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Steven Borowiec

Seoul, South Korea
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About Steven
Steven Borowiec is a journalist and broadcaster based in Seoul, South Korea. He has written for the Guardian, Time, the Wall Street Journal, on other top notch media outlets. He has appeared as a commentator on radio and television networks including NPR, BBC and CBC.
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Australia envoy spat shakes South Korea's ruling party ahead of poll

13 Mar 2024  |  asia.nikkei.com
South Korea's ambassador-designate to Australia, former defense minister Lee Jong-sup, is under investigation for allegedly interfering in a probe into a marine's on-duty death, posing a threat to the ruling party's prospects in upcoming elections.

South Korean central bank proposes lower pay for foreign care workers

08 Mar 2024  |  asia.nikkei.com
South Korea's central bank has proposed bringing in foreign care workers and paying them less than the minimum wage to address economic challenges associated with the aging population. This proposal, if implemented, would be a significant shift from the current employment standards for foreign workers in South Korea, who are currently entitled to the same minimum wage as local workers.

South Korea holds live-fire drill after North's shelling near islands

05 Jan 2024  |  asia.nikkei.com
South Korea conducted a live-fire exercise in response to North Korea's shelling, which led to the evacuation of two frontline South Korean islands in the Yellow Sea. This incident marks an escalation in tensions between the two Koreas, whose leaders have recently exchanged harsh rhetoric.

Russia using North Korea ballistic missiles in Ukraine, White House says

05 Jan 2024  |  asia.nikkei.com
The U.S. announced that Russia has used ballistic missiles and launchers supplied by North Korea, indicating a new level of cooperation between the two authoritarian states. National security spokesperson John Kirby revealed that Washington has new intelligence confirming North Korea's recent provision of these military assets to Russia, potentially giving Moscow an advantage in the ongoing war in Ukraine.

South Korean hit '12:12: The Day' highlights political divides

23 Dec 2023  |  asia.nikkei.com
South Korean historical blockbuster '12:12: The Day' dramatizes the assassination of President Park Chung-hee and the subsequent coup led by General Chun Doo-hwan, highlighting the political turmoil and battle for control in the country. The film features veteran actor Hwang Jung-min as Chun Doo-hwan.

South Korean rising political star makes stern shift on refugees

14 Dec 2023  |  asia.nikkei.com
South Korea's Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon has announced a proposal for a legal amendment to screen asylum seekers for any history of terrorist acts or associations with terrorist groups. This represents a shift in Han's stance, as he has previously been an advocate for integrating outsiders. The amendment aims to address the current lack of legal grounds for denying refugee status to terrorists, thereby ensuring national security.

North Korea claims successful launch of spy satellite

21 Nov 2023  |  asia.nikkei.com
North Korea announced the successful launch of a military reconnaissance satellite into space on Tuesday night, a claim that was reported earlier by South Korea's military. The Korean Central News Agency confirmed the satellite's placement in orbit early Wednesday, while Japan's Defense Ministry has not confirmed this.

South Korea teachers fight for legal solution to tense classrooms

19 Nov 2023  |  asia.nikkei.com
Teachers in South Korea are advocating for stronger legal protections amid a growing movement against what is perceived as an increasingly tense school environment. They are pushing for revisions to the Child Welfare Act, which currently includes a clause against 'emotional abuse' that could leave teachers vulnerable to legal action from parents.

South Korea's Yoon vetoes hot-button union and media bills

17 Nov 2023  |  asia.nikkei.com
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol vetoed significant legislation on unions and broadcasters, which was proposed by the opposition Democratic Party and passed by the National Assembly. This decision is expected to exacerbate tensions between Yoon's party and the opposition, as well as with labor and media groups.

South Korea's Busan goes all out in bid for World Expo 2030

14 Nov 2023  |  asia.nikkei.com
South Korea is making a determined push to host World Expo 2030 in Busan, competing against Italy and Saudi Arabia. The South Korean government has allocated $5.7 billion for the bid, less than Italy's $10.9 billion and Saudi Arabia's $7.8 billion. The host city will be elected on November 28 during the general assembly of the Paris-based Bureau International des Expositions.

Yoon's fiscal pledges collide with South Korea's low-growth reality

31 Oct 2023  |  asia.nikkei.com
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol has emphasized his commitment to market-oriented improvements and fiscal sustainability in a budget speech. However, experts suggest that the government may need to continue or increase spending to stimulate growth and avoid political consequences.

South Korea's GDP growth keeps 0.6% clip as exports rebound

25 Oct 2023  |  asia.nikkei.com
South Korea's economy sustained its growth rate at 0.6% in the third quarter, consistent with the second quarter's performance, buoyed by a 3.5% increase in exports. This rebound was largely attributed to the semiconductor and machinery sectors, as reported by the Bank of Korea.

Indonesia's top diplomat warns of 'Cold War in hot places'

06 Oct 2023  |  asia.nikkei.com
Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, speaking at the ASEAN meetings in Jakarta, warned that the Indo-Pacific region is exhibiting signs of a 'Cold War in hot places.' She emphasized the significance of the ASEAN forum, which includes all key Indo-Pacific countries, in addressing these geopolitical tensions.

North Korea fails to launch satellite: state media

04 Oct 2023  |  asia.nikkei.com
North Korea's attempt to launch the Chollima-1 satellite failed early Wednesday morning due to a rocket malfunction, resulting in the satellite crashing into the sea. The failure was attributed to issues with the rocket's engine and fuel systems, as reported by the Korean Central News Agency, which did not specify the crash location.

North Korea fails to launch satellite: state media

04 Oct 2023  |  asia.nikkei.com
North Korea's attempt to launch the Chollima-1 satellite failed due to a rocket malfunction, with the satellite crashing into the sea. The failure was attributed to issues with the rocket's engine and fuel systems, as reported by the Korean Central News Agency.

South Korea shows off military hardware in display of might

03 Oct 2023  |  asia.nikkei.com
South Korea showcased its military strength in a rare parade in Seoul, marking the 75th Armed Forces Day. The event, the first in a decade, featured tanks and thousands of troops, underscoring the current administration's security focus and the nation's growing role as an arms exporter.

South Korea audit alleges graft in lucrative cram-school sector

02 Oct 2023  |  asia.nikkei.com
South Korea's state auditor has uncovered widespread graft in the cram-school industry, revealing that public school teachers with access to university entrance exams sold practice questions closely based on the actual tests to private test preparation institutes. The findings, presented by the Board of Audit and Inspection, have intensified concerns over corruption in the multibillion-dollar sector.

Kishida and Yoon tout 'new departure' for South Korea-Japan ties

01 Oct 2023  |  asia.nikkei.com
The leaders of Japan and South Korea held a summit in Seoul, marking the full restoration of reciprocal diplomatic visits. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol emphasized the benefits of deepening cooperation in security and the economy for both nations, contributing to global peace and prosperity.

Kishida, Yoon agree to boost Japan-South Korea trade, security ties

01 Oct 2023  |  asia.nikkei.com
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol met in Tokyo to enhance economic and security cooperation, marking the first bilateral visit by a South Korean leader to Japan since 2011. The leaders agreed to accelerate collaboration in economic security, advanced science and technologies, finance, and foreign exchange, aiming to move past historical tensions.

India G20 summit faces Ukraine, climate tests: 5 things to know

08 Sep 2023  |  asia.nikkei.com
World leaders are set to gather in New Delhi, India, for the G20 Summit to discuss global economic, security, and climate issues. This marks the first time the summit is held in India, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi aiming to showcase India's influence on global affairs and its role as a mediator between industrialized nations and the Global South.

Yoon dines on seafood as Fukushima discharge divides South Korea

30 Aug 2023  |  asia.nikkei.com
President Yoon Suk Yeol and other South Korean government officials are dining on seafood all week at the presidential office, including sea squirts, roasted mackerel, and raw fish soup. This comes amid a divisive debate in South Korea over the discharge of treated radioactive water from Fukushima.

South Korea to share North Korea launch info with Japan and U.S.

24 Aug 2023  |  asia.nikkei.com
South Korea's president has directed officials to share details of a failed North Korean satellite launch with Japan and the U.S. This decision follows a recent summit agreement. North Korea's state media acknowledged the unsuccessful launch, citing an issue in the rocket's third stage, and plans to attempt another launch in October.

South Korea's Yoon downplays Taiwan war risk after U.S. summit

22 Aug 2023  |  asia.nikkei.com
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol has been emphasizing the benefits and dismissing the risks associated with the recent trilateral summit with Japan and the U.S. The summit, which concluded with a statement named the Spirit of Camp David, represents a significant step in cooperation between Seoul, Tokyo, and Washington.

South Korea's Yoon calls for military info sharing with Japan, U.S.

15 Aug 2023  |  asia.nikkei.com
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol advocated for real-time nuclear and missile information sharing with Japan and the U.S. during South Korea's Liberation Day. He emphasized the shared values of freedom, democracy, and a rules-based international order between the countries, highlighting the need for cooperation to counter the nuclear threat from North Korea.

Two Koreas harden war-era alliances 70 years after combat ended

27 Jul 2023  |  asia.nikkei.com
On the anniversary of the Korean War armistice, North Korea strengthens ties with Cold War-era allies China and Russia. Kim Jong Un showcased ballistic missiles and heavy weaponry to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in Pyongyang, signaling the ongoing influence of the war's legacy on the diplomatic and security stances of the two Koreas.

South Korea signs off on Japan's Fukushima water release plan

07 Jul 2023  |  asia.nikkei.com
The South Korean government has approved Japan's plan to release wastewater from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, stating it meets international standards and will not significantly affect ecosystems off South Korea's coasts. The release is scheduled for later this summer, despite opposition from political parties and environmental groups in South Korea, China, and other Asian countries.

North Korea goes back to drawing board after failed rocket launch

31 May 2023  |  asia.nikkei.com
North Korea's recent failure to launch a satellite into orbit is seen as a minor setback in its aspirations to be recognized as a technological and military power. Bruce Bennett from RAND Corp. views the malfunction as predictable and a source of frustration for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who is keen to surpass South Korea's capabilities.

Yoon says Kishida visit to Korean memorial in Hiroshima a 'brave act'

21 May 2023  |  asia.nikkei.com
The leaders of Japan and South Korea, Yoon Suk Yeol and Fumio Kishida, held their third bilateral summit this year, marked by a symbolic joint visit to a World War II-era monument in Hiroshima. This visit signifies the warming relationship between the two nations. Yoon, attending the Group of Seven summit as a guest, praised Kishida's visit to the Korean memorial in Hiroshima as a 'brave act'.

Yoon says Kishida visit to Korean memorial in Hiroshima a 'brave act'

21 May 2023  |  asia.nikkei.com
The leaders of Japan and South Korea, Yoon Suk Yeol and Fumio Kishida, held their third bilateral summit of the year in Hiroshima, marking a significant step in improving relations between the two countries. They jointly visited a World War II-era monument, including a memorial for Koreans who died in the 1945 atomic bombing, highlighting the ongoing efforts to mend their historically fractious relationship.

Japan, South Korea, U.S. to tighten trade and defense ties

19 May 2023  |  asia.nikkei.com
At the Group of Seven summit, Japan, South Korea, and the U.S. will explore ways to enhance their collective approach to trade, supply chains, and challenges posed by China. The talks aim to build on recent diplomatic efforts and create effective mechanisms for cooperation. Andrew Yeo of the Brookings Institution highlighted the need for U.S. coordination with allies to effectively compete with China.

U.S.-South Korea atomic bond aims to scare Kim Jong Un

27 Apr 2023  |  asia.nikkei.com
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, during his first official trip to the U.S., addressed speculation about South Korea developing its own nuclear weapons. Conservative politicians, including Yoon, had argued that North Korea's weapons tests necessitated South Korea's own nuclear arsenal to ensure public security, as reliance on the U.S. alone might not be sufficient.

U.S.-South Korea atomic bond aims to scare Kim Jong Un

27 Apr 2023  |  asia.nikkei.com
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, on his first official visit to the U.S., addressed speculation about South Korea potentially developing its own nuclear weapons. Amidst North Korea's new weapons tests, Yoon and other conservative politicians have suggested that South Korea cannot solely rely on American protection and should consider an independent nuclear arsenal for national security.

South Korea's wartime labor proposal to Japan: 5 things to know

06 Mar 2023  |  Nikkei Asia
South Korea's conservative government proposed a plan to compensate Korean laborers forced to work for Japanese companies during World War II. This move, involving a government foundation using private donations to compensate 15 victims who won legal cases in 2018, is seen as an effort to improve relations with Japan.

South Korea’s Unions Cry ‘Red Scare’ Amid North Korea Spy Claims

27 Jan 2023  |  portside.org
South Korea's largest trade union, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, has been raided by the National Intelligence Service on allegations of illegal contact with North Korean agents. The government's actions are seen as an attempt to suppress the labor movement, with historical references to past administrations using similar tactics. Gig worker Kim Joo-hwan is organizing for better working conditions and criticizes the government's divisive approach towards workers. The labor movement's left-wing activism and opposition to certain government policies are highlighted, as well as recent controversies involving President Yoon Suk-yeol.

US waged war on China’s chips; S Korea, Taiwan felt the fallout

05 Jan 2023  |  www.aljazeera.com
The US's efforts to strengthen its semiconductor industry and counter China's technological progress have caused concerns in South Korea and Taiwan, both of which have significant economic ties to China. The Chips and Science Act, signed by President Joe Biden, aims to boost domestic chip manufacturing and includes measures to prevent companies from expanding in China. South Korean and Taiwanese companies, leaders in the global chip market, are facing challenges due to these US policies. South Korea's government has responded by increasing tax credits for tech investments, while in Taiwan, there are worries about the potential impact on the local industry. Despite these concerns, TSMC, Samsung, and SK Hynix are planning investments in new US facilities. The situation reflects the complex interdependencies in the global semiconductor industry and the geopolitical tensions between the US and China.

South Korea's Yoon vows to 'completely block' North's nuclear threat

02 Jan 2023  |  asia.nikkei.com
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol announced in a New Year's address that South Korea and the U.S. will complete a strengthened defense posture in the first half of the year to counter North Korea's nuclear and missile threats. The speech also covered topics such as housing, education, and the economy.

Workers at ‘South Korean Amazon’ protest ‘boiling pot’ conditions

02 Aug 2022  |  www.aljazeera.com
Workers at Coupang, South Korea's leading e-commerce firm, are protesting for better working conditions, including adequate air conditioning and rest time, amidst record-setting summer temperatures. The physically demanding work has led to health concerns and worker deaths, with labor groups citing strenuous conditions as factors. Coupang, which is the country's third-largest employer and has faced losses despite rapid growth, claims to meet government standards for worker health and has installed cooling units. However, workers argue these measures are insufficient. The company's financial outlook is further challenged by South Korea's economic situation, characterized by slow growth and high inflation.

Cost of living: ‘Blood, sweat’ for a Seoul food delivery driver

21 Jul 2022  |  www.aljazeera.com
In Seoul, South Korea, food delivery drivers like Park Jung-hoon are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis, exacerbated by record-setting summer heat and high petrol prices. Drivers are paid per delivery, with fees determined by an algorithm, but have not seen rates increase despite rising fuel costs. Park, who also operates Rider Union, highlights the dangers and financial pressures faced by drivers, who are classified as independent contractors without legal protections such as a minimum wage or accident insurance. The food delivery market has seen explosive growth, yet drivers are not reaping the benefits. President Yoon Suk-yeol has acknowledged the severity of the crisis and is seeking solutions. Park's activism includes advocating for better working conditions and educating drivers about their rights, while considering the impact of the crisis on his personal life and potential future family.

Philippines’ infrastructure woes in focus as Marcos takes reins

29 Jun 2022  |  www.aljazeera.com
The Philippines faces ongoing infrastructure challenges as Ferdinand Marcos Jr prepares to assume the presidency. Despite efforts by the previous Duterte administration to improve infrastructure through the Build, Build, Build initiative, many Filipinos still lack basic amenities. Political analysts are uncertain how Marcos Jr will govern and whether he will continue Duterte's infrastructure drive. The country's history of corruption and inefficient project execution casts doubt on future improvements. The article reflects on the past experiences of Edgardo Perea, an engineer who worked on a water project that was never completed due to political upheaval.

Why is North Korea clamping down on ethnic Chinese over Lunar New Year?

23 Jan 2020  |  South China Morning Post
North Korea's ethnic Chinese minority, known as hwagyo, are facing increased scrutiny and restrictions from North Korean authorities. Traditionally benefiting from easier travel to China and access to goods, hwagyo are now subjected to higher costs for travel documents and fines for non-participation in political events. This crackdown reflects broader economic challenges in North Korea, exacerbated by international sanctions and a struggling economy. Despite attempts to spur growth through relaxed commercial controls, the regime of Kim Jong-un is tightening its grip on economic activities to maintain stability. The situation indicates a decline in hwagyo's economic influence and worsening conditions in North Korea.

The existential crisis facing North Korean schools in Japan

22 Apr 2019  |  www.aljazeera.com
Tokyo Korean Junior and Senior High School, the largest of the 70 Joseon schools in Japan, faces an existential crisis due to its association with North Korea. Despite providing a similar quality of education as Japanese schools, these institutions have lost government subsidies and students due to their loyalty to North Korea. The Japanese public and government view these schools with suspicion, exacerbated by North Korea's missile threats and historical grievances. The Zainichi community, which remains stateless and loyal to North Korea, uses these schools to maintain their identity amidst growing anti-Korean sentiment in Japan.

The Odd Family, Train to Busan 2: Korean zombie movies come back to life as a political force

17 Mar 2019  |  South China Morning Post
The Odd Family: Zombie On Sale, a South Korean horror film, uses a unique twist on the zombie genre to explore social commentary on class divisions and government ineptitude. The film follows a family exploiting a zombie's rejuvenating bite for financial gain, reflecting broader societal issues. Similar themes are present in other Korean zombie films like Train to Busan and Rampant, which critique government responses to disasters and social inequalities. Despite mixed critical reception, The Odd Family has secured international sales, indicating the genre's growing global appeal.

Why some Filipinos fear a Chinese military takeover of a bankrupt shipbuilder’s dockyard in Subic Bay

06 Feb 2019  |  South China Morning Post
Concerns have arisen in the Philippines over the potential for Chinese military presence at the bankrupt Hanjin Shipping's dockyard in Subic Bay, a strategic maritime location. Former Philippine navy chief Vice Admiral Alexander Pama and Senator Grace Poe have expressed national security concerns, prompting legislative calls for inquiry. The situation is complicated by the Philippines' historical ties with the US and current relations with China. While some locals fear economic and security implications, others like former shipyard welder Josito Lucov have adapted to new livelihoods.

South Korean hit novel about young mother Kim Ji-young strikes a chord among women across Asia

03 Feb 2019  |  South China Morning Post
Kim Ji-young, Born in 1982, a South Korean novel, has become a hit by resonating with women across East Asia who relate to the protagonist's struggles with gender discrimination and work-life balance. The book has sparked a gender debate and received backlash from some men. It has been a game-changer in South Korean publishing, with translations underway for English, Thai, and Vietnamese. The novel reflects broader issues of gender-based societal expectations in high-income East Asian countries and has found readership among women who share similar experiences.

In South Korea, resentment of refugees from the North

29 Dec 2018  |  South China Morning Post
In South Korea's Nonhyeon neighborhood, North Korean defectors face challenges integrating with South Korean society due to stereotypes and a lack of interaction. While the South Korean government attempts to distribute defectors evenly across the country, many South Koreans view defectors as economic burdens and are resistant to forming personal relationships with them. Experts suggest that education for South Koreans on acceptance is as important as preparing North Koreans for life in the South. Economic concerns among South Koreans further complicate the integration of defectors and cooperation with North Korea.

13 more problems for Trump-Kim summit: North Korean defectors

28 May 2018  |  South China Morning Post
The article discusses the complexities surrounding the upcoming Trump-Kim summit, focusing on the issue of North Korean defectors. Despite recent diplomatic efforts, North Korea demands the repatriation of defectors as a prerequisite for further progress. The South Korean government faces criticism and allegations of involvement in the defections, which complicates negotiations. Experts suggest that North Korea is using the defectors to gain leverage in talks. The article also touches on the broader implications for North-South relations and the potential impact on the Panmunjom declaration goals.

How turbulence at Korean Air became a rallying call for equality

06 May 2018  |  South China Morning Post
The article discusses the public outrage and protests against the Cho family, who manage Korean Air, following multiple incidents of misconduct. The family's actions, including tantrums and alleged smuggling, have sparked a broader conversation about the excesses of South Korea's wealthy elite and the leniency they often receive. Public discontent is evident in petitions and rallies, with calls for the Cho family to step down from management. The article also highlights the skepticism towards government authorities and the perceived complicity of tax officials in failing to enforce regulations.

The one thing that won’t be discussed at the Korea summit

21 Apr 2018  |  South China Morning Post
At the upcoming inter-Korean summit, South Korean President Moon Jae-in will not address human rights issues in North Korea, despite his background as a human rights lawyer. The summit will focus on denuclearization and maintaining inter-Korean cooperation. This approach is consistent with past South Korean left-leaning administrations and is supported by the right due to the urgency of the nuclear threat. Human rights groups criticize the omission, but international actors prioritize the nuclear issue. Discussions on human rights are seen as potentially derailing progress on security concerns.

Dear God, please send the Philippines some tourists

08 Apr 2018  |  South China Morning Post
Tourism in the Philippines trails behind other Southeast Asian nations despite its natural attractions. The country is attempting to boost faith tourism, with officials reporting increased tourist arrivals during Holy Week. However, President Duterte's controversial comments and actions, including human rights abuses, may impact the country's image. The government plans to target Asian markets for faith tourism, acknowledging the challenges of attracting long-haul visitors.

South Korea: Sex workers hit hard by government’s crackdown

19 Mar 2018  |  www.aljazeera.com
In Seoul, South Korea, the once-thriving red-light district Cheongyangni 588 has been largely demolished as part of urban development plans, leaving sex workers like Ann struggling with reduced business. The national sex workers union HanTeo, led by Jang Se-hee, criticizes the government for pushing prostitution underground without dialogue or protective measures for workers. The Seoul Metropolitan Government's PR team member Hojin Choi highlights a civic watchdog program to report illegal activities but does not comment on the demolition. Other districts like Miari Texas and areas near Yongsan Station are also disappearing. HanTeo is advocating for the abolition of the special law on prostitution and addressing abuses in the industry, while condemning the government's lack of support for sex workers.

The price of Russia’s absence from the 2018 Winter Olympics

09 Mar 2018  |  www.aljazeera.com
The absence of Russia from the 2018 Winter Olympics due to a doping ban has impacted the Russian-speaking community in Seoul, South Korea, and the local economy. Despite some Russian athletes competing under a neutral flag, the expected influx of Russian visitors and business has not materialized. The ban, imposed by the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee, aims to restore credibility to the Olympic movement. South Korea's tourism industry has shifted focus to Russian tourists due to a decline in Chinese visitors. Experts believe the ban may have long-term positive effects on the fairness of the Olympics.

Why North Korea decided to play nice

10 Jan 2018  |  www.aljazeera.com
North Korea has agreed to send a delegation to the Winter Olympics in South Korea following a series of meetings that marked a departure from recent tensions. The move is seen as a potential economic opportunity for North Korea amidst international sanctions. Both Koreas have incentives to maintain cooperation beyond the Olympics, with military talks planned and the US supporting the dialogue. However, challenges remain in logistics and the potential for tensions to resurface after the Olympics, especially with the US and South Korea's postponed military exercises.

Gyodong Island: Life on the front line with North Korea

29 Nov 2017  |  www.aljazeera.com
Gyodong Island, close to North Korea, is a South Korean rural community not bracing for conflict despite regional tensions. The island, reminiscent of 1970s South Korea, has seen an influx of tourists and new residents seeking a quieter life. Lee Young-jin, a schoolteacher and part-time translator, moved there for a peaceful life, while Ji Gwang-shik, a North Korean refugee, has run a barbershop for decades. The island's isolation has preserved its environment, with little industry and clean air. Employment is scarce, with agriculture as the mainstay. The community values education, and residents like Lee Ghang, a temple manager and amateur historian, enjoy the tranquility Gyodong offers.

Tension Escalates as North Korea Claims Successful ICBM Launch

06 Nov 2017  |  ZB
North Korea has escalated tensions by claiming to have successfully test-launched an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which it says can reach the US mainland. This development comes just before the G20 summit where North Korea's weapons program is on the agenda. The missile, Hwasong-14, reportedly flew for 39 minutes, covering 933 km and reaching an altitude of 2802 km. South Korea's president has urged North Korea to refrain from crossing a point of no return, while a Nuclear Policy analyst in London emphasized that North Korea is unlikely to use nuclear weapons without significant military escalation. The US has called for a United Nations Security Council meeting to discuss the launch.

The boxer fighting for asylum in South Korea

08 Jul 2017  |  www.aljazeera.com
Abdoulaye Assan, a boxer from Cameroon, is seeking asylum in South Korea, hoping that his success in the ring will persuade the government to grant him permanent residency. Despite facing numerous challenges, including language barriers, financial difficulties, and a stringent asylum process, Assan remains focused on his boxing career. His manager, Lee Kyoung-hoon, is dedicated to helping him succeed, organizing fights to build Assan's profile. South Korea's low acceptance rate for asylum seekers and the uncertainty of Assan's future add to the tension, but Assan continues to train and compete, aiming for higher-profile matches.

In South Korea, many ask whether the US could launch military action against the North without first consulting Seoul.

14 Apr 2017  |  Al Jazeera
The article discusses concerns in South Korea regarding the possibility of the US taking unilateral military action against North Korea without consulting Seoul. It references the US missile strike on Syria as a potential indicator of the Trump administration's willingness to act alone. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's comments and the deployment of the USS Carl Vinson to the Korean peninsula are mentioned as contributing to the anxiety in South Korea. South Korean officials, including a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman and presidential candidate Moon Jae-in, have emphasized the importance of US-South Korean consultation before any military action. The article also touches on the domestic focus on economic issues and corruption in the upcoming South Korean presidential election, despite the tensions with North Korea. Additionally, it mentions satellite imagery of North Korea's nuclear test site and the anticipation of possible North Korean provocations.

Seoul’s red light districts: first losers of the Winter Olympics

08 Apr 2017  |  South China Morning Post
Seoul's red light districts, particularly the one by Cheongnyangni Station, are being redeveloped as part of broader efforts to clean up the city ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics. The demolition of these areas is driven by both business opportunities for real estate developers and local residents' concerns about property values. The Seoul city government has also implemented various projects to improve the city's image, such as reducing homelessness and creating eco-friendly walkways. While some brothel owners resist vacating, the majority have agreed to leave, highlighting the complex interplay between urban development and social issues.

As it gears up to host a huge US overseas base, the city is a window on to fraught relations between locals and troops.

04 Mar 2017  |  Al Jazeera
The article discusses the expansion of the US military base Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, and its economic and social impact on the local community. Park Kyung-chan, a local business owner, credits the US base for the area's development and appreciates the security it provides. However, the expansion has led to tensions, including the displacement of farmers and violent standoffs. The US military's ban on patronizing certain local businesses due to concerns over illegal activities has also affected the local economy. The article touches on the broader implications of the US military presence in East Asia, including the potential for increased military conflict with China. Local residents and activists view the US presence as an obstacle to peace and unification on the Korean Peninsula.

Why the death of one rice farmer has captivated South Korea

30 Sep 2016  |  South China Morning Post
The death of South Korean rice farmer Baek Nam-gi, who became a symbol for the farmers' movement after being injured by a police water cannon during a protest, has captivated the nation. Baek's activism dates back to the 1970s and 80s, and his recent passing occurred amidst a period of low rice prices due to bumper harvests and declining domestic consumption. The government's attempts to stabilize prices have been ineffective, and debates over the legitimacy of police force during protests have intensified. Baek's life and death continue to inspire the farmers' movement in South Korea.

A diver’s pain: Living with the ghost of Sewol tragedy

27 Jul 2016  |  www.aljazeera.com
In April 2014, diver Kim Sang-ho was called to help retrieve bodies from the Sewol ferry disaster, a mission that left him with lasting physical and emotional trauma. Despite his efforts, he regrets not being able to save anyone. The article highlights the collective trauma experienced by South Koreans and the ongoing struggle for a thorough investigation into the disaster's causes. Kim, who has not worked as a diver since, calls for government compensation for the divers' suffering. The Sewol Investigative Commission's mandate has expired, but members argue for more time and resources to complete their work. The article criticizes the South Korean government for its handling of the disaster and the lack of support for those affected. The narrative underscores the need for accountability and better safety measures to prevent future tragedies. The political stance is center-left, advocating for government responsibility and social support. The sentiment towards the South Korean government is negative, while mentions of the University of Utah and the Sewol Investigative Commission are neutral.

‘LOEV’ Shows a New Side of Indian Cinema

23 May 2016  |  Los Angeles Times
The article discusses the Indian film 'LOEV,' directed by Sudhanshu Saria, which presents a narrative of love and friendship between two men, Sahil and Jai, set against the backdrop of middle-class India. The film challenges the stereotypical portrayal of India in Western cinema by focusing on the characters' personal and professional lives rather than poverty or cultural clichés. Despite the film's fresh take on homosexual relationships, it faced challenges in festival selections and funding due to its theme. 'LOEV' premiered internationally but has yet to be screened in India, with hopes for a release in the coming months. The article also touches on the legal and social challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community in India, including the debate over a colonial-era law criminalizing homosexuality. The film aims to foster empathy and challenge homophobia by portraying a nuanced story of same-sex love.

Christopher Doyle captures Hong Kong's complexities in 'Hong Kong Trilogy'

08 Nov 2015  |  Los Angeles Times
The article discusses 'Hong Kong Trilogy: Preschooled Preoccupied Preposterous,' a film by Christopher Doyle that captures the complexities of Hong Kong. The film, which blends documentary and feature elements, focuses on the Umbrella Movement and the city's generational, political, and economic challenges. Doyle, an Australian cinematographer who has become a significant figure in Hong Kong cinema, reflects on his career and the making of the film. The movie examines the lives of different generations in Hong Kong and their perspectives on the city's future. It has been shown at various film festivals and is seeking partners for a U.S. release. The article also touches on the difficulties of funding art-house documentaries in a film industry increasingly influenced by mainland China's money.

The South Korean Charity That Tries to Give Everyone a Proper Burial

01 Jan 2015  |  Time
The article tells the story of Ham Hak-joon, an 86-year-old man in Seoul who lives in isolation and worries about who will take care of his funeral since he has lost contact with his family. It introduces Good Nanum, an organization that provides funerals for unclaimed bodies, highlighting the increasing number of such cases in South Korea. The article discusses the societal changes leading to more elderly people living and dying alone, with fewer children feeling obligated to support their aging parents. It also touches on Ham's life history, including his military service, his failed business during the Asian Financial Crisis, and his current financial struggles. The piece ends with Ham finding some solace in knowing that Good Nanum will ensure he won't die anonymously.

Two Koreas make strides to talk the same language

11 Jul 2014  |  www.theguardian.com
The article discusses the efforts of North and South Korean scholars to create a unified Korean language dictionary, known as Gyeoremal-kunsajeon, to address the linguistic divide that has developed since the division of the peninsula over 60 years ago. The project, funded by the South Korean government, aims to prepare for a future reunification by reconciling the different forms of Korean that have evolved, with the South incorporating many English words, while the North has created homegrown substitutes. The work on the dictionary began in 1989 but has faced delays due to political turmoil, including the halting of inter-Korean exchange after the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan in 2010. A recent meeting in Kaesong marked the first collaboration in four years, and further discussions are scheduled in Shenyang, China. The project is seen as an important cultural endeavor, particularly in light of Korea's history with Japan's attempts to eradicate Korean language and culture during its occupation.

Gangnam-styled: street traders face eviction in K-pop themed facelift

11 Apr 2014  |  www.theguardian.com
The article discusses the controversy surrounding the redevelopment plans for Seoul's Gangnam district, known for its association with the K-pop hit 'Gangnam Style'. Local mayor Shin Yeon-hee intends to transform the area into a K-pop themed 'global luxury district' to attract more foreign tourists, with attractions like K-Star Road. However, local vendors like Lee Seon-ja, a pseudonym for a street food stall owner, are concerned that the changes will threaten their livelihoods. The vendors' situation gained attention after videos of their food carts being forcibly removed were posted on YouTube. Despite their willingness to cooperate with the government and upgrade their stalls, they feel ignored and fear the loss of their traditional role in Korean culture.

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