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NBC: ‘Operation Chromite’ focuses on ‘Forgotten’ Korean War, bridging US and Korean cinema

 

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NBC News (by Stephany Bai):

Despite heavy involvement from the U.S. military, the Korean War is often referred to as “the forgotten war” because of its relatively low profile in history, according to military historians.

A new film, “Operation Chromite,” is spotlighting one of the key figures of the war, United States Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Liam Neeson portrays MacArthur in the film and is joined by two major Korean actors, Bum Soo Lee and Jung Jae Lee, in telling the story of the amphibious landing at Incheon, which the filmmakers say was one of the most consequential moments of the war. The movie, which makes its American debut on Aug. 12, opened at number one in South Korea, according to Variety.

[MacArthur] is a very well-known and respected figure in South Korea,” Bum Soo Lee told NBC News. “There may be people who have different ideologies in Korea, but overall the Korean people appreciate and respect what [General MacArthur and the US military] did.”

Liam Neeson, center, portrays Gen. Douglas MacArthur in “Operation Chromite,” a new movie about the Korean War. 

He added that the events portrayed in the film, and the people behind them, are directly responsible for the growth of South Korea, noting that the South Korean soldiers had been on the verge of giving up a key military stronghold when MacArthur executed the Incheon landing operation.

The Battle of Incheon and the landing operation cut the supply chain of the North Korean military and soldiers, and that contributed a lot to turning the tide of the war,” he said. “That lead to building democracy in South Korea and contributed to the economic growth that we’re seeing to this day.

Bum Soo Lee, center, in “Operation Chromite”

Bum Soo Lee plays the villain of the film, a North Korean spy, while Jung Jae Lee is a South Korean commander who infiltrates the North Korean army. Both actors emphasized to NBC News the research and preparation they did for the film.

What we as actors, as well as the director, focus so much on is speaking towards the truth,” Bum Soo Lee said. “This movie is based on a true event, on history. There was a lot of pressure on our shoulders because we were telling the story of these unsung heroes, who sacrificed themselves in the war, and we really wanted to pay respect to them.”

Jung Jae Lee added that the same was true for Neeson. “[Neeson] created new scenes and suggestions that were incorporated because he really tried his best to depict the real character,” Jung Jae Lee said. “The amount of effort he put into the character was really impressive.”

Jung Jae Lee said that he believes “Operation Chromite” represents a step toward greater collaboration between Hollywood and the Korean movie industry.

These days you see a lot of Hollywood movies open in advance in Korea, and big actors coming to promote their movies in Korea,” he said. “I can’t say there are a lot of Korean actors working in Hollywood, but the few we do already have are doing a great job in TV and movies. I believe that we’ll be able to see more of that in the near future.”

Did North Korea really publish pictures of a biological weapons facility?

Vice News (By Avi Asher-Schapiro):

North Korea might have just revealed that it has the capability to produce massive quantities of biological weapons.

On June 6, a North Korean scientist defected to Finland with 15 gigabytes of electronic evidence that he claims documents how the country is testing chemical and biological agents on its own citizens.

That same day, North Korea’s state media released photos of Kim Jong-un touring what it described as a pesticide factory called the Pyongyang Bio-technical Institute — but experts tell VICE News that this same facility is likely meant to produce massive quantities of weaponized anthrax.

Kim touring the Pyongyang Bio-Institute in June. The photos show fermenters and bioreactors. (Photos via Rodong Sinmun)

Melissa Hanham, a senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, first discovered the significance of the photos. She provided VICE News with an advance copy of her analysis of the images, released today, in which she concludes that, “given North Korea’s known history of interest in biological weapons, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the Institute is intended to produce military-size batches of anthrax.”

The multi-million dollar facility is ostensibly intended to produce bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a bacteria commonly used for pesticides.

If you’re a biological weapons expert, and see a facility for bio-pesticide, you immediately ask yourself: what kind?” Hanham said. “Then when you see packages of Bt, you should know that it’s a close cousin of anthrax — it’s produced the exact same way.

The Pyongyang Bio-Institute was constructed between 2010 and 2011 and is run by Korean People’s Army Unit 810. Pictures of the equipment published by North Korean press reveal nearly all the necessary components of a biological weapons program: incubators to grow bacteria, ventilation hoods to safely handle biohazards, fermenters and bioreactors used to grow bacteria, and a spray dryer to transform spores into a fine powder.

They messed up,” Joel S. Wit, a former State Department official and a senior fellow at the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, told VICE News. “If you’re a technical expert, it’s clear looking at this facility that it can be used for biological warfare, particularly anthrax. The science is not in dispute.”

An independent expert on North Korean military capabilities confirmed to VICE News that the photos most likely show an operational biological weapons facility.

Kim Jong-un peers into a Level II safety cabinet. 

Pesticide production is “an old and well-used cover for a biological weapons program,” Hanham explained. Iraq and the USSR both created dual-use facilities that were used to make pesticides and biological weapons.

Hanham noted that even if the facility is used to produce the pesticide, “in one day it could be converted to an anthrax facility. All you have to do is sterilize the equipment.”

The facility might have been developed with help from a foreign agricultural aid organization. In 2005, with funding from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and Chinese equipment, the UK non-profit CABI helped North Korea establish a pilot facility at the country’s Plant Protection Institute, located nine miles away from the alleged bioweapons facility, where it trained North Korean scientists in the production of Bt pesticide. The institute “was likely a training ground in preparation for the large-scale facility that Kim Jong-un toured,” Hanham writes in her report.

Teaching how to make Bt is essentially the same as teaching how to make anthrax,” she said.

She stressed that she does not think that CABI knowingly aided the development of North Korea’s bioweapons program. CABI did not respond to requests from VICE News for comment.

The problem here is you have tech that can be used for civilian and military purposes,” Wit explained. “It’s clear that more vigilance is necessary in the future.”

A spray dryer that creates a vortex to dry the bacteria spores into a fine powder. 

Experts told VICE News that the Pyongyang Bio-Institute likely represents the most revealing glimpse into North Korea’s bioweapons capabilities that has been made public — but noted that it remains unclear how the facility fits into North Korea’s overall program.

It’s similar to their nuclear weapons programs,” Wit said. “We can’t prove they are doing it, but looking at the facilities, we can make a judgment. That’s what this is about.”

Very little is known about the origin of capability of North Korea’s biological program,” said Hanham.

Though many experts believe that the country acquired a sample of anthrax and other epidemiological bacteria from Japan in 1968, it’s impossible to verify that it has actually developed a stockpile of the toxic agent. A South Korean government white paper published in 2012 suggested that North Korea is capable of producing a variety of biological weapons, “including anthrax, smallpox, pest, francisella tularensis, and hemorrhagic fever virus.”

It’s also difficult to assess to what degree North Korea might be in violation of international protocols that regulate the equipment used to make biological weapons, such as the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, to which it is a signatory. But the production of anthrax is not technically banned — the US and its allies regularly produce anthrax for research purposes. A violation occurs only if the agent is stockpiled and intended for military use.

A group of 41 countries known as the Australia Group also regulates the export of equipment that can be used to make biological agents.

There’s a very complicated network of rules and regulations around bio-weapons,” Hanham said. “It’s very hard for me to say definitely if a violation has occurred. We don’t know where all this equipment came from, and when it arrived in North Korea.”

Nevertheless, she insists the size of the facility should be cause for serious alarm.

It’s not the biggest in the world, but it’s still pretty large,” she said. “I’ve never seen images like these published before.”

North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un’s new haircut makes him look like an evil anime mecha

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RocketNews 24:

Whether they’re being called dear, supreme, or great, North Korea takes the image of its top leaders very seriously. After all, this is the same country which claims the late Kim Jong-il, in his first round of golf, finished 38 shots under par (in case you’re not familiar with the technical terms, one under par is a “birdie,” two under is an “eagle,” and 38 under is generally referred to as a “crock”).

So it’s a little surprising that current head of hermit state Kim Jong-un’s fashion consultants have let him rock a hairstyle that seems to perfectly gel with the rest of the world’s image of North Korean dictatorship as cartoonish supervillainry, with a ‘do that makes him look like one of the antagonist mecha from classic anime Mobile Suit Gundam.

Since assuming power in 2012, Kim Jong-un’s been gradually filling into his role as unchallenged ruler of North Korea. While he was always known for his cherubic facial structure, the Supreme Leader seems to have packed on a few more pounds during his first two years in office, and in recent photos has been sweeping back his boyish bangs, perhaps in an effort to adopt a more dignified and commanding persona.

Not everyone is convinced this taller hairstyle is the way to go, though. Combined with, for some reason, much shorter eyebrows, some say it gives the 32-year-old a “creepy” vibe.

View image on Twitter

We have to agree that there’s something just a little sinister about Kim Jong-il’s voluminous flattop in the above photo. Somehow, it’s just a little too precise. As a matter of fact, it’s almost robotic.

Speaking of robots:

View image on Twitter

Pictured on the right is the MSM-08 Zogok, an 18.8-meter (61.7-foot) amphibious warmech used by the Gundam franchise’s recurring villains Zeon in 1986’s Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ TV series, and also in the more recent Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn direct-to-video series.

▼ The Zogok even strikes menacing, dictator-like poses on occasion.

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So did Kim Jong-il walk into his barber, carrying some bootleg Gundam DVDs procured in neighboring China, and tell his hairstylist, “I want that!” while pointing at the Zogok? That seems a bit on the nose, considering the side that builds and operates the mobile suit in the anime is so unabashedly fascist that its battle cry is “Sieg Zeon!”

 

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At the same time, it’s hard to imagine Kim Jong-il doesn’t look exactly as he wants to in the above pictures. After all, if he had so much as a hair out of place, we’re sure North Korea’s crack photo editing team would spring into action and do such a great job that we’d never be able to tell the images were retouched.

GQ takes an inside look at the North Korean Film Festival

“The Interview” is now streaming on Netflix

Engadget:

As promised, the movie Kim Jong Un preferred you didn’t see is now available if you have a Netflix subscription (and an account in US or Canada). Whether or not watching The Interview is a good idea is still a matter of taste/importance, but at this point it really couldn’t get any easier (at least until it comes to Sony‘s Crackle service for free ad-supported streaming at some point in the future.)

 

James Franco, Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen on set of Columbia Pictures' THE INTERVIEW.

‘Interview’ star Randall Park glad to switch gears with TV comedy

Randall Park speaks during the "Fresh Off the Boat" panel at the Disney/ABC Television Group 2015 Winter TCA on Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015, in Pasadena, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

Korea Times:

The Interview” actor Randall Park says he’s glad the film was finally released and he’s ready to move on to his next role — a suburban dad in an ABC sitcom.

Park, who played North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in the movie at the center of the Sony hacking incident, was asked at a Television Critics Association meeting Wednesday if he feared any personal fallout.

I was never worried for my safety or getting hacked during that process,” he said.

What was unsettling, a smiling Park added, was to watch a TV newscast “and they’re talking about Kim Jong-un and showing my face.”

He said he’s excited about his role in ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat,” adapted from the memoir by food personality Eddie Huang.

The comedy, about an immigrant Taiwanese family adjusting to life in Florida, debuts Feb. 10.

Margaret Cho responds to accusations of racism for her Golden Globes sketch

72nd Annual Golden Globe Awards - Season 72

 Audrey Magazine:

With all the controversy surrounding The Interview and the cyberattack on Sony, we can’t say we didn’t expect at least a few North Korea jokes from Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, the hosts of last night’s Golden Globes. However, no one seems to have been prepared for the skit from Margaret Cho– one which has been a topic of controversy since it aired.

It goes without saying that Margaret Cho was a prominent figure at the Golden Globes this year. While this would normally call for a celebration (there’s hardly ever any Asian American representation at this event at all), this actually left some viewers uncomfortable. After all, Cho did not appear on stage as herself. Instead, she was “Cho Young Ja,” a North Korean army general and journalist.

With an over-powdered face and an exaggerated accent, Cho Young Ja commented on the Golden Globes by saying, “You no have thousand baby playing guitar at the same time. You no have people holding up many card to make one big picture. You no have Dennis Rodman.”

Of course that wasn’t all. The general also commented on Netflix’s Orange in the New Black (“It’s funny, but not ha-ha funny… Also, Piper and Alex’s relationship is very toxic”) and even demanded a picture with Meryl Streep.

As you can imagine, this appearance was met with a storm of mixed reviews. On one hand, there were more than a few viewers who believed her skit was blatantly racist.

First of all, let’s just call Margaret Cho’s long, dwindling joke at the Golden Globes last night what it was: yellowface,” writes E. Alex Jung on Vulture. “Hollywood needed a punching bag after the Sony hack and ensuing debacle with The Interview, and Cho willingly suited up.”

Others took to twitter to share their dislike.

It was only a matter of time before Margaret Cho chimed in on the controversy by speaking to Buzzfeed:

I’m of North and South Korean descent, and I do impressions of my family and my work all the time, and this is just another example of that. I am from this culture. I am from this tribe. And so I’m able to comment on it.

When we have British people playing American icons, there’s no backlash. But for Asian-Americans, it’s a very particular set of expectations that we are set to maintain, and that in itself is racist.

I think that we’re being held down by that incredible tide of invisibility that we’re constantly fighting. Whenever there is visibility, it’s shocking. Whenever there is visibility on our terms, it’s shocking. That’s why any visibility is so highly scrutinized. I’m so used to it that it doesn’t alarm me, it doesn’t bother me.  

I welcome the controversy. And I don’t care. 

“Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea” by Barbara Demick

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Audrey Magazine:

Between The Interview debacle and Margaret Cho’s controversial impersonation of a North Korean general at the Golden Globes, North Korea has been a popular topic in the media as of late. However, as LA Times correspondent Barbara Demick reminds readers in her book Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, the North Korean people are suffering, starving and dying every day regardless of whether North Korea is trending in the American media news cycle or not.  In the book, Demick interviews six North Korean defectors all from the city of Chongjin. Unlike Pyongyang, the city of Chongjin is an industrial mining town off the eastern Coast, and one of the hardest hit by the 1996-99 famine.

Throughout the book, Demick helps tell the incredibly human life stories of these six ordinary people without any sentimentality or gloss. They think, they observe, they love, they grow hungry, they escape, and they don’t forget what they’ve seen and experienced during their time in North Korea. Some of these defectors, still haunted by their past, even have trouble adjusting to life in South Korea years after their escape. Demick commits to telling these stories with sobering realism and refuses to sensationalize their stories for easy digestion. As Demick said herself in a Reddit AMA, “the outlandish stories take away from the real tragedy– which is that millions of North Koreans perish slowly, painfully as a result of chronic malnutrition.”

Details: Paperback, $9, amazon.com

Kim Jong-un wants to open a restaurant in Scotland

 Complex:

Kim Jong-un would like to open a restaurant in Scotland serving North Korean cuisine. The dictator already has a chain of restaurants throughout Asia called Pyongyang, and apparently possesses a soft spot for Scotland due in part to his love of whisky.

Experts claim Kim Jong-un is also fond of Scotland following the country’s attempts at gaining independence from the UK last year, as North Korea is keen to bolster its European ties with left-leaning countries.

He has previously opened a branch of the diner in Amsterdam (the first North Korean restaurant in the western world), although North Korean officials say the notion that their glorious leader is to open another in Scotland is “a nonsense.”

Let’s hope the food doesn’t look anything like this.

Margaret Cho’s Golden Globes bit accused of racism

benedict cumberbatch animated GIF
 Huffington Post:

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler didn’t shy away from controversial topics during Sunday’s Golden Globes, but some viewers felt one of their bits went too far. During the broadcast, Fey and Poehler interacted with comedian Margaret Cho, who played the newest member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a North Korean army general. Here she is getting a photo taken with Meryl Streep.

The segments with Cho — which also included the comic speaking with an exaggerated accent — were met with some outrage online. Numerous viewers called the jokes racist, while many critics cited the gags as a show low point.

Oh my gosh, the fake North Korean journalist is back. I’ve decided: This really needs to end,” wrote Emily Orley for BuzzFeed.

That bit with Margaret Cho as the Kim regime’s representative in the Hollywood Foreign Press, which managed a trio of awards-show sins: it was unfunny, racist, and incredibly long,” wrote Vulture’s editors. “Twenty years ago, Cho was the first Asian-American woman to headline her own sitcom — how did we end up here?

Cho has a long relationship with Fey, having played Kim Jong Il on “30 Rock.”

And while online reaction was negative, Fey and Poehler didn’t seem to mind too much during the show. The duo brought Cho back out on stage to end the 72nd annual Golden Globes.

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