LTW - NK Ship Caught, Asiana Finger Pointing, & Hyundai Dispair

1. National
1) North Korean ship caught in Panama Canal

 A North Korean ship on its way from Cuba to North Korea was found to be holding two MIG 21 fighters and missile radar systems hidden under sacks of sugar when it was intercepted by Panama government while crossing the Panama Canal. The captain of the ship tried to commit a suicide when the vessel was raided by Panamanian forces.  North Korea being under U.N. sanction banning arms trafficking, the U.S. government gave strong support for the seizure while U.N plans to send an investigation team to Panama next month. North Korea claimed the aging weapons were transported under a legitimate contract with Cuba for repair in North Korea, and demanded immediate release of the vessel and 35 crew members.

Kim Jong-un might be wishing former Panama strong man Manuel Noriega still in power. Kim’s ship would not have been captured in the canal. Noriega could have joined Kim to raise a middle finger at the U.S., and they could have set up a flourishing joint venture called Marijuana & Cocaine Company.

2) Fingers are pointing at each other over Asiana accident
 Asiana crash update. While the NTSB is talking more about pilot error, the Korean government and Asiana are in the position it is still too early to pinpoint the true cause of the crash. Ribbeck Law Chartered, a law firm representing the passengers, filed a petition against Boeing in Chicago to kick off the legal compensation process.  A Korean woman and her son in the passengers also sued Asiana in federal court in California for 5 million in damages, alleging that Asiana flight crew committed “an extensive litany of errors and were improperly trained, that caused the crash.” A retired Boeing instructor pilot, Anthony Keyter, also joined in, saying B777 has a design flaw in its speed control system. Three people died in the accident and many others injured, and finger pointing just started.
The NTSB and KTVU of Oakland had to apologize to Asiana when an anchor at the Fox TV affiliate gave the names of pilots as Sum Ting Wong, Wi Tu Lo, Ho Lee Fuk and Bang Ding Ow.  KTVU got the joke names from an intern at NTSB who got fired immediately. The intern was probably an Asian whose name was “Me No Zhob.”

2. Economy

1) 40% CEOs from trio Korean universities

 According to a survey by head hunter Unico Search, 39.5% of the CEOs in Korea’s 1,271 largest companies were graduates of Seoul National Univ., Korea Univ, and Yonsei Univ., the so called SKY taken from their initials. The largest portion was taken by SNU with 259 or 20.4%, followed by Korea University with 125(9.8%) and Yonsei with 118 (9.3%). The next were the graduates from Hanyang University with 90, and Sungkyunkwan University with 50.  Those with science and engineering backgrounds took 45.3%, followed by CEOs with business administration degrees with 20.7% and those with economics at 7%.
While the SKY universities took nearly 40% of the CEOs, they did not have the luck of producing Korea’s two most powerful CEOs. Lee Kun-hee, the CEO of mighty Samsung Group, is from Waseda Univ. in Japan, and Chung Mong-koo, the CEO of Goliath Hyundai/Kia Automotive Group, is from Hanyang University.  The cakes sold at the cafeterias in SKY probably have no icing on it.

2) Audi Volkswagen Korea keeps losing people
 Good news. Audi Volkswagen Korea had 1.5 trillion won sales in 2012, whopping 37.1% increase from the previous year, with 52 billion won profit, the best of all importers. Now bad news. It has lost 11 employees, 10% of its 118 employees, in the past 6 months. There are rumors that real numbers might be more than 11, and that the company is having hard time to fill the positions due to lack of applicants. Auto industry insiders say the organizational rupture started when the company fired its Korean marketing director who was credited for successfully increasing the brand value of Audi Korea, and replaced her position with a German expatriate who was not familiar with actual circumstances in Korea.  Audi Volkswagen Korea said, “the staff’s turnover has been mollified for now and the German executive has recently been more reticent in the castigations within and out of the company.”

While most of American companies tend to let local Koreans take care of their Korea operations, German companies are likely to send German executives to manage the companies, from my experience in auto industry in Korea Pros and cons for each concept. German companies are to give enough culture training in advance, and never send an expatriate until he or she fully understands why it can be perfectly O.K for two straight men slow dancing each other at a night club.

3. Auto Industry

1) Despair in Hyundai because of protesters in Hope buses

 Hyundai’s Ulsan plant turned into a war zone on July 20 as some 2,500 members of Korea Confederation of Trade Unions, a hardcore union umbrella, clashed with Hyundai security guards and employees when the protesters tried to break into the Ulsan plant. The protesters came to Ulsan by so called “Hope Buses” to show support for Mr.BS Choi and his friend who have been waging sit-ins for nearly 9 months on the top of a power line structure near the plant. Mr.Choi has been demanding “immediate transformation of outsource workers to regular employees” while Hyundai has been insisting on gradual step by step approach. Over 110 people have been injured during the violent scuffle in which the protesters wielded sharp bamboo spears and steel pipes while the security guards used water cannons and fire extinguishers. At a wrap-up the following day, KCTU announced they will be back.

Mr.Choi might be shouting four letter words at the KCTU protesters who came to support him. With grueling cold last winter and blistering 35C heat these days, Mr.Choi is about to come down. The protest over the weekend is forcing Mr.Choi to stay another two years high in the sky.