Monday, March 31, 2008



N Korea 'will turn South to ash'
MONDAY, MARCH 31, 2008 Al Jazeera
North Korea has threatened to turn its southern neighbour to "ashes" after South Korea's military chief said he would conduct a pre-emptive strike if the North tried to carry out a nuclear attack.
The warning is the latest outburst in an escalating war of words since South Korea's new president took office last month pledging a tougher line on relations with the North.
An unidentified military commentator was quoted as saying in the North's official Korean Central News Agency: "Our military will not sit idle until warmongers launch a pre-emptive strike.
"Everything will be in ashes, not just a sea of fire, once our advanced pre-emptive strike begins."
The warning comes as a South Korean newspaper said on Monday that North Korean fighter jets had been testing South Korean nerves by flying close to southern air space.
The report in the Chosun Ilbo newspaper said South Korean fighters had been scrambled at least 10 times in the past month in response to near incursions.
Last week, Kim Tae-young, the chairman of South Korea's joint chiefs of staff, told a parliamentary hearing that the military would strike a suspected North Korean nuclear weapons site if it believed the North was about to launch a nuclear attack.
In reports on state television on Monday North Korea's military said Kim's remarks would be seen as "tantamount to a declaration of war" if Seoul did not apologise.
North Korea has become increasingly angry over the tougher line taken by Lee Myung-bak, the South Korean president, since assuming office last month.
Lee's predecessors had sent billions of dollars in aid to the North, getting little in return, according to critics.
But the new president has said that if Pyongyang wants to keep receiving aid, it should improve its human rights record, abide by an international nuclear disarmament deal and start returning the more than 1,000 South Koreans captured or held since the 1950-53 Korean war.
The war ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty, leaving the two sides still technically at war.
Its latest comments come just before parliamentary elections next week in South Korea that could strengthen Lee's hand if conservative allies win control of the legislature.
The North has made similar statements in the past, usually in response to joint South Korean-US military drills. In 1994, a North Korean official threatened to turn Seoul into a "sea of fire".
Its comments also came ahead of a visit to South Korea by the chief US negotiator in stalled North Korean nuclear disarmament talks.
Christopher Hill was due to arrive in Seoul on Tuesday to speak at a forum and talk with South Korean officials.
On Thursday North Korea expelled South Koreans working at a joint factory park in the North after South Korea said it would hold off expanding the joint industrial zone until the dispute over Pyongyang's nuclear programmes was resolved.
The Kaeson industrial park, located on North Korean territory, had been hailed as a model of economic co-operation,
South Korea's defence ministry has said it will consider whether to send a response to the North over its demand for a retraction of Kim's pre-emptive strike statement.
A senior officer at the defence ministry said officials were working "to ensure the public would not worry about" the North's recent actions and statements, but did not elaborate.


North Korea warn of pre-emptive nuclear strike against neighbour
Leo Lewis In Tokyo March 31, 2008
An escalating war of words across the world’s last Cold War, nuclear-armed border spiraled dramatically yesterday when North Korea threatened to wreak total destruction on its neighbour to the south.
“Our military will not sit idle until warmongers launch a pre-emptive strike,” the official news agency in Pyongyang reported a senior military commander as saing, “everything will be in ashes, not just a sea of fire, if our advanced pre-emptive strike once begins.”
The threat was among the most direct and bellicose statements from Pyongyang since North Korea test-fired an atomic device in late 2006. International efforts since then to persuade the country’s enigmatic dictator, Kim Jong il, to abandon his weapons programme have repeatedly stalled.
The threat also marked a fourth day of rapidly deteriorating relations on the Korean peninsula, which remains technically still at war despite more than 50 years of often uncomfortable armistice.
The two countries – the prosperous, modern South and the unpredictable Stalinist Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) – continue to glare at one another across the world’s most heavily armed border.
A note sent by a North Korean military delegation to its South Korean counterpart on Saturday, said that “these outbursts are the gravest challenge ever in the history of the inter-Korean relations and a reckless provocation little short of a war declaration against the DPRK.”
Sunday’s warning followed remarks in Seoul earlier in the weekend in which the head of South Korea’s military vowed to conduct a pre-emptive strike on the suspected North Korean nuclear weapons site if Pyongyang tried to attack with atomic weapons.
The office of the chairman of the South’s joint chiefs of staff later explained that it was a statement of general principles, rather than a hint that the South was planning any unprovoked attack on the North. Pyongyang said that it would suspend all cross-border dialogue unless the remarks were withdrawn and an apology issued.
Although the communist regime of Kim Jong Il has regularly used this form of extreme language in the past, long-term North Korea experts said that its renewed appearance of the past few days should be treated with some caution.
The row, which has already seen 11 South Korean officials expelled from a joint economic “friendship” zone by the North, is thought to be a test by Pyongyang of the mettle of the new president in Seoul.
On Friday the DPRK test-fired a salvo of short-range missiles, reprising an act that has traditionally provoked outrage in Seoul and placed South Korean leaderships under immense domestic strain.
Lee Myung Bak was elected to the South Korean presidency in December last year on promises of a stronger economy. But he made little secret that his view towards North Korea and Kim Jong il would be far less conciliatory than his predecessor’s.
His response to the current escalation of tensions will be closely scrutinised on both sides of the demilitarized zone that splits the peninsula.
In addition to the deeper conflict over Pyongyang’s atomic weapons programme, the most recent row has ignited an argument over a line in the Yellow Sea that has never been recognised by North Korea: officials in Pyongyang said on Friday that “armed conflict may break out at any moment” over the boundary.


How I love a good sunset!!!Looking over the Hannam Bridge in Seoul.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Gotta love the MINI

The MINI dealer in Apgujeong:the wall says:
Back to the Disco
Are you ready to follow me?
Welcome to my world
DID YOU KNOW: the new MINIs are not technically related to the original ones!!!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Update on Bill Kapoun

Unfortunately, Bill Kapoun wasn't able to overcome his injuries and passed away Saturday. So sad. Of course, the medical bills incurred still have to be paid.

Foreign Teacher Dies of Injuries From Fire
By Kang Shin-who Staff Report 03-09-2008
William Kapoun, 26, an American teacher who sustained severe burn injuries in a fire at his apartment, passed away Saturday.
He had been in intensive care at Hangang Sacred Heart Hospital, Seoul, since Feb. 24.
The young American’s parents asked for repeated cardiopulmonary resuscitation after concurrent cardiac arrests to be stopped.
His father Dan Kapoun, a retired soldier, plans to hold a memorial service at the U.S. Army Base in Yongsan as soon as his son’s body is conveyed to the family from the hospital after the settlement of treatment fees, estimated at 77 million won (about $80,000) in total.
Donators and supporters extended their helping hand to the Kapoun family through the blog site They also made direct donations to a bank account that was opened here under the name of Warren Franklin William Fund. The donations have reached about $60,000 in total, according to his friends.
"Thank you all of you, from our entire family for your support and good wishes. The Korean people have been very kind to us," Judy Kapoun, his mother told The Korea Times. His parents will return to the United States after the memorial service here.
On top of donations from various people around the world, his family found that part of treatment costs would be covered by South Korea’s National Health Insurance Corp. following a retroactive payment. About 30 million won was covered by the insurance.
His death has alerted other foreign teachers here about their working conditions and safety. "The unfortunate tragedy awoke me to the fact that foreign teachers should make plans for their own safety. They must make sure that they are covered by insurance," said Michale John Bodnar, one of William’s friends.
Meanwhile, police said it appears the fire was "accidental." But they said they have yet to officially determine the exact cause of the fire that killed Kapoun and his girlfriend.
"We have yet to determine the exact cause of the fire. But it appears the fire broke out accidentally and chances of arson are low," a police official said.
Kapoun, a graduate of Indiana University, had been teaching students English as a part-time teacher at Bulam Elementary School in Northern Seoul. The fire at his apartment left him with third-degree burns over 70 percent of his body.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Help Bill Kapoun

A week or so ago, a foreign English teacher here in Seoul suffered severe burns fire tore throught his home. He suffered third degree burns to more than 70% of his body! He is now in the hospital here in Korea. Unfortunately, he doesn't have health insurance here in Korea as it was not offered in his contract. His family and friends are trying to raise money to cover his medical costs here and to pay for his transfer to the Cook County Burn Center in Chicago which has offered free medical care as long as it takes to get him better.
I would hope that if anything ever happened to me, people would be so helpful. I do have National Healthcare here, though it still doesn't cover everything. Koreans all have two kinds of health insurance. National health insurance and some sort of private health insurance that covers emergencies and such.
There is a Facebook group for Bill Kapoun and a blog, Save Bill Kapoun, as well. They have set up several ways for people to make donations. IF you want to help him, check out Bill Kapoun's Burn Fund.

Family fights to save burn victim
Before third-degree burns on half his body turned his life upside down, Will Kapoun was not just any English teacher - he was a born natural.
"He has three younger brothers that just idolize him and being a teacher is something he really enjoyed. When he would come home from traveling, he would give them projects to do: research and presentations to the family on countries he visited," his mother, Judy Kapoun, said in an interview.
"He was just a born teacher," she added.
On Monday, Feb. 25, a fire tore through his Haebangchon, central Seoul, apartment. Details are still sketchy, but it is suspected the fire started inside the front entrance of his apartment from "a flammable liquid." No other apartments in his building were damaged and no one else was injured.
"We're concentrating on survival, we're not even close to thinking recovery," his mother said.
In his apartment itself, one bedroom was untouched by the fire as the door was shut, Judy told The Korea Herald. "But Will's bedroom and the living room are all totally charred and blistered. The fire and the heat must have been so incredibly intense."
Will, 26, is now in critical condition in an intensive care burn ward at a hospital in Seoul. "He has third-degree burns on over 64 percent of his body. His arms, chest, back, legs - basically the only thing not burned is his thighs," said his mother. "He is still extremely critical; as a matter of fact he took a turn for the worse (Wednesday)."
Will has been undergoing skin graft surgery since last week and had more work done on Monday. But his mother said that he doesn't have enough of his own skin left for more grafts. "He doesn't have enough of his own flesh left to transplant it, so they have to grow flesh in a Petri dish. We had to agree to the cost of that yesterday just to get them started on that."
Cost is another serious issue for the Kapouns. While Will was retroactively added to the Korean National Health Insurance program this week, it is only expected to offset a fraction of the total costs as it does not cover skin grafts. Each operation costs around $15,000. Treatment costs could reach around 145 million won ($150,000) or higher for injuries as bad as Will's.
A Medivac to a hospital in the United States will cost another $170,000. Judy said that Quick County Hospital in Chicago has agreed to take Will in and treat him at no cost to the family - but that they would be responsible for the $170,000 Medivac.
But at this point, said Judy, he is still fighting for his life, and will not be able to be transported for months.
Will is the oldest of five children - his youngest brother is just 12. A family friend in the United States, Abby Cox, explained: "The boys are at home in Alexandria, Indiana, with their grandmother, who is also undergoing cancer treatments."
"(Costs) keep mounting. He had to go on dialysis today and at one point we were given a figure of $150,000, but I think it's going to surpass that greatly because of complications," Judy said.
Will had been working at Bulam Elementary School as a part-time English instructor and was working under 15 hours a week. Under Korean law, employers are not on the hook for health insurance for part-time employees. "Part-time employees are not covered by mandatory health insurance," Brendan Carr, a foreign legal consultant with Hwang Mok Park law firm in Seoul.
Carr also said anyone legally residing in Korea is permitted to retroactively join Korea's national health insurance plan, but that they are liable to costs from the date of eligibility. "If you enroll late, be aware that the insured is required to ante up for all unpaid premiums as from the date of eligibility for cover - i.e., date of arrival. You don't get to buy insurance just when you need it."
So far, national health insurance has covered about 40 percent of the costs. "At this point right now, only about $20,000 of $55,000" has been made up by the insurance, noted Judy.
Responding fast to the family's plight, friends in both the United States and Korea have established financial support channels.
Laura, 22, Will's younger sister, is spearheading awareness and fundraising in the United States from her university in Bloomington, Indiana. With the help of friends, she set up, where online donations are being accepted from people in the United States.
"I needed a way to clearly state what happened to my brother and how people could help. The website has been able to do this," she said. So far, the website has raised about $19,000.
Kin Jin-uk, a family friend, told The Korea Herald a bank account has been established and is now taking donations from people residing in Korea. He noted that the Kookmin Bank account is for direct deposit donations. The account number is 794002-04-03-1635 and the holder name is "Warren Franklin-William Fund."
A blog has also been set up to provide regular updates on Will's condition: Fundraising events in Seoul are being planned and will be posted on the blog.
As the money slowly comes in, the Kapouns continue to fight alongside their son. Immediately after the devastating fire, his mother and father came to Korea to be at his side for as long as it takes.
"Will and I have always been really close. I am simply doing everything that I can to make sure that my brother is able to receive everything he needs to recover from this. I hope that people are able to see the human in this story and open their hearts to that," said Laura.
By Matthew Lamers 2008.03.07

Foreign Teachers Campaign for Colleague Injured in Fire
By Kang Shin-who Staff Reporter 03-04-2008
William Kapoun, 26, loved teaching kids. But the young, confident American will not be able to continue what he loves ― at least for a long while. About 10 days ago, a fire broke out at his apartment at dawn and left him with third-degree burns over 70 percent of his body.
The part-time teacher at Bulam Elementary School in northern Seoul is now in intensive care. He will have to endure reconstructive surgery on numerous occasions and a lengthy recovery. Despite the will to live, however, he lacks the means to fight the brutal battle.
The blaze not only altered his body and dreams but also laid bare working conditions that are void of shelters or insurance schemes against such terrible accidents. His full treatment is estimated to cost roughly $130,000.
His parents flew over immediately. They are also shocked by the staggering costs as he has no health insurance under his contract . "He lived in an unsafe apartment. There was no sprinkler system or fire alarm and he had only one exit, which was blocked by the fire," Dan Kapoun, 53, father of William, told The Korea Times at the hospital in Seoul.
The father lamented the absence of any clear insurance policy. "I think whoever hires someone should take responsibility for making sure there is insurance," he said.
He said his son was very happy when he decided to go to Korea. "My son was very adventurous. He thought it would be a very good thing to teach English here, not only for him but also his students."
Kapoun Burn Fund
Bulam Elementary School, the employer of the victim, said that the school is not obliged to provide any insurance coverage to employees working less than 15 hours a week in line with the Labor Law. The school has some 10 other part-time foreign teachers working under similar conditions.
William initially started to teach at a hagwon before transferring to the "after-school" English programs that paid him some 2.2 million won a month. He has worked here for 14 months. He holds a double-bachelors degree in history and economics from Indiana University, his home state school.
With his parents in a difficult financial situation, his friends and colleagues are joining hands to launch a campaign to raise funds via the Internet at
Calling on educational authorities to take measures to install systems to protect foreign teachers, they also lamented the absence of any organized representative body for teachers to rely on when disaster strikes.
Matthew Sellar, a part-time teacher at an elementary school in Seoul, said that the terrible situation could happen to other foreigners as well. "The fact that William was uninsured is indicative of the larger issue that many foreign English teachers do not have insurance," he said. "I wish it was easier for foreigners to report illegal activities without fear of being fired, deported, or arrested. I love Korea. I love teaching my students."
Faulty Hiring Procedures
Apart from some 4,000 full-time foreign teachers at public schools across the country, many other schools employ native-English speaking teachers for their 'after-school' programs through recruitment agencies.
In Seoul alone, there were 833 English programs after school hours. While full-time foreigners get benefits such as health insurance, pension and severance, part-time workers are not entitled to such basic packages.
Most schools hire teachers through agents and many of the part-time teachers have difficulty in communicating with their employers. That’s because agents do not care much about them once schools hire them. Some agents don’t even give contract copies to foreign teachers, William’s friends who were gathered at the hospital said.
Korea Immigration Service issues E-2 visas to foreigners as long as the employers are trustful such as public schools. Under the immigration law, holders of E-2, or working visa, are not automatically entitled to insurance coverage. There should be contracts guaranteeing insurance coverage for them to be protected by insurance.
"As far as I know E-2 visa holding foreigners are not eligible for insurance policies without contracts containing insurance coverage," said Kim Young-guen, an immigration official.
Adam Mueller, another native-English speaking teacher also asked the Korean government to give more attention to their difficulties. "The situation that our friend William is in is the ultimate nightmare for a foreigner in Korea; huge medical bills, difficulty getting information and no easy access to solutions," he said. "Teachers considering working in Korea will naturally have some concerns about their new life."
If the Korean government does more to make foreigners feel confident about their safety and access to information, Korea will be able to attract more and better English teachers, he added.
Warren Franklin, who is teaching at a university, said "If a teacher is working for an 'after-school' program and is given an E2 visa they should be entitled to insurance at least."
Meanwhile, police have yet to figure out the exact cause of the fire. They say it will take one or two more weeks to determine exact reasons.