insa-dong over the next several days, stop by and check out her work. After today, the gallery will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., except on June 18, when it will close at noon. Admission is free.
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MBC News reports on the two Koreas’ working-level meeting Sunday in Panmunjom, which was led by Chun Hae-sung, head of the South Korean unification ministry’s policy bureau, and Kim Song-hye, an official with North Korea’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea and one of the few women at the CPRK with experience in inter-Korean talks. The two sides agreed to hold a ministerial-level meeting Wednesday in Seoul. Yonhap has more details.
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Toronto filmmaker Ann Shin has produced a video for the New York Times that she adapted from her documentary, “The Defector: Escape from North Korea.” The clip introduces Dragon, a smuggler who helps North Koreans escape to freedom (for a price, of course). As a defector himself, Dragon is keenly aware of what’s at stake for these people. I’ve gotta track this movie down.
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After proposing Thursday that the two Koreas hold their first direct government talks since early 2011, North Korea has agreed to South Korea’s request to hold an initial round of working-level talks Sunday in Panmunjom, rather than in Kaesong as the North had first suggested. The two sides are expected to lay the groundwork for a ministerial-level meeting next week in Seoul. It’s on…
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Big news: the two Koreas have agreed to hold their first government-level talks since February 2011. The negotiations will be focused on more than just a possible reopening the Kaesong Industrial Complex. They will also look into a possible reboot of another major inter-Korean joint venture: tours to North Korea’s Mt. Kumgang, which ended in 2008 after a North Korean soldier shot a South Korean tourist when she allegedly strayed from the resort’s designated visitor’s area. Cross-border family reunions will also be on the agenda. Click on the video above for Al Jazeera correspondent Harry Fawcett’s report on the announcement.
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An unfortunate consequence of South Korea’s now-defunct “Sunshine Policy” of engagement with North Korea was the marginalization of efforts to speak out against human rights abuses in the North. Even under conservative presidents Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye, the South Korean government has remained relatively quiet on the issue. Given Pyongyang’s vituperative reaction to even the most innocuous references to human rights, it’s a tactically sound — though shamelessly craven — approach to a problem that deserves far greater attention.
But as Reuters points out, a new wave of refugees and defectors who are willing to speak publicly about their experiences is raising awareness of North Korean rights abuses like never before. Articulate, whip-smart individuals like Lee Hyeon-seo and Shin Dong-hyuk are helping ensure that the issue will remain in the spotlight — whether the Blue House wants it there or not.
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Al Jazeera visits the North Korean city of Sinuiju and the nearby Chinese border city of Dandong and finds that efforts to boost economic cooperation between the two sides have stalled. This isn’t exactly a surprise and while the report cites the chilling impact of international economic sanctions, the strained relations between Dandong and Sinuiju are more directly rooted in the growing antipathy that Chinese merchants harbor toward their delinquent neighbors on the other side of the Yalu River.
How bad is it? Really, really bad. The Global Times has an eye-popping story about the unsuccessful efforts of business people in Dandong to get customers in Sinuiju to pay their bills, with some Chinese merchants even traveling to Pyongyang to petition the North Korean government. Here’s what the deputy general manager of an import-export company in Dandong has to say:
They purchase almost everything from us: food, grain, daily necessities, machines, and agricultural tools…We had business dealings with some 20 North Korean companies. Because of good relationships, we allowed them to purchase goods and commodities on credit. However, they refused to pay us after they received our products…They have no credibility. Some of them said their bosses had changed. Some just disappeared, while others admitted they owed us money but had no money to pay up.
The story is important for two reasons: 1) it illustrates how badly bilateral trade relations have deteriorated in a part of North Korea that once appeared to hold great promise; and 2) its appearance in the Global Times — a sister publication of the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party — strongly suggests that frustration with the inability (or unwillingness) of North Korean merchants to make good on their debts reaches from the local level all the way up the ladder to the leadership in Beijing.
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