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Date [ 2013-01-21, 11:55 ]

 

 

The Singapore perception of another Asian Tiger.

K-Pop fever in Singapore

(Singapore=Koreanpress) by Ramani = Both Singapore and South Korea are seen as vibrant economies, each a leader in its own region. However, for the Singapore man-in-the-street, there is an uneasy feeling on the large amount of foreign workers in Singapore today.
One of them commented,”Compared to South Korea, we are in a better strategic location as a port, a logistics hub, and a large English educated workforce, and have a high savings rate and strong fundamentals... Yet we have all these foreigners working here to sustain our economy. I feel disappointed and frustrated about the situation here?
Others felt that South Korea has advanced by leaps and bounds for the following reasons. “They have dismantled any possibilities of control by any one

political party over the civil service, security forces, government agencies and government linked companies.”
Alfred Ho, a stock trader, pointed out that,”Private capital has taken the lead in strategic industries unlike here, where privatization of strategic services is largely government funded and appointed.”  He admired the fact that South Korea is the leading Asian country with the widest digital coverage provided by private enterprises. “Not only that, but they provide service to the highest number of broadband users at the lowest cost.”
Felcia Feng, an analyst, expressed admiringly,” This has resulted  in a large number of tech-savvy youth connected to a huge worldwide connectivity of information and technology which has pushed their education system to a higher level than any other Asian country.”


Businessman, Koh Seng Kee, then declared,” The South Korean high –tech and manufacturing industries are then ever ready to scoop them into their companies. Result? The emergence of many innovative products that are world class.” He revealed that South Korea is a leader in building large giant ships and in the forefront of producing heavy, medium and consumer industrial products that can stand up to any from the East or West. “Don’t forget, they also pay strict attention to cutting edge research and development.


A senior civil servant felt that,”This transformation happened after the end of the tight martial law of the late President Park Chung Hee. It gave Koreans a chance to restructure their political system and remove many restrictive controls.”
Money exchange trader, Veeramuthu felt the South Korean economy is a little more complex. “They had to deal with chaebols who has become all powerful. The 1999 economic crisis had the IMF come in and resulted in a lot of big Korean companies selling out to foreign companies. But they have managed to emerge from this with what Singapore does not have


– their large domestic market.”
Felex Phang, a telecommunications engineer exclaimed.”We were the first country in the world to launch the Digital Subscriber Line around 1996.  At that time the Koreans sent their men to see how we were doing it. But two years later they were ahead of everyone else with the lowest subscription rates around.”
Mohd. Isa, introduced his Korean friend on holiday in Singapore. “Their business people are very willing to go after graduates. My friend here is taking her PhD and which is totally sponsored by Samsung. Best of all, there is no bond at all. No wonder Korea may be producing the biggest amount of PhDs in the world. It already has the highest percentage of engineers in the world..” Then after a pause, he added with a mischievous smile, “Maybe that is why Korea is sometimes called the Republic of Samsung.”


Wong Kim Cheng, an international importer, had this to say. “Their strategy is the same. Enter and gain market share with low prices, after a foothold has been established, go to levels with higher profit margins. Hyundai, Kia, Samsung – they all followed the same route. Koreans are quick to grasp new technology. Both Hyundai and Malaysia’s Proton borrowed technology from Mitsubishi, While it took just six years for Hyundai to develop its own engine, Proton took close to 18 years to do so.”


While the elders had a strong outlook on Korea’s politics and economy, the younger generation was more interested in entertainment. Not surprising really.
Singaporean teenagers seem to want to go deeper into Korean entertainment. Leslie Wong., after getting  hooked on K-Pop revealed.”I want to make a video of myself singing in Korean, but with Romanized lyrics.” He was worried about pronunciation.


He was told that many Korean words cannot be Romanized  and instead to learn Hangul.  
Another wanted to know where “…I can buy Korean stuffs?” He was given various locations such as Burlington Square, Bugis Street, Novena Square which had its ‘Little Korea’ and Tampines.
Issues were more divided on K-Pop. This ranged from loving Kpop to finding it irritating. Askine bravely sated,” I like Korean pop a lot. My friends think it is weird I listen to music where I can’t understand the lyrics.. But it is not just the lyrics…”
Ruby Lee agrees. “Lyrics aside, they do have catchy tunes. I am going to enter the audition for the coming worldwide KPop contest.”
Many threw in names like EXO. TaeTiSeo, Hello Venus or Wonder Girls.


There were some Singaporeans who have spent some years in Korea. Perhaps their perception came the closest to unraveling the Korean psyche.
Any Lam spent over a year in Korea. According to him, “The people are very polite, have good work ethics and the children never seem to stop studying.” Another Korean return was of the opinion that,” Young Korean women are the most beautiful in the world. “ But Tan Pei Yoong is a car lover. “I owned three Hyundai cars and bought a new Sentra.” When in Korea, big sized Jordon Heng loved the Korean culture for the most part but “…it did take some getting used to being shoved  by 20 ajumas, all trying to get into a bus at the same time.” A just returned student enthused,” The food is delicious. My favourite chee-gae, hope I got that right, love the movies and dramas but just wish they weren’t so sad.” Her friend was more knowledgably about the cuisine, saying,” I love bulgogi, chigae, soju, goktugi, chilli paste in the red box, roasted chestnuts and kim chee of course.”


Abishegam is back home on vacation and is taking his masters in  Seoul. He feels that ,”Koreans have a serious problem of discrimination against foreigners, especially if they are from Southeast Asia. Not to Westerners though and they treat Americans with full respect.”
Another point raised by a teacher was that, “If there is total war between the North and South it will spread to the rest of the world and we very well could have WW III.”


In the final analysis, Singaporeans do seem to have a good knowledge of  South Korea’s advancement towards being a First World Country. There is admiration for its high-tech development. There is also a love for its movies, dramas and pop songs. Beyond these, it is only those who have stayed and worked in South Korea, have a deeper understanding of the Korean people and their way of life.

ramani@koreanpress.net
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