Sunday, March 23, 2014

North Korean Defectors Ambivalent About Life in the South


Many North Korean defectors in South Korea are satisfied enough with their life in the South to bring their family over but feel that fierce competition and discrimination are hard to overcome. Their feelings remain ambivalent even after a considerable time spent living here.

Pundits say this failure to integrate fully into South Korean society must be addressed before reunification.

In a survey by the Chosun Ilbo of 200 North Korean defectors at the end of January, 71.5 percent said they are satisfied with their life in the South, compared to 22.5 percent who said neither satisfied nor dissatisfied, and 4.5 percent who are not satisfied.

Ninety-one percent of the respondents said they are familiar with the ways of South Koreans, with 63 percent describing themselves as South Korean. Only 25 percent still identify themselves as North Koreans and 10 percent as neither.

Asked whether they would like to bring family members from North Korea here, 51 percent said they will do so as soon as possible and 42.5 percent if they get the opportunity.

Most said their image of South Korea improved once they got here, with 82 percent, as against a mere 5.5 percent who said it got worse. Most North Koreans in other words are adapting to the life here reasonably well and comfortably.

Freedom and affluence were cited as the most satisfying elements of life in the South.

North Korean defectors walk across a crosswalk in Seoul. North Korean defectors walk across a crosswalk in Seoul.
Kim Hee-jae was originally from Tokchon, South Pyongan Province, where it was "still hard to feed myself in the North despite working in the mine for 20 hours a day. Now in the South, I can earn according to how much I work, and I can even save a little."

Kim Yong-hwa came from Pyongyang. "I used to get stopped and checked seven times every time I went to Sinuiju from Pyongyang, but here I can travel freely without having to worry about the police."

Cho Kyong-il, who now studies in a South Korean university, said, "At first, South Korean society was strange, but now I'm totally adapted to it. After a few years, young North Korean defectors will fully adapt to the economic and social system of South Korea."

But many defectors are economically disadvantaged here and suffer discrimination. Only 26.5 percent of the respondents earned more than W1 million (US$1=W1,068) a month, or roughly the minimum wage, while 45 percent said they earn nothing and 18.5 percent that they make less than W1 million.

Just 27 percent had permanent jobs, and 46.5 percent had never worked here or were unemployed at the moment. Only 25 percent worked at least 20 days a month and 27 percent eight hours or more per day.

Many also complain that prejudice and discrimination against North Koreans can make them feel like second-class citizens.

Kim Song-chol from Nampo said, "There is serious discrimination against North Korean defectors and rigid social stratification. Moving up the social ladder into the middle or upper-middle class is virtually impossible."

Some defectors who come from the North Korean elite or have a good education manage to make a good life here, but those who do not struggle to adapt.

Jong Kwang-song from Hoeryong, North Hamgyong Province. "Because competition is so fierce in South Korea, it's hard to survive and adapt." And Park Chung-kwon from Hamhung added, "South Koreans are not friendly to those who are different and tend to treat them as outcasts."

Song Won-jun was shocked how many people commit suicide in the South. "People are so individualistic, inhumane, and cold-hearted." He said

Source: The Chosun Ilbo English News

Cherry Blossom to Bloom Later This Year


Cherry blossom will start to bloom about two or three days later than usual this year and five days later than last year, due to the cold temperatures in early March, the Korea Meteorological Administration said.
Cherry blossom at a stream in Busan on Thursday /News 1 Cherry blossom at a stream in Busan on Thursday /News 1
This year's temperature in the period was 3.4 degrees Celsius on average as against the average of 3.8 degrees.

According to the weather agency, cherry blossoms will start to bloom on March 27 starting with Seogwipo, Jeju, spreading to southern parts of the mainland from April 1 to 12, central parts from April 7 to 11, and northern Gyeonggi and Gangwon Provinces after April 10.


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Samsung unveils upgraded Galaxy


Shin Jong-kyun, president and CEO of Samsung Electronics’ IT and Mobile Communications Division, gives a presentation on the flagship Galaxy S5 smartphone at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Tuesday. Samsung unveiled the Gear Fit, a fitness band, Sunday, in a move to strengthen its presence in the wearable devices market. / Courtesy of Samsung Electronics

S5 armed with fingerprint scanner, heart-rate sensor

By Choi Kyong-ae
BARCELONA ― Samsung Electronics Monday unveiled its latest Galaxy S5 smartphone equipped with a larger screen and fingerprint scanner.

At the “Unpacked 5” event held at the Mobile World Congress here on Monday, the Korean technology giant introduced the new flagship phone which focuses on basic features such as photo-taking, download speeds and battery life.

It comes with a 5.1-inch display, wider than the 4.99 inches of its predecessor, the Galaxy S4. Features such as waterproof and dust-resistant capabilities and a fingerprint scanner are newly added to the latest model.

Analysts say the lack of wow factors may disappoint some consumers because top-tier players such as Samsung and Apple have surprised the world with bold innovations in their flagship phones.

How the new phone is taken by the market will determine Samsung’s future earnings growth in an ever-saturating smartphone market.

Samsung’s decision to adopt a fingerprint scanner in the Galaxy S5 was hailed by some participants at the event. But others said they were not impressed by the “familiar” technology as they expected something more dramatic from it.

Apple already introduced the finger-scanning function in its iPhone 5S last year. The technology allows users to unlock their phones with the press of a finger. 

“Innovative features do not mean everything … but I expected bold features such as an iris scanner,” a project development manager at Inatel, Brazil’s state-run telecom institute, told The Korea Times on the sidelines of the annual trade show, which lasts through Feb. 27. 

However, Samsung went practical this time with the new phone given what its mobile chief said during the event. Samsung apparently came up with a streamlined product by eliminating some flashy but little-used functions.

“People are easily excited about the newest and latest technology, and we are working on that too. But our philosophy is to listen to consumers,” said Shin Jong-kyun, president and CEO of Samsung’s IT and Mobile Communications Division.

“What we have learned is surprisingly simple in this ever-changing industry. We can only succeed when consumers choose us. Our consumers want durable design and performance, yet powerful cameras, faster and seamless connectivity and to stay fit,” he said.

To meet the demands, Samsung has improved camera functions, enhanced wireless capabilities and bolstered fitness- and health-related apps in the Galaxy S5.

The new smartphone comes with a 16-megapixel camera which enables a user to take a picture in 0.3 seconds, as well as other functions available on the digital SLR cameras favored by professional photographers.

The “download booster” function linked with the Long-Term Evolution and Wi-Fi services will help boost download speeds by nearly five times. And the Galaxy S5 has a heart-rate sensor, the first of its kind for a smartphone, for a regular checkup by the user.

Last but not the least, Samsung introduced Gear Fit to take the lead in the wearable devices market. The fitness band came on the heels of the release of the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo. The two computerized wristwatches are powered by the Tizen operating system being developed by Samsung and its partners to challenge the dominance by Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. All Samsung phones run on Android.   

Still, wearable devices won’t likely to be an immediate growth driver for Samsung though Apple and Google are expected to join the wearables market later this year. Sony is also a leading player in wearables. Another worry for Samsung is cheaper smartphones offered by Chinese competitors.

Given everything, betting big on the Galaxy S5 does make sense for Samsung. It remains to be seen whether the new product will help boost slowing smartphone sales.

Samsung sold 320 million smartphones last year, followed by Apple’s 153 million units and Sony’s 38 million units, according to Strategy Analytics.
Source: The Chosun Ilbo