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Friday, January 12, 2024

Seoul Smart Life Week - What happens in Vegas stays in Seoul?

So taking more space at CES was not enough: Seoul wants to be a match with the World's leading consumer electronics show and launch 'Seoul Smart Life Week' later this year (Oct 7-9 in COEX).

Mayor OH Se-hoon announced the event at the 640 sqm Seoul Pavilion in Tech West Eureka Park, where 81 companies exhibited their solutions and gizmos (very strong biotech and A.I. verticals behind  Seoul Biohub and Seoul AI Hub). 18 of them claimed a CES Award, but the prize OH and Seoul Business Agency are after means even bigger bucks.

Well the first edition 'only' aims at 100 cities and 200,000 visitors, but it takes time to install a big show in a crowded calendar, and COEX can't host a Barnum the size of CES.

KINTEX would gladly oblige, but Korea's biggest exhibition venue is in Ilsan, Goyang, Gyeonggi-do, with limited hospitality capacity nearby. Seoul wants to become a global or at least an Asian leader, to put for good Tokyo, Hong Kong (and its half-yearly Electronics Fair), or Singapore (COMEX- ITSHOW-The Tech Show-Consumer Electronics Exhibition) behind. 

Seoul plans to change venues after the Jamsil Sports Complex is fully transformed into the Jamsil Sports MICE Complex, with a business hub connecting the COEX, SETEC, Hyundai Motors Global Business Center, Dominique Perrault's new Yeongdong-daero, and of course the Han River in this very vegassy vision mentioned in my recent focus (see 'Seoul waterways and urbanism - the full story'):

Seoul already hosts many tech-related events, but no top-of-mind brand emerges. At least, if it may not seem very original, 'smart life' sounds definitely more human-oriented than the old-tech-y 'electronics' or 'IT'. Unlike CES with the CTA, this new SSLW will not be led by an industry but by a local authority, with city pavilions rather than national spaces. To compete with Vegas, Seoul will not only need new hardware and software, but also the power hitters Korea Inc. sends to the national pavilion. And ultimately, Samsung LG, and Co. will have to be convinced to release buzzworthy novelties 3 months earlier than usual.

Seoul Village 2024
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Monday, January 1, 2024

Seoul Village Season XVIII

(*NB I was finishing this post when I learned about the Assassination attempt on LEE Jae-myung in Busan - I decided not to alter what I wrote below)

Even if it will only start on February 10 with the lunar new year, happy Year of the Blue Dragon.

We can't tell which flames 2024 will throw at us, but let's wish we won't get too much sabre-rattling from the North (3G KIM Jong-un? 4G KIM Ju-ae a.k.a. Joseon's Morning Star General?), the South (Taiwan strait, East China Sea?). the West (a third front after Eastern Europe and the Middle East?). or even the East (so far, Fumio KISHIDA plays it much smarter and more efficiently than fellow Nippon Kaigi predecessor Shinzo ABE to restore the lobby's Imperial Japan revival dreams).

We know for sure that the new year will bring us critical elections in Korea (April 10) and the US (November 5), and that in both cases, the key issue remains 'will moderate at last manage to get rid of controversial figures that have been undermining democracy and their own parties for years?'

A return of Donald TRUMP would undoubtedly weaken US presence in the region and jeopardize South Korea's security. The lack of courage of moderates within GOP ranks leaves the job of removing this cancer to judges, and should TRUMP make it all the way to the RNC, he would face a struggling Joe BIDEN and get the support of a third candidate likely to siphon a lot of ballots off the incumbent (the inept Robert F. KENNEDY Jr only runs on his name and Republican funds).

Korea can't seem to remove its own destructive cells from both ends of the spectrum, but at least there are signs that moderates are starting to realize that their parties have no future with people like LEE Jun-seok on the right and LEE Jae-myung on the left*. 

Toxic anti-feminist LEE Jun-seok is threatening to found his own party ahead of the elections, and contributed to discourage IHN Yohan/ John LINTON and his short-lived innovation committee supposed to reform an irrelevant PPP.

Korea's own TRUMP, LEE Jae-myung, resists all demands to quit as DP head - like the 45th US president, he only cares about himself and eluding jail. His party courageously accepted to end his impunity but justice, crippled as much as the police by the controversial reforms of YOON Suk-yeol's predecessor, can't reach him, even as deaths linked to the scandals surrounding him keep piling up.

At least, moderates seem to have been gaining some momentum lately. LEE Nak-yon to the left and HAN Dong-hoon to the right, far from being the divisive figures painted as devils by radical media from the opposite sides, are taking the right steps for the future; LEE by taking a moral stand against the DP's controversial leader (at last some hope to restore the values of KIM Dae-jung and ROH Moo-hyuns within the party), HAN by forming a dream team of advisors ticking at least on paper all the relevant boxes to fix the nation's structural divides.

But even before considering any potential presidential face-off for 2017, the unproductive stalemate between an often self-destructive executive power and an assembly controlled by an almost always obstructive opposition must end this coming April. Of course, that may not happen...

Another thing we already know about 2024: Korea will smash its own infamous record low fertility rate, now expected to nosedive down to .62.

A toxic global and local political climate, a toxic climate, period, and toxic tensions at all levels certainly don't help young Koreans (who already struggle to purchase a home) prioritize babies. For the first time this year, more strollers were sold for pets than for kids...

Mainstream media start paying attention to the not so long term consequences for the nation at the economic, social, but also political level - even a stronger than ever K9 unit won't stop tanks at the DMZ.

On one hand, ever more pressure on young Koreans, on the other, already less competition for decent universities... If that could mean down the road less hagwon - budongsan rat race insanity...

Let's talk about mental health, precisely. And not just because the suicide of Parasite actor LEE Sun-kyun ended an already far too tragic year 2023. 'It's okay not to be okay', and to talk about it. So reach out, don't let yourself and others slip down any kind of rabbit hole. And don't judge yourself or them if you or they do. It's a beautiful sign of strength to make a call that can save a life (Korea Suicide Prevention Center: 1393 - Life Line Korea: 1588.9191); it's a sign of great character to keep reading opinions you disagree with. 

We all know peace and love are hard to find, but we all can start by stopping making war at ourselves and each other. And yes, even in the darkest times, we must never forget to laugh. Because humor is all about facing tragedy. And yes again, we must never lose our sense of wonder, because for better or  for worse, life is full of wonder.

Have, literally, a wonderful new year.

UPDATE 202402

Scratch part of that. Days after I wrote these lines, LEE Nak-yon disgraced himself by palling around with the very noxious LEE Jun-seok. A short-lived but damning bromance...

Seoul Village 2024
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Assassination attempt on LEE Jae-myung in Busan

LEE Jae-myung was stabbed in the neck this morning in Busan on the campaign trail. The 50-year-old culprit was arrested on the spot and LEE rushed to the hospital in critical condition. I wish Korea's opposition leader the soonest recovery.

As much as I dislike the character and the threat he poses to justice and democracy, this is the very negation of democracy and justice, and a very somber day for Korea.

This tragic event echoes the 2006 stabbing of another controversial figure, PARK Geun-hye, also in the neck. PARK went on to become president 6 years later. I wish LEE well, but not that well.

Seoul Village 2024
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