The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

Author: WangKon936 (page 1 of 37)

So, does this mean that the USFK is gonna stay in Korea forever?

The transfer of wartime control from the USFK to the ROK has been seen by many as the first step to meaningful American military withdraw from the Korean peninsula.  Well, yesterday Korea and the United States agreed to punt on the Wartime Control agreement indefinitely, meaning that the apparent “first step” out of the Korean peninsula for the U.S. military is also suspended indefinitely.

Oh well, so much for that.

In other news, it seems as if the newest addition to USFK, the 1st Cavalry Division’s 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team is transitioning well in Camp Stanley, having replaced the 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment that was here on a nine month deployment.  As mentioned earlier here, the Texas Fort Hood’s 1st Cavalry Division has been rotating a heavy armored battalion of 800 some odd men into Korea since the beginning of the year.  That will apparently be continuing indefinitely too.

Wanna know what the 1st Cav’s troops are doing in Korea?  Follow their embedded local journalist from The Killeen Daily Herald (Kileen, Texas) as they run into KATUSAS, try eating Korean food (for the very first time), hike up local mountains and train.

Kansas City’s Korean good luck charm

The Irish have the Blarney Stone, the Chinese rub Buddha’s belly and the Kansas City Royals have Lee Sung-woo.

They have who, what, huh?

Okay, so the story goes that in the middle of the American major league baseball season the Kansas City Royals were just an average team in a small market with average talent, having yet another ho-hum average season in their bland 45 year history (playoff-less in the last 28 of those 45 years).  That was until a foreigner named Sung-woo Lee from far away South Korea came on the scene.  Through social media, Sung-woo was a regular fixture on Royals’ fan sites and blogs and exhorted Royals’ fans to persevere, which helped to inject much needed enthusiasm into the traditional fan base.  Interestingly enough, Sung-woo’s online participation started as an attempt to learn English by consistently conversing with American baseball fans.

(Image from KMBC, Channel 9)

Native Kansas City residents were curious about this Asian man from a far away country and his interest in their local team.  Usually, when a foreigner is interested in an American baseball team, it’s usually a team from one of the bigger markets like the NY Yankees, LA Dodgers or Seattle Mariners, etc.  But Kansas City?  As a Midwestern town they are not close to Asia or Europe and the “city” of barely 500,000 people does not have the ritz and glamour of a New York or Los Angeles.

But a committed fan Sung-woo appeared to be.  He even came to Kansas City in August of this year for a 10 day stay.  Locals gave him a hero’s welcome, rolled out the red carpet and showered him with Midwestern hospitality.  They named a hot dog in his honor and even had him throw the first pitch in a game against the A’s.  But the real news is what happened to the team during his little Kansas City vacation: an eight game winning streak that put them in the wild card hunt.  The New York Post called this the baseball “feel good” story of the year.  Locals call him the “superfan.”   NPR said he’s spread “Korean pixie dust” on the team.  Korea Times US Edition called it “Korean Karma.”  KMBC channel 9 reporter Kris Ketz simply called Sung-woo their “good luck charm.”

American baseball is a notoriously superstitious sport.  The 2002 Angels had the rally monkey, which some believe helped propel a pretty average talent wise team all the way to winning the World Series.  Well, not to say that a man and a monkey are the same thing, but it appears the good luck charm thing is happening again this year and this time it could very well be the Royals who benefit.  They swept the Baltimore Orioles for the AL Championship yesterday and will either play the Giants or Cardinals for the MLB World Series.

Photo of the Day: My, those are some nice waegook-in (외국인) bosoms there, huh Rep. Kwon?

A ruling Saenuri Party lawmaker caught looking at a sexy picture during a National Assembly audit.

(Image from KoreaBANG)

Saenuri lawmaker Rep. Kwon Seong-dong using company time and bandwidth to explore extracurricular pursuits.

UPDATE

Well, well, what do we have here?  A larger version of the picture that the Honorable Rep. Kwon was so intently staring at?

(Image from Seoul Shimbun)

Why, say hello to September 2011 Playboy Playmate of the Month Tiffany Toth.

NSFW here.

Kim Young-ha at the NYT: Getting ready for a Korea without Samsung

Although I briefly mentioned in my last post that Samsung’s Chairman Lee Kun-hee had suffered a heart attack, over at the NYT Kim Young-ha says that there  are apparent rumors that he’s dead or near death:

On May 10, the chairman of the Samsung Group, Lee Kun-hee, had a heart attack and stopped breathing. He was resuscitated at the hospital but remained in a coma for more than two weeks. As the country waited for information about his condition, rumors ran rampant. One of the most widely circulated was that Mr. Lee, 72, had already died and Samsung was covering it up.

Samsung announced last week that Mr. Lee had stirred. One story goes that the chairman opened his eyes for a moment just when Lee Seung-Yeop, a Samsung Lions’ slugger, hit a home run.

Personally, I think Lee Kun-hee is still alive as they don’t build elevators in your house for dead men.  However, the man responsible for much of Samsung’s meteoric growth over the last three decades will eventually die.  Probably sooner rather than later.  Currently, it sounds like his cardiac and pulmonary system is being held together with duct tape and chewing gum.

With the tycoon ailing and with his crown jewel, Samsung Electronics, sucking wind from competition with the Chinese and Apple, the talk is if Korea is ready for a future without Samsung.

As Samsung prepares for its post-Lee Kun-hee future, South Korea needs to prepare for a post-Samsung future. Just like any other company, Samsung can fail, and if that happens, how will the South Korean economy overcome the shock? If we don’t decrease our over-reliance on the chaebols and prepare to let smaller, dynamic start-ups fill the gaps in their place, it won’t.

Related

The WaPo talks about Samsung’s “Imperial” succession plans to the third generation (HT to DLBarch).

Samsung profits taking a beating

Samsung Electronics has announced that their third quarter profits will decline 60% vs. last year’s third quarter.  This represents the largest quarterly drop in profits in five years.

Per CNET:

The South Korean electronics giant said it expects to record an operating profit of 4.1 trillion won ($3.8 billion) for the quarter ended September 30, a 59.7 percent drop from the year-ago quarter. The company also said it expects sales for the quarter to come in around 47 trillion won, a 20 percent decline.

The main culprit?  Cheap phones from China.

Samsung’s market share of the global smartphone industry fell from 31% to about 25%.  However, this negative news hasn’t dampened demand for Samsung stock as its price rebounded on the bad news, rising 1.8% on the belief that Samsung’s stock won’t decline much more and profits will eventually rebound.

Some believe that Samsung will claw back to sales and profit growth through three strategies:

1. Expanding chip production (i.e. the brains that drive smartphones), particularly 14 nm chips that will produce smaller, but more powerful and energy efficient processors.

2. Produce profitable, but cheaper smartphones to better compete against the Chinese.

3. Differentiate their phones by using flexible screens and new materials.

However, other analysts believe Samsung has a difficult road ahead of it, squeezed between cheaper Chinese competitors and high-end phones from Apple and a over reliance on hardware innovation when it’s usually been software innovation that’s driven smartphone value creation.

We have seen Samsung scramble itself out of market shifts before.  We shall see if it can do so again.

FBI to crack down on Los Angeles Koreatown “doumis” (도우미)

In an investigative report by JTBC News, Los Angeles’ Koreatown is apparently rife with young women willing to sell (rent?) their time to eager men looking for companionship in karaoke singing rooms (a.k.a. noraebangs/노래방).

Some of the numbers JTBC threw around are huge.  At least 40 doumi “agencies” each managing 30-40 doumis for an estimated 1,600-1,000 total doumis in an area about three square miles.  Demand is apparently so huge that many of the doumis are non-Koreans or Koreans flown in from Korea to work as doumis for the extent of their tourist visas stays (three months).

For those of you that don’t know, a doumi (도우미) literally means “helper” but is now slang for a young woman who “helps” a business.  There are, for example, those “doumi” dancers that help bring attention to newly opened businesses, etc.  In this context these doumis are taxied into a regular noraebang, not room salon, mind you, to “help” drum up business for the noraebang.   Generally, the patrons of the noraebang specifically asks for doumis from the noraebang’s management who calls them in.  They sing, dance and talk to the patrons of the noraebang.  Generally speaking, there is light petting, flirting and sometimes kissing.  There is, again generally speaking, no sex.

JTBC alleges that these doumis breed casual drug use, gangs and are bringing “disgraceful” (JTBC’s words, not mine) attention to the Korean American community and by extension Korea.  Local law enforcement is keen on this trend and apparently the FBI had gotten involved in cracking down.

Notes

Like many “investigative” reports from Korean journalistic sources, there is a fair mix of fact, fiction and exaggeration here.  The absolute numbers might not be too far from the truth, as well as the “heterogeneous” mix of girls.  The fact that they have to recruit non-Korean girls and Korean girls from Korea sounds about right as local girls don’t ply the trade consistently because of the high likelihood that they will eventually run into someone that they know.

The assertion of massive drug use?  Almost always copious amounts of alcohol, but very rarely drugs.   I honestly don’t know about the gang part but my sources says it’s usually more small scale operations and loose networks of cab drivers, noraebang owners and doumi brokers who are managing the trade rather than gangs.

Busan Film Festival to tone it down

In past years the Busan International Film Festival’s (BIFF) red carpet was a chance for some of Koreans’ more sexy, but less well known actresses, to, uh, show off their talents.  Who can forget past entrants?

Oh In-hye, BIFF 2011:

Oh In-hye

(Image from Chosun Ilbo)

Bae Soo-eun, 2012:

(Image from Seoul Beats)

Han Su-ah, 2013:

(Image from HanCinema)

Kang Han-na in 2013:

(Image from Koalas Playground)

According to Bobby McGill’s on the scene and “in-depth” reporting over at Busan Haps, this year’s BIFF organizers, bending to the will of their militant and angry dry, old hag committee, have announced a dress code of sorts to eliminate the low cut dresses that have walked previous red carpets.

It is reported that BIFF organizers are pleased this year as it would seem that the actresses have heeded the dress code with attire that is a bit more, uh, sedate:

(Image from Korea Times)

By the way, it is just me or does the Busan Cinema Center look like a Cylon Basestar?

BIFF kicked off this Thursday and runs through Oct. 11.

Judging of boxing matches at Korean hosted events still controversial

Boxing in itself is pretty corrupt, however, it would appear that Korean boxing is even more blatantly corrupt than average.  Take for instance when Roy Jones Jr. was robbed of a gold medal in the Seoul Olympics, which is listed by some as the third worst moment in boxing history (and the 14th most stunning moment in Olympics history by The Guardian).

What would an internationally hosted event in Korea be without more boxing controversy?  Well, there are two this year.  The most dramatic was in female boxing as many thought India’s Sarita Devi should have won the silver medal bout.  It was even reported that her opponent, Park Ji-na, told Sarita that she was the real winner of the silver medal!

(Image from Reuters)

Sarita was so upset that she refused her bronze medal, giving it to her opponent Park Ji-na.  Park, confused what to do with it, just left it at the podium.

On the men’s side the Filipinos are complaining after the controversial win of Shin Jong-Hun over Mark Anthony Barriga.  President of the Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines, Ricky Vargas, said, “Hometown decisions are very prevalent here.”

Controversial judging of boxing matches needs to be added to the Cluster F@ck list.

Well, I’m just glad there won’t be any boxing in Pyeongchang in 2018.

Breaking News: Jessica Jung dropped from Girls’ Generation

It all started with an update to Jessica’s official Weibo account, which stated:

Untitled_1

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I was excited about our upcoming fan events only to shockingly be informed by my company and 8 others that as of today, I’m no longer a member. I’m devastated – my priority and love is to serve as a member of GG, but for no justifiable reason, I am being forced out.”

The whole K-pop world is alight with speculation.  At first it was believed that Jessica’s Weibo account was hacked and that message was a fake.  Alas, it would appear not so.

SM Entertainment’s official statement is:

Hello. This is SM Entertainment.

We are offering our position on the words posted on Jessica’s Weibo posted today.

This coming spring, due to her personal situation, she has notified us she will halt her team promotions with the release of one [more] album.

Despite Jessica’s sudden notice, the agency and the Girls’ Generation members tried our best and tried to figure out a way that Girls’ Generation’s activities can continue in the best possible direction.

However, in the midst of insufficient negotiations regarding conflicts of differences in priorities and interest, Jessica started her fashion business. Due to this, despite ongoing talks, it has come to a point where the team could not be maintained.

Thus, the agency had no choice but to pull up Girls’ Generation’s activities as 8 members earlier than planned, and in the midst of while working out when to announce this, Jessica had posted her words early this morning.

From here on, our agency will continue to support and manage the 8-member Girls’ Generation and Jessica’s individual activities.”

Apparently, Jessica has other interests she wants to pursue.  According to Soompi, a popular K-pop blog, she is an aspiring fashion designer and wants to study fashion design in the U.S. and is attempting to launch her own brand “BLANC.”    Her dreams to become a fashion designer, going to fashion school in the U.S. while still participating in Girl’s Generation activities appeared to be too much of a conflict for SM Entertainment and they apparently considered it a breach of contract and dropped her.  The SM statement does say that there are “on going talks” so it’s not clear if the drop is permanent.  More to come.

The remaining eight members of Girls Generation were spotted today in Incheon Airport with dire expressions and one member short.

(Image from SBS)

UPDATE

Jessica releases her official statement.  Here are excerpts:

Up until the beginning of August when I was launching ‘BLANC’, I had received agreement and permission from SM, and congratulations from the members as well.

However, in early September, after only a month since the launching, the members suddenly changed their position and held a meeting, and told me to either quit my business or leave Girls’ Generation without any justifiable reason.

[...]

Shocked about this, I had met with the agency CEO on September 16 to convey my position, and once again confirmed their permission for carrying out my business.

However, on September 29, I was given a one-sided notice asking me to leave Girls’ Generation. Due to this, I was also unable to attend the fan meeting in China on September 30, and I have also been excluded from following Girls’ Generation activities.

So, management was supportive and the other eight members asked her to leave?  Whaaaat!?

Kim Jong-un’s “gravity” is starting to cause problems

Back when Kim Jong-un was just a kid in a foreign school in Switzerland, he was a skinny boy who liked to mercurially run around basketball courts.  Jong-un’s dad, the former Dear Leader Kim Jong-il, told his son that in order to rule he needed a “leader’s gravity.”  So, they fattened the boy up to be the round mound of rebound that he is today.

Unfortunately, this is evidently creating problems.  Health problems at the merry old age of 31?  The guy’s been out of public view for three weeks, even missing a session of parliament for the very first time.  The rumor is that Jong-un may have gout because he was walking with a pronounced limp the last time he was seen publicly.  Gout?  Isn’t that just for old people who eat too much rich food and drink too much beer?  In any case, even North Korean TV is admitting that the Dear Leader may be feeling a little under the weather as of late.

The dude is fat.  Probably far fatter than a healthy man his age should be.  One weird rumor says his weight is ballooning due to his addiction to Swiss Emmental cheese.

Well, Mr. Dear Leader I hope you eat shit and die get well soon.

 

Match the average Korean faces with the time periods!

Today’s WSJ discusses how Korean faces are changing over time.  With interracial marriage, plastic surgery and even nutrition factored in, the Korean face is changing.  Apparently, the Korea Face Institute has taken computer assisted calculations based on 20,000 photographs and skull measurements (when the time period didn’t have photography available).

Korea to sign on the F-35 dotted line and some KF-X news

It seems to take nations forever to figure out if they are going to buy into an expensive fighter jet procurement program, or not.  So, although Korea stated its intention to select Lockheed’s F-35 back in March of this year (40 jets for ~$7 billion USD), apparently today Korea stated its intention to actually sign on the dotted line.  What probably took six plus months was the negotiations for tech transfer for Korea’s native KF-X program.

It’s apparent that the Koreans wanted to negotiate all they could from Lockheed to get as much tech transfer as possible.  To get to this stage, the Koreans essentially has to say no to the Sweds and their Flygsystem 2020 stealth program and the Euros, who offered to throw in the kitchen sink, including full sharing of engine and avionics technology.

Despite all these promises from the Euros and the Swedes, the Koreans decided to go with the Americans for all three F-X phases, with one and two going to Boeing’s F-15K “Slam” Eagle and phase three going to Lockheed’s F-35A.  If the Koreans were okay with dissing other technology partners, pray do tell what did Boeing and/or Lockheed promise to the Koreans, regarding technology transfers?

According to the NYT:

The deal, which has yet to be signed, includes undisclosed terms for technological transfers from Lockheed to help South Korea’s $8.2 billion KF-X program to develop its own advanced fighter jet, the procurement agency said. The procurement agency said its negotiations had also involved the United States government, whose approval is often needed for technology transfers, suggesting that the deal had already received the government’s blessing.

So, what are these “… undisclosed terms for technological transfers from Lockheed…”?  What did the U.S. government agree to allow to be transferred?  It’s got to be more than what the Sweds and Euros were promising, right?  I’m damn curious.

Anyways, in other news, Japan is going forward with its own indigenous stealth jet designs (spearheaded by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries) called the ATD-X Shinshin.

(Photo from The Aviationist)

Hummm, the technology demonstrator (above) looks like a stealthy version of a Super Hornet.

Regarding native Korean attempts at stealth, the wheels seem to be turning slowly but excruciatingly forward.  The Defense Ministry has finally decided on which basic design the KF-X will take, ultimately opting for the double-engine configuration.  The battle between the single and twin engines have been a battle between the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) and the Agency for Defense Development (ADD).  ADD has always wanted to the two engine design and DAPA has always been more conservative.  The cost difference between the single engine is $6.2 billion USD vs. $8.3 billion USD in R&D costs alone.  Off-the-cuff, it has been know that the ADD prefers the C103 design (i.e. non-forward canard configuration), although no twin-engine design has yet been finalized.

(ADD’s C103 design, image from Chosun.com)

With this design, the estimated cost of R&D is $8.3 billion USD and procurement of 120 craft after 2020, the total budget is expected to be $19.7 billion USD, easily Korea’s largest single defense expenditure ever.  Given the shear size of this project, getting the National Assembly to approve the budget is going to be quite an experience, I’m sure.

Any ways, KAI will be building a special development center for the aircraft and GE has been eagerly requesting to be the main contractor for the engines.  More to come, I’m sure.

Might as well spit this out while I’m on here.  In T-50 news, an internal U.S. Air Force report (the air force’s air university division, I believe) has essentially endorsed the FA-50 as the ideal platform for  America’s T-X program (trainer).

Colonel Michael Pietrucha states:

The service should procure the F-X, envisioned as a T-38 replacement, in three variants.  The base airframe; T-X, essentially a modernized T-38 equivalent purchased off the shelf- would constitute the most numerous aircraft (400).  The AT-X would take the form of an all-weather, combat-capable, multirole T-X with air-to-ground capability including guns, rockets, and precision guided munitions.  The FT-X would be a fully capable light fighter with a modern air-intercept radar and air-to-air-missile capability comparable to that of the F-16C.  The FT-X is intended as a good fit for the Air National Guard’s ASA mission and for use as an aggressor.

A  “base airframe” that’s “off the shelf” and can be tailored into “three variants” like trainer,  ground attack and fighter, huh?  There’s only one product that fits that bill: the T-50.

Oh, and lastly thumbs-up Madame President!

Koreans now drink more coffee than eat white rice.

The headlines are saying that Koreans drink more coffee than eat rice, a statement that’s patently false.

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 10.00.14 AM

(Graphic from I Am Koream)

White rice 7 + multigrain rice 9.5 = 16.5 total rice > 12.3 coffee, no?

However, there is very little doubt that total Korean intake of rice has been decreasing over the past few years, particularly among urban dwellers.

Do North Korean refugee women dream of finding their perfect South Korean meal ticket husband?

What usually comes to mind when one thinks of North Korean women?  Those pretty cheerleaders that the North occasionally send out to international sporting events?  Women who, by very nature of being malnourished, being an average of 2-3 inches shorter than their South Korean counterparts?  Prettier than average Korean women in line with the Korean saying, “남남북녀” (“Namnam buknyeo”), or in English “Southern men [are handsomest], [and] northern women [are prettiest].”

Well, according to The Hankyoreh, at least one matchmaking agency has drawn some cartoons to expound their own stereotypes of apparently economically desperate North Korean women refugees looking for South Korean husbands to take them away from their destitution.

(Image from The Hankyoreh)

The blog Korea Exposé offers interesting English commentary:

A North Korean woman, alone in her cheap government housing, asks, “I want to get married. Where is my love?” She daydreams of being only in her underwear, straddling her ideal South Korean man, and calling out to him in affection, “My dear husband.”

That controversial advertisement by a matchmaking firm specializing in bringing North Korean defector women and South Korean men together was abruptly pulled late last month amid a firestorm of criticism at the way it depicted North Korean women as lonesome, sexually charged, and desperate.

Added bonus?  The same match making agency put out another cartoon explaining the, uh, “benefits” of having children with North Korean women:

(Image from The Hankyoreh)

No brown interracial children!

MBC says Korean Tourism is “Shameful.”

The blog koreaBANG comes out with some good stuff every now and then.  Added bonus?  They translate some Korean reader comments into English.  Yesterday they outlined MBC’s exposé on how some tourists (namely from that country just across the Yellow Sea) were being “taken for a ride” and how it could be damaging Korea’s long-term reputation as a tourist destination.

Korean tourism has made great strides over the past ten years, from 4.8 million tourists (or “number of arrivals”) in 2003 to 12.2 million in 2013.  However, despite the growth, there is some evidence that Korea may not be getting a lot of value from the increased numbers.  Part of it is structural (i.e. lower income of Chines visitors vis-à-vis Japanese tourists, the rising value of the won, etc.), however, some of it may be due to unscrupulous Korean merchants.  According to the MBC report a lot of tourists are getting scammed, leaving a bad taste in tourists’ mouths and threatening Korea’s long-term tourism growth:

However, Korea may not be drawing as much value from their tourist numbers than they perhaps should.  According to the MBC report a lot of tourists are getting scammed, leaving a bad taste

The shop owner: “This jacket is 120,000 won. The price is so cheap compared to its high quality.” The Chinese man paid about 210,000 won for 3 pieces of clothing.

The journalist tried buying the same clothes in the same shop.

(Journalist: “How much is it?”)
Shop owner: “You can take it for 55,000 won, if you pay cash.” When the journalist bought the same clothes that the Chinese man did, the price was about 100,000 won cheaper.

[...]

… Police investigated a Korean restaurant for Chinese tourists only, qualified as an outstanding restaurant by Tourism Board Organization. In the kitchen they found food that had passed the expiration date, and even leftovers that had been stored in the freezer.

Police: “3 years has passed (since the expiration date), 3 years.”

The same problem is occurring with accommodations. Among 70% with quality credentials have been reported for not meeting the requirements of a quality guarantee. Organizations awarding these credentials can also not be trusted…

The government has decided to loosen many regulations in order to raise the number of foreign tourists to 20 million by 2017. However, people point out that the government should combine all the quality assurance systems into one, and run it well.

So, there could be some long-term issues with Korean tourism and greater infrastructure integrity needs to be maintained while the industry continues to grow.  So, who has Korea decided to have helm the ship in these challenging waters?  Well, one important appointee is a former actor named Johnny Yune.  Ah, Johnny.  A very colorful guy who’s Korean-American (i.e. he’s got a U.S. passport), got his big break when he appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in the 1980s and starred in the comedy movie “They Call Me Bruce?” (a surprising hit movie making almost $17M in only 325 screens in 1982).  He also had his own talk show on some UHF channel called “The Johnny Yune Show.”  Wow, can’t make this stuff up!  Well, there’s always a chance that Johnny will pull a Reagan (another former actor) and perform better than expected.

A couple more interesting Korean tourism factoids:

  • Russians apparently spend a lot of money in Korea while they are visiting.  Apparently for “medical tourism” (yes, plastic surgery is counted in those “medical tourism” numbers).
  • As far as Korea’s tourism has come, its overall size is still small compared to the rest of the OECD. Korea’s direct tourism industry accounts for about 2% of the GDP, whereas the OECD’s average is 4.7%.  However, that isn’t the median (which is probably somewhere around 3.8 to 4.0%).  The outlier Greece has skewed the average a bit with its whopping 16% of GDP.  Wow, they sure are getting all they can out of some warm weather and some ancient ruins.
Older posts

© 2014 The Marmot's Hole

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑