Posts Tagged ‘ North Korea ’

North Korea: It’s Starting… A news round-up

Joyful North Korean Soldiers dance in April 2012 for now-ousted General Ri Yong Ho.

I’ve been watching the news coming out of North Korea rather closely since the last dictator, Kim Jong Il died last December.  Over the past week or so things seem to be moving (by North Korean standards) at light speed.  Here are recent headlines (with the kicker at the end):

+ July 13, 2012Who is North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un’s “Mystery Woman?”

+ July 15, 2012Is Kim Jong Un Opening Up North Korea?

+ July 16, 2012Top North Korean General Loses Job.

+ July 20, 2012Kim Plans Economic Reform in North Korea.

. . . and, in late-breaking news:  Kim [Jon Il’s] Ex-Sushi Chef — “Kenji Fujimoto” — Invited Back to North Korea ( ! ).

My guess:  1. Jong Un went to school in Switzerland and didn’t want to look like a dork dictator in front of all his old classmates.  2. He’s got a hot, pop-singer girlfriend who’s just dying to make it big in South Korea and the West.  3. He wants to crawl out from under his dad’s and grandpop’s shadow.  4. He sees how the West turned on a dime with Myanmar/Burma once it began reforms.  5. Certain People in China told him it would be in his own best interest. Some combination of all that.

In 2005 I was in North Eastern China, not too awfully far from its boarder with North Korea.  Various adventures were had.  My last night staying in that part of China, though, I spoke with a local government official with some degree of frankness about the mood in China about North Korea.  This tale tells something of those several days in Anshan, China, with the payoff at the end, in re:  a “Practical North Korea.”



This Week in the Less Conventional News (15 April update)

It’s rare that I do a “News Roundup,” but the past several days have produced stories from Asia that just beg to be shared.  Some important, some interesting, some disturbing. . .  Judge for yourself.

Cleaning Crew. Shibuya, Tokyo. 2007.


+  Police Investigate Ibaraki Prefecture Man Killed by Python

This one’s sad, and a bit eerie to me I’ve been with a python in Ibaraki Prefecture before.  It was under adult supervision at the Kamine Zoo in Hitachi (an Ibaraki Prefecture city).  In fact, zoo officials sort of insisted.

Ben & Jerry’s Opens Flagship Store in Tokyo

Excerpt:   “The Tokyo store includes digital menu boards in Japanese and English, to inform customers about the popular U.S. flavors, as well as those exclusive to Japan.”

+   Kyocera to Build Japan’s Largest Solar Power Plant in Kagoshima Prefecture

Excerpt:  “[The plant] will provide enough electricity for roughly 22,000 households annually and, if replacing power generated from fossil fuels, will offset around 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide. . . .”

Policeman in Schoolgirl Uniform Arrested for Flashing  (some cops are bad, others weird, some combine the two).

Excerpt:  “Reports say the 37-year-old man was dressed in a sailor-style schoolgirl uniform at the time of the offense.”



Taj Mahal Tourist. Agra. 2007.

+  Bollywood Start Shah Rukh Khan Detained Again at U.S. Airport:  India NOT Happy

Excerpt:  “The actor was detained for over two hours by immigration officials after he arrived from India in a private plane with a group that included Nita, wife of Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani, to address students at Yale University.”

    +  Joy of Electrification Lights Up Homes in These Remote Tribal Hamlets

Excerpt:  “Like the radiance from the new solar powered compact fluorescent lights (CFL) in his home, M. Ganesamurthy’s face shines with glee. His dwelling amid the jungles of the Western Ghats near Papanasam has received power connection, something which was beyond the imagination of the tribal population.”  



Market in Anshan, China. 2005.

+  China Deletes 210,000 Online Posts Over “Rumors”  (let freedom ring).

Excerpt:  “‘Actions of creating and spreading rumours via the Internet disrupt public order and undermine social stability, and will never be tolerated,’ the report quoted Liu Zhengrong, an official with the State Internet Information Office, which controls the web, as saying.” (gad)

Shaolin Kung Fu Museum Celebrates Groundbreaking Ceremony  (from 2 weeks ago, but worth mentioning)

Excerpt:  The foundation of Shaolin Kung Fu Museum was laid Thursday in Shaolin Tagou Kung Fu School, three kilometers northeast away from Shaolin Temple in central China’s Henan province.



O.K., here’s a weird & creepy bonus:  North Korea’s (the “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s) OFFICIAL website.

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll want to vomit when you get done browsing the site of this Nightmare Disneyland.

“The DPRK is the Juche-oriented socialist state which embodies the idea and leadership of Comrade Kim II Sung, the founder of the Republic and the father of socialist Korea.”

Sure.  Whatever.

Here’s a little vid I made about 18 months ago, not long before new crazed, creepy dictator, Kim Jong-Un took over after his dad, Kim Jong-Il, kicked the dictatorial bucket.  Jong-Un was “heir apparent,” then.  Now he’s just Dynastic Dictator No. 3.

*               *               *

Speaking of North Korea . . .


A vid I put together a little over a year ago.  Some of you (who follow this site) have seen it, many have not.


.               .               .

Ahhh. . . and let the myth-making begin:

AP- North Korea says a fierce snowstorm paused and the sky began glowing red above sacred Mount Paektu just minutes before leader Kim Jong Il’s death.

State media say the ice on volcanic Lake Chon at the mountain in the far north cracked with a load roar.

And in the city of Hamhung, a Manchurian crane circled a statue of Kim’s father, late President Kim Il Sung, before alighting on a tree, its head drooping before it took off toward Pyongyang. . . .

Full article.


“North Korea is very angry at us right now.”

One of today’s headlines reads,  “China Proposes Emergency Meeting on Korea Tensions.”  From the article:

“China tried Sunday to defuse tension over a recent North Korean attack on South Korea by proposing an emergency meeting in Beijing, hours after the U.S. and South Korea launched navel war games in a united show of force. . .  Japan will closely coordinate with Seoul and Washington in its response to China’s proposal, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Tetsuro Fukuyama told reporters in Tokyo. . .  Washington and Seoul had been pressing China, North Korea’s main ally and benefactor, to help defuse the situation amid fears of all-out war. . . .”

A little more than five years ago, in northeastern China, not so far from its border with North Korea, I had an interesting conversation with a  “local government official”  that I cannot help but remember whenever things flare-up between the Koreas and China intervenes in an attempt to bring down temperatures.  That conversation comes at the end of this recounting of that part of a larger visit to China, “Delegation”, from which the title of this post comes.


Anshan Market. July 2005.


. . . Then, to get the conversation going in a bit brighter direction, I said something like, “Well, I think that China can be very helpful to the United States and North Korea because right now we’re very angry at each other, but China can be a good go-between.”  In Asia, this is a Big Deal, a role of great responsibility, and often honor.

[Local Chinese Government Official, “Tim”] said, “Thank you.  But North Korea is very angry at us right now.”

“Oh?” I said.

It goes on from there.

.     .     .

Congratulations, New Creepy Heir-Apparent to the North Korean Throne.

This site / blog is “,” but, of course, I have posted India-related Front Page pieces, China and India stories (right there via the “STORIES” tab above), and, indeed, my China story (every word true), “Delegation,” ends with quite an insight about China – North Korea relations.  So, why not make and post a vid memorializing the ascension of Kim Jong-un to the Heir-Apparentness of the North Korean (aka, the “Democratic [sic] Peoples’ [sic] Republic [sic] of Korea” <- they got the last word right at least) Dictatorship/Throne?  I could think of no good reason not to, so I did.  It’s crude, but it’s also my very first effort.  The video contains a few horrors.  There are horrors in North Korea, too.

And here’s the link to it over on the YouTube.

My apologies to Bob Wills & the Texas Playboys, one of the best bands ever.


Jade Buddha & the Practical North Korea

Since the Democratic (sic) Republic of North Korea, as well as its relations with its big brother, China,  is in the news a lot these days, I thought it worth while to highlight this story, a true one:  “Delegation.”  The events related here took place in the summer of 2005, during my first trip to China.


Main Entrance, The Forbidden City. Beijing. 2005.

Following the excerpt below, please see a couple of photos from the Jade Buddha temple of Anshan.

Excerpt from “Delegation:

The new temple, the Jade Buddha, the new jade mall, none of this was bad.  But the whole scene had a decidedly contrived, Epcot-esque feel to it.  I halfway expected to find a log flume ride behind the temple’s main hall.  Yet the locals were trying.  And jade had, indeed, been an important and venerated area resource and commodity since time out of mind.  Credit should be given where it’s due.  The Very Important Officials, these people who shepherded us to the temple and who proudly showed off their Jade Buddha and who took us to the nearby jade mall, were kind-hearted and enthused about the new leaf their hands were collectively turning over.  They wanted us to feel welcome and to return home and say nice things about their city.  And I was happy to oblige.  They also wanted Chinese tourists, who would certainly make up the vast majority of visitors browsing through all of jade jewelry, boxes, bowls, 3-D landscapes, dragons, Guanyins, Hoteis and various other figures from history and legend and Faith; carvings large and small, bulky and delicate, made to impress visitors, to intrigue and entice them, and, ultimately, to turn them into buyers.

Back at the temple, I had seen something more poignant when I watched the resident priests, just outside the main hall which housed the Jade Buddha, instruct the many Chinese tourists on how to light their long, red votive candles and offer-up prayers.  These were people who had grown up in a country where religion had been frowned upon at least, and persecuted at most.  So in their forties and fifties and even older, they were being taught how to go through rudimentary devotional motions that their Buddhist brothers and sisters in other Asian countries had learned as toddlers.  I wish them all, the city, its leaders, its residents, its visitors, the best of luck with all of this. . . .


.     .     .


Prayers Offered at the Temple of the Jade Buddha. July 2005.



The Jade Buddha of Anshan.

.     .     .

Sparkle of Your China*.

July 2006.  On my second trip to China...

July 2006. On my second trip to China...


I first visited China in the summer of 2005 and ever since have been working on writing-up my experiences there and reflections of my various, weird things encountered and witnessed in Beijing and up north in Liaoning Province.

Delegation is the story.  Just click on the tab above, “Sparkle of Your China“.   As is the case with all of them, it’s quite true.  Except for a couple of name changes and a couple of strategic omissions.  For several years I started, stopped and started over.  No, I didn’t spend four years constantly writing less than 3, 000 words.  It’s just taken me four years to finally sit down and, over the course of a few weeks, assemble and flesh-out various little notes and vignettes into something I believe makes for a readable narrative.  I dedicate “Delegation” (again, by way of “Sparkle of Your China“) to Uncle Ron, whose deep knowleged of and enthusiasm for All Things Chinese influenced untold numbers of his students to eventually make the trip; for many, to make their life there.  Also for my father, who always told me, even when I was a kid back in the mid ’70s, “China’s the country to watch for.  This thing they’re doing with Communism?  It’ll never last.  They’re merchants.  They’ve always been merchants and they’ll always be merchants.”   That’s what my father would say, with no shortage of respect.  He was still with us back in 2005 and very much enjoyed hearing my story about “Practical Tim”.  He had, indeed, been right.

A note on the stories featured on this site: they’re in more-or-less finished form, but I’ve no doubt some editing is still in order for any of them.


*Steely Dan  fans assuredly “get” this right off the bat.  To those who aren’t familiar with the album “Countdown to Ecstasy“, I hope that that is something you’ll someday consider treating yourself to.