The impact of US sanctions against Russia has rippled far beyond Moscow to the South Korean town of Pyeongtaek, home to carmaker Ssangyong Motor.

Russia has been the biggest export market for Ssangyong, which primarily makes sports utility vehicles, during its recovery from receivership over the past five years. But its sales in the country fell by over 30 per cent last year and there is no immediate recovery in sight, the chairman of Ssangyong’s Indian owner Mahindra Group told beyondbrics on Tuesday. Read more

South Korea’s pride got a boost last year when it was chosen to host the UN’s Green Climate Fund, aimed at channeling billions of dollars to help developing countries mitigate the effects of climate change. But the challenges facing the fund loomed large on Wednesday at its star-studded launch in the new business zone of Songdo, near Seoul.

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One casualty of the recent deterioration in relations between South Korea and Japan has been the two countries’ currency swap agreement, which has shrunk from $70bn to $10bn over the past year. But Seoul is showing plenty of appetite for swap deals with some other trading partners in the region. Read more

Park Geun-hye assumed the South Korean presidency in February promising to open an “era of people’s happiness” through additional social spending of Won130tn ($121bn) over her five-year term – without raising taxes. Economists were dubious, with many saying it was only matter of time until the government backtracked on the pledges that helped Park win last year’s election.

That day duly arrived on Thursday, with the publication of a budget that whittled away several of the spending promisesRead more

Samsung Group “is not a legal entity”, we read on the website of Samsung Electronics. Rather, it is merely “a term to conveniently refer to a group of companies tied together by their corporate history”.

This has not stopped Samsung Asset Management from creating an exchange-traded fund made up of shares in various members of the quasi-existent South Korean group, ranging from mighty Samsung Electronics to less celebrated bearers of the brand such as Samsung Fine Chemicals and Samsung Techwin. Read more

South Korea’s new president Park Geun-hye is full of promises to boost the services sector, but for now her government is relying on powerful manufacturers to help fulfil her growth promises. And they are proving reluctant to throw everything they have at the task, judging by data published on Tuesday.

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South Korea’s government gave its own policies a vote of confidence on Thursday as it raised its annual growth forecast from 2.3 to 2.7 per cent.

The revision came three months after an abrupt cut from December’s forecast of 3 per cent. Read more

South Korea’s new president has put technological innovation at the heart of her drive for a “creative economy”, and she is picking the brains of some of Silicon Valley’s leading names for inspiration.

On Tuesday it was the turn of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to visit Park Geun-hye at her official residence, after visits in April by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Google’s Larry Page.

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Samsung Electronics’ new Galaxy S4 smartphone has smashed the company’s sales records – but that hasn’t been enough to prevent a nasty slide of nearly 9 per cent in its shares over the past three trading days.

The immediate trigger for the slide appears to have been a cautionary broker’s note on Friday from analysts at JPMorgan, who said third-quarter sales of the Galaxy S4 would undershoot their previous expectations. Read more


Japan’s announcement in March that it would seek to join the trans-Pacific Partnership looked like great news for the US. The TPP, intended to lower trade barriers among some of Washington’s key trading partners in the Pacific region, is an important part of the Obama administration’s “rebalancing” to Asia – and having the continent’s second-biggest economy on board would give it greater clout.

But as US undersecretary of commerce Francisco Sánchez told beyondbrics on Tuesday, Washington still has concerns about Japanese trade policy – particularly in cars. Read more

Hyundai Motor Group’s rise to prominence in the global autos market may have sparked alarm from Detroit to Wolfsburg – but the pace of growth has slowed of late. Chung Mong-koo, the South Korean group’s chairman, has adopted a cautious approach to capacity expansion in order to avoid the dangers of growing too fast.

So the market sat up and took notice on Friday after he hinted at a possible change of heart. Read more

Given that South Korea has one of the world’s highest suicide rates, one would expect its leading companies to treat the subject with the utmost sensitivity. So it is surprising to see a recent promotional video for Hyundai Motor using it as the basis for a comic skit.

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Just one week before Park Geun-hye (pictured) is sworn in as South Korea’s new president, she is still slogging through a fierce struggle over the make-up of her cabinet. Last month her first choice for prime minister had to withdraw after the parliamentary confirmation process brought fierce criticism over decades-old property deals. And some of Park’s other selections are also proving controversial. Read more

South Korea’s big retail chains have been feeling gloomy in recent months, as low consumer confidence has squeezed their margins. And growing political pressure is giving them further cause for concern.

On Tuesday, the National Commission for Corporate Partnership, a panel that advises the government on business policy, recommended that companies with more than Won20bn in sales should not enter retail sectors including used cars, magazines, flowers, bicycles, or most sorts of restaurants. Read more

Lee Myung-bak’s approval ratings remain painfully low as he prepares to step down as South Korean president next month. But he might hope for a belated popularity boost in 2018 when his country hosts the Winter Olympics – one of a series of major international events that South Korea won during his term.

The past week has given an early taste of the festival that awaits in five years’ time, as the South Korean ski resort of Pyeongchang hosted the Special Olympics World Games. Read more

Relations between Samsung and Apple reached a low point last year as they squared off in intellectual property disputes on four continents.

But this week gave the rivals something to bond over: each company reported strong growth in smartphone sales, only to watch investors rush for the exit. Read more

Over the past two years, LG Electronics has watched its South Korean rival Samsung Electronics storm ahead in the mobile phone sector as its own market share dwindled.

This week has brought a couple of upbeat developments that suggest the company is making some headway at the top end of the smartphone sector. But has it really turned the corner? Read more

The snowflakes drifting earthwards made for a pretty sight in Seoul this week. But they had a darker aspect for many residents concerned about their toxic properties, as worries continue about South Korea’s vulnerability to air pollution in nearby China.

Much of eastern China has experienced its worst smog for years over the past week, caused largely by the past decade’s huge increase in coal usage by factories and power plants, as well as emissions from the rapidly growing number of motor vehicles. Since Saturday, South Korea has also suffered an acute rise in air pollution – albeit not to the same levels of Beijing – and local media, as well as government officials, are pinning the blame on China. Read more

South Korea’s central bank on Friday held the base interest rate at 2.75 per cent for the third successive month, after signs that the national economy is picking up after a subdued performance last year. But it voiced unease about the European fiscal crisis, as it trimmed its growth forecast for 2013. Read more

South Koreans have grown familiar with the sight of prominent businessmen being convicted of fraud, only to steer clear of jail. So the imprisonment last August of Kim Seung-youn, chairman of the major conglomerate Hanwha (pictured left being arrested for a separate incident), raised hopes of a shift in the treatment of high-profile wrongdoers.

Now, suspicious types might fear a return to lenient practices, after Kim was released this week due to health problems. Read more