Move $3.6M From PRC to HK: 800 Card Swipes

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 3/29/2016 08:45:00 AM
If the magnetic strip wears out, get another one.

Over the past few months [1, 2], I've discussed the extreme lengths people on the Chinese mainland took to get money out of the PRC. Knowing that the yuan was likely to depreciate, Hong Kong with its longstanding currency peg represented a "safe haven" to them. It was not long before PRC authorities got around to banning capital outflows to Hong Kong--especially on such a grand scale. However, that action didn't stop the most determined from simply giving up and accepting depreciation as fate.

With limits for card transactions limited to $5,000 at a time, but with no limits on the number of transactions, many have taken to swiping dozens or even hundreds of times to move money. How does, oh 800 times sound to you?
More than 800. That’s how many times Hong Kong insurance agent Raymond Ng swiped the credit cards of a mainland Chinese client buying HK$28 million ($3.6 million) worth of insurance policies in the city earlier this month.

Dozens, maybe more. That’s how many other agents are using similar tactics as a way around new restrictions on insurance policy purchases by mainlanders that are often used to evade capital controls and get their money out of China, according to interviews with five Hong Kong agents working for Prudential Plc, AIA Group Ltd. and two smaller insurance companies.

“There are always ways around new restrictions,” said Ng, 30, who started selling insurance and investment products to mainland Chinese four years ago, declining to allow his company’s name to be used. "Chinese customers are accelerating the pace of moving assets outside China, especially through insurance products."

Multiple credit-card swiping to buy insurance products, even hundreds of times, isn’t illegal in Hong Kong, but it allows individuals to exceed limits on insurance purchases by mainlanders meant to control capital outflows from China. The widespread practice shows just how eager Chinese remain to move money abroad amid a weakening economy and expectations of further declines in the yuan, potentially putting pressure on authorities to impose stricter curbs.
I know what you're thinking: why doesn't China set limits on the number of card transactions that can be made as well? I believe it has to do with the country settling in the yuan as part of the IMF currency basket. Since the IMF generally encourages free capital flows, even more draconian controls would be frowned upon. It wants more and not less use of the SDR, and further limiting yuan movement would likely send the wrong signals internationally.

Still, you do have to wonder what's afoot in the mainland when folks are this eager to move cash.

Fighting PRC Illegal Fishers in Argentina, Indonesia

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 3/23/2016 05:18:00 PM
PRC "fishing" boat headed for Davy Jones' Locker.
The PRC's fisher militia strikes again, destroying goodwill as it poaches throughout the world.

I have previously written about how the PRC deploys its so-called "fishing" vessels in pursuit of foreign policy objectives in the Philippines. Aside from exacerbating overfishing by exploiting waters they have dubious claims to, Chinese fishing vessels serve a paramilitary purpose. Being ostensibly "civilian" ships instead of military ones, they should raise fewer suspicions when they accomplish national policy.

Lest you think I'm biased, two recent incidents illustrate the global reach of these nefarious vessels and their dubious purposes. A few months ago, the Chinese inked a deal with Argentina to build a new nuclear plant in the near future. Unfortunately, PRC-Argentina relations recently took a turn for the worse when Argentinian forces sunk a PRC "fishing" ship in its waters:
Argentina's coast guard has sunk a Chinese trawler that was fishing illegally within its territorial waters, the coast guard said on Tuesday, marking a first test for relations between recently elected President Mauricio Macri and Beijing.

In a high-seas chase, a coast guard vessel on Monday pursued the fishing vessel Lu Yan Yuan Yu 010 toward international waters, firing warning shots across the Chinese boat's bow as it attempted to raise the crew by radio.

"On several occasions, the offending ship performed manoeuvres designed to force a collision with the coast guard, putting at risk not only its own crew but coast guard personnel, who were then ordered to shoot parts of the vessel," the coast guard said in a statement.
And here's the part about the nuclear plants:
Relations between Argentina and China tightened under former leftist leader Cristina Kirchner. While Mr Macri promised during last year's presidential race to review all new contracts with China, he has shown no sign of doing so. Among those deals were an agreement to finance and build two nuclear power plants in Argentina in a deal worth up to $US15 billion ($20 billion).
Apparently, China did not tell its fisher militia to, ah, not test the waters by violating others' waters and acting so aggressively. For, a few days later, it was Indonesia's turn to detain more PRC fisher militiamen:
Indonesia detained the crew of a Chinese boat suspected of illegally fishing in its waters after a chase involving a Chinese coast guard vessel. The government submitted a protest to China’s charge d’affaires Sun Weide in Jakarta over the incident in Indonesia’s economic zone near the Natuna islands, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said, according to state news agency Antara.

Earlier, ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said a Chinese coast guard vessel had entered the melee, colliding with the fishing boat as it was being towed by an Indonesian patrol ship. It was unclear how many fishermen were on the boat and are now being held. “We are concerned, but I can’t say much more before all the facts are verified,” Nasir said.

Under President Joko Widodo the government has taken a more assertive approach to foreign policy, stepping up control of the borders of the world’s largest archipelago, developing its coast guard and blowing up vessels found illegally fishing in its waters. Indonesia is also deploying warships in the gas-rich waters around Natuna, in response to China’s growing military presence in the disputed South China Sea. 
As it turns out, China had pressured Indonesia not to publicize the incident. Indonesia not being directly a claimant to the South China Sea, it had tried to be a neutral peacemaker among contesting parties. However, with China acting aggressively against it via its fisher militia, you can bet that even PRC-Indonesia have come under strain:
Hours after reports of a confrontation between a Chinese coastguard ship and an Indonesian vessel in the South China Sea, a top Chinese diplomat called an Indonesian government official with a plea: Don’t tell the media, we are friends after all.

That request was rebuffed as officials in Jakarta called a press conference to complain about China’s actions. While Indonesia has largely been on the periphery of disputes between China and other nations over the South China Sea, the spat risks drawing the Southeast Asian nation into territorial contests in the oil-and-gas rich waters.

The Indonesian official said his government didn’t want to respond, but was forced to because China’s actions were especially provocative, and fitted a pattern of becoming more assertive in the waters. The official didn’t want to be named because of the sensitivity of the incident. The Chinese embassy didn’t answer four phone calls or reply to two e-mails asking about the call.
BOTTOM LINE: Like the US before it, China is a bully that needs to be put in its place. It claims not to seek hegemony, but its territorial claims are ludicrous and its territorial violations span the globe as its fishing fleet rams any and all who dare contest its illegal overfishing activities.

I'd suggest that the dozens of aggrieved countries band together and develop a strategy to deal with these "fishing" Chinese bandits. Overfishing is not a laughing matter. Sure, China needs to fill ever-greater demand for seafood of its increasingly affluent population, but there are limits to acceptable behavior in the international community. If detaining and, indeed, even stopping these offenders is necessary, let's just say no one is especially sympathetic to the PRC.

When China is keen to offend even those who view it more positively than others like Argentina and Indonesia, well, that's the likely result. With friends like China...

Trump & Sanders: Actually, Americans [Heart] Trade

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 3/21/2016 01:30:00 AM
Americans are anti-trade? Whatever.
With the US primaries underway to select the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates, you'd be in pretty good company if you believed that Americans have turned decisively against trade. To blame trade with other nations as an all-purpose scapegoat has, indeed, become quite the pastime when hard left (Sanders) and hard right (Trump) candidates both bash it quite lustily. Such may be the conventional wisdom these days.

Or is it? NPR points out that, actually, a recent Gallup poll indicates that public attitudes towards trade Stateside have taken a turn for the better. That is, rather more folks believe that trade benefits rather than harms them.
[A]s it turns out, Americans as a whole seem to feel pretty good about foreign trade. Gallup found in February that 58 percent of Americans see trade as more of an opportunity than a threat.

Interestingly, polls also show that Democrats right now are slightly more in favor of free trade than Republicans. In the early 2000s, Republicans were more likely to see trade as an opportunity than a threat, according to Gallup. But around 2011, Democrats surpassed them. Around 61 percent of Democrats saw trade as an opportunity as of 2015, compared to 51 percent of Republicans.

This bucks conventional wisdom that Republicans are more the party of free trade. (After all, big business interest groups, like the Chamber of Commerce, who support trade pacts, tend to support Republican politicians, while unions — major Democratic supporters — oppose many trade pacts). Indeed, both parties appear to be (moderately) the parties of free trade.

The bottom line, according to one public-opinion expert, is that Americans' views on trade may shift back and forth, but they never really get that extreme. "Trade is never wildly popular, but sometimes it's less unpopular," said Karlyn Bowman, a senior fellow and public opinion analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, a right-leaning think tank in Washington, DC.
To me, what is remarkable is that, in the Gallup poll series at least, pro-trade attitudes appear to be at a quarter-century high. If so, are Trump and Sanders delivering the wrong message? I don't actually think so. They're not really after the "mainstream" of voters--that much should be pretty obvious by now--but rather the disaffected ones. As such, their putative "base" is really of the veritable losers hankering for a time when the US was much less open than it is now. Resentment can be a powerful driver of human (mis)behavior.

To the rest of us around the world, they're not really who we would find favor with since they would not like to consider us anyway. But, in reality, opinion polls may reflect a more, ah, progressive American view of conducting economic relations with furriners. 

'Liquid American Freedom': On US Resuming Oil Exports

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 3/15/2016 04:07:00 PM
Salvo #1 in Liquid American Freedom: resuming US oil exports after four decades.
So far this year, Iran resuming its exports of oil after years of being frozen out of various markets due to sanctions--especially those in Europe--has made the most headlines. Actually, it's the good ol' US of A also resuming its energy exports that is the more interesting event, geopolitically speaking. However, the media coverage of that event has been limited for some reason. For the longest time, the United States was obviously the world's largest importer of the stuff. However, China has since usurped that title. What's more, the shale revolution has increased domestic production of oil and gas manifold times.

Given such a scenario, the US was faced with the enviable problem of what to do with so many energy reserves. In 1975, the midpoint of the decade of two oil crises, US lawmakers passed a law that prohibited US energy companies from exporting. Before Christmas last year, however, American lawmakers made the commonsense move of lifting the ban as the US situation has turned from one of a shortage into a surplus because of the aforementioned fracking. It's still a net importer of the stuff, but much less so nowadays.

Shortly after the law was lifted in December of last year, a tanker leaving from the Gulf of Mexico bound for France made portents of what is to come:
The sea stretched toward the horizon last New Year’s Eve as the Theo T, a red-and-white tug at her side, slipped quietly beneath the Corpus Christi Harbor Bridge in Texas. Few Americans knew she was sailing into history. Inside the Panamax oil tanker was a cargo that some on Capitol Hill had dubbed “Liquid American Freedom” -- the first U.S. crude bound for overseas markets after Congress lifted the 40-year export ban.

It was a landmark moment for the beleaguered energy industry and one heavy with both symbolism and economic implications. The Theo T was ushering in a new era as it left the U.S. Gulf Coast bound for France. The implications -- both financial and political -- for energy behemoths such as Saudi Arabia and Russia are staggering, according to Mark Mills, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute think tank and a former venture capitalist. "It’s a game changer," he said.
Aside from the US signaling more competition in the oil market--OPEC countries, Canada and Russia watch your backs--the Yanks also set to deliver liquefied natural gas (LNG):
Meanwhile, the U.S. is also poised to make its first shipments of liquefied natural gas, or LNG, from shale onto world markets within weeks, about two months later than scheduled. Cheniere Energy Inc. expects to have about 9 million metric tons a year of LNG available for its own portfolio from nine liquefaction trains being developed at two complexes in Texas. That’s enough to power Norway and Denmark combined for a year.
Deserved or not, the perception goes like this: Why buy oil from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Russia or some other country with high levels of "political risk" that jeopardize delivery when the rather safer US can sell you the same stuff at the same price? That is, the US isn't going to be overrun by revolutionaries or use energy as a "weapon" anytime soon:
What’s already clear is that even with crude losing about 70 percent of its value since the middle of 2014 amid a worldwide production glut and a slowdown in Chinese demand growth, buyers are happy for the chance to diversify their sources of supply.

“If you’re a buyer in, say, South Korea, and you’re offered the same price from Saudi Arabia, Russia and the U.S., you’re going to make the obvious choice: the U.S.,” Mills said. “It’s the one supplier you know is never going to threaten you or cut off supplies, which is certainly not the case with Saudi Arabia, Russia or Iran.”
America's back in the game, and something that it can deliver that developing country exporters cannot is surety that the USA will likely be around as a a supplier in the near future, come rain or shine.

Counting Down to Myanmar's Stock Market Opening

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 3/13/2016 07:06:00 PM
First the grand opening; come March it's live trading.
One good turn deserves another: following discussions of a much-anticipated IPO on Vietnam's stock exchange, we should discuss the imminent opening of Myanmar's as one of Southeast Asia's frontier CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Mynamar, Vietnam) markets. To say that years of economic isolation--partly self-imposed, partly the result of international economic sanctions--have left Myanmar's economy in a funky shape is an understatement. Consider its foreign exchange regime:
Myanmar has four currency rates, no credit rating, and a shiny new stock exchange that doesn’t yet trade...

Myanmar’s currency, the kyat, was pegged to the IMF’s special drawing rights basket for much of the junta’s reign. The official rate was set at about 6.4 kyat per dollar—which made it more than 100 times overvalued in comparison with rates available on the black market.

After the country started moving toward civilian rule, the central bank in 2012 introduced a managed float, initially setting the daily rate at 818 kyat per dollar. That regime is still in effect. Each morning, after commercial banks put in bids for the currency at an auction, the central bank announces a reference rate. Banks are then allowed to buy and sell kyat in a trading band of 0.8 percent on either side of that rate.
Commercial banks also have more competitive, unofficial currency rates that they use on the quiet. Then there’s the black market rate, which accounts for most transactions.

The central bank aims eventually to unify all four rates. Last year it started a slow depreciation of official rates. “The formal and informal exchange rates are now not much different,” says Win Thaw, the central bank’s deputy director general who heads its currency department. “It is below 1 percent. Some of the local banks and foreign banks that were awarded licenses have started forward and swaps trading.”
Aside from sorting out a single exchange rate, the real excitement swirls around the new stock exchange. It's been built already; it just await its first trading day. The thing is, Cambodia and Laos actually have stock markets already. However, the trading volumes there are so limited that capital raised there is minimal. That's the situation Myanmar is trying to avoid as it strives to create a fully functional exchange conducive to raising capital:
Six companies have been chosen to list, including two banks, according to the country’s Securities and Exchange Commission. First Myanmar Investment, a conglomerate controlled by businessman Serge Pun, aims to be among the first to trade, Pun has said.

Trading on the exchange is expected to begin in March. Foreign investors won’t have access at first. One of the fears is that the bourse ends up like exchanges in Cambodia and Laos, which have failed to take off. Optimists argue that Myanmar’s market has a better chance of success, given that its $66 billion GDP is more than three times that of Cambodia or Laos. “Myanmar’s economy and population are not directly comparable to these nations,” says Melvyn Pun, a son of Serge Pun and a holder of First Myanmar Investment shares. “Myanmar has more than seven times as many people as Laos.” As part of preparation for the exchange, delegates from Myanmar visited Tokyo for “Stocks 101” classes taught by veteran Daiwa traders.

“There are many successful stock exchanges in the region,” says the younger Pun. “Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange, Thailand’s SET, and Bursa Malaysia can serve as positive examples.”
Burmese capitalism is coming on by leaps and bounds, it seems--at least relative to where it was during the height of junta rule.

Can 'Bikini Airline' VietJet Dominate Cheap Flights?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 3/11/2016 10:15:00 AM
I'll bet you don't get this in Emirates marketing materials: VietJet as a Southeast Asian force in budget carriers.
Here's a rather unexpected love letter to the positives of both market socialism and Southeast Asian economic integration. Although doi moi policies opening Vietnam up to the rest of the world were implemented during the mid-1980s, it's taken some time for the Vietnamese to catch up in terms of market development with the rest of the region. Its total stock market capitalization is around $46.01B according to World Bank figures. However, that may change soon.

Civil aviation has been a noteworthy industry for Vietnamese development. For a long time, folks there obviously couldn't travel so freely--to other Southeast Asian destinations especially. However, various integration initiatives in the region like 'Open Skies' have played a part in expanding the market in newer accession countries Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and of course Vietnam:
The Vietnamese airline industry is currently quite small, but it is poised for massive growth with the domestic airlines planning to either double or even triple their fleets as they seek to service the country’s 90 million plus citizens over the next few years. Further, the fast growing tourist industry has been increasing at a 20 percent rate year-on-year.

Industry analyst Brendan Sobie said Vietnam – along with Laos and Burma – are considered “frontier markets” with enormous potential for growth. As a result, international aircraft manufacturers such as Boeing and Airbus are finding Vietnam to be an increasingly attractive market.

An example of this growth can be seen in the case of Vietnam’s first private airline, VietJet Aviation Joint Stock Co, which has just placed an order worth US$9 billion for 92 Airbus jets. The airline is also looking to list itself on either the Hong Kong or Singapore stock exchanges in order to help its expansion.
This of course brings us to VietJet. While budget carriers have proliferated in the region, some as low-cost subsidiaries of existing airlines, others have been established by budding entrepreneurs. To the rest of the world, VietJet is best-known for its gimmick of parading bikini-clad stewardesses in fight cabins. Lest you think this is a "sexist" airline, let it be known that its CEO is actually female, Madam Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao. (Political correctness aside, she probably sees a good marketing gimmick to reel in male customers.)

Perhaps unfortunately, the 'bikini airline' image has obscured the more important point that VietJet is poised to become a regional force--especially in low-cost carriers. The Vietnamese market is booming; of that there is no doubt. With its initial public offering (IPO) or share sale soon, some expect its valuation to surpass even that of longstanding Southeast Asian national carriers like those of Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand:
VietJet, which featured dancing flight attendants clad in bikinis on an inaugural route and bikini models on its airplanes for a desktop calendar, carried 9.3 million passengers in 2015, an increase of 66 percent from 2014. Revenue soared 205 percent last year to 10.9 trillion dong ($488 million) while net income rose to almost 1 trillion dong, according to the company. The airline expects revenue to double this year and passenger capacity to reach 15 million this year.

The airline is aiming to seek a valuation of at least $1 billion for the initial stock sale, according to two people with knowledge of the plan, who asked not to be named because the information is private. That would make VietJet a more valuable company than Malaysia’s AirAsia Bhd., PT Garuda Indonesia or Thai Airways International Pcl.

VietJet will probably surpass national carrier Vietnam Airlines as the nation’s biggest domestic carrier this year, according to CAPA Centre for Aviation. Vietnam is expected to rank among the world’s 10 fastest-growing aviation markets in the next two decades, according to the International Air Transport Association.

“It’s an ideal market for low-cost carriers,” or LCCs, said Brendan Sobie, Singapore-based chief analyst at CAPA Centre for Aviation. “This makes VietJet an attractive scenario for investors. They don’t have the risks other LCCs have in terms of over-capacity and competition.”
I can still hardly believe it: VietJet only begun operations in 2007, and yet it's now being expected to surpass the market capitalization of several established regional carriers that have been plying their trade for decades. The Bloomberg article goes on to say that VietJet wants to be the Emirates of Southeast Asia. I say: 'perhaps.'  While Emirates is another relative upstart which has garnered a lot of market share, let's just say that Emirates flight attendants are rather more fully attired even if they too are rather attractive.

As i said, it's two cheers for market socialism and Southeast Asian economic integration.

3/24 UPDATE: Bloomberg now has a profile of VietJEt founder Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, who is posied to become Vietnam;s first female billionaire.

India vs US @ WTO on Solar Panels, Work Visas

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,,, at 3/09/2016 03:54:00 PM
You can have a national solar program...but the WTO says you should not discriminate against foreign solar panels.
With "friends" like the US and India, it seems there is no need for enemies--at least in the trade realm. A few years ago, the US complained that India was discriminating against foreign producers of solar panels by requiring that government-subsidized purchases meet a local content requirement under a national procurement program. [See case DS 456.] Late last year, the WTO dispute settlement mechanism ruled against India. Recently, an appeal by India on the matter was also rejected:
A three-member dispute settlement panel of the WTO, which was set up in 2013 after the US complained that India unduly favours local solar manufacturers, had ruled against India in August and the February 24 ruling is a reiteration by the panel after India went in appeal. India's Solar Mission offers a subsidy of up to Rs 1 crore per MW to solar developers sourcing components from local manufacturers. It also stipulates that 10% of the solar capacity target of 100,000 MW by 2022 should be built with domestically manufactured solar modules, which has led to a small part of the solar auctions being reserved for developers employing only domestic content.

India had suggested a compromise by which the domestic content requirement would not be imposed on private solar developers or made part of the auctions and would be restricted to public services such as the railways and defence. But even this failed to cut much ice with the US or the WTO.
Unhappy about this state of affairs, India has hit back at the US timing-wise with a complaint that the US was failing to meet its commitments concerning the temporary movement of natural persons to the US. That is, Indian services firms needing engineers and others to complete work Stateside have found it increasingly difficult to do so given (a) higher visa expenses and (b) fewer available visas. Indian firms being the largest users of such visas to America, recent cost increases are seen as violating Mode IV provisions:
In a statement, the WTO said that India has initiated a dispute proceeding against the US regarding measures imposing increased fees on certain applicants for L1 and H1B categories of non-immigrant temporary working visas into the US, as well as measures relating to numerical commitments for H1B visas.

"The government of India is of the view that these and comparable measures taken by the US are not in conformity with some of the provisions of GATS such as Articles II, V:4, XVI and XX and paragraph 3 and 4 of the GATS Annex on Movement of Natural Persons Supplying Services. These measures also appear to be inconsistent with Articles III:3 and IV:1 of the GATS," the WTO said.
What particular upsets India is that they had been lobbying the US not to change this visa policy, which fell upon deaf ears anyway:
The US government has doubled the fees for temporary work visas for skilled professionals like H1B and L1 visas to $4,000 and $4,500 respectively. India is the largest user of H1B and L1 visas -- taking 67.4 percent of the 161,369 H1B and 28.2 percent of the 71,513 L1 visas issued in FY14.

US President Barack Obama signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2016 on December 18, 2015, with the provisions applicable to companies that employ 50 or more persons in the US with more than 50 percent of them holding H1B or L1 non-immigrant status. This will remain effective till September 30, 2025.

Despite repeated requests from the Indian government, the US administration went ahead with its decision, which came into force on December 18, 2015. The US decision is expected to impact the Indian IT and ITES industry.

The complaint is viewed as "tit for tat" against the superpower, which has used the WTO as a forum to snub Indian government's plans to encourage its solar industry by offering subsidies to the manufacturers, as well as reduce its dependence on Indian imports, something encouraged as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Make in India program.
If nothing else, it gives trade lawyers work :-)

Will Korea Welcome More Migrants Than Japan?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 3/04/2016 11:41:00 AM
Maybe "Korean multiculturalism" won't be an oxymoron in the near future.
When it comes to the least fertile countries in the world, East Asian ones are pretty much at the bottom of global league tables. Since the demographic consequences of this phenomenon are dire--ever-fewer workers supporting a larger number of economically inactive--these countries have naturally been investigating solutions ranging from increasing benefits for new parents to improving the image of parenthood. To date, none have really worked in East Asia.

Enter migration: if people will not have children of their own who will eventually enter the workforce, why not bring in persons of working age from abroad? Better than wait for children to grow, they can work now. As relatively homogeneous societies, however, the fear remains that of cultural dilution. That said, there may be differences even among East Asian countries.

Consider South Korea. Make no mistake: On the balance, the general public holds negative views of migrant workers:
More than half of Koreans have a negative attitude towards foreign workers residing here, a recent survey showed. In a survey by local pollster Gallup Korea, 54 per cent of respondents said that the migration of foreign workers to Korea is "not a good thing." The study was conducted on 1,500 Koreans aged 19 and above.

Thirty-nine per cent said that it is a "good thing," which is significantly lower than the 57 per cent average across the 69 countries that participated in this global survey.
That said, multi-ethnic marriages and families are becoming more of a staple in South Korea. Call it another globalization phenomenon:
Interracial marriages [...] have grown since the 1990s in largely homogenous South Korea as the country started opening up following the end of military rule in 1993, and its people engaged in trade and tourism exchanges with nationals of neighbouring countries, including China, Vietnam and the Philippines.

As of 2014, there were 795,000 multicultural family members, comprising South Koreans, their foreign spouses and their biracial children, living in the nation of 50 million people, according to the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. The country is also home to about 1.7 million foreigners.

Over 63 per cent of interracial marriages are between South Korean men and foreign-born women, the majority of whom hail from China, Japan and South-east Asian countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines. South Korean women marrying foreign men make up 24 per cent, and the rest are marriages that include one or two naturalised foreigners.
Unlike Japan, South Korea's government has been more active in changing public attitudes towards these multi-ethnic families:
Last November [2015], a revision to the Multicultural Families Act was made to put greater emphasis on changing biased views of these families, preventing discrimination of biracial children and encouraging more openness among Koreans towards these families.
This marks a shift in the government's policy, from merely integrating migrant spouses into the Korean society to more active efforts at promoting multiracial harmony. Details are being worked out and will be announced later.
While it's true that Korea's government is dragging its foot somewhat on the subject matter, there is a clear difference with Japan which has not really tackled the issue of acceptance in a significant way. In this respect, Korea is ahead--if only slight so, it's still a meaningful public policy difference.