Monday, January 31, 2011

Annoying Things About Korea #8: There Remains Doubt Whether Native English Speakers Are Better Teachers

How is this even a question?
I found this on Facebook today and candidly, it is difficult to know where to begin.  Anyways, here is the question that I found:
The Independent Registry of Schools in Korea wants to know what you think about using Native Speakers to teach English in public schools. Does it help or hurt?
For simplicity's sake, let's just break this down to reading, writing, and speaking, and see what we conclude.

Reading:  There is little doubt that native Koreans are very good at reading in English.  Very good.  Many of the subjects that Koreans study, especially at the university level, are written in English. Engineers and medical students read texts written in English.  As a result, a native English speaker may not add a huge amount of value when compared to a Korean teacher that was educated abroad.

Writing:  There are many non-Korean, native English speakers who do not have perfect English skills.  For example, it is well known that American students are poor at writing.  However, a native English speaker will have far better writing skills than a native Korean who has studied for a few years as a student (유학생).  The reason for that is that many of the most basic difficulties for a native Korean speaker will not be corrected in just a few years.   Thte Seoul Gyopo Guide has posted frequently about how native Koreans should study English.  Specifically, there are specific forms of sentences that do not exist in Korean, but they do in English.  It is doubtful that non-native speakers will have full command of these types of sentences.  Even if a foreign teacher doesn't know precisely why a sentence is correct, he/she will be able to point out that it is wrong.  A native Korean teacher?  I doubt it.  I highly doubt it. If I re-posted every example of grammatical errors on blogs posted by English "experts" in Korea, I would overload any server, anywhere.   

Speaking:  The question as stated above is, mildly speaking, absurd.  Let's put it this way:  Would I be more likely to learn proper Korean pronunciation from a native Korean or an non-Korean Australian person that studied Korean at school, listened to 소녀시대 (SNSD) on the weekends, and came to Seoul for Yonsei University's language school during the summers?  웃긴 것 치지마 십시요.   For native-English speakers, this translates roughly to "Don't be funny." which in turn, in English would be similar to "Don't make me laugh."  It isn't even close, and really doesn't deserve discussion.  Really. 

Conclusions:  If Korea is unhappy with the English proficiency of its elementary-school students, then it needs to first focus on how Korean students study the language.  The Korean custom of memorize, memorize, memorize is very good in many respects, and can be very helpful in reading.  However, in writing and speaking, a native teacher is required.
The Seoul Gyopo Guide has pointed out the inadequacies of English teachers in Korea;  it is a shame that many of them are native Koreans, that Koreans that have studied abroad have tried to portray themselves as "fluent" when they are not, and that they themselves make simple grammatical errors.  If that is the case, how are they to teach others?  Even if it is the case that foreign teachers are far from perfect when teaching grammar and writing, there is no doubt that they will almost always be superior when teaching speaking.  When these types of questions are written by coalitions of official educational institutions in Korea, it is no wonder that the pace of overall improvement in English proficiency in Korea is progressing slower than expectations.  If it is an open question regarding the usefulness of foreign teachers due to some other reason, such as teacher dissatisfaction, school system budget difficulties, etc, then those are different issues.  If anything, there needs to be greater allocation of funds to teachers of young elementary school students, and leave the middle and high school English education up to the student and hagwons. 

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Professional Tennis is a Disaster: The Australian Open

Professional tennis is completely uninteresting.  Do you know how bad it is?  The most interesting thing during the Australian Open was this:

The commentator on the right (former player and grand slam tournament winner Todd Woodbridge) sent an SMS to a fellow ex-tennis player, Renee Stubbs.  Well, Ms Stubbs shared the text with eventual women's champion Kim Clijsters, who then confronted the commentator on center court.  
Now, to Ms Clijsters' enormous credit, she was obviously on very friendly terms with Mr Woodbridge, who was rightfully embarrassed. 

Now this situation was pretty embarrassing for Mr Woodbridge, who could have been in a lot of trouble, but it is pretty clear that they are very close friends.  Unfortunately, this was the highlight of the entire tournament.  As a former tennis player of sorts, and having attended Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, and the French Open, it is highly disappointing that my childhood game has faded into obscurity.

By the way, Kim Clijsters won the women's title, and Novak Djokovic won the men's.  Yawn.

The Seoul Gyopo Guide will now return to its normally scheduled programming....

Sunday, January 30, 2011

영화로 영어 배우는 것 #3: "You had me at 'Hello'" from Jerry Maguire

Is this the most romantic scene of our generation?
 Jerry Maguire (1996) starts Tom Cruise and Renee Zellweger.  It is a movie about an agent (Jerry Maguire) who is an American football agent.  His love interest is Renee Zellweger (a single mother).     Certainly, it is where two of the most memorable phrases in American movies originated.

First, "You complete me."
Second, "You had me at 'Hello.'"

Both of these phrases are known to many native English speakers.  "You complete me" is Jerry Maguire's phrase as he professes his love for Dorothy (Zellweger).  "You had me at 'hello'" is Dorothy's response, which means that "I didn't need to be convinced.  You just being here is enough." 

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

TV과 영화로 영어 익숙할 수 있다. FREE Videos on Demand

Learning English Through Entertainment #4:  Free Videos on Demand
Pop culture starts and ends in America, and as a result, one excellent way of knowing how language is used, what the implication of a phrase is, or if you want to relate to others who speak English, then knowing scenes where a famous phrase is coined, what movie, and the circumstance, is very helpful.

Just go to the lower right part of this page.  There is a small window called "Free Video on Demand."  If you are in the U.S. then you can simply access this for free.  If you are outside the U.S., then you may need to first connect through a proxy website.  Just type "proxy website" in Google, and you will find a lot of sites that you can use.

If there are questions and/or suggestions, post them here.

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Annoying Things About Korea #7: On Facebook, I Can Be An Instant Celeb

Korea has a fake identity problem, and Facebook is making it worse
There is zero doubt about the genius of Facebook.  You can find lost friends (and Lost Seoul)s on Facebook, you can find join groups with others who have things in common with you, and you now, increasingly, you can play video games.

In Korea on Facebook, You Can Name Yourself Almost Anything
Go ahead and type in the name of a famous Korean person on Facebook.  Try Yuna Kim (or Kim Yuna or 김유나).  You will find an entire list of them.  Do you see what I mean?  Now if you really want to be a Fan, or join a group, which do you join?

Korea is the Wrong Place for this Problem
Of course, there is no good place for identity theft.  Unfortunately, for Koreans, this particular problem strikes a nerve.  A few years ago, an "expert" who was employed by the Blue House (Korea's phrase for the president's residence) was understood to be a fraud, a person who had faked her credentials.   A very famous Korean expert in DNA research was found to have forged the results of cloning experiments.  The Lost Seoul has pointed out that many English teachers are, in fact, unqualified to teach the very highly-qualified, and highly-educated employees at Korean companies.  The Lost Seoul calls on Facebook to make sure that you cannot name yourself a name similar to a celebrity.  Facebook needs to do a better job of this in Korea which has had a very ugly recent history where people represent themselves as someone they are not.

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영화로 영어 배우는것 The Wizard of Oz: "We Aren't in Kansas Anymore."

The Wizard of Oz (1939!) is one of the most famous movies of all time.  One of the most famous lines is Dorothy's "We aren't in Kansas anymore."  Today, that line has been adopted hundreds, thousands of times.  There are multiple meanings.  Here are some of them.

A.  We are somewhere we have never been.
B.  We are not in the countryside (시골) anymore.
C.  We have come a long way from where we started.

You get the idea.  The point is that the new place where Dorothy arrived was far, far different from where she once was.  It was new, strange, and she realized that she didn't understand anything around her.  She wasn't in Kansas anymore.

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

영화로 영어 배우는것: The Godfather Part 1. "I'm gonna make him an offer..."

The Godfather Part I
The Godfather Part I is one of the most famous movies of all time.  Starring Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone, The Godfather Part I ushered in the beginning of glamorizing the life of mobs, and their methods.  Perhaps most amazingly, The Godfather Part II is widely believed to be a better movie than the original.  That is very rarely, if ever, the case.

Learning English Through Entertainment #2: "I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse."
One of the most famous lines from the movie is here, where Vito Corleone assures his friend, a struggling singer, that he will help the singer's career.

'"I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse" means that "I am going to threaten him and make him accept my terms."  If someone tells you that he was given an offer he cannot refuse, then that may mean that he has been threatened.

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Japan Downgraded: Korea Needs to Avoid Deflation

You Know It's a Problem When...Japan Downgraded by Moody's
Today, Japan was downgraded from AA to AA- by Moody's, one of the two most important ratings agencies.  These agencies are widely used by global investors when they consider whether or not a country's government will be able to repay its debts.  We can debate, and there are those that would sharply criticize whether or not these ratings agencies are useful, given the fact that they have largely missed the financial crisis on a systematic basis.  Nevertheless, it is still true that investors pay attention when large changes to ratings occur, especially to economies that are the size of Japan.  While there is no imminent risk to Japan, this gesture does reflect many of the things that the Seoul Gyopo Guide has pointed out on numerous occasions.  In fact, this post, which challenges why Koreans continue to learn the Japanese language, is one of the most-read posts on the Seoul Gyopo Guide.

The Japanese Quagmire:  Deflation
Recently, this article was written about Japan (
Their (Japanese companies) advantage may be Japan’s disadvantage. Prices in Japan as measured by the gross domestic product deflator have declined almost without interruption since 1994. That has muted the effect of falling wages and provides a cautionary tale for Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, who has been lecturing on deflation’s perils as a central banker since 2002.
“It’s (deflation) extremely corrosive,” said Richard Jerram, Singapore-based head of Asian economics at Macquarie Securities Ltd. “The problem is, it’s not a spectacular problem in any given month or quarter.”
Deflation will steadily sap nominal growth, depriving the government of revenue, until one day Japan will no longer be able to finance its borrowing, Jerram said. The country will either default on a debt of about twice the size of the economy or debase its currency to reduce the real value of liabilities.
What does any of that mean?  It means that deflation, over long periods of time, can result in the inability of those with lots of debt (like Japan) to either default, or to depreciate their currency (the Yen).  Today's downgrade of Japan by Moody's reflects this problem.  The downgrade's affect alone could very bad for Korea for a variety of reasons.  First, there are many, many Japanese tourists visiting Korea (go to Myung-dong sometime, all you hear is Japanese and Chinese, it seems).  If the JPY depreciates sharply, then the Japanese will not be able to afford to visit Korea.  Second, a depreciation in the JPY will make Korean-made products more expensive on the international marketplace.  Followers of the Seoul Gyopo Guide know that Korean corporations have feasted due to Korea's relatively cheap Won, when compared to the Japanese Yen.

The Korean Problem is Different But an Easy Answer is Difficult to Find
Korea, as everyday Koreans know, faces inflation which is higher than the officially reported rate (people living in Korea are now all vigorously nodding their heads in agreement).  You know that inflation is a problem when the English-written news sites report it.  Well, that has now occurred. The problem actually is not inflation per se, but the real problem is that wages and nominal wealth (checkbook balances, stock market holdings, real estate values, etc) are not increasing at the same rate.  This has been due to a large number of different problems.  The result is that the average Korean feels poorer even though the employers (companies) continue to perform well.
The Seoul Gyopo Guide has suggested that greater amounts of equity must be owned by employees.  Korean employees have been very reluctant in the past to receive compensation in the form of stock.  The problem with this is that cash does not have the possibility of appreciating at the same rate as inflation.

Korea Needs to Avoid The Japanese Example
Some of the Japan's problems may have been unavoidable, but Korea needs to observe, and prevent some of the causes for the current situation in Japan.  First, it is clear why US Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke has been trying to avoid deflation:  Japan has unable to escape deflation's clutches for two decades.  Second, there is the longer-term issue of an aging population, who do not spend on the newest products and who do not treasure the newest innovations.  This is a little-mentioned, but critical factor in understanding why Korea has prospered.  Young Korean consumers demand the newest features, and thus, Korea serves as a "testing ground" of sorts for the global marketplace.  While it is a blatant stereotype to suggest that Korean consumers are choosier than almost any other consumer group in the world, it may, in fact, be true.  (If a product fails in Korea, then it is likely to fail abroad.  In addition to the joint ventures that Korean companies have had with US-based entertainment companies such as Dreamworks SKG, many first-run films actually open in Korea for this reason.)  Third, Korea must avoid huge national indebtedness.  This point should be obvious, given that the IMF crisis was largely the result of the huge debt overhang in Korea.
Many aspects of life in Korea reflect Korea's reluctant jealousy of Japan.  Korea's corporate structures and methods could (although not exclusively) resemble Japan's.  Both countries are highly dependent on foreign energy resources.  Korea may not, over time, be able to avoid some of the larger forces at work in Japan, such as an aging population.  However, many of Japan's difficulties can be avoided so that Korea does not suffer from Japanese-style deflation.

Learning English Through Entertainment #1: "You can't handle the truth."

The Greatest American Export Isn't the iPhone, It Is Entertainment
Entertainment is the great American export.  TV, movies, music, you name it, and there is zero doubt that the U.S. is the undisputed king of the hill (sorry, Hallyu).  Other countries are making strides or have made historical importance (like the U.K. in music).
Pop culture starts and ends in America, and as a result, one excellent way of knowing how language is used, what the implications of a phrase is, or if you want to relate to others who speak English, then knowing scenes where a famous phrase is coined, what movie, and the circumstance, is very helpful.

Learning English Through Cinema #1:  "You can't handle the truth."
This is from A Few Good Men, an otherwise unspectacular movie.  The actors, Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson, are known globally.  This scene saved on You Tube is unforgettable because of the line "You can't handle the truth."  The meaning of the phrase is: "sometimes, the truth is ugly, so it's better to not know, and just accept the good results instead of asking questions."

You know how to tell that a line from a movie is well-known?  It gets repeated on TV shows, and in this case, the most popular sitcom of all-time, Seinfeld.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

영어 Slang of the Day #14 "All bets are off." Wait, when did we bet?

영어 Slang of the Day #14: "All bets are off."  Wait, when did we bet?

All bets are off is used when something dramatically changes a situation, which makes one person/party re-evaluate the situation entirely.  Obviously, the background here is that when you make a bet, the relevant facts are known.  However, when something so dramatic occurs, then the bet is no longer fair, then you want to cancel the bet.  At that time, you could use the phrase "all bets are off."

(o)  I thought that I was going to marry Chul-Ho, but then I saw him kissing another girl!  All bets are off.
(o)  All bets are off: we need to re-evaluate our entire strategy because popularity of the iPad.

Many 영어 Slang of the Day entries are not appropriate for a business/professional setting.  However, this is a phrase which will not offend anyone.  While too casual for writing in a formal report of any kind (business or academic), it would be perfectly acceptable to use this phrase in a casual setting or when speaking with business colleagues.

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영어 Hint of the Day #30: "The Jury is Still Out." What Jury?

The jury is still out is a very useful way of saying that no conclusion has yet been reached.
Perhaps the most direct translation would be "아직도 몰릅니다."  The key point is the word "yet."  It implies that the final answer has not yet been found and the outcome is uncertain.

In legal systems, trials are often determined by a jury.  When deliberating which side has won, the jury generally leaves the courtroom to debate the issues outside a courtroom.  They usually do not return until a final verdict is reached.  The saying "the jury is still out" originates from that situation.

(o)  Is Lee Myung-bak a great president?  Well, the jury is still out on that.
(o)  The jury is still out on whether or not she will fully realize her potential.

Comments are appreciated.
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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Korea's Tenuous FX/Interest Rate/Inflation Situation (Update 1)

Korea Declares A "War" on Inflation:  Too Late, It's Here
This past week, President Lee Myung-bak declared a "war on inflation."  Official statistics reflect what every day Koreans have already know:  inflation is a problem at home.  The Seoul Gyopo Guide has pointed out here, months ago, that the KOR-US Free Trade Agreement needed passing immediately in order to reduce the cost of any imports that come from any country.  Later this year, a Korea-EU Free Trade Agreement should also be in place.  These agreements are important, but they are not the dominant factors affecting everyday Korean life. This post describes some of the issues that face the Korean economy, and potential effects on the Korean population.

Korean Inflation Has Been Rising and Looks Like It Will Continue
After the fact, it has been reported that Korea's inflation rate has risen to 2 1/2-year highs.  To working-class Koreans, this is not news.  As a country that is highly dependent upon foreign sources of energy, the rise in the price of oil to nearly USD 90/barrel is an unwelcome development.  In addition, the price of commodities such as metals and food have also risen dramatically.  Given that Korea is a net importer of each of these, inflationary pressure is set to rise for the foreseeable future, as companies will attempt to increase prices of final goods.

Korean Interest Rates Are Going Up
This past week, the Bank of Korea increased interest rates, to the surprise of many.  The reason that interest rates are used to curb inflation is because higher interest rates will create additional demand for the Korean Won relative to other currencies.  In addition, people may choose to save instead of spend which will gradually reduce demand.

Rises in Interest Rates Could Hurt Korean Competitiveness
The other side of this balance is that stronger demand for the Korean Won relative to other currencies will make Korean-made exports less profitable for Korean corporations, or reduce demand for Korean-made products.  Since the beginning of the financial crisis beginning in 2007, Korea has benefited a great deal from the relative cheapness of the Korean Won.  This point has been made by the Seoul Gyopo Guide a number of times.  In fact, one reason that Japan's economy continues to lag is because competitive Korean-made products are cheaper than their Japanese competitors' products.   Conversely, if the Korean Won strengthens compared to other foreign currencies, particularly versus the USD, EUR and JPY, Korean products may suffer on the international marketplace.  This would be a major source of concern for all Koreans.
(Update 1)In the English version of Dong-A Ilbo, this article was written to reflect the same opinions already posted here on the Seoul Gyopo Guide.  The downgrade of Japan's debt rating by Moody's may have contributed to a slight depreciation in the Japanese Yen against the U.S. dollar last week.  Whether or not this is coupled with Korean Won strength or weakness is yet to be seen.

Rises in Interest Rates Will Hurt Domestic Real Estate
In addition to the challenge that a rising Korean Won would create on the international marketplace, the domestic Korean real estate market will continue to struggle.  The single biggest factor in the value of real estate is the level of interest rates.  Higher interest rates make it more expensive to borrow to buy an apartment, even in Gangnam-gu.  If the Bank of Korea continues to raise interest rates, then the value of domestic real estate cannot rise dramatically.  There are other factors influencing the price of Korean real estate.  For example, the aging population will reduce demand, over time, for apartments in the busiest parts of Seoul.  That will translate to lower prices over time.
In addition, greater transparency and greater belief in the laws governing Korean corporations will reduce the percentage of household wealth used for real estate.  Why is that?  It is because there are other assets, such as stocks and bonds, which may be more promising.  Those investments have been hampered by the fact that Koreans themselves are very wary of the largest chaebol, the government, and the legal structure that keeps corporate misuse of funds in check.  As the Korean economy and regulations mature, native Koreans may re-allocate their wealth from real estate to other areas.
The problem with lower real estate prices is that people will feel less secure, and may be unwilling to spend.  This has happened in the United States, where the plunge in real estate prices has depressed consumer spending.  It is not a heroic prediction to suggest that if Korean real estate prices decline, then Koreans that own their apartments are going to spend less money for food, movies, entertainment, and mobile phones.  (Well, maybe not for mobile phones, but you get the idea.)
The other problem with lower real estate prices is that there are lower amounts of real estate taxes that will be collected by the government.  Why is this bad?  It is bad because then the government would have less money to spend, if further economic stimulus is needed.  Korea has spent a great deal of money during the financial crisis by bringing forward infrastructure projects, as well as compensating construction companies who built large apartment complexes outside of central Seoul, and that remain unoccupied, even today.

A Few Potential Solutions
The Seoul Gyopo Guide has pointed out that the government and companies and society face difficult choices.  That is what is called a conundrum.   There are no easy solutions.  However, here are a few, some of which have been proposed in earlier posts.   
First, Korean companies need to hedge their exposure to the possible appreciation of the Korean Won.  This point has been made by the Seoul Gyopo Guide months ago.  If the Korean Won rises, and Korean products are less competitive, then the only way that Korean companies' profitability will be sustained is if there are measures to counteract a stronger Korean Won.  That is fundamentally different from recommending that Korean corporations should speculate on the KRW/JPY rate.  If there is a decline in global demand, or an appreciation of the KRW relative to other currencies, then Korean corporate performance will suffer, almost regardless of the quality of Korean-made products.  In short, the relative strength of the KRW is to Korean corporations can be compared to jet fuel prices to airlines.  The best-run airlines partially hedge their exposure, and so should Korean corporations.  Korean corporations need to do this without taking excessive risks; the knock-in, knock-out (KIKO) options debacle was a situation where Korean corporations misused derivatives (with the help of securities dealers) can be avoided by using simpler, more straight-forward strategies.
Second, Korean companies' investments in technology to create the most sophisticated, leading-edge products must be accelerated.  Korean companies have made huge market gains, even since the beginning of the financial crisis.  The hard-won profits and market share must be deployed to make sure that Korean-made products are the best from both a quality and features standpoint.  The Seoul Gyopo Guide has pointed out that China has overtaken Korea in shipbuilding during 2010.  Korea must reclaim its lead by offering superior products, and Hyundai Heavy, Samsung Heavy, et al seem to have responded. Samsung Electronics, Hyundai-Kia Motors, and other leaders must do the same.   
Third, the Korean economy must support small and medium-sized enterprises.  There needs to be a better way for the highly-educated Korean population to create wealth other than via speculation or working for a large chaebol.  This includes, but is not limited to, tax incentives for new businesses.  Small businesses employ the largest number of Americans, and while that is an unrealistic goal for Korea, there is little doubt about the fact that Korea has a well-educated, creative population which can create new ideas/products, and thus, companies. 
Admittedly, this is only a partial list of suggestions.  There will need to be changes in every aspect of Korean life, and perhaps even the way of thinking, in order for these suggestions to be taken seriously.  However, the benefit would be that Korea would become more independent in determining its own economic course.  That has limits, certainly, because of Korea's lack of natural resources, small population, and small geographic size.  Nevertheless, moving forward in this way will reduce the burden on the government which has to tread carefully.  Currently, if there were policy errors of any sort, then the consequences would be devastating.  The time to address these issues is now, while Korea's economy is in relatively good shape compared to its global counterparts, not when there is an emergency situation.

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영어 Hint of the Day #29: "Salvation" doesn't mean "Survival"

Salvation is Delivered By a God, Not a Nation

In today's Korea JoongAng Daily, this was the final sentence in this editorial regarding the upcoming North Korean-South Korean negotiation:

(x) It must be remembered that South Korea holds the key to its (North Korea's) salvation.

The point being made here is that North Korea's economy is in tatters, and as a result, desperately needs economic assistance.  However, salvation is not really the correct word here.  A more appropriate word would be survival. 

Salvation is defined as being the deliverance from the power and effects of sin. 

Survival is defined as being the act or fact of living or continuing longer than another person or thing, or the continuation of life or existence.  

The implication of the word salvation is that the one that is giving salvation is a deity, a god.  It is a word that commonly has religious overtones.  In other words, the final sentence above implies that South Korea holds the key to some sort of economic deliverance from the power and effects of sin.  Either this editorial is comparing South Korea to a god, or the choice of the word salvation is incorrect.  The correct sentence should be:

(o) It must be remembered that South Korea holds the key to its (North Korea's) economic survival.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Korea Is A Safe Haven...For International Child Abduction. Not Good. (Update 1)

Update 1 is at the End of this Post

Korea Faces More International Child Custody Controversies
The Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a multilateral treaty, which seeks to protect children from the harmful effects of abduction and retention across international boundaries by providing a procedure to bring about their prompt return. The "Child Abduction Section" provides information about the operation of the Convention and the work of the Hague Conference in monitoring its implementation and promoting international co-operation in the area of child abduction. (Hague Conference on Private International Law, a global inter-governmental organisation.)
This is a list of Hague Abduction Convention Countries.  Conspicuous by its absence?  South Korea.  This is going to be a huge problem for Korea.  First, it is well-known that international marriage is increasing in Korea and abroad.  The reason?  Koreans are migrating to other countries for work and education.  It is inevitable that people meet their spouses through "non-traditional (whatever that means)" methods.  Second, the divorce rate in Korea is rising.   If you put the first and second facts together, then it is mere common sense that suggests that the children of interracial couples, or couples whose home country may be different from one another, will be subject to extreme controversy.

Individual Stories Are Making Headlines, One Case at a Time
Last week, in The New York Daily News, this dramatic story appeared regarding a child hidden in Korea by the father in Korea.  This is not the only story of its kind.  Earlier in the year, a slightly different case was made public, and attracted a great amount of notice. 

Other countries who have not ratified the Hague Abduction Convention have been widely criticized.  The most obvious example:  Japan has also not ratified the Hague Abduction Convention, despite international criticism.   While Korea allegedly recognizes foreign decrees of law, The New York Daily News article strongly suggests otherwise.  The mother had a decree from a U.S. court, but Korean law enforcement officials were of no help to her as she struggled to locate her child in Korea. 

How Korea Handles These Cases Will Be An Important Litmus Test
One of the central ideas of the Seoul Gyopo Guide is that Korea has an outmoded social and legal system, which is not in step with other areas of its rapid development.  There are undoubtedly countless other stories like the two that have been mentioned:  it is a certainty that many more exist, and have not yet received any publicity.  There has been the suggestion that Korea would eventually adopt the Hague Abduction Convention.  However, that has not been the case, yet.  Even if the Hague Convention is adopted in Korea, it is not clear that Korea will enforce the Hague Convention.  Korea has had an exceptionally poor record with respect to following international norms in many areas that interface with the law.  Perhaps only extreme amounts of negative publicity will force Korea to conform to international standards.  Time will tell, but one thing is almost a certainty: the number of cases will inevitably rise, given the social trends within Korea (more divorces), and the great number of Koreans with experience living outside Korea.  How Korea handles this area will serve as another litmus test in determining whether or not Korea is continuing to join the international community.

Update:  The Seoul Gyopo Guide's timing couldn't be better (luckier).  Today, Japan, who also does not recognize the Hague Convention, was formally criticized by France. Korea is much smaller than Japan in size and population.  While no one knows for sure, criticism of Korea similar to the one lodged against Japan can be expected.  That said, Korea has avoided many criticisms in areas where Japan and Korea are similar.  The jury is still out. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

영어선생 Hall of Shame Entry #8: Banning English Kindergartens Is A New, Dumb Law

The Korean Government Gains an Entry Into the 영어선생 Hall of Shame
The Korean Government has handled educational policy very poorly for a very long time.  That said, it is a very complex problem. On one hand, the fact is that learning English is important.  This fact is unlikely to change anytime soon.  The Seoul Gyopo Guide has stated it on a number of occasions.   On the other hand, Korea is trying to promote a society which promotes social mobility in which the economically challenged still have the opportunity to pursue their dreams.  It has done so clumsily, and yet another example has exhibited itself.

Korea to Ban "English Kindergartens."  
Today, this story appeared in the Korea Herald.  These are selected excerpts from the article.

“According to the law, English is excluded from regular kindergarten curriculum. Some hagwon operators have been providing English programs in the form of regular nursery education, misleading the parents and their children,” a ministry official said.

The bill aims to crack down on hagwon that pretend that they are also licensed kindergartens.

“Since (some kindergartens) are registered as private institutes rather than regular kindergartens, they are not subjected to government regulations on fees,” he said.

The qualification of the facilities was also brought into question. Recently, a mass food poisoning took place in an “English pre-school” in affluent southern Seoul. Investigators said the operators had served outdated foods and admitted that tight hygiene regulations were not applied to hagwon. 

This is a Public Policy Issue, Not A Legal Issue
This law is to try to ban English kindergartens in order to prevent the children of the wealthy from getting a head start.  Anything else is a ruse.  Read the reasons in the article, where the government officials point out that there are problems with hagwons that are representing themselves as kindergartens.  The article continues to mention that there may be health issues at some of these "English Kindergartens."
If any of that were true, the correct remedy would be better enforcement of the existing law, not a new law that bans "English Kindergartens."  If hygiene were the problem, and parents were upset, then the parents have the right to address the matter with the hagwon directly.  There is a Korean term for this which is "치마바람" which is literally the "skirt's wind," but in reality means that mothers will try to get an edge for the well-being of their children.  In other words, the consumers (mothers) could, and would, effectively punish that individual hagwon if there were really a problem. If there were such a thing as consumers' rights in Korea, then this would be effective, and that particular English Kindergarten would be effectively put out of business. 

Either the government is acknowledging that its existing laws are poor and inadequately enforced, or there is something else at the heart of the matter.  The Seoul Gyopo Guide believes that it is the latter:  the Korean Government is trying to change its public policy under the guise of accusing hagwons of doing things that were originally illegal.

This article is far too short.   The Korean Government is having difficulty in trying to level the playing field among the economically privileged and economically challenged.  Its measures to date have been a total failure due to poor planning and poorer execution.  It is another example of two central themes of the Seoul Gyopo Guide.
From previous posts, the Seoul Gyopo Guide has pointed out the following:
It is the notion that the law is subject to change on the whim of parliament due to market pressure or political opinion that is the problem.  Secondly, Korea has deserved its place among a very few privileged nations, but its social and legal structure must match its fully-developed economy.

There are other problems that this law creates, such as the fact that investors, once again, cannot invest in business in Korea with any confidence, because the law changes at the whim of the government that is in power at that point in time.  This is very similar to the bond investors' case, and the KEB debacle.  The law changed on investors after the investment had already been established.  In this respect, Korea compares very unfavorably to Japan (that is a quite an admission from The Lost Seoul indeed).  In any case, the Korean Government, somewhat unsurprisingly, has earned its place in the 영어선생 Hall of Shame.

Please follow me on Twitter, Facebook (TheLost Seoul), or hit the "Like" button just below if you like this article.  Thanks!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

영어 선생 Hall of Shame Entry #7: 110 Korean Children Expelled From The Philippines

110 Korean Children Expelled From The Philippines While Learning English

Today, this news story came out of the Philippines.   The Korean students have been expelled out of the country, and the organizers have been jailed inside the Philippines.  As I would like to say, you can't make this stuff up.  There is a list of people that deserve a place in the 영어 선생 Hall of Shame.

What were the parents thinking?
The idea of going abroad for a short period of time to learn English is not new.  There are all sorts of camps, etc set up in English-speaking countries for just this reason.  There is the concept of "homestudy" where a student stays with a family in another country, and enters the local public or private school.  Many mothers bring their children to temporarily live outside Korea to enroll their children in a school of an English-speaking country.  How many of those students do this without the proper visa authorization is unknown.  However, the risk taken is not small.  Are the children, aged 10-16, supposed to know these rules?  Absolutely not: it was the parents' responsibility.

Coordinators Have Definitely Done Their Share
Let's call these people the Coordinators.  Their role here is to organize and liase with both the parents and the educators (teachers/school or facilities) in order to provide the English learning school.  These people really have no excuse whatsoever.  There are two possibilities.  Either they were inexperienced and did not understand or plan for the risks associated with not have the proper visas for the students.  Or, they were experienced and chose to overlook these rules.  Whichever one it is, the Coordinators also have a great deal of responsibility and deserve a place in the 영어 선생 Hall of Shame.

The Educators Are Also to Blame
The Seoul Gyopo Guide suggests that the blame largely rests on the parents of the students.  Nevertheless, the educators could have also established the institution as a vacation, or a camp, assuming that the students were not there on a permanent basis (i.e. longer than the 90 day visitation allowance).  The facts in the newspaper are not clear on this matter, so it is difficult to tell.  However, there are plenty of other students in foreign countries that have not been deported.  Whether or not this is simply due to insufficient enforcement of the law is unknown.  In any case, the educators should have known that there was a risk, and before accepting the students, that proof of a visa should have been verified.  At universities in the U.S., for example, this is an absolute requirement.

Who is to blame in this case is unclear.  It is irrelevant.  Parents, Coordinators and the educators richly deserve a place in the 영어 선생 Hall of Shame.  One thing is absolutely clear, however.  The students, 10-16 years old, are undoubtedly the victims.

Monday, January 17, 2011

영어 Hint of the Day #29 AND 영어 Slang of the Day #13 : "You cannot make this stuff up."

WOOHOO!  Two in one: 영어 Hint of the Day #29 AND 영어 Slang of the Day #13

Today, I searched Twitter for "grammar."  It was probably the funniest Twitter search I have ever conducted (you should search on it if you are feeling discouraged while studying English).  Anyways, here is a tweet (it's not called a twit because a twit means a fool, or 바보)  that I found:

"RT @syfqhpauzi: a guy that is good-looking & talks proper grammar is attractive."

영어 Hint of the Day #29:  "talks proper grammar" is incorrect
Thankfully, this person isn't marketing herself as an English expert or 영어guru or anything like that.  So, she deserves some compassion and doesn't deserve a place in the 영어 선생 Hall of Shame .  However, this tweet is grammatically wrong.

(x)  A guy that is good-looking & talks proper grammar is attractive.
(o)  A guy that is good-looking and uses proper grammar is attractive.
(o)  A guy that is good-looking and speaks properly is attractive.

The point is that her use of "talks proper grammar" is incorrect.  First, the verb "talk" is not used with the noun/direct object "grammar."  Most commonly, "use" is the verb that natives use.  Second, there is another possibility, and it is also wrong.  She may be describing the way in which grammar is used, i.e. she is trying to describe a verb.  Describing a verb requires an...adverb.  "Proper" cannot be the correct word here.  "Properly" would be used.  Either of the two alternatives above would be correct.

Slang of the Day #13:  "You cannot make this stuff up" means this something is so strange/funny/wierd, it must be true.

The fact that the author of this tweet is describing a man who she would find attractive, and the very characteristic she herself doesn't possess that same characteristic, makes the message seem either sad, or funny, or both.  When a message or story or set of facts is ironic to this extent, you can use the phrase  "You cannot make this stuff up." 
There are other ways of saying the same thing.  My favorite:
(o)  Truth is stranger than fiction.

It is a phrase to describe something so odd that it has to have occurred, or has been truthfully told.  In this tweet's case, it is either very funny, or very sad, that the author is looking for a man that speaks properly, and that would make the man attractive.  Does this mean that the author, since she doesn't use grammar properly, is not attractive?  While I have no comment on that, it is strange indeed that she made that comment while making an error in grammar:  you cannot make this stuff up.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Live Chat (Using Meebo) on the Seoul Gyopo Guide

Meebo is, by far, my favorite IM website
If you are like me, then you have an multiple accounts.  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, me2day, hotmail, gmail...the list is long, and getting longer.  I have used in order to create one login, and get onto all of my instant messaging accounts at the same time.  Meebo isn't perfect: there are limitations because you cannot login to, for example.  However, Meebo more than does what it says it will do, and makes online life far more convenient.

It Gets Better: Meebo Chat on the Seoul Gyopo Guide
At the bottom right of this blog, I have installed the Meebo live chat widget.  It allows you to ask questions or make comments to the Seoul Gyopo Guide live.  If I am online, that I would be happy to answer, or simply chat.  It does make the blog a little slower, but I am working on that.  If it becomes too slow, then I will have to think of something slightly different.  There are those that have sent me direct questions (thank you), but maybe this is more convenient. 

Come and say hello. in Korea? Unlikely, Here's Why (Update 1)

Need to find the fair price of ANYTHING?  Look no further.
It isn't perfect competition, but it is as close as the average consumer can get.  Anytime that I am going to buy anything other than food, I always go to  Always.  Why is that?

Comparison shopping done easily
The choices in the U.S. are dizzying.  Dozens of sites for virtually every item.  However, has put together a site which is consolidates other online stores which have partnered with Amazon.  None of this matters to an American consumer: shipping is often free, and a very competitive price can be found on virtually anything that you need to buy.  Shipping?  Free if the purchase is above a certain amount.

Why oh why and Aren't Even Close
Besides being highly annoying from a visual standpoint, Korean shopping sites are inconvenient at best.  If you are not convinced, look here. Once you get beyond the annoyance factor, there are still reasons why these sites and individual online sellers do not succeed in Korea.  First, fads burst onto the scene and recede into obscurity with blinding speed.  Remember the LG Chocolate?  Neither does anyone else in Korea.  That makes it very risky for online sellers to retain inventory.  Second, it is very difficult to level the playing field against the largest Korean companies.  In other words, small niche companies find it very difficult to evolve into viable entities in Korea.  As a result, the offerings at and are simply the same items from virtually every seller.  Third, import taxes remain a barrier.  The Seoul Gyopo Guide has strongly supported the passage of the KORUS FTA because the effect on everyday Koreans is higher inflation, and fewer choices that result.  Korean retailers also have fewer choices because they cannot afford the risks of carrying more-expensive items.  Those retailers are correct to be afraid, since the FTA should bring down the selling prices after FTA passage.  Those especially at risk are the large department stores that currently carry U.S. brands.  Depending upon the price of shipping, it may actually be cheaper to purchase certain items on and have them shipped to Korea.

Perhaps the Seoul Gyopo Guide should give Korean shopping websites a break.  It isn't necessarily the sellers' fault that they have limited access to high quality inventory.  What other way is there to get the attention of the potential buyers for identical products?  Until Korea enjoys a truly competitive marketplace, an all-encompassing website like may be an impossible dream.

영어 Hint of the Day #28: Well, it's "tit for tat." What's that?

"Tit for tat" is a Phrase to Describe a Strategy Used in Many Situations

"Tit for tat" is a strategy used when one person responds to something in the equal and opposite direction.  Perhaps the best way to describe this strategy is by example.

Min Ho:  I think that Min-Ah was wrong, so I decided to tell her mother.
Young-Ah:  Well, Min-Ah won't be happy when she hears that.  I think that she will also tell your father.

In the example above, Min-Ah is going to react to Min-Ho's actions by deploying the same strategy in a proportionate amount.  In other words, Min-Ah will be using the "tit for tat" approach.  If Min-Ah told the entire neighborhood, then she would not be using the "tit for tat" approach.  The key point is that the response (Min-Ah telling Min Ho's father) is the same in severity as the original action (Min Ho telling Young-Ah's mother).

The phrase "tit for tat" is a strategy most famously used when there are going to be a large number of interactions among people, or groups of people.  It is famously referred to in simulations of a game called the Prisoner's Dilemma, a game played to measure people's cooperation with and trust in one another.  "Tit for tat" produced the highest average score in computer simulations of the Prisoner's Dilemma.

The reason that the Prisoner's Dilemma is so well-known is because of its application in any situation where human cooperation and trust are necessary.  Well, that pretty much means it applies in every situation that anyone can imagine.  That "tit for tat" was the strategy that resulted in the highest average score is interesting indeed.

Perhaps this "Hint of the Day" belongs in the "Advanced Hint of the Day" category....

Friday, January 14, 2011

China Overtakes Korea in Shipbuilding: A Scary Precedent for "Korea Inc"

China Passes Korea for the Global Lead in Shipbuilding
Yesterday, this brief clip appear on Yonhap's website:  Actually, this is not news to Korea shipbuilders nor steel companies, whose largest customers include the largest Korean shipbuilders (such as Hyundai Heavy).

The notion that Chinese industry will grow, and rapidly, is not new.  Shanghai has replaced Singapore as the world's busiest port.   Joint jentures are widespread between Korea and China.  Autos, electronics, logistics: these are just a few of the Korea's most important industries and China needs precisely this type of technology.  In fact, China's need for this technology is so great, it almost cannot afford for a wider Korean conflict.  On November 27, The Lost Seoul twitted the following, "Just because we don't understand Mandarin doesn't make the Chinese stupid."  The point: China has much a much bigger fish to fry than to let a war between North and South Korea begin.  It would jeopardize the technology transfer critical to China's economic growth. 

It's Not That Simple, Of Course
For Korea, this represents a double-edged sword.  Korea must understand (and it does) that it depends on the Chinese marketplace.  Close geographically, and with many Koreans and Chinese sharing a common, albeit distant heritage, it is an intuitively attractive notion that the two countries should forge close economic ties.  When combined with the historic idea that the Japanese and Chinese people have a long-standing mistrust of one another, China and Korea seem like logical partners in many ways.

China requires Korean technology.  Korea requires the size and breadth of the Chinese marketplace.  How long this symbiotic relationship lasts is an open-ended question.  No one can tell how quickly the Chinese will acquire the technology needed to be self-sufficient.  In other areas, China has surpassed expectations.  For example, China's initial flight of a stealth bomber has caught the U.S. by surprise.

The Shipbuilding Case as a Dangerous Precedent
It appears that Korea will need to extend its technological lead in every industry.  Shipbuilding is, relatively speaking, an industry which does not require exceptionally high levels of technical knowledge.  The largest input, steel, is also a relatively easy to produce, assuming that there is a steady supply of iron which can be refined.  For Posco et al, the challenge is immediate.  Posco and other Korean steel producers will have no choice but to sell to the Chinese and reduce their reliance on Korean shipbuilders.  Korean shipbuilders will need to secure orders from non-Chinese clients.  These are not easy tasks.  Other industries vital to Korea, such as automobile manufacturing, and consumer electronics will face the identical challenges that Korean shipbuilders and steel producers currently face.  So while Korea's leading corporations, such as Hyundai Motors and Samsung Electronics, enjoy leadership roles in their respective industries, the shipbuilding case serves as a dangerous precedent from which important lessons must be learned.
Admittedly, it may be that the Chinese marketplace is so large that it does not matter.  It may be that Korean manufacturers and newly-developed Chinese corporations will be able to peacefully co-exist.  This has not been the case in other similar situations.  Sony and Samsung used to have joint ventures with one another.  Much of those cooperative arrangements have now ended.  It is almost inconceivable that the Chinese do not try the same tactics in the future.  How "Korea Inc" addresses this issue will be a key determinant of its place in the global economic order.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

영어 Hint of the Day #27: Watch "The Good Wife"

영어 Hint of the Day #27:  Watch "The Good Wife" to Improve Your English

One good way to learn English is to watch TV.  The problem is that sometimes, the actors and actresses, slang is heavily used, or the talking is too fast to understand.  Sometimes, the topic matter is strange, or the twists and turns of the show are too difficult to understand.  Comedies are very difficult, because humor relies on innuendo, sarcasm or puns (word-play).

The CBS TV show "The Good Wife" is a very good show to watch in order to learn English.  The show is popular and well-reviewed in the United States.  It stars Julie Margolies, who has been a star actress since the beginning of ER, which stands for emergency room (of a hospital).  The speed of talking on "The Good Wife" is pretty slow.  The amount of slang used is kept at a minimum.  The stories are not too difficult to understand, and the story twists are not too difficult to understand.  The accent (바름) is neutral, which means that it can be easily understood.

If you are inside the U.S., then you can watch reruns on  There are ways to download files on the internet in order to get these files as well.  New programs are broadcast on Tuesdays at 10PM EST (NYC time).  That means the files are usually available on Wednesday evenings in Korea on (www.p i r a t e b a, and that they are free to download. These are not confirmed facts: it is "rumored" that TV show files are available on that site regularly.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

영어 Slang of the Day #12: There is "no love lost" between them. Huh?

"No love lost" is another way of saying that there exists long-standing animosity

When two people, or groups of people, have many, long-standing reasons for disliking one another, then you can say that there is no love lost between them.  The phrase is frequently used when describing a rivalry of some sort, for example between two sports teams, who have played against each other in many important games/matches.

1.  There is no love lost between New York Yankees fans and Boston Red Sox fans.
2.  Jill and Mindy are again competing for the top prize;  there is no love lost between them after Jill insulted Mindy the last time.

There is a nuance to the phrase "no love lost."  In addition to the competitive aspect, there is also an emotional aspect to the rivalry between the two people/groups.  In other words, if the two people are merely competing against each other in a game during a tournament, then that does not necessarily mean that there is "no love lost."  However, if there is some special reason that both teams want to win due to prior events, then you can use the phrase "no love lost."

The phrase "no love lost" is slang, and would be considered unprofessional in a business setting, and too casual for use in an academic setting.

Monday, January 10, 2011

영어 Hint of the Day (비지너스) #12: FREE Business Writing Book (Kindle Edition)

Receive a free copy of Kaplan MBA Fundamental Business Writing (Kindle Edition).

eBooks are cheaper, and space-saving alternatives to the endless number of books that you can find at Bandi and Luni's and Kyobo Book Store.  Admittedly, it is fun to go to those stores and look around, and experience the energy in the stores.

However, Koreans are generally in the need for more space, and more time.  What could be more convenient than downloading a free book from the comfort of your own home/coffee shop (only if you have Alleh).  In addition, while this book may be an advanced version, it will not be error-prone like the ones that you will find in Korea.

a.  Look to the right column of this blog, in the "My Faves at" box.  Inside the box should be the title "English Learning Guides."
b.  There should be 2-3 books in the window.  One of the books will have a comment below it in red.  That is the free one.  If the book doesn't appear there, then you can go to the next page (there should be 2 pages of books in that window).  I cannot control the order of the books, but I am certain it is in that particular box. 

This book costs more than USD 12.00 and as a result something like KRW 15,000 at the minimum.  The Seoul Gyopo Guide has never asked for a donation, but in this case, it may be appropriate if only to pay for the domain.  In no way will that change the goals of The Lost Seoul or the Seoul Gyopo Guide.  Good Luck getting your free book!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Hyundai E&C Fiasco: Doesn't Anyone Remember 1997-98? (update 1)

Hasn't the South Korean Economy Already Been Down This Road???  Yikes.
Today, as expected, Hyundai Motor Group was named as the preferred bidder for Hyundai Engineering and Construction.  The JoongAng Ilbo had earlier reported on the Hyundai Group's potential lack of funding for a purchase of Hyundai E&C.  In August 2010, Hyundai Group announced its intent to bid for Hyundai E&C.  There were suspicions that the Hyundai Group did not properly secure funding for its bid.  As a result, the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS) has now approved Hyundai Motor's selection as the preferred bidder.
Much of the press coverage in Korea has centered on the conflict among the members of the founding family of the Hyundai Group, whose affiliates once included Hyundai Motor Corporation and Hyundai Heavy Corporation.  In short, if the first word of a Korean company is called "Hyundai," then it was under the same corporate umbrella at one time or another.

Hyundai's Complicated Family and Corporate Ties
Currently, Hyundai Motor Group is headed by 71-year-old chairman Chung Mong-koo, son of Hyundai founder Chung Ju-yung. Hyundai Group is controlled by Chung Mong-koo's sister-in-law Hyun Jeong-enu.  Hyundai E&C was part of the Hyundai Group until 2001 when creditors took a 35% controlling share in the business.  
The Hyundai conglomerate was split into two separate companies in 1997-98 following the Asian financial crisis.  Hyundai Motor Group, which includes Hyundai Motor, Hyundai Steel and Kia Motors, was headed by Chung Mong-koo and Hyundai Group, which includes Hyundai Elevator, Hyundai Securities and Hyundai Asan, was led by his brother Chung Mong-hun.  Chung Mong-hun committed suicide in 2003 following accusations of false accounting when he faced a prison term, leaving his wife to succeed him as chairperson. 

The Feud Isn't The Real Issue
If you can understood the previous paragraphs without reading it twice, then you are either a historian, or a member of the Chung family.  The real issue, however, is not the fact that there are warring factions of the same extended family competing for the crown jewel Hyundai E&C.
However, the fact that there is now again the possibility of the same type of cross-holdings of financial interests such as debt, and equity by the different entities is highly alarming. It is precisely this type of corporate structure that led to difficulties which threatened the entire Korean economy, and brought the Korean banking system to its knees.
Korea can ill-afford this type of situation again.  Hyundai Motor Group has made enormous gains in the most important markets in the world.  In fact, Hyundai Motor now enjoys an 8.7% market share in the U.S., which is greater than Japan's Nissan.  Many years ago, there was no quality comparison between Hyundai and its Japanese competitors.  That is no longer the case.  The same can be said about many Korean corporations.  This type of corporate infighting, and the financial mess that accompanied it, must be avoided at all costs.
To be fair, Korea's economy is far stronger, far more diverse, and far more able to fight off an individual corporate event.  Nevertheless, a single case can be used as a precedent for future ones.  It isn't the specific Hyundai E&C debacle that is necessarily critical;  it is the fact that this pattern of financial transactions should not occur due to the inherent problems these transactions create.
The FSS must make absolutely sure that there are no situations where the cross holdings of financial interests can occur, and that over-reliance for liquidity does not rest at one bank.  During the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997-98, it became obvious that the largest chaebol were borrowing from primarily one bank, and when that chaebol was in financial distress, that individual bank was also distressed.  This can be avoided only if the financial authorities make sure that there are adequate rules, and enforcement of those rules.  Given the very spotty record of the FSS, perhaps it would be better to avoid this situation altogether, and disallow both Hyundai Motor and Hyundai Group from purchasing Hyundai E&C.

영어 Hint of the Day #26: How to Correctly Use the Phrase "set out"

영어 Hint of the Day #26: How to Correctly Use the Phrase "set out"

The phrase "set out" isn't difficult to understand.  "출발하다" is pretty accurate and literal.  It can certainly mean to begin, as in a trip, or a journey.  The point of the phrase is that there is a specific destination.  That destination can be either literal (a specific place) or figurative (success).

a.  Min-ho set out on his way to work.
b.  Hee-Young set out on her way to success by entering Brown University.
c.  The Lost Seoul has set out to create a useful blog for Koreans and non-Koreans alike.

The subject that "sets out" is almost always an animate object.  It can a person, or group of people.  While it may not be technically wrong for an inanimate object to be the subject that "sets out," The Lost Seoul cannot think of any examples in which the subject in inanimate.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

영어 Slang of the Day #11: Q: 너 죽을래? A: "Bring it."

Use the phrase "bring it" when you are not backing down from a challenge

When you are being challenged by a person, or in an argument, many times the opposing person may attempt to intimidate you by using a personal or physical challenge.  Sometimes, you may want to retreat.  Sometimes, you may not want to retreat, but show to the other person that you have no intent of backing down.  When you have no intent of backing down, you can use the phrase "bring it."

Simple examples.
A.  I am going to crush you this time (at paduk).
B.  Bring it.

A.  I am going to show everyone that I am prettier than you.
B.  Bring it.

It is uncertain, but bring it most likely is short for "bring it on," and so instead of "bring it on," you get "bring it."  This is common, in that the origination of slang can be unknown, but the meaning is not in question.

Other, related phrases exist, such as "bring my A game," which means bring your best abilities forward.  A quick example would be "Chul-ho is a good golfer, so I better bring my A game if I want to win." 

"Bring it" is a very diverse phrase.  For example, in both examples above, you can use the phrase "bring it."  A similar phrase is "hit me with with your best shot."  It has a very similar meaning.  However, it doesn't really fit the second example above.  "Bring it" can be used in both situations.  Since The Lost Seoul wants native Korean speakers to discard unnecessary vocabulary, there is no need to remember "him me with your best shot," and instead, use "bring it."

Given that it is slang, "bring it" should not be used in a professional setting.  It can be used with friends when you are playing or joking.  Using this phrase in a real, confrontational situation can create real animosity.  So be careful.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Studying Japanese? Stop Wasting Your Time. Now.

The Seoul Gyopo Guide is meant for many things, and here are the most important.
a.  Inform non-Koreans about brilliant Korea, and the amazing things that have been, are being, and will be accomplished by Korea.
b.  Help native Koreans understand how to adapt to a world outside Korea, which will be necessary in order for Korea to continue its ascent.
c.  Point out how Korea's legal and social structure must evolve to match its economic development.

One bias amongst Koreans that has existed as a result of the oddest combination of animus and envy, combined with convenience, is Koreans' continual study of the Japanese language.  This is a complete waste of time.  The Seoul Gyopo Guide has suggested, almost begged, native Koreans to stop this.  English is much more important, and you can make the case for Mandarin.  The many reasons are summarized here.

More evidence continues, and will continue to flow in steadily. Here is today's evidence from Japan's Kyodo News.

"In a multiple response question asking executive to list negative factors affecting the economy, 75 companies referred to the yen, 58 cited the future course of the U.S. economy, and 31 noted the weakening effects of economic stimulus."

This perfectly coincides with all of the Seoul Gyopo Guide's previous posts regarding the inevitable Japanese decline.  There is a phrase called "The Lost Decade" in Japan.  That is is an untruth.  We are in the third lost decade for Japan.

The Lost Seoul acknowledges that there are similarities between the Japanese and Korean language, which makes Japanese a convenient language to study from an academic perspective.  However, unless you are employed to specifically cater to Japanese tourists, or conduct business with Japanese corporations, it is a fact that Japan is in inevitable decline.  Only a full-out war between North Korea and South Korea can stop that now, and in that case, it wouldn't really matter, would it?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Annoying Things About Korea #6: The English Version of Korean Newspapers Are Not Delivering News

The English Versions of Korean Newspapers Deliver News That Isn't (News)

Today, two separate articles appeared in different Korean (English version) newspapers.  They are not newsworthy, for separate reasons.  Perhaps that is the fascinating aspect, which is that there are multiple reasons that separate stories don't deserved to be published.

First, the following editorial appeared in The Chosun Ilbo, which had the groundbreaking (sarcasm) opinion that "2011 Will Be a Decisive Year for the Korean Economy."  None of the facts reported in the article are news.  In fact, most of those factors can be found written here (under the category "Korean economy", which was posted here on the Seoul Gyopo Guide over the past three months. 

Second, the following article/advertisement appeared in The Korea Herald.  Let's be clear about this: the nationwide sale occurring in Korea will benefit Koreans, not foreigners.  The sale itself will be a mere coincidence.  One reason that foreigners will travel to Korea and buy something is the relative cheapness of the Korean Won compared to other Asian currencies.  Period.  There is no doubt that Insa-dong is a beautiful place (I liked it better when it wasn't modernized, but it is still my favorite place in Seoul), but the sale and accompanying events are not the reason that foreigners will specifically travel there.  In short, this article in The Korea Herald is a mere advertisement.  A more newsworthy story might have been "Strong Asian Currencies Makes Korea a Popular Tourist Destination."  Now, some may say that this post is suggesting that it is only the cheap Korean Won that attracts foreign tourists.  Obviously, that is not the claim here.  You don't see millions of tourists flocking to Zimbabwe, right?  Korea has a great deal to offer, especially in art and history (my opinion), with convenient transportation options for tourists.  However, to say that the nationwide sale is going to attract foreigners to Korea?  Nope. Native Koreans are more likely to enjoy the benefits of the sale, especially those that do not frequently travel outside Korea. 

Please note: this article is not talking about the control of media content by the government, etc, because that occurs in most every country, not only in S. Korea.

Comments are welcome: The Lost Seoul posted every comment that did not contain slander or profanity.  A difference of opinion or perspective is welcome here at the Seoul Gyopo Guide.

영어 Slang of the Day #10: We need to have a "level playing field." I agree!

The concept of "level playing field" is not difficult, and useful.
 A "level playing field" exists when there is a competition, or comparison, that is fair, without an undue advantage in some aspect.  As a result, you can use the phrase "level playing field" to describe a fair situation.

(o)  There are now three players on each team.  We have a level playing field.  
(o)  The new team leader is a woman.  Maybe now we women will have a more level playing field. 
(o)  Let's use English when conducting business with the Chinese, in order to level the playing field.

You can use both a "level playing field," and "to level the playing field."  However, the grammar of the two phrases is different.
In the first example, a "level playing field" is a noun, which describes a fair situation.
In the third example, "to level the playing field" is a verb + direct object.  This is used when you actually do something that results in a more fair situation.