Slices of Japanese business, politics and life
As a child in the early ’80s, I remember spending a summer in Seoul and taking a trip with relatives to the countryside in a Hyundai Pony, South Korea’s first homegrown car. I spoke no Korean, but learned one word quickly enough: “lemon”.
Hyundai Motor has certainly come a long way since then.
Thirty-four years after introducing the Pony hatchback at the Turin Motor Show, Hyundai is the world’s fourth-largest carmaker, surpassing Ford Motor in the first half of this year. With the rest of the industry reeling from slumping sales, Hyundai’s charge has been especially conspicuous this year as it grabbed market share across the world and even made record profits in the latest quarter.
As my colleague Cheon Jong-woo and I wrote last week, Hyundai’s rise is making Japanese rivals nervous.
While Hyundai’s mounting success, founded on offering quality products at cheaper prices, has been in the cards for a while now, there are two new factors that worry the Japanese: a strong yen, coupled with the new government’s apparent indifference towards it, and South Korea’s progress in sealing free trade pacts.
North Korea, one of former President George Bush's "axis of evil" countries and one of the few remaining Stalinist states, deserves to be re-evaluated given the prospect of a power succession and the changing economic landscape in the region, according to Goldman Sachs.
Apart from the robust military establishment (absorbing at least 20-30% of GDP vs 3% of GDP in South Korea), Goldman says North Korea has large untapped potential, including rich human capital, abundant mineral resources (valued at around 140 times 2008 GDP) and significant room for productivity gains.
from Left field:
Toyota-owned Fuji's announcement that they are pulling the plug on hosting the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix leaves a question mark over the country's future on the championship calendar.
Fuji had been due to host the race next year as part of an agreement to alternate with Honda-owned Suzuka. However since that deal was done, Honda have pulled out of Formula One and may not have too much of an incentive to pick up the slack.
Defending champ Japan and Korea’s third pairing this WBC followed convincing wins by each side over Cuba and Mexico, respectively, serving as a fitting rubber game after the sides split their first two games.
Three early — and not fully deserved — runs in the first inning off pitcher Yu Darvish put the Samurai in the hole. That sent many Japanese to local lunchtime offerings, as the televised game played midday at offices around the country, likely to score huge ratings.
Sports rivalries are bred by proximity, culture and history, and few match ups in Asia have more baggage or bragging rights at stake than baseball games between Japan and South Korea, the respective World Baseball Classic and Olympic titleholders.
Both crowns were sources of national pride, but Japan’s came in 2006 after losing twice to Korea before a semifinal victory over the Seoul side, which wasn’t enthused that a team it had beaten more than once could become tournament champions.