The Holiday That Wasn’t – Christmas in South Korea

By Marcello Kolax

If you greet the special season with a rumpled face, then South Korea might be right place for you. Christmas in South Korea is often celebrated as a day for young couples, not family, and wine bars or romantic restaurants are booked out well in advance.

But if you are on your own, why not join the crowds flocking to the bars. Since Christmas is a relatively new event, it is open to interpretation. Korea’s first president Rhee Syng-man, a Methodist, introduced Christmas as a national holiday in 1945. Since then, many ideas of how Christmas should be celebrated have evolved.

Lights of the season: This year's Busan Christmas Tree Festival will be held from December 1, 2011 to January 9, 2012. (Picture by Min Hye Kim)

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The Dear Leader is Dead, Long Live The Dear Leader

By Ara Jo.

North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong-il, died of a heart attack on Saturday (December, 17) leaving behind 17 years of absolute and corrosive power that no one in the Hermit Kingdom dared to challenge.

He officially assumed Chairmanship in 1997 after Kim Il-Sung’s death in 1994. During his rule, Kim Jong-il conducted two underground nuclear explosions and long-range missile tests, trying to boast of North Korea’s military power, resulting in increasingly worsening  relationships with the Western world. The tensions between North Korea and the United States came to their peak in 2009 when the second nuclear device was set-off, resulting in the USA’s abandonment of North Korea’s denuclearisation attempts.

Kim Jung-Il

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Sepaktakraw in South Korea – An Interview with Yu Young-Sim

By Ara Jo.

In a large athletic field at Masan Girls High School in Changwon, a bustling industrial city, about 350km southeast of Seoul, South Korea, a girl walks across to the main building for the first time without knowing what she is about to let herself get into. She is on her way to take the entrance exam. At least she thinks she is, nothing particularly exciting there. But, that day was the beginning of a long journey that led to her one day becoming a member of the Korean National Sepaktakraw team and the gym at school becoming her second home.

The girl was Yu Young-Sim, now 28. When she was 16 years old. “Like most other people, I had never heard of sepaktakraw until then,” she says, “But the coach took a look at me and said I had all the physical attributes to be good at it. And fortunately or unfortunately, he was a persuasive man. Before I knew it, I became a member of the high school sepaktakraw team. It was during the winter in 1999.”

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