Thursday, October 31, 2013

L2W: Dr. KJU, Elder Divorce, Korean Work Hours

1. National
1) Kim Jong-un gets honorary doctorate
U.S. magazine Foreign Policy reported that North Korea’s Kim Jong-un received an honorary doctorate in economics from HELP University in Malaysia. Paul Chan, the vice chancellor of HELP, said the university conferred the degree to Kim in recognition of his “untiring efforts for the education of the country and the well-being of its people.” HELP University is a private college in Kuala Lumpur founded in 1986. Lots of criticism is falling on HELP University .North Korea’s gross national income per capita, the indicator of standard living, was $1,250 in 2011, compared with $23,400 in South Korea, and chronic food and power shortages as well as human rights violations under Kim Jong-un are well known to the world.
Buoyed at the ‘Thank You’ comments from Kim Jong-un, Paul Chan of HELP University is about to give an honorary doctorate to Paris Hilton in recognition of her “untiring efforts for No Sex Before Marriage campaign.” 

2) Old couples divorce more than younger ones
According to the Supreme Court, out of 114,316 divorces last year, 30,234 or 26.4% were middle-aged or elderly couples, continuing the trend from 23.1% in 2008 and 24.8% in 2011. The number first surpassed 30,000 last year, overtaking the 28,204 divorces (24.8%) among younger couples with less than four years of marriage. Another study by Statistics Korea showed that women aged between 55 and 59 and men between 70 and 74 are the least satisfied with their spouse.  Kim Young-hee at the family court said the conventional wisdom that time strengthens the bond between the husband and wife no longer holds true. “Older people decide to divorce as they hope to spend their remaining years under some peace and tranquility,” said Kim. 
My 25 years of marriage was at risk recently when my wife learned I took a shower, not once, but twice, together with an attractive female colleague from Detroit a month ago. It was no use even if I kept explaining her million times it was the air shower before entering a clean room at a machine builder.

2. Economy
1) Koreans work 2nd most hours
The Korea International Trade Association reported South Korea ranked the 2nd among 150 nations in terms of per capita working hours in 2012, working 2,090 hours a year on average. Mexico was the first with 2,236 hours. The U.S. came in 12th with 1,790 hours and, what is surprising, workaholic Japanese ranked 15th with only 1,725 hours. The growth rate for labor compensation per hour was 9.8% in Korea in 2011, the highest among all countries. Growth in wages in the U.S. was only 2.2%. 
The KITA survey also showed Korea ranked 34th in the quality of life.  Koreans are so much used to long working hours that many feel uncomfortable about working less hours, and most of the foreign companies operating in Korea have hard time to force its employees to use up their annual leaves. Korean quality of life wouldn’t improve unless Koreans learn American idiom of “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

2) First nude beach planned for 2017
The Gangwon Province in upper eastern portion of South Korea said it plans to set up a nude beach by 2017 to boost tourism in the province. The province will select the site from recommendations or in competition next year, and will benchmark other popular nude beaches abroad.  The idea came from a successful annual mud festival in Daecheon beach in western coast that attracts millions of internal and foreign tourists every year. There was a similar attempt for nude beach in 2009, but the proposal failed due to concern on obscenity and perverts. Gangwon officials plan to avoid that issue this time, by opening the beach exclusively to foreign tourists. 
Gangwon should not worry about Koreans coming to the nude beach. I had taken showers with American soldiers while in the army (1982-1984), and doubt any Korean man would dare to visit the nude beach filled with Americans from what I have observed in the shower, which was not air shower.

3. Auto Industry
1) Korean auto suppliers supply to European car makers
Kumho Tire, Korea’s 2nd largest tiremaker and sister company of Asiana Airlines, announced its ‘Solus KL21’ tires will be fitted on Mercedes Benz luxury SUVs sold in Germany, Canada, Australia, Japan and the U.S. Kumho is the first Korean tire maker to work with Mercedes-Benz after supplying OE tires to it’s a-Class models in 2007. Samkee, a local diecasting and machining company, also announced that it will supply valve body for 7 speed Double Clutch Transmission (DCT) to Audi in China, which will generate 33 billion won in sales each year from 2016. The Audi deal was the 2nd business with VW Group after the contract with VW in March this year to supply 55 billion won worth valve body to VW China. 
Located in Pyeongtaek, Samkee also supplies machined aluminum housings to Metaldyne Korea for R engine BSM.  I often have dinners and fun time together with Mr.SH Kim, the CEO & owner of Samkee, at Hyundai suppliers association. It was very fortunate Mr. Kim decided to become a businessman, not a dancer.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

LTW - Warm to Xi/Cold to Abe & 60 yrs of US-Korea Alliance

1. National
1) 60 years of Korea-U.S. alliance celebrated

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was in Seoul to celebrate 60th anniversary of the Korea-U.S. alliance events that had some 500 guests, including President Park Geun-hye. Gen. Walton Walker, a former commander of the Eighth U.S. Army during the Korean War, was posthumously honored with the Paik Sun-yup Korea-U.S. Alliance award given to his grandson. Paik Sun-yup, 94, is the first Korean four star general who started his military career as a cadet in Japanese army during the colonial days. Gen.Walker is well known for his “Stand or Die” order to defend the Busan perimeter in Jul 1950. The security alliance dates back to the Mutual Defense Treaty of Oct, 1, 1953 after the war ended. Some 36,000 U.S. soldiers lost their lives in the Korean War.

The prosperity of South Korea would not have bee possible without the 16 nations that sent forces to South Korea during the Korean War under U.N. resolution. South Korea is now paying back with its troops stationed in South Sudan, Afghanistan and Lebanon under U.N. peace keeping forces. One of the soldiers in South Sudan is my first son who will be stationed there for 6 months, fighting dragonfly size mosquitoes while building social infrastructures.

2) Warm to Xi, cold to Abe
President Park Geun-hye asked Xi Jinping of China again to help curb Kim Jong-un’s nuclear weapons capabilities in APEC meeting in Bali, Indonesia. Xi once again said he opposes North Korea’s nuclear weapons possession and its nuclear tests. It was their third dating in the past three months. While Park was solidifying her relationship with Xi, she was snubbing Abe of Japan for his right wing position on comfort women and Dokdo (Takeshima in Japan) islet sovereign authority. They sat next to each other to Alphabetical order in the APEC meeting, but didn’t even exchange words of greetings, reflecting the current diplomatic relationship between South Korea and Japan.

I thought leaders of nations must be much different from common people like me and my wife. They are the same! My wife and I fight once in a while, and we would not talk each other for a few days, communicating through my sons. It is always me to talk first to break the silence, usually at the prodding from my son who longs for the peace in the family. I think my son in South Sudan would be doing a pretty good job there as a U.N. peace keeping force.

2. Economy
1) Two national holidays celebrated

The last two weeks were great for most Koreans with two national holidays. The first was Oct 3 which marked the 4,345th anniversary of the mythical founding of Korea in 2,333 B.C. by the legendary god-king Dangun. The 2nd was the 567th anniversary of the proclamation of Hangeul, the Korean Alphabet. The Hangeul Day this year is more meaningful, as it is the first time in 23 years that it is being celebrated as a national holiday, after having been stripped of the designation in 1991. Invented in 1943 by King Sejong, who is featured in 10,000 won bill, Hangeul is praised by linguists as the most scientific, easy to learn alphabet in the world, with 14 consonants and 10 vowels. So easy that even Mike Tyson can learn to read and write after three hours of class, though not understanding what he is reading or writing.
Koreans must respect bears. Hwanwoong, a son of God from heaven, promised a tiger and a bear that he will turn them into humans if they persist only with garlic and bitter wormwood in a dark cave for 100 days. The tiger tried but gave up only a few days left, but the bear made it to become a pretty lady. The bear turned lady married Hwanwoong and delivered a son named Dangun who built the first Korean dynasty in Pyongyang in 2,333 B.C. that lasted 1,000 years. One rationale Kim Jong-un insists North Korea is more Korea than South Korea.

3. Auto Industry
1) Renault Samsung signs MOU on Rogue

Renault Samsung Motors singed a memorandum of understanding with Renault and Nissan at its Busan plant for the production of Nissan Rogue to be rolling out mid next year. RSM has prepared to manufacture 80,00 units of the Rogue for export to North America after the announcement by Carlos Ghosn in July 2012. Renault sees this as an opportunity for RSM to be an export hub in Asia as “car sales in the Asia-Pacific region are about 50% of global market, but only 10% of Renaults’ revenue.” The first task for RSM, however, is domestic market where RSM has sold only 36,493 units for the first 8 months of this year, down 8% from a year ago.

RSM’s domestic marketing is being led by Park Dong-hoon, former CEO of Volkswagen Korea who got let go late August. RSM has gained market share since Park took office Sep 1, selling 4,958 units in September, up 28.3% from a year earlier, and enough to get ahead of Ssangyong which sold 4,432 last month. It was the first month this year RSM sold more than Ssangyong Motors in monthly sales. What about VW Korea without Mr. Park? VW Korea became No.1 importer in September with 2,456 units, followed by Mercedes-Benz(2,430) and BMW(1916).  It was the first month since Dec last year VW was the monthly No.1. It was probably a rare case of bloody divorce leading to happiness for all.

2) Samsung in talks with Tesla over battery

Reuter reported electric carmaker Tesla may name Samsung SDI, a subsidiary of Samsung Electronics, as an additional battery supplier. Both Tesla and Samsung SDI confirmed that the report, though the spokesman for Samsung said “Nothing has been decided.”  Tesla is interested in the deal because it has only one batter supplier, Panasonic, at the moment while Tesla plans to expand its models. Sources say the negotiation is about 90% done. The final roadblock is Samsung SDI’s position that Tesla buys other Samsung products like touch screens as part of the deal, and Tesla still looking at other battery supplier alternative .

Samsung companies are very popular to job seekers. Over 100,000 college graduates applied for 5,500 openings in the second half of the year hiring. With 320,000 college graduates this year, one in three has applied to Samsung. While you have to beat 18:1 competition to get a job in Samsung these days, it was a piece of cake 27 years go when I was to find a job at senior year in college.  Twenty four of my friends in my department in 1986 applied for internship in Samsung and 96% of them got accepted. I was the 4%.

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