Saturday, March 31, 2012

Korean market is launching for grooming product of men

Cable channel XTM is adding a corner on grooming to its men’s trend-watching show “Homme 4.0.” The new segment “Get It Grooming” is inspired by On Style’s “Get It Beauty.” With singer-turned-actress Eugene as the host, the women’s beauty show is responsible for increasing the sales of the numerous products it has featured.

The male version which will be begining soon on this comming April 4th incorporating many sections of the original such as blind testing for the best products in a category with a panel. Beauty expert Doh Yoon-bum will host the new spot. “Homme 4.0” focuses on fashion trends, presented by stylists Jung Yun-ki and Kim Min-joon.

The first episode will discuss identifying one’s skin type and how to establishing an appropriate cleansing routine.

It’s been a while since cosmetic brands brought men out of the dark and inserted an array of beauty products in their lives, starting with foam cleaners all the way to tinted moisturizers. According to Euromonitor International, a market research institute, Korean men spent about 444 billion won in 2011 on skincare, ranking them the number one male beauty consumers in the world.

Now the spotlight is on skin brightening formulas. Brightening products, unlike in whitening, focus on activating vitamin production and facilitating circulation using natural extracts. Beauty companies are introducing routine-based products for men that resemble those tailored to women such as facial sprays and peeling cleansers.

Laneige Homme, Amore Pacific’s male beauty brand, launched its Pure Brightening series on Monday. Using Vitamin B3 inducing ingredients, the new package of cleanser, toner and lotion combo, essence, and mist targets men looking to brighten up and even improve their skin tone. Vitamin B3, also known as niacin helps improve circulation.

Pure Brightening mist (20,000 won) which one can spray on the face before going out the door or whenever the skins feels oily, signals a new trend in men’s grooming. In recent years, nearly all cosmetic brands for women began offering spray products as a solution for dry work environments. The launch of the male version of the beauty sensation is likely to trigger a similar craze in the market.

Lab Series, one of the pioneers in the male beauty industry, also hit the market with a three-step package, Power Brightening DR4, this month. Comprising of a serum, eye balm and water lotion, this bundle relies on four key ingredients for relieving discoloration; extracts from tropical plant dianella ensifolia (an antioxidant), ascorbic acid 2-glucoside (vitamin C inducer), seaweed palmaria palmate extract, and pinanediol from pine trees. The formula is appropriate for men who experience skin darkening due to freckles and blemish scars.

The handiest is the eye balm (53,000 won) which comes in a lip gloss-like tube with a metal applicator so one can directly apply the cream to counter the dark circles or bags under the eyes.

Source: The Korea Times

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Attention Please : 'Gukak' performances to be held

A traditional music troupe based in Seoul will be holding a performances in the coming weeks, with unique programs combining up and coming, along with master performers.

The Seoul Metropolitan Traditional Music Orchestra (SMTMO) will present a concert of new compositions by young and established composers related to the theme of spring.

The pieces will be played using traditional string and percussion instruments. The concert will be held on April 3 at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts.

The pieces on the program were newly written or edited for this concert, like composer Kim Sung-kyung’s “Moonlight in Springtime,” inspired by passages from the famous Korean novel “Honbul” by Choi Myung-hee.

The orchestra is one of the nine art troupes housed at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts.

The “Stage of Masters” concert to be held at the center on April 19, brings together four virtuosos of various traditional instruments, voice and dance.

The concert will feature solo and concerto performances.

The highlight of the performance is Ahn Sook-sun, one of the most popular divas of pansori, Korea’s traditional storytelling through song.

The 63-year-old singer, who divides her time between teaching at the Korea National University of Arts, and performing, will sing songs from “Simcheongga.”

A story about a girl named Simcheong and her blind father, “Simcheongga” is one of the five surviving stories of the Korean pansori storytelling tradition. The other stories are “Chunhyangga,” “Heungbuga,” “Jeokbyeokga” and “Sugungga.”

The concert will be held at the Grand Theater of the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets range from 20,000 to 40,000 won.

Meanwhile, the National Gugak Center will hold a concert for foreign officials attending the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul.

The Court Music Orchestra will perform a complete version of “Yeongsanhoesang,” a masterpiece dating from the Joseon Kingdom, today, at the National Gugak Center in Yangjae, southern Seoul.

Consisting of nine pieces, “Yeongsanhoesang” is a grand suite lasting more that 50 minutes with the participation of 100 musicians.

Tickets range from 8,000 to 10,000 won. For more information call (02) 580-3300 or visit

Dokdo :Japan maps show Dokdo was Korean territory

A state-run history foundation disclosed a set of old Japanese maps Wednesday that clearly show Tokyo regarded the islets of Dokdo as part of Korean territory.

Dokdo are rocky islets that lie less than 90 kilometers east of Ulleung Island in the East Sea.

The Northeast Asian History Foundation (NAHF) exhibited 10 Japanese maps dated from the late 18th century through the early 20th century that excluded Dokdo from Japan’s territory.

Of them, three were never made public before, including “A Map of the Japan Empire,” drawn in 1892.

The color-coded map of Japan marked Japanese territory in pink, including Oki Islands, but left Korean territory, including Ulleung Island and Dokdo blank.

The map was used in elementary schools in Japan.

The remaining maps also clearly marked Ulleung Island and Dokdo as separate from Japan.

“Most Japanese maps dating prior to 1905 show that Tokyo did not recognize Dokdo as part of areas where it exerts sovereignty,” a senior official of the history foundation said. “Those maps are highly valuable evidence that disputes Japan’s recent claims that Dokdo has long been a part of its territory.”

On Tuesday, the Japanese government approved three new high school textbooks claiming Dokdo as part of its territory.

Nam Sang-gu, a senior researcher at NAHF, said the number of textbooks claiming Dokdo as Japanese territory has not significantly increased, while acknowledging that more of them have begun to wrongfully assert that Dokdo has long been a part of Japan’s history.

Japan secretly annexed Dokdo, which it refers to as Takeshima, in 1905 ― prior to the colonization of the Korean Peninsula ― in an alleged attempt to install military facilities on the rocky islets during the Russo-Japanese War.

Officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT) said the move implicitly glorified the neighboring country’s wartime colonial past.

"We strongly protest the approval by the Japanese government of high school textbooks that justify a distorted historical perspective and glorify its past wrongdoing, and demand a fundamental correction," MOFAT spokesman Cho Byung-jae said.

The newly adopted textbooks will be used in Japanese high schools from March next year.

In response, MOFAT summoned a Japanese diplomat to protest the move.

Obama too comes under Hallyu spell

On his third visit to South Korea, President Obama seems to have caught the “Korean Wave.”

The term for the surge and spread of Korean pop culture -- “hallyu” in Korean -- popped up in the president’s speech on Monday, along with a sprinkle of other in-the-know references intended to show he could hang with the kids of Hankuk University, the audience for his otherwise policy-heavy speech.

Before launching into a review of his nuclear weapons policy, Obama name-checked South Korea’s hugely popular social networking sites -- Me2Day and Kakao Talk, the latter claiming to transmit 1 billion messages daily. He praised the young Koreans’ optimism and promise -- and tech savvy.

“It’s no wonder so many people around the world have caught the Korean Wave -- hallyu,” Obama said, in one of his biggest applause lines.

PHOTOS: Obama in South Korea

The president seems to be among them. With three presidential trips, Seoul gets the designation of Obama's most-visited foreign capitol. President Lee Myung-bak has come to the White House twice, once feted with a state dinner. The two leaders greeted each other warmly Sunday, Obama giving Lee a handshake and a back slap, as he arrived for a bilateral meeting.

In his remarks, Obama called South Korea a “modern miracle,” for its rise from war-ravaged dictatorship to a rich democracy. He declared the Koreans are “one people” and compared the peninsula’s division between the north and south to postwar Germany divided between east and west. Like the Germans, “the Korean people, at long last, will be whole and free,” Obama said.

Obama is in Seoul, along with leaders from more than 50 other nations, for a global summit on fighting nuclear terrorism. Despite the topic, the prime message so far has been solidarity with South Korea, particularly in its continued struggles with North Korea.

No matter what the challenge, "we go together," Obama said closing his remarks with the Korean translation: "Katchi kapshida!"


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

More Japanese textbooks are producing to claim Dokdo

Needs to pay more attention on this issue

Recently, the Japanese government approved three new high school textbooks claiming Korea’s easternmost islets of Dokdo, which lie less than 90 kilometers east of Ulleung Island in the East Sea, as part of its territory Tuesday. Officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT) said the move implicitly glorified the neighboring country’s wartime colonial past.

“Of 39 high school textbooks that we have examined, 21 claimed that Dokdo was Japanese territory,” a MOFAT official said asking for anonymity. “Three have mentioned Dokdo for the first time. The remaining 18 had previously made the claim.”

The Japanese education ministry announced the first results of the high school textbook screenings that will continue until 2014 in line with its new policy to enhance territory-related education in its schools.

Nam Sang-gu, a senior researcher at the Northeast Asia History Foundation, concurred that the number of textbooks claiming Dokdo as Japanese territory has not significantly increased.

However, he stressed that more of the high school textbooks have begun to wrongfully assert that Dokdo has long been a part of Japan’s history.

Japan secretly annexed Dokdo, which it refers to as Takeshima, in 1905 _ prior to the colonization of the Korean Peninsula _ in an alleged attempt to install military facilities on the rocky islets during the Russo-Japanese War.

The newly adopted textbooks will be used in Japanese high schools from March next year.

In response, MOFAT summoned a Japanese diplomat to protest the approval of the textbooks that reassert Tokyo's territorial claims.

"We strongly protest the approval by the Japanese government of high school textbooks that justify a distorted historical perspective and glorify its past wrongdoing, and demand a fundamental correction," MOFAT spokesman Cho Byung-jae said.

Sources say, of the 19 new Japanese textbooks submitted for the screenings, 12 referred to Korean women, who were forced to serve the Japanese military, as sex slaves during World War II.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihoko Noda recently said that the Peace Statue _ a monument of a young Korean girl set up in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul to remember the victims of Japan’s sexual enslavement _ distorts facts.

Soure: The Korea Times

Korea's cultural ambassadors


The Korean Culture and Information Service (KOCIS) recently admitted a new team of contributors for the Worldwide Korea Blog (WKB)2012 with a welcoming ceremony on March the past 23rd of this month.Although I was unable to take part as I am not in Korea.

The blogging team, consisting of foreign bloggers residing within Korea or overseas, contributes articles to the official blog of KOCIS, The Korea Blog ( ), and introduces Korean culture to the world through social media services.

Main page of Korea Blog

Bloggers living in Korea had been invited to the welcoming ceremony for a report on the activities of the WKB team last year and received a certificates of appointment from Woo Jin-young, director of KOCIS. Then, the group visited the National Museum of Korea where they got a look at national treasures such as a thinking Buddhist image and a golden crown from the Silla Dynasty and tried their hands at Korean folk painting.

Korea bloggers visited the National Museum of Korea to experience Korean culture.

In December last year i.e 2011 , KOCIS released an online recruitment ad for global reporters and selected a total of 50 bloggers to join this year’s team. The members represent a variety of nationalities and backgrounds, coming from countries as diverse as the U.S, Hungary, the Philippines,India, Canada and Brazil and working as students, lawyers, actors, and journalists. Now, the bloggers write posts about Korean cultural events taking place overseas and general information about Korean culture on their own blogs.

KOCIS selects the best pieces from the individual blogs for publication on the Worldwide Korea Bloggers category of the Korea Blog. The most active contributors will be rewarded at the end of the year.

The welcoming ceremony for the second batch of the worldwide Korea bloggers took place on March 23.

“It is great to collect content produced from foreigners’ perspectives and provide information to Internet users interested in Korean culture across the globe,” said Park Nark-jong, the director of the Global Communication and Contents Division of KOCIS.

First launched in January 2011, the Korea Blog has drawn 480,000 visitors, and the number is constantly on the rise. KOCIS posts new updates on a daily basis and strives to deliver diverse and in-depth information about Korea.

Now I am eagerly waiting for my last year certificate and this years too like my other fellow overseas bloogers.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Presenting past and present of 'Korean wave'

The 2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit is not just a summit for discussing nuclear security issues; it is also a great opportunity for Korea to promote its culture.

Seoul put all-out efforts into promoting the city and the nation as a whole at COEX, the venue of the summit, by setting up promotional booths in and outside of the International Media Center (IMC).

The Presidential Council on Nation Building had a booth outside the IMC where it set up traditional folding screens called “byeongpung” installed with digital screens inside them. Intended to show viewers the origins of “hallyu” (Korean wave), the digital screen was decorated with a traditional look. The digital screen, which oddly mixed with the traditional background, showed videos of such hallyu stars as Song Hye-kyo, LeeByung-hun and Bae Yong-jun and clips of Korean TV dramas.

The motif of the exhibition, which was to convey the past and the present of Korean culture, could easily be understood.

At a booth promoting Korean culture and tourism, a few feet away, visitors could watch 20 of Korea’s relics on a video screen set up by the National Museum of Korea. Viewers could experience the cultural properties in 3D as if they were inside a museum.

Next to the relic booth was a “hanbok” station where visitors could try on the traditional Korean clothes. Foreign journalists, curious about the costumes, took photos wearing them.

Plenty of brochures about Korean culture and tourist sites were displayed at the booth.

Inside the IMC, a special booth was set up to promote the city in particular.

Set up by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, the “Seoul” booth displayed digital images of the past, present and future of Seoul. Each section provided video clips of Seoul City, its transportation system, its tap water called “Arisu” and many more. The best places to visit in Seoul such as Bukchon Hanok Village and some of Korea’s traditional dishes such as sinseollo were also introduced.

Next to it was a booth dedicated just to Gangnam, a southern district in Seoul.

“Since COEX is located in Gangnam, we thought it was a great opportunity to promote the district. We especially focused on the district’s advanced medical service. It is the first district in Seoul to have adopted the U-Health Park Management System which digitalizes residents’ health conditions and allows them to check their health status regularly at a kiosk set up all over the area,” said No Young-hee who was representing the booth.

What seemed to attract the foreign visitors the most was the calligraphy stand.

Korea Post set up a booth at the entrance of the IMC offering to write foreign visitors’ names in Korean calligraphy. A group of journalists from Spain were waiting in a line, Monday, to get their names printed in Korean writing on traditional Korean paper, “hanji.”

“I really like the calligraphy booth. I took a look around all the booths and took pictures of interesting ones, but this one’s really good. We’re looking for interesting things to send back to our country,” said Nuria Vega Aguado, a Spanish journalist from Point Radio station.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Korea, India agree to boost defense cooperation

The leaders of South Korea and India agreed to bolster defense cooperation Sunday by continuing high-level contacts and exploring joint research in the field.

In a joint statement after their summit at Cheong Wa Dae, President Lee Myung-bak and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh agreed to explore the possibilities of joint ventures in the research and development, and manufacture of military equipment.

President Lee welcomed Prime Minister Singh’s announcement of a plan to set up a defense wing at the Embassy of India in Seoul within this year.

Lee and Singh signed the 33-point statement to further strengthen bilateral ties nearly two years after the two sides agreed to upgrade relations to a strategic partnership in January 2010.

The two leaders expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), a kind of a free trade pact, as bilateral trade has increased nearly 70 percent after the deal took effect in January 2010.

Last year, trade between the two nations hit $20 billion.

President Lee said the bilateral trade target of $40 billion by 2015, which was proposed by Prime Minister Singh, is “an attainable goal,” saying the two sides agreed to strengthen private and public partnerships to make it happen.

Lee said he and the Indian leader exchanged views on U.N. Security Council (UNSC) reform, adding the two sides agreed on many points.

The President didn’t elaborate on what he meant by those remarks.

India has sought to get a permanent seat in the UNSC.

During his visit to India in 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama revealed a plan to support India’s bid to become a permanent member of the UNSC.

Supporters of the UNSC reform claimed the current five permanent members _ the United States, China, Russia, the United Kingdom and France _ have not properly represented the voices of emerging powers.

Regarding North Korea, Lee and Singh voiced concern over its planned launch of a rocket which was announced on March 16. They urged the North not to do anything that could escalate tension in the region.

Lee and Singh also agreed to strengthen cooperation for peaceful exploration of outer space as envisaged in a memorandum of understanding signed between the Korea Aerospace Research Institute and the Indian Space Research Organization.

The Indian leader invited Korean companies to participate in construction projects for highways, ports, airports, subways and power plants.

India plans to invest $1 trillion in infrastructure projects from 2012 to 2017.

The two leaders held the talks after a welcoming ceremony in the presidential office, which was followed by a luncheon.

President Lee also met Prime Minister of New Zealand John Phillip Key and Jordanian King Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Korea and New Zealand, and Korea and Jordan.

Friday, March 23, 2012

South Korean first lady to host cultural performances

First lady Kim Yoon-ok will host a music concert and other cultural events for the spouses of foreign leaders attending next week's Nuclear Security Summit, the organizing committee said Friday.

Seventeen spouses are scheduled to travel to Seoul with heads of state and leaders of international organizations for the global conference slated for Monday and Tuesday, according to the committee.

The summit will be one of the largest international events South Korea has ever hosted. Representatives from 58 nations and four international organizations, including 45 heads of state, are expected to attend.

The spouse program will begin Monday with a visit to the National Museum of Korea in central Seoul to view some of the most cherished Korean historic treasures. Later in the day, the spouses will watch a classical music concert performed by some of the country's young musical prodigies.

On Tuesday, Kim will invite the spouses to the presidential office for a performance, titled "Queen's Morning," which will feature "hanbok," a traditional Korean costume. A pop music concert by boy band "JYJ" and Korean ballad singer Seong Si-kyung is also scheduled for the same day.

"The program (for the spouses) features an array of traditional Korean culture, classical music and Korean pop culture," an official at the committee said. "Kim has asked the organizers to focus on introducing K-pop stars and young Korean talents." (Yonhap)

Let's Gossip sometime

Do you know women feel more stressful than 1st date, when going makeup free !

A considerable number of women feel more stressful than their first date when going to office without makeup. About 90 percent of women said that they would rather cancel a first date altogether than go without makeup on.

The Daily Mail reported that two-thirds of women surveyed said that heading to the office bare-faced caused them more stress than public speaking, going on a first date or enduring a job interview.

The survey, conducted by the Vitality Show, a Britain-based wellness event for women, polled 3,000 British women about their make-up habits.

The heartening news was that over 50 percent women said that they are more than happy to show their makeup-free faces to close friends, family members and significant others. But when it comes to the workplace or romantic encounters, makeup supposedly can make or break a woman’s confidence.

As many as 70 percent of those interviewed said that they wouldn’t want their colleagues or bosses to see them bare-faced.

“Many women feel that there is a stigma associated with not wearing makeup and that their employers may discriminate against them if they don’t turn up to work ‘dolled up,’” psychologist Celia Bibby told the Daily Mail.

Even more surprisingly, 31 percent of women said that they wouldn’t even exercise at the gym without touching up their faces and over 16 percent put on makeup just to answer the door.

The idea that women feel dependent on their cosmetics isn’t a new one ― or something specific to our neighbors across the Atlantic.

A survey conducted by Harris on behalf of the Renfrew Center Foundation in February found that 44 percent of American women feel unattractive when they don’t put makeup on.

This may have something to do with the fact that over 25 percent of young women start wearing makeup at age 13 or younger ― roughly the point at which their self-esteem drops, too.

While the Vitality Show’s survey shows that women put a lot of stock into their workplace makeup regimens, an earlier study released last November indicated that one in three bosses think their employees wear too much makeup. The best course of action may be to apply the amount of makeup that makes you feel confident but doesn't make you look like you're wearing an entire MAC display.

Himalayan peaks showcase stark natural beauty

My country India and Pakistan are neighbour and always been curious about Pakistan. As we have various differences due to political reason but when I land down at Korea I met some beautiful people and learned many great things about Pakistan.

Pakistan is a very beautiful country as it is a land of splendors and a great tourist destination which I didn't know before being an Indian.

The landscape changes from the high mountain ranges of the Himalayas, Karakoram and Hindukush in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province to the plains of Punjab and the deserts out to the Arabian Sea.

There are myriad mountain peaks in Pakistan. The tallest peak in the South Asian nation is the renowned K-2, which is the second highest peak in the world (at more than 8,611 meters 28,251 feet) after Nepal’s Mount Everest. The 806 kilometer-long Karakoram highway constructed on the ancient route between Pakistan and China is the highest trade route in the world.

In the province of Punjab we have rich agricultural land and a network of rivers, shrines, forts and gardens, illustrating the Mughal era. Over two thousand years ago, the Gandhara Buddhist civilization flourished in northern Pakistan, with Taxila as a hub of Buddhist learning.

The province of Baluchistan is the largest of Pakistan’s four provinces. Constituting approximately 44 percent of the total land mass of Pakistan, it also enjoys only a sparse population. Baluchistan is rich in mineral resources. It is the second major supplier of natural gas in Pakistan. It has natural beauty, mountains ranges, salt mines and a long coastal belt.

The province of Sindh in the south also abounds in natural beauty, as well as having been the cradle of the ancient civilization of Mohenjo-daro. The southern city of Karachi is the commercial hub of Pakistan and includes the nation’s major port. Karachi also has beautiful beaches. In addition to the natural beauty in the four provinces of Pakistan, the people of Pakistan are extremely hospitable and generous to tourists and especially to foreign guests.

Tourism is the engine which mobilizes all the other business markets of the country, resulting in uplifting the socio economic condition of the people, at the cost of expenditure by tourists, in pursuit of satisfying his /her interest. Pakistan is a country with breath taking natural beauty and a variety of flora and fauna.

Pakistan has the second highest peak in the world and numerous passes, such as the Khyber Pass and the Khunjerab Pass in Khyber Pakhtoon Khwah.

From the mighty stretches of the Karakorams in the north to the vast alluvial delta of the Indus River in the south, Pakistan remains a land of high adventure and nature. Trekking, mountaineering, white water rafting, wild boar hunting, mountain and desert jeep safaris, camel and yak safaris, trout fishing and bird watching are a few activities, which entice the adventurous and nature lovers to Pakistan.

The High Himalayas, Karakoram and the Hindukush ranges with their alpine meadows and permanent snow line, coniferous forests down the sub-mountain scrub, the vast Indus Plain merging into the great desert, the coast line and wetlands, all offer a remarkably rich variety of vegetation and associated wildlife including avifauna, both endemic and migratory. Ten of 18 mammalian orders are represented in Pakistan with species ranging from the world's smallest surviving mammals, the Mediterranean pigmy shrew, to the largest mammal ever known; the blue whale.

Northern Areas of Pakistan, spread over 72,496 sq.Km. are as fascinating as the southern region. Amidst towering snow-clad peaks with heights varying from 1000 m to over 8000 meter, the valleys of Gilgit, Hunza and Skardu recall Shangri-La. The cultural patterns in this region are as interesting as its topography.

Modern Pakistanis are a blend of Harappan, Indo-Aryan, Indo-Iranian, Saka, Parthian, Kushan, White Hun, Afghan, Arab, Turkic and Mughal heritage. Waves of invaders and migrants settled down in Pakistan throughout the centuries, influencing the locals and being absorbed among them. Thus the region encompassed by modern-day Pakistan is home to the oldest Asian civilizations (and one of the oldest in the world after Mesopotamia and Egypt), the Indus Valley Civilization (2500 BC - 1500 BC).

The Khunjerab Pass, which the highway crosses, and the nearby Mintaka Pass lie astride the fabulous ancient Silk Road that led from Europe to Asia and over which history's most famous tourists once travelled. These include the Venetian trader Marco Polo after who has been named the wild Marco Polo sheep in the thirteenth century, the Chinese Monk Fe Hien in the fourth century and the Arab historian Al-Beruni in the eleventh century.

The Establishment of Heritage University of Taxila (HUT): For the promotion of cultural relations between South Korea and Pakistan, a Korean based organization, M/s Gandhara Art and Culture, has expressed an interest in the establishment of an institute for post graduate studies, at the “Heritage University of Taxila” (HUT). The aim of this institute would be the revival of the ancient glory and academic excellence of Taxila, and also to study, highlight and publicize the important aspects of the Gandhara civilization.

Korea's Fusion Sageuk

I have taken out the entire article from Industries and Technology Times

The MBC drama The Sun and the Moon is now all the rage throughout the country. The drama is based on the best-selling novel of the same title. It tells a love story set during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) of a fictional king, played by Kim Su-hyeon, and the heroine, played by Han Ga-in. The drama immediately won over viewers and critics with its first airing in January for its tantalizing plot, lively characters, and well structured story. The last viewing ratings by AGB Nielson and TNMS, two major audience measurement firms, reached 40 percent and are still rising, and The Sun and the Moon is on its way to becoming one of the most popular fusion sageuk dramas in Korean television.

South Korea's fusion sageuk, or period dramas with a modern touch, have all the elements needed to attract national and international viewers alike- captivating plots, mesmerizing characters, fascinating costumes, and sweet romance (Photo: Yonhap News).

Sageuk VS. Fusion Sageuk

So, what is sageuk, and what is fusion sageuk? Sageuk dramas are period dramas with historical background. The settings are usually elaborate, and the characters use language that is stylized and laced with archaic vocabulary and expressions. Most stories depict actual historical events or the lives of great men in history such as kings or generals. The Koreans have always been ardent fans of sageuk dramas ever since they first appeared on black and white television decades ago.
Many sageuk stories were about political conflict and intrigue within the royal court or during war. This naturally made the dramas very masculine and rough, and they were especially interesting to the older generations for that reason. Sageuk dramas weren’t particularly popular among young television viewers until a sageuk called Damo aired in the summer of 2003, marking the advent of fusion sageuk.
Damo is a fictional drama about the tragic love and actions of a police woman. Set in the Joseon period, it is a mixture of creative imagination, elaborate settings, and real martial stunt action. This new genre of sageuk, which was soon to be called “fusion sageuk” as it was sageuk infused with a modern touch, was very different from the previous sageuk dramas, which very much had the character of history text-books. Damo sparked a sensation among Korean viewers and was especially a big hit among the younger generation. After the airing of Damo, more fusion sageuk were produced with wider themes with touches of romance, action, fantasy, and the like.
Why is fusion sageuk so popular? We can find several major reasons. Young viewers can easily relate to the contemporary story line that is melted into the colorful historical backdrop, creating a unique blend of old and new. The main characters are young, good looking pin-up actors who are celebrated stars in the entertainment industry. Actors who performed in modern dramas and movies are featured to bring freshness to fusion sageuk. And the melodramatic storylines of love, friendship, and sweet romance brings new charm to the settings.

(left) KBS drama Hwang Jin-yi; (right) 2011 drama Chuno (photos courtesy of KBS)

International Fame

As fusion sageuk has gained nationwide popularity in recent years, they are being licensed to foreign broadcasters and have attracted a large foreign following. The first fusion sageuk that became popular in Asia was Dae Jang Geum, or Jewel in the Palace, featuring the actress Lee Young-ae as a talented palace chef who later became the firstever female chief physician to the king. The drama first aired in Southeast Asian countries and spread across the world to Europe, the Americas, and even to the Middle East, where Korean culture was not yet well known, to become a big part of Hallyu, or the so-called Korean wave. Countless foreign fans of Dae Jang Geum have travelled to South Korea to experience Korean cuisine and palace culture. In effect, the drama established a new line of cultural tourism themed on traditional royal cuisine and culture.
Soon afterwards, major broadcasting stations began investing much more in the creation of fusion sageuk. They were given incredible casting, scenes of cinematic proportions, lush costumes, and amazing soundtracks. Due to the international popularity of fusion sageuk, the main actors and actresses have become a new generation of Hallyu stars in countries where they have been seen. The actress Han Hyo-ju, the leading lady in Dong Yi, another fusion sageuk of MBC, was hailed as the next Lee Young-ae in China, and the actor Kang Jihwan joined the line of beloved Hallyu stars in Japan after the success of the KBS fusion sageuk Hong Gil Dong in 2008.
Well made fusion sageuk dramas have received overseas recognition and favorable reviews. The KBS miniseries Hwang Jin Yi starring the actress Ha Ji-won advanced to the main competition of the 2007 Monte Carlo TV Festival. Last year, the actor Jang Hyuk was nominated for the 2011 International Emmy Award for his performance in Chuno. The drama also won the Best Drama Series award in the 2010 Asian TV Awards and was nominated for the 2011 Monte Carlo TV Festival.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

IOC pleased with PyeongChang's progressive

PYEONGCHANG, Gangwon Province — Coordination Commission Chairwoman Gunilla Lindberg of the International Olympic Committee said Thursday that she found the readiness of many venues for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics pleasing.

The commission was here for a threeday inspection and meeting concerning preparations for the Winter Olympics.

“It is a great pleasure to be back in PyeongChang,” said Lindberg at a press conference. “I am pleased to report that PyeongChang 2018 has made a full start as an organizing committee. We have met a very impressive team led by Kim Jin-sun.” “We were particularly pleased to see that the Olympic village has already started construction.

“(We viewed the report and) it is a good Olympic concept. This is the beginning of a six-year long journey. Of course there are a lot of things to be done. But the legacy plan, venues, they have a fantastic green project; we are very impressed by it and congratulated POCOG,” she added.

This was the second time for Lindberg to visit PyeongChang, as she previously came as chairwoman of the Evaluation Commission last February. She singled out the preparation level of the PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (POCOG) for praise, saying, “We could see that all things were going as were previously reported. Results can be seen of the good preparation for PyeongChang. It has a strong focus on sports, legacy and sustainability.”

President Kim Jin-sun of the POCOG stressed the importance of cooperation with the local government, the IOC, and Korean Olympic Committee (KOC), calling the Olympic project a “team effort.” “This is the first meeting since winning the bid to be the host in July last year.

This is an important meeting so that together the IOC and us can make the Winter Olympics a success,” he said. “We have discussed the organizing committee, special laws, funds, marketing, communication, and the legacy of the Games (in the preparations).” The specifics are all part of what Kim called the “Games Foundation Plan,” which he has mentioned in previous press conferences, and said that the project was on a smooth track to being realized.

During the venue tour on Wednesday, IOC members Gian-Franco Kasper and IOC Executive Director of Olympic Games Gilbert Felli both stressed the importance of the coming Winter Games as not a onetime event, but part of a continuous effort for the development of winter sports. Kim confirmed this goal: “We have a vision and a goal that the Winter Games become athlete-centered, and also leave a legacy for the benefit of the local county and sports. All related organization are in the same boat, and we are heading for the harbor; the successful opening (of the PyeongChang Games).”

The Jungdong downhill skiing venue, located west of the Alpensia Resort where the main events will be held, has sparked protests from environmental groups for the damage it may cause to the surrounding area following the commencement of construction.

Kim said that he was aware of the objections and plans to talk with the group and related officials to find a solution.

Gangwon Province Governor Choi Moon-soon, who was also present, said the local government is taking all possible care to make construction plans nature friendly.

“We have formed a committee of 25 people, mostly professors and experts in environmental issues,” he said. “We have our first meeting on Friday, and will discuss measures to cause the least amount of damage to the surrounding environment and make a plan accordingly. The final plan.”

The visit was the first of an expected 10 by the Coordination Commission before the Winter Games commence in 2018. The second meeting is tentatively scheduled for February 2013. The meetings will be held annually before the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014, and will be held twice a year until the PyeongChang Games.

Korea won the bid to host in 2018 last July over Munich of Germany and Annecy of France with an overwhelming 63 out of 95 of the IOC votes in Durban, South Africa. The PyeongChang Organizing Committee was formed following the success of the bid and is initiating projects to expand venues, improve transportation and promote the Games worldwide.

Look what is going on: brand conscious auctions

This week, two large scale art auctions took place in Seoul. Seoul Auction and K Auction, the country’s leading auction houses, offered similar bodies of works, relying too heavily on abstract pieces from the late 20th century. The price estimates clearly indicated preference for the instantly recognizable Lee Ufan’s nearly empty canvases and Kim Tschang-yeul’s water drops, but the pieces failed to cause excitement on either occasion.

K Auction showed 16 pieces by Lee on Wednesday, which to an extent bored the participants. Most were sold on the first bid at around the lowest estimate, while five of them did not attract any interest. The selection even included the world renowned artist and philosopher’s small pencil and paper pieces for around 7 million won. The evening routinely flew through pieces by local household names like Lee Joong-seop, Chung Sang-hwa and Kim Whan-ki.

The calm was broken unexpectedly by Bernar Venet’s steel sculpture “Ligne Indeterminee.” The spiral structure sparked a cut-throat competition between two bidders calling from overseas and sold at 58 million won, more than three times the highest estimate of 17 million. The French artist’s production was part of 34 sculptural works specially organized for this spring auction. Usually local auctions only include three to four sculptures.

The overall monotonous flow was not so different from the night before. Seoul Auction achieved 77 percent sales of 124 works showcased Tuesday. The highlight was Park Soo-keun’s “Women on Roadside.” The oil on hardboard piece from 1962 brought the highest price of 620 million won after enthusiastic bidding. This is the first time in three years that his work has stirred the auction scene. In 2007, Park’s “A Wash Place” was bought for 4.52 billion won, setting the highest record in Korean auction history. His other piece “Mother and Son, Two Women” brought 500 million won.

The rest of the line-up was too familiar - Lee Ufan, Lee Kang-so, Ko Young-hoon, Kim Whanki and Park Seo-bo. Most found buyers without contest. Kim’s gouache on paper “A Flying Bird” sold significantly below the lowest estimate.

The event in Pyeonchang-dong, northern Seoul, was publicity at work. The fiercest competition was over Yoo Young-kuk’s oil painting titled “Work” that made the cover of the auction catalogue. Showing simplified images of mountain ranges, this geometric piece sold at 360 million won.

All four pieces that the Korea Deposit Insurance Corporation (KDIC) confiscated from the Busan Savings Bank were sold. The agency, which oversees the returning of savings to depositors, appointed Seoul Auction to sell artworks owned by the lender that had its business operations suspended in February 2011. On April 1, 10 more pieces from the financial institution will be put up for sale at Hong Kong Auction.

Works of tragedy

Bluntly put, tragedy sells in the art world. At K Auction, heart wrenching works of troubled artists surfaced such as Lee Joong-seop’s letter to his wife that was sold at 105 million won. To say the master, famous for paintings of bulls, (one piece sold at 3.56 billion won at Seoul Auction in 2010, making it the second most expensive sale) had a tumultuous life is an understatement.

Born to a rich family, he participated in the Korean War painting battle scenes; it eventually led his family to move to Jeju Island. Due to abject poverty (he lived on charity and drew on cigarette box wrappers, which the Museum of Modern Art in New York acquired), his Japanese wife Yamamoto Masako (later given the Korean name, Lee Nam-duk) and two sons returned to Japan in 1952.

Lee suffered from schizophrenia, malnutrition and acute hepatitis, and died alone at the Seoul Red Cross Hospital in 1956 — he never reunited with his beloved. The prose, accompanied by drawings of a happy family, sounds like a spell on himself; “I, Lee Joong-seop, will make Nam-duk a beautiful angel of happiness and comfort. I am confident as ever, and I will continue to seek new and great expressions for my family and good people around me.”

Wednesday’s star piece was a creation of an illness, Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Stars” (1995). This 5-by-3 meter canvas filled with white dots and gray lines was once owned by the Robert Miller Gallery in New York. It was bought for 1.2 billion won, the low end of the estimate, in a single bid. The Japanese artist is best known for her polka dot pieces that are results of her obsessive compulsive disorder. The 82-year-old suffers from hallucinations where specific patterns of dots and flowers would cover her surroundings. She moved to the United States after the Japanese art scene shunned her work due to her mental condition. Kusama turned the images that haunted her into groundbreaking artwork and represented Japan in the 1993 Venice Biennale. She is collaborating with French fashion house Louis Vuitton on a limited edition of leather goods, ready-to-wear items, jewelry, shoes and watches which will be launched in July. Smaller pieces of hers were sold at both auctions this week.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Adoptee to represent Korean cricket

For 15 years, he was Sazal Mahamud, a citizen of Bangladesh. Then in November 2010, he was adopted by a Korean family and looked forward to a new chapter in his life.

And the 17-year-old, now known as Kim Dae-yeon, encountered unexpected joy here, when he found he could resume his national youth team pedigree in cricket and furthermore represent his new country at the upcoming Asian Games.

“My childhood dream was to become a cricketer because the sport is gaining worldwide popularity. I started playing cricket at age 8 and played for the Under-10 and -15 national teams in Bangladesh. Before coming to Korea, my school finished second in a 326-team competition,” Kim said in an interview with The Korea Times.

Kim was adopted by a five-member family living in Incheon, a port city 40 kilometers west of Seoul. According to him, his new father, a businessman and Christian, had a religious hope of having a foreign-born son from an impoverished country and adopted Kim at the recommendation of the Bangladeshi wife of a friend. Kim still has family remaining in Bangladesh; he was the youngest of a six siblings who all lived separately, dispersed across the nation.

He is currently continuing his cricket career in Korea playing for Brighton’s International in the nation’s lone cricket league, organized by the Korea Cricket Association (KCA).

Kim said that the league has about 10 clubs mainly featuring expatriates in Korea, with the lone Korean cricket team, Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul. Currently, he privately teaches players of the university.

“Unlike other Asian countries, cricket does not draw much attention in Korea and the governing body has a short history. As a result, there are no specialized facilities for the sport. We just play cricket on the playing fields of Sungkyunkwan University in Suwon,” he said.

He also said that ability of Korean cricket players is subpar because they have not had the chance to intensively train in the sport.

“Watching games have been the only way to hone their skills,” Kim said. “In November, Australian cricket officials visited Korea and gave a clinic to Korean players. I was there, too and after the clinic, they told me to help improve Korean players.”

Incheon, where Kim now resides, is the host of the 2014 Asian Games and cricket is a regular event in the quadrennial sports festival.

The KCA plans to form a team for a maiden Asian Games appearance and Kim, who believes he can contribute to his host country in the sport, has set a goal of representing Korea there.

“As I have played cricket for national youth teams, I can help Korean cricket do well at the Asian Games. I want to participate in the competition for Korea,” he said.

“I want the KCA to consider me in organizing the national team for the Asian Games.”

Kim is willing to help raise the game of local cricketers’.

“There is no person in Korea to properly teach local cricketers and among foreigners living here, it is not easy to find one who is professionally trained. I can do the job,” he said.

“Should I become a Korea international, I cannot singlehandedly lead the squad and would need Korean players to play well. I think that if they receive proper coaching, they can certainly improve.”

Cooperative learning produce creativity

Former top Finnish educator speaks of Finland’s successful education reform

Top educators around the world, especially ones in South Korea, yearn for an education system like that in Finland.

The Nordic country is known for its high quality education that gets its students ranked highest among those from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) at international student evaluations such as the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). The country, however, doesn’t stress competition to get its students to score high. Instead, it gives students equal opportunities for learning and stresses cooperation among students.

Seoul’s top educator Kwak No-hyun met Erkki Aho, Finland’s former Head of the National Board of Education, recently, to learn of Finland’s method of success and to seek advice on the direction of education in Korea.

The meeting between the two top educators was organized by the Institute for 21st Century Education.

Kwak began the conversation by comparing the attitudes of students in the two countries.

“Korean students and Finnish students go neck in neck in terms of ranking at the PISA but our students seemed to be at the bottom in terms of happiness and self-motivation,” said Kwak.

Aho answered that scores weren’t everything.

“The purpose of schools is not to foster students who do well on tests. Ethical and moral education is also important. Finnish education is successful in providing this,” said Aho during the meeting which was open to the media.

The Finnish educator said cooperation and communication between students was important in producing a synergy effect in education.

“Schools are a miniature of society. There are all kinds of students from different backgrounds and regions and with different religions. They also have different talents. When these students with different talents learn in the same class, they encourage each other and learn from each other. New ideas are created when such differences are shared through communication,” Aho said.

Steady reform

The Finnish education system went through slow and steady reform during the past few decades. Aho took the helm from 1973 through 1991 in reforming the system to provide equal opportunities.

Public elementary and middle schools were combined into comprehensive schools with a 9-year curriculum and level classes based on achievement were abolished.

“We did have level classes for foreign language and mathematics until the beginning of the reform. The old and the new system functioned side by side for a certain period. Then we completely abolished the level system and the comprehensive school took over. Students with different achievement levels studied in one class,” said Aho.

The reform, however, was met with criticism in the beginning.

“People were critical about the new system at first. They questioned whether low-performing students could follow through. But I said they had the capacity to learn more. They just needed the opportunity, support, and trust. In the end, these students rose to the level the society required,” he said.

The students who excelled were taught to indulge in individual learning.

“Because the system changed, we had to differentiate education within the classrooms. So we had to educate the teachers to provide customized education for students. It was a big challenge for the teachers because they had to take care of students who did poorly and those who excelled all in one classroom. The students who excelled were given more learning materials and challenging tasks,” he said.

Cooperation and communication

This was possible because students weren’t compared.

“There’s no external testing at all during this 9-year comprehensive school, although the students do get evaluated. At the end of the year, students receive individual reports from teachers on how much they reached their goals of learning. But this information is only revealed to the individual student and his or her parents. Students are not compared with each other. That’s an essential point,” said Aho.

One of the characteristics that define Finnish education is cooperation.

As students of different academic levels learn in the same classroom, those who perform well are advised to guide and lead the poorly-performing ones. Through this process, students learn to understand each other and hone their social skills.

“Communication increases human capacity. Creation and innovation come through this process,” he said.

School violence was also tackled through communication.

“About four years ago, the minister of education organized a special project to eliminate bullying from Finnish schools. The method was through discussion. As soon as school bullying was spotted, teachers steered discussion between students. The bullies were asked why they were bullying their friend and whether or not they thought of the bullied students’ feelings. Punishment was not used,” said Aho.

“Students also did role play. This seemed to be effective. Also, some students were trained to help friends in this situation. Now about 80 percent of comprehensive schools are participating in the process.”

The Korean education system is too focused on competition, said Kwak after listening to Finland’s example.

“Competition and comparison is too deeply rooted in our society. We think stimulation is the key to effective learning. We need to be free from this prejudice,” said Kwak.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

First overseas voting: low participation

Less than six percent of Korean residents overseas have registered to take part in the nation’s first overseas voting ahead of the April 11 National Assembly elections.

The National Election Commission (NEC) said Sunday 123,571 people, or 5.57 percent of the 2.23 million eligible, had completed their registration by the deadline of Feb. 11.

With overseas voting is set to take place from March 28 to April 2 at 158 Korean overseas missions, analysts say they expect voter turnout to be even lower as those registered must visit Korean missions again to vote. Voting by mail is not allowed, the NEC said.

The Korean mission in Shanghai attracted the highest registration with 6,505 people, while the one in Croatia ranked the lowest with just 24.

An apparent lack of interest in Korean politics and the inconvenience of registering are to blame for the lukewarm participation, analysts said.

For registration and to vote, Korean expatriates must visit Korean missions abroad. Seoul does not have missions in 67 countries.

“Expatriates don’t want to spend their time and money to vote, which is expected to make few changes to their lives,” said Ko Seon-kyo, professor at the Korean Civic Education Institute for Democracy.

A law enacted in 2009 enabled overseas Koreans to cast ballots in both parliamentary and presidential elections. The country’s presidential election will take place on Dec. 19.

The NEC said it will cooperate with the concerned government bodies to increase people’s attention on voting ahead of the presidential poll.

Television more interactive

For a long time, television has been regarded as a one-way medium, with viewers passively sitting and watching.

But with the penetration of smart devices, television is becoming an increasingly interactive medium, where people can share their ideas and opinions or recommend content through social networking services. Many people find themselves engaged in chatting and sharing opinions about programs while watching them, using smart devices.

Cheon Wang-seong, a researcher at KT research Institute, said in a report that television has the potential to become a social medium. “Talking while watching television is an activity familiar to many and they have been doing it in the past as well as now,” he said.

He went on to say that people prefer watching sports or dramas together. They also send text messages to broadcasters to make their opinion known on the bottom of the screen in real time. These are examples of television’s social aspect, according to Cheon.

“On average around 30,000 replies are posted on portals in real time for each professional baseball game. Or the numerous evaluations posted on the bulletin boards of TV programs or on blogs and Internet cafes show how much people want to express their ideas while watching television,” he said.

Smart devices make TV interactive, social

While the desire for the interactive aspects of television existed in the past, the expansion of smart devices now allows people to express and convey their ideas on what they watch.

Previously, using desktop computers or paid text messages via cell phones ― the only means of expressing ideas on television ― was burdensome and costly. Viewers couldn’t immediately express their ideas and feelings as they had to turn on their computers and lost the idea or inspiration. “Smartphones, which show information on TV programs and through which people can input text right away, are good solutions. The expansion of social networking services where people can send their ideas, or multi-screens which enable watching programs on desktops or smartphones are also helping the development of social television,” Cheon said. According to a survey on U.S. consumers by Nielson Media, seven out of 10 owners of smart devices were using them while watching television, turning sets from “lean-back” to “sit-forward” devices.

Diverse services

Television is becoming interactive in diverse ways. The most common are mobile applications that work on smartphones or tablets. A social networking service called “TV Talkers” enables people to communicate with people watching the same program. They can also network among themselves. “TV Stalker,” a social TV application, lets people talk while watching dramas. They can also share information on product placement or diverse brand goods and places indirectly advertised on the show.

Broadcasters are also launching similar apps. They welcome “social TV” as an aspect that can motivate viewers to continue their interest in the program, pulling up the viewing rate.

Smart TV manufacturers have supported such televisions by adding social networking services to the sets, so that people can post on them regarding what they watch.

The bull market people hard to believe in

Top 3 drivers of global rallies ― liquidity, corporate earnings, and risk appetite

You may not feel it but a bull market has come back on stage. Although investors and policymakers are not so sure or are little aware of it, we have just lived through one of the greatest bull markets in history. The U.S. stock market has hit a five-year high, while European markets are behaving as if everything is fine.

Despite lingering uncertainties seizing the world economy, the global financial market has weathered numerous challenges and has continued on an upward spiral. Market rallies are being spotted worldwide — North America, South America, Europe and Asia. Bolstered by strong performance abroad, the domestic market has also enjoyed a sustainable ascent.

Last Wednesday, the U.S. stock market had its biggest gain of the year. Both The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the tech-laced NASDAQ composite index broke the psychologically-important levels of 13,000 and 3,000, respectively.

The Dow closed at 13,177.68 on that day, the highest level in 50 months, while the NASAQ ended at 3,039.88, the strongest since 2000. Standard & Poor’s 500 also surged to 1,395.95, its highest level in 46 months. Europe stocks also rose to their highest level in eight months.

The key reason for omnipresent rallies is the revival of risk appetite among global investors. Risk-loving investors, who scrambled for an exit from stock markets following the outbreak of the eurozone crisis, are returning. The CBOE (Chicago Board Options Exchange) volatility index, known as the “fear gauge,” which reflects investor anxiety, fell to a nearly a five-year low Tuesday.

There are three key triggers that have been stimulating risk appetite. Fears of the eurozone debt crisis spinning out of control have been eased, turning around investors’ sentiment. Besides, global companies Apple and Volkswagen surprised the market with impressive earnings. Finally, central banks around the world have kept channeling new liquidity.

Bearish observers are issuing warnings against optimism saying that financial markets are overheating today. However, a growing number of investors and analysts are moving into the optimistic camp believing that there is still much room for stocks to move upward.

“I have been, and remain bullish. The rally is based on the recovery of the U.S. economy, against the background of the rising power of China and the other BRIC economies,” Goldman Sachs Asset Management Chairman Jim O’Neill told Business Focus via email from London.

“Of course stimulative policies of the major central banks are also supportive. I did and still expect a 20 percent rally of the S&P 500 and other major markets in 2012,” he added.

Liquidity rally

The bullishness in the current market is widely considered a liquidity rally. Central banks’ liquidity injections over the past year are now making their way through the real economy.

The European Central Bank (ECB) is estimated to have supplied 1 trillion euro ($1.3 trillion) to banks in the region through its long-term refinancing option (LTRO), which allows banks to raise funds for three years at 1 percent. This is the reason why European investors turned to “buy mode.” The U.S. Fed has extended its commitment to keep near zero interest rates up to 2014, while the Bank of England expanded its quantitative easing (QE) program.

On Tuesday, the Bank of Japan (BOJ) kept its key interest rate unchanged at between zero and 0.1 percent, while boosting a loan program by 2 trillion yen ($24.4 billion) to 5.5 trillion yen. The Japan Bank for International Cooperation has decided to extend low-interest dollar loans to Sony Corp. and Toshiba Corp. through major Japanese banks to help finance their acquisitions of foreign companies

A shift toward monetary easing is also the trend in many emerging countries — China, Brazil and South East Asia. Brazil’s central bank opted for an aggressive 0.75 percentage point cut, to 9.75 percent, at its most recent rate-setting meeting on March 7. The Reserve Bank of India kept its policy repo rate on hold at 8.5 percent Thursday. It also lowered reserve requirement ratios by 0.5 percentage points.

Market analysts say that central bank stimulating policies helped ease some global fears, which have been omnipresent until recently.

“With central banks continuing to push for growth, it is reasonable to expect further capital inflows and a further liquidity-driven rally. On the domestic front, most economic data releases support monetary easing action, especially as inflation has been easing,” Natixis economist Edgardo Torija-Zane said.

Apple effect

Another key engine for the recent market ascent is improvement in global firms’ performance. Global technology giant Apple and Volkswagen of Germany recently announced record results, giving further momentum for markets to fly higher.

Apple posted net profits of $13.1 billion in the first quarter of fiscal 2012, up 118 percent from a year earlier, which further boosted its shares. Apple stocks have risen by 30 percent this year, helping the NASDAQ blast above the 3,000 milestone.

Volkswagen recorded operating profits of 11.3 billion euro, leading the rise of the German stock market. The DAX went over 7,000 Wednesday for the first time in eight months.

South Korea’s tech giant Samsung Electronics also posted 165 trillion won (approximately $146 billion) in annual sales and 16.2 trillion won in operating profits last year. The sales figure is the highest-ever in the company’s history. Samsung Electronics shares hit a record high of 1.25 million won Wednesday.

Market Force Company CEO James Rooney points out that earnings surprise by global players, particularly Apple’s handsome performance, is buttressing the market rise.

“Apple’s continuing success and the reflection of that success finally are starting to show up in their market valuation — now over $544 billion, up from less than $400 billion just months ago,” Rooney told Business Focus.

In fact, shares of Apple, getting a boost from anticipation of the new iPad, passed $600 at one point in Thursday’s trading session. The rise gave the company a market valuation of about $552 billion. Apple started selling the new iPad Friday.

“And presumably that success will continue to flow through to the many suppliers and distributors that are riding the Apple Wave, as well as secondary effects that will start to show up in various forms of higher productivity and greater efficiency of other economic activities that are able to extract serious benefits from the iPad effect,” he added.

Investors are also betting on earnings improvement, believing that U.S. and European economies will bottom out this year.

“Growth optimism is behind the rallies. The optimism is due in part to G3 central banks turning more accommodative since late 2011. The rally is sustainable as long as the data support the growth optimism,” ING Group senior economist Tim Condon said.

Light at the end of tunnel?

The last key driver that has turned around the global market is Greece getting out of default territory. The country has secured another bailout and avoided a messy default on its debt obligations.

Global ratings agency The Fitch upgraded Greece Tuesday to B minus from “restricted default” after Athens carried out the biggest debt write-down in history in a bond swap with private creditors.

The ratings agency said that Greece is no longer in default but slow reforms, political uncertainty and recession could push it back toward bankruptcy. The lift was the first such move by a ratings agency to get the country out of default territory after the debt swap cut Athens’ debt mountain by about 100 billion euros.

It was the first time Greece’s rating had been raised since the debt crisis erupted at the end of 2009 and the first Fitch upgrade since 2003, but the B minus rating still places Greek government bonds in “junk status.”

With debt fears eased in the region, yields on Italy’s 10-year treasury bonds dipped to 4.86 percent Wednesday from the 7 percent level. Yields on Spain’s treasury bonds also fell to the 5 percent range.

The economic backdrop in the eurozone is also showing signs of improvement. The Mannheim-based ZEW economic think tank’s monthly survey of economic sentiment jumped to 22.3 in March from 5.4 the previous month, the highest level in 21 months since June 2010, supporting hopes that Europe’s largest economy has recovered from a weak patch.

The think tank said that surprises for German businesses will be positive and that the worst for the eurozone banking sector was widely seen as over.

Global economists have turned more upbeat about the financial market but they still remain cautious about forecasting its future course, saying that there are still plenty of challenges preventing a recovery.

Cautious optimism prevails

They point out that only if economic indicators in major countries such as the U.S. and Europe continue to improve, will the current rally be sustainable.

“The current rally is mostly just being driven by relief from the downward pressure that have previously been coming out of Europe. So it is a rebound and not likely to have sustainable energy beyond that. There are just too many challenges and uncertainties still embedded in both the U.S. and European economies,” Rooney said.

“The market is also still constrained by fears of slowing growth and internal economic challenges for China.”

Condon of ING echoed the view, saying, “The G3 economies — the U.S., European Union and China — are not growing fast enough to be able to withstand an adverse impact like an oil shock. If growth falters, the return of double-dip worries would likely end the rally.”

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Where Are the Missing W50,000 Banknotes?

A large number of the new W50,000 banknotes that went into circulation in June of 2009 are unaccounted for. Some 56.36 million W50,000 bills have been issued since 2009, with a value of W28 trillion (US$1=W1,123), but as of the end of January, four out of 10 of the bills have gone missing.

When the bills were first printed, there were concerns that they could be used to amass slush funds or to stash away to dodge taxes. The missing bills suggest that these concerns were well-founded.

According to the Bank of Korea on Monday, the amount of W50,000 banknotes that have been printed totaled W28.2 trillion, up 32.5 percent or W7 trillion over the past year. That has increased since January last year when it surpassed W20 trillion. And W50,000 bills now account for 53.6 percent of the total number of bills in circulation, up 10 percentage points over the past year.

By contrast, the amount of W10,000 bills in circulation totaled W19.8 trillion as of the end of last month, down W2.5 trillion from last year. It amounted to W20.1 trillion until February last year but fell to W19.2 trillion the next month and ceded the top spot to W50,000 bills.

The explosive demand for W50,000 bills stems from their widespread use as cash gifts for special occasions like weddings and anniversaries, replacing the W100,000 bank checks which had been frequently used. Before the W50,000 bills were circulated, a total of W7 trillion worth of W100,000 bank checks were printed each month, but that plummeted after the W50,000 bills were printed to W3.4 trillion in December 2011.

But some attribute the surge in the number of W50,000 bills to increased demand from the black economy, involving bribes, gambling and illicit transfers of wealth. A key example is an W11 billion stash of cash discovered under a plot of farmland in North Jeolla Province last year that consisted mostly of W50,000 bills. The cash was the proceeds of an illegal online gambling operation.

Supporting such suspicions is the low collection rate of the W50,000 banknotes compared to other bills. The collection rate refers to the number of bills that are printed and later collected again by the BOK. In the case of W50,000 bills, it is less than 60 percent, meaning four out of every 10 of them are stashed away somewhere. For W10,000 and other bills, the collection rate is more than 90 percent.

SOURCE: Chosun Ilbo

South Korea to go Bologna children's book fair

South Korea will be opening the Korean Pavilion at the Bologna Children's Book Fair to be held in Bologna, Italy from March 19-22, according to the culture ministry on Thursday.

About 700 children's books submitted by 26 local publishing companies will be displayed at the Korean Pavilion, set to cover 301 square meters in the Bologna Fair Center.

Among the books to be featured is "Grimmie's White Canvas" by Sang Publishing in Seoul, which won the Opera Prima division of this year's BolognaRagazzi Award.

The South Korean publishing industry hopes participation in the Bologna book fair will build momentum for a Korean Wave in the field of publishing in Europe. The Bologna Children's Book Fair is known to be the world's biggest event participated in by 1,300 publishing companies from 69 countries across the globe.

In a related move, the Korea Literature Translation Institute plans to hold events to introduce juvenile literature from Korea at the Bologna Children's Book Fair and also in Rome and Bonn, Germany.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Tales of 3 Geese

Hunting for many Westerners living in Korea during the late 19th and early 20th centuries was not just to put food on the table; it was also considered manly entertainment. While large animals, such as deer, bears, wild boar and, for some of the braver individuals, tigers were often the prey, for the most part wild fowl was the game of choice.

It is no coincidence that some of the earliest Western canines in Korea were bird dogs — cocker spaniels seem to have been especially prized by the British Navy. During the British occupation of Gomundo Islands (1885-1887), British sailors and Marines imported pheasants from China and started their own hunting club.

For Westerners living in Seoul, ducks and geese were popular game birds. Horace Allen, the American representative to Korea (1897-1905), boasted that the geese and ducks were so abundant along the Han River that he had seen it fairly black with them. There were so many birds that some hunters were able to take four down with a single shot.

The truth of his boast is impossible to determine now but undoubtedly none of those Western hunters were as skilled or as unfortunate as a fabled hunter Homer Hulbert wrote about in 1902 (“Things Korean,” Horace N. Allen).

According to Hulbert, there was a hunter so skilled with a bow that he could shoot an arrow through a cash (a Joseon era coin with a hole in the center) without moving the coin. One day, a bystander noticed three geese flying overhead and challenged the hunter to bring the three of them down with a single arrow. Without hesitation, the hunter complied and the three geese fell from the sky.

Already proud of his feat, that night the hunter was further blessed with a portent of good tidings. He dreamt that his wife would soon give birth to three fine young sons and, by that winter, he was the proud father of triplet sons.

The boys were what any father could wish for: handsome, obedient and strong. Without a doubt the hunter was the envy of all of his neighbors but then tragedy struck. On the boys’ tenth birthday they all suddenly fell sick with smallpox and within a few days all died — almost at the same time.

The father was wracked with grief and “wrapped the bodies in straw and tied them as [was] customary to the branch of a tree on the mountain side to let the evil humors of the disease dry up before burying them; so that when buried the bodies would easily decay.” (“A Hunter’s Mistake,” The Korea Review Vol. 2)

In an attempt to smother the pain the father began to drink heavily and wail throughout the night of the injustices of the gods in taking his sons away from him.

One night, one of the hunter’s fellow drinkers became so intoxicated that he stumbled into the mountains and fell asleep beneath the very tree that the three boys hung from. He awoke with a start when he heard coming from the village the drunken wails of the hunter beseeching the gods. It was only then that he noticed that above him, hanging from the branches were the boys’ bodies and, much to his horror, he could hear them speaking amongst themselves. They were not true boys but the spirits of the geese that the hunter had slain so many years ago. They were basking in the hunter’s cries of sorrow and satisfied with their revenge.

The drunkard fled from the tree and immediately went to the hunter and told him of what he had witnessed. The hunter then broke his bow and never hunted again.

N. Korea is soon launching long-range rocket

North Korea announced of launching an earth observation satellite aboard a long-range rocket next month, a move expected to spark international condemnation because the launch is seen as little different from a missile test.

The announcement came just weeks after North Korea agreed to temporarily put a moratorium on missile and nuclear tests and freeze its uranium-enrichment facilities in exchange for 240,000 tons of food aid from the United States.

South Korea expressed "serious concern" over the North's plan, noting the launch would violate a U.N. Security Council resolution.

North Korea said Unha-3 rocket carrying Kwangmyongsong-3 will blast off from its satellite launching station in North Pyongan Province between April 12 and 16, the Korean Committee for Space Technology said in Pyongyang.

The launch of a satellite built by indigenous technology is designed "to mark the 100th birth anniversary of President Kim Il-sung," the country's founder and the late grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-un, the committee said.

The launch date is set around the late founder's April 15 birthday, one of the most important holidays in the isolated country. The North, one of the poorest countries in the world, has vowed to usher in a prosperous and powerful nation by the milestone anniversary.

The committee said it has chosen a safe flight orbit to ensure carrier rocket debris to be generated during the flight would not have any impact on neighboring countries.

North Korea "will strictly abide by relevant international regulations and usage concerning the launch of scientific and technological satellites for peaceful purposes and ensure maximum transparency," the North's committee said in an English-language statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

The committee claimed that the launch will greatly encourage North Koreans "in the building of a thriving nation and will offer an important occasion of putting the country's technology of space use for peaceful purposes on a higher stage."

Meanwhile, South Korea called on North Korea to "immediately stop such a provocative act and abide by its international obligations."

The launch "will become a grave provocative act against peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia," the foreign ministy said in a statement.

The North's move could be aimed at boosting its negotiating power with the U.S. after their recent nuclear deal, said Kim Yong-hyun, a North Korea expert at Dongguk University in Seoul.

"The North could employ brinkmanship, as it wants to take the lead in future negotiations with the U.S.," Kim said.

The communist country has a track record of making commitments in return for economic concessions and then abandoning talks, reneging on its commitments and staging provocations.

Kim said the North could argue that its satellite launch would not be in violation of its moratorium on missile tests, a position that is expected to be rejected by the U.S.

"The borderline is ambiguous," Kim said, referring to technological similarity between a rocket launch and a long-range missile test.

Baek Seung-joo, a senior analyst at the state-run Korea Institute of Defense Analyses, said a rocket can carry either a satellite or a warhead and the technology in launching the satellite could be diverted for military purposes.

In 2009, the North claimed it successfully put a satellite into orbit as part of a peaceful space program. However, South Korea and the United States said at the time that the launch was meant to test North Korea's ballistic missile technology and that no object entered orbit.

The launch drew U.N. condemnation, prompting North Korea to quit the six-nation talks aimed at ending its nuclear weapons programs. The North conducted a second nuclear test in May 2009, drawing tightened U.N. sanctions.

The recent nuclear deal between Pyongyang and Washington raised hopes that the disarmament talks could be resumed. The talks also involve South Korea, China, Japan and Russia.

Still, the nuclear accord could unravel if the U.S. views the North's upcoming launch as a disguised long-range missile, said Baek.
The U.S. did not make any immediate comment on the North's announcement.

The upcoming liftoff comes as the North is set to hold a key political conference. The KCNA reported in February that the Workers' Party conference in mid-April is designed "to glorify the sacred revolutionary life and feats" of its late leader Kim Jong-il and "rallied close" around his son and successor, Kim Jong-un.

Let find out how people all over the world will react.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Treat of the month of March or Women's month : former 'comfort woman' bids for Assembly seat

A former sex slave for Japanese soldiers has made a bid toa run for the parliamentary elections.

Lee Yong-soo, 84, said Wednesday she has applied for candidacy of the main opposition Democratic United Party to become a lawmaker.

She announced the bid after the regular Wednesday rally by former “comfort women” which has been held over 1,000 times since 1992.

“I applied for the candidacy through the Internet Tuesday evening. If I take a seat at the National Assembly, I’ll solve issues surrounding victims of Japanese colonial rule as their representative,” Lee said.

“I may face death soon, and these days I often dream of those who died before me. I want to solve the issues and if I meet them in heaven, I want to tell them I did it,” she said.

Lee added she’ll also make efforts for human rights of women in North Korea and other parts of Asia.

She was forced to provide sex to Japanese soldiers in Taiwan at the age of 15 and came back home to Daegu in 1945 after Korea’s liberation.

Lee was the representative for plaintiffs in a suit against the state in 2004. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and ordered Seoul to disclose the Korea-Japan treaty on the compensation of war victims. In 2007, she also testified about her suffering at a hearing of the U.S. House of Representative, which adopted a resolution on comfort women denouncing Japan’s sexual slavery.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Hallyu boom: igniting a bureaucratic turf war

Ministries vie for dominant role as K-pop leaps borders

The hallyu, or the Korean wave, its market grew tenfold last year, compared with a decade ago.

According to industry experts, the K-pop craze, which is contagious among young people in Asia, Europe and Latin America, is a key driver for the record-high profits earned from hallyu exports last year. Since 2009 the K-pop explosion has fallout that is landing well beyond Asia riding on the free ticket of social media, such as YouTube, they said.

As Korean pop culture becomes global as it goes viral, ministries and government agencies are competing to steer the hallyu bandwagon.

They have delegated teams dedicated to spreading Korean culture and ideas while taking every road and avenue to make K-pop and the nation’s TV dramas available in every corner of the earth. They claim their supportive role has been significant in aggrandizing the hallyu boom.

Why are ministries and agencies with no direct link to hallyu desperate to get involved?

The heads of those institutions can claim that their supportive role has been a main driver in the success of K-Pop and Korean dramas as they go borderless, according to staff working with those agencies.

A bureaucratic turf war came as several government agencies leapt on the hallyu bandwagon.

In January, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism launched a team to promote hallyu. Under the supervision of the first vice culture minister, the team is responsible for drawing up assistant measures to help the K-pop boom have a trickle-down effect on other Korean products, such as films and traditional culture.

The hallyu team was launched four months after Rep. Shin Nak-yun of the main opposition Democratic United Party (DUP) submitted a bill calling for the establishment of a control tower to promote the Korean wave as the boom spread beyond Asia.

The bill called for the Prime Minister’s Office to allow the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to draw up a comprehensive strategy to help sustain hallyu’s popularity.

Thirty-five lawmakers co-signed the measure, which is pending at the National Assembly.

The bill has alarmed the culture ministry. Officials there were worried that the ministry’s dominant role in policy support for the hot item will inevitably be undermined if the bill gets the nod from lawmakers.

Several high-ranking officials from the culture ministry visited Shin’s office shortly after she submitted the bill to the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs, Unification and Trade Committee in September.

Ministry officials lobbied Shin, culture minister from 1998 to 1999 under the late Kim Dae-jung government, to rethink the bill.

“Culture ministry officials were concerned about the measure as officials felt that their influence would dwindle if the foreign ministry draws up the strategy. They insist that the culture ministry oversee the grand strategy,” said Jang Won-ik, an aide to Shin.


Shin said she believed the foreign ministry needed to draw up the comprehensive supportive strategy because it is easier for it to gather country-specific information through its 150 foreign missions.

Jang said members of the foreign affairs committee were overwhelmed by the free trade agreement with the United States last year and they have yet to read the bill. But their deliberations will start soon, he said.

Industry experts estimated the hallyu market reached nearly $300 billion last year.

The culture ministry insists that it has to orchestrate policy support for hallyu as it is in charge of the operation of 21 Korean Cultural Centers abroad. They are the outposts of Korean culture.

They provide a variety of events, run free Korean language programs and showcase Korean films and art to help local residents build a deeper understanding of Korean culture.

Currently, the centers overseas are operating under the supervision of Korean embassies.

Asking for anonymity, several insiders said there is an ongoing rift between staff at the culture centers and the embassies.

The popularity of Korean pop music, soap operas and even food has inspired policymakers of ministries that seemingly have no direct link with the current wave to find their own niche to benefit from the culture boom.

Several other ministries and government agencies have created hallyu programs to spread Korean ideas and culture.

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the Presidential Committee on Nation Branding and several other government agencies have hallyu projects.

The entry of diverse government agencies in the hallyu market under the name of policy support has spurred similar overlapping programs.

For example, the Korea Foundation and the Academy of Korean Studies finance foreign scholars studying Korean studies.

The former is doing so under the auspices of the foreign ministry, whereas the education ministry is supervising the Academy of Korean Studies. Korean language programs also overlap. The Korean Culture and Information Service provides free Korean language courses through its 20 culture centers abroad. A similar service is also provided by the National Institute for International Education which is under the supervision of the education ministry.

The overlapping of similar functions has not only caused a budget increase but also prompted a turf war among ministries or government agencies.


The Korea Foundation is now working on exporting a hit TV drama, “My Wife is a Superwoman” aired on MBC in 2009 through Korean embassies.

Seo Min-soo, a senior fellow of Samsung Economic Research Institute, said the role of dramas in creating the hallyu boom is significant.

“Most K-pop fans are young, but the age range of those who watch dramas is wide, from teenagers to elderly citizens,” he said. “K-pop only shows the trend of Korea’s pop music, whereas dramas show a wide range of aspects of Korean culture.”

Producers and broadcasters are not enthusiastic about their shows being viewed by global audiences for free.

So the government gives the broadcasters or producers a three-year period to find foreign business partners who are willing to purchase the programs.

If they are unable to find business partners, then the Korea Foundation tries to find foreign broadcasters interested in airing the Korean dramas at no cost.

President Lee Myung-bak called on policymakers to come up with effective policy support for hallyu.

In a meeting with the chiefs of Korean Culture Centers overseas last month, President Lee Myung-bak asked them to be proactive, analytical and think outside the box.

“Some may think K-pop is ruling the world. I disagree. It has just begun. We need to be more thorough-minded and try to find ways to promote the pop culture in even more effective ways. Otherwise the popularity could be short-lived,” he said.

Source: The Krea Times