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.