Miracle on the Han(ukkah) River

Jay and Keum-won Kronish were looking for flights out of Korea when the Israeli ambassador called. There was a problem, he told them. Keum-won knew immediately what was wrong—the ambassador had asked her, a Korean native and American resident who’d retired in Israel, to find someone in Busan to lead the city’s first Israeli cultural center. And she had done this—two years ago. Unfortunately, the person she recruited for the position had backed out, leaving the ambassador with a headless operation and many gears already in motion. So he asked her, flat-out, over the phone: Why don’t you and your husband do it?

Jay Kronish, now sitting in the newly-minted Israel House in the Centum City district of Busan, shakes his head in disbelief. “And my wife said yes.”

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“Somebody asked me, ‘How many Jews are there in Busan?’” Kronish recalls. “I said, uh… four? I dunno!”

Dude ran around Jerusalem to create a sort-of museum, saw Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, then made the first Holocaust Museum in East Asia. For the full interview and story, look no further than Busan Haps

FROM MOVIEGOER TO MOVIEMAKER

CHRIS CIOSK MADE his first film in grade 7. It was for history class. The night before it was due, Ciosk was eager to work in any medium not involving double-spaced lined paper, so he grabbed a camera, enlisted his father and sister, and filmed a reenactment of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham—a bloody territorial fight between the French and British in Quebec circa 1759—with Beanie Babies.

He claims he got 100 percent.

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“You just walk out of this dull, dull, dull, dull day in Korea. Just dull as hell. I teach the same class for like three weeks in a row, so it’s just dull. And they have a beautiful screen, you see a wonderful movie, and you completely forget that you’re in Korea.”

A profile for Haps. At least, writing about people doing things!

The Race for the Blue House

Despite all that’s been written about it so far, Korea’s presidential election really only just began. Shit got real once Ahn Cheol-soo, the independent left-leaning billionaire software mogul, dropped out of the race in late November. One week later, the official candidates (significantly, leftist Moon Jae-in and right-winger Park Geun-hye) registered to duke it out on December 19.

And so it began. For the next two weeks we, the people, will be subjected to ‘heartfelt’ political ads (scroll down), drive-by televised speeches and the constant battle cry of the ajumma, proudly row-dancing and clutching banners on the street.

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Expect the usual Korean political fare and streets louder than usual. Park’s rejected Moon’s request for a live televised debate, which is actually pretty weird, on the grounds that her nationwide tour is too tight. (How else can Moon show off his lofty elitist intellectualism? How else can Park look like an aristocratic old-fashioned hag?)

Read the full thing on Busan Haps, for which I am now effectively a Korean political reporter.