January 04, 2010 07:34
The Japanese media have long associated their country's figure skating icon Mao Asada with technical prowess and Korean superstar Kim Yu-na with artistic expression. In that view, Asada's secret weapon is the extremely difficult triple axel, while her rival's strength lies in elaborate artistic presentation.
Now the January edition of the Monthly Chosun makes the case that the comparison holds for the two countries' products as well. For example, Japanese cars and electronics are technologically the world's best, while Korean products compensate with skillful presentation in design and marketing. And much as Kim Yu-na now regularly triumphs over Mao Asada, so Korean presentation skills have trounced Japanese technological refinement since 2008.
But can Korean firms overtake their Japanese rivals in technology terms as well? In the car industry, Toyota is already benchmarking Hyundai Motor. Over the past year, Hyundai's sales increased by 3.9 percent while the majority of carmakers recorded a sales slump of some 20 percent. With sales of 4.5 million cars in the past year, Hyundai rose past Ford to fourth in the world.
The development is even more evident in electronics. Samsung Electronics' operating profit in the third quarter of 2009 was W4.23 trillion (326 billion yen, US$1=W1,158), more than double the combined 151.9 billion yen operating profits of nine Japanese electronics firms including Sony. Sony's vice president admitted that the fundamental reason behind this is product power.
Korean companies have yet to conquer the Japanese market itself. Hyundai pulled out of the Japanese car market due to negligible sales performance there, as did Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics in the TV market, where they are still unsure whether they can satisfy the exacting standards of customers.
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