Thursday, July 2, 2009

NKorea 'fires two short-range missiles'

SEOUL (AFP) — North Korea Thursday fired two short-range missiles, fuelling tensions sparked by its nuclear standoff, as a US team began talks in China on ways to make UN sanctions bite against Pyongyang.

The missiles were launched in the early evening from a base near the eastern port of Wonsan, South Korea's defence ministry said.

"They appear to be ground-to-ship missiles, which were launched into the East Sea (Sea of Japan)," a spokesman told AFP.

"We have no detailed information now but there have been preparations for missile launches in the region."

The North has responded angrily to United Nations sanctions imposed following its long-range rocket launch on April 5 and a May 25 nuclear test, and vowed to bolster its defences.

It warned Japan Wednesday to stay clear of some areas off its east and west coasts during military exercises lasting until July 11.

South Korea's JoongAng Ilbo newspaper, quoting an intelligence source, said the North in coming days is likely to fire a series of short-range missiles.

Apart from ground-to-ship weapons with a range of 140 kilometres (88 miles), it said these would likely include Scud-B missiles with a range of 340 km.

The North may also fire Rodongs, whose 1,300-km range would likely be shortened to some 400 km for the current round of testing, the paper predicted.

In the days after its atomic test -- the second since 2006 -- Pyongyang had fired a total of six short-range missiles and renounced the truce in force on the Korean peninsula.

In response to a UN resolution on June 12 tightening curbs on its missile and atomic activities, it vowed to build more nuclear bombs.

US and South Korean officials believe ailing leader Kim Jong-Il, 67, is staging a show of strength to bolster his authority as he tries to put in place a succession plan involving his youngest son.

Seoul's defence ministry refused to confirm a Yonhap news agency report that the North Thursday fired KN-01 missiles with a range of up to 160 km.

The agency quoted an unnamed military official as saying the missiles travelled about 100 km.

The official said the launches could be part of a military exercise but speculated there may be more missiles "in a show of force" to the outside world.

A US delegation Thursday met officials in Beijing for talks on giving the UN sanctions teeth.

The support of China, the North's sole major ally and largest trade partner, is seen as crucial in making the sanctions stick.

The delegation led by Philip Goldberg -- the State Department's point man on coordinating implementation of the sanctions -- met officials from the foreign ministry, the US embassy said.

His team includes members of the National Security Council and the departments of Treasury and Defence.

US warships have since mid-June been tracking a North Korean ship suspected of carrying weapons. The Kang Nam 1 was reportedly headed for Myanmar but US officials said Tuesday it has now turned back.

China, which stresses diplomacy over force with its neighbour, said its top envoy on the North Korean nuclear issue, Wu Dawei, had begun a visit to Russia, the United States, Japan and South Korea.

They are members of a forum which has tried since 2003 to persuade the North to disarm in return for energy aid and diplomatic and security benefits. The North announced it was quitting the talks after the UN censured its rocket launch.

North and South Korea met Thursday for more talks about the fate of their last major joint business project, the Seoul-funded Kaesong industrial estate just north of the border.

They failed to narrow differences or to set the date for their next meeting, Seoul officials said.

The South rejects the North's demand for huge pay rises and rent increases at Kaesong, and demands freedom for a South Korean worker who has been held for more than 90 days.

The North alleges the man slandered its political system and tried to incite a local woman worker to defect. It refuses to grant access to him.

Copyright © 2009 AFP. All rights reserved.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

NKorea threatens US as world anticipates missile

By HYUNG-JIN KIM, Associated Press Writer Hyung-jin Kim, Associated Press Writer – Wed Jun 24, 7:13 pm ET

SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea accused Washington of seeking to "provoke a second Korean War" as the regime prepared to hold maritime military exercises off the eastern coast. U.S. and regional authorities were watching closely for signs that North Korea might fire short- or mid-range missiles during the June 25 to July 10 timeframe cited in a no-sail ban for military drills sent to Japan's Coast Guard.

North Korea had warned previously it would fire a long-range missile as a response to U.N. Security Council condemnation of an April rocket launch seen as a cover for its ballistic missile technology.

An underground nuclear test last month drew more Security Council action: a resolution seeking to clamp down on North Korea's trading of banned arms and weapons-related material by requiring U.N. member states to request inspections of ships carrying suspected cargo.

In a first test of the new resolution, a North Korean ship suspected of transporting illicit weapons was sailing off China's coast with a U.S. destroyer close behind.

The Kang Nam, which left the North Korean port of Nampo a week ago, is believed bound for Myanmar, South Korean and U.S. officials said.

Myanmar state television downplayed the reports of a possible weapons shipment Wednesday evening, saying another North Korean vessel was expected to pick up a load of rice but that the government had no information about the Kang Nam.

A senior U.S. defense official said Wednesday that the ship had already cleared the Taiwan Strait.

He said he didn't know how much range the Kang Nam has — that is, whether or when it may need to stop in some port to refuel — but that the Kang Nam has in the past stopped in Hong Kong's port.

Another U.S. defense official said he tended to doubt reports that the Kang Nam was carrying nuclear-related equipment, saying the information officials have received seems to indicate the cargo is conventional munitions.

The U.S. officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were discussing intelligence.

Officials said last week that they believed the ship was carrying smaller arms, though they didn't elaborate.

The U.S. and its allies have not decided whether to contact and request inspection of the ship, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said Wednesday.

"That's a decision that will have to be made at some point, and not necessarily just by us or this government," he said at a news conference. "I think we will likely take (the decision) collectively with our allies and partners."

He said he didn't believe a decision would come soon.

North Korea has said it would consider interception of its ships a declaration of war, and on Wednesday accused the U.S. of seeking to start another Korean War.

"If the U.S. imperialists start another war, the army and people of Korea will ... wipe out the aggressors on the globe once and for all," a dispatch from the official Korean Central News Agency said.

The warning came on the eve of the 59th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War. The brutal fighting ended after three years in a truce in 1953, not a peace treaty, leaving the peninsula divided and in a state of war. The U.S. has 28,500 troops in South Korea to protect against an outbreak of hostilities.

On Wednesday, the top U.S. commander in South Korea, Gen. Walter Sharp, praised soldiers from U.S.-led U.N. forces who died fighting the "tyranny" of communist North Korea decades ago.

"A North Korean victory in the Korean War would have brought the nightmare of tyranny to this great land, thrusting the citizens of the Republic of Korea into a darkness that their northern counterparts have yet to emerge from," he said a commemoration ceremony Wednesday, referring to South Korea by its official name, the Republic of Korea.

Reports about possible missile launches from the North highlighted the state of tension on the Korean peninsula.

A senior South Korean government official said the no-sail ban is believed connected to North Korean plans to fire short- or mid-range missiles. He spoke on condition of anonymity, citing department policy.

Yonhap reported that the North may fire a Scud missile with a range of up to 310 miles (500 kilometers) or a short-range ground-to-ship missile with a range of 100 miles (160 kilometers) during the no-sail period.

U.S. defense and counterproliferation officials in Washington said they also expected the North to launch short- to medium-range missiles. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence.

South Korea will expedite the introduction of high-tech unmanned aerial surveillance systems and "bunker-buster" bombs in response to North Korea's provocations, the Chosun Ilbo newspaper said, citing lawmakers.

Meanwhile, a flurry of diplomatic efforts were under way to try getting North Korea to return to disarmament talks.

Russia's top nuclear envoy, Alexei Borodavkin, said after meeting with his South Korean counterpart that Moscow is open to other formats for discussion since Pyongyang has pulled out of formal six-nation negotiations.

In Beijing, top U.S. and Chinese defense officials also discussed North Korea. U.S. Defense Undersecretary Michele Flournoy was heading next to Tokyo and Seoul for talks.

South Korea has proposed high-level "consultations" to discuss North Korea with the U.S., Russia, China and Japan.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Both Koreas Reach World Cup for the 1st Time

For the first time since the FIFA World Cup began in 1930, both South and North Korea will step on the turf together.

Wednesday evening in Seoul, the South Korean squad sealed its clean record with no defeat in the Asian qualifying round of Group B, ending the match against Iran in a 1-1 draw. Iran scored the opening goal just six minutes into the second half. But less than 10 minutes before the final whistle, Korea's Park Ji-sung landed a left-foot equalizer that ultimately eliminated Iran from next year's finals in South Africa.

North Korea in the meantime was able to end its away-match against Saudi Arabia scoreless, securing second place and a ticket to the finals.

The 2010 World Cup will be South Korea's seventh straight appearance in the tournament and the second for the North Korean team since 1966 in England.

Arirang News / Jun. 18, 2009 12:17 KST

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Inside South Korea's "Bride-Training" School

Inside South Korea's "Bride-Training" School
Yejiwon Educates Brides to Be Virtuous Wives

A traditional wedding ceremony
South Korea's society has changed massively in the last 30 years, with the roles of the traditionally dominant men and submissive women being transformed. But in one small corner of the country, tradition and customs have never been forgotten — at the Institute Of Etiquette And Wisdom or locally called Yejiwon (禮智院: 82-2-2234-3325), South Korea's ultimate finishing school.

For over 25 years, as part of its "bridal course," it has been training selected young women to become accomplished and desirable wives.

Students learn everything from the complex rules and traditions dictating a formal Korean wedding to the symbolism of food served on special occasions.

"As we go into the 21st Century, young people have to know about the culture and manners of the country," Pak Yong-suk, director of the school, told BBC World Service's Outlook programme.

"It is to teach these things that I set up the school."

Further teaching ranges from how to walk silently and how far to bend the body when bowing, to how a woman should rebuff a man's attempt to hold her hand.

A bride in Hanbok
A newly married Korean bride is clad in traditional clothes called Hanbok. Women hope the course at bride school will give them an edge selecting a good husband.

They should refuse twice, the lessons instruct, before accepting on the third try.

For its detractors, the Institute is an anachronism in one of the fastest-moving countries in the world.

Marriage hopes

But for its supporters, it remains a reminder of a timeless past, teaching valuable lessons that will one day give the girls the edge when it comes to selecting a husband.

One example, Ms Pak points out, is that long noodles are served in South Korea on special occasions, but few people know why — it is to wish for a long life and happiness.

"Before joining this course, it seems to me that I did not really know about the formal rules of Korean etiquette," student Park Ji-yon — not her real name — told Outlook.

"Like most Korean families, we hold ceremonies to remember our ancestors. I knew roughly that on those occasions I had to hold my hands in front of me.

Modern girls in Seoul
Two ladies in early 20s are walking down the in up-scale Apkujong street in southern part of Seoul. Older generations are worried that young ladies have lost traditional manners and virtues these days.

"I used to do that any old how. Yesterday I learned that women have to put their right hand over their left, while men put their left hand over their right.

"It was something I was roughly aware of, but now I know categorically."

In one classroom, the students listen to a lecture on wearing traditional Korean costume.

They are told that if visiting the parents of a boyfriend, never wear strapless shoes — especially in the summer.

"Walking around going 'clack, clack,' is so ill-mannered," the teacher informs them.

"Never wear this type of shoes. If you have to, have some rubber put on the soles."

The reason that so many women sign up is the deep-rooted belief that it will give them a boost in the marriage stakes.

Park Ji-yon is very explicit about this; her mother, sister and cousin have all previously attended the course.

"This might sound a bit funny, but within some families, if you say 'I attended the Institute Of Etiquette And Wisdom', there will be households where you will get added points," she insisted.

"It means you are ready for marriage."

South Korea places huge importance on the continuation of the family line, and living together before marriage is still greatly frowned upon.

This, some believe, makes securing a good match essential.

And Ms Pak has advice for staying happily married too.

"A woman must never tell her husband what to do," Pak Yong-Suk said.

"For example, saying, 'on the way home, go to the supermarket and buy this, this and this, and don't forget' — you mustn't do this.

"This is giving an order."

The above article is from BBC.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Dodgers ink Korean teen Nam Tae-ह्येओक to minor league contract

Dodgers ink Korean teen Nam to minor league contract

June 18, 2009
LOS ANGELES - The Los Angeles Dodgers have inked 18-year-old Korean infielder Nam Tae-hyeok to a minor league contract, making him the first Korean high schooler to be signed by the team.

Nam currently plays for Jemulpo High in Seoul. He batted .314 with 22 homers and 43 RBI in 65 games this season.

In 1994, the Dodgers signed right-handed pitcher Park Chan-ho, who became the first Korean to make the major leagues.

Koreans Choi Hee-seop and right-hander Seo Jae-weong have also played for the team, which also recently signed Koreans Choi Hyang-nam and Lee Ji-mo to minor league contracts. AFP

South Koreans prepare for talks with North

S. Koreans prepare for talks with North

Thursday, June 18, 2009

SEOUL -- A South Korean delegation left for North Korea Wednesday to prepare for talks on the future of a jointly-run industrial estate, amid low expectations for agreement.

The South's President Lee Myung-Bak, speaking after a summit with President Barack Obama in Washington Tuesday, rejected the North's new financial demands for the Kaesong estate as excessive.

The communist state last week stunned Seoul by demanding a wage rise for its 40,000 workers to US$300 per month from around US$75 dollars currently.

It also demanded an increase in rent for the Seoul-funded estate to US$500 million, compared to the current US$16 million for a 50-year contract.

The estate is the last functioning reconciliation project between the two countries, which have remained technically at war since their 1950-53 conflict.

A four-member unification ministry delegation travelled to the estate just north of the border where they will check preparations for Friday's talks, said ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-Joo.

"There is no change to the government's position that Kaesong industrial zone must be sustained and developed amid stability," she said.

"On the basis of this principle, pending issues will be discussed. And we will continue stressing the North must not make excessive demands."

Seoul also says the fate of a South Korean estate manager detained since March 30 must be a priority in the negotiations.

The North accuses him of defaming its political system and of trying to persuade a female employee to defect.

"The North is now making excessive demands concerning the Kaesong industrial zone. We will not accept them," Lee said in Washington.

"If Kaesong shuts down, 40,000 North Koreans would lose jobs. This is why the North must stop making excessive demands for its own interest."

The 106 South Korean firms at the estate have also refused to accept the demand.

They complained many of them were teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, with orders plunging amid international tensions over the North's April rocket launch and its second nuclear test last month.

Inter-Korean relations have been hostile for the past year. The North has intermittently restricted access to Kaesong and expelled some South Korean staff.

Copyright © 1999 – 2009 The China Post.

International journalists, academics map out green growth

International journalists, academics map out green growth
June 17, 2009

In many parts of the world, economic growth has for centuries been given priority over environmental conservation.

But as the degree of environmental damage caused by indiscriminate economic development intensifies, a global consensus has been building that the world must do something to protect the environment.

The 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development was a turning point in rethinking growth and conservation. The UN conference raised international awareness of the importance of environmental conservation, introducing the then new idea of "green growth."

"Green growth" is defined as achieving sustainable economic growth by developing low-carbon, eco-friendly industries.

Acknowledging the importance of saving the environment, many countries, especially developed nations, have paid more attention to environmental conservation when pushing ahead with economic development plans, and have developed a future economic development plan revolving around green growth.

Korea is no exception, and the Lee Myung-bak government has always stressed that green growth is at the top of the government agenda.

Korea has also made efforts to share its “low carbon, green growth” vision with the rest of the world, and on June 16, a seminar was held at the Press Center in central Seoul, where renowned professors and journalists from around the world discussed green growth.

Participants included 15 journalists from renowned international newspapers, including the New York Times (United States), Le Figaro (France), Asahi Shimbun (Japan), De Telegraaf (the Netherlands) and Rossiyskaya Gazeta (Russia), who are in Seoul through June 20 for an explanatory session designed to promote Korea’s low carbon, green growth policy.

The five-day long session was put together by the Korean Culture and Information Service (KOIS) under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

In addition to the journalists, three professors well known in the field of the environment and a government official from the Presidential Committee on Green Growth attended the seminar.

The theme of the seminar was “Low Carbon, Green World.”

To open, moderator Yoo Jang-hee, Emeritus Professor at Ewha Womans University, said that the occasion would be a great chance for the journalists to learn about Korea’s green growth policy and for the Korean participants to know what other countries are doing to achieve green growth.

The seminar was composed of two sessions.

For the first session, titled “Advent of Global Green Growth,” two Korean professors gave presentations mainly explaining what Korea’s green growth policy is all about.

Dr. Kim Sung-il, Professor of Forest Sciences at Seoul National University, said that green growth is not an option, but a necessity, as we are losing biodiversity around the world. He emphasized that Korea’s low carbon, green growth policy must be pursued to achieve sustainable development.

Then Korea University Professor of Economics Dr. Kang Sung-jin briefed the foreign participants on details of Korea’s green growth policy.

He introduced key projects of Korea’s policy, including plans to develop new growth industries (such as new renewable energy), plans to build green homes and buildings, and plans to bring life back to the country’s four major rivers, mainly for clean water preservation.

Andrew Revkin, an environment reporter for The New York Times, speaks during the seminar.
After some discussion, Yoo Beom-sik from the Presidential Committee on Green Growth opened the second session titled “Implementation Status of Green Growth Policies and Strategies,” which took a look at the green growth vision.

He said that, in the long run, the green growth policy will create more jobs and more economic benefits while fostering environmentally friendly technology as a new growth engine.

This will also improve people’s quality of life and further improve the global natural environment.

He stressed that, to that end, public support and cooperation from the business community are both needed.

Following this presentation, four foreign journalists renowned in the field of the environment talked about what their countries are doing to achieve green growth and their insights about the vision.

In particular, Andrew Revkin, an environment reporter for The New York Times, impressed the audience with great examples that all stressed the need for green growth. For instance, he said that Guinean teenagers in Africa flock to the airport at night to study, because that is the only place with electric lighting.

Revkin said the world really needs to act to save energy and journalists for their part should produce stories that would raise public awareness of the environmental issue.

He is currently running “The New York Times Dot Earth,” a popular blog visited by 300,000 readers every month.

At the end of the seminar, all participants agreed that green growth is not an option, but the only way for countries to move forward, and public awareness and cooperation from the business community must facilitate it.

During their remaining days through June 20, the invited journalists are to see many environment-friendly aspects of Korea.

The reporters will also visit the Korea Institute of Machinery and Materials to learn more about various green technologies focused on removing hazardous materials from the environment and making full use of renewable energy resources.

By Han Aran Staff Writer

A rare look at a Seoul's historic train station

A rare look at a Seoul's historic train station
June 8, 2009

The old Seoul Station (present)

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Information announced that it will temporarily open the old Seoul Station (Historic Site No. 284) from June 23 to 28 (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.). There will be tour guides to give a general talk about the site from 4 to 5 p.m. during that weeklong period, though in Korean language only.

The old Seoul Station, which opened in 1925, was designed by Professor Tsukamoto Yasushi of Tokyo Imperial University during the Japanese annexation of Korea (1910-45). It was partly built for military purposes, to help the Japanese Imperial Army to advance farther to the North to China and other regions. Korea’s first railway, from Noryangjin (just south of the Han River from downtown Seoul) to Incheon (then called Jemulpo) began service in 1899. The first railway bridge over the Han River was completed in 1900. Construction on Seoul Station began in 1923 to replace the smaller station at Namdaemun.

The first floor of Seoul Station served as a waiting room while the second floor was reserved for VIPs and a western-style restaurant and the basement was used for station offices. The first floor was made up of a large hall in the center with a Byzantine-style dome forming the upper roof. Sunlight flows in through the arched window above.

Picture of Seoul Station with new look for 2011

Much of the building was destroyed during the Korean War (1950-53), especially the ceiling of the central hall. After repair from the ruins of the war, the waiting room was expanded to service the Saemaeul-ho train in 1958 and was designated a historical site in 1981. Much of the functions for train operation were transferred from the basement in 1988.

Then in 2003 a brand new Seoul Station was constructed, taking over the role of the old Seoul Station completely. From then the Cultural Heritage Administration under the Culture Ministry was put in charge of the building, declaring the place to be available for cultural functions in July 2007. The building’s historical architecture, currently undergoing remodeling, is occasionally opened for art fairs and other functions alike. The station will officially re-open in 2011.

Those who want a guided tour service of the historical architecture should e-mail or call 02-3704-9454 (Korean only) from June 8 to 12. (Free phone interpreting service: 1330.)

Watch the video at Cultural Properties of Seoul

By Kim Hee-sung Staff Writer

Seoul Info Fair Takes Root

05-10-2009 17:58 Seoul Info Fair Takes Root

Performers from various countries take part in a parade as a part of the Seoul Friendship Fair 2009 at Seoul Plaza, Sunday. Participants from more than 50 countries put on performances, food and traditional folk arts.
/ Korea Times Photo by Wang Tae-seok

Foreigners Glean Information; Locals Have Fun

By Kwon Mee-yoo
Staff Reporter

Seoul City hosted its 2009 Information Fair Sunday, providing foreigners with all kinds of valuable information needed for living here. First started in 2004, the latest annual event drew as many as 15,000 visitors.

``We hope the fair will help foreigners settle in the city smoothly and improve the overall foreigner-friendly environment,'' said Jason Kim, a Seoul Global Center official.

This year, a total of 62 booths were set up in front of the center in downtown Seoul, with participants ranging from public firms and non-profit organizations. Among the participants were the European Union Chamber of Commerce in Korea (EUCCK), Seoul International Women's Association (SIWA), the Overseas Chinese Women's Club in Korea, Amnesty G48, Asan Medical Center, Global Village Centers, Lotte World, Woori Bank and Arirang Taekwondo Club.

``In screening participants, foreign communities here and non-government organizations like Amnesty were given priority,'' Kim said.

The British Association of Seoul (BASS) joined the fair to promote its social activities and fundraising initiatives. ``It's difficult for us to get information here due to the language barrier, but this expo gave us a chance to exchange information,'' said association Vice President Regina Dixon, 44.

Emma Goulty, 26, an English teacher from England said she picked up useful information at the fair about chiropractic clinics and international moving services. ``I arrived here three months ago, but it was hard to find out about things,'' she said. ``I found what events are going on and the information I need here.''

Locals who attended said they enjoyed the event. Park Young-mi, 39, came to the fair with her children. ``My children tried on traditional Chinese costumes at the Yeonnam Global Village Center booth and they had a great fun,'' Park said.

Separately, the ``Seoul Friendship Fair 2009,'' a multicultural festival with performances, food and traditional folk arts, took place at Seoul Plaza.

Performance troupes from 15 cities, some 60 foreign embassies, tourist authorities, cultural centers and 11 international schools joined the festival to present various cultural experiences from around the world. The World Food Court offered visitors opportunities to taste traditional cuisine from more than 50 countries.

Parks to Become 'Women-Friendly'

06-15-2009 18:54 Parks to Become 'Women-Friendly'

By Bae Ji-sook
Staff Reporter

Seoul City is to refurbish public parks in the capital, the latest stage in its bid to make the city friendlier to women.

The new developments include increasing the number of parking lots, washrooms and breastfeeding facilities.

Seoul Metropolitan Government said it would spend 29.5 billion won ($23 million) to upgrade 50 public parks in a female-friendly manner by next May.

At public parks with more than 30 parking spaces, 20 percent will be allocated for women only. It will also place ramps on pathways for prams and wheelchairs.

The city has hired female researchers to visit every park in the city to come up with more practical measures.

``We hope the projects will make public parks in our city more comfortable for female visitors to use,'' city official Kim Kyung-han said.

The projects call for more toilets for women and children.

Mothers will be able to borrow prams at 10 large parks and the number of breastfeeding centers will increase.

Cafes, water fountains and cultural programs for women will be set up, while volunteers will be on hand to help.

Security measures are also to be stepped up. More surveillance cameras are to be installed and lighting is to be improved. Emergency buzzers will be put in place in restrooms and secluded places.

The parks earmarked in the plan are Seoul Forest, Boramae Park, Children's Grand Park along with 15 others run by the city government. Samcheong Park, Hyochang Park and Dogok Park are among the 32 run by subordinate regional offices also included.

The city said it would eventually refurbish all 1,350 parks under its auspices.

Seoul Must Prepare for the Worst-Case Scenario

Seoul Must Prepare for the Worst-Case Scenario

Yang Sang-hoon

The Barack Obama administration's North Korea policy is against recognizing North Korea as a nuclear power. But recognized by the U.S. or not, the North is one. The nuclear bomb it tested recently must have been smaller than the one tested in 2006. If the North carries out a third nuclear test, chances are that it will be a nuclear warhead, plutonium or uranium, that is small enough to be loaded on a missile.

The head of the Agency for Defense Development said, "North Korea seems to have reached a stage where it can minimize a nuclear warhead." Even if that is untrue for the moment, it is a only matter of time before the North manages to miniaturize its A-bombs.

Seoul, Busan, Tokyo, Osaka, Beijing and Vladivostok are already within range of North Korean missiles. The intercontinental ballistic missile the North reportedly plans to test-fire is aimed at showing that Seattle and San Francisco will also be within range. Even if the test fails, it will also be a matter of time before the North perfects the technology.

With the weapons-grade plutonium it now has, the North can produce about 20 nuclear warheads. In addition, North Korea has the largest uranium reserve in the world. With uranium, mass production of nuclear weapons is possible. If it manages to enrich sufficient quality uranium, the number of nuclear warheads will increase explosively. Not recognizing a country that has tens or hundreds of intercontinental ballistic nuclear warheads as a nuclear power may be a political tactic, but it is pointless. The world moves by facts, not words.

Washington and Seoul have wasted over a decade under the illusion that Pyongyang would give up its nuclear programs for the right price. America has no more means to stop North Korea. From Washington, it is now clear that America has been all talk. No UN resolutions, however strong, will be of help in restraining the North.

The only country that can check Pyongyang is China. But China feels that a nuclear-armed North Korea is better than its collapse. The prospect that China, in fear of Japan's nuclear armament, will block North Korea from keeping its nuclear weapons, is nebulous. It is by no means easy to prevent Japan from arming itself with nuclear weapons. That means we have to learn to live with a nuclear power next door.

The situation on the Korean Peninsula is entirely different now. The U.S. has never been exposed to a nuclear threat from a rogue regime like North Korea. Pyongyang is a terrorist regime that has blown up a private passenger airliner. Its leader proclaims in public that he will crush his country's enemies. The North's nuclear missiles mean an emergency for the U.S., which is anxious about Pakistan's nuclear facilities. The missile defense system under construction by America and Japan is all but useless, a senior Japanese official has said.

Chances are that the U.S president will have to conduct nuclear disarmament talks with the North. With this in mind, Kim Jong-il has set the year 2012 as the "year opening the gate to a great, prosperous and powerful nation." There is no room for the South to squeeze itself into the talks. That is exactly what the North wants. It is more than evident that the talks won't discuss nuclear disarmament only. What North Korea and the U.S. will talk about behind closed doors does not bear thinking about. Washington will repeatedly promise the South a nuclear umbrella, but that is little more than fine words.

If South Korea does not think about its own nuclear armament even then, the state is unworthy of its name. But the U.S. and the international community will never accommodate our nuclear armament. Unlike the North, we can barely sustain ourselves for a few months with a fence erected against the international community. That means we will have to reintroduce U.S. nuclear weapons. It remains to be seen, however, if the U.S. will make such a choice in a completely changed situation on the Korean Peninsula.

Chances are that Kim Jong-il, in view of his age, will die once the North is publicly recognized as a nuclear power and has opened the gate to a great, prosperous and powerful nation. No outside strength can sway a nuclear power. Accordingly, the often raised equation of Kim Jong-il's death with the North's collapse is unlikely. The South will find it difficult even after Kim's death to evade the fate of living relying on the U.S. as a hostage of a rogue nuclear regime.

This scenario may be too bleak. But the North Korean nuclear problem has always taken the worst possible turn. We must look at the reality and prepare for the worst-case scenario. Are the government and people ready to do that?

By Chosun Ilbo columnist Yang Sang-hoon

Lady Gaga Visits Seoul for First Time

Lady Gaga Visits Seoul for First Time

06-17-2009 17:33
American pop star Lady Gaga holds a press conference at the Grand Intercontinental Hotel, southern Seoul, Wednesday.
/ Yonhap
By Cathy Rose A. Garcia
Staff Reporter

Pop star Lady Gaga lived up to her reputation as a fearless fashion icon when she wore a black see-through catsuit with an exaggerated clown collar to a press conference in Seoul, Wednesday.

"Gaga style does not equal kooky. I have a natural inclination for haute couture and avant-garde fashion. To me, this is not shocking,'' Lady Gaga said, referring to the skintight outfit by Tokyo-based designer Dress Camp. ``It's vogue and beautiful.''

Lady Gaga was in Seoul for a three-day promotional trip, which included a showcase at Club Answer, Cheongdam-dong Wednesday evening.

The petite blonde singer has topped the charts with catchy dance songs like ``Just Dance,'' ``Poker Face,'' and ``Eh Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say).'' However, it was her eclectic style that elicited more questions during the press conference than her music.

"It's exciting for me (to be considered a fashion icon). A year and a half ago, when I first came out, people said I looked funny. … It's great that now it's so mainstream,'' Lady Gaga said.

Born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, Lady Gaga grew up in Manhattan and studied at a private Catholic school where she has said she was an ``outcast.''

Now that she's a star, Lady Gaga still feels like a ``outcast.''

"In some ways I'm still a pop cultural misfit. I don't think I've changed. I'm still myself,'' she laughed.

Beneath the outrageous outfits, it was obvious that Lady Gaga takes her music, fashion and performances very seriously.

"You can say the philosophy of Gaga is fashion-music-technology-performance art. It's an interactive experience for the audience," she said. "I design everything together and New York is the nexus of my inspiration. I was born and raised in New York City. I am inspired by street fashion and the attitude. Andy Warhol is a huge inspiration of mine and I have a lot of Pop Art elements in the show. I am so passionate about my music."

Lady Gaga is planning to release a new version of her debut album, tentatively titled ``The Fame Monster,'' later this year. ``I'm obsessed with 1950s science fiction monster movies. The inspiration from the album comes from the sort of dark infatuation with monsters and apocalypse and darkness and theater. So you will see in this album, a more scary Lady Gaga, if I wasn't already freaking you out enough,'' she said, wryly.

Lady Gaga is currently planning a fall tour with hip-hop star Kanye West in the U.S., but Korean fans just might have a chance to see her againthis summer.

"Nothing's been decided on a international tour with Kanye, but I'm tentatively coming to Korea this summer on my own for some summer festival,'' she said.

During the press conference, Lady Gaga, who loves collecting wigs, was given a traditional Korean wig.

She also revealed that one of her best friends while growing up in New York was a Korean adoptee.

"We used to go out for Korean food together. She's never been here before so I sent her photos and told her about what I've seen here. It's personally very exciting for me,'' she said.