1) Google CEO visited North Korea
Google CEO Eric Schmidt and New Mexico governor Bill Richardson made a four day visit to North Korea on Jan 7 despite U.S. government’s opposition. They met with leading North Korean officials, and toured a computer lab at Kim Ilsung University. In the interview at Beijing Airport after the visit, Schmidt said he went to express his view that North Korea will be better off with more cell phones and wider internet use. Richardson said “dialogue rather than conflict” is needed at this time of leadership changes in South Korea and Japan. South Korean government hoped the Americans’ visit will promote peace and stability in Korean Peninsula. Not known whether they met with Kim Jongun.
2) Presidential transition committee kicked off
President-Elect Park Geun-hye got her presidential transition committee kicked off. The transition committee will get reports from current administration to help Park set up new policies for her 5 year tenure that starts on Feb 25. She also began to meet with envoys from key nations. In a meeting with China’s Vice Foreign Minister, Park said “North Korea’s nuclear weapons can not be tolerated, but added “doors will be open for dialogue and cooperation through a trust building process.” In the meeting with Japanese envoys, Park called for building up mutual trust in accordance with public sentiment.
Park is to meet with the envoys from the U.S. this week.
It might be that Park was destined to be the Korean president. Here is why. Park won 51.6% of the vote and her father took power after the military coup on May 16, 1961. She became the 18th president and her father ruled Korea for 18 years until 1979. Park is becoming the president at the age of 60 and her father got killed at the age of 60 by his own KCIA director. The opponent Park defeated last month was Mr.JI Moon, and her mother was killed by an assassin called Mr.SK Moon in 1974. Just a coincidence?
1) Korea ranked 19th best to be born
Korea ranked 19th best country for babies to be born, to the Economist Intelligence Unit, a think tank affiliated with the business magazine. Of the 80- countries surveyed, Korea scored 7.25 points ahead of Japan in 25th (7.08), and China in 49th (5.99). The U.S. and Germany shared 16th spot. Switzerland came first, followed by Australia. The 11 categories of the ranking were geography, demography, social and cultural characteristics, public policy, gender equality, political freedom, health, job security, crime rates, the state of the world economy and future income projected for 2030.
When I was a kid in the 60’s, Korea was one of the poorest nations in the world, with personal annual income of less than $100 when that of Philippines was over $800. I remember my friends lamenting “how happy could we be if we were born in other rich countries like U.S. or Canada!” Fifty two years have passed since Park Geun-hye’s father took power and initiated economic miracle process. Korea became a nation that my two sons born in Canada chose to keep Korean citizenship by joining the military last September.
3. Auto Industry
1) Denso and Doowon beat Halla, thus Visteon
According to the Korea Economic Daily, Hyundai has begun diversifying its air climate control systems supplier. To the newspaper, Hyundai Alabama has changed its supplier for next generation Sonata from Halla, a subsidiary of Visteon, to Denso. It also reported that Hyundai Beijing will be getting components from Doowon for its new models. Denso being a keretsu company of Toyota, Hyundai has relied on Halla for the bulk supply of climate controls systems. Halla also has been Hyundai’s good partner with 60% of its sales from Hyundai/Kia. The newspaper said Hyundai may further diversify climate control systems suppliers to meet the interest of global manufacturing sites.
According to another daily called Jose Ilbo, a Hyundai official said the business to Denso and Doowon from Halla has nothing to do with what happened between Hyundai and Halla last September.
2) Subaru and Mitsubishi say sayonara to Korean market
Subaru announced that it will withdraw from the Korean market. Launched in 2009, Subaru Korea was not successful in seducing Korean customers with its Legacy, Outback and Forester models. In 2011, Subaru Korea sold only 664 units, and mere 558 units by Nov this year. CXC Motors, the sole distributor for Mitsubishi in Korea is also likely to end its operation shortly. It has been selling Lancer, Outlander and Pajero, but has sold pathetic 61 units by Nov last year. In the mean time, the import cars took 10.01% of Korean market in 2012, breaking 10% market share barrier for the first time with 130,858 units sold. BMW was the leader with 28,152 units followed by Mercedes(20,389), VW(18,395) and Audi(15,126). The best selling model was BMW 520d which sold 7,485units.
Hyundai also didn’t do well in Japanese market, and had to withdraw a couple years ago. The withdrawal of Subaru or Hyundai has nothing to do with the public sentiment between Koreans and Japanese. The car markers just need to “build models in accordance with customer sentiment,” to borrow words from Park Gen-hye.