. . . You Will Find This Hard to Swallow Too, Maybe

“The fate of South Korea’s kimchi industry rests on whether China considers it pickled or not.”

kimchi_articleThe NY Times has a very nice article on the plight of contemporary Kimchi (Chinese Trade Rules Puts Korea’s Kimchi in A Pickle). Chinese and Korean versions too.

One of the most unique things a visitor or resident finds when coming here is kimchi, which has been as ubiquitous as the somewhat dusty air that we breathe.  Personally, I note that the most essential thing that defines Korea is the importance of family, which lies at the heart of everything Korean, thus this one comment says much to me about what is important to Koreans in today’s world:

Now, most of Ms. Park’s (kimchi) customers are other market stall owners, tourists and the occasional housewife. “Nobody wants to make it at home,” she said. “It’s a bother, and they are too busy making money.

Kimchi, maybe is a bit like how we treat our family and that is something that one can not really blame China for, although they have much to account for when it comes to their influence upon both Koreas.

Flavour of The Month: The Chaebol Recipe Is Still Hard to Swallow

chaebol_recipeThough August has yet to arrive until next week, this taste sensation can not be denied, so please pardon my haste in posting.  I also note that, once again, my psychic link to certain editors at the JoongAng Ilbo is resonating. Upon penning an unctuous article on the president’s “creative economy” shiz-nizzle
(Park thanks tycoons for support on creativity), an companion editorial observes that:

The innovation incubator project underscores the country’s reliance on our chaebol (a major weakness). The large conglomerate groups were put in charge of hosting innovation centers according to their corporate home bases…Whether the projects can last and bear fruit is also questionable because of the pretentious way the government and chaebol address the project. Large companies announced investment plans in time for the center opening and the arrival of the president. The heads of the 17 conglomerates that took part in the project were invited to a luncheon at the Blue House. Now the president has also decided to include jailed corporate heads on the list of special pardons on Aug. 15, Liberation Day… other conditions should be right to encourage start-ups.
Start-ups (should) not be afraid of failure if there are sufficient programs to support them in their new ventures.
Start-ups and innovation cannot sprout under heavy layers of regulations and (under) a discouraging business culture.
Various funding and support programs should come under one roof (with simplified procedures for implementation).
The centers must be able to assist individuals and companies in the entire process of starting a business or venture.
The innovation network should not end as the showpiece of an administration that lasts five years (but be a part of a sustained, bi-partisan effort – without the politics).

Meaning, these chaebol heads take nice pictures with the prezildent and smile but, unless pushed and unconditionally held to a meaningful program of a sustained hands-off, support for entrepreneurs (start-up companies), this whole “creative economy” is just 17 ways to float down the four rivers, while Korea is stuck up shitzzle creek without a paddle.

UPDATE: July 29, Wenesday

The JoongAng Ilbo has added further depth to their observations in a new article, in regards to the waste of resources due to poor management, oversight and a lack of political will to make a sustained effort in developing a better business climate:

Lee Byung-woo, head of the South Chungcheong center, pointed out earlier this month that the new centers for creative economy and innovation overlap with existing local government-backed institutions designed to support start-ups, such as the techno parks scattered nationwide that actually accommodate the creative economy centers.

however,

Techno parks and creative economy centers are supposed to be partners. The former caters to already established companies and the latter to start-ups,” said Koh Hyung-kwon, head of the Creative Economy Initiative for Public-Private Partnership, which overseas the creative economy center project.

These heads seem confused as to what is what. The uncertainty of politics almost certainly ensures that this creative shizzle will be lost:

I am not sure what’s going to happen [with the creative economy centers] in three years, said an executive from one of the participating conglomerates who is now dispatched to a center. “There is a saying already that the centers will be gone at the turn of the administration. We also think the centers will pretty much be temporary.

 

Things That Go Pop

Actors from "My Love from Another Star", which is very popular in China.

Korean TV is very popular in the PRC? . . . but why?

We share the same culture and cherish similar social values,” said Sophie Yu, director of international communications for iQiyi, the online video streaming website affiliated with the search giant Baidu. “So Korean content naturally is easy to be understood and accepted by the Chinese audience. (cite)

Yeah, so why can’t China produce shows with the same attractiveness if the two cultures are so similar?

Faced with the limits (government censorship), popular streaming websites like Sohu, iQiyi and Youku want to develop their own Korean-inspired content to sate the country’s appetite for the programming, part of a broader fascination with Korean popular culture. That has meant trying to tap (steal) into South Korea’s secret sauce — the magic formula that has turned the country into a pop-culture juggernaut that churns out viral exports like the singer and rapper Psy, the singer Rain and hits like “My Love From Another Star“.

It’s so difficult to copy a new recipe when the cooks are so used to serving up government-sponsored shit, with dazzling regularity.

Longboarding in South Korea?

Sure, why not and it has been steadily growing in popularity here too. “dancing” has become more popular as well. The video of Heo Solbi is a good demonstration of this style (click on the photo for the video):

Solbi Heo Step Rhythm Up
Heo Solbi’s longboard dance style.

There is even a facebook page for local riders and, if you are out around Iteawon, you can visit the Style Board Shop (서울 용산구대사관로5길 19 – more or less), a very cool place for longboards.  If you want a place to get more information on longboarding style_board_shopin Korea, I might suggest visiting the Slidingwheels folks. Korean might be one of the few places where doing downhill could really be more scary than some of the west coast places I’ve seen in the states. Another good resource can be found at landyachtz.com, which has a recent thread on downhill in Korea.

Korea_downhill

Korean Cosmetics Are Attractive in Themselves

Tonymoly storeTonyMoly, founded about a decade ago, is a South Korean beauty company that has recently entered America, opening two boutiques in New York and placing its products in Urban Outfitters and Sephora stores.  Molly Young of the NY Times writes brilliantly about the differences from American cosmetic firms and TonyMolly:

TonymolyI was briefed by a friend with intimate knowledge of the Korean beauty market and I learned that TonyMoly is known for its cute packaging, intrepid use of freaky ingredients and an emphasis on the caretaking of skin over the painting of it. American beauty products focus on high-color-payoff makeup, whereas Korean beauty focuses on perfect skin,” he told me. “You’ll notice that skin care takes up 74 percent of the store.

Their product design is very well done and is worth a visit just to look at:

it is all packaged in containers shaped like peaches, eggs, apples, tangerines and tomatoes. What these shapes have in common is their touchability, which makes sense because that’s how many of us want our faces to look.

Ms. Young really has a terrific way of writing about the uniqueness of TonyMolly’s Korean product style:

Sheet masks are another Korean innovation. A sheet mask is a cotton sleeve cut in the shape of Hannibal Lecter’s muzzle and drenched in your choice of (allegedly) beautifying liquids: tomato extract, broccoli extract, ginseng, something called “vegetable placenta,” something called “pearl extract”

I thought mammals ate placentas but I guess putting them on your face could be okay too.

Addendum: Ruthless-Non-Jewish Samsung Wins

Addendum, July 20:

Ruthless-Non-Jewish Samsung Wins . . .

Bloomberg has a further analysis of the merger deal and why Korea and Park Geun Hye was the loser in the deal:

Long before the South Korean media began indulging in anti-Semitism, Samsung’s recent effort to pull a fast one on its own investors was already firmly in insult territory. The company’s affront extended both to shareholders and to the Korean public.
The bid by Samsung’s de facto holding company, Cheil Industries, to buy Samsung C&T at a laughably below-market price was a naked power grab by the company’s founding Lee family, but Samsung so dominates South Korea that it managed on Friday to convince the subsidiary’s shareholders to ignore their own interests.
The merger marks a defeat for South Korean President Park Geun Hye, who won office in late 2012 with promises to rein in the family-owned companies that stifle Korean innovation. Friday’s vote was Park’s economic Waterloo, the moment her government decisively lost the fight against the oligarchs.

The article is here.

Flavor of the Month – A Mysterious Ingredient Is Added

He burned coal while sitting inside his car.
He is now dead.

This someone is an employee of the NIS that has killed themselves (in Yongin).

As the reader may recall, On July 8, WikiLeaks released over 400 gigabytes of leaked data from Italian surveillance malware vendor Hacking Team, which included correspondence between officials from South Korea’s 5163 Army Division – a code name for the NIS – and the company about its remote control spyware system.

Now, an 46-year-old employee of the NIS has been found dead from apparent suicide and he left a will inside the car, along with his body, that discusses his family and work, namely the hacking activities of the NIS:

The apparent suicide and the will are expected to further stoke the controversy surrounding where and how the NIS used the hacking program. The software program, which uses Remote Control System technology, allows hackers to manipulate and track smartphones and computers by installing spyware.
The NIS said it bought the program made by an Italian company in 2012 and confirmed it can be used to hack into up to 20 mobile phones simultaneously.(cite)

Of course the NIS has denied it has been snooping on people with the software, in a statement, asking “Why would the NIS carry out surveillance on our own people?”

[gobsmacked!]

Update, July 19

The suicide note left by the agent claimed the spy agency had not used the software for domestic spying (cite):

A South Korean intelligence agent found dead in an apparent suicide left a note denying his team had used spyware to tap the mobile phones and computers of private citizens in the latest scandal involving the spy agency.

which leads me to wonder – why would an agent kill himself for not doing something wrong or was he simply a depressed man?
Either way, may God bless and help him and his family.

Ruthless-Non-Jewish Samsung Wins

Samsung has won the merger war:

. . . C&T shareholders approved the contested merger, with almost 70% voting in favour. (Earlier in the day Cheil’s shareholders had voted unanimously to pass the bid.) (cite)

Samsung did everything it could do to win:

Watermelons and walnut cakes were hand-delivered to shareholders’ homes; text messages implored them to toe the line. Solemn front-page advertisements, which ran in almost every local newspaper this week, put forward an “earnest plea to shareholders.

however, nothing stays the same:

Whatever the legal outcome, Elliott’s continuing defiance will be an irritant to Samsung and the Lee family. Its protest—a rare challenge by a foreign activist fund to South Korea’s biggest business group—has stirred public debate in the country about its corporate-governance standards, at a time when disenchantment with the families that own its large corporations, or chaebol, is growing. Local minority shareholders have rallied in online communities over the past six weeks. Many hoped C&T’s biggest single investor, South Korea’s National Pension Service (NPS), would oppose the bid—just as it did recently with a similar in-house merger at another chaebol, SK Telecom. However, the NPS appears to have cast its vote in favour this time.

Other “ants” or smaller shareholders, such as Grace Jeon had plenty to say about the merger:

Grace Jeon, a 53-year-old freelancer from the city of Ilsan, is one of those shareholders (ants). . . Ms. Jeon said in an interview ahead of the vote that she planned to oppose the merger, which she called an attempt to push through family succession over the best interests of small shareholders.
“This merger is for Lee Jae-yong, by Lee Jae-yong and of Lee Jae-yong,” she said in an interview, referring to the 47 year-old son of Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee. She added that foreign shareholders deserve the same rights. (cite)

One commenter in the Economist article raised issues with how Samsung had conducted its campaign, based on what amounts to Samsung’s sponsored libel against Elliot Partners and Jews, in general:

The ugliness is, in part, that Samsung resorted to blunt hateful Jew-hating cartoons posted on C&T’s own website depicting Elliott’s Jewish CEO as a vulture. And Samsung refused to acknowledge, let alone stop this until a NY Observer story was picked up by the AP and spread around the world. Only then did the company issue a standard retraction. Samsung also appears to be behind a campaign pushed by a company called Mediapen whose former head and large shareholder is a deputy minister in the South Korean government, which included their own materials and enlisted columnists and TV to write about “ruthless” Jewish money. This campaign includes saying that Jewish “money” controls Institutional Shareholder Services Inc., a US shareholder advisory service – which conveniently of course ignores the fact that the Korea Corporate Governance Service advised against the deal.
So the lesson for me, other than not buying Samsung products, is that the Lee family is ruthless though they are not Jewish.

Of course I really hope the commenter is not living in Korea since he might have a problem with such a litigious and ruthless-non-Jewish company as Samsung.

Update:

S.Korea pension advisory committee says regrets being bypassed on Samsung:

The advisory committee on Friday requested that the fund
revise its internal rules and regulations to minimise potential
controversy on future decisions, without elaborating further.

Would they have recommended against this merger since the board had already made up their minds before the vote?

The Dry Spell Is Over – Mikkeller Seoul

m04Like me, so many people have complained about having really poor or few choices when it comes to beer in Seoul.

Though domestic mass-brewed beer might be fine for going with some Korean food, it really puts one off. Very recently, much has changed thanks to the growing body of Korean brewers, who will eventually challenge and exceed American craft beer makers in terms of excellence and quality. Though I like domestic brewers such as Hand & Malt, Pong Dang, Barbarrossa’s Wiezen beer and some of Magpie, finally having a craft beer such as Mikkeller fully represented and on tap here is a dream come true.

m03Other than some local brew pubs (Pong Dang Craft Beer Co., SKim45º, etc.) whose brewers are gaining in quality gradually, there is a new branch of the Swedish Mikkeller microbrewer now in Seoul. Mikkeller has only a few locations in the world; in  Sweden, San Francisco, Bankok and now here. Mikkeller is a microbrewery founded in 2006 in Copenhagen, Denmark that is based on the so-called “phantom” or “gypsy” ethos; that is, the company does not operate an official brewery and, instead, collaborates with other brewers to produce their recipes or experimental one-off brews. The brewery was founded by two home brewers: Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, a high school teacher, and journalist Kristian Klarup Keller. Both sought to introduce their home-brewed beer to the public and to “challenge beer friends with intense new tastes”

m05m02Mikkeller Seoul now has thirty Mikkeller beers on tap, with another twenty in bottle – everything from their wonderful sour beers to a double porter with 유자, an IPA, an many others. The menu is quite nice as well, offering dishes like a jambalaya, various grilled cheese variations, a pulled pork sandwhich, truffle fries, etc.

m01
A Framboose sour (raspberry).

m06

A map to Mikkeller Seoul is here below. Click on the map for a larger version. Mikkeller Seoul: Sinsa-dong 544-22, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, opens @2p to 1p, All week.

Mikkeller-map

Flavour of the Month – We Know Who You Really Should Vote for

On July 8, WikiLeaks released over 400 gigabytes of leaked data from Italian surveillance malware vendor Hacking Team, which included correspondence between officials from South Korea’s 5163 Army Division – a code name for the NIS – and the company about its remote control spyware system. The local intelligence office has been suspected of spying on civilians since the Park Chung Hee era, but due to such suspicions, it was unable to acquire the spyware systems necessary to infiltrate mobile devices for legitimate espionage activities…the NIS is obligated to clearly explain why it purchased the wireless monitoring device so discreetly and for what purpose it has been used. Since the agency did not obtain a court warrant, those kinds of surveillance activities are illegal. (more)

The NIS has a lot more going on than is in the newspapers too (backdoors into software (Kakao (?) and Samsung phones, etc.)

Pardon My “National Development”

The president has more ideas for national development:

ex-felonWe need to carry out pardons to promote national development and forge national reconciliation” on the occasion of the 70th Liberation Day,” President Park Geun-hye said Monday.
“This year marks the 70th anniversary of Korea’s independence from Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule. We will have to promote pride in Korea and make it the first year to take another giant leap, overcoming various challenges,” Park said in a regular meeting with her top aides at Cheong Wa Dae.
The President ordered her top aides to examine the scope and target of special pardons next month as part of celebrations of the 70th anniversary. Park vowed to limit presidential rights of special pardons during her presidential campaign in 2012. Park exercised special pardons once so far only for minor crimes committed by those living in poverty on Lunar New Year’s Day last year. . . Park’s remarks immediately raised questions over whether imprisoned business tycoons will be affected by the special pardons. (cite)

Of course, only convicted felons know what is best for Korea since the current leadership doesn’t seem to know.

UPDATE: July 16, Thursday

The Saenuri response to this idea?

I will propose to the president to grant magnanimous pardons to convicted businessmen and politicians within the scope that is acceptable to the public so that it will serve as an opportunity to unify the nation, . . . Rep. Won Yoo-chul, the Saenuri Party’s new floor leader

As I might paraphrase: 유유상종

Samsung Versus the Ants & the Jews – A Never-ending Saga of Korean Shizz-biz

Greece is not the only suspenseful yes-or-no vote that has been on everyone’s minds as of late.

Samsung is having one heck of a knock-down shareholders fight. This Friday will be the day that Samsung C&T shareholders will vote on its future and “essentially the fate of the whole conglomerate and determine whether they approve its merger with Cheil Industries, the de facto holding company of Samsung Group.” (cite)

To summarize the situation:

Samsung Group, South Korea’s largest conglomerate made up of 67 companies, is controlled by the powerful Lee family via a complex web of cross-shareholding. Samsung C&T owns 4.06 percent of the group’s crown jewel, Samsung Electronics, with the value of its stake in the electronics giant standing at more than 7.6 trillion won ($6.7 billion) alone. Samsung Life Insurance controls 7.2 percent, while Cheil controls 19.3 percent of Samsung Life Insurance.
Last but not least, Jay Y. Lee owns 23 percent of Cheil, with his sisters Lee Boo-jin and Lee Seo-hyun controlling 7.7 percent each. Lee Kun-hee, the Samsung Group chairman, owns 3.4 percent.
Although Cheil has nothing to do with financial businesses on paper, it acts essentially like a financial holding company, controlling a significant stake in Samsung Life Insurance.
The merger between Samsung C&T and Cheil is certain to help the Lee family exert more influence over Samsung Electronics and is seen as a necessary step as the conglomerate prepares to make a generational change from the now-hospitalized Lee Kun-hee to his 47-year old son.

This is a very big deal, for example:

South Korea’s $422bn National Pension Service is poised to make one of the most high-pressure interventions in its 28-year history, with a vote that could swing the fate of a key merger in the Samsung group. . . The NPS holds big stakes in both companies — a situation that has highlighted the huge domestic clout of the world’s fifth-biggest pension fund, while heightening calls from activists for it to take a lead in defending South Korean corporate governance standards. . . The NPS is at the centre of the whole controversy — it’s created an awkward situation for them,” says Park Yoo-kyung, an investment adviser at the Dutch fund APG Asset Management, which holds a stake in Samsung C&T. . . Analysts say that this week’s vote is likely to be close and that the NPS — Samsung C&T’s biggest shareholder with 11.9 per cent — could decide the outcome. . . the NPS has courted controversy by making its decision in-house without turning to an advisory committee set up to assist with difficult voting decisions. That committee has shown willingness to oppose controversial management decisions, last month opposing a merger of two SK group companies citing similar objections to those made by Elliott in the Samsung case.

Line of marching ants with 11 different ant images
Samsung small investors are angry and are marching . . .

One shareholder, Elliott Associates LP (hedge fund), intensified its opposition to Samsung Group’s proposed merger of two units, a day before the U.S. hedge fund’s dispute with South Korea’s largest conglomerate went to court in Seoul. (cite) Elliot has also attracted the many small investors, referred to in South Korea as being “ants”, and have joined forces with Elliott.
According to Elliot, Cheil Industries Inc.’s offer to buy Samsung C&T Corp. is “unlawful” and creates “open-ended regulatory risks,” the fund headed by billionaire activist Paul Elliott Singer said in an online presentation on Thursday that laid out its case against the deal.
According to some analysts, this “showdown” between Samsung and Elliot Associates will shake up South Korea.

“Lawyers say the controversy will also prompt a rethink of the rules governing mergers between sister companies, which allowed the lowball offer in the first place. In any case, the backlash should make the chaebols less dismissive of outside shareholders.”

Meanwhile, South Korean media, in a typical demonstration of some of its totally irrational bias has managed to infuriate Jews:

jewish_bankerJewish organizations over the weekend denounced what they say are anti-Semitic statements in the South Korean media blaming Jews for attempts to block a corporate merger between two subsidiaries of the Samsung conglomerate. The Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center have called upon the Asian country’s government and on Samsung to repudiate the claims, which have appeared in a number of business publications supportive of the deal.
The target of the opprobrium is Paul Singer, the Jewish head of the Elliot Associates hedge fund, which owns a seven percent stake in Samsung C&T, which seeks to merge with Chiel Industries.
According to South Korean financial publication MoneyToday, “Elliott is led by a Jew, Paul E. Singer, and ISS [an advisory firm that analyzed the merger] is an affiliate of Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI), whose key shareholders are Jewish. According to a source in the finance industry, Jews have a robust network demonstrating influence in a number of domains.”
Meanwhile, Mediapen, another local publication, asserted that Jews are known to wield enormous power on Wall Street and in global financial circles” and that it is a “well-known fact that the US government is swayed by Jewish capital.” (cite)

Per Mediapen: “Jewish money, it reported, “has long been known to be ruthless and merciless.”

Mind you, it would be irresponsible to note that South Korean media also has long been known to be unprofessional and racist, especially considering their important role in revealing the hordes of HIV/AIDS infested, foreigners and the ongoing foreigner-driven crime-wave. The JDL and others have to realize that Koreans actually admire Jewish thought since the Talmud has been transmogrified into Korean.

June: Struggle Against U.S. Imperialism Month

dprk_propEric Talmadge of the Associated Press has posted an interesting article on June, in the DPRK, as being the “Struggle Against U.S. Imperialism Month”, wherein the official history of the state’s struggle against America is remembered:

. . . it’s a time for North Koreans to swarm to war museums, mobilize for gatherings denouncing the evils of the United States and join in a general, nationwide whipping up of anti-American sentiment. . . the North Korean version of the war, including the claim that it was started by Washington, is radically at odds with that of the United States and often doesn’t even jibe well with documents released over the years by its wartime allies, China and the Soviet Union. . . At the Susan-ri Class Education Center, guide Choe Jong Suk, a somber middle-aged woman in a black-and-white traditional gown, gave a well-practiced lecture on the variety of tortures — 110 in all, she said — inflicted on Koreans by the U.S. that, she said, were “worse than the methods of Hitler.”

Which is far worse than the crimes comitted by the DPRK against its own citizens (Godwin’s Law here?).

You can read the full article here.

More Shizzilistic Science from the DPRK

DPRK_scienceThe Associated Press has reported that the DPRK has a cure and preventative for MERS, SARS, HIV/AIDS and likely the Ebola virus (cite).

. . . The official Korean Central News Agency said scientists developed Kumdang-2 from ginseng grown from fertilizer mixed with rare-earth elements. According to the pro-North Korea website Minjok Tongshin, the drug was originally produced in 1996.

I know this remarkable stroke of good fortune will be well recieved by the large community of AIDS-infected English teachers here in the ROK.

Getting Green, Getting High and Spying on The Kids

walkway concept01Seoul will get a new park and its pretty high up.

A long unused highway overpass by Seoul Station will be remolded into a “sky garden”, facilitating pedestrian space and harboring a local collection of trees and plants. (Hopefully, advertising and take-out auto-bikes will be discouraged) (cite):

walkway overviewMVRDV: an elevated park in Seoul won a contest to design the park, filling it with massive circular plant pots filled with 254 different species of flowers, shrubs and trees to create a “living dictionary of the natural heritage of Korea.” A greenhouse will grow new plants to populate the pots, and pedestrians can stop at a number of cafes, street markets, flower shops and other vendors. Once completed, the 55-foot-high structure will cut the walk around the railway station from 25 minutes to 11, and is expected to generate 1.83 times its cost in economic benefits.

The elevated park did meet with some resistence from local merchants:

. . . While the plan, initiated by Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, has been challenged by some locals, particularly merchants from Namdaemun Market located just east of the overpass, the Dutch architect openly defended the city government’s plan to renovate one of Seoul’s traditional areas. “I’m aware of the mayor’s intention for the city’s architecture … [to make it] better, greener and more livable in the project, . . . I think it’s courageous, and there might be criticisms here and there, and I’m here to defend that policy because I do think the improvements will [inspire awe] (cite).

If you are a Korean kid, who is under eighteen, then you are being  watched.

The government has decided that all kids under eighteen must have an application called “smart sherrif” installed on their smartphones. “Smart Sheriff” was developed and funded by the South Korean Government and allows parents to spy on their kids:

Smart Sheriff and at least 14 other apps allow parents to monitor how long their kids use their smartphones, how many times they use apps and which websites they visit. Some send a child’s location data to parents and issue an alert when a child searches keywords such as “suicide,” ”pregnancy” and “bully” or receives messages with those words. (cite)

Though this might be useful for parents, who wish to monitor exactly what their kids are doing, it also raises an issue of data usage since the browsing habits of kids can also be monitored by the government, through this software and no mention has been made at this time if the information, collected through this software, will be used for commercial purposes either.