Sunday, October 26, 2014

An ‘emotionally richer’ Templestay program

First published in The Korea Herald

If you want to experience a Templestay program in Seoul, but do not have the time to venture far, there are four popular places to do so in the area ― Myogaksa Temple and Geumseonsa Temple in Jongno-gu, Bongeunsa Temple in Gangnam-gu and the International Seon Center in Yangcheon-gu.

But not included in this list is one of the oldest temples in Seoul, Jingwansa Temple, a smaller but historically rich temple located just to the west of Seoul with a reputation for stellar temple food.

The Seoul City government is now trying to raise awareness of its historical value and its importance of being one of the four “great temples” in the city, together with Bulamsa Temple in the east, Sammaksa Temple in the south and Seunggasa Temple in the north.

To this end, they invited a dozen journalists to experience a short program Thursday.

Nestled in the expansive mountain and deep valley, the temple is not only in the foothills of the beautiful Bukhansan National Park, but also contains an impressive collection of cultural and historical properties. It provides a quiet place for city dwellers to enjoy, even as they learn about Buddhism.

As noted by Seonwoo, director of Jingwansa Templestay program, during the Joseon Dynasty, King Sejong built a library in the area for Confucian scholars to visit and read.

Foreign journalists attend the Templestay program organized by Jingwansa Temple in Seoul. (Kim Myung-sub /The Korea Herald)

“The temple was built for a monk named Jingwan by the eighth king of the Goryeo dynasty, Hyeonjong, about 1,000 years ago. At the age of 12, Hyeonjong was kicked out of the palace during a power struggle. The monk Jingwan took care of him, saving his life. After Hyeonjong became king, he built a temple named after the monk called Jingwansa to repay him for his kindness.”

The temple compound consists of the main Buddha sanctuary, or “daeungjeon,” in the middle, the monks’ living quarters to its left, the “myeongbujeon,” a place to pray for the dead spirits so they can have an easy passage into eternity to its right, and other buildings.

“During the Korean War in 1950, all the buildings in the temple compound were destroyed by bombs except for three including the ‘Nahanjeon,’ a sanctuary where Nahan’s spirit lives. The remaining buildings contain holy artifacts which were produced from the late 16th century to the early 20th century and were named cultural assets of Seoul,” she said.

During restoration work in 2009, materials related to the Korean independence movement against Japan were found ― newspapers published by independence fighters and a Korean flag from 1919. These are now on public display.

“We offer a Templestay program where visitors can experience Buddhist culture throughout the year. While some restoration work is going on, starting January 2015, visitors can get to experience the entirety of Buddhist living, including monastic food ― the ‘ultimate slow food,’ as it’s called,” she said.

“Sustainability has been at the core of the Korean Buddhist diet for centuries. The temple cuisine follows several strict rules, with no meat and fish, and almost all ingredients must be grown on or near the temple grounds.”

Korean Buddhists are prohibited from using vegetables like garlic and onions that are considered “hot” and distracting to meditation.

There are a variety of programs offered, including a “freestyle” program, a program that lets one experience the daily life of practitioners in the temple, as well as Buddhist cultural programs, and others designed for groups and those with regular jobs. The programs feature chanting services, 108 prostrations, tea and conversation with a monk, meditation, monastic formal meals and the preparation of temple food.

This is the only temple in Seoul that serves “suryukje,” a Buddhist ceremony that provides food and Buddha’s teachings to spirits and starved demons that wander the land and sea, and provides training facilities for female monks. The Jingwansa National Suryukdaeje is a royal ceremony practiced exclusively in Seoul for 600 years after the first king founded the Joseon dynasty. It is performed every leap year for 49 days between August and October, and is designated as Intangible Cultural Heritage No. 125 by the government.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Unity in diversity: 2014 Incheon Asian Games

First published in The Korea Herald:

The 2014 Asian Games, the largest sporting event on the continent, kicked off Friday for a 16-day run in Incheon, a metropolitan city west of Seoul.

The event, governed by the Olympic Council of Asia, brings together some 10,000 athletes for a multisport spectacle second only in scale to the Summer Olympics.

Korea has had the experience of hosting the Asian Games twice before ― first in 1986 in Seoul and second in 2002 in Busan, the second-largest city.

This will be the biggest Asiad ever, with 439 events in 36 sports and disciplines, and the organizers have pledged to stage an impressive event that will showcase Asia’s unity in diversity, with all 45 participating countries marching as one.

The official slogan is “Diversity Shines Here,” which represents and highlights the significance of Asia’s diversity in history, culture and religion.

As before, the powerhouses of Northeast Asia will slug it out for the gold medals.

China is the hot favorite to top the medal count for the ninth straight Games, and is sending the biggest delegation to Incheon with 899 athletes.

Fireworks rise over the opening ceremony of the Asian Games at the Incheon Asiad Main Stadium on Friday. (Yonhap)
It hopes to use the Incheon Games as a springboard to launch the careers of future Olympic champions.

The country set an Asian Games record by scooping 416 medals in the previous edition ― 199 gold, 119 silver and 98 bronze medals.

It is likely to dominate diving, gymnastics, table tennis and badminton, while fielding big stars across many of the other sports in Incheon.

South Korea has set an ambitious target of 90 gold medals, though the host would probably settle for less, as long as it finishes above its fierce rival Japan.

South Korea has gold medal favorites in Park Tae-hwan for swimming, Son Yeon-jae for rhythmic gymnastics and Oh Jin-hyek for recurve archery.

It also has high hopes in shooting, fencing, judo and taekwondo, as well as team events such as baseball and men’s and women’s soccer.

North Korea sent around 150 athletes to the Games.

Tokyo has won the right to host the 2020 Summer Olympics but Japan won only seven gold medals at the 2012 London Games and finished third in the medal standings behind China and South Korea at the last four Asian Games.

The Japanese are sending 716 athletes, with their swimming team expected to spearhead the gold medal hunt.

India, a perennial underachiever in global sporting events, is hoping to improve on its tally of 14 gold medals clinched four years ago in Guangzhou, while Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand will battle it out for the top slot in Southeast Asia.

Among the 45 competing countries, 12 have not yet won a gold medal and three have never captured any medal.

After the Games close on Oct. 4, the memory of the fierce competitions will soon fade from people’s minds, but what will remain in the minds of many people will be the spirit that athletes from diverse cultures in Asia demonstrate in the competitions.

Also check facts and statistics on Incheon Asiad here.

Monday, June 9, 2014

India-China Economic Relations in a Changed World Order

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was one of the first prominent visitors to make a trip to India after the new Indian government was sworn in, showing how much China values its economic partnership (maybe for its own self-interest) with India.
While it is true that economic cooperation between the two Asian giant markets is still hampered by unresolved disputes, there is plenty of scope for advancing economic relations; something that is rattling USA and the European Union.
It should be kept in mind that China and India have yet to agree on sovereignty over an area along the shared Himalayan border (Arunachal Pradesh), the subject of a brief war 52 years ago. Other problems include tension over how to manage over a dozen rivers that the two countries share.
Many Indian security experts also worry that China is trying to encircle the country with a string of ports and naval bases.As many news reports in the Indian media have pointed out, a growing trade imbalance with China has contributed to a current account deficit that pushed the rupee lower last year. While India’s current account deficit has narrowed recently, Indian officials are still pushing for a larger piece of the trade between the two countries. Although India and China have pledged to increase bilateral trade to $100 billion by 2015, right now it appears that there is still quite a long way to go.
News reports suggest that the foreign ministers of both countries discussed ways to increase Chinese investments in India through setting up industrial parks and infrastructure projects. They also discussed ways to address India's concern of huge trade deficit.
Until the end of 2013, the accumulated foreign direct investment from China to India had amounted to $ 0.94 billion. Hardly satisfactory.
There are several institutional mechanisms for economic and commercial engagement between both sides. India-China Joint Economic Group on Economic Relations and Trade, Science and Technology (JEG) is a ministerial-level dialogue mechanism established in 1988 during the visit of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to China. A Joint Study Group (JSG) was set up after former Prime Minister Vajpayee’s visit to China in June 2003 to examine the potential complementarities between the two countries in expanded trade and economic cooperation. As per its recommendation, a Joint Task Force (JTF) was set up to study the feasibility of an India-China Regional Trading Arrangement. JTF Report was completed in October 2007. There are also Joint Working Groups on Trade, Agriculture and Energy. In Dec 2010, both countries agreed to set up the India-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (SED). The first SED took place in Beijing on September 26, 2011.
During Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to India in December 2010, India and China agreed to set up the Strategic and Economic Dialogue mechanism. "It is a forum for both sides to discuss strategic macro-economic issues impacting both nations as a result of the changing international economic and financial landscape, to share their individual best practices and in handling challenging domestic economic issues and to identify specific fields for enhancing cooperation, learning and experience sharing."
As one news report pointed out- with the growth in bilateral trade between India and China in the last few years, many Indian companies have started setting up Chinese operations to service both their Indian and MNC clientele in China. Indian enterprises operating in China either as representative offices, Wholly Owned Foreign Enterprises or Joint Ventures with Chinese companies are into manufacturing (pharmaceuticals, refractories, laminated tubes, auto-components, wind energy etc.), IT and IT-enabled services (including IT education, software solutions, and specific software products), trading, banking and allied activities. While the Indian trading community is primarily confined to major port cities such as Guangzhou and Shenzhen, they are also present in large numbers in places where the Chinese have set up warehouses and wholesale markets such as Yiwu.
"Most of the Indian companies have a presence in Shanghai, which is China’s financial centre; while a few Indian companies have set up offices in the capital city of Beijing. Some of the prominent Indian companies in China include Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, Aurobindo Pharma, NIIT, Bharat Forge, Infosys, TCS, APTECH, Wipro, Mahindra Satyam, Dr. Reddy’s, Essel Packaging, Reliance Industries, SUNDARAM Fasteners, Mahindra & Mahindra, TATA Sons, Binani Cements, etc. In the field of banking, ten Indian banks have set up operations in China. State Bank of India (Shanghai), Bank of India (Shenzhen), Canara Bank (Shanghai) and Bank of Baroda (Guangzhou), have branch offices, while others (Punjab National Banks, UCO Bank, Allahabad Bank, Indian Overseas Bank, Union Bank of India etc.) have representative offices. Apart from PSU banks, private banks such as Axis, ICICI also have representative offices in China."
According to information available with the Embassy of India in Beijing, close to 100 Chinese companies have established offices/operations in India. Many large Chinese state-owned companies in the field of machinery and infrastructure construction have won projects in India and have opened project offices in India.
"These include Sinosteel, Shougang International, Baoshan Iron & Steel Ltd, Sany Heavy Industry Ltd, Chongqing Lifan Industry Ltd, China Dongfang International, Sino Hydro Corporation etc. Many Chinese electronic, IT and hardware manufacturing companies are also have operations in India. These include Huawei Technologies, ZTE, TCL, Haier etc. A large number of Chinese companies are involved in EPC projects in the Power Sector. These include Shanghai Electric, Harbin Electric, Dongfang Electric, Shenyang Electric etc. Chinese automobile major Beijing Automotive Industry Corporation (BAIC) has recently announced plans to invest US$ 250 million in an auto plant in Pune. TBEA a Xinjiang-based transformer manufacturer has firmed up plans to invest in a manufacturing facility in Gujarat.  During the visit of Premier Wen to India, Huawei announced plans to invest in a telecom equipment manufacturing facility in Chennai."
I welcome this new development. If China and India join hands, the economic powers of the past, who still strut around with a 'big brother' attitude will get a very good humbling lesson- the future is more important!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Missed Opportunities for South Korea in India

Even before Narendra Damodardas Modi was officially declared the Prime Minister Designate of India on May 20th, foreign heads of state and governments rushed to personally convey their best wishes to him, looking forward to strengthening relations with India under his leadership.
The notable countries included USA, Japan, Germany, France, China, Russia, UK, Australia, Singapore, Canada, Israel, France, South Africa and Spain among others. From the immediate vicinity of South Asia- leaders from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Afghanistan sent in their personal messages after the Indian Parliamentary Election results were announced on May 17th. So it was rather surprising that South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye skipped the opportunity to personally convey her wishes- given the huge potential for economic ties between both sides.
The only acknowledgement of the election results came from a low level bureaucrat in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who read out a short prepared statement: “The government offers its congratulation to the National Democratic Alliance on its landslide victory, which reflects the Indian people’s aspirations for a change and a reform. The government looks forward to working together with the new Indian government to further advance the relations...”
Throughout his election campaign, Modi has emphasized his ‘Look-East Vision,’ on more than one occasion, even singling out South Korea as a shining example of economic development. While admittedly, business-friendly Modi may be more focused on relations with China and Japan, this was the right opportunity for South Korea to send out the right signals before he assumed office on May 26th.
Sadly, President Park was too preoccupied with regional issues and developments in North Korea to even consider giving Modi a call. A personal gesture on her part could have been a step in the right direction, to revive economic relations, which, despite a four-year old Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (de facto FTA) has stagnated.
Moreover, just five months ago, President Park made a State Visit to India, where she talked highly of the complementary economic structures and assets, admitting that only about 40 percent of the trade agreement’s capacity is being utilized.
Trade Relations
It was widely anticipated that the CEPA, which came into effect in January 2010, would lead to more bilateral trade and investments. South Korea has abolished tariff on 93% of Indian imports and India has done the same on 75% of Korean imports. Besides, the agreement sought to increase the interactive trade account as it includes investment in various sectors like goods, services and even intellectual property.
According to statistics compiled by Korea International Trade Association (KITA), while bilateral trade has slightly improved, it is still almost halfway short of the target of $30 billion set for 2014.

Table: Bilateral Trade between India and South Korea (Amount in million US$)
Total Trade
Indian Exports
Korean Exports
         Source: Korea International Trade Association (KITA)

Bilateral trade between both countries was $17.57 billion in 2013, with India ranked as the 15th largest trade partner of South Korea, a very low position. In 2002 India’s share in South Korea’s global trade was 0.83%, which now reads 1.63% in 2013.
India’s contribution in Korea’s global imports increased from 0.78% in 2001 to 1.2% in 2013. In 2013, India was South Korea’s 18th biggest source for imports while India was its 9th biggest export market.
During the first year of operation of CEPA in 2010, bilateral trade between both sides increased by 40%. Indian exports rose by 37% in 2010 while Korean exports increased by 42.7%. In the 2nd year of implementation, bilateral trade reached $ 20.57 billion recording a growth of 20.28%. In 2012 the bilateral trade came down to $18.84 billion and further dropped last year.
Clearly, while considerable scope exists, it is not possible to pump up trade between both sides without government efforts. It is all the more important for South Korea to do so, as its economy has thrived on export-led industrialization.
Bilateral Investments
Over the past few years, even as Indian companies have aggressively expanded globally, they have hardly made any significant inroads into the Korean market. Among the few noticeable investors are Tata Motors Ltd., Novelis Inc. and Mahindra & Mahindra.
While Indian software companies like TCS, WIPRO and L&T Infotech do have a minor presence in the country; they have not made any large commitments to the market.
The major Korean conglomerates that have invested in India include: POSCO, Hyundai Motor, Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, Lotte, Hyundai Mobis, Doosan Heavy Industries and Hyundai Wia Corporation.
According to EXIM Bank Korea, 647 Korean companies have invested a little over $ 3 billion in India to-date. In contrast, USA continues to be the main investment destination with a total of $ 48 billion; China its main destination in Asia with an overall investment of about $ 46 billion, Hong Kong $ 15 billion and Vietnam $10 billion.
Given India’s huge market and the advantage of having a business-friendly Prime Minister, it is time South Korea woke up to reality and proactively engages with the new government. While the other economic powerhouses have already started their groundwork, South Korea seems to be a laggard in this regard.
India’s booming knowledge-based service industry complements the hardware and manufacturing-based economic structure of South Korea. India’s capabilities in pharmaceutical industry, IT software and auto components usefully complement Korean competence in heavy engineering, automobiles, machinery and electronic hardware. There is also potential for bilateral cooperation in India’s telecoms, high speed Internet and e-governance.
Opportunities for expanding business cooperation exist in engineering, design engineering and construction services. Then there is the power sector and India’s plans to enhance civil nuclear power generation capacity.
There are also many sectors in South Korea that provide ample opportunities for Indian investments. Financial & legal services, auto-parts, food industry, pharmaceuticals, fashion & textiles, and the IT industry are just some of the few industries that Indian businesses may find attractive.
President Park should not rue that she let go of this opportunity by being late to the party.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Dog Eating in Korea and the Western Obsession

I am increasingly getting sick and tired of people who make a noise about dog-meat soup, whenever there is a major global event in South Korea. As this news article notes:
Animal rights activists from around the world are calling for the boycott of September’s Incheon Asian Games, while planning to stage street protests against “bosintang” or dog meat soup.
And now...the digital edition of Wall Street Journal has added its bit.
Before you jump to conclusions; I am a dog-lover.  I have four dogs (adopted 2), and will adopt more, if my budget permits. But this kind of reaction is just nonsense.
Media hype for their 15 seconds of fame.
Most of the western journalists who come here to cover global events are ill-informed and jump at the ‘story’ just to get more traction, and an ‘exclusive byline.’
People have to understand that eating Bosingtan is a tradition here. While most of the younger folk are against this tradition (as is my Korean wife), you just cannot wish it away, just because it hurts your sensibilities.
There are strict regulations in place, which are unfortunately not implemented. Fight for making the regulations watertight, so that the dogs which are slaughtered, do not face torture. But do not impose your will on traditional norms here in Korea.
It is very easy to get agitated about animal rights when you see pictures of dogs cooped up in tiny cages, meant for slaughter. A photo-op that visiting journalists crave for. I am against the practice, but still maintain that the regulations should be enforced properly, that is the only way out. If older Koreans love their dog-soup, you have no right to oppose their taste in food. Will anyone in Europe/America listen, if a Hindu says that Cow is a goddess and should not be eaten?
Try to enforce fool-proof systems so that animal cruelty is minimized. A little cultural sensitivity is needed. Unfortunately, the so called ‘animal rights activists’ do not have that.
By the same logic, people in Europe and America should also stop eating beef, pork and horses. There are regulations in place, in their respective countries, which are flouted on many farms.
Activists cannot stop it there (because of the huge corporate lobbies), so why malign Koreans and Chinese for what has been their traditional food?
By all means, control and regulate the industry,  but do not be condescending and look down upon Koreans for eating dog-soup.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Food for Thought: Free download of book on food industry

As is my principle, I DO NOT appreciate the traditional publishing houses ripping off authors. So to make a point, I have always released my books for FREE, only in digital formats. You could say I never got publishers, so this is a face-saving exercise.
What if I told you that I didn't approach them at all? Whatever...
Please find the link to my non-fiction book- Food for Thought.
The role of the Food Industry in helping consumers eat healthily and sustainably received considerable attention in recent years. While the food companies continue to produce enough affordable, quality food for the fast-growing and increasingly prosperous global population, they face a very challenging and volatile environment. Despite being a multi-trillion dollar industry, the worldwide food business’ annual growth is limited to the world’s population base. Competition is intense within the industry, especially in mature markets.This handbook is a compilation of 5 essays on the various important issues that the industry should always monitor. These include: Water Challenges, Food Waste, Climate Change, IP Rights, and Aging Population.

Download it, if you think it might be useful for you. If not, what the hell, it is FREE :0  BTW, I also wrote  two other non-fiction books and a novel- the download links are on your right!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Traditional Winter Food

A variety of seasonal snacks and foods are available in Korea during the biting cold winter season. They include the savory and sweet winter street snacks like bungeoppang, hotteok, baked sweet potatoes, and hoppang, along with the traditional winter dishes such as gimjang kimchi, tteokguk, and manduguk.
Kimchi is the quintessential Korean food and comes in numerous varieties. Wintertime kimchi-making is known as “gimjang,” a time when households in Korea prepare and store kimchi in massive quantities for the winter months. Traditionally, gimjang kimchi making had been one of the most important winter preparation tasks for housewives.
An important part of gimjang is the storing of the final product. To allow for proper fermentation, gimjang kimchi is best kept near 0 with minimal temperature fluctuation. In the past, special holes were dug in which kimchi jars were buried and covered with straw mats to ferment during the winter. Today, most Korean households have two refrigerators. One is just your average refrigerator while the other is a uniquely Korean appliance used exclusively for kimchi storage.
Meanwhile, the winter solstice is the shortest day of the year and has the most hours of darkness. It usually falls around December 22 on the solar calendar. A traditional Korean winter solstice event is making and eating red bean paste porridge called “patjuk”.
Red beans are boiled and small balls of glutinous rice are added, making a thick and sweet porridge. Red beans symbolize the chasing away of evil spirits, and the rice balls symbolize new life. Therefore, eating a delicious bowl of patjuk on winter solstice was believed to chase away all illnesses. Also, eating the same number of rice balls as one’s age symbolizes the successful passing of the year.
In the past, Koreans would sprinkle red bean paste porridge around the yard and share the dish with neighbors to chase away evil spirits. At the time, many also believed that a warm winter solstice meant the coming of disease and death, while a cold, snowy winter solstice meant a prosperous New Year.
Although the winter solstice is not a major Korean holiday like Chuseok or Lunar New Year’s Day, Korean families do get together to enjoy a sweet bowl of red bean paste porridge and wish each other a healthy and prosperous New Year.
Manduguk (dumpling soup) is a dish that is regularly eaten by Koreans in the winter. Dumplings are filled with minced beef and vegetables, put in a broth along with sliced rice cakes, and boiled to perfection. You may even find restaurants that serve pink and yellow dumplings colored with natural dyes. Although eaten throughout the year, manduguk is especially favored in the winter and is traditionally served on New Year’s Day. It is best enjoyed with gimjang kimchi (kimchi prepared during the winter) or mul-kimchi (watery kimchi served cold).
It doesn’t feel like a real Lunar New Year's Day without a bowl of tteokguk. On the morning of the Lunar New Year, the whole family gathers around to have tteokguk, make New Year's resolutions and wish each other a healthy and prosperous New Year. In recent years, tteokguk has also become a popular food for Solar New Year's Day as well.
To make tteokguk, garaetteok (long, cylinder-shaped tteok) is sliced into thin pieces and placed into a soup stock seasoned with a pinch of salt or a drop of soy sauce. One interesting thing about this dish is that different regions of Korea slice Garaetteok into different shapes, meaning that you can guess the hometown of your cook if you have a keen eye. These days, sliced Garaetteok is enjoyed in a range of soups including manduguk (dumpling soup) and ramen.
Ogokbap Rice, a special food originating from the Jeongwol Daeboreum (first full moon) festival, is a type of cooked white rice mixed with five grains: glutinous rice, glutinous millet, red beans, glutinous kaoliang, and black beans. Depending on the region, some grains are replaced with local substitutes. This healthy tradition may have even led to more households adding grains to their white rice. Another tradition of Jeongwol Daeboreum is to enjoy dried wild vegetables from the previous year. Bureom, a selection of nuts including pine nuts, chestnuts, walnuts, and peanuts, is also enjoyed to wish for good luck in the coming year.

Aging Population and Food Industry

With the global population of 'senior' consumers set to grow by almost 150 million in the next two years, there are massive opportunities for the food industry to target the older consumer.
In 1950, there were 205 million persons aged 60 or over in the world.  By 2012, the number of older persons had increased to almost 810 million. It is projected to more than double by 2050, reaching 2 billion.
According to a recent report published by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and HelpAge International, the aging of the world population is progressive and rapid. It is an unprecedented phenomenon that is affecting nearly all countries of the world. As long as fertility continues to fall or remains low and old age mortality keeps on declining, the proportion of older people will continue to increase.
“The numbers are staggering. In the past ten years alone, the number of people aged 60 or over has risen by 178 million – equivalent to nearly the entire population of Pakistan, the sixth most populous country in the world. And in China alone, the estimated number of older people in 2012 is 180 million,” the report notes.
The number of people who turn 60 each year worldwide is nearly 58 million, equivalent to almost two persons every second. In 2012, people aged 60 or over represent almost 11.5 per cent of our total global population of 7 billion. By 2050, the proportion is projected to nearly double to 22 per cent. By 2050, for the first time there will be more older people than children under 15, the report titled ‘Aging in the Twenty-First Century: A Celebration and A Challenge’ states.
What is aging?
When talking about aging, it is essential to distinguish between population or demographic aging as “the process whereby older individuals become a proportionately larger share of the total population” growing older. This individual process of aging is multidimensional and involves physical, psychological and social changes.
The United Nations uses 60 years to refer to older people. This line, which divides younger and older cohorts of a population, is also used by demographers. However, in many developed countries, the age of 65 is used as a reference point for older persons as this is often the age at which persons become eligible for old-age social security benefits. So, there is no exact definition of “old” as this concept has different meanings in different societies.
Defining “old” is further challenged by the changing average lifespan of human beings. Around 1900, average life expectancy was between 45 and 50 years in the developed countries of that time. Now, life expectancy in developed countries reaches 80 years.
There are other definitions of “old” that go beyond chronological age. Old age as a social construct is often associated with a change of social roles and activities, for example, becoming a grandparent or a pensioner.
Older persons often define old age as a stage at which functional, mental and physical capacity is declining and people are more prone to disease or disabilities. 
As the report notes, population aging is occurring because of declining fertility rates, lower infant mortality and increasing survival at older ages. Total fertility dropped by half from five children per woman in 1950-1955 to 2.5 children in 2010-2015, and it is expected to continue to decline.
Life expectancy at birth has risen substantially across the world; it is not just a developed world phenomenon. In 2010-2015, life expectancy is 78 years in developed countries and 68 years in developing regions. By 2045-2050, newborns can expect to live to 83 years in developed regions and 74 years in developing regions. While overall the world is aging, there are differences in the speed of population aging. It is happening fastest in the developing world.
The report points out that today, almost two in three people aged 60 or over live in developing countries, and by 2050, nearly four in five will live in the developing world.
Challenges of population aging
Population aging has significant social and economic implications at the individual, family, and societal levels. It also has important consequences and opportunities for a country’s development. Although the percentage of older persons is currently much higher in developed countries, the pace of population aging is much more rapid in developing countries and their transition from a young to an old age structure will occur over a shorter period. Not only do developing countries have less time to adjust to a growing population of older persons, they are at much lower levels of economic development and will experience greater challenges in meeting the needs of the increasing numbers of older people.
Financial security is one of the major concerns as people age. It is an issue for both older persons and a growing challenge for families and societies. Population aging is raising concerns about the ability of countries to provide adequate social protection and social security for the growing numbers of older persons. In many countries, the expectation is that the family will take care of its economically dependent older members. While some families support their older relatives, others are not in a financial position to do so in a way that does not affect their own economic situation. Older persons who do not have family to support them are especially vulnerable.
Informal support systems for older persons are increasingly coming under stress, as a consequence, among others, of lower fertility, out-migration of the young, and women working outside the home. There is an increasing consensus that countries must develop social protection systems that cover at least the basic needs of all older persons. Ensuring a secure income in old age is seen as a major challenge for governments facing fiscal problems and competing priorities.
Health is another major concern for older persons. The demographic transition to an aging population, accompanied by an epidemiological transition from the predominance of infectious diseases to non-communicable diseases, is associated with an increasing demand for health care and long-term care. Their management has become an increasing concern for both developing and developed countries.
Maintaining good health and access to health care is a core concern of older people everywhere. In many developed countries quality of care and rising healthcare costs are major issues related to population aging.
As is evident, population aging will present both challenges and opportunities.
An aging world population has placed increased demands on food and beverage manufacturers to take a closer look at their nutritional needs to help seniors manage chronic conditions affiliated with aging, such as heart disease, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
As the average age of the global population rises, companies are looking for ways to more accurately satisfy the specific needs and wants of ‘older consumers’. One of the key opportunity areas is to develop products that help to ameliorate escalating health concerns.  But health is not the only focus, so too is packaging adaptation and segmented communications that appeal but don’t patronize.
There will be more focus on health -- stirring manufacturers to pare down fat and sodium levels even more. Smaller package sizes (or portion sizes within larger packages) will also be in more demand, as appetites get smaller and there are fewer mouths to feed in the house. Finally, individual, single-serve meals (with their accompanying more reasonable portion size) that are convenient and appear healthful will be more in demand among older consumers. Remember also that with smaller appetites the aging consumer will need to pack the same amount of nutrients into a small portion size so the need for nutrient dense food will play a role in product choice.
Another thing to note about an aging population is a decrease in taste buds. At age thirty you have 245 taste buds and by age eighty you have only 64 taste buds. Foods that will appeal to this age group will need to be flavor enhanced. The use of more exotic spices or the addition of herbs may enhance flavor without adding high fat or sodium levels.
Even with healthy eating habits, physical activity and other healthy ways of living there are some things that are just factors that come with an aging population. Increases in the incidences of arthritis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and other medical conditions rise as you age. Since there is a movement towards being more responsible personally for health there will be increased interest in functional foods or herbal remedies that will address these problems.
Another factor to take into consideration is the increasing attention given to the number of the population that is considered obese. This may lead to further requirements by Health Canada or the Food and Drug Administration for nutritional information such as the need to label trans fatty acids in food that will be coming into effect in the United States.
The size of the senior market presents many opportunities for the agri-food sector in the development of food products with health benefits. To better understand and prioritize these opportunities, additional market intelligence is needed on the attitudes and consumption patterns, shopping habits, and needs for products and services for the various segments of the senior population. Industry could look to senior's organizations as partners and sources of information.
For seniors with medical conditions and decreased mobility, specialized foods are required at the retail level as well as for institutions or agencies. Reduced appetites, a reduction in taste and smell acuity and problems with chewing and swallowing would indicate a need for appetizing products that appeal to the eye and have good mouth feel. Opportunities exist for innovation to enhance flavor, taste and texture to improve sensory properties of food along with the nutritional profile. These enhancements can be accomplished through new technologies, new processing methods, food additives and novel ingredients.
Few food products have been specifically marketed to seniors. While industry has been addressing the nutritional needs of seniors through a variety of means that increase access to healthy food choices, there is a significant opportunity to expand on strategies such as altering nutrient levels in pre-packaged foods, developing nutrient-dense foods and ready-made meals, and applying innovative ingredients and technologies to enhance product format and packaging. Some opportunities are explored below.
Sodium Reduction
Reducing the sodium content of food is an important way that industry can help seniors address high blood pressure (a major risk factor for stroke, heart disease and kidney disease).
Trans Fat Reduction
Reformulating products and using new fat sources and ingredients that contain little or no trans fat is helping industry to successfully lower the trans fat content of the diet. Continuing these changes will meet the needs of the senior population who are managing, or are interested in preventing, cardiovascular disease.
Dietary Fiber
Increasing the fiber content of foods can help seniors improve their overall dietary fiber intake to manage blood cholesterol levels and laxation. In addition, fiber can be used to modify product texture to assist with swallowing. The industry can increase the fiber content of many categories of foods by using recognized sources of fiber and new novel fibers.
Nutrient-Dense Foods
Foods that provide higher levels of protein, vitamins, mineral nutrients and sometimes calories in smaller volumes can help seniors meet increased nutrient requirements. The challenge for industry is to develop appetizing, nutrient-dense foods through value-added ingredients, novel ingredients, new technologies, reformulation, fortification and supplementation to meet the unique needs of the various segments of the senior population.
Ready-Made Meals
Most seniors live independently, and in general prefer homemade meals. For older consumers, ready meals are more likely to be perceived as lacking and a compromise in comparison with more traditional meal preparation. However, pre-packaged meals and meal services represent conveniences that could help many meet their nutritional needs.
Pre-packaged meals provide convenience by offering a complete meal that requires easy one-step cooking in the oven or microwave. The food industry may be able to expand this market to help meet seniors' nutritional needs through development of products that appeal in quality, taste and freshness and that meet specific nutritional requirements.
Meal services represent another convenience that could be important to seniors. To reach a broad customer base, marketing would need to counter the perception that this type of service is for the "old and sick". Ingredients that are fresh, portion controlled and partially prepared represent an opportunity that may appeal to the healthy, active senior.
The opportunity also exists to market meal replacements and foods with modified textures not only to institutions but also for distribution at retail and home delivery markets. These types of products can be promoted to professional and family caregivers.

Food Packaging and Labeling
Developing appropriate product format and packaging addresses the special needs of the mature consumer by making food accessible and therefore potentially improving seniors' nutrient intake and ultimately their health status.
Industry can expand current efforts in adapting product packaging to accommodate reduced strength and dexterity. Some trends in packaging that may appeal to the senior population include easy open and reclose, single and double portions, microwave reheating including steam-assisted, stand-up flexible pouches and cook-in barrier bags, flip-top caps in which the product and cap stay together (as opposed to twist tops), and square packages (instead of round) that do not roll.
Use of increased font size and colors with good contrast are especially important for label information. Including instructions on how to open packaging, adjusting package size to contents and including a toll-free number for consumer information are some of the many ways for industry to continue improving upon food and beverage packaging.
Communicating the Health Benefits of Foods
Marketing the health benefits of foods to seniors in clear and meaningful ways will improve consumer knowledge and acceptance of new foods with health benefits. Product labels are the most used source of nutrition information but are in the middle in terms of credibility. Communicating health benefits that are based on scientific substantiation is vital to increasing consumers' trust in the credibility of health claims, thus widening the market to those who have not previously considered purchasing foods for added health benefits. As an additional consideration, simple messages may be better for seniors with declining eyesight.
Nutrient content claims and quantitative declaration of bioactive substances can be used to highlight specific product features. Factual statements identifying the quantity of nutrient in a product are straightforward to use as long as conditions for their use are met.
Nutrient function claims can also be used to highlight product features sought by seniors. CFIA maintains a list of accepted claims that describe the well-established roles of energy or known nutrients that are essential for the maintenance of good health or for normal growth and development.
Manufacturers can make use of health claims approved by regulators for use on food labels of products that meet the conditions of use.
The aging population has been identified as one of the most important challenges facing the world as the twenty-first century progresses. This carries numerous implications for the global food industry, as this increasingly affluent demographic group is more inclined to seek out products that promote health and longevity, and/or address emerging health concerns.
These trends carry numerous implications for the global food industry as this increasingly affluent demographic group becomes more inclined to seek out products that promote health and longevity, as well as helping them to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle past middle age. This trend has already been observed in sectors such as milk, yoghurt drinks, bottled water and ready meals, and seems set to shape other activities to an ever-increasing extent over the coming years.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

India's Second Partition

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Historic City: Ganghwa Island

Ganghwa Island, incorporated into Incheon metropolitan city from Gyeonggi province in 1995, has been recognized and preserved for it’s important role in Korea’s history, from the prehistoric age to modern times.
Ganghwa is an island in the estuary of the Han River, on the west coast of South Korea. Ganghwa Island is separated from Gimpo, on the mainland, by a narrow channel, which is spanned by two bridges. The main channel of the Han River separates the island from Gaeseong in North Korea.
About 65,500 people live on the island. With an area of 302.4 km2 (116.8 sq mi), it constitutes most of Ganghwa County, a division of Incheon Municipality. About half of the island's population resides in Ganghwa-eup, Ganghwa Town, in the northeastern part of the island.
The island's highest point is Mani-san, 469 m (1,539 ft) above sea level. The island measures 28 kilometers (17 mi) long and 22 kilometers (14 mi) wide, and is the 4th largest island in South Korea.
The major stage of Ganghwa’s history came around the late period of Koryo dynasty. During the national conflict against Mongolian's invasion, the capital was transferred to Ganghwa from Gaeseong for the period of 1232 and 1270.  Ganghwa was deemed a most appropriate refuge to keep themselves safely from the invasion of Mongolian forces. The world famous treasure Palman daejanggyeong, 80,000 sheets of Buddah's scriptures could possibly have been engraved during the invasion.
 The importance of Ganghwa as a refuge shelter had been successively chosen during Chosun dynasty; two incidents Manchurian invasion, Jeongmyo-horan, in 1627 and Byeongja horan 1636 forced King Injo to take refuge in the island, taking advantage of the natural strategic environment to defend themselves from the enemy attack. Thereafter, Ganghwa had accordingly installed many military facilities to meet the pre-requisite of defending capital; castles, military bases, forts, outposts, batteries and beacon fire mounds etc.
In the later period of the Chosun dynasty, a few incidents of the western power's invasion and Japan made the it the most important military base to have the capital fully defended. Historically, it is significant as being the location of separate punitive incursions; by the French in 1866, the United States in 1871, and the Japanese in 1875 when Korea was emerging from isolation.
Many relics and remains of prehistoric age, Old Stone Age and New Stone Age have been found of their various vestiges in Jangjeongni, Sagiri, Dongmagni. Symbolic huge stone relics of Bronze Age, more than 80 dolmens, were discovered in the vicinity of Bugeunni and neighboring area, of which giant tombs revealed the existence of inhabitants there.
Dangun, the founder of Gojoseon, is said to have made an altar on top of Mani-san and offered sacrifices to his ancestors. His three sons built a legendary Samnangseong castle and relics of Bongcheondae, Bonggaji, Bongeunsa temple, Stone Buddah statue relating to the tales of Bong's family apparently signify the Ganghwa a holy land of Korea and the peoples throughout it's history.
About 70% of Ganghwa's citizens are engaged in farming, mainly rice. Fishery and forestry are other occupations practiced.  Hwamunseok is a well-known traditional fancy matting. Since the Goryeo dynasty (10th -14th centuries), hwamunseok has been produced and exported to China and Japan. The mats are produced in the home handicraft industry.
The Ganghwa turnip is a specialty of the area. It has been cultivated since the 5th century. This is recorded in the 17th -century Dongui Bogam book of oriental medicine.
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