20070328

Discussion - 3 challenges for Korea

(my answer to a question regarding the critical challenges Korea will face in the 10 years to come)

I were to select 3 challenges, I would pick :
- one that policies can solve but are addressing counterproductively nowadays (the Brain Drain / Capital Drain),
- another one that policies are having a difficult time tackling (China and regional competitivity), and
- yet another one, utterly unpredictable (North Korea).
The fourth challenge (Demographics) could partly find, in the previous 3, solutions more sustainable than today's massive imports of South East Asian wives for the rural poor.

The most vital challenge is NK. I'm not worrying about nukes but about a brutal social / political / economical collapse, and I keep warning my Korean friends about what I call a "Albania Scenario" : they only benchmark with Germany's reunification, but they should also consider post-Hoxja's Albania, the only case vaguely similar to Kim Il-seung / Kim Jong-il's Xanadu (a country run like a sect, a people unable to live in a democracy, nor to survive in a free market).
=> Worst case scenario : a third Bush-Cheney term, with Shinzo Abe's neofascist clique to wrap it up.
=> Best case scenario : Beijing manages to coerce Pyongyang into tougher reforms (at last)


The Brain Drain / Capital Drain issue could prove more critical than it seems - the golden youth of the country is switching continents and it starts showing.
=> Worst case scenario : Korea's "undeclared emigrants" (the name I give to those who have a home and spend quite a lot in Korea but have other homes, passports and niceties overseas) reduce dramatically the time and budget they devote to their country (ie after the burst of the real estate bubble). Korea is left with a few wealthy people, an impoverished middle class and an ever increasing poverty. Even top chaebols could change nationalities (individuals as well as companies).
=> Best case scenario : Seoul decides to leverage on its diaspora (ie a "coming out / coming home" - more transparency vs less taxes and a lighter military service) to strengthen its links with the US, the Middle East and even Europe. Korea must be loved by its own people again. It must also become the herald of cultural diversity in Asia far beyond the shameful exploitation of the international fad for its disposable celebs.

Regional competitivity remains a priority for this administration, but if Korea wants to become a hub, it will need much more focus (ie too much intranational competitivity and confusion). Especially with the return of ultranationalists in Japan and a much fiercer competition from China, whose revisionists have other ideas in mind : beyond the rewriting of Koguryo history, Beijing intends to create a new regional capital of Korea in China !
=> The system of regional clusters and the strengthening of partnerships with Europe could pay.

Gloomy, but Korea's main asset remains its people. That's one of the reasons why it shouldn't risk losing its most promising talents to the rest of Asia or to the US. Also : Korea should stop selling its soul for short term profits, exports and investments : that would be the best way to become a suburb of Shanghai.

20070327

Monica Goodling's silence of the lambs - Red blogule to the State of Terror

John M. Dowd is a lawyer. I'm not sure he's doing his best to help his client*, Monica Goodling, the Justice Department’s White House liaison who, following his advice, refuses to testify before the Senate panel about her boss, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales.
Because, as we saw before**, Dubya's Chief Torture Officer is being grilled on the removal of US attorneys.
According to Dowd, Goodling is afraid of being treated as a witness in a criminal inquiry.
According to me, she is s..t scared of being treated as yet another disposable White House scapegoat.
She knows what this mob is capable of. She knows the dark side of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And that Monica knows she may leave the place with stains on her dress, but of the bloody kind. Courtesy the President of the United States.

* I don't know who is the actual client there, but I've got an idea about who will pay in the end...
** see "George Pontius Pilate Bush lets Gonzales face justice - Red blogule to Our Dear Compassionate Leader" (20070315)

20070315

"Kurdistan, the other Iraq"... or "Kurdistan, the other other Vietnam" ?

Iraq's Kurdistan region opened, through the Kurdistan Development Corporation, a lobbying office in Washington, DC*. Headed by Qubad al-Talabani, son of Jalal Talabani, the President of Iraq as a whole (a black hole some may say), this unit officially promotes investments and tourism in the region. Autonomy and independance could be part of the discussions.

I do feel some sympathy for Kurds in general and I do wish them a peaceful future. Yet, I'm not so sure this is the way everybody wants it and even if Talabani were honest, other players would join the lobbying frenzy.

I remember the intense Iraqi lobbying between the two wars. Who could forget Ahmed Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress ? Among the different approaches for the liberation of Iraq, US theocons deliberately favored the factions that were bound to cause maximum damage. The parting of Iraq and the strengthening of fundamentalists across the region (especially and Iran and Israel) was not only expected but planned from the start.

If I were a US fundamentalist, I surely wouldn't want a democratic and peaceful Kurdistan to emerge in the dead middle of my playground.

A failed proof of concept Kurdistan could not only strengthen radicals in Iran but also infuriate and exacerbate fundamentalists in Turkey. To the contrary, I would seize the opportunity to bring chaos in this relatively protected part of the country, and to exacerbate radicalism everywhere. I would especially infuriate Turkish nationalists and fundamentalists, because as anybody can see these days, the radicalization of Turkey is key to the revival of Christian fundamentalism in Europe.

Don't mistake this initiative as an attempt to put a lock on Kirkuk oil fields : the aim of the game is to get rid of secularism in Turkey.



* see CMD's "The "Other Iraq" Opens a DC Lobbying Office" (20070302)

George Pontius Pilate Bush lets Gonzales face justice - Red blogule to Our Dear Compassionate Leader

"Al has got work to do up there".
Ecce homo. I give you Alberto Gonzales, and it's up to the people to judge, it's up to him to explain why he dismissed some nosy attorneys, it's up to my fuse to explain why he short circuited the Congress.
George W. Bush washes his hands and I see mud on them : his justice promotes scientific revisionism and medieval fundamentalism, attacks the moderates and pacifists, protects Special Interest Groups.
George W. Bush washes his hands and I see blood on them : his justice promotes torture and protects the gunslingers.
George W. Bush pretends to be compassionate and to stand for values ? He should be remembered as the immoral coward who betrayed America.

Go get Alberto Gonzales, the mastermind of this deviant justice, but don't forget to get the man who ordered this kind of plans*.
Go get Alberto Gonzales, the mastermind of Abu Ghraib, but don't forget to impeach his master.



* "plans", "intelligent design", "The Architect"... building a fundamentalist utopia looks demanding on the gray cells side for the promoters, but the aim of the game remains the negation of intelligence for all others.

20070312

Halliburton and the 40 thieves (continued) - Dubai, we have a problem

Exeunt the Texan Oilers, welcome to the Emirate Drillers. Halliburton decides to move its franchise from Houston to Dubai, where CEO David J. Lesar will fell at home (show off new rich, bad taste contest and massive environmental plundering). The politically and environmentally correct TXU deal was just a farewell gift before the camel ride.
Like the KBR spin off. A prerequisite for the move since US military and national security is involved. The Bush administration* learned something from the DP World incident**.

Definitely, this administration can take lessons and good decisions. But only when it comes to this company***.




* Or should I say the Cheney administration ? As Jay Leno put it after the failed attack on the Veep in Afghanistan ("Red blogule to intel kept inside - Cheney caused 23 more deaths" - 20070303), the US were lucky : they could be ruled by George W. Bush now.
** "Red blogule to the DP World - P&O deal's Architects and winners" (20060224)

*** the priority of rescuers after Kathrina crushed the South (see my previous "Red blogule to Halliburton and the 40 thieves" - 20050911)

20070310

Pervasive China's CIA (Central Investment Agency) - Red blogule to go reds go

Last week, to someone asking opinions on the stock market in China, "regarding the event of the last couple of days", I suggested to consider "all 3 words :
  • CHINA : a huge country run like a big corporation. Board members know something about communism but furthermore, they are experts in strategy (hell, this is Sun Tzu's homeland). They know their own weaknesses and plan ahead to correct them. Yet, they cannot contain everything anymore. In the short / medium term, the risk is more social than economical or political (unless a Mao/Putin comes out of the blue and manages to hijack the board).
    => Key issue for long term value for the board : capacity to recycle the ones left behind (a growing caste) and to adapt to network management
  • STOCK : this is the core of capital and this is the most unique variety of communism
    => Key issue for long term value for the board : capacity to control the privatization of the economy beyond the casting of CEOs
  • MARKET : there is the lack of maturity from too many players (regulator, issuers, traders), but also the trend to see abroad (ie Chinese companies listed in Korea, boom in overseas investments, raise in the currency conversion cap for individuals...)
    => Key issue for long term value for the board : capacity to extend its reach without overstretching its controlling abilities

In the long run, the arms purely devoted to that economical imperialism could prove strong. Cynically enough, the best Chinese stocks of tomorrow may not be Chinese today."

Indeed. Yesterday, China's Finance Minister Jin Renqing announced the creation of an investment agency meant to make good use of the country's titanic currency reserves. Starting with a few tens of billions of dollars, this fund is bound to make a dwarf of Singapore's Temasek Holdings.

Let's make it clear : I didn't attend China Corp.'s latest board meeting. I didn't get any stock options.

I'm just glad I was able to guess China's next move on their go game board. Even if I know they already are dozens of moves ahead.

20070307

There is a cloud over the Vice President - Red blogule to criminal liars

As prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald put it, “There is a cloud over the vice president".
A cloud all right. I can even read the tags : abuse of power, treason, lies, lies, lies.
I. Lewis Libby Jr, aka Scooter Libby, lied.
The Vice President lied.
The President lied.
Thousands of US troups and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians died.
More are dying everyday than in the 7/7 London bombings.
Terrorists, absent from Iraq before the US invasion, are now learning their skills and kills in this huge training camp. Abductions, beheadings, chemical attacks... you name it. Coming soon to a theatre near you.
As Scott Reed put it, "The trial has been death by 1,000 cuts for Cheney".

But not for this guy, I'm afraid : from the Nam to Bagram*, this Washington Dodger has a thing for avoiding combat and letting other people catch the bullets.


* see "
Red blogule to intel kept inside - Cheney caused 23 more deaths" (20070301)

20070303

The end of financial safe havens - Red blogule to speculation

Shanghai sneezed, Tokyo coughed, the whole world panicked... but avian flu had nothing to do with it. According to Ben Bernanke, Chief Futurologist Officer at the Fed, this week's small bump on the eternal path of glory of the World's greatest stock exchanges doesn't mean the big naughty R will strike anytime soon.
Yet it shows how nervous investors are, globally. There is a lot of greedy money everywhere and not only from your usual suspects (the so called developped countries) : everybody is well informed and almost free to invest almost anywhere anytime. Speculation remains good business but demands better nerves than ever. Hedge funds were the first to collapse under their own weight and now, even traditional players struggle. The money is there, growth is there too, but the place is so crowded with both experts and beginners that nothing is guaranteed.
There is no such thing as a financial safe haven anymore, and this greedy money will somehow have to focus on tasks more useful for a larger community. No wonder some people have been rediscovering The Capital lately. But with a fresher look.

I like to compare Karl Marx with Louis Pasteur : both were great observers and could deliver pertinent diagnosis, but Carlito couldn't go all the way of experimentation and would often wander too far along the path of interpretation, coming back with irrelevant prescriptions and leaving to other doctors the honor of delivering counterproductive treatments.
I know this is the kind of excuses used in the past by the Supreme Soviet or the CPC (Communist Party of China), but I do think the time has come for the cast of pure speculators to feel the heat and join the Hall of Shame : you have a right to sell weapons, tobacco, alcohol, casino chips, and to make a lot of dough with it, but don't expect to be respected for that.

20070301

Red blogule to intel kept inside - Cheney caused 23 more deaths

The US knew suicide bombers were at large in the Bagram area. Yet, they did nothing to prevent the attack or at least warn their closest partners nearby when Dick Cheney paid a costly visit to this base in Afghanistan : 23 people died including a Korean translator who happened to pass by.
Poor score for a mass murderer who doesn't even know how to shoot by himself* : Lobby Dick already forged the case that caused the death of thousands of US soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

Darth Vader enjoys using the Dark Side of the Force, governing from a hidden spot with his powerful reach... but unlike this excuse for a VP, Anakin Skywalker is not a coward.

Impeach him you should.


* see "White blogule to Dick Cheney - Shooting Star vs silver star" (20060214)
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