Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tighten your greenbelt

The Ministry of Land, Transport, and Maritime Affairs delisted five more greenbelt areas in Southern Seoul totalling 21.16 million square meters to make room for urban development, including 87,000 "Bogeumjari" ("Sweet Home") apartments for low income families to be delivered in 2014.

"Sweet Home" means low cost for the owners (long term projects between 15% and 50% below market price), but dear price for the environment.

Last year, two bogeumjari series had already claimed 17 million square meters of protected land in Seoul and neighboring Gyeonggi-do cities :

* 8.06 M sqm for 39,000 apartments (announced in May 2009)
. in Seoul : Segok-dong in Gangnam-gu, Umyeon-dong in Seocho-gu. The opportunity to boost mixity in two wealthy "gus", but both areas are separated from the center by mountains.
. in Goyang : Wonheung-dong in Deogyang-gu. A promising area which will open a new subway station on Line 3 between Samsong and Wondang. Both stations were indeed insanely far away from each other.
. in Hanam : Misa-dong. That's along the Han river, there's a boat race infrastructure in the middle of the dong.

* 8.89 M sqm for 40,505 apartments (announced in October 2009)
. in Seoul : Segok again, and Naegok-dong, next to Segok but in Seocho-gu
. in Bucheon : Okgil-dong, at the frontier with Guro-gu
. in Guri (West) : Galmae-dong, an important entry point to Taereung
. in Namyangju (West) : Jingeon-eup, further afield following the train line.

The new series announced yesterday cover 5 areas, with a focus on the Seoul-Incheon axis and a major New Town in Gwangmyeon :
. in Seoul : 676,000 sqm (4,500 apts including 4,300 bogeumjari) in Hang-dong, Guro-gu. That's between Okgil-dong (see above) and Onsu Station, the very important junction between subway Line 7 and the Seoul-Incheon train.
. in Gwangmyeon and Siheung : 17.367 M square meters (95,000 apts including 69,000 bogeumjari). close to the previous cluster, a gigantic new town is planned, ideally positioned to serve both the Capital city (Gwangmyeon borders Guro-gu and Geumcheon-gu, industrial areas) and it's main international entry point (Incheon, its airport, its harbor). The small number of apartments covers only the public project, not private developments.
. in Incheon : 840,000 sqm (6,000 apts / 4,300 bogeumjari) in Guwol-dong, Namdong-gu. Surrounded by highways 100, 120, and 50, this area is not well served by public transportations, but this might change : I think the Government considers a bed town equidistant from old (harbor) and new (Songdo) centers.
. in Hanam : 1.708 M sqm (12,000 apts / 8,400 bogeumjari) in Gamil-dong. Let's hope Seoul Subway Line 9 will continue this way... even if Songpa-gu / Gangdong-gu residents keep lobbying for a different scenario : a SW/NW parallel to lines 5 and 8.
. in Seongnam : 569,000 sqm (3,800 apts / 2,700 bogeumjari) in Godeung-dong, Sujeong-gu, North of Pangyo InterChange.

More supply, then, with the usual promise to bring down the prices. Unlikely if the discount is only 15%, and if the new houses are only meant as a receptacle for victims of redevelopments in more demanded areas, featuring the standard "apateu" model that disfigured Korea over the past 40 years.

One thing is sure : the Government keeps tightening Seoul's greenbelt, and something will have to be done to make for the loss.

Seoul Village 2010

Korean Air Grounded : Seoul 7 Star Hotel Delayed

Yesterday, education authorities blocked a Korean Air project to build the country's first seven-star hotel just meters away from Gyeongbokgung and Insadong.

KAL got all the agreements for a complex which would definitely have redefined hospitality in this major touristic and cultural area : a hanok-style boutique hotel with luxury shops and exhibition facilities.

It would have been erected at the intersection between Yulgokno and Gyoyuk-gil, a narrow street leading to Jeongdok Public Library, surrounded by schools which, according to the authorities, would have been disturbed. Thus this last moment interdiction.

KAL withdrew its project for the moment, but keeps pushing for it, promising a participation in intensive archeological research : the area must be worth digging... and needless to say, the project is a potential gold mine for the company.

This site belongs to the US Embassy : about twenty grey-green houses and facilities protected with stone walls and a secured black metal gate. Size ? Judging by the map, around 30,000 square meters if you add 49-1 Seonghyeon-dong (20,203.2 sqm according to Korea Land Information System), 97-2 Sagan-dong (6,165.1 sqm), and half of 34 Seonghyeon-dong (6,229.3 sqm - shared with Deokseong Women's Middle School). The first two lots were estimated around KRW 4 M / sqm last year, the latter KRW 3 M / sqm, but for a land this big in such a location the bill must be much higher than USD 100 M. Last year, land was estimated 2.5 times higher just across Yulgokno, but a chaebol paid much more to plant its new headquarters.

I won't judge a concept I haven't seen, but I'm glad this one is based on Korean traditional architecture - I guess it wouldn't have go this far otherwise. What I'm really curious to see are the next steps.

The US Embassy is supposed to move to Yongsan during this decade, Yongsan Army Base to be turned into a huge park, and speculators to make a few dimes in the process. Beyond Songhyeon-dong facilities, what will happen to the main building, in the dead middle of Sejongno ? I wouldn't bet a buck on its "hanokization".

Seoul Village 2010

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pimatgol - a streamlet runs through it

On my way to Kyobo Bookstore (scavenging for bargains : the institution will close on April 1st for renovation (see "Kyobo Bookstore V2"), I observed the new construction site just across the main entrance, where the book center usually displays books on promotion outdoors.

Workers were building a stone sidewalk including what appears to be the future bed of Junghakcheon (중학천), the streamlet which used to run towards Cheonggyecheon* along the Eastern side of Gyeongbokgung and this very street, named after it : Junghakcheon-gil (in Cheongjin-dong, parallel to Sejongno and behind Kyobo Building, KT Art Hall, the US Embassy...).

The restored streamlet will reach Jongno Fire Station up the street, next to Jongno-gu Office and 340 m from Cheonggyecheon. But that's only the first step of the project, which will follow Samcheongdong-gil, the street bordering the Gyeongbokgung and leading so Seongbuk-dong :
. A second section of 1,020 m will connect the fire station to Jeongdok Public Library, or rather the intersection with Bukchon-gil, which also happens to be the entrance of the old Defense Security Command, now an art museum. Note that the library itself is not on this street bordering the Gyeongbokgung but in Hwa-dong, opposite Artsonje Center.
. A third section (1,040 m) will go from there to the end of Samcheongdong-gil. Actually, Junghakcheon was also known as Samcheongdongcheon (삼청동천).

In the first section or at least at this stage of construction, the renovation seems to be focusing more on "history / prestige" than on "wellbeing / ecosystem" : the waterway's bed is made of stone and in a straight line, not with rocks and plants** and following a curvy path.

Again, this is only the beginning, but we can already make out a small bridge which could be the future entrance of a Pimatgol 2.0, even if the bridge looks closer to main street (Jongro) than the old Pimatgol entrance (most recently signaled by a rotten wooden post and various bodily fluids). Anyway, right now, this bridge is a bridge to nowhere or rather a bridge to a vast wasteland : Pimatgol's last houses and restaurants have finally been erased (my bindaetteok place lasted much more than expected***).

Seoul Village 2010
see also "Baekundongcheon / Gwanghwamun-gil - A River Runs Through It"

* Reminder : technically, Junghakcheon connects with Baekundongcheon (백운동천) to create Cheonggyecheon. Next comes Namsandongcheon (남산동천), from the South and Namsan. The three waterways are either under restoration or about to be reopened.
** while I'm at it, when you see people pick up herbs along Seoul riversides, tell them not to eat them : many varieties can be used in traditional recipes, but those collected in such areas have been proven totally unfit for consumption and utterly "unwell being".
*** see "
Welcome to Pimatgol"

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Empress's Last Bang

Korea's last empress, Sunjeong-hyo (순정효황후), clearly didn't leave the same mark as her legendary predecessor Queen Min (Empress Myeongseong), a modern reformer murdered by the Japanese in 1895 because she would have resisted the annexation of Korea much more efficiently than her husband King Gojong.

Empress Sunjeong never actually ruled : Japan officially claimed the country in 1910*, and Syngman Rhee kept her away from the palace during his presidency, probably to make sure Korea was done with monarchy... or at least royalty. She came back to Changdeokgung in 1961, where she died in 1966. No Child Left Behind : her husband was not murdered, but - thank Japanese innovation for small mercies - enjoyed a chemically induced sterility and debility.

To me, Empress Sunjeong perfectly illustrates the way Korean royals vanished during the tragic limbo between the end of the Joseon area and the beginning of democracy, a period she crossed almost like a ghost haunting former symbols of power. Note that the last person who could claim the throne died a few years ago, a poor old man living off songs and charity.

If you visited Namsan Hanok Village, you have seen the reconstitution of the Yun family house where the girl who would become the last empress grew up. At least, you may think, the memory of this one is respected. Uh... not exactly.

The original house lies in 47 Ogin-dong, Jongno-gu, a site signaled among the few remaining landmarks of an area West of Gyeongbokgung recently preserved by Seoul Metropolitan Government - as we saw earlier ("Stop The Hanok Genocide... And Stop Revival As Reenactment"), over 600 hanoks will be saved from almost certain destruction around Chebu-dong.

But when Hankyoreh journalist Song Chae-gyeong (송채경) visited the old Yun house, he came back with an utterly depressing story**. And what to say of the picture of the ruin inhabited by six survivors of the clan in contrast with that of the pristine reconstitution*** ! Song interviewed the chairman of the cultural heritage committee, who also lamented about the ludicrous contradiction : a lot of money has been spent in a fake and the original abandoned to redevelopement.

I'm sure that exposing this kind of follies will help Seoul city in its recent crusade in favor of the preservation of old Seoul. Beyond the survival of this house, Song's article shall also contribute to a vital pedagogy : when they are not obsessed with short term profit, many hanok owners are simply unaware of the value of traditional houses, not to mention cultural landmarks.

Note that a hanok can be ruined without being destroyed, for instance by owners who just want to make a quick buck because they think old stuff is bad for business. Korean traditional houses can easily be camouflaged : the old tile roof replaced with plastic, the front hidden behind big boards advertising a restaurant or a shop, a red brick wall and voila.

In Seochon, West of the Gyeongbokgung, most of the 600 remaining hanoks don't look like hanoks anymore : actually, I live not far from there, I've passed by every single alley and cul-de-sac, I have maps and aerial pictures of the area, and I'm aware of the way traditional houses can be camouflaged... but last year I've been stunned by the number : I would have estimated it to 200, 300 tops (but there are plenty of more modern yet interesting houses too, like the ultimately cute blue bookstore Daeoseojeom / 대오서점).

OH Se-hoon is right to secure key areas in spite of the anger of owners' associations. He is right to sponsor the restoration of hanoks because maintaining an old house is very demanding, particularly for old owners who can't afford it. Europeans are familiar with the vision of old castles falling apart even if people keep inhabiting them, but in Europe restoration itself is a century-old tradition, there are incentives, associations, and support from local as well as national authorities for important assets. Furthermore, the population sympathizes with people who fight for preservation. In Korea ? You are considered a lunatic when you refuse redevelopment, or if keep a hanok where you can build a 3 story-villa.

Long time Seoulite and hanok-lover Peter E. Bartholomew actually sued Seoul city to stop a redevelopment based on biased reports. He won the case last year and saved from destruction many hanoks in Dongsomun-dong (Seongbuk-gu), only to face the ire of other owners. Other acts of resistance involve financial investment : Arumjigi****, a private association, has been preaching by example for almost a decade, renovating houses across the country, investing in a future richer from the past.

Koreans love history, but to a certain point. Last Friday, the country celebrated the centennial of the death of resistant Ahn Jung-geun. I bet than one hundred years from now, the descendants of Dongsomun-dong hanok owners will celebrate the victory of Bartholomew v. Caterpillar.
Seoul Village 2010

See also : "Stop The Hanok Genocide... And Stop Revival As Reenactment", other Seochon related posts, including "Baekundongcheon / Gwanghwamun-gil - A River Runs Through It".

* 100 years after the annexation of Korea by Japan, both countries are at last discussing about a common vision of history. But for the moment, the Korea-Japan Joint History Research Committee only managed to shoot the myth of Imna Japanese Headquarters (an outrageous invention to justify the annexation : Japan would have ruled over Korean kingdoms during the 4th century !).
** "
‘마지막 황후’ 뛰놀던 집 재개발로 헐리나" (Hankyoreh 20100329)
*** photographer : Park Jong-sik (박종식)
****
Arumjigi.org

Friday, March 26, 2010

Riverside bicycle road extended to Hanam

On March 31, the bike road following the Southern riverside of Hangang will by prolonged Eastwards by a new 13.5 km section, completing a 49.3 km-long Goyang*-Seoul-Hanam stretch.

The new section starts from Gwangnaru recreational park (광나루 유원지) in Gwangjin-gu, passes by Amsa-dong, Gangdong-gu (famous for its prehistoric site), and reaches the Paldang Bridge (팔당대교) in Hanam.

At that bridge, you are at the feet of two mountains : Duribong (566 m) in Hanam, and Yebongsan (679 m) in Namyangju on the other side of the river. So far, these hulky patches of green have kept urban development at bay, and I hope the Gwangju-Seongnam-Hanam merger** will not ruin this area.

From this new terminus, the bike lane may continue upstream towards the Paldan Dam and beyond Yangpyeong area, a very touristic spot. It could also connect to Namyangju city, right across the bridge.

But for the moment, Gyeonggi-do has already a lot of fish to fry. The province has invested KRW 70 bn in bicycle infrastructures since 2007, and 5 other projects are about to be completed, totalling 27.1 km :
. 5.6 km in Ansan : Sihwa Industrial Complex - Seonggok-dong
. 9 km in Gimpo : Han-gang New Town - Unyang Samgeori
. 2 km in Pyeongtaek : Songbuk-dong (Ojwa Samgeori) - Seojeong-dong (Bokchang Overpass)
. 6.5 km in Dongducheon : Bosan Station - Habongam-dong
. 4.0 km in Yeoncheon-gun : Dosin-ri (Sinseo-myeon) - Yeoncheon Bridge

Of course, Gyeonggi-do (over 10,000 square kilometers) will never have a network as dense as Seoul (605 sqkm, already 10 times more bicycle infrastructures), but that's a beginning.

Of course, this is by no means a network : Ansan is far (Southwest of Seoul) and Pyeongtaek even further. But the Gimpo New Town segment may eventually join the Goyang end of the Seoul lane... and with some imagination, the last two segments almost seem to be heading towards the Peace Bicycle Nuri Road** : the Jungnangcheon bike lane in Northeast Seoul already goes along Nowon-gu and towards Uijeongbu between Bukhansan and Seoraksan, why not continue in the same direction, straight to the North ? After Uijeongbu come Yangju, Dongducheon, Yeoncheon, Chorwon... and the DMZ.

Seoul Village 2010

* at Haengju Bridge (Deokyang-gu, Goyang-si, Gyeonggi-do)
** see "
Gwangju completes the Seongnam-Hanam merger"
*** "
Take a ride on the wild side"

Map : gg.go.kr (Gyeonggi-do's website)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Civil-service satisfaction keeps rising in Seoul

Seoul Metropolitan Government recently released the results of its survey "Satisfaction Level for Civil Services in 2009", exposing improvements in all areas, and a general level of satisfaction of 78.2% (+4 pts vs 2008) :

Not only are Seoul city servants working harder on citizen satisfaction : the population is much more aware of the considerable effort. Information on civil affairs, accessibility and convenience gained a lot over last year, and the new 365/24/7 "120 Dasan Call Center" services for foreigners (see
SGC / SMG services) mirrors that trend within the international community.

Among the priorities spotted by SMG : services to women (44.2 in 2007, 52.8 in 2008, 53.9 in 2009). If satisfaction keeps improving, it remains low. The spectacular gains of 2008 were not reproduced because of the general economic slump, which left even bigger dents in female employment.

2010 being a municipal election year, expect more gains in awareness for next year's survey.

Seoul Village 2010

* "
Seoul rated best in civil-service satisfaction for 3rd straight year" (20100322 Seoul Metropolitan Government)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Next target : the Supreme Court ?

In what appears to be probably one of the clumsiest attempts ever to undermine the independence of justice in a democracy, Korea's ruling Grand National Party tries to increase the number of Supreme Justices from 14* to 24, officially to facilitate their work and to "diversify" their judgements. Of course, such a move would guarantee the control on all "judgements" from the Supreme Court of Korea.

Even Pervez Musharraf wouldn't have dared changing the rules that boldly. Note that on a more discreet note, the bill would raise the minima of age and legal experience to 45 years and 15 years respectively... which would prevent judges promoted under liberal leaning presidents KIM Dae-jung and ROH Moo-hyun from passing the cut...

Incredibly enough, this party doesn't even need to rush : President Lee Myung-bak already replaced 3 judges and a few more will retire by the end of his mandate, so time is on their side.

Unsurprisingly, this outrageous crusade is led by the same minority of hardliners who want to nuke the
Truth and Reconciliation Commission Korea are pushing hard for a comprehensive witch hunt across Korea's legal system. They already tried but failed to remove certain Supreme Justices, starting with Chief Justice Lee Yong-hoon... who by the way pointed out this embarrassing evidence : "Even during the military government, they never had the notion of exercising the right to appoint judges"**. Indeed, briefing these extremists about some fundamentals of democracy could definitely help.

All this would be comical if the stakes weren't that vital for the future of democracy in Korea. Let's hope democrats from all parties will join to make sure this infamous bill doesn't pass.

This episode does raise interesting issues though : even with their flocks of assistants, Supreme Justices have much too much work to do. According to the Chosun Ilbo, "in 2009, a total of 32,361 cases were brought before the Supreme Court, where 12 judges handled around 2,700 cases each that year, or seven a day".***

But this reform can certainly not be masqueraded as a "stopgap measure" : adding 10 members wouldn't make each justice's workload any lighter since each one must be as much aware of each case as the others, and the best way to improve the situation would be, as the Chosun suggests and as many countries do, to leave smaller appeals to High Courts.

If letting a few quick-tempered extremists decide of the future of justice in Korea would be a mistake, considering that all members of the ruling party want the end of democracy in Korea would be another. And I'm glad to see that, according to the same Chosun Ilbo, a committee working under the Ministry of Justice is considering the partial legalization of abortion which could, unlike some may think (see "
Wrong question, wrong answer"), have positive effects on natality in Korea.

Seoul Village 2010

* The Supreme Court of Korea :
scourt.go.kr. 13 of the 14 Supreme Justices render opinions, the 14th is only a Minister of Court Administration.
** "
GNP aiming to sacrifice judicial independence for party ideology" (The Hankyoreh)
*** "
Hiring More Supreme Court Judges Is a Stopgap Measure" (The Chosun Ilbo 20100318)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Joeunjip (Seoul)

Pork bulgogi, grilled fish, spicy nakji, herb pancake, a decent doenjang jjigae... not exactly Vegas-style-all-you-can-eat portions for each, but the perfect quantity for a pleasant 14 course meal.

Now consider the bargain : all this comes for only KRW 7,000 (just over 6 bucks nowadays). No wonder Joeunjib ranks among the most popular restaurants on Yeonhui-dong's "taste street" (Yeonhuidongmat-gil / 연희동맛길), a 2-lane parallel to main road Yeonhuiro...

Joeunjip / 조은집 (restaurant)
133-24 Yeonhui-dong, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul, ROK
Tel : +82.2.323.8084

Seoul Village 2010

Monday, March 15, 2010

Find a name for SGC's new business center at COEX

A brand new "Seoul Global Business Support Center" will be inaugurated next month in Gangnam (COEX*). International residents will be able to consult for daily life as well as business issues, like in the other "Seoul Global Village Centers" run by the Seoul Global Center across the capital (see links and addresses below**), but this one will strongly focus on business. Gangnam already hosts the Yeoksam Global Village Center in Yeoksam-dong.

"Seoul Global Business Support Center" is only a tentative name, and until March 26, everyone is invited to suggest a name. The winner will receive a gift certificate, see all details
in the public naming contest form.

So good luck to you, and long life to this new center, which is bound to receive a lot of visitors, prolonging the city's fantastic efforts to serve its international residents.

Seoul Village 2010

* COEX 1st Floor, 159-1, Samsung-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
** More about SGC in "Invest in Seoul, Seoul is already investing in you". Reminder : as of today,
Seoul Global Center's existing global village centers are :
- in GANGNAM-GU (YEOKSAM) :
Yeoksam Global Village Center in 5F Yeoksam1 Residence Center, 829-20, Yeoksam 1-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul.
- in MAPO-GU (YEONNAM) :
Yeonnam Global Village Center in 3rd floor, Suseong bld., 198-31 Dongkyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul.
- in SEOCHO-GU (SEORAE VILLAGE) :
Seorae Global Village Center in 90-12 Banpo 4-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul.
- in SEONGBUK-GU :
Seongbuk Global Village Center in 246, Seongbuk-dong, Seongbuk-gu, Seoul.
- in YEONGDEUNGPO-GU :
Yeongdeungpo Multicultural Village Center in 2nd floor, Standard Chartered First Bank Korea, 710-10, Daerim 3-Dong, Yeongdeungpo-Gu, Seoul.
- in YONGSAN-GU (ICHON-DONG) :
Ichon Global Village Center in 304 Hangang Shopping Center, 300-27 Ichon 1-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul 140-854
- in YONGSAN-GU (ITAEWON-HANNAM) :
Itaewon-Hannam Global Village Center in 5F Hannam Bldg., 737-37 Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul 140-893.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Korean War : a photo exhibition at Cheonggyecheon

Don't get fooled by the UN flag : a highly conservative "freedom" movement is behind the photo exhibition on Cheonggyecheon Plaza which, instead of promoting peace and progress, too often radiates pure resentment and hatred.

Don't get me wrong :
- here is an interesting exhibition about key episodes of the Korean War (until March 18)
- that tragedy was started by the North
- Korea can thank the UN and all the countries who helped save not only half the peninsula, but also more than a few Northeners who refused to subscribe to Kim Il-sung's agenda (including NK POWs, who overwhelmingly opted for the South after 1953)

It's just that the not so subtle propaganda trickling down every other panel (along with a persistant rain that day) almost ruins the visit. And instead of Confucian wisdom and hope, the final message ("Never changed") exudes blind anger. It can be summed up like this : stop talking to North Koreans, they still want to get South Korea, and there will never be peace with such obtuse and stubborn people (I second that : peace is not likely to happen with this kind of dangerous ultra-radicals in Seoul to face that kind of dangerous ultra-radicals in Pyeongyang).

So it's a little bit like visiting Seodaemun Prison : you only have one side of the coin, a clumsily edited good v. evil, black-and-white fairyscarytale. There, you learn a lot about the horrors perpetrated for decades by Japanese torturers, but not one single word is written about the abuses that followed, perpetrated for many long years by the Korean government (as if you wrote the final book about Abu Ghraib without mentioning the post-Saddam mess). Here, you can expect many lyrical digressions about religion, but certainly not the full picture of a really nasty civil war (yeah, I know : all wars are nasty, and all civil wars are even nastier).

The only way to fix things and to prevent such tragedies from happening again is to promote truth and reconciliation, not to maintain obsolete propagandas and censorships. Praise the heroes yes, but please show some respect for innocent victims from all sides.

Ultra-conservatives will probably consider this exhibition a success because it exposes in the most direct fashion their basic points of view to the face of the world. Unfortunately for them, just like their attempt to silence the Truth and Reconciliation Commission*, this exhibition backfires and eventually exposes their imposture, sending the worst possible message to foreign visitors : not only North Korea is not changing, but some retrograde people in South Korea still refuse to see their own country become a great nation, and only manage to bring more shame upon themselves.

As a French citizen, I am very much humbled by the courage of countrymen who fought for peace and freedom in Korea, but ashamed to see the tricolore flag associated with such an agenda.

Seoul Village 2010

* see "TRCK lost in translation or lost in transition ?"

Friday, March 12, 2010

Expats in Korea : have your say !

The Prime Minister's Office is collecting suggestions from expats on ways to reduce discriminations against foreigners in Korean laws and regulations.

The subject has been pretty well covered in the news recently but it's the occasion to spot loopholes or to correct details that can make a difference in your daily lives.

So have your say, be fair and creative, and send your proposals by e-mail (
sangsan@pmo.go.kr) or by fax (+82.2.2100.2323) by the end of March 2010.

Seoul Village 2010

Thursday, March 11, 2010

KAIST unveils OLEV, the On-Line Electric Vehicle

The Seoul Grand Park train has been replaced by this OnLine Electric Vehicle (OLEV) developed by KAIST.

The OLEV must follow an underground powerline to charge, thus the "online" label, and the relatively light batteries compared to the ones usually found in electric vehicles. Of course, you need to keep in touch with the powerlines, but this "touch" is "contactless", which means you don't see any tracks nor wires. Power transmission requires specific enablers in the vehicle, and electromagnetic emissions respect all security norms, so if you happen to pass over the lines, your old Hyundai won't start a Transformers break dance, and the old bag lady pushing her caddy (you know, that Hollywood all time fave when the hero's brakes have been sabotaged) won't see her cat turn into bulgogi.

Because batteries can stock power, you don't need to be always online, and that makes the heck of a difference in a business plan. For instance, at Seoul Grand Park, 16% of the 2.2 km circuit are equipped : 3 sections are 122.5 m long, and a fourth only 5 m long - probably a station. Lighter vehicles, lighter infrastructures, and a promising yield : with a 13 cm airgap, transmission reaches 74%.

KAIST estimates that "if the OLEV charging method is applied to the public bus system in South Korea, the underground power lines need to be installed on only 20% of the total bus route at places like bus stops, parking lots, and intersections". Last year, the Institute clinched a MoU with Seoul Metropolitan Government : standard prototypes are expected in 2012 and commercial launch in 2013.

This disruptive innovation came along with 120 patents, and could not only help Seoulites enjoy greener transportation systems, but also become a star product for Korean exports.

Seoul Village 2010

* "
KAIST introduces environmentally friendly public transportation to Seoul Grand Park in Gwacheon City"

Business Start-Up Education Program - Seoul Global Center

You are a Foreigner residing in Seoul and you want to set up a business in Korea ? The Seoul Global Center is launching a "Business Start-Up Education Program" for you. Free of charge... provided of course your application is selected (20 participants), and submitted on time (only a few days left !).

=> Download the application form.
=> Download the program (see also below)

The Basics course (first term - total 23 hours, see details below) will be held between March 22nd and April 1st, 2010 :
• Participants: Foreigners who reside in Seoul
• Participation Fee: Free of charge
• Application period: March 10 to March 19, 2010
• Application method: After filling out the
application form, please send an e-mail (barammeri@sba.seoul.kr).
• Selection process: Submission of application and screening
• Location: SGC seminar room (5th Floor, Press Center)

And if you are not ready yet to set up your own business, remember that the SGC also provides a job marketplace
on its website.

Seoul Village 2010


* Basics Course Program at a glance

March 22
18:30 ~ 19:30 Orientation Overview of the Business Start-up Education & Business services of SGC
19:30 ~ 21:30 Korean business culture Korean business culture
March 23
18:30 ~ 20:30 Evaluating business potential & finding business ideas Select business items and details
March 24
18:30 ~ 20:30 Establishment How to register a business
March 25
18:30 ~ 21:30 Business plan preparation Business plan preparation
March 27
13:00 ~ 15:00 Location & premises Business location / Location analysis
15:00 ~ 18:00 HR Hiring/ 4 kinds of insurance / Labor Standards Act/management
March 29
18:30 ~ 20:30 Legal requirements Business contracts
March 30
18:30 ~ 20:30 Tax & accounting VAT, income tax, corp. tax, acquisition tax
March 31
18:30 ~ 20:30 Obtaining finance Government's SME's support/preliminary expenses support/how to get help from the allied organizations
April 1
18:30 ~ 20:30 Licenses & permits Copyright and license/Intellectual property rights, different types of business requirements

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Apateu Fashion and Houses of cards

I often compare Korean "apateu" with consumer goods, consumables you discard every 3 years.

Since it's fashion week in Paris these days, I can't help but make the parallel with that other versatile sector. After all, builders do present their collections in showrooms, hire top international designers to redefine home interior, and push comfort to new levels every single season.

Uniform tombstones, the Ford T of Korean housing boom for decades, are at long last deserting the catwalk in favor of much more diverse and exciting forms which are redefining, for better or for worse, XXIst century Seoul.

Not all haute couture ends deserves a museum, not all ready to wear is junk, and Seoul has no choice but to wear out what's given to her. "Aparteu Fashion" has its trends and fads, successes and failures. A couple of years ago, twin towers combined with a commercial base were all the rage... until inhabitants realized how much such hybrids altered their quality of life. Then came the lavish duplexes with their huge window panes and vast terraces... and the shock when fashonistas received their air conditioning bills.

Among the differences between an apateu and a dress is the fact than an apateu can usually be resold with a profit, and that a second hand dress generally comes cheaper than a brand new one, when it is still resalable. Of course, apartment buildings are neither consumables nor fashion items, but when you see an ad for a new complex in a paper or on the TV, you keep wondering.

Seoul Village 2010

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