The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

Author: WangKon936 (page 1 of 38)

WSJ: The “token” non-Korean hire

Hey, not meant as a slight.  The writer of the article in question would readily admit it!

So, non-Korean guy (presumed to be white?) applies for a office job in Korea.  During the interview he is asked many highly relevant questions on his qualifications!

“Do you like drinking?” “How many bottles of soju can you drink?” “Do you like kimchi?” “Where do you live?” “How old are you?” “Do you have a girlfriend?” My job interview may as well been held in the backseat of a taxi because these are the questions I would get anytime I travelled (sic) in a Seoul taxi for more than 20 minutes.

He becomes an integral part of the team!

I fell into the typical token non-Korean work role. My team leader struggled with how to deal with me and what work to assign to me. The company wasn’t prepared for a non-Korean worker. All they knew is that they wanted to reflect a global image and I would fulfill that requirement.

Has realistic and achievable expectations!

In order to see the potential returns and benefits of employing non-Koreans the job roles and power placed in these candidates needs to reflect the same respect and scrutiny that is placed on Koreans.

Okay, in all fairness, a lot of foreign office workers are treated similarly in Japan.

 

Japanese-Korean potato chips latest peninsular addiction

Say hello to the 허니버터칩 (“Honey Butter Chip”), the latest snack addiction in Korea.  Made by the Haitai-Calbee joint venture (Haitai the Korean company and Calbee the Japanese company), they have taken the peninsula by storm.

(Image from JoongAng Ilbo – what the heck is the Eiffel Tower doing in there?)

The chip has sold out in many places,  stores are only allowing one per customer, celebrities are instagraming themselves with the product.  There is of course the typical response when demand far outstrips supply:

(eBay screen capture)

(Image from Korea Times, U.S. Edition)

Yes, that’s right- price gouging.

Get your Honey Butter Chips right here folks.  Only $51.75 USD each (S&H included)!

Lee Byung-hun to be the next T-1000

X-Geners, y’all remember the original T-1000,  Robert Patrick?

Well, the next T-1000 will be Lee Byung-hun:

This new movie appears to be a “reboot” of the original movies.  The natural question would be is a reboot necessary?

Any ways, mine is not to wonder why.

“Quo Vadis”- problems with Korea’s Mega Churches

A documentary will be coming out on December 10th that will examine allegations of wrong doings by three of Korea’s largest Christian churches.  Titled “Quo Vadis“(Latin for “Where are you going?”) the documentary was made by Kim Jae-hwan, a self identified Christian, who says he spent $270,000 USD of his own money to make it.

Documentary Quo Vadis’ challenges the mission of South Korean churches

(Photo from Los Angeles Times via Han Cinema)

According to a L.A. Times article on the  documentary:

Kim [Jae-hwan], a Christian, said South Korea’s media have gone soft on the churches because of their significant political influence and financial clout. His goal: to spark what he calls an overdue debate on whether churches have lost their moral authority in a quest to accumulate more congregants and money.

Kim centers his greatest condemnations on Korea’s largest Church- Yoido Full Gospel:

One of the scenes in “Quo Vadis” includes a 2013 news conference in which elders from the Seoul-based Yoido Full Gospel Church, purported to be the largest Pentecostal church in the world, asked embattled senior pastor David Yonggi Cho to step down.

The elders accused Cho of using millions of dollars of church funds to buy stock in a company owned by his son. Despite the evidence against Cho, other Yoido elders argued that the allegations were baseless. Cho supporters who barged into the church gathering included one who reached for the throat of a speaker. A brawl ensued. As groups of suited men shoved one another and threw punches, journalists’ cameras rolled.

A few months later, Cho was found guilty of tax evasion and professional negligence. He was sentenced to three years in prison and fined more than $4 million.

 

Seth Rogen and James Franco’s culinary crime against humanity

Behold, the “Korean barbecue” lasagna:

Layers of bacon, short ribs, pork, beef, kimchi, pajon and gochujang and coming in at 33,083 some odd calories, this monstrosity is evidently an attempt to promote their new movie, coming out on Christmas day in the States.

To THAAD or not to THAAD? That is Korea’s question.

What is THAAD?  It stands for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense and it’s essentially a province/state, small country-wide anti-ballistic missile defense system.  It apparently has a range of 2,000 kilometers and the U.S. is offering it to both Japan and South Korea.  So what?  Well, the Chinese don’t like it.

(Image from JoongAng Ilbo)

Although the U.S. says it’s to protect South Korea and Japan against possible missile attack from North Korea, the pure raw capabilities of the THAAD system would indicate that the defensive target isn’t just North Korea.  The long-range THAAD missiles, along with their powerful X-Band radars, if deployed in both South Korea and Japan, offers a multilayered anti-ballistic missile defense that could theoretically render a sizable chunk of China’s ballistic missile arsenal obsolete.

Earlier this year the U.S. delivered the enormous X-Band radar that helps power the THAAD, to Kyoto, Japan and the PRC was not pleased.

The spokeswoman for the Chinese foreign ministry, Hua Chunying, said “the deployment of anti-missile systems in the Asia-Pacific and seeking unilateral security is not beneficial” to regional security. In an apparent reference to the Washington’s often quoted excuse of protecting against North Korean antagonism, Hu said the deployment should not be an “excuse to harm the security interests of other countries.”

The Chinese have given rather ominous warnings to South Korea not to adopt THAAD:

China has told South Korea that joining the U.S. missile defense system would cross a “red line” in their bilateral relationship.

And the PRC’s ambassador to South Korea Qiu Guohong:

“The THAAD would have a range of around 2,000 kilometers, which goes beyond the goal of countering missiles from North Korea,”

[…]

“The deployment of the THAAD will badly influence the relations between South Korea and China … It would harm China’s security system,”

Cross a “red line?”  Badly “influence” relations?  Uh, oh.  That doesn’t sound good.  South Korea, for their part, says they are not interested in THAAD because they are apparently developing their own anti-ballistic weapons system.

In Oct., 2013, South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin said South Korea would “definitely not join the U.S. missile defense system,” citing the associated costs and plans to develop South Korea’s own, similar system.

And that would be the so-called KAMD (“Korean Anti Missile Defense“) system, a mix of  Patriot  PAC-3 missiles, SM-6 and perhaps SM-3 missiles,  guided by the Israeli Green Pine radar.  There is also an apparent “indigenous” Korean anti-ballistic missile in the works, which may be similar to an Israeli Arrow type missile.

Publicly, this has been what the Korean government has said about why they may not adopt THAAD, but some Koreans are taking China’s tough talk seriously.  One of Korea’s most popular best selling authors, Kim Jin-myung, suspended all this other projects to rush and write a new novel titled “THAAD.”  According to Kim:

If it accepts the U.S. calls to deploy the anti-ballistic missile system here, he predicts, this will cost the country its No. 1 trading partner. China remains suspicious of the U.S. motive to deploy THAAD on the Korean Peninsula because it will nullify its ballistic missile system.

[China] reportedly believes that the United States seeks to encircle it.

If South Korea rejects the U.S. calls, Kim claims, it will not only lose its closest ally but also may face a catastrophic circumstance — a war on the peninsula.

A “war on the peninsula?”  A bit of hyperbole IMHO, but Kim Jin-myung says he’s not going to take a side in his novel.  He just believes there should be public discourse and concensus before the Korean government makes a decision on THAAD.

South Korea’s traditional ally the U.S. or China?  Not saying the choice is between the two here, but the choice for South Korea is getting increasingly more complex, especially in light of China’s growing economic power and influence.

(Graphic from the WSJ).

NOTE

Russia doesn’t like THAAD in Korea either.

 

WSJ: What’s the average off the street Seoulite think of Japan?

Often not discussed in many Korean blogs is what the average person off the street in Seoul thinks of such and such.  The WSJ’s Korea Realtime looks to remedy that.  The upshot?  Dokdo is ours, Japan needs to repent, but PGH needs to meet with (and talk to) Abe and an amicable relationship with Japan is important.

(Image from WSJ: Korea Realtime)

Apple cannot cure itself of its Samsung addiction

If one is to believe “a source familiar with the deal” from Korea Times, then yes.  It was announced recently that Apple and Samsung had signed a huge chip manufacturing deal for Samsung to fabricate 80% of all of Apple’s application processors (“AP” chips) by 2016.

“Apple has designated Samsung as the primary supplier of its next A-series chips powering iOS devices from 2016 as the alliance with GlobalFoundries (GF) enabled Samsung to cut off capacity risk,” a source familiar with the deal said.

It was speculated earlier this year that Apple would primarily drop Samusung as an AP chip supplier:

TSMC was expected to handle up to 70 percent of the manufacturing load, while Samsung would pick up the rest. Production problems may, however, have resulted in Samsung being removed completely from the A8 supply chain.

Samsung “being removed completely from the [Apple] supply chain” has been a fervent wish by many Apple fans since at least 2010, when they started to compete directly in smart phones.  Invariability, every year since 2010 there is always some rumor that Apple is going to drop Samsung  as a major AP chip supplier and every time that rumor ends up being false.

Part of the issue is that it is very hard to make a lot of complex chips quickly, efficiently and with very little defect rate.  Initial capital expenditures and investments are prohibitive as well.  For those type of manufacturers you have pretty much only four games in town: 1) Samsung 2) Taiwan Semiconductor (“TSMC”) 3) Globalfoundries and 4) Intel.  Of the aforementioned, Intel has very little experience in mass fabricating smart phone AP chips.  Samsung and Globalfoundries appeared to have foreseen the threat of TSMC and had thus gotten into a strategic partnership in April of this year.  This relationship seems to have paid big dividends for both companies.

MarketInsider also has interesting information on why Samsung is in a superior position:

TSMC will ramp up production of chips using 16-nnometer FinFET technology. Samsung’s technology is better in terms of efficiency and energy consumption…. Bernstein Research in a note to clients. IM Investment, a local brokerage, expects Samsung to win more orders to fabricate customized chips from Qualcomm, Nvidia and Sony, helping it generate more revenue to make up for its struggling smartphone business.

On the flip side, this would appear as if Apple is throwing Samsung a lifeline while its profitability is declining.  AP chip fabrication is difficult, but higher margin and as such is known to be among the most profitable of chip manufacturing jobs.

The Korean government’s $500 billion tax-free reunification plan

No, weed is not yet legal in Korea and yes, you heard correctly.  Tax-free.

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(Image from Abihollow via iamkoream.com)

According to Korea’s top financial regulator, Shin Je-yoon, Chairman of the Financial Services Commission (“FSC”), it will take 20 years and $500 billion USD to satisfactorily integrate North Korea into the south.  Now, this won’t be a perfect one-to-one integration mind you, but an attempt to get the north up to a level where it can operate at some workable and complimentary level with the south.

FSC’s blueprint added that the estimated sum would be sufficient to increase North Korea’s gross domestic product (GDP) per capita from last year’s $1,251 to $10,000 in 20 years. North Korea’s current GDP total of $31 billion is equivalent to South Korea’s 1971 GDP and just 2 percent of its GDP from last year.

Okay, if not taxes, then where would all the money come from?

According to Yonhap:

The FSC said state-run policy financing agencies, including the Korea Development Bank (KDB) and Korea Exim Bank, will play a major role in raising the funds, as Germany’s government-owned development bank, or the KfW, did 24 years ago.

The state agencies will take responsibility for up to 60 percent of the total expenses by running development projects in North Korea, while the rest will be raised by collecting overseas development aid (ODA) and private and public investments.

The Hani was a little more detailed:

In order to raise these funds, the government proposes to have public financial institutions find between US$250 billion and US$300 billion, 50% to 60% of the total, and to allow the private sector to invest between US$107.2 billion and US$186.5 billion in special economic zones and projects with guaranteed profitability.

The government also predicts that it can put US$100 billion of the US$330 billion in tax revenues it collects during the economic development of North Korea to use as funds for further development. These figures were calculated using the South Korean tax rate of 26%, under the assumption that North Korea will experience an average of 8% yearly growth during the first decade of development and 10% of yearly growth during the second decade. In addition, the government believes that it can secure US$17 billion of funding through overseas development aid (ODA) from other countries.

I don’t know.  Sounds a little voodoo to me and it assumes that people would want to invest in the north and that the north’s population would be stable and productive enough to draw some tax revenue to cover the spread.  Still, $250-300 billion is a lot of debt to raise and plunge into the 1960’s era relic that is today’s North Korea.

It must be said that the $500 billion estimate is at an overly optimistic the lower end of a range of assessments.  The upper range being $5 trillion.

Kim Yuna breaks-up with that hockey player dude

Yeah, what’s his name?  Ah, that’s right, Kim Won-jung.

Kim Yuna, Kim Won-jung (Newsis)

(Photo from Korea Times U.S. edition)

Kim Yuna finally took the advice of all her TMH oppas and dumped Won-jung recently.

According to Korea Times:

In August, Sgt. Kim Won-jung, while serving his mandatory military service as an athlete in the military corps, made headlines when he sustained leg injuries after getting in a car accident following a visit to a [Thai] massage parlor.

Kim Won-jung’s representatives reportedly told media the separation was due to his rehabilitation treatment and differences in personality

The Korean defense industry’s armored albatross

To much fanfare in 2007 the South Korean Agency for Defense Development (“ADD“) introduced four working prototypes of the Korean army’s next generation main battle tank- the XK-2 Black Panther.  Demonstration videos and the specifications sheet looked impressive.  It was apparently fast, mobile, powerful and well armed and armored.

The Koreans have the questionable habit of saying that a new weapons system of theirs is of “indigenous” design when the truth is far more, ah, textured.  The K-2’s main gun is a licensed German Rheinmetall L55/120mm gun design, the autoloader was based on the one in the French Leclerc, the snorkel based on the one in the Russian T-80U (a battalion’s worth of tanks given to Korea by Russia to pay off some old Cold War era debts).  The crown jewel of the technology in the K-2 was the powerplant (i.e. engine and transmission) which was the German MTU-890 1,500 hp diesel engine used to propel the four original prototypes.

The K-2 main battle tank (Yonhap file photo)

(Image from Yonhap News)

The Koreans had successfully reversed engineered, licensed and developed pretty much all the technologies to go mass production on the tank with the exception of the MTU-890 powerplant.  Doosan Infracore was tasked with developing an “indigenous” Korean version of the MTU-890.  They said it would take two years.  It ended up taking over seven.   Doosan missed deadline after deadline (Feburary 2009, October 2010, April 2013 and September 2013).  The last failed engine test in September 2013 forced ADD to deploy the first 100 tanks, starting earlier this year in June, with the German engine.

Even as of now, the engine built by Doosan isn’t on par with the German engine.  Instead of going 32 km/hour in eight seconds, it does so in nine seconds.  The military finally had to “relax” their standards.  The plan is to put the Doosan engine into the tank at some point before 2017.

An official from Hyundai Rotem [the main contractor] confirmed to IHS Jane’s that deliveries to the ROK Army of an initial batch of 100 K2s fitted with a foreign engine and transmission started in June 2014, and that subsequent batches are to be fitted with indigenous systems.  100 tanks by 2017?  Originally, there were suppose to be 660 tanks built by 2011.

In addition to being way past schedule, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the K-2 is  currently the most expensive tank in the world at about USD $8.8 million per unit.

The USKF to deactivate an entire armored brigade

This is potentially big USFK news.  The “Iron Brigade” (2nd Infantry Division’s 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team) has been in Korea since 1965 and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel approved its deactivation recently.  This has been combined with other significant USFK recent developments such as the deployment of a 1st Cavalry Division armored battalion on a rotational basis to Korea and the agreement to augment the USFK with a Korean mechanized brigade (the two units to be under the overall command of an American two star general).

Hagel said that deactivation of the 2nd ID’s 1st Armored Brigade was due to “budget cuts.”  It will be replaced by a roughly equivalent armored brigade from the 1st Cavalry Division on a nine month rotational basis.  It would appear that the rotational deployment of an armored battalion (about 1/5 the size of a brigade) was dress rehearsal for this change.

Note

The loss of the 2nd ID’s 1st Armored Brigade appears to be part of a larger downsizing of the U.S. Army.  In all the army will lose three brigade combat teams this year and seven more next year.   This represents roughly a 8-10% decline in combat effectiveness and readiness from the army’s current list of 10 active divisions.  Until recently the active U.S. Army division usually has four brigade combat teams.  Most U.S. Army divisions will now be reduced to three brigade combat teams.

“Topless” and “bottomless” pictures

The latest controversial photo in Korea has 18 modern dance students at Chonbuk National University in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province, take a “topless” photograph to commemorate their graduation.

2

(Image from ohfun.net)

So, what’s up with that one guy in the right corner?  What’s his story?

Meanwhile, in ‘Murica:

(Image from NY Daily News)

What is it?  Oh, just attention whore celebrity Kim Kardashian and her technologically enhanced butt out there to “break the internet.”

Is it sexy, funny, over-the-top?  Regardless, the internetz, armed with an iconic image, is rather creative at making hilarious fun out of it.

New WSJ series: “Office Outsider”

Are you non-Korean but working in a Korean white collar office environment?  Then you might be an “office outsider.”

(Image from the WSJ)

A non-Korean gal who worked as an English teacher for two years has gotten a job with a Korean corporation.  She thought she understood Korea as an English teacher, but working in the Korean corporate world was a whole new ball game.

My generic workstation in a room filled with cubicles could be located in any office park in North America. But my prior work experience, as well as my two years of teaching English at a middle school near Seoul, did little to prepare me for the Korean corporate sector.

[…]

When I entered the office on my first day of work, I was astonished to see formally dressed office workers standing in rows and performing calisthenics while the official exercise song (국민체조) played over the intercom.

[…]

My journey began with an interview. While I and the other candidates waited for the interview to begin, an human resources representative who was filling out personal profile questionnaires casually asked our blood type, religion, and alcohol tolerance.

[…]

I have faced some of the most curious, challenging, and unexpected experiences of my time in Korea, and my life, from enduring the months-long new employee training camp to adjusting to the office worker lifestyle. Now I am more immersed in Korean culture than I ever imagined or hoped, and the surprises just keep coming.

Calisthenics for office workers?  Questionnaires asking for blood-type and alcohol tolerance?  Everybody bowing in perfect unison?  Oh, my!

“Office Outsider” will be a bi-weekly column written by the gal in question (I am guessing she will remain anonymous?).  I’m looking forward to reading future installments.

Girl group flashes swastika-like symbol?

You be the judge:

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(Image from iamkoream.com)

This is relatively unknown girl band “Pritz” (프리츠).  It’s spelled “Pritz” because there is no “F” in Korean otherwise it would have been “Fritz.”  Uh, oh.  I think I know where this is heading.

Any ways, more information here.

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