The companies that make up South Korea's sprawling Samsung Group did something unexpected in May: they suddenly embraced the five-day workweek. The move came shortly after the country's newly inaugurated president, Roh Moo Hyun, had called for an end to working Saturdays, and when other companies followed suit, it forestalled a brewing showdown between the Blue House and major manufacturers.
Forget concrete jungles. Think glass-and-steel icebergs--huge, complex structures largely hidden beneath the surface. That, say urban planners in Tokyo, is the future of the city.With 27 million residents, Tokyo is both the world's most populous metropolis and, in many places, one of its most densely packed.
South Korean politics can be a theater of the absurd. Just last week 37 loyalists bolted the ruling Millennium Democratic Party. They had been considered staunch supporters of President Roh Moo Hyun, and analysts interpreted their defection as a prelude to Roh's own abandonment of the MDP ahead of legislative elections next April.
Don St. Pierre sr. can recall the first Western deals in revolutionary China, which is why his perspective on today is so striking. As manager of the first major U.S.-China joint venture, Beijing Jeep, he arrived in 1985 when most Chinese still wore Mao suits and commuted on black bicycles.
The form it will take is hard to forecast--an oil-price spike, perhaps--but a shock is bound to expose Japan's bond market as a huge bubble, says John Alkire, chief investment officer at Morgan Stanley Asset & Investment Trust Management in Tokyo. "I don't know the date of the earthquake, but I sure think it's close."A growing cadre of Japan analysts predict upheaval in the world's second largest bond market.
Call them what you will. For decades GIs deployed along the demilitarized zone in South Korea were collectively known as a "tripwire" force--units whose main objective was to shed blood in the first moments of a North Korean attack, thereby committing the United States to the South's defense.
It's never easy divining Pyongyang's intentions from its pronouncements--especially when it's talking out of both sides of its mouth. Late last week North Korea's Foreign Ministry indicated it might consider multilateral talks over its nuclear ambitions, if the United States were prepared to make a "bold switch-over" in its policy toward the North.
There are many potentially lucrative little secrets hidden in Japan, and Haruo (Hal) Shimizu is happy to show off one. He guides visitors through a labyrinth of hissing hydraulic presses and oily assembly lines at the Exedy Corp., where workers with mallets pound together transmission components used in cars, trucks, forklifts and cranes.
North Korea delivered its latest dose of bluster last week through an unlikely conduit: British journalists. Speaking to visiting reporters in Pyongyang, Ri Pyong-gap, deputy director of the North's Foreign Ministry, warned, "Pre-emptive attacks are not the exclusive right of the U.S." His statement--the latest in a steady stream of vitriol from the Stalinist bastion--implied that North Korea might escalate its nuclear standoff with the United States by striking first against American targets.
Shoppers lined up outside Tokyo's glitzy boutiques would seem to signal that all is well in Asia's pre-eminent luxury market. Unless, that is, the crowds have turned out to cherry-pick overstock items at cut-rate prices--as they did on Jan. 17, when bargain hunters mobbed an invitation-only Gucci sale at Tokyo's Isetan department store.
Like thousands of U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, Lt. John Stone opted to live among the locals. After landing in June, the airman and his wife rented an apartment near Osan Air Base, an hour's drive south of Seoul, then set about making friends and sampling their landlord's cooking.
Hot rods, sexy women... and Lee Hoi Chang? For Chang In Chul, a 28-year-old junior executive at Ssangyong Motors, neither his youth nor his lifestyle will keep him from voting for the most conservative of South Korea's three presidential hopefuls in next month's national elections.
Something fundamental has changed in the way the world sees Japan. Last Friday, at the close of a nail-biting week in which Japanese stocks plunged to levels not seen in a generation, the Bank of Japan, led by outspoken governor Masaru Hayami, sounded an alarm about the nation's deteriorating financial health.