News Bytes – 12/20/2011

By , December 20, 2011 7:19 pm

A few tid-bits and -bytes of news from around Korea….and none of them are about the death of some guy in a country north of here… If you have to read about that first on this page, you really have been living in a cave.

  • OK, I already lied. But it’s simply related. With Dear Leader not yet in the ground, and having already given the go-ahead to light not one, not two, but THREE friggin’ Christmas trees near the DMZ to antagonize the North Koreans, the South Korean government is having second thoughts. Maybe it’s not such a good idea to piss off Fat Boy Kim so early in his Great Successor-ship. The trees were scheduled to be lit this Friday and remain lit for a few weeks. No hard decision yet, but we’ll see if the Defense Ministry has more pull than the evangelical Christian groups who want to covert the unwashed masses of North Koreans to commercialism Christianity.
  • For those who can’t get enough K-Pop, now there’s an entire channel of it.  YouTube has devoted a new channel to the genre.  Korea is the first country to have a subcategory of music on the huge site.  Not having more than a passing fancy for K-pop myself, I’ll leave it as exercise for the  reader, to find this channel on your own.
  • Google is taking heat again in Korea, this time for the short refund period on their smartphone app store.  If you purchase and download an app from Google’s Market, you’ve got 15 minutes to decide if you like or want you money back.  Korea says that’s way too short, but Google said, “blow me, we aren’t a Korean company.”  Well, they didn’t say it quite like that, but essentially that’s what transpired. Taiwan, too, complained and  wanted the 15 minute time frame increased to 7 days. Google simple turned off all pay apps in Taiwan.  With Korea being the number 1 downloading country in the world (Taiwan was merely number 3), we’ll see who wins this pissing contest.
  • Korea’s economy is heavily weighted towards exporting goods. As a result, it has a trade surplus for the 22nd consecutive month. A trade surplus is when a country sells more abroad than it buys from other countries.  While some might think that’s a good thing, some economists disagree.  With a continuous trade surplus occurring month after month, year after year, this would mean continuous pressure of the country’s currency to appreciate which hurts future export realisation (means one has to sell goods abroad at progressively lower prices) and which makes imports cheaper and thereby hurts domestic production.  However, instead of the Korean currency appreciating, it’s been on a rollercoaster ride from hell with wild swings up and down.   By way of example of a trade surplus that has remained unchecked, check out China’s trade balance. China has been running a surplus at about 8x of Korea’s. However, since China’s currency is not allowed to fluctuate, the country has an enormous influx of wealth with nowhere to spend it – which is why their real estate prices (to name just a single market) have experienced incredible inflation and have gone sky high and are dropping like Lilah’s drawer’s now.  In other words, a long trade surplus means that too much money is coming in to the country and not going out. Inflation happens. Does that ring any bells for the Korean economy.  How about all those high rise apartments that have sprung up in the past few years?
  • The Korea Herald asks a question that I hope everyone has a ready answer for: Is the punishment for sex crimes in Korea (typically 0-3 years imprisonment for rape) too lenient?  Can I get a “hell yeah!”   Only 42.7% of rape arrests in Korea resulted in convictions. Of 2,104 cases of rape and sexual assault sentenced at district courts, a life sentence was imposed for five, imprisonment for 537, a suspended sentence for 686 and fine for 308.  That means more than 47% of those convicted walked out a free man.  Shameful.

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