The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

Author: WangKon936 (page 1 of 35)

Colin Marshall’s five part series on Korea in The Guardian

Meet Colin Marshall, a Seattle native who somehow ended up living in Koreatown, Los Angeles shortly after college and currently writes for the British daily The Guardian.  Recently, he just wrapped-up a five part series on Korea for The Guardian.  An index of the articles is available on this link.

Unlike many commenters and writers on this blog, Colin has not lived in Korea for years.  His Guardian series was based on about a week’s travel in the country.  He has live in Los Angeles’ Koreatown for awhile and claims he can speak a functional amount of the language.  Apparently, he even has a Korean girlfriend (in Los Angeles).  This might be a plus or negative for some people.  However, when it comes to urban vibe and city planning, Colin might have some experience to speak as he’s traveled to Mexico City, London, Copenhagen, Osaka, in addition to his native Seattle and current home of Los Angeles.

The Korean American magazine KoreAm interviewed Colin about his Guardian articles.  It’s an interesting read and he says some rather insightful observations that I think may have a kernel of truth.

In a way, some Koreans here [in the U.S.] are actually more conservative than the ones in Korea.

[...]

Talking to the twentysomethings there [in Korea], sometimes they’re way more mature than me, but sometimes it feels like they’re still in middle school.

[...]

[English learning in Korea is]… not even about learning English. It’s about getting above the others.

[...]

[Koreans burn too]… much energy on competition with each other.

[...]

Korea has brashness, which isn’t the same thing as confidence.

Fun with polls and surveys!

Some interesting surveys regarding Korea and Koreans, and their relationship with other countries, have come out.

First of all let’s look at some surveys regarding Korea’s attitudes on China.  According to one sponsored by the JoongAng Ilbo and the Asan Institute of Policy Studies, South Korea’s attitudes of the PRC have improved, particularly after President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Seoul recently.  Results summarized in the graphic below:

(Graphic source from the JoongAng Ilbo)

There are however, misgivings.  Most South Koreans think China is still an economic and military threat.  Also, since most Koreans have lungs, a whopping 95%+ hates China’s most pervasive (and unwanted) export: pollution.

The good ole’ U.S. of A also gets high marks.  According to the latest Pew Research results, South Korea’s “positive” attitudes of the U.S. are in the 82% region, up from 78% in 2013, the highest they have ever been since Pew has conducted the survey.  Only the Philippines (former colony) and Israel (fellow U.S. military aid dependant) had higher rankings.  According to the Pew, South Korea’s attitudes of China are comparatively in the 56% positive territory, a rise from 46% last year.

Lastly, non-Koreans (living outside of Korea) continue to admit they have a hard time distinguishing North from South Korea.  Ah, Egypt.  Not only do they hate the U.S. more than any other country out there, but they are the worst at telling the difference between North and South Korea.

Virginian congressional candidate panders to Korean voters

Meet John Foust, Democratic congressional candidate for Virginia’s 10th congressional district.  The 10th congressional district covers suburban areas of Fairfax, WinchesterMcLean and Manassas.

The areas of Fairfax and McLean have a particularly large Korean population.  Believe it or not, the third most common language in Virginia is Korean.  The Korean Americans in Virginia have succeeded in establishing a significant voting block.  So much so that the present governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, made a campaign promise (which he kept) to have the state’s textbooks teach the East Sea, concurrently with the Sea of Japan.  

Any ways, Mr. Foust appears to be mindful of the demographics of his district and has been actively courting the Korean vote.  There’s even a Korean language television commercial:

A commercial depicting an American political candidate pressing Korean flesh and eating food samples at the local Korean supermarket (complete with a saccharin, and exaggerated, “it’s delicious” expression).  I never thought I’d see the day.

Update:

Apologies to our readers of the more GOP persuasion.  Didn’t mean to leave you fellas out.  Looks like GOP candidate for the 10th district, Barbara Comstock, isn’t surrendering the Korean American vote without a fight.  According to the WaPo:

… Comstock, who is facing Democrat John Foust in the Nov. 4 general election, has also made sure to advertise her appearances before Korean and Indian audiences. She touts her legislative efforts on their behalf even as advocates say she has supported measures that are anti-immigrant.

[...]

The newsletter also highlighted the first celebration of the Korean Bell Garden in Vienna, a new attraction she said she was “thrilled” to have in her district when she spoke to the gathering of Korean Americans in Tysons earlier this month.

Sponsored by the RNC, the event — held at Woo Lae Oak, a restaurant that is a pillar of Northern Virginia’s Korean community — is the kind of grass-roots affair the party is seeking to host around the country.

“Good to see you,” Comstock said repeatedly as she visited tables while an aide shot photos of her with Korean guests that were later posted on Twitter and Facebook. At one point, the candidate conferred with Harold Pyon, a Korean civic leader who could be heard teaching Comstock to say “How are you?” in Korean.

Interesting.  I never knew there was a Korean bell and garden in Annandale, VA.

Paris Baguette goes to… Paris?

In a move that can be determined as either the height of hubris or the proverbial roll of the dice, the parent company of Paris Baguette has decided to open up its newest location in the heart of Paris, France.

(Photo from Korean Herald)

Ah, notice the “Boulangerie” (French for “bakery”) sign a bit more prominently displayed than the “PB” or “Paris Baguette” signage.  Personally, I question the attempt to bring croissants infused with hot dogs to a population as finicky with their pastries as the French.  Then again, it couldn’t have been more offensive as opening up a Taco Bell in Mexico or a Pizza Hut in Italy.  Wait, there are no Pizza Huts in Italy.  Good thing too as it might create some anti-American backlash.

Asia observer Donald Kirk pens an interesting article over at Forbes with his take:

[SPC Group is]… opening a Paris Baguette, mais oui, in the heart of the city that provides its name.  Along with French restaurants that are truly French, Paris Baguette decided to compete where it’s likely to attract the most scrutiny and appraisal by knowledgeable customers.

[...]

The idea is to go beyond the chain’s Korean roots, to show it’s truly French, to match the most sophisticated, subtlest tastes of any French restaurant. In keeping with that approach, Paris Baguette is a little reluctant to publicize its history as a Korean company in the hands of a Korean billionaire, Hur Young-in,  chairman of  SPC

So, to “show it’s truly French” to French people in Paris, huh?  Okay, good luck with that Mr. Hur.

Open Thread: July 18th, 2014

Hey, fellas.  I figured since the last few Open Threads came out a bit late, that we would at least be a little early with this weekend’s edition.  Mr. Marmot has told me that normal blogging will commence next week.

Korean beer consumers voting with their feet

Many foreign beer drinkers complain that Korean beers suck.  Comments range from donkey piss to kinda drinkable if really, really cold.  Personally, I like Korean beer with spicy Korean food and have never really thought of Korean beers as terrible.  However, there is nothing like the free market to bring out a little objectivity to the debate.

According to data from the Korea Customs Service consumption of imported beer has risen sharply:

South Korea’s beer imports reached a record-high level in the first half of this year, exceeding the nation’s beer exports.

Beer imports to the country surged 28.5 percent on-year to US$50.8 million during the January-June period, the highest figure since comparable numbers were first made available in 2000…

[...]

Imported beer['s] tonnage has increased more than 15 times since 2000…

So, are the Koreans flocking to British stouts or American lagers?  No.

Imports of Japanese beer came to 13,818 tons, accounting for the largest portion of the figure at 25.8 percent. The list was trailed by the Netherlands, Germany, and China at 8,887 tons, 7,825 tons and 5,067 tons, respectively.

Nippon number one!  At least in beer imports.

Netherlands?  Would that mean Heinekens are popular in Korea?

A different kind of Chinese invasion

Tourists and RMB.  Yep, Korea is becoming awash in both.  Quartz article sums it up nicely:

Chinese tourists are heading to South Korea more than any other destination this year, according to travel agency Ctrip. That’s because political instability has turned many off Thailand, and China’s ties with South Korea have been warming.

Invasion central?  Jejudo.

But most of all there is the undeniable appeal of JejuThe resort island off the South Korean coast is drawing Chinese tourists with its subtropical climate, visa-free status, and attractions like casinos and an erotic-sculpture theme park known as Loveland.

[...]

In 2013, almost four million mainland Chinese tourists visited South Korea, and 1.8 million of them went to Jeju…If Ctrip’s predictions are correct, the number of mainland tourists visiting South Korea will rise to 5.6 million this year—equal to over 10% of South Korea’s population.

Chinese tourism for 2014 may equal 10% of the ROK’s population?  Holy cow!

 

Snowpiercer to be shown on 250 screens in North America

Some of you may know, but Snowpiercer officially debuted in North America last week on about eight theaters in major metro areas.  It’s average take of over $20k per theater over the weekend was impressive enough that North American distributor Harvey Weinstein is expanding the release to 250 theaters this coming Friday (July 4th, happy birthday America!).

Wait a minute?  Didn’t this flick come out like in a year ago in Korea?  Why, yes it did.  It took so long to come out in the States probably due to some disagreements with Director Bong Joon-ho and the North American distributor on how well it would, uh, translate for a North American audience.  The Boston Globe has more of the grisly details on those “disagreements” here.

When Snowpiercer opened up last week it did so to largely positive reviews.  Among the more positive reviews, I liked Rolling Stone’s.

For shits and giggles, Variety compares Michael Bay and Transformers 4 to Bong Joon-ho and Snowpiercer.  But seriously, is there a comparison other then similar debut dates and the fact that both genres are “science fiction”?  It’s an amusing article none-the-less and perhaps enlightening on two different takes on movie globalization.

Japanese man self immolates himself in apparent protest to Abe’s collective self-defense law changes

Yesterday afternoon a Japanese man, apparently in his 60′s, wearing standard salaryman attire, sat on some girders near the busy Shinjuku Station.  With a blow horn he  announced that he would immolate himself in protest to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s controversial collective self-defense law changes.

man shinjuku south exist self immolate burn death protest abe shinzo collective self defense law suicide death

(Image from Japan Trends)

According to the blog Japan Trends, he cited government actions to “involve Japan more in war,” droned on for 30 or so minutes protesting Abe and his government and then proceeded to poured several bottle of brown liquid onto himself and eventually making good on his claims by igniting himself.  There is a YouTube video of the actual suicide moment.  The footage is graphic, so viewer discretion is advised.

Here’s more at Japan Times and Al Jazeera.

Paris Baguette and Caffé Bene. Will they play in Peoria?

Ah, Paris Baguette.  The ubiquitous Korean bakery, with the strange name, serving Asian inspired and decidedly non-French pastries everywhere from the plush streets of Gangnam, to the shigol to even the doomed Sewol.  They, along with Caffé Bene and Tom N Toms,  are expanding into ‘Murica.  Their foray into the land of the free and the home of the brave is highlighted in this recent Fast Company article:

Three of South Korea’s biggest coffee shop chains, Paris BaguetteCaffe Bene, and Tom N Toms, have all embarked on American market expansion over the past several years….  Bene and Paris Baguette, especially, play down their Korean origins–and are planning to ramp up even more U.S. market expansion over the next two years. In a vivid example of 21st-century globalization, both chains are bringing South Korean-style customer service and corporate organization to the United States–except they are serving French- and Italian-style pastries and sandwiches instead of Korean food. 

Surprisingly, there are already 35 Paris Baguette locations and 99 Caffé Benes in the States.  Here are some boots on the ground reviews:

No word on if “A Twosome Place” (투썸플레이스) would be making the Transpacific plunge.  If they did, one would most certainly think they would have to consider a name change.

Korean first pitches apparently a thing

I think it probably started with the rhythmic gymnast and tae kwon do first pitches (let’s throw in Clara’s for good measure too) going viral in the summer of 2013, but ceremonial Korean first pitches are becoming something of a thing.

Here’s the latest via CBS Sports:

Hyundai does well in latest JD Power survey of initial quality

The annual JD Power & Associates survey of automotive initial quality places the Hyundai brand 4th, the highest non-luxury brand in the survey.

The rankings are below:

jdp-iqs-survey-1

(Photo from egmcartech.com)

Hyundai’s ranking in initial quality has gone up and down over the last decade, peaking at #4 in 2009, but spiking to has high as #25 the following year (2010).  According to this graph from the JoongAng, Hyundai’s ranking has improved for three year’s straight:

Hyundai scored number one in three product categories: small car (Accent), compact car (Elantra) and midsize premium car (Genesis).  It scored number two in two categories: midsize sedan (Sonata) and midsize SUV (Santa Fe).

Who else did well?  Kia, surprisingly at #7, ahead of BMW and gasp, Honda.  Chevy also did well at #4, welcomed news I’m sure given GM’s tough year of mass recalls and Congressional inquiries of potentially life threatening defects.  Bringing up the rear?  Fiat.  How does a car so small have so many problems?  Yes, I’m sure YangachiBastardo would be proud.

How do Koreans handle a foreign work environment?

Here at TMH we often get “colorful” commentary on what foreigners think about their Korean places of work and their bosses.  With that in mind, I’ve often wondered how the rank and file Korean felt about working in foreign owned companies and with foreign bosses.  Would Koreans be happier in a Western work setting vs. a Korean work environment?  Conventional wisdom may indicate that a Korean might be less stressed in Western work culture where there could be less emphasis on leadership hierarchy, expectation of face time, and perhaps the ability to exercise a bit more creativity and/or independence.

According to the JoongAng Daily, employment website Job Korea surveyed 942 Korean workers in both Korean and foreign owned (i.e. mostly Western) companies and government agencies with questions on their job satisfaction.  The results were not as clear as the expectations may be and point to there being a fair amount of stress and frustration for Koreans at foreign companies.

Unlike people working at Korean companies, who said their jobs caused them stress because they were concerned about their future and job stability, those employed by foreign companies said that they felt stress when senior workers gave them too much work and had unreasonably high expectations.

The survey results are ironic because many first-time job seekers consider foreign companies their top choice because of good benefits and a horizontal corporate culture.

“In Korean corporate culture, senior workers become a guardian when a junior first joins the team,” [Jung Joo-hee, a spokesperson for Job Korea] said. “Even though they nitpick or scold the juniors .?.?. the seniors have the intention to guide them to learn job tasks more efficiently and to help them become part of the team quickly.”

She explained that the absence of such guidance, which puts full responsibility for a task on a junior worker, may make Koreans feel even more pressured and isolated.

Here’s a summary of the findings:

(Source: JoongAng Ilbo)

Interesting.  Everybody got the same number 2, however foreigner bosses appear to be piling it on more than the others (32.1% vs. 28.9%, 28.7% and 27.4%).  Relationship ambiguity with their foreign seniors also appears to be scaring the crap out of Koreans.

Open Thread: June 14, 2014

Sorry for the delay.  Have a nice rest of the weekend y’all.

Trailer for “Battle of Myeongryang- Roaring Currents”

Speaking of movie trailers, for you fans of Admiral Yi Sun-sin there is a new movie coming out that portrays probably his most famous battle where, the story goes, he successfully fought off 330 Japanese ships with just 12 or 13 of his own.

Battle of Myeongryang- Roaring Currents,” is starring Choi Min-Sik, probably one of Korea’s most internationally well known actors.  It will be interesting to see how he portrays Admiral Yi, given his history of portraying such dark characters.  Another interesting thing is that at least some of the storyline and aesthetics will be based on the American comic book “Yi Soon Shin: Warrior and Defender.”

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