Sunday, August 30, 2009

Video: 10 most beautiful women in Korea - 2009


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Seoul: World's Most Wired Megacity Gets More So

By Stephen Kim and Bill Powell

In the sprawling, densely populated capital city of South Korea, Lee Hye-young and her husband Kim Soon-kyo are nothing if not typical citizens. Which is to say, even the most mundane, everyday aspects of their lives are carried out at technology's leading edge.

Consider their respective commutes to work early one recent morning. Lee clambers onto a city bus, headed to her office job in the southern part of the city. She pays using her radio-frequency-identification (RFID) card — it has a computer chip in it — part of a transit program conceived and implemented by the city government. The card is smart enough to calculate the distance she travels on any form of public transit, which determines the fare. She can then use the same card to pay for the taxi she hails to finish her journey to work. Sometimes her husband, the deputy marketing manager at a small chemical company, drives her to work. But not today. A few months ago, he applied online to join a program offered by the city that promises insurance discounts, reduced-cost parking and a tax break if he leaves his car home one business day a week. The city sent him an RFID tag, which he attaches to the windshield so the city can monitor compliance. It took him just minutes to fill out the application on his home computer, and now, he says, he saves the equivalent of $50 a month. From the city's standpoint, the estimated 10,000 fewer cars on the road each day means less congestion and less air pollution in one of the busiest cities in East Asia.

For a decade, Seoul has had the justifiable reputation of being one of the most wired cities in the world. After the Asian financial crisis devastated the South Korean economy in 1997, the Seoul city government, the national government and the private sector all made a concerted effort to move the country's economy from one reliant on heavy industry to one that included information technology — a shift that by most measures has been a resounding success. Today, according to data compiled by Strategy Analytics, a U.S.-based technology market-research firm, an astonishing 95% of households in South Korea have a broadband connection. (Tiny Singapore is second, at 88%, and the U.S. comes in at No. 20, with just 60% hooked to broadband.) The entire city of Seoul, whose metro-area population is more than 20 million, is already one giant hot spot, with wireless access available from virtually anywhere within city limits for a small fee.

That level of connectedness, either via high-speed cable or through the ether, has not only transformed South Korea's economy; it has changed forever the way this massive city is governed, how individuals receive services and interact with city hall and how prospective contractors solicit business with the city.

Start with clean government. All city contracts are now put out to bid online, and all bids are posted. That transparency, Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon tells TIME, has reduced corruption in the city significantly in the past 10 years. "Since all information is disclosed real time over the Internet, influence-peddling over the bargaining of government permits becomes impossible," he says. "The online system tracks the flow of approval routes and leaves behind evidence in real time. If a manager holds on to an application for too long, he becomes a suspect. So administration becomes faster and uncorrupt." And while every big-city mayor may boast that his government is less corrupt than the last guy's — and corporate corruption has been an acknowledged problem in South Korea — Seoul has been named the world's most "advanced and efficient e-government" for several years by a U.N.-sponsored e-government-evaluation agency.

The city services accessible via Internet technology are already vast and growing rapidly. When Lee was returning home from work one day, she needed to pick up a copy of her social-security certificate. She did so at a subway station near her office, using a fingerprint-recognition kiosk: she placed her thumb on the machine, it read her print, and out popped a copy of the document. If she had so desired, she could have also printed real estate and vehicle registrations. It goes without saying that Lee pays her city taxes and utility bills online — or with her mobile phone's browser — and recently she dialed 120 to find out why the electric company had overcharged her. She was calling the Dasan Call Center, a 24/7 government agency that fields all questions regarding city services. A service rep did a quick check, confirmed the error and made sure her bill for the next month would reflect the correction.

Seoul has even greater e-ambitions. It has begun to implement a project called Ubiquitous Seoul — or U-city — which will extend the city's technological reach. Seoul's nearly 4-mile-long (6 km) Cheonggye Stream walkway, which runs through the high-rises of downtown Seoul, is the site of a U-city pilot project. Via their phones and laptops or on touchscreens located in parks and public plazas, citizens can check air-quality or traffic conditions or even reserve a soccer field in a public park. The city also sends out customized text messages. The city's chief information officer, Song Jung-hee, says those with respiratory problems can get ozone and air-pollution alerts, and commuters can get information about which route is the most congested at any given time. The city calls these real-time, location-based services.

Earlier this year, the city rolled out U–safety zones for children, a program using security cameras, a geographic-information-system platform and parents' cell-phone numbers. Participating families equip their kids with a U-tag — an electronic signature applied to a coat or backpack that allows a child to be tracked at all times. If the child leaves a designated ubiquitous-sensor zone near a school or playground, an alarm is automatically triggered alerting parents and the police. The child is then located via his or her mobile phone. The city plans to increase such zones rapidly. To some Americans, the Big Brother–ish qualities of the U-city push can be a tad unnerving. But Seoul officials point out that the U-safety-zone project is entirely voluntary, and the technologically sophisticated citizens seem to have few objections.

Seoul over the past decade has become a hotbed of early adopters, and global powerhouses from Microsoft to Cisco Systems to Nokia use it as a laboratory. The level of connectivity provided by the city's electronic infrastructure means "ubiquitous life" has become an inescapable catchphrase in Seoul. "Almost all new apartment complexes now advertise home networks and ubiquitous-life features," says Lim Jin-hwan, vice president for solution sales at Samsung Electronics. In a nutshell, that means every electronic device in the home can be controlled from a central keypad or a cell phone. Biorecognition lock systems open apartment doors, and soon, Lim says, facial-recognition systems will be introduced.

As megacities continue to grow and become more complex, it's likely that many will have to get wired just to stay manageable. Seoul took the considerable risk of being out front, but it has demonstrated the potential payback when the city government, and not just the citizens, is one of the early adopters.,9171,1916302,00.html


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Visit to Ga Ro Soo Gil in Seoul

Out and About Seoul, South Korea
By Jennifer Kim

The last time I was in Seoul, South Korea, I barely reached my mother’s shoulders. This time around, I was the one looking after her, and being asked if we were sisters. Needless to say, returning to Seoul as an adult — especially as a jewelry market editor — allowed me to appreciate the city in a new light.

One of my favorite finds was Ah-Won Crafts in In Sa Dong, an area of many interesting alleyways filled with antique shops, handmade arts and crafts, and a slew of charming cafes and restaurants. Ah-Won is the Zen-like boutique of an amazing artisan who works mostly with metal. She creates one-of-a-kind pieces, including simple brushed-silver pendants and rings, intricate floral brooches topped with coral and amber, and a collection of dinnerware and flatware.

Another great discovery was in Ga Ro Soo Gil, a tree-lined street of boutiques and cafes in the Apkugeong area. Dami is a literal jewel box of a shop, about half the size of a Manhattan subway car. It’s filled to the ceiling with every sort of intricate bauble you can imagine: semiprecious cocktail rings, multihued hoop earrings and grosgrain ribbon barrettes in every color

Of course, Seoul also has plenty of Chanel, Dior and Gucci, but I found the street markets in downtown Seoul more interesting. They’re a loud, crowded jumble of carts selling an endlessly random assortment of socks, toys, clothing, stationery, candy and on and on. They’re also a great place to try Korean street food, and if you’re feeling adventurous, you can graze on some dried squid legs with red pepper paste, potato sticks (like extra-fine French fries), roasted ginko nuts and steamed corn.

When I’d had my fill of Korean food, some friends took me to a very trendy Japanese fusion spot in Ga Ro Soo Gil called Hattori Kitchen. It’s a dim little izakaya place with a counter and eight bar stools. (If they’re all taken, better luck next time.) It serves just a few dishes every night — the thing to do is ask the owner, Ji Young Sohn, to pick for you. She’s a quirky and energetic young woman who dances behind the counter, cooking up plates of noodles in between texting her friends and fiddling with the stereo.

Everyone’s favorite dish appeared to be udon salad, cold udon served with iceberg lettuce, slivers of carrots and cucumbers in a sauce she dare not describe. As good as it was, my fondest memory was finishing off a bottle of Korean rice whiskey called So-Ju with my friends, then practically dancing our way home.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Yuna Kim - Samsung 2009 ICE ALL STARS


Monday, August 17, 2009

After beating Tiger, life will for Y.E. Yang

Whenever Y.E. Yang was in a tournament with Tiger Woods, he would sit in the clubhouse and think about playing against the world's most famous athlete.

He'd visualize different scenarios, come up with strategies.

Deep down, he had a secret that he shared with no one: Yang would imagine beating Woods.

"The good players, the great names that you've mentioned, when they tee off with Tiger, their competitive juices sort of flow out and they go head to head and try to win," Yang said through an interpreter. "For me, I don't consider myself as a great golfer. I'm still more of the lower-than-average PGA Tour players."

Not anymore. In a matter of four hours Sunday, Yang's life — and that of every aspiring golfer around the world, but particularly in Asia — changed forever.

Not only did the 37-year-old South Korean become the first Asian player to win one of golf's majors — the PGA Championship — he took down none other than the sport's No. 1 guy to do it. Phil Mickelson, David Duval, Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia — they all tried and failed.

Not Yang, who was poised, unflappable and determined throughout.

Not bad for someone who took up golf at 19 simply as a way to pay bills and ended up finding the job of his dreams.

"Honestly, I'm not prepared, I think," he said. "It's going to be a bit tough, sure, I know that. It's going to be fun, too. But honestly, I've never been in this spot, so I really can't assess it. This is my first time. I'm just going to try to go and improvise."

Pretty good plan, considering that's what got him here.

Yang — his full name is Yong Eun Yang — grew up on an island called Jeju, about an hour by plane from Seoul. His father is a farmer and his older brother is in the agricultural business, too. Yang wanted to be a bodybuilder, and dreamed of someday owning his own gym.

But when he was about 17 or 18, he blew out his knee. He was, he said, "like anybody else in the world, an average Joe."

Then a friend suggested he go work at the local driving range. It paid minimum wage, but Yang could eat and sleep there.

"The driving range was no longer than the tent we are in right now, probably about 60 yards, tops," he said, while speaking in the interview room. "The first grip I ever had was a baseball grip, and I was just whacking it into the net. It just felt fun."

The more he played, the more he fell in love with the game. He practiced for three months before he played his first round, and shot 101. It was three years before he broke par.

There have been a few successful Asian golfers over the years — Japan's Isao Aoki finished second to Jack Nicklaus at the 1980 U.S. Open — but Korea has been late to the game. Yang didn't even have a coach when he first started playing, teaching himself by watching tournaments on TV — his early idols were Nick Faldo and Nicklaus — and watching videotapes. He thought maybe he'd be a club pro or teach at a driving range.

But the more he learned about golf, the more his horizons expanded. He started playing tournaments in Korea, then moved to the Japan Golf Tour. He's played on the PGA Tour the last three years, going through qualifying school in 2007 and 2008 before winning at the Honda Classic earlier this year.

"My life has been sort of very slow, actually," said Yang, the only member of his family who lives outside of Jeju. "And I've always tried to take it a step at a time. I didn't really look and envision myself 10 years, two decades away."

Which is why, though he knows its significance, he can't yet fathom what his victory at Hazeltine National will mean to South Koreans and Asian players and fans, in general.

Golf is hugely popular in Asia, the game's fastest-growing market. But while it has produced some stars — 17-year-old Ryo Ishikawa of Japan carries a head cover that looks like a Cabbage Patch Kid doll of himself, complete with spiky hair, sunglasses and visor — the game is still a work in progress.

The men's game, at least.

Since Se Ri Pak won the LPGA Championship and U.S. Women's Open as a rookie in 1998, seven Korean players have combined to win 11 majors on the LPGA Tour. Yet Yang and K.J. Choi are the only PGA Tour players who learned the game in South Korea before coming to America.

China has no players on the PGA Tour. Jeev Milkha Singh, who finished tied for 67th on Sunday, is the first Indian golfer to play at the Masters and qualify for the U.S. Open.

"Golf in Asia has been growing steadily, so to have the guy who finally found a way to beat Tiger on Sunday is so big for the region," said Geoff Ogilvy, an Australian. "It's hard for us here in the U.S. to imagine the impact this will have."

Added PGA of America CEO Joe Steranka, "Earlier this week, I said the addition of golf to the Olympics is the single biggest thing to accelerate the growth of the game. I stand corrected. ... There are now going to be other Asian nations saying, `OK, how are we going to prepare our players to go play on the international stage?'"

Knowing one of their own has broken into golf's mainstream by winning a major is sure to inspire and motivate young players throughout Asia. Indeed, in South Korea, golf fans woke up at 4 a.m. for the final round, some rushing over to a sports club in the Seoul suburb of Bundang when it opened two hours later.

"Seeing Yang ranked 110th in the world win against Tiger Woods, the best player in the world, I felt so proud to be a Korean today," Kim Soo-mi said as dozens of golfers practiced at an indoor driving range.

That's a heavy burden to put on Yang. Based on his performance Sunday, he'll be able to handle it.

He admitted he was nervous before playing Woods, and didn't sleep very well Saturday night. Once he stepped on the first tee, though, the nerves disappeared.

After all, he said, it wasn't as if they were in a UFC fight and Woods was going to bite him.

He was aggressive all day, making the two biggest shots — his chip on 14 and his approach on 18 — when he needed to. He was calm, never once getting caught up in the circus that is Tiger Woods in the last group on the final day of a major. Dozens of cameras track Woods' every move, the galleries are massive and golf etiquette is the last thing fans are worried about as they rush to see the next shot. Yang even had some fun with it, smiling and waving at a TV camera as he crossed the bridge at the turn, and giving a Woods-like fist pump when he made that spectacular chip on 14.

And when it was all over, hoisted his golf bag over his head — shades of the bodybuilder he once wanted to be.

"I guess the fearlessness comes from the fact that I know I'm doing my dream job," Yang said. "Every day I'm living my dream."