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  • Posts Tagged ‘South Korea’

    India and Japan Counterbalancing China: How Shared Interests and Fears Led to Negotiation Cooperation

    April 6th, 2015  by  Asia-Pacific Global Research Group - Jasper Kim

    Narendra Modi, Shinzo Abe, Taro Aso
    India and Japan recently pledged cooperative efforts to deepen national security interests, as a means to counterbalance China’s increasing influence in the Asian region.
    “A strong India-Japan partnership is not only in the national interest of the two countries but is also important for peace and security in the region,” India’s Defense Minister Parrikar stated, reiterating that he would like to see a strong partnership with Japan in defense equipment and technology.
    While Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is involved in one controversy after another within India, there is no doubt that abroad he has been winning hearts and minds wherever he goes outside of his country. Among the first of his official visits was a five day trip to Japan where he was personally welcomed by Abe. With both parties claiming that bilateral ties held great potential, any observer could tell that the foundation for a stronger relationship was being laid down from the outset.
    But what is it about this particular set of ties between India and Japan that makes it so special? Similar political and economic goals? Threats from other neighbors? A need to find understanding partners?
    When two economic giants come to the negotiating table, the mindset makes a huge difference. India and Japan represent the second and third largest military spenders in the region. With the only overt gestures being friendly, and either side acquiescing benefits to the others, the emphasis on collaboration was strong from the onset. Already sharing a history of having supported each other from before both world wars, the historical foundation between India and Japan had already been set. It only needed two like-minded leaders—such as Modi and Abe who have shared interests and fears–to incentivize the process towards negotiation cooperation.
    In negotiation theory, there is a concept called ‘likeness theory’ that forms the crux of any relationship where both negotiating parties can find elements outside of the negotiation that help them bond. This, in turn, based on related negotiation behavioral studies makes it easier to find a solution and collaborate, repivoting the negotiation process towards a positive-sum game, not a zero-sum game.
    Here in this case, both Abe and Modi appear to have similar goals (or likenesses) for their respective nations. Both are fiscally conservative, both are known for favouring an internal economic strengthening, have nationalist tendencies, support strengthening ties with neighbors and both are trying to raise their nations to a standpoint where the world recognizes both India and Japan as true global powers, not just economic powers. With this kind of shared likenesses between Japan and India, it becomes easier for the two Asian giants to negotiate towards cooperation rather than betrayal (non-cooperation) in a iterated prisoners dilemma-type scenario.
    Both Modi and Abe have come to power at times when their people are hungering for economic and political change. With Modi looking to drastically improve India’s infrastructure, Japan is looking for markets to invest in, making this a “win-win” relationship based on “shared and complementary interests” that have a greater chance of principled rather than positional bargaining between the two Asian giants.
    Another common factor for both countries is their mutual neighbor, China. There is no subtle undertone for India here, as there is while negotiating with China, no horatory promises to cooperate while simultaneously coping with intrusions into sovereign territory or aggressive overtures in the international arena (something Modi hinted at in his speech in Kyoto). Similarly for Japan, with relations with China taking a nose dive due to diplomatic riffs and economic disagreements, finding other equally strong partners within the Asian region is imperative.
    Such ever-changing negotiation climate is also simultaneously a clear signal to America that intra-Asian cooperation may not be solely U.S.-centric at all times. With both India and Japan being strong strategic partners for America in the Asian subcontinent, it seems that both India and Japan are taking steps not behind but in concert with the United States under U.S. President Barack Obama.
    From India’s purview, Modi’s is initiating an “Act East” policy – a throwback of sorts and perhaps an improvement on the nation’s earlier “Look East” Policy. We know Modi also took no time in meeting Chinese Premier Xi Jinping in a recent multilateral diplomatic meeting and is set to visit Xi in May later this year. On the other hand, Modi has also already spoken to president Park Geun-Hye of South Korea on the phone. Further, his regular references to the rapid economic growth South Korea has experienced since the 1950-53 Korean War (the nation’s “Miracle on the Han” economic experience) speaks volumes about Modi’s admiration and perhaps economic benchmark for the country relating to India, with a population of over 1.2 billion people.
    Based on the actions of both India and Japan, it is apparent that both Modi and Abe have the shared common interests and fears that may incentivize strategic cooperation vis-à-vis China. But how the forging of such closer India-Japan ties affects the U.S. and Europe is still to be determined.

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    Hidden Meanings in Negotiations: 5 1/2 Things to Know

    June 21st, 2014  by  Asia-Pacific Global Research Group - Jasper Kim

    Negotiation is based on communication. Communication, in turn, is based on verbal and non-verbal communication.
    Science and studies have led to some startling and valuable findings that may provide “hidden meanings” for your negotiations.
    They include the following:
    1. Opposites: Some expressions when said are signals that mean the opposite of what is being said. Examples include, “In my humble opinion…” and “Although I sympathize with your opinion..”
    2. Prenouncements: Prenouncements are neuro-linguistic cues. Examples include “As you are aware,” “Before I forget,” “Incidentally,” and “By the way.” When these terms are verbally communicated, it can signal to the listener that an important fact or opinion (potential game changer) may follow such expressions, hence the term prenouncement (words prior to an important announcement).
    3. Legitimizers: Legitimizers are terms used that attempt to legitimize a subsequent statement. Examples include “Frankly,” “Honestly,” and “To be honest.” Ironically, such terms used to justify a subsequent statement may be a hidden clue that this may not necessarily be true.
    4. Justifiers: Justifiers are linguistic terms used to prepare the listener for failure or not meeting expectations. Examples include “I’ll try my best” and “We’ll see what we can do.” As a countermeasure, the listener should then try to recalibrate the expectation value (in negotiation jargon, aspiration point) upwards.
    5. Erasers: Erasers are words used that completely reverse (negate) some, most, or all of what was just said. The main two examples are “But” and “However.” From a neuro-linguistic perspective, the listener remembers very little of what was said prior to such eraser verbiage. Instead, try using “At the same time,” or “Having said that.”
    5 1/2. Deceptions: Decepter linguistics are terms that serve to disguise the true knowledge or skill-set of the negotiator. Examples include “I didn’t graduate from a big name school, but” and “Although I’m not an expert.”
    Excerpts inspired in part from Secrets in Power Negotiating by Roger Dawson.
    If interested in how Asia-Pacific Global Research Group’s consultancy and training expertise can help your organization, CONTACT US HERE.

    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;, 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

    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

    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.
    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?

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    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.
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    South Korea’s “creative economy” – 6 strategies

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

    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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    Korea in 2014: Big 3 Impacts to Watch

    December 19th, 2013  by  Asia-Pacific Global Research Group - Jasper Kim

    1. NORTH KOREA’S NEXT MOVE: North Korea could decide to initiate provocative acts in 2014, including the early part of the new year. The months of January and February are particularly noteworthy, since these months include dates commemorating the birth of both of the DPRK’s former leaders, Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. Precedent also exists for such provocative acts. Earlier this year (in 2013), North Korea also tested its nuclear weapons technology at the start of the Chinese New Year, which both Koreas recognize and celebrate. Although the financial markets generally have not overreacted to North Korea’s often purposely provocative acts, given the high inter-linkage of the Asian markets, an unexpected known-unknown black swan event could lead to market surprise to the downside.
    2. BANK OF KOREA’S (BOK) KEY RATE HIKE: the BOK has left its key rate steady at 2.75% for seven consecutive months, as the local economy is showing signs of a moderate recovery amid tame inflation.But the BOK is likely to increase its rate in 2014. The BOK’s decision to keep its rate steady at the end of 2013 came as a set of data pointed to a moderate recovery of the Korean economy while the timing of the Federal Reserve’s monetary stimulus tapering still remains uncertain. The South Korean economy grew 1.1% on-quarter in the third quarter, the same pace as in the second quarter, on improving domestic demand and a pickup in facility investment. The country’s industrial output grew 1.8% on-month in October, the fastest gain in 11 months, indicating that the economy might be picking up. South Korea’s inflationary pressure remains subdued as consumer prices are running below the BOK’s 2.5-3.5% inflation target band for the 18th straight month in November. The on-year growth of consumer inflation picked up to 0.9% in November from 0.7% in October.
    3. REAL ESTATE AND CONSUMER DEBT MAY MOVE UPWARDS: The South Korean real estate market has been relatively static in 2013. But a pick up in the real estate market could occur based on relaxed policies in 2014. This potential positive upward movement in the nation’s residential real estate market, however, must also be managed with the nation’s burgeoning consumer debt levels. A survey of 20,000 households conducted jointly by the Bank of Korea (BOK), Statistics Korea and the Financial Services Commission showed households had an average debt of 58.1 million won ($55,000) in March, up 6.8% from the previous year. The debt of those households in the lowest-income group rose 24%, from 10 million to 12.4 million won, while the other groups, not including the richest, saw their average debt increase between 9.7 and 16.3%. Of households in debt, 8.1 percent said they may not be able to repay the money they owe, up from last year’s 7%. The survey showed that the lower a household’s income level, the higher the ratio of people who said repayment was unlikely.
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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

    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.

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    3 Reasons why North Korea repatriated 6 South Koreans

    October 29th, 2013  by  Asia-Pacific Global Research Group - Jasper Kim

    South Korea’s Unification Ministry announced the return of the six men, aged between 27 and 67, at the truce village of Panmunjom Friday, along with the body of the South Korean wife of one of the defectors. The six South Korean citizens was a curious move by North Korea, in which the KCNA (Pyongyang’s official news agency) announced that it “leniently pardoned” the individuals prior to their release back to South Korea.
    In a continued series of predictably unpredictable (yet potentially rational) moves by one of the world’s most secretive and closed states, here are three things to know about North Korea’s latest move:
    1. COLD WAR CALCULUS: North Korea’s move was more than a mere “olive branch” based on good will for recent failed talks related to family reunions and other related efforts, as many have speculated. Instead, it is part of Pyongyang’s ongoing Cold War calculus, which somewhat resembles a multi-dimensional chessboard in which the country’s top minds game scenarios on how to maximize the chance of power perpetuation. In its Cold War calculus, Pyongyang has concluded that a perceived good will gesture at this point would maximize future economic and non-economic benefits in various forms, including bilateral and multilateral talks with members of the international community.
    2. EMPATHY EFFORT FROM THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY: North Korea has repatriated six South Korean nationals to be perceived in a better light from the purview of the international community, both at the leadership level as well as the everyday person. The DPRK understands that such perception is one important piece among many complex moving pieces to garner possible support through efforts meant to garner empathy from those outside its traditional allies (namely, Beijing) in a form of international security hedge play.
    3. PROVOCATION PRECURSOR: One pattern from Pyongyang is that a perceived good will gesture can at times be followed by a direct or indirect act of provocation. This is somewhat akin to a finance play involving a perfect hedge that involves taking a risk position for potential gain that is completely (perfectly) hedged by another play to mitigate such related risk. If Pyongyang believes in that such international security hedge can work in reality, then it may actually incentivize North Korea to take even more risk now or in the future.
    For a related article by by Tim Hume, in which Jasper Kim is quoted, CLICK HERE.