Thursday, September 13, 2007

Seize Opportunities in Asia Pacific Markets

Seize Opportunities in Asia Pacific Markets, Canadian Business Leader Urges at APEC Summit(Canadian Council of Chief Executives)

Canada needs to boost its presence in the Asia Pacific region if Canadians are to capitalize on the enormous opportunities that the region offers, says Thomas d’Aquino, Chief Executive and President of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE).“A profoundly important shift in economic and political power towards the Pacific and Asia is well underway,” Mr. d’Aquino told an audience in Sydney today. “This reality must reshape the Canadian consciousness as well as the public policies and business strategies of my country.”

Mr. d’Aquino was in Australia at the invitation of Prime Minister John Howard to attend the APEC Business Summit. The first APEC CEO Summit, which took place in Vancouver in 1997, was hosted by the CCCE and co-chaired by Mr. d’Aquino. Speakers at this year’s summit included Prime Minister Stephen Harper, President Hu Jintao of China and President George W. Bush of the United States.“Canadians are significant players in the western sphere of the Asia Pacific region -- in the United States, in Mexico, in Chile and in Peru -- but we are not nearly aggressive enough elsewhere,” he said. “There should be no ambiguity: Canada is a Pacific power with serious political, economic and security interests in the region. A strengthened presence must involve a long-term strategic perspective which combines sharper political resolve with a much more robust engagement by Canadian business.”

“Some Canadian companies are profiting handsomely through their engagement in rapidly growing Asian markets,” Mr. d’Aquino said, “but our numbers are surprisingly few given the opportunities that are before us.”The CCCE Chief Executive praised APEC, rebutting critics who dismiss the organization as a mere talking shop. Today, the 21 APEC economies account for 41 percent of the world’s population, 56 percent of global GDP and nearly half of all world trade. “But these impressive numbers do not tell the whole story.

One of APEC’s strongest advantages, particularly for Canada, the United States and the other western hemisphere countries bordering on the Pacific, is that it brings together under one umbrella all the Pacific actors. Thanks in part to APEC, an east-west split across the Pacific has largely been averted.”Acknowledging that many business leaders in the region believe APEC’s progress has been too slow, Mr. d’Aquino stressed its achievements as a forum for constructive diplomacy, for showcasing the benefits of trade and investment liberalization and the importance of the rule of law.

“We should not underestimate how much is accomplished through informal deliberations and contacts among the Leaders and their ministers. Nor should we underestimate the positive peer group pressure at work on the businesspeople who interact through the APEC process. Their repeated exposure to best practices inevitably rubs off and results more often than not in ever higher standards of corporate performance and behaviour.”“However, APEC’s full potential has yet to be mined,” he said. “Non-tariff barriers remain a problem. Respect for intellectual property in some countries is notoriously inadequate and the scourge of corruption is far from eradicated.”

Mr. d’Aquino pointed out that APEC can do much more in the area of security, especially given the current threats to stability in the region. He praised the commitment in Sydney to cooperation in the prevention, preparedness and recovery strategies to deal with threats from terrorism, pandemics and natural disasters.“APEC also has a vital role to play in dealing with environmental challenges and the Sydney Declaration signed by the APEC Leaders is a major step forward,” Mr. d’Aquino said. “The APEC region accounts for 60 percent of the world’s energy demand and China, the United States and the Russian Federation are the largest consumers. The commitment by the Leaders to cooperate in combating global climate change provides a much needed bridge between developed and developing economies in coming to terms with this complex challenge.”

Mr. d’Aquino applauded the contribution of Prime Minister Harper who, in his address to the APEC Business Summit, called for an all-inclusive effort to deal with global climate change. “Mr. Harper’s logic in calling for a global commitment and plan of action that is flexible, technology-driven and target-specific makes great sense,” Mr. d’Aquino added.Mr. d’Aquino concluded his remarks with a call for closer cooperation between Canada and Australia and New Zealand. He reminded his audience that Canada appointed its first trade commissioner to Sydney in 1895. “There are few countries in the world that are so much alike in our values, our laws, our political systems, and in the way we see the world,” he said. “While there are some solid business links between us -- for example, Canadian direct investment in Australia of close to $10 billion is Canada’s largest in any Asian country -- there is much more we can and should do together. In a world of global supply chains and of global value networks, Australian and Canadian enterprises and skilled workers should be seeking opportunities and synergies with each other. As business colleagues who understand and trust one another, there is plenty of room for a blend of Australian and Canadian expertise in the search for business throughout the Asia Pacific region.”

Mr. d’Aquino congratulated Prime Minister Howard for having presided over a productive and well-organized Business Summit. “The Prime Minister’s enthusiastic support of business dialogue within APEC and his personal engagement in the process contributed valuable substance and momentum to our deliberations.”Following his address to the Canadian Australian Chamber of Commerce in Sydney, Mr. d’Aquino will meet with senior Australian officials in Canberra and will attend various events linked to the visit of Prime Minister Harper including Mr. Harper’s address to the Australian Parliament.Composed of 150 chief executives and leading entrepreneurs, the CCCE is a not-for-profit, non-partisan business association committed to intellectual entrepreneurship through research, consultation and advocacy.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

An Experience Making Korean Song Pyun

On Thursday August 30th I received a phone call from my friend Ms. Kong Mae Song at People Care Search Inc. I know Ms. Kong through my good friend Mr. Bill Mac Roberts who was my neighbor and co-worker in Gangwondo when I worked at Kwandong University in 2005. Ms. Kong wanted to know if I was interested in participating in a traditional Korean cooking class to prepare song pyun rice cakes on Saturday, September 1st with her coworker, Ms. Son Sung Moon. Well, I visited a cooking school in Samchonpo once in 1997 with a friend and enjoyed some bulgogi there.

So I really like cooking schools mostly because I get to eat Korean foods there. I have been enjoying Korean foods for many years and think that it is a really essential part of Korean culture and it would not be the same place without it. As I was already on my way to Nagwon on Saturday I decided that it would be a fun and interesting thing to do. So I agreed.
It was a rainy Saturday morning in Jongno and I was at Exit 7 of the subway line wondering, “Will this woman show up at 9:40? Do I have the correct exit? I hope so.” Ms. Moon or “Moonie” as she likes to be called showed up on time just fine and I hoped she knew where we were going because I was not exactly sure. Ms. Kong had sent a website for the cooking school and a map and many details but I had not read everything. Luckily Moonie knew where we were going and I had an idea. Basically we were visiting one of Korea’s most famous cooking schools, The Institute of Traditional Korean Food owned and operated by a highly respected national icon, Ms. Yoon Suk Ja.

As we entered the lobby I took a look around some of the traditional and antique Korean cooking implements and utensils displayed on shelves and tables. Each one was labeled with Korean and English descriptions which explained what they were or what they are used for. Some were familiar looking and others were unique, hand made and obviously quite precious. Then we took an elevator to one of the upper floors and joined a class of men and women taking the song pyun making class. The entire floor we arrived at was a large classroom easily divided into two sections. The tables were set quite high with small chairs and utensils stored below them in large cabinets. There were about a dozen people there already and at the front of the room I noticed a demonstration table, white board and visual equipment which displayed the hands of the teacher on a large flat screen TV. I felt lucky because I had forgotten my glasses that morning!

Ms. Yoon Suk Ja began the lesson with a brief question and answer session concerning the origin and history of Korean song pyun rice cakes. She explained that they have been created from since before the dynasties periods and have always reminded Koreans of the foundation myths of Korean traditional beliefs, including the births of kings and leaders of Korea from turtle eggs. She affirmed the different colors of song pyun including pink, white, brown, yellow, and green and that green tea and coffee were included which led to green and brown dough. Also she explained that the contents of the song pyun are made from various nuts and unrefined sugar but that we should concentrate on making as beautiful song pyun as possible and not over-stuff the contents.

Ms. Yoon Suk Ja then demonstrated her expertise by presenting the stages of song pyun making through first sifting the rice flour and then combining it with boiled water and then as it cools kneading the dough forcibly with the palm of the hand with a bear claw movement which seems reminiscent of at least one of the Korean foundation characters. Ms. Yoon Suk Ja said the quality and taste of the dough should be kneaded to a soft but firm consistency which improves its flavour. Then she demonstrated that the dough should be rolled out into a plug about two feet long and four inches wide. This is then cut into ½ inch sections, which are then rolled into balls and set under a warm moist towel. Following this the dough is rolled between the palms until it is quite firm. At this stage a dough ball is placed in the right palm and the left thumb is pushed into the middle of it to make a warm nest, which reminds one of the Korean traditional wedding blessings which include hens and augers bounty. Then the nest is filled with the filling of brown sugar, cinnamon, spices and sesame seeds which makes one think of fertilization and new life. Then the nest is closed between the thumbs and forefingers at which point the song pyun needs to be shaped into an egg or oval between the palms, more gently to preserve the integrity of the filling. All of these images are quite symbolic of birth. Then between the thumb and forefinger of the right hand the song pyun is held while one side is gently pinched into a ridge and formed carefully to avoid denting the contained bulge this creates. Then the process is repeated by turning the song pyun over and creasing the crease again. What results is something which approximates a lovely seashell.

Following demonstration Ms. Yoon Suk Ja invited Moonie and I up to the front to assist us in performing these procedures to turn out respectable song pyun. While I felt somewhat unsure how to move from one step to the next Ms. Yoon Suk Ja demonstrated her skill and long experience in teaching through gently assisting me through each step which resulted in more than a few respectably shaped song pyun which were then passed around the classroom as apparently some of them passed a test of quality. The groups at various tables had turned out various colors of dough which were shared out along with equal measures of encouragement and we even attempted to decorate our song pyun with small pieces of alternate colored dough to shape small flowers upon one side. Moonie quickly impressed me with her artistically shaped and finely crafted song pyun flower and I have admit my own attempt at flower decoration looked a lot like a dandelion. Then when a few dozens of song pyun were ready the students placed them in large bamboo steamer trays to heat and cook them over boiling water for twenty minutes. I was surprised by this because while I have always eaten these rice cakes at special festivals like Chusok which is coming soon, I had neither though about the feeling with which these foods are prepared nor the time and process of learning the skill. However the results were delicious. Just before lunch Moonie and I joined the camera man, Kwa-yong Lee and the reporter Yoon Hyun-young at a small table near the classroom for delicious and multi-colored song pyun at the joyful insistence of Ms. Yoon Suk Ja. Eating these warm song pyun that we had made with our own hands, I was reminded of the warmth of the hearts of the Korean people and share many happy wishes at this festival time of Chusok. Now I have another memory among many to explain why I choose work in Korea over so many other nations and I also had another reason, “Save room for lunch!”

* Some version of this will be published in the September Edition of the Korean Ministry of Culture and Tourism Magazine produced and written by Ahn Graphics .