George Wehrfritz

All Together Now

Early in March, Kim Jong Il had a dress rehearsal for his coming-out party. North Korea's shadowy "Great Leader" dropped in at the Chinese Embassy in Pyongyang and toasted stunned embassy staffers--he had brought his own wineglass--cracking jokes and making small talk.

A Turning Point?

The shoppers who lined up outside Seoul's TechnoMart last week weren't looking for bargains. They waited in long queues for the chance to wear masks depicting the two Kims--North Korea's frizzy-haired dictator, Kim Jong Il, and South Korean President Kim Dae Jung.

Raiding The 'Love Bug'

The "Love Bug" virus did billions of dollars of damage in a score of countries. It penetrated the secret computer system of the code breakers at the National Security Agency and some classified systems at the Pentagon as well.

A Deadly Golden Week

While his classmates prepared for vacation, a 17-year-old Toyokawa teen left school on May 1 and "went out to kill." He allegedly crept inside a nearby home, bludgeoned an old woman with a hammer, then stabbed her in the face with a knife from her own kitchen.

Coming Out Party

Park Jie won slipped aboard the China-bound flight like a spy on a covert mission. A cover story (routine medical tests) masked his disappearance from the office, and at Seoul's Kimpo International Airport, an air reservation under an alias threw potential snoops off his trail.

Fallen Heroes

The old soldiers moved in while their enemy was at breakfast. About 40 men, all South Korean veterans of the Vietnam War, massed at the KAL Hotel on the island of Cheju in February to ambush a crusading graduate student who calls them "madmen and barbarians." In a series of controversial articles, Koo Soo Jung had alleged that her countrymen massacred thousands of civilians in Vietnam--a claim that challenges the veterans' status as heroes in South Korea.

What A Hit!

When the New York Mets face the Chicago Cubs in Major League Baseball's March 29 season opener, most fans in both cities will be at home fast asleep. Just after 6 a.m.

Biting The Buyer

America's biggest industrial giant is trying an old tactic in South Korea--the kowtow. After negotiating unsuccessfully since 1998 to penetrate East Asia's most protected automobile market, General Motors is hanging its hopes on a foreign pitchman dressed in traditional Korean clothes.

Sins Of The Brother

If it were not for two GIs and a Leica camera, Taejon's horrors might have escaped history's judgment. In mid-1950, according to declassified American documents published in a Seoul newspaper on Jan. 7, South Korean military police executed hundreds of left-wing political prisoners there before retreating ahead of communist invaders during the opening weeks of the Korean War.

Farm To City Chic

Satoshi Miyazawa found his dream home while surveying old buildings for Japan's cultural-affairs agency in 1963. Built in Niigata prefecture in 1803, the classic minka, or "people's house," had vaulted ceilings, posts and beams honed from ancient trees and a thatched roof pitched steeply to shed winter snows.

Japan's Rising Son

Japan's boldest Internet warrior jumped at the chance to play his hero. Last February Softbank founder Masayoshi Son donned a traditional kimono and joined a group of young entrepreneurs, intellectuals and politicians to stage an amateur production of "Step Forward Ryoma, Stand Up Venture Patriots!" The drama chronicles the life of Ryoma Sakamoto, a swordsman who fought to modernize Japan after Commodore Matthew Perry's "black ships" forced open trade in 1853.

The Corpse And The Cult

The guests in room 1272 gave workers at Marroad International Hotel near Tokyo the creeps. They refused maid service, hid for months like recluses and ignored management's polite requests to vacate.

Crushing The Cult Of Doom

Hatsuko Honda was minding her Tokyo beauty shop when the emergency call came. An officer from the neighborhood committee phoned at around 11:30 on a September morning, warning the 71-year-old hairdresser that intruders were on their way.

Can This Company Be Saved?

Carlos Ghosn didn't earn his nickname by biding time. So when "Le Cost Killer" strode to the podium in a packed Tokyo ballroom last week, he got right to the point. "Nissan is in bad shape," declared the Brazilian-born Renault executive dispatched from France after his company took control of Japan's second largest carmaker in May.

Chemical Nightmares

Seoul's doomsday scenario begins at Shingye, a secret North Korean military base located 100 kilometers above the 38th parallel. Elite troops, acting on orders from strongman Kim Jong Il, arm hundreds of Scud missiles with chemical and biological weapons, then launch a massive first strike against South Korea--home to 37,000 American troops.

Sony: Play As Work

When Nobuyuki Idei, the president of Sony, stepped to the podium in downtown Tokyo last Friday, he looked tired and distracted; five days before, Akio Morita, Sony's legendary cofounder, had died, at the age of 78 (following story).

A Dangerous Wind

They told Terumi Terunuma not to worry. "You can wash clothes, bang the dust off futons and, when it blows, the wind will carry everything away," promised a local official when she phoned in a panic after Japanese television reported a nuclear accident in her town.

Crazy For The Net

Takeo Nakajima's entrepreneurial dreams materialized in his childhood bedroom. Last year the 25-year-old Keio University graduate turned the tiny space into a warren of cheap computers, tangled cables and scurrying part-time employees who work odd hours and nap on futons tucked under desks.

Rebels Of The Pacific

Partly buried in the gentle surf, a rusting cannon points northward over Iron Bottom Sound, graveyard to an armada. On Aug. 7, 1942, U.S. Marines stormed ashore here on Red Beach to seize the island of Guadalcanal, turning back Imperial Japan's blitzkrieg across the South Pacific.

Beyond Sex And Golf

The faded billboard looms above shimmering rice fields about 70 kilometers east of Bangkok. It heralds a cutting-edge industrial park called Alpha Technopolis, a dream city that vanished like a mirage when Thailand's financial system crashed in mid-1997.

Sea Of Trouble

Kim Yun Sook knew something was wrong when her kitchen windows began to rattle. Like most South Koreans on Taeyonpyong, a tiny island just 10 kilometers below the Yellow Sea border with communist North Korea, she was at home last Tuesday morning when the battle started.

Selling Sumo

Salevaa Atisanoe never had much time for tradition. As a hulking adolescent in Hawaii, he was always playing the clown. "Sale" was the kid who got his friends in trouble by making them crack up in class, the teammate who sprayed shaving cream on his buddies at football camp, the extrovert who hammed up the school's Polynesian dance revues by improvising his own groovy moves.

Green Buds In The Mud

Hidden among the skyscrapers in downtown Seoul, the entrance to Hyundai Asan Corp. could pass for the door to a broom closet. Tucked at the end of a second-floor corridor, employees in a subsidiary of South Korea's largest conglomerate are plotting the ultimate takeover.

The Most Stubborn Spy

The old comrades linked arms as they emerged defiantly from South Korea's Taejon Penitentiary. Leading the way: Woo Yong Gak, a 70-year-old North Korean widely regarded as the world's longest-serving political prisoner.

The Death Of Civility

THE MAN SITS ALONE AT A SMALL WOODEN TABLE, nursing a coffee and reading a trashy tabloid. Nearby, others scan the sports pages or watch a made-for-television movie flickering on an old set.