this blog is written by a guy named chris bowers and, in his own words, this is, “part of [his] irregular series documenting unpopular stuff that is more popular than Republicans, (see Legalizing Marijuana more popular than Republicans, and Republicans less popular than China), new polling from CNN indicates that anti-American, oil-cartel, socialist block forming Venezuela is now viewed more favorably than the Republican Party.” pretty funny, but mostly very telling.
the street pictured below, known as 피아노 길 (piano street) for obvious reasons, runs adjacent to the street where i work. this is more or less the beating heart of north-of-the-river seoul, a neighborhood known as 종로 (jongno) filled with both the iconic tripillar samsung headquarters as well as (pictured above) about 7000 places named ‘HO BAR’. the giant piano is kinda gimmicky and funny, but a landmark of sorts nonetheless. most streets in seoul don’t have signs, shit they dont even have names, so meeting places need to be pretty recognizable and, not surprisingly, 3 block long keyboards tend to fall into this category. my favorite part about this street, aside from the endless and never very well-received robert loggia jokes, was the fact that the keys were made of something akin to, but not nearly as expensive as, marble. so when it would rain or snow, a slick sheen would form over the whole of the keyboard and, since it was a place that people tended to congregate on nights out, watching all the girls in the giant high heels that are so ubiquitous in this country was great. it looked like a street full of newborn lambs - full of unsure little steps and inextricably knocked knees.
anyways, i came to work on monday morning to find nothing left of the huge keyboard that i walked down every morning to get to my office. it looked like the parking lot of a county fair ground - all mud and gravel and dirty hyundais - punctuated by two giant white buckteeth that hadnt been ripped up by the earthmovers yet. i keep asking around, but no one really knows what theyre putting in to replace it. my hope is that its something just as goofy and weird as the pseudo-landmark that preceeded it, but theyll prolly just throw down some poorly packed pavement to carve out a few more parking places in a neighborhood filled with drunk people. i guess what im saying is that you really only have 2 choices for an updated piano street seoul metro government - either keytar street or piano neck tie street.
my friend, the great mr aaron choe, turned me on to this site last night and ive been engrossed for the past day. its more or less just a series of lectures given at an annual conference in monterey, but some of the talks are just plain brilliant, and you can stream them all for free.
Lately my little brother has been reading up on the economics behind the financial crisis which, as an economics nerd, I get a big kick out of. So after catching a bit of an IMF presentation on recent Korean exchange rate movements, I figured I’d take a shot at explaining to Al why all that bank he is making in won is currently worth next to nothing in dollars.
As the current crisis has deepened, there has been lots of talk of de-leveraging. This basically means people are trying to call their bets, reduce their exposure to risk and get everything they can into the safest places possible. Foreign stock exchanges are generally not considered to be the safest places to hold money. This is important for Korea because at the start of the crisis about 40% of the Korean stock exchange was foreign-held. This means lots of people were unloading their Korean holdings and in the process of sending the money back home to safer havens exchanging lots of won for dollars.
An important thing to note is that market for foreign exchange in Korea is relatively shallow. Last year the foreign exchange market average daily turnover was about $44 billion which relative to GDP, around $1.25 trillion, is quite low. That is to say, the volume of trading isn’t high enough to absorb any significant one-way flow. So, in addition to the basic supply and demand relationship that says if everyone demands dollars at once dollars will be more expensive, when foreigners with holdings in Korea started pulling everything out, the Korean foreign exchange market couldn’t handle a flow of that size without a substantial adjustment in the won price of dollars.
Korea got into trouble during the Asian financial crisis when it tried to defend its exchange rate band from speculation. Korea has apparently taken the lessons of ‘97 to heart, as in addition to building up a large stock of foreign reserves, somewhere just over $200 billion I think, the Koreans have also allowed the exchange to absorb the downward pressure from capital leaving the country. Korea is using its floating exchange rate as a cushion and it will likely be better off in the end for allow the exchange rate to depreciate as it has – more than 1500/$ at one point. However, in the meantime Al you should be thinking of ways to keep your money in won until its worth something again.
shit, i guess i should just blow it all on pink ties and shiny shoes while im here
G-20 forecast by Brad Delong, Berkeley economist and smart fella
Obama will tell the G-20 leaders what they ought to do.
They will complain.
They will do about half of it.
That they do half of it will be an extraordinarily good outcome—the best episode of international policy coordination since Bretton Woods itself.
Will them doing half of what they ought to do be good enough? Ah, that is the question
If we judge the Obama administration based on performance relative to the difficulty of the dive, I think their scores are good: 9.7, 9.3, 8.7, 9.1, and a 4.4 from the East German judge…
*check out delong’s blog here. i find his commentary really well suited for laypeople like myself, party because he avoids resorting to disaster movie-like analogies for complex problems that treat us all like idiots.
koreans, particularly those in the university and professional worlds, tend to use a lot of acronyms. im not really sure why this is, but i can only assume that their ubiquity has to do with the fact that the actual words contained within them are in english and therefore a little unfamiliar, plus the average corporate double speak is as unintelligible to most native speakers as it is it to those who have taken it on as double duty, so they opt to pare down alot of phrases. for instance, once a year most university students attend MT (membership training) which is basically just a forced play date amongst incoming students, but instead of juice boxes theres soju. lots and lots of soju. once those university students graduate and get a job, their day, unlike their american counterparts who do shit like ‘reinvent paradigms’ or ‘create 21st century solutions’, might consist of sending a few C2C (company to company) emails, learning a bit about PI (process innovation), or giving a PPP (power point presentation).
all this is to say that today one of my students was lamenting the demanding nature of her branch manager, so i had to try and make it through sentences like this for an hour and not laugh:
my bm wants the office cleaned everyday!
my bm yelled at me for an hour last week!
i just dont know how to talk to my bm.
i completely respect the learning curve of a language and i was admittedly a bit miffed when i found out i had been ordering nosebleeds (코피) instead of coffee (커피) for the first month i was here, but you really gotta learn to find the joy in certain things.