Tuesday, June 24, 2014

L2W - Red Devil Downer, Hangover, & Posco Power

1. National
1) Korea unlikely to advance to next round in Brazil
Korean soccer team got a good start with 1-1 draw against Russia in the World Cup in Brazil, but fell into a deep swamp after a shameful 4-2 defeat against Algeria on Jun 22. Korea can advance to next round only if it wins against mighty Belgium, and Russia wins against Algeria with just one, not two or more, goal lead, which would be no better than anticipating a snowstorm in Death Valley in July. Other three Asian nations in Brazil World Cup, Australia, Japan and Iran, are also facing the same fate as Korea. Koreans are just to be content to be in the World Cup 8 times in a row from 1986 Mexico World Cup, the most in Asia.  
Lee Keun-ho, the one who scored the goal against Russia, is recorded as the lowest paid player in Brazil WC, getting only 1.78 million won (U$1,745) a year, while the Russian goalie who allowed Lee a goal is paid $29.9 million, 17,000 times more than Lee. No joke as Lee is currently serving in the Korean army as a sergeant. 

2) Psy’s new release reaches No.26 on Billboard
Psy’s new single ‘Hangover’ debuted at No.26 on last week’s Billboard Hot 100, making him the first Asian to have three songs in the Top 30. The other two are Gangnam Style and Gentleman. The Hangover, which features Snoop Dogg, is about Korea’s notorious drinking culture, such as boilermaker, karaoke bar and love shot. It has attracted 78 million views on Youtube in just two weeks while Psy’s Gangnam Style has racked up over 2 billion Youtube hits, the record that may not be easy to break for a while. Psy plans to release his next song ‘Daddy’ in August.
I was in Barcelona a couple years ago, drinking lots of Spanish wine with many love shots with my colleagues. Psy would have hired me , not Snoop Dogg, had he seen me in hangover in Barcelona two years ago.

2. Economy
1) Posco ranked as the most influential steel maker
World Steel Dynamics (WSD) selected Posco as the world’s most influential steelmaker of the year, with 7.91 score out of 10 points. Posco has made the No.1 title for the past 5 years. America’s Nucor was the runner up, followed by Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal.  Hyundai Motor’s sister company Hyundai Steel was ranked 9th. The WSD evaluates the world’s 36 steelmakers in 23 categories including productivity, profitability and technology. 
Posco had been the only supplier that asked ‘why?’ instead of ‘how high?” when told to jump by Korean auto makers because Posco had enjoyed a virtual monopoly on steel supply in Korea since its establishment in 1968. Hyundai decided to build its own steel mill in 2004 after buying then bankrupt Hanbo Steel in Dangjin located 30 minutes southwest of Pyeongtaek. That was when Hyundai probably had knee injury from constantly jumping high to please a Tier 4 supplier. 

3. Auto Industry
1) Bosch Korea to invest $60M in 2014
Hermann Kaess, Bosch Korea president, announced it will invest 62 billion won ($60M) this year as it celebrates its 25 years in Korea. Most of the investment will be spent for the manufacturing of engine direct injection products at its Daejon plant “to maintain local efforts and contribute to Korea’s long-term development.”  Mr.Kaess also said the company has high hopes in micromechanical sensors (MEMS), a key technology when it comes to the internet of Things and services. Bosch Korea had consolidated sales of 1.8 trillion won (U$1.7B) in 2013.
Being No.1 or No2. auto supplier in the world, Bosch is very well known to Koreans in auto industry. It is a different story for those outside the auto world. The first comment Psy would make when he hears Bosch would be “Ah, that Anheuser-Busch! This Bud’s For You!” 

2) Hyundai won the glory back
Hyundai Motor came first among 20 brands exclusive of luxury brands in the latest 2014 Initial Quality Survey by JD Power and Associates. This is the third time it ranked top after 2006 and 2009. Hyundai ranked 5th last year. If to include luxury brands, Hyundai was fourth after Porsche, Jaguar and Lexus. Hyundai’s sister Kia also did well, ranking 3rd in a tie with Chevrolet. Launched in 1968, JD Power IQS survey is the most used reference by American consumers, looking at owner-reported problems in the first 0- days of new-vehicle ownership.
June always came as a trauma to Hyundai engineers, including me, in the 90’s as it was the month JD Power’s IQS ranking was released. With low quality level, Hyundai was in a race against Kia, then Hyundai’s competitor, to get out of the bottom, and it was a dream to reach in the middle of the pack. I was responsible for wind noise score for the Sonata produced in Hyundai’s Bromont plant, and I had to bear with lots of whining noise from my Big boss for one full year until the next IQS release. I didn’t say it was you, Mr. SB Lee. 


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

LTW - PM Withdrawal, Another U.S. Captive in NK, & Too Much Work

Ahn Dae-hee, former Supreme Court judge known as Mr.Clean Hands, withdraw from his nomination as prime minister just six days after nomination, a setback for President Park Geun-hye’s efforts to make the government straight after the ferry incident in April. Ahn has been accused of making 1.6 billion won ($1.5M) in six months from July 2013 to Dec 2014 by working as a lawyer after his retirement from Supreme Court in 2012. He denied any wrong doing or conflict of interest through connections, and said he was withdrawing only to avoid putting burden on Park’s administration. Park has to find a new candidate to have him pass the hearings.
 Ahn has a perfect career history as a judge for over 30 years, but it was the money he earned as a private lawyer with good reputation that made him withdraw for the PM job. Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona made over 6 million dollars in Spanish La Liga last year while a friend of my son in FC Seoul made mere 40K dollars in Korean soccer league. Lionel Messi should withdraw from Brazil World Cup starting next week.

2) Another American held captive in N.Korea
Jeffery Fowle, a 56-year-old man from Ohio, became another American arrested in North Korea on charges of violating the national law. Fowled arrived in North Korea on April 29 as a tourists, and is arrested for leaving a Bible in his hotel room. There are other two American detainees in North Korea; Kenneth Bae, who has been held since Nov 2012 and is serving 15 year of hard labor for “hostile acts against the state,” and the other Matthew Miller, 24, who entered the country on Apr 10, allegedly seeking asylum in North Korea. North Korea has been using American detainees as a leverage to open dialogues with the U.S.
There is a safe and easy way to travel to North Korea. Practice basketball well enough to play in NBA, paint your body with colorful tattoos, and have a weird nickname like “worm.”

2. Economy
1) Korean work long hours and, years also
It is well known Koreans work long hours, and it became known by recent OECD survey that Koreans also work longest years after retirement. Korea’s official retirement age is 60, but Korean men on average work another 11.1 years more before they effectively retire. Mexican men had the 2nd longest interval between official retirement and effective retirement, with 7.3 years, followed by Chilean men with 4.4 years. Korean men’s average life expectancy was 84.1 years, meaning Korean men have only 13 years to live after effective retirement. A relatively weak pension infrastructure was the key reason for Koreans working after retirement.
Korean often open their own small business after their retirement. What are the most popular small businesses for the retirees?  In a survey in 2013, multi media shops like PC Room, screen golf and Karaoke were most popular with 39%, followed by restaurants and bars with 21%, because of low entry barrier. The problem is over 90% of these small shops close after 5 years and signboard shops should be the lucrative business to go to.

3. Auto Industry
1) Samsung SDI to make batteries for Ford
Samsung SDI announced it will jointly develop with Ford next generation lithium-ion batteries that is 40% lighter and has better energy efficiency than the standard lead-acid battery for gas-fuelled vehicles. The car battery business is one of the five areas Samsung Group has selected in 2010 as new growth engines. The other four are solar cells, LEDs, medical instruments and bioengineering. Samsung SDI accounted for 25.8% of the global small sized secondary cell market last year, leading the market for four years in a row since 2010.
I recently had a dinner with a gentleman working for the development of electric vehicles in Korea’s largest OEM. He said the days of fully electric vehicles will be coming, not as early as many experts are expecting because of the three reasons. “First, customers wouldn’t stand losing 4 hours to recharge the batteries at a battery station. Second, the government would be losing tax money from the gasoline. Third, many people like you working in auto suppliers will be losing jobs.”

2) Hyundai Russia won quality prize from Medvedev
Hyundai Russia won the grand prize in quality management in a ceremony in Moscow led by PM Dmitry Medvedev. It was the first time the award was given to a foreign company. Hyundai received the award just three years after its launch in St. Petersburg in Russia. The company was praised for the quality of its cars, as well as its corporate leadership customer service and corporate social responsibility efforts. Hyundai Russia’s Solaris, Accent in Korea, is the best selling import compact car, holding nearly 15% of the market share. It was also chosen as the bet compact car as the Russian Car of the Year awards for 3 years consecutively.
Mr.MK Shin, the plant manager in Hyundai Russia, was at the ceremony, receiving the award from Medvedev. Mr. Shin spent most of his 34 years in Hyundai at quality division. The only time he worked outside quality was 1998-1999 when he worked in Overseas Engineering department with me. He was fast speaking, full of energy and dedicated to work. I personally liked him as he was the only one in my department who made me look tall.