Monday, June 30, 2008

Public Sentiment Affects Foreign Investment

I responded to an editorial in the Korean Herald, entitled "Lone Star Verdict". The article claimed that a Korean court's recent acquittal of a U.S. investment group accused of devaluing a Korean bank, demonstrated Korea's commitment to foreign direct investment into Korea. I took issue with their last statement which stated that, "Public sentiment in a country should matter little as long as there is reliable law enforcement." If only "should" dictated economic policy.

June 30, 2008

Dear Editors,

This letter is in response to the editorial in the June 27, 2008 edition of this newspaper, entitled “Lone Star Verdict.” I disagree with the assertion made at the end of the editorial that, “Public sentiment in a country should matter little as long as there is reliable law enforcement.” This statement was made to contend that foreign investors will continue to invest in Korea as long as it is profitable. While it is certain that the bottom line reigns in matters of business, there are factors that influence investment in foreign markets, one of which is public sentiment.

While the acquittal of Lone Star by the courts is a step in the right direction, (although the sale of a multi-billion dollar losing credit card operation 3 years before accused as being undervalued never should have gone to court (and there remains another criminal case)) foreign investment groups continue to pull out or avoid investing in Korea. As reported in the Korea Times June 24, 2008 edition (Foreign Funds Leave Korea), Lone Star, the Carlyle Group, CVC Capital Partners, Affinity, Newbridge, and others are all avoiding investing billions of dollars in Korea. One of the reasons cited for these pull-outs is anti-foreign sentiment. In a 2007 Forbes article (Stuck in Limbo, 2007, 12, 24), 40% of London's Institute of Directors said they would not invest in Korea because of “anti-foreign sentiment.” Anti-foreign sentiment discourages foreign investment and negatively impacts the economy for several reasons- inability to recruit foreign talent, influence of regulatory policy, and negative reciprocity towards Korean outbound investment.

It is interesting that in the same issue the editors of the Korean Herald conclude that, “Public sentiment should matter little...”, on page 6, there is an article (Financial Sector Still Far From Globalized) which cites “many financial experts” as advocating for an increase in “human capital” through a “drastic change (of) the mindset of both policymakers and the public.” As reported in a recent article in Asian Perspective, “A survey undertaken on June 2006 by the National Assembly Budget Office shows that nearly 63 percent of 330 civil servants interviewed who were working for the three Free Economic Zone authorities felt that the government has failed so far in luring top-notch high-tech firms from abroad (Asian Perspective, Korea's FDI-Led Economic Liberalism: A critical view, Kim, Lee, Vol. 32 2008). In the same article, 85% of foreign Korean-based businessmen viewed “Korea's strong nationalism as the most challenging constraint to the success of Korea's globalization drive.” To compete with the superior salaries, benefits, and security of positions in business elsewhere a receptive climate should at the very least be considered a factor in recruitment and retention of talent.

As the editors in the Korean Herald's “Lone Star Verdict” point out, “The financial regulator's position is adding to speculation that it is deliberately stalling its decision on the KEB sale in consideration of the unfavorable public opinion against the foreign sale.” Consider that in 2006, when both Hyundai and Lone Star were being investigated for illegal business practices (embezzlement and falsifying documents respectively) and offered up apologies and social donations employees from Korea Exchange Bank were shouting, “Let's destroy foreign venture funds.” At that time the head of the Fair Trade Commission, Kwon Oh Seong, described the Lone Star donation as, “a slight to the South Korean people.” (NY Times, 2006, Feb, 20). This was from the head of the Fair Trade Commission before Lone Star even went to trial. In fact as recently as last month, Finance Vice-Minister Choi Joon-Kyung told the Korea Herald (2008, 5), “A friendly investor should walk hand in hand with the Korean economy for win-win results, but private equities are not such investors.” In the Korea Herald Feb. 15, 2006 the Minister of Finance and Economy described the media, general public, and national assembly as being too nationalistic when dealing with foreign capital.

For another recent example of how public sentiment has influenced government policy, look at the protests of American beef. Whatever one's stance on the issue, international trade treaties were broken two times in this instance when Seoul delayed the importation of the beef twice. Would a person put their money in a bank that did not honor their contractual obligations two times?

As Korea also looks to invest abroad, it should consider the impact of how their treatment of foreign direct investment is reciprocated in their investments abroad. The U.S.-Korea FTA agreement is expected to create 300,000 jobs in Korea and encourage foreign direct investment in the Korean economy through new business opportunities and protections for investors. In addition, the FTA is expected to raise Korean exports to the U.S. by 15% (remarks from American Ambassador Alexander Vershbow Feb. 2008). However, U.S. democrats are questioning the financial wisdom of free trade with a country with such disparate trade flow. In addition, as has been the case with the American beef blockages, even if free trade agreements are secured there is considerable doubt that the agreements will be fully implemented.

If common civility in itself is not reason enough to encourage foreign hospitality, there is now a clear economic incentive to do so. In assemblyman Sohn Hak Kyu's own words supporting the protests regarding American beef importation, “Public perception is no less important than rational judgment.” To say that, “Public sentiment in a country should matter little,” as the Korean Herald editors have is unrealistic and irrelevant. Foreign investment capital is reading Korea's public opinion and is choosing to invest elsewhere.



Bupyeong, Incheon June 30, 2008

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Chinese cowboy rapper

Why's there a white streak on my wall?

Some crazy graffiti-animation.


Monday, June 09, 2008

Fight Face

According to, 'fight face' is the smile you try to make after getting into a fight thinking you are all cool and nonchalant, but doesn't come out quite so natural.
"You think you’re smiling and being flippant but your face muscles are full of panic juice and you can’t actually get the cheeks to go up. The resulting grimace looks like someone is physically lifting up the corners of your mouth against your will."
Check out the website and scroll down to get the full article.


Sunday, June 08, 2008

Got a job doing radio prom-ooo

Condi breaks the girth down.
Shot #2 check out Dubs wristband- white rapper show yo!


Thursday, June 05, 2008

Lion Food

Much like Grizzly Man, these two guys raised a lion and then let him go into Africa when he became too big. They decided to go to Africa and reunite with the lion. They were specifically told that the lion would NOT remember them. I guess they got what was coming. It is a lion after all.


Sunday, June 01, 2008

Not on my shift

The day began like any other. First the usual chores around the hut, tending the livestock, working the yucca crop, and repairing the hole in the thatch roof. I was looking forward to tribal conference that afternoon as I had an excellent rebuttal to Yonamono's accusations that I had cast the "stink-eye" at him. My wife was also almost finished with my new cod-piece and I would have to try it on for a fitting. Just as I was thinking about how long the last one she made had lasted, I heard a "whap-whap" sound in the distance.
It sounded the same as when the local large colony of bats took off into the jungle to begin their nightly bug scavenging. But it was morning and the bats were well asleep at this point. I looked in that direction and what looked to be a dragonfly was in the sky. However it seemed to be very large and far away. It was pointed towards the village's direction and seemed to be growing larger as it approached.
I called for my neighbor Yonamono who, while lacking common sense in matters of social courtesy, nonetheless was a decent hunter for the village. By the time he came to his door the object in the sky was rapidly approaching and looked to be bigger than even the largest condor in the jungle. I yelled at Yonamono to grab our hunting bows and arrows and make haste. I ran to the middle of our courtyard in the middle of the huts to get ready to meet the intruder. By the time Yonamono had come running to where I stood, breathless from the quick errand to fetch the hunting gear, he saw where I was looking and also saw the giant apparition continually approaching.
"What is it?" he asked while both of us continued staring straight at it. "It is not of this world," I answered. "And therefore not meant for us, possibly coming to take our yucca harvest. We must defend the village."
We both took our bows and an arrow each from the quiver and notched it in the bow string. Many years of hunting in the jungle had helped us to develop the ability to prepare the bow without looking at, thus enabling us to keep our prey locked in our sight.
At this point the great beast had stopped and was hovering in the sky above us. Perhaps it saw our weapons and hesitated in its approach. I could see the giant eyes that bulged from the front of its face. Its wings twirled with ferocious speed. It was a mighty beast indeed. But, I had singly killed the mighty puma of our near jungle and was prepared to take down any beast that might threaten the village.
"Ready Yanomono. Steady. At my command. Now!" I said forcefully, but evenly to keep my aim accurate. The arrows flew straight at the creature, but slowed down well before the target and reached an apex not even half-way the total distance before pointing back to earth and falling.
"Prepare another round." I commanded Yanomono. Two bows were quickly notched with two arrows and pulled back ready for the beast to come closer to firing range. The beast hovered in the air, slightly fluttering, and seemed to consider our display of might. Yonamono and I held our ground.
The beast apparently decided it had seen enough as it then turned around and headed back on the path it had approached from. We kept our bows ready, lest this be an attempt to get us to lower our defenses.
As it became clear that the threat was not going to return I turned to my fellow villager and proudly said, "That beast has seen the strength of our village and shall go back to its home and warn the others not to approach. We have defeated the intruder. Come, let us give thanks at the temple and tell the others of what we have seen."
As the "whap-whap" sound faded in the background I again considered the matter of village counsel and how to best argue for compensation over Yanomano's false accusations of 'stink-eye.'

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