Last two weeks in Korea (Jul 25, 2011)

1. National
1) Japan bans its government official from using Korean Air
The Japanese foreign ministry requested its official not to use Korean Air for one month from July 18 to protest against Korean Air’s test fling of its new Airbus A380 last month over Dokdo(Takeshima to Japanese) located in East Sea (Sea of Japan). On June 17, Korean Air launched an Incheon-Tokyo route with the A380, and a day earlier conducted a two-hour test flight of the A380 carrying journalists from Inchon to over Dokdo. A Korean government official said “Dokdo is Korea’s territory historically, geographically and according to international law, and there is no problem flying our nation’s plane over our territory.” As Japanese diplomats usually ride Japanese airliners, the real impact from the “No Korean Air” measure is not expected to be significant.

The issue of who owns Dokdo(Takeshima) is very sensitive to both Koreans and Japanese, and is a major hurdle in their effort for better friendship. One peaceful solution would be a 12 round boxing match between Lee Myungbak and Kan Naoto. If Lee wins, Dokdo belongs to Korea permanently. If Lee gets knocked out, well, Dokdo still belongs to Korea…….

2) A high rise building rocks to Tae Bo
Thousands of people in the 39-story TechnoMart building in Seoul had to be evacuated for two days when upper 19 floors of the building shook up and down heavily for 10 minutes on July 5. It was a mystery as there was no earthquake, no shabby building construction, or any other suspect that could cause the building to vibrate so immensely. It was found out last week that 17 people exercising Tae Bo were the culprit. Investigator noticed that the vibrometer on the 38th floor suddenly started moving violently when a group of 23 recruited people for the simulation started jumping around in the fitness center on the 12th floor. Investigators said when the natural frequency of vibration of the building matched the frequency of Tae Bo jumping, it gave a big shock to the building because of phenomenon resonance.

The TechoMart was O.K because the vibration was from a few skinny people exercising Tae Bo. Could have been a disaster if it were a bunch of Japanese sumo wrestlers hopping and jumping in anger over Dokdo ownership.

2. Economy
1) Private school whistle blowers make a lot of money
The Ministry of Education said a 37 year old lady became the second-most paid “hagparazzi’, a portmanteau of hagwon(cram schools) and paparazzi to refer to those who report illegal hagwon activities. The Hagwon Law restricts hagwons from holding classes after mid-night and requires the cram schools to abide by the fees they have listed on the web sites of education.  The lady said she has accumulated over 200 million won ($188,600) during the past two years as a hagparazzi. Her golden method is simple. She conceals a hidden camera inside her bag, and she asks hagwon official specific questions to reveal their late-night programs and program fees. She then walks to the Ministry of Education to collect the prize. To produce more whistle blowers, the ministry recently launched classes on how hot become professional hagparazzi.

Obama has often publically praised Korean educational system as he thought it was the key to the miracle of Korean economy. Obama probably didn’t know about the price Koreans had to pay in this education system.  Many students have to leave home around 6:30am, and come home 2:00am the following day, after regular school and hagwon.  Many parents are spending about 30 to 40 percent of their income for their kids’ education. An example? The person writing this Korea update his second son in 2010 when the son was studying hard to enter a university in Korea.

3. Auto Industry
Police arrested 62 Hyundai workers in Ulsan plant over illegal multi-million dollar gambling on the internet during work hours.  There were 13 former and current labor union officials among the arrested. According to the police, the Ulsan workers repeatedly placed bets on illegal internet sports and horse racing games during office hours between Jan 2009 and May 2010, using computers in a staff lounge in the plant. The average amount gambled over the cited period came to 300 million won ($284,171), according to the arrest warrants. One of them placed as many as 700 bets during the period.

Who are the people working in a paradise? Unionized production worker in Hyundai and Kia.  They get a lot of wage, be the last to leave the company even if the company goes down the tube, work in production line that turned into a newspaper proof reading room. Free unlimited access to gambling devices, to boot.

2) JTEKT builds a bearing plant in Korea
JTEKT, a parent company of Koyo Bearings, is building a new bearing plant in Pyeongtaek with 17 million dollar (1.3 billion yen) investment for production launch in the fall of 2012.  JTEKT currently manufactures bearings in Tokushima and ship them to Korea for final assembly in the joint venture company with JICO, Korea’s largest water pump maker.  JTEKT’s Pyeongtaek plant will be competing against NSK Korea  which has been running a plant in Korea for many years. 

Here are a few reasons why JTEKT is building a plant in Korea. Commitment for localization with Hyundai.  Lower manufacturing cost. Korea’s FTA with EU that went effective from July 1. No earthquake, and etc.  The only concern JTEKT might have is the union officials who might turn Pyeongtak into a Las Vegas.