- Nation mourns Chonan sailors with five-hour funeral (Yonhap, Korea Times, Korea Herald, Joongang Daily, Donga Ilbo)
- President Lee meets with PRC President Hu Jintao to discuss situation on Korean Peninsula (Yonhap)
US car giant General Motors will introduce its Chevrolet brand into South Korea next year in an effort to boost sales, the chief executive of the struggling local unit said Thursday.Indeed, there had been talk of turning all of Daewoo into Chevrolet, but there was opposition, especially from unions, and you don't want to piss off the unions, not in Korea.
GM Daewoo CEO Mike Arcamone said the Chevrolet brand would provide "a significant momentum" to increase the local unit's sales and domestic market share, Yonhap news agency reported.
"According to our survey, half of the (Korean) public is familiar with the brand," he was quoted as telling reporters at a motor show in the southern port of Busan.
GM Daewoo, acting as the US company's global mini car development centre, uses the Chevrolet brand overseas but its cars are sold under the Daewoo brand in South Korea.
GM Daewoo's union has opposed the idea of selling the Chevrolet brand in South Korea, claiming it would relegate the company to a subcontractor for the US company.
It is the pudgy but stern-faced young man next to him, dressed in a snappy Western suit and dutifully scribbling in a notebook, who has spurred intense speculation. Could this unidentified man be just a plant manager? Or could this be the first public appearance of Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader’s third son and heir apparent?Already the conclusions made from this photo have been discredited by some who say it's not Kim Jong-un at all, and I'm not convinced. The guy doesn't really look like Kim Jong-il that much, though he seems to have that wavy hair. He also seems a bit older than twenty-seven and he's not wearing the Secret Juche Inner Circle Decoder Ring.
“There, see how his face is in focus and illuminated even more than Kim Jong-il himself?” said Cheong Seong-chang, a specialist on North Korean politics at the Sejong Institute. “There is a high possibility that this is Kim Jong-un.”
Little is known about the inner workings of the secretive North Korean government, not even the identity of the heir apparent. But if Mr. Cheong is right, the enigmatic photographs are the latest signs of the desperate push that the North Korean government is making to build a cult of personality around the son, who is believed to be 27, to prepare him to assume control as the current leader’s health declines.
While director Cho Kyeong-duk was studying in Japan in 2004, he came across a nonfiction book with a provocative title: “Sex Volunteer,” by Kaori Kawai. It was based on two years of interviews with physically disabled people in countries from Japan to the Netherlands, about their sex lives and the group of people who, as the title implies, volunteer to sleep with them.It reminded me of something I had read or heard in English a few years ago, about a man in Japan who is paid to take women's virginity. The women who use his service are largely thirty-something women or older who just never ended up having sex for one reason or another: A typical case would be a person who was saving it for the right person who never came along, and now at this "advanced" age, the virginity has become a burden that might turn off someone they would rather not scare away.
Using a fake documentary format, the 123-minute film tracks the story of three people - college student Ye-ri, cerebral palsy sufferer Chun-kil and a priest — who are brought up on prostitution charges. Ye-ri said she was not paid to have sex with Chun-kil nor was she his girlfriend, instead calling their relationship volunteer work.Apparently the film is getting some recognition:
As the film unfolds, a female reporter interviews groups of people like the ones Cho met, from a priest who hands out sex aids to the physically challenged to a man who secretly operates a group of sex volunteers online.
Asked to explain where the boundary between fiction and nonfiction falls in the film, Cho said, “I added two characters: the priest and Ye-ri’s mother [who helps prostitutes leave brothels]. Except for those two characters, the film is based on truth.”
Cho has “no idea” how many real sex volunteers there are in Korea. “I just talked to a few people, and they don’t represent the whole sex volunteer community,” he said.
Everyone told him his movie would flop, but Sex Volunteer has actually been invited to many international film festivals including the 2009 Montreal World Film Festival and the 2010 Singapore International Film Festival, Cho said. The film even won the Humanitarian and International Jury award at the Sao Paulo International Film Festival last year. The film was also certified as an art film by the Korean Film Council in the same year.Well, when you deliberately choose a salacious title, you shouldn't be surprised when people respond primarily to that.
Still, the project has met with a mixed response among activists for the disabled here. Koo Ja-yoon, a former counselor at the Web site Pureun Ausung for the Disabled, said Cho’s film might spread the misconception that sex volunteers are common, which is not true.
South Korea's international volunteer program is one way this bustling Asian nation is marking its emergence as one of the world's most industrialized nations.Mr Glionna's article also raises doubts about the sincerity of the effort:
Founded in 2009, the World Friends Korea program consolidated several smaller volunteer efforts under one umbrella. The organization now has 3,000 volunteers working in 40 countries, a number second only to the 8,000 enrolled in America's Peace Corps, officials here say.
Not all volunteers are young — many are retired, members of a generation that lived through the 1950s conflict with North Korea and the subsequent hard times. By 2015, the program is due to expand its ranks to 20,000.
"South Korea's development as a nation is due in part to the generous contribution of the international community," said Lee Chan-buom, coordinator of the program's launch. "We can empathize with the nations we assist because 50 years ago, there was widespread famine in Korea. For many volunteers, that starvation is a childhood memory."
But in a nation obsessed with success and ranking, some question the altruism of programs such as World Friends Korea.Who exactly are these doubt raisers? Frankly, I think it's a tad overly cynical to call into question the motivation of people who are putting themselves out there like that when the general public (perhaps including the author) have not done or would not do the same.
In a spin on the line from President Kennedy's inaugural address, some chide South Korean volunteers for having the attitude: Don't ask what you can do for the world, but what the world can do for your resume.
Many volunteers do see the program as a way to sell themselves in a downsizing job market, analysts say.
"Overseas volunteer activities are considered a special [resume builder] you cannot earn domestically," said Shin Kwang-yeong, a sociology professor at Chung-Ang University in Seoul. "They are valued highly, so that is why people prefer those activities."
No one will ever write erotic poetry about the Hyundai Sonata. No courting suitor ever promises a woman, "Darling, I'll give you the moon, the stars, a Sonata with cloth seats..." Snooki from "Jersey Shore" will be named secretary of agriculture before a Sonata crosses the field at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance classic-car show. These things are appliances, disposable widgets, destined to wind up as brightly colored cubes of crushed and fused metal, the unlamented scat of our mobility society.Maybe they need to dust off the "Hyundai. Yes, Hyundai" slogan. The article certainly makes the case that it deserves a second look. Mercury ran an ad campaign a year or so again imploring that "You've got to put Mercury on your list," but it seems Hyundai is the one actually succeeding in that department. (If my mother is any indication, Hyundai has a bright future: My parents, siblings, and I have exclusively been drivers of Hondas, Toyotas, and Chryslers for the past three decades, but she is seriously looking at a Hyundai Veracruz or a Kia Sedona.)
But for now, be amazed. Be amazed that any company can put together a car with this much raw, unmitigated content—a 2.4-liter direct-injection four cylinder with variable valve timing on both cams; six-speed automatic with manual shift mode; iPod/USB/AUX jacks and Bluetooth; stability control and smart ABS; airbags and power amenities galore—wrap the whole thing in a 10-year powertrain warranty and push it out the door for $20,195. That's ridiculous, ridonkulous. This is the sort of scorched-earth pricing that makes other car makers consider a change in strategic direction. Perhaps there are some openings at Hardees? ...
This is a nice-looking car, and for all the blathering about remote keyless entry and the like, the styling—thoughtful, attractive, premium, by several degrees above the call of duty—is the feature that impresses me most. Wrought in what Hyundai calls "fluidic styling"—trademark alert!—the car does have a handsome, hydraulic wholeness to it, like water flowing over a river rock. The bold "light spear" along the side (the shallow draft under the accent line broadens as it goes back along the side of the car, creating a spear-like shadow) plays nicely against the back-drafting energy of the roof line. A little bit of Volkswagen CC in there, a little Mercedes-Benz CLS. The most sophisticated exterior touch is a thin chromic bow that runs from the headlamp to the C-pillar along the belt line, a brightwork meteor across the car's firmament. Lovely.
Of course, all cars are in some sense political, since country of origin and economic policy are inextricable. And here the story turns a bit melancholy. The Sonata's awesome pricing occurs at the whip end of a long chain of factors, including the fact that it's built in a place with low wages, a low standard of living and an indifferent attitude toward workers' rights. Someone really should take up a collection for Montgomery, Ala.It's funny, but I always thought that WSJ's core readership wouldn't see that kind of stuff — if Hyundai is in fact abusing its workers by building factories and giving them jobs — as a bad thing.
The two rivals met at Annapurna base camp on 7 April over a cup of tea. "It was a very pleasant chat… we laughed a little. It was good," Pasaban wrote in her blog.The stakes are certainly high (get it? high!): If Ms Oh is disqualified, Ms Pasaban gets all the glory and Apolo Anton Ohno will be awarded the bronze.
But this week, after Pasaban's descent from Annapurna to Kathmandu, the gloves came off.
She began to voice doubts that Oh had reached the top of the world's third-highest mountain, Kangchenjunga, which both of them tackled in May last year.
Crucially, she sowed seeds of doubt in the mind of the world's most respected keeper of Himalayan mountain climbing records, Elizabeth Hawley.
Miss Hawley, an 86-year-old American, told the BBC that following her conversation with Pasaban on Thursday, she was altering her unofficial but authoritative Himalayan Database to mark Oh's ascent of Kangchenjunga as "disputed".
A 10-member team including Oh and a KBS producer on Friday reached camp three, located at a height of 6,400 metres (21,100 feet).I'm glad they're putting safety over glory.
But they started descending on Saturday morning after giving up efforts to reach the next camp, at a height of 7,200 metres, because of strong winds, KBS TV reported.
Oh and her colleagues were planning to descend to a lower-level camp and wait for the weather to clear. Avalanches and ice falls have claimed the lives of dozens of climbers attempting to summit Annapurna.
Annapurna is particularly dangerous because it is both technically difficult and avalanche-prone, and it has a much higher death rate than Everest, the world's highest peak.
Oh, who was defeated by Annapurna last year, made the decision to delay her assault on the peak after being told by radio from her base camp that it would be snowy and windy at the weekend, Yonhap news agency said.
South Korea Friday gave the clearest signal to date it had no plan to launch a revenge attack if it turns out, as widely suspected, North Korea sank one of its navy vessels last month near their disputed border. ...The same article notes the risks and problems associated with any action Seoul might take:
"Just as the investigation is being conducted with international cooperation, we'll try to cooperate with the international community in taking necessary measures when the results are out," President Lee Myung-bak told a group of visiting foreign journalists.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that North Korea should not take provocative actions following the allegations it may have sunk the South Korean ship, and should resume talks on ending its nuclear programs.
The sinking of the ship is an issue fraught with risks for South Korea's Lee.Of course, taking no action also comes with risks. Fortunately, there are some good options available that can teach the North a lesson without things getting too hot.
If he were to launch a military attack on his impoverished neighbor, it would be the South that would come off worse, with investors likely to take fright at the threat of conflict across the Cold War's last frontier just as the economy is recovering fast from the global financial crisis. ...
Lee needs to prevent turning the emotionally charged affair into a weapon for his political opposition at home ahead of June local elections which could, if his ruling party suffers a serious setback in the polls, damage his authority and ability to push through promised pro-business reforms.
Senior staffers at the Securities and Exchange Commission spent hours surfing pornographic websites on government-issued computers while they were being paid to police the financial system, an agency watchdog says.Porn and lots of it. Sometimes eight hours a day, to the point of running out of hard drive space (heh heh heh — hard drive... guess he'd need some floppies). Go read it on your own. Meanwhile, here's some safe-for-work porn.
A proposal aimed at stopping repeated requests for information from so-called "birthers" might also shut out legitimate information requests by the public, says a University of Hawaii professor opposed to the measure.There are dissenters, including a University of Hawaii journalism professor who fears that this will also "provide a big loophole for government bureaucrats in terms of ignoring legitimate requests."
Government agencies would not be required to respond to follow-up requests for information if, after a "good faith review and comparison," the subsequent request is deemed duplicative or substantially similar to a previous request.
Agencies also would not be required to respond to subsequent requests if the pending request had been responded to in the past year or if the agency's response to the request would remain unchanged.
South Korea's military believes a torpedo fired from a North Korean submarine sank its navy ship last month, based on intelligence gathered jointly with the United States, a news report said on Thursday.A tearful President Lee Myungbak reminded everyone of the nation's loss, so it's clear something will be done (I mean, if you're going to hope everyone calms down so you won't have to deal with this, then you don't read off the names of each of the dead on national television).
The Yonhap news report appears to be the clearest sign yet that Seoul blames Pyongyang for what would be one of the deadliest incidents between the rivals since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. It puts more political pressure on President Lee Myung-bak, but analysts do not see it triggering a war.
The military's intelligence arm sent the report of "certain" North Korean involvement to the presidential Blue House soon after the incident, Yonhap quoted a high-ranking military source as saying. ...
"North Korean submarines are all armed with heavy torpedoes with 200 kg (441 lb) warheads," the military source was quoted as saying by Yonhap. "It is the military intelligence's assessment that the North attacked with a heavy torpedo.
Long a domain of excessive concrete and drab apartment blocks, Seoul is embarking on perhaps the most ambitious facelift in its 600-year-history, aimed at catapulting it into the top ranks of global cities in terms of architecture and image.Frankly, this almost certainly means my thirty-year-old Seoul Station-area apartment will be razed and the rise again as a glass and ferro-concrete phoenix. Frankly, I don't mind so much.
The International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID) has praised Seoul's ongoing transformation, naming the city its Global Design Capital for 2010.
But critics wonder at the cost of the change and how much of what distinguishes Seoul will be destined for the wrecking ball.
Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon, a telegenic politician up for re-election in June and seen as a possible contender in the 2012 presidential race, has staked his fortunes on the design plans he hopes will bring more business and tourism to the city.
"Cities worldwide are entering an era of competition," Oh told Reuters. "We need to have not only the technological and cost competitive edge, but more than anything, the competitive edge in attractiveness."
Under Oh's watch $100 million of the city's budget has been dedicated annually to initiatives such as the Han River Renaissance, which has spruced up the river bisecting the capital with dazzling evening light shows and fountain-spouting bridges.
The project will culminate in the construction of an arts facility on a river islet with a massive symphony hall and opera house, capped with an undulating, photovoltaic-ready roof.
New Jersey restaurateur Robert Egan barbecues meat for a living, except when he acts as a self-appointed, unofficial conduit between the United States and North Korea.While it's important to remember that even North Korean government representatives can be regular people, putting this human face on DPRK citizens should never mean putting a mask over the regime's evil, which I fear this may do. I'm also not terribly pleased about people making a buck for their collaborative (?) dealings with the North. At any rate, I can think of two reasons why Mr Egan needs to wash his hands after his barbecues.
In his book "Eating with the Enemy: How I Waged Peace with North Korea from my BBQ Shack in Hackensack," which will be released on April 27, Egan recounts how he forged an unlikely friendship with North Korean diplomats at the United Nations.
For a decade, he courted them with racks of ribs, hunting trips and by making occasional trips to help deliver humanitarian aid to Pyongyang, the capital of the impoverished, reclusive communist state that harbors nuclear ambitions.
"With diplomacy, sometimes everyone takes themselves so seriously," Egan told Reuters during an interview at his restaurant Cubby's BBQ, located a short drive from Midtown Manhattan. "You know, you have to let your hair down every once in a while."
The decor of Cubby's pays tribute to its owner's second life. The walls are lined with framed photographs of Egan, a gregarious, broad-shouldered 52-year-old man with mixed Irish and Italian ancestry, posing with North Korean diplomats and newspaper articles that document their friendship.
"On a local, personal level there was a breakthrough. That's a good thing," said John McCreary, a retired analyst for the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency and a North Korea expert, who counts Egan as a friend. But McCreary said it was not clear Egan had accomplished more than that.