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Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra cancels U.S. tour

Posted on March 21, 2015 at 2:25 AM

The Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra has cancelled its seven-city US concert tour scheduled to start on April 14 due to fundraising issues.

On March 13, 2015, the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra announced that it had made a final decision not to pursue its scheduled tour of the US in April due to difficulties in raising funds.

The Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra had originally planned to hold invitational concerts in collaboration with Artistic Director Myung-hun Chung and pianist Seon-wook Kim in seven US cities including Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Barbara and Seattle from April 14th to 24th. However, the plan eventually foundered as a result of the orchestra’s failure to secure corporate sponsorship, as well as additional funding from the Seoul Metropolitan City government.

For its previous overseas concert tour in 2012, which included performances in North America, the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra was able to share the cost thanks to funds from corporate supporters, but the orchestra failed to secure a corporate sponsor for the planned tour in 2015.

The Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra requested Seoul Metropolitan City to allocate funding for tour concerts to be held in North America while it was in the process of drawing up a budget for 2015 at the end of last year, but this initiative failed to secure approval from the City Council of Seoul. Since then, Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra had continuously been attempting to secure funds, but eventually the orchestra administration had to acknowledge defeat and was forced to cancel the tour, just one month away from the first concert.

Of the admission tickets, 65% of them had been sold in the seven cities, including Santa Barbara where 90% of the tickets had been already sold, which has unavoidably tarnished the reputation enjoyed by Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra.

At a New Year’s press conference that was held on March 1, Myung-hun Chung, Artistic Director, expressed his concerns, saying that ‘if he is going to renew his contract, it is essential that the orchestra have the continuous support of Seoul Metropolitan City’.. He also said, “If we don’t hold our concert tour of North America, the orchestra will be completely put to shame. Inevitably, people will say that unlike other world-renowned orchestras, the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra doesn’t care enough to keep its word.”


Moody's upgrades Korea to Aa3; outlook stable

Posted on August 27, 2012 at 12:20 AM

Singapore, August 27, 2012 -- Moody's Investors Service has today upgraded the Republic of Korea's government bond rating to Aa3 from A1. The rating outlook is stable.

Firstly, Korea's strong fiscal fundamentals enable a relatively large degree of policy space to cope with contingent domestic risks and external shocks. Its government finance metrics are very well placed among all Aa-rated peers.


The government's balance sheet has been relatively unscathed by the global financial crisis and, so far, by the eurozone crisis. The general government budget went into a modest deficit in 2009 as a result of the global financial crisis, but swiftly bounced back into surplus in 2010, and has remained in the black since then. Government debt has been contained at a moderate level in relation to GDP.


The above factors are reflected in Korea's very low gross financing requirement, which at 0.9% of GDP in 2012, according to the International Monetary Fund, is among the lowest for an industrialized economy. Over the medium term, Moody's sees the government's debt trajectory gradually declining.


Moreover, the outlook for government finances is favorable. The large size of Korea's domestic capital market, low inflation, a low risk premium on government securities, and a relatively favorable long-term outlook for economic growth mean that fundamental pressures on the government's debt-carrying capacity are notably absent.


Secondly, the Korean economy has demonstrated resilience to external shocks. It avoided a recession because of the global financial crisis in 2009, and rebounded strongly in 2010. Korea's trend growth has become closely aligned with that of global growth in the past decade, and is therefore stronger than that of the advanced industrial countries.


Korea's economic growth rate this year is slowing with the downturn in global growth, but the competitiveness of its export sector will help lead a rebound as the global economy recovers. Despite these headwinds, the country's labor market has remained relatively healthy—the unemployment rate was 3.1% in July. Over the long run, continued gains in labor productivity and restraint in unit labor costs will be essential in maintaining the economy's competitiveness and its potential growth rate, which is close to 4%.


Thirdly, macro-prudential regulatory measures and improved risk management have proved effective in reducing banking sector vulnerabilities. The risks associated with a heavy reliance on off-shore wholesale market funding became evident during the global financial crisis. Since then, banks' have appreciably reduced their reliance on short-term external funding as a share of total external liabilities; loan-to-deposit ratios for the regulated banks; as well as for the policy banks; have declined to a more prudent level.


Related to this issue is the presence of system-wide self-insurance against deleveraging and risk aversion in the global financial markets. Official foreign exchange reserves have risen and have remained above $300 billion since April 2011; standing near a record level of $314 billion as of July 2012. In contrast, during the global financial crisis, they had plummeted to $201 billion.


Fourthly, the rating action is supported by a developing outlook which suggests that the geopolitical status quo will not be adversely disrupted by the ongoing leadership transition in Pyongyang. However, a possible step-up in Pyongyang's economic engagement with Beijing, as seen in the announcement of three new industrial zones along the China-North Korea border, suggests that the risk of an collapse of the autarkic communist state during the leadership transition phase is diminishing. Furthermore, the risks relating to renewed military conflict on the Korean peninsula are contained by the long-standing deterrence provided by Seoul's robust alliance with Washington.


North Korea-related event risks factored into our Sovereign Bond methodology do not constrain the Republic of Korea's rating at the Aa3 level.


(Source: www.moodys.com)

The appearance of Ri Sol Ju, the pretty wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un: what is its significance?

Posted on August 9, 2012 at 5:25 AM

This article was published in Pressian (www.pressian.com) on July 29, 2012, and has been translated into English and posted here with the permission of the author, Sung-jae Kim, director of the Kim Dae-jung Presidential Library and Museum, Yonsei University.


When the press showed a picture of Kim Jong-un, First Secretary of the Workers’ Party in North Korea, accompanied by a beautiful woman during one of his “on-the-spot” guidance (or field guidance) visits and talking to North Korean people with a smile on his face, the South Korean government and the press were divided on her identity. Some media reports speculated that she must be his younger sister, while others even assumed that she was his common-law wife. Watching the Korean government wander around a maze with regard to the identity of this mysterious woman, observers leveled criticism against the government for its lack of intelligence regarding North Korea.


However, anyone with a basic idea of the socialist system and the North Korean system could have made a correct judgment without having a great deal of information on North Korea. It is not customary for a supreme leader of the socialist system to be accompanied by his wife when providing “on-the-spot” guidance. No Chinese Chief Secretaries and Presidents have ever been accompanied by their wives at official functions. In particular, the late leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il were never accompanied by their wives or any other women for on-the-spot guidance and official functions.

During the Inter-Korean Summit Meeting in 2000, the late South President Kim Dae-jung was accompanied by First Lady Lee Hee-ho, but the North Korean leader Kim Jong-il appeared alone. For these reasons, it was unprecedented for Kim Jong-un to be accompanied by a woman for an on-the-spot guidance session, and to grin at her in a friendly way. This gives us a broad hint that Kim Jong-un is pushing for innovation and an open-door policy, and the woman was supposed to be his wife. 


In fact, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachyov was the first socialist leader to be accompanied by his wife at official functions at home and abroad, and they visited Europe together. At that time, the media in the West widely reported on it, considering it a serious matter, and her fashion made headlines, drawing a lot of interest from the fashion world. The fact that the Soviet President Gorbachyov was accompanied by his wife Raisa Gorbachyov, like Western leaders, suggested that the Soviet Union intended to pursue innovation, or “perestroika” as it was called, and an open-door policy known as glasnost. Noticing what was happening, the Western world proactively welcomed the perestroika and the glasnost pursued by Gorbachyov, and put an end to the cold war, opening a new era of reconciliation. When then South Korean President Roh Tae-woo visited Moscow in 1990 in the course of establishing diplomatic ties with the Soviet Union and when President Gorbachyov visited Jeju-do to participate in a summit meeting in1991, President Gorbachyov was accompanied by his wife in both cases.


It was a rash judgment, made without any knowledge of the North Korean system, to imagine that a woman accompanying the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in public would be his younger sister. Since the North Korean system is led by one supreme leader, it is impossible for a leader to be accompanied by his younger sister. Although the former South Korean President Park Jung-hee was accompanied by his daughter Park Geun-hye as the First Lady, no global leader has ever been accompanied by his younger sister. What is more, the media showed a picture in which North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had locked arms with the woman.


The National Intelligence Service in South Korea belatedly announced that the woman was the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s wife. It also said that the woman, known as Ri Sol Ju, visited Incheon when the 2005 Asian Athletics Championships was held. If Ri Sol Ju did come to Incheon at that time, it is worth giving this deep thought.


Since it is impossible for the supreme leader in North Korea to have a marriage based on love alone, the North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s decision to accept Ri Sol Ju as his daughter-in-law, and thus as his successor’s wife, was far-sighted in terms of inter-Korean relations. Despite the fact that most North Korean women wear hanbok, the traditional Korean garment, the woman was dressed in nice Western clothing. As in other socialist countries, the clothes of the North Korean supreme leader contain an important message. Ri Sol Ju’s suit signifies a tendency toward innovation and an open-door policy. In fact, Mickey Mouse and American popsongs have already been featured in performances in North Korea. This hints at innovation and an open-door policy to the U.S. and the Western world.


Not long ago, North Korea let the entire world know through the North Korean media and Reuter’s News Agency that the First Secretary Kim Jong-un was selected as the Marshal of the State. This report by the Reuter’s News Agency that Kim Jong-un was selected as the head of the republic was not intended to announce that Kim Jong-un had risen in rank. Since Kim Jong-un was already the First Secretary, the First Chairman of the National Defense Commission and theSupreme Commander, there was no need to raise his rank. Nonetheless, he was selected as the Marshal of the State, and this meant that he had seized absolute power over the cabinet, the party and the military, stabilizing the political system. It is taken as meaning that Kim Jong-un has come into power, and that it was possible for him to push for innovation as he has desired. Thus, they wanted to deliver this message to the world through Reuter's News Agency.





The dismissal of Ri Yong-ho, the Chief of the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army, is not simply the result of a power struggle in North Korea. It indicates that Kim Jong-un indeed is eliminating hard line conservatives from the army for the purpose of pursuing innovation and an open-door policy.  This might result in disputes and conflicts due to the opposition of military generals and hardliners who have maintained vested interests for a long period of time. However, Ri Yong-ho’s dismissal indicates that not only the political power but also the purse strings that had been held by the army have been transferred to the new Marshal Kim Jong-un, and it is taken as meaning that North Korea is experiencing a transition from a military-strength-oriented power system to an economy-oriented political system.

The fact that party officers aged 70 orolder were forced to resign shows a will to make a new change and push for innovation and an open-door policy, in a departure from past ways. It is expected that a consistent series of measures to realize innovation and an open-door policy will be taken over time, as Kim Jong-un’s aunt Kim Kyung-eun has authority over personnel affairs as Secretary of the Workers’ Party, and Kim Jong-un’s uncle Chang Song-taek, Vice Chairman of the National Defense Commission has seized control of laws and administration.




Some media reports made sarcastic remarks about Ri Sol Ju herself, a former singer affiliated with Art Troupe, ridiculing Kim Jong-il and his son KimJong-un for marrying an entertainer, but such remarks will only discredit the media and impede the national interest. The North Korean Art Troupe and Unhasu Orchestra are not simply popular entertainers as we know them. Socialist states tend to value the arts, and this is due to the fact that arts based on socialist realism are focused on an aesthetics and philosophy that promote historical development for the purpose of promoting communism. For this reason, the fact that both Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un married members of art troupes has significance. Members of art troupes or painters affiliated with Mansudae Art Studio in North Korea have a high social status, independent of the power structure.  


South Korea has urged North Korea to push for innovation and an open-door policy for a long time. Mischaracterizing North Korean efforts to realize innovation and an open-door policy as womanizing or a power struggle is harmful not only to the peaceful development of the two Koreas but also to the advancement of South Korea. As mentioned in the South Korean media reports, if North Korea had intentionally showed Kim Jong-un accompanied by his wife so that he looked mature after being selected as the Head of the State, the North Korean media would have focused on his authoritative on-the-spot guidance instead of reporting Kim Jong-un riding the rides at an amusement park. In this regard, it is necessary to closely examine the North Korean media reports instead of considering them as laughable gossip.


South Korea needs to pay attention to changes in North Korea while inducing the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to push for innovation and an open-door policy without opposition by hard line conservatives at home and abroad. It also needs to provide stronger cooperation and support to North Korea than to China, for the prosperity of the Korean people and their future.

Why do Koreans use a hyphen in their name?

Posted on July 19, 2012 at 9:30 PM

When writing their full names, Koreans will indicate their family name before their given name. For example, if you visit the website of Cheongwadae (http://english.president.go.kr/main.php), Korea’s equivalent to the White House, you will notice that the name of the Korean President is given as Lee Myung-Bak. Lee is his family name and Myung-Bak is his first name. Conventionally, Koreans give their family name before their first name due to the influence of Confucianism.

But, this doesn’t mean that modern Koreans will give their family name first when spelling their name using the Roman alphabet. When Koreans write their name using the Roman alphabet, they give their first name before their family name, following the common international practice.

In other words, a typical Korean with the same name as the President of South Korea will wirte his name “Myung-Bak Lee” instead of “Lee Myung-Bak.” The only entities that strictly keep the conventional orthography are government agencies and English newspapers published in Korea, such as the Korea Herald or the Korea Times. For this reason, if you happen to see a Korean name written in English, remember that the name given first is usually the first name, but if you come across a Korean name written in English in an English newspaper published in Korea or on the website of a government agency, you need to consider that the family name will be given first.

So, why do Koreans use a hyphen in their first name? Not only President Lee Myung-Bak, but also potential candidates for the presidential election slated for December, including Park Geun-hye (former party chief ), Kim Moon-soo (Province Governor), Chung Mong-joon (Rep), Lee Jae-oh (Rep), Sohn Hak-kyu (former opposition leader), Moon Jae-in (Rep. and former presidential chief of staff), Kim Doo-kwan (Province Governor) and Chung Sye-kyun (Former DP leader) all use a hyphen in their names. Why do Koreans use a hyphen in their name?

Actually, this was adopted as a general practice out of consideration for non-Koreans. Korean is characterized by a phenomenon called bat-chim. The Korean language is indicated as 한국어(Hangugeo) in Hangul (or Han-geul), the Korean alphabet. The first letter 'Han' consists of the consonant 'ㅎ', the vowel 'ㅏ', and the consonant 'ㄴ' in order. The second (or the last) vowel of a syllable is called bat-chim.

As many bat-chims are used in Korean, consonants frequently conflict with one another. Take 정훈, one of the most commonly used Korean names. When  '정' is Romanized, it is 'Jeong' (according to the current orthography) or 'Jung' (according to the former orthography). '훈' is Romanized as 'hun' (according to the current orthography) or 'hoon' (accordingto the former orthography).

Three syllables are placed in parallel because of the 'ng' that comes at the end of the first syllable and the 'h' that comes at the beginning of the second syllable. This hardly ever occurs in English except for exceptions such as "English" or "Anglo-", but in the Korean language, consonants are frequently overlapped due to bat-chim. If the spelling 'Jeonghun' was used, non-Koreans might find it confusing because they don’t know how to pronounce it. For this reason, a hyphen is used to enable convenient pronunciation and help the reader to distinguish each syllable. Accordingly, 'Jung-hun' is pronounced as  [Jəŋ-HUN], not [JəN-GN].

Affordable Price and Cheap Price

Posted on March 18, 2012 at 10:10 PM


What is affordable and cheap must be distinguished.

In a Korean proverb, there is a saying that “What is cheap is biji-dduk.” Here, “biji-dduk” is a mochi that is not well made. This proverb is warning that if you buy something because it is cheap, there is bound to be some kind of a defect. This is relevant to translation, too. Although it is natural for customers to seek lower priced service, if you give your work to a company just because they are cheap, you may be faced with some problems. People may not notice in the beginning but ultimately your mistranslated work will catch up with you and cause you to lose your customers. This would not have been a good choice.

When we translate on site, we often come across critical errors. At a first glance, there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong but as we continue to read, we discover errors that are scattered all over. Because Korean and European languages are different in their composition, we often find the icons of the manual in wrong places. In other words, translator who worked for a cheap pay did not do accurate work and what little you may have saved in translation may cost you your customers’ trust.

Finding a good quality translation for an affordable price is the shortcut to getting the competitive edge for your company.

Manual Translation

Posted on March 1, 2012 at 11:15 AM


While translating on site, we come across many innovating items. However, in translating their manuals, we often wonder if foreigners will be able to understand and use the items based on the manual. This is because new items contain difficult terms and jargons. If a seller meets with a buyer in person to explain about their new item, then it will be easy to convince the buyer. However, having a contract to export the items by convincing the buyer in person is totally different from translating the manual that is required at the time of the export.

In order to translate the manual properly, it is imperative to provide pictures for the translators. Although it requires more work, please do not neglect to provide pictures. Unfortunately, in some cases,  even pictures do not provide proper words of description. In such cases, leave the term as is and just provide extra explanation. This will enhance the translation.

Don’t forget that in order to stay in the exporting business, having a well translated manual is essential.

Characteristics of Korean Language

Posted on February 15, 2012 at 7:00 PM


If we work on our projects without understanding the characteristics of foreign languages, we may end up having to redo the work.

In particular, Korean is very different from English. For English, verbal phrase comes right after the subject but for Korean, the verbal phrase comes at the end of the sentence. For example, “I have a Korean document translated into English” becomes “I a Korean document translated into English have,” in Korean.

It is difficult to do a word count in Korean. It has only been slightly more than 100 years that Korean language has begun to add space in between words. Starting from the 1443 when King Sejong created the Hangul, Korean characters to the end of the 19th century, there was no spacing in Korean written language.

Unlike English which spells out the words, Korean creates a block syllable with combination of consonants and vowels. Therefore, it is possible to understand the sentence without any spacing in between the words. In this way, because Korean doesn’t have clear spacing in between the words, it is important to understand that it is difficult to do a word count for Korean documents and there may be some differences in the final result.

This makes Korean language more unique than Chinese and Japanese languages, which have no spacing issue. In Chinese and Japanese, you can only think of the number of characters, but in Korean you have two ways to count the volume of Korean documents, which are based on the number of characters and words. The latter is caused by spacing.