DETROIT — The owner of a MIchigan auction house was arrested today on charges he illegally sold a precious Korean artifact to a Fort Lee art collector in 2010.
According to a statement from U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement, 50-year-old James Amato was taken into custody this morning at his home in Oxford, Mich.
He is the second suspect to be arrested in the alleged sale of a Hojo currency plate - an extremely rare piece of Korean currency that dates back to the 1890s.
According to federal authorities, Amato obtained the plate from a relative of a former Marine who is believed to have brought the plate back with him after serving in the Korean War. Through his business, Midwest Auction Galleries, the plate was then sold to Won Young Youn, a New York-based art collector who was living in Fort Lee at the time.
Using an acquaintance’s bank account, Youn purchased the plate for $35,000 and allegedly began advertising it for sale on the internet. Youn was arrested earlier this month on charges of selling and transporting stolen goods.
According to ICE, both Amato and Youn were advised by U.S. and South Korean officials that the sale of the item was likely illegal, because the item was considered a precious artifact that belonged to South Korea.
The plate is believed to be one of only three still in existence, and holds a special historical significance because they are among the first pieces of currency produced using modern printing methods in Korea.
"Artifacts have a specific dollar value in the legitimate marketplace where they are bought and sold. But the cultural and symbolic worth of these items far surpasses any monetary value to the people and nations of their origin," said acting special agent William Hayes, who runs a Homeland Security Investigations office out of Detroit.
Amato is charged with making false statements, transportation of stolen goods and sale or receipt of stolen goods. He could face up to 25 years in prison and $500,000 in fines if convicted on all counts.
South Korean men spent $495.5 million on skincare last year, accounting for nearly 21 percent of global sales, according to global market research firm Euromonitor International. That makes it the largest market for men’s skincare in the world, even though there are only about 19 million men in South Korea. Amorepacific, South Korea’s biggest cosmetics company, estimates the total sales of men’s cosmetics in South Korea this year will be more than $885 million.
The metamorphosis of South Korean men from macho to makeup over the last decade or so can be partly explained by fierce competition for jobs, advancement and romance in a society where, as a popular catchphrase puts it, “appearance is power.” Women also have a growing expectation that men will take the time and effort to pamper their skin.
Evidence of this new direction in South Korean masculinity is easy to find. In a crowded Seoul cafe, a young woman takes some lipstick out of her purse and casually applies it to her male companion’s lips as they talk. At an upscale apartment building, a male security guard watches the lobby from behind a layer of makeup. Korean Air holds once-a-year makeup classes for male flight attendants.
"I can understand why girls don’t like to go outside without makeup — it makes a big difference," said Cho Gil-nam, a tall, stocky 27-year-old insurance fraud investigator in Seoul who starts important days by dabbing on makeup after finishing his multistep morning cleansing and moisturizing routine. He carries a multicolored cosmetics pouch so he can touch up in public bathrooms throughout the day.
While U.S. cosmetics companies report growing sales in male cosmetics, American men are often wary of makeup. ”Men Wearing Makeup a Disturbing Trend” was how American columnist Jim Shea titled a recent post.
In South Korea, however, effeminate male beauty is “a marker of social success,” according to Roald Maliangkay, head of Korean studies at Australian National University.
Amorepacific Corp. offers 17 men’s brands, with dozens of products to choose from, and operates two Manstudio stores in Seoul that are devoted to men’s skincare and makeup.
How much water do you use? South Korean citizens consumed an amount of water equal to half a swimming pool per person in 2007, which is just below the international standard. South Korea is also the world’s fifth-largest importer of water in the world.
These are the results of a survey recently announced by the UNESCO International Institute for Infrastructural Hydraulic and Environmental Engineering, or UNESCO-IHE, and a research team from Twente University in the Netherlands. UNESCO-IHE aims to promote water education, research and policy development.
The “water footprint,” a concept introduced in 2002 by IHE researcher Arjen Hoekstra as an indicator of water consumption, represents the total amount of water necessary to produce the goods and services consumed by an individual or group. The term was derived from the “ecological footprint” concept, which represents the area of land needed to meet consumption.
A nation’s water consumption is divided into two parts: direct and indirect. Direct consumption indicates the use of domestic water resources, while indirect consumption involves a nation’s use of international water resources.
Human water consumption is generally indirect, the survey found. In particular, it takes a lot of water to produce meat, grain and industrial goods. Approximately 80 percent of water consumption worldwide can be attributed to food and agricultural products. The production of rice consumes 21 percent of the water used to grow crops across the world. The production of one kilogram of beef takes 15,497 liters of water.
For other commonly consumed items, 140 liters of water are required to produce one cup of coffee, 150 liters of water to produce 500 milliliters of beer, 200 liters of water to make 200 milliliters of milk and 2,000 liters of water to produce one cotton T-shirt.
The nation’s per capita water footprint, which includes both direct and indirect annual water consumption, was 1,179 cubic meters in 2007, a little lower than the world average of 1,243 cubic meters.
The United States was the largest consumer of water, with a footprint of 2,480 cubic meters, due to that country’s high rate of consumption of meat and industrial goods. U.S. citizens consume 120 kilograms of meat per person per year, three times more than the world average. That figure is about 32 kilograms per person for South Korea.
China’s per capita water footprint was as low as 696 cubic meters, but the survey found that the nation was the second-largest consumer of water in the world after India.
South Korea was the world’s fifth-largest water importer after Japan, Italy, England and Germany. Water imports occupied 65 percent of the nation’s water footprint. Korea also imports a large quantity of beef, beans, cacao, and corn, good which all take a great deal of water to produce.
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Korea gets an average precipitation of about 1,245mm annually, which is 1.4 times higher than that of global average of 880mm. But due to the highly dense population, average precipitation per capita is 2,591㎥, which is only about one eighth of world average precipitation per capita.
Korea has severe seasonal, yearly, regional variations of precipitation. Moreover, 65% of the land is mountainous and thus channel slopes of rivers are relatively steep. Therefore, for geographical reasons, when rain falls, it immediately flows to the oceans without staying on the land. Since the amount of water staying on the land is very small, Korea in terms of managing water resources during dry the season (Fall and Winter) is at disadvantage.
Korea has a higher average precipitation rate than that of the world average, but it is essential to effectively manage water resources since Korea has severe seasonal and regional variations in precipitation.
Since 1965, total amount of water usage has seen a six fold increase thanks to infrastructure expansion including dam constructions. The amount of municipal use arising from population increase is relatively on the rise, while the amount of agricultural use is gradually decreasing due to reduction in agricultural population. The amount of other water usage except for industrial uses has been steadily increasing.
Newly registered marriages fell to an all-time low last year, study finds
South Koreans, who already have one of the lowest birthrates in the world, at a total fertility rate of just 1.25 per female, are also marrying less, according to statistics compiled by Statistics Korea, which found that the number of newly-registered marriages fell to an all-time low of 309,000 in a country of nearly 49 million people.
What appears to be happening is a major transformation of a society that in the past was called the most Confucian in Asia. Confucian philosophy, which places significant importance on the stability of the family, appears to be waning, at least when it comes to marriage. The Statistics Korea study identifies a whole panoply of changes that is in fact taking place in Korean society that impinge on family values. The number of young who are agreeable to having children out of wedlock is rising, they don’t want their parents living with them, and they are happy to marry outside of their race.
As a result of the changing demographics, South Korea has become the fastest-aging country on the planet despite the fact that Japan has received most of the publicity over the issue. In 1960, the number of South Koreans aged 65 and older was 726,000, or just 2.9 percent of the Korean population. It is expected to rise to 10.1 million or 19.3 percent of the total by 2030.
The percentage of people who believe they should marry at all has declined steadily, according to Statistics Korea’s survey, from 68 percent in 2008 to 64.7 percent in 2010 and 62.7 percent in 2012. At the same time, those describing marriage as a choice rose steadily from 27.7 percent to 30.7 percent and 33.6 percent during the same period.
Men, according to the survey, are more interested in marriage than women, with 60.4 percent of unmarried men saying marriage is a must, compared with only 43.3 percent of unmarried women. As a result, international marriage is rising rapidly, with nearly two thirds of those surveyed (64.4 percent) saying they would be willing to marry a foreigner, an increase from 60.3 percent in 2010. The beneficiaries appear to be women from throughout Asia, particularly Chinese, both of Korean and Han Chinese descent, Filipinas, Vietnamese and Cambodians.
The demand for Cambodian brides became so heated that the Southeast Asian country temporarily banned its citizens from marrying South Korean men after two dozen women were sold into marriage by matchmakers, according to an Associated Press dispatch on Aug. 19, 2010. It was the second time the government had imposed such a ban. An estimated 50,000 Filipinos live in South Korea, either as skilled workers or marriage migrants.
One of the serious obstacles to marriage between Koreans apparently is the cost. It is estimated that a South Korean couple will spend as much as US$200,000 on a combination of cultural mandates including expensive gifts between the families and cash from the bridegroom for a home. As a result, according to the Korea National Statistical Office, the average age of first marriage is 31.6 years for men and 28.7 for women as they save for matrimony.
More people are also open about having a baby out of wedlock in Korea today, according to a new study by the Seoul-based Samsung Economic Research Institute, which is password-protected. The portion of people in favor of having a baby out of wedlock was 22.4 percent, up 1.8 percent from 2010. Additionally, 45.9 percent said they could live together with a partner without getting married at all.
In another blow to Confucianism, according to the SERI report, people are less willing to support their parents compared to the past, with an increasing number of people believing parents should earn their own living expenses (48.9 percent) and fewer insisting that family members should take care of elderly parents (33.2 percent). However, those saying the government, society and family members are all responsible for taking care of the elderly went up from 47.4 percent in 2010 to 48.7 percent in 2012.
While Confucian values continue to mean South Korea has a very low rate of elderly in nursing homes, the implications of the SERI and Statistics Korea studies mean that number can be expected to rise rapidly, especially with the fast-aging population. It is estimated that the country has some 530,000 dementia patients, a figure that has risen by 27 percent in just the past four years. It is expected that that figure will rise to 1 million patients by 2025. The condition costs South Korea the equivalent of US$8 billion a year, a figure that is expected to double every decade.
Few countries across Asia are prepared for the coming demand for elderly care, according to a study by Fung Global Institute Senior Fellow Arthur Kleinman and his Harvard University colleague Hongtu Chen. Most rely on families to care for their aging relatives. The study calls population aging “probably the most significant global trend that will occur in this century across national and regional borders.”
"In addition to a large number of trained care workers who can provide direct care and support to elderly people either at home or in a nursing facility, what determines the quality of elder care in a country is the professionals who have extensive training and experience in that area," the Fung Institute study says. "There are at least three professions that are urgently lacking in developing Asian countries: geriatric care managers, geriatric nurses and physicians, and geriatric mental health professionals."
Asian families often prefer to have their elderly relatives stay at home. In South Korea, despite the new statistics, more than 90 per cent of older people with long-term care needs are exclusively cared for by informal caregivers at home. These caregivers are most frequently a spouse, daughter-in-law, daughter or son, or paid care worker.
By 2030, the traditional elder-care model that relies on one’s own children will no longer work and will have to be abandoned, the study continues. New models, possibly built on community-based social capital or collaborative care among families in the neighborhood, will have to emerge to rescue the future from the increasingly pressing burden of caring for the elderly.