Extra! Korea

October 28, 2010

Going Soon: Yongsan’s red-light district

Filed under: economics, gender equality, hard to categorize, prostitution — extrakorea @ 7:57 am

The area around Yongsan train/subway station is currently being redeveloped. People and businesses are being moved, sometimes unwillingly, either because they have no other place to go or because they feel that they are not being compensated fairly. (The value of the land has gone up to the point that it’s more expensive than some parts of the wealthy Gangnam district of Seoul.) At the beginning of 2009, there was a violent protest that resulted in six lives lost.


Literally across the street from those protests is Yongsan’s red-light district. It’s been known since early 2009 that its days were numbered. Even though the development plans have been put in jeopardy by the sundering of the partnership* between the railroad operator that owns the land, Korail, and Samsung C&T, the company that would have led in financing and construction of the development project, the plans to close down and redevelop the area have gone ahead. Word is that it will be gone within a week.

* See here, here, here, and here.

October 26, 2010

South Korea remains 39th in Corruption Index for 2nd straight year

Filed under: crime, economics — extrakorea @ 2:08 pm

For the second straight year, South Korea has remained in 39th place in the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). Why did Transparency International (TI) not see any improvement from last year?

The agency said the drop in score and the stagnant ranking were largely due to a series of corruption scandals involving high-ranking officials over the past two or three years.

Among other negative factors cited by the agency were special favors given to the children of former and incumbent bureaucrats in the recruitment of civil servants, persistent corrupt deals in law enforcement, and lenient punishment of corrupt public officials.

It also criticized President Lee Myung-bak for “abusing his right to pardon convicted politicians and tycoons,” saying his frequent amnesties helped compromise efforts to establish a strong sense of morality in the public and private sectors.

The “fair society” pushed by President Lee can only be established when all people are treated equally under the law, regardless of their social position, wealth and power, TI said.

(emphasis mine)

Pardoning convicted tycoons … I wonder whom they could be referring to?

You can see a map and links to the full report here.

October 7, 2010

Another Hanwha family member in a violent brawl

Filed under: crime, economics — extrakorea @ 9:12 am

Another son of Hanwha Group chairman Kim Seung-youn has been in a violent brawl.

On Sept. 27, Kim Dong-seon, 21, was caught fighting with security guards and bar employees at a luxury hotel in Yongsan, breaking furniture and a window, and injuring three people after an argument with a female employee.

You might recall that in 2007, another son of the chairman got into another bar fight. The chairman then hired gangsters to kidnap the bar workers involved, and he personally beat them for hours with a lead pipe. Hanwha tried to silence the investigation with bribes, and the police were indeed dragging their feet until Internet users (called “netizens” in Korea) managed to raise the profile of the case to such a degree that the police could no longer ignore it.
Here’s the part that I “love” … Chairman Kim, who beat the victims for hours with a lead pipe, was suddenly a weak, frail old man who had to be taken into court in a wheelchair. Maybe this ridiculous charade actually worked, as he was ultimately merely ordered to do 200 hours of community service. That whole family are scum.

August 26, 2010

Korean women in their 40s happiest; men in their 40s unhappiest

Filed under: economics, health, rapid cultural change, science, suicide — extrakorea @ 7:37 am

According to a study by the Korean Psychological Association, Korean women in their 40s are the happiest Koreans, while men in their 40s are the unhappiest.

Why are the men so unhappy?

“Korean men get stressed in work to survive in the competitive world and take responsibilities for families, but they lose interest in anything in their daily lives and just endure day by day,” Suh [Eun-kook, a psychology professor at Yonsei University] said.

And also …

[U]nlike the emotionally opened women, Korean men have suppressed emotion. In Korean custom, men are socialized not to reveal their sentiments to the public in any circumstances.

Why are the women so happy?

The housewives answered “satisfied” mostly when they are left alone at home during the daytime, when all family members are working outside.

“As kids are growing up to be independent from their mommies, women become more free from house chores and child-care, giving them more spare time,” Suh said.

The analysis indicated that the woman’s ability of expressing positive feelings can make a happier life.

In the world-at-large, Koreans are quite unhappy, as much so as people from much poorer, less-developed countries. In other news, the sun rises in the east in the morning.

Referring to the statistics of World Values Survey Association, Korea’s happiness ranked 58th out of 97 countries.

Korea has almost the same level of happiness as Peru, despite its developed scale of economy of $19,504 GDP per capita – about four times that of $4,452 in Peru.

Ed Diener, a psychologist visiting Seoul for a seminar, said Koreans have low satisfaction despite their high standard of living.

“When asked if they had a nice day or not, only 64 percent of Korean answered positive. Even the people of Zimbabwe scored 4 percent more than that,” said Diener.

The researchers said Koreans are concerned too much about what other people think of them, leading to unhappiness. Respondents who valued inner peace of mind were seen as having better relationships with others and stronger self-respect.

“However rich, educated, or hired by a famous company, a person who feels unhappy is living in misery,” said the researchers.

July 18, 2010

There goes my plan to save a lot on a Blackberry …

Filed under: economics, technology, the Internet — extrakorea @ 11:45 am

Unlike most people, I’m more interested in buying a Blackberry than an iPhone. I went into a shop with a Korean friend and found out that the latest model costs about a million won (roughly a thousand dollars!). Through the Internet, I discovered that the same model sells for about $500 in Canada. Since I’m going to Canada tomorrow for vacation (so expect light posting for a while), I thought I’d buy one in Canada and bring it back here, thus saving myself 500 bucks. Well, it turns out that I would have to pay 300,000 won to have it unlocked. I’d still save about 200 dollars, but still, bummer.

No surprise that South Korea is a country that will not get the latest iPhone at the end of July. Government approval wasn’t given because Samsung doesn’t have a clone in the pipeline extenuating circumstances.

July 8, 2010

(Updated) Entertainers’ annual incomes nearly 10 million won less than ordinary office workers’

Filed under: celebrities, economics — extrakorea @ 6:08 am


The Chosun Ilbo has an article which gives us a little more information. It looks like one reason for the low average income was because 18,000 entertainers with very low ones (less than 5 million won a year) were included and dragged the average down. Also noteworthy is the fact that the number of poor entertainers has risen.


Original Post:

If you’re an entertainer, you must live in a luxurious mansion tended to by maids while butlers serve you flutes full of champagne on silver platters, right? Not if you’re a run-of-the-mill entertainer in South Korea. Despite the fact that the country is obsessed with celebrities, your average entertainer earns much less than your average Joe Kim who works in an office.

According to the National Tax Service (NTS), the yearly income for actors, musicians and models averages 28.5 million won, almost 10 million won less than normal office workers’ 38.2 million won.

In the quote above, they lumped actors, musicians, and models together. Below is rough breakdown by profession:

An NTS analysis of income of non-salaried people and services providers shows that movie and TV actors earn more than musicians or models

The NTS says 12,029 actors who are exempted from value added tax reported their combined total income as 463.7 billion won in 2008, averaging 38 million won a year.

It also says the income of 3,152 musicians averaged 26 million won in 2008, two thirds that of office workers, and 6,238 models earn 11 million won a year, less than 1 million won a month ― almost the legal minimum wage.

Models’ earnings are almost as low as minimum wage?

“Since the reported income includes all expenses, most celebrities are sure to have a hard time living on their small income,” said an NTS official.

I guess that could be why four of the most famous female singers all said on a recent radio show that they like guys with a lot of money.

It should be noted that members of Korean girl groups and boy bands don’t have to worry about rent or utilities, as almost all of them live together in dormitory-like housing that’s provided by their companies. If you’re a stalker enthusiastic fan, you can even find out where they live via the Internet.

June 29, 2010

All chicken franchises have endorsements, so now it’s pizza

Filed under: advertising, economics, music — extrakorea @ 3:49 am

Almost every fried chicken franchise in South Korea has a commercial endorsement from a boy band or girl group, and some have more than one (though it could be because one group’s has expired). Of all of them, it seems that Goobne Chicken has spent their money the most wisely. Here’s the score so far:

Girls’ Generation –> Goobne Chicken

Super Junior and Shinhwa –> Kyochon Chicken

SHINee –> Mexicana

2AM and Big Bang –> BHC (Big Hit Chicken)

U-Kiss –> Vons Chicken

BEAST, Wonder Girls, and DBSK (TVXQ) –> BBQ Chicken (They’re really hedging their bets!)

T-ara –> Nene Fried Chicken

KARA –> COB Chicken

As the Grand Narrative once put it:

Yes, those are indeed shapely buttocks firmly thrust into our faces 3 seconds into the commercial.

4Minute –> Dasarang (“All Love”)

Secret –> 9ers Chicken

SS501 –> Hotsun

ZE:A –> Mom’s Touch

With every chicken outlet spoken for (up to three times over), it’s time to move on to greener pastures: Pizza!

June 23, 2010

Morgan Stanley Capital International: South Korea, you’re NOT “developed”

Filed under: economics — extrakorea @ 4:38 am

Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) has refused to upgrade South Korea’s classification from “emerging market” to “developed market” for the second consecutive year in a row. Ouch. Why not?

MSCI said that there was a lack of an active offshore market for the Korean won and limited trading hours of the onshore spot currency market, which meant that investors had to pre-fund trades.

MSCI also cited the “rigidity” of the Korean market’s investor identification system as well as anti-competitive practices in provision of stock market data.

The latter complaint refers to a demand by MSCI that the Korea Exchange should ease regulations on the use of the Kospi 200 index to allow the creation of derivatives that would allow foreign investors to trade when the Korean market is closed at night.

Under existing regulations, KRX’s permission must be given in order to list the derivatives in other overseas exchange markets.

Obviously, they do not understand Korea’s unique situation.

Korea Exchange chief Kim Bong-soo in a recent newspaper interview threatened to file a lawsuit against MSCI for using the local market data without permission.

More legal action nonsense. I might have to add a category.

Although some analysts said the exclusion of Korea from the developed market index represented a blow to the nation’s ambitions to become a financial hub, others took a more sanguine view.

There’s the h-word again. Hub of finance and the m-word of ridiculous lawsuits.

March 19, 2010

Cost Of Korean Reunification: $62 billion or $5 trillion?

Filed under: economics, North Korea — extrakorea @ 1:58 pm

In a previous post, I discussed a Wall Street Journal article that stated that the cost of reunifying Korea could be from 2 to 5 trillion dollars.

Now there’s a Forbes article (page two here) that seems to contradict that by estimating the cost to be 62 billion dollars.

Despite the seeming contradiction, they actually agree on the numbers. They state different goals, and thus come to different costs.

If a more modest goal is adopted focusing on dramatically increasing per capita income in the North—say, by doubling it within 5 or 6 years—instead of equalization with the South, the cost burden decreases sharply to $62 billion.

Right now, the North Koreans are starving, literally. Doubling their income and living standards will have them jumping for joy … for a while.

However, a reasonable estimate of per capita GDP in the North is perhaps $700, in South Korea about $20,000.

Once the North Koreans get used to the idea that they can count on a full belly three times a day, for how long will they be satisfied to have a per capita GDP of $1,400 while their southern brethren enjoy one of $20,000? While they nourish themselves on barley and rice porridge, they’ll look southward to Koreans enjoying kalbi, whiskey, fried chicken, pizza, and pasta. Even though they will be geographically far away, thanks to the Internet, South Korea’s wealth will be in their face. How long will it be before gratitude erodes away into resentment? How long will it be before they start saying things like, “Hey, we could have nuked you when we had the chance, so why don’t you give us some sugar?” For this reason, I would like to re-quote something from my previous post:

I estimate that raising Northern incomes to 80% of Southern levels—which would likely be a political necessity—would cost anywhere from $2 trillion to $5 trillion, spread out over 30 years.

(emphasis mine)

So I agree with the estimate given in the Wall Street Journal article.

And who, according to the Forbes article, will foot the bill?

If and when Korean reunification occurs, the costs will most heavily impact South Korea. But the burden can and should be shared with Korea’s American ally, as well as with the other principals engaged in the Six Party talks, including China and Japan.

Japan. After having its citizens kidnapped and being threatened by North Korea for years, they’ll be asked to pay money to them. They’ll like that.

China. You don’t think they’ll exploit that leverage someday?

U.S.A. Sugar Daddy Sam. The bailout king.

March 16, 2010

What’s Korea’s unemployment rate, 4.8% or 10.36%?

Filed under: economics — extrakorea @ 1:55 pm

According to this KBS article, South Korea’s unemployment rate this past January was 4.8%. However, a Korea Times article states that the “real” unemployment rate (which takes into account people who have given up looking for work, or are studying or taking vocational courses) is much higher, 10.36%. It also notes that from among the OECD’s 22 member countries, Korea had the highest increase in unemployment from December 2009 to January 2010.

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