AFP: Koreas to meet in charged match

Just in case North Korea wasn’t in the news enough for its recent capture of two American journalists and its new threat of a missile launch, the country has just sent its soccer team to Seoul to take on South Korea in a qualifying match for the 2010 World Cup.

After nearly a half hour of play the score remains tied at 0-0.

AFP reports: “The North, who last made the World Cup finals in 1966, have 10 points from five games and lead the group after a gritty 2-0 home win over the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at home on Saturday.”

That means if the DPRK wins, then they will go on to play in South Africa next summer.That’ll be flippin’ interesting.

The last time North Korea qualified was in 1966, when it surprisingly made the quarterfinals. This story was described in the 2002 UK film “The Game of Their Lives.

A UK vendor also is selling DPRK jerseys for about 30 pounds. Wacky.

Um, Korea Fighting?

Update: South Korea pulled it out: 1-0.

Cyrus on Global Voices

Hamid Tehrani of Global Voices conducted an email interview with me about my forthcoming book, tentatively titled The Internet of Elsewhere.

Cyrus Farivar is a USA-based blogger, journalist and writer. He is currently working on a book about the impact of the internet on society. Cyrus writes about internet impact on Iran, Senegal, South Korea and Senegal. He was recently in Iran and has taken several photos of Iranian carpets, food, buildings and nature too.

Q: You visited Iran recently after many years. Was it a cultural shock? Was there any difference between what you imagined, and what you came to know about Iran in reality?

A: Iran wasn’t a culture shock at all. It was pretty much what I expected, culturally. I did grow up in a half-Iranian family in California, after all. Iranians are terribly hospitable people and always want to be helpful and welcoming to family members like me who have never been to Iran.

Q: You are writing a book on the Internet and its impact on society. One fourth of your book is about Iran. Can you explain this project?

A: I am writing a book about the history and effects of the Internet in four countries around the world, including Estonia, Iran, Senegal and South Korea. It explores how the political and economic histories of these countries intersect with the arrival of the Internet in their countries. It will be published by Rutgers University Press (USA) in Fall/Winter 2009.

You can read the rest here.

First train in over 50 years crosses Korean DMZ

I’d heard some people talk about train links between North and South Korea when I was there last month, and now, it’s finally happened.

For the first time since the Korean War that a train has crossed the DMZ.

Yes, it’s historic and emotional and all that, but really, as Reuters points out, this deal is all about the money:

To entice the North to allow the historic rail crossing, Seoul has offered $80 million in aid for its light industries.

Eventually, South Korea wants to send passengers and cargo via its neighbor into China and Russia and link with the Trans-Siberian railway.

Export-dependent South Korea could see huge savings in moving cargo if North Korea allowed the rail link to develop.

The links it rebuilt are designed to help serve two projects in the North.

One is a mountain resort built by an affiliate of the Hyundai Group where South Koreans can visit. The other is a factory park where companies from the South use cheap North Korean labor and land to make goods.

Farewell, Korea

Well, my three weeks in South Korea has come to an end. I tried (seriously) to make it up to North Korea, but it was going to cost me too much money and there was a 50/50 shot that the paperwork wouldn’t come through anyway. Too bad. I did get to go to the DMZ and eat Pyongyang-style noodles, so that’ll have to be good enough.

I can’t thank everyone enough, who’s made my time here such a success. In particular:

Karla: for letting me stay with her in Daejeon on no less than three occasions, and most of all, for letting me borrow her extra cell phone! I don’t know what I would have done without you.

Loren, Rachel & Nathan, and Jen: My four new CouchSurfing buddies, who were kind and generally awesome about letting me in their homes and share their space. You guys have an open invitation (and you too, Karla!) at my home in Oakland.

Aaron & Soo Jin: Although I knew you a little bit from before, it was great to learn more about you and to see you in your “native” environment. Thanks for taking me to eat live octopus. It’s an experience I will never forget.

DeVika, Min, Curtis & Lea, and Katrina: These friends I met through the aforementioned five and added a new dimension to my time here. I hope to host you guys as well — your perspective and friendship made my time here that much richer.

Chon Kilnam, Jin Ho Hur, Heewon Kim, HJ Park, Chris Chung, MK Kang, Stuart Brooks and all the other people I interviewed: Thanks for taking time to help me make my research worthwhile. You’ll be hearing from me again soon!

I’ve had a wonderful time here and can easily see why being here is so attractive. It’s easy to make money as an English teacher here, and to save money for a trip/house, or to pay off college loans. I may be back to follow in your footsteps.

I hope to see all of you guys in California soon!

Korean Unification Commercial

Aaron‘s wife, Soo Jin, first showed me this commercial in Busan last weekend.

IHT, February 9 2006:

SAN FRANCISCO – The Bush administration is drawing up plans to further tighten the noose around North Korea by barring financial firms investing in Pyongyang from conducting business in the United States. Washington is moving fast to capitalize on Pyongyang’s alleged counterfeit dealings, but so fast that it is omitting a major factor: Korea is reunifying.

At Incheon International Airport in South Korea, flat-screen televisions beam a Samsung cellphone commercial of a concert with South Korea’s pop icon, Lee Hyo Ri, and the North Korean dancer Jo Myung Ae. Korea’s most popular female stars, they sing a song about parted lovers with the lyrics, “Someday we will meet again, although no one knows where we’re going, someday we will meet again, in this very image of us separated.”

As they hold hands, the blue “One Korea” flag rolls down behind them, and as they turn to watch the flag, Lee Hyo Ri says, “That day I was so nervous because the story wasn’t just about the two of us.”

Here was Samsung, one of Korea’s most powerful corporations, popularizing reunification. And the South Korean government was also sending a clear message to all foreigners landing on Korean soil: Reunification is happening, slowly, but surely.

Standing on Freedom’s Frontier

I’m not really sure what to make of my trip to the Korean DMZ (De-militarized Zone), and actually standing a few feet inside of North Korea for a few minutes. The best analogy that I can come up with is being taken to a zoo, and watching the lion cage.

You’re impressed at seeing these hulking fierce beasts that you’re led to believe are vicious killers who will stop at nothing to tear you limb from limb. They feed you stories of how the North Koreans kidnap people in the neighboring village of Pamunjon, of how South Korean border soldiers are black belts in taekwondo and wear big intimidating sunglasses, and can’t wear name badges for fear that the North Korean agents will threaten them and/or their family.

After being paraded around the MDL (Military Demarcation Line), you realize that it’s really not that dangerous, given that you rolled up in a giant tour bus, and that there are highly-trained soldiers all around, each armed with at least a pistol and probably a knife, and maybe other hidden weapons. Our US Army tour guide, Sgt. Naumenkov, repeatedly cited his marksmanship as one of the reasons why we’d be safe.Read more“Standing on Freedom’s Frontier”