Economist 9/9/14

  1. One in every five South Koreans is a Kim—in a population of just over 50m. And from the current president, Park Geun-hye, to rapper PSY (born Park Jae-sang), almost one in ten is a Park. Kim, Lee, Park – surnames account for almost half of those in use in South Korea today. Why is there so little diversity in Korean surnames?Korea’s long feudal tradition offers part of the answer. As in many other parts of the world, surnames were a rarity until the late Joseon dynasty (1392-1910). They remained the privilege of royals and a few aristocrats (yangban) only. Slaves and outcasts such as butchers, shamans and prostitutes, but also artisans, traders and monks, did not have the luxury of a family name. As the local gentry grew in importance, however, Wang Geon, the founding king of the Goryeo dynasty (918–1392), tried to mollify it by granting surnames as a way to distinguish faithful subjects and government officials.As family names such as Lee and Kim were among those used by royalty in ancient Korea, they were preferred by provincial elites and, later, commoners when plumping for a last name. As family names such as Lee and Kim were among those used by royalty in ancient Korea, they were preferred by provincial elites and, later, commoners when plumping for a last name.
  2. One of the latest battles joined by the MRFF ( Military Religious Freedom Foundation), and several other lobby groups, concerned the practice of leaving Bibles supplied by the Gideons, a charity which encourages the study of scripture, inside rooms in lodgings run by the navy. About a month ago, it emerged that Gideon Bibles had been removed from at least 3,000 rooms in navy lodges in response to secularist complaints. That in turn triggered massive protests from Christian and conservative lobby groups, and the Bibles were duly returned to the rooms. The Foundation says it has been approached by more than 38,000 service personnel, veterans or civilian defence workers with complaints about violations of their freedom to believe or not to believe, and 96% of these complaints come from Christians, many of them disturbed by extremist readings of their own faith which are being imposed on them in some way.
  3. LinkedIn, a networking website, has analysed the profiles of its 313m users to provide some answers. Software firms, for instance, have few openings but retain around two-fifths of their interns—more than most sectors. By contrast, public-relations outfits tend to bring in three times more interns (relative to total hires), but only give 27% a job at the end of their placement. For those seeking the reassurance of a permanent job, accounting and management-consulting are good bets, with retention rates of 40% and 60% respectively. Charities and NGOs, on the other hand, are far less likely to retain their interns.
  4. Three issues that should preoccupy managers in the next 50 years.The first is that the rise of smart machines will have a dramatic impact on the role of executives. Andrew McAfee of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology points out that the first machine age gave rise to the modern discipline of management: companies hired armies of managers to co-ordinate the workers who operated the machines.The second machine age will reconfigure the discipline: much of the work of bosses, from analysing complex data to recruiting staff and setting bonuses, will be automated.The second idea is a new twist on a familiar worry about productivity. Economic growth has traditionally been fuelled by two things: higher productivity and more workers. But productivity growth has been disappointing in recent years, and, more important, the population is beginning to age.The third idea is also a twist on a well-known worry, about globalisation. Understanding emerging markets will no longer be enough. Managers will have to familiarise themselves with a mind-boggling number of mid-level cities in the developing world if they are to ride the next wave of globalisation.
  5. BANKS, harried by regulators and short of capital, are fleeing the commodities business.America has some big commodity firms, including Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill and Koch Industries. But the real behemoths are based in Switzerland. Vitol, which started out in 1966 trading oil products along the Rhine, had $307 billion in sales in 2013. In addition to its trading business, it also owns or charters ships to transport crude oil, petrol, gas, coal, chemicals and sugar.Glencore had $233 billion in sales last year. It both mines and markets coal.Trafigura, another commodities giant based in Switzerland, had sales of $133 billion in 2013. It too takes a cradle-to-grave approach: the firm’s oil business, for instance, includes everything from exploration to petrol stations.Such integration may improve trading margins, but only by getting the commodities firms into lots of low-margin, capital-intensive businesses like shipping and mining. It may work well when commodity prices are stable or rising, but it leaves them woefully exposed to the next recession.
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