Monday, March 29, 2010

Interview: Mr. Brian Newman, Founder & CEO, Green Cities Asia Ltd

Established in London, Green Cities Asia Ltd has chosen Seoul, Korea as the corporate base for its Asian property development expansion. The company’s founders – Mr. Brian Newman and Mr. Jason Ahn – are merging their international property development, investment financing and real estate marketing experience with some of the world’s leading thinkers and practitioners in the field of sustainable urban development to give Green Cities Asia Ltd unparalleled capacity to deliver world-class projects for governments, investors and stakeholders.
As noted by Mr. Newman who is also the CEO, Green Cities Asia Ltd is a response to a growing need in Asia for real estate companies who understand the unique complexities of large-scale urban development.
We are a leader a leader in sustainable urban development thinking and practice. Our projects will set new standards for large-scale property development in Asia. GCA is positioned at the cutting-edge of green city development – innovative, intelligent, market responsive and sustainable,” he said.
Mr. Newman has gained over 20 years senior executive experience in the field of large scale urban development having worked for industry leading organizations in Australia, North-East Asia, South-East Asia and the Middle East. His academic qualifications include a degree in Civil Engineering and a Masters Degree in Business Administration.
He brings a unique blend of private and public sector experience and knowhow to his work. As CEO of the Sydney Olympic Park Authority he led the post-Olympic transformation of Sydney’s Olympic precinct to create a new urban township that embraced the same commitment to sustainability that gave Sydney its international ‘Green Games’ reputation.
In an exclusive interview, he noted that whilst the implementation of a more environmentally friendly, carbon neutral approach to urban development is an effective response to the issue of climate change, there is a need for city development to address a broader range of environmental issues. Broader still is the important concept of sustainability.
Green Cities Asia Ltd is committed to a four pillar approach to practicing strategic sustainable urban development. As developers, our challenge is to help make cities more economically efficient, more comfortable, more socially equitable, culturally rich and environmentally sustainable, he said.
Mr. Newman noted that today we exist in a world where 50% of the earth’s population lives in urban areas. By 2050, this figure is forecast to reach 70%, as the world’s population grows from 6.8 billion to 9.1 billion. Cities are known to consume 75% of the world’s energy. By the year 2030 over 5 billion people are likely to live in cities, contributing over 80% of greenhouse gas emissions. Ecological foot-printing shows that the planet is consuming 25% more renewable resources every year than it can replenish.
Cities are the engines of global economic growth. The quality of the living/working environment within cities is a major factor in determining the flow of investment capital and of human resources around the world.
It is therefore imperative for economic and environmental reasons that city leaders promote green cities, towns and urban villages that are planned, designed, built and managed with a view to minimizing their environmental footprint and provide a strong sense of well-being for their communities, he said.
GCA recognizes the responsibility it has to contribute to society by developing environmentally sustainable communities that enunciate a new consciousness to the development of our urban environment, creating exciting new places and spaces in the process. The company has the knowhow and experience to meet the challenge of developing city interventions that improve a city’s quality of life.
One of our key business objectives is to work with governments (national, regional and city governments) and our private sector partners to develop new urban communities that demonstrate what ‘sustainable living’ is about and how an improved quality of life can be offered to communities of all social levels. This is achieved within a framework of qualitative and quantitative performance measures,” he said.
These communities have been referred to as green cities, eco-towns, green villages etc. They are exemplified in existing urban development projects such as Hammarby Sjostad in Stockholm; the Augustenberg and Western Harbour precincts of Malmo, Sweden; Dockside Green in Victoria, British Columbia; Curitiba in Brazil; and in the concepts behind new international urban development projects such as Masdar in Abu Dhabi, Elephant Castle in London and Magok-Dong in Seoul.
In the end, sustainability is about Quality of Life - this notion goes to the core of our company’s philosophy. We believe development is not just about building buildings, it is about creating places for people.”
GCA’s urban communities are characterized by a strong sense of place that are sustainable economically, socially, environmentally and culturally and offer a high Quality of Life for their communities.
Speaking on the competitive advantages of the company, he noted that first and foremost is the knowledge/expertise in the field of sustainable urban development including master planning, eco-design, green building practice, social strategies. The company also has the ability to define unique project concepts that create new product categories in the marketplace.
Our ability to source foreign direct investment (FDI) and international joint venture participation and our commitment to creating great places through every step in the property development process also place us ahead of our competitors,” he said.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Just so you know...

Koreans Don't Have Big Faces

Just so you know.....a study by the Korea Food and Drug Administration seems to contradict the stereotype that Koreans have bigger faces than Caucasians.
The KFDA measured the facial dimensions of 387 adults and 304 children and adolescents between 2007 and 2009 and found that the average Korean male's face was 419 sq. cm in area or about 92 percent the size of Caucasian males' 453 sq. cm. The face of the average Korean woman measured 371 sq. cm, a little smaller than the average Caucasian woman's 380 sq. cm.
Experts say the faces of Koreans appear to be bigger due to a kind of optical illusion. "Koreans tend to have relatively flatter facial features than Caucasians so they could be perceived as having bigger faces, but from a three-dimensional perspective, Caucasians have bigger faces," said Cho Yong-jin, head of the Face Research Institute.
The faces of Koreans tend to spread out sideways, while those of Caucasians protrude. "Even if the actual face is small, prominent cheek bones or jaws can make a face appear bigger," said Park Sang-hoon, a plastic surgeon at ID Hospital.
However, the KFDA said it used data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the facial dimensions of Caucasians and acknowledged that errors could be possible due to differences in measuring. The KFDA measured the faces of Koreans, while facial sizes in the U.S. data were determined by taking the entire area of a person's head and deeming the face to take up one-third.
Then why is it that whenever I take photographs with Koreans I am forced to lean my head forward, so that their faces appear smaller?! Oh yea, I am not Caucasian!!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Want to read 3D books?

Researchers at South Korea's Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology have been developing 3D software technology for books over the last three years. To date, they've been able to animate two Korean folklore children's books. Certain pictures will trigger animations for those wearing 3D glasses, but don't expect to see it in books any time soon, says Kim Sang-cheol, team leader on the project.Read more here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The advantage of being rich and famous in Korea

If you are rich in Korea, everything is forgiven! Even if you drive your company bankrupt and run away like a coward, or cheat your shareholders and evade taxes, you will eventually be pardoned. The trick is to lay low for about a year and come back on the public stage, lecturing others on how to make Korea a great nation...
Take former Daewoo Group Chairman Kim Woo-choong. He was on the list for the Interpol when he was in exile, because of how he left the company with insurmountable debt.
He was arrested soon after he returned to South Korea on June 14, 2005, and apologized "for hurting the nation and accepted full responsibility for the collapse of the group, adding he is ready to accept whatever the authorities have in store for him." In May 2006 he was sentenced to 10 years in jail after being found guilty of charges including embezzlement and accounting fraud. 21 trillion won ($22bn) of his fortune was seized and he was fined an additional 10m won. On 30 December 2007, he was granted amnesty by President Roh Moo-hyun.
Now he is back, and in style. Lecturing Daewoo employees (the very people whom he cheated) on how to make Korea an enormous power!
He spoke on Monday about the need to usher in a new generation of talented workers at a ceremony marking the 43th anniversary of the defunct conglomerate.
It was the 74-year-old founder’s first public appearance since a similar event held a year ago and only his second in the past decade.
“Koreans are the best in the world,” he told a crowd of Daewoo executives and employees gathered for the ceremony. “If we can train 200,000 people to become someone like me, Korea would be an enormous power.”
Kim was enthusiastic during his short speech, though he walked into the hall at the Millennium Hilton Hotel - which used to belong to the group - near Mount Namsan with the help of aides who held his arms. Toward the end of the ceremony, Kim unexpectedly snatched away the microphone from a person at the podium leading the crowd in singing what was the company’s trademark song.
“Let’s meet again in seven years for the 50th anniversary of Daewoo,” Kim said. “Next time we all should bring our family. I’ll empty my wallet to raise money for that.”
Then of course there is the de facto Emperor of Korea- Lee Kun-hee.
In early 2008, his home and office were raided by the Korean police for an ongoing probe into accusations that Samsung is responsible for a slush fund used to bribe influential prosecutors, judges, and political figures in South Korea. After the second round of questioning by the South Korean prosecutors , he was quoted by reporters saying "I am responsible for everything. I will assume full moral and legal responsibility.” On April 21, he officially resigned as Chairman & CEO of Samsung Group, and stated: "We, including myself, have caused troubles to the nation with the special probe; I deeply apologize for that, and I'll take full responsibility for everything, both legally and morally."
It did not take long for the Seoul Central District Court to find him guilty on charges of financial wrongdoing and tax evasion. Prosecutors requested that Lee be sentenced to seven years in prison and fined $347 million. The court fined him $109 million and sentenced him to 3 years suspended jail time.
On December 29, 2009, President Lee Myung-bak pardoned him.
As president Lee publicly stated: “In order to win the bid for the Winter Olympics in 2018 at Pyeongchang, which is making a bid for the third time, sports and business circles as well as Gangwon residents have strongly appealed that his role as a member of the International Olympic Committee is crucial. I decided to grant a pardon for the sake of national interest.”
Now he is back, and in style!
Mr. Lee, who is 68 years old, will return as chairman of the manufacturer of memory chips, cellphones and TVs, the company said Wednesday morning. However, Mr. Lee will not be on the company's board, which has a separate chairman, a spokesman said. Instead, he will retake a title in keeping with the tradition of South Korean family-led companies.
The move opens a new chapter in Samsung's long effort to balance its desire to keep control in the hands of its founding family while also permitting professional management with enough oversight by directors to be acceptable to a broad group of investors.
October 29, 2007 -- Kim Yong-chul, a former in-house lawyer with Samsung Group, reveals during a press conference the existence of some 5 billion won (US$4.4 million) in secret funds held by the group.
January 10, 2008 -- A special prosecutorial team, led by Cho Joon-woong, is launched to investigate allegations involving the secret funds held by Samsung Group.
April 17, 2008 -- Prosecutors indict Chairman Lee on charges of breach of trust and tax evasion involving dubious bond transactions allegedly aimed at transferring wealth to his only son Jae-yong.
April 22, 2008 -- Chairman Lee steps down from his post after being convicted of tax evasion, while Samsung Group unveils a plan to reshuffle its management in order to enhance transparency.
July 16, 2008 -- A Seoul court hands down a three-year jail term for Lee and a five-year suspended prison sentence with a fine of 110 billion won.
December 29, 2009 -- The government grants Lee a special pardon, saying that as a member of the International Olympic Committee he will be able to help win the nation's bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics.
March 24, 2010 -- Lee returns as chairman of South Korea's biggest company, Samsung Electronics, 23 months after his resignation.
Just 23 months and he's back!
While we are at it, let us not forget Chung Mong-koo,chairman of Hyundai Kia Automotive Group, the second-largest Chaebol in South Korea.
In 2006, he and his family were targeted by the Seoul Supreme Public Prosecutor's Office as part of an investigation into embezzling 100 billion won ($106 million USD) from Hyundai to create slush funds. Despite a travel ban, Chung left South Korea in April 2006. Chung was arrested on 28 April 2006 on charges related to embezzlement and other corruption. He was convicted of embezzlement and breach of fiduciary duty on 5 February 2007 and sentenced to three years of prison. He remained free on bail while he appealed the sentence. On September 6, 2007, Chief judge Lee Jae-Hong ruled to suspend the sentence of Chung Mong-koo (in consideration of the huge economic impact of imprisonment), ordering instead of a 3-year jail term, the performance of community service and a $1 billion donation to charity.
Then again, there is Kim Seung Youn, Hanwha Group chairman, who punched Room Saloon workers after they got into a fight with his son.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Interview: Mr. Ian Thomas, Chairman of Thomas Consultants

Thomas Consultants Inc. is a consulting firm that specializes in providing optimal retail development strategies for: Retail Projects and Shopping Centers; Downtown Retail Precincts; Resort Retailing and Master Planning; Airports and Cruise Ship Facilities, as well as Transit Nodes and other large-scale Mixed-Use Development.
Thomas Consultants‘ head office is based in Vancouver, Canada, with additional offices in both Korea and Australia. The firm is recognized as a leader in the strategic planning of retail facilities in a wide range of project types, including shopping centers, street retail districts, resort villages, master-planned communities, urban entertainment centers, airport and cruise ship terminals, and transit-oriented development projects.
The firm is currently engaged in major retail planning assignments in over 50 countries around the world. Through its international project exposure and Chairman Ian Thomas’ leading role in the International Council of Shopping Centers’ Annual International Design & Development Awards, the company has the ability to share global innovations and leading edge concepts with its clients. This allows its clients, who include the world’s leading shopping center developers, owners, operators and designers, to adopt the most current ideas and strategies and ensure success in their retail projects.
The company is also affiliated with Brisbane-based Foresight Partners, who specialize in economic and development advisory services in the Australia and New Zealand region. Its firms collaborate to provide clients specialized expertise and strategic input on a variety of real estate development issues.
Thomas Consultants has been instrumental in adding value to numerous key retail, entertainment, resort and mixed use projects around the world. Its input as Development Strategists is particularly relevant during the planning process, where the company ensures that such a development, with its key retail, entertainment and food/beverage elements, is not only truly matched to the market and so works optimally in practice, but also includes the points of difference that are critical for success in today’s competitive environment.
Identifying the most appropriate market niches, opportunities and sizing for these strategic elements is imperative. In addition, we take this strategic vision right down to a detailed tenant mix plan, as well as identifying the most appropriate retailers and operators for each of the project’s major components or zones. This creates a blueprint for guiding the leasing team in securing official interest from target retail, entertainment, and food & beverage tenants. Thomas Consultants are not agents, but work on a very complementary basis with most major leasing firms. Our exposure to leading edge developers (many are our clients) is instrumental in identifying new retail concepts and formats.
Mr. Ian Thomas, Chairman of Thomas Consultants, sits on the Board of Trustees of the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) and its Educational Foundation in New York. Through this vehicle the company has exposure and contact to a myriad of international retail operators, developers and investors. He also is the Chairman of ICSC’s International Design & Development Awards which evaluates and judges the world’s best new shopping centers. With this background and international network, the firm experiences leading edge ideas first hand.
In an exclusive interview, Ian Thomas noted that Korea is now a major focus for the firm. Thomas Consultants Korea is a major office where it employs a staff of approximately 20 professionals. Its client base is wide and varied and includes such major institutions as: Daewoo Motor Sales Co.; Doosan Construction; Dosi and Saram; GS Retail; Hyundai Corporation; Lotte Group; Samsung Group; Shinsegae Group; SK Group; and Taubman Asia.
At Thomas Consultants, we pride ourselves on creating unique strategies that assist our clients in realizing the greatest value from their development opportunity. By incorporating the latest principles in place making and master planning, we help the world’s leading developers, architects and urban planners craft innovative strategies that allow them to create unique points of difference necessary to thrive in today’s competitive environment,” he said.
He said the company realizes that the retail industry is in a constant state of transformation. New retail concepts are continually being introduced at a dizzying pace. Through its international exposure, the company is able to share the latest ideas and trends that are being introduced worldwide.
Undoubtedly one of the major changes in the retail industry is the diffusion of lifestyle concepts through the market. Open air lifestyle centers are rapidly being adopted on a global scale and their introduction has brought a major shift in consumer expectations. Thomas Consultants has been at the forefront of this change and today the vast majority of our work involves planning strategies for multi-purpose and mixed-use destinations.
We are actively engaged in assignments that propose new open air lifestyle centers, urban entertainment centers, downtown revitalization projects, mixed use town centers and transit oriented developments. The exposure to such a wide variety of project types, in both mature and emerging markets, enables us to leverage our expertise in creating living, breathing retail environments that are at the heart of livable and sustainable communities.”
Since the company’s inception over 30 years ago, it has continually been at the forefront of creating retail development strategies for recreational destinations. The resort retail industry has experienced a boom in recent years as developers are looking beyond residential property and recreational infrastructure development to diversify their revenue streams.
Thomas Consultants continues to push the boundaries on the resort front by helping our clients find innovative strategies that create truly special places. With a long list of leading beach, golf, and ski resort clients around the world, we have the experience and expertise to make your resort retail development stand the test of time,” he said.
In addition to its core consulting services, Thomas Consultants also has the ability to produce in-house marketing documents. These promotional documents empower our clients to maximize their new development’s exposure by communicating the key project highlights through a visually effective medium. Customized content including charts, tables and graphics can also be created and tailored to lend an extra degree of professionalism to the document.
Our tailored promotional documents are designed to efficiently communicate the development opportunity and have helped many of our clients attract prospective retailers and/or joint development partners.”
Through decades of research, the company has assembled an extensive library of research materials including project profiles on many of the leading retail centers around the world, he noted.
Speaking on the impact of the global economic crisis, he noted that the whole world has been affected by the financial meltdown. However, countries like the representing BRIC and Korea are quickly emerging from this crisis – in fact, several have come through almost unscathed. An excellent barometer is retail sales volume and with department store sales growing by almost 8% in the last quarter, it demonstrates the optimism and robust nature of the Korean consumer.
The shopping center industry has been around for 60 years. Tried and proven principles have emerged on how to develop a truly successful center. The world is rapidly globalizing, particularly accentuated by the expansion of major international retailers into new countries and sub-markets. As such, a global development platform is emerging. If Korea hopes to attract significant foreign direct investment, it must follow the global principles of development,” he said.
On the opportunities for Korea, he noted that the country is strategically located to participate in the overall boom occurring in the Asian region. With the exception of Japan, most Asian countries are enjoying strong growth, particularly China. Some of these economies have been somewhat self-contained, eg. India, but with greater prosperity occurring there is greater resulting fluidity as well. Korea has a real opportunity to participate in this upswing dynamic,” he said.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Interview: Mr. Kim Sung-Hwan, Senior Secretary to the President for Foreign Affairs & National Security

The inauguration of Mr. Lee Myung-bak as President in February 2008 represented a significant shift in South Korea's foreign policy. Since then, the government has pursued a “pragmatic” foreign policy based on strengthening relationships with key regional powers and promoting conditional engagement with North Korea, while also enhancing South Korea’s role in the international community.
The seven point doctrine of the present administration can be characterized as: Complete denuclearization and opening of North Korea; Pragmatic diplomacy based on a national consensus; Strengthening of the ROK-U.S. alliance; Expansion of Asia diplomacy in partnership with other regional states to move toward the opening of an Asian era; Contribution to the global community as the world's 12th economy and a mature, responsible nation; Energy diplomacy to join the group of most advanced economic nations; and Cultural diplomacy to capitalize Korea's soft power through mutual opening and exchanges in the region and the world.
In an exclusive interview, Mr. Kim Sung-Hwan, Senior Secretary to the President for Foreign Affairs & National Security explained about the foreign policy orientation of the present government. Excerpts:

-The Lee Myung-bak administration is actively pursuing a foreign policy vision: “Global Korea”. In order to realize the vision, the administration has stepped up its efforts to contribute to global peace and prosperity with focus on easing financial difficulties, combating terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), climate change and other global challenges. Hosting a G20 summit in Seoul this November and strengthening its contributions to the international efforts to rebuild Haiti, Afghanistan and Iraq are good examples of the administration’s such efforts.

On North Korea, the administration is committed to building up mutual trust and common prosperity in inter-Korean relations through dialogues with a firm belief that the two Koreas should fully cooperate on a wide array of agenda including North Korea’s nuclear issue, not only on economic issues.
The Lee Myung-bak administration will continue to work with the international community to bear fruit in its efforts to advance the Global Korea vision built on what it has achieved.

-Despite the previous administrations’ efforts, as you pointed out,the inter-Korean relations did not see any significant improvement mainly due to the lack of North Korea’s cooperation. Particularly, the nuclear issue remains unresolved although the Republic of Korea, in cooperation with the international community, has tried to deal with the issue over the past two decades.

Considering this, the Lee Myung-bak administration places a top priority on the nuclear issues and persistently pursues the resolution of the issue through dialogues between the two Koreas and with other participating countries in the Six-Party Talks, which has been a main venue for negotiations. The administration’s initiative, the so-called “Grand Bargain”, is to address the nuclear issue in such a comprehensive way that North Korea will be able to get a broad range of benefits, ranging from economic assistance to security guarantee, once it makes a strategic decision to abandon its nuclear programs.

As President Lee puts it, peace has to be maintained to realize reconciliation and cooperation on the Korean Peninsula. The Republic of Korea and North Korea, as two directly involved parties of the Peninsula, should work together to address all pending issues, including the nuclear issue, through sincere and candid dialogue. The Lee administration will continue to seek ways to bring North Korea back to the dialogue table and to hammer out solutions on the pending issues in close cooperation and consultation with the international community.
-As the FTA provides a wider interface between the two sides, I am sure, the industries of Korea and Europe will be and must be more interconnected in all aspects of their activities. In additions, the FTA will also bring EU investors not only more opportunities but also better protection and effective safeguards. It is high time for EU investors to explore and expand their partnership with their counterparts in Korea. In case they should come across any room for further improvement, in terms of government regulations or local practices affecting transaction costs, any proposal or suggestion from business community is always welcomed by the Korean Government.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Rascal, the ugliest dog in the world

Rascal won the title of ugliest dog Sunday at the 15th annual Ugly Dog Contest at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in California. His owner boasts that Rascal is the 'world's ugliest dog.'
I am sure my four dogs will love this video and laugh their heads off. Have to show it to them tonight!

HP Slate takes on iPad

Even as I am excitedly waiting for the iPad to go on sale, i was caught unawares by the news that HP is ready with its own version of a tablet called Slate that will run Windows 7 operating system and support Flash. While the above videos that the company released looks promising, one will have to wait and see. I have never been a fan of the windows OS and am pretty sure that I will settle for the iPad. Just hope that the HP tablet does not keep crashing as frequently as the desktop/laptop versions!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Interview: Ms. Regina Lee, General Manager, Shinhan BNP Paribas Asset Management

Shinhan BNP Paribas Asset Management, headquartered in Seoul, is a joint venture between Shinhan Financial Group and the French financial group, BNP Paribas. It is the fruit of an eight-year-old partnership between one of the three largest Korean financial groups and the largest euro-zone bank by assets.

In January 2009, Shinhan BNP Paribas Asset Management was created when Shinhan BNP Paribas Investment Trust Management and SH Asset Management merged. Shinhan BNP Paribas Investment Trust Management was created in 1996 as Shinhan Investment Trust Management and in 2002 the name changed to Shinhan BNP Paribas when BNP Paribas acquired a 50% stake.
As noted by Ms. Regina Lee, General Manager, Real Estate Investment Team, the joint venture is currently ranked third in the Korean asset management market which is crowded with over 60 players, and has 34 trillion won worth of assets under management.
She pointed out that the Shinhan Financial Group Co. Ltd. was incorporated on September 1, 2001, and is Korea's first financial holding company that delivers comprehensive financial solutions through a powerful One-Portal network. Its subsidiaries offer quality financial products and services in commercial banking, corporate banking, credit card, private banking, asset management, investment banking, brokerage and insurance service.
The company has 21 offices in nine countries, including the U.S., the U.K., Japan, China, Germany, India, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Singapore. Currently, Shinhan Financial Group is listed on both the Korea Stock Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange
BNP Paribas is a European leader in global banking and financial services and is one of the 4 strongest banks in the world according to Standard & Poor's. The group is present in over 85 countries, with more than 168,000 employees. The group holds key positions in three major segments: Corporate and Investment Banking, Asset Management & Services and Retail Banking. Present throughout Europe in all of its business lines, the bank's two domestic markets in retail banking are France and Italy. BNP Paribas also has a significant presence in the United States and strong positions in Asia and the emerging markets.
“Both BNP Paribas Group and Shinhan group are trying to create synergies, so we are transferring capabilities between us. The special assets division of this company invests not just in real estate but also infrastructure and is engaged in investment finance,” she said.
Regarding real estate assets, she noted that the company owns around 1.005 trillion worth of real estate assets and ranks number 2 in terms of real estate assets alone.
“Our company started the real estate investment business back in 2006. Since 2007 we have recorded an average growth of more than 100 percent. Over the last two years the market has been quite stagnant but we were still able successfully acquire 300 billion worth assets this year and seek to increase asset size by 2 trillion won by 2012, to become the number one in the industry.”
The investments made by the company have been in prime grade A office buildings. Being very competitive assets, one can expect high capital gains and steady returns averaging 8 percent, she said.
Speaking on the strengths of the company she noted that the assets under management not just combination of number and figures but these are assets where the life stories of customers are embedded.
“We try to keep that core value in mind whenever we do our business. Many deals are concluded upon cooperation of many market participants as well as many stakeholders. So I think there should be no problem in closing deals if there is cooperation among the various participants. All the parties have different interest in mind but if they all cooperate it will be for the good. Successful deals require good people and good teams, both internal as well as external,” she said.
As for the real estate market in Korea she noted that last year was not very good, given the global economic meltdown. However, the market picked up in the second half, driven by Korea’s economic performance. This is different from other countries in the world.
One important differentiating trend in Korea is that the real estate market is driven by two segments- asset market and leasing market.
“Asset prices have increased steadily and this is because there are not many qualified tradable assets in the market. This year the decoupling between the leasing market and asset market is likely to continue for the time being.”
Negative factors in leasing market such as decline in leasing prices could also continue for the time being. In the mid to long term, this kind of trend is limited. It is not going to continue for long period of time, she said.
Ms. Lee said that the decoupling trend between the two markets is attributable to two factors. First is intensified competition from increase in market participants and second is increase in strategic investors who have relatively smaller expected returns.
Last year 20 players such as asset custodians entered the market this helped intensify the competition in the market. Assets prices were driven by such stiff competition in the process. This could result in formation of assets prices that do not fully reflect the true value of assets.
“As I said earlier the asset prices were also driven by increase in strategic investors, but this type of trend should only be limited to high quality assets. This year the financial market appears to be conservative to real estate market, so this year I think it should be an increase in distressed projects.” This is because of decrease in funding sources and deterioration in asset values, delays in projects and increase in capital costs , uncertainties in leasing market (construction may be cancelled etc.) Increased needs to find financial needs for this kind of distressed assets offers good investment opportunities if we can design a good deal structure and find strong deals. Market competition is going to get fiercer but this should only be limited to the primary business of buying and selling assets so there should be some changes in the industry, she said.
Another characteristic trend, she noted is that the real estate market has to businesses-Primary business of buying and selling real estate space and the secondary business of adding value to these spaces. She expects to find new business opportunities in the secondary business.
“So I would like to personally refer to this as a shift from the primary to secondary business in the real estate industry. Until now market participants were engaged in competition in the primary business, but in the future we should increase competitiveness in the secondary business of real estate. We cannot call it as the main trend but it should be,” Ms. Lee said.
Until now office buildings took the majority of real estate investment because the infrastructure was in place. Not just investment itself but also the services that manage the investment. If the shift from primary to secondary does occur then the investment which focused on residential and office buildings should now shift to industrial buildings. Value can be generated from services that can arise from these real estate assets, she noted.
Comparing Korean real estate market with other countries in the region she noted that every real estate market depends on the industries that are developed in the country. So if we talk about real estate of certain countries we should look at industries of that region first.
“The Japanese market over the last ten years has seen the bubble bursting and industries suffer from deterioration of competitiveness. The real estate market can only move in tandem with industry of that country. So the Japanese market may have some weaknesses. The demographic terms the country’s competitiveness also deteriorated as well. However due to economic strength of Japan there should be steady demand for high quality assets.”
She also noted that a lot of investors are interested in Chinese and Indian market and a lot of studies are going on about their growth potential. But when it comes to making investment decisions one should have a look at the infrastructure in these countries.
The Korean market has become open to foreign investment over the past ten years and has sufficient infrastructure for real estate business. The industries are growing in competitiveness, so the Korean market can be a good platform for investors who want to invest in emerging markets. Moroever there is a very low vacancy rate over past ten years and the leasing fee has not changed substantially.
Although last year, many foreign investors disposed a lot of assets for liquidity, this year they will return, she predicted

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Linux Mint- a fantastic alternative to Windows

I have never been a fan of Windows and found the outdated capabilities of the operating system an annoyance. For this reason, I stopped using my desktop computer at home (with Windows OS) and switched over to an iMac 2 years ago. Prior to that I had also bought a Macbook for my girlfriend and found that the learning curve was really not as steep as people made it out to be.

Slowly but surely I got infatuated with my Mac and have never looked back since. Although, I still use Windows at work, since this is Korea, and there is no way out  ! Moreover since my girlfriend needs to use Internet Explorer for all her banking needs I resultantly partitioned my iMac to install Windows 7.
This arrangement works beautifully for me. I use the Mac OS part while my girlfriend uses the Windows section. However, I couldn’t but help notice my old desktop gathering dust in a corner. So I decided to make better use of it, and bought an S-cable to hook it up to my 42 inch TV to watch streaming video. The only problem was that my computer kept crashing (which, while not surprising, was really very frustrating).
Last Sunday, I finally got fed up with the blue screen of death and decided to try out the GNU/Linux variants. This was not my first attempt at installing Linux on my computer, having done so a couple of years ago. At that time, I gave up because of the steep learning curve. This time however, my internet research showed that many of the Linux distros have advanced GUI capabilities, with many more software options. So finally I narrowed down on 3 distros- Ubuntu , Linux Mint and Mandriva . I would have loved to try Red Star, but couldn't find it anywhere ;)
Anyway, I installed all the three of them (takes just 20 minutes to install), one at a time to test out the different capabilities and then decided to stick with Linux Mint.
Originally launched as a variant of Ubuntu with integrated media codecs, it has now developed into one of the most user-friendly distributions on the market - complete with a custom desktop and menus, several unique configuration tools, a web-based package installation interface, and a number of different editions. Perhaps most importantly, this is one project where the developers and users are in constant interaction, resulting in dramatic, user-driven improvements with every new release.
Some of the key advantages of Linux Mint are:
•It's one of the most community driven distributions. You could literally post an idea in the forums today and see it implemented the week after in the "current" release. Of course this has pros and cons and compared to distributions with roadmaps, feature boards and fixed release cycles we miss a lot of structure and potentially a lot of quality, but it allows us to react quickly, implement more innovations and make the whole experience for us and for the users extremely exciting.
•It is a Debian-based distribution and as such it is very solid and it comes with one of the greatest package managers.
•It is compatible with and uses Ubuntu repositories. This gives Linux Mint users access to a huge collection of packages and software.
•It comes with a lot of desktop improvements which make it easier for the user to do common things.
•There is a strong focus on making things work out of the box (WiFi cards drivers in the file system, multimedia support, screen resolution, etc).
As this blogger states- “Simple: The derivative is better.”
I would highly recommend it to anyone who if fed up of Windows, but afraid to switch over to the Mac. Best of all, it is free!