Isnin, 23 Disember 2013

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The Star Online: Metro: Sunday Metro

HK malls’ all-out war over Xmas decorations

Posted: 23 Dec 2013 08:00 AM PST

HONG KONG: In the race to extract cash from Christmas shoppers, Hong Kong's myriad shopping malls have taken to heart the maxim that you must spend money to make money when it comes to decorations this festive season.

From two-storey-high polar bears to giant Disney characters, the southern Chinese city is awash with increasingly elaborate displays as luxury outlets bid to outdo each other and get wealthy mainlanders through the door.

The competition between shopping malls is "very fierce", said Karen Tam, assistant general manager for marketing at the Harbour City shopping mall located on the bustling Kowloon waterfront.

Harbour City spent more than HK$5mil (RM2mil) this year on a display that includes Disney characters from popular movies such as Toy Story and Lilo and Stitch placed among huge Christmas decorations.

Tam said the mall's budget will only increase in coming years, as it vies with its rivals to boost Christmas footfall and snare as many local and tourist shoppers as possible.

"The budget for Christmas decorations has to go up because it is really serious competition in Hong Kong and China," Tam said. "We have to be creative to attract people."

The IFC Mall, located in the city's Central financial district, has set up decorations inspired by New York City's Central Park, with grassy knolls and stationary bicycles that light up when shoppers climb on and pedal.

APM in east Kowloon has constructed a whacky Christmas town featuring the Bear Dog characters from Japanese designer Shiro Nakano, as well as Warhol-esque soup cans topped with colourful Christmas trees.

Malls have kept their holiday designs – and their budgets – a clos­ely guarded secret until the last possible minute, adding to the pressure on those responsible for the over-the-top displays.

"We had tried to check what the other malls are doing for the season, but everyone keeps it all very confidential," said Rebecca Woo, head of marketing at K11 Art Mall.

K11, which doubles as a shopping mall and an art gallery in the tourist hotspot of Tsim Sha Tsui, had an environmental twist on this year's festive installation which was six months in the planning and costing HK$4mil (RM1.7mil).

The mall opted for a two-storey tall polar bear made of steel pipes, accentuated with multi-coloured lights and fake foam snow, which Woo said was designed to raise awareness of the impact of human activities on the environment.

"We really want to bring something that is memorable for our cusomers," she said, adding that the mall has recorded a more than 10 percent increase in customer visits since it went on display. — AFP

Filipinos head to Singapore as tourists to look for jobs

Posted: 23 Dec 2013 08:00 AM PST

RAMZ came to Singapore in March as a tourist but his itinerary did not include visiting the Merlion, Universal Studios or Orchard Road.

Instead, the 29-year-old Filipino had only one goal: to find a job.

He would spend hours scouring employment websites every day, and often had only one meal a day to save money.

Finally, after about four months, he landed a job as a financial analyst at an offshore bank, drawing a monthly salary of S$2,800 (RM7,280).

Filipino professionals like Ramz, who declined to give his full name, are increasingly taking a route once used mostly by maids to find employment in Singapore: entering the country as tourists. Once they secure jobs, their employers apply for work passes for them so that they can work here legally.

In Singapore, foreign professionals can apply for jobs while visiting. But the authorities "will not grant an extension of visit passes" if the job prospects are unclear, states the Manpower Ministry on its website.

However, Manila frowns on it and has been clamping down on its citizens leaving the country as tourists to prevent human trafficking.

Immigration officials at the airports send people home if they do not have two-way tickets and a sufficient amount of cash to prove that they are genuine tourists.

Daisy Lopez, who owns employment agency WorkHome Personnel in Singapore, said aspiring maids, who are usually from the countryside, have borne the brunt of the tightened rules.

"The immigration officers can tell by one look that they aren't tourists. They don't dress fashionably and cannot answer the questions confidently," she said.

In contrast, professionals, many of whom hail from cities like Manila and Cebu, have a better chance of convincing immigration officers as they dress better and carry themselves well.

Taking the legitimate route has its advantages, said Filipino bank staff and marketing and retail executives.

It ensures that their rights, such as paying no placement fees, are protected under Philippine laws.

But the process takes several months and has no guarantee of success.

This is because they have to rely on recruitment agencies in the Philippines which are inundated by thousands of applications from university graduates who want to head to Singapore because of the good pay.

Graduates earn only about S$510 (RM1,320) a month in the Philippines whereas in Singapore, they can draw over US$2,000 (RM6,580).

So, many prefer the tourist route.

It allows employers to interview them in person, increasing their chances of getting hired.

If they cannot find a job before their tourist visa expires in a month, they apply to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority to extend their stay.

In some cases, the extension is rejected.

Filipinos like Ramz then head to Johor Baru for a few days and re-enter Singapore on a new tourist pass.

Headhunters such as Satish Bakhda from Rikvin recruitment consultancy said many foreigners who try the tourist route go home empty-handed as the Manpower Ministry continues to tighten the rules. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

Korean national hero ‘hijacked’ by China provokes fury

Posted: 23 Dec 2013 08:00 AM PST

JIAN, China: Centuries ago Kwang­gaet'o the Great ruled over a mighty empire stret­­c­­­­hing from south of Seoul deep into Manchuria in China's northeast, but his Koguryo dynasty is now at the centre of a historical tug-of-war.

He is revered as a Korean national hero on both sides of the divided peninsula, while Chinese attempts to claim Koguryo as its own have provoked fury among its neighbours.

One of Koguryo's capitals, now the modern Chinese city of Jian, stands on the Yalu river on the frontier between China and Kim Jong-Un's North Korea.

It hosts a treasure trove of historical sites and cultural relics, including royal mausoleums designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites and decorated with murals depicting traditional wrestling and tiger-hunting.

A towering stone stele more than six metres (20 feet) tall illustrates the dispute, with Kwanggaet'o's name carved into the granite – in the classical Chinese characters used for writing in northeast Asia at the time.

"Koguryo is in fact part of Korean history, not Chinese history," said Hwang Seon-Goo, a South Korean visitor.

"We think that China insists on having its own way."

Soon afterwards Zhang Ming, who identified himself as a Chinese tourist, expressed keen interest in knowing what the South Korean visitor had said.

In response, he pointed to the language of the inscription as evidence of its Chineseness, asking "how it could be Korean" if it was written in Chinese.

The general Chinese view can be seen in a description in a Jian museum devoted to the dynasty. "Koguryo was engaged in wars with ancient central China and surrounding nations and tribes," reads one label.

"However, they finally accepted the authority of ancient central China dynasties and had a main historical trend of tributary kingdom."

Koreans on both sides of the divided peninsula claim Koguryo as an inherent part of their history, and it is a popular theme in South Korea for novels and television dramas, such as this year's The Blade and Petal, a tale of romance and political infighting toward the dynasty's close.

Koguryo lasted from at least 37 BC until 668 AD, when it was brought down by an alliance between Tang dynasty China and Silla, a rival Korean kingdom.

But the areas governed by the empire lie in what today are four modern sovereign states: the two Koreas, China and Russia.

Tensions heated up about a decade ago when China launched the Northeast Project, a re-examination of the history of the country's border areas in the region.

Reaction was particularly negative in South Korea where the move was seen as an attempt to hijack Korean history, and even a possible prelude to Chinese designs on its ally North Korea were the ruling regime to collapse.

South Korea's foreign ministry devotes a section of its website to the topic, putting it on a par with the row with Japan over a disputed island called Dokdo by Seoul and Takeshima by Tokyo.

"The Korean government considers issues concerning the history of Goguryeo to be a matter of national identity, and thus places such issues among its highest priorities," the website says.

In 2006 South Korea's then president Roh Moo-Hyun reportedly raised the research personally with Wen Jiabao, China's premier at the time.

Tensions may have eased since but South Korea still keeps a close eye on "new cases of historical distortion", according to the foreign ministry. — AFP


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