The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

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Fun with polls and surveys!

Some interesting surveys regarding Korea and Koreans, and their relationship with other countries, have come out.

First of all let’s look at some surveys regarding Korea’s attitudes on China.  According to one sponsored by the JoongAng Ilbo and the Asan Institute of Policy Studies, South Korea’s attitudes of the PRC have improved, particularly after President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Seoul recently.  Results summarized in the graphic below:

(Graphic source from the JoongAng Ilbo)

There are however, misgivings.  Most South Koreans think China is still an economic and military threat.  Also, since most Koreans have lungs, a whopping 95%+ hates China’s most pervasive (and unwanted) export: pollution.

The good ole’ U.S. of A also gets high marks.  According to the latest Pew Research results, South Korea’s “positive” attitudes of the U.S. are in the 82% region, up from 78% in 2013, the highest they have ever been since Pew has conducted the survey.  Only the Philippines (former colony) and Israel (fellow U.S. military aid dependant) had higher rankings.  According to the Pew, South Korea’s attitudes of China are comparatively in the 56% positive territory, a rise from 46% last year.

Lastly, non-Koreans (living outside of Korea) continue to admit they have a hard time distinguishing North from South Korea.  Ah, Egypt.  Not only do they hate the U.S. more than any other country out there, but they are the worst at telling the difference between North and South Korea.

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.

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.

New Zealand MP says too many Asians at Kiwi universities

The Korean press is reporting on statements made by a Kiwi MP (Labour) Shane Jones in a speech given during his visit to Auckland University, the nation’s largest and most well-known university.
Here is the report by the New Zealand Herald.

“They (universities) tell us they don’t have enough dough so, disproportionately, they are racing into the crescent from India through to China and bringing in more and more international students. I don’t want to have a situation where there is no room for Kiwis at the intellectual inn.”

The New Zealand Herald has the following numbers :

Almost a third (1,576) are from China, with significant numbers also from Malaysia (591), the United States (529) and Korea (456).

I completely agree with him. Already the academic level of such a rural backwater of a country has been suffering, as is seen by the brain drain of its own brightest and the best. Unlike those who worry about the short-term economic aspect, I don’t think that the whole country turning into a English language school for Asians who cannot afford Europe or the US is the solution to its problems, especially at the cost of drop in the overall standards.
The more fundamental problem that needs to be considered is that countries like N.Z., Canada and even Australia – those countries which have relied on immigration-prone policies until quite recently – need to think carefully about the kind of people landscape they want for themselves. If they just want the money but not the people, then it may be far better to stick to things like niche-tourism than pimping(promoting) further education.

Noted – Roh Did It After All

President Roh  had the electronic record of the 2007 inter-Korea Summit deleted . (not to mention other missing things).

Ban Ki-moon Delivers A Message to Iceland

. . . The Snowden case is something I consider to be misuse.” The UN chief added that the opening up of digital communications should not be “misused in such a way as Snowden did” (from the Guardian)

This message came from the Secretary General while speaking to a gathering of the foreign affairs committee of the Icelandic parliament in Reykjavik on Tuesday.  This unprecedented personal comment from the Secretary General likely occurred because “Snowden identified Iceland as one of his top choices as a possible safe haven.  I wonder if the Secretary General is not delivering his opinion AND a message to the foreign affairs committee in Iceland (?).

Oddy enough, other people think that it was the NSA that “misused” their access to “digital communications”.

Something going down in Massachusets

Gunfire, explosions going on in Watertown, Massachusetts.

See also here.

Birthdays this week

I thought some of you readers might be interested in knowing that two of our long-time resident foreigners in Korea – Brother Anthony and Frederic Dustin celebrated/are celebrating their birthdays this week.  Both of these men have done a great deal for Korea -not only Korea Studies but also for their everyday acts of kindness.

Brother Anthony just had a piece come out in Korea Times a couple of days ago that I enjoyed reading.  I think it is a shame that so much of Korea’s past is being lost in the present.  Brother Anthony is also the president of the Royal Asiatic Society – Korea Branch (RAS-KB).

Fred Dustin has been – for the most part – in Korea since 1952 and lives on Korea’s self-proclaimed Hawaii of the Far East.  (I still remember the first time I went to the island with the military so many decades ago during the winter.  I was there for training and had been told it was a tropic paradise – I arrived to snow).  Mr. Dustin runs the Kimnyoung Maze Park (English tab at the top but the Korean site gives the best images of the park), cares for a large number of cats and does a lot of good work for the community that (his) modesty prevents me from going on about.

If you get a chance – come and see one of the RAS-KB’s lectures or go on one of their tours.  And speaking of tours – why don’t you visit the Kimnyoung Maze Park – the oldest maze park in Korea.  When you go to one of these events why don’t you say hi to the gentlemen and wish them a happy birthday.  Also tell them you read about them on The Hole.

Dave Brubeck, 1920 – 2012

Dave Brubeck passed away.  Brubeck was a pianist and composer who helped make jazz popular again in the 1950s and ’60s with recordings like “Time Out,” the first jazz album to sell a million copies, and “Take Five,”.  He would have been 92 this Thursday. Hats off, take five.

A Safe Fuel for Nuclear Power Plants

A safe Nuclear fuel cell

Safety checks at South Korea’s nuclear power plants could mean that there are rolling blackouts this winter as South Korea prepares for the cold season. Though there are plans to add 4,000 megawatts (MW) of power supply capacity through savings and new plants, the possibility of rolling blackouts remain.  A safer fuel source for nuclear plants, such as seen above, might help avoid blackouts.

The Government does have a plan for avoiding blackouts, of course, such as setting thermostats to 18˚ to 20˚ at home.  Considering the cooler thermostat setting and the season, playing Christmas music and drinking premium whiskey is another way to keep warm at home, making this a season to enjoy.  Cheers.

A Dangerous Place to Vacation

I occasionally hear from my family or friends “Isn’t it dangerous living so close to North Korea?” and, well, it could be given the wrong circumstances but, statistically, South Korea is, by far, more safe a place to vacation than certain other places that experience mysterious tourist deaths. Per the linked article:

. . . I used to work in Phuket in 5-star hotels and have seen it to be a common practice to poison foreigners. It has never been made public but I do know of the poisoning of an executive chef, a Swiss sales and marketing girl and a general manager who almost died… the police never took any action and neither did the owners and it was kept quiet…” You receive messages that echo your anger and frustration: “something is rotten in Thailand.” Messages that hint at cover ups and conspiracies: “Everyone blamed bug poison….but there is something scarier going on.”

Six Degrees of Separation – An Honorary Counsel of South Korea and Naughty Affairs?

It almost seems nowadays that anything involving ethics and sex can be connected to Korea within a few steps – even if things Korean are not implicated in any wrong-doing:

Jill Kelley, the Tampa socialite connected to ISAF Commander John Allen and former CIA Director David Petraeus, is an “honorary consul” of South Korea, a diplomatic official with direct knowledge of the arrangement told The Cable.

“She is an ‘honorary consul’ of the Republic of Korea,” the official said. “She assumed this position last August thanks to her good connections and network”. . . “She does not work as a real consul. They play a role to improve the relationship between the ROK and the U.S.,” . . . “Jill Kelley helped to get support for [the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement] and she arranged meetings between the ROK Ambassador to Washington and local businessmen when the ROK Ambassador visited the Tampa area.” . . . her work on behalf of the South Koreans may explain some of the 20,000 to 30,000 pages of e-mails between her and Allen that the Defense Department’s Inspector General’s office is investigating now.

Bizarre . . . and now, per the NY Times:

Ms. Kelley, whose house has been besieged by reporters and television crews, has called 911 several times to complain about snooping reporters, according to tapes and transcripts of the calls posted on the Web. In at least one call, she asked for “diplomatic protection,” saying she is an “honorary consul general,” a designation she reportedly received from South Korean diplomats.

So Korean diplomats are now involved.

Mitt Romney Style

If you don’t understand parody, just study it out and ask Psy about it.

A Warning & Reminder About Safety

This is intended as a public service, as to warn and remind people about opening their door to strangers, here in Korea.

While South Korea is a much safer place to live than many other cities I’ve lived in, there can still be problems that need to be avoided, for example: early this morning, I was awakened by the door bell and the sound of my young daughter talking to someone at the door.  When I came out, there was a man standing outside the doorway, wearing a black and white striped rugby-style shirt.  The man caught a glimpse of me and ran off.  This man claimed that he was from the water company and that there was a leak in my bathroom.

There is NO LEAK and water company workers DO NOT make house calls on Sundays nor do they show up without a prior invitation from home owners.

Bill Moyer’s interview with Chris Hedges

Bill Moyers, one of the best newsmen today, has a very deep and provocative interview (link here) with former NY Times reporter, Chris Hedges on the very dark and impending dangers of the “Inverted Totalitarianism” that is currently America and how this can impact our future and that of the world.

This is one of the finest interviews I’ve ever listened to, thus I encourage everyone to take the time and listen.  Here is one excerpt from the interview:

. . . Long-term unemployment or underemployment (USA) — you know, probably being 17 to 20 percent. This is an estimate by “The L.A. Times” rather than the official nine percent. I mean, the average worker at Wal-Mart works 28 hours a week, but their wages put them below the poverty line. Which is why when you work at Wal-Mart, they’ll give you applications for food stamps, so we can help as a government subsidize the family fortune of the Walton family.
It’s, you know these corporations know only one word, and that’s more, and because the mechanisms of governance can no longer control them, there is nothing now within the formal mechanisms of power to stop them from the creating, essentially, a corporate oligarchic state.
BILL MOYERS . . . and you say, though, we are accomplices in our own demise. Explain that paradox; that corporations are causing this, but we are cooperating with them.
CHRIS HEDGES This sort of notion that the corporate value of greed is good. I mean, these deformed values have sort of seeped down within the society at large and they’re corporate values, they’re not American values.
I mean, American values were effectively destroyed by Madison Avenue when, after world war one, it began to instill consumption as a kind of inner compulsion, but old values of thrift, of self-effacement, or hard work were replaced with this cult of the “self”, this hedonism, and in that sense, you know, we have become complicit, because we’ve accepted this as a kind of natural law and the acceptance of this kind of behavior, and even the celebration of it. is going to ultimately trigger our demise. Not only as a culture, not only as a country, but finally as a species that exists, you know, on planet Earth.

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