Blog

View posts by country or region

Lee Eun-Seok woke up in the middle of the debris and looked for survivors but it was no use. Seoul had already turned into a huge hive, infested by giant hornets.

So goes the story in Hive, one of the “webtoons” that have become hugely popular in South Korea and which are poised to become the country’s next booming export, according to some bullish forecasts. Continue reading »

South Korean carmakers are up in arms over Chile’s proposed bill to impose an environment tax on diesel vehicles, which is likely to hit Korea’s car exports to the Latin American country and cause diplomatic friction.

Chile is one of the key export markets for Korean automakers such as Hyundai Motor and its affilate Kia Motors, both making rapid inroads into emerging markets. Korean cars are the best-selling imported vehicles in Chile, with 30 per cent of the country’s fast-growing auto market. Continue reading »

South Korean companies, notorious for their insensitivity towards shareholder value, may be incentivised to boost dividends.

The finance ministry said on Tuesday that it is seeking ways to funnel bigger proportions of huge corporate cash reserves into the broader economy as growth in Asia’s fourth-largest economy stalls due to weak domestic consumption with many households plagued by heavy debts. Continue reading »

You might be awkward in the spotlight and less than attractive but that need not stop you from becoming a television star, according to a burgeoning industry that has sprung up in Seoul to train and groom would-be TV announcers.

Korea’s three major broadcasting companies hire only three to five announcers a year, typically to host news or entertainment shows. The jobs are in high demand – a recent opening at the SBS network attracted 2,000 applicants – reflecting the prestige of the country’s successful entertainment industry, as well as an increasingly tough jobs market for young graduates. Continue reading »

Samsung’s smartphones may be losing popularity in China as lower-cost Chinese rivals such as Xiaomi and Lenovo steal a march on the Korean company in the budget segment, but they appear to be coveted in Brazil.

Samsung said on Tuesday its factory near Sao Paulo was attacked by about 20 heavily-armed bandits early on Monday and its workers there were held hostage while truckloads of smartphones, tablets and notebook computers worth about $6.3m were looted.

The robbery – which was played out with B-movie flourishes against a backdrop of the World Cup – would not be a huge financial hit for Samsung with its $60bn cash pile but the theft could ring alarm bells for the world’s largest smartphone maker – which has factories all over the world. Continue reading »

The years of periodic “will-they-won’t-they” chatter about South Korea’s potential upgrade to developed market status are over, at least for now. Index compiler MSCI has finally thrown in the towel.

But rather than bump up Korea (and Taiwan), it has instead decided to boot them off its upgrade watch list. Regardless of your view on the underlying debate, the clarity such a move offers should be welcomed. Continue reading »

Not everything in life is always completely and irredeemably bad, even if you happen to be running an emerging economy. In the case of currency devaluations handed to the big emerging markets over the past year, however, the silver lining has not made up for the cloud.

It was a year ago this week that the “taper tantrum” shook emerging markets, after comments from then Fed chairman Ben Bernanke raised fears of the US central bank tightening monetary policy. Exchange rates dropped sharply in the fragile fraternity of emerging markets with flexible currencies – Brazil, India, Indonesia, South Africa and Turkey. However, bad though the turbulence was – and the panic returned for a short while earlier this year – the currency movements should at least have had the benefit of handing those economies’ exports a competitive advantage through a lower exchange rate.

 Continue reading »

Falling unemployment, improving exports and a rush back into emerging markets assets gave investors plenty of reasons to buy the South Korean won on Wednesday.

But they are not enough to explain the size of the swing in the exchange rate – a rise of more than 1 per cent to a six year high of 1041.75 against the dollar.

Could that be due to a shift in the stance of South Korean policy makers? Continue reading »

South Korea’s stock exchange opened a gold trading platform on Monday with the hope of boosting transparency of gold trades and rooting out shady deals used for tax evasion.

Eight brokerages and 49 dealers were allowed to participate in the market. They will get tax benefits to encourage their active participation and they will be exempted from trading commissions temporarily until March 2015. Importers of gold to be traded on the exchange will also be exempted from tariffs to increase supply. Continue reading »

Oh no, Hyundai Motor has overstated its fuel-mileage figures again. This might be the last thing the South Korean carmaker needs after the company agreed to pay compensation last year for exaggerating its mileage numbers for more than 1m autos sold in the US.

Yet on Monday, Hyundai was expressing “regret” for more over-hyped fuel efficiency claims. Continue reading »

Source: HSBC / Markit

The monthly temperature-taking of Asian manufacturing, aka the purchasing managers index, is out for some of Asia’s bigger economies – and at first glance, things look good.

China may have seen its HSBC/Markit (in contrast to the official government) index fall below the 50 mark that separates contraction from expansion, but India, Indonesia and South Korea all look in good shape.

Or do they? Continue reading »

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.

 Continue reading »

Partners in wealth

Wednesday’s announcement that Russia and South Korea would work together on an economic project in North Korea slightly overshadowed another significant announcement linked to Putin’s Seoul visit: a new cross-border investment fund between Korea Investment Corporation and its Russian sovereign wealth fund counterpart, the Russian Direct Investment Corporation.

The fund will start out at $500m, with commitments of $250m apiece, but is expected to reach $1bn in time. It also gives an illustration of how the two sovereign wealth funds are evolving. Continue reading »

“Eat as much as you can!” cries the director of the forthcoming soap opera Let’s Eat, scrutinising her from behind two video screens and his thick black-rimmed glasses. “If it’s hot then show it – let’s see you gulping! And bring her some more green vegetables to make it more colourful!”

As crew members top up her plate once more, Ms Lee discreetly spits a half-chewed morsel into a bucket by her side.

Making South Korean television drama is hard work, and not always glamorous. Yet the results are consumed avidly by viewers from the Mongolian steppes to the congested streets of Jakarta. Continue reading »