TIME North Korea

See Kim Jong Un Celebrate Ascent of North Korea’s Highest Peak

This photo taken on April 18, 2015 and released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 20, 2015 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un on a snow-covered Mount Paektu during sunrise in Ryanggang Province.
KNS—AFP/Getty Images This photo taken on April 18, 2015 and released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 20, 2015 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un on a snow-covered Mount Paektu during sunrise in Ryanggang Province.

“Climbing Mt. Paektu provides precious mental pabulum more powerful than any kind of nuclear weapon,” said a state media report.

North Korean state media released a collection of celebratory images of leader Kim Jong Un at the summit of the country’s highest peak.

The state-run Rodong newspaper reported that Kim climbed Mt. Paektu on Saturday with a group of fighter pilots and other party and military leaders.

The country’s media is keen on portraying the supreme leader—a member of this year’s TIME 100—in action, such as when video surfaced of him flying a small plane.

North Korean propaganda says Mt. Paektu, which rises some 9,000 feet, was the birthplace of Kim Jong Il, the current leader’s father — though historians say he was actually born in Soviet Russia.

“When one climbs snow-stormy Mt. Paektu and undergoes the blizzards over it, one can experience its real spirit and harden the resolution to accomplish the Korean revolution,” the Rodong report said. “Climbing Mt. Paektu provides precious mental pabulum more powerful than any kind of nuclear weapon and it is the way for carrying forward the revolutionary traditions of Paektu and giving steady continuity to the glorious Korean revolution.”

TIME South Korea

Victims of South Korea’s Sewol Ferry Disaster Remembered One Year On

A relative of a victim of the Sewol ferry disaster holds a flower as he stands on the deck of a boat during a visit to the site of the sunken ferry, off the coast of South Korea's southern island of Jindo
Ed Jones—Reuters A relative of a victim of the Sewol ferry disaster holds a flower as he stands on the deck of a boat during a visit to the site of the sunken ferry, off the coast of South Korea's southern island of Jindo April 15, 2015

Nine bodies remain unaccounted for, and the disaster’s anniversary is again heating up as a political issue

Thursday marks one year since the Sewol ferry sank off the southwest coast of South Korea. But for Lee Keum-hui, it feels like only a day or two since she lost her daughter Eun-hwa, who was one of 476 passengers setting out from Incheon for Jeju, a resort island.

“Some people say it’s time to move on, but how can we do that when our daughter’s body is still out there somewhere?” said Lee, 46, sweeping at the placid waters off Paengmok Harbor, the nearest point on land to the tragedy.

Eun-hwa is one of nine passengers who were never recovered. Lee and her husband still make the nearly five-hour trip from Ansan, a southern suburb of the capital, Seoul, down to Paengmok two or three times a week. There, they sit and hope that somehow their daughter’s remains will be returned to them.

South Korea was overwhelmed with grief when the Sewol sank. People struggled to fathom how a routine ferry ride could lead to 304 deaths, many of them students on a high school field trip. As the ordeal dragged on, the initial sadness segued into fury as the public accused the government of an inept rescue effort.

South Korea engineered a quick rise from poverty after the 1950–53 Korean War and is today one of the world’s wealthier, and more technologically advanced, countries. The shock of the Sewol sinking was compounded by disbelief over how, in a country that had come so far, a simple ferry ride could go so terribly wrong.

In ramshackle Paengmok Harbor, the farthest point on mainland South Korea one can get from the shine of the capital, normal life has mostly returned, with the rescue mission having been called off last autumn. Before last year it was little known beyond the locals who rely on it as a port for fishing boats and traveling to nearby islets.

However, with the sunken hulk still off the coast and nine bodies unaccounted for, Paengmok remains the site of grieving by families and their supporters.

The long, narrow pier is strewn with tokens of the tragedy. Banners with messages of support hang from the railings, imploring, “We won’t forget” and “Kids, come back. It must be so cold out there.” There are flags with the names of the nine passengers who were never recovered. One of them, frayed by the sharp wind that constantly blows in off the water, carries the name Cho Eun-hwa, Lee’s 16-year-old daughter.

The disaster’s anniversary is again heating up as a political issue. Bereaved families have staged large protests in Seoul, calling for the government to carry out a thorough investigation.

In the emotional aftermath of the sinking, the nation’s Prime Minister Chung Hong-won resigned, in what he said was a gesture of responsibility amid a culture of neglecting safety measures. In addition, President Park Geun-hye’s approval ratings plummeted from about 60% to less than 40% in the wake of the tragedy.

Cheonghaejin Marine, the company that operated the Sewol, was also pilloried for failing to follow basic safety protocol and having, a couple of years before, carried out a dangerous refurbishment of the ship that allowed it to carry more passengers but also made it more vulnerable to tipping over.

The firm’s CEO was sentenced to 10 years in prison last November for having violated maritime safety laws. The ferry’s captain, Lee Joon-seok, received 36 years for professional negligence causing death, while the ship’s engineer was sentenced to 30 and other crew members between five and 20 years.

At the time of the ruling, some bereaved families argued that the captain was getting off too easy and should have been sentenced to death. Lee was reportedly not at the helm at the time the Sewol began listing and, along with other crew members, fled the ship while most passengers languished aboard.

Kang Min-kyu, the vice principal of Danwon High School, where many of the young victims studied, committed suicide two days after the disaster. The 52-year-old was among the 172 passengers rescued but couldn’t live with the fact that so many of his young charges were less fortunate.

Late last year, South Korea’s National Assembly passed a law that mandated the formation of a special committee to look into the sinking. However, the investigation hasn’t gotten off the ground because of disagreements between the families and government over the body’s composure and the limits of its authority.

In addition to her hopes for an official probe, Lee says she won’t be able to move on from losing Eun-hwa until her daughter’s remains have been recovered. “We’ve been here for the past year, and our goal is still the same: to find our beloved child,” Lee said.

In Korea’s Confucian culture, great importance is placed on holding a ceremony to mark the end of a person’s life. And experts say moving on is especially difficult for parents who could only watch on TV as their children perished.

“The parents’ grief has been exacerbated by their inability to have intervened, to have assumed the role of their child’s protector,” said Ansuk Jeong, a Ph.D. in community psychology and research professor at Yonsei University in Seoul.

Kwon Oh-bok, a 61-year-old who lost his brother, nephew and sister-in-law, has spent the past year living in a small housing unit at Paengmok provided by the local government.

When the Sewol sank, Kwon’s brother’s family of four was on their way to start a new life in Jeju, having purchased a tangerine farm. Kwon’s 6-year-old niece was the family’s only survivor and now lives with an aunt.

Kwon says he’s still waiting for some kind of closure and would like the government to raise the prone hull from the seabed, a process that could take more than a year, and cost $110 million, according to a study commissioned by South Korea’s Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries.

“Once they raise the ferry I’ll be ready to leave, but not until then,” Kwon said.

Lee wears Eun-hwa’s student ID card around her neck, with a headshot of the young girl with a slight smile and dark, horn-rimmed glasses. Lee says her expectations have dropped precipitously since she first came to Paengmok. Having arrived last April hoping Eun-hwa would be rescued alive, this faded into the simple desire to see her only daughter’s face one last time.

Now, facing the reality of Eun-hwa having spent one year in the briny depths, Lee says, “I just want to hug her bones.”

TIME North Korea

Women’s Group Gets North Korea Support to Walk Across DMZ

Organizers of the effort called WomenCrossDMZ.org,Christine Ahn, left, and Gloria Steinem, right, March 11, 2015.
Bebeto Matthews—AP Organizers of the effort called WomenCrossDMZ.org, Christine Ahn, left, and Gloria Steinem on March 11, 2015

The walk is a call for reunification of the two Koreas

(UNITED NATIONS) — North Korea has decided to support a proposed walk across the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas by prominent women including Gloria Steinem, and organizers say they hope South Korea will give its approval as well.

Co-organizer Christine Ahn told The Associated Press that North Korea gave permission this week after she visited Pyongyang. The walk proposed for May 24 is a call for reunification of the two countries.

The DMZ is the world’s most fortified border, with the two Koreas still technically at war. The walk would mark the 70th anniversary of the division of the Korean Peninsula.

The walk would include two Nobel Peace laureates, and Ahn says North Korean women will walk with the group from Pyongyang to the DMZ.

Organizers of the effort called WomenCrossDMZ.org have said they hope for 30 women to cross from North Korea to South Korea on May 24, which is International Women’s Day for Disarmament.

The DMZ is one of the most highly charged places in the world. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers face off across the heavily mined zone that separates South Korea from closed-off, nuclear-armed North Korea.

“It’s hard to imagine any more physical symbol of the insanity of dividing human beings,” Steinem said during last month’s announcement of the walk.

Ahn said she had meetings in Pyongyang in the past week with officials from the country’s Overseas Korean Committee and Democratic Women’s Union. She said she received support to hold a symposium in North Korea on women and peacebuilding as well.

“I wish I knew how the ultimate decision was made, but at this point I’m just relieved that at least we have Pyongyang’s cooperation and support,” Ahn said in an email.

A North Korean diplomat to the U.N., Kim Song, last month told the AP the proposal was being discussed in his capital.

Ahn and the other participants also are calling on U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, a South Korean, as well as President Barack Obama and the leaders of North and South Korea to take the necessary actions to finally end the Korean War with a peace treaty. The war ended in 1953 with the armistice.

The women would like to cross the DMZ at the village of Panmunjom, which straddles the border and is the place where troops from North and South come closest, just a few yards (meters) from each other.

The women have said they take heart from successful crossings of the DMZ by five New Zealanders with motorbikes in 2013 and by 32 Korean Russians by motorcade last year. Both had permission from both sides.

This new attempt includes Nobel peace laureates Mairead Maguire of Northern Ireland and Leymah Gbowee of Liberia, who worked to end those long-running conflicts.

Ahn has said the women are being advised by former U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson, and that the U.N. Command at the DMZ has said they would be willing to facilitate their crossing once South Korea’s government gives its approval.

TIME Aviation

Korean Air Flight Attendant Sues Over ‘Nut Rage’ Incident

Passengers wait to check in at the domestic check-in desk of Korean Air Lines Co. at Gimpo Airport in Seoul, South Korea, Dec. 2014.
Lee Jin-man—AP Passengers wait to check in at the domestic check-in desk of Korean Air Lines Co. at Gimpo Airport in Seoul, South Korea, Dec. 2014.

Kim Do-hee alleges she was physically and verbally assaulted after serving an airline executive macadamia nuts

A Korean Air flight attendant is suing the airline and one of its vice presidents after the executive allegedly assaulted her over the serving of macadamia nuts.

In a lawsuit filed this week in New York, Kim Do-hee alleged that Cho Hyun-ah became physically and verbally abusive after Do-hee served her the nuts on a plane at John F. Kennedy International Airport that was headed to South Korea last December, the New York Times reports. Cho, who wanted the nuts to be served on a plate, demanded that the aircraft return to the gate so Kim could be taken off the flight in what’s since been called a case of “nut rage.”

Cho, the daughter of Korean Air’s chairman, resigned from her job following international attention and is currently serving a prison sentence after a South Korean court found her guilty of violating aviation safety regulations. In the lawsuit, Kim alleges that she was told to lie to authorities about the confrontation and make public appearances with Cho in order to rebuild Cho’s public image.

Kim is seeking unspecified damages. A spokesperson for Korean Air had no comment to the Times.

[NYT]

Read next: Daughter of Korean Air Boss Treated Crew ‘Like Slaves,’ Chief Steward Says

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME North Korea

South Korean Activist Plans to Airdrop 10,000 Copies of The Interview to North Korea

Stunt planned for late March could raise tensions between the two countries

Despite North Korea’s best efforts to stamp out The Interview, the comedy film about the attempted assassination of Kim Jong-Un may yet land on its territory.

Defector-turned-activist Park Sang-Hak is planning to send as many as 10,000 copies of the movie and 500,000 propaganda leaflets across the North Korean border by balloon on an unspecified date at the end of the month, AFP reports.

The demonstration will coincide with the five-year anniversary of the sinking of a South Korean warship, which the country has blamed on North Korea.

The South Korean government has acknowledged activists’ right to send the balloons but asked them to refrain in order to avoid increasing increasing tensions. North Korea has said it will respond with “cannons and missiles” if the propaganda balloons cross its borders.

“Nobody can stop it,” Park said. “I will keep sending leaflets into North Korea at the risk of my life.”

[AFP]

TIME South Korea

The U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Has Left Hospital 5 Days After a Knife Attack

"I feel pretty darn good, all things considered"

The U.S. ambassador to South Korea was discharged from a hospital in Seoul on Tuesday, less than a week after being slashed in the face with a knife by a Korean nationalist.

Ambassador Mark Lippert said he would not forgo the approachable demeanor he has become known for despite the attack, Reuters reported.

“We have made it our mission to be open and friendly, and that will not change,” Lippert said at a news conference following his exit from the hospital.

The 42-year-old ambassador was left with a punctured wrist and a deep cut on his face, which required him to get 80 stitches.

His assailant, Kim Ki-jong, has a history of violent attacks on diplomats, having been arrested in 2010 for attacking the Japanese ambassador with a block of concrete. The potential charges against the 55-year-old attacker, who said he was protesting last week’s U.S.–South Korea joint military drills, include attempted murder.

“I feel pretty darn good, all things considered,” said Lippert, adding that he hopes to be back at work after recovering fully. “I mean, it was obviously a scary incident. But I’m walking, talking, holding my baby, hugging my wife, so I just feel really good.”

TIME South Korea

Seoul Police Probe U.S. Ambassador Attacker’s Visits to North Korea

U.S. Ambassador Mark Lippert on March 5, 2015 in Seoul, South Korea
Kim Ju-sung—AP U.S. Ambassador Mark Lippert on March 5, 2015, in Seoul

State media in Pyongyang applauded the slashing of Mark Lippert

The knife-wielding nationalist who attacked the U.S. ambassador to South Korea is having his travel history to North Korea reviewed as police weigh charging him with attempted murder.

Kim Ki-jong slashed Ambassador Mark Lippert’s face in a knife attack ahead of a Korean reunification forum Thursday, leaving a 4-in. gash on his face and a wound on his left hand. Kim claims the attack was a protest against this week’s joint military exercises by South Korea and the U.S.

On Friday, Kim’s house was raided by police, who hope to obtain a detention warrant against the prounification zealot. But central to pursuing an attempted murder charge will be evaluating Kim’s presence in North Korea over the past decades.

Kim made seven trips to North Korea from 1999 to 2007, according to Seoul police officials.

“We are investigating whether there is any connection between the suspect’s visits to North Korea and the crime committed against the U.S. ambassador,” said Yoon Myeong-seong, a local police chief.

Meanwhile, state media in Pyongyang applauded Kim’s actions with typical belligerence, describing the incident as “deserved punishment” for U.S.–South Korean military cooperation, and saying the 55-year-old wielded “the knife of justice.”

[Reuters]

TIME Know Right Now

Know Right Now: U.S. Ambassador Attacked in South Korea

The attacker has attacked an ambassador before

The U.S. ambassador to South Korea, Mark Lippert, was slashed on the face and wrist by an anti-U.S. protestor in Seoul on Thursday. Watch Know Right Now to find out more, and read more here.

TIME South Korea

North Korea Applauds Knife Attack on U.S. Ambassador

The assailant reportedly shouted "South and North Korea should be reunified”

You can’t see it on television, but South Korean President Park Geun-hye has a scar that runs from her right ear to her chin. In person, up close, it is just visible below her makeup, a smooth cut that follows the curve of her face. She’s had it since 2006, when she was attacked on the campaign trail by a man wielding a utility knife.

On Thursday, in an eerily similar incident, the U.S. ambassador to South Korea, Mark Lippert, was slashed on the face and wrist in the South Korean capital. Photographs from the scene showed him holding the right side of his face, with blood visible on his left hand, and his pink tie splattered red. The U.S. Department of State confirmed the attack and said his injuries are not life threatening. CNN reports that he required 80 stitches. (Park’s attack, by comparison, required 60.)

Lippert, 42, was preparing to deliver an early-morning speech at a restaurant attached to the Sejong Cultural Institute in central Seoul when he was struck with a 10-in. blade. The attacker — since identified by South Korean authorities as 55-year-old Kim Ki-jong — reportedly shouted “South and North Korea should be reunified” during the attack, and continued to shout anti-U.S. slogans as he was restrained.

Both governments responded quickly. “We strongly condemn this act of violence,” said Marie Harf, deputy spokesperson for the U.S. State Department. President Park called the incident “intolerable,” likening it to an assault on the South Korea–U.S. military alliance itself. But North Korea applauded the stabbing, calling it a “knife attack of justice.”

The U.S. military has a long-standing presence in South Korea, an arrangement that dates back to the end of the 1950–1953 Korean War. There are currently some 30,000 American troops on the ground, and each spring, U.S. and South Korean forces engage in joint military exercises. North Korea considers the war games a dress rehearsal for invasion, and some South Koreans believe the annual exercises hurt the divided peninsula’s prospects for reconciliation.

Authorities are still investigating the incident, though the timing, and the attacker’s comments, suggest his motivations were political. The suspect said at the scene and online that he was protesting against the start of this year’s military drills. In 2010, Kim lobbed a piece of concrete at Japanese ambassador to South Korea. He received a two-year sentence that was suspended for three years, according to Yonhap, a local newswire.

Notwithstanding these incidents, a daylight attack on a foreign envoy is highly unusual for Seoul. The city of almost 10 million is, by global standards, a peaceful, prosperous place, known these days for its vibrant pop-music and fashion scenes, not political violence.

The well-liked Lippert, a longtime aide to U.S. President Barack Obama who arrived in Seoul in October of last year, was often seen out and about in the capital, greeting local people while walking his family’s basset hound, Grigsby (who, it turns out, has his own Twitter account). Lippert’s son was born in the city, and he and his wife Robyn even gave him a Korean middle name.

Questions are already mounting about security, especially in light of the 2006 knife attack on the now President Park. How did a man with a large knife and history of violence get so close to the ambassador? A spokesperson for the group that hosted the event, the Korea Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation, has already apologized for the security breach.

And while the attack might mean tighter security at upcoming events, Grigsby won’t be alone in hoping that the gregarious ambassador is back pounding the city’s sidewalks soon.

Read next: U.S. Envoy to South Korea Injured in Blade Attack

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Heart Disease

Moderate Amounts of Coffee May Help Keep Arteries Clear, Study Says

Man on desk holding cup of coffee, close up
Getty Images

Coffee in your veins may actually be healthy

Drinking three to five cups of coffee per day may help to reduce signs of blocked arteries, says a new study out of South Korea.

Published Monday in the medical journal Heart, the study involved more than 25,000 male and female workers, who previously showed no signs of heart disease, looking for calcium buildups indicating plaque growth that can cause heart attacks and strokes.

The results showed that those who drank the least amount of coffee, and the most, had a larger amount of calcium in their arteries than those who consumed a moderate amount.

Interestingly, researchers also discovered that the findings were consistent through different subsectors, such as smokers, drinkers and those with obesity issues.

“While this study does highlight a potential link between coffee consumption and lower risk of developing clogged arteries, more research is needed to confirm these findings and understand what the reason is for the association,” Victoria Taylor of the British Heart Foundation told the BBC.

Taylor also noted that the results should not be generalized because different cultures have distinct lifestyle and dietary customs that may also contribute to cardiovascular health.

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