North Korea

Traffic Officer In Pyongyang, North Korea

For those of you in the news business — and maybe for some of you outside of it — North Korea just may be the gift that keeps on giving.

And, speaking of gifts, Chad O’Carroll and his talented news team at NK News in collaboration with Global Asian Culture is giving away one free 2014 North Korea Calendar — featuring the photography of Eric Lafforgue — to a lucky winner!

January NK news

So here’s what you need to do to enter.

1. Follow @nknewsorg and @GlobalAsianista on Twitter.
2. Tweet the giveaway (Enter to win a 2014 North Korea Wall Calendar from @nknewsorg and @GlobalAsianista
3. Leave a comment in the comments section at the end of the post, telling us you entered.

September NK News

I will draw the winner on Thursday, January 2, 2014.

Have a Happy New Year!

[Photo Credit: Eric Lafforgue]

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Liu Bolin, Hiding in the City No. 83, 2009, Photograph, 47 1/4 × 47 1/4 inches. Courtesy of Eli Klein Fine Art.

Today is Black Friday.

In the United States, this is a chance for citizens to prove their financial worth by shopping for things they don’t really need. Or, go into debt trying to accomplish this bizarre feat.

Through some Foucauldian coup of governmentality, we now believe a citizen isn’t really a citizen unless that citizen is also a consumer.

This isn’t just the case in the West — to an even greater degree this holds true in the capitalist domains of East Asia.

You could say I write this out of cynicism, but in some ways, though, the ceaseless brainwashing campaign that has people running, pushing, and trampling on each other for a lampshade or a video game console has been so successful, that by and large we don’t even take its effects into scrutiny. We take them for granted.

I spotted this “bizarre North Korean documentary” on Laughing Squid in August. But both times I’ve found nothing really bizarre about it, only some interesting Marxist perspectives about class, capitalism, and the manufacturing of propaganda so frighteningly effective it is, in many ways, impossible to dismantle.

One interesting example loops the creation of the ‘consumer slave’ (i.e. us) to the raising of funds/taxes that then go onto finance wars in the Middle East that damages thousands of innocent lives in these countries. Another points out the creation of the vague, empty slogan, something everyone can rally around. Everyone, that is, who are consumers.

The origins of the documentary are unclear. The YouTube user who uploaded the video claims it was handed down from North Koreans disguised as defectors. But my guess is it might even be a creation of South Korean producers with very clever North Korean touch-ups.

In the end, capitalism isn’t ugly because it creates armies of slave labor that stamp out t-shirts for Walmart that its wearers don’t really need. Capitalism is ugly, not to mention a bit scary, because it is a source of fuel for ongoing wars.

It’s the building of an empire that can’t be dismantled. Imperialism without a face.


(From L to R, top to bottom) ART HK 12, Seoul Diagonal Tower by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, The Chan-Zuckerbergs, China's War for Talent, Vintage Viet Cong Posters

@The Diplomat reports the Obama Administration has appointed its first Ambassador to Burma. Derek Mitchell, an inside-the-Beltway native, will be America’s ambassador to Burma, the first in 22 years. Or as President Obama put it poetically: “As an iron fist has unclenched in Burma, we have extended our hand.”

@TIME Magazine reports there’s a war for tech and engineering talent taking hold in China. Expect massages, foosball tables and other perks if they really want you.

@Can’t say I didn’t see this one coming. The Korea Times reports a survey of 3,600 people in nine countries shows K-pop Inc. will probably not see lasting success. Too much hypersexual dancing perhaps?

@Art sold well for an impressive swath of galleries represented at the Hong Kong Art Fair (ART HK 12). Even Arario Gallery reported selling an “undisclosed number of smaller pieces, ranging from USD 10,000-50,000.”

@Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan tied the knot at the end of a very eventful week: Chan earned her medical degree, Zuckerberg’s Facebook IPO was the largest in tech history, although it did disappoint a bit by closing 9.5 percent down from its opening price. It’s also something of a fairy tale ending for Mr. Zuckerberg.

@Looking to vacation in Southeast Asia? Know your fruits before you go.

@And if you are Southeast Asia-bound, you might want to rethink fish pedicures.

@On the other hand, if you’re headed to Beijing and looking for some bizarre eats, be sure to get your sneak preview here. (via Fili Nation)

@Are the Norks getting soft? I’m talking about their agreement to release 3 Chinese fishermen, who were detained for 12 days and at one point were held for ransom.

@And for South Korea, Dezeen has done a very nice job of rounding up the future of Seoul’s positively 22nd century skyline.


@Child of the Sixties Forever has a collection of Viet Cong posters from that decade. Which makes me wonder. Will we be looking back at today’s North Korean propaganda with equal bemusement?

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It’s chilly, spicy, and North Korean

by Liz on August 6, 2011

in Food

Hwe Naengmyeon, cold and spicy noodles with fermented, raw fish on top

Some of you may remember ‘My Favorite Things,’ a song from the hit movie musical Sound of Music. Trying to coax the children back to bed, Maria von Trapp sings a laundry list of her favorite things, the small but precious glimpses of life that make her happy. Slowly the children are no longer afraid of the thunderstorm, and Maria’s singing works like a charm.

It’s sobering to think there’s not much going on in the world these days that would make it on Maria’s list of favorite things. A debt downgrade, the worst Congress ever, Murdoch madness. I could go on, but I won’t. Today, I’d rather focus on one of my favorite things: spicy, cold sweet potato noodles, or naengmyeon, a Korean specialty I’ve been eating for as long as I can remember. Financial crises come, and financial crises go, but for me, it’s important to remember that this, too, shall pass. No matter what the Dow Jones, I can always go for a bowl of naengmyeon, refrigerator cold and spicy goodness that’s best with fermented, raw fish on top.

It’s been bit of a challenge finding a decent restaurant that serves authentic naengmyeon in New York. In Manhattan, I’ve encountered expensive varieties that tasted suspiciously like the packaged kind sold in the Korean supermarket two doors down. I’ve searched high and low for the real deal, the kind you’ll encounter in the Ojang-dong neighborhood of Seoul, a Hamheung naengmyeon enclave. Hamheung is a city in present-day North Korea where the idea of placing raw, fermented fish was born. Pyongyang, the North Korean city you hear a great deal about, has a naengmyeon tradition too, but theirs is more about a cold, umami-flavored broth and the rich, grainy texture of their buckwheat noodles. My mother’s side of the family hails from Hamheung, so that’s the naengmyeon I know.

My on-again, off-again search for the Holy Grail of good naengmyeon was finally rewarded this year, when a handy guide by the Korean Cultural Service NY pointed to a restaurant in northern New Jersey that specialized in Hamheung naengmyeon. Specialization is a good sign. You don’t want to try naengmyeon at a place that serves basically everything under the Korean culinary roof. Specialization implies focus, which in the case of naengmyeon is the noodles themselves: homemade and completely original. And that’s what I got at Homung Nangmyun: chilled to perfection potato flour noodles, balanced by fermented skatefish, marinated in a sweet and spicy gochujang sauce. The noodles were delectably chewy, and naturally I couldn’t ask for anything more.

Steamed meat dumplings, a common complement to Naengmyeon meals

The nice thing about Homung Nangmyun is they have other great menu items. I tried the Goki Mandoo, or steamed meat dumplings, and was pleasantly surprised. Another hit item that I saw going around to virtually every table was the Haemul Pajeon, a Korean seafood scallion pancake. The Pajeon is a perennial favorite among casual diners in Seoul, and although I never figured out why, for some reason people prefer eating it on rainy days. With makgeolli, no less.

I remember eating naengmyeon with my family in Seoul and the conversation would inevitably touch upon North Korea, a place probably best summarized by a quote in the 2005 film Capote, as he referred to Perry Smith, a convicted killer with whom he develops a special relationship: “We were brothers. But one day he stood up and went out the back door, while I went out the front.”

Most Koreans feel similarly about their brethren in the North. South Korea elected to go out the front door and prospered, while the North went out back, or backwards, and languished. It’s sobering to think a specialty like Hamheung Naengmyeon could be a rare treat in the city of Hamheung itself. But that’s a story for another day.

Homung Nangmyun
570 Piermont Road
Closter, NJ 07624
Recommendations: Hwe Nangmyun ($11.95), Mool Nangmyun ($9.95), Haemul Pajun ($16.95), and Goki Mandoo ($7.95) – Prices subject to change



(from L to R, top to bottom): KamKam's Dressed Up Furniture, Sung Yeon-ju's edible fashon, Chalmer Johnson's last book, Anna Wintour in China, Monsoon in a tea cup, K-pop group 2PM, and a somewhat disarming North Korean security guard.

@The New York Times has a very succinct summary of the work and life of Dr. Chalmers Johnson (1931-2010), the renowned Asia scholar and Korean War veteran, whose work on Japan, China and the United States is all too relevant today.

@David Pilling of the Financial Times captures Dr. Johnson’s scholarly essence in a neat package of an editorial: “”The road ahead for Asia need not run west.”

@Speaking of roads not needing to run west, Shanghaiist reports Anna Wintour’s road ran east ahead of the Thanksgiving holidays, where she met with her counterpart, Angelica Cheung of Vogue China.

@Fashion à la Global Asianista: trust a young and fabulously talented South Korean artist to take food to new, glamorous heights. Sung Yeon Ju’s website had crashed at press time, so try here and here for a taste of her delicious creations.

@The New York Times takes seriously the conclusion of Monsoon:The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power: that the global system’s center of gravity is shifting rapidly, and not just because more honeymooners are heading for the Maldives.

@Contemporist suggests you get a new wardrobe, literally, from Korean design studio Kamkam’s adorable Dressed-Up Furniture series. It’s furniture, except it feels like clothes.

@Fast Company gives Taiwanese music mogul Jay Chou a coveted spot on their annual Most Creative People in Business list. (via Shanghaiist)

@Little Red Book dissects a viral marketing campaign in China, that (spoiler alert!) turned out to have a false albeit convincingly ridiculous protagonist. The young woman in question had placed a personal ad seeking eligible bachelors, stating “People who are working in CNPC, Sinopec or other worldwide top enterprises or banks are preferable.” Chinese netizens speculated she was beautiful and (obviously) very snobby.

@Richard Ehrlich chronicles the rise and rise of Korean popular culture in Thailand. “For most Thai fans, a slightly longish haircut — often permed, even for males — is all you need to project the ultimate symbol of coolness. Thais who are obsessively following the fad are easily identified by the puffed-up, coiffed, unisex hairstyle, which self-consciously sweeps long straight locks diagonally down across half of the face.”

@On the subject of K-pop, if you’re in New York, mark your calendars: on Dec. 2, Wired Rebels and My Ninja! are throwing a back-to-the-K-pop-90s partay at hip Indian restaurant Pranna. For tickets, see here. (via Angry Asian Man)

@…and on the Angry Asian Man front: Asian America’s leading blogger condemns the North Korean attack on South Korean civilians at Yeonpyeong Island, then goes slightly weak in the knees at the sight of a hot North Korean security guard. For shame!