Monday, November 7, 2011

Last two weeks in Korea (Nov 7, 2011)

1) Police chief urges lethal weapon on mafia gangsters
Angered by timid police response to quell sword wielding vicious fights between two rival mafia gangs in Inchon, Cho Hyunoh, the commissioner of the National Police Agency, declared war on organized crime rings, and permitted police to fire guns if necessary. While the police can carry guns, there have been strict and cumbersome rules to follow before firing actual bullets.  Asked about the possible human rights abuse with the quick use of guns, Cho said “no need for human rights for gangsters.” You can not tell mafia gangsters by normal appearance in Korea, but it will be much easier if they go naked as most of them have tattoos like below.
 I was in serious jeopardy on May 2, 1989, in Canada. A police man pulled me over when I drove fast not to miss the plane from Dorval Airport in Montreal for my marriage in Korea on May 5th.  I did exactly what I would do in Korea.  I opened the door and got out of my car, to explain the police man why I had to drive fast. Then, I put my right hand inside my jacket, just to take out my driver’s license from the pocket.  I had to learn hard way what “freeze” means on that day.

2) Inchon Airport gets the best airport award
Inchon International Airport was named on the inaugural “Roll of Excellence” by the Airports Council International, a federation of over 1,700 airports around the world. Inchon Airport received the praise after having been chosen as the world’s best airport for six consecutive years from 2006. The “roll of Excellence” was established this year, and airports that consistently made it to the top five for five years straight are eligible.
Inchon Airport is the best. Then what is the worst? It is O’Hare Airport in Chicago from my personal experience. I made a visit to the U.S thru O’Hare Airport last April, and it took me 1 hour and 10 minutes to pass the immigration due to long line, especially for foreigners. I returned to Korea a week later, and checked how long for immigration process at Inchon Airport. Just 2 minutes!  Because I was a Korean? It was 1 minute and 30 seconds for the foreigner who was in the same flight with me. O’Hare Airport can sue me any time if I added even a minute.

2. Economy
1) Korea-US FTA bill still under opposition
The FTA bill is going nowhere as the opposition party is now proposing to put it on the national referendum. The opposition Democratic Party Chairman, Sohn Hakkyu, took it to the streets handing out leaflets to build support for blocking the Korea-U.S. FTA. The Democratic Party is insisting that the ISD(Investor-State Dispute Settlement) provision in the bill has toxin inside against Korea, and is demanding the government to re-re-negotiate with the U.S. which already signed the bill. With the ruling Grand National Party showing reluctance to pass the bill in fear of ugly physical fight against DP lawmakers, and with the DP taking it as part of their strategy for the presidential election next year, it seems it may take a while for the bill to pass the National Assembly.
I’m in dilemma. Sohn Hakkyu was the governor of Gyeonggi province, and came to Metaldyne Korea at the grand opening ceremony in 2005. He belonged to Grand National Party at that time, and was a strong advocate of FTA with the U.S.  He then defected to Democratic Party in 2007 when he was losing presidential party nomination to current president Lee Myungbak. Sohn now plans to run for presidential election again next year as the leader of Taliban against the FTA. Should I vote for him or not?  Many millions of Koreans have the same dilemma as they also once thought Sohn could be the best leader in the nation.

3. Auto Industry
Hyundai-Kia Chairman Chung Mongku met with the Chinese officials from Yancheng city, and signed a contract to build Kia’s third plant with an annual capacity of 300,000 units in the city where Kia’s two existing plants are located.  The groundbreaking will take place at the end of 2012 for completion in 2014. Kia official said the third plant is need to catch up with fast growing Chinese market,  which rose to 11.12 million vehicles last year, up 34% from 2009.Once Kia’s third plant is completed, Hyundai-Kia will have capacity of 1.73 million units in China, 200,000 more than 1.53 million capacity in Hyundai’s main Ulsan plant in Korea
The tall man in dark suit next to Chairman Chung is Mr.Seol, a Chinese born in Korea. One of seven vice chairmen under Chairman Chung, Mr.Seol has been the main man for Hyundai’s China project since early 2000, and has done a pretty good job with all the success stories in China. A living proof of “no quanxi, no business “in China.

2) Hyundai union selects new leader more militant
While Mr.Chung was upbeat at the signing ceremony for Kia’s 3rd plant, he was probably much stressed out at the bad news over the weekend. One of the main reasons Hyundai was successful last three years was from the union leader who was reasonable enough to avoid perennial strikes in favor of practical benefits for union members. So no strike during his three year leadership.  This might change as Hyundai union members have selected Moon Yongmoon as the new leader for the next two years. Supported by infamous Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, a Korean version of UAW, Moon announced he will fight for the transfer of outsource workers to regular employee status, for the repeal of time-off system, and for two 8 hour consecutive shifts that will eliminate mid night working. All the bad stuffs that will give a direct impact to Hyundai’s profitability.
With Mr.Moon as the new union leader, Hyundai will face the reality again in which average three weeks a year can be wasted with strikes, much like what had been going on every year prior to three years ago. Many people in Hyundai management thus pray in despair that Mr.Moon somehow turn into another Sohn Hakkyu in Democratic Party, the master in about face.


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