Previous month:
March 2010
Next month:
May 2010

April 2010

Announcing the GyeongGi Province Experience!

To learn about GyeongGi Province, there are many great English-language resources on the web. 

A good place to start would be Wikipedia. Just going to Google and typing in "gyeonggi province" gets another long list of sites. Be sure to try alternate spellings too: kyunggi province, kyeonggi provincekyeongki province, kyonggi province, kyunggi-do, kyeonggi-do, kyungki-do, kyonggi-do. (Isn't it great that GyeongGi's got a pronunciation that's neither here nor there in English?) Finally, try variations on these search terms too: invest in gyeonggi, life in gyeonggi, gyeonggi companies, etc.

The government of GyeongGi has a great looking site. It also has another one about living in GyeongGi Province. Invest Korea offers its own page about investment opportunities in Gyeonggi Province

You might even try visiting Twitter for investment opportunities. I got something like 200 hits when I typed "Gyeonggi" into the search box at (You'll need to be a LinkedIn member to use this. Signing-up is free and if you do, be sure to add me to your network.)

 No study would be complete with out a map of GyeongGi Province. And while you're there, check out the Photos, Videos, additional Wikipedia sites, Webcams, Google Buzz and Terrain (The Real Estate option seems a little dead though; don't waste your time.)

If you've still got questions about GyeongGi Province, you can email me and I'll likely know the answer or know someone who can get it for us (sometimes free; sometimes for a price... depends on the question, of course). Or want some printed materials about investing in GyeongGi Province? Again, email me. Care to discuss with others? Then post a discussion at Korea Business Central and I almost guarantee, if it includes a reference to Gyeonggi Province, someone will answer.

OK, so don't say you can't find out more than you want to know. But what fun is any of this? And how deep is your understanding if you're just reading words?

See, hear, feel, smell, taste and feel GyeongGi Province through the GyeongGi Province Experience! 

Keep your eyes on this page as the program takes shape in the weeks and months to come. 

Can't wait? Then, again... just email me and I'll be glad to fill you in.

Nojeok Hill, My View from the Top - History of the Area Around Nojeok Hill

On the main intersection in Seongpo-Dong, across from Star Plaza and about a five minute walk from the base of Nojeok Hill is a historical marker:

4-24-2010 3-19-35 AM 

I've passed it many times but hadn't bothered to read what it said until recently. It's a fascinating story about the history of our neighborhood. Here are a couple photos of the marker, along with its translation:



Seong Meori [Meaning Castle Head

(Seongpo Landing, Seong-Doo [Also meaning Castle Head])

Situated between Tae Hill of Gojan-Dong and Dokju Valley of Seongpo-Dong, this village in Gunnae-Myeon, Ansan-Gu was called Seong-Got-Po-Chon-Ri in Choseon times and renamed Seongpo-Ri at the end of the Choseon period. Fishermen used the area as their forward landing point along the zone running about 300 meters to the southwest and 400 meters to the south of where Star Plaza is currently located. The feng shui (Korean: "poong su") of this spot saw it as the head of a castle, thus it was called Seong Meori (Meaning "Castle Head"] Landing. Later, a boat landing was set up in Sadong Gura after the Korean War. But this blocked the water and prevented boats from coming and going to Seong Meori so the fishermen left for places like Gura (Currently: Sa-Dong) and Baeot (Currently: Bono-Dong) to carry out their livelihoods. 

The Seong Meori area became more suitable for farming, and the farming village which sprung up was the home of the Lees of Yeoju, the Shins of Yeongweon and the Yeoms of Paju; it had 76 residences. After the old neighborhood system was abolished in 1976, the area was transformed into what it is today, starting with construction of Artist Apartments, and then [Housing Corporation] Apartment Complex #9 and [Housing Corporation] Complex #10. Right up until the neighbornood system abolition, every year around January 15 on the lunar calendar, a festival was held partway up the slope of Nojeok Hill to wish for the well-being of the village.

As mentioned above, this is Star Plaza:


Here's a map of the area. The red lines show the previous waterline around Seong Meori Landing:

4-26-2010 3-36-14 AM

About the Gyeonggi Association of Foreign-Invested Companies and My Role As Advisor

Following my designation in February as a Gyeonggi Province FDI Advisor (For more information: Post #1, Post #2, Post #3), I was invited to become an advisor to the Gyeonggi Association of Foreign-Invested Companies, too. This organization, based out of Pyeongtaek in south Gyeonggi, is funded by the Gyeonggi Province government, member company dues and fee-based services. Its purpose is to provide support to the foreign-invested companies of Gyeonggi Province and it is an honor for me to serve as an advisor to the Association. 

Here is a copy of the Letter of Commission which I was awarded at the directors' meeting:


The directors' meeting was held at the Ramada Plaza Hotel in Suweon but I had travelled down to Pyeongtaek a couple weeks before on March 24 in order to meet Secretary General Jake Kim at the GAFIC office to find out directly from him about the work of the Association. Here are some of the notable facts I learned in my meeting with him.

  • There are something like 800 foreign-invested companies with a presence in GyeongGi Province. Of these, roughly 1/3 are Japanese, 1/3 American and 1/3 European-invested.
  • When I asked why the GAFIC website has not been translated to English, Secretary General Kim explained to me that even though the member companies are foreign-owned, most are run by Korean management teams. 
  • Even though most member companies are managed by Koreans, there are still a number of Korean production sites which have foreign heads and the Association offers Korean lessons, Korean culture field trips and other services from time-to-time to these non-Koreans staff.
  • The Association provides services to GyeongGi Province-based foreign-invested companies regardless of their membership status with the Association. Many of these services are free and often involve interfacing with the Provincial Government bureaucracy to resolve issues unique to foreign-invested companies.
  • There are a half-dozen or so industrial complexes designated for foreign-invested companies in Gyeonggi Province and they are mostly concentrated in the southern region near Pyeongtaek, which explains why the GAFIC office is located there, too.
  • The federal and provincial governments offer a number of incentives to foreign-invested companies that set up a manufacturing presence in these designated industrial complexes. To qualify as a foreign-invested company requires foreign ownership of 10% or more (which was a lot less than I would have expected).
  • The vast majority of the foreign-invested companies in Gyeonggi Province are suppliers to the Korean chaebol, such the automobile factories of Hyundai/Kia, the LCD display production of LG and the semiconductor operations of Samsung. Very few (if any!) of these companies are selling directly to Korean consumers or non-chaebol companies.
  • I found it interesting to learn that once the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) is passed, Gyeonggi Province is expecting an influx of Chinese-owned companies. This is in order for them to take advantage of tariff loopholes in KORUS. Currently, there are very few, if any, Chinese companies of note in Gyeonggi Province.

The Directors' meeting which I attended on April 7 was actually three meetings in a row. I had not realized this in advance, but I learned a lot of helpful information about business in Gyeonggi Province by sitting through the entire four-hour event.

  1. The first meeting was held to sign an MOU between GAFIC and the Ramada Plaza Hotel agreeing to special rates and conditions for GAFIC members. The Ramada Plaza Hotel is the only five-star hotel in Gyeonggi Province and I got the feeling even non-members, if introduced through GAFIC (or me!), could get those discounts on a case-by-case basis.
  2. We then met with representatives of Invest KOREA, which is the agency under KOTRA charged with promoting foreign investment into Korea as a whole. Several GAFIC members were in attendance, asking for help from the Invest KOREA representatives in solving issues unique to foreign-invested companies. One of the main issues what what a foreign-invested company should do with its facilities when it wished to withdraw from Korea; if those facilities were not easily movable off of the zones designated only for foreign-invested companies, then they could not often find a buyer.
  3. Next, over a catered dinner by the hotel, the directors and advisors of GAFIC discussed ways to assist the foreign-invested companies in Korea. 
  4. Finally, we got a tour of the Ramada Plaza Hotel. (Click here for photos of the suite where Former US Vice-President Al Gore stayed last year when he attended a conference on the environment in Gyeonggi Province.)

Secretary General Kim and the GAFIC team are ready to help. If you want information about GAFIC, you can reach the team through the GAFIC website. Or if you wish to do things in a bit more Korean way, contact me and I would be glad to introduce you directly.

Yet More Help with 그것이 알고 싶다

4-22-2010 12-00-27 AM

I've gotten help with a particular Korean grammatical construction twice now already (Post #1, Post #2) Today, my colleague D. Bannon emailed me as follows:

[Here are] my two bits on the "that's what I wanna know" discussion.  I asked this question years ago, back in the 80s, but never found a satisfactory answer until I read Prof. Sohn's book, quoted in the attached document.  Enjoy! 

With D. Bannon's permission and help from Prof. Sohn's book, here's his (as always, very helpful!) explanation:


그것이 알고 싶다!—THAT’S what I want to know!

나는 그것을 알고 싶다/나는 그것 알고 싶다, does it make ANY sense?  It does, actually, and it all depends on the verb.  A nominative case particle (이/가) is used in place of usual accusative particle (을/를) to add emphasis.  Think of이/가as a verbal italic, as in, “THAT’S what I want to know.”  [나는 그것이 알고 싶다]  In speech this places the focus on the object of the embedded verb, but the decision for which particle to use is based on the verb itself.  The verb dictates if the nominative or accusative must be used or if they are interchangeable, as explained by Ho-Min Sohn:

The desiderative construction with the adjective siphta ‘be wishful, be de-sirable, wish’ is a peculiar type of sensory construction.  First, the adjective must be preceded by a clause, which is its object.  Second, this object clause is nominalized by the gerundive suffix –ko.  Third, when the clause before –ko siphta is transitive, the object of the embedded verb may be marked with either a nominative or an accusative particle.  When siph-e hata occurs, the object is always in the accusative case.

na  nun   kheyik      i/ul     mek-ko    (ga/lul)   siph-ta 

I    TC     cake     NM/AC  eat-NOM   NM/AC  wish-DC

‘I want to eat cake.’

Mia nun kyeyik    i/ul        mek-ko    (ga/lul)   siph-e      ha-n-ta

Mia TC   cake   NM/AC   eat-NOM  NM/AC   wish-INF  do-IN-DC

‘Mia wants to eat cake.’

Simply put, if the verb is desiderative, as with –고 싶다, a nominative case particle may be used to add emphasis.  Again from Sohn:

The desiderative adjective siphta ‘be desirable, wish’ is a special transitive sensory adjective.  It is a bound adjective and is used only when preceded by a verb clause that ends in the nominalizer suffix –ko.  

na  nun  ku  chinkwu  ka   po-ko     siph-e

I    TC   the   friend  NM  see-to  wishful-INT

‘I wish to see that friend.’

이/가 plays an essential role in spoken language, bringing the focus of a given sentence directly to the most important point of the speech—which may or may not be the subject of the sentence.  As Sohn explains:

The accusative particle alternates with the nominative particle in causative sentences. . . . Desiderative sentences show similar alternation.

hyeng    un   tampay      lul/ka      phiwu-ko      siph-ess-e-yo

brother TC  cigarette   AC/NM   smoke-NOM    wish-PST-POL

‘My older brother wanted to smoke.’

In desiderative sentences, the accusative-marked nominal is associated with the transitive verb (e.g., phiwuta ‘smoke’), whereas the nominative-marked nominal is related to the emotive adjective siphta ‘wish’, as in hyeng un [tampay lul phiwu-ko] siph-ess-ta and hyeng un tampay ka [phiwu-ko] siph-ess-ta, respectively.

If the emphasis is on my own curiousity, I would say, “That’s what I want to know.”  나는 그것을 알고 싶다. However, in colloquial usage, the desiderative auxiliary verb indicates “that the speaker or subject wishes for the action or state of the main verb to happen or come about,” as explained Ihm, Ho Bin, Hong, Kyung Pyo and Chang, Suk In.  The emphasis rests on the object to be known, requiring the nominative case particle to emphasize this point.  So why the이/가 nominative case particle?  그것이 알고 싶다!  


Im, Ho Bin, et al.  Korean Grammar for International Learners: New Edition.  Yonsei University Press (2001): 354.  Translated into English by Ross King.

Sohn, Ho-Min.  Cambridge Language Surveys: The Korean Language.  Cambridge University Press (2001): xix-xx, 287, 331, 384.

Key to Sohn’s abbreviations:

NM  Nominative case particle

TC   Topic-contrast particle

INT  Intimate speech level or suffice

AC   Accusative particle

NOM Nominalizer suffic

PST  Past tense and perfect aspect suffix

POL  Polite speech level suffix or particle

INF  Infinitive suffix

DC   Declarative sentence-type suffix

My Associate Met Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and Explained to Him Why Dokdo Belongs to Korea

I met Professor Hosaka Yuji at the inaugural meeting of the World FTA Forum, which is the association run by Chairman Chang-Woo Lee, my former boss from LG International Corp. At that meeting, we became associates by virtue of our joint membership on the World FTA Forum operating committee. (Professor Hosaka and Chairman Lee are 4th and 5th from left, respectively, in the photo below.)

IMG_2415 Professor Hosaka is originally from Japan and currently teaches Japanese studies at Sejong University in Seoul. But what's extra remarkable about him is that he is a naturalized Korean citizen!

His decision to change nationalities came about as he studied the history of Dokdo (called "Takeshima" in Japanese), which are a couple islands in the East Sea (sometimes called the "Sea of Japan") and which are the subject of a long dispute between Korea and Japan. (A few Koreans are even taking this dispute to the billboards and newspapers of the US.)

Both countries claim ownership, but Korea has managed to occupy the islands militarily and in the course of his studies on the subject, Professor Hosaka came to accept the Korean position. He is now Director of the Dokdo Research Institute and a leading Korean advocate for Korean sovereignty of the islands.

Last Thursday's edition of the Jungang Ilbo published an article by Professor Hosaka regarding his meeting with Prime Minister Hatoyama in 2006. It is a remarkable recount of the events and I have included the Korean article and its English translation below.


내가 만난 하토야마 총리

My Meeting with Prime Minister Hatoyama

4-18-2010 8-34-26 PM 나는 2006년 5월에 지인의 소개로 방한 중이던 하토야마 유키오 일본 민주당 간사장(당시)을 만났다. 독도에 대한 한국 측 논리를 일본어로 설명해 줄 사람을 찾았기 때문이다.

An acquaintance arranged for me to meet Yukio Hatoyoma when he visited Korea in May 2006. At the time, he was General Secretary of the Democratic Party of Japan and was looking for someone to explain to him in Japanese the logic of Korea's point of view regarding Dokdo.

당시의 민주당은 2005년 9월의 중의원 선거 참패로 국회의원 수가 격감한 상황이었다. 그러나 나는 일본 제1야당에도 한국 측 독도 인식을 전달하는 것이 큰 의미가 있다고 생각하고 요청에 응했다.

Having been crushed in the House of Representatives elections of September 2005, the Democratic Party of Japan had seen their numbers in the Diet fall sharply. But I agreed to the request because I saw it as a meaningful opportunity to share the perspective of Korea regarding Dokdo with the leading Japanese opposition party.

서울의 어느 호텔 음식점에서 만난 하토야마 간사장은 언론 매체를 통해서 본 것보다 훨씬 예리한 인상을 주는 인물이었다. 민주당 국회의원 2명과 비서실장, 그리고 나의 지인이 동석했다. 시간은 당초 30분을 예정했으나 그들은 내 설명을 1시간 반 정도 들었다. 그래도 시간이 충분치는 못했다. 그런데 내 설명을 듣고 나서 하토야마 간사장은 독도가 조선 땅임을 인정한 1877년의 ‘태정관 지령문’ 등을 가리키면서 역사적 사실로는 ‘일본 측 참패’, 즉 역사적으로는 독도는 한국 땅일 수 있다는 뉘앙스로 소감을 말했다. 그러나 샌프란시스코 조약에 의한 독도의 귀속 문제에 관해서는 독도를 ‘미국이 재검토하여 일본 것으로 결론을 냈을 것’이라고 강조했다. 당시는 2006년이었으므로 2008년 7월에 발견된 일본의 독도영유권을 부정하는 미 국무부 극비문서 등이 아직 알려지기 이전의 상황이었다.

I met General Secretary Hatoyama at a hotel restaurant in Seoul and he came across to me as someone much shrewder than the impression I'd gotten from seeing him in the media. He attended along with two national assemblymen from the Democratic Party, along with his office manager. I was also joined by my acquaintance. We had initially scheduled to meet for just thirty minutes but the visitors listened to my explanation for about an hour and a half. Even so, there wasn’t enough time. But after listening to my explanation, General Secretary Hatoyama pointed to, among other things, the “Tae-Jeong-Gwan Directive” of 1877 which recognized Dokdo as being Chosun [Korean] land and the historical fact of this “Japanese catastrophe”; this was a nuanced way of saying that, historically, Dokdo might be Korean land. But regarding the issue of Dokdo's jurisdiction based on the Treaty of Peace with Japan, he emphasized that “the US re-considered the matter and would have come to the conclusion that [Dokdo] belongs to Japan.” As it was 2006, the top secret documents of the US Department of State that denied Japanese sovereignty over Dokdo and which were discovered in July 2008, had not yet come to light.

4-18-2010 8-45-01 PM 하토야마 간사장은 독도의 역사적 사실에 대해서는 어느 정도 인정했지만 샌프란시스코 조약을 둘러싼 국제법적 해석에 있어서 한국 측 논리(당시), 즉 독도를 한국 땅으로 인정한 1946년의 연합국 문서가 51년에 조인된 샌프란시스코 조약에도 반영됐다는 논리를 ‘한국 측 논리일 뿐’이라고 일축했다. 이에 덧붙여 ‘나는 일본인이니까 역시 다케시마(독도의 일본명)는 일본 것이라고 생각한다’고 민족주의적 감정을 드러냈다. 그 모습에 나는 실망감을 느꼈다. 현재도 그 상황 그대로라면 하토야마 총리의 생각은 독도는 ‘역사적으로 한국 것이었을 가능성은 있지만 결과적으로 샌프란시스코 조약상 일본 것이 됐고 자신은 일본인이므로 그것을 믿는다’는 것일 수 있다.

Prime Minister Hatoyama recognized the historical facts of Dokdo to a certain degree but, regarding it as just the Korean opinion, rejected the Korean logic of the time regarding the interpretation of international law surrounding the Treaty of Peace with Japan [signed between the US and Japan] – which is that the documented position of the Allied countries of 1946 which recognized Dokdo as Korean land would have been reflected in the Treaty of Peace with Japan, which was signed in 1951. In addition, he showed ethnocentric emotion by saying, “Since I am Japanese, I think that Takeshima (the Japanese name for Dokdo) belongs to Japan.” I felt disappointed by that expression. Even if our meeting took place now, Prime Minister Hatoyama might still think, “There is a possibility that Dokdo was Korean historically but as it ended up to be Japanese in the Treaty of Peace with Japan, this is what I believe because I am Japanese.”

그런데 그 후 새로운 자료가 발견됐고 한국 측 논리는 크게 발전됐다. 하토야마 총리가 현재의 샌프란시스코 조약에 관한 한국 측 해석을 들으면 개인적으로 생각을 좀 더 수정할 가능성이 있다고 본다. 그는 지난해 12월에는 고등학교 사회과 교재 해설서에서 ‘다케시마(독도)는 일본 땅’이라는 직접적 표현을 삭제하는 데 결정적 역할을 했다. 그러나 최근 기자들의 질문 공세에 밀려 독도에 대한 ‘일본 정부의 방침을 바꿀 생각이 전혀 없다’는 견해를 밝혔다. 그러나 그 자리에서도 그는 ‘독도는 일본 땅’이라는 표현만은 피했고, 외상도 “한국이 (독도를) 불법점거하고 있다는 표현은 쓰고 싶지 않다”고 말했다. 지지율이 계속 하락하고 있는 현 상황에서 7월의 참의원선거를 앞에 두고 민주당에 불리한 발언은 피해야 하는 입장에서 불가피한 선택이었을지 모르나 내 고교와 대학교선배이기도 한 그가 민족주의적 감정을 극복하고 아시아를 크게 품었으면 하는 마음이 간절하다.

But since then, new materials have been discovered and the Korean position has advanced greatly. If Prime Minister Hatoyama were to listen to the current Korean interpretation regarding the Treaty of Peace with Japan, I think he might revise his personal thoughts on it a bit more. Last December in a position paper regarding the social studies curriculum in Japanese high schools, he took a decisive role in having the direct expression deleted which said, “Takeshima (Dokdo) is Japanese land.” Recently, having been pressured under questioning by journalists, he expressed this position: “There is no consideration being made to change the Japanese government’s guidelines” regarding Dokdo. But even as he said that, he still avoided using the expression “Dokdo is Japanese land” and the foreign minister has also said, “[We] don’t want to use the expression that Korea is illegally occupying [Dokdo]”. Currently, as Prime Minister Hatoyama's support is continuing to fall and with the House of Councillors elections coming up in July, it may be an inevitable choice to avoid expressions which are disadvantageous to the Democratic Party of Japan. But he is also my senior alumni from both high school and university and I have a strong hope that he will overcome his ethnocentric bias and embrace the Asian perspective.

I Received More Help with Understanding the Grammatical Nuances of "그것이 알고싶다".

A few months ago I posted an answer from a Korean linguist about a grammatical point that had stumped me for a long time. (Click here for original post.) 

Just recently, another kind linguist, "Xwind", shared more insights on this matter which has further helped me to grasp the nuance. 

He first posted a short comment on the previous posting:

Hi Steven,

I think the particle "-이" in "그것이 알고싶다" is more related to topic or focus marking. For example, the difference between 영희를 in (4a) and 영희가 in (4b) may come from the contrastive focus marking. With (4b) you might imply that IT IS YENGHI (영희) who you don't like to meet (not someone else). Thus my contention is that the particle '이' in 그것이 is basically related to focus marking. 

I replied with the following clarification question:

Thanks for the insights.

Then would you say that 그것이 알고싶다 might be translated as "That is what I want to know." but 그것을 알고싶다 might be "I want to know that"? Both are the same in meaning but the focus is slightly different.

He then provided this very detailed additional message:

Dear Steven,

I will elaborate on my comment a bit here. 

First of all, I would like to say that a few semantic factors promote the use of the subject particle -이/-가 for the object noun. 

The contrastive focusing effect is only one of them, which is also closely related to the example '그것이 알고싶다'. 

In linguistics, the relationship between the two constructions 'It is easy to please John' and 'John is easy to please' is assumed to be derived by a special type of verbs,i.e., easy, tough, seem, etc.

Avoiding complex linguistic terminologies and concepts, I assume that verbs like 알다 'to know' do not belong to the same class of verbs like 'easy'. 

Thus, the derivational relationships between the two sentences in (1) and (2) would not be the same.

(1) may be the Korean equivalent of the English examples in the post but (2) would not be. 

In (1a), 철수 is the object of the sentence. In (1b), it is the grammatical subject of the sentence. (logically, it is still the object of the sentence).

In (2), on the other hand, the noun 그것 remains as the object in both sentences whether it is marked by the object particle -을 as in (2a) or by the subject particle -이 as in (2b).

This is because the subject position is occupied by the pronoun 우리 'we' in both sentences. 

Since the subject 나는 and the object 그것을/그것이 in (2) do not change their respective grammatical roles the only difference remaining between 그것이 and 그것을 is the alternation of the particles between -을 and -이. 

What would (else) the effect of the alternation of the particle be? 

Given all this, the use of the particle -이 in 그것이 in (2b) must be primarily motivated for the effect of the (contrastive) focus. 

(1) a. 철수를 만나기 쉽다. 

     b. 철수가 만나기 쉽다.

(2)  a. 나는 그것을 알고싶다.

     b. 나는 그것이 알고싶다.  

The focusing effect becomes more prominent when you use the Korean equivalent of the ’Not A but B’ expressions in English. 

For example, 

In a), which is a semantically-neutral context, you can use either the object particle -를 or the subject particle -가 for the object noun 사과 without much difference in the overall meaning.

If the sentence is uttered out of the blue 사과가 sounds more natural.

1a)     나는 (지금) 사과가/사과를 먹고싶다.

     ‘I just want to eat an apple (now)’

Now, suppose if I want to give a sense of contrast to the sentence like below.

2)  아침에는 사과를/사과가 먹고싶었는데 지금은 배가 먹고싶다.

    ‘I wanted to eat an apple in the morning but I want to eat a pear now.’

As you can see, the object noun ‘사과’ is okay either with the object particle ‘사과를’ or with the subject (once again focus) particle ‘사과가’ in the main clause.

On the other hand, the use of the object particle -를 for the noun in the subsequent clause, as in ‘배를’ in (3) sounds quite unnatural to me, hence I give two questions marks for 3).

3) ?? 아침에는 사과를/사과가 먹고싶었는데 지금은 배를 먹고싶다. 

Today, I can only give one case where the subject particle -이 can be used for the object noun, for the effect of focusing, but as I said there are some more cases where the use of the particle -이 is grammatically required.  

I hope this rough explanation would be helpful to you. 

All the best,


 Whew, I can't write this insightfully no matter how hard I try. Thanks, Xwind!

The "Great Train eXpress" Sounds to Me Like Something Out of the "Old West"

Korea's a small country, but sometimes it feels much larger than it is because of the traffic issues.Things have been getting better -- much better! -- fast, though. 

In fact, the first national highway from Seoul to Busan (approximately the same distance as Dallas to Houston, or NYC to Washington, DC) was only finished about thirty years ago. Now, the country is covered in highways and, especially once you get outside the major cities, travel is fast and comfortable.

6a011279704a5b28a401347fdcdf94970c Even within the Seoul metropolitan area, the traffic is improving. When I got to Korea in 1994, I remember that just taking the 15 mile trip from Ansan to Suweon was a painful 1-2 hours on the weekend; today, it seldom takes more 20 minutes.

The Seoul subway system boasts something like 300+ stations now, and is growing continuously. It's been connected to various satellite cities (which mostly means Gyeonggi province) for a long-time but the lines are continuously being extended much deeper into the province. Still, travel times are relatively long. For example, from my office here in Ansan, the subway takes about 40 minutes to reach the outskirts of southern Seoul.

And KTX, the Korean high-speed rail system, is growing rapidly too, with 2nd generation carriage upgrades being introduced in stages, taking riders from one end of the country to the other. (Though, the only boarding point in GyeongGi province is at Gwangmyeong station, which is not convenient to get to from just about anywhere.)

Now, the Korean government is introducing a brand new public transport network that promises to take riders quickly from various points in Gyeonggi province into Seoul and back out again at speeds reaching 200km/hr. It's called GTX, which stands for "Great Train eXpress". If it really does begin service on schedule in 2016, our current two-hour trip from Ansan to Euijeongbu will be more than cut in half. Most of the travel time will be spent just getting to Geumjeong station, the nearest junction to us. 

I am surprised that there is very little English information on the Net about this. The official site at doesn't have an English version. I found an official (Korean) blog called "Mr. GTX" ( but the last post was three months ago.

However, I did find this English-language promotional video! It appears to be several videos combined into one, so there's a lot of repetition, but here it is nevertheless:

In addition, here is a TV report posted yesterday which is about the interfacing of GTX with another rail project in Yongil. Click the photo to view the Korean language video in a separate window. I have provided the English translation of the report below, but the original article is here.

4-14-2010 1-51-02 AM

[Anchor] Last April, Gyeonggi Province proposed GTX, a rapid rail transit system for the metropolitan area, as a means of resolving the serious traffic problems in and strengthening competitiveness of the Seoul region. It's already been one year since the GTX announcement. Let's take a look at the work going on in Gyeonggi Province to link the transportation networks and achieve efficient GTX construction.

[Reporter] With the opening scheduled for the end of June, trial testing is underway on the Yongin city light rail line.

Running a total of 18.1km from Giheung to Everland, the Yongin light rail line is designed to accomodate up to 226 people in one carriage.

The Yongin light rail line connects with Giheung station on the extended section of the Bundang line, which is currently under construction. Riders will be able to transfer here and it is expected that this will make both Seoul and the Suweon area more accessible. 

Gyeonggi province is currently working on GTX, the rapid rail system for the metropolitan area, and is considering a plan to link the Yongin light rail line to the Dongtan-Samseong section of the GTX system, one line of which runs through Yongin.

[Interview] Gyeonggi Province Green Railway Division Head Sang-Gyo Seo says, "We are looking into extending the light rail so that it can connect with GTX.

Exactly one year ago, Gyeonggi province proposed GTX as a revolutionary means of solving traffic problems in the metropolitan area.

Running at 40m underground at speeds up to 200km/hr, GTX was proposed as a revolutionary transportation network that connects all areas of Seoul and Gyeonggi Province within a 30-minute travel time.

To achieve effective operations of GTX, and even as it promotes the early opening of the extended portion of the Bundang line, Gyeonggi Province is actively working to build a traffic network that connects with the light rail line.

©G News Plus News | Eun-Hee Choi

Date/time : 2010.04.13 16:19

How I Ordered 200 English/Korean Double-Sided, Full-Color Business Cards in Korea for About $12, Including Two-Day Shipping

The following instructions are prepared so that almost anyone can order, even without being able to read or type in Korean. However, a small amount of Korean typing ability is necessary for entering the mailing address.

1. I had my designer Catalin Soreanu prepare a two-page PDF of my business card (dimensions: 92mm x 52mm) with one page in English and one in Korean.

2. I opened Internet Explorer because other browsers don't work in Korea for e-commerce.

3. I went to  

4. I select the following graphic that says “파일주문명함” (actual graphic may be changed later).

4-9-2010 4-07-17 AM
5. I selected these options.

4-9-2010 4-12-06 AM
6.  I then clicked this button.

4-9-2010 4-23-28 AM
7.  I filled in the next screen as follows (though when I got to the address section, I had to follow the sub-process shown below this graphic).

4-9-2010 4-31-36 AM

 7a. In the address lookup above, the following pop-up window appeared.

4-9-2010 4-30-07 AM

7b. I entered the "dong (동)" in which I live and clicked "찾기".

4-9-2010 4-30-55 AM

7c.  I got a list of choices.

4-9-2010 4-31-11 AM

I clicked the one that corresponds to where I want the cards delivered and then returned to the main form to enter the rest of my address.

8. After finishing the large form above and clicking "확인", the following screen was shown to me:

4-9-2010 4-32-16 AM
9.  I then sent the amount shown in the blue box above to the bank account shown in the red box. I was sure to send from the bank account owned by the person I indicated in the form previously (which was me). I did it online but I could have sent payment by visiting the bank.

10. At any time I can check the status of my order by clicking "배송조회" on the home page:

4-9-2010 4-50-54 AM

On the next screen, I need to click the "파일주문명함" tab to find my name in the list, along with the order status:

4-9-2010 4-51-50 AM


Business Introduction to Potential Korea Representative for US Investment Firm (US & Korea)

Potential Representative I had been introduced to an investment fund manager in the US who is channeling funds from Korean investors into US real estate. A colleague of mine and member at Korea Business Central indicated his interest in discussing the business with the fund manager and I gladly introduced the two people to each other.

[Photo at Yeongok temple south of Jiri Mountain National Park. (Taken February 28, 2010)]

Introduction to Source of Information about Korean Companies (Korea)

Korean CompaniesA member at Korea Business Central asked me if I could introduce her to contacts at a certain class of company in Korea for a market study. While I personally don't know anyone directly, one of my contacts through my position as GyeongGi Province FDI Advisor provides service to hundreds of companies in the GyeongGi province area and is getting some of the information my colleague needs.

[View of Gwacheon city from top of Gwanak mountain. (Taken on April 11, 2010)]

Business Introduction Provided for Phone Interpreter (US & Korea)

Phone Interpreter  I was contacted by a company in the US looking for a phone interpreter for a business call. I was not able to handle this request at the time but I forwarded his information to a colleague (and member at Korea Business Central) who was able to follow-up and offer him this service.

[Photo of the Yeonju Hermitage at Gwanak mountain south of Seoul. (Taken April 11, 2010)]

A Summary of Peter Underwood's Interview on Korea Business Central

Peter Underwood, long-time business consultant in Seoul and partner at IRC, was the fifth interviewee in our Korea Business Interview Series hosted at

Visit to listen to the interview online, download the .mp3, read the transcript AND/OR participate in the lively discussion at

4-8-2010 6-12-43 AM  (The full list of interviews in the Korea Business Interview Series can be found here:

Main points of the interview:

Topic #1 - Dramatic Development of the Modern Korean Economy

  • Over the last 50 years, Korea has progressed from dire poverty to become the 13th largest economy in the world.
  • Koreans used to view themselves as inferior to most of the world and lived frugally. Today they are confident in themselves and enjoy affluence. Koreans today are open and global minded.

Topic #2 - Factors of Success in the Korean Market

  • The Korean market is certainly unique and Koreans communicate with each other in a kind of "code" due to their homogeneity. Foreign companies must do their homework and learn to communicate to Koreans appropriately.
  • A key component of Korean business success is investing in relationships by mixing business with pleasure.
  • In spite of the reputation of Korea, there are more foreign companies which are successful in Korea than those that fail. These include: McDonald's, Starbucks, Tesco, Citibank, Kimberly-Clark, Bosch, Siemens, Prudential, MetLife, ING and many others.
  • One client of IRC, Ehrlich and Balzers of Lichtenstein, launched into the Korean market at the peak of the Asian financial crisis of 1997-1998 but have still grown successfully every quarter since then and the Korean market is one of their most profitable in the world.
  • Another IRC client bought up a Korean competitor and used the Korean production base to then penetrate the Chinese market.
  • To be successful in the Korean market, one must have a long-term vision, a credible Korean partner and a compelling product or service offering.
  • Many companies that fail in the Korean market blame cultural factors when the real problem was in the execution of basic business fundamentals.

Topic #3- IRC's Work with the US State of Georgia

  • IRC has worked with Georgia to attract Korean investment to the US and this culminated in the Kia automotive plan in Westport, Georgia, which opened last month.

Topic #4 - Challenges that Must Be Addressed in Korean Business

  • Koreans do not view contracts in the same legalistic way that Westerners do. The legal framework is often secondary to the social framework.
  • Accounting and taxation are a challenge because the Korean accounting practices different in many ways from Western ones.
  • Market barriers in Korea come in various forms. Oftentimes, this is to give Korean companies a chance to develop their own capabilities before foreign companies can enter the Korean market. As another example, data processing requirements or testing regulations may add extra costs to the products and services of foreign companies.
  • Overcoming these hurdles can often be achieved by making one's organization look and act Korean. Sometimes getting to know and persuading the regulators can help.
  • Corruption in Korea has dropped dramatically, but has not been eliminated. Still, many foreign companies have been successful by doing business honestly (and wisely, through relationship building).

Topic #5 - Case Studies in Korean Business

  • Tesco and Carrefour both entered the Korean discount store market. Tesco teamed up with a strong Korean partner and localized their senior management; they were successful. Carrefour stuck with a French-centric team and failed.
  • The anti-US beef demonstrations in 2008 in Korea were primarily caused by a failure to manage the perception by the Korean public that they were being fed dangerous beef. The lesson here is that it is important to act and address concerns like this quickly before they get out of control. Another example is the US military's late response to an accident which ended up in mass demonstrations in 2002; another one later was dealt with appropriately and the uproar went away quickly. We even see that Toyota made this same mistake in the US market recently.
  • US automakers have had difficulty entering the Korean market, in part because of a lack of suitable luxury brands. These are the brands wealthy Koreans (i.e. the ones willing to buy foreign cars) want to buy. Korean cars tend to have more bells and whistles than US cars and are better matched to city driving.
  • The following markets are considered sensitive and difficult for foreign companies to enter. However, it would be premature to say that in a country like Korea, which changes fast, these will remain as such indefinitely: rice, education, childcare

Topic #6 - Foreign Direct Investment into Korea

  • There was very little foreign direct investment into Korea until the Asian financial crisis of 1997-1998.
  • But the Korean government needs to change its approach to FDI to recognize benefits beyond attracting capital, such as skills, technology and employment.
  • Incentives to attract foreign investment should be offered to any company, even Korean ones, that invest.
  • Korean government funds for new strategic sectors can be a unique opportunity for non-Korean companies to crack the Korean market. However, the Korean government needs to make the market more accessible and avoid market distortions, such as channeling funds into inefficient areas.

Topic #7 - Final Advice to Foreign Companies Looking to Do Business in Korea

  • Make use of resources available, such as IRC, Korea Business Central, chambers of commerce, embassies, Korean organizations such as Invest Korea and KOTRA.
  • Foreign companies must take responsibility to fully understand the Korean market and get involved.

The New Chinese Province of Chosun

The Lost Tribe of China

There's a lot of talk in Korea about the way Korean history is being taught in Japan. The two countries don't usually see eye-to-eye about Japanese colonial rule of Korea between 1910 and 1945. Lately, the debate around whether or not Japan had an official presence on the Korean peninsula centuries ago has been in the news. And of course, there's the never-ending dispute about the island of Dokdo, which both countries claim as their own. Fortunately, Korea and Japan are both modern societies that operate under the rule of law. It's hard to imagine these disputes evolving into shooting wars; they'll probably just continue to fester for a long time.

P1000863 But another historical debate has the potential to blow up into something bigger. I first learned about it while translating in 2006 for Dahn World, a Korean organization with a center right outside my office window here in Ansan (see photo) and whose motto is "Health, Smile and Peace". (Note: Dahn World has been in the US news lately for some less pleasant allegations, too (click here for details), though my purpose today is not to jump into that debate.) 

Dahn World's affiliate, Gukhakwon (literal meaning: "Institute for the Study of the Country"), promotes Korean history from a Korean perspective and I translated a number of articles about their work to stop the Chinese distortion of Korean history in regard to the ancient Korean kingdom of Goguryeo. Apparently Chinese "scholars" are asserting that Gogureo was a Chinese clan, not Korean. And since the Gogyuryeo occupied areas of what is today North Korea, the implication is that today's North Koreans are a sort of "Lost Tribe of China".

At the time, I didn't really think much of it. Seemed like interesting reading, but what does it matter from a practical standpoint?

The Fate of Ceausescu?

According to conventional wisdom, the North Korean government faces two apparently bad options: 1) maintain a totalitarian grip and try to avoid social chaos while the economy crumbles or 2) open up to the outside and... unleash social chaos as the people see what a lie they've lived under for so long. 

Perhaps Kim Jong-Il and his cronies are running out of time even on the first option. When I saw how the North Korean regime executed one of its own former lead bureaucrats last month, blaming him for the recent currency reform fiasco, it made me wonder just how long the very top of the command structure can avoid the wrath of the people. Apparently there are already riots in North Korea about the worsening economy. How close is the regime to losing control, which would lead to its overthrow and maybe even a bullet to the head of Kim Jong-Il?.... Are we looking at another Romania in 1989?

Surely the end is coming, but how this will happen is a more open-ended question than many people realize.

Marcus Noland's Interview on Korea Business Central Got Me Thinking

South Koreans generally expect that the North Korean economy will fall eventually and that when it does, the North and South will become a unified country again. This assumes that the North doesn't have any other options and that the South simply needs to wait. But what if there is another option?

4-6-2010 12-05-48 AM The recent interview on Korea Business Central with Marcus Noland (author of Avoiding the Apocalypse and pictured at left) made me aware of yet another possibility (even likelihood, perhaps!?), which is that North Korea may not "collapse"; it might become a vassal state of China. 

If this is what China is working toward, it would explain why China continues to be relatively uncooperative in finding a solution to the North Korean nuclear issue. Further, there is a very large Korean-Chinese community in northern China and China is the closest thing North Korea has to a friend. Even as I write this, Kim Jong-Il is preparing to take the train (he's afraid to fly) to China with outstretched hands to see what goodies the Chinese will give him. 

Apparently Noland isn't the only one with this opinion, nor is this opinion limited to outsiders. At lunch yesterday with my advisor at Hanyang University, Professor Seo explained that a lot of Chinese behavior should be interpreted in this context. Further, he asserted that what comes after North Korea goes under Chinese "protection" could lead to war as South Korea seeks to expel the Chinese.

Reunification Achieved... but of China, not Korea

Here's how China might take over North Korea:

As the North Korean economy crumbles and the government loses control, the North asks for help from "big brother" China, who comes in to restore order. If the Chinese just don't bother to leave after that, who's to tell them to get out? After all, the North Koreans can't run the country on their own and besides, they are really Chinese, descended from Goguryeo of old (but today called "Chosun"). With this outcome, China grabs a little more territory and the former North Korean leaders get to live out the rest of their days under Chinese protection without being held accountable for the atrocities they committed.

In some ways, this would bring the situation full circle... Throughout much of Korean history, Korea paid tribute to China. During the 20th century, the country went under Japanese domination. After 1945, North Korea passed into the Soviet sphere. So, if things turn out as described here, North Korea could find itself under Chinese control as a new "province of Chosun", nominally independent but in many ways like it had been in centuries past.

Nojeok Hill: My View from the Top - Before and After Photos of Ansan (Part 1 of 4)

I came across these fabulous photos on display in the lobby of the Ansan Concert Hall a couple months ago. All photos can be expanded by clicking on them.

Seongpo-Dong and Gojang-Dong Areas


Hwarang Recreation Area


Industrial Complex (Dyeing) Area


Il-Dong (Guryong-Dong) Area


Industrial Area (Chemicals) Area


Bukok-Dong Area


Il-Dong Area


Searching for the Meaning of 체하다 in Korean

Background: How it All Started

Koreans are forever referring to a digestive problem called “체하다. I've always wondered if it's just “indigestion”? Or something more? All I could decipher is that it seems to happen for no good reason.

Google Dictionary is no help:

Yahoo! turns out to be more on the mark:


Phase I: My First Stabs at a Meaning

A colleague of mine suggested that it's a catch-all for "You've got an upset stomach" but he also admitted that the Korean usage of the term is so broad that pinning down the exact meaning is hard. He also wasn't asserting that 체하다 is actually "upset stomach".

Besides, probably the best translation for “upset tummy” is 속이 않 좋다 since in the Korean mind, 체하다 implies a diagnosis of a specific digestive condition. 

For example, if my son throws up, I’ll hear Myunghee saying something like this to herself later: “왜 그랬지? 체했나?”. Then she’ll run down the list of foods he’s eaten in the last few hours to try to determine which one caused it. 

If we translate 체하다 as “upset stomach”, then we’d have to translate her comment as “Why did that happen? Did he have an upset stomach?”. Well, duh… The question isn’t whether he has an upset stomach, it’s the question of what caused it. And in this case, 체하다 gets blamed for a lot of upset tummies, but it’s not the condition of the upset tummy itself. This is why I keep getting stumped on the exact meaning in English.

As a test one morning last week, on our way to climb Nojeok Hill, I suddenly said to my wife, “오, 나 체했다”. To which she replied, “말이 않 되. 뭘 먹지 않았는데.” So I asked her (yet again) what 체하다 means and she explained, “음식이 명치에 걸려서 않 내려갈때야”. But how does food get stuck in the pit of one’s stomach and not go down?

At that point, I was suspecting that we just don’t recognize this particular medical phenomenon in the West and that it’s one of those things Koreans have invented. It’s certainly a catch-all phrase, but it appeared to be a catch-all for various causes of upset tummy, and not the upset tummy itself.

Phase II: Some New Insights

I shared the above thoughts with my colleague and he kindly send me this English translation of a reply from a Korean pharmacist:

체하다 needs something to act on it: that is, an object for the verb.  When customers complain of 체하다, they are complaining of a symptom, usually a blockage in the stomach caused by some outside source.  It is not just overeating or acid reflux; that is incorrect.  This blockage is not constipation.  It is a general sense of gastrointestinal unease due to poor digestion.  Certain teas can relieve the symptom of 체하다, but the causative element must be discovered for a long-term cure.  I would define it as follows [the following written in English]:  "The definition of 체하다 is dyspeptic (suffering from dyspepsia): gastrointestinal unease due to poor digestion brought on by ingesting incompatible elements."  [She then inserted this English-language link]:

He also gave me this insight:

However, 체하다 seems to be used MOST often in relation to overeating (과식하다) or binge eating (폭식).  That is, when the digestion isn't moving along nice and comfy (소화가 되다), usually from eating too much or too fast or both.  I've heard it used for acid stomach (위산), too, and acid reflux (위산 역류), once from a friend whose meds made her stomach awful, and even just an equivalent of "my tummy's blech" -- but I suspect the most common usage is the bloated ugh feeling you get after eating too much or too fast.  Allow me to say that this is strictly my inferred meaning from experience and not an exact definition.  

Phase III: The Final Definition

“Blockage” seems to be a key word here… In fact, when I pestered Myunghee about it some more on another walk last week, she finally got exasperated, picked up some pine needles in her hand and asked me if we were to throw these into a sieve (a 체!), would they get caught in the mesh or slide right through? 

And that's when it clicked for me. 

체하다 really refers to a condition where food gets stuck in the stomach.

Of course, that begs the question as to whether it’s even medically possible for food to “get stuck”… 

Introduction Provided for Translation Resource in Specialized Field (US and Korea)

Translation ResourceA client recently contacted us about translation of an analysis of old Korean literature. This subject matter is outside the fields in which our team is skilled and so I referred the client to a competitor of mine, who happens to also be a member of Korea Business Central (

[Photo of the UN Memorial on the road south of Suweon toward Osan which marks the spot of the first engagement of UN (i.e. US) forces with North Korea in 1950.]