korea

Ace Hurler Ryu Hyun-jun to Test MLB

Watch for Ryu Hyun-jin to come to the MLB. By watching the video below of his 17 strikeouts, you can see his various pitches and crazy movement. He’s also the strikeout king and appears to be one of the best in baseball. He’s also 25 and appears to be a robust young man at 6’2″ and 215… although he looks heavier.

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(youtubelink)



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Sex slaves from World War 2 Fight On

The multi ton elephant in the room? Sex slaves from World War 2. The denial of existence versus the possibility of 50,000 to 200,000 victims. An apology, a little bit of acknowledgement, but no compensation and a current hope that the remaining who are still living, will soon pass away. (Guardian UK – Comfort women)



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Yasukuni Shrine Visit Always Angers

Every visit to the Yasukuni Shrine by the Prime Minister of Japan, enflames all of Japan’s past war crimes. Enshrined are 14 Class A War Criminals (See the list here at China.org.cn of course!) among plenty of soldiers. A possible future PM, Shinzo Abe recently visited the shrine, possibly causing a stir with both Chinese and Koreans during this island dispute. Here are a few photos from a visit in 2010. (CNN – Yasukuni Shrine)



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Japan War Crimes Blasted at Times Square NYC

It’s all alleged right?

“In 2012, Korean women forced to work as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers during WWII are still waiting for a heartfelt apology from Japan.”  (Asiancorrespondent – Times Square)



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Instant Gratification

I share a bittersweet moment with you all… the preparation and consumption of my last bowl of instant ttuk guk. It was a precious moment, and good things are always even better when shared.

This is the object of my obsession, Ottogi’s instant rice cake soup, or Ssal Ttuk Guk. Ottogi is the maker of many fine instant foods, but this has to be their best. The have lofty goals to make delicious, healthy and easy to make food. One of their mottos is “Ottogi fills ALIVE TASTE and Nutrition of nature to all products”. They create classic instant food products that try to recreate Korean comfort food, like burnt rice crusts, and ttukbokki (spicy rice cake) flavored ramen. They make weird trendy food too. Pizza flavored rice cakes? No thank you. I don’t care about any of that though, I just want this. Every day. All day long. In an unlimited supply.

I found these on the cup noodle shelf at the Apollo Market – the neighborhood market just across the parking lot from my first apartment here in Darkhan. It’s a popular market because they stock a good variety of products, everything is clearly priced, the staff if friendly, and with the Russian embassy across the street, they try to stock “international” foods. Korean food is popular in Mongolia. Korean restaurants are everywhere, and you can find Korean products on even the tiniest country mini-market’s shelves. This though… this precious food, I had never seen before, and on instinct, I bought 4 of them that day.

I spent the better part of my young/ not-so-young adult life as a strict vegan. Mongolia makes that a daily challenge. If I lived in Ulaanbaatar, I’d have access to all kinds of food in grocery stores, and vegan friendly cuisine at dozens of restaurants around the city, but I live in Darkhan. That means everything available here is what grows (or grazes) around here, and what comes in from distributors in Ulaanbaatar. In the winter, much of the produce selection disappears, and you want to eat seasonally to avoid Chinese produce that is over priced and chock full of chemical preservatives. I try to eliminate as much meat and dairy as possible from my daily diet, but as soon as I settled here I caved on Korean comfort foods. These are foods that I would make vegan versions of at home, and rarely ever found vegan versions of outside of veggie/vegan Korean restaurants in Seoul. Ttuk guk is a childhood favorite. With fresh rice cakes, it’s melt in your mouth delicious. Totally filling. It makes you feel like you’re being hugged by a polar bear wearing an electric blanket, and that polar bear just wants you and your tummy to be happy and full for forever.The soup usually comes with some ground or sliced beef in it, and the soup is a beef based broth, so this is one of those comforts I gave up over 17 years ago.

The beauty of most Korean instant foods is that the flavors are usually artificial. I checked the cholesterol count on the package and it was minimal, indicating a small amount of animal protein. Sodium was high, indicating a large amount of artificial “meat” flavor. All good in the new diet hood! I had no idea how they were going to pull off the rice cakes, but I was still willing to try.

The package contains a bag of vacuum packed rice cakes with a silica gel packet for “freshness”, an MSG-heavy, gooey soup sauce/gel, and a packet of dehydrated TVP (texturized vegetable protein), egg, green onion, and seaweed. No chunks of beef to be seen anywhere! Oh yeah, and a cute little soup spoon.

Dump all the contents into the bowl (rice cakes on the bottom), boil some hot water and fill it up about half-way (to the little line inside the bowl) and cover the top with the foil cover and something heavy-ish to keep all the power of hot water inside. Give the soup about 8-10 minutes to reach ultimate levels of delicious. I tried it at 5 minutes and it’s edible, but the rice cakes still needed some soaking in the soup. At it’s peak, the rice cakes are perfectly re-hydrated. They’re soft, chewy and they’ve absorbed the flavor in the soup. It’s like magic. Crazy, incomprehensible, developed in a laboratory, delicious food magic.

The final result stays nice and hot, but it might be the way I INHALE it as soon as I’ve taken off that foil top. I start with some soup and then work my way through the rice cakes so I can get a perfect ratio of rice cake to soup on my spoon. I have some OCD eating habits, and this is one of them. I also like to chew on both sides of my mouth so I try to make sure I’m always left with an even number of bites by the time I get to the bottom off the bowl. (When people give me three of something to snack on, I will usually bite the third snack in half to avoid anxiety. Please keep this in mind when sharing with me.)

So, this was the last bowl. After I finished the four I first bought at the Apollo Market, I went back and bought every single one on their shelves. I think I was squealing with delight as I was being rung up that day. Little did I know that they would not be restocking this item. I held on to this last bowl for one month, afraid to eat it – afraid it would be the last time and that I wasn’t ready to say good bye. I had to though. My incredibly considerate husband wanted to take the package to the manager of the Apollo Market and make a special request to get it back on their shelves. He offered to pay a little extra to get it to Darkhan, but it’s been two weeks now, and no sign of it.

Do yourself a favor, if you see this on your local Korean market’s shelves, buy it. It cost about $3 here, half the price of the same dish in a Korean restaurant. And do me a favor, if you find it, let me know so I can get on a plane and clean out the store’s inventory. In the meantime, this is a pretty good recipe for making the dish at home. I will be consoling myself with making ttukpokki for now, since the best husband in Mongolia managed to find me two bags of frozen ttuk. I could slice them up for soup, but it wouldn’t be the same, and I can’t fake the funk for that beef broth. File this under “Half-Korean Girl In Mongolia Problems”.

 

 



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Paralympic Games Wrap Up in London

Today is the last day of the Paralympics in London. They come and go so quietly compared to the big summer games.

If you live in the UK, you had a chance to watch over 400 hours of Paralympics broadcasts on Channel 4. In contrast, in the United States NBC had four nights of an hour long highlight show to cover the 11 days of ceremony and games. In Mongolia we got a good 4-6 hours of daily coverage, even after all of the Mongolian athletes came back home without medals. It’s reported that 11 million people tuned in to the opening ceremonies, nearly three times the number of viewers of the 2008 games in Beijing. China can console itself through a massive stack of medals its athletes will be taking home this summer. They are up to 95 gold medals so far, kept company by 71 silvers, and 65 bronze. Not too shabby.

Pictured here are the “Sook Sisters” (they all have “sook” in their name and aren’t actually related), Korea’s archery heroes who came away with one gold medal a piece, and an extra silver for Hwa Sook. South Korea had a lot invested in its athletes this year. Most of its athletes trained and lived at the newly built Korean Sports Training Center d’ground, a beautiful facility South East of Seoul designed just for Paralympians . Leading up to the games, Korean TV broadcast touching documentaries about the lives of some the athletes, and the coaches and family members who support them in their training.

Back in June, GR blogged about Maya Nakanishi who was getting some flack for fund raising with a self-published calendar featuring some sexy shots with just her prosthetic. She did end up making it London this year, and she competed in three Athletic games, but didn’t get any medals. I hope she can make it again in 2016. (Calendars as Christmas gifts are a big seller, Maya…)

Fundraising is just one of the challenges facing paralympic athletes. There was a record breaking number of participating athletes this year, 4,200 from 164 countries. In contrast, more than 10,000 from 204 countries competed in the Olympic games. Even if a paralympic athlete can overcome cultural stigma in their country, their personal physical challenges, and train hard enough to dominate in their categorized sport, they still have to find a way to pay for it all and make it to the games. It’s depressing to think of all the individuals who are held back by financial resources when they’ve been able to take on everything else.

There’s a dark side to the Paralympics, just like there is for the Olympic games. Much has been written about the “supercrip” archetype that surfaces with the Paralympic games. It’s fascinating, provocative, and a conversation that should be continued to better understand the challenges faced by the differently-abled.

North Korea can enter into the supercrip conversation now. They debuted their first ever Paralympic athlete in London. At the very last minute, maybe high on their Olympic golds, they sent a 16 year old boy who lived in Beijing to frantically try to qualify for a spot in the games. In May, all that was left by the time he cleared to qualify, was swimming.  He learned how to swim, learned two strokes (required) and competed on September 4th. North Korea has hopes to expand its Paralympic athletics program, and build upon what it believes to be substantial services for the differently-abled. Not sure how it ranks in importance to sufficient food supply for the general population, and the maintenance of state run theme parks, but this could mean some hope for extra rations for a few.

 



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The Journey of Spirit Continues

Back in June I wrote about Daeung Sunim, a Korean Buddhist monk who set out to ride his bike across Canada, the US and down across South America.  He’s made it across Canada, and met lots of people and had great hosts, and had what looks like they could have been very odd “you must like this cause you’re Asian” moments, but it all seemed to come from a really good place of being open, gracious and friendly to a stranger with a good heart.

He blogs when he can, sharing pictures of his trip. His first Canadian friend, Dave Pope, who has devoted himself to helping Sunim make his journey safely, has found some help in translating some of his blog posts.  All in all, it’s been a really interesting story to follow, as more and more people came together to help Sunim, and as the people speaking for him became more educated about his sect of Buddhism, his voice, and how much being a part of the journey would mean to other people. I like the “Host’s Blog” section of his website where people who put Sunim up for a day or two, share their experiences.

So now Sunim is on US soil. My hope is that the US bike/Buddhist/travelers community can do as good a job as its Northern neighbors in keeping Sunim safe along the way. He’s biking from Perry, Maine to San Diego, CA and will need support along the way. I can’t wait to hear about his impressions of the parts of the US he’ll be pedaling across. He’s avoiding most big cities, so I can imagine it’ll feel a lot like being in Canada – white people, trees, and truck stops.

There are lots of ways to get involved in Sunim’s ride, even if you aren’t located near his route, or able to provide financial support. Spread the word, and follow along on his journey and maybe some magic will happen!



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What’s the deal with Dokdo?

South Koreans want the world to know about Dokdo, aka Takeshima, aka Liancourt Rocks. Korean soccer player, Park Jong Woo scored the biggest audience so far for the Dokdo debate when Korea beat Japan for the Olympic bronze, but lost his chance to be a part of the medal ceremony. He may not get the medal awarded at all, but he does get out of having to do compulsory military service. Before Park held up his handmade sign on the world stage, Koreans in London were handing out flyers about Dokdo to the international tourists around the city. Korea really wants us to know what’s going on, because so far, no one seems to care, no matter how hard they flash mob for the cause.

Dokdo is found in Korea’s written records as early as 512, during the Shilla Dynasty. The islands show up in Japanese written records in 1693, and are eventually known in the Japanese record as Takeshima. Korea promptly sent an emissary to Japan to let them know back then that the islands were Korean territory, and Japan backed off. In 1849 a French whaling ship charted the island, and in typical European fashion, made up their own name for it, Liancourt Rocks. Japan came back again in 1876, and once more Korea protested. Japan apologized, again, and left it alone until the peninsula and all its territories were under Japanese control during 35 years of occupation. The Japanese were stoked on the prime sea lion hunting location.

After liberation in 1945, Dokdo was Korean territory again. The US used the islands as a bombing range in 1952 and stationed US troops there for a short time. The islands have been more than just a pile of rocks for a very long time. They are home to good fishing grounds, untapped gas deposits, and did I mention the sea lions?

So, now what’s to be done? Takeshima has become a platform for Japanese conservatives to stand their ground against outside agencies telling Japan what to do, and it’s also been a talking point for holding on to dwindling natural resources close to home. Dokdo has long been a focal point of Korean efforts to right the wrongs of a traumatic past. Dokdo was the starting point for the annexation of the Korean peninsula in 1910, and represents much more. No one is actively campaigning for the recognition of “Liancourt Rocks”, but who really cares about “rocks” anyhow? How can all parties move forward?

Japan doesn’t like to apologize for war crimes, and it doesn’t like to concede.  Takeshima gives steady fodder to the conservatives who influence government, education, and foreign policy. Currently airing Korean television dramas about freedom fighters during the occupation are popular and get consistently high ratings.  Dokdo makes regular appearances in Korean media and has become a focal point of national pride. If the closure Koreans need hasn’t been granted (if Han allows for any closure at all) then this, and other issues will be ongoing, straining both sides of the argument for future generations to wrestle with.

We’ll be hearing about Dokdo/Takeshima for a long time, until some agreement can be made about how to create a future with less tension, more understanding, and efforts are made to heal from a difficult past.

 



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Rising Sun Raises Han

Still so much post-Olympics fallout. While other countries have finished their best worst dressed lists for the international games, Korea (and others) are reacting to the “rising sun”, or Hinomaru, design featured on Japan’s gymnasts uniforms.

There are a lot of pieces to this debate. The average person outside of any conflict with Japan looks at the rising sun design and thinks of the Karate Kid’s headband. No harm done. The educated Japanese know that the design is symbolic of imperialist Japan, which has a lot to answer for. The conservative and nationalist Japanese sees the rising sun with great pride, the same way some white Southerners proudly display confederate flags in the rear windows of their pick up trucks – as a nice backdrop for their gun rack.

Then there are the people who see the rising sun as no different from the swastika of Nazi Germany. The United Nations banned the rising sun flag in 1945, but it hasn’t gone away, and for those who remember what it symbolized for a Japan at war, it’s a reminder of terrors, sadness and injustice. It has been used deliberately in the recent past to stand for Japanese domination, as it did in the not so recent past.

Speculation about whether or not the design was an intentional political statement can go on for a long time. Without the history behind the imagery, it’s just a snazzy design for a uniform in a sport full of smiles and swirly sparkly things. The world we live in doesn’t let us off the hook so easily though. We’ll see if where it leads.



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Naughty North Korea Responds

You may have seen this throughout the net just a few days ago via an Australian newspaper. It’s pure net fodder, but at the same time, North Korea is winning medals in a world arena. Who knows what the athletes need to endure to get here, and it could very well be a great story behind the scenes, but then again, it could be horrible too.

The response by North Korea: (WSJ – Naughty Korea)

“bullying act little short of insulting the Olympic spirit of solidarity, friendship and progress and politicizing sports.”

“cooked up the way of moneymaking, challenging the authority of a dignified state.”

“media are obliged to lead the public in today’s highly-civilized world where (the) mental and cultural level of mankind is being displayed at the highest level.”

 



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Soccer Japan vs Korea Friday

Maybe we’re adding more attention to something people want to forget about, but let’s face it, Korea vs Japan in anything, means more than just two teams playing a match. More than baseball which is saying lot, more than basketball which neither has much of a stake in, soccer is the largest arena of sports. Hopefully, the match happens, the best team wins without controversy, and they trade jerseys. Yes, ethnicity plays a role here. (Bleacher Report – Soccer)



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Olympic Snacking

No… not a new Olympic sport (although I can think of some countries that could produce gold medal contenders), but it turns out that in Korea, late night snack sales are getting a big Olympic boost. Dried squid, beer, and crunchy treats are helping Korean sports fans make it through the 24 hours of news from London.

"Korean Snacks & Instant Noodles" by Sergio Alves Santos (sergio-as)

No wonder everyone is glued to their Samsung screens! South Korea has been racking up the medals, despite some setbacks, with the current count at 12. That gives them a third place ranking in medal acquisitions, behind #2 USA (30 with 13 golds), and #1 China (30 with 17 golds).

Koreans take their Olympics seriously. We know that their fencers do! Shin Lam was following in a South Korean Olympic  tradition of exhibiting Olympic han when wronged. Back in the 1998 Seoul Olympics, Byun Jong-Il led the way, staging a tearful sit-in when a controversial call had been made, although, it was later suspected that some Korean-born corruption was involved.

Han is a multi-facted and dangerous beast… Do yourself a karmic favor to ward it off and buy a Korean a beer. (KBS World)

 



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The Last Single Screen Theater Seodaemun Art Hall Closes

The last film they showed was the classic 1948 film, The Bicycle Thief. A great tribute to cinema and the owner of the house took is personally.

“After the movie ended, Kim Eun-ju, the theater operator, had her head shaved before moviegoers and reporters packing the theater hall. Several volunteer theater workers cried and embraced Kim after most of her hair was gone, shouting, “Stop it! Stop it!”” (The Republic – Kim Eun-ju)

The theater is scheduled to become a hotel.



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South Korea To Whale

Like Japan, S. Korea may resume whaling for “scientific reasons”. Perhaps that answer questions such as, “How well does whale meat sell?” Korea once hunted 100 whales, and they apparently haven’t since 1986. (CNN – Korean Whaling)



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Korean TV: Rubber Bands vs Watermelon

Rubber bands on a watermelon. Korean TV.

Rubber Bands Vs Watermelon – Watch More Funny Videos



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Platform Shoes and Pants: North Korea’s Changing Trends

Fun article in ABC that tells about what’s popular. Burgers, amusement park rides, video game arcades, cellphones, platforms, earrings, cellphones, instant coffee, and Choco pies. (ABC – NK)



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The Show Must Go On

At the end of May, just weeks before his photo exhibition was scheduled to open, Ahn Sehong got a letter from his sponsor telling him that the show was cancelled. The sponsor was Nikon, the venue was their gallery in Shinjuku, and the subject of the exhibition was the documentation of the lives of surviving Korean “Comfort Women”.

Photo by Ahn Sehong

Now, according to KBS World, a Japanese court has ruled that the show must go on, despite protests from right-wing, nationalist conservatives who wanted the show put to a stop. I’m sure it won’t be the end of the protests, but there’s some justice for Ahn and his life’s work.

You can read some of his own words about the women he photographed and why their stories matter here.



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Korean Air Big Oops to Kenyans

Korean Air errs.. when it says their new destination of Kenya has inhabitants who are filled with “primitive energy”. Of course translations are to blame. (USA Today – Kenya)



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Squid Injects Sperm into Woman’s Tongue

Squid injects sperm sac into woman’s mouth as she’s eating squid. Basically the squid has a mechanism like some of us do, which will inject sperm, but the catch is this squid was half boiled.

“Doctors found that the squid had left “twelve small, white spindle-shaped, bug-like organisms” in the mucous membranes of her tongue and cheek.” (Huffpo – Squid)



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In New Jersey A Korean Monument Ruffles Japanese Officials

Here’s the monument and it’s being asked to be removed by Japanese officials, but that isn’t happening. Some officials maintain that the event didn’t happen as said by many which pushed the matter to a halt. The monument will stay. (NY Times – Monument)



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