LTW - Greater Wall, Jinro Champs, & Renault Swamp

1. National
1) China extends its Great Wall length to Korea’s former territory
Koreans were not happy at the Chinese government’s announcement that Great Wall’s length has increased to 21,196km(13,170 miles), more that twice of what it was known, because China was adding the length in its Northeastern region of China where Koguryo Dynasty (B.C37-A.D 668) once ruled. Koguryo is considered Korean history by Koreans. Korean scholars think this is part of Chinese government’s Northeast History Project based on the premise that all history that happened in the current Chinese territory is all its own. Korean government said it won’t tolerate a distortion of Korean history and will respond after studying China’s claim more in detail.

Americans better watch out. The Chinese government may even extend Great Wall’s length by another 6,000 miles, claiming it reached as far as New York City because one of its main streets has “Wall” on its name.

2) Korea ranks 42nd in Global Peace Index
According to the Institute for Economics and Peace report, South Korea has moved up eight notches to rank 42nd in the London based think-tank’s 2012 Global Peace Index that measures how peaceful and harmonious countries are. The countries are ranked in seven categories such as international conflict, military expansion, war-time casualties, degree of crime, public security and public order. Iceland was the most peaceful nation, followed by Denmark, New Zealand, Canada, and Japan. Somalia was the least peaceful country, and was preceded by Iraq, Sudan and Afghanistan. North Korea was ranked 149th, just one spot more peaceful than Afghanistan.

It was lucky South Korea’s GPI rank was decided before what happened between me and my wife last Sunday when she came home with a couple Prada handbags in her shopping bag. South Korea could have been a challenger to Somalia otherwise.

2. Economy
1) Jinro Soju becomes world’s bestselling spirit brand
Jinro and Lotte, the two top soju makers in Korea, became the No.1 and No.3 spirits makers in the world, according to a British research firm Euromonitor. It found that Jinro ranked top with sales of 61.38 million boxes, 2.5 times more than 2nd ranked Smirnoff vodka whose sales totaled 24.7 million boxes. Lotte came third with 23.9 million boxes. One box contains 9 liters. While vodka is consumed worldwide, most of soju is consumed in Korea. The combined sales of Jinro and Lotte totaled 85.28 million boxes, meaning 25.6 liters of soju for each of 30 million Korean adults. The WHO put Korea 13th in the world in liquor consumption, but 1st when it comes to strong spirits.

I’ve experienced two major blackouts from too much alcohol in my life. The first was in Oct, 2007 after I had cut 70% of production employees due to significant drop in customer demand. The other was in Feb this year at a wine bar in Barcelona when I drank next to Mr. Amato, the CEO of Metaldyne. I still can not remember what I did or said at the bar, but my colleagues told me I gave Mr. Amato an hour of class on how to run the company.

3. Automotive Industry
1) Renault Samsung keeps falling in the swamp
While Hyundai and Kia keep breaking its production records, Renault Samsung Motors keeps expending its no work holidays as RSM announced again it will idles its plant in Busan for four days a week from June 15 due to excess inventory. RSM plans to work only on Tue, Wed and Fri, letting employees have off on Mon and Fri. RSM’s domestic sales dropped 38.3% on-year in the first five months, and its exports also dropped 20% due to crisis in Europe where 20% of RSM’s exports are being made. RSM is now at the risk of being overtaken by Ssangyong Motors’, the smallest auto maker in Korea, which trailed RSM only by 500 units in May.

There are three problems with RSM. Its line up offers only four models while its competitor Hyundai has 13, Kia with 14 and GM Korea with 10 models. RSM imports many of the components from Japan when high yen is on going. RSM also has to pay 92.9 billion won to Renault and Nissan as a royalty even though RSM made 215 billion won loss last year. Carlos Ghosn may have to have a lot of wine with me.

2) Hyundai recalls airbags in China
Beijing Hyundai issued a recall for 97,542 units of Yuedong, Chinese version of Elantra, produced from Mar, 2008 to Jan 2010, for air bag problems. It was the third major recall for Hyundai in China. The first was with 98,559 units in 2006 for defects in starting devices, and 9,280 vehicles in 2010 for problems in water temperature sensors. Hyundai Mobis and Autoliv are the two major airbag suppliers to Hyundai. Mobis buys many of key airbag components from TRW and Key Safety Systems, formerly Breed.

Quality has been Hyundai’s No.1 policy as its chairman firmly believes the continuous quality improvement ever since he took the ownership in 1999 was the driving force behind Hyundai’s growth from a dwarf to Goliath. I almost got hanged a few weeks ago at Hyundai quality meetings for supplying noisy parts. With the airbag recall announcement last week, a few Hyundai quality people were busy moving around electric chairs.