1) Korea and Japan difficult over Mr. Abe and bullets
The relationship between Korea and Japan is getting sour over two issues. The first one is the controversial Yasukuni Shrine visit by Japanese PM Shinzo Abe, which has drawn criticism from the U.S. and China, as well as both South Korea and North Korea. Even more Japanese have negative views on Abe’s visit to Yasukuni that holds 14 of Japan’s Class-A war criminals. The other is over the borrowing of 10,000 bullets from Japan’s Self-Defense Forces by the South Korean Hanbit Unit in South Sudan when there was a big battle in Bor last week. The Japanese government is using the case to bolster its right of “collective self-defense” as the 10,000 bullets to Hanbit Unit was Japan’s first ammunition to another country since World War II.
2) Kim Jong-un warns of sudden war
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un warned that war could break out “without any prior notice” while inspecting a military post, urging the soldiers to improve combat readiness. Kim was accompanied by a new troika who appear to be propping up his power after the execution of his uncle Jang Song-taik.
1) Korean railway under strike
The workers in KORAIL, the national railway, have been in strike from Dec 9, demanding the government scrap its plan to set up a new rail operator for the new bullet train line linking Gangnam to Busan, calling it the first step to toward privatizing the KORAIL. The government is responding that it is not “privatization,” but “normalization through competition.” The KORAIL employees are paid the best in the world, even more than those in the U.S. or Germany, while KORAIL is suffering under 17 trillion Won debt. The railway is running only 70%, but the strike is to end soon as KORAIL and the union is on a single track, running at max speed to each other at the moment.
2) Supreme court rules on ordinary wage issue
A big labor issue for the past two years was whether the fixed bonus is to be counted as the ordinary wage that is the basis of over time payment. The Supreme Court ruled on Dec 18 over the law suit filed by the union of an auto supplier Kabul Auto Tech that the fixed bonus be included in the ordinary wage, which is a victory for the union, but held back from forcing the company to pay three years’ worth retroactive pay, a good news for the company, under “principle of good faith and trust.” In short, the court said ‘change from now on, but leave the past alone.’ The labor department in the government announced it respects the court decision, and there will be big changes in the labor law within a few months.
3. Auto Industry
1) Hyundai becomes a legend with 1 million cars in China
Hyundai Beijing has sold over 1 million cars in China this year, 11 years after it began production at its joint venture plant with Beijing Automotive Group, becoming the fastest automaker to reach that milestone in China. Hyundai’s sales target for this year was 970K units. Hyundai plans to maker more vehicles in China, with the grand opening of new commercial vehicle plant with annual capacity of 150K planned in mid 2014 that will add another 150K. Hyundai’s sister Kia will make some 500K in China this year.
Mr.Jae-man Noh had been the plant manager of Hyundai Beijing from the start-up until two years ago. Ex-quality manager at Hyundai’s Bromont plant in Quebec, Mr. Noh has been credited with expanding the Chinese market from ground zero with his “Qualite en tete, or Quality in mind” approach. Mr. Noh being a friend of mine from Bromont, I once asked him if Beijing Hyundai would be better had I worked under him in Beijing instead of leaving Hyundai. His answer was ‘Noh.’