Reports from SERI Quarterly, SERI's in-depth quarterly journal on the Korean and Northeast Asian economies
- April 2013 Korea’s Petrochemical Industry Reaches a Critical Juncture
Korea’s petrochemical industry is heavily dependent on exports, but increased self sufficiency in China, and competition from the Middle East are now threatening its hard won gains. The future of Korea’s petrochemical industry will depend on developing better technology that allows it to compete more effectively with rivals.
April 2013 The Abe Administration’s Domestic Strategy and Northeast Asia
Shinzo Abe has made a surprise return to power as Prime Minister of Japan, and like before, is pursuing his dream of revising Japan’s peace constitution and restoring Japan as a military power. “Abenomics,” his plan to fight deflation, is a preliminary stage to getting enough support to change the foundations of Japanese society.
Northeast Asia is one of China’s most important diplomatic concerns, and the political transition from the Hu Jintao era to the Xi Jinping era is likely to be characterized by continuity, particularly regarding North Korea. Hu’s legacy of actively encouraging dialogue with the North and encouraging greater economic integration is set to continue during Xi’s reign.
Park Geun-Hye, Korea’s first woman President, begins her administration with a number of domestic and external political challenges, including an increasingly belligerent North Korea and a growing Sino-US rivalry. Navigating the diplomatic waters and finding an effective means of managing the security situation will be the most important test of the new administration.
Advertising giant Dentsu’s 2012 list of hit products indicates a new consciousness among consumers in Japan, including protection of the environment and helping the community. Demographic change and disasters like the Tohoku Earthquake are spurring Japanese consumers to seek more meaningful connections with others.
China’s young consumers are the first to grow up amidst prosperity and widespread digital technology and represent a significant change for the world’s second largest economy. Shaped by demographic factors like the one child policy and urbanization, China’s young consumers are embracing individuality and social concerns along with their love for famous brands.
Households everywhere are shrinking in size, and in Korea this is happening at rapid speed. Once spurned by business, smaller households are now sparking a market for space saving products, multi-use appliances, home security services, and self-development-including continuing education, recreation and hobbies.
Consumer sentiment in Korea has weakened as low growth has become prolonged. Companies seeking to reach Korea’s increasingly reluctant consumers can focus on providing simple pleasures, anti-aging products, and services that help people save time when pursuing personal tasks. Boundaries between consumer groups will blur, and “shabby chic” will be in vogue.