Mark James Russell

Books, blog and other blather

Month: February 2013

Pop Wars Returns at Last

Not sure why this took me so long, but at last I have imported all of Korea Pop Wars, my first blog, into this current site. I guess that does not help much with old incoming links to KPW, but at least it makes all that information more easily available for people who read my little website.

It is kind of fun looking at those old posts. After all, I started the last blog in 2006, during perhaps Korea’s best movie year ever. So you had posts like this box office update, when there were zero Hollywood films in the top 10 — seriously, there were eight Korean films, one Japanese movie, and a Spanish film. And here is a post about the Korean country singer (and friend) Jimmy Lee Jones. Last I checked, Jimmy is still going strong, with his bar down in Daejeon.

Anyhow, if you were looking for my old posts about movies or music or whatever, hopefully they will be easier to find now.

Korea’s Biggest SXSW Yet

I was just checking out the lineup of musicians and acts playing at this year’s SXSW in Texas and was really amazed by the Korea presence this year — 10 Korean artists, not including Korean-American musicians. In 2010, I think there was just one.

Here’s the full listing:

There is also Far East Movement, with the Korean-American quotient. And, of course, there are plenty of other Asian acts, from Japan and around the continent.

The important thing, imho, is how Korean groups are increasingly getting out of Korea and playing around the world. That sort of exposure — exposing the bands to new audience and exposing new audiences and acts to the bands — is so important to developing the Korea scene. That sort of thing is a big part of what made Korean movies so good, 15 or 20 years ago. It’s great to see music doing the same.

Anyhow, Galaxy Express played at SXSW last year, too, when they scores a pretty cool mention in the New York Times. And once again, they will be going on a tour after the festival, hitting 25 shows in a dozen states (or so says their Facebook page). I’ll post the full schedule once I hear about it.

Chun Doo-hwan and Pierre Trudeau: Summer Lovin’ 1982

I just came across this Daehan News feature about South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan visiting Canada in 1982 and thought some people might get a kick out of it.

Chun, of course, came to power in 1980 (officially), following the assassination of Park Chung Hee in 1979 and the short-lived presidency of Choi Kyu-ha. It was a pretty dicey time for North-South relations, so Chun probably needed all the legitimacy he could find.

There’s a short New York Times article on his visit here.

Just to give an overview of this video:
0:00 – Leaves African leg of his trip
0:05 – Ottawa and Parliament buildings (“Canada is a peaceful country,” says the narrator)
0:31 – Chun Doo-hwan and his wife Rhee Soon-ja disembark their plane. Greeted by Edward Shreyer
1:13 – Rideau Hall for official reception
1:31 – Prime Minister’s residence for some garden party
2:01 – Choppers to Montreal to meet with Korean War veterans
2:45 – Back to Ottawa for an awkward-looking meeting with Pierre Trudeau

Not mentioned in the video (unsurprisingly) is the assassination plot to kill Chun during his visit. Choi Jung-hwa, a son of the International Taekwondo Federation founder and North Korea-friendly Choi Hong-hi, had been living in Mississauga at the time. The younger Choi allegedly tried hiring a couple of people to kill Chun while the South Korean president was in Canada. But apparently that plot was broken up months before the visit — Choi went into hiding in Europe for years before returning to Canada and spending a year in jail.

There’s more about Choi and his return to Korea in the JoongAng Daily, including the great news that  North Korea disguised its agents as taekwondo masters working for ITF and dispatched them abroad. Given that I studied taekwondo at an ITF gym while in high school, it makes me wonder if I could be a sleeper agent.

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