Report: North Korea threatens to end armistice
This undated picture, released on March 10, 2012, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waving his hand on a naval vessel.
March 5th, 2013
08:12 AM ET

Report: North Korea threatens to end armistice

North Korea is not pleased with U.S.-led moves to slap new sanctions against it over its recent nuclear test and because of this it's threatening to end its 60-year truce with South Korea, the South's Yonhap news agency reported.

The North's military said Tuesday it will also cut off direct phone links with South Korea at the inter-Korean border village of Panmunjom, Yonhap said, citing North Korea's news outlet. Both North and South Korea have technically been at war for decades. The 1950-53 civil war ended in a truce.

The U.N. Security Council is expected to meet Tuesday to consider a proposed resolution to authorize more sanctions against North Korea following the secretive regime's controversial nuclear test last month.

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Filed under: North Korea • South Korea
Park to be South Korea's first woman president
Park Geun-hye in November
December 19th, 2012
10:14 AM ET

Park to be South Korea's first woman president

Conservative candidate Park Geun-Hye is the president elect for South Korea after liberal candidate Moon Jae-in conceded victory Wednesday,
the YTN network reported. Park will become the first woman South Korean president.

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Filed under: South Korea
November 23rd, 2012
07:35 AM ET

Liberal candidate drops out of South Korean presidential race

South Korean presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo announced Friday that he is dropping out of the race, clearing the way for fellow left-leaning hopeful Moon Jae-in to face Park Geun-hye, the candidate for the governing Saenuri Party.

Ahn had been working with Moon, of the Democratic United Party, to merge their presidential bids ahead of next month's election.

"I am giving up my presidential candidacy," South Korean news agency Yonhap quoted Ahn as saying. "From now on, Moon Jae-in is the single liberal candidate."

The race will determine who will lead South Korea, a key U.S. ally in Asia, for the next five years amid long-running tensions with the unpredictable, nuclear-armed North.

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Filed under: Politics • South Korea
November 4th, 2012
10:39 PM ET

News report: 2 South Korean nuclear reactors shut down

Two nuclear reactors on South Korea's southwest coast have been shut down after the government announced it had discovered "unproven" parts were being used in such plants, according to a report Monday from Yonhap news agency.

Minister of Knowledge Economy Hong Suk-woo said there's no threat of a radiation leak, saying the parts in question were "ordinary" - things such as fuses and power switches - and are unrelated to the reactors themselves but haven't met the requirements to be used in nuclear plants.

According to Hong, eight suppliers faked 60 warranties for 234 parts (involving a total of 7,682 items worth about 820 million won, or $750,000) since 2003, Yonhap reported.

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Filed under: Nuclear • South Korea
September 4th, 2012
11:47 AM ET

South Korea looks to expand chemical castration law, state-run media report

South Korea is considering the expansion of  its chemical castration law to those who have sexually assaulted victims as old as 19, according to the country's state-run news agency.

It would expand the reach of a recently passed law that focused on victims 16 and under.

"Justice Minister Kwon Jae-jin reported the measures to President Lee Myung-bak during a Cabinet meeting amid growing calls for tougher punishment for sex offenders and stronger preventive measures following last week's shocking kidnapping and rape of a seven-year-old girl," Yonhap reported.

Lee said he would consider many measures to try to combat the brutal sex assaults that have occurred in the country, calling the most recent attack "a crime that could only have been perpetrated by a man with the mind of a beast."

South Korea first used chemical castration in May on a sex offender who had been convicted of four counts of rape or attempted rape on young girls since the 1980s, according to the Ministry of Justice.

The term "chemical castration" is a misnomer because the practice involves medication rather than the surgical removal of sex organs. Its effectiveness stops when treatment is discontinued.

The change in law, if passed, is one of several measures proposed to fight sexual assault. The government is considering disclosing on a government website the home addresses of those who have sexually assaulted minors. Presently, the names are made public only at local levels. The government is also looking at retroactively applying an electronic monitoring law to those who were convicted before the 2010 law which requires sex offenders to be monitored, according to Yonhap.

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Badminton disqualifications: Players allegedly tempted by own rules
China's Yu Yang, left, and Wang Xiaoli were two of the eight badminton players disqualified from the Olympics this week.
August 1st, 2012
10:53 PM ET

Badminton disqualifications: Players allegedly tempted by own rules

Until this week, badminton probably wasn’t one of the sports that Americans generally linked to cheating and international scandal. More like backyard cookouts and college fitness classes.

Even the college gym types, though, understand there’s an unspoken agreement between participants: Championship or practice, competition or graduation requirement, you will not intentionally lose to a worthy opponent.

Players might balk at this if they’re rewarded for shunning victory. That’s allegedly what was at play this week when four pairs of female badminton players were disqualified from the Olympics, accused of trying to lose their last qualifying-round matches to face easier opponents in the knockout stage.

The players appear to have denied paying spectators of the competitive matches they’d come to see. The London Olympic organizing committee’s chairman, Sebastian Coe, said the incident was depressing and unacceptable.

But it’s not the first time that this has happened in a tournament’s group stage. And it’s not even the only time in these very Games that a team tried not to win.

The coach of Japan women’s Olympic soccer team acknowledged that it intentionally avoided scoring in its third and final group game, a 0-0 draw with winless South Africa on Wednesday, according to The Independent.

Japan would have won its four-team group with a victory. But a draw put it in second, just enough to qualify for the knockout stage.

Japan’s coach says he did it to ensure the team didn’t travel across the United Kingdom. Second place meant it would start the knockout round in Cardiff, Wales, where the squad already was. The winner of Group F, in contrast, will play its first knockout game in Scotland.

“It was important not to move to Glasgow but to stay here and prepare for the next match,” Japanese coach Norio Sasaki said, according to The Independent.

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Filed under: China • Indonesia • Olympics • South Korea • Sports
July 5th, 2012
12:18 AM ET

South Korea says it may resume whaling, angering environment groups

South Korea is considering hunting whales in the waters off its shores for scientific purposes, drawing condemnation from environmental groups.

Citing calls from fishermen for a resumption of limited whaling, the head of the South Korean delegation to the International Whaling Commission, Kang Joon-suk, said Wednesday that Seoul was working on a proposal to hunt minke whales migrating off the Korean Peninsula.

Korean fishermen complain that the whales are disrupting their fishing activities and eating fish stocks, Kang said at the commission's annual meeting in Panama.

Nonlethal measures are not enough to assess the whales' numbers and feeding habits, he said.

But environmental organizations are skeptical about the South Korean explanation.

"We believe this move is a thinly veiled attempt by Korea to conduct commercial whaling under the guise of scientific research, similar to hunts conducted by Japan in the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary," said Wendy Elliott, head of WWF's delegation to the whaling commission.

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Filed under: Earth • Environment • South Korea • Whales • wildlife
June 25th, 2012
02:37 AM ET

North Korea slams use of its flag in U.S.-South Korean military drills

North Korea has reacted angrily to the use of its flag during live-fire drills by South Korea and the United States, calling it "a grave provocative act."

The comments from Pyongyang on Sunday came after the allies held military drills last week less than 50 kilometers (30 miles) away from the North Korean border, involving more than 2,000 military personnel.

An unidentified North Korean foreign ministry spokesman accused South Korea and the United States of firing "live bullets and shells" at the flag, according to a report by the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

The act was "the most vivid expression of their hostile policy," the spokesman said.

The North Korean flag was put on an elevated hill but was not directly used as a target during the exercises, an official for the South Korean Defense Ministry said, declining to be identified.

"It was used only as a symbol of North Korean territory and the drill was a defensive one," he added.

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Filed under: Military • North Korea • South Korea • U.S. Air Force • U.S. Army • U.S. Navy
U.S., South Korea put on massive military drill
A South Korean helicopter attacks an "enemy" target during a live-fire exercise Friday south of the Demilitarized Zone.
June 22nd, 2012
10:12 AM ET

U.S., South Korea put on massive military drill

U.S. and South Korean forces on Friday conducted what they called their largest live-fire military exercise since the end of the Korean War, according to reports from South Korea.

More than 2,000 troops plus fighter jets, helicopters and armor from both nations participated in the hourlong exercise, conducted as about 4,000 spectators looked on, according to a report from Stars and Stripes.

The exercise took place in Pocheon, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) southeast of the Demilitarized Zone that marks the border between North and South Korea.

Enemy territory during the exercise was marked by a large North Korean flag unfurled on a hillside, according to the report. After it was obscured by smoke during the U.S. and South Korean attacks, the North Korean flag was replaced by one from the South to signal victory.

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China says no pills made from human flesh in country
A photo released by the Korea Customs Service shows capsules filled with powdered human flesh in Daejeon, officials say.
May 8th, 2012
10:48 AM ET

China says no pills made from human flesh in country

Medications made of human tissue have not been found in China, the country's Health Ministry said Tuesday after reports a day earlier that pills made from the flesh of dead babies were smuggled from China into South Korea.

Chinese authorities will conduct an investigation into reports that the capsules, allegedly made from aborted fetuses, were made in China, Deng Haihua, a spokesman for China's Health Ministry, said in a report from the state-run Xinhua news agency. Similar allegations were investigated in August, and nothing was found to substantiate them, he said.

Deng said China has strict regulations to ensure that such a thing could not occur.

According to a report in the Korea Times, 29 smugglers of "human-flesh capsules" have been arrested after trying to bring 11,000 pills into the country while disguised as tourists.

More than 35 cases and more than 17,000 pills have been found by customs authorities since August, the South Korean website Dong-A Ilbo reported. 

The pills are taken by people who believe they may help increase stamina, for rejuvenation or by terminal cancer patients, according to the South Korean reports.

May 7th, 2012
12:37 PM ET

Reports: South Korea clamps down on traffickers of 'human-flesh capsules'

South Korean customs officials said they are cracking down on an operation that is smuggling in pills from China made from the flesh of dead babies, according to Korean media reports.

Twenty-nine smugglers of "human-flesh capsules" have been arrested after trying to smuggle 11,000 pills into South Korea from China while disguised as tourists, according to The Korea Times.

“Some put herbs together in the capsules so that customs agents cannot distinguish the unique smell and color of the human-flesh capsules," a Korea Customs Service official told the newspaper. "Others put the capsules in medicine containers to deceive inspectors."

The pills, which are taken by people who believe they may help increase stamina, for rejuvenation or by terminal cancer patients, are made of powder made from dried fetuses or dead babies, the customs office told the Korea Times.

More than 35 cases and more than 17,000 pills have been found by customs authorities since August of last year, the South Korean website Dong-A Ilbo reported. 

South Korea's crackdown comes after a documentary called "Lee Yeong-don’s Food X File" aired in April 2011, describing the smuggling of the capsules as well as harmful effects of the pills. The documentary claimed that tests done in South Korea and by KCS showed that the content of the pills they received was "99.7 percent identical with humans," China Daily reported. 

The documentary team went to China, where they found and shot video of a hospital that sold materials, according to China Daily. Chinese officials said they have strict rules forbidding the sale of placentas or any medical waste.

The Ministry of Health began investigating the issue after the documentary.

"Since human flesh capsules are confirmed to contain ingredients lethal to humans, including super bacteria, we will preemptively curb their smuggling at borders to protect public health," a customs official told Dong-A Ilbo.

The website reported the capsules were being smuggled from northeastern China after requests from buyers in South Korea.

But now, Korean officials said, they will be putting in effect a significant number of measures to try to stem the smuggling of the pills.

Customs officials will be even more diligent in checking belongings of international travelers as well as global mail, Dong-A Ilbo reported. That includes opening packages and "checking all capsules and powder made from unknown substances" and labeled drugs that come from China.

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Filed under: China • Health • South Korea
Reports: North Korea jamming South's air traffic navigation
A Korean Air jet makes a landing at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, on Wednesday.
May 3rd, 2012
12:26 PM ET

Reports: North Korea jamming South's air traffic navigation

North Korea has been busy for the past week, trying to jam the navigation signals going to civilian aircraft over South Korea, according to reports in South Korean media.

Through Wednesday afternoon, the GPS satellite signals to more than 250 aircraft have been affected, the Chosun Ilbo reported, citing South Korea's Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs Ministry.

Planes from Korean Air, Japan Airlines, FedEx, Cathay Pacific and Thai Airways have been affected, Bloomberg news reported, citing the Land Ministry.

The jamming began April 28, according to a report from Dong-A Ilbo.

The planes have been able to use other systems to keep on their courses, according to the reports.

The planes affected were either taking off or landing at Incheon or Gimpo international airports or flying over the central region of the country, according to the reports.

The jamming signals were coming from the Kaesong area of North Korea, Chosun Ilbo reported, citing a staffer at the Korea Communications Commission.

The jamming comes after North Korea threatened to initiate "special actions" aimed at destroying the South Korean president and his government.

North Korean armed forces will use "unprecedented peculiar means and methods of our own style" to carry out the actions, the official Korean Central News Agency said in a report.

It did not specify what those actions would involve.

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Filed under: North Korea • South Korea
North Korea threatens 'special actions' to take out South Korean government
North Korean soldiers carry a portrait of late leader Kim Jong-Il during a military parade to mark 100 years since the birth of the country's founder Kim Il-Sung in Pyongyang on April 15.
April 23rd, 2012
03:09 AM ET

North Korea threatens 'special actions' to take out South Korean government

North Korea said Monday that it would soon initiate "special actions" aimed at destroying the South Korean president and his government.

North Korean armed forces will use "unprecedented peculiar means and methods of our own style" to carry out the actions, the official Korean Central News Agency said in a report, adding that the operation would take 3 or 4 minutes.

It did not specify what those actions would involve.

An unusual broadcast on North Korean state television also announced the planned measures and showed images of people throwing rocks at a caricature of Lee Myung-bak, the South Korean president.

North Korean state media have consistently lambasted the conservative Lee and his administration. Recent reports have described them as "rats."

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Filed under: North Korea • South Korea
30 years in prison for Chinese fisherman who killed South Korean coast guard
Chinese fishing boats encounter a South Korean coast guard boat while in the Yellow Sea in December 2010.
April 19th, 2012
04:17 AM ET

30 years in prison for Chinese fisherman who killed South Korean coast guard

A South Korean court on Thursday sentenced the captain of a Chinese fishing boat to 30 years in prison for murdering a South Korean coast guard officer during a confrontation in the Yellow Sea last year.

The court in the port of Incheon also handed down prison terms to several other crew members of the Chinese vessel, which the South Korean coast guard officials boarded on December 12 because they suspected it of fishing illegally.

The skipper of the fishing boat, Cheng Dawei, was convicted of stabbing the coast guard officer, Lee Cheng-ho, several times with a knife. Lee later died of his injuries and another coast guard official was wounded in the encounter.

Prosecutors had sought the death penalty for Cheng, 43, but the court chose to give him a lengthy prison term and a fine of 20 million won, or about $17,500.

Nine other Chinese sailors received sentences of one and a half to five years for their roles in the clash, according to Judge Rho Jong-chan, a spokesman for the court.

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Filed under: China • South Korea
April 12th, 2012
01:22 AM ET

No sign of North Korean rocket launch on 1st day of window

The first opportunity for North Korea to launch its controversial rocket passed uneventfully Thursday, keeping the region on tenterhooks for at least another day.

As the launch window opened Thursday morning, the reclusive, nuclear-armed regime's neighbors were nervously watching for developments from the launch site, which is in a remote area in the northwest of the country.

Japanese missile defense systems scanned the skies above Tokyo and Okinawa. Japan has threatened to shoot down the North Korean rocket if it is seen threatening its territory.

International journalists in Pyongyang were taken on an official visit to a conference that had no connection to the launch. North Korean state television made no mention of the rocket, which the country says is necessary to put a weather satellite in orbit.

North Korea has said that it plans to carry out the launch sometime between Thursday and Monday, between the hours of 7 a.m. and noon (6 p.m.-11 p.m. ET Wednesday-Sunday).

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Filed under: Japan • Kim Jong Il • Kim Jong Un • North Korea • South Korea • Space
Gotta Watch: Shocking singers
March 26th, 2012
12:13 PM ET

Gotta Watch: Shocking singers

If you're a fan of TV talent shows, then you'll know the moments I'm about to describe. It's the moments that make you, at home, stand up and cheer. You're cheering because you're moved, you're moved because it's that human moment of identifying with the underdog, and you're hooked because you get to see the once-jeering judges eat humble pie. And then there's the amazing singing that follows suit. In today's Gotta Watch, we look at key moments in reality singing shows that have captured the imagination and spirit of fans.

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"The next Pavarotti"

Jonathan Antoine's booming opera voice leaves judges on "Britain's Got Talent" pronouncing him the next Pavarotti.

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2011: Meet South Korea's answer to Susan Boyle

Move over Susan Boyle, "Korea's Got Talent" has found its next global talent sensation.

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2009: First 'Got Talent' star speaks

First "Britain's Got Talent" winner Paul Potts looks back on his win 2 years later.

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2009: Singer wows 'Idol' judge Cowell

47-year-old Susan Boyle's performance on "Britain's Got Talent" leaves the audience stunned and brings one judge to tears.

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Filed under: Gotta Watch • Showbiz • South Korea • United Kingdom
March 21st, 2012
01:11 AM ET

Obama to make first visit to Korean demilitarized zone

President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit the demilitarized zone that splits the Korean Peninsula in two for the first time on Sunday.

His planned visit to the heavily fortified border is part of a three-day trip to South Korea to participate in a summit meeting about nuclear security in Seoul.

Top officials from 54 countries including China and Russia will attend the summit meeting next week, but its message of international cooperation has been overshadowed by North Korea's announcement last week that it is planning to carry out a rocket-powered satellite launch in April.

South Korea has said it considers the satellite launch an attempt to develop a nuclear-armed missile, while the United States has warned the move would jeopardize a food-aid agreement reached with Pyongyang in early March.

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Filed under: Barack Obama • North Korea • South Korea
March 6th, 2012
10:23 AM ET

North Korea holds live-fire drills in sight of South Korean island

New video broadcast on North Korean television shows a military unit carrying out live-fire drills in sight of a South Korean island.

The military exercises this week on the southwestern coast of North Korea were close to the disputed maritime border.

State television, KRT, also shows tanks repositioning and an artillery machine being prepared, overlooking waters that have seen a number of violent incidents over the years. North Korea shelled Yeonpyeong Island in November 2010, killing four South Koreans, claiming it was responding to a South Korean military drill in the area.

Fiery rhetoric accompanied the military actions. Deputy commander Li Gum-chol said, "We will turn Seoul into a sea of flames by our strong and cruel artillery firepower, which cannot be compared to our artillery shelling on Yeonpyeong Island. We are training hard, concentrating on revenge to shock Lee Myung-bak's traitorous group and the military warmongers in South Korea."

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Filed under: North Korea • South Korea
February 20th, 2012
12:14 AM ET

South Korea carries out military drill despite threats from North

South Korea fired live artillery on Monday in a military drill near the country's heavily armed border with North Korea, which has described the exercise as a provocation.

The drill Monday involved howitzers, mortars and attack helicopters, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported. It took place on islands off the west coast of the Korean peninsula where tensions have flared in the past.

Seoul notified the North on Sunday of the drill, a regular live-fire exercise that lasts an hour. About 1,000 island residents were moved to safe areas during the drill, Yonhap reported, citing military officials.

"This is a very dangerous play with fire to ignite a war against the North as it is a clear declaration of war against it," Pyongyang's state-run Korean Central News Agency reported Sunday, citing a bulletin from the Secretariat of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea.

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Filed under: North Korea • South Korea
January 20th, 2012
02:34 AM ET

South Korea to allow food aid to North for first time since Kim's death

The South Korean government on Friday approved the first shipment of food aid to North Korea since the death of dictator Kim Jong Il last month.

The South Korean Unification Ministry has given the green light to the sending on January 27 of 180 tons of flour to elementary schools and day care centers by the Korea Peace Foundation, Kim Hyung-suk, a ministry spokesman, said at a briefing.

North Korea has agreed to receive the shipment, according to the ministry.

Pyongyang announced Kim's death on December 19, setting off speculation about the stability of the reclusive state and its possible consequences for the broader region. Kim's youngest son and chosen successor, Kim Jong Un, has replaced him as the regime's "supreme leader."

The country's dysfunctional economy, hurt by failed policies and international sanctions, has resulted in famines and widespread malnutrition during the past two decades. Other countries and international organizations have repeatedly stepped in with food aid, most recently to alleviate chronic malnutrition among the most vulnerable groups.

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Filed under: Kim Jong Il • Kim Jong Un • North Korea • South Korea
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