Apple faces brewing storm of challenges


Shrinking share: People walk outside an Apple store in Beijing. Apple’s market share in China in the third quarter of 2018 was around 9, and has dipped from above 14 in 2015, overtaken by local rivals like Huawei, Oppo and Vivo. — Reuters

Video: 5G …https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/iJfCBqPUKHQ

 

SHANGHAI: Apple Inc’s chief executive Tim Cook has his work cut out in China this year: the iPhone maker faces the looming threat of a court-ordered sales ban, the uncertain outcome of trade war talks and the roll-out of a new 5G network, where it finds itself behind rivals like Huawei and Samsung.

The complex outlook raises a challenge for Apple as it looks to revive its China fortunes after weakness there sparked a rare drop in its global sales forecast, knocked US$75bil from its market valuation and roiled global markets.

Cook told investors that the main drag on the firm’s performance in China had been a sharper-than-expected slowdown in the country’s economy, exacerbated by the impact of trade tensions between Washington and Beijing.

“We did not foresee the magnitude of the economic deceleration, particularly in Greater China,” he said.

Chinese shoppers told Reuters another element had been key: the high price-tag on Apple’s flagship phones.

Analysts said the firm faced a brewing storm of challenges: an economic slowdown, stronger rivals like Huawei Technologies Co Ltd bringing out comparable tech at lower prices and bubbling patriotic sentiment amid the trade war.

A Chinese court has also issued a preliminary injunction banning some Apple phones, part of a legal battle with chip maker Qualcomm Inc. This ban, potentially hitting iPhone models from the 6S through the X, has yet to be enforced.

Last Thursday a local industry body, the China Anti-Infringement and Anti-Counterfeit Innovation Strategic Alliance, called on Apple to heed the court order and not “trample the Chinese law by leveraging its super economic power and clout.” Apple declined to comment on the group’s statement but has previously said it believed its current phones complied with the Chinese court’s order.

“These are tough times for Apple in China,” said Neil Shah, research director at Counterpoint, adding the iPhone could see its market share slip to 7% this year in the face of stronger local rivals and worry about the sales ban.

Apple’s market share in the third-quarter of 2018 was around 9%, and has dipped from above 14% in 2015, overtaken by local rivals like Huawei, Oppo and Vivo.

Another question mark for Apple is its 5G strategy in China, where the US firm is not expected to have a 5G-enabled phone until 2020, behind rivals like Huawei, Xiaomi Corp and Samsung Electronics.

China is looking to push ahead with its rollout of a faster 5G network, with a pre-commercial phase this year and a commercial network in 2020.

Some are looking to make an early bet on the technology.

Huawei is planning a 5G phone mid-year, while Xiaomi is aiming for the third quarter. Samsung is expected to unveil a 5G phone in the first half of the year.

Industry insiders, however, said Apple would likely hold off until the fall of 2020 to have its own 5G-enabled phone, a strategy that would bypass the untested early period of the technology, but which could mean Chinese shoppers delay iPhone purchases or buy another brand that switched to 5G earlier.

“I’ll definitely be paying attention to 5G functionality when I buy my next phone,” said Wu Chengjun, a graduate student in Beijing who currently uses an iPhone X.

With the exception of Huawei, which makes it own 5G chips, Qualcomm is providing the technology to many of the major phone makers releasing 5G handsets this year.

“If you’re a (phone maker) looking for a ‘super cycle’ (of sales), if you don’t have 5G, your situation won’t get any better,” Cristiano Amon, Qualcomm’s president, told Reuters in an interview. ”

The carrier channel is going to be incentivised to start selling 5G phones in the second half of 2019, he said. — Reuters

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South Korean Christian-based cult leaders pastor Lee jailed for raping followers


South Korean Pastor Lee Jaerock was convicted of the multiple rape of eight
female followers — some of whom believed he was God. — AFP
  • Religious devotion is widespread in technologically advanced South Korea
  • South Korea has proven fertile ground for religious groups with
    strong, unambiguous ideologies that offered comfort and salvation

A South Korean cult leader was convicted Thursday of the multiple rape of eight female followers — some of whom believed he was God — and jailed for 15 years.

Pastor Lee Jaerock’s victims were “unable to resist as they were subject to the accused’s absolute religious authority”, judge Chung Moon-sung told the Seoul Central District Court.

Religious devotion is widespread in technologically advanced South Korea, with 44 percent of people identifying themselves as believers.

Most belong to mainstream churches, which can accumulate wealth and influence with tens of thousands of followers donating as much as 10 percent of their income.

But fringe groups are also widespread — experts say around 60 people in the country claim to be divine — and some have been implicated in fraud, brainwashing, coercion, and other behaviour associated with cults worldwide.

Lee set up the Manmin Central Church in Guro, once a poor area of Seoul, with just 12 followers in 1982. It has now grown to 130,000 members, with a spotlight-filled auditorium, sprawling headquarters, and a website replete with claims of miracle cures.

But three of Lee’s followers went public earlier this year, as South Korea was swept with a wave of #MeToo accusations, describing how he had summoned each of them to an apartment and raped them.

South Korean Pastor Lee Jae-rock arrives at the Seoul Central District Court to attend his trial on Thursday. | AFP-JIJI

“I was unable to turn him down,” one of them told South Korean television.

“He was more than a king. He was God,” added the woman, who had been a church member since childhood.

Lee told another that she was now in Heaven, and to strip as Adam and Eve went naked in the Garden of Eden. “I cried as I hated to do it,” she told JTBC television.

Eight women laid criminal complaints, and the court found Lee raped and molested them “tens of times” over a long period.

“Through his sermons the accused has indirectly or directly suggested he is the holy spirit, deifying himself,” the judge said.

The victims believed him to be “a divine being who wields divine power”, he added.

Lee, who denied the charges, stood with his eyes closed as the judgement was read, showing no emotion, while around 100 followers filled the courtroom to overflowing, some of them sighing quietly.

The 75-year-old’s lawyers had accused the women of lying to seek vengeance after being excommunicated for breaching church rules.

– Second Coming –

South Korea has proven fertile ground for religious groups with strong, unambiguous ideologies that offered comfort and salvation that appealed strongly during times of deep uncertainty.

More recent versions have claimed a unique knowledge of the path to material and spiritual prosperity — a message that resonates in a highly competitive and status-focused society.

According to a 2015 government survey, 28 percent of South Koreans say they belong to Christian churches, with another 16 percent describing themselves as Buddhist.

But according to Park Hyung-tak, head of the Korea Christian Heresy Research Institute, around two million people are followers of cults.

“There are some 60 Christian-based cult leaders in this country who claim to be the second coming of Jesus Christ, or God Himself,” he told AFP.

AFP/File / MENAHEM KAHANA

“Many cults point to megachurches mired in corruption and other scandals in order to highlight their own presumed purity and attract believers,” he added.

On his own website, Lee says that God has “anointed me with His power” but the Manmin Central Church has been condemned as heretical by mainstream Christian organisations, partly because of its claims to miracle healing.

In one example on the church website, Barbara Vollath, a 49-year-old German, said he was born deaf but her bone cancer was cured and she gained hearing in both ears after Lee’s daughter and heiress apparent Lee Soojin prayed for her with a handkerchief he had blessed.

South Korean cults can have deadly consequences: in 1987, 32 members of an apocalyptic group called Odaeyang, were found dead at their headquarters in an apparent murder-suicide pact, including its leader, who was under police investigation for embezzlement.

And they can influence the highest reaches of power.

Choi Soon-Sil, the woman at the centre of the corruption scandal that brought down her close friend president Park Geun-Hye, is the daughter of late religious leader Choi Tae-min.

The elder Choi became Park’s spiritual mentor after establishing his own church, Yeongsegyo (“Spiritual Life”), combining tenets of Buddhism, Christianity and shamanism.

Source: AFP

On a mission from God: South Korea’s many cults

The jailing of a South Korean religious leader on Thursday for the rape of multiple followers is the latest example of religious cults in the country.

The world’s 11th-largest economy is technologically advanced but has a history of cult organisations and charismatic religious leaders, some of whom have amassed enormous wealth and influence.

Here are some groups that have previously attracted controversy or had brushes with the law.
Pastor Lee Jaerock, a South Korean cult leader was convicted Thursday of the multiple rape of eight female followers. Here are other South Korean cult groups that have made headlines
+4

 Pastor Lee Jaerock, a South Korean cult leader was convicted Thursday of the multiple rape of eight female followers. Here are other South Korean cult groups that have made headlines

Pastor Lee Jaerock, a South Korean cult leader was convicted Thursday of the multiple rape of eight female followers. Here are other South Korean cult groups that have made headlines

The World Mission Society Church of God predicted the end of the world would come on December 31, 1999.

However, being wrong has been no barrier to its fortunes, and an anti-cult group estimates that it has more than 200,000 followers, although it claims more than two million.

Its founder Ahn Sang-hong, who died in 1985, is worshipped as the Heavenly Father, who it says will come for the salvation of 144,000 souls — the number appears in a biblical prophecy.

Ahn’s wife Jang Gil-ja is regarded as the Heavenly Mother. Its aggressive evangelical activities in south east Asian countries sparked controversy.

Shincheonji, or the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony, suggests that its founder Lee Man-hee has donned the mantle of Jesus Christ and will take 144,000 people with him to Heaven, body and soul, on the Day of Judgement.

But its adherents have long surpassed that number, and critics say they have to engage in endless loyalty competitions to earn credits to be included among the saved, sacrificing their everyday lives and leading to serious family disputes.

Shincheonji ‘is the nation of God, created by Him to fulfil what is in heaven on this earth in today´s time’, it says on its homepage, adding that Lee ‘is creating God´s kingdom of heaven here on earth, exactly as he witnessed it in heaven’.

The female leader of a doomsday cult and three of her acolytes were arrested this year for allegedly holding some 400 followers captive in Fiji and subjecting them to violence and barbaric rituals.

Victims were hit hundreds of times in ceremonies known as ‘threshing floors’, defectors told South Korean media.

Shin Ok-ju, founder of the Grace Road Church, has gone on trial on charges of violence, child abuse, exploitation and incarceration, among others.

One of South the largest and best-known cults is Providence or Jesus Morning Star, also known by the acronym JMS — which matches the initials of its founder Jung Myung Seok.

He set it up in 1980 as a breakaway from the Unification Church, also known as the Moonies.

Jung was released from prison earlier this year after serving a 10-year sentence for the rape and sexual assault of four female followers.

He told them to have sex with him to purge themselves of sin.

Guwonpa, or ‘Salvation Sect‘, came to national attention when the Sewol ferry — whose operating company was run by its leader Yoo Byung-eun and his family — sank in 2014 with the loss of more than 300 lives, most of them children.

On the run from charges of corruption and negligence, Yoo’s body was found in a field, so badly decomposed that authorities were unable to determine the precise cause of death.

In 1987, 32 members of an apocalyptic cult called Odaeyang, meaning ‘five oceans’, were found dead at their headquarters in the southern city of Yongin in an apparent murder-suicide pact.

Among them was the cult’s leader Park Soon-Ja, who had been under pressure from her lenders over $17 million of debts and was under police investigation for embezzlement.

Police said Park’s two sons and a cult official strangled her and 28 others before killing themselves.

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Trump’s tariffs won’t restore U.S. jobs



The sewing lines at Bernhard Furniture Company which where skilled craft
jobs are growing without the help of tariffs, and company officials

Related image

Trump’s tariffs won’t restore U.S. furniture jobs :
https://www.reuters.tv/v/PvWi/2018/09/27/trump-s-tariffs-won-t-restore-u-s-furniture-jobs

In a town where a 30-feet tall chair is the chief landmark, and which is synonymous with a U.S. furniture industry decimated over the years by imports from China, many greet the possibility of tariffs on Chinese goods with a shrug.

No wonder. Of three once bustling Thomasville furniture plants in the city limits, one is being demolished and cleared for parkland, another may become the site of a new police station, and a third is being converted into apartments.

President Donald Trump is threatening to levy tariffs of up to 25 percent on $500 billion of goods imported from China each year, including roughly $20 billion of furniture, as a way to bring back hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs lost to China and other low-cost competitors.

Yet, the transformation of U.S. industries since China’s emergence as the world’s low-cost producer almost two decades ago means many no longer directly compete with Chinese imports, so tariffs may not translate so easily into more U.S. jobs.

At family-owned Bernhardt Furniture in Lenoir, some 90 miles west of Thomasville, executives say it would take about $30 million in capital investment – some 10 percent of annual sales – to resurrect standard wood furniture lines now mainly made in countries like China and Vietnam.

That is too much to commit based on a policy that a future administration could reverse.

“The theory is you turn (imports) off, the jobs come back. That’s not really true… The buildings don’t exist. The people don’t exist. The machinery does not exist,” to make the sorts of furniture that now gets imported, said Alex Bernhardt Jr., chief executive and the company founder’s great grandson.

What the company needs now, executives say, is the open markets and steady economy that have allowed it to grow its workforce from below 800 at the end of the 2007-2009 recession to almost 1,500 today – partly on the basis of exports to China.

DIFFERENT COMPANY

That growth has been largely driven by demand for more customized, higher end furniture. In expanding, the 129-year-old company has been hiring not only factory workers, but also designers, marketing experts and other professionals.

In all, it is a different firm from what it was three decades ago when it first began dividing product lines between the United States and Asia.

Economists say the same is true across much of U.S. manufacturing. To invest and hire more workers, executives would need certainty, for example, that consumers would prefer U.S.-made products at a potentially higher price. They would need confidence that tariffs would last beyond the Trump administration and that production could not be shifted to other more cost-competitive countries.

Even then, there may be little incentive to go back to old product lines for industries that have changed dramatically because of globalization.

Across the Rust Belt and the former factory towns of the south, the transformation is apparent. In Buffalo, an old steel mill is now a solar panel factory, and a retail goods manufacturer now houses an office and restaurant park. Near Dayton, Ohio, a shuttered GM plant has reopened as a Chinese-owned auto glass company. Abandoned factories throughout North Carolina have landed on the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of “brownfield” sites that need cleanup.

Some companies are considering moving production from China as a result of the tariffs, but the jobs are unlikely to head home.

Illinois-based CCTY Bearing, for example, said it planned to move U.S.-bound production from Zhenjiang, China, to a new plant near Mumbai in India to keep labor costs down.

JLab Audio’s China-made Bluetooth products are not being taxed yet, but its chief executive Win Cramer had been scouting for suppliers in Vietnam and Mexico.

“I would love to build products onshore, but consumers have proven time and time again that “Made in America” isn’t as valuable a statement as it once was,” Cramer said. “They make decisions based on the cost.”

The price of, say, its Bluetooth earbud would jump from $20 to as much as $50 if it was made in the United States, Cramer said, far more than what tariffs would add to the cost of imports.

To be sure, early reactions suggest that foreign companies that make U.S.-bound goods in China may move some of that production to the United States. Still, countries such as Vietnam may ultimately benefit the most from Trump’s tariffs.

Japanese construction and mining equipment maker Komatsu Ltd < 6301.T > has said it has already shifted some of its production of parts for U.S.-built excavators from China. Part of that production moved to the United States, but some also went to Mexico and Japan.

In South Korea, LG Electronics <066570 .ks=””> and its rival Samsung Electronics <005930 .ks=””> are considering moving parts of U.S.-bound refrigerator and air conditioner production to Mexico, Vietnam or back home, but not to the United States, according to company sources and local media.

STEADY RECOVERY

The responses to Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum show how such steps create both winners and losers.

Producers such as U.S. Steel and Century Aluminum have said they will add at least several hundred jobs as a result of the higher prices they can charge.

Mid-Continental Nail, however, laid off 130 workers because of those higher steel prices, and furniture parts maker Leggett & Platt has warned that rising metal prices would prompt it to shift production abroad.

So far, Washington has imposed duties on $250 billion of Chinese imports and Trump has threatened to slap tariffs on all Chinese goods.

Many economists project new tariffs would on balance either slow down hiring or cause job losses in a manufacturing sector where employment has grown by 10 percent over the past eight years without special protection.

(Graphic: https://tmsnrt.rs/2Q1AFUW)

The furniture industry, among the hardest hit by Chinese imports, has added 43,000 jobs since its employment hit a low of 350,000 in 2011, helped by the recovering housing market and strong consumer demand.

Industry officials say skilled upholsterers and other workers are hard to find, echoing the Federal Reserve’s concern about the impact of worker shortages on the U.S. economy.

In Thomasville, few expect that tariffs will bring furniture manufacturing back to its heyday, nor does the community need it, says city manager Kelly Craver, whose parents worked in the furniture and textile industries.

Since the recession, Thomasville has become a residential hub for growing nearby cities such as Greensboro and Charlotte. It also has its own mix of manufacturing and white collar jobs.

Mohawk Industries recently expanded its Thomasville laminate flooring facility while the Old Dominion Freight Line transportation firm and the fast-growing Cook Out burger chain have corporate headquarters there.

“We, for the very first time in this city’s existence, are going to have a diversified economy,” Craver said.

By Howard Schneider, Reuters

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Vanishing Jobs Growth Spells Deep Trouble for South Korea


 

 
Not-so-nice figures: Moon has seen his popularity slide amid criticism that he’s hurting employment by
aggressively increasing the minimum wage. — AP

Unemployment and jobs growth in South Korea haven’t looked so bad since the wake of the global financial crisis, undermining President Moon Jae-in’s economic agenda.

Data released Wednesday show the unemployment rate jumping to 4.2 percent, the highest since early 2010, and much greater than any economists forecast. Jobs growth slumped to just 3,000 last month, also the worst figure in more than eight years.

Moon, who came into office pledging to create jobs and raise incomes for regular workers, has seen his popularity slide amid criticism that he’s hurting employment by aggressively increasing the minimum wage.

While pay hikes planned for this year and 2019 are here to stay, Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon said the government would consider adjusting some policies.

He conceded that the jobs market wouldn’t improve much anytime soon.

Disappearing Jobs Growth

  • Number of jobs added: South Korea added just 3,000 jobs in August, the least since 2010

Source: Statistics Korea

Moon’s administration points to the fallout from corporate restructuring and the shrinking working-age population as the source of the problems in the labour market. Businesses counter that hiking the minimum wage 16% this year, with another bump of almost 11% to come next year, has made job layoffs inevitable.

Small business owners in particular, from convenience stores to fast-food franchises, have shed workers.

Adding to the economic unease in South Korea is the risk that US President Donald Trump may hit car exporters with auto tariffs, even after Seoul agreed to renegotiate its trade deal with the US.

Unemployment Spike

South Korea’s unemployment rate in August reached the highest since 2010
  • Seasonally adjusted unemployment rate
Source: Statistics Korea

South Korean bonds climbed and the won fell after jobs figures, which appeared to squash any near-term prospect of the central bank raising interest rates.

The finance minister said economic policies that are geared toward wage-based growth are moving in the “right direction”. Yet the government also acknowledged the need for more communication and market analysis in order to gain trust from companies and the people, he said.

The presidential office described the recent increase in unemployment as inevitable pain that accompanies a change in the structure of the economy, Yonhap News reported.

Like many other countries, South Korea is experiencing a widening gap between the rich and the poor. It’s confounding policy makers and exacerbating political divisions. — Bloomberg

Kim Jong-un says he is ‘committed to Korean denuclearisation’ in Beijing talks



North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un has promised President Xi Jinping that he will follow through the wishes of his father and grandfather in denuclearising the Korean peninsula, but added he wants assurances from the United States and South Korea.

The leader of the reclusive state made the remarks during a trip to China, his first overseas visit since he became North Korea’s leader, according to the state-run Chinese news agency Xinhua.

Kim, the third generation of his family to lead his country, said the situation on the Korean peninsula was improving and that his government has taken steps to ease tensions, Xinhua reported.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un leaves Beijing after surprise visit >>

Kim added that if the US and South Korea were willing to respond to North Korea’s efforts with sincerity the nuclear issue “can be solved”.

“Our unswerving stance is that we will make efforts towards the denuclearisation of the peninsula,” Kim was quoted as saying by Xinhua.

President Xi pledged to work with North Korea to achieve denuclearisation.

“China is willing to continue to make a constructive impact on the Korean peninsula problem,” President Xi said. He called upon all sides to solve the problem through dialogue, Xinhua reported.

Tensions have risen on Korean peninsula after North Korea has increased nuclear weapons tests.

The United Nations has enforced a series of sanctions to try to rein in Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.

Hopes of a breakthrough in the crisis have risen since the announcement that North and South Korea’s leaders have agreed to meet.

Beijing is North Korea’s long-standing traditional ally, but ties have been frayed by North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and China’s support of UN sanctions.

Pang Zhongying, a senior fellow at the Ocean University of China in Qingdao, said Kim was securing China’s support ahead of his meeting with US President Donald Trump, scheduled to be held by May.

“By denuclearisation, Kim actually means the whole Korean peninsula should be denuclearised and that the nuclear weapons deployed by the US in South Korea should be withdrawn,” Pang said. “Can the US really accept that request? The gesture means that the chance of a significant breakthrough between Kim and Trump may be slim.”

Kim’s visit evidence China and North Korea remain allies, analysts say  >>

Paul Haenle, director of the Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre in China, agreed Kim was looking for support from Beijing ahead of his meetings with South Korea’s president and Trump.

”Just as Kim may have felt he had secured some leverage against Xi having independently secured summits with Trump and Moon, he’ll now feel more confident knowing where things stand with Beijing heading into those same meetings,” he said.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the Chinese government had briefed the Trump administration about the visit on Tuesday.

The Trump administration sees the development “as further evidence that our campaign of maximum pressure is creating the appropriate atmosphere for dialogue with North Korea”, she said.

Beijing residents left in the dark during Kim Jong-un’s unexpected visit  >>

Kim arrived by train in Beijing on Monday and left the following day, with his trip to China coming just days before a planned meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and ahead of the possible summit with Trump.

Speculation about a visit by Kim to Beijing came earlier this week after a train similar to the one used by Kim’s father was seen in the Chinese capital.

Ri Sol-ju, Kim’s wife, was also part of the delegation to Beijing, Xinhua reported.

China’s Premier, Li Keqiang, Vice-President Wang Qishan and Politburo Standing Committee member Wang Huning also met the North Korean leader.

The green armoured train carrying the North Korean leader returned to the reclusive state at about 6am on Wednesday across a bridge connecting the two countries in Dandong, Liaoning province.

Chinese police had blocked access to the area around the bridge before the train’s arrival.

Armed police vehicles were also seen in the area.

North Korea agrees to inter-Korean talks to discuss possible April summit  >>

Access to parts of the Yalu River riverbank, which separates North Korea and Dandong, were blocked. Some police officers also stopped people from taking pictures of the bridge before the train’s arrival.

“I can only say that a situation is happening here,” a police officer at one of the blocked roads told the South China Morning Post.

About three minutes after the train passed over the bridge, police officers finally allowed pedestrians to enter the area.
As the Post visited the area in the early hours of Wednesday – before the area was cordoned off – five plainclothes police officers approached and asked staff to leave.

They did not explain why, only saying “it was not safe” to be there so late at night.

Source: South China Morning Post by Phila Siu is reporting from Dandong

5,000 Malaysians are illegals in South Korea, lured by higher pay, living underground !


A tough life: Malaysians seen working at a vegetable farm near Seoul. 

SEOUL: An estimated 5,000 Malay­sians are working and staying illegally in South Korea, with the less fortunate ones forced to live like refugees and always on the run from the authorities.

Lured by job advertisements that claimed they could make money hand over fist in the land of K-pop and Descendants of the Sun, they paid recruitment agents thousands of ringgit in fees and entered the country on tourist visas.

Unfortunately, many of them have been left in dire straits after finding out that reality did not match up with the promises.

Star Media Group’s Bahasa Malaysia news portal mStar Online sent a team to South Korea to look into their plight and found many of these Malaysians stranded and destitute.
These 5,000, based on figures that volunteer aid workers pieced together from Malaysians and recruitment agents, are part of an estimated 251,000 illegal foreign workers in the country as reported by The Korea Herald.

Their problems, first highlighted by the portal in a series of special reports in association with The Korea Herald in January, ranged from suffering permanent disability after workplace accidents to being left broke and homeless when they were fired by their employers.

Among the locations the team visited were Itaewon in the central region and Daeso and Muguk in Eumseoung district, about 80km from Seoul.

A Malaysian who wanted to be known only as Farhan said he and two of his friends have been homeless for more than two months since they were fired without pay after working at a seaweed processing company for just one week.

“I was fired because I came down with fever a week after starting work. We have to rely on our friends for food,” he said, adding that sometimes they only had biscuits to eat.

The 24-year-old said that on weekends, they would sleep at the Seoul Central Mosque, while on weekdays, they would stay at a friend’s house.

Visiting the mosque, the mStar Online team found several bags in the corridors, believed to belong to the foreign workers who sleep there.

Another Malaysian, who did not want to be named, said she had to live in one house with 18 others.

The woman, who works on an onion and sweet potato farm, said the house is so overcrowded that some of them have to sleep in front of the toilet or on the kitchen floor.

She and her housemates said there had been cases of Malaysians being physically abused if they did not work fast enough.

Their story was echoed by others the team interviewed, as well as those who came forward in the earlier reports in January, and because of their illegal status, they are often exploited, made to work long hours without rest and barred from talking to their colleagues.

The risk of accidents is also great because they are seldom given briefings or safety equipment and protective gear.

After such hardship, their labour sometimes even goes unrewarded because of employers who, taking advantage of their workers’ illegal status, hold back their pay in the belief that they would not dare report it to the authorities.

As a result, many suffer in silence for fear of being detained by the authorities, and are ignorant of their rights as workers.

Winter in South Korea will come to an end later this month. Without money, shelter or a way home, these stranded Malaysians can only wait it out, and hope for new job opportunities that will be available in the spring.

Source: The Star by nadia shaiful bahari

Malaysian workers ‘living underground’ 

Some of them are forced to live on the streets.

SEOUL: The 5,000 Malaysians working and staying illegally in South Korea may be grouped into six categories, based on the findings of the mStar Online team that visited South Korea and spoke to some of those affected.

The lucky ones

These are the “successful” ones who entered the country on tourist visas, have the funds to return home or travel to other countries after these visas expire. They then return to South Korea on new tourist visas and take up jobs here again.

Those in this category are considered fortunate because they have responsible employers who pay them as promised. They have also managed to evade the authorities.

Those who overstay

There are also Malaysians who took the risk of overstaying. They are either working or waiting for other job opportunities. They can get by as long as they are not caught or face workplace issues such as accidents or exploitation by their employers.

Generally, it can be said that those who belong to the first two groups managed to realise their dream, have a place to stay, and are living comfortably in a foreign land.


• The unemployed and homeless

On the other hand, there are those who have been made homeless and forced to sleep in mosques or rely on the kindness of friends.

Their situation is caused by several factors: they may have been cheated by recruitment agents, had their salaries withheld, or had their contracts terminated, leaving them with nowhere to live and no funds to return to Malaysia.

• Waiting for spring

Job opportunities drop considerably during winter. Those without work are forced to endure the cold and wait for spring, which brings more job openings with it.

Those who have the money would not find the winter months a problem, but the unemployed have to depend on others for food and shelter.


• Accident victims

There are also those who overstay because of workplace accidents. They have to remain behind while waiting for their cases to be heard at the Labour Office so that they can claim compensation from their employers.


• Those on medical visas

Some of those hurt in workplace accidents are fortunate enough to be granted medical visas by the authorities, enabling them to stay in South Korea until their treatment is completed.

The specific reasons for not returning home vary from one individual to the next. Some may be victims of circumstance, while others are just determined to achieve their goals and earn as much as they can before coming back.

And with each new job opportunity that comes along, a new set of risks and hazards arises.

Malaysians lured by higher pay

Getting the story: Nadia speaking to an agent about the risks of illegal employment in South Korea.
Getting the story: Nadia speaking to an agent about the risks of illegal employment in South Korea.

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysians who brave the perils of working and staying illegally in South Korea do so because of monthly salaries advertised in the range of RM6,000 to RM12,000.

In fact, recruitment agents say, they choose to go even after being told of the risks involved.

It is estimated that as many as 5,000 Malaysians have gone there since 2016, to work in factories producing kimchi, cosmetics, calendars, furniture, auto spare parts and aluminium, among other items.

When the big pay they expected does not materialise, usually because of workplace accidents or exploitation by unscrupulous employers, they often find themselves homeless and broke.

An mStar Online team probing their plight spoke to one agent who said about 800 Malaysians had used his services last year alone.

The agent, who asked to be known only as Nasir, said he charged each customer RM2,800.

The amount covers securing the job, a return air ticket and a South Korean job agency’s fees.

According to The Korea Herald, there are about 251,000 illegal workers from various countries working in South Korea.

This group is highly exposed to occupational hazards and is at risk of being duped or exploited by employers because of their immigration status.

Local agents as well as aid volunteers in Seoul said Malaysians made up about 5,000 of the overall figure.

Taufik, another agent, said he knew of about 20 others who were in the same line.

“I personally handled trips for almost 100 Malaysians to South Korea since 2016,” he added.

He said not all agents were responsible enough to inform their clients of the risks.

Taufik said he was honest in his dealings and made sure those who used his services were fully aware of the risks they faced as illegals working in South Korea.

However, he was surprised to see that all these potential problems did not deter a single one of his clients from going to South Korea, which reportedly had the highest household income in Asia.

“There are agents who do not give clear information, but I tell my customers about the real situation and ask them to think carefully before going.

“Among the most important things they must have is a strong spirit.

“This is just my side job. I have my own business. I don’t depend on their money,” he told mStar Online.

Taufik claimed he only pocketed RM500 to RM600 of the RM2,500 fee he charged clients.

Based on surveys and from talking to agents and their clients, the team learned that an agent stood to make up to RM15,000 for every batch of recruits – ranging from 10 to 30 per group – sent to South Korea.

Another agent, Azhar, said it was easy to get through immigration checks there as the job seekers posed as tourists.

To prove they were just visiting, Azhar said he would provide them with fake return tickets to show to South Korean immigration officials.

His package, priced at RM2,500, includes one night’s accommodation, a prepaid T-Money payment card, job arrangement charges and transport to the workplace.

Source:Star by nadia shaiful bahari

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The Asian financial crisis – 20 years later




East Asian Economies Remain Diverse

 

It is useful to reflect on whether lessons have been learnt and if the countries are vulnerable to new crises.

IT’S been 20 years since the Asian financial crisis struck in July 1997. Since then, there has been an even bigger global financial crisis, starting in 2008. Will there be another crisis?

The Asian crisis began when speculators brought down the Thai baht. Within months, the currencies of Indonesia, South Korea and Malaysia were also affected. The East Asian Miracle turned into an Asian Financial Nightmare.

Despite the affected countries receiving only praise before the crisis, weaknesses had built up, including current account deficits, low foreign reserves and high external debt.

In particular, the countries had recently liberalised their financial system in line with international advice. This enabled local private companies to freely borrow from abroad, mainly in US dollars. Companies and banks in Korea, Indonesia and Thailand had in each country rapidly accumulated over a hundred billion dollars of external loans. This was the Achilles heel that led their countries to crisis.

These weaknesses made the countries ripe for speculators to bet against their currencies. When the governments used up their reserves in a vain attempt to stem the currency fall, three of the countries ran out of foreign exchange.

They went to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for bailout loans that carried draconian conditions that worsened their economic situation.

Malaysia was fortunate. It did not seek IMF loans. The foreign reserves had become dangerously low but were just about adequate. If the ringgit had fallen a bit further, the danger line would have been breached.

After a year of self-imposed austerity measures, Malaysia dramatically switched course and introduced a set of unorthodox policies.

These included pegging the ringgit to the dollar, selective capital controls to prevent short-term funds from exiting, lowering interest rates, increasing government spending and rescuing failing companies and banks.

This was the opposite of orthodoxy and the IMF policies. The global establishment predicted the sure collapse of the Malaysian economy.

But surprisingly, the economy recovered even faster and with fewer losses than the other countries. Today, the Malaysian measures are often cited as a successful anti-crisis strategy.

The IMF itself has changed a little. It now includes some capital controls as part of legitimate policy measures.

The Asian countries, vowing never to go to the IMF again, built up strong current account surpluses and foreign reserves to protect against bad years and keep off speculators. The economies recovered, but never back to the spectacular 7% to 10% pre-crisis growth rates.

Then in 2008, the global financial crisis erupted with the United States as its epicentre. The tip of the iceberg was the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the massive loans given out to non-credit-worthy house-buyers.

The underlying cause was the deregulation of US finance and the freedom with which financial institutions could devise all kinds of manipulative schemes and “financial products” to draw in unsuspecting customers. They made billions of dollars but the house of cards came tumbling down.

To fight the crisis, the US, under President Barack Obama, embarked first on expanding government spending and then on financial policies of near-zero interest rates and “quantitative easing”, with the Federal Reserve pumping trillions of dollars into the US banks.

It was hoped the cheap credit would get consumers and businesses to spend and lift the economy. But instead, a significant portion of the trillions went via investors into speculative activities, including abroad to emerging economies.

Europe, on the verge of recession, followed the US with near zero interest rates and large quantitative easing, with limited results.

The US-Europe financial crisis affected Asian countries in a limited way through declines in export growth and commodity prices. The large foreign reserves built up after the Asian crisis, plus the current account surplus situation, acted as buffers against external debt problems and kept speculators at bay.

Just as important, hundreds of billions of funds from the US and Europe poured into Asia yearly in search of higher yields. These massive capital inflows helped to boost Asian countries’ growth, but could cause their own problems.

First, they led to asset bubbles or rapid price increases of houses and the stock markets, and the bubbles may burst when they are over-ripe.

Second, many of the portfolio investors are short-term funds looking for quick profit, and they can be expected to leave when conditions change.

Third, the countries receiving capital inflows become vulnerable to financial volatility and economic instability.

If and when investors pull some or a lot of their money out, there may be price declines, inadequate replenishment of bonds, and a fall in the levels of currency and foreign reserves.

A few countries may face a new financial crisis.

A new vulnerability in many emerging economies is the rapid build-up of external debt in the form of bonds denominated in the local currency.

The Asian crisis two decades ago taught that over-borrowing in foreign currency can create difficulties in debt repayment should the local currency level fall.

To avoid this, many countries sold bonds denominated in the local currency to foreign investors.

However, if the bonds held by foreigners are large in value, the country will still be vulnerable to the effects of a withdrawal.

As an example, almost half of Malaysian government securities, denominated in ringgit, are held by foreigners.

Though the country does not face the risk of having to pay more in ringgit if there is a fall in the local currency, it may have other difficulties if foreigners withdraw their bonds.

What is the state of the world economy, what are the chances of a new financial crisis, and how would the Asian countries like Malaysia fare?

These are big and relevant questions to ponder 20 years after the start of the Asian crisis and nine years after the global crisis.

But we will have to consider them in another article.

By Martin Khor Global Trend

Martin Khor (director@southcentre.org) is executive director of the South Centre. The views expressed here are entirely his own.
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