Tag Archives: south korea


Uber Korea Employees Charged with Operating Illegal Taxi Ring

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

South Korean authorities arrested nearly 30 people in a raid at Uber South Korea’s offices, Yonhap News reports. According to police, the employees were booked on suspicion of operating illegal taxi services in the country through the UberTAXI app.

The 32-year-old head of Uber Korea was arrested on Tuesday along with other company officials, including drivers and heads of six different car rental firms. A spokesperson for the company said they were cooperating with authorities, but denied any wrongdoing. Police also seized over 400 items as evidence.

Uber launched its UberTAXI service in October, despite Seoul officials cracking down on its other services in the city. The battle has gone back and forth, with Seoul apparently preparing their own GPS-enabled taxi app and offering rewards for reporting illegal Uber drivers as they continued their crackdown.

Uber responded earlier this month by suspending Uber X, their ride-sharing platform, and offering its UberBLACK service, which only employs professional chauffeurs, in an apparent effort to avoid a complete ban. In a statement, Uber said they were committed to cooperating with the city.

South Korean authorities still cite several concerns with Uber, saying its services threatened the cab industry and posed a risk for passenger safety since drivers aren’t screened and cars may not be insured. They also claim card information and phone numbers could be leaked.

Uber Technologies Inc. CEO Travis Kalanick, who resides in the U.S., was also charged a second time for conducting an illegal business. He was indicted without physical detention on charges of establishing and running Uber Korea in December.

So far, Kalanick has refused to come to South Korea and stand trial, but authorities said they are planning to summon him again; if he continues to ignore the summons, police said they plan to seek an arrest warrant.


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Minority Share Deal with South Korean Group Could Value Dodgers at $3 Billion

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

The New York Yankees have been baseball’s most valuable team for 17 years, according to Forbes in 2014. The pinstripes were valued at $2.85 billion, while the Los Angeles Dodgers came in second with a value of $2 billion.

But valuations can change quickly in the sports business. A potential deal with South Korean investors for a minority stake in the team places the valuation of the Dodgers at $3 billion, according to unnamed sources with knowledge of the negotiation.

Guggenheim Baseball Management purchased the Dodgers three years ago from Frank McCourt for a little over $2 billion in cash ($2.3 billion including the surrounding real estate). The recent negotiations with the South Korean investors have brought up some differing numbers, however. The Korea Joongang Daily reported in January that the South Korean group was looking into buying 20 percent of the team for about $370 million, which would value the team at $1.85 billion. But one of the partners on the Dodgers told the Los Angeles Times in December 2012 that Guggenheim valued the team at $3 billion.

Forbes pointed out that the $3 billion valuation was probably more accurate, based on a recent sale of a small stake in the Chicago Cubs that brought the team’s value up to $1.8 billion from the $1.2 billion Forbes had estimated a year ago.


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[VIDEO] 100 Years of Korean Beauty in One Minute

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

In the latest episode of its 100 Years of Beauty web series, YouTube channel Cut highlights the evolving beauty trends of North and South Korea.

The video begins with Korea’s beauty standard of the 1910s, when Korea was under Japanese colonial rule. According to the video, Korean women of that era preferred to have ornamented hairstyles and natural makeup, with pale skin, natural brows and no contouring.

Once the video hits the 1950s, beauty standards become divided not only by decade but also by region. After the Korean War, North and South Korea had extremely polarized standards of beauty because the two countries adopted different economic systems.

Robin Park, the researcher for the video, said that the North’s standards of beauty were based on a woman’s ability to work and contribute to society. As a result, North Korean women used minimal products, and makeup trends in North Korea remained almost unchanged from 1959 to the early 90s. Meanwhile, South Korea mirrored Western or Japanese beauty trends and experimented with various makeup products.

As of 2015, South Korean beauty standards emphasize bright, clear skin and accentuating natural features. The final South Korean look in Cut’s video, however, seems to embody the sexier style of K-pop stars, such as CL and Hyuna, instead of an average present-day South Korean woman.

You can learn more about the research behind the looks below:


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10 Reasons Why Koreans Are the Irish of Asia

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! While the holiday is not widely celebrated by South Koreans, you’ll find that there are a few common traits both Ireland and South Korea share, including their drinking habits and delicious pancakes.

Privy Magazine has compiled a list of 10 reasons why Koreans are considered the Irish of Asia. Check out their infographic below:


This graphic was created by Privy Magazine. You can read the full article on Privy.net.


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South Korea’s Elderly Poverty Rate Highest Among OECD Countries

South Korea has the highest poverty rate for elderly citizens among 34 advanced nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), according a report released on Sunday.

The report from the government-funded Korea Labor Institute showed that as of 2011, 48.6 percent of elderly citizens lived below the poverty line. Switzerland ranked second in the report at 24 percent, nearly half of South Korea’s rate.

One contributing factor to Korea’s elderly poverty problem is its low net pension replacement rate of 45.2 percent, which is also far below the OECD average, reports Yonhap News Agency. Only five other nations–Mexico, Japan, Britain, New Zealand and Ireland–had a net pension replacement rate lower than South Korea. However, they did not have an elderly poverty rate nearly as high as Korea’s.

South Korea’s low employment rate for senior citizens is another major factor. In 2014, only 2 million out of 6.4 million senior citizens were employed, according to International Business Times.


For 10 consecutive years, South Korea has had the highest suicide rate among OECD countries, with a gradual increase in suicide rates for senior citizens. For elderly suicides, economic reasons was the most common motive cited at 44.1 percent, followed by family problems 11.4 percent and disease or disability at 10.9 percent.

“The problem of poverty among the elderly population will get more serious when the country’s elderly population grows further and baby boomers begin to retire in full swing,” Kim Bok-soon, an author of the report, told Yonhap. “The government’s policy on the labor market needs to be changed so it can accept more elderly workers.”


Featured image via Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald

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South Korean and Japanese Students Talk About English-Language Education

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

On this side of the Pacific, we often hear about our friends and peers heading over to Asia to teach English. But we rarely hear from the student perspective.

South Korea and Japan spend billions of dollars each year on private tutors and academies in addition to what is taught in school curriculums just for that extra edge in English. However, according to the folks at YouTube channel Asian Boss, majority of South Korean and Japanese students have trouble communicating in English even at the most basic level. Asian Boss took to the streets of Sydney to ask a few young men and women, likely international students, about their own experiences—and struggles—learning and conversing in English.

All of the interviewees reveal that they began studying English at a young age—one commented that children begin to learn English as early as kindergarten in Korea. But for some, English isn’t just difficult. They loathe it.

“I just hate English,” one young male student commented. “Whenever I hear English or meet foreigners, I get dizzy and I start sweating. … That’s how bad it is.”

Most students expressed that learning English felt like picking up another subject, like math—an assessment tool to measure academic performance, as one student put it. Their experiences were limited to memorizing vocabulary terms and grammar rules without properly applying that they had learned. After their exams were done, they would forget everything.

Besides opportunities for conversations, one Korean student said there’s an aspect of shame Koreans run into. They’re afraid to make any mistakes, he said, and they miss out on speaking because they worry about trying to sound perfect.

Overall, the interviewees agreed that learning English should be more fun and cultivated at an early age as an important communication skill instead of a mandatory subject. The education system needs to go away from treating English as “a problem to be solved, like a math problem.”

Take a look at what else the young Japanese and South Koreans had to say below.

Reader Grace Lung pointed out that Asian Boss, an Australia-based channel, interviewed their subjects in Sydney in an area where many international students hang out. Thank you for the heads up, and we apologize for our error.

(H/T to RocketNews24)


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South Korea Develops Smartphone Apps to Help Curb Student Suicide

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

The South Korean government has been developing a number of smartphone apps to help warn parents when their child might be at risk for suicide, the Education Ministry announced Friday.

The ministry is hoping to introduce the apps immediately, as they are programmed to detect “suicide-related” trigger words used by children on social networks, messages or Internet searches from their phones. The children’s parents would then receive an alert from the app on their own phone.

The apps are not mandatory for parents to use, but the hope is to bring down South Korea’s alarmingly high suicide rate, which is one of the highest among Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member nations. According to the Education Ministry, 878 students took their own lives between 2009 and 2014, including 118 last year.

The suicides peak during the months when students study for the extremely competitive national college entrance exam, while the most common causes are listed as problems at home, then depression, grades and career concerns. A survey by the Korea Health Promotion Foundation also found that over half of South Korean teens aged 14 to 19 have had suicidal thoughts.

The Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union raised privacy concerns over the app, adding that the app did not address systematic problems. They also said the exam system itself was also in need of reviewing.


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Pak Mi-ok

North and South Korea Face Increasing Linguistic Gap

Pictured above: North Korean defector Pak Mi-ok speaks during an interview in Seoul. (AP Photo/Hyung-Jin Kim)

by HYUNG-JIN KIM, Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — On one side of the line that has divided two societies for so long, the words arrive as fast as globalization can bring them — English-based lingo like “shampoo,” ”juice” and “self-service.” To South Koreans, they are everyday language. To defectors from the insular North Korea, they mean absolutely nothing.

Turn the tables, and the opposite is true, too: People in Seoul furrow their brows at homegrown North Korean words like “salgyeolmul,” which literally means “skin water.” (That’s “skin lotion” in the South.)

Two countries, mortal enemies, tied together by history, by family — and by language, but only to a point. The Korean Peninsula’s seven-decade split has created a widening linguistic divide that produces misunderstandings, hurt feelings and sometimes even laughter. The gap has grown so wide, scholars say, that about a third of everyday words used in the two countries are different.

North and South Koreans are generally able to understand each other given that the majority of words and grammar are still the same. But the differences show how language can change when one half of the country becomes an international economic powerhouse and the other isolates itself, suspicious of outside influences.

America’s huge cultural influence through its military presence, business ties and Hollywood has flooded the South Korean vernacular with English loan words and “konglish,” which uses English words in non-standard ways, like “handle” for steering wheel, “hand phone” for cellphone and “manicure” for nail polish.

In North Korea’s view, all that is just further evidence that the South is an American cultural colony.

When Pak Mi-ok first arrived in South Korea after her defection in 2002, she was told by a waitress at a restaurant that water was “self-service,” an English phrase she had not heard before. Too shy to admit she didn’t understand, she ended up going without water during her meal.

“I worried the waitress would look down on me,” said Pak. She started out working at restaurants but struggled to understand customers. “I thought they spoke a different language,” she said.

Pak gradually picked up on the new lingo, and in a recent interview she used words like “stress” and “claim” that aren’t heard up in the North.

The North’s isolation and near-worship of the ruling Kim family has also skewed the language. “Suryong” is the revered title for the North’s founding leader and his son, Kim Jong Il, the father of the current ruler, Kim Jong Un. But in the South it’s used to refer to a faction or local leader from centuries ago.

Pyongyang is so eager to “purify” its language under its guiding philosophy of self-reliance that it vigorously eliminates words with foreign origins and uses homegrown substitutes. Shampoo is called “meorimulbinu,” or “hair water soap,” and juice is “danmul,” or “sweet water.” Such differences fascinate and amuse South Koreans, who love to examine them on quiz and comedy shows.

Misunderstandings can arise to seemingly innocuous Korean phrases like, “Let’s do lunch sometime,” which those in the South frequently use as a friendly ending to conversations, even with casual acquaintances. But newly arrived North Korean defectors take such invitations literally, and are often dismayed or offended when they don’t get a follow-up phone call.

“If someone uses such empty words in North Korea, they’ll see their relations with others cut off and be branded as a faithless person,” said a defector who asked not to be identified because of worries that doing so would put family members in the North at risk.

Linguists say it takes about two years for North Korean defectors to feel comfortable conversing in South Korea.

The communication gap widens when it comes to technical terms used in medical and technological settings, according to Han Yong-un, a South Korean linguist. About two-thirds of medical terms are different, he said.

“I think that North and South Korean doctors cannot work together in the same operating room,” Han said.

Over the past 10 years, there have been efforts to produce a joint dictionary containing 330,000 words from both countries — a rare example of cooperation.

But as is often the case, political tensions have interfered with progress. The meetings only resumed last July after a more than four-year hiatus following the 2010 sinking of a South Korean warship. A new round of meetings, tentatively set for last month, hasn’t been held as North Korea bristled over the annual springtime joint U.S.-South Korea military drills.

Even language experts from the two countries can have trouble understanding each other.

During last year’s meeting in Pyongyang, South Korean linguist Kim Byungmoon said he tried to explain how South Koreans use the English word “glamour” as a noun to refer to a voluptuous woman, but North Korean scholars had difficulty understanding its usage.

Given the completely different political and economic systems between the two countries, it also takes a while to learn the connotations and associations that some emotionally-laden words have.

In South Korea, “spec” refers to qualifications and credentials that college students need to land a good job. While defectors can quickly learn what the word literally means, it takes much longer to understand the immense stress associated with the word for young job-seekers in South Korea’s ultra-competitive society, said Jeon Young-sun, a research professor at Seoul’s Konkuk University.

Those in the South, meanwhile, may struggle to understand the emotional impact of “saenghwal chonghwa,” the regular meetings in the North at which people are required to reflect on their behavior and criticize each other. The phrase, which literally means “group discussions on daily lives,” isn’t used in South Korea.

“We were sick and tired of it,” Pak said. “I still get goose bumps whenever I hear that word.”


Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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