Friday, March 22, 2013

Why it is kinda stupid to compare Malaysia with Korea

I am all for learning from others. I also believe in benchmarking. But in order to learn and benchmark from others with much sense, we must compare apples with apples. In the last few years, it is vogue to compare Malaysia with South Korea. Suggesting that they have moved forward far better than us and as such we must been doing rather badly. They somehow feel that we screwed up and should have been more like South Korea. Some of our politicians and their supporters are perhaps using this comparison to win votes through half-truths.

Let us just for a while suspend our intelligence and agree with them. Let us list down what we need to have in order to become like South Korea.

1.    We need a communist North Korea (complete with Soviet back-up) to taunt us so that America will adopt us like a favourite son. Being an ally to the USA, Korea received enormous sum of aid, first from the US and then from another ally, Japan. Accordingly from 1946 to 1978 they received USD 60 billion from the US. During the same period the entire African continent received only USD 68.9 billion. Indirect aids and support were also forthcoming with preferential treatment in most areas between the two countries, in trade, social and cultural.

2.    We need to almost completely disregard the environment in the first 20 – 30 years of industrialization. Many do not know that until recently, the tap water in Seoul is completely unsafe for consumption! While we in Malaysia can still boast about our ‘oldest rainforest’, Korea has almost completely destroyed their original forestry. Air quality has been a major challenge for decades with acid rain, sulphur oxides, and annual yellow dust .The environmental degradation was made worst by the damage done by US military bases – from oil spills, noise pollution, water contamination from waste water and chemical.

3.    We need to throw away democratic rule till about the 80s. In South Korea, the civilian government took over the military one rather recently, in 1987.  Yes we need an authoritarian military to rule the country with ‘kuku besi’ type of management. It was bloody. Assassinations of head of states and all that would have become part of our political history.

4.    We need to rely almost 50% of our energy needs via nuclear power. They have four nuclear reactors and each station houses four or more units, totalling around twenty! They are building 3 more reactors. Today many experts are saying South Korea is perhaps the most dangerous nuclear sites in the world.  We must be willing to take the risk of all the possibilities of a nuclear disaster, like the March 11 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. But the problem is that the very people who are fond to compare South Korea with Malaysia are the very same people who go into conniption when we build a little state of the art rare earth plant like Lynas. I wonder, can we and do we Malaysians have what it takes to be like the South Koreans when we have so many who are so weak at heart?

I hope the above four items will be suffice in helping you see why it is not smart to do a direct comparison between our two countries. There are many more unique contextual backgrounds between the two countries that we must consider if we do not want to make the mistake of making an apple to apple comparison. For example we have a unique challenge of an economic imbalanced not only between ethnic groupings but also the need to factor the imbalances with location – urban and non-urban as well a land mass separated by South China Sea. Each nation has their unique challenges and must rise to the occasion.

Kindly note, that in no way I am saying that South Korea has not done well. Their growth is spectacular. They have also made a clear effort to correct their past mistakes like cleaning up the environment and reforestation. I was at awe with the country when I visited it two years ago. Their urban planning, public transportation and world class brands are areas we must learn from. Their people are hardworking, diligent and fit like a navy seal. I could hardly find obese people, men have muscular bodies and their ladies have legs from heaven!

Just like outsiders will feel at awe when they visit Korea, many feel the same towards Malaysia. A German client simply could not believe how we could live in peace for all these while. Visitors be they from Europe, Middle –East, the US etc are amazed, astounded and overwhelmed with our uniqueness – our unity in diversity.

I hope political leaders and their supporters have a little more sense of balance when they want to get votes and win over people. While we want to move forward and make our country a better place, we must not resort to lies, half-truths and distortions. That will make our voters support ‘HARAM’.

We must not be willing to sacrifice the journey for the goal, the means for the end. Thank you.

Anas Zubedy
Kuala Lumpur


Anonymous said...

you just keep your mouth shut!

Snuze said...

I love your blog. I keep learning something new every visit.

Keep on tapping away on the keyboard, Anas!

Anonymous said...

1.1946 to 1978 they received USD 60 billion.
Reply:- Tat was for the Korea war mind you. How much was spent on the war?

2. Korea has almost completely destroyed their original forestry.
Reply:- go check out deforestation in Sarawak, Pahang and Perak. Whether anything left except hill slope. Else, tat too will go

3. In South Korea, the civilian government took over the military one rather recently, in 1987.
Reply: So only within short period from 1987 Korea economy exploded. Why you propose we go back to military? Who is stupid?

4. They have four nuclear reactors and each station houses four or more units, totalling around twenty!
Reply: Do you know how many experts you need to build a nuclear reactor? What natural resources do they have compare with M'sia?

Gosh Anas, cant believe you wrote these and calling people stupid! You need to check you brain too bro.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand the logic here. South Korea achieved much better economic growth compared to Malaysia DESPITE (i) having a communist state on the border, (ii) poor environmental record and (iii) a lack of democratic govenrment. I imagine they would be even further ahead of Malaysia if they did not have these obstacles. Malaysia has no communist neighbour (please ignore Communist Party of Malaya), we have excellent environmental record (according to our govt, please ignore Lynas, Bukit Merah, Sarawak logging etc) and the BEST DEMOCRACY in the world according to our PM. We also have abundant oil and gas so we don't need nuclear, like S Korea. Etc Etc. So why are we all buying Samsung Galaxy 3 but they are not buying our Proton?

Anonymous said...

That's why we must learn from other countries. We must not afraid to change. We must not afraid that a new gov is necessary bad for us. We must not afraid to acknowlegde that for all these years, UMNO has changed in the quality from building a Malaysia for all races but now a country infested by corrupted leaders in gigantic scale and racist as well. Change sometime is unavoidable even if you are loyal to your BN. BN especially UMNO is beyond repair, they need a major overhaul and thus must be booted out so that they can come back clean. If we can't compare to South Korea, perhaps a better example is Zimbabwe, at least we can console ourselves that we did musch better than those African. What a crewed logic!

Anonymous said...

Actually south korea has more natural forest than Malaysia

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:20, let Anas have his view, and if you want, refute it.

On the other hand there are problems with the 4 points you put forward:

1) We also had an enemy to taunt us: The Communists and Indonesian (remember Konfrontasi? Ganyang Malaysia?). We had the help of the Western powers to aid us in the Emergency & Confrontation. Western & Japanese investment helped us develop the economy.

2) "Forests were cleared over many centuries for use as firewood and as building materials. However, they have [b]rebounded since the 1970s[/b] as a result of intensive reforestation efforts. The country's [b]few remaining old-growth forests are protected in nature reserves[/b]. South Korea also has 20 national parks. One of the world's most interesting wildlife sanctuaries has developed in the DMZ, having been virtually untouched since 1953. The uninhabited zone has become a haven for many kinds of wildlife, particularly migrating birds."

- Environment of South Korea, Wikipedia

Meanwhile, in Sarawak...

3) South Korea only became an economic superpower when they tossed away the shackles of dictatorship in the 80s. Check the GDP chart (you can ask Mr. Google). Aftr transition to democracy in 1987, the GDP increased at a faster rate. Had it remained authoritarian, the economy would not be as good as it is today.

Today, we use Samsung S4, drive Hyundai, dance Ganggam style, use LG aircon, drink from Coway water filter

4) Wrong comparison. We have natural gas for electricity, whereas SK has little hydrocarbon resources. We also have lots of ample sunshine that we can exploit for renewable energy. They also have local expertise in nuclear technology, compared to us. Even Lynas (which is a RE refinery) is Aussie owned.

hishamh said...

From 1955 to about 1984, the standard of living in Korea was between 20% to 30% higher than in Malaysia based on the latest PWT data (in purchasing power parity corrected 2005 international dollars).

From 1984 to 1990 however, the difference zoomed to about 80%. It has been there ever since, though Malaysia has shown some evidence of catching up (72% in 2010 compared to 84% in 2003).

Translation: Malaysia and Korea's growth record have been roughly the same, except during the period 1984-1990 when Malaysia lost considerable ground.

Using non-PPP adjusted numbers (from the IMF) shows again roughly the same pattern.

hishamh said...

Just to clarify:

South Korea did not show "much better economic growth" than Malaysia except during that short 5-6 year period in the late 1980s.

The same pattern in fact holds for Malaysia against all the NIEs (Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong), and not just Korea alone.

Anonymous said...

One thing, I personally want the Malaysian government to put into action from South Korea experience is:
Give full-battle kit for our FRU to take on those undergraduates, overweight mutants , loud-mouthed political storm-troopers, unlawful lowyers with batons charges, gas squirting canisters and water tankers! I'll be very, very happy and will vote for them!

Anonymous said...

Anas...100% agreed with you thus we must compare with Zimbabwe, Mali, Sudan..

Betronist said...

Anas, as much as i like your neutral view, this one is nonsense.

Your argument is like saying that we shouldn't compare Bill Gates and Carlos Slim due to their different family background, different business sectors, different expertise, different clientele base, etc.

The fact is clear: Malaysia lose the race of GDP growth to South Korea. Nuff said

Anonymous said...

Your argument is nonsensical. Based on your argument,there should be no comparisons between countries because there will never be an apple to apple comparisons.

Each country is unique in terms of demographics, geography, history, culture and what have you. Does it mean the comparison is meaningless? Certainly not. It is perfectly legitimate to compare Malaysia to South Korea. Your argument implies that you are finding reasons to back up your claim rather then to look at the comparison objectively.

If you have been to Korea as you mentioned, you would have noticed the safeness, the cleanliness and technological advance of the country. Korea does not have an abundance of natural resources and many factors like Korean war threatens to derail and retard their progress. But inspite of all those limitations, they progressed by leaps and bounds. Malaysia need to learn from these countries.

paktam said...

South Korea just like our Southern neighbour may be developed and rich, but the gap between the poor and the rich is hugh. Percentage of rich is small and poor is large. Most rich people are foreigners. I don't beleive we should emulate them. We should have large upper middle class income.

Anonymous said...

Reading your article makes realize that after all, I'm not that stupid. Found worse and that is Anas Zoo Bendi.

Anonymous said...

Dont be an apologist . We must always strive to be better by leaning from the best. If we are contented with just improving from our yesteryears, we will get no where. Trying to create feelgood pride brings nothing other than pathetic self contentment.

Anonymous said...

South Korea's development was due to "good corruption" which was practised by President Park Chung Hee when he gave huge contracts without competitive bidding to selected tycoons. That was how Hyundai and the other chaebols came into being today. Perhaps Malaysia is NOT corrupt enough to beat South Korea :p

Anonymous said...

South Korea's development was due to "good corruption" which was practised by President Park Chung Hee when he gave huge contracts without competitive bidding to selected tycoons. That was how Hyundai and the other chaebols came into being today. Perhaps Malaysia is NOT corrupt enough to beat South Korea :p

IT.Sheiss said...


As one who writes about information and communications technology, I often here comparisons of Malaysia's telecommunications and INternet services versus South Korea's

Not considered in all these comparisons are the following:-

1. The countries of North Asia - i.e. Japan, South Korea and Taiwan which are held up as exemplars of industrial progress were geographically on the front line of the Cold War and received generous financial and technological assistance from the west, especially the United States and were allowed generous access to its markets. This I would say was to forestall them either turning to communism or aligning with the communist bloc. No other country in Asia, not even Australia or New Zealand were able to develop industrially and technologically duringthe Cold War. Only now has China come up and that is because it turned against the SOviet Union and turned to the capitalist West, starting from Nixon's visit to China in 1972.

2. Many of Japans and South Korean telecommunications companies and technology companies are parts of huge conglomerates which have the finnacial resources to support their members through long periods of losses before they realise profitability.

For example, Samsung is a huge conglomerate involved in insurance, construction, consumer electronics, telecommunications, heavy equipment, military equipment such as tanks and so on.

On the other hand, many Malaysian telecommunications companies and technology companies tend to be on their own.

milestohalther said...

One particular paragraph stands out to me as an invalid case in point on the "positive side" of Malaysia, in terms of how foreigners are awed by how we have achieved peace, overcoming our differences in the process.

"Just like outsiders will feel at awe when they visit Korea, many feel the same towards Malaysia. A German client simply could not believe how we could live in peace for all these while. Visitors be they from Europe, Middle –East, the US etc are amazed, astounded and overwhelmed with our uniqueness – our unity in diversity."

I honestly wish I can say that our uniqueness is our unity in diversity, but that is not entirely the case.

A Canadian once asked me what the whole "1 Malaysia" logo was about. He had been staying for one month out of a potential six month stay.

I thought about it, and finally explained it the best I could. The government banking in on our diversity, and coming up with tired, useless shenanigans, to garner more votes. To make us feel we are safeguarded in this pretend-hood of unity, and have achieved "peace".

milestohalther said...

Where is this peace, though? It's in a very small population of Malaysians, where sub-cultures come together, having embraced their own uniqueness, and individual cultures, as well as celebrating the different backgrounds their friends, and families belong to.

At a glance, sure, Malaysia seems all well and fine. But do foreigners know of the ostracism students who speak anything other than Malay, as their primary language, face? Of the way the government, and public schools utilise the fear of our false "peace" being threatened, as a means of accepting the ethnocentric hierarchy of our constitution?

I cannot remember a Moral or History class in which the teacher did not talk about May 13th, as a day to remember not to ever speak against "Ketuanan Melayu". Hak Istimewa Orang Melayu.

"Kebebasan Bersuara" exists, only if we never speak against the blatant inequality that prevails in most of our official institutions and systems.

How at the age of 8 I knew that my non-Malay friends, and I, couldn't get beyond the second highest class of our Standard, because the system was following a "quota" in which only a certain amount of non-Malay students could be in the top 5 classes.

In classes until I was form 5, we already learnt to split into our own cliques, who conveniently speak only the same primary language we speak.

But alas, there were those who came out of those cliques, who valued each other's differences; who adorned, and honored each other as fellow citizens of a nation that could truly be great, if we only allowed the distinction of race, color or creed to not divide us.

milestohalther said...

Upon the 4th month, the aforementioned Canadian had much to complain -- among our habits of littering, not following road rules, ignorance towards the rights of animals, defacing of public conveniences, etc. -- but he was alarmed at how renting rooms/houses/lots, and signage of jobs for hire, always specified ethnicity, and in some cases religion, too.

Where is this unity? Where is our uniqueness?? What is the good of Malaysia, for other countries to compare to?

I am not implying Malaysia is void of any good cause, but we must be objective and critical. We cannot live in an ideal state, when it hasn't even been achieved.

Only now are we, as a people of this nation, beginning to see the change needed. Only right now are we passionately craving true peace, and belonging, when we say we are Malaysian. As of this past decade, as more generations arise to the challenge of being critical of our own government, politicians and our policies, and comparing our governments on an international scale, are we seeing change and action taking place.

I do believe we should always be critical of other nations' policies, too.

In my opinion, we should have several national languages. We should teach students to be adept at speaking various languages. Why adopt the same mind frame of countries like United States, in needing one official language in order to gain an identity? Why not set the bar higher, and set our mark for being dexterous linguistics-wise??

We need to take the good of other nations, as well as not forgetting nor overlooking our own innovative minds, within our jurisdictions, that can bring us to greater limits.

No, it is not stupid to compare, and use fair critique as a means of expressing our love, and loyalty to our country, through change.

Lee Cheng Kuok said...

Dear Anas, it is not as simple as differentiating apple from orange. In fact, we cannot compare Malaysia with any single country on this planet.

If by this simple logic then what will happens:

1) America has law guarantee womens' right. Wait, their majority is Christian, ours' Muslim! So no! No!

2) South Korea's industrial achievement worth us to learn from, right? No, cannot comparelah! We got 3 major races, there only 1! So, tak boleh loh!

3) Finland Norway have high standard in education. They read more because they have nothing to do in winter, we don't have winter! Can we force our kids to read? Can meh?!

So you see, you was right that scientifically we cannot compare Malaysia with South Korea or any single country.

However it is not about the comparison. It is about human achievement, potential, and will. Their success can be good source of inspiration!

Why we need to improve? Because it's there.

Anonymous said...

Some facts about Malaysia which we need to understand.

1) Malaysia is one of thirteen countries in the world since 1947, which has sustained growth over seven percent for more than twenty-five years (PEMANDU, 2010).

2) Nevertheless, from 2005, Malaysia could not sustain it growth.

3) Out of the thirteen countries that have maintained a seven percent growth since 1947, only six countries have successfully evolved to high-income status. Examples of these countries are Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Taiwan and Republic of Korea to name a few, which have taken systematic economic transformation programs to achieve high-income status countries.

4) Korea’s transformation is due to its technology performance and infrastructure enhancement (Shukran, Sultana, & Rahman, 2011). When Korea was hit by the Asian Financial Crisis in the late 1990’s, it has reformed its economic policies to “Knowledge based Nation” and aimed to be a knowledge superpower by improving the internet and developing the ICT in education, military, society and regional development (Dahlman & Anderson, 2000).

To me it is nothing wrong to learn from others. Malaysia has always been a role model to many and it is OK for Malaysia to learn from others too.

hishamh said...

@anon 10.54

For meaningful comparisons, it helps to look at the actual data.

All data from the IMF World Economic Outlook database (October 2012 edition) except where noted:

Real GDP expansion from 2005 to 2011 - Korea 25.0%, Malaysia 43.0%

That translates to a CAGR of - Korea 3.8% p.a. Malaysia 6.1% p.a.

Korea last achieved an annual growth rate of over 7% in 2002, Malaysia in 2010.

2012 preliminary numbers (from the Bank of Korea) show real annual GDP growth at 2.0%; IMF forecast for 2013 is at 3.6%.

The equivalent numbers for Malaysia are 5.6% (2012; from DOS), and 4.7% (IMF).