Monday, November 25, 2013

L2W - An American in NK, Catholic Fire, Hyundai H Cars

1. National
1) Another American held in North Korea
Merrill Newman, an 85-year-old Korean War veteran from California, has been held captive from Oct. 26 just before his plane was about to leave Pyongyang after private tour of North Korea. No reasons for arrest were explained by North Korea, but Newman’s son said there was “terrible misunderstanding.” It is reported Merrill Newman had a “difficult” discussion with North Korean officials about his experience during the Korean War. John Kerry urged North Korea to release the old man in an interview with MSNBC. Kenneth Bae, a Korean U.S. citizen, is currently serving 15 year jail sentence.
There has been at least six U.S. citizens held by North Korea since 2009, and North Korea thinks it fun to hold Americans as hostages. It took such hotshots like Jesse Jackson, Bill Richardson and Bill Clinton to fly to Pyongyang and take the U.S. hostages out. The latest Merrill Newman case must be taken as Kim Jong-un’s official invitation to Barack Obama for a baseball game in Pyongyang with Dennis Rodman.

2) A Catholic group under fire
A leftist Catholic group is facing criticism over comments by a priest who made supportive comments about North Korea’s deadly bombing on Yeonpyeong Island three years ago. Park Chang-shin, a priest of the Catholic Priest’s Association for Justice, delivered a sermon on Nov 22, saying “The Northern Limit Line was temporary drawn by the UN, and is thus not a military demarcation line at all. What should North Korea do if the Korea-U.S. joint military training continues on an island near the NLL? North Korea also should shoot them, and that was the bombing on Yeonpyeong Island.” Public anger raged soon after the sermon, and there was even a bomb threat on a cathedral in Seoul. The Catholic Priest’s Association for Justice has formed an alliance with the opposition party, repudiating the presidential election of Park Geun-hye last December.
Not clear on the impact of Park Chang-shin’s message? Imagine a clergyman in Ku Klux Klan insisting that Japan had every right to attack Pearl Harbor as the U.S. Navy was exercising around the island in the middle of the Pacific between the U.S. and Japan.

2. Economy
1) Final victory goes to Lockheed Martin
The Korean Defense Ministry announced its decision to buy F-35A fighter jets from Lockheed Martin under the F-X project for next generation fighters. The ministry earlier decided to purchase 60 F-15SE from Boeing because of budget limit, but it had to cancel it because of objections from Air Force generals who were concerned about the lack of stealth capability with the F-15SE. The initial purchase would be reduced to 40 jets to stay within the budget of 8.3 trillion won ($7.8 billion), and the first delivery would be made in 2018, a year later than the original time line.
Wonder how Boeing is feeling about Korean government that changed its mind for Lockheed Martin? It is booing.

3. Auto Industry
1) Hyundai to be first to sell hydrogen cars to the public
John Krafcik, CEO of Hyundai Motor America, announced the plan to sell Tuscon hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles from early next year, first in California, at LA Auto Show. Hyundai will offer $499 per month for 36 months including unlimited hydrogen refueling. Hyundai began manufacturing Tuscon, the world’s first hydrogen vehicle for mass-market, at its Ulsan plant last February, and sold a few dozen in Northern Europe where there is demand for zero emission vehicles. It can travel 483km (300 miles) on a single 5 minute charge and can reach speeds of up to 160 kph (100 mph). Hyundai Automotive Group is taking a two –track approach. Hyundai is for hydrogen fuel cell, and its sister is focusing on electric vehicles.
Though Hyundai has been talking about hydrogen fuel cell over 20 years, I had very shallow understanding of how it works. I just thought it dangerous because I kept thinking of hydrogen bomb. I learned lately that it is not so because hydrogen mixes with oxygen to generate electricity that powers electric motor to drive wheels. What’s the use of 27 years of automotive experience when it is not worth just 5 minute dive into hydrogen fuel cell theory?

2) Renault Samsung to make cars for Mitsubishi
RSM (Renault Samsung Motors) will supply two of its passenger car models from its Busan plant to Mitsubishi for U.S. market under the new alliance between Renault-Nissan and Mitsubishi to share products, technologies and manufacturing facilities. The first would be SM5 midsize sedan, the best seller of RSM. The 2nd model has yet to be decided, but it is predicted to be smaller model SM3. The Busan plant is busy to prepare for the production of Rogue, 80K a year, to be sold under Nissan brand in the U.S. RSM has begun to take actions to make vehicles for someone else when its sales had fallen under 50 % of its 300K annual capacity last year.

Wonder why Mitsubishi is joining the Renault alliance? Mitsubishi has been going down so badly in the last 20 years, even falling behind Hyundai that it once taught how to make and sell cars, that it lost two of its three diamonds, thus perfectly matching with Renault’s log with one diamond.



Monday, November 11, 2013

L2W - UPP Disbanded, Soccer Gender?, & Export Record

1. National
1) Ultra leftwing party might be disbanded
Cabinet misters approved a motion to disband the Unified Progress Party, which has been criticized for advocating North Korean ideology and attempting to topple the government. The Justice Ministry “found the UPP’s doctrine, its political goals and activities violate the constitutional democratic order.” The ministry has being reviewing the motion since lawmaker Lee Seok-ki of UPP was arrested on charges of plotting to blow up major facilities in the event of war with North Korea. The Constitutional Court will decide within 180 days whether the UPP did violate the constitution. Five law makers in the UPP have shaved off their hairs to show their protest against the “government’s plot to kill democracy.”
The UPP lawmakers can shave their hairs for the show, but it wouldn’t work from my personal experience. Frustrated with two courses flunked at sophomore and a Dear John Letter from a girlfriend, I shaved off my hairs for the change in Feb 1982. It didn’t help much, though. I got another two Fs in the following semester, and had to wait five more years to meet a new girlfriend who later became my boss. 

2) Gender issue with a soccer star
The Seoul City women’s soccer team has condemned call for a gender test for striker Park Eun-seon, after the managers of six other teams in the professional league demanded the test and threatened to boycott the league. Park has scored the most goals in the league, leading Seoul City team in the top of the league. The general manager of Seoul City said the call to verify someone’s gender is a serious breach of human rights. Park was selected for the national women’s soccer team since high school, and went through a gender test when she competed in the 2004 Summer Olympics. Team coach said he would take Park to the hospital for another test.
Park looks like a man, quacks like a man, and plays like a man, then she probably is a man. Right?  No. She just has higher testosterone levels than other women. Another proof? She has taken shower with her teammates for many years. No one has complained or filed a lawsuit against Park.  

2. Economy
1) Japan’s Keidanren warns on Korean ruling
The Keidanren, or the Japanese Business Federation, issued a statement, saying the issue of compensation for conscripted Korean workers during Japanese colonial rule was already resolved in the 1965 settlement between Japan and Korea that normalized the diplomatic relations. The Korean court decision may become “an obstacle to the future investment in Korea, as well as lead to a freeze to bilateral trade,” said the statement. The statement came after a ruling in Korea that awarded 150 million each for four women who were forced to work at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and another ruling that ordered Nippon Steel to pay four of its former Korean workers with 100 million won. Japan paid total of $300 million, and another $200 million in low interest to Korea to the 1965 agreement to compensate for the damages done to Koreans during the colonial days. 
My great uncle was conscripted to Japanese Air Force at the age of 16, becoming a kamikaze stationed in Java, Indonesia. He barely survived the WWII as his final flight was scheduled to take off after Aug 15, 1945. Should the Japanese Air Force pay compensation if his family file and win a lawsuit in Korea?  What about my grandfather who had to work under a tough Japanese landlord? 

2) Monthly exports set a new record
Korea’s monthly export exceeded $50 billion for the first time in October, reaching $50.51 billion, up 7.3 % from a year ago, thanks to economic recoveries in the U.S. and the E.U. Exports to the U.S. rose 23.2%, thanks to increasing shipment of mobile phones and cars.  Korea’s trade surplus from Jan to Aug this year was $42.22 billion, while Japan’s was $41.53 billion.  It was the first time Korea’s trade surplus exceeded Japan’s in history. Japan was hit by the collapse of Japanese electronics companies, and rising oil imports to replace nuclear energy after tsunami in 2011
At the front of the trade surplus are Samsung Electronics whose operating profit is two times more than the combined profit of all of 9 Japanese electronics companies, including Sony and Panasonic, and Hyundai which is selling four times more vehicles globally than its former teacher Mitsubishi. It was the achievement as challenging as holding my wife from jumping into a Louis Vuitton store on sale.

3. Auto Industry
1) 80 millionth vehicles produced for Hyundai and Kia
Hyundai-Kia announced that the combined production of vehicles reached 80 million milestone last week. It took 50 years since Kia started K-360 three wheeled truck at its Sohari plant near Seoul in 1962, and 44 years for Hyundai which began to assemble Ford Cortina at its Ulsan plant in 1968. It took 30 years to reach 10 million in 1993, but 6 years to get to 20 million in 1999 and 4 years to see 30 million in 2003. With a new plant to open in China next year, Hyundai and Kia are expected to add 8 million new vehicles each year.  The all time best seller was Hyundai Elantra which sold 9.1 million units, followed by Hyundai Sonata with 7.73 million and Accent with 6.63 million. Kia became part of Hyundai when it was bought by Hyundai in 1998 after bankruptcy. 
The Korean automotive industry is quite young compared to other major nations. Myunghwa, a chassis and powertrain component supplier, was founded in 1957 and its founder is still busy taking care of production lines. Yusung, a supplier for piston rings and cylinder liners, was established in 1959 and its founder is as active in company affairs as in golf course. It is like Henry Ford’s friends are still running U.S. automotive suppliers in Detroit.