Making Sense of the Shocking Stabbing of a U.S. Ambassador

The extremist activist who assaulted Mark Lippert last week had longstanding grievances against the U.S. that many South Koreans share.

U.S. Ambassador Mark Lippert heads for the hospital in Seoul after the attack. Kim Ju-sung/Yonhap/AP Photo

For many Americans, news of a knife attack on U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert in Seoul last Thursday came as a shock. Given the strong, longstanding relationship between our two nations, it may seem like there’s no rational explanation for such a violent attack. Stories covering Lippert’s recovery from the deep gash to his face and five wounds in his left arm (none of which did any serious damage), yet going into very little detail on his assailant, a 55-year-old South Korean man named Kim Ki-Jong, have only increased that sense of mystery. The result has been the impression that Ki-Jong was a shocking aberration, an unstable agent with a violent history being manipulated by the sinister North Korea—South Korean police have been quick to point out that the assailant visited North Korea seven times between 1999 and 2007, and North Korea’s giddy and self-righteous coverage of the attack is suspect.

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Reinventing the Alphabet

By choosing their language’s written form, some groups are preserving their own histories, cultures, and tongues

Statue of King Sejong the Great, who introduced the Hangul Script to Korea, replacing widely-used but inapt Chinese characters

When the Cia-Cia people of Indonesia’s Buton Island, off the southeastern coast of Sulawesi, finally adopted an alphabet for their language, locals and international linguists alike rejoiced. An endangered language of some 79,000 speakers at the time, many feared that as global tongues and cultures became more locally popular, younger generations would be unable to engage with the knowledge and sense of identity stored within the Cia-Cia oral tradition. This new script would attempt to contain a 600-year-old cultural history, preserving their tongue and giving future generations all the benefits of literacy without the dislocation of language loss.

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Love Songs for the Censors

K-pop’s sugary conservatism is making it possible for Middle Eastern youth to tap into its most anarchic, adolescent passions.

In a western area of Istanbul, about a hundred Turkish girls and a couple of Turkish boys file into the auditorium of the Bagcilar Family and Culture Community Center. A nervous teenage boy takes to the stage, accompanied by a girl of the same age who looks considerably more confident under the spotlight. When the two begin belting lyrics in Korean, the room bursts into encouraging applause. Their song choice is “Because of My Love,” a saccharine duet by the Korean pop stars Ruvina and Han Eun Ji. The crowd pulses in utter delight.

The event was organized by, Turkey’s premier source for all things Korean. With over 61,000 registered users and more than 2 million messages posted to their forums since 2012, the site serves as the largest virtual meeting place for the improbable Korean cultural craze now going on in Turkey. It is largely a product of the “Hallyu” (Korean Wave), an expression first coined by Chinese journalists to describe the massive increase in popularity of South Korean cultural products over the past 10 years. Fueled by a strategic effort by the South Korean government to fend off the encroachment of Japanese culture and bolster the South Korean economy, the nation’s pop music and soap operas (K-pop and K-drama) have found a particularly ardent fan base in Turkey, where veritable communities have arisen in the form of K-drama fan clubs, K-pop music groups, and websites like

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Are These the World's Smallest Restaurants?

Look at these remarkable restaurants tucked underneath staircases in Korea.

Solo per Due—"Just for Two"—in Vacone, Italy, bills itself as being the world's smallest restaurant, as it takes only one dinner reservation for one couple per evening. But despite being only for two, that restaurant sits on an expansive estate that once belonged to an Italian poet. In our estimation, these eateries in Korea have to be some of the world's smallest restaurants, if not the smallest.

Situated under staircases in shopping centers, these tiny food bars highlight two important things: 1. The space issues cramped Asian nations face and 2. A remarkable resilience and ingenuity in the face of challenging environments. Many Americans store their old sweaters under their stairs. Koreans sometimes prepare and consume meals there.

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