Sunday, December 04, 2005

Made in Korea

Nautilus has a copy of a recent Joong Ang Ilbo opinion piece regarding the tricky matter of labeling goods produced in the Kaesong Industrial Complex. The article discusses the dilemma of whether to label products as "made in South Korea" or "made in North Korea. If the former, then they can enjoy better status and access to world markets than a "made in North Korea" tag. However, the decision is not just a choice but a matter of legality. As a 2004
op-ed piece by Marcus Noland notes:
North Korea is among the few countries that the United States does not grant normal trade relations (NTR) status to, and North Korean exports are subject to the so-called column 2 tariff rates established by the infamous Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930. These tariffs tend to be the highest on labor-intensive products such as garments, in which North Korea is conceivably competitive
Even the EU and ASEAN which originally agreed to treat the products from Kaesong as South Korean are now having second thoughts. As the article notes:
Last month, some members of the Association of South East Asian Nations refused to recognize products from Kaesong complex as made-in-South Korea. ASEAN said that under World Trade Organization regulations, the origin of the country must be the place where the industrial process was completed. They said it is difficult to consider products made in North Korean territory as having been made in South Korea.
Given the amount of money being poured in and the hopes South Korean policy makers have regarding the success of this project this is no small matter. While the over-riding goal of the project might be improving inter-Korean relations, if the complex is not economically successful, then the main goal will surely not be achieved. To ensure success then depends on the export-ability of the products. The only alternative would be for South Korea to play the role of both producer and buyer. South Koreans have proven themselves capable of such emotionally charged activities - I might mention gold donations during the financial crisis, Korean brand loyalty especially cars, and the current wave of egg-donations - and a big "Buy North Korean" push is not out of the question. But hopefully it won't come to that.

In the international market a possible threat to the success of the Kaesong Industrial Complex is the rising awareness of North Korea's human rights situation. It would not be surprising for human rights groups to advocate a boycott of products coming from the complex. Especially if the view is that profits, rather than going to pro-poor spending, would line the pockets of the elite and military.

Book Review: "The Girl Most Likely" by Rebecca Sparrow

Rebecca Sparrow, like Nick Earls (recently reviewed on this site) is a Brisbane based author. This is her first novel and was recieved by me from the same friend who sent me some of Mr. Earl's novels. This book is very funny, and I enjoyed it more than the first Nick Earls although much of the Bris Vegas humour is quite similar.

Rachel Hill is the girl voted most likely to succeed in high school. It should be noted that "success" of course is a subjective term. And indeed, the book essentially does analyse the meaning of "success". As a "success" Rachel Hill has a good job, rents an apartment in town, and has a boyfriend. However, we never meet Rachel the success, we meet her when she has lost her job, has moved back with her parents and whose husband wants a divorce after only a few months of regrettable marriage. While retrospectively trying to work out what went wrong and to work out where to go from there Rachel discovers, of course, that making lists of things to achieve is not nearly as satisfying as enjoying what she already has. It also helps that she falls for the handsome, smart, talented, funny and caring guy who lives next door to her parents.

And now for favourite quotes of the book:
"Creeping Jesus. Its someone who's a fawning person. Which personally I think is a bit rough. Since when is Jesus associated with creepiness? Sure, he hung out with lepers - but that's not creepy. Social suicide maybe...Imagine next time someone's following you around and wont' leave you alone, you can say, 'Fuck off Nadine, you are such a Creeping Jesus."
"So I walked up to him and he gave me a kiss and told me I looked beautiful. And then the bartender asked us what we'd like to drink. I asked for a vodka and lemonade. And..."
"I ordered myself a vodka and lemonade and Greg ordered himself a West Coast Cooler."
There's silence in the car.
"You understand what I'm saying right? He ordered himself a girlie drink. I mean, I tried to pretend that it didn't matter but the whole time I was thinking, "I can't date a guy who drinks girlie drinks". And I wanted to say, "Whoa, whoa, hold it right there buddy. What do you think you're doing?" I mean a Stoli, Two Dogs, a Sub Zero I could have handled but a West Coast Cooler for fuck's sake?"...I wanted to scream at him, "Order a beer for Christ's sake you big girl's blouse"
I have emailed Dave Howard porn. "I HAVE JUST EMAILED DAVE HOWARD PORN" I scream to no-one in particular. I pick up the phone. Zoe is still there.
"My interview questions were called PS - for Perfect Summer. I just emailed Dave Howard your porn story."
"By accident?"
"Of course by fucking accident. Oh God. I'll have to phone him. Hope he doesn't open it. Tell him to trash it. I can't believe I sent him porn."
"I'd really prefer it if you called it erotic fiction. Porn makes it sound so cheap."
I ring his number but it rings out. He must be on-line. On-line and reading porn.

Currently reading:

"Hell" by Yasutaka Tsutsui