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Korea... in Blog Format

Author: WangKon936 (page 2 of 35)

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.”

Donald Sterling and the Koreans

The news in the U.S. that’s been the subject of water cooler talk is the National Basketball Association banning the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, Donald Sterling, from the sport for racist comments he said about African Americans and Latinos.  Recorded by his mistress/girl friend (I’m not sure what to call her because Donald is still legally married) V. Stiviano, and somehow distributed to media gossip blog TMZ, Donald apparently admitted his belief that both African Americans and Latinos were racially inferior to Whites.

The NBA is also going to force Sterling to try and sell his team, but Donald is expected to fight this legally.  Apparently, the NBA, as it is a private organization, can ban members for beliefs contrary to the organization’s mission.

So, why blog about it here?  Somehow the Koreans got dragged into this.  You see Donald has made most of his money through commercial and residential real estate.  He also manages the properties that he owns.  Many of his buildings are in Los Angeles’ Koreatown and there have been ongoing allegations that he favors Korean tenants over African American or Latino tenants.

So, leave it to Slate to capitalize on this racial train wreck with an article entitled, “What Donald Sterling’s Love Of Koreans Reveals About Racism In America.”

… here’s another piece to Sterling’s warped worldview, one that illustrates the bizarre and incoherent ways in which racism works. As Sterling allegedly schemed to rid his properties of certain racial minorities, he sought to fill his development with Koreans, an ethnic group he valorized as hardworking and reliable.

Sterling did not take a passive approach to attracting Korean tenants. He changed the name of one of his buildings to “Korean World Towers,” adorned his buildings with Korean flags, and explicitly stated a preference for “Koreans” in his housing ads.

I’m not sure if this article will be remembered in the same breath as other seminal works on race relations, but it is certainly popular.  553 comments and counting on Slate’s site as of 6:28 am GMT.

The U.S. must help mediate between Korea and Japan

So, says Gi-Wook Shin and Daniel C. Sneider over at Foreign Affairs magazine. Shin and Sneider are Director and Associate Director of the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford University.

You need to register (it’s free for three article views a month) to see the whole article, but here are a few slices:

Japan and South Korea have made repeated efforts over the past two decades to resolve their wartime history issues, but progress has always proved short-lived. South Korean officials now openly plead for the United States to step in. 

[...]

Even so, China’s bid for regional domination makes it nearly impossible for the United States to continue to stay out of the fray…. By taking a leading role in dealing with the wartime past, the United States could make it difficult for Beijing to use it for political gain.

[...]

The oft-stated notion that the United States has no responsibility for history issues is a convenient myth. The United States made several key decisions right after the war that laid the groundwork for the current dispute. These range from its decision to put aside the issue of the emperor’s responsibility to its efforts to rehabilitate nationalist conservatives — including Abe’s grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, the wartime minister in charge of Japan’s military industry — to counter Japan’s leftward drift, all of which undermined efforts within Japan to make a clear break with the past...

[...]

Such decisions made sense in the context of the Cold War because of the imperatives of the struggle against the Soviet and Chinese Communists. But they don’t anymore, and it is incumbent on the Untied States to help the region reconcile its past once and for all.

Here is a more moderate appeal (i.e. largely not involving the U.S.) by Ogata Sadako, former president of Japan International Cooperation Agency, Han Sung-Joo, former foreign minister of South Korea and Ezra F. Vogel, professor emeritus at Harvard University, in last Friday’s Washington Post opinion section.

Is Newsweek owned by a Korean Christian?

Newsweek, like many old traditional print news sources, is getting hammered by declining readership and circulation.  In August 2013, dying Newsweek was sold to International Business Times (“IBT”).

So, who owns IBT?  Apparently, it is a privately owned enterprise with two main shareholders, founders Etienne Uzac and Johnathan Davis.  However, there has been a wealth of information uncovered that IBT, and its founders, have very close ties with Olivet University founder David Jang.  Olivert is a Christian evangelical university and David Jang is a evangelical Christian leader who may have controversial religious and secular views.  Billy Graham’s Christianity Today accuses Jang of unorthodox religious views such as Jang claiming to be the second coming of Christ.

Of course, when one links “second coming of Christ” and “Korean religious leader” the first thing one may think of is the late Unification Church leader Sun Myung Moon.  The Guardian actually tries to link Jang with the Moonies, whereas Mother Jones thinks the link is now dead (David Jang went to Moonie meetings when he was younger, but now rejects that church and its teachings).  A cursory review of Olivet University’s mission statement would also indicate that its theology is not compatible with the Unification Church.

Anyways, what’s really gotten the press riled up is the possible association of a stalwart of left leaning news to right leaning religious organizations.  Both Jang and the founders of IBT appear to support controversial anti-gay conversion therapies, where individuals go through programs to reduce same sex attraction and increase opposite sex attraction.

Disclaimer: “Very close ties” and “Legal ownership stake” are two very different things.  Currently, there is no conclusive proof that Jang owns IBT.  The connections are certainly deep and “interesting,” and may be more so as this story develops.

Korean words starting to get loaned into Chinese

I would be the first person to admit many Chinese loan words have made it into Korean.  However, it’s interesting when there are reports that the reverse is happening.

The Chosun Ilbo reports that due to the popularity of Korean dramas in China, Korean terms such as “oppa” (오빠) and “ajumma” (아줌마) are entering Chinese popular vernacular.  The Chinese, however, are putting different meanings behind the words.  오빠, which in Korean can mean anything from a female’s older brother to a female’s older male friend or even boyfriend/lover, has adopted the Chinese characters “,” pronounced “ou-pa” in Mandarin and the meaning of “…amorous feelings toward the subject.”

Ajumma/아줌마?  Well, the Chinese already has a popular word for “auntie,” (阿姨/āyí in Mandarin) the rough equivalent of “아줌마” so it’s adopted the meaning of “…to refer to tough women.”

The Philippines officially orders 12 F/A-50s

The Filipino air force is a joke.  The last jet fighters they had were the old F-5 Freedom Fighters that they retired in 2005.  Even their Defense Secretary teased, “Our Air Force… [is]… all air without force.”

China lays claim to much of the South China Sea (particularly the Spratly Islands) and have routinely violated the Philippines’ territorial claims with both military aircraft and ships.  As of now, the Filipinos have nothing to send in response, other than unintimidating prop planes, patrol boats and antiquated destroyers.  Although the Filipinos do not officially acknowledge they are seeking weapons to counter Chinese incursions, they are essentially trying to obtain specific weapons to counter Chinese incursions.

Yesterday, the Philippines and Korea signed a contract to provide 12 F/A-50 light fighter-bombers, within 38 months, for about $420 million.  As both a war capable plane and a trainer is it the be all and end all for what the Philippines needs to counter China?  No.  But, the Philippines is not a rich country and cannot afford to buy and maintain more capable planes such as Saab’s Gripen, the F-16C (Block 40 or better), the Sukhoi Su-27, etc.  Plus, they are nine years out of practice in flying jet fighters and probably couldn’t use top-of-the line planes to their fullest capabilities because they have no training infrastructure.  The Filipinos themselves acknowledge that the F/A-50 was the best they can do for now.

Manila buys fighter jets worth $520m

(Photo credit: Oman Daily Observer)

Predictably, the Chinese were not happy with this news.  Rumor has it (from the Chosun Ilbo via the Yomiuri Shimbun) that a “Chinese official” made a request to the Park administration to not sell the jets, which Korea reportedly ignored.

So, what could the Chinese hypothetically send against Filipino F/A-50s?  It would have to have long range, so probably Sukhoi Su-27s or Sukhoi Su-30MKK.  Head to head does an F/A-50 have a snowball’s chance in hell against an Su-30MMK?  Most likely not.  An Su-30 is faster, more powerful, has advanced beyond visual range (“BVR”) missiles and sensor driven helmet mounted displays that control “off-boresight” weapons.  However, the F/A-50 has something that may save it: Link-16.  The Philippines are buying long range ground based radars that they will station near the Spratlys.  If linked with the F/A-50s then they can see Chinese planes before Chinese planes can see them, thus giving the F/A-50s a fighting chance, particularly if they are armed with their own BVR missiles.

Lastly, as I had mentioned before, the procurement pattern for the T-50 family of jets appears to belie the fact that it was originally designed as a trainer.  The customers (namely Iraq and the Philippines) want this supposed “trainer” to fight.  As a cheap jet fighter in a “stop gap” role it may not be all that bad.  Smaller and poorer nations don’t have a lot of choices.  Back in the Cold War the Soviets and the Americans sold their poorer client states cheap and easy to maintain Mig-21 Fishbeds and F-5 Freedom Fighters.  America and Russia don’t offer these planes (or modern facsimiles) anymore so there is a market need.  At the end of the day the T-50 family might be a better 21st century F-5 than a 21st century version of a T-38.

Next up?  KAI is pitching the T-50 family to the UAE, PeruBotswana, Thailand, not to mention the U.S. T-X program (in conjunction with Lockheed).

Andrei Lankov: North Korea can feed itself

Surprise, surprise, by and large yes says Andrei Lankov.  We here at TMH haven’t quoted or linked to Dr. Lankov for awhile since his regular Korea Times column ceased.  It doesn’t mean he isn’t eminently quotable or linkable.  It’s just been harder to find his latest musings without a regular column to go to.

Andrei appears to be freelancing more nowadays: Asia Times, Russia Beyond the Headlines and Al Jazeera.  Yes, Al Jazeera.  Andrei’s latest piece is in today’s Al Jazeera editorial section where he makes the claim that North Korea isn’t starving and can in fact feed itself:

One of the most commonly cited cliches is that North Korea is a “destitute, starving country”. Once upon a time, such a description was all too sadly correct: In the late 1990s, North Korea suffered a major famine that, according to the most recent research, led to between 500,000 and 600,000 deaths. However, starvation has long since ceased to be a fact of life in North Korea.

[...]

The gradual improvement in the food situation is closely related to changes in other areas of North Korea’s economic life. Contrary to what a majority of lay people tend to believe, the last decade has been one of moderate economic growth north of the DMZ.

Quest for the T-X Holy Grail

The original rational for Korea Aerospace and Lockheed’s cooperation in developing the T-50 was to build a trainer that could qualify for the “whale” or “mother lode” account: America’s replacement for the venerable, but older than dirt, T-38 Talon.

KAI and Lockheed’s chief rival has always been Alenia Aermacchi’s M-346 Master.  In the global pre-battles between KAI and Alenia Aermacchi there have been wins and losses.  Alenia drew first blood with a win in Singapore.  Then KAI won an order from Indonesia.  Alenia won Israel.  KAI got a big order from Iraq.  Alenia won a modest order from Poland.  KAI is apparently dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s with the Philippines.  It’s been back and forth for the past four years.

However, all this is early dress rehearsal for the estimated 350 new jet trainers that the U.S. Air Force will need.  This is, to say the least, a huge account, that neither side can afford to lose, thus both are playing to win.  Alenia has partnered with General Dynamics, one of the largest U.S. based aerospace companies, and has offered to manufacture the M-346 at General Dynamics’ plants in Arizona and North Carolina.  Needless to say the Koreans and Lockheed are probably dreaming up the same manufacturing arrangement in order to buyrecruit the support of influential Congressman.

Today’s Flightglobal has an excellent summary analysis (with a lot of pretty pictures) of the upcoming battle:

Richard Aboulafia, vice-president of analysis at Teal Group, calls the KAI/Lockheed T-50 Golden Eagle the “most capable” option – but also probably the most expensive to buy and operate. Lockheed declines to discuss prices, but Aboulafia estimates the T-50’s flyaway cost will be $26 million per aircraft.

[...]

The T-50, which has been in service since the mid-2000s, can reach Mach 1.5 and pull 8g, Lockheed says. The type’s single General Electric F404 engine also has an afterburner. “If the [USAF] has the budget, and they want [pilots] to [transition] easily into an F-22 or F-35, the T-50 is the choice,” says Aboulafia.

The BAE/Northrop Hawk option is the cheapest at an estimated $21 million per, but they are clearly the dark horse in this fight.  The Alenia Aermacchi option is in the middle at an estimated $24 million per.

Aboulafia says Alenia Aermacchi’s T-100 – a derivative of its M-346 trainer – holds the middle ground. The aircraft are “very modern”, have “great flying characteristics” and will likely cost about $24 million each, he estimates. The M-346 (below) is powered by two Honeywell F124-200 turbofans, can pull 8g and reach 590kt at 5,000ft (1,520m), according to Alenia Aermacchi.

[...]

“It’s a good compromise,” says Aboulafia of the T-100. “The market has spoken to that. Israel and Singapore [are] two of the most prestigious militaries around.”

Here is a blog with an interesting (but technical) specification comparison between the two jets.

It will be an interesting, hard fought battle between the two.  I am not normally a betting man, but looking at the selection process I would say that the M-346 Master has the edge if a pure trainer is what you are looking for.  Key U.S. allies with similar air power doctrines have the M-346 or have it on order (Singapore, Poland and Israel).  Out of all the KAI wins, only Indonesia has selected the T-50 as a pure trainer.  The procurement history would favor the M-346 and imply that the T-50 a bit of an underdog.  However, as it often happens, the USAF may want the “Cadillac” option and if so, then that would give the T-50 the edge.

USAF%20T-50.jpg

(Photo credit: Flightglobal)

Lockheed says Korea officially selecting the F-35

In a drawn out courtship affair with more twists and turns than Luke and Laura, Ross and Rachel, or even 길라임 and 김주원, it looks like Korea has finally pulled the trigger on officially picking a winner for their F-X (phase 3) bid.  The results were a bit of a forgone conclusion after the F-15SE was rejected last year, but (drum roll, please) the ROK has selected Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightening II.

According to a Lockheed’s press release:

 The Republic of Korea has formally announced its decision to procure the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II aircraft for its F-X fighter acquisition program.

[...]

Following a comprehensive evaluation process for their F-X program, the Republic of Korea becomes the third Foreign Military Sales country to procure the F-35, joining Israel and Japan who selected the F-35A in 2010 and 2011, respectively.

My thoughts?  Personally, I am not too enthusiastic regarding the F-35.  Much of the independent press has been bad.  The Aussies don’t think it’s all that stealthy.  The think tank Rand Corporation doesn’t think it’s all that maneuverable and is underpowered to boot.  The Australians needed a lot of convincing and are still not completely on board yet.  The Canadians are wavering.  Even an American general made the amazing admission that the F-35 might not be all that useful without an F-22 riding shotgun (i.e. watching its “6″) for it.

Well, the Korean government originally wanted the F-15SE.  It was the Korean air force that insisted on the F-35 (particularly a few dodgy ex-generals).

The good news is that the ROK’s purchase should make unit costs lower (via “economies of scale”) for the U.S. and her participating allies.  Lockheed will apparently provide some (potentially restricted?) unspecified technical help for the development of the KF-X.  I’m sure there are plenty of people in Ft. Worth, Texas happy with the order, not to mention Lockheed shareholders.

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