The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

Author: Anonymous_Joe (page 1 of 2)

Keep Reaching for the Stars, Korea

The KT ran a link on its homepage to a piece, Olivia Hussey has half-Korean son.

For those of you who might not remember, Hussey is best known for her role as Juliet in Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet (an inverse-bowdlerization of that otherwise HS freshman English snooze fest, Romeo and Juliet), playing opposite the ageless Zac Efron‘s Romeo.  Thoughts of Hussey reminded me of the best (full disclosure: only) mammaries I had of high school.

According to the article in the venerable KT, “Academy Award-winning 1968 film ‘Romeo and Juliet’ Max Fusestar Olivia Hussey’s half-Korean son is receiving the nation’s spotlight.”

For those whose animal appetites have been whet to a frothy, rabid peak, “his name is Max Fuse, her 30-year-old son born from her second marriage with Japanese musician Akira Fuse who was a Korean descendent.”

And what, pray tell, you might ask has Max Fuse done, had done to him, had sex with, or in some other way accomplished to garner the nation’s spotlight?  “Max began to attract attentions (sic) following the recent news that shed lights (sic) on Hussey’s 20-year-old daughter from her third marriage India Eisley.”  (Note to KT copy editor:  “…Hussey’s 20-year old daughter, India Eisley, from her third marriage.”)

India Eisley appears to be in the doey-eyed ingénue business and positioning herself for a long, multi-decade run as such.

The KT performed a fine piece of investigative and research journalism to uncover Max Fuse’s “half-Korean” roots but has decided not to reveal its sources.  Max Fuse is as anonymous on the internet as any anonymous Joe, and googling “Max Fuse” summons a single hit (about his Japanese roots) and others about a line of Air Jordans.  His father’s Wikipedia page neglects to mention, if not conspiratorially covers up, Akira Fuse’s Korean roots and intimates that his biggest claim to fame is his defunct marriage to Hussey.  From the article’s first sentence:

Akira Fuse (布施 明 Fuse Akira?, born on December 18, 1947 in Tokyo) is a Japanese singer, who was once married to Olivia Hussey.

His Wikipedia page prominently displays the following warning:

The topic of this article may not meet Wikipedia’s notability guideline for music. Please help to establish notability by adding reliable, secondary sources about the topic. If notability cannot be established, the article is likely to be merged, redirected, or deleted.

Phew.  …And to think all this started because I wanted to know how those KT math wizards calculated “half-Korean” about Olivia Hussey’s son.  At least I now know that the nationwide Beatles-esque frenzy Max Fuse inspires in Korea explains the traffic jam I sat hours in during Friday evening’s commute through Seoul.


As the KT continues in its mission to develop the local angle and guided by its credo that “all news is local”, my inside sources at the KT have leaked exclusively for TMH’s inquiring minds tomorrow’s piece on Leonardo DiCaprio overheard at a SoCal Chinese buffet saying how much he “loves this Korean sushi” while gorging himself on kimbap.

As Casey Kasem said signing off from America’s Top 40, “keep your head in the clouds and keep reaching for the stars”, Korea.

Open Thread: October 19, 2014

My whirlwind weekend tour of Korea’s October festivals continues.  Yesterday, I took Anonymous_Family to Yeonan University’s Fall Flower Festival.   Here’s the only pic that I could crop out Anonymous_Kids:

Cheonan Yeonan Flower Festival

For those interested in a literal breath of fresh air from Itaewon and Hongdae, the college’s campus is beautiful, the prettiest I’ve seen in Korea.  With red brown brick buildings and landscaped acreage, Yeonan’s reminded me of a small New England or mid-West college’s campus.  The drive (you will need a car) is just over the Pyeongtaek border in Chungcheongnamdo through amber fields of waving Asian grains.  We spent the afternoon, and the campus’s trees seemed to turn on us, showing their true colors by early evening.

 

Kakao Jumps Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire

As a measure to stem the flood of users leaving Kakao Talk, Daum Kakao CEO Lee Sirgoo announced today that the company would no longer comply with prosecutors’ requests for private Kakao Talk conversations.  The surprise announcement set the stage for a direct confrontation between the company and Korean authorities that will likely end in obstruction of justice charges brought against the company and its CEO.

Lee Sirgoo Apology

Lee Sirgoo, Monday, Oct. 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

At a quickly arranged press conference on Monday, Lee bent his head in apology and said that he would personally bear the full legal consequences of the decision.  “If the decision means violating the law, I will abide by any punishment because I made the final call on this as CEO.  We did not talk with related government agencies about this, and we are not saying that warrants issued are flawed. But I believe the right way to handle our users’ criticism and disappointment is to strengthen protection of their privacy….  To do this, we stopped accepting prosecution warrants to monitor our users’ private conversions (sic) from Oct. 7, and we hereby announce that we will continue to do so.”   Daum Kakao officials characterized the measure as a matter of “survival” and not “optional”.

Lee stated that the decision was not personal and was made with the agreement of management, and vowed that the company would, according to the Korea Times, “continue to prioritize users’ privacy even if he is replaced by another person.”

In the first half of 2014, Korean authorities made 2,131 requests for users’ information with search warrants , and Kakao Talk cooperated with “more than three quarters” of those requests.  Korean authorities made an additional 61 court-approved requests  seeking to wiretap users’ conversations under suspicion of charges such as rebellion or violation of the National Security Law.  The company denied that authorities used the warrants to monitor users real time conversations and claimed that that the company was not technologically equipped to monitor real time conversations. Kakao Talk nonetheless “cooperated with nearly all the 61 requests by collecting messages that had been stored on its servers for between three and seven days.”

Lee announced that the company would introduce several measures to protect users’ privacy such as organizing an information security advisory committee, regularly publishing a transparency report, and implementing “end-to-end” encryption to remove the possibility that conversations could be monitored through Kakao’s servers. He conceded that the enhanced security features would necessarily make the application more difficult to use.  Lee stressed that the company had already cut the period that information gets stored on Kakao’s servers from seven to a maximum three days.

KT’s article concluded that at a September 16 cabinet meeting PGH complained “of insults about her and said online rumors have ‘gone too far and divided society,’ according to the Cheong Wa Dae website.”


The problem of course is that CEO Lee Sirgoo will not bear the full responsibility of the decision.  The security guards at the gates of Daum Kakao will have to permit entry to Korean authorities with warrants, and technicians served with such warrants will perforce offer up their wares or face obstruction charges themselves.  Lee Sirgoo’s stance has bought Kakao 15 minutes.  Daum Kakao needs a decision based on the constitutionality of the wiretaps for the future of Daum Kakao and free speech in Korea.

Aware of Korea’s legacy of lèse-majesté, which might play inside Korea but conflicts with the freedoms of a liberal democracy, I am continually surprised, though I no longer know why anymore, that Korean public figures are unaware that their protestations bring scrutiny and ridicule upon themselves.

PGH needs to grow a thick skin, by which I mean in addition to the lovely, perfectly complected thin skin that encases her now.

Seoul’s Mayor Comes Out In Favor of Legalizing Same Sex Marriage

Seoul’s mayor and popular pick among pundits for presidential candidate in 2017 Park Won-soon came out in support of legalizing gay marriage.  In an interview with the San Francisco Examiner published last Sunday, Park voiced his personal support for gay rights and hopes that Korea would become the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage.

“I personally agree with the rights of homosexuals,” Park said. “But the Protestant churches are very powerful in Korea. It isn’t easy for politicians. It’s in the hands of activists to expand the universal concept of human rights to include homosexuals. Once they persuade the people, the politicians will follow. It’s in process now.”

When asked whether Taiwan would be the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage since Taiwanese legislature currently has a bill under consideration, Park answered, “I hope Korea will be the first. Many homosexual couples in Korea are already together. They are not legally accepted yet, but I believe the Korean Constitution allows it. We are guaranteed the right to the pursuit of happiness. Of course, there may be different interpretations to what that pursuit means.”

If Park is indeed considering a run for the presidency, his support for same-sex marriage could prove politically risky.  According to the Wall Street Journal, “the vast majority of South Koreans have negative attitudes against gay people, let alone same-sex marriage….”   A poll conducted last year by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies showed that 21.5% of the 1,500 adults surveyed said “they had little or no objections to homosexuality, while only a quarter said they supported gay marriage.”  The results were polarized by age:  a majority of those over 50 said they had “negative views towards homosexuality”, a majority of those under 40 were supportive of gay rights, and respondents in their 40s were almost evenly split in their views of homosexuality.

Park Won-soon,  58, was expelled as a freshman from SNU for his participation in a pro-democracy demonstration and made his bones as a civil rights attorney.  When the subject of South Korea’s prosecution and jailing of Jehovah’s Witnesses who refuse to perform compulsory military service came up, Park said “alternative civilian service for Jehovah’s Witnesses would be acceptable.”

According to an official at the mayor’s office, the interview took place during the mayor’s trip to California last month.

Open Thread: October 5, 2014

Festival Week, and I’m frequenting my favorites.

Finally, Happy in Seoul

Pharrell Williams’s infectious song that inspired videos around the world has finally inspired Seoul, and Happy videos taken in and around Seoul have sprung up on YouTube.

I first became aware of the song and the selvies (I’m looking to trademark the portmanteau self + video….  a little help BC, DLB?) during the international story that came of six Iranis, three men and three unveiled women (oh, the jackals),  who were arrested and sentenced to 91 lashes and jail for dancing to Happy.  (For those unaware of the story and video, be certain to view what people in parts of the world face prison for.)

Since then a spate of selvies™ has appeared on YouTube.  A notable project is 24 hours of Happy, which shows selvies™ stitched together in an hour loop taken at each hour of the day.

Seoul seems late to the Happy hour project party, but the Irani Happy story broke in May, around the time of the Sewol Ferry trajedy.  Korea wasn’t feeling Happy.

Here’s a Happy sampling of Seoul:

–and–

I like the song, and I like the videos.   Seoul looks great, and Seoul’s selvies™ are every bit as good as, if not better than, other cities’ selvies™.

Pardon moi?

Citing the downturn in the Korean economy, members of Park Geun-hye’s ministries have floated the possibility of special pardons to conglomerate owners and family members in prison on convictions of economic crimes such as embezzlement, breach of trust, and incurring losses to their companies.

On September 24, Justice Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn hinted at the possibility of releasing or pardoning imprisoned businessmen by rhetorically asking, “Couldn’t they be given a chance if a national consensus is formed?”, and on September 25,  Deputy Prime Minister for Economy Choi Kyung-hwan supported  Hwang’s position:  “Punishing businessmen with excessively stringent penalties is no help when it comes to economic recovery.”

Candidate Park Geun-hye campaigned on a promise that President Park Geun-hye would have zero-tolerance for chaebol chiefs’ crimes.  Hwang had previously reiterated PGH’s stance for strict application of law regarding business irregularities, and a special amnesty in January did not include businessmen involved in financial crimes:  “The Justice Ministry last year declared that those in leadership positions in society and high-ranking government officials will not be given parole, as a matter of principle. It was in that spirit of nontolerance that Park Yeon-cha, former chairman of Taekwang, was denied parole even after approval was granted by the parole board.”

Chaebol Prisons Sentences

Now two high ranking members of PGH’s ministries have publicly voiced statements for some tolerance.  Given PGH’s bloodlines, Korea’s hierarchical culture, and PGH’s reputed imperial presidency, any remaining doubt whether PGH herself tested the proposal should be dispelled by Cheong Wa Dae’s failure to rebuke, deny, or distance itself from the proposal.  More so, two officials from two separate ministries making two such statements on two consecutive days feels like a toe in the water approach to ease the cold shock of an inevitable plunge.

The one positive, real difference that I had seen in PGH’s presidency was her stance on chaebol chiefs’ misconduct and the signal that got sent to Korea’s subculture of corruption.   Cheong Wa Dae’s seeking economic salvation from criminals convicted of accounting fraud, tax evasion, and embezzlement seems like bringing back the fox to shape up the hen house.

Pardon me, but are convicted criminals truly the best Korea can do?

The Asian Games Cluster F@ck Thread

Here’s the ask:

Can we have a thread on how much the Asian games has turned into a huge Korean style cluster fuck? My wife is embarrassed but she said, it’s typically Korean to fuck things up so well. Can’t wait for the Olympics now! Incheon is right next to Seoul and they couldn’t even get that right, how the hell are they going to manage in the middle of nowhere?

…and here’s the answer:

A clusterfuck.

1.Stadiums getting blackouts
2. Athlete’s lunch boxes found with salmonella
3. Volunteers asking for athletes signatures and making them late to their events – because they got 1 hour of training 1 week before the Games started.
4. 20% of interpreters quitting (because they had to pay for their own transport to and from the Games),
5. Athletes’ rooms not having fans or A/C,
6. Athletes’ rooms crammed with three beds and cramming athletes in them because they don’t have enough rooms
7. No mosquito screens for the rooms, subpar quality food for the athletes – partially caused by the fact that the majority of the cooks are college kids majoring in food science
8. Beach volleyball site doesn’t have changing rooms
9. Badminton stadium has A/C with strong wind that got the complaints of all athletes including Korean ones
10. Thailand baseball team had to practice in the dark because the lights weren’t on
11. Archery field was so shitty the Korean Archery association used their own funds to have the field meet the standards (including a whole new display)
12. The shooting field lacked lockers and seats for the athletes (forcing them to sit on the stairs with their stuff)
13. Plumbing trouble leaks urine at various stadium
14. The weightlifting stadium lacked curtains or other covers for the changing room – everyone saw the athletes change.
15. The Sepak Takraw (check it out, btw. It’s pretty epic) stadium leaked rainwater mid-event and the event was delayed for 20 minutes
16. No one informed the teams that the official basketball brand changed.
17. Critical shortage of medical staff at the basketball games, forcing the team trainers and other athletes to play doctor.
18. Organizers didn’t tell a Chinese fencer (A bronze medalist) that the shuttle bus stations changed locations. A Korean journalist had to give him a ride on the taxi, and the Organizers chastised the fencer for not getting on the earlier shuttles afterwards.
19. Organizers converted the Disabled Parking spots to VIP parking spots that can be bough at a fee. Yeah.
20. The broadcasters are not covering the events well – even the ones that Koreans would be interested in watching like badminton. The Koreans had to watch the badminton final using a Chinese TV station online.
21. Organizers selling most of the tickets to popular events to Chaebols, who of course doesn’t use them = empty stadiums even in events that are popular (baseball, basketball, etc)
22. It’s nice that the organizers had the ticket pre-sale available online with multiple languages. Too bad you need either a Korean ID number or foreigner registration number to buy one. Oh, and a Korean credit card. (Nice one, guys. Learn that move from Naver/Daum?)
23. The official Incheon Asian Games website was down until September 24th.
24. A shuttle bus driver, because he thought it was too bothersome to go through the entire route, decided to just skip the Field Hockey site (귀찮으니까…). What the fuck.
25. Organizers (read: Incheon city government) are forcing all school field trips in the city to go to the events because they have trouble keeping the seats filled (caused by the previous mentioned reasons.
26. Shuttle bus in general are either in critical shortage or arbitrarily changing/cancelling service. Disturbing amount of journalists/athletes are relying on taxis… except that the taxi drivers have no idea what any of the venues/buildings are.

And, of course, when the journalists asked the Organizers about these clusterfucks, the Organizers got into a verbal altercations with the journalists. Then they tried to issue a gag order on any articles critical of the Games. Then they flatly denied issuing any gag orders… to the journalists that they personally gave gag orders to.

A clusterfuck.

 Qatar women's basketball team walking off the court after withdrawing ahead of their women's preliminary round match against Mongolia. (AFP)

To the above list, I can add the row over the Qatari women’s basketball team forfeiting their final games and leaving the Asian games altogether over not being allowed to wear their hijab.  “The withdrawal of the Qatari team has tarnished the image of the Asian Games, which trumpets diversity and inclusiveness yet said it was powerless to help the players.   Competition at the Asiad is conducted under the regulations of the individual sports’ governing bodies, meaning organisers had to follow FIBA Article 4.4.2 prohibiting ‘headgear, hair accessories and jewellery’ for reasons of safety and uniformity.”  The Asian Games organizers and Qatari team should have addressed the Peng Yang of China, right, against Raja Norsharina Raja Shabuddin of Malaysia. Photograph: Lintao Zhang/Getty Imagesissue before the start of games.  Allowing the wearing of hijab seems  a reasonable accommodation unless someone can show that wearing hijab gives an advantage to the wearer, presents a disadvantage to the competition, or makes problems for the officials:

Indonesian archer Sri Ranti said she did not understand why she was allowed to wear an Islamic headscarf but other athletes in different sports were not.

“It’s about our religious freedom,” she added. “I don’t understand it.”

An archer on the Qatari men’s team, Al Mohandi Ibrahim Mohammed, said the issue was one of safety rather than religion but added that there were other more dangerous things to look out for than headscarves.

“I don’t think they are targeting Muslims, I believe that the hijab is banned for safety reasons,” he told Reuters.

“But from what I understand, hijabs, bandanas and hairbands are all allowed in the Women’s National Basketball Association.

“I think a long ponytail would probably cause more safety problems.”

From my side, I have enjoyed the games from my private box with full half-stocked refrigerator, luxury leather seats, private bath, HDTV monitors…. OK, one HDTV monitor.   My 술집여자, however, is a little too lippy, snippy, and hippy .  So yeah, cluster f@ck.

(Special thanks to bumfromkorea. All my work should be so easy. )

 

Open Thread: September 28, 2014

Out and about on amazing Autumn weekend.

Open Thread: September 21, 2014

Lost Count + 1

How happy are you?

It’s a simple question and one that Gallup-Healthways attempted to gauge by asking 133,394 people in 135 countries 10 questions (see page 106 for methodology).

The Global Well-Being Index includes the five elements of well-being:
• Purpose: Liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals
• Social: Having supportive relationships and love in your life
• Financial: Managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security
• Community: Liking where you live, feeling safe, and having pride in your community
• Physical: Having good health and enough energy to get things done daily

Surprisingly, the happiest country in the world is one that was artificially divided in the last century:  Panama.   Measured by the percentage of respondents who self-reported as thriving in at least three categories, here’s the top 10:  Panama (61%), Costa Rica (44%), Denmark (40%), Austria (39%), Brazil (39%), Uruguay (37%), El Salvador (37%), Sweden (36%), Guatemala (34%), Canada (34%).  Buoyed by Latin America, the Americas self-reported as the world’s happiest region.  The United States came in 12th.

Blah, Blah, Blah… What About Korea?

Korea ranked 75th.  Only 14% of respondents self-reported that they were thriving in at least three criteria.  Korea’s ranking puts itself in the same neighborhood as Iraq, 73rd with 15%.

South Korea

Well-Being Element

Thriving (%)

Struggling (%)

Suffering (%)

Regional Thriving (%)

Global Thriving (%)

Purpose

14

46

40

13

18

Social

22

47

31

19

23

Financial

37

39

25

25

25

Community

24

63

13

25

26

Physical

17

65

18

23

24

Here are the rankings of other countries of interest in the region:  40 – Philippines (24%),  44 – Thailand  (22%),  53 – Mongolia (18%), 54 – Vietnam, (18%), 55 – Taiwan (18%), 64 – Japan (15%), 90 – China (12%), and 93 – Cambodia (11%).

The Five Elements and Demographic Analysis

Although “financial well-being is relatively strong among South Koreans, purpose well-being – which is often associated with the quality of available jobs in a country – is not.”   Only 14% of South Koreans self-report as thriving in purpose well-being, and 40% as suffering, “indicating that many residents do not feel fulfilled in their day-to-day activities.”

Avoiding the C-word and the other C-word, the report concluded about Korea that  “low purpose well-being may often reflect traditional  organizational patterns – such as tenure based promotion and pay systems – that fail to ensure workers are in the right roles and are well-managed. Employed South Koreans are no more likely than those who are not employed to be thriving in this element.”

The report also specifically noted that South Koreans, despite their high average life expectancy, find physical well-being a struggle with only 17%  self-reporting as thriving.  “This is particularly worrisome given that South Korea is aging faster than any other country in the OECD; strategies for preventing and addressing age related health problems will be increasingly important.   In fact, most significant differences between various demographic groups in South Korea are related to age. Fifty percent of Koreans age 45 and older are not thriving in any element, compared with 37% of those younger than 45. Perhaps most alarmingly, Koreans aged 45 and older are significantly less likely to be thriving in financial well-being (28%) than their younger counterparts (43%).”

I found interesting that respondents self-reported their subjective measure of happiness.  Is happiness, necessarily a subjective state, really better measured by economists’ objective measures of per capita GDP or PPP?  How about well-being?  What is no less disturbing however, is that Koreans self-reported “struggling” and “suffering” numbers.  I could not find reports from decades ago, but a nearly universal observed phenomenon is that although increases in income correlate with increases in happiness in the short-term, increased income does not significantly correlate with increased happiness in the long-term.  Welcome to the club, Korea.

Read the full report here or watch the minute and a half video.  Yeah, I probably should’ve mentioned the video first.

Open Thread: September 14, 2014

I’ve lost count.

Daum and Kakao Are On a First Name Basis

Kakao Corp. and Daum Communications announced that they will adopt the anti-hierarchical office culture of Kakao Corp.  after their merger in October.  All workers and executives will be required to call each other by English first names:  “Some 1,600 employees currently at Daum will choose a new English name for this, and by doing so, we hope to further promote the two firms’ work ethics that prioritize openness and active participation as well as create a synergy effect between the two groups.”

From Yonhap: “Of course, it may feel weird or awkward for people to call each other by a foreign name, but we’ll see how this system settles in when business begins at the new Daum-Kakao in October,” said Kang Yukyeong, a communications official at Daum.

From Korea Times:  “All workers at Kakao call co-CEO Lee Sir-goo by his English first name Vino.”  Kakao employee Dallas said he felt “‘kind of awkward’ when he first joined Kakao about six months ago.  ‘It didn’t take so long before I became used to being called my English name and calling others by their English names. I realized we are encouraged to make active communication in the office even with CEO.'”

State-sponsored Arirang News broadcast a piece, IT companies in Korea change corporate culture to promote innovation (video starts at 9:02):  “Could the seemingly minor changes bring about real changes to Korea’s innovation potential?  A recent innovation index ranked Korea 16th out of 77 countries– higher than Japan or China.   But when it came to the so-called tolerance index, which measures how much a society tolerates different values and thoughts, Korea was ranked near the bottom at 62.”

The C- Word

News sources and quoted experts cited the move as an attempt to counter Confucian culture:

Yonhap stated in its article,”addressing employees of different ranks by their first name is uncommon in South Korea, where corporate culture is often perceived as rigid and is operated along regimented and hierarchical lines, a reflection of the country’s Confucian roots. Such hierarchy at workplaces is palpable in local companies….”

Arirang News aired a (translated) statement from Kim Jae-hee, Professor of Psychology at Chungang University, “if we look at our Confucianist culture, we were taught that there is a right answer to everything. We were never taught to look for new answers. To foster creativity, we need to learn that there isn’t just one correct answer to everything and understand there could be multiple answers.” 


Arirang posed an interesting question: “Could the seemingly minor changes bring about real changes to Korea’s innovation potential?”  

If so, how effectively and at what social or cultural cost?

I suspect that the change in some Korean major players’ corporate culture will carry over to Korean corporate culture in general.  When casual Fridays and then casual dress came into corporate culture, employees liked and perceived it as a benefit.  Employers saw casual dress as a no-cost benefit, and companies that resisted discovered how much the labor marketplace valued casual dress.  I suspect that young, professional Korean talent will similarly place a value on casual address companies.

Will this spillover into wider Korean culture and be the end to Korea’s deeply rooted hierarchical culture?  I think ‘yes’, and we are witnessing a seminal moment.

Chosun Ilbo: Koreans ‘to Become Extinct by 2750′

In today’s lead story at the Chosun Ilbo (Korean), the National Assembly Research Service announced the results of a projection based on a simulation that Korea’s population faces extinction by 2750 if the current low birthrate persists.  A New Politics Alliance for Democracy lawmaker, Yang Seung-jo, requested the projection.

The National Assembly Research Service based its projection on the assumption and apparently assumed that last year’s birthrate of 1.19 children per woman would continue.  “David Coleman of Oxford University warned back in 2006 that Korea’s low birthrate is so serious that it could become the first nation in the world to become extinct.”

Under the National Research Service’s projection, Korea’s present population of 50 million will contract to 40 million in 2056, to 20 million (“similar to the population in 1930 during the Japanese occupation”) in 2100, to 10 million by 2136, to three million by 2200, to one million by 2256, “…gradually becoming extinct over the next 500 years.”

The National Assembly Research Service on Friday said, “should last year’s birthrate of 1.19 children per woman continue, Korea’s population of 50 million will… become extinct by 2750.”

excerpted the following from the Chosun Ilbo article:

Barring a major population migration within the country, the southern port city of Busan would be the first to become empty of people, according to the simulation. The last survivor of Busan will be born in 2413, and the last Seoulite in 2505.  Busan is not only graying rapidly, but is seeing a rapid decrease in the number of young and middle-aged residents.


The National Assembly Research Service apparently employed a sophisticated algorithm in formulating their projection.  I spent considerable time between two consecutive sips of coffee to reverse engineer their algorithm from their results.  The  assumed 1.19 birthrate per woman means that the number of new births would halve with each generation.  Halving 50 million a little over 25 (∼25.76) times results in one.  So in approximately 25 generations, and if I assume 30 years per generation, or 750 years from now, Koreans will become extinct on the Korean peninsula.  That’s how the “simulation” projected the year 2750.

Absurdity such as the above is the reason I belabor methodology in my posts about studies.  Every bit as important as results is the methodology in obtaining those results.  I can make any study say anything I want by altering the methodology.

…which brings me to the real points of this blog entry:

  1. To what end did the NPAD lawmaker want the results of this study to show that Koreans will go extinct by 2750?  (Follow the money, but to where will it lead?)
  2. Why did a newspaper whose ideology so closely aligns with the rival Saenuri Party publish such a ridiculous result for this NPAD lawmaker?  (OK, this one might be easy.)
  3. How do I gets me some of that government large-ass for publishing studies with results so transparently beholden to some interest that any sense of shame I would normally feel is easily assuaged by that sweet large-ass?  (Seriously.)

Seoul 16th on Forbes The World’s Most Influential Cities List

A Forbes Magazine article, The World’s Most Influential Cities, hashed a summary of Joel Klotkin (et al.)’s findings in Size Is Not the Answer:  The Changing Face of the Global City.

London ranked first, and New York “ranked 2nd… in an essential statistical tie with London with virtually identical scores.”  Paris came in a distant third.

Here is a list of the top 20:  1) London.  2) New York.  3) Paris.  4) Singapore.  5) Tokyo.  6) Hong Kong.  7) Dubai.  8) Beijing.  8)Sydney.  10 Los Angeles.  10) San Francisco Bay Area.  10) Toronto.  13) Zurich.  14) Frankfurt.  14) Houston.  16) The Randstad (Amsterdam Area). 16) Seoul. 16) Washington Metropolitan Area.  19) Shanghai.  20) Abu Dhabi.  20) Chicago.

The report listed the top 51 world cities (see Appendix A).  Notable for their poor representation were BRICS (Beijing, Shanghai, 23- Sao Paolo,  31 – Johannesburg, 31 – Mumbai, 34 – Delhi, 47 – Guangzhou), Africa (Johannesburg, 47 – Lagos), and South America (Sao Paolo, 44 – Buenos Aries).

The report’s stated goal in ranking cities was to address “a growing need to re-evaluate which (cities) are truly significant global players and which are simply large places that are more tied to their national economies than critical global hubs.” Rather than rate cities by more traditional criteria, the authors concluded that “these new global hubs thrive not primarily due to their size, but as a result of their greater efficiencies.”

What are those new criteria?   Cities were assessed based on the following eight categories: 1) Air Connectivity.  2) Diversity.  3) Foreign Direct Investment. 4) Corporate Headquarters. 5) Producer Services. 6) Financial Services. 7)Technology and Media. 8) Importance of city as a strategic location or hub for key global industries not otherwise measured above.  The authors claim their rankings differ from other global cities surveys because they “focus on criteria that are directly relevant to a city’s global economic impact and power… when discussing the concept of the ‘global city’, global economic power is the sine qua non ingredient.”

Blah, blah, blah… So, What About Seoul?

Although the report did not state the relative weight given to each criterion, I surmise that Seoul did well in corporate headquarters and financial services.  Seoul ranks seventh in the world measured by value of shares traded in metropolitan area stock exchanges.  (New York is number one and trades in value as much as the other top 10 combined (see Figure C-1).  Seoul likely scored well in technology.  Korea is the most-wired nation in the world and has a tech-savvy netizenry.  Media, however, is a mixed bag.  Korea scores very high in its export of popular culture, but if media means print and broadcast news sources… Yikes!)

Other Findings (and my opinion of how Seoul stacks up):

“Global hubs are helped by their facility with English…. English dominates the global economic system… This linguistic, digital and cultural congruence poses concerns for major competing cities, including those Russia and mainland China.”  (…and Korea.  For whatever the reason, Korea’s investment in English has not matched its return vis-a-vis other Asian countries.)

“Since the late Enlightenment, great cities, often built around markets, were typically places not just for the rich and their servants, but also for the aspirational middle and lower classes. A great city, wrote Rene Descartes in the 17th century, represented ‘an inventory of the possible’.”  (Seoul seems every bit the promised land or land of opportunity to Koreans and perhaps Asians of every stripe save Japanese.)

“These global cities reflect a new model of urbanism that… rests on a simple economic formula: please and lure the ultra-rich, so that with the surplus wealth they generate, you can then serve the rest of the population.” (One word:  Chaebols)

“Much has been written about the emergence of powerful new cities, particularly in East Asia, but it is critical not to overlook the enormous power of historical inertia. ‘It is inevitable’, a manager at Shanghai’s Guotai, a large Chinese investment bank, boasted to the Washington Post, ‘ that we will take the US’s place as the world leader.’ Yet, it will be a long time, perhaps decades or even longer, before any city on the Chinese mainland approaches the global influence of the long-established global hubs.”  (I found their findings of “historical inertia” in their “new” approach ironic though consistent with their findings.  Historical inertia from yesteryear presently works against Seoul, but as the world becomes more aware of the Miracle on the Han and recent years become yesteryears, historical inertia will work for Seoul.)

One of the report’s appendices presented a summary of findings and a special section that noted the ascendancy of East Asia, Fighting for the Future: The Battle for East Asia, singled out Tokyo, Seoul, and China.  “It seems likely that the primary challenge to the New York–London duopoly will come from East Asia.”

The report found Tokyo “no longer ascendant, but still important.”  The authors based their conclusion on two critical factors:  “the relative decline of the Japanese economy paired with the simultaneous rise of China (and other emerging economies like Korea).”   They found a third critical problem in Japan’s “cultural insularity—something that could have been overlooked when Japan dominated Asia’s economy, but now a severe liability going forward.”  Relating this to Seoul, I think that the rise of the behemoth that is China’s economy, the long-term decline in and aging of Korea’s population, and Korea’s cultural insularity will similarly work against Seoul’s ascendancy.

Here’s the special section on Seoul (see Appendix C):

Seoul Makes a Bid

Given the growth of the Korean economy and the expanding footprint of that country’s large conglomerates, Seoul must be considered a de facto global city.  Yet, like Tokyo, the Korean capital, although gaining in terms of the number of foreign residents, lacks the demographic diversity of a London or New York; few foreign large companies locate their regional headquarters in Seoul.  Due to major global players such as Samsung and Hyundai, Seoul is ranked 4th, tied with Paris, in the total number of Forbes 2000 global headquarters.

“Much has been written about the emergence of powerful new cities, particularly in East Asia, but it is critical not to overlook the enormous power of historical inertia. ‘It is inevitable’, a manager at Shanghai’s Guotai, a large Chinese investment bank, boasted to the Washington Post, ‘ that we will take the US’s place as the world leader.’ Yet, it will be a long time, perhaps decades or even longer, before any city on the Chinese mainland approaches the global influence of the long-established global hubs.”

Although I am happy for the boost in international prestige both the report’s (and Forbes Magazine’s) ranking and underlying criteria represent for Seoul, I can read into them caution for the rest of Korea.  A South African magazine’s observation about London’s ranking – why this is flattering, worrisome and deceiving – could easily and even more so apply to Seoul’s:

It’s almost 18 years since Newsweek magazine’s “London Rules” cover trumpeted the triumphs of what came to be dubbed Cool Britannia. Two years after that, though, the magazine ran an “Uncool Britannia” piece illustrating how little of the capital’s glamour had been distributed across the rest of the nation. London as a city-state is great for the capital city, terrible for the rest of the country. There needs to be greater decentralization, even if that saps a little of London’s swagger on the global stage.

Finally, the report, admittedly, ranked cities only by global influence factors and omitted quality of life considerations (you know, things that people rather than governments and global corporations find intrinsically critical):

Other surveys measure different things and weigh factors that we do not consider intrinsically critical. For example, the Mercer Quality of Living Survey and the Monocle Quality of Life Survey are focused on lifestyle in the city. These surveys frequently rank smaller cities such as Vienna (1st in the Mercer survey) and Copenhagen (1st in the Monocle survey) very highly, but these are generally not the most important or dynamic business hubs. It is notable that Monocle’s and The Economist’s headquarters remain in London, despite the city’s low score in quality of life rankings. Clearly, there is a difference between ease of living and economic dynamism.

A Google News search of “forbes ‘world’s most influential cities’” reveals that the piece got picked up by news outlets around the world (particularly in U.K., U.A.E., Russia, South Africa, and Australia).  The Toronto Star, in Canadian fashion, published an opinion piece, Others see Toronto as a success. Why don’t we?  Interestingly, I didn’t find a single U.S. paper that reported on the piece. I’m sure Korean media will soon pick it up.

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