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  • Posts Tagged ‘korea’

    How did Trump Win the Presidency?: By Thinking Like a Negotiator (Lessons

    November 18th, 2016  by  Asia-Pacific Global Research Group - Jasper Kim

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    In ancient Greece—the genesis of Western civilization and thinking—the Greek goddess Athena was known to be the securer of “victory.” She also awarded the dealmakers that brought forth victory. In Oresteia, the Greek goddess Athena proclaims, “I admire…the eyes of persuasion.”
     
    Viewed from an apolitical lens, the Greek goddess would have certainly admired the persuasion, tactics and strategy underlying Donald Trump’s US presidential bid that brought forth an unlikely victory.
     
    To Trump’s supporters, comprised of a diverse voting group including both rich and poor, his victory was an affirmation of Trump’s call to arms against political elites and the perception that America could be great again. To Trump’s critics, his victory was a complete and utter shock that seemed to defy all odds.
     
    To some political pundits and so-called political experts—many who belittled, criticized and grossly underestimated Trump at every turn–it became clear that they needed an update. Their expert predictions and assumptions were outdated and antiquated, advising that future elections should be similar to past elections in terms of tone and rhetoric.
     
    But meanwhile, while these so-called experts were sleeping, the world became flat and hyper-connected due to unforeseen technological tectonic shifts. In the advent of today’s “super-social” era–in which communication is dominated by 140 crafted characters through platforms such as Twitter and Facebook—such weathered expert experience ultimately translated into a net liability, rather than an asset.
     
    So how did Trump win the US presidency? By thinking like a negotiator.
     
    This then begs the question: What exactly is a “negotiation”? According to the Harvard Negotiation Project, a negotiation is defined as “Getting what you want.”
     
    Trump is a self-proclaimed negotiator and dealmaker. He has authored books such as The Art of the Deal, while proclaiming in a recent interview that, “Everything’s negotiable.”
     
    As such, during Trump’s campaign, he was in constant negotiations—with the Republican Party, Democratic Party, the media, and the voting public—to get what he wanted. At each level, Trump was waging a “David versus Goliath” negotiation war, from his purview, in which each and all of these “negotiation opponents” were, at one point or another, against him.
     
    Think for a moment what Trump’s victory, a high-stakes negotiation game, entailed. Since 1988, apart from the current president, the political landscape was dominated by just two family names: Clinton and Bush.
     
    Trump—a political newcomer, but not one with negotiation naiveté–slayed both family dragons in the course of a single election cycle.
     
    Should you be worried or concerned that Trump is now President-elect Trump, given his tone and rhetoric on the campaign trail?
     
    Again, some so-called experts will provide a simple binary analysis for simple minds—a flat yes, that he is the precipice to a new era of an isolated America (rather than a continued era of Pax Americana)—or a flat no, that he will be the savior that America needs in a dangerous world.
     
    But a third, more nuanced and honest answer exists. We simply do not yet have enough information to give a credible answer. What type of information should we be waiting for then? Actual “evidence” in the form of tangible policy action once Trump is sworn in as the forty-fifth US president. Maybe Trump will be great, maybe not. But much like a courtroom, you would not want a judgment about you made against you before the evidence has been thoughtfully and impartially adjudicated.
     
    And what about all of Trump’s seemingly fiery campaign statements? As savvy negotiators know, first statements are often mere first offers.
     
    Trump views everything through a negotiation and dealmaking lens. This will have implications in the US and other regions, including in Asia.
     
    How will a President Trump deal with North Korea’s regime? It looks like Trump would not be completely adverse to face-to-face negotiations with Kim Jong-Un. After all, in any negotiation, to get what you want, you have to know what the other side wants.
     
    How will a President Trump deal with Beijing when it comes to trade? Hopefully, a President Trump will understand the basic negotiation lesson in a tit-for-tat (TFT) negotiation, which often leads to a lose-lose scenario involving mutually-assured destruction (MAD). In such a prisoner’s dilemma scenario, it often benefits both sides to cooperate rather than compete.
     
    As former US President John F. Kennedy famously proclaimed, “Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.”

     
     
     
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    Can Koreans Negotiate?: A Walk Through a Non-Negotiated Life

    May 9th, 2014  by  Asia-Pacific Global Research Group - Jasper Kim

    North-Korea-U-N-Sanctions-and-a-Nuclear-Threat-450x337
     
    For those who have tried to “negotiate” with South Koreans, you may have noticed a “Socrates vs. Confucius” gap. This gap starts with a potential gap in mindset in which those who think from a Western mindset (Socratic-based) go head-to-head with those who think from an Asian mindset (Confucian-based). Rather than subjectively placing a judgment value in terms of which system is better, this Asia-Pacific Global Research blog instead takes a more objective approach by giving a glimpse into how the Asian Confucian-based negotiator may negotiate the way he or she does at the bargaining table.
     
    Understanding and stepping into the shoes of the other side is the first step towards a more collaborative interest-based negotiated outcome and solution.
     
    First, let’s take a look at the typical Korean. From day one, it is not uncommon for a Korean to be raised by parents typically (but not always) set in a strict vertically-based structure, in which one dominant parent, usually (but not always) the father, effectively lays down the law of the land in the household. In this structure, the Korean youth is told, not asked, what to do. This goes from small things like what to eat, to bigger ticket items like what to study, who to date, and when to go home. If the Korean child questions what the parent has to say, this is interpreted as a very bad, not good thing. For example, if the young Korean is told to eat everything on his plate for dinner before getting dessert by her parent, a “no” answer will be construed as a potential sign of betrayal against a superior. Such acts is viewed as one of the more shameful acts in Korean society, in which obedience and trust is a virtue, while being branded with a betrayal mark is tantamount to a “scarlet letter” and later societal banishment, known in Korean society as wang-dah. This of course stems from the Confucian influence that still so very much permeates this society in certain areas.
     
    Further, the Korean youth will only exceptionally be asked the question “why?” either by his or her parents, friends, teachers, or working colleagues. This is again based on the Korean social, academic, and working structures sharing one commonality: they are all vertical top-down, command-and-control based operating structures. This is a very important missing factor in terms of why Koreans are not instinctual negotiators.
     
    The Korean as a young person will rarely question a parent. Doing so, may at times lead to harsh ramifications, both verbally and at times physically. The Korean child will also rarely have a chance to negotiate with friends. This is because the Korean friendship structure is primarily also a top-down command-and-control structure based on those with seniority (sunbae) and those who are junior (hubae). The only rare exception to the general rule is with the small band of friends in the same class year (dong-gap). But again, outside of this tiny zone, the friendship structure is vertically-based.
     
    Once the Korean enters school, the Korean student enters yet another vertical structure in which negotiation is seen as near-betrayal and disloyalty. This is because the typical Korean classroom is another vertically-based top-down structure in which the teacher lays down the law of the land, that is the course lecture, in his or her ruling domain (i.e., the classroom). A student usually never dare asks “why?” or even offers a different opinion to the instructor for fear of retorsion (i.e., social backlash in the form of being given the wang-dah banishment treatment), or worse yet, a less-than-exemplary grade from his or her teacher. This links to the hyper-competition in Korean primary schools to enter the so-called elite universities, in which failure to do so, can lead to a “scarlet letter” branding in the form of being a social and economic outcast by future prospective companies and even marriage partners. In other words, the Koreans love and need the brand names in just about everything.
     
    Finally, after graduation, the Korean employee enters yet another vertically-based, question-not structure when entering into a domestic working structure. The top person is the company CEO, who in essence plays the role of strong military general commanding orders to be executed without question by his or her subordinates. If you step into most domestic working environments, it often somewhat resembles a military operation, with field operations led by colonels (team managers, or teem-jang) surrounded by his field officers (jeek-won). Much like in the military, questioning any command, or counter-offering any command, will very likely lead to a wang-dah treatment so harsh that such person may have difficulty finding employment again.
     
    Because of this, negotiation is never seen as a value-added skillset. In fact, for the Koreans, it is usually never a factor because no one applies it. And when it is needed, say in a FTA-type negotiation, it is new and thus viewed as an “all-or-nothing,” “black or white,” “your win is my loss” vertical proposition akin to outright warfare. This mentality is what it is because the Koreans have been living in it all their lives, for better or for worse. The notion of compromise (tah-hyup) is often construed as a weakness, rather than creative problem-solving, which will usually not be viewed favorably by one’s commander-in-chief albeit in the private or public sector here in Korea.
     
    In contrast, the American structure is relatively horizontal and flat, compared to the Korean vertical structure. Strange for the Koreans, many American parents will indirectly, and often unknowingly, begin the informal negotiation training from day one. For example, if the American child is told to eat everything on his or her plate before getting dessert, the child can often negotiate by saying something like “Well, if I eat all my tomatoes, but not the entire salad, can I then eat dessert?” And sometimes, the parent will accept this, not viewing it as a sign of disobedience or disloyalty.
     
    Entering school, the American student will often question if not challenge his or her instructor. Certainly, the question “why?” from student to teacher is not seen as academic disobedience, but often, an academic duty. This is reinforced by a barrage of assignments, which tests such ability to question, such as the requirement to write critical essays. Such tasks require the student to think independently, question authority, and then come to a personal conclusion based on the evidence. In other words, the American student is provided positive reinforcement if he or she can be rational rather than emotional. In Korea, this rational approach is at times seen as a cold, calculating and detached process, counter to their basic instincts.
     
    Finally, entering the workplace, the American enters a structure that is also relatively flat and horizontal. Although some hierarchy and reporting lines exist on paper, in effect, based on the need to maximize value in each fiscal quarter, each employee is expected to be proactive, which includes the acceptance of suggestions to question and improve existing structures and methods. When an American worker is given a task by another team member, asking “why” is not a bad thing. In fact, not asking “why” may be viewed as inappropriate inaction. And forging a solution to problems, which incorporates brainstorming and suggestions from many ranks, is one reason why American corporations seem to claw their way back from a bad corner. Most recently, this was seen in the 1980s and early 1990s when many held the view that the Japanese would dominate the United States economically. But as we know, this turned out not to be the case, and thus emerged a new breed of American companies like Yahoo, Amazon, and Google.
     
    In other words, from day one, the Americans see most (but not all) things as potentially negotiable, in stark contrast to the Koreans. For this reason, yes, Koreans can negotiate, but many can find it unusual and awkward, and as such, do it grudgingly.
     

     
     
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    South Korea’s Macro “Bamboo Ceiling”: And How It Can Be a Social Start-Up Nation (using Socio-Economic Capital Markets)

    April 23rd, 2014  by  Asia-Pacific Global Research Group - Jasper Kim

    Smart Phones and Digital Tablets Exhibition
     
    South Korea may be hitting a macro-level growth “bamboo ceiling.”
     
    Socio-Economic Capital Markets (SECM) have the real potential to create a breakout “social start-up nation” economic platform as a viable “creative economy” ecosystem for South Korea to reach greater growth in the twenty-first century.
     
    Q1: How to boost South Korea’s post-subprime financial crisis economy?
    Q2:How to create a more balanced economic ecosystem–less dependent on manufacturing and more focused on creativity and innovation while closing the gap between the haves and have-nots–to restructure one of Asia’s largest global economy that is still highly dependent on exports.
     
    A: Socio-Economic Capital Markets (“SECM” as a Growth Model for South Korea’s “Second Miracle on the Han River”)
    ➢ Narrowing income disparity
    ➢ Economic growth through social startup SMEs
    ➢ Inclusion of disadvantaged/underrepresented groups
    ➢ Fostering creative economy –second pillar to Korea’s export dominant chaebols
     
    What are Socio-Economic Capital Markets (SECM)?
     
    SECM* =
    (1) SSU-PPPs (Social Start-Up Enterprises and Co-op PPPs);
    (2) SIB-PPP (Social Impact Bond PPPs);
    (3) SIF-PPP (Social Investment Fund PPPs);
    (4) SCMX-PPP (Socio-Capital Market Exchange PPPs);
    (new concept in academic literature; asiapacificglobal.com, Jasper Kim, April 23, 2014)
     
    Why Socio-Economic Capital Markets (SECM)?
     
    (a) The combination of traditional profit-driven business model, social project and Impact Investors
     
    (b) Investing into social projects by creating businesses that are both profitable AND have a positive social impact
     
    This blog will be one in a series, in which each of the four SECM social start-up factors will be analyzed in greater detail.

     
     
    If interested in how Asia-Pacific Global Research Group can help your organization, CONTACT US HERE.
     

    South Korea’s “Closed Internet”: And Why It Hampers a Creative Economy

    April 12th, 2014  by  Asia-Pacific Global Research Group - Jasper Kim

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    South Korea is heralded as the new “future city.” A city one envisions when thinking of a megacity of the future – modern, trendy and tech-savvy. The country is publicly touted as the most wired economies in the world, boasting the highest penetration of broadband internet users in the world. The nation also aspires to incorporate 5G broadband capabilities by 2020, allowing users access to internet speeds 1,000 times faster than the nation’s currently existing 4G network (in which a full movie can be downloaded in mere seconds).
     
    The irony is that South Korea’s blazing “bullet-speed broadband” internet technologies are highly constrained by a “closed internet” ecosystem–in which internet content and its users are subject to often intense scrutiny and intervention. This not only hampers creativity, it also hampers future start-ups.
     
    Instead, South Korea should deregulate, not over-regulate, its internet ecosystem to become a prime example of an “Asian start-up nation” fostering a “Second Miracle on the Han River.”
     
    Consider the following few examples of South Korea’s “closed internet” ecosystem:
     
    – In 2013, Freedom House, an American NGO, ranked South Korea’s internet as only “partly free
     
    – Reporters without Borders has placed South Korea on a list of countries “under surveillance”, alongside Egypt, Thailand and Russia, in its report on “Enemies of the Internet”
     
    – Every week portions of the Korean web are taken down by government censors. In 2013, about 23,000 Korean webpages were deleted, and another 63,000 blocked, at the request of the Korea Communications Standards Commission (KCSC), a nominally independent (but mainly government-appointed) public body
     
    – In 2009, the KCSC made 4,500 requests for deletion.
     
    – Online gaming is banned between midnight and 6am for under-16s (users must input their government-issued ID numbers as proof of the user’s legal age).
     
    – A law dating back to the 1950-53 Korean War forbids South Korean maps from being taken out of the country. Because North and South Korea are technically still at war, the law has been expanded to include electronic mapping data—which means that Google, for instance, cannot process South Korean mapping data on its servers and therefore cannot offer driving directions inside the country.
     
    – In 2010, the UN determined that the KCSC “essentially operates as a censorship body”
     
    The South Korean government has recently placed a policy emphasis on deregulation to foster the nation’s so-called “creative economy” while bolstering SME growth.
     
    Given this, we believe that South Korea would benefit economically as an open civil society in the twenty-first century if it deregulated related internet freedom laws. This would spur innovation and creativity–while signaling that South Korea’s policymakers are invoking a form of “domestic trustpolitik” between the government and the constituency they are designated to serve–the general public.

     
     

     
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    South Korea’s Deregulation Decision: If You Love Creativity, Set the Economy Free [Asia-Pacific Global Research Group]

    March 22nd, 2014  by  Asia-Pacific Global Research Group - Jasper Kim

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    SEOUL, March 20 (as reported by Yonhap News) — President Park Geun-hye held a nationally televised meeting with regulators and businesses Thursday in a highly symbolic show of determination to undo non-essential regulations she has denounced as “cancer” that’s killing South Korea’s economy.
     
    Park has made deregulation the most important point in her drive to reinvigorate Asia’s fourth-largest economy under her three-year economic innovation plan. The plan calls for raising South Korea’s potential growth rate to around 4 percent and the per capita national income to more than US$30,000 by 2017.
     
    Deregulation is also important in realizing Park’s “creative economy” vision that calls for boosting the economy by turning creative ideas into real businesses through science and technology and information technology.
     
    Park has repeatedly stressed the importance of deregulation and how much she is committed to it, with the language and tone in her appeals growing increasingly stronger in a sign of frustration she feels about the lack of progress and the difficulty getting bureaucrats to remove regulations.
     
    During the meeting, the government reported that it will cut the total number of registered regulations on business activity to 80 percent of the current level by 2016. That translates into the removal of 2,200 regulations and a drop in the total from 15,269 to 13,069.
     
    The government also reported it will adopt Britain’s “regulation cap” system to keep steady the total cost of regulations borne by businesses and the public. The system calls for removing old regulations to make room for new ones. British Ambassador Scott Wightman has also been invited to speak at the meeting about the country’s “regulation cap” system that calls for keeping the total number of regulations steady by making it mandatory to remove old regulations in order to introduce new ones, officials said.
     
    It will first be tested by seven ministries, including the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, starting July, before being expanded across the government starting in January next year.
     
    ASIA-PACIFIC GLOBAL RESEARCH GROUP’S IN-HOUSE VIEW:
     
    We absolutely believe in the principles of principled deregulation for the South Korean economy. This is especially the case in the 21st century, as Asia’s fourth largest economy tries to “free the minds” of its untapped youth and next-generation creative talent. Currently, the economy is overly top-heavy as reflected in an industrial infrastructure that is heavily producer and export-driven. Today, most of South Korea’s GDP is export-dependent. This is good when South Korean exports are in demand by overseas markets, but not so good when such demand falters for endogenous or exogenous factors.
     
    We commend President Park Geun-hye’s latest public efforts to deregulate. Hopefully, such governmental will not turn into another added and ironic regulatory layer in and of itself to get the mission accomplished.
     
    In addition to such government-led deregulatory efforts by the Park administration, why not try an alternative approach?
     
    Why not set out the principles of deregulation in the form of “negative” and “positive” rights?
     
    this would be an elegant, efficient, and effective step forward, without requiring overly burdensome legislative efforts.
     
    To illustrate, during the formation of the U.S. (the world’s oldest democracy), The Declaration of Independence calls for the British government to end the “long train of abuses and usurpations” of “certain unalienable Rights,” specifically “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The authors and signers of the Declaration did not desire for government to provide “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”, but rather they expected government to protect their pre-existing rights which were “endowed by their Creator.”
     
    The unalienable rights in the Declaration and many found among the first amendments to the Constitution are considered “negative rights.” A “negative right” restrains other persons or governments by limiting their actions toward or against the right holder. In other words, it enables the right holder to be left alone in certain areas. For example, the right to be secure in one’s home requires that others refrain from trespassing or entering without permission.
     
    On the other hand, many claims of rights emerging since America’s founding, such as rights to healthcare, housing, or standards of living, are considered “positive rights.” These positive rights essentially provide the right holder with a claim against another person or the state for some good, service, or treatment. Thus, a right to housing obligates someone – presumably the state – to provide the right holder with housing, typically via resources obtained from others.
     
    The words “negative” and “positive” reflect the nature of the right itself.
     
    Applying “negative” and “positive” rights, entities in the South Korean marketplace (including SMEs and start-ups) could be protected under both a “negative” right (i.e., freedom from overly burdensome regulatory processes; specifics could be listed instead) as well as certain “positive” rights (e.g., freedom to pursue life, liberty, and happiness through the pursuit of commercial activities; this is just a broad case in which specifics could instead be provided by the state).
     
    After all, everything else being equal, wouldn’t we want to “let a thousand start-ups and new enterprises bloom” in South Korea and elsewhere with less (rather than more) regulation?

     
    If you are interested in how Asia-Pacific Global Research Group can help your organization, CONTACT US HERE.
     

    Korea-Canada FTA Concluded: 5 Things You Need to Know

    March 14th, 2014  by  Asia-Pacific Global Research Group - Jasper Kim

    Park Geun-hye and Stephen Harper
    On March 11, South Korea and Canada on Tuesday concluded their negotiations for a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA), which will likely be signed and ratified later this year.
     
    1. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The Korea-Canada FTA is expected to help significantly boost bilateral trade. The Korea-Canada FTA completely removes the two countries’ import tariffs on 97.5 percent of products traded between them within 10 years from the day of implementation.
     
    2. SEVEN YEARS TO NEGOTIATE: The negotiations for the Korea-Canada FTA resumed late last year after five years of stalled talks. The FTA negotiations were first launched in July 2007, nearly seven years ago. Canada has signed FTAs with nine other countries, but South Korea is the first Asian country to sign an FTA with the North American nation.
     
    3. AUTOMOBILES AS WINNERS: South Korea will completely remove its 8 percent import tariffs on all automobiles and auto parts from Canada as soon as the bilateral trade pact goes into effect. Canada, on its side, will reduce its current 6.1 percent import tariffs on South Korean automobiles and parts to about 4 percent within 24 months of the implementation. In 2013, South Korea shipped over 130,000 vehicles worth some US$2.23 billion to Canada while importing approximately $92 million worth of vehicles and parts. Canada is the world’s fifth-largest market for South Korean automakers, also importing about 90,000 cars per year from South Korean manufacturers in the United States, according to the trade ministry.
     
    4. RICE MARKET STILL PROTECTED: A total of 211 of 282 total products, including rice, will be permanently exempt from market liberalization. Rice is often considered one of the most sensitive items with South Korea’s FTA negotiations with various counterparties.
     
    5. BEEF IMPORTS NOW ALLOWED: South Korea will also gradually remove its tariffs on another sensitive domestic issue– beef imports -from Canada over a span of 15 years.
     
     
    fta
     
     
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    South Korea’s “creative economy” – 6 strategies

    February 12th, 2014  by  Asia-Pacific Global Research Group - Jasper Kim

    south-korea-welcomes-bill-gates-push-creative-economy-initiative
     
    South Korean President Park Geun Hye’s agenda for the economy’s second miracle on the Han River is under the title of “the plan for Creative Economy-Measures to Create the Ecosystem for Creative Economy.”
     
    But what does “creative economy” mean exactly? Now that the Korean president has had time to adjust and initiate her policies, we begin to see what the policy mantra of “creative economy” means as a matter of policy:
     
    The post-Great Recession global economy has witnessed a shift in focus of value creation to the “innovative technology and creative idea (creative economy)” away from labor and capital, reflecting the 20th century industrial economic ecosystem–towards knowledge and information technology, reflecting a 21st century economic ecosystem and knowledge-based economy.
     
    The “creative economy” policy hopes to leverage the country’s cutting-edge technology, culture, and art. The policy’s focus has been placed on supporting and expanding small-to-medium businesses that can lead to job creation up the value chain. South Korea also mapped out the strategy (creative economy plan) for a unique and value-added creative economy that fully leverages its comparative advantage in its ICT capabilities towards creativity-driven growth, moving beyond the catch-up growth strategy based on imitation and application. The creative economy economic policy initiative presents the vision and objectives of the so-called creative economy. Putting together and integrating the tasks of several government ministries, related tasks have been identified jointly by such respective government ministries since late March 2013. The opinions of the various ministries were accepted and reflected in the administration’s creative economy plan.
     
    Creative Economy – Policy Summary:
    ◎ Presentation of 3 major goals, 6 strategies
    The creative economy plan envisions three goals to create an economic ecosystem for fostering a creative economy in a new era of hope and well-being of the general public:
    ▲ Creation of new jobs and market through creativity and innovation
    ▲ Strengthening the global leadership of the nation’s creative economy with other global economies
    ▲ Respecting creativity and promoting creativity within society
     
    The 6 strategies are as follows:
    ▲ Creating an economic ecosystem where creativity is fairly rewarded where business startups are easier (Strategy 1)
    ▲ Promoting venture capital firms and small-to-medium businesses playing a leading role in the creative economy and make inroads into global markets (strategy 2)
    ▲ Creating the growth engine for pioneering new industry and markets (strategy 3)
    ▲ Fostering the global creative human capital talent who have the vision and wherewithal to become a vital part of the creative economy (strategy 4)
    ▲ Expanding the nation’s science technology and ICT innovation capabilities, which lay the foundation for the creative economy (strategy 5)
    ▲ Initiating the creative economic culture that promotes the involvement of both government and people (strategy 6)

     
     
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    The Extreme Economics of South Korea’s “English Fever”: Why the Numbers Don’t Add Up

    November 14th, 2013  by  Asia-Pacific Global Research Group - Jasper Kim

    students-napping-at-school
    How much should a person pay, as a non-native speaker, to master the English language?
     
    For some, it would be a rational calculation, dispassionately weighing the potential costs and benefits associated with learning the English language. But arguably for the vast majority of South Koreans, the process would be the antithesis of dispassionate—an extremely passionate process in which the only economic limit would be primarily based on how much the particular person (or very likely, the person’s family) could afford for such education. This has led to an entire industry or micro-economy in South Korea that is often beneficial for producers (an elaborate and vast array of private education institutes, known as hagwon), yet often not so beneficial to the very target group that is seeking such knowledge and language capabilities—South Korea’s students.
     
    Currently, over 17,000 hagwons exist that teach English and related educational services exist in South Korea today. That’s roughly one hagwon for every 3,000 people nationwide (not just those of student age). Even more, the annualized growth rate of the hagwon industry from 2005 to 2009 was an astonishing 20.5%. Such explosive growth has economically incentivized even more hagwons to enter into the private education sector–with some being more qualified than others. In the same period, the total sales of English language hagwons increased annually by 26.1%. Sales per hagwon also increased by 230 million won from 190 million won.
     
    On the consumer side, in 2012 alone, the total expenditures on private education was approximately 19 trillion (not billion) won. Of this figure, the vast majority of such funding was spent for elementary school level private education (7.8 trillion won), followed by middle school private education (6.1 trillion won), and then high school education (5.2 trillion won). In total, the average monthly cost of private education for every student in the country is approximately 236,000 won per student every month (for elementary, middle and high school students combined)—that adds up to nearly 3 million won per year, in an economy with a GDP per capita of 22,590,000 million won. Such figures do not even include private education figures at the university and post-graduate level, as well as for various professional certificate and other professional training institutes, which would drive up the figures appreciably higher.
     
    With so much spending based on South Korea’s notorious “English fever” (a colloquial term denoting the nation’s obsession with learning the English language for academic and professional reasons), surely there must be a nice payoff to show for it.
     
    Unfortunately, although this may have been the financial case for many (but not all) in the hagwon industry, it has not been the case for the hagwon’s client-students. In a recent survey of 60 countries worldwide by EF Education First’s English Proficiency Index, South Korea ranked 24th, a mere two spots ahead of Japan (26th) and just a few more spots ahead of China (34th). This, in effect, ranks South Korea as a mid-tier English speaking country, which often prides itself on its English proficiency relative to other Asian countries. However, according to the survey, it was precisely other Asian countries, such as China and Vietnam, which made the most advancement in their English capabilities.
     
    South Korea’s test-taking numbers, at least on paper, are often exceptional. But paper test-taking metrics (used to survey a large group in a time and resource-constrained environment like a country’s student population) generally only measure the “theory” of a discipline—namely grammatical rules and vocabulary resuscitation test-taking capabilities–which often fails to accurately measure the “actual application” of the discipline in the real world. In part, this is based on the country-wide working practice of a top-down “teaching to the test” pedagogical approach–whereby rote memorization often represents the dominant teaching medium.
     
    This is in part due to the nation’s fixation on standardized tests like the TOEFL and TOEIC, which are too often needed and used as an important filtering metric for admissions into Korean universities and employment at Korean corporations (irrespective of whether English is actually needed or not). Perhaps it is for this very reason that the average (but not every) South Korean is more concerned about getting the “right answer” on an English aptitude exam than on actually learning to use it on a practical basis.
     
    As the evidence shows, quantity does not always translate to quality. The average South Korean student has been exposed to nearly 20,000 hours of English education from kindergarten through university—another staggering figure–according to the EF Education First survey. If you adhere to Malcolm Gladwell’s argument in his book Outliers, which asserts that it takes about 10,000 hours to become a “genius” (highly specialized expert) in a particular area, virtually every South Korean should be an English genius, in other words, at least proficient in aspects of writing, listening, and speaking. But unfortunately, this is not always the case—although it should be, given the resources underlying English language acquisition.
     
    Not all may agree with Gladwell, but certainly a consensus can exist that 20,000 hours of exposure to English education (or even a notable fraction of that figure, if you don’t agree with EF’s figures)—is not ideal.
     
    The extreme economics of South Korea’s “English fever” syndrome represents not only a dire financial drain on the national economy, but also a socio-economic one. Many families are separated by choice for months or years, so that one parent (typically the father) earns money to finance such extreme educational costs. In this “goose father” setup, such funding earned in the separate country is then sent to the other parent (often the mother) who is taking care of the child to study English overseas. Such voluntary family separation has and will continue to reap socio-economic problems if it continues.
     
    So what is the solution? Obviously, no silver bullet answer exists. And we have all heard the usual posited solutions: better teachers, more customized classes, innovative curriculum development, and the like. Thus far, however, little progress has been made. So perhaps a more forward approach could be considered. For instance, as one example, the country could embrace English fully and entirely by making it an official national language (as Singapore, which has one of the world’s highest education and GDP/capita rates in the region, among other countries) in addition to Korean. This may seem drastic and even radical for some, but integrating the language into all levels at school and throughout the country could make the nation more in line with its aspirations of being a “Middle Power” and socio-economic hub. Or instead, it should focus on less English education for most of its students, while require extreme English education for those only who will need it on a regular basis for their future global career trajectory.
     
    For a shorter version of this article’s topic (with an accompanying video interview clip) in the Wall Street Journal’s (WSJ) Korea Realtime website, CLICK HERE.

     
    If interested in more Asia-related research and consulting services, CLICK HERE to contact us at the Asia-Pacific Global Research Group.
     
     
     

    Negotiating in Asia: Assembling Your East-West Dream Team (Tip #1)

    October 24th, 2013  by  Asia-Pacific Global Research Group - Jasper Kim

    Negotiating in Asia or with Asian counterparties?
     
    This blog series provides relevant strategic “tips” to guide in terms of the substance and style of assembling your East-West negotiation dream team.
     
    Tip #1 – Degrees Matter: Asian counterparties in both the public and private sectors generally consider educated persons in the most favorable light. This is in part due to the high regard for historical and modern-day exam-taking (to gain entrance into Asia’s elite educational institutions and coveted career positions). While those in the West may view too much education as unnecessary if seen as not directly relevant to the individual’s direct career arc, the pursuit of more education is generally considered to be a good thing by many Asian counterparties. Such educational attainment will generally be interpreted in the form of academic degrees earned. For this reason, your negotiation team should, to the extent possible, be composed of individuals who have attained not only university degrees (ideally from the more renowned institutions), but those with graduate degrees, particularly doctorate holders. Such team composition could lead to a bargaining advantage since such degree holders are viewed with a substantial amount of greater deference in most parts of Asia.
     
     
     

    RODMAN RULES: 5 WAYS THE NBA STAR SWAYS NORTH KOREA

    September 12th, 2013  by  Asia-Pacific Global Research Group - Jasper Kim

    Former NBA superstar Dennis Rodman has become a cult of diplomatic personality. In the past few months, the colorful “bad boy” (a term from his days as a player on the Detroit Pistons) has turned into a new post-NBA career track – as the world’s basketball diplomat-in-chief – through two high profile trips to North Korea.
     
    Here are 5 ways Dennis Rodman–the former NBA superstar–holds significant sway with North Korea and its unpredictable “X-factor” leader, Kim Jong-Un:
     
    1. RODMAN KNOWS MORE ABOUT NORTH KOREAN LEADER KIM JONG-UN THAN JUST ABOUT ANYBODY IN THE WORLD: No single person has had such a unique “backstage pass” into the mind and thinking of Kim Jong-Un through his two visits to North Korea. Kim Jong-Un granted Rodman one of the most scarce seats in the world – a seat next to the young DPRK leader – which culminated into a seemingly win-win relationship. Rodman wants recognition and fame, which access to the highest levels of North Korea’s leadership can provide. Kim Jong-Un wants an apolitical trustworthy global iconic figure that can portray a more flattering and perhaps more nuanced image of him—especially since he represents one of the world’s most reclusive and unknown leaders in the world—despite having one of the world’s largest militaries and a potentially devastating nuclear arsenal. 
     
    2. RODMAN AND KIM JONG-UN HAVE SIGNIFICANT SHARED INTERESTS: At first blush, Rodman and Kim may seems universes apart. But underneath the superficialities, the two have significant shared interests. Rodman wants to be known as “the person who brought global basketball to North Korea.” Kim wants to be known as “a leader that is not as brutish as the world may portray him to be.”  
     
    3. SUCH SHARED INTERESTS CAN LEAD TO “BASKETBALL DIPLOMACY”: How can the two shared interests be converted into an actionable outcome? One is through basketball diplomacy—a form of cultural diplomacy leveraging soft power (defined as “getting others to want what you want” by Harvard professor, Joseph Nye).
     
    4. BASKETBALL DIPLOMACY CAN LEAD TO REAL DIPLOMACY: Many have discounted the potential for basketball diplomacy leading to real diplomacy. One such argument is that North Korea is in effect “using” Rodman for its purposes. We disagree. The argument can be made that the alternatives—6-party talks, bilateral diplomacy, sanctions, etc.—have led to little or zero substantive results. So why not give it a try? Basketball diplomacy, as Rodman is envisioning it, is not a “state sponsored” event—not yet anyway. Surprisingly for many, the private sector and private citizens can also play a potentially important role in gaining trust between North Korea and the international community. Diplomats don’t have a monopoly on good faith diplomatic efforts, nor should they, in our view.
     
    5. RODMAN’S CALL OUT TO OBAMA MAY BE A NEEDED “WAKE UP CALL”: Rodman’s statements upon his return to Beijing from Pyongyang referencing President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in less than flattering terms were admittedly not ideal. But given the lack of progress in U.S.-DPRK relations, such blunt analysis from a well-known figure such as Dennis Rodman may be the unlikely informal diplomatic figure that “sets the ball in motion.” Even if his efforts come to no resolution, how much different is this than with what has transpired thus far with the so-called experts?
     
     
     
     

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