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Kicking it to K-pop
Winter Olympics kindles Morningside College student's love of Korean culture

SIOUX CITY | When the Winter Olympic Games begins Friday in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Dulce Sanchez will be glued to her TV set.

Is the Morningside College mass communications sophomore a fan of ice skating, skiing or any of the sports one associates with the Winter Games?

No, not really.

Instead, Sanchez is obsessed with the pop culture of the Asian nation. Specifically, she loves Korean popular music.

Jim Lee, Sioux City Journal 

Morningside College student Dulce Sanchez became obsessed with South Korea pop music as a teenager. Sanchez became a such a fan, she taught herself to understand the Korean language by memorizing song lyrics. 

Usually abbreviated as K-pop, this genre incorporates Western pop music with hip-hop, Latin and reggae on top of a traditional Asian sound.  

Most Americans became aware of K-pop when South Korean musician Psy had a unexpected worldwide hit in 2012 with the catchy, radio-friendly "Gangnam Style." 

However, Sanchez said she knew about K-pop long before Psy hit the scene.

"My first exposure to K-pop was from a song I heard when I was 12 years old," the now 20-year-old remembered. "The song was from a group called Shinee and I listened to it non-stop that summer."

A R&B group, Shinee (pronounced "Shine") combined the Motown-like sounds of Boyz II Men and the tricky choreography of NSYNC.

Jim Lee, Sioux City Journal 

As South Korea gets ready for the Friday start of the Winter Olympic Games, Morningside College mass communications sophomore Dulce Sanchez obsesses over South Korean pop music groups. The South Sioux City resident said her all-time favorite "K-pop" band is Shinee, which is playing on Sanchez's tablet.

"My parents thought I was being weird because I'm a Mexican girl who was becoming obsessed with a Korean band who had lyrics I couldn't understand," Sanchez recalled. "My mother probably thought I was going through some teenage phase."

Sanchez shook her head no.

"It wasn't some silly phase," she said with a laugh. "I still love K-pop and Shinee to this day."

Sanchez credited older brother Pedro with introducing her to K-pop as well as other distinctive Asian pop cultural phenomena like anime, an unusually vibrant form of Japanese animation in addition to Pokemon.

"Pedro did a lot to influence my tastes," she acknowledged. "I play soccer because he plays it and I'm into Asian culture because of him."

This sometimes put Sanchez at odds with her classmates, who usually favored Western acts like One Direction over anything from the Far East. 

"I didn't mind it at all," she said. "You either got K-pop or you didn't. Most of my friends didn't get it."

Indeed, Sanchez taught herself how to speak conversational Korean by identifying phrases from songs performed by Shinee as well as music by such well-known K-pop groups as Girls' Generation and Big Bang.

It certainly came in handy when Sanchez got to go to South Korea as a member of the U.S. Army Reserves.

"South Korea was even more amazing that I thought it would be," she said. "I loved it."

This is why Sanchez is looking forward to having the world's eyes on South Korea during the Winter Olympics.

"That will be exciting," she said. "Maybe, we'll see some K-pop groups invited to the opening ceremonies."

Sanchez knows her interest in Korean pop music may seem quirky, but she believes in approaching life with open eyes.

"You have to be willing to explore different cultures and art forms," she said. "You may discover you like it."

In fact, Sanchez is expanding her musical horizon by listening to Latin American artists.

"Brazilian music is great workout music," the aspiring sports broadcaster noted. 

Still, Sanchez said she's unlikely to ever lose her taste for K-pop.

"We form our musical tastes when we're kids," she said. "It sticks with us when we grow up."

LimeBike plans to launch bike-sharing service in Sioux City

SIOUX CITY | A bike-sharing service plans to bring as many as 250 rent-able bicycles to downtown Sioux City as early as March. 

Sioux City would be the first Iowa community and potentially the first Midwestern city to serve as a location for the rapidly expanding company LimeBike, which launched in June 2017 and currently operates in more than 40 communities across the United States. 

The Sioux City Council will vote Monday on a service agreement with LimeBike that will allow the California-based company to park its bikes on city sidewalks and right-of-way.

Using an app and its distinct green "smart bikes," LimeBike helps commuters locate nearby bicycles and then rent them using a credit card or PayPal. The bicycles are free-standing and self-locking, meaning they don't require a docking station like some other bike-sharing services and require no investment from cities.

Riders can unlock the bike either via text message or by scanning a QR code with their phone. After their commute, they can leave the bikes at their destination once they arrive. Rentals cost $1 for every 30 minutes, with discounts available for low-income users and for students. 

Gabriel Scheer, a director of strategic development with LimeBike, said Sioux City will be the firm's first or second location in the Midwest, depending on when it starts up. He said he believes the city has the demographics, such as multiple colleges, that will make it a successful place to launch. 

"We're really excited to see this live in Iowa," Scheer said. "We're excited to be in cities that aren't just coastal cities but are in the Midwest."

Scheer said the company is still finalizing the number of bicycles it will deploy in Sioux City but estimated it could be around 250. 

Sioux City invited LimeBike after a search by Downtown Partners' Environment work group for a bicycle ride-sharing company.

City Parks and Recreation manager Angel Wallace said the panel was intrigued with LimeBike because the bicycles do not require the installation of docks, which can be expensive. 

"We did some research, and there were companies out there that were charging for docked bikes. The costs were kind of cost-prohibitive because it would require a significant investment," she said. 

Panel member Darin Daby said he had heard of LimeBike over the summer and later had an opportunity to see the bicycles first-hand during a visit to Seattle. 

"I was overall pretty impressed with the concept, and I kept snapping pictures of them," he said. 

Wallace said the bike-sharing service will support the city's goal of providing affordable transportation and recreation opportunities. Daby added that he believes people will use them downtown for short commutes or to finish the last leg after getting off the bus, as well as for recreational riding on the city's trails.

US investigators say deadly Amtrak train crash preventable

CAYCE, S.C. — Federal investigators are trying to figure out why a switch was in the wrong position, sending an Amtrak train into a freight train and killing a conductor and an engineer in South Carolina.

But they already know what could have prevented the wreck that injured more than 100 passengers — a GPS-based system called "positive train control" that knows the location of all trains and the positions of all switches in an area to prevent the kind of human error that can put two trains on the same track.

"It could have avoided this accident. That's what it's designed to do," said National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt, referring to technology that regulators have been demanding for decades with mixed success.

He said the passenger train hurtled down a side track near Cayce around 2:45 a.m. Sunday after a stop 10 miles north in Columbia because a switch was locked in place, diverting it from the main line. A crew on the freight train had moved the switch to drive it from one side track — where it unloaded 34 train cars of automobiles — to the side track where it was parked. The switch was padlocked as it was supposed to be, Sumwalt said.

The system that operates the train signals in the area was down, so CSX Corp. — the freight railroad operator which runs that stretch of track — was manually operating the signals. Sumwalt said it was too early to know if the signal was red to warn the Amtrak crew that the switch was not set to continue along the main train line.

Just hours after Sunday's crash, which also sent 116 of the 147 people on board the New York-to-Miami train to the hospital, Amtrak President Robert Anderson deferred to investigators about whether the system would have stopped this crash. "Theoretically, an operative PTC system would include switches in addition to signals, so it would cover both speed and switches," Anderson said.

The Silver Star was going an estimated 59 mph when it struck the freight train, Gov. Henry McMaster said. It was the middle of the night, and many people were jolted from sleep by the crash and forced into the cold.

"I thought that I was dead," said passenger Eric Larkin, of Pamlico County, North Carolina, who was dazed and limping after banging his knee.

Larkin said he was on his way to Florida when he was awakened. The train was shaking and jumping, and his seat broke loose, slamming him into the row in front of him, he said.

He said he heard screams and crying all around him as he tried to get out. Other passengers were bleeding.

The locomotives of both trains were left crumpled, the Amtrak engine on its side. One car in the middle of the Amtrak train was snapped in half, forming a V off to one side of the tracks.

Engineer Michael Kempf, 54, of Savannah, Georgia, and conductor Michael Cella, 36, of Orange Park, Florida, were killed, Lexington County Coroner Margaret Fisher said.

"Any time you have anything that happens like that, you expect more fatalities. But God blessed us, and we only had the two," Fisher said, her voice choked with emotion.

Of the 116 people taken to four hospitals, only about a half dozen were admitted. The rest had minor injuries such as cuts, bruises or whiplash, authorities said.

On Wednesday, a chartered Amtrak train carrying Republican members of Congress to a retreat slammed into a garbage truck in rural Virginia, killing one person in the truck and injuring six others.

And on Dec. 18, an Amtrak train ran off the rails along a curve during its inaugural run near Tacoma, Washington, killing three people and injuring dozens. It was going nearly 80 mph (128 kph), more than twice the speed limit.

With the recent string of crashes, "it's becoming almost like an epidemic for Amtrak," said Najmedin Meshkati, a University of Southern California engineering professor who has studied positive train control.

Eric Gay, Associated Press 

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles hands off to running back LeGarrette Blount during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 52 football game against the New England Patriots Sunday in Minneapolis.