Friday, January 31, 2014

China - Taiwan: Another Step Towards Integration

The new concept for cross-strait relations, “China plus one,”proposed by Su Tseng-chang, who chairs Taiwan’s largest opposition party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), suggests that Taiwan might have taken another step towards comprehensive integration with China.
In losing the presidential election in January 14, 2012, the DPP clearly felt the significance of the China factor. It needs to ameliorate relations with Beijing if it is to do better in future elections, but its pro-independence principle – a key part of the party’s appeal for many voters – would seem to be a major obstacle. Established by political dissidents in 1986 while Taiwan was under martial law, the DPP was an indispensable actor in Taiwan’s democratization and its flag, Taiwan in the white cross, somewhat represented its final goal of the de jure independence of Taiwan.

China, Taiwan To Hold First High-Level Meeting Since 1949

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Minister Wang Yu-chi announced that he will meet with China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) Director Zhang Zhijun in the mainland Chinese city of Nanjing on February 11. While in Nanjing, Wang will also visit the tomb of Sun Yat-sen, the father of the KMT or Nationalist Party and a celebrated figure in both China and Taiwan. Wang will travel to Shanghai for meetings on February 13 before returning to Taiwan on February 14.
The meeting will be the highest-level dialogue between officials from China and Taiwan since 1949. However, Wang and Zhang have met before — they both sat in on a meeting between Taiwan’s former Vice President Vincent Siew and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Bali. This format was far more typical for China-Taiwan meetings: a current government official from one side, and a retired, unofficial representative from the other. During that meeting, Xi Jinpingexpressed his intention to “push forward the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

In Rare News Conference, N. Korea Slams South

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Friday, January 24, 2014

Six Markets to Watch: South Korea The Backwater That Boomed

Won love: a poster depicting South Korean currency, Seoul, November 2004. (Kim Kyung-Hoon / Courtesy Reuters)
South Korea’s development over the last half century has been nothing short of spectacular. Fifty years ago, the country was poorer than Bolivia and Mozambique; today, it is richer than New Zealand and Spain, with a per capita income of almost $23,000. For 50 years, South Korea’s economy has grown by an average of seven percent annually, contracting in only two of those years. In 1996, South Korea joined the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the club of rich industrialized countries, and in 2010, it became the first Asian country and the first non-G-7 member to host a G-20 summit.
To call South Korea an emerging market, therefore, is a bit of an anachronism. The country is a rich, technologically advanced, mature democracy with an impressive record of innovation, economic reform, and sound leadership. Yet South Korea is not exactly a developed market, either. The value of its exports plus imports (at $1.25 trillion a year) exceeds its national income (at $1.1 trillion). That openness, along with the lack of protection provided by a bloc such as the EU, subjects South Korea to greater market volatility than other major industrialized countries and presents some serious challenges. So, too, does its highly concentrated corporate sector, aging population, and politically dangerous neighborhood. South Korea may well be more dynamic than some developed economies, making it attractive to investors, but it is also much riskier.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

IMF Calls Out South Korea on Its Currency Policy

IMF Calls Out South Korea on Its Currency Policy - Real Time Economics - WSJ

In unusually strong language, the International Monetary Fund Wednesday questioned South Korea’s currency policy, telling Seoul that it should only intervene in exchange-rate markets to prevent volatility that might damage the economy.

The fund’s scrutiny of Korea’s currency policy comes after Bank of Korea’s top official indicated early this year the central bank is ready to intervene in currency markets to curb the won’s strength. It also follows criticism from the IMF’s most powerful member, the U.S., late last year. The Treasury Department said in October that it was concerned that Korea had resumed currency intervention and needed to be more transparent about its activities.

“The won should continue to be market determined, with intervention limited to smoothing disorderly market conditions,” the IMF’s executive board said in a statement on the annual review of the country’s economy.

The fund says the won is “moderately undervalued,” accounting for inflation, but the currency is coming under increased appreciation pressure as the emerging market outperforms many of its peers.

Korean officials say their efforts are to stabilize markets.

But some U.S. economists say Korea’s keeping a lid on the value of their exchange rate to bar exports from becoming too expensive.

Although countries can devalue their currency by buying foreign currency, the move puts upward pressure on other countries’ exchange rates and can fuel trade and political tensions between governments.

To avoid creating friction over currency policies, the IMF said Korea should be more candid about its exchange-rate operations.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Thailand Declares State of Emergency

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Monday, January 20, 2014

Credit card details on 20 million South Koreans stolen

BBC News - Credit card details on 20 million South Koreans stolen

"Managers at the marketing firms which allegedly bought the data were also arrested.

Early reports suggest that the contractor got hold of the giant trove of data thanks to the access Korea Credit Bureau enjoys to databases run by three big South Korean credit card firms. The contractor stole the data by copying it to a USB stick.

Regulators are now looking into security measures at the three firms - KB Kookmin Card, Lotte Card, and NH Nonghyup Card - to ensure data stays safe. A task force has been set up to investigate the impact of the theft.

The three bosses of the credit card firms involved made a public apology for the breach."

Sunday, January 19, 2014

South Korea pulled strings as Cambodia’s military cracked down on protesters

South Korea pulled strings as Cambodia’s military cracked down on protesters | GlobalPost: In recent months, the impoverished Southeast Asian country has been enmeshed in a series of strikes involving garment workers who stitch clothes for Western brands. Workers are demanding a doubling of the minimum wage, saying they can’t live on their current $80 monthly income.
Late last week the government responded with a violent crackdown. Elite units wielding Chinese-made weapons, batons, and steel pipes chased protesters through the streets. Five were killed and dozens were injured.
Although the garments are destined for the US, Europe and Japan, South Korean companies reap much of the financial gain, playing the role of middleman between laborers and Western brands. Korean-owned factories employ legions of low-wage workers, churning out clothing for fashion-hungry markets. In 2012, Seoul was the largest investor in the country with $287 million in projects, beating out its behemoth of a neighbor, China.
Now, South Korea has emerged as a behind-the-scenes actor in the crackdown. The embassy admits that in recent weeks it has been running a backdoor campaign to protect Korean business interests. This campaign has included turning to the brutal and battle-hardened Cambodian military to implement security measures.


Thousands Protest in Thailand

Thursday, January 16, 2014

China's High-Speed Railway Speeds On

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Dead Siberian tiger found in the back of poachers' SUV

Dead Siberian tiger found in the back of poachers' SUV: "The body of the rare animal was found shoved inside a plastic bag when police in the Lucheng district of Wenzhou, eastern Zhejiang province, China, became suspicious after spotting two men loading what looked like a body in a bag into the back of a white Toyota 4x4 on Wednesday.
One of the men, a former chef, was arrested at the scene and is being held on suspicion of trading endangered species. His accomplice fled on foot and is still being sought by police.
It is believed the men were taking the animal's carcass to be sold for use in medicines. Traditional Chinese medicines often claim to contain ground up animal parts that believed to have various different health benefits."

Monday, January 13, 2014

Seoul Affirms Interest in Joining TPP, But Says China Deal Comes First

South Korea’s Trade Ministry made clear Monday that the country will prioritize bilateral free trade negotiations with China this year over the multilateral Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Inaugurating a trade promotion committee, the ministry said in a press release that the government “will first push for a South Korea-China FTA as a bridgehead for expanding presence in Chinese markets, while considering joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”
China is not a party to talks to form the TPP, a U.S.-led free-trade bloc involving 12 countries in Asia-Pacific that together make up 40% of the global economy. The pact aims to boost growth by reducing or eliminating tariffs and establishing new rules of the road in areas as diverse as intellectual property, labor, and government’s role in private enterprise.
Some analysts see the proposed bloc as a U.S. attempt to counter Beijing’s influence in the region. U.S. officials have said China and other countries are free to join the TPP if they adopt its rules.
Seoul lately has expressed a keen interest in joining the TPP – especially after its exporting rival Japan joined the negotiations last July.
China is South Korea’s biggest trade partner, absorbing 26% of Korean exports last year, when bilateral trade reached $221 billion, according to South Korea’s Trade Ministry.
The two countries have been in free trade talks since May 2012, with a ninth round of negotiations concluding last week. The next round is scheduled for March in Seoul.


Japan's Suntory buys Jim Beam for $16bn

Japan's Suntory buys Beam for $16bn - business live
"The acquisition gives Suntory a wide range of major spirits -- Beam's bulging portfolio includes bourbon (Jim Beam, Maker's Mark and Knob Creek), Scotch whiskies (Teacher's and Laphroaig), as well as Canadian Club whisky, Courvoisier cognac, Sauza tequila, and Pinnacle vodka."

Saturday, January 4, 2014

No, Kim Jong Un probably didn’t feed his uncle to 120 hungry dogs

No, Kim Jong Un probably didn’t feed his uncle to 120 hungry dogs
"It was indeed a big surprise last month when South Korean intelligence revealed that Kim had purged his own uncle, Jang Song Thaek, which North Korea confirmed a couple of days later with a long screed in its state media. The highly public nature of the purge, which ended with Pyongyang announcing Jang's execution, was totally unprecedented and legitimately shocking, which is a high bar for North Korea news."