With the Chinese New Year commencing on January 31, and the Year of the diligent, disciplined and cooperative Wood Horse rising with the new moon, for many in the East it’s a felicitous time to ask what the future holds, be it favorable or frightening. In Korea, some people turn to the blind seers of the Mia-ri district in northern Seoul. This is where I met Diviner Baek Il-hong one frigid January afternoon not long before the spirits of the new year would be unleashed to shape the months ahead. Looking back, I wonder what else she knew.
Toon by Lee Scott/Words by Iwazaru
As North Koreans reportedly danced in the streets of Pyongyang following the government’s announcement of the successful launch of a weather satellite, life in South Korea carried on as normal (aside from the usual National Security Council briefing and release of government statements). Even with a major element of surprise due to South Korean news outlets reporting that the Unha-3 rocket with the Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite aboard had been “dismantled” and removed from the launch pad, there was little shock or concern in the South.
In Asia there was no need for a car. Korea’s public transportation is astonishing: ubiquitous, modern, fast. China, Thailand and Japan, among others, all have extensive train and bus infrastructure; once you’re off the boat or plane, you have free reign of the land with your two feet and the nearest public transportation.
America is different. “It’s three miles to Jo Jo’s,” my brother told me, referring to the nearest convenience store. So the next afternoon I walked it just to see — three miles really isn’t that far. If you want to get to Concord or Manchester or Boston (and beyond), you have to walk a ways farther — more than 10 miles — to catch the Concord Coach bus.
Toon by Lee Scott, words by Iwazaru
Rapper Snoop Dogg found himself at the center of a Korean media storm the last few days after he made comments regarding the famed Kpop group Girls’ Generation. Snoop originally posted a tweet with an instagram on July 8.
Toon by Lee Scott, words by Iwazaru
After the embarrassing failure of North Korea’s Unha (the galaxy) 3 missile last Friday morning, officials in the North waited four hours to inform the journalists inside the country to cover the event, and others surrounding the 100th anniversary of founder Kim Il-sung’s birth, that the reports they’d gotten from contacts outside the country were in fact correct. The estimated $450 million rocket broke up into some 20 pieces less than two minutes after take-off and fell into the Yellow Sea.
What South Korean intelligence experts estimate to be an $850 million experiment resulted in a fireworks display and particles floating in the sea, all of which haven’t been, as of yet, recoverable by 10 South Korean vessels scouring the sea 150 kilometers off the west coast.
Police Fail to Save Murder Victim Despite Seven Minute Phone Call, GPS Tracking–Police Commissioner Resigns
According to developing reports, the man, Wu Yuanchun, 42, an ethnic Korean from China, was on his way home from a store when the 28-year-old woman bumped into him. He responded by threatening her life and forcing her back to his home where he intended to rape her. Reports say that when he entered the bathroom, the woman locked the door of the room she was in and called the police number, 112. Initially, according to the Gyeonggi Provincial Police Agency–and this article in the JoongAng Daily–the call only lasted a minute and 50 seconds during which the woman provided information about her location and, reportedly, allowed for GPS tracking. Yet the police did not locate the scene until 13 hours later at which time they found Wu cutting the woman’s body into pieces. One report cites the mortician:
“A forensic expert who conducted an autopsy on the woman described the condition of her body as ‘too horrific for words.’ The National Forensic Service received 14 plastic bags filled with altogether 280 body parts. ‘He butchered her,’ the official added.”
As the Nuclear Security Summit 2012 roars into action today, some might wonder what all the ado is about. COEX, according to one friend who had to teach there this morning, was a “clusterf*ck” given all the security gates, the closure of Samseong Station, and the general heightened level of security. The real buzz began on Sunday, March 25, when President Obama visited the DMZ for the first time and peered across the border into a rather barren North Korean landscape. Then came his speech Monday morning at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies where he spoke of the importance of the securing nuclear dangers around the globe and “a world without nuclear weapons.”
Toon by Lee Scott, words by Iwazaru
Does justice ever come? The scores of expats scammed out of bundles of cash by crooked travel agent Kang Wan-koo have been asking this question for months and months, some longer, and with the beginning of his trial scheduled for 10:40 a.m. on Tuesday, March 13, the question is as relevant and weighted as ever.
What justice will be served by the Seoul Eastern District Court to the repeat and relentless criminal Kang who when put out of business last fall and prohibited from doing further deals, relocated, reloaded and continued to scam unsuspecting travelers out of their money? Even as he sits in jail his scam continued to play out as one traveler explained on March 7: “wow not sure how i missed all this with all the press this guy received – i showed up at the airport feb 29th was first in line for a flight i wasn’t booked for (bad news) ~ did however get a ticket from one of the agents on site and did get home (good news).”
By Lee Scott and Iwazaru
The first rule of doing damage control on an Internet meltdown is to protect your Twitter page. That’s what I found when I got around to checking out Jenny Hyun’s page a full five days after her rocketing to the top of my “Korean Americans I had never heard of till now” list. Jeremy Lin I had heard of (who hasn’t by now?). Floyd Mayweather, too.
Interestingly (to me), it was about five days after Floyd Mayweather made his (at best racially insensitive and at worst racist) remarks about New York Knicks player, Jeremy Lin, that Hyun went off the deep end. Mayweather tweeted on February 13, 2012:
“Jeremy Lin is a good player but all the hype is because he’s Asian. Black players do what he does every night and don’t get the same praise.”
Mayweather’s comments sparked not only Hyun’s tweet-tirade (more on that in just a moment), but also prompted Ultimate Fighting Championship president, Dana White to call him a racist .
How do you stop a scammer? You contact the police, present evidence of the scam and wait for justice to be served, right? Unfortunately that justice may be–and usually is–slow to arrive, if it ever does. The system has to do its work as the judicial machine chugs or sputters along. Such is the current case with Wan-koo Kang (aka Wystan, aka Joseph Kim), the man behind a travel scam that appears to have stretched on over years, raking in tens of thousands of dollars, ruining people’s “scheduled” trips sometimes leaving them ticketless at the beginning of a planned journey or stranded in the middle of a trip with no return ticket. That is until victims began to mobilize and attention turned to Kang’s brazen chicanery.
That attention led to the initial September shutdown of Kang’s Zenith Travel agency and his October arrest (though the court decided not to detain him). But the snake slithered on, continuing his dirty dealings under both his original name and the pseudonym Joseph Kim–Kim worked at the new Expert Travel in the Songpa District of southern Seoul. Brazenly and some would say, stupidly, under the name Kim, Kang sent out an email advertisement for Expert Travel’s “Cheapest Air Tickets” to more than a hundred people, including people he’d scammed while working at Zenith Travel.
If you’re planning on travelling this winter pay very close attention to whom that travel agent is claiming to be able to get you “Real Cheap Travel.” The clues will be rather obvious: he goes by the name Wystan Kang or Joseph Kim; he works for Zenith Travel or Expert Travel; he promises he has a great fare lined up for you to Palau, Hanoi, Bangkok, Fukuoka…anywhere; you need to wire the amount to his bank account before you can get the ticket; days start to pass and he’s not getting back to you; The ticket may have some trouble, he tells you (or maybe he doesn’t and you end up at the airport where you’re informed the ticket has been cancelled); he can’t return your money; he’s very sorry.
This is the story that dozens of expats have to tell stretching back many months. Yet there had been a hint of justice in Ocober of 2011 when Wan-koo Kang (aka Wystan, aka Joseph Kim) was arrested, had his business license suspended by the Seocho District Office and the doors of Zenith Travel were closed. The case then went from the Seoul Metro Police Agency’s International Crime Investigation Department to the East Branch of the Seoul District Prosecutors’ Office where it is ongoing now. Reportedly, Kang was taken before a court after his arrest where the judges determined that he would be released without detention while the case proceeded.
With the reported arrest of “Wystan” Wan-koo Kang in October, many thought that justice had been served. Zenith Travel had its doors shut and Kang was to face prosecution for scamming dozens of foreigners out of more than an estimated 100 million won. So why is he still conducting deals and scamming more foreigners?
Within days of Kang’s arrest in the second week of October, those involved with the case reported that Kang was continuing to arrange travel plans for people. One by one people connected with the “Case against Wystan Kang” Facebook group reported that they’d been scammed. On October 17, one individual wrote:
“Thank you very much for organizing this group and I am sorry for your losses. I have used Kang for years and just recently sent him money for a ticket. I was unaware of all the recent negative press. Strangely, someone sent me a confirmation for my ticket on Friday. However, when I called the airline it of course had not been paid for. I am assuming my money and ticket are gone. Do you have any idea who would still be responding to emails? Should I fill in a report with a police station? Any info you have would be greatly appreciated.”
By John M. Rodgers
Following five months of investigation into the circumstances surrounding PVT Fisher’s case including but not limited to the conduct of his attorney who was chosen from a list of 15 USFK approved Korean lawyers, the alleged events on the night of Fisher’s arrest, the testimony of the taxi driver which was seemingly taken as the key element in the conviction, the forensic analysis of the crime scene and evidence seized from Fisher’s person, and the USFK’s interest in, handling of and contact with Fisher and his case, The Three Wise Monkeys (3WM) has come across numerous discrepancies, leaps of logic, acts of negligence, failures of responsibility and attitudes of indifference.
Among the many things supported by documents that 3WM has obtained, is the fact that PVT Fishers initial conviction on 10 June 2011 was based on flawed reports/documents that judges relied on to make their determination. That initial judgment served as the basis for all subsequent decisions and the final rejection of his appeal on 8 December 2011. This calls into question Fisher’s entire legal process.
Over the next few months, 3WM will publish a series of articles focused on exposing the many aspects of PVT Fisher’s case that, at the very least, point to a flawed handling of the case or, at the worst, indicate an utter miscarriage of justice.
Stepping into the Unknown: Danger, Generosity and the Buddhist Mind on the Wonhyo Pilgrimage (Podcast)
Seven full days into the more than 400 kilometer pilgrimage across the Korean peninsula in an attempt to trace the footsteps of 7th century Buddhist monk Wonhyo, the members of the trek have changed, the leader, Tony MacGregor, has taken a dangerous fall, Koreans have stepped forward with immense generosity and the road has provided its good share of challenges and rewards. All the while Macgregor, Chris McCarthy and Sangmin sunim, a Buddhist monk who’s joined the pilgrims, have pushed on sometimes joined by professor David Mason.
On Saturday, December 10, MacGregor was happy enough to answer some questions about the journey while settling in after a dinner at Muryang Buddhist Temple in Yeongyang. Among the many things he said, one stood out toward the end of the interview when he offered that each day was a “stepping into the unknown” which he was actually enjoying.
Toon by Lee Scott and words by Iwazaru
With the election of Park Won-soon, the liberal independent candidate, in the October 26 mayoral election, the debate over free lunches, free college tuition and other welfare policies has dominated policy-making discussions around Seoul and the country.
One side that has emerged lately is that the increased cost of the free lunches is taxing local governments who have to allocate larger percentages of welfare spending to the free lunches away from other programs.