Inspiration from a lousy visitor (The Korea Times, December 31, 2013) by Casey Lartigue, Jr.

Inspiration from a lousy visitor

During a one-week visit to South Korea last month, best-selling author Nick Adams was as comfortable as a man on a mountain hike wearing six-inch heels for the first time.

After picking through Korean food the first few days, he weakly held up the white flag, humbly asking if I could take him to an American restaurant for ribs and steak. I imagine he smiled his entire flight back to Australia.

Korea was a nightmare for Nick, but he left pleasant memories for many who encountered him. He’s the kind of guy you don’t forget easily. He tends to have an impact.

In addition to speeches in Seoul and at Handong University Law School in Pohang, he also visited the Mulmangcho School (for adolescent North Korean refugees) and the children’s cancer ward at Severance Hospital.

Nick is an upbeat guy, optimistic 24/7, a force of nature, but he was on the verge of tears at Severance when he visited the room of a 16-month-old baby ― the same age Nick was when his family learned their sick baby had a severe form of cancer.

My colleague Jungah Ji and I joined Nick in personal visits to every room in the children’s cancer ward. Jolly and charismatic “Mr. Nick” handed out gifts and candy from Australia he had stuffed into his suitcase (he saved some goodies for the kids at the Mulmangcho School, in another memorable visit).

The hospital visit was a moving occasion, more emotional than I had anticipated. The kids and their families were delighted that a man from Australia had come to see them.

For a few minutes, I was angry at people who toss away their lives by committing suicide. In contrast, those kids painfully cling to life, with parents hoping against the worst.

Ah, and those disgusting dictators, politicians and intellectuals who act like the rest of us are pieces on a chessboard. The angry rant in my head was interrupted when Nick asked if I could take some photos.

I humbly snapped a few photos, then put the camera down. I usually take photos with reckless abandon, snapping them before people start posing, snap more while they are posing, and a few more even after. One day, a friend counted. “You took 34 photos! Two would have been enough!”

I’m the fastest photographer in Korea. But at the hospital with Nick and Jungah, I stopped taking photos. As a cancer survivor, Nick has the credibility to take photos with the kids.
I felt like a trespasser.

I didn’t relax until some of the parents asked to take photos with us. Then one young girl, bald, about 11 years old, asked through a staffer if she could take a photo with him. She struggled to stand, but had a huge smile on her face as we took photos.

More came to us, on crutches, in wheelchairs, others limping weakly, asking to take photos. Would they care that Nick doesn’t like kimchi?

I told Nick that a one-time event wasn’t enough. In messages I told friends to badger me, complain at me, publicly mock me, tell me that I’m just a talker if I failed to come up with a concrete idea within 24 hours.

No sweat. I know Edward M. Robinson, project director at Helping Others Prosper Through English (HOPE). Last August, he invited me to join the organization as an international adviser.

In a world of talkers, Eddie is a doer. He’s in perpetual motion, impatiently directing people, a do-it-all leader who will be quick to nudge you aside if don’t handle your task fast enough. He immediately agreed to hold the party, mentioning that a friend’s wife had succumbed to cancer ― the night before.

Less than 24 hours after the initial visit, I was back at the hospital, with Eddie, discussing with Pastor Kim how to have an appropriate party. That’s because Eddie’s action-packed events wear down even the most crazed kids. No cost for the hospital, we stressed, because HOPE raises money through its supporters (or anyone else we can shake down).

As promised, we held the party on Dec. 15. The 25 children and their parents loved the face-painting, games, balloons and gifts, as we entertained rather than engaged them.
The volunteers we recruited were tender with the kids. Pierrot Magic, a deaf and mute magician, entertained us all, using me in one of his gags, much to the delight of everyone, especially me.

In a quiet moment, I took a photo with Jungah and the pastor, to send to Nick. The pastor thanked us profusely, then invited us all to lunch at the hospital cafeteria: Korean food.

Nick would have been looking around for an American burger joint, so it was probably better that he wasn’t there for that part, although I know he would have loved the party. After all, he was the one who inspired it.

The writer is the director for international relations at Freedom Factory Co. Ltd. in Seoul and a fellow with the Atlas Network in Washington, D.C. He can be reached at cjl@post.harvard.edu


Forgotten once again: The hapless consumer

In reporting on a story, such as the one below, a reporter can decide what the focus will be. In the story below, it is told from the viewpoint of SMEs battling large companies, but the viewpoint of the consumer having choices blocked is ignored. As the Korea Times writes in black, my edits in blue italics.

Starbucks' expansion to be curbed

By Kim Tae-jong

Global food franchise brands, including Starbucks and McDonald’s, are expected to change their aggressive expansion strategy plans because of government intervention here, as Korea’s small players are urging the government to restrict their fast growth.to block the choices of consumers.

The Korea Convenient Restaurant Association, representing small food and beverage outlets, last week, after finding an excuse to do what they already wanted to do, decided to ask the National Commission for Corporate Partnership (NCCP) to restrict major coffee franchise brands from opening new stores, block consumers from places they'd like shopt at, arguing the survival of small coffee houses has been threatened by their aggressive expansion. that businesses should be able to use government power to decide where consumers should be allowed to shop.

It is almost impossible to run an individual coffee shop due to the dominance of big franchise brands,” "We don't like it that consumers want to buy from those others businesses," said Kim Soo-bok, a director at the association. “We will first begin with coffee franchises and later ask for restrictions on the excessive expansion of pizza and hamburger chains. "We will use government power to first block consumers from buying from coffee franchises and later block consumers from buying pizzas and hamburgers from the places they want."

The request came as a lot of the self-employed who run small coffee shops and diners have been put in jeopardy due to competition from larger firms. The request came as a result of consumers choosing that they want to buy from other businesses, so those failing businesses decided to get the government to do their dirty work.

A recent study by the KB Financial Group showed that nearly half of self-employed businesses fail within three years, and more than 75 percent of them do not last a decade. So instead of blaming customers for spending money as they choose, the smaller companies are blaming big companies.

If their request is accepted, major coffee chains such as Starbucks, Coffee Bean, Twosome Place and Angel in Us, and fast food brands such as McDonald’s, Burger King and Pizza Hut, will be restricted from opening new stores. consumers will be blocked from buying from businesses they want to buy from.

The underlying logic excuse is that owners of small coffee houses and food outlets believe that limiting the expansion of big franchises will promote shared growth. blocking consumers from shopping where they want will keep them in business.

In response, the NCCP said it will examine their request and take necessary action. if there is enough support politically for them to get it done.

“We will first see whether it is legitimate or not and have a thorough discussion involving representatives from both big franchise brands and small coffee outlets to seek a solution,”  "We will abuse our power to force large businesses to have a conversation with us, then we will do what want anyway," an official from the NCCP said. “The decision we will force on them should come out in the first half of next year.”

She stressed that the restriction, if approved, would be applied to both local and foreign franchise brands in a fair manner.

The government has pushed for restrictions as part of measures to protect small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). to play God in the economy, choosing winners and losers while ignoring the desires of consumers.

In September 2011, the government prohibited conglomerates from further expanding on a list of industries where SMEs could thrive as long as they can block competitors and force consumers to go to them. Under the policy, big companies are limited in the number of products they are allowed to sell, and cannot open new stores in any industry on the list. consumers are limited in the number of places they are allowed to buy from.

Previously, the government has put the brakes on the expansion of big bakery franchises by banning them from opening new stores within 500 meters of existing bakeries. came up with some arbitrary restrictions on preventing companies from having the opportunity to serve customers.

The commission has also recommended that food service chains be barred from expanding and asked with the threat of government backing their request for big companies not in the food business to refrain from entering that market. That's even if they can provide consumers with better and/or cheaper choices.

Regarding the recent move, industry observers think the commission’s restriction on foreign brands could cause trade conflicts, as it could be seen as excessive regulation.

But foreign coffee brands and eatery chains took a very careful stance, saying they will take action depending on the NCCP’s final decision. They probably saw what happened to Costco when it defied the government's stupid shutdown of large stores. The Korean government sent in regulators and rabid Korean nationalists went crazy.

Basically, it is our global principle that we follow local government’s rules,” "So many activists hate us and opportunistic politicians use us as punching bags," an official from Starbucks Korea said. “Of course, the NCCP’s decision would have an impact on our business, as we would be restricted from opening more stores.”  "So we know we can't fight with anyone, just hope that our customers will keep coming to the stores we do have. And we have to hope that we can find a loophole with these ridiculous restrictions."

The local arm of the U.S.-based coffee chain previously announced that it would increase its number of stores to 700 by 2016. Starbucks currently has about 530 stores nationwide. But the Korean government is poised to abuse its power to restrict them from acting in the interests of customers, and instead having to act in the interests of business rivals.

McDonalds’ also shared a similar view, saying that it will abide by the local rules.

“It’s difficult to comment on what has not happened yet,” "We agree with what the person from Starbucks said," an official from McDonald’s said. “But basically, we will follow what the government comes up with.” "But we will try to find a loophole to get around it."

The brand has 330 stores nationwide, which it had planned to increase to 500 by 2015. But McDonald's can't decide what makes sense for it, instead it need to get permission from third party people and their competitors.


Freedom Factory seeking bilingual interns (Korean and English)

Freedom Factory Co. Ltd., a new think tank located in Seoul, South Korea, is seeking a bilingual intern for its International Relations division.
The intern will support the International Relations team’s goals to:
1) expand economic and personal freedom in the world, with a focus on North and South Korea
2) connect FF with think tanks and liberty lovers around the world.
Job Description and expectations:
Multimedia and translation: Assist with video and translate (between Korean and English) newsletters, columns, other documents.
Research: Conduct light research (internet searches, phone calls) for published articles and activities.
Event assistant: Provide logistical support at external events.
Office hours: Should visit the office located near the National Assembly subway station twice a week and, when necessary, attend meetings with the Director of International Relations.
Stipend: Negotiable.
To apply, email your resume, including a brief self-introduction in English and Korean, expected stipend, and anything else you want to present to make your case (use your imagination, this is not a checklist project!).
Assuming anyone applies, the position will be filled sooner rather than later, hopefully before Christmas, and, because of the flexibility of the position and FF leadership, it is possible for more than one candidate to be selected.
If there is a problem with links in this message, please check the original link:


Yes men in a no country (The Korea Times, 12/4/13) by Casey Lartigue, Jr.

In the 2008 movie “Yes Man,” actor Jim Carrey portrays a character who withdraws from society after going through an emotional divorce. Encouraged by a friend trying to bring him out of his shell, he attends a workshop given by a self-help guru who encourages him to change from being a “No Man.” He starts to say “Yes to life,” becoming an energetic “Yes Man” who tries everything ― even learning Korean.

In contrast, in South Korea, “yes man” still refers to a brown-nosing employee who is obedient to superiors. It is still better to be a yes man who obeys so you won’t be blamed when things go wrong because even one failure in school, the office, or family is unacceptable. Koreans I have mentioned the movie to immediately recoiled at the very mention of yes man, thinking it is the submissive yes man (or woman) in the office.

The different definitions of “Yes Man” (doing things) versus “yes man” (following the rules) are playing out now in Korea, most significantly in President Park Geun-hye’s policy of creating a “creative economy.” How do you foster a creative economy in a country of checklist checkers?

President Park also pledged during the campaign to make citizens happy, but the reality of doing this in a “No country” reminds me of the old saying: “The beatings will continue until morale improves.”

As a non-Korean, I am free from such pressure, floating like a leaf in the wind. My luck has gotten even better because I am re-joining forceswith Yonsei University professor Kim Chung-Ho, the president of the newly established Freedom Factory Co. Ltd. Whereas many Korean employers issue commandments, Prof. Kim is a bona fide “Yes Man.”

It is a great opportunity, but also a great challenge. My first day at work, I mentioned an idea to him. The approval process took about 15 seconds. I proposed the idea. He said, “Yes. Good idea.” I proposed another idea a few days later. He added even more ideas, quickly escalating it beyond what I had imagined. A “Yes Man” boss is more excited about ideas than employees are.

Based on what I have heard and experienced, a supervisor, manager or boss saying “good idea” in Korea (and Asia in general) seems to be translated as: “Let me think about it, let's have many meetings, then we can make a decision…at which point I will say 'no' if you haven't already come to your senses.”

But with Prof. Kim?” Good idea means, “Get started, let's make it big.” It isn’t surprising that Prof. Kim is a big fan of Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises. In the 1956 book “The Anti-Capitalist Mentality,” Mises argued that people loathe capitalism because it takes away the excuse for their own failures. At the office or in a kingdom, people can blame the boss for their own inaction or individual failures.

I don't know if that is Prof. Kim’s strategy, but here's what happens: His “Yes Man” approach takes away the excuse for inaction. I am so used to hearing people say, “If I were in charge, then I would....” or “The boss should listen to me, we'd finally get something done around here!” With a “Yes Man” boss ― or living in a country based on freedom ― things depend on you and your own efforts.

A Korean-American friend of mine who says she was brought in to her company to bring “creative ideas” complains that her boss doesn’t listen to her. Laughing out-loud, I told her: “Don’t you realize that hiring you was the creative idea!” She has barriers at every turn ― either real or imagined ― because of her “No” supervisor. In contrast, I will have the freedom to do as I please, but also rise and fall with the results.

The last time Prof. Kim and I worked together, we did a fun rap battle music video titled “We can do it!” When I proposed that idea in 2010, before we first started working together, his email response was simple, something like, “I will do it.” And he did, and then some!!! He is now the Freedom Rapper. People are shocked to see him, a geeky Korean academic rapping about economics. I see a “Yes Man” celebrating freedom.

After a year, I may regret getting what I wished for, and start looking for a stern Korean boss who will gladly tell me what to do, blocking me until I come to my senses and just scurry about at his or her commands. But for at least the next year, I will be colleagues with a “Yes Man."


Fantasy Sports is better than Fantasy Economics

A few weeks ago, I noticed that Fantasy Sports is now getting billing ahead of actual sports.
look at the left column..Fantasy sports gets top billing, both under sports and under the NBA menu.
look at the left column..Fantasy sports gets top billing, both under sports and under the NBA menu.
Years ago, a friend asked me why, as a sports fanatic at that time, I didn't play fantasy sports. I told him that 1) I wasn't interested and that 2) I suspected it would give couch potato fans the opportunity to act like they are the real coaches and general managers of teams (instead of just fans yelling at the scream about what the coach, owners, or players should have done differently).
* * *
I just read a Tim Worstall article in Forbes Magazine. Worstall notes that Chang Ha-Joon and Hans Rosling agree that the washing machine is a more important invention than the Internet.
I have no doub that Worstall, Chang and Rosling all know more about economics than I do, they have forgotten more than I will ever know about it.
But wait...there is a discussion among some really educated men about whether or not the washing machine is a more important invention than the Internet? Is this really real?
Question 1: Even if true.... so what?
Question 2: Accepting that they are correct...then what?
A great thing about being an intellectual--you can make observations that don't need to be tested in the real world. Chang Ha-Joon's book on capitalism is full of such irrelevant observations mixed in with strawmen. And Ted.com, where I first came across Rosling, is grooming and highlighting a whole generation of talkers making witty observations that I'm sure will do better in the fantasy world than the real world.
How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? How many economists does tit take to start a washing machine as they cruise the Internet? With the kinds of observations that Chang often makes, I am convinced that he will live to be about 300 years old. That's because his observations are clearly from a man who thinks he will live for about three centuries, so he doesn't need to worry about making observations that are relevant to today.
So I will make my own irrelevant observations. At least with fantasy sports:
1) A fan's picks will get examined during and after the game, demonstrating whether or not they were good that week or season at guessing which players would do better in their fantasy leagues. That's unlike the expert economics who talk all day but couldn't squash a grape when it comes to action.
2) The fans aren't treated like geniuses for making irrelevant observations.


Korea--theory versus reality

Korea in theory: Smile Korea
Korea in reality: The beatings will continue until morale improves

Korea Herald--serious news & columnists, business focused, your grandfather's newspaper
Korea Times--Kpop columns, news lifted from urban legends sites, your grandfather is having sex with your teenage cousin's best friend.

Weather in theory: 4 seasons year around
Weather in reality: 4 seasons--every day.

Education in theory: Schools should become child-centered.
Education reality: National entrance exam

Outlook in theory: Shaping the Future with Korea
Reality: Checklist country

Economy in theory: Creative economy
Reality: Checklist country

Hope: Carpe Diem
Reality: Checklist country

National branding slogan: Dynamic Korea
Reality: Korea Fighting


That's like a negative bonus?

In doing some reading, I came across a funny term in economics: "Negative subsidy."
It sounds like a joke, but some smart and powerful people take it very seriously.
In actual language, it is a tax or fine.
But smart people use such stupid language to hide what they really mean. It is the kind of term that people would ignore in every day life, but in the make-believe land of politics and planning, such make-believe terms are taken seriously. And because people with power take the term seriously, you also need to take it seriously if they target you.

* * *

Employee: Boss, I'm a bit surprised. According to this document, I am not receiving a bonus this year.
Boss: Let me take a look....Hmm...
Employee: In fact, it says I am being penalized $100. What is that?
Boss: Don't think of it as a penalty. You are receiving a negative bonus this year.


The only thing I like about Tigers is Frosted Flakes

If I ever work at a zoo, you can be sure that

1) I would have a weapon

2) would it have it drawn on any animals that needed to be locked in cages for the protection of the public and employees

3) that I would be known as the trigger-happy employee who was ready to shoot at any moment because he didn't trust his idiot co-workers to properly close the cages.

* * *

I'm thinking about this because a Siberian tiger at a zoo in Seoul briefly escaped from its unlocked cage, and it then did what tigers do--it attacked. The unfortunate person was a 52 year old trainer named Shim who is now in a coma. I suppose after this that, assuming he survives, that he will never try to feed a tiger without confirming that the cage is locked. And he will probably take tips from me.

From the Korea Times:
A Seoul City official said he presumed the injured trainer failed to lock the gate of the cage while preparing for morning feeding.
Of course, there is no way that I would ever work at a zoo. I wouldn't want to ever encounter an actual tiger or elephant, so why would I go to the zoo to look at them? Even when I was young I didn't understand the fascination with zoos.


Obama's credibility is going, going, gone!

The Economist gives some tips about how Obama can get his credibility back. It is hard for a liar to get credibility back.

Of course, it is possible that Obama can reverse things by finding a new scapegoat to blame his lies on or by finding a good way to blame Republicans. His truest of true believers will continue to stand by him, no matter what, especially those who support the policy. And except for the loyal opposition, citizens want to believe the nation's leader.

I'm skeptical, however, that Obama will be able to "get his credibility back." There is reason to believe that things will get worse, not better.

A video showing some of the many times Obama saying, without any qualifiers, that people can keep their health care plans. Like a crooked car salesman, he is now trying to explain why the broken-down car that fell apart within a week is actually working just fine.

1) REALITY: It has been said that the worst thing that can happen to an idea is that it is put into practice. Obama's idea sounded grand in theory on the campaign trail and in speeches, but now it is time to implement it. Ouch! Dr. Obama is here, with a needle the size of Texas to injection the medicine. The reality of the disaster of Obamacare is just starting.


Random Saturday thoughts: Trade, Travel, Heisman

As I wrote in the Korea Times, citing Paul Fussell, there are three kinds of people who travel:
Tourists, travelers, and explorers. Briefly, tourists stick to the familiar. Travelers get somewhat involved in the local culture. Explorers dive right in, often “going native.” (I confess to being a traveler. I have been mistaken as being an explorer, although “unorganized” is more accurate.)
Travel writer Amy Gray
Today's Korea Herald has a piece extolling the virtues of traveling solo. The article quotes travel writer Amy Gray and travel lover Han Hye-jin at length.

They are talking about explorers. Tourists wouldn't know how to travel alone--at least, not for long! They'd be on the phone, threatening their tour guides for putting them in danger.

Travelers may give it a try, but the idea of just going it alone, bouncing around, doesn't provide them with enough structure.

* * *

In a commentary in yesterday's Korea Times, Shomi Kim reminds us that Korea is the first country to go from being an aid recipient to an aid giving nation, and she also notes that Korea has had the highest increase of giving among the members of the Development Assistance Committee. She then says this "leads to an obvious question: Does this reflect the growth of Korean people’s interest in international development issues?"

Well, that is not my obvious question. Instead, my obvious questions:

1) Was foreign aid a good thing for Korea? Based on what I have read in the past, Korea's economy didn't start to grow until its economy was opened. So if countries want to follow Korea's lead, then getting off (foreign aid would seem to be important and a better model).

2) Does giving foreign aid really help those countries that are recipients of Korea's aid today?

3) Instead of aid, could it be that trade would be better for those recipients?

* * *\

Jameis Winston is already a great college football player as a redshirt freshman. But there is no way he is winning the Heisman Trophy this year as long as the sexual assault charge is pending. Even then, it might be tough because the woman making the accusation is saying he raped her.

He was joking around during the off-season, saying that if he suffered from "Manziel Disease," that he wanted reporters to hit him in the head with a microphone.

Last year's Heisman winner, Johnny Manziel, is a crazy guy, but he doesn't have possible rape charges. The Heisman voters will be voting soon, his possible court case hasn't been resolved. That means, at least this year, I have a better chance of winning the Heisman than he does.

Update: Winston won't be charged. He is, once again, favored to win the Heisman.

* * *


One interesting thing about living in in Korea is hearing how often Koreans take pride in some unimportant things. The latest:

A study published in a journal about a Korean coffee shop.
I’m proud, as a Korean, that the thesis was selected,” said Kim Sun-kwon, the chief executive and founder of Caffbene. “We’ll continue to work to improve our services and quality to become a global brand.”
On the other hand, what do the folks at the Korea Times who, last year wrote "Just too many coffee shops around," feel about that?

And, by the way, how is the name of the business spelled? In the Korea Herald, it is Caffbene, but on the actual business, it is Caffe Bene..


Linked by Aaron McKenzie

Aaron McKenzie makes several great points and adds some great data. In particular, I like this:
Our average South Korean need not take an explicit “interest in international development issues” in order to actually bring about an improvement in the material well-being of her counterpart in the developing world. When a Samsung engineer cooperates with his colleague in India, or when an SK executive finalizes an agreement to build a new road in Africa, they are contributing to international development, even if this is not their goal. That their efforts are not funneled through the World Bank, the ADB, or the DAC, makes them no less effective (indeed, they're probably more effective).

And from Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek a few days ago, he notes the New York Times in 2011 used the phrase "United Nations assembly of parts." Great! But that runs counter to the development specialists out there who want to talk about how to increase development through their 5 year plans, while business people, when they don't have barriers thrown in front of them, are already doing what the development specialists and politicians dream of and talk about...

Prof. Boudreaux was responding to a book review about Benjamin Barber's political hero fantasy "If Mayors Ruled the World."

Prof. Boudreaux notes:
Even the most commonplace items that we consume in modern society are the results of the creativity, risk taking, and efforts of literally millions of people from around the world.  The computer that Mr. Barber used to write his book was likely designed in California and assembled in Suzhou, China, from raw materials and parts transported from the Americas, Africa, and Europe on vehicles built in Germany, Japan, Norway, South Korea, and the U.S.  Financing and insurance for this globe-spanning supply chain were supplied by investors and institutions from Seattle to Sydney, Lima to London, and Melbourne to Montreal. 

Politicians and development specialists keep dreaming about a world that is being made without them, and one they can't take credit for...


"When a fire is lit in the heart"--North Korean male refugees speak out

An estimated 70% of the North Korean refugees coming to South Korea are women. Why are so few men escaping North Korea and arriving in South Korea? What are their lives like in North Korea--and once they have escaped.

On December 7,will hear , as they address those and other questions. 

FAQ (subject to be updated based on questions)

Business casual. No one knows exactly what business casual means, so my personal definition is: "Dress the way your mother would approve."

That means you can choose: Business Casual, or Business Clown. Either way, welcome!

The session will be held at the Seoul Global Center, at the Jonggak Subway Station, line 1, exit 6. From exit 6, walk for about 30 seconds, you will see the building on your left. I visited the location today, checked out the room, took photos, checked the address and directions.

Space is limited. To reserve a seat in advance--and by that, I mean an assigned seat, just in case the demand happens to exceed the supply--deposit 10,000 won to the Woori bank account 1002-842-088197 (the name on the account will be "Larti." The cost may go up after December 1.

Please send an email to cjl@post.harvard.edu to confirm the name on your account.

They made it very clear that we are not allowed to have any beer or food at the event.

As a reminder, here was the October 16 event with North Korean ladies telling their stories.


2 cute North Korean children singing

One was singing directly into the microphone–the other notices it, pulls the microphone down as she continues singing!

Wonderful! She may have an ear for music–or she may just be a bossy young lady.^^
They are students at the Mulmangcho School, an alternative school for adolescent North Korean refugees. The school is located in South Korea


Casey Lartigue quoted in opposition to the minimum wage (Korea Herald 9/10)

Casey Lartigue quoted in today's Korea Herald by John Power in weekly Voice. He argues that the minimum wage law harms low-skilled workers and adds yet another unfunded mandate on business.
Some free market advocates take this argument further still ― they say the minimum wage shouldn’t be frozen or lowered, but abolished altogether. “It prices low-skilled workers out of the market with a forced arbitrary wage set by third-party people who don’t pay those wages, while it also adds yet another government-imposed cost on small companies already struggling to survive,” said Casey Lartigue, a former scholar of the U.S.-based Cato Institute and Seoul-based Center for Free Enterprise, and current international adviser to Freedom Factory Co.  Lartigue said the government should do less, not more, to help job seekers and the lowest-paid workers get a leg up. “According to some estimates, 75,000 to 100,000 jobs could be created if the Korean government reduced regulations on business and barriers to entry,” he said. “A new report by the World Economic Forum says that Korea’s competitiveness has fallen. The government creating a hospitable environment for business would do more for the poor ― and society in general ― than the constant unfunded mandates on business.”
See the Korea Herald for the full article.
Members of a labor union for part-time workers protest for a higher minimum wage in Seoul last month. (Yonhap News)


Korea--The Ireland of Europe?

It has been said that Korea is the Ireland of Asia. What does that tell the listener? That both are hot-headed and like to drink is the typical explanation.
I remember when I first heard it. I asked:

* What if you don't like Ireland? That means you probably won't like Korea?

* Do Korea and Ireland have close relations? Or if they are both hot-headed nations, could it be that they don't get along?

* Do people in Ireland describe Ireland as "the Korea of Europe"?

It isn't just the two countries.

I sometimes hear that (choose your favorite SKY university) is the "Harvard of Korea." Does anyone say that "Harvard is the Seoul National University of Korea"?

Chuseok is said to be the "Korean Thanksgiving." So...Koreans eat turkey and watch football?

Anyway, there's an article in the September 5, 2013 edition of the Korea Times with the headline: "Is Korea Ireland of Asia?"

Ireland--the Korea of Europe?

Also at my new blog.


Mulmangcho--September 1, 2013

Sunday we had four new volunteers join us at the Mulmangcho School for adolescent North Korean refugees. I had warned them that there would probably be no veteran teachers to help them, so it was sink or swim. They came armed with games and activities!

I'm always amazed by the people willing to take time out to go out to Yeoju, but Sunday was even more amazing: They thought it was a three-hour ride to the school. So they were delighted when they realized it takes about 75 minutes to get there. What I couldn't get over was: they were willing to spend six hours traveling to volunteer.

Two of the volunteers stayed in the afternoon to go pick some apples with the students and school leaders.

Prof. Park and the students also celebrated my latest birthday coming up, so that was good.

The school is going through some changes because a few of the students have graduated or moved on. And we are also going through a transition with our volunteers because some of our regulars have also moved on (to go back home or other activities).

The Mulmangcho group to sign up for updates.

More photos and details here.