Sunday, December 25, 2011

Femal Fans over Korean Baseball

It is funny to hear but the truth, arguments between couples bound over T.V remote control, gaining intensity on weekends, as baseball lovers husbands want to watch the game while wives would prefer anything but not the game.

Although, this season many couples have been seen heading off for weekend baseball outings together without any arguments.According to the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) Sunday, nearly 40 percent of the spectators at last season’s baseball games were female.

The results unexpectedly showed 39.2 percent of the respondents were female.

This year saw 6,809,965 fans through the turnstiles, the highest number in Korean baseball’s 30-year history, and the KBO believes the attendance of women is considerable.

On the whole, those aged between 20s and 40s were the dominant spectators, consisting of 82.2 percent of the total.

There were certain differences in why fans supported a specific club. Of those in their 30s to 50s, 60 percent showed a strong attachment to the team based in their hometown. About 30 percent of females in their teens to 20s chose a team because of a certain player or manager.

The growing fan base however is demanding improvements in facilities from the KBO and individual clubs, with more than half of the respondents rating current conditions as unsatisfactory.

Winters night turn into Festival of nights lit up with lights

About a half-dozen foreigners, members of the Jewish community and their families, and their Korean supporters commemorated a special religious rite more than 2000 years old at the Israel Culture Center in southern Seoul, Tuesday.

It was the first day of Chanukah, and as the days became darker and colder with the onset of winter, scores came out for the holiday which is also called the “Festival of Lights.”

“It can be enjoyed by Jews and non-Jews alike, because through winter as the days get shorter and colder, and darkness begins to prevail and it’s cold outside, it is comforting to have a ‘festival of lights,’” said Israeli Ambassador to Korea Tuvia Israeli.

Chanukah is celebrated around the world by the kindling of the candles placed in a unique candelabrum, the nine-branched Menorah or Hanukiah, an additional candle lit on each night of the holiday, adding one day-by-day to eight candles on the eighth and final night.

The holiday ends this Tuesday.

“It is also always nice to have a reason to enjoy the fattening fried foods,” Israeli said.

“We have special donuts, Sufganiyah” he added, pointing to a platter piled high with the pastries powdered with white sugar.

Through the eight days of Chanukah, the faithful go to work as usual but leave early to be home in time to light the candles at nightfall. There is no religious reason for schools to be closed, although in Israel, schools close from the second day for the whole week of Hanukkah.

Many families exchange gifts each night, too, and fried foods are eaten to underscore the importance of oil in Chanukah.

Guests at the Center enjoyed all manner of fried Jewish delicacies, including latkes, or potato pancakes.

“It is a great opportunity for a joyous get together,” he said. “It’s meant for the whole family. You’ll see kids around tonight, too.”

A Festival of Lights

The reason for the Chanukah lights is not for the practical purpose of illuminating an interior space as one might expect from lighting a candle, but rather for what scholars describe as “the illumination of the house without,” so that passersby should see it and be reminded of the holiday’s miracle.

Chanukah means “dedication” in Hebrew, as in the dedication of a building. It refers to the cleansing and re-dedication of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem on the Temple Mount when Judea Maccabee re-conquered it from the ancient Greek Seleucid Empire (312-63B.C.) in 164 BC.

“Chanukah combines heroism, a strong belief in God, and the glory of the continuation and survival of the Jewish people, when we were really in the dark, when we couldn’t see any way of getting out from under the oppression of a large empire,”

The Temple Mount is the location of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, one of holiest sites in Islam. The site's significance stems from religious traditions regarding the rock known as the Foundation Stone at its heart.

Judah ordered the Temple to be cleansed, a new altar to be built in place of the polluted one and new holy vessels to be made.

Olive oil was needed for the menorah in the Temple, which was required to burn throughout the night, every night. The story goes that there was only enough oil to burn for one day, yet it burned for eight, the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of oil for the menorah. An eight-day festival was declared by Jewish sages to commemorate the perceived miracle.

Nowadays, lamps are set up at a prominent window or near the door leading to the street.

Only when there was danger of anti-Semitic persecution were lamps supposed to be hidden from public view, as was the case in Persia under the rule of the Zoroastrians or in Europe before and during World War II.

“We all sometimes are faced with difficulties, dark days, and feel helpless before tough troubles, but if we look deep enough, then we will always be able to find the light,” Israeli said, in his welcome speech to the 50-odd assembled.

Modern scholars argue that the Seleucid king was intervening in an internal civil war between the traditionalist Jews and the Hellenized Jews in Jerusalem.

The civil war escalated when the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire and its monarch sided with the Hellenized Jews in their conflict with the traditionalists by prohibiting the religious practices that the traditionalists had rallied around. This may explain why the king, in a total departure from Greek Seleucid practice in all other places and times, banned a traditional religion.

“Eventually the light was there,” Israeli said. “What we are celebrating is the sacramental work of the Holy Temple.”

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

South-Korea to be vanguard of innovation

Think tank says novel software and material technologies will lead industry

Developing and advancing software and material technologies will lead the industry for the next few years and Korea along with China will be the vanguard of this innovation, according to Samsung Economic Research Institute.

The think tank chose top 10 promising technologies based on ingenuity and market potential, and noted that the software and material technologies are currently more relevant while technologies related to the manufacturing process were of the past.

“Software and material technologies are progressing prominently. As technologies such as cloud computing, Web standards, big data analysis saw rapid advancement, research and development on software is very actively being conducted, with 44 percent of the venture capital investment in the United States targeting the sector,” Lee Sung-ho, a research fellow at the institute, said in the report.

In software and services, he chose Web-based applications, analysis of big data and voice recognition as key technologies. “Applications based on HTML5 can be used in diverse devices such as desktops, TVs and smartphones. They work on anything as long as there is a Web browser, regardless of the operating system.” Hence, HTML5, the new global Web standard, will correct the inefficiencies of having to develop applications for competing operating systems.

Technologies analyzing big data are also promising, with the market expected to grow by an annual 10 percent in the next few years. “These technologies will strengthen corporate competitiveness as they enhance efficiency in management by enabling scientific decision making.” Lee explained that by providing exact and abundant information on the past and present conditions of consumers, firms will be able to make objective decisions in marketing and business instead of relying on intuition. Firms can target consumers with an optimized product and deals, in real time, by analyzing their shopping history, social networking service messages or current location. Consumer responses can be evaluated using these marketing activities, in real time, to make the next move.

Improved voice recognition accuracy

Voice recognition technology has improved remarkably to mark over 90 percent from 20 percent in correctness, subsequently gaining ground as the core of user interface. Google, for instance, has 230 billion English words spoken by either gender, a broad age group and multiple dialects stored as voice data in its cloud server. The market is expected to grow by an annual 22 percent to mark $5.4 billion by 2013 as the technology is adopted in non-IT sectors such as automobiles and medical services. “Voice is a familiar way of conveying information for humans, and they can control various devices easily without having to study or being trained,” the report notes.

Among electronics and communications technologies, those related with flexible display and large active matrix organic light emitting diode (AMOLED) TVs are promising.

“The flexible display technology based on AMOLED will shut out the competition simply focusing on the size of the screen. It spawns a new market of electronic paper media and digital show windows, permitting a differentiated competitive edge.” Lee added that AMOLED TV will rise as the mainstream of the TV market thanks to the natural tone and slim and light design.

In healthcare, stem cell medicine, intelligent medical imaging diagnosis and painless injection patches are worth watching. The technologies offering high definition, 3D images will enable doctors to catch small lesions, and applicable software will lessen the possibility of misreading the images. It said that efforts are increasing to improve user convenience or create new uses, while technologies were usually focused on suppliers in the past. “User-friendly IT devices and medical technologies focusing on patients, such as painless injections, are receiving attention.”

A patch that has a tiny needle will eliminate pain following a conventional injection. “These injections are patient-friendly, as well as contributing to the prevention and quick treatment of the illness.”

The think tank also chose large quantity lithium rechargeable batteries and small nuclear reactors, which are relatively safe, as promising technologies.

Another observable trend is the rise of Korea and China, according to the report. “While the United States, European countries and Japan were responsible for the innovations of the past, Korea and China are joining the leading innovation group,” Lee said. While the United States strengthened leadership in technology thanks to its competitive edge in software, Japan, which had led manufacturing technologies, is having less influence in the industry as Korea quickly catches up. “Korea is rising as the powerhouse in display and stem cell technologies, and China is gaining power in small nuclear reactors and biotechnologies,” he added.

Technological development: Smartphone film fest accepting submissions

A local film festival is accepting submissions of short works shot with a smartphone beginning next month.

The 2nd Olleh Smartphone Film Festival will be held from March 19 to 21 in Seoul, featuring an expanded program and cash prizes amounting to 50 million won.

The event, which began earlier this year under the auspices of telecommunications company KT, invites both professional and amateur filmmakers to share creative short stories with a running time of less than 10 minutes. Footage can be sent from Jan. 1 until Feb. 12.

“If the inaugural edition of the festival emphasized the fact that anyone could make a movie using smartphones, then the upcoming event will demonstrate how well people can create them,” said the Olleh Smartphone Film Festival organizing committee.

Ahead of the festival’s official launch this year, organizers invited 12 renowned filmmakers to make shorts using an iPhone 4. Four months later, some 500 amateurs, including middle school students, competed for prizes. The winning works were even invited to the Shanghai International Film Festival.

The second edition will divide the competition pool into professionals — those that majored in film and/or are part of the filmmaking industry — and non-professionals. The grand prizewinner will take home 20 million won and a new smartphone. Prizes of 5 million won, 3 million won and 1 million won, respectively, along with smartphones, will be awarded to the top three laureates in the two categories.

Films that enter the final round of the competition will be shown through various channels. They will be screened at Olleh Square, Gwanghwamun, and on OllehTV as well as through the festival’s official website ( and KT’s website (

Winners will also be given a chance to develop the shorts into full feature-length films, and teach as a faculty member of the Olleh Media Studio, a filmmaking academy located in Mok-dong, Seoul, equipped with post-production facilities.

“There are some 20 million smartphone users in Korea, and the film festival hopes to provide a platform for aspiring filmmakers and the latent talent,” said the festival organizers.

“What distinguishes this film festival from others is that it encourages everyone to make movies, and not just cineastes and aspiring filmmakers,” Lee Jun-ik, filmmaker and director of the festival, said in a previous interview with The Korea Times.

In addition to Lee, other renowned cineastes will take part in the event as jury members. They include video artist Park Chan-kyong, who won a Golden Bear at the Berlinale for “Night Fishing,” an iPhone movie he co-directed with his director brother Park Chan-wook; filmmakers Bong Man-dae, Yim Pil-sung and Chung Yoon-chul; as well as cinematographers Jung Jung-hoon and Jo Yong-gyu.

For details, visit

Korea National Museum introduces Japanese Buddhist art

The essence of Japanese Buddhist art is being introduced to Korea through a special exhibition held by the National Museum of Korea in Yongsan, Seoul.

The event, titled “Japanese Buddhist Art from the Lake Biwa District — Aspiring for Rebirth in the Buddhist Paradise,” highlights the exquisite relics of the neighboring Asian country’s Buddhist art, featuring 94 artifacts. The collection includes four national treasures.

Upon entering the museum space, “Eight Views of Omi” presents the landscape of Lake Biwa, Shiga Prefecture in central Japan. It is the largest freshwater lake in Japan at about 673 square kilometers, similar to the size of Seoul. Omi is an old name for Shiga Prefecture and the painting on display has four scenic sites among the eight.

“Though Lake Biwa is an unfamiliar name for most Koreans, there is a route along the lake used by ‘tongsinsa,’ or the emissary dispatched to Japan during the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910) as seen in the lower right side of this ‘Lake View’ painting from Sufuku-ji,” Ryu Seung-jin, the museum’s Asian art curator, said.

The region is close to the ancient Japanese capital of Kyoto and a transportation point connecting east and west, resulting in a rich tradition of Buddhist culture and heritage.

A series of Buddhist images comes next.

“Eleven-faced Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva” from the Chofukuji Temple date back to the Heian period (794-1185). It has 11 faces on the head symbolizing benevolence and mercy.

Ryu explained that there are many Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva statues near the lake, which are closely related to its vitality. The Japanese made wooden Buddhist statues as they believed god dwells in each natural object.

The items on display also includes paintings depicting the Six Paths, or six stages of existence. All living beings are trapped in according to Honen (Pure Land) Buddhism — the realms of heavenly beings, humans, asura, animals, hungry spirits and hell.
In this exhibition, two designated Japanese national treasures from the Kamakura period (1185-1333) works are on display, along with 15 panels from Edo-era (1615-1868) reproductions.

“These paintings were drawn for educational purpose, aiming to help people break free from the cycle and to be reborn in the Pure Land,” Ryu said.

Also on display are “Lotus Sutra” engraved in gold and silver and “Gilt-bronze Scripture Case” with fancy floral medallion and arabesque design. These motifs are found in the graves of aristocrats. Relics of Japanese Esoteric Buddhism, such as “Ragaraja” from the 13th-century Sojiji Temple, depicting angry gods, are also part of the exhibition.

“Japanese Buddhist Art from the Lake Biwa District” is co-hosted by the Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs, Kyushu National Museum and Shiga Prefecture. Kwak Young-jin, first vice minister of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and Seiichi Kondo, Japanese commissioner for Cultural Affairs, attended its opening Monday.

“I hope this exhibition boosts cultural exchanges between the two countries by understanding the similarities and differences of each other,” Kwak said.
The exhibition runs through Feb. 19. For more information, visit or call (02) 2077-9000.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

N. Korean leader Kim Jong-il dies

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, who ruled the communist nation with an iron fist while ceaselessly pursuing nuclear weapons programs, has died of a heart attack, state media said Monday. He was 69.

Kim, who took over North Korea after his father and national founder Kim Il-sung died in 1994, "passed away from a great mental and physical strain" during a train ride at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, the Korean Central News Agency said in an urgent dispatch.

A female newscaster, clad in a black funeral dress, tearfully announced the death on state TV.

KCNA said the medical cause was an "advanced acute myocardial infarction, complicated by serious heart shock," using the technical terms for a heart attack. His father, Kim Il-sung, also died of a heart attack.

"He suffered an advanced acute myocardial infarction, complicated by serious heart shock, on a train on December 17 ... from a great mental and physical strain caused by his uninterrupted field guidance tour for the building of a thriving nation," KCNA said.

Kim's health is believed to have worsened after he apparently suffered a stroke in 2008.

His body will be placed in the Kumsusan Memorial Palace where the embalmed body of his father and the late national founder lies, according to the KCNA. The North set a mourning period from Dec. 17 to Dec. 29, though it said it won't accept foreign delegations at the funeral ceremony scheduled to be held in Pyongyang on Dec. 28.

Kim's heir-apparent son, Jong-un, was named first in the membership list of the North's the 232-member funeral commission, an apparent indication that the younger Kim will chair the commission.

That could also be seen as a possible sign that the communist nation is under control. Experts had suggested that any sudden incapacitation of the autocratic leader could lead to a power struggle in the totalitarian nation.

The late leader had been grooming his youngest son, believed to be in his late 20s, as his successor, promoting him to the rank of four-star general and placing him in key posts at the ruling Workers' Party last year.

South Korea put its military and police on high alert and ordered all of its diplomatic missions overseas to go on standby. The Joint Chiefs of Staff said it has increased its monitoring activities along the border, but no unusual activity had been observed from the North.

Officials said they may raise the "Defcon," a five-stage combat alert level, from its current level of four to three, and may also increase the Watchcon, an anti-North Korea surveillance alert, from three to two. Watchcon two signifies a state of emergency with indications of a vital threat from North Korea.

"We're keeping close tabs on the demilitarized zone (DMZ), Joint Security Area (JSA) and Northern Limit Line (NLL) for possibilities of North Korean provocations," one JCS official said, referring to volatile border areas on land and in sea.

President Lee Myung-bak was presiding over an emergency meeting of the National Security Council after calling off all of his scheduled plans for later in the day. Lee also ordered all government officials to be placed on emergency response.

Kim's death occurred at a time of a flurry of diplomatic efforts to resume long-stalled talks on ending Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program. North Korea and the United States were expected to hold a third round of bilateral nuclear talks in Beijing this week.

The planned talks are expected to be canceled, a government official said. North Korea had been expected to announce during the talks that it would suspend its uranium enrichment program and accept U.N. nuclear monitors in exchange for food aid.

That would mark a breakthrough deal that could lead to the resumption of the broader six-nation talks that have been suspended since the last session in late 2008. The talks bring together the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the U.S.

North Korea conducted two nuclear tests, first in 2006 and second in 2009. The provocative nation is believed to have stockpiled enough plutonium for at least half a dozen nuclear bombs.

In Washington, an official said President Barack Obama has been "notified" of the reported death of the North's leader, and the White House is consulting with South Korea and Japan on the emergency situation.

"We are closely monitoring reports that Kim Jong-il is dead. The President has been notified, and we are in close touch with our allies in South Korea and Japan," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in an emailed statement. "We remain committed to stability on the Korean Peninsula, and to the freedom and security of our allies."

Kim's death also came following years of tensions in relations between the two Koreas.

Inter-Korean relations warmed significantly after the first summit between Kim and the South's then-President Kim Dae-jung in 2000. The North's late leader held a second summit in 2007 with then-President Roh Moo-hyun.

Inter-Korean ties frayed badly, however, after President Lee took office in early 2008 with pledges to halt aid to the impoverished North and link future assistance to progress in efforts to end Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programs.

The strained relations deteriorated further after North Korea torpedoed a South Korean warship in waters near their disputed border in March last year and shelled a border island in November. The attacks left a total of 50 South Koreans dead.

North Korea is one of the world's poorest nations. It has relied on foreign handouts to feed its 24 million people after natural disasters and mismanagement devastated its economy in the mid-1990s.

The late North Korean leader has long been accused of seeking nuclear, missile and other weapons of mass destruction programs while starving its population, despite repeated calls from the international community to forsake nuclear ambitions for a better future.

South and North Korea fought the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty. The two sides are still technically at war, with their border one of the world's most heavily fortified. (Yonhap)

Chronology of late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il

The following is a chronology of major events related to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il who died on Saturday of a massive heart attack, while on board a train during one of his field trips.

-- February 1941: Born at a secret military camp on Mount Paekdu in Yanggang Province.

-- July 1961: Joined the ruling Workers' Party of (North) Korea.

-- September 1973: Appointed as the party's secretary of organization and propaganda.

-- February 1974: Designated by his father and national founder Kim Il-sung as his successor.

-- April 1993: Elected as chairman of the National Defense Commission, the highest military decision-making body of North Korea.

-- July 1994: Took over leadership of North Korea upon Kim Il-sung's death.

-- May 2000: Visited China for the first time as the North Korean leader at the invitation of Chinese President Jiang Zemin.

-- August 2008: Collapsed from a stroke.

-- August 2011: Visited Russia's Far East and Russia.

-- December 17, 2011: Died during a train trip.

Source: The Korea Times

Lee presses Japan on ‘comfort women’

President Lee Myung-bak called on Japan to promptly act on the long-ignored issue of “comfort women,” its wartime sexual enslavement of Korean women, Sunday, warning that it could determine the future of bilateral ties.

He made the remarks in a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in Kyoto, Japan, amid growing tensions over the thorny issue.

Tension peaked last Wednesday as former comfort women staged their 1,000th weekly protest near the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.

Noda, however, categorically rejected Lee’s call. He rather demanded Seoul remove the “Peace Monument,” a life-size statue, placed in front of the Japanese Embassy last week to commemorate the endeavors of the former sex slaves seeking truth and compensation over Tokyo’s atrocities during World War II.

"In order for the two countries to become true partners for peace and stability in the region, Japan should have the genuine courage to resolve as a priority the military comfort women issue, which remains a stumbling block between the two nations," Lee said.

According to presidential spokesman Park Jeong-ha, Lee repeatedly addressed the comfort women issue over the one-hour talks with Noda putting aside most of the economic issues, including a possible free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries.

Noda said that Japan's position remains unchanged that its responsibility to compensate the comfort women was completely resolved in 1965 when Seoul and Tokyo signed the Korea-Japan Basic Treaty to normalize diplomatic relations.

He only said Japan will make more efforts from a humanitarian perspective.

“I’m sure you understand our government’s legal stance over the issue,” the Japanese leader told Lee. “We will continue to exercise wisdom from a humanitarian perspective."

Noda also expressed regrets over the installation of the Peace Monument.

“To my understanding, our working level officials have sought the removal of the statue,” he said. “I also request President Lee to uninstall it.”

Lee rejected the demand, saying that the monument would not have been set up “had Japan shown a little bit of interest” in resolving the problem.

He warned that Japan would see "second and third" statues being installed unless Tokyo takes measures to tackle the issue in a sincere manner.

A senior presidential aide said that Lee raised the issue in a strong manner because he sees it as a litmus test in deciding whether Korea can expand cooperation with Japan including an FTA and bilateral security cooperation.

He noted that the comfort women issue is becoming increasingly urgent as most victims are elderly and may die before they receive compensation or an apology from Japan.

A former Korean sex slave died last week, leaving only 63 survivors.

Tokyo has ignored Seoul's demand for official talks on compensating the aging Korean women.

The government began making demands after the Constitutional Court ruled in August that it was unconstitutional for it to make no specific efforts to settle the matter with Tokyo.

Upon arrival in Japan, Saturday, Lee issued a similar warning that the matter would remain a thorn “forever” unless it's resolved now, given the advanced ages of most of the victims.

“Unless we resolve this issue, Japan will have the burden of being unable to settle the outstanding issue between the two countries forever,” he said during a meeting with Korean residents in Osaka. “Now there are not many left. This year alone, 16 of them passed away. In the not-so-distant future, all of them will die,” he said.

Lee pointed out that resolving the issue while they are alive would help the two countries move forward.

Some critics, however, say Lee’s touching on the comfort women issue for the first time since he took office in 2008 is a political move.

They say he is seeking to boost his popularity which has plunged further after media began speculating on his administration’s involvement in an attack that paralyzed the website of the country’s election watchdog.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Culture minister meets with “Deep-Rooted Tree” team

(Above) Minister Choe Kwang-shik (second from right) poses at Gyeongbokgung Palace with screenwriter Kim Young-hyun (left), also known for her script from Queen Seondeok Dae Jang Geum, actor Han Suk-kyu (second from left) who plays King Sejong the Great, and actress Shin Se-kyung (photographed by Hwang Dana).

On December 13, Culture Minister Choe Kwang-shik visited the Hyangwonjeong Pavilion inside Gyeongbokgung Palace, where the final episode of the TV drama series “Deep-Rooted Tree” was being shot on location, and encouraged the staff members and actors. Based on the novel of the same name by Lee Jeong-myeong, Deep-Rooted Tree is a historical fiction on the era of King Sejong -- one of the most eulogized kings in Korean history -- and a mystery revolving around his invention and proclamation of the modern Korean writing system, Hunminjeongeum or Hangeul.

Korea wins at 2011 World Cyber Games

11th WCG was held in Bexco, Busan from December 8 to 11. (Photo: Yonhap News)

Korean competitors took home four gold medals, two silver medals, and one bronze medal at this year’s World Cyber Games (WCG), the world’s largest electronic sports tournament. Eight years after Korea hosted the event in 2003, the 11th WCG returned to Korea from December 8 to 11 in BEXCO, Busan. A total of 600 gamers from 60 countries including China, Russia, and Germany participated in the 1,300 competitions during the event.

Korea was awarded a trophy for its wins, dominating such games as StarCraft II and World of Warcraft III at this year’s event, recording fourth consecutive victory years. Poland and China tied for second with one gold medal, two silvers, and three bronze medals each.

The WCG were established in 2001 with support from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism to lead digital entertainment culture through electronic sports, and has been considered the e-sports Olympics. The very first WCG tournament was held in Seoul with official games including FIFA 2001, Age of Empires II, Quake III, and Counter-Strike.

At this year’s event some 40,000 spectators came to the e-sports tournaments and players competed against each other for a prize pool of USD 500,000. Visitors and players reacted positively to the addition of some new official games including CrossFire and Special Force.

During the event, some special competitions including the Amateur e-Sports Competition and Special Force 2 Proleague were also held along with signing events by famous game players.

However, the lack of variety of game genres was pointed out since most of the events were for online games, with only one event for mobile games and video games each.

Kunshan, China will host the tournament for the next two years.

For more information including the results from the grand finals, please visit the official website of the WCG at


Establish credit assessment firm in Asia

I have taken out this article from the special section called Student's Coner from the Daily newspaper of South Korea : The times of Korea.

The global economic crisis caused by the European debt crisis is sweeping through the world. Some economists say that this year’s economic crisis is even more serious than the Great Depression which hit the United States 70 years ago.

In the center of the latest financial crisis was a huge force that dominated the global economy; credit assessment firms.

Moody’s, S&P and Fitch, the so-called “three major credit rating firms,” have wielded strong power by rating the credit level of firms and governments since the 1950s.

Then, why do we call them the “beneficiaries of the crisis?” This is because it is the best situation for them to strengthen their power.

During the economic crisis, anxiety dominates investors’ minds and makes them depend on “comparatively reliable” information. Of course, they think the most reliable source of information comes from credit assessment firms.

Thus, the poor credit level rated by credit assessment firms leads to a lower preference of investors and increases bond premiums of companies and governments.

However, the problem is that many economists, companies and governments insist credit assessment firms are “abusing” their power.

For example, the U.S. experienced a conflict with S&P because of its degraded credit level and the government there insisted that S&P provided wrong information based on false data to investors.

Warren Buffett said that nobody gave the right to assess the credit levels of countries to credit assessment firms. For this reason, many countries are trying to escape from the range of power of these firms.

The EU is planning to establish its own credit rating institution to prevent their credit level being rated by rating firms on Wall Street. Major countries in the eurozone agreed to refuse to be assessed by American firms. China is also planning to found its own national credit assessment firm.

Some economists claim that Korea should also establish its own credit rating firm to make its economy more stable and free from the strong influence of the U.S. credit assessment companies.

But to be honest, the financial market in Korea is still small in scale.

Although Korea can found its own rating company, it will be hard to be free from the influence of Wall Street due to its smaller scale and weaker power.

Korea needs different solutions. To keep its economy stable and independent from other countries, it has to be free from the strong influence of Wall Street.

Though it’s hard to find a perfect answer for this problem, I’d like to suggest one solution, which is to establish a credit assessment firm in East Asia which consists of China, Korea and Japan.

If they create a credit assessment company, it will have a greater power; meaning that it will be much more competitive than credit assessment firms created by each country.

The Korean government plans to support establishing and running its first hedge fund as part of moves to promote the sovereign power of the Korean economy by making financial firms here as competitive as investment banks in the U.S.

But I think, the most important thing to do to promote the sovereign power of the Korean economy is to be able to assess our own credit level fairly; and of course one of the best ways of doing this is to establish a credit assessment firm for East Asia.

Show what you've got at 2012 auditions

With the popularity of audition shows like “Super Star K,” “The Great Birth,” and “Survival Audition K-Pop Star,” the door to stardom has widened.

This month, major Korean talent agencies JYP Entertainment, SM entertainment and DSP Media are starting their search for star material.

JYP Entertainment, the agency for the Wonder Girls and 2PM, is now accepting applications for first round auditions for aspiring stars in six regions: Seoul, Busan, Daegu, Chungju, Gangneung, and Gwangju. The deadline for applications is the day prior to the audition date in each location.

The agency is looking for fresh faces in five categories: singers, actors, models, VJs and producers/songwriters. One can submit an application with appropriate material at

The final audition will be held in February, and the top three winners will receive opportunities to train with the agency.

This year, JYP Entertainment is collaborating with a clothing brand Hum. One contestant from the final round will receive the Hum Star Award to become a trainee at the agency. In addition, the Hum Star Award winner will sign a one-year model contract with the brand.
The contestant who receives the Seoul Art Technical College President’s Award at the final audition, will receive a one-year scholarship if he or she enroll at the school.

Aside from the annual audition event, one can visit the JYP office in Gangnam, Seoul, every first and third Monday at 2 p.m. for auditions throughout the year.

SM Entertainment, home for BoA, TVXQ, Girls’ Generation and Super Junior, is also accepting applications for auditions in 15 cities in Korea, China, the United States, Japan and Canada from January to March.

“The 2012 SM Global Audition” will start in Korea (Busan on Jan. 8, Daegu on Jan. 14, Gwangju on Jan. 15, and Seoul on Jan 28 and 29.) In February, the agency will hold auditions in China and the United States. Then it will travel to Canada and Japan in March. This is the first time SM Entertainment is recruiting in Japan.

The agency is looking for singers, dancers, actors, MCs/VJs, models, producers and songwriters. The required material varies per category. Applicants can submit their material through email at or via

In addition to the global auditions, the agency holds public auditions every Saturday at 3 p.m. throughout the year at Eversing Entertainment in Apgujeong, Seoul.

The auditions are open to everyone and the selected applicants will sign a contract with the agency.

DSP Media, agency of girl group KARA, is accepting online applications at Successful applicants will be notified via text for an on-site audition on Jan. 7.

While YG Entertainment —agency of 2NE1 and Big Bang — hasn’t opened an online application system, one can send material via post to its office in Hapjeong, Seoul.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Famous Actor Song named PR ambassador (Korea)

The Famous Actor Song Seung-hun has been appointed as a PR ambassador for cultural sharing whose role is promoting Korean language, food and other cultural heritages overseas.

The appointment ceremony was held Monday at the Diplomatic Center in southern Seoul, the Korea Foundation said Tuesday.

The foundation is a state-run institute facilitating academic and cultural exchange programs.

“Song will attend a wide range of events to increase global awareness of Korean culture,” it said in a release. “We believe his work will help polish the country’s national brand.”

The 35-year-old celebrity said he will “do his best to promote Korean culture worldwide.”

Song started his career as an entertainer in 1995 and jumped to stardom in the early 2000s after appearing in smash-hit TV dramas and films. He has a strong fan base not only in Korea but also other Asian countries, including Japan, China and Hong Kong.

Heartwarming musicals, ballets for Christmas

Christmas is just around the corner and local theaters await with fabulous line-up from the glamorous “Evita” and “Mamma Mia!” to fun-packed “Zorro” and “200-Pound Beauty.”

Among these blockbusters, two small musicals “While You Were Sleeping” and “Story of My Life” are ready to warm audiences’ hearts.

“While You Were Sleeping” is a homegrown musical written by Jang Yu-jeong, playwright and director of “Finding Kim Jong-uk” and movie version of the show “Finding Mr. Destiny.” The musical premiered in 2005 and celebrated its 2,000th performance in September.

The musical describes what happened on Christmas Eve at a Catholic charity hospital in a remote area. Father Peter, new director of the hospital, applied for a television community chest show to raise donations to support the tight budget.

However, Choi Byeong-ho, a hemiplegic patient who was going to be interviewed for the program, mysteriously disappears just one night before its recording. In panic, Father Peter presses two patients sharing ward 602 with Choi, Lee Gil-rye and Jeong Suk-ja, and their doctor Lee, but they all deny any connection to the disappearance and instead tell their stories to the priest.

Father Peter later finds out a volunteer student who cleaned the ward is also missing and tries to uncover the relationship between them.

“While You Were Sleeping” is full of interaction with its audience, as the actors deliver letters and gifts to seats.

The musical is staged at two theaters in Seoul simultaneously _ Art Madang in Daehangno and CGV Pop Art Hall in Times Square in Yeongdeungpo, Seoul, on an open-ended run. Tickets cost 40,000 to 60,000 won. For more information, call 1577-3363.

Recollecting friendship

“Story of My Life” tells the story of two childhood friends, how they became friends and then drift apart and what they mean to each other. With music by Neil Bartram and script by Brian Hill, the two-man show brings the memory of friendship to a set full of bookshelves.

Thomas Weaver, a writer with four best seller books, struggles as he tries to compose a eulogy for his lifelong friend Alvin Kelby. His memories take him back to the friendship with Alvin, whom he first met at a Halloween party at the age of seven. Thomas went as Clarence, the angel from the movie "It's a Wonderful Life," while Alvin wore a pink shower gown and hair rollers, dressing up as his dead mother. They become friends and make a promise that whoever lives longer one would write the eulogy for the one who passes first.

As they grow up, Alvin takes over his father's bookstore Writer's Block and remains in their hometown, while Thomas leaves for university, dates a woman and writes hit novels. Their friendship continues through playful yet touching songs onstage.

The musical runs through April 29 at Art One Theater in Daehangno, central Seoul. Tickets cost from 40,000 to 60,000 won. For more information, call 1588-5212.

Thrice the merrier with ‘The Nutcracker’

It’s that time of the year again when nutcrackers come to life to the music of Tchaikovsky and lead children to a land of snow and candies. The country’s three top ballet companies will once again stage “The Nutcracker,” but fans will be able to choose among the different spins each troupe will give the seasonal classic, and moreover, new faces on center stage.

The Korea National Ballet Company (KNBC) will star three young ballerinos, while the two emerging ballerinas will debut as Clara with the Universal Ballet Company (UBC) and Seoul Ballet Theatre has invited the musical “Billy Elliot” star Im Sun-woo.

KNBC will offer Yuri Grigorovich’s Bolshoi version of “The Nutcracker.” As usual a little girl named Maria, rather than Clara, is surprised to see her toy nutcracker come to life and eventually turn into a prince, with whom she travels to the Land of Sweets.

This year a child dancer will play the nutcracker while new faces will share the role of the prince. Ballerinos Yoon Jeon-il, 24; Kim Ki-wan, 22; and Lee Jae-wu, 20, are all making their debut as the lead of a full-length ballet production.

This piece features considerable amount of more dance sequences than other versions, such as mime. The pas-de-deux in the second act, to a background of spectacular military procession, is also a spectacle not to be missed.

The performance is being staged at Seoul Arts Center beginning tonight through Dec. 25. Tickets cost from 5,000 won to 90,000 won. Call (02) 580-1300.

UBC will present Marius Petipa’s Mariinsky version of the two-act ballet, which is loved around the world for its free-spirited dance sequences that pays much heed to detail and for grand, festive decorations and sets. Ballerinas Han Sang-yi, 25, and Kim Chae-lee, 20, will share the role of Clara.

UBC’s “The Nutcracker” will be offered from Dec. 21 to 31 at the Seoul Universal Art Center. All tickets cost 10,000 won. Call (070) 7124-1739.

The Seoul Ballet Theatre will showcase James Jeon’s original interpretation of the classic. This version is unique in that it features Korean traditional artists in the dance procession for Clara’s wedding. Also, Mother Ginger wears a Joseon-era queen’s costume rather than a Western-style dress in the second act. Musical fans can also look forward to Im’s role as the mischievous Fritz.

This version will be presented from Dec. 29 to 31 at Goyang Aram Nuri Arts Complex, Gyeonggi Province. Tickets cost from 30,000 won to 70,000 won. Call (02) 3442-2637.

National Museum of Korea reopens prehistory section

The National Museum of Korea in Yongsan reopens its Paleolithic Period Gallery and Neolithic Period Gallery today.

Located in the permanent Prehistory and Ancient History Section of the museum, the revamped galleries are set to display some 1,100 artifacts of which 600 items are being viewed by the public for the first time since excavation. As part of the museum’s overhaul, this effort is to provide a comprehensive historical perspective.

Kim Young-na, director of the National Museum of Korea, said the remodeling aims to add a modern touch to the exhibit.

“Stone Age men are considered primitive, but they had enough sense to overcome a barren environment. I hope the new display can explain the development of primitive culture in an easy, fun and accessible way,” Kim said at a press preview Monday.

A text timeline is supplemented by a video explaining the history of Korea and a 23-centimeter-long hand ax, excavated from a prehistoric site in Jeongok-ri, Yeoncheon, Gyeonggi Province, in a glass showcase lures visitors in the main gallery.

“The Jeongok-ri hand ax is important in studying the prehistory of Asia as it is the first one to be found in the East Asian region,” said Lee Jin-min, a National Museum curator.

Upon entering the Paleolithic Period Gallery, some 50 hand axes are exhibited on a map of the Korean Peninsula, based on the location they were found, in the center of the room. Other artifacts on display include large and small stone tools for various functions. The artifacts on exhibit were dug up from across the nation.

The change of climate and flora and fauna caused a transition in stoneware, seen in the Neolithic Period Gallery. The gallery features a series of earthenware bowls and jars in various shapes and patterns. There are also remnants of a boat and an oar excavated from Bibong-ri, Changnyeong, South Gyeongsang Province, and a harpoon embedded in a whale’s spine, providing evidence Neolithic man went fishing.

For more information, visit

POSCO founder Park Tae-joon dies

Park Tae-joon, founder and former chairman of Korean steel giant POSCO, died Tuesday afternoon after a surgery to treat a type of lung disease, according to Seoul’s Severance Hospital. He was 84.

Park had been hospitalized since last month after experiencing flu-like symptoms and breathing difficulty. Park has been treated at the hospital’s intensive care unit since his surgery, but his condition took a turn for the worse last week, sources said. He had been the company’s honorary chairman.

POSCO officials said that Park recently underwent a surgery to remove a cystic in his lung.

The South Gyeongsang Province native has been considered as one of the founding fathers of Korea Inc. He established Pohang Iron and Steel, POSCO’s predecessor, in 1968 after previously working for Korea Tungsten, which is now the Warren Buffett-owned TaeguTec.

During its first decade of existence, the Pohang-based steel firm grew into an industrial giant that produced 5.5 million tons of steel annually. Park stepped down from the company’s chairmanship in 1992 to fully concentrate on a political career.

Park, a four-term lawmaker, headed the Democratic Justice Party in 1988 and became a member of the Supreme Council the Democratic Liberal Party in 1990, both of which were the forerunner of the current Grand National Party.

He also led the defunct United Liberal Democrats in 1997 and helped late President Kim Dae-jung to win the presidential election in the same year. In 2000, Park served as prime minister.

In honor of his accomplishments, POSCO founded TJ Park Foundation in 2005 and it has annually awarded TJ Park prizes in the categories of science, education and community development and philanthropy.

Facts about Korea: Chinese ginseng smugglers

One of Korea’s most valuable trade products during the late Joseon era was ginseng. “Hongsam” (red ginseng) was especially valued by the Chinese. Hongsam was considered the personal property of the Korean monarch, and unauthorized possession by Koreans was punished with summary execution. “But in spite of the death penalty for its private disposal large quantities are smuggled across the Yellow Sea in junks from the western coast of the peninsula to the mainland, and also across the northwestern borders into China, where it always commands a ready market and good price.”

In late January 1886, rumors began to circulate that Chinese merchants were secretly buying up large amounts of red ginseng in an effort to smuggle it out of the country and sell it for huge profits in China. It was commonly believed that many of the Chinese merchants in Jemulpo (modern Incheon) smuggled ginseng in addition to their legitimate business. The Chinese government was well aware of these smugglers and even facilitated their efforts by providing them passage aboard Chinese warships.

On Jan. 20, the Chinese warship, Ching Hsai, sailed into Jemulpo harbor and was scheduled to leave on the morning of the 26th. Alfred Stripling, the head of the Korean Customs Department in Jemulpo, posted inspectors throughout the city in effort to prevent the ginseng from being smuggled aboard. They were so effective that according to Ensign George C. Foulk (the American representative to Korea) “every avenue of escape of the ginseng had been closed.”

The smugglers soon became desperate. The Customs Department was warned that “a determined attempt to involve fighting if necessary, would be made by the Chinese in combination that evening (Jan. 25), to get their ginseng off to the gunboat.” The warning became reality when a Korean customs official stopped a Chinese merchant and asked to inspect his bags. The merchant immediately struck the official. Charles Welch, an American employed by the Customs Department, immediately went to his fellow agent’s aid and was subsequently set upon by a large number of Chinese. Both men were severely injured.

The Chinese mob then ransacked the Korean Customs Office sending the agents fleeing for their lives. Over the next couple of days a large number of the Chinese in Jemulpo continued to protest (often with violence) the Korean government’s efforts to thwart ginseng smuggling. Further outrages were prevented by the arrival of British and Chinese sailors.

It was only through the persistence of the Korean government and the complaints of the foreign representatives did Yuan Shih-kai, the Chinese minister to Korea, order that the Chinese demonstrators be arrested.

A quick trial was held in Seoul in which several minor merchants were found guilty and sentenced to be severely beaten and deported but none of the ringleaders (some of whom had personal relationships with Chinese officials) were charged. Once again the foreign community protested and Yuan was forced to reconvene the trial ― this time the ringleaders were also found guilty and sentenced to be deported. They were also ordered to pay compensation for the damage done.

In addition, the Korean official who had stopped the Chinese merchant was also ordered to be severely punished. It was only through the efforts of the Commissioner of Korean Customs, Henry F. Merrill, that the Korean official was spared.

Merrill later advocated Korea remove the ban on hongsam. He was convinced that the Korean government was unable to enforce it and that it would be better to collect large duties on its export.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Sejong named envoy for PyeongChang Games

The 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games Organizing Committee on Monday appointed Sejong, a New York-based orchestra, as a goodwill ambassador for the country’s first Winter Olympics.

Kim Jin-sun, the president of the committee and also a former three-time Gangwon Province governor, recognized the ensemble’s effort for promoting the province throughout the world since 2004. The region is where the host city of the quadrennial sports gala is located.

“Sejong and I have built an ‘exceptional’ relationship while I served as governor of the region, and it’s my great pleasure to have the orchestra as our publicist,” Kim said.

The 65-year-old also added he had the ensemble, led by Korean artistic director Kang Hyo, in mind since he was named inaugural president of the committee on Oct. 4.

“Never did I forget their contribution to enhance the nation’s brand image in terms of culture and art, both within and outside the country,” Kim said.

Kang responded to Kim’s remarks by saying “I thank the committee for making it possible to continue our relationship as an ambassador.”

“With this role, we hope we can be a part of the successful Winter Games by presenting pieces of classical music,” added Kang.

The symphony first had contact with Gangwon Province in 2003 when Kim, the governor back then, asked Kang to be the region’s honorary ambassador.

The artistic director brought an international music festival that year to PyeongChang, which had been making its first of the three straight Winter Games bids.

Kang then launched in the city the Great Mountains Music Festival & School in August 2004, which continue through to today.

The faculty member of Juillard School since 1978 and a visiting professor at Yale School of Music is a key member of Sejong.

The symphony, founded in 1995, has performed on the international stages, including the United States, Europe and Asia.

The conductor-less string orchestra envisioned as a “cultural ambassador” brings together individually distinguished solo and chamber musicians from nine different nations — Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Germany, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and the United States.

The ensemble focues on various activies, such as performances, documentaries, TV broadcasts, youth development activities, as well as philanthropic initiatives worldwide.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

'Translation is process of finding second best'

Many Broadway and West End musicals are staged in Korea and the majority of them are licensed Korean-language productions. Some of them are translated well, smoothly conveying the original message while others are poorly rendered with mistranslation and do not even have the translator’s name in the program. However, there are a few credible translators on the Korean theater scene and Park Chun-hwi is one of them.

Park, 40, is the translator of two hot musicals currently being staged in Seoul — “Zorro” and “Next to Normal.” Though completely different in style, the two shows are receiving critical acclaim as well as applause from the audiences.

Park is a translator and composer, but surprisingly, he majored in math at Yonsei University.

“A borrowed LP of the musical ‘Les Miserables’ led me to the world of musicals,” Park said in an interview with The Korea Times. “I really loved the music and did not return the record for a year until I got my own copy from abroad.”

Other works he translated into Korean include Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd” and “Assassins,” Michael John LaChiusa’s “See What I Wanna See” and Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker’s “Altar Boyz.”

Translating ‘Zorro’

Park said translating “Zorro” was an interesting job as the Korean production was allowed to adapt the show as long as the changes did not harm the original spirit. “For ‘Zorro,’ I did not do the rough draft translation, but revised the first draft, rendered lyrics and wrote lyrics for two new songs,” he said.

Composer Oh Sang-joon added two new songs “His Shadow” and “Life Is War” and Park wrote words.

The musical also features up-tempo tunes of the Gypsy Kings such as “Baila Me,” “Bamboleo” and “Djobi Djoba.”

“To maintain the charm of the language, I used some Spanish words from the original lyrics. In the Gypsy Kings’ songs, there were some almost gibberish words created by the group and I had to search the Internet to find what they meant. Luckily, their fans have interpreted what they mean and it served as a good reference,” Park said. “There are many online dictionaries and references and the answer is somewhere out there.”

For Park, it is more difficult to write lyrics for slow songs. “I have to be economic as the number of syllables is limited. I cannot let a syllable pass by without meaning something.”

He emphasized that translating a musical is a collaborative effort.

“I translate and make lyrics for the songs, but it could be changed by the musical director or actors during rehearsal. Sometimes, I have to make compromises that I don’t want to,” he said. “I cannot assert my pride in translation or always agree with others I work with. At first, I tried to do both and it almost made me crazy. However, I now accept that creating a musical is based on cooperation after all.”

Park admits the limit of translating. “A Translator cannot be perfect,” he said. “It is impossible to render the words, structure, accent in a language to another in exactly the same way, so translating is compromising. I think there is no best in translation and I try to find the most appropriate second best.”

Park said he tries to read the original author’s intention in the script. “I wonder what the author would have written if he or she was able to speak Korean,” he said. “There is no word-for-word translation, especially in musical lyrics. So I tend to see the forest from the position of the author.”

Translation is a series of choices as the translator continuously makes decisions. “I have to choose the best possible word to represent the original intention.”

He said translators should be diligent as they have to perform intensive research to understand the author.

“I read interviews and other works by the person and try to understand what he or she was thinking in writing the musical,” he said. “The translator should speak for the original author, but be careful not to be absorbed by subjectivity.”

Park hopes to translate all of Sondheim’s works to Korean someday. “He was the composer who created the momentum for me to write songs,” Park said. “I know the dream is not likely to come true as some of Sondheim’s works are not commercially feasible in Korea. But there are many hidden gems and I hope to introduce them to the Korean musical scene.”

“Zorro” runs through Jan. 15 at Blue Square in Hannam-dong, Seoul. For more information, visit “Next to Normal” is staged at Yonkang Hall, Doosan Art Center in central Seoul, through Feb. 12. For more, visit

Korea: Pets help you stay healthy

Janice Cho is looking for a new home to accommodate her two cats. Cho says she avoids the subject of pets when dealing with realtors, though no current law exists which prohibits companion animal ownership.

"There is a perception that the animal will wreck the place, fill it with germs, and drive neighbors crazy,” she said. "In my case, the opposite is true. The belief that animals are dirty, or make people more likely to get sick is just ignorant."

Veterinarian Choi Jae-hyek agrees.

Choi is the owner of Dr. Pet Animal Medical Center in Samsong-dong, southern Seoul, where he runs several programs to find new homes for abandoned animals, both domestically and internationally.

Dr. Pet operates seven days a week, 24 hours a day, providing health services for strays and performing emergency surgery. They are committed to educating owners about ways to keep their pets and their environments healthy.

"The benefits to owning and loving a pet are numerous,” he says. "Studies show us that caring for a pet reduces stress, can increase happiness, and can even boost the immune system of the owner. This includes children and babies."

Extra care essential

However, Choi acknowledges that a lack of education can lead to disaster.

"Pet ownership is on the rise,” he said. "Right now, there are about 10 million pet owners nationwide, and 80 percent of those are dog owners. Dogs require an extra investment of time and energy in order to maintain a healthy and problem-free home."

Choi explained that the number one mistake made by busy Seoulites is neglect.

"People are busy, and they leave their pet alone for too long. This leads to separation anxiety, and it sets the stage for troublesome barking, scratching and damage to furniture,” Choi said. “It isn't enough to love your pet. The pet needs socialization or the situation becomes unhealthy. We can cut an animal’s nails, and provide toys and scratching posts, but training and attention are vital."

Another issue is spraying, which can lead to unpleasant animal odors in a pet-owner’s home. This problem can be easily remedied by spaying and neutering pets.

Dr. Pet runs a program to provide financial assistance to those who cannot afford such surgical costs.

Allergies can also be a problem. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America estimates that approximately 10 to 15 percent of people are allergic to pets. Dander, a common source of pet allergies, is dead skin shed by pets on a daily basis. Urine and saliva are other typical sources of pet allergies.

Still, there are steps one can take to minimize the reactions, Choi said.

"In Korea, hard floors are the norm, but carpet should be avoided as it collects dander. Ventilation is important, and air purifiers are helpful in small apartments."

"Other problems are fleas and ticks, which are controlled with topical medication,” explained Choi. "The fleas do not spread diseases to humans, but they can lead to skin irritation."

Choi added that a new vaccine which prevents fungal infections is currently on the market in other countries, and that he expects to offer it at his clinic next month.

"In terms of clean-up after pets, bleach and a good vacuum do the job best,” he said.

Choi says that a new registration program for pets is expected to be implemented by the government next year.

"When people find stray animals, they often have many health issues which are expensive to treat. We try and minimize this burden so that people are capable of enjoying these animals, and enriching their lives."

For information on animal adoption, visit

Source: The Korea Times

Power of 'positive thinking'

Woongjin shows how innovative spirit turns crisis into opportunity

Every business has its ups and downs. What ensures success in business is how companies manage to weather turbulent times. In other words, only those able to turn crisis into opportunity can survive and prosper in the long term.

The Chinese word for crisis consists of two characters: one meaning danger, and the other representing opportunity. This implies that a crisis and an opportunity aren’t that different and they tend to coincide at the same time.

Successful leaders are well aware that key factors in determining the fate of firms are not the challenge itself but how to address it. History shows that a mishandled opportunity can turn into a crisis, while a well-managed crisis can offer a better chance.

When coming across a challenge, good leaders do not treat it as a crisis because they know that it will only make them live in fear. They instead take bold and courageous action to make the situation work in their favor when everyone tends to shrink into oblivion.

Woongjin Group founder and chairman Yoon Seok-keum is one of the most representative business leaders who believe that a period of crisis is also a good opportunity because it is a good time to try new ways of doing something and outperform rivals.

Success in Yoon’s words is the outcome of continued efforts to overcome challenges and failures. According to him, companies that always try to pursue creativity and innovation during turbulent times end in success.

“People do not recognize it but there were many failures in my life. If you make it at every attempt, it’s not a challenge. You need challenges and failures to achieve success,” Yoon said in an exclusive interview with Business Focus held at his office in Chungmuro, Seoul on Dec. 5.

To illustrate how a crisis becomes an opportunity, he shared his experience during the 1997-1998 financial crisis. In 1997, when the crisis hit the nation, the group was in trouble as Woongjin Coway, the group’s subsidiary manufacturing water purifiers, suffered from overstocked products.

Yoon overcame the hardship by dropping a traditional sales approach and introducing a new concept; “rental.” The company rented water purifiers free and charged only for their use of water, enabling consumers to drink clean water at a lower cost.

The move helped the group not only boost its sales during such difficult times but also avoid laying off employees and set up the foundation for the group to become a leading business entity here.

“Every idea originates from simple things. The rental idea was conceived as the result of our efforts to create a new way of increasing sales to solve the inventory problem. We tried to switch our way of thinking in sales, and that was a starting point of the success,” he said.

“Challenges and failures are the foundation for success and it will be so in the future. Our continuous efforts for creation and innovation were the key factors for Woongjin’s rapid growth over the past decade.”

With annual growth rates exceeding 10 percent for the last three decades, Woongjin is the only Korean corporation to have become a conglomerate after 1980. Starting out as a book publisher in 1980 with a capital of 70 million won, the group is now the nation’s 33rd largest conglomerate with 15 affiliated firms and sales of 5.3 trillion won in 2010.

The veteran CEO’s attitude toward challenges and crises comes from his belief in the power of positive thinking. He believes that a positive mind has a mighty power that can change everything.

Preserving core values

“When the attitude is positive, we can create energy and happiness. If you look at the bright side when faced with challenges, you can turn those challenges into opportunities.”

He introduced one episode involving the group’s labor union:

“When the labor union was launched, I had a problem with the union leader. The situation was not good but I tried to think positively and understand the union by listening to their voices and discussing key issues on a regular basis. That positive approach helped me solve conflicts with the union.”

The 65-year-old chief executive said that a positive thinker is not born but molded. He stresses that people can turn the mind toward the positive through determined effort and training.

“I was a very negative person. I always looked at the world through a pessimistic lens. I became positive when I started my sales career at Britannica at the age of 27,” he said.

“If you are a sales person, you should be positive no matter what. You always have to be sure that you are going to sell your products and visualize yourself selling them. This applies to every aspect of life. If you keep thinking in a positive way and visualize it, things will happen in your favor.”

The key factor behind Woongjin’s remarkable success was that Yoon successfully established four core values in the group’s corporate culture and management philosophy that all members, including executives and employees, can share — creation, innovation, transparency and environment.

In general, good companies have their own fabric of values, and they play a critical role in helping them overcome challenges and sustaining their businesses. If a company has core values, it can motivate its employees to work hard even during hard times. The more challenged they are, the more they try to preserve their values.

Woongjin’s values have spearheaded the group’s endless challenges into new areas over the past three decades. Starting with the educational publication business in 1980, Woongjin has grown to encompass 15 affiliated companies in eight business areas, including environmental consumer electronics, food and beverages, solar energy, environmental materials, construction, energy and finance.

Over the past five year, the group rapidly expanded its business portfolio through a number of mergers and acquisitions. It acquired Kukdong Engineering and Construction in 2007, Saehan Chemical in 2008 and Seoul Mutual Savings Bank in 2011. It also entered the energy market by establishing Woongjin Energy in 2007 and Woongjin Polysilicon in 2008.

“I think that for sustainable corporate growth, creation and innovation are most important. If you continue to pursue innovation, you may sometimes fail. However, our history suggests that innovation efforts have been the key drive for our growth,” he said.

Talent management

Yoon put special emphasis on the importance of people-oriented management. When a company faces challenges, according to him, more important than systems and products are the people because it is their caliber that would see them through.

“The most important task for CEOs is finding talented individuals and grooming them into leaders. A company needs talent equipped with both knowledge and confidence. If a person has only one of them, he or she cannot be a good leader,” he said.

He shared a hiring mistake. “We were trying to find someone to work as a CEO of one of our subsidiaries. There was a candidate with a perfect professional career but not impressive at the interview. However, I finally chose him because of recommendations from other executives. It was a big mistake. He dragged the company into trouble,” he said

“If you pick the wrong person, it can hurt the entire organization. It is extremely important to conduct thorough reference checks with both immediate bosses and subordinates of the person to avoid a hiring mistake.”

Yoon pointed out that what is most important in talent management is to ensure that people are excited about their jobs. To that end, it is important to make them feel deeply involved in projects, he added.

“You get excited when you actually feel that you are an important part of a project. If not, you don’t enjoy the work. For example, when your idea is appreciated by the CEO, you get excited with what you are doing,” he said.

“In that regard, communicating effectively is critical. Top-down communication prevents the free flow of idea from bottom up. Under such a structure, the CEO has few chances to listen to young voices, and the organization cannot be efficient and dynamic.”

Yoon said that his dream is not to make Woongjin the biggest enterprise in Korea. “What I really want to do is to turn Woongjin Group into a company that young people most desire to work for.”

For Yoon, the next goal is to make Woongjin become the world’s number one in its key products. He thinks that with the business environment changing so fast, only the number one can survive.

Woongjin finished in-depth analysis on the competitiveness of its products last year and picked several items that have the potential to become number one in the world — air cleaners, bidets and call center.

“In order to become the number one in the world, I don’t think size matters. If you don’t catch up with the leader’s group, you will fall way behind,” he said.

“You cannot be number one in the world if you try to do so in every industry. Therefore, we have narrowed down the list of industries in which we can be at the top within three years and are focusing on them.”

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Saemungil Road : Walk through History of Seoul

Walking boom in Korea is still hot since the Olle first drew the attention. Once a pretty road is discovered, people get busy in trimming and naming it. There are various roads such as Dulle, Olle, and Nadul. Courses limited to Mt. Jiri and Mt. Bukhan are diversifying to fortress roadside and yellow soil road on barefoot.

(Source: Korea Tourism Organization)

There are some nice road to walk on such as Shinsadong Garosu, Jeongdong, and Samchungdong. However there is a road which is not discovered by many. It is Saemun road. From History museum, Doneuimun to Ganghwamun, you are actually walking on Seoul’s history. Shall we walk?

Walk on Seoul: Saemun Road

Saemun is very well-known as “museum” road. It is 1.1 km long from the site of Doneuimun to Ganghwamun. When you walk down the most “Seoulish” road, you will feel what it’s like Seoul. Let’s take a step to the historic sites.
Saemun road starts at Seodaemun which is one of four big gates built during the King Teajo’s period. It was called Doneuimun at that time. However it was closed down due to Pungsu theory. Instead, Seojeonmun was built in the south of Gyeonghee palace. Seojeonmun was also dismantled when fortress was newly built and new gate was stood near Seodaemun. It was named Doneuimun.

(Source: Korea Tourism Organization)

While Korea was under the Japanese rule, Japanese government destructed Seodaemun for “so-called” city planning. They called the inside of Seodaemun as Saemunbak and outside as Saemundong and Saemunan. These names were changed into Seodaemun after independence. Once again, a new name “Saemunan” was given in 2007. However, the road we are walking on is both inside and outside of Saemun road, so the road was named as Saemun rather than Saemun’an’, which means ‘inside’.
There are Chungdong road, Gyeonghui palace road and Naesusa road in both side of Saemun road. Saemun road is large and Chungdong road and Gyeongheui palace road are middle size. You may feel antique style of Saemun road which embraces ancient times and modern times of Seoul city.

History Museum tour on Saemungil Road

There are various museums on Saemun road such as Seoul History museum, Police Museum, Salvage army history museum, Agriculture Museum, Apenzeller Memorial Museum, Saemunan church history hall and newspaper museum. Museums are located in the road between Seoul history museum and Deoksu palace. Let’s share Seoul history and have fun together!
When you get into the center of Saemun road, you will meet a tram which probably ran once upon a time in Seoul. There is Seoul History museum nearby. The museum displays history, culture and landscape from Joseon dynasty up to now. It has a variety of sources and remains of Seoul. The museum officials study, research, collect and preserve the things of Seoul. They provide many programs to help people understand Seoul even better.

(Source: Korea Tourism Organization)

Let’s go to Police museum which has a new concept that visitors would have a chance to be the police. The museum provides visitors with exhibition and events of cultural education.
You will meet Agriculture museum which is firstly built and specialized agriculture museum in Korea. It has more than five thousand sources which were collected over two decades. Two thousand sources are on display. Nonghyup Central Association made the museum to preserve a great deal of agricultural heritage.

(Source: Korea Tourism Organization)

Now, let’s move to Jungmyeongjeon. Jungmyeongjeon, which means the “light lasts forever”, was built in 1901 as the royal library. It is the first western style structured architecture which was built when Deoksu palace played a role of Gyeongun palace. It was rent to a foreigner in 1915 and used as Seoul Union until 1960s. It was owned by many different persons but finally sold to Cultural Heritage Administrative. Currently it belongs to Deoksu palace since February 2007.
Let’s go to Apenzeller Memorial Museum. When you go up the hill from Jeongdong Jaeil church to the south, you will find a three-story red brick building, Baejae school. It is small but overwhelming indeed. Baejae school is the first modern education institution in Korea. Baejae was named by King Gojong. It is the only building that still remained, except Deoksu palace. As it is the first “modern” and “private” school, it has lots of sources on education history and modern history of the area. You can experience education history of Korea.

Another Way to the Saemungil Museum Tour

Leaving Seoul history museum, you’ll arrive at History museum of Salvage Army. The museum was one of ten western style buildings in 1920s and located in headquarter of salvage army. There are many sources on Christianity including their mission work. In addition, you can see the office of early age and have a glimpse of life of salvage army in 1930s. The museum displays old documents and bibles used in early age of salvage army.

(Source: Yonhap News)

Let’s go to History museum of Saemunan church. The church was first built as a Presbyterian church in 1887 by evangelist Underwood. He had a praying service regularly at his home and later on it became a church. Unlike churches at that time, his church baptized Korean and appointed church elders. It was truly Korean church so Saemunan church is called a mother of Korean church. Church’s history museum was open in 2003 with a great deal of sources about church. A thousand sources consist of documents, photos and remains. 390 sources are on display in museum. Guinness book of records tell that Saemunan church is the first organized church of Korea. The church is not only meaningful to Christians but also valuable to everyone as cultural heritage of Korea because it affected society of modern age in Korea.

Let’s go to museum of history of monetary system, which is the first museum focused on history of monetary system and opened by Joheung Bank (Present Shinhan Bank) in 1997. You can look through 100 year old history of monetary system. It was year 1997 when commercial bank opened for the first time in Korea. The museum has remains and sources related to monetary system, currency and history of Shinhan Bank. The hall of history of monetary system consists of several sectors helping you look through wave of monetary system such as traditional age, modern age, age of Japanese occupancy and age after liberation. You can see a model of bank of those days.

(Source: Korea Tourism Organization)

Isn’t it quite amazing that there are lots of stories within 1.1 km long road? Saemun road waits for you to come to tell you the modern history of Seoul such as modern history of monetary system, Christianity, education and even today’s matter. After looking around museum, listen to the voice of Seoul history on the road of Saemun.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Dokdo, Korea's Eastern-most Volcanic Islands

Dokdo, Korea's Easternmost Volcanic IslandsKorea's easternmost islets of Dokdo are a special place to visit. But those seeking to stay overnight must obtain an entry permit from the Cultural Heritage Administration several weeks in advance as ordinary visitors are restricted to trips of just one hour.

The islets were formed from lava flows resulting from a volcanic eruption around 2,000 m below the surface of the ocean that occurred between 4.6 million to 2.5 million years ago. The creation of Dokdo predates Ulleung Island by around 2 million years, and Jeju Island by around 3.4 million years.

Dokdo is actually composed of two islands -- east and west -- and surrounded by around 90 rock formations.

The two islands lie around 150 m apart. According to the maritime police guarding Dokdo, the water separating the two is very shallow -- it never dips below 2.0 m -- and traversable on foot, but the narrow channel is usually crossed by boat for safety reasons.

Depending on weather conditions, visitors are usually only granted access to Dokdo for about 50 days each year. That means many are forced to turn back without ever setting foot on the islands.

After a short trek around Dokdo, we headed to the west island to stay for a day. Kim Sung-do, the sole inhabitant, came to greet us aboard a rubber boat and we got to the other side in less than three minutes. From the seawall, trumpet shells, sea urchins and other marine life were visible under the waves. The ebbing tides create an optimum environment for a wide variety of marine species.

Early next morning, we hiked for about 20 minutes to the highest point of the island in order to catch a breathtaking sunrise.

The forest on the other side of the island teems with lush vegetation. The high peaks and dry soil make it a tough environment for vegetation to flourish, but around 60 different types of plants can still be found there. Another 20-minute hike led our party to the only freshwater source there, which produces about one barrel of water a day.

After we left the west island and headed east, the situation became slightly more tense. The east island is controlled by the military and photography is prohibited, unless visitors are accompanied by a minder. As a result, we could not set foot on it until we received approval from the maritime police guarding its power generators, radars and communications facilities. The military facilities were off-limits.

Dokdo, Korea's easternmost territory, is open to both Koreans and foreigners, but the latter must go through a routine application process to gain admittance.


Friday, November 25, 2011

Grilled Seafood Just the Tonic at Incheon Port Festival

Gizzard shads are a seasonal favorite in Korea as their flesh fattens up at this time of year with just the right amount of health-inducing fish oils, and visitors could hardly get enough of them at an annual seafood festival in Incheon earlier this month.

The 11th Incheon Sorae Port Festival that ran from Oct. 13 to 16 attracted people from all over the country with its lively program of events and fresh seafood, including fish, crabs and clams.

View of Incheon Sorae Port A tasting session of fish congee served from a huge iron cauldron was wildly popular, but nothing could top the demand for the nutty and salty gizzard shads, delivered directly from fishing boats at the port. Visitors lined up to pluck them off grills, voicing their delight at the succulent fish as they sucked it down with a hot spoonful of rice.

Grilled gizzard shads During the festival, the market was filled with merchants and visitors negotiating prices. Those who bought fish to make into sashimi made their way to the raw fish restaurant, or found a free spot in front of the port for a refreshing picnic amid the cool ocean breeze.

The fish market at Incheon Sorae Port The festival also featured cultural experiences and performances showcasing the beauty of the West Sea and the romantic scenery around the port. Further information can be found at the event's homepage (