Suki Kim

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The Immensity of Seoul’s Sadness

In April 2014, South Koreans watched in horror as TV news showed live footage of a huge ferry tilting 50 to 60 degrees, sinking into the sea. Aboard were over 300 high school students on a school trip to Jeju Island, the country’s most popular resort. Initial reports said the students were all rescued, but it soon emerged that they were, in fact, still on the ship. The nation watched in real time — for two and a half hours — as the ship sank completely and disappeared from view. It would turn out that rescue efforts had been botched, and the captain and crew had escaped in lifeboats after telling the students and other passengers to stay put.…  Seguir leyendo »

North Korea’s Lipstick Diplomacy

When North Korea’s

22 Olympians compete in Pyeongchang this month, they won’t be alone: Accompanying them will be 230 young North Korean women, all of them at least 5 feet 3 inches, all of them deemed “pretty” by the state.

Western news outlets have taken to calling these women an “army of beauties”; in South Korea, they are often “beautiful cheerleaders.” In reality, they are mostly students, selected from upper-class families in Pyongyang for their loyalty to the party, their musical talent and their looks. These women are deployed abroad by the regime on special occasions, when it wants to show its best face — or best faces, rather — to the world.…  Seguir leyendo »

Today, on the second anniversary of Kim Jong-il’s death, only two of the seven officials who walked alongside his hearse at the state funeral, and his heir, Kim Jong-un, remain. Five have been stripped of their titles, sent to labor camps, or executed — as in the case of Jang Song-thaek.

Mr. Jang had been seen as the No. 2 wielder of power in North Korea in recent years and as a top henchman of both the Great Leader, Kim Il-sung, his father-in-law, and of the Dear Leader, Kim Jong-il, his brother-in-law, for the past four decades. The news that he was executed on Thursday, for plotting a military coup against his nephew, the new Dear Leader, Kim Jong-un, is exceptional and especially frightening since he was a member (by marriage) of the Kim family.…  Seguir leyendo »

The inauguration of South Korea’s first female president, Park Geun-hye, on Monday is a trip down memory lane for most South Koreans — especially those in their 50s and 60s, whose support at the polls ensured her election victory last December.

For this “5060 generation,” as Koreans call it, Ms. Park has always been an emotional touchstone. She was the nation’s first daughter when her father, the dictator Park Chung-hee, ruled from 1961 until he was assassinated in 1979. For the last five of those years, she was also South Korea’s first lady — replacing her mother, who was killed in 1974 in a botched attack on Mr.…  Seguir leyendo »

As President Obama stages a populist campaign against credit card companies’ predatory practices, the United States Senate is working on new regulations to protect card holders. Meanwhile, Americans’ credit card debt has risen to the point where it now tops $960 billion. And with the economy in a downswing, it’s hard to see how the debt can ever be paid back.

If it’s any consolation, South Koreans have been there, done that and come out alive — if just barely.

In 1999, after the Asian financial crisis, the South Korean government encouraged banks to issue credit cards to as many people as possible as a way to increase consumer spending (as well as to make it easier to collect taxes, which had been harder to monitor in a predominantly cash economy).…  Seguir leyendo »

The Taliban's abduction of 23 South Korean Christian missionaries in Afghanistan last Thursday has put South Korea's evangelical fervor under a microscope. Despite its long-standing shamanist, Buddhist and Confucian roots, South Korea has about 12,000 missionaries in 173 countries, second only to the United States. Today, almost half of South Korea's population is Christian. I remember looking through the window of our fifth-floor apartment in Seoul as a child and finding the night sky peppered with bright-red neon crosses. When I moved to America in my teens, the first faces to greet me were those of the Korean American evangelical Christians at John F.…  Seguir leyendo »