The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

Author: WangKon936 (page 2 of 38)

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.

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!?

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