South Korea first astronaut Yi So-yeon
Yi So-yeon

South Korea is replacing their country’s supposedly first man in space by a female engineer, after Russian officials rejected the initial candidate over a breach of rules.

Yi So-yeon, 29, is to replace Ko San, 31, on a Russian flight to the International Space Station on April 8, 2008.

Russia’s Federal Space Agency requested the change because Ko broke training centre rules. Korean officials played down the breaches, which involved removing reading material from the centre.

Ko, who beat more than 36,000 other applicants to the position, has been training in Russia since last year. He will now serve as the back-up astronaut for Yi instead. [BBC]


A Chinese man has rescued a seven-year-old boy from a pond, 20 years after rescuing the boy’s father from the same place. [Hat tip to Spluch]

Wang Weiqing, 58, of Beicheng village, China’s Guangzhou Province, was walking along the pool with his own grandson when he spotted a boy struggling in the water and saved him.

Chinese hero who saved father and son 20 years apart
Mr Wang telling his heroic stories (the kid is his grandson, not the rescued boy)

When the grandfather of the rescued boy arrived, he was amazed to see the rescuer was the same man who saved his son, the boy’s father, from the same pool 20 years ago.

Like father like son… thank goodness the saviour was around for both occasions.

The Intermediate People’s Court of Guangzhou, China, has began (on Feb 22) rehearing of the case of a 24-year-old Chinese who was sentenced for life imprisonment for taking cash from a malfunctioning automatic teller machine (ATM).

In April 2006, Xu Ting found out that an ATM of Guangzhou Commercial Bank was deducting only 1 yuan from his account for every 1,000 yuan withdrawn. Xu subsequently withdrew 175,000 yuan (US$24,000) in 171 transactions while his friend Guo withdrew 18,000 yuan.

Guo was jailed for a year after turning himself in while Xu remained on the run for a year before being caught in May 2007. He was sentenced to life for theft in the first trial in November 2007.

The sentence sparked an outcry from local media and legal experts. Many people said Xu did not deserve the life sentence, and I agree. [Xinhuanet, via Asianoffbeat]

What he did was wrong… but life sentence? You got to be kidding me. Hope that Xu will get a fair punishment at the end of the retrial… I guess with so many media attention, the court would make a more reasonable judgement this time.

Tokyo’s famous Tsukiji Fish Market is adopting new rules in April for visitors.

Tsukiji Fish Market is the largest fish market in the world and is famous for its tuna trading. The market has become an iconic travel spot in Tokyo thanks (or no thanks) to foreign travel shows and the blogging hype.

Tuna trading at Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, Japan
Tuna trading at Tsukiji Fish Market (Image source)

The influx of visitors has however created a hygiene risk and is interfering with normal business activities.

Specifically, Tsukiji workers complain that some tourists try to touch the fish, and that camera flashes interfere with hand signals used during auctions.

Tourists who arrive unaware of the new rules won’t be kicked out though, but the ill-mannered may be escorted off the premises by security guards, according to a spokesman.

Under the new rules… [Hat tip to Japundit]

* All outside visitors must submit an application in advance.
* Sightseers will be “asked to refrain from entering.”
* Visitors who show up unaware of the new restrictions will be allowed to enter but will be asked to abide by the new rules.
* No flash photos in the auction sites.
* No smoking except in designated areas.
* No babies, baby strollers or other large baggage.

I doubt any travellers would actually refrain themselves from entering… hope that the visitors could at least have the courtesy to follow other simple rules.

Seoul’s famous landmark Namdaemun (남대문) was severely damaged by a 70-year-old arsonist, who set the building on fire and destroyed the wooden structure of the 600-year-old building on Feb 10.

Namdaemun (officially known as Sungnyemun; 숭례문) is a historic gate located in the heart of South Korea’s capital, Seoul. It was the oldest wooden structure in Seoul prior to the fire, and the most iconic landmark of the city. Namdaemun was officially declared as the nation’s number one national treasure in 1962.

It’s reported that the suspect has committed the arson due to a grievance over a land compensation case. I doubt anyone would pity him at all.

Namdaemun in Seoul on fire Namdaemun in Seoul on fire
Namdaemun in Seoul on fire
Namdaemun on fire (Image courtesy of Xinhuanet)

Malaysian police have arrested a thief who fell asleep after broking into a house.

The burglar helped himself to some homemade cookies and promptly dozed off on a bed, scaring the occupants when they returned home from weekend shopping.

V. Sathya, 39, and his family had gone shopping for Chinese New Year goods. His 9-year-old son was shocked when he entered his room to see a man sleeping in his bed.

“He shouted and ran out of his room. Even then the burglar did not wake up and carried on sleeping while holding on to one of my wife’s purses,” said Sathya. [Thestar]

The family then called the police, who shook the burglar from his slumber and took him away.

Seriously, how tired (or stupid) could he be?

China officially unveiled its National Aquatics Centre, nicknamed the Water Cube, on Jan 28.

Water Cube aka National Aquatics Centre in Beijing
Water Cube aka National Aquatics Centre in Beijing Water Cube aka National Aquatics Centre in Beijing
The National Aquatics Centre (Images from early January, courtesy of Xinhuanet)

The Water Cube is one of two iconic venues for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games; the other is the Bird Nest, which is the venue for the opening and closing ceremonies as well as the track and field events.

The Aquatics Centre has a capacity of 17,000 and will host the swimming, diving and synchronized swimming events during the Olympics.

China’s busiest holiday travel season (Chinese New Year) is running in chaos, as hundreds of thousands of travellers are stranded while dozens are killed by the worst winter weather to hit eastern/central/southern China in 50 years.

Hangzhou hit by extreme winterHangzhou hit by extreme winter
Damage building in China by snow stormDamage structure in China by snow storm
Stranded travellers in Hangzhou have to stay in temporary relief centres i.e. cinemas and army tents;
Buildings and electric transmission towers are damaged because of the heavy snow weight
(Images courtesy of Xinhuanet, Zjonline and Enorth)

About 500,000 railway passengers, mostly migrant workers, are stuck in Guangzhou because the heavy snow fall had cut off parts of the railway line connecting to the northern region. China has about 200 million migrant workers who travel between cities and their homes in the countryside to celebrate the Spring Festival (Feb 7-11).

The extreme weather, which started around Jan 10, has been blamed for nearly 50 deaths and has affected the lives of about 78 million people in 14 provinces. The death toll and damages are expected to rise as the China Meteorological Administration (CMA) has issued a red alert on Monday (Jan 28) for severe snowstorms forecast in central and eastern region.

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