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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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”
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 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.
Another body was discovered after 102 days since the last body was discovered (and 195 days since the disaster). There are still nine bodies unaccounted for: seven men and three women. Three of the missing are students from Danwon High School and a woman in her 50s.
Relatives of the nine that are still missing are considering raising the ship, which would effectively end the search and recovery process. The search process is expensive, costing as much as $285k USD a day. However, the area contains strong currents which may have carried the bodies away so some of them may never be found.
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.
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.
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.
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.