A piece of South Korea

Mar Chamorro and Enma Viera in the Korean Cultural Center in Madrid

For the study of one region of the world I preferred to focus on Asia, Australia and Oceania because I considered that nowadays the economic, political and military importance of this region have increased, opening up a range of possibilities in the near future. For this reason I decided to concentrate the interview especially on South Korea.

I had the pleasure to meet Mar Chamorro, the press representative of the Korean Cultural Center in Madrid. Not only she gladly accepted to have her do an interview but she also showed me around the different facilities of the modern Center. The interview focused on the cultural relations of Spain and South Korea and the role of the Center in them.

First of all, it is important to mention that the Cultural Center is established and regulated by the Republic of Korea’s Government and have for its objective the increase of cultural bonds between the two countries.

When asked about this, the interviewee highlighted that the different activities that take place in order to stimulate the cultural relations between the two countries and its citizens are  the offer of courses and workshops of Korean food (hansik), traditional music (gukak), Korean painting (hanguk-hwa), Korean paper (hanji), Korean pop (k-pop) and Korean language (hangul), among others such as the projections of Korean movies and the celebration of an annual “Muestra de Cine Coreano” (35mm) in collaboration with the “Filmoteca Española”.

She also suggested the diverse and temporary projects that will take place this year apart from the courses and workshops that are offered.  Some of the events that have been prepared are exhibitions of Korean and Spanish artists, “la Noche de los Libros”, concerts of Korean music, a K-pop contest, a literary forum, or the concert of the “Grupo Vocal Millennium”. In addition to these events, the Center will collaborate with “Casa Asia” in ARCO and in the “Festival Asia” among others.

The Korean Cultural Center is making a great effort to make the Spanish society get to know the culture of South Korea. As Mar Chamorro said, “Spaniards know Korea superficially”, so to get to know this society she points out the fact that Korea has always maintain its traditional culture but because of the economic development based of exportation and exchange with the whole world the last 50 years, it has provoked a transformation in the Korean society, making it more dynamic and open.  Mar Chamorro defines the Korean society as open, dynamic and as very kind people.

Spain and South Korean share, in her opinion, lots of things in common. Both countries are peninsulas and its people are very passionate. They share a vision of peace and international security, probably because of their membership in international organizations that have for objective this goal.

These common things makes the Spanish and South Korean relations strengthen day by day and this can be seen in the increase of the amount of Spanish visitors that travel to South Korea this past three years. Mar Chamorro thinks that the interest of the Spanish society has risen gradually, and for this reason, a direct flight stands between Madrid and Seoul with Korean Airlines.

The interviewee considers that Spain is not only known in this Asian country for its football teams or its tourism. The Korean society knows different aspects of Spain because of the promotion that takes place in South Korea, such as “el Camino de Santiago” or Gaudi’s architecture. Besides this, the Korean government considers that Spain is a very important country in order to connect Korea and South America because it serves as a bridge to strengthen cultural ties with the South American countries. This is the reason why South Korea decided to stablish the Korean Cultural Center in Madrid in 2011, becoming one of the 24 Cultural Centers that have been opened in the world.

In order to finish the interview, I could not let go the opportunity to ask Mar Chamorro about what advice she could give to International Relations students that soon will finish their studies and will enter the “real world”. She considered that it is very important to have the experience of traveling to other countries and living in them to have a different vision on how the world functions. For her point of view, it is vital to go in depth into the culture of the country that you moved into in order to open your mind. This, she says, will help us greatly.

As a nice way to finish our meeting, she nicely offered to show me the various rooms of the Center, from the amazing exhibition of traditional Korean items brought directly from South Korea, to the great collection of books in both languages, Spanish and Korean, for all ages and interests.

Tourist guides and a book that Mar Chamorro gave to me after the interview

It was a fantastic experience!

What do you know about trading with Japan?

I must confess that when I arranged my appointment with the Head of the Chamber of Hispanic -Japanese trade, I was not disappointed, but sad. I am not really interested in trade, but as long as the interview unfolded, the Head of the Chamber managed to raise my interest about the issue. I can say that those two hours of listening an expert were amazing and I hope that all of you really enjoy as much as I did.

First of all mention that the interview was divided into two different but related parts. The first one was about how to work with Japanese; meanwhile the second was related to several tips or curious Japanese issues.

As I said above this line, my interview turned around a course that will take place throughout the Chamber of Hispanic – Japanese trade next month in Madrid. The course will be called “work with Japanese”. And thus, it could not be otherwise, my first question was related to how do Spanish enterprises work with Japanese.

Mr Miguel A. Martínez Massa, whom I have forgotten to introduce his self, is the Head of the Chamber. He began the interview by presenting the Chamber and by telling me how did it work. –I must tell you I had not idea about its existence!

Mr. Miguel Martínez Massa.  Head of the Spanish-Japanese Chamber

Mr. Miguel Martínez Massa.
Head of the Spanish-Japanese Chamber

Thus, in order to let you know a bit about the institution just mention that it was created 61 years ago in Barcelona and that its main aims were to bring knowledge of codes and protocols to Japanese trade relations, shortening distances and recommending which steps must be followed in relation to each situation. The Chamber does not have any physical office, but it is enough for them to work through Internet.

Then, our next point –and probably the most important- was related to cultural differences between both countries. He suggested that culture is the main fact that is provoking that Spanish companies do not obtain desired results in Japan.

As happens in each culture, Japanese people have their own cultural code. Thus, without a slightest notion of it, our business objectives within the Japanese market will be delayed. Therefore, highlight the importance of seeking advice as well as the figure of the intermediary in order to avoid backfire provoked by direct contact without having a good preparation.

So, what should we know in order to trade with Japanese? Easy.

Mr Martínez said that exporters must not only know about the consumers to whom the product is addressed, profiles, requirements but also they should take into account what we can call “obsessions”. What did he means by obsessions? Perfect, here is where we can include the second part of the interview.

First tip! Be patient! Japanese do business with a long-term view. They first have to trust on you. They do not touch each other, even less in public. Also, do not forget “Ringis system”. This concept defines a collective, holistic and harmonious decision-making process that starts with a written proposal that circulates to all people within the company –tateshakai. In conclusion, every negotiation is not only hard but also long because they try to avoid any margin of error.

Second tip! They do not think they are so clever. Do the same. They all like to go unnoticed. Do not boast. Show yourself transparent. In case of errors in our relations with them, it is extremely important to recognize the mistake quickly without blaming others. Just apologize and offer good solutions. They will not judge you.

Regarding this issue and as an anecdote mention that he told me, just say that Japanese are not conflictive. They solve problems by talking. Even traffic accidents end in bars –they love beer! Because of that, there are lesser lawyers in Japan that in Manhattan Island!

            What else? Forget about Japanese myths! Japanese strike? They do not even know about it. However, they do give importance to forms. They wear dark suits, always distinguishing between sport and business. Take care of the visiting card. They define them as their selves. Attach it properly; translate it into Chinese in order to facilitate communication.

Take also care of documents and catalogues. Try to submit them in Japanese. Also, it is important to prepare a Japanese version of the website of the company.

Do you all know about the inclination as a greeting? It is called “ojiki”. The more that you lean your body, the more respect you show. Do not forget to do it!

After all and not related with the above I asked him about what was Spanish doing different from Japan to tackle the economic crisis. His answer was clear and concise. I easily understood him and I hope you also do it.

Obviously corruption is everywhere, even in Japan –overcoat in multinationals. The main difference is that when someone is accused for corruption in Japan, resign, and even commit suicide. Here in Spain is… still there”.

Finally, Mr Martínez ended interview by saying that trading with Japan could be a success by taking into account the following words: preparation and prior negotiation; commitment; quality control; personal relationships; and last but not least originality.

Japan is a difficult market to enter at an early stage because of the severe competition. However, it is a misconception to believe that doing business with Japan is completely different from other countries.

Interesting documents related to Japan that Mr. Martínez gave to me!

Interesting documents related to Japan that Mr. Martínez gave to me!

Just say thank you to Mr. Martínez! It was a pleasure for me to meet you!

Do not hesitate to take a look at the Chambers’ web!


María Martínez Gutiérrez










Talking about the conflict between China and Japan means directly thinking about the Senkaku-Diaoyu conflict. Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands are apparently a set of five uninhabited Islands and two reefs. However, to be located within the Eastern China’s Sea means not only a military and security geostrategic point, but also to be bordered by a rich fishing potential. This facts aroused the interest of several countries over the Islands such as the both aforementioned or even Taiwán.

This interest overSenkaku-Diaoyu turned even more important after the United Nations speculations (1968) about the oilfields located within them. Even, destabilizing Sino – Japanese relations.

Nowadays, there is no clear holder of the Islands. But then, we will see the justification of both parties.

In one hand, China considers Diaoyu Islands as part of their territory since ancient times and they base this position on historical evidence and legal basis.

We are strongly committed to safeguarding the country’s sovereignty and security, and defending our territorial integrityChinese president Xi Jinping

China argues that the historical evidence indicates that they not only discovered, but also named and explored this group of islands before the 15th century.

On the other hand, Japan suggests that according not only to International Law, but to historical facts, there is no doubt that the Senkaku Islands are clearly an integral territory of the Japanese country. The arguments are based on the fact that the Islands were not included within the territory that Japan renounced under art. 2 of the San Francisco Treaty –it legally defined the territory of Japan after the 2nd World War.

Due to that fact, Japan decided to inspect the Islands and declared them “terra nullius” (land belonging to nobody). according to the accurate procedure. Thus, Japan recognized sovereignty over the Islands exercising the effectiveness control over them.

It all seems to be an overlap of sovereignty. How could it be solved? Obviously, the best way to resolve any international conflict in a peaceful manner is by the ruling of the International Court of Justice and under International Law. Even more, when there is an undisputed existing economic interdependence among interested parties that would be unconditionally affected by an armed conflict.

However, China does not want to lead the case to a Court. It sounds weird, isn’t it? Also is extremely curious that China wants to solve the dispute throughout a diplomatic way. Probably the country thinks that an international ruling would go against their sovereignty justification. On the contrary, Japan doesn’t want to attend to an International Court because the country believes that there is no existing conflict.

Thus, according to the principles of corpus occupandi and animus occupandi of International Law, the country which has demonstrated the intention of occupying effectively the island, in this case Japan, has enough evidence to proclaim sovereignty over the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands. Adding this to the previous rulings of the International Court of Justice over similar cases, we can conclude saying that the ownership of this islands belongs to Japan.

Japan approves its largest defense budget in response to China’s strength

Japanese Government approved the largest defense budget in their history in response to the rise of Chinese military power.

Japanese Self Defense Force destroyer

Japanese Self Defense Force destroyer. Source: The Telegraph

Last Wednesday, 4th of February, it was approved by the Japanese Government the largest defense budget in Japan’s history.

The Japanese Government is going to spend 4,98 billion yen -36.000 million euros- in its defense budget, 2’98% more than last year. This would help Japan to reach position eighth of the world’s biggest defense spending country.

This is the third consecutive year in which the Japanese Government has increased its defense budget. However, this growth is still waiting for the approval of the Japanese Parliament. If this budget is approved, it will represent 5% of the national budget (2015).

The aim of this incensement of the defense budget is to strengthen aerial and maritime surveillance. They want to buy aerial surveillance aircraft and fighter jets to help the alertness system in some specific places of the country.

The Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs said that it is going to be useful for Japan as it is going to be seen as a force of peace and stability in East Asia.

The Japanese constitution was born after the Second World War when the Allied forces occupied Japan. They considered that the new constitution should not let Japan have a military force to avoid any chance for this country to enter again into a war. This mandate can be seen in Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution of 1947, where it prohibits Japan to enter into a war and to maintain war potential, even though it does not specifically forbid self-defense military capability.

The policy of demilitarization of Japan changed when, for the sake of peacekeeping of the international community, it was allowed to increase its military potential only for self-defense purposes.

Article 9 has been very popular since the end of the Second World War, but it was not until recently that Japan has begun to take its security more seriously.

Japan’s rearmament is just a decision to face what the country believes that belong to them. In an Asian context: China is modernizing its navy and acting with growing assertiveness within territorial disputes –most of them tense relations within the China Sea- as well as challenging U.S. military access to Asia. Similarly, Vietnam and Indonesia are constantly growing.

Because of all that facts, Japan is just responding to Chinese behavior.

As a last issue, mention that China should rethink their own steps in order to contain not only India, Vietnam and US through the pearl necklace, but also to Japan itself.


Forty-four Philippine police’s special elite unit have died at the hands of terrorist group “Moro Islamic Liberation Front“, in the southern province of Maguindanao on Sunday, 25th of January.

In order to understand the situation is completely necessary to go throughout a little bit of history. The Republic of Philippines’ population of 96.5 million (UN, 2012) is mostly concentrated on just 11 islands of the 7.000 island that make up the archipelago located in southeast Asia in western Pacific Ocean. After being a Spanish colony for more than three centuries, Christianity became the major religion in the region, followed by Islam, concentrated on the southern islands. These religious contrasts joined with historic differences have induced guerrilla insurgencies which has prompted more than 120.000 deaths for the last 40 years of conflict.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), blamable of the 44 police deaths, aims to create a separate Islamic state in southern Philippines, having great support in areas with lack of economic development, which has encouraged dissent towards the Philippine Government.

On March 27th, 2014 the Government and the MILF signed a peace agreement that ended a long conflict that began in 1969. It is known as the main peace agreement around the world since the 2006 Nepal’s agreement. The peace deal promised the separatists to have more autonomy in return for a lifetime cessation of insurgency. It set up a peacekeeping procedure, which apparently seems to have failed.

As said before, the last 25th of January, Sunday, a violence act took place in Philippines, exactly in the southern province of Maguindanao.

The Philippine police entered in to the region controlled by the separatists –Mindanao- in order to arrest two members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters –BIFF- a MILF splinter group that opposes the ceasefire. The MILF understood that it was an operation against them. Because of that, the response of them directly attacked those policemen, resulted in the death of 44 policemen.

The major of Mindanao said that the police did not warn the MILF of the raid, as they should have done according to the peace deal. Because of it, MILF members were just fighting back through a gunfire that went for several hours.

Finally, on Friday the policemen were returned to Manila honoured in a ceremony that was carried out by the Philippine president, Benigno Aquino.