In the United States, some prisons have looked to yoga over the past few years as a way to help lower the country’s incredibly high recidivism rate—67% within three years as of 2006—and thus alleviate overcrowding. The idea is that yoga and meditation can provide inmates with the emotional tools to stay calm and rational in stressful situations, hopefully preventing them from doing something that will land them back in the pen. One South Korean man, who had been practicing yoga during 23 years of detention, gave support to the assertion that yoga really can help get inmates out of prison when he slipped through a 15-centimeter-high, 45-centimeter-wide (6 x 18 inches) food slot in the bars of his detention cell last week. is here. 50-year-old Choi Gap-bok (hehe, gap, get it?) was arrested on suspicion of robbery on Sept. 12. Known as a yoga master by his friends and acquaintances, Choi had been practicing yoga to keep fit during 23 years on and off in prison. Choi made his great escape from his detention cell in a police station in Daegu at around 5 a.m. on Sept. 17. While all three police officers on duty were sleeping, the lean-bodied Choi applied skin ointment all over his upper body and squeezed through the tiny food slot in the cell bars in 34 seconds, earning him the nickname “Korean Houdini” by media. ^Cue Benny Hill theme song at :45 The skin ointment used by Choi, which was also applied around the gap in the bars, was given to him on request by guards. After slipping his head and neck through the gap, he pulled out his right arm and wiggled his shoulders free. His bottom got stuck halfway through, but he managed to pull it through after pulling down his shorts. All in 34 seconds. “He escaped from the prison cell in less than a minute after moving flexibly like an octopus,” a police investigator told reporters after reviewing footage from a prison surveillance camera. A Korea doctor, puzzled, explains that the average adult male head is larger than 15-centimeres, the height of the gap Choi escaped from, and that his skull should have dented when passing through. ^A photo of the food slot While Choi’s yoga skills allowed him to get out of jail, they weren’t enough to keep him from going back: on Sept. 22, after six days on the run, Choi was apprehended by police on the rooftop of an apartment building in Milyang. This time Choi is being kept in a cell with a far smaller food slot, measuring 11 centimeters in height and 102.5 centimeters in width. Will the Korean Houdini be able to escape again?
Six out of 10 actresses in Korea have been propositioned for sex by influential figures, according to a poll of 111 actresses by the Korean Women’s Development Institute commissioned by the National Human Rights Commission.
In the survey published Tuesday, 60.2 percent of respondents said they had been accosted for sex by senior figures in the broadcast industry or other prominent people. The poll was conducted between September and December last year and involved detailed interviews. Top actresses accounted for around 10 percent of respondents.
Among the actresses surveyed, 58.3 percent said they had felt sexually harassed by people who “stared at certain parts of their bodies,” while 64.5 percent said they had to listen to sexually explicit jokes and 67.3 percent said they were judged by their appearance. Some were directly asked to have sex, or even suffered sexual harassment or assault. Some 21.5 percent of respondents said they had received direct requests for sex and 31.5 percent that they had been groped. Some 6.5 percent said they were sexually assaulted.
Wealthy men were cited as the most common group of people seeking sex with the stars, cited by 43.9 percent of respondents, followed by TV producers and directors with 38.6 percent. Heads of TV production companies came next with 22.8 percent and senior businessmen with 15.8 percent. Multiple answers were possible. Almost 60 percent of respondents said they believed rejecting sexual advances would disadvantage their careers, and 48.4 percent said they had in fact lost out on appearances on shows because they refused.
Aspiring actresses also suffered other abuses. Among aspiring actresses surveyed, 72.3 percent were forced to go on a diet and 58.7 percent said they were told to have plastic surgery.
The NHRC said one of the main reasons for the abuses in the entertainment industry was the competition of a large number of actresses for a limited number of parts. “Each year, 48,000 aspiring actresses graduate from various acting schools in major cities, and there is no way of telling how many more women are hired by small talent agencies,” a commission official said.
The NHRC called for improvements including a revision of regulations to mandate a financial background check of candidates who wish to open talent agencies and a review of contracts by the National Labor Relations Commission.
A report says a South Korean man who blamed a live octopus for the death of his girlfriend has been sentenced to life in prison for killing her.
Yonhap news agency says police had initially concluded in 2010 that the man’s girlfriend suffocated while swallowing an entire octopus that stuck in her throat.
It says prosecutors reopened the case five months later after her family found that the man had received $US180,000 ($A176,700) in insurance money for her death.
Yonhap says a court in the city of Incheon convicted the 31-year-old man on Thursday of smothering the woman to death.
Live octopuses are a delicacy in South Korea and are usually eaten after being cut into pieces.
Nearly one in every two buildings boasts a coffee shop, from Starbucks to local brands such as Caffe Bene and Angel-in-us Coffee. Despite the existence of shops a mere 70 meters apart, it can still be hard to find a seat on some evenings even though a cup can cost more than a meal.
In short, South Korea, home to the world’s third largest number of Starbucks stores after the United States and Japan, has become a major battleground for coffee chains — so much so that government restrictions may lie ahead.
“There are few places where I can meet my friends comfortably. So I go to coffee shops,” said Ko Sun-bee, a high school teacher in Seoul.
Though coffee was once a luxury drink, the market in South Korea has grown at a dizzying rate. The number of coffee shops jumped nearly ten-fold to 12,381 during the five years from 2006 to 2011.
South Korean adults consumed an average 338 cups of coffee last year, and coffee imports jumped 44% to 130,000 tons over the past four years, said the Korea Customs service.
The value of the market overall has climbed 17 times to 2.48 trillion Korean won ($2.19 billion) during the same time, according to a think tank affiliated with KB Financial Group.
The spark was lit by Starbucks, which entered the market in 1999, analysts said.
“Without Starbucks, there would be no coffee boom here,” said Lee Taek-gwang, a culture commentator and professor at Kyung-hee University in Seoul.
“Starbucks is the symbol of US culture and gained widespread popularity among young Koreans who admire it.”
The number of Starbucks stores more than doubled to 367 over the past five years. The company said last year that it plans to raise that number to 700 by 2016.
ESPRESSOS IN DEMAND
The market for espressos and lattes turned out to be big enough to help boost the fortunes of other coffee chains and individual shops.
“I am very grateful to Starbucks,” said Yeo Seon-koo, who runs Yeondoo, a coffee shop known to aficionados for the quality of its brew and its beans.
“Koreans were previously used to spending 300 won for a cup of coffee, but Starbucks has made them willing to pay nearly 5,000 won, whether they like it or not.”
Asia’s fourth-biggest economy, in fact, now has so many coffee shops that regulators are considering whether or not to impose a “distance” between new franchises to protect them from cut-throat competition.
“A franchise operator allows one store to open very close to another under the same brand, which reduces sales at the existing store significantly. This puts a lot of damage on the existing store,” said an official at the antitrust watchdog Fair Trade Commission.
The FTC will start talks with coffee franchise operators on whether to impose distance and other rules, with the aim of announcing guidelines by September.
It took a similar step in April with bakeries, mandating that there can be no more than one franchise shop every 500 meters when opening a new store.
The move came amid criticism of bakeries linked to large industrial conglomerates, which critics said were hurting smaller-scale outlets.
But whatever the result, the coffee fever is unlikely to cool any time soon.
Yeo, of Yeondoo, said that while the metropolitan Seoul market for coffee franchises is currently saturated, coffee consumption remains low compared to the national income level, meaning further growth is still possible.
“The market is still at an early mature stage here,” he said. — Reuters
—Japan Cabinet to hold meeting Tuesday to discuss response to territorial dispute with South Korea
—Possible steps include scaling back currency swap arrangement, suspension of plans to buy South Korean government debt
—Analysts doubt there will be any big practical impact on the economies of the two countries from such steps
By Takashi Nakamichi
TOKYO—Japan may take steps to roll back an emergency financial lifeline with South Korea in response to the latest territorial dispute between the two countries, in what would be a departure from the Asian neighbors’ tradition of keeping economic affairs separate from territorial disagreements.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda could make a decision on such measures as early as Tuesday, when members of his Cabinet meet to discuss a response to the recent flare-up with Seoul over contested islands in waters between the two countries.
“Before tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting, we will hold a ministerial discussion the Takeshima issue,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Osaku Fujimura told reporters Monday, using the Japanese name for the disputed islands, also known as the Liancourt Rocks.
The meeting comes as Mr. Noda is trying to diffuse a separate territorial spat with China, on which he has been slammed by opposition parties for being too soft.
Anti-Japanese protests erupted across China after Japanese activists landed on one of the disputed islands Sunday, with Chinese media keeping up the rhetoric Monday.
“The national strength of China, as long as its growth continues, will become the bargaining chips that force Japan to back off,” wrote the Global Times, a popular tabloid with nationalist leanings, in an English editorial.
The Japanese activists landed on the Japanese-controlled Senkaku islands after activists from Hong Kong landed there last week, later to be deported by Japan.
The territorial spat between Tokyo and Seoul began earlier this month when South Korean President Lee Myung-bak visited the Liancourt Rocks, effectively controlled by South Korea, which calls them the Dokdo Islands. Japan refers to them as Takeshima.
But even if Mr. Noda decides to shrink the currency swap line with Seoul—which was expanded to cope with the European debt crisis—analysts say the impact on the two economies would likely be limited.
The two countries agreed last October to expand the swap line—an agreement to temporarily lend each other dollars—to $70 billion from $13 billion for one year. The increase had been requested by South Korea, which was concerned about potential capital outflows resulting from the European debt crisis, another Japanese official said.
Further offending many Japanese last week, after visiting the islands, Mr. Lee made remarks interpreted as being disrespectful to Japan’s emperor, whom many Japanese hold in high esteem.
The comments “really raised the hurdle” for the finance ministry to keep financial cooperation separate from politics, a Japanese official said.
On Friday, Finance Minister Jun Azumi signaled that Japan might let the expansion expire at the end of October.
Other potential steps Tokyo could take include indefinitely postponing planned purchases of South Korean government debt, Japanese officials said.
But some analysts say the financial steps being considered by the two nations are mostly symbolic. Even if Japan rolls back the swap agreement, South Korea wouldn’t suffer much because it has plenty of its own foreign-reserves—$314.35 billion at the end of July, the world’s seventh-largest. It can also rely on swap deals with other nations as well as Asia’s regional firewall mechanism, they say.
They also say a decision by Japan not buy Korean government bonds would actually help Seoul, which is worried about foreign buying of such debt pushing up the value of the Korean won. Rises in the won hurt Korean exporters by making their products more expensive abroad.
And while South Korea is the third-biggest importer of Japanese goods after China and the U.S., economists in Tokyo said a potential drop in Korean purchases won’t have much impact on Japan’s economy.
Many of South Korea’s imports from Japan are intermediate items used by Japanese factories to build finished products for export elsewhere. Thus, even if South Korean demand for Japanese exports shrinks, it may have no meaningful effect on Japan’s economy, said Toshihiro Nagahama, chief economist at Dai-Ichi Life Research Institute.
“The impact would be much bigger if the same happened in China,” Mr. Nagahama said, as China is steadily becoming a consumer of Japanese items from being a mere factory base for Japanese makers.
Another Japanese official said putting the Japan-South Korean financial cooperation back on track might be difficult until after Mr. Lee steps down later this year.
Mr. Lee’s Conservative Party faces a presidential election in December, but he is constitutionally barred from a second term.
In-Soo Nam and Alexander Martin contributed to this article.
Write to Takashi Nakamichi at email@example.com
“Japan May Trim Financial Lifeline With South Korea Over Island Spat,” published at 1136 GMT, misstated the name of Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary in the third paragraph. He is Osamu Fujimura, not Osaku Fujimura.
Two men suspected of accessing details illegally of 8.7 million users of South Korea’s largest fixed-line phone operator, KT Corp, have been arrested.
The company says hackers stole subscribers’ names, phone and personal identification numbers, and then sold the data to telemarketers.
The hackers made an estimated 1bn won (£560,518; $877,000) from the sale.
An illegally installed computer program had collected subscribers’ information over several months, KT Corp said.
“It took nearly seven months to develop the hacking program and [the suspects] had very sophisticated hacking skills,” the company told the Yonhap News agency.
KT is also second biggest mobile operator in South Korea.
The company apologised to its subscribers, promising to “strengthen the internal security system and raise awareness of security among all employees to prevent causing inconvenience to customers,” Yonhap News quoted KT as saying.
In July 2011, South Korea said it had traced the theft of data from 35 million accounts from the Cyworld website and the Nate web portal, both run by SK Communications, to computer IP addresses based in China.
In April 2011, hackers targeted a government-backed bank in South Korea. And in May the same year, data on more than 1.8 million customers was stolen from South Korean consumer finance company Hyundai Capital.
In November 2011, one of South Korea’s main games developers, Nexon, was hacked, with personal details of 13 million users of its MapleStory online game stolen.
Government ministries, the National Assembly, the country’s military headquarters and networks of US forces based in South Korea were also hit by hackers in 2011.
Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power is the lone company to receive the lowest grade of “E” in the national audit of 59 state-run corporations this year. When Shin Woo-ryong, former adviser to the preparation committee for the inauguration of President Lee Myung-bak, was an internal auditor, a service provider came to his office and left 40 million won (35,000 U.S. dollars) in his room as an apparent bribe. Under the Roh Moo-hyun administration, Cho Chang-rae became an internal auditor after he lost in the general elections as a candidate for the then ruling Uri Party in 2004. Immediately after his appointment, he “happened” to meet a broker and introduced him to the company’s top management at a sushi restaurant run by the presidential aide for political affairs.
Twenty-two executives of the water and nuclear power company were arrested on the charge of taking bribes of a combined 2.2 billion won (1.9 million dollars) from the broker over the supply of nuclear plant parts. A government agency in charge of nuclear reactors received fake parts in return for bribes. The kickback taking continued even after a colleague under investigation killed himself, and 100 employees on the site remained silent when the No. l Gori nuclear reactor suffered a blackout Feb. 9. If this fiasco was a movie, it would be a thriller studded with zombies. In a thriller, an outsider would jump in to kick off the zombies. For Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power, however, this was impossible because the auditor was appointed by the administration.
The post of auditor at a state-run company has often been considered a reward from the president to politicians who contributed to his election because the job has fewer responsibilities than those of the CEO and is under weaker supervision by the public. Politicians accounted for 24 percent of auditors at state-run companies under the Kim Young-sam administration, 32 percent under the Kim Dae-jung administration, and more than 40 percent under the Roh Moo-hyun administration. The Lee Myung-bak administration is no exception despite its attempt at “public reform.” Excluding two empty seats, 62 percent of 52 state-run companies in 2009 had auditors who previously worked for the ruling party, election camp and the presidential transition committee. The share decreased slightly after President Lee in 2010 declared his intent to create a “fair society” on Liberation Day, but the figure remained around 60 percent.
Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power President Kim Gyun-seop said, “We deeply regret and desperately apologize.” He pledged to adopt a “one-strike” system that would require dismissal of a staff member who accepts a bribe regardless of the reason and amount. The bulletin board on the company’s website allows the reading of the postings such as “A Letter to the CEO,” “What is Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power?” only by the writer but not others. If the CEO and auditor are changed but not the “zombie culture,” corruption cannot be rooted out.
Editorial Writer Kim Sun-deok (firstname.lastname@example.org)
PANAMA CITY: South Korea on Wednesday proposed resuming whaling for scientific research, angering other Asian countries and conservationists who said the practice would skirt a global ban on whale hunting.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said she would fight the proposal, which was made at a meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Panama City.
Critics said the move to pursue whaling in domestic waters was modelled on Japan’s introduction of scientific whaling after the IWC imposed a 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling.
Japan says it has a right to monitor the whales’ impact on its fishing industry. South Korea says whaling is a longstanding cultural tradition.
Anti-whaling activists regularly harass Japanese vessels engaging in their annual whale hunt in the Southern Ocean off Australia and Antarctica, with the two sides sometimes clashing violently. At least one activist boat has sunk in recent years.
In Seoul, a government official said South Korea abided by international regulations and it would be up to the IWC to assess its proposal.
“We’ve submitted a proposal to the IWC’s Scientific Committee to resume scientific whaling in our waters and will await the committee’s assessment,” said an official at the Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry.
“If it says it is not adequate in their assessment of the legitimacy of scientific research, we’ll make further preparations.”
South Korea said its fishermen were complaining that growing whale populations were depleting fishing stocks, an assertion that the World Wildlife Fund said had no scientific basis.
Environmental activists dismissed the term scientific whaling as a thinly veiled ruse to conduct commercial whaling.
“It’s an absolute shock this happened at this meeting and it’s an absolute disgrace because to say that hunting whales is happening in the name of science is just wrong,” James Lorenz from Greenpeace told Australian television. “Essentially, it’s commercial whaling in another form.”
The minke whales that South Korea proposes hunting are considered endangered, the World Wildlife Fund said in a statement.
Former Australian Environment Minister Ian Campbell told Australian television from aboard a vessel of the anti-whaling activist group Sea Shepherd that the organisation would “have to get organised to go out to the oceans and save the whales off South Korea”.
Australia to protest, says PM
Australia has long opposed Japanese whaling and Gillard said it would lodge a diplomatic protest against South Korea’s move.
“We will make our voices heard today,” she told reporters. “Our ambassador will speak to counterparts in South Korea at the highest levels of the South Korea government and indicate Australia’s opposition to this decision.”
Australia has filed a complaint against Japan at the International Court of Justice in The Hague to stop scientific whaling. A decision is expected in 2013 or later.
New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully said the announcement was a setback to global conservation efforts as whales in its waters were already targeted by Japan.
“The portrayal of this initiative as a ‘scientific’ programme will have no more credibility than the so-called scientific programme conducted by Japan, which has long been recognised as commercial whaling in drag,” he said in a statement.
Panama’s delegate to the IWC conference, Tomas Guardia, denounced the South Korean proposal “because it goes against the ban… we don’t support whale hunting under any circumstances”.
Twitter was awash with condemnations.
“I don’t care what justification you give,” wrote a user identifying herself as Savannah, from Australia. “It’s crap. Stop killing whales.”
Many Koreans view whale meat as a delicacy. Murals some 5,000 years old depicting whaling have been excavated around Ulsan, centre of the whaling industry on the southeastern coast since the late 19th century.
Officials say that before South Korea joined the moratorium in 1986, its average annual catch was 600 whales, most of which was consumed.
Whaling is now subject to prosecution and punishable by a jail or fines, but meat is available from mostly minke that get caught in fishing nets “by accident” or wash ashore.
South Korean farmers participate in a rally opposing the free trade talks between China and South Korea in central Seoul July 3, 2012. Officials from South Korea and China started the second round of their three-day meeting for the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) on Tuesday on Jeju island, south of Seoul, as they discuss the scope of the FTA and other issues, amid thousands of protesting farmers demanding to stop the talks, according to local media. Headbands read,”Stop South Korea-China FTA”. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won (SOUTH KOREA - Tags: BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT CIVIL UNREST)