The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

Author: Dram_man (page 1 of 15)

iPhone finally launched…in Korean fashion.

The article in the Joongang Daily about the Apple iPhone launch in Korea is better read in reverse. Step back in time with the bottom paragraph:

“The important thing about the iPhone’s launch here is not that a certain popular brand has finally been introduced to Korea but that it will be a catalyst for the local smartphone market to grow,” [Hwang Sung-jin, an analyst at Prudential Life Insurance] said,

Thats odd. When I was over there, I read, before the iPhone, Korean phone companies were on the cutting edge. That Korean 3G system and mobile technologies were the envy of the world. Everyone in the world feverishly wanted to implement DMB or whatever permutation of CDMA Korea had. Why would Korea need to spur the “local smartphone market”? Going up, you find out:

KT’s announcement comes after the nation’s telecom regulator gave Apple Korea the green light to launch the phone here last Thursday, making an exception to the law that requires handsets sold in Korea to use domestic locating technology.

“Exception”? “Use domestic locating technology”? Yes take note your anti-globalization weenies, trade barriers actually HURT your competitiveness, not help it. Korea’s cell market might as well be a textbook case. Of course take note this transparent demonstration of the ills of non-tariff barriers is lost on Korean regulators. They chose to give an “exception” not the wiser course of getting rid of the barrier all together.

Speaking of transparency and wisdom, you got to love who will get the first iPhones in Korea:

[KT] will hold a launching event for around 1,000 preorder customers picked through a drawing in Jamsil Indoor Stadium in Seoul. It added that it also plans to include interested people who have not preordered iPhones in the event.

So let me get this straight, somebody who did not give you money early for a iPhone may not get it at the expense of did not give money. Great customer service! The last provision also makes one wonder how legitimate that drawing is, but I am sure that worry is not well founded.

Shameless Copyright Infringment

It seem the the satirical news site The Onion have started to rip off Korean English newspapers. All they do is substitute “chinese” for “korean” and “Yu Wan Mei” for “Samsung”. (Ironically, Samsung started as fish import/export business as well, as I recall)

And check out the site of the satirized chinese company that bought them. They have copied in spirit, if not content, many Korean company websites.

(PS Apologies to the Yangpa)

For those of you keeping score at home

So going a swingers club is controversial in Korea, and they are trying ways to bust it up. We are also being lectured how “immoral” English teachers are in Korea.

However, just so you know, according to the Busan district court it is not illegal to pick up 16 year old homeless girls:

A local high court found a 46-year-old man not guilty of having sex with a runaway teenage girl, saying their liaison was neither forced nor in exchange for money.

…Kim bought food for the 16-year-old girl, who was wandering near Seoul Station, and allowed her to stay at his home in December 2006.

…The court also found Kim not guilty of violating the laws governing the protection of adolescents, saying, “They had sex, but she did not demand money and he did not give her money. He provided her with shelter, food and about 20,000 won pocket money, but there is no evidence that the offering was in exchange for sex.’

The article goes on to point out the age of consent in Korea is 13, as long as there is no coercion or money changing hands.

Deep penetration lady

For those of you who share past times similar to my own, you may want to look at this Chosun feature on Yoon Young-im part of the security detail a Seven Luck casino:

Switching from a KTO employee to a monitoring agent wasn’t easy. Working with an American expert, she underwent intensive one-on-one training in Baccarat, blackjack and poker, and ways to detect sharpers. She reviewed videos of cheaters discovered in real casinos countless times. She continues to hone her skills by watching gambling movies like “Tajja (The War of Flower)”, “21”, and “Rounders.” She also meets regularly with fellow casino experts in Las Vegas and Macau to swap information on new tricks and blacklisted gamblers.

Anybody know this Tajja movie? Sounds interesting. However if it is anything like Rounders or 21 on showing cheats, I am not sure. Personally I recommend Yonkers Joe to her, but then there are NO FREAKING CRAPS TABLES IN KOREA. Sorry had to get that off my chest.

Meanwhile, it’s too bad she is not running the security for those above her.

What are we missing?

The Korea Times reports on a Korean social phenomenon in the wake of more young women striking it out on their own:

For 27-year-old Lim Ji-ae, battling cockroaches in her studio apartment has been a constant nightmare… Until she recently hired someone to be her personal pest control agent for 5,000 won per occasion.

He arrives at her house within 10 minutes of her call, and sometimes even picks up toilet paper, toothpaste and other urgent grocery items on his way. In fact, whatever Lim needs, he does ― most of the time.

“He’s my new best friend,” says Lim,… The so-called substitute men, an emerging beck-and-call squad.

The article simply cites the things they do is mainly deliver things around town. It sounds a lot more prosaic than Ms. Lim’s anecdote would indicate. Then again, Ms. Lim gives some interesting advice in the end:

Experienced customers like Lim says the cost is “friendly,” but advised users to be cautious and not to expose too much personal information to the substitutes.

Advice from experience Ms. Lim?

(PS: Am I the only getting a hilarious picture in my head of some flimsy Korean boy band’s music video of them rushing around on matching scooters to save young women from cockroaches, only to find they squeal like school girls when they see one?)

Do you know me?

Further to the Marmot’s post below, the NIS flash game gives you this as an example of somebody suspicious:

Walkie-talkie, shirt, and the Juche books….hilarious. I think we need a flash mob in front of the NIS. Something like this.

UPDATE: The NIS says the jokes were intentional, and encouraged web users to link to the game, with the promise of prizes. I just hope those prizes are I love Kim Jong-il t-shirts. Now THAT would be funny.

“As the Interest Compounds”

Just when you think it was almost over, the damn thing threatens to come back to life. This was buried today in the Korea Times:

According to the source, the Texas-based [Lone Star] fund’s strategy is to wait until markets fully recover and make an attempt to sell KEB at around 18,000 won per share. If they are unable to sell at that price, they will dump KEB shares and file a lawsuit against the Korean government for the losses incurred by the rupture of the deal with HSBC.

This may take a rather maudlin turn. In fact, it makes me want to write the Lone Star soap opera:

Johnny Greyken hooks up with Korea, just after Korea’s break-up with IMF. Korea, thinking this is love, gave Johnny couple rings and matching sweaters, something all of Korea’s friends do. What Korea did not know is Johnny is no diffrent that his friends, Carlyle and Newbridge.

As soon as Korea finds its relationship is about the share the same fate as those of Carlyle and Newbridge, it goes crazy. Korea starts stalking Johnny, saying how they have “so much” together, this is real love, and the classic “if I can’t have you, nobody can”. This is followed by a bizarre set actions, that can only be described as deranged. Korea’s craze climaxes in crashing and ruining a church wedding where Johnny is about to marry HSBC using the same couple rings Korea gave Johnny.

Will Johnny get revenge? Will Johnny and Korea come together? Will Korea force Johnny to give its ring to their ugly sister? What ever happened to the ugly matching sweaters? Find out in the next “As the Interest Compounds”…

(Meanwhile, Greyken, you got screwed. Get over it.)

AMCHAM Hunt – To drink or not to drink the Kool-aid

While I have been confused and annoyed at AMCHAM over my tenure in Korea, rarely does the organization or outgoing Prez. Tami Overby done anything to outright anger me. A caption of her in a photo of her good-bye press conference however got me riled up this morning:

Amcham President Tami Overby points out that there is a misunderstanding about the real Korea outside the country due to aggressive and striking pictures that decorate the front pages of the foreign press

Or in other words: Tami has one last drink of the Kool-aid, by choice or out of respect, before she leaves the party.

As some of you know the alleged global conspiracy of the foreign press has been a constant source of amusement for me over the years. My favorite was at the height of the crash last year the Blue House initiating a witch-hunt for the Financial Times’s reporting of “inaccuracies” while ignoring the flood of similar “inaccuracies” in the local press. In a related way, there is the whole “Korean Brand” question. The idea that Korea does not have problems that need to be addressed, but a advertising and PR gap. Again, I am not too sure Korea’s brand is undervalued given the tomfoolery in the English press alone. Just a few weeks ago there was the labor market economist saying the foreigners have the wrong idea and the labor market is changing, oblivious to every story of labor strife found in Korea over just the few weeks previous.

I can only hope the incoming AMCHAM Prez. will BYOB to this party.

Knocking around a golden goose

Remember the KIKO contract furor? KIKO agreements (Knock-in Knock-out) agreements are a way to hedge against currency fluctuations. There were used extensively by Korean SME’s as the Won was rising. The were used perhaps too much, as many SME’s were left with big bills as the Korean Won went the other way, in a big way, last September. Facing bankruptcy due to these KIKO obligations, they sued

Now as if this was not enough to make banks second guess issuing such contracts in the future, Korean courts exacerbated the problem. Saying in one instance  KIKO’s were legal, and the other saying KIKO’s were illegal. You can consider the various merits of each case, but safe to say it created some ambiguity in the legal status of KIKO’s and offering them to potential clients who could benefit from them.

Yesterday, almost a year to the day the KIKO issue  started to bubble, in the wake of a resurgent Won the Korean Finance Minister called an emergency meeting. At issue was the liquidity problems SME’s in encountering with rising raw material prices and falling revenues from a rising won.

Wow, if there was just some way SME’s could hedge against currency risks. Or more apropos, banks were willing to offer ways to hedge against currency risks. Yet for some reasons they just are not offering the chance to.

Lone Star(k) Contrast

Given all the fun foreign investment has had in the Korean banking sector the past couple years, this reception is rather thought provoking.

Rugby Friday

This notice is a bit late, but I thought I would pass it along since the event needs support:

Top Class International Rugby comes to Korea!!

On Friday June 5th the official England Counties rugby team will play the Korean President’s XV. In order to increase the awareness of rugby as a sport in Korea we are trying to get as many people to the game as possible. So, to make it the best turn out a rugby match has ever seen please join us if you can. Seongnam Stadium (nearest subway is Moran), Friday June 5th at 7pm. More information at where you can download free tickets.

I also believe that Scrooge Pub in Itaewon has some special bus package, ask around.

(To Dram Man haters: I will be there, so it is a good time to carry out your revenge.)

AMCHAM Rumor Mill

With AMCHAM looking for a new head and the need for a distraction on a somber day, I thought I would post something on the things I have been hearing the past few days, and see what others have to say.

There seem to be a number of people talked about. My favorite one was a Canadian English teacher saying they should make Mike Breen head. I grinned, bared it, and quick extricated myself from that shallow end of the gene pool.

There seems to be a lot to talk of Steve McKinney in the role. I do not know if he is campaigning or people are drafting him. In my few conversations with him, I found him amiable and perhaps up to the task. Yet something tells me he would be a radical departure from the gentle, big-business tone of Overby, which on second thought may not be a bad thing.

A friend/source, which is usually pretty connected and honest, stated that somebody in AMCHAM is thinking of tapping Amy Jackson, who I never met (then again I am bad with names and faces). She is currently a trade consultant with Crowell. It fits a few ways, mostly the dead-horse KORUS trade agreement that AMCHAM is always frantically flogging. Anyway, like I said, it’s a rumor.

Personally, I think AMCHAM Korea will continue its current demure tone, and might one-up everyone. It would not surprise me in the least to find AMCHAM choosing a well-connected older Korean-American in some JV.

A Public Service Thread?

Today’s Joongang Daily has a couple of puff pieces written by Korea Exchange Bank (Nowhere nearly as puffy as this, how the heck did that get though Lou?). Both KEB authored pieces are in a Q&A format. There is a mundane, and more blatantly promotional, one about how to open a bank account. The more interesting one concerns Foreign Direct Investment in Korea (FDI). 

I know that quite a few Hole readers are not English teachers and do something productive. I also know there are a few who have either set down this FDI road, or give advice on the process more practical than the KEB marketing department offers.  So I thought it would be an interesting experiment to throw this question out to the “brain trust” that is Hole peanut gallery so as to give some advice. 

Here, ladies and gentlemen, is the set up:

 I’m a foreigner working as a consultant for a Korean company on a contract basis. When the contract expires, I will not extend it. 

Instea [sic] I am planning to start my own consulting company. The estimated investment is $300,000 for the lease on the office, etc., of which $200,000 will be remitted from my home country. I have an amount in Korean won equal to the remaining $100,000, which is my income earned in Korea. 

Please let me know if there’s any specific procedure for a foreigner becoming an individual proprietor and, if so, what to do and what to be careful of.

Let me get the ball rolling by saying what I would “not” do in this case. I would “not” forget the whole thing in this case. I “can” see why you would need a $300K physical presence in Korea for what is essentially a white collar service job that could be domiciled anywhere. I “can” understand why you would want to deal with Korean regulations and hire in a labor market that is improving, according to experts at the Korean Development Institute (I am sure this in today’s newspaper was a 20-25K person abnormality). I am “sure” any headaches that might arise in dealing with regulation, reporting, or labor will more than offset what ever return you will get off a $300K investment.

So what I would “not” suggest is keep the business offshore, fly in-and-out when needed, and be essentially visiting Korea on business.  Considering, again, it’s a white collar consulting company wherein you likely are a key employee that does a majority of the work, I would “not” recommend you simply look into the business identity firms around Seoul, who can represent you when you and provide other services.

Alternatively or complementarily, I would “not” use the network of office professionals you likely know because your past experience it the company, and pay them quietly. Such by a foreigner on violates Korean labor and tax law likely, and we all know how “uncommon”  irregular workers are in Korea . Also it is “difficult” to find a 40 year-old lady fluent in english, can balance books with the best of them, and deal with everything else in running an office. We all know how “strongly” women are retained in Korean businesses.

Why do I say all this? Because passively accepting these FDI laws is one of the obstacles in getting these things changed. As absurd as some of these regulations are, I find it equally absurd to meekly relent with the placebo of wishful thinking that it might change. The only vote we have is with our boots.

So that is my opinion in what “not” to do. Anyone have different thoughts, or something to add?

(Update/Correction: I hasten to note that the original article is quite informative, all be it glossing over some rather complicated and tedious aspects of the process. Indeed, the author himself readily admits the process is complicated in some stages.)

And now for something completely different

Can anybody explain this caption about a Korean bank marketing event:

A Jewish Mother’s Dream

Help Wanted in Samsung-dong

The buzz is Tami Overby is leaving as head of Amcham Korea for a more executive position in DC. If you think your up for one of the potentially most influential jobs in Korea, check out the job listing at Amcham and send in the ‘ol resume.

Who ever they bring in, I hope they will stop ridiculous statements like this.

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