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South Korea

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John Daly racing down the slope. Photo from Jonn Daly

Four years ago, Smithtown resident James Daly took his son John aside. The younger Daly had been in position to realize a long-held dream, only to see that dream slip away, as if it, and his sled, had slipped into a nightmare on Russian ice.

Competing in his second Olympics in the fast-paced sport of skeleton racing, John Daly was in fourth place in the Sochi Winter Olympics going into the final run of a four-heat race when his sled popped out of the grooves at the top of the mountain. That slip cost him time he could not afford to lose, sending him down to 15th place, and after the race, into retirement.

John Daly is a professional skeleton racer. Photo from Jonn Daly

Daly’s father grabbed him and said, “What happens to you today will make you the man that you’ll be tomorrow,” the son recalled.

At the moment, Daly barely registered the words, as the agony of defeat was so keen that he walked away from a sport that had helped define his life over the last 13 years.

His retirement, however, only lasted two. Daly wanted to rewrite his Olympic script.

The Smithtown native recently learned that he would represent the United States for a third time at the Winter Olympics, completing a comeback that required him to make marathon nine-hour drives from Virginia, where he’d gotten a job as a sales representative at medical technology company Smith & Nephew, to Lake Placid, where he returned to familiar stomping grounds.

A race official for bobsled and skeleton, the elder Daly continued to trek to the top of snowy and wind-whipped mountains, recognizing in the back of his mind that the middle of his three children might one day return to a sport where competitors sprint with a hand on their sled for five seconds and then dive headfirst onto a brakeless vehicle that can reach speeds in excess of 80 miles per hour.

When he learned his son made the Olympic team that will compete in Pyeongchang, South Korea next month, Daly couldn’t contain his enthusiasm.

“I’ve been telling everybody,” the retired EMS worker for the FDNY said with a laugh, even including random people he meets at the gym.

“When people watch the Olympic games on TV, they see a person from a town they never heard of,” James Daly said. “Now, all of a sudden, they see Smithtown. It’s great.”

The racing Daly, who is now 32, had a long road back to reclaim a spot on the American team. For starters, he had to go back to North America Cup races, the junior circuit of racing.

“Daly never really lost it. It was quite amazing to see.”

— Tuffy Latour

Daly “never really lost it,” said Tuffy Latour, the head coach of the USA skeleton team. “It was quite amazing to see. We were quite pleased.”

In January of last year, Daly earned a gold medal at Salt Lake City and followed that up with a gold and silver at Lake Placid.

Not only was his proud father there to celebrate John’s return, James also put the hardware around his neck.

“He’s been there from the time I went down the mountain the first time,” John said. “He’s always been there and for him to be there again, to put the medal on me for my first race back, it felt right.”

The pair joked while celebrating the first of several America’s Cup medals that the success felt familiar, like Daly was never gone.

At this point, Daly said he feels that the track in South Korea where he will square off against veteran sliders, including his longtime friend and teammate Matt Antoine, plays to his strengths. Latour said the American team is in a similar position preparing for South Korea as it was going into Sochi.

“We had a test of it last year in the World Cup,” the coach said. “The results were similar to what we had [in 2014].”

Latour said it sometimes helps to walk away for a few years and come back refreshed. He highlighted Daly’s experience as an asset in preparation for the 2018 games.

“He has nothing to lose,” said Latour, who appreciates how Daly’s comedic side helps steady his teammates during competition. He said Daly has the same energy he had before he left the race. “It’s great to have him around.”

John Daly, with father James, has had a successful season leading up to the Olympics in North Korea, grabbing gold in Lake Placid last year. Photo from John Daly

Daly said he’s proud to represent the United States. After he retired, he went to the gym, where he’d see people wearing sweatshirts emblazoned with the names of the colleges they’d attended. His sweatshirts read “USA.”

“That USA represents every college,” said Daly. “It’s a good feeling to wear it.”

At the South Korea games, Daly will be without teammate and friend Steve Holcomb, who died last year at 37. Holcomb’s story, including a recovery from an eye disease that made him nearly blind to a gold medal-winning driver of the celebrated Night Train sled, inspired people around the world, as well as his teammates.

As with his fellow bobsled and skeleton racers, Daly will be flying down the mountain in a suit that has Holcomb’s initials on it.

Daly will spend a next few weeks preparing for one more chance in the Olympics.

During the training to get back, Daly said his body and his mind demanded to know why he’s going through this work again.

He told himself: “I’m here to finish my career off the way I’d like.”

Bennarda Daly, who will attend the Olympics with her husband, said the South Korea Olympics will give her son something he didn’t get from the games in Russia.

“In South Korea,” she said, “he will finally get closure.”

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A South Korean soldier inside the joint security area. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

TBR News Media intern Kyle Barr visited South Korea in 2016. Photo from Kyle Barr

In the summer of 2016 I traveled to South Korea with the Stony Brook University’s program Journalism Without Walls. Though three weeks is never enough time to entrench yourself into a culture, I got to see a lot of what Korea is, and what it isn’t.

We traveled to the Demilitarized Zone, the DMZ, between North and South Korea. We learned of the minefields of the surrounding area hiding behind lines of barbed wire, the towers above the fields that could watch down into the North. Soldiers took us to the Military Demarcation Line in between two buildings, one owned by the North and one owned by the South. There are three small blue houses where the two sides are supposed to speak, but they haven’t for years. There’s a lone North Korean soldier on the far side beyond the line. He stood there at attention up the large stone steps. The atmosphere is oppressive, as if the air sits heavy on the shoulders.

But it’s a tourist spot. It’s a place with a gift shop and where a good many tourism companies run buses to all the major sites. Kids are often taken there, mainly from the schools in Seoul. The South Korean tour guide wanted us to take pictures of the North Korean soldier all at the same time like everyone with a camera was a private with a rifle at a firing line. The DMZ is a tool as much as much as it is a contested piece of real estate. The South Korean government wants you to come, it wants to convince you that everything you see is important.

South Korea is suffused with modernity. From up on the top of Dongguk University in Seoul, where my group and I stayed, the night skyline buzzed with color and light. The streets were clean even through the bustle, as it was a cultural tick for people to pick up garbage even when it wasn’t theirs. The subways were a masterwork of clean efficiency. Electric signs told when the next train was coming, and it was always exactly on time. I think Seoul is the most modern place I have ever been to in my life.

When I originally told my parents I wanted to go there, when asked they couldn’t even find South Korea on a map. Worse, my folks heard the word “Korea” and their eyes went wider than if they had seen a car crash 2 feet in front of them. Korea, to them, was a place of great anxiety, where a madman holding a big red button threatened everything they knew. My mother actually thought it could be possible that I would be walking around Seoul, get lost, then accidentally end up on the other side of the border in North Korea, suddenly finding myself surrounded by armed soldiers.

North Korean soldier on the opposite side of the DMZ. Photo by Kyle Barr

A year ago I didn’t have to fear for my life, of course, but now things are different. Seoul is only a short 35 miles from the DMZ. Along the border in entrenched positions there are thousands of artillery positions well dug in and lined up within easy range of Seoul. Any sort of conflict that erupts, whether from a huge, planned military endeavor or sudden strike, could result in a staggering number of casualties.

I spoke to a few young people originally from North Korea who braved so much hardship to escape to the South, with their parents hiring brokers that would ferry them across harsh terrain into China, and from there a looping path through several countries before they could seek asylum in the South. The people living in the North are destitute and much of the country relies on foreign aid. While some buy fully into the propaganda displayed by the Kim Jong-un government, many are at least in some part disbelieving.

These are the people that we ignore when United States officials talk about a confrontation with North Korea. Not only do they not want conflict, much like us in the U.S, but they and people in the surrounding countries and territories like Japan and Guam are stuck dealing with a conflict between two nuclear powers. In the expression of our fear, it’s imperative that we don’t forget these people who are left in the crosshairs.

Kyle Barr is currently an intern for TBR News Media.

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The hottest real estate in Japan these days is a bomb shelter, with a starting price from $19,000. When I heard that reported on the radio, I was instantly transported back to my first-grade class where, upon a signal, we covered our heads with our coats and slid under our desks. It was the Cold War: Stalin and the Soviets were the enemy, and we had drills to prepare for an atomic blast. One day, there were moviemakers at the school, before television became popular, and they recorded us taking cover for the newsreel that preceded the feature film in every movie theater. In fact, there were two feature films in those days, usually referred to as A and B movies, but first the viewers were treated to the news of the week. I was in the front row of my class, so I could be clearly seen on the screen crouching beneath my desk. But I never saw myself because my parents usually didn’t go to the movies. Neighbors told us that I was front and center.

Just as the movie seemed unreal to me, so did the Cold War and the atomic bomb from whose blast my raincoat was supposed to protect me. World War II had ended, and I grew up in the subsequent Cold War generation.

I heard people talking about building bomb shelters, but I couldn’t imagine having one since we lived in an apartment in the middle of the city. It did occur to me to wonder where we would find shelter in the event we needed to, and I think I questioned my parents about that once, but they didn’t seem to want to discuss the subject so it never came up again. My schoolmates may have been fearful, but we never talked about the bomb.

Then Stalin died, there was eventually detente with the Soviets, a popular novel appeared by Ian Fleming called “From Russia with Love,” we watched the touring Bolshoi Ballet at the old Metropolitan Opera House, something in my gut unclenched, and no one had atomic bomb drills anymore.

I hate the idea that children in Japan are now growing up under the shadow of a nuclear bomb threat. Those in South Korea are surely afraid and, for that matter, now those in Seattle. In fact, fear seems to be rearing its ugly head in the United States, a country ordinarily known for its optimism and “pursuit of happiness.”

For example, I would not like to be an immigrant here today and certainly not an illegal one. Those in that category must be living in fear day and night. I have no sympathy of course for illegal immigrants who have committed serious crimes and are therefore most likely to be deported. But the idea that ICE representatives are patrolling the courthouses, looking for illegals, certainly creates an atmosphere of people being hunted. I would also not like to be an employer whose business depended on the seasonal help of immigrants. Industries like hospitality, restaurants and farming haven’t known if their legal immigrant workers would arrive. Without that extra help, many businesses cannot survive because there are not enough Americans willing to do those low-level jobs. Ditto for those with special needs who require aides at home.

On the other side of the ledger, our economic picture seems rosy. The stock market is setting new records almost every day, as corporations are being rewarded for making profits and the prospect of deregulation encourages investment. The unemployment rate is the lowest in some 20 years. Yet there is a great divide between financial and political happiness. Many of the same people happy with the economy are unhappy with the political picture, bemoaning the chaos in Washington, D.C.

As we have always done, we will soldier on with our domestic problems. We are doing less well reacting to the foreign challenges, fear prompting us to answer threats with threats.

Some of the dogs rescued from a slaughterhouse in South Korea and brought to Elwood. Photo from Little Shelter

By Victoria Espinoza

Ten dogs from South Korea were rescued from certain death this past month after the Little Shelter in Elwood stepped up and gave them a new home.

The dogs arrived at the shelter Monday, Feb. 27, after a long, 14-hour journey by airplane. The dogs were scheduled to be slaughtered for their meat, a common practice in South Korea. However, with the help of a local Korean rescue group, Free Korean Dogs, a transport was arranged for them to come to New York.

Shelter workers carry the dogs into their new home. Photo from Little Shelter

Free Korean Dogs estimates more than 2 million dogs are raised and slaughtered for the Korean meat trade annually. The group often seeks to partner with larger rescue groups like Little Shelter to help get these dogs to safety and give them a chance to be adopted. Little Shelter Executive Director David Ceely said the group has wanted to get involved with this cause for years.

“We knew we wanted to help out with this problem,” he said in a phone interview. “It’s such a growing issue. In the last three to five years it’s really come to light, and as the oldest shelter on Long Island our mission is to help animals locally, however also use our capabilities to help beyond the local level.”

The Little Shelter created a plan called the Passage to Freedom Program, which aims to help dogs throughout the world find a home.

Rowan Daray, marketing coordinator and spokesperson for the Little Shelter said the rescue took a lot of work.

“The rescue was a long process, our team had been working on it for over a month,” he said. “We were communicating with the rescue group and a third party to help us transport the dogs, so responses could be delayed due to time zones, language barriers and just all the steps needed to get the dogs ready for their flight.”

He said once the dogs were on their way everything went smoothly.

The South Korean dogs are between four and 15 pounds, and range in age from 9 months to 3 years. The dogs are mostly small-sized breeds though some are medium. Little Shelter said all of the animals are healthy and friendly dogs that have been socialized prior to receiving their doggie passports.

Ceely said when the dogs first arrived on Long Island they were understandably shaken, but some were more social and resilient than others — for perhaps one specific reason.

“Some people from those countries are not above stealing people’s pets,” Ceely said. “They can easily get a couple of bucks by stealing someone’s dogs … so the dogs that are now licking our hands through the cages, wagging their tails and becoming more outgoing, I suspect they had to be someone’s pet. There’s no way they weren’t.”

Some of the dogs rescued from a slaughterhouse in South Korea and brought to Elwood. Photo from Little Shelter

Before they arrived in New York each dog had a full medical check up and was fixed while in South Korea. As part of the Little Shelter’s protocol the dogs will be kept quarantined for two weeks when they have time to settle down and become familiar with the staff.

So far their adjustment period has been a success, according to Daray.

“The dogs are doing well, many of them are opening up to staff and showing us their personalities,” he said in an email “We have two who love to dance on their hind legs and do ‘happy paws’ for their handlers. Two others are very excited to meet people but will try to walk in between your legs when on leashes, so they can be as close to you as possible.”

Ceely said he expects at least five dogs to be ready to go up for adoption next Monday when the quarantine period is finished.

Little Shelter was asking for donations to help cover the incurred $5,000 of transporting these dogs to safety, and they were able to reach their goal in less than two weeks. If you would like to donate to the cause, go to the Little Shelter, call 631-368-8770 ext. 26 or visit their website at www.littleshelter.com. The Little Shelter is located at 33 Warner Road.

Teenager staying in Port Jefferson Station, attending Comsewogue High School

Cathy Song, far right, hangs out with host mother Linda Bernet, her daughter Meredith, and Meredith’s children Nicholas and Larissa in Port Jefferson Station. Photo by Barbara Donlon

She had to travel 7,000 miles, but Seungeun Song is living out her dream and seeing what America is really like.

The 15-year-old Comsewogue foreign exchange student, who goes by Cathy, made the trip from her hometown, the South Korean city of Incheon, to Long Island at the end of January through the educational tour group EF Explore America. To participate in the program, the high school sophomore had to score well on a written exam and decide which country she wanted to visit.

“I wanted to come here to learn English better and make American friends,” Cathy said in an interview in the home where she is staying in Port Jefferson Station.

Upon arriving in New York, Cathy, who once briefly visited the United States as a young child, stayed with a welcome family before moving in with her Dorothy Street hosts, the Bernets, about five weeks ago.

Since starting classes at Comsewogue High School, she has made the honor roll and is having a great time experiencing American education.

She will stay stateside until the end of January 2016.

“Everybody is nice to me; they help me,” Cathy said. “It’s fun to learn something else in another language.”

Cathy said she likes school in the United States better than in South Korea because it is not as strict. One of her favorite things, for instance, is that she is allowed to eat during class, something she said would never be allowed back home.

“I like it here better,” Cathy said. “Korea is crazy about studying, but here I feel comfortable … and I’m doing OK.”

Cathy said high school in South Korea runs nine hours a day. Students then eat dinner and go to study until about 10 p.m. There would sometimes be class after that, too.

As the school year is coming to a close, Cathy has plans to travel, including a trip to Walt Disney World with another exchange student staying in Smithtown, a two-week trip to South Carolina to visit her aunt and cousins and excursions with the Bernet family.

“I want to take her to Broadway,” host mother Linda Bernet said. “We’ll cook, go upstate and I want to take her to the beaches.”

Cathy isn’t the only one getting the experience of a lifetime — Bernet said her home’s new resident has brought a lot of joy into her life as well.

“It’s been nice because we do things together,” Bernet said. “We are really kind of learning from each other.”

Bernet got the opportunity to host Cathy through her gym — Cathy’s exchange coordinator was teaching a class and asked if anyone was willing to take in the girl during her stay or knew someone who would. Bernet was intrigued and offered to do the job.

Through the experience, Bernet has decided to become a coordinator for EF Explore America to help connect exchange students with families here on Long Island.

Since Cathy arrived here, she and Bernet have done a lot, including a trip to Times Square, visits to the nail salon and some local shopping. They also have dinner together as a family every night. Soon Cathy will join the family on trips upstate to their second home.

“I want Cathy to have a good feel of the U.S. and see what kids here do,” Bernet said.

The student will also get the chance to make money like any other American teen with a part-time job this summer, as she learns how to babysit and take care of three of Bernet’s grandchildren, who often come over to ride scooters with her.

While Cathy is enjoying her time in New York, she misses home and Korean food, despite finding American food and Bernet’s cooking delicious, she said. She uses Skype regularly to chat with her mom and her younger brother and sister back home. Her time away from them has taught her a lot.

“I’m having fun because I get to be independent,” she said.

Because she has enjoyed her time in Comsewogue, Cathy said she may return to the United States for college.