Extra! Korea

March 31, 2010

Yes, we need more commercials featuring Kim Yu-na

Filed under: advertising, sports — extrakorea @ 2:14 pm

When Kim Yu-na competed in Turin three years ago, she left for Korea soon afterward. However, this time, after winning silver at the recent world championships there, she had a night on the town with two other South Korean skaters, Kwak Min-jung and Kim Min-seok. She’s returning to Korea this afternoon.

Kim is slated to shoot eight television commercials for products ranging from electronics to automobiles to dairy items, all of which had been put off to let her concentrate on the Olympics.

If you thought you couldn’t escape seeing Kim Yu-na advertisements before (air conditioners, smoothies, cars, milk, eyeliner, yogurt, cell phones, and donuts), you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

OK, maybe I plagiarized you. Will you appear on my remix?

Filed under: intellectual property, music — extrakorea @ 1:34 pm

G-Dragon certainly found a great way to put that plagiarism issue to rest once and for all. Along with his concert DVD, he’s releasing a remix of the song “Heartbreaker” featuring … (drum roll) … Flo Rida!

Considering that Flo Rida hasn’t been to Korea (yet*) and G-Dragon hasn’t been to the States, I guess Flo Rida’s rap was phoned in, almost literally.

* Apparently, he’s coming very soon (in May, I believe), and guess who his special guest is going to be?

Edit/Update:

Yes, Flo Rida will be performing in Korea on May 21st and 22nd, and G-Dragon will be a special guest performer.

March 30, 2010

These aren’t Monty Python’s “suicide squads”

Filed under: North Korea — extrakorea @ 8:07 am

According to defectors, North Korea has “suicide squads.” No, not those kinds of suicide squads.

Silly sods. If only NorK suicide squads really were like that. Unfortunately, they’re not.

They are similar to the underwater demolition teams operated by the South Korean Navy, the defectors claimed. Recruited from the cream among North Korea’s naval commandos, members of the teams are treated well but undergo brutal training.

According to one high-ranking North Korean defector, the North formed suicide attack squads in each branch of the military after the country’s leader Kim Jong-il said during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 that no military in the world can defeat an army that can carry out suicide bombings.

The suicide attack squads are known as the “invincibles” in the Air Force, “bombs” in the Army and “human torpedoes” in the Navy. North Korea is said to place special emphasis on the naval squads. It operates a brigade of suicide attack squads in its East Sea and West Sea fleets and they are considered key to overcoming North Korea’s inferior conventional military power.

One former North Korean sailor who defected to South Korea said the suicide squads have many semi-submersible vessels that can carry two bombers and either two torpedoes or two floating mines. In areas like the West Sea where the underwater current is fast, the suicide bombers train with mines rather than torpedoes.

One defector who served in North Korea’s intelligence service, said, “Following the first naval battle in 1999, North Korea realized that it cannot defeat the South Korean Navy by conventional means and began studying unconventional methods.” The best method is said to be the use of “acoustic mines” carried by small, semi-submersibles that travel at speeds of less than 2 km/h. The craft could be detected by South Korean sonar if they travel any faster. If the underwater squads returned after placing the mines on the hull of a ship, it would be very difficult to find evidence of the attack.

(Chosun Ilbo, emphasis mine)

Interesting.

B.R. Myers has described North Korea’s kamikaze-like rhetoric.

Here’s something that you may choose to believe or not, at your discretion. Back when I taught adults,* one of my students was –get this– a priest who had also been a special forces underwater demolitions expert.
“In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, I bloweth up the earthly constructions of the North Korean spawns of Satan. Amen.”

* My present students are, legally and physically, adults, but for all intents and purposes, have the minds of children.

March 29, 2010

Mine now considered “most likely cause” of vessel’s sinking

Filed under: North Korea — extrakorea @ 10:02 am

It looks like my hunch now has some support.

Of the four possible causes — internal explosion, collision with a reef, explosion of a naval mine or a torpedo attack — the government was most drawn to the likelihood of a naval mine, a Cheong Wa Dae official said yesterday.

“Judging from what the captain of Cheonan said and the condition of the ship, the possibility of a naval mine explosion seems a bit higher than the other three,” the official said.

[ snip ]

Several survivors from the sunken ship reportedly ruled out the possibility of an internal explosion or a collision with a reef, drawing attention to the scenarios of a mine explosion or a torpedo attack.

[ snip ]

Defense Minister Kim Tae-young said in a parliamentary hearing yesterday that there was no South Korean naval mine in the West Sea area.

“There is no South Korean naval mine along the west coast,” Kim said in response to a question by a lawmaker on the parliamentary committee for defense.

[ snip ]

Another military official said a mine laid underwater during the 1950-53 Korean War could have surfaced, noting that mines from then were often found in the West Sea.

The South Korean navy practiced placing naval mines during the Korea-U.S. military drill earlier this month but not in the waters around Baekyeong island, he said.

North Korea reportedly has defensive minefields near the disputed inter-Korean sea border.

The country that lost track of its naval mine should be responsible for an accident caused by the mines it placed, according to international law experts.

(Korea Herald)

Defense Minister Kim Tae-young cautiously raised the possibility that the ill-fated Cheonan may have hit a sea mine laid by North Korea.

[ snip ]

He said, “North Korea’s sea mines might have been floating in our territorial waters.” However, Kim refused to comment on whether the mines had been placed by the North intentionally or had drifted into South Korean waters.

He rejected the possibility of a blast caused by South Korean mines. The minister also played down the possibility of a torpedo attack.

North Korea bought about 4,000 sea mines from the Soviet Union during the Korean War and was believed to have laid about 3,000 of them both in the eastern and western waters of the Korean Peninsula, Kim noted.

“Almost all mines were removed, but not 100 percent,” he said. “A North Korean mine was found (in South Korean waters) in 1984 and another was removed in 1995.”

(Korea Times)

Choi Jin-shil’s younger brother may have committed suicide

Filed under: celebrities, suicide — extrakorea @ 9:48 am

As if the Choi family hasn’t suffered enough

The younger brother of Choi Jin-shil, Choi Jin-young, was found dead at his home Monday. He supposedly hung himself, though no suicide note was found at the scene.
(Joongang Daily, Korea Herald)

As Brian who-used-to-be-in-Jeollanamdo reported earlier, Korea reportedly has the highest suicide rate in the OECD and one of the highest in the world, and also did so in the years 2004 to 2009.

March 28, 2010

(Updated) Could a mine have sunk South Korea’s vessel?

Filed under: North Korea — extrakorea @ 2:52 am

There’s still no public announcement as to the cause of the sinking of the South Korean vessel. ROK Drop has a post in which he links to various sources that claim that the explosion was caused by something from outside of the ship. If that is so, what could it have been? One suggestion has been a mine. If so, then whose mine? Perhaps ours.

Now if it were an external cause and it were a mine — it could be one of “ours.” Look at the islands in the West Sea. Were there a Nork attack, we’d want to mine the area between them– and that means we almost certainly already have done so, by mines that are on the seabed ready to be detonated by electrical impulses from shore. They could also have a secondary pressure trigger if the electric signal was cut. So there could have been a mistake.

It’s also possible that the ship had wandered off course or the mine could have broken loose from its moorings.

Could it have been a North Korean mine? Here’s my theory, and you can decide for yourselves if I need a tinfoil hat or not. There have been three previous clashes in that area, in 1999, 2002, and 2009. In all three incidents, the North Koreans suffered more casualties. Knowing that that they can’t win a straight-up fight with the technologically-superior south, they decided to mine the area. According to some sources, the North Koreans were in that area earlier that same day. (Is it illegal to mine disputed waterways? I think so, but am not sure.)

If it was a North Korean mine, then it would be the worst casualties that the south has suffered since 1967, when 39 sailors were killed by North Korean artillery. And could this lead to an escalation of conflict?

Paul Chamberlin, a former US naval attache to South Korea, told Al Jazeera: “If it becomes clear this was an attack from North Korea, a major escalation that would lead to general war is very unlikely.”

Edit/Update:

The possibility that it was a mine has now been publicly put forth.

Sea mines might have caused the tragic sinking of a South Korean naval ship, U.S. experts said Saturday, dismissing concerns over possible North Korean involvement.

[ snip ]

Feffer disagreed with the assumption that North Korea attacked the South Korean naval vessel, noting this incident is different from the previous clashes that involved fishing boats of the two Koreas crossing their sea border.
“There have been naval clashes between North and South in the past, but these have usually involved rising tensions, warnings, fishing boats crossing the NLL,” he said. “But this was, as far as we know, a surprise. And there was no larger reason why the North might engage in such a surprise attack.”

[ snip ]

Bruce Klingner, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, described the unexplained explosion as “an oddity in an era of sophisticated ships and communication,” raising a sea mine as a possible cause.

“Although initial media reports suggested a North Korean torpedo as the cause, that interpretation now appears to be the result of overeager reporters,” he said. “Seoul is now downplaying the likelihood of North Korean involvement in the explosion and sinking. A survivor of the sinking insists there was no onboard explosion, leading to speculation the cause was a naval mine, either South Korean or one that had drifted from the North.”

That still wouldn’t explain why the mine hit a South Korean ship but didn’t hit any of the North Korean ships that had been in that same area earlier that same day. That it was a mine that had been planted there by the North Koreans still makes the most sense to me.

March 27, 2010

(Updated with videos) Kim Yu-na wins silver, Mao Asada gold at Turin 2010 figure skating world championships

Filed under: sports — extrakorea @ 10:28 pm

After stumbling to seventh place in the short program, Kim Yu-na moved way up in the free skate to win the silver medal at the 2010 Turin world figure skating championships.

Kim, 19, fell on a triple salchow and popped a double axel. She also lacked spark throughout the 4-minute program.

To be honest, with a performance like that, taken together with her disastrous short program, I really wonder if she deserved to move up so far, onto the medal podium. And the future?

With the next Winter Games four years away in Sochi, Russia, Queen Yuna as she dubbed at home is considering whether she should turn professional.

“I’ll take a break and think about my future,” she said.

Mao Asada won the competition, the second time in three years that she’s done so.

The 2008 world champion, sitting second after Friday’s short program, was a little loose on two jumps but otherwise showed supreme grace and control as the “Bells of Moscow” rang out from the loudspeakers.

Her triumph gave Japan both male and female gold at these 100th world championships. Olympic bronze medalist Daisuke Takahashi claimed the title on Thursday.

“I wanted to follow Takahashi’s success,’’ said Asada. “Next year the world championship is in Japan (Tokyo) and I think this is a good start to the new season.’’

She says that she’s grateful to Kim for pushing her to be a better skater.

“It has been a long time that I felt I had to work harder because of her (Kim),” Asada said. “Thanks to her, I grow as a skater, and I will be encouraged to work harder even from now on.”

Mao says that she’s considering getting a new coach. In my view, that would be a smart move because the Russian coaches have shown that they either lack the ability or desire to use the current point system to the best advantage.

“At the start of the season I had to continue to challenge and push myself to do the triple axel. After the Olympics I was very relaxed,” Asada said, adding that she would now consider hiring a new coach for next season.

Finland’s Laura Lepisto, who was in third place after the short program, remained in third place. It was Finland’s first medal at a world championships.

America’s Mirai Nagasu, who was in the lead after the short program, finished the long program in 11th place, and so fell to 7th overall.

Nagasu started badly, with a stepout on her first triple lutz that kept her from doing a combination. Then she had a two-footed landing on her second triple lutz and fell on a double axel.

“I’m sorry,” Nagasu said to her coach, Frank Carroll, as she left the ice.

She really beat herself up.

“I’m just really disappointed in myself for not stepping up to the plate today,” Nagasu said. “I’m sorry I didn’t do the best that I could have done. Coming out of the Olympics, where I was in fourth place, finishing in seventh place here is a really big blow. I feel really bad.”

[ snip ]

“I am really disappointed with myself because I always do this, I always go from first to like seventh,” Nagasu said, sniffing through tears. “Except at the Olympics. I didn’t drop there.”

If she can break this bad habit (one columnist called it a “fear of flying high“), she’s a future world champion for sure, possibly even the next Olympic champion.

Japan’s Miki Ando was fourth, and Canada’s Cynthia Phaneuf was fifth.

Cynthia Phaneuf is more known for popping jumps than popping eyes.

She did none of the former and quite a lot of the latter here Saturday afternoon, lifting herself into a fifth place finish at the World Figure Skating Championships.

The 22-year-old from Brossard, Que., once a national champion, finally nailed the clean long program she has been longing for through several seasons of climbing back from injury and eclipse.

European champion Carolina Kostner of Italy received a rousing reception from her home crowd but could only finish sixth despite an elegant display — prompting boos toward the judges.

Mao Asada's really happy

So is Cynthia Phaneuf

And Mirai Nagasu is really bend-y

Edit/Update:

Mao Asada

Kim Yu-na

Laura Lepisto

Mirai Nagasu

Timely, excellent article by B.R. Myers on North Korea

Filed under: North Korea — extrakorea @ 4:37 am

While looking for updates on the sinking of a South Korean vessel, I stumbled upon a timely article by B.R. Myers. It’s excellent. (Normally, I try not to block-quote huge swathes of an article, or try to break them up into pieces interspersed with my commentary, but in this case, I won’t, or rather, can’t.)

They [North Koreans] have known since the 1990s that their living standard is much lower than South Korea’s. The gap was explained away with reference to the sacrifices needed to build up the military. What the North Koreans are only now realizing, however—and this is more important—is that their brethren in the “Yankee colony” have no desire to live under Kim Jong Il. In 2007, after all, they elected the pro-American candidate to the South Korean presidency. Why, then, should the northerners go on sacrificing in order to liberate people who don’t want to be liberated? Unable to answer this question, the regime in desperation has resorted to the most reckless propaganda campaign in its history.

[ snip ]

Such misery prevailed in the mid-1990s too, but at least then the regime admitted an economic crisis, even as it mostly blamed the Yankees. Now it talks of a country transforming itself from one year to the next. No dictatorship can afford to lie so stupidly to its people, or to raise public expectations that will be dashed in a matter of months.

Unlike the East Germany of old, North Korea lacks the high walls, incorruptible border guards and surveillance technology needed to keep an entire populace in lockdown. Reports of demonstrations against the currency reform may have been exaggerated, but the belated decision to increase the amount of exchangeable currency shows there must have been unrest of some sort. It also indicates that the regime lacks the will to crush it in Tiananmen-style fashion. Kim Jong Il must either find new ways to inspire his people or watch ever more of them cross into China.

[ snip ]

Since the East Bloc crumbled away in the early 1990s, North Korea has shown its true ideological colors ever more clearly. Last year it even deleted the word communism from the national constitution, elevating “military first” socialism to the country’s guiding principle instead. At the same time it has made ever more extensive use of kamikaze terms and slogans (“Let us become human bombs in defense of the leader”) taken almost verbatim from Pacific War propaganda. The official media routinely mock the leaders of the old East Bloc for giving up “without firing a shot,” and vow that “there can be no world without [North] Korea.”

The possibility of a violent, potentially apocalyptic regime collapse in North Korea within the decade is one that all countries with an interest in the region should keep in mind. They should also be more conscious of the internal ideological contradictions that make the country’s long-term survival impossible. If North Korea must collapse anyway, it makes no sense for China to prolong things; the leadership will only go out with a bigger bang when the day finally comes. As for Americans, we should focus our contingency planning on a worst-case nuclear scenario instead of fretting about Beijing’s role on a post-Kim peninsula. A Chinese occupation of North Korea should be the least of our worries.

I wonder how South Korea would feel about “a Chinese occupation of North Korea”? Bye bye to dreams of a reunified Korea.

Did North Korea sink a South Korean vessel in the West Sea?

Filed under: North Korea — extrakorea @ 1:06 am

Brian who-used-to-be-in-Jeollanamdo first brought us the story of a South Korean vessel sinking in the West Sea under mysterious circumstances. It occurred near the Northern Limit Line, which North Korea has never accepted, and there have been naval clashes there before, in 1999, 2002, and 2009.

Did the North Koreans sink it? Here’s what today’s newspapers are saying:

The source said Friday that the 1,200-ton patrol ship was probably attacked by North Korea, citing that another South Korean patrol ship near the area fired at an unidentified target toward North Korea.

(KBS World)

South Korean officials are not yet pointing any fingers but say they are not ruling out the possibility that the vessel was the target of a North Korean torpedo attack. Lee says a South Korean naval vessel detected an unidentified object on its radar and fired several warning shots. He says he cannot confirm what the object was.

(Chosun Ilbo)

The unidentified object may have been a flock of birds.

A South Korean vessel fired warning shots toward the North around the time of the incident after its radar detected a suspicious object, he said. It was believed to be a flock of birds, he [Rear Admiral Lee] added.

However …

“For now, it is not certain whether North Korea is related” to the incident, she [presidential spokeswoman Kim Eun-hye] added.

(Korea Herald)

One report, quoting the joint chiefs of staff, said the target turned out to be a flock of birds.

[ snip ]

There was no sign of the North’s military in the area where the ship sank, Yonhap said citing officials.

(BBC News)

But …

Earlier in the day, North Korean forces conducted artillery firing drills in the area, according to military sources.

(Korea Herald)

A Navy source who asked for anonymity told the JoongAng Ilbo “there’s a very low possible [possibility] that a Patrol Combat Corvette would sink due to internal explosion,” and “We should not rule out the possibility that it may be a North Korean attack.”

(Joongang Daily)

“Let’s not jump to conclusions here,” [United States] State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said, responding to a question about any North Korean involvement. “I’m not aware of any evidence to that effect. But I think the authoritative source here would be the South Korean government.”

(Yonhap News)

As of this writing, 58 of the crew of 104 have been rescued, and 46 are still missing.

Edit/Update:

ROK Drop has a post detailing some of the recent tensions with/provocations by North Korea. If this was indeed an attack (which won’t be known until the wreckage is inspected), it may be one of many death throes of the Kim Jong-il regime.

March 26, 2010

(Updated with videos) Kim Yu-na finishes seventh in short program at Turin world championships

Filed under: sports — extrakorea @ 11:53 pm

At the World Figure Skating Championships, which are being held in Turin, Italy, Olympic and defending World champion Kim Yu-na finished in seventh place in the women’s short program. What happened?

The Olympic champion opened her routine with a solid triple lutz-triple toe loop combination, but she under-rotated her triple flip and missed a layback spin before her spiral sequence was downgraded.

It’s a pity, because it was the last chance to see Kim’s “James Bond medley” performance.

So who is currently in first place? Is it Kim’s great rival, Mao Asada? No, she’s in second. In first is Mirai Nagasu.

Here is what I said about her during the Olympics:

Mark my words, she is someone to watch in the years to come.

I knew that she was a future world champion (and possible Olympic champion), but I didn’t expect that it might happen so soon.

The other South Korean at the competition, Kwak Min-jung, qualified for the free skate but only finished in 23rd place after missing a triple lutz-double toe loop combination.

The free skate will take place Saturday night (Turin time).

Edit/Update:

Here are videos of the performances. Watch them quickly, before some douche-nozzle complains and has them removed from YouTube.

Kim Yu-na:

Mirai Nagasu:

Mao Asada:

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