Last Two Weeks in Korea (June 9, 2014) – Koreans Work Long Hours, and Also Years

June 10, 2014 Edition

1) Nominee for PM withdraws

Ahn Dae-hee, former Supreme Court judge known as Mr.Clean Hands, withdraw from his nomination as prime minister just six days after nomination, a setback for President Park Geun-hye’s efforts to make the government straight after the ferry incident in April. Ahn has been accused of making 1.6 billion won ($1.5M) in six months from July 2013 to Dec 2014 by working as a lawyer after his retirement from Supreme Court in 2012. He denied any wrong doing or conflict of interest through connections, and said he was withdrawing only to avoid putting burden on Park’s administration. Park has to find a new candidate to have him pass the hearings.

Ahn has a perfect career history as a judge for over 30 years, but it was the money he earned as a private lawyer with good reputation that made him withdraw for the PM job. Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona made over 6 million dollars in Spanish La Liga last year while a friend of my son in FC Seoul made mere 40K dollars in Korean soccer league. Lionel Messi should withdraw from Brazil World Cup starting next week.

2) Another American held captive in N.Korea

Jeffery Fowle, a 56-year-old man from Ohio, became another American arrested in North Korea on charges of violating the national law. Fowle arrived in North Korea on April 29 as a tourists, and is arrested for leaving a Bible in his hotel room. There are other two American detainees in North Korea; Kenneth Bae, who has been held since Nov 2012 and is serving 15 year of hard labor for “hostile acts against the state,” and the other Matthew Miller, 24, who entered the country on Apr 10, allegedly seeking asylum in North Korea. North Korea has been using American detainees as a leverage to open dialogues with the U.S.

There is a safe and easy way to travel to North Korea. Practice basketball well enough to play in NBA, paint your body with colorful tattoos, and have a weird nickname like “worm.”

3) Korean work long hours and, years also

It is well known Koreans work long hours, and it became known by recent OECD survey that Koreans also work longest years after retirement. Korea’s official retirement age is 60, but Korean men on average work another 11.1 years more before they effectively retire. Mexican men had the 2nd longest interval between official retirement and effective retirement, with 7.3 years, followed by Chilean men with 4.4 years. Korean men’s average life expectancy was 84.1 years, meaning Korean men have only 13 years to live after effective retirement. A relatively weak pension infrastructure was the key reason for Koreans working after retirement.

Korean often open their own small business after their retirement. What are the most popular small businesses for the retirees? In a survey in 2013, multi media shops like PC Room, screen golf and Karaoke were most popular with 39%, followed by restaurants and bars with 21%, because of low entry barrier. The problem is over 90% of these small shops close after 5 years and signboard shops should be the lucrative business to go to.

4) Samsung SDI to make batteries for Ford

Samsung SDI announced it will jointly develop with Ford next generation lithium-ion batteries that is 40% lighter and has better energy efficiency than the standard lead-acid battery for gas-fuelled vehicles. The car battery business is one of the five areas Samsung Group has selected in 2010 as new growth engines. The other four are solar cells, LEDs, medical instruments and bioengineering. Samsung SDI accounted for 25.8% of the global small sized secondary cell market last year, leading the market for four years in a row since 2010.

I recently had a dinner with a gentleman working for the development of electric vehicles in Korea’s largest OEM. He said the days of fully electric vehicles will be coming, not as early as many experts are expecting because of the three reasons. “First, customers wouldn’t stand losing 4 hours to recharge the batteries at a battery station. Second, the government would be losing tax money from the gasoline. Third, many people like you working in auto suppliers will be losing jobs.”

5) Hyundai Russia won quality prize from Medvedev

Hyundai Russia won the grand prize in quality management in a ceremony in Moscow led by PM Dmitry Medvedev. It was the first time the award was given to a foreign company. Hyundai received the award just three years after its launch in St. Petersburg in Russia. The company was praised for the quality of its cars, as well as its corporate leadership customer service and corporate social responsibility efforts. Hyundai Russia’s Solaris, Accent in Korea, is the best selling import compact car, holding nearly 15% of the market share. It was also chosen as the bet compact car as the Russian Car of the Year awards for 3 years consecutively.

Mr.MK Shin, the plant manager in Hyundai Russia, was at the ceremony, receiving the award from Medvedev. Mr. Shin spent most of his 34 years in Hyundai at quality division. The only time he worked outside quality was 1998-1999 when he worked in Overseas Engineering department with me. He was fast speaking, full of energy and dedicated to work. I personally liked him as he was the only one in my department who made me look tall.



Questions or feedback? Email Steven S. Bammel, at

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