A potent, Korean, rice-based liquor brand has emerged as the world’s bestselling spirit, cementing the country as the drinking capital of Asia. According to a recently released industry report, the country’s leading soju brand Jinro sold 61.4 million 9-liter cases of the distilled, rice-based liquor — more than double the sales of vodka-maker Smirnoff, which sold 24.7 million cases last year. Jinro’s closest soju competitor, Lotte Liquor, meanwhile, also nabbed a top spot as the third best selling spirit brand in the world.
A TOUR OF NYC’s KOREATOWN! Described as a sweeter version of vodka — clear in color and smooth in taste — soju is the drink of choice among Koreans who tip the liquor back in quick, successive shots. One of the most popular food and soju pairings is to drink it with barbecued dishes like bulgogi or kalbi, soy, garlic and scallion-marinated meats, or to serve it with the Korean version of bar snacks. According to Jinro, which has 58 percent of the soju market in that country, Koreans drink nearly one billion of their 360 ml soju bottles a month. Meanwhile, in their “Millionaire’s Club” report, which ranks spirit and liquor brands that break the one million 9-liter sales mark, Drinks International and Euromonitor identified La Martiniquaise’s Poliakov vodka as a newcomer to the exclusive group, as well as grape-based vodka brand Cîroc, fronted by hip hop star P. Diddy. Consumption of baiju, a popular Chinese white liquor, was also singled out as a spirit expected to experience major growth in the near future.
Here are the world’s top spirit and liquor brands, from 2011 (number of cases):
South Korea claims East Asia's oldest farming site
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - South Korea’s archaeological agency says it has unearthed evidence of East Asia’s oldest known farming site.
Archaeologist Cho Mi Soon said on Wednesday that the agency has found the remains of a farming field from the Neolithic period on South Korea’s east coast. The site may be up to 5,600 years old. That’s more than 2,000 years older than what is now the second-oldest known site, which also is in South Korea.
During the Neolithic period humans began living in permanent settlements and farming after a previous nomadic existence of hunting and gathering.
Ms Cho points to traces of pottery and house remains found at the site as proof of its age. She says material was tested and determined to be from the Neolithic period.
This May 21, 2012 photo released by South Korea’s Cultural Heritage Administration, shows an aerial view of recently found remains of a farming field, in Goseong, 150km east of Seoul, South Korea. — PHOTO: AP
South Korea is channelling 2% of its GDP into its Green Growth Plan - a vision of a more environmentally friendly economy.
The Asian powerhouse has based its success on traditional industries, but a vast range of green policies - from waste-management to air-quality and renewable energy - has given rise to new sustainable industries.
Foreigners Soon Fall Prey to Korea's Heavy Drinking Culture
Most expats think Koreans drink a lot, and half say they imbibe more than when they first came to the country, a recent straw poll by the Chosun Ilbo suggests.
The poll was conducted in the streets of Seoul on 100 foreigners who have been in Korea for at least three months. The respondents came from 26 countries including Ecuador, France, Mexico, Singapore, the U.K. and the U.S.
Some 77 percent of respondents thought that Koreans drink a lot of alcohol, and 48 percent said their alcohol consumption has increased since coming to Korea. Interestingly, 40 percent said their alcohol intake had doubled since they arrived in the country, and six percent said it had quadrupled.
In terms of how often they drink with friends and colleagues, 58 percent said the frequency has risen. Some 25 percent said they drink at least 10 times a month on average.
When asked about their thoughts on Korea’s drinking culture, 33 percent described it as “irrational,” while 14 percent said it “must be changed.” Nine percent thought it was “excellent.”
Poketo x Eco Party Mearry Bags An upcycled bag collaboration from South Korea by way of L.A.
In celebration of the upcoming Earth Day, one of our favorite creative collaborators Poketo got together with South Korea-based non-profit Eco Party Mearry to create a selection of adorable, unique bags made from recycled material.
Fashioned out of discarded Korean billboards, leather jackets, couches, and second-hand clothing, each totally one-of-a-kind tote carries everything from new iPads to good ol’ books.
As many countries as there are around the world, there are countless different types of food. Depending on the region or country, food represents the characteristic of the cultural and historic background of the people.
As a part of long Asian culture, Korean food has unique characteristics and stories that reflect its tradition. The key concept of Korean food is nutrition and health. When preparing a meal, the most important point to consider beside the flavor was well balanced nutrition from using a wide range of ingredients, from vegetable to meat. To get through this sizzling season of summer, let’s pay attention to the science behind Korean food.
Wash away your sweat with noodles
As the temperature gets high, we start to sweat and our body gets tired. When our bodies get tired from the heat, the use of protein and vitamin becomes higher. Because of this, a lot of Korean summer foods contain high protein, low fat, diverse vitamins and minerals. Among them, noodles in icy soup can get you cool down, while filling up the lost energy.
(1) Naengmyeon: cold noodle As the word itself means, ‘cold noodle’, Naengmyeon is one of the most representative Korean summer foods. You always get to choose either from mool-naengmyeon, naengmyeon with icy meat broth, or bibim-naengmyeon, naengmyeon with red chili sauce. Based on that, the chewy noodle then comes with meat, cucumber, boiled egg, and more else, which depending on the restaurant or the cook. After the food is served, each can apply some vinegar and mustard according to one’s taste. The meat broth helps to keep proper hydration with nutrition from the meat, and the vinegar used for the sauce is good to recover from the physical tiredness. Also, mustard is known to prevent stomachache from cold food.
(2) Kong-gooksu: cold bean-soup noodles This cold bean-soup noodle with subtle yet deep flavor of beans is also Korea’s popular summer food. It comes out from a simple procedure: grind beans soaked in water to make soup, add some water and ice, and put noodles in it. Some add salt or sugar to make it tastier. A Korean saying refers beans ‘beef from the land’ to imply its high protein. The soup is simple to make, high in nutrition, and has pure flavor of the beans, which are the good reasons to be loved by many.
Warm food to get you cooler: 以熱治熱(yi-yeol-chi-yeol)
Have you ever heard Korean folks’ saying, ‘that’s cool,’ when drinking hot soup? Many Koreans look for hot dishes during the summer to stay healthy. As the heat from the outside makes our bodies feel hot, the organs become cold to protect themselves from the heat. Meanwhile, too much cold food might damage the organs as well. As the Korean wisdom word, yi-yeol-chi-yeol, which means to relieve heat with heat, here are some heated food to get us cool.
(1) Samgyetang: chicken soup with ginseng Samgyetang is one of the most famous traditional food in Korea. As the word ‘samgyetang’ implies, (‘sam’ means ginseng, and ‘gye’ means chicken in Korean. ‘tang’ is a word for soup), the main ingredient of the soup is chicken and ginseng. Then, many herbs that are used for oriental medicine are added to it. Usually, rice and herbs are stuffed in the whole chicken, and then boiled in water for hours. The combination of chicken, herbs, and rice creates the rich flavor as well as extremely high nutrition. Especially good for those with cold and weak digestive organs, samgyetang is the perfect source of energy.
(2) Galbijim: beef rib stew During summer, to fill the necessary energy and nutrition, taking proper amount of protein and fat is also important. Galbijim is beef rib stew with oriental herbs. Chestnuts, jujubes, and garlic are some of the common ingredients for galbijim, which are all known for its positive effects on revitalizing the weak organs.
Low fat, high nutrition desserts for summer
Lastly, desserts: a meal cannot be completed without sweet desserts. When it comes to traditional Korean style, even desserts are healthy. Especially, there are some desserts which can be helpful when high temperature and humidity can cause dehydration and the lost of vitamins.
(1) Patbingsu: ice flakes with red beans Among many Korean desserts, patbingsu is the easiest one to find. Almost all cafes and coffee shops now serve patbingsu in various forms. Whereas the traditional patbingsu is based on ice flakes, crystallized red beans, nowadays green tea, wild berries, grinded grains, and even chocolate are used to make a unique, flavorful patbingsu. Have a spoon of patbingsu, the ice flakes with sweet taste melts on the tongue and washes away your sweat. Not only does the ice can keep you from dehydration from sweating, red beans are known for its high containing of protein, calcium, vitamins, and its positive effect on bowel movement.
(2) Hwachae: fruit juice salad The word hwachae means ‘vegetable flower’, which refers fruit punch made in Korean style. Traditionally, fruits such as watermelons, peaches, apples or grapefruits are carved in pretty shapes, and then put in fruit juice. Cold hwache not only provides moisture in body, it also provides various vitamins and minerals that are lost from sweating during the day.
During summer, it is easy to get tired and lose our energy and moisture under the strong sunlight. Through understanding the nutritious science behind various traditional Korean foods, your summer will be healthier, and even more energetic. Now take a bite, and indulge in the summer sunshine.
South Korean Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik, second from left, waters a dried-up rice paddy while inspecting farmland hit by months of drought in Hwaseong, South Korea, Tuesday, June 26, 2012. South Korean officials reported the worst drought in more than a century in some areas after nearly two months without significant rainfall, raising worries about damage to crops and a dangerous drop in water levels at the nation’s reservoirs
KOHYON-RI, North Korea — North Korea dispatched soldiers to pour buckets of water on parched fields and South Korean officials scrambled to save a rare mollusk threatened by the heat as the worst dry spell in a century gripped the Korean peninsula. Parts of North Korea are experiencing the most severe drought since record keeping began nearly 105 years ago, meteorological officials in Pyongyang and Seoul said Tuesday.
The protracted drought is heightening worries about North Korea’s ability to feed its people. Two-thirds of North Korea’s 24 million people faced chronic food shortages, the United Nations said earlier this month while asking donors for $198-million in humanitarian aid for the country.
Even in South Phyongan and North and South Hwanghae provinces, which are traditionally North Korea’s “breadbasket,” thousands of hectares of crops are withering away despite good irrigation systems, local officials said.
Reservoirs are drying up, creating irrigation problems for farmers, said Ri Sun Pom, chairman of the Rural Economy Committee of Hwangju County.
A man walks on a dried up reservoir in Ganghwa, west of Seoul June 26, 2012. South Korea suffers from the severest drought in over a century amid unusually high temperatures in June, local media reported.
A group of female soldiers with yellow towels tied around their heads fanned out across a farm in Kohyon-ri, Hwangju county, North Hwanghae province, with buckets to help water the fields. An ox pulled a cart loaded with a barrel of water while fire engines and oil tankers were mobilized to help transport water.
The North Korean villages of Kohyon-ri and Ryongchon-ri were among several areas that journalists from The Associated Press visited in recent days.
Pak Tok Gwan, management board chairman of the Ryongchon Cooperative Farm in North Korea, said late last week that the farm could lose half its corn without early rain.
Mountainous North Korea, where less than 20 per cent of the land is arable, has relied on outside food aid to help make up for a chronic shortage since a series of natural disasters and outmoded agricultural practices led to a famine in the 1990s. North Korean farmers still face a shortage of fuel, tractors, quality seeds and fertilizer, the U.N. said in a report earlier this month. Many irrigation systems rely on electrically powered pumping stations in a country with unstable power supplies, the report noted.
On Tuesday, North Korean state media reported record-high temperatures in Pyongyang and other cities in the southwest.
South Korean officials also reported the worst drought in more than a century in some areas after nearly two months without significant rainfall, raising worries about damage to crops and a dangerous drop in water levels in the nation’s reservoirs.
“The worst drought in 104 years is causing damage to our agricultural and livestock industries, resulting in price hikes in some farm products,” Finance Minister Bahk Jae-wan told a crisis management meeting Tuesday.
AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon
In this Friday, June 22, 2012 photo, rice plants grow from the cracked and dry earth in Rongchon-ri, North Korea in the country’s Hwangju County. Both Koreas are suffering from the worst dry spell since record keeping began more than a century ago, according to officials in Seoul and Pyongyang
Nearly 28,000 South Koreans, including soldiers and local residents, have been mobilized to help water rice paddies and farm fields and more than 13,000 water pumps have been provided to drought-stricken areas, the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said.
South Korean Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik picked up a hose to water a field during a visit Tuesday to Hwaseong, south of Seoul. Beneath a blazing sun, dead fish could be seen on the nearly dried-out bed of a reservoir in Bongdam village in Hwaseong.
Rain is forecast for South Korea this weekend, the Korea Meteorological Administration said in Seoul. The agency could not confirm the dry spell reported in the North, but dispatches sent by North Korea to an international weather centre indicated little rain over the past several weeks there as well, spokesman Jang Hyun-sik said.
The drought also has led to deaths of a highly endangered species in a reservoir in the southern city of Nonsan in South Korea. Hundreds of cockscomb pearl mussels have perished since June 14 when the reservoir’s water levels drastically dropped, local official Lee Soo-jung said. Officials have been trying to move the cockscomb pearl mussels to water, she said.
Officials blamed high atmospheric pressure over the Korean peninsula for the drought.
Associated Press writers Kim Kwang Hyon in Kohyon-ri, North Korea, and Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report
Over the years, Korea has been dubbed the “Forgotten War,” even though some 26,000 Canadians served there, along with 63 other nations which mostly provided support, while 17 countries contributed fighting soldiers. Korea is still a misunderstood war. For a long time, Canadian politicians called it a “police action,” which is a term once preferred by the UN which foolishly tries to avoid anything that might be viewed as “warfare.” To mark ceremonies held in South Korea, Canada’s ambassador David Chatterson (who likely wasn’t born when the war was on), reflected that most of the Canadian soldiers who joined the Korean war “were 18 or 19 years old, 60 years ago.” He added that what “tipped the scales towards our involvement” in defending South Korea against the invasion by the North, was our support of the UN. And recognition that with the Cold War, “there were issues much bigger than Korea at play.” While true, there were other factors involved which historians tend to overlook. Often unmentioned is that the Korean war appealed to the generation of Canadian youths who were marginally too young for World War II. Korea was their chance to experience what other Canadians young men had endured in the war. What tends to be forgotten today — assuming it was ever known — is that joining the army (or navy or air force) World War II was as popular as, say, dodging the draft was in the Vietnam war. One was a war of survival, the other seen as unnecessary. In WWII we would either win against Hitler (and Hirohito), or our way of life would be forever changed. During Vietnam, oddly, roughly as many Canadians enlisted in U.S. Forces, as U.S. Draft dodgers and deserters sought sanctuary in Canada. To the young Canadians of 1950, Korea started out as an adventure. As one of the volunteers in that war, I harboured no animosity towards communism per se, but felt it had no business being forced on a people who didn’t want it. My naive approach was that communism may be okay for Russians, but not us. I can’t recall any soldiers who understood the malevolent and ruthless lust of the communist ideology as practiced by Russia and China. I think where Ambassador Chatterson misses the boat is not recognizing that as well as 18 and 19-year-olds volunteering for adventure in Korea, many WWII veterans who’d left the military, also re-joined for various reasons. I doubt many studies have been made of wartime veterans who, in civilian life, missed the comradeship and routine of army life. Also there were many WWII veterans who found they couldn’t hack it in civilian life, or found it too mundane and monotonous. Or who had broken marriages, with wife and husband too changed for reconciliation. That sort of thing. The mixture of veterans and rookies in the Korean war, proved more effective than many expected. In general, Canadian soldiers in the Korean war never lost an inch of ground; it became a matter of pride, when attacked, to never retreat. Witness Kapyong and Hills 355 and 187. This theme was especially prevalent in the latter days of the war when the fluidity of the first year settled down to trench warfare. Canadians were spared the casualties inflicted on the Americans in the early stages of the war — something approaching 50,000 killed when the Chinese entered the war and routed U.S. Forces at the the Yalu river on the border of China. What frustrated many Canadian soldiers in Korea was always being on the defensive and no one in Canada giving a damn. What was the point in a stalemate? Subsequently, with Korea sponsoring yearly return visits of those who fought there, the now-aging 18 and 19-year-olds invariably are awed by the progress made in that ravaged country they helped save as young men. And the appreciation showered on them by Koreans too young to have known war. It may be true that the Korean war ended in stalemate in 1953. It’s equally true that the peace has been decisively won by the South. Canadians who were there, now recognize that their contribution was worthwhile. Source http://www.torontosun.com/2012/06/26/canadas-meaningful-sacrifice-in-korean-war
SEOUL—News of the arrival of South Korean boyband JYJ prompted hundreds of fans to camp out on the streets recently to get closer to the trio. But this wasn’t in Seoul or even Tokyo: it was in Lima.
Having taken Asia by storm over the past decade with bubblegum hooks and dance moves infused with military precision, South Korea’s K-pop phenomenon continues to defy language barriers and find fans around the world.
As South Korea continues to export its culture, K-pop’s polished fusion of influences ranging from hip-hop to dubstep is winning a growing number of passionate followers in Latin America.
JYJ has held sellout concerts there and a Colombian TV station is airing a K-pop talent show.
Latin American fans have posted hundreds of videos on YouTube showing flash mobs emulating K-pop dance moves and urging their favorite stars to visit the continent, despite many not having officially released songs outside Asia.
Promoters are using the power of the Internet to lure distant fans and organize concerts in Europe and North and South America.
“Korean acts are not only monitoring but also monetizing their Twitter trends, Facebook likes, and YouTube views,” said Bernie Cho, president of DFSB Kollective, a Seoul-based creative agency providing digital media solutions to more than 350 K-pop artists.
“More Korean bands have multilingual members who can sing verses, carry choruses, and conduct interviews in English, Chinese and Japanese. Language is no longer a barrier, it is now the carrier.”
Music videos and footage of the stars’ private lives are posted on Facebook and YouTube — often live or before being released on TV and elsewhere.
“They’ve got the sound right, they’ve got a supportive government that invests very heavily into the development of the arts, and they are all very good looking,” said Ruuben van den Heuvel, executive director of GateWay Entertainment, a music consultancy firm. “They’re a complete pop package.”
The popularity of the genre in Asia remains undiminished — 7,000 Japanese fans will flock to Seoul this month to “meet” JYJ at a major event that has booked out 3,500 hotel rooms around Seoul.
But in Latin America, fans are taking note: JYJ in March performed in both Chile and Peru as part of a world tour of 15 venues including Berlin and Barcelona.
Hundreds camped out for days in Santiago and Lima as they tried to get closer to the trio during their first concerts in the region, said June Oh, a spokeswoman for the band’s agent C-JeS.
“We were so stunned seeing hundreds of tents lined up in front of the Explanada Sur del Estadio Monumental,” she told AFP, referring to the venue in the Peruvian capital where JYJ performed.
Savvy marketing and production tie-ups have also helped.
In North Korea, learning to hate U.S. starts early
North Korean children line up near an anti-U.S. propaganda poster at Kaeson Kindergarten in Pyongyang earlier this year.
PYONGYANG, North Korea — A framed poster on the wall of a kindergarten classroom shows bright-eyed children brandishing rifles and bayonets as they attack a hapless American soldier, his face bandaged and blood spurting from his mouth.
"We love playing military games knocking down the American bastards," reads the slogan printed across the top. Another poster depicts an American with a noose around his neck. "Let’s wipe out the U.S. imperialists," it instructs.
For North Koreans, the systematic indoctrination of anti-Americanism starts as early as kindergarten and is as much a part of the curriculum as learning to count. Toy pistols, rifles and tanks sit lined up in neat rows on shelves. The school principal pulls out a dummy of an American soldier with a beaked nose and straw-colored hair and explains that the students beat him with batons or pelt him with stones — a favorite schoolyard game, she says.
For a moment, she is sheepish as she takes three journalists from the Associated Press, including an American, past the anti-U.S. posters. But Yun Song Sil is not shy about the message.
"Our children learn from an early age about the American bastards," she says, tossing off a phrase so common here that it is considered an acceptable way to refer to Americans.
North Korean students learn that their country has had two main enemies: the Japanese, who colonized Korea from 1910 to 1945, and the United States, which fought against North Korea during the 1950-53 Korean War.
They are told that North Korea’s defense against outside forces — particularly the United States, which has more than 28,000 soldiers stationed in South Korea — remains the backbone of the country’s foreign policy.
And they are bred to seek revenge, even as their government professes to want peace with the United States.
"They tell their people there can be no reconciliation with the United States," says American scholar Brian Myers, who dissected North Korean propaganda in his 2010 book The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters. ”They make it very clear to the masses that this hate will last forever."
In recent years, state propaganda has shifted away from the virulent anti-American slogans of the past and has instead emphasized building up the economy. On the streets of Pyongyang, anti-American posters have largely given way to images of soldiers in helmets and workers in factories.
But the posters and curricula at kindergartens across North Korea remain unchanged. One glimpse inside a school, and it’s clear that despite U.S.-North Korean diplomacy behind closed doors, 4-year-olds are still being taught that the “Yankee imperialists” are North Korea’s worst enemy.
At the Kaeson Kindergarten in central Pyongyang, U.S. soldiers are depicted as cruel, ghoulish barbarians with big noses and fiendish eyes. Teeth bared, they brand prisoners with hot irons, set wild dogs on women and wrench out a girl’s teeth with pliers.
"The American imperialists and Japanese militarism are the sworn enemies of the North Korean people," reads a quote from late leader Kim Jong Il affixed to the top of one wall in a large room devoted to anti-U.S. education.
The anti-American teachings culminate every year on International Children’s Day on June 1. Across the nation, students convene en masse, dressed in military uniforms and armed with toy rifles and bayonets. At one such celebration in Pyongyang this month, students took turns charging dummies of U.S. soldiers with their weapons.
Still, like children everywhere, the littlest North Koreans show more fascination than fear when they encounter the rare American in Pyongyang, invariably waving and calling out “Hello!” in English.
Samsung Electronics on Monday unveiled its latest Galaxy S3 smartphone in Korea. It was first launched in London in May and later in Europe and in the U.S. The 3G version of the Galaxy S3 went on sale in Korea on Monday, while the LTE version will hit stores in July.
The Korean version differs in some aspects from the one unveiled in London.
It contains a lot of free and paid content and apps only available in Korea, such as a “video hub,” which allows users to watch around 500 movies or TV dramas and a “learning hub” offering educational content.
The 3G versions of the Galaxy S3 sold in Korea and overseas both have quad core processors, but the Korean LTE version also uses a quad core processor that is more than twice as fast as the dual core processor that comes with the overseas version, the company claims. This makes it possible to run several apps at once and still enjoy fast processing speed.
The LTE version is also equipped for the Korean mobile TV protocol DMB.
The phone has various new functions like Smart Stay, a function that keeps the screen lit up as long as the user is looking at it. Direct Call allows users to call someone who has sent a message simply by holding phone up to their ear, and S-voice allows it to be activated by voice.
Samsung said around 20 functions can be voice-activated including dialing, alarm, camera, music player, Internet search and scheduling. The phone can recognize voice commands in eight languages including Korean, English and French.
The phone also features new multimedia functions such as “Live Video List” and “Chapter Preview” which allow users to easily browse or preview images and videos.
- I think most Koreans are hardworkers. Sometimes, I catch my students, they are still at the office at 10, 11. And they come home at midnight. - Very sad … - Very sad?! You think that’s very sad? - I think in Korea, people are very sad. (laughs)
UIJEONGBU, South Korea (AFP) - With sleek railcars sliding along elevated tracks, South Korea’s newest light railway is a smooth ride, and the hope is that it can avoid the fiscal train wreck facing similar projects.
But passenger estimates for the rubber-wheeled, driverless light rail transit (LRT) system, which will open to the public in Uijeongbu city north of Seoul on July 1, have already been scaled back.
And government researchers say the 11.1-kilometre (6.9 mile) stretch of line, which was built under a public-private partnership deal, will cost taxpayers 10 billion won ($8.6 million) a year for the next decade on top of the vast sums already spent.
"Other LRT projects in the country went awry but we believe this one will be different," said Lee Myung-Se, vice president of Uijeongbu LRT Co.
"Unlike other LRTs, there will be enough demand as it passes through the most populated areas and carries commuters fast to a station where they can transfer to the main subway line linked to Seoul."
The 15-station line took five years and cost 547 billion won ($469 million) to build — 297.4 billion won from a South Korean consortium led by GS Engineering & Construction and 249.6 billion won from taxpayers.
The French unit of multinational Siemens won orders worth 157 million euros ($196 million) and hopes the project will pave the way for other LRT contracts in South Korea, one of the world’s most densely populated large countries.
"An LRT system is quite ideal for Korean cities because of its flexibility and low costs compared to traditional heavy subway systems," Benoit Pirard, commercial manager of the project, told AFP.
Researchers for the national parliament are not, however, hopeful about the bottom line. The initial forecast in 2006 estimated daily average passengers at 57,000 but this was scaled back to 31,000 last year.
Based on the latest estimate, the National Assembly Research Service (NARS) predicted in April the line would likely lose 10 billion won a year for the next 10 years.
This means the city, with a population of 450,000, will have to pay up to 10 billion won a year to Uijeongbu LRT Co under a minimum revenue guarantee.
"In light of the size of the city’s budget, it is true this leaves a considerable burden on us," Lim Hee-An, deputy director of the city government, told AFP.
"However, we think it is worth it to help ease traffic congestion."
With LRTs opening around the country, critics have accused politicians standing in provincial elections of exaggerating demand to push through “pork-barrel” projects in return for support.
And the NARS warned in a separate April report that LRT projects and most other infrastructure projects being privately financed under minimum revenue guarantees from local governments were like ticking fiscal time bombs.
Public-private partnerships were introduced when South Korea was engulfed by the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s.
The NARS said they are now set to suck up 41 trillion won of taxpayers’ money over the next 20 years, without taking LRT projects into account.
The country’s first LRT, extending 24 kilometres (15 miles) between Gimhae and Busan on the south coast, opened last September amid fanfare.
But so far it has carried an average 31,000 passengers per day, just 18 percent of what had been predicted, according to NARS.
Unless usage improves, it will face a 1.6 trillion won bill over the next 20 years to compensate private investors who built the project.
Yongin’s LRT, which is due to open in April, has been dogged by controversy over financial haemorrhages, corruption scandals and delays, while daily passenger estimates have been cut from 160,000 to 30,000.
Yongin city faces the prospect of repaying 1.8 trillion won to investors over the next 30 years, NARS said, even under a contract recently amended in the city’s favour.
Another LRT line is being built in the northeastern Seoul district of Dobong, while eight other small projects are planned in the capital plus three in provincial cities, according to the construction ministry.
Yun Sun-Chul of watchdog group Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice questioned whether these projects were worthwhile.
"Irresponsible pork-barrel promises, loose oversight and sparse consideration for effectiveness against costs are to blame," he said.
“The country really needs neutral experts to inspect election promises to examine whether they are economically viable and socially justifiable, before provincial authorities blindly set off on them.”
A study has found that the Republic of Korea is stingy in recognizing refugee status.
According to statistics published by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on the 18th, by the end of 2011 over 3,900 people had applied for refugee status in the Republic of Korea but a mere 401 have been successful so far in gaining recognition as refugees or permission to stay for humanitarian reasons.
In fact, the number granted refugee or humanitarian residence status has shrunk each year.
The UNHCR said on the 18th that in 2011 the number of forced migrants increased considerably to reach the largest number since the year 2000.
The UNHCR published all this in its “Global Trends Report”. According to the Report, in 20111 there were 800,000 new refugees worldwide.
According to the Report, in 2011 4.3 million people left their homes due to civil wars and other reasons, and 800,000 of them left their hometowns and became refugees.
By the end of last year 15.42 million out of 42.5 million of people had been given refugee status and another 26.4 million had left their homes, 895,000 of whom are currently applying for refugee status.
Summer temperatures and a desire to save energy usually expended on air-conditioning have left many South Koreans hot and uncomfortable this year - but while attempts have been made to relax dress codes, many office workers find conservative clothing habits die hard.
It is probably the first time anyone has ever described a BBC office as heaven.
My friend sat sprawled on the Seoul bureau’s ancient couch, soaking up the tepid air-conditioning, sinking into a mass of newspapers with a sigh of pleasure.
"Seriously" he said, "this is Heaven."
I would love to report that it was my stimulating conversation that prompted this accolade. It was not. It was the temperature.
My friend, you see, works for the government. And the air-conditioning in all government offices here remains resolutely off during South Korea’s sweaty summer months, until the temperature tops 28C (82F) - that is 28C inside the building. Or around 30C (86F) outside.
All a bid to combat electricity shortages, which last summer led to blackouts in major cities and red faces in the cabinet room.
And this is a government that not only prides itself on its green policies, it is also heading into a presidential election campaign - and so the summer rules are being applied more rigorously than ever this year.
In Seoul’s humid climate, that makes for some very uncomfortable (and it has been hinted, aromatic) working conditions for ministers and their staff. Hence my friend’s reluctance to leave the BBC’s rather tatty couch.
To get around the problem, the president has applied “summer dress codes” - a relaxation of the dark-suit-and-white-shirt uniform worn by almost every salaryman in Seoul.
In the president’s office, jackets and ties may now be discarded, and short-sleeved, coloured shirts are allowed. As are jeans as long as they are not blue. Or decorated. Or torn. The summer rules are nothing if not specific.
The president himself has been setting an example by conducting cabinet meetings in his shirt-sleeves - a shocking state of undress for a Korean president.
In public, the South Korean president habitually wears a dark suit
Seoul’s mayor has gone one step further this year, and told his staff they were free to wear shorts and sandals to work.
But it has become so common that at least one ministry sends inspectors round on a regular basis to check for unofficial cold-air supplies - and confiscate the offending articles.
The president, I am told, does not really feel the heat. Though I do remember last winter, when the temperature dipped to -18C (0F), reading in the paper that he had adopted thermal underwear, and found it very effective.
Winter, you see, is just the same. Government officials sitting at their desks wrapped in blankets, coats and gloves, running fan-heaters as the building’s radiators stay resolutely off.
So when it gets cold again - round about October - I will expect my friend once more, nestled amongst the newspapers on the BBC couch.
How to listen to From Our Own Correspondent:
BBC Radio 4: A 30-minute programme on Saturdays, 11:30 BST.
Second 30-minute programme on Thursdays, 11:00 BST (some weeks only).
Nairobi, Kenya - When Korean Air announced its non-stop flights from Korea to Kenya on Monday, it posted a notice on its website describing Kenyans as indigenous people full of “primitive energy”, sparking a flurry of angry Tweets and Facebook postings.
Head of Public Relations for Korean Air in Kenya, Muthui Kariuki said that the notice had been removed from the website and that the word “primitive” was a result of a mistake in translation from Korean to English. Kariuki said the airline, which is supposed to launch the thrice-weekly flights on Thursday, will post an apology.
According to reports on Huffington Post, Kenyans expressed their anger on social media.
"An insult to a nation. Kenya doesn’t have primitive people," posted a Twitter user who identified himself as George Njoro.
Others questioned whether the mistake was an intentional marketing gimmick.
"Now everybody knows Korea Air is coming to Kenya. Nice marketing strategy," tweeted another person using the Twitter handle of Komboste.
Kenya is a regional hub where passengers can connect to flights to other countries in the region and in Africa.
A number of international airlines operate from Kenya including Air India, British Airways, Emirates, KLM, Qatar Airways, Saudi Arabian Airlines, South Africa Airways, Swiss International Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic.
Report: Korean Workforce to Be World's Oldest by 2045
Korea now holds the distinction of having the fastest aging population on Earth. According to a new emerging markets report by the Royal Bank of Scotland on Monday Korea is expected to have the world’s oldest workforce by 2045. The average age of a Korean worker is predicted to hit 50 that year up from around 35 now. The number of people in Korea’s workforce will start to drop in 2016 and the pace at which it does will surpass Europe and Japan in 2020. The report added that each person in the workforce would be responsible for supporting more than one-and-a-half elderly people by the year 2050, if the trend continues. At the end of 2011, there were around six workers supporting one senior citizen. This is forecast to negatively affect Korea’s potential growth rate dropping from 4.2 percent in 2011 to 3.1 percent in 2023.
[Interview : Koh Young-sun, Chief Economist Korea Development Institute] “The savings ratio will drop because elderly people tend to spend money rather than save. This will lead to a drop in investment and capital accumulation. There would definitely be a negative impact.”
Koh also pointed out the ballooning deficit in the country’s retirement pension funds due to an aging population is a major concern. He said that reforming the national pension system should be a top priority.
[Reporter : Hwang Ji-hye, firstname.lastname@example.org] “The expert added that it’s critical for the government to lay out policies that involve more senior citizens and women in the workforce to prevent Korea’s aging population from hindering the country’s growth. Hwang Ji-hye, Arirang News.”
South Korean Taxi Drivers Go on First Nationwide Strike
South Korean taxi drivers are going on their first nationwide strike today, protesting rising fuel costs and demanding higher fares.
The 28 percent surge in liquid petroleum gas prices in the past three years and a 2,400 won ($2.07) cap on initial fares since 2009 is squeezing cab drivers, according to Kim Do Gil, a spokesman for the taxi association leading the walkout. The organization has 160,000 members and is coordinating the one-day strike with three groups with almost 130,000 drivers.
South Korean Taxi Drivers Stage Nationwide Strike for First Time
Yonhap News via Bloomberg
Taxis wait in line for passengers outside Seoul Station in Seoul on June 19, 2012. South Korean taxi drivers are going on their first nationwide strike today, protesting rising fuel costs and demanding higher fares.
Taxis wait in line for passengers outside Seoul Station in Seoul on June 19, 2012. South Korean taxi drivers are going on their first nationwide strike today, protesting rising fuel costs and demanding higher fares. Source: Yonhap News via Bloomberg
Transport agencies across the country will schedule more trains and buses to help commuters. In Seoul, where the subway and buses will run an hour longer until 2 a.m., there will be an additional 255 train services, plus 988 long-distance buses and 2,773 local buses, the transport ministry said this month.
Talks between the government and taxi drivers last took place on June 12 and ended without a resolution, according to Kim at the taxi association. The government is examining the demands, said Kim Hak Weon, an official at the transport ministry.
Cab drivers, required by the government to run their vehicles on LPG, are also demanding they be allowed to use other fuels such as diesel, according to the taxi association.
The starting fare for taxis in South Korea is 17 percent cheaper than in New York City and 77 percent cheaper than in Tokyo, based on yesterday’s exchange rates. After the first 2 kilometers, the meter will add 100 won every 144 meters (157 yards) or 35 seconds, according to the Korea Tourism Organization’s website.
Drivers in Seoul will gather in front of City Hall to voice their demands for higher fares, the stabilization of LPG prices, the use of alternative fuels and to make taxis eligible for state subsidies, said Kim at the association. They’re also seeking the government to reduce the oversupply of taxi licenses and compensate drivers who choose to leave the industry, he said.
“I plan to join the strike and the gathering of union members,” said Shin Bong Seok, 61, who’s worked as a taxi driver in Seoul for 12 years and drives a Hyundai Motor Co. (005380) Elantra. “There are just so many problems to solve.”
While the taxi driver groups said all their members would participate in the strike, the government said not everyone may turn up.
As few as 20,000 of Seoul’s 73,000 taxi drivers may choose to give up a day’s earnings and participate in the strike, said Kang Sang Wook, a researcher at the Korea Transport Institute, a government owned transport policy adviser.
The price drivers pay for LPG increased to 1,145 won per liter in April, from 900 won per liter in March 2009, according to a report on the taxi association’s website.
Prices increased 8.9 percent during the first four months this year, according to data from Korea National Oil Corp. That compares with a 4.6 percent increase in gasoline and 1.4 percent gain in diesel prices.