Category : Korea

(NYT) South Korean Jehovah’s Witnesses Face Stigma of Not Serving in Army

Since he was a teenager, Kim Min-hwan knew he would have to make a choice: abandon his religious convictions or go to prison.

Mr. Kim is a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who for decades have faced jail terms as conscientious objectors under South Korea’s Military Service Act. Since his release from prison in 2013, Mr. Kim has found the stigma too great to find a meaningful job, though he was a chemical engineering major. He spends his days volunteering at the Jehovah’s Witnesses headquarters south of Seoul.

“I was predestined to become a convict because I believed in the creator,” Mr. Kim, 31, said in an interview. “I want South Korea to recognize that there are other, nonmilitary ways for us to serve the community.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Asia, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Korea, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

Every day is Veterans Day in search for the missing from Korea: EPlain-Dealer Editorial

Hostilities ceased in the Korean War more than 50 years ago, yet there are still more than 7,800 U.S. service members unaccounted for in that conflict — out of 83,165 missing since World War II (most of them from WWII, with 1,639 from the Vietnam War and six in Iraq and related conflicts.)

After five decades, it becomes ever more difficult to find family DNA samples for remains that are recovered.

Still, a flurry of Korean War identifications suggests the Pentagon — which overhauled its POW/MIA search earlier this year after coming under fire for a money-wasting and uncoordinated operation — may be trying harder to broaden its approach. A number of the identifications are now made using paternal DNA and/or autosomal DNA as well as maternal (mitochondrial) DNA.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Korea, Marriage & Family, Military / Armed Forces, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology

(CEN) Canterbury calls for peace in Korea

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has added its voice to the call for peace in Korea. In a message read to the Second Worldwide Anglican Peace Conference held in Okinawa from 16 ”“ 22 April 2013 Archbishop Welby lauded the work of the Korean and Japanese churches to foster peace in Northeast Asia.

“Your gathering has come at the most needful time,” Archbishop Welby wrote, in a statement read by his representative to the conference Bishop John Holbrook of Brixworth in the diocese of Peterborough.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * International News & Commentary, --Justin Welby, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Asia, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Korea, North Korea

(Christian Today) No improvement for North Korea's Christians

Christians in North Korea are reporting that their situation has not changed under the leadership of Kim Jong-un.

North Korea has topped the Open Doors World Watch List of the 50 worst persecutors of Christians for 10 years in a row.

Open Doors USA says that although the communist country’s new leader has experimented with light agricultural reform and is a fan of Mickey Mouse, he has not made “any essential changes” in the first year since his father Kim Jong-il’s death.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Asia, Korea, Law & Legal Issues, Other Churches, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

South Korea: North's launch "failure"

South Korea’s foreign minister says a North Korean long-range rocket launch has been confirmed a “failure.”

Kim Sung-hwan provided no further details about what he said was the North’s failure to launch a rocket the West has condemned as a cover for a missile test.

He told reporters Friday in a nationally televised address that Seoul is “strongly condemning North Korea’s new leadership” for ignoring international warnings to cancel the launch.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, Korea, Politics in General, Science & Technology

(CSM) Japan braces for North Korean missile launch

Japan and other countries in the Asia-Pacific appear to have failed to persuade North Korea to abort a rocket launch planned for as early as this week. Reports suggest that the region could be further unsettled by a rumored third nuclear weapons test by the regime.

The North insists that the launch, which could come on any morning between April 12 to 16 and will coincide with the centenary of the birth of the country’s founder Kim Il-sung on April 15, is designed to put an observation satellite into orbit. Japan, South Korea, and the US, however, say the launch would violate United Nations Security Council resolutions banning the North from engaging in missile development.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Asia, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, Korea, Politics in General

(LA Times) North Korea's new course

We believe that this pivot toward Beijing is no routine oscillation in North Korean policy. The drive to normalize relations with the U.S. from 1991 to 2009 had been real, sustained and rooted in Kim Il Sung’s deep concern about the regime’s future in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Perhaps there was no better demonstration of the North’s approach in those years than the situation on Oct. 25, 2000 ”” the 50th anniversary of the entry of the Chinese People’s Volunteers into the Korean War. Who was in Pyongyang on that date meeting Kim Jong Il? The Chinese defense minister? No, he was cooling his heels while Kim met with the U.S. secretary of State. That was no accident of scheduling on Pyongyang’s part; it would not happen again today.

If the paradigm shift is real, we expect the North in the near to medium term to make far less overt trouble. Less tension on the Korean peninsula? What could be wrong with that? Nothing, as long as it is understood that such tranquillity will also provide a veil for the North’s continuing pursuit of nuclear weapons and increasingly sophisticated delivery systems. With the onset of stability and growing Chinese-North Korean cooperation, Pyongyang may well calculate that the outside world’s focus on the North Korean nuclear program will become diffuse.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Asia, China, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, Korea, North Korea

Return to Korea: a South Carolina Veteran has life-changing experience

The letter arrived out of the past, addressed to former G.I. William Graver.

In a one-page note, the government of South Korea told Graver he was a hero and the country wanted to recognize his service fighting there in 1953. They were offering a flight back to Korea where he would join other aging soldiers as national guests.

“We hope that you will see what you made possible,” the kind note said. “And hope that your families will feel renewed pride in what you did for us many years ago.”

Read it all from the local paper.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Asia, History, Korea, Military / Armed Forces

In North Carolina Korean Catholics break new ground

Church groundbreakings are routine across the Triangle.

Most are symbolic affairs, with church leaders skimming the dirt, gleaming new shovels in hand.

But when members of the Korean Catholic community broke ground Sunday for their new church, it told a story – not just of a new immigrant community in the Triangle, but of the direction of the Roman Catholic Church, and, indeed, all of Christendom.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Asia, Korea, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Roman Catholic

Marriage drives Korean priests to Anglican church

The Catholic Church in Korea has lost four priests to the Anglicans in recent years, with marriage cited as the most important reason.

“They want to marry and at the same time serve as pastors,” Anglican Fr Peter Lee Kyong-nae, himself a former Catholic seminarian, told UCA News. Two more Catholic priests are currently preparing to become Anglican priests, he added.

“The priests made an honest and courageous decision to leave the Catholic Church in order to build a family, and they gave up all the privileges they enjoyed in the Catholic Church,” Fr Lee said.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, - Anglican: Latest News, Asia, Korea, Other Churches, Roman Catholic

North Korea Threatens Military Strikes on South

North Korea escalated its vitriol against South Korea and the United States on Wednesday with warnings of a “powerful military strike” if any North Korean ships were stopped or searched as part of an American-led operation to intercept vessels suspected of carrying unconventional weapons.

South Korea agreed to join the operation after North Korea tested a nuclear device on Monday, its second nuclear test in three years. The North had earlier warned the South not to participate in the operation, known as the Proliferation Security Initiative.

“We consider this a declaration of war against us,” North Korea said in a statement carried by its official news agency, KCNA. “Any hostile act against our peaceful vessels, including search and seizure, will be considered an unpardonable infringement on our sovereignty, and we will immediately respond with a powerful military strike.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Korea, Military / Armed Forces, North Korea, South Korea

LA Times: Tensions rise on Korean peninsula

A day after North Korea’s nuclear test, tensions on the Korean Peninsula rose further as Seoul announced that it would join a U.S.-led initiative to curb nuclear trade and the North reportedly test-launched two more short-range missiles.

North Korea said Monday that it had conducted a nuclear test followed by several short-range missile launches, drawing criticism from world capitals as well as a warning that Pyongyang had violated a United Nations Security Council resolution.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, Korea, Military / Armed Forces, North Korea

Outrage over North Korea Nuclear test

There have been expressions of international outrage after North Korea said it had successfully carried out a underground nuclear test.

US President Barack Obama described the North Korean action as a “threat to international peace”.

South Korea and Japan called the test unacceptable and joined the US in demanding international action.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Korea, Military / Armed Forces

AP: North Korea conducts nuclear test

North Korea carried out a powerful underground nuclear test Monday ”” much larger than one conducted in 2006 ”” in a major provocation in the escalating international standoff over its rogue nuclear and missile programs.

Pyongyang announced the test and Russia’s Defence Ministry confirmed an atomic explosion at 9:54 a.m. local time in northeastern North Korea, estimating the blast’s yield at 10 to 20 kilotons ”” comparable to the bombs that flattened Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The regime also test-fired three short-range, ground-to-air missiles Monday from the same northeastern site where it launched a rocket last month, the Yonhap news agency reported, citing unnamed sources. That liftoff, widely believed to be a cover for a test of its long-range missile technology, drew censure from the UN Security Council.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Korea, Military / Armed Forces

Suki Kim: Notes From Another Credit Card Crisis

South Koreans became hooked on plastic so dizzyingly fast that by 2003 they owned on average four credit cards each and their collective debts amounted to about $100 billion.

The cards had an additional allure as a status symbol, because previously in South Korea only the elite had them. “When I used credit cards, I somehow felt that others regarded me highly and that gave me confidence ”” and I forgot that I needed to pay it all back later,” said Kang Hee-yun, an office worker in her mid-40s, who eventually had to resort to “card kiting,” the trick of using one card to repay the debt on another.

The bill soon came due for many South Koreans. In 2003, a 34-year-old housewife harassed by creditors leapt to her death from her high-rise apartment after pushing out her three children. Families unraveled as their breadwinners lost their savings. A sudden surge in crime and prostitution led South Koreans to bemoan their “bankrupted society.” Finally, after millions had defaulted on payments, the government stepped in to help bail out LG Card, then the country’s largest issuer.

“The excess was similar to what’s happening with the American housing market today,” recalled Song Ji-hoon, a Rolex-wearing lawyer in his mid-30s who worked on behalf of one of the credit card companies. “Koreans wanted fancy cars, bigger TVs ”” although there was no real money to buy them ”” much the way those Americans thought that they could own houses with nothing but loans. Of course, in both instances, banks got greedy extending credits and mortgages to people who couldn’t pay back.”

This is a very fine piece from today’s New York Times op-ed (I am blessed today since I am with Dad–I have a paper copy on the day of publication). Here is your pre-reading quiz. In 1998, the household savings rate in South Korea was 25 percent. What was it in 2007? Guess before you click-KSH.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Korea, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

US: North Korea loading rocket on launch pad

North Korea is loading a Taepodong rocket on its east coast launch pad in anticipation of the launch of a communications satellite early next month, U.S. officials say. U.S. counterproliferation and intelligence officials have confirmed Japanese news reports of the expected launch between April 4 and 8.

North Korea announced its intention to launch the satellite in February. Regional powers worry the claim is a cover for the launch of a long-range missile capable of reaching Alaska. National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair said earlier this month that all indications suggest North Korea will in fact launch a satellite.

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Posted in * International News & Commentary, Asia, Korea

Global Financial Crisis Upends the Plans of Many South Koreans to Study Abroad

Seo Ji-won was supposed to have been in Sydney, Australia, by now, pursuing her dream of a doctoral degree and higher-paying jobs. Instead, the 26-year-old South Korean engineering graduate remains home in Seoul, working part time at a coffee shop, largely because of forces beyond her control.

The global financial crisis has hammered confidence in South Korea’s once-booming economy, decimating the value of its currency, the won, and forcing tens of thousands of students to alter their study plans, or cancel them altogether.

For Ms. Seo, the won’s plunge in value by a third just in the last few months drove up the cost of her four-year degree program by $10,000, far beyond her savings.

“I like to say that I’m in pause mode,” Ms. Seo said. “My future depends on the won going back up.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Economy, Education, Korea, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Korean churches growing rapidly in Southern California

Korean immigrants in Greater Los Angeles have established the biggest Korean community outside Asia, and their growing influence on the business community is well known. Perhaps less obvious is the extraordinary growth of Korean churches, which tend to practice a brand of Christianity emphasizing daily worship and missionary work.

Experts say that nearly 80% of Korean immigrants attend church. By comparison, a study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life this year found that 54% of Americans went to church weekly, more than once a week or a few times a month. The rest attended services occasionally or not at all.

“The local church is the center of fellowship, comfort and consolation,” said Anselm K. Min, professor of philosophy of religion and theology at Claremont Graduate University.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Asia, Korea, Other Churches, Religion & Culture

Religious peace threatened in South Korea

At Jogye Temple, normally an island of Buddhist serenity, plainclothes officers have staked out the exits, waiting to grab any fugitives who venture out. Camped out on the temple grounds are the leaders of fierce anti-government protests who have been charged with instigating violence. They have come to the temple seeking political sanctuary, not spiritual uplift. One top government official has branded them “Satans.”

As a gong echoes through the neighborhood of office towers in central Seoul, afternoon worshipers arriving at the temple – home to the largest Buddhist order in South Korea – walk below a canopy of 6,200 lotus-shaped lanterns. The lanterns are arranged by color to spell the English word “OUT” – a highly unusual rebuke to President Lee Myung Bak from the country’s once-docile and normally apolitical Buddhists.

“Religious peace in our country is being threatened by those who dream of turning it into a medieval Christian kingdom through a church elder-president,” said Park Jeong Kyu, a spokesman for the Jogye Order.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Korea, Religion & Culture