Category Archives: Uncategorized

It’s Getting Worse, If That Is Possible: JPY/KRW is Killing JapanInc

Could It Get Any Worse? Apparently, Yes
Toyota’s profits have plunged, and the Japanese giant has refused to release financial projections due to the supply-chain disruptions that have resulted from the tragic earthquake. The Financial Times article also briefly mentions Hyundai-Kia, and the tremendous market share growth over the past year. The Japanese auto-manufacturers vs Korean ones is being dictated by Korea, helped by the continuing strength in the JPY, and most particularly, the strong JPY/KRW exchange rate.

Earthquake is a Double Whammy for Toyota, et al
In addition to the massive infra-structure problems caused by the earthquake, the devastation has led to another phenomenon that also weakens JapanInc: Yen repatriation. What the (%*!@$ is Yen repatriation? Well, Japanese insurance companies, and Japanese corporations will require Yen in order to pay for insurance claims and the rebuilding effort. In order to raise that amount of Japanese currency, Japanese entities will need to liquidate their Euro, USD-denominated assets, and convert them to Yen. This will increase demand for the Yen vis-a-vis other currencies. Increased demand will create higher prices for the Yen, simple as that. Stronger Yen results in more expensive Japanese products on the international marketplace, and lower profits for Japanese companies. The Seoul Gyopo Guide has pointed out this single fact as an important factor in explaining Korea’s continued economic strength since the financial crisis. Many Korean corporations have taken full advantage of this, although a near-incredible 36% still believe that the KRW is still too strong.

The Bank of Korea Gets Wiggle Room
It is obvious: the Bank of Korea has acted to keep the Korean Won weaker than it would otherwise be in the international marketplace. The BOK has had a difficult task in balancing uncertainties within Korea against rising, and perhaps even accelerating, inflation. However, with JapanInc’s continued challenges, the Bank of Korea can allow the Korean Won to rise yet further in order to ease the inflationary pressures on everyday Koreans, while not raising interest rates which would hurt other areas of the Korean economy. Simply refraining from open market selling of the Korean Won will do the trick. This will not ease inflation overnight: there is no silver bullet. However, this is the most prudent course of action so that the Bank of Korea can pay attention to the different aspects of Korea’s economy, companies and people alike.

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What’s a “gyopo” anyways?

For those who are not Korean, “gyopo” is a strange sounding word
Simply put, gyopo is someone of Korean descent that originates outside of Korea.  This LA Times article, written almost exactly a year ago, describes a writer’s view of what being a gyopo in Korea is like.  Personally, I found the article very different from my own experiences.  Here is what I found.

Native Koreans Aren’t Angry That Gyopos Aren’t Fluent in Korean
In the LA Times article, this quote appeared.

Kang said many South Koreans expect gyopo to possess considerable cultural and linguistic competency. As a result, he said, “the number of culture clashes and number of taxi drivers yelling at these kids is legendary.”

I never found this to be the case in many years while living in Korea.  Instead, I simply said, in broken Korean, something that translates to “I am sorry but my Korean is not good.  I am an American, and studied Korean.”  Most frequently, the answer I received was “Your Korean is good.  (It isn’t)”  The notion that taxicab drivers in Korea are more rude than in other nations is a strange one:  Korean cab drivers are the same as any other countries’ cab drivers.  Some are nice, some are not.  Uh, that sounds like Korean cab drivers are humans.

Certain Natives Are Jealous Which Looks Like Anger
Native Koreans less confident in themselves may seem condescending to gyopos.  In this respect, the article is quite true.  However, I would suggest that it is really due to the fact that many Koreans, especially Korean ajummas, are particularly sensitive due to the fact that a gyopo has lived outside of Korea, which is where they want to send their children.   I have been talked about (in Korean) by certain people in Korea, who mocked my broken Korean, with comments like “I have a degree from the U.S. also.”  Those people are in the minority.

Gyopos Are Unfairly Treated By Hagwons/English Education Providers
Now this, I cannot understand.  The article is correct:  gyopos are disqualified from many English teaching roles.  My post regarding this topic is here.  It merely points out one thing:  Korea still has a long way to go to be a true meritocracy.  While no nation is perfect, this is a societal issue, in my view. 

Why Does Any of This Matter?
Korea is small geographically, and has a relatively small population.  Therein lies the problem.  As many people know, Jewish people around the world influence a great amount of financial capital throughout the world.  One day, I was asked by a Jewish friend of mine, “How many Jews in the world do you think there are?”  Embarrassingly, I believed the number was approximately 50,000,000, similar to the population of South Korea.  WRONG.  At that time, there were 7,000,000.  Do you think that this amount of clout was earned by 7,000,000 people all acting independently?  WRONG AGAIN.  Does this mean that all 7,000,000 are friends?  Most definitely not.
Why would I make a comparison to the Jewish population?  Well, the Jewish population is under constant threat of extinction and has survived many threats throughout history.  Holocaust survivors (yes, there was such a thing) are still living today.  Jews have been subjected to prison based on race, and lived through war. Does this sound like any other group of people?  You bet:  Koreans.
Of course, there is competition among individuals.  That is natural.  However, the fact that there is this stigma of being a gyopo, and that it would potentially prevent cooperation amongst a people that are already small in population, is another example of how Korea still hasn’t reached its full capacity.

Conclusions
The debate about the quality of a gyopo’s life in Korea isn’t going to end anytime soon.  For each anecdote, there will be another, contradictory one.  To stereotype however, is dangerous, and limits Korea’s progress. Surprisingly, I get asked the question “What is it like to be a gyopo in Korea?”  If you look on the internet, you will find that same question.  That it is an issue should tell readers that some gyopos have felt unfairly treated.  Even though I have not felt, overall, that this is the case. Unfortunately, it is clear that some gyopos have.

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TV과 영화로 영어 익숙할 수 있다. FREE Videos on Demand

Learning English Through Entertainment #4:  Free Videos on Demand
Pop culture starts and ends in America, and as a result, one excellent way of knowing how language is used, what the implication of a phrase is, or if you want to relate to others who speak English, then knowing scenes where a famous phrase is coined, what movie, and the circumstance, is very helpful.

Directions
Just go to the lower right part of this page.  There is a small window called “Free Video on Demand.”  If you are in the U.S. then you can simply access this for free.  If you are outside the U.S., then you may need to first connect through a proxy website.  Just type “proxy website” in Google, and you will find a lot of sites that you can use.

If there are questions and/or suggestions, post them here.

Please “Like” this post and/or follow me on Twitter.

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What Did You Expect? Wikileaks strikes South Korea.

What Did You Expect?  Wikileaks strikes South Korea.
Over the past few days, WikiLeaks has revealed embarrassing facts about South Korean diplomats, and South Korean diplomacy.  Among the embarrassing facts, name-calling of Chinese diplomats is probably the worst, especially given the fact that China is a necessary participant in calming the current North-South Korean situation.  Although the Seoul Gyopo Guide believes that the Korea Herald article overstates the idea of panic among South Korean governmental officials, it is true that Korean diplomacy will need to adapt to the idea that it will be scrutinized to a far higher degree in the future.

New Position, New Responsibilities
The reason that Korea must adapt to a higher level of scrutiny?  Its higher position the global pecking order among nations.  Asia clearly is a focal point of the global economy, with China being the obvious center.  South Korea plays a critical role because for the economic links between the two countries.  Korea was able to secure its position as the host of the G20 Summit.  Goldman Sachs has postulated that South Korea could have the largest per-capita GDP in the world in the decades to come. 
The themes are not new.  South Korea has not behaved with consistency in many areas.  If Korea wants to receive global respect, then it must behave with the same set of rules that apply to the other global leaders.  It will need to accept the same scrutiny that Japan, the U.S., and the EC receive.
The press will also need to behave responsibly.  To characterize the South Korean government’s reaction as panic is an overreaction, and makes it appear to readers that the South Korean government is incompetent.  The reaction of President Lee has been very competent under very difficult circumstances.  South Korea has everything to lose and nothing to gain from increased geopolitical tensions. It must remain wary of North Korea’s “puncher’s chance” if there were a military conflict.  There are 25 million South Koreans well within a 90 minute tank ride from the DMZ.  Yet, the Korean President must protect the nation’s citizens, and the world will support any nation that defends the physical well-being of its people.   

Conclusion
The rules are difficult but it runs both ways.  Korea’s greater stature in the world will be accompanied by greater scrutiny.  All parties will need to adjust to this new set of rules and quickly, in order to keep pace with the quality of Korean-made products and companies on the global stage.

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Political Science Experts Are Frothing at the Mouth: The Korean Conflict Takes Center Stage

Political Science Experts Are Frothing at the Mouth:  The Korean Conflict Takes Center Stage

It has been the opinion of the Seoul Gyopo Guide that war on the Korean peninsula was, is, and will be highly unlikely. The bottom line is that Korea isn’t the appropriate forum for a war, given South Korea’s position in the world economy:  it is the U.S.’ 7th largest trade partner, and China relies on South Korea for the technology transfer necessary in a large number of industries in order to continue the economic development of the world’s most populous nation.  Nevertheless, it is still a fact that anything can happen, and this post examines some of those scenarios.

Is this China’s handiwork?
Although this is unlikely, it has been suggested by some that China is behind the North Korean provocations.  If in fact this were the case, then the chance that this is actually a precursor to an all-out military conflict drops to nearly zero.  The reason?  China relies on South Korea in two ways.  First, China is a large exporter of consumer goods to South Korea.  The products range from agricultural products, seafood products, to everyday goods.  Second, Korean companies are enormous investors in China.  If you go to Beijing, you will see that all of the largest conglomerates (e.g. Samsung, LG, SK) have satellite headquarters there.  Hyundai Motors has joint ventures in China, where Chinese companies are “learning” from their Korean counterparts.  In short, the idea that China would support a military conflict would jeopardize, in part, Chinese economic development.  While the idea that the Chinese military is provoking skirmishes throughout the region in order to flex its muscles may be true, the Seoul Gyopo Guide believes that these priorities are subordinate to the importance of economic development.  In November 30th’s UK newspapers The Financial Times and The Guardian, it has been reported via Wikileaks that the PRC has been frustrated with North Korea, and not in collaboration with it.

Does the North Korean Military Approve of Kim Jong-Un?
It is well-known that military conflicts have occurred throughout history when the parties misunderstand the rules of engagement.  Now, rules of engagement means all of the different levels of engagement, i.e. political, economic and military.  One could postulate that as the transition of power in North Korea occurs, that some party, like the North Korean military, could choose to take matters into its own hands, and ignite a military conflict.  This is the one scenario which could actually be realized and must be closely monitored.  Surely, leaders of all parties are aware of global history, and are watching this transition of power carefully.  A great deal of resources have been used by NATO during the Cold War in order to prevent an “accidental war” resulting either from misunderstanding at any level.  The reason?  During the Cuban Missile Crisis and subsequent release of documents from the Kremlin, it is clear to us now that the world was much closer to the brink of a catastrophe than originally thought.  That history does not repeat itself must be the highest priority on the Korean peninsula.

Greater Leverage During Negotiations?  Most Probably.
There were supposed to be new negotiations amongst parties regarding the North Korean nuclear weapons program.   At the same time, a new nuclear facility in North Korea has been revealed.  To make each of these matters worse, there is no sign of respite from the seemingly endless economic decline of North Korea.  The bottom line is that North Korea needs more leverage when sitting at a negotiation table.  With little else to offer, North Korea has had almost no other choice than to use provocation in order to wrench concessions from South Korea and the U.S.  Its economy needs help, and needs it 20 years ago.  Knowing that South Korea has too much to lose should there be a war, North Korea can squeeze aid and other concessions.  As long as the North Korean nuclear program does not include the sale of sensitive nuclear technology to others, then it is political reality that at this point, there is little that can be done to dissuade North Korea from this path, given its dire economic needs.  The North Korean ideological bluster and other manouvers?  Most probably a smokescreen to increase its leverage to receive financial assistance, while maintaining its public stance to the world, and perhaps most importantly, its kool-aid drunken citizens.

But Still, Anything Can Happen…
While the Seoul Gyopo Guide continues to dismiss the ideas that war is anything other than a very low-probability event, it is true that anything can happen.  It can happen by error.  It can happen by miscalculation.  It can happen even if the best intentions exist.  So unfortunately, all parties will need to use financial and political resources that could be otherwise deployed.  Given the economic and social problems that originally existed, and remain, that may be the largest price being paid at the moment (aside from the 2 South Koreans that were part of the South Korean Navy, and the innocents on Yeonpyong Island).  The Seoul Gyopo Guide mourns their senseless loss.

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