The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

Author: WangKon936 (page 1 of 38)

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.

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(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.

Breaking: Former Sewol captain gets 36 years

The verdict is in.  It’s not death but 36 years.

(Yonhap)

(Image from Korea Times)

I wonder if he’s eligible for parole?

Also, sentences were handed to the other 14 crew members:

In the same ruling, the Gwangju District Court sentenced the ship’s chief engineer, only identified by his surname Park, to 30 years in prison, convicting him of murder.

Prison terms ranging from five years to 20 years were delivered to 13 other crew members, including the first engineer surnamed Sohn, who have been charged with abandonment and violation of a ship safety act.

In other Sewol news, it was officially announced yesterday that the active search and recovery of missing bodies has ended.

Languages spoken in North and South Korea diverging?

Perhaps, so.  Well, when a language has been separated for 66 some odd years, there is a danger of that happening.

Apparently, North Korean defectors are complaining that the language spoken in the South has enough differences that it makes integration more difficult.  One defector claims that the language of the South is “completely different.”

This issue isn’t a new one.  There have been attempts by various individuals to come up with joint dictionaries, but the two governments haven’t been as cooperative.

Aside from difficulties for North Korean defectors is the larger issue of divergent diplomatic language.  The North have a different academic heritage than the South with many Soviet and German Marxist loan words entering their scholarly vernacular, whereas the South has kept many Japanese derived Chinese academic words and have adopted many German legal terms and English loan words.  The North has “purified” their language of Sino-Japanese words and haven’t adopted any English loan words (except for those that may have entered via the Russian route).

 

Hyundai and Kia to pay U.S. EPA fines for bogus fuel efficiency claims

Back when the Hyundai Sonata (6th generation) and Kia Optima (3rd generation) came out in around 2010 in the U.S. both Hyundai and Kia claimed miles per gallons “EPA” estimates of 35 mpg on the highway.  They ended up being about 8% wrong.  The actual EPA mpg estimates should have been 33.

Both Hyundai and Kia did try to make amends by giving their customers a gas card credit, however the EPA just handed the two Korean car companies a fine of $100 million, forfeiture of $200 million in greenhouse gas emissions credits they didn’t rightfully earn and mandated that they spend $50 million on measures to prevent future violations.  The total of $350 million in fines sounds like a light tap on the wrist monetarily, but does have the auspicious distinction of being the largest such fine in EPA history.

To be fair other car companies have been shown to fudge their EPA estimates, but Hyundai/Kia’s discretion is over a longer list of cars affected and non-hybrids as well.

Hyundai denies any wrong doing and claimed that:

… test engineers in Korea made ”an honest mistake” due to a “procedural error”

외국 남자들 (foreign men) portrayed as [completely normal] boyfriends?

A rather progressive yogurt commercial:

Commentary and background information given by James Turnbull over at The Grand Narrative.

Are South Koreans ignorant?

Ipsos Mori, a U.K. market research company has come up with an “ignorance” index of the world’s 14 most developed countries.  In defining “ignorance” Ipsos came up with nine questions about the 14 countries in the survey and asked an appropriate sample size of citizens of each country the nine questions about their respective country.

The results?

Ipsos MORI Perils of Perception: Index of Ignorance

(Image from Ipsos)

The questions were basic social facts about each country such as the rate of teen births, people over the age of 65, immigration rates, life expectancy, etc.  I took the test (available here) for both the U.S. and South Korean and I got a seven and eight out of nine questions right, respectively.

Japan (number 12) appears to blow Korea out of the water here.  Italy isn’t that surprising.  The U.S. at number two isn’t terribly surprising either, unfortunately.  Sweden, as usual in these type of indexes, outperforms.

A couple of Sewol updates

A few Sewol odds and ends that happened over the past couple of days:

UPDATE

The remains of the latest victim turned out to be that of 17 year old girl Hwang Ji-hyeon, an 11th-grade student from Danwon High School.  Her parents said her body was discovered on her 18th birthday.

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.

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