South Korean variety shows should come in seasons, veteran producer says

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SEOUL, Dec. 28 (Yonhap) — The year 2015 has been a dream year for Na Young-seok, a South Korean variety show producer who drove five programs to the top of viewership rankings in a year.

Na was behind three seasons of the popular cooking show “Three Meals a Day,” which grabbed the attention of more than 10 percent of the TV watching population in South Korea. And the third season of “Grandpa over Flowers,” a reality travel show featuring celebrities whose average age is above 70, finished with a viewing rate of 9.5 percent.

In September, he ventured into the unchartered territory of online variety programs with “New Journey to the West,” which reunites the comedy quartet from season one of the KBS variety show “2 Days & 1 Night.”

South Korean variety show producer Na Young-seok. (Yonhap)

South Korean variety show producer Na Young-seok. (Yonhap)

Na, however, denied talent being the only success factor. He said flexible programming at tvN, a cable channel he’s worked for since leaving KBS three years ago, has allowed him greater creative freedom.

“Frankly, Korean entertainment programs are short-sighted in that they only stop when they run out of ideas,” he told Yonhap News Agency in a recent interview. “They peter out, and no matter how successful they were at one point, producers are labeled failures in the end.”

To prevent such endings, Na said it is “extremely necessary” to program variety shows in seasons.

“It’s really difficult to come up with new ideas every time for a show,” he said. “Seasonal programming allows the producing staff to take a break and come back with an even better program that has greater added value.”

Na also shook off concerns that less people are tuning into entertainment programs than before.

“In the past, all networks produced the same, narrow range of programs — if one network created a group dating show, other networks copied it,” he said. “But now, more networks are coming up with niche programs, giving viewers more choices, so I don’t think a drop in viewership is an actual threat. It’s only natural because there is a wider range of programs.”



Source : Yonhap News Agency

Emirates Road to be extended

Ahmed Shaaban (Senior Reporter cum Translator)/Dubai Filed on January 5, 2016 | Last updated on January 5, 2016 at 07.20 am
The 16.5km road, valued at Dh142 million, is a two-lane road with a median that can be extended to a third lane in each direction.
(Supplied photo)

The Ministry of Public Works will extend the Emirates road from Al Aqran area in Umm Al Quwain to the Twain road in RAK..

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The Ministry of Public Works has announced that it will be extending the Emirates road from Al Aqran area in Umm Al Quwain to the Twain road in RAK. “The 16.5km road, valued at Dh142 million, is a totally new two-lane road with a median that can be extended to a third lane on each direction, with two roundabouts, three small rain water bridges, and works for protecting the road service supplies,” said Dr Abdullah Belhaif Al Nuaimi, Minister of Public Works.

The Tahal village in Sharjah is to be connected, in the first phase, with a 5.8km one-way road main road from the Sharjah-Dhaid road (E44) to the north and Falaj Al Mualla road (E55) to the south, he disclosed. “New one-way internal roads, 5km long and 7.3m wide, are to be built as well in the emirate,” he said, noting that the whole project will cost Dh13 million.

The 5th Industrial Square in Sharjah will also be developed. The fourth phase of the project includes the construction of a rainwater pumping station (P19B) and a drain line to carry rainwater from the Shaikh Mohammed Bin Zayed road to the sea area, he said. “The project, worth Dh183 million, is slated to be completed in the first quarter of this year.”

Work on arterial roads

The ministry has also developed seven new arterial roads, worth Dh780 million, in the emirates of Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah (RAK), and Fujairah, he added. “These span the development of the Sharjah-Dhaid Road, Etihad Road – 14km in RAK, Emirates Road from Twain to RAK Ring Road, Kalba Ring Road and extensions of Al Hail Road – first phase, Shaam-Dara border Road, Khor Fakkan Ring Road – second phase (E199), Emirates Road from Twain roundabout to Etihad Road – third phase.”

The ministry is currently carrying out and maintaining six other roads across the country as part of its investment programme. “These are to be completed in the third quarter of this year, and will give a boost to economic boom, and ease intercity transport across the UAE.”

The second development phase of the UAQ entrance intersection is one of these key projects which would cost Dh111 million, he said. “The Etihad intersection road (E11) and UAQ-Falaj Al Mualla road are also to be developed.”

The other ventures include the development of a higher intersection, a number of U-Turns in all directions, along with installation of power-saving LED lights, and pumping out rainwater.

No more waterlogging

New pumping stations (PS10B) are to be built in the 10th Industrial area in Sharjah with a main pumping line, 1.8m in diameter, to carry rainwater from the a new drain network recently built on the highway (E311) close to the 5th industrial square to the sea, Dr Nuaimi explained.

“Another 2.4m wide drain line is to be installed next to the first line so that the two lines will be on the same track of two stations for pumping and draining rainwater (PSC &PSD) to ensure perfect drainage of rainwater and curb clogged water.”

The ministry will also maintain the 30km Dhaid road in both directions, he said. “The damaged asphalt layers are to be replaced with new ones whereas the surface layer of the middle, fast, and shoulder lanes is to be replaced as well.

“A number of roads are to be built in the Rifaa / Al Jazeera Al Hamra area in Ras Al Khaimah,” he pointed out, indicating that the first phase of the project to be completed in the first quarter of this year is to cost Dh42 million.

New residential compounds

Emiratis will also enjoy new and spacious houses this year with 26 residential compounds and 148 houses to be built across the country, according to a top official.

Al Nuaimi said the move is in line with the ministry strategy to make Emirati people happier in view of the 2021 Emirates Vision. “These houses are apart from six residential compounds and 11 houses already finished in 2015.”

Official statistics show that the ministry completed nine essential infrastructure projects for the benefit of some ministries here at different areas of the country in 2015.

“These included two for the Ministry of Health, three for the Ministry of Education, one for the Ministry of Interior, along with three other projects under the initiatives of the President, His Highness Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.”


Source :

Xi Jinping travels to Chongqing on first trip of 2016

By Zhang Yunbi (

Updated: 2016-01-05 11:13

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Xi travels to Chongqing on first trip of 2016

President Xi Jinping inspects the Guoyuan Port in Liangjiang New Area, Southwest China’s Chongqing municipality on Jan 4, 2015. [Photo/Xinhua]

President Xi Jinping paid his first visit on Monday since taking office to Chongqing municipality, a city once clouded by the scandal of its high-profile former party chief, Bo Xilai.

The trip, on the first work day of the new year, highlights the importance of the municipality’s impressive economic performance.

As the only municipality in the country’s west, Chongqing made headlines over the past several years because of Bo, a former member of China’s powerful Politburo, who was later sentenced to life imprisonment for bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power in 2013.

According to reports by the Xinhua News Agency, connectivity and cutting-edge technology were the focus of Xi’s visit to the city, a starting point of the trans-Eurasia Chongqing-Xinjiang-Europe international railway route.

When inspecting Guoyuan Port on Monday afternoon, Xi said “great” when told that countries along the rail route have all subscribed to the “one check for clearance approvals” .

The port is a comprehensive transport hub accommodating rail, highways and waterways, and is home to 16 ship berths that can handle vessels of 5,000 DWT (Dead Weight Tonnage).

“This is full of promise,” Xi said when he saw various facilities at the port.

At the Chongqing BOE Optoelectronic Technology Co., Ltd, a branch of China’s display manufacturing giant BOE, Xi examined the presentation of flexible screens and ultra high definition displays.

Xi said “top priority should be placed on innovation”, an area where he expected to see major progress.

Chongqing has a population of around 30 million and its annual GDP in 2014 hit 1.42 trillion yuan ($217.8 billion).

The city’s heavyweight industries such as vehicle manufacturing, electronics, information technology and equipment manufacturing have undergone rapid development since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2012.

Chongqing’s annual GDP in 2015 is estimated to record a year-on-year increase of 11 percent, Xinhua News Agency said.


Source : China Daily

Park Geun-hye calls for airtight national defense

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President Park Geun-hye on Tuesday called on her top aides to strengthen defense capabilities and maintain airtight readiness posture, saying this year marks a “turning point” in her diplomatic and security policy.

Presiding over the first Cabinet meeting of the year, she also pledged to make constant efforts to put cross-border relations back on track, in an upbeat response to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s New Year address in which he said Pyongyang would strive to improve the ties and continue dialogue.

“This year we are at a very critical turning point in terms of diplomacy and security and must therefore stay vigilant at all times,” Park said at Cheong Wa Dae, citing the possibility of an unanticipated provocation and perennial threats from across the border.

“As a solid and reliable national defense is the paramount foundation, I hope we will step up efforts to reinforce our defense capabilities, stamp out weapons procurement-related irregularities and establish sound military disciplines.”

President Park Geun-hye speaks during a cabinet meeting at Cheong Wa Dae on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

With unification preparation being one of the top priorities for her statecraft, the president stressed the need to follow through on last year’s inter-Korean agreement and lay the groundwork for a peaceful reintegration.

Top officials from both sides agreed Aug. 25 to hold formal, high-level talks and arrange reunions of separated families — which took place in December and October, respectively. But no follow-up gestures have been made from either side since the dialogue collapsed due to irreconcilable differences in their demands.

“Given North Korea’s recent display of its resolve to implement the deal, I want you to strive to normalize the relationship such as by expanding civilian channels for a recovery of the national homogeneity and tackling the issue of separated families,” she added.

In the Friday speech, Kim for his part urged Seoul to cherish the spirit behind the breakthrough and warned against any “retrograde” steps or behavior that may dent the mood for dialogue.

“We will actively make efforts for North-South talks and the advancement of relations, and sit face-to-face with anyone who sincerely hopes for the people’s reconciliation, unity, peace and unification,” the young ruler said.

On the economic front, Park instructed the Cabinet to take measures to sustain the economic recovery and boost domestic spending within the first quarter, while continuing regulatory and anticorruption reform to induce private investment and generate more jobs.

To that end, the Defense Ministry unveiled plans to frontload nearly 5.9 trillion won ($5 billion) of its 38.8 trillion won annual budget.

It has already allotted more than 195 billion won last year from this year’s budget for facility, clothing and other expenses to help reinvigorate the economy.

“The measures are aimed at increasing the effectiveness of government spending and contributing to economic revival,” ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said at a regular news briefing.

By Shin Hyon-hee (

Source : The Korea Herald

Expats sending families home as money fears grow in Oman

January 4, 2016 | 10:26 PM
By Baba Umar/Rejimon K
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Muscat: Expatriates say they are sending their families back home, or halting plans to bring them to Oman, to cut the living costs after the Sultanate released its austerity-driven budget for 2016.

Other families say they are moving to cheaper accommodation ahead of changes to the subsidy on the price of oil recently announced, which they fear will drive up the cost of living.

Indian expat, Ashraf Ahmed, who works at a cleaning service company at Wadi Al Kabir, told Times of Oman (TOO) that he can’t afford to keep his wife and three children in Oman anymore.

“I am sending them back to Kerala (south Indian state),” he said, adding, his salary of OMR620 isn’t enough to make things work in the ongoing conditions.

His colleague Chandra, who lives in Al Khuwair, has already dispatched his family to India.

“There were talks about upsetting economic condition here. That’s why I sent back my wife and two children. But I hope I will be able to bring them back again,” Chandra told TOO.

Syed Tawheed, an FMCG supervisor at Swiss Arabian perfumes, said, “My parents and siblings were supposed to visit me for at least four months. But I have asked them to hold on for some time.” Tawheed said he applied for their visit visa in December last year but after the austere budget, he isn’t sure if they can really live with them amid the difficult economic situation.

“I’m single and I know I won’t be affected much. But people with visiting families or a wife and school-going children will have to think twice before shelling out money…this may, however, see increase in remittances,” he noted.

Cheaper apartments

One tactic being embraced by families trying to stay together is to move into cheaper accommodation.

S Banerjee, a private firm staffer, who pays around OMR380 at Rex Road in Ruwi neighbourhood, said, “I am planning to move to an older apartment. That should help me save at least OMR70,” he said, adding, “I can always switch to a new building if things become normal again.”

Pankaj R, who works in a publishing house, said he moved from his old apartment prior to budget announcements.

“Things are not fine as oil prices have continued to tumble. Before the budget came, I was sure I would have to cut costs too. That is why I just shifted to an older apartment near the Mwasalat bus stand from the CBD area,” he told TOO.

Pankaj will save OMR50 after his rent decreased from OMR300 to OMR250 for a 2BHK apartment.

He said many of his expat friends are also planning to send back their families for some months, cut down on frequent travel and partying, “until the restoration phase begins.”

“There are no other alternative for low-wage workers other than moving their families back to home. Since there will be no bonuses, salary hikes and all that for poorly-salaried expat workers, they would like to adopt such measures,” said a social worker based in Oman.

Pressure on real estate

The state budget also offered a slew of measures to shore up non-oil revenues in the Sultanate.

Among many other options, the government plans to amend the tariffs imposed for electricity and water for commercial, industrial and government usage and to amend the existing fees levied for real estate and by the municipality on rents.

Other measures to enhance non-oil income include an amendment in fees charged for the allocation of land (commercial, tourism, industrial and agricultural), unification of a service fee charged by the Muscat Municipality, the Dhofar Municipality and other regional municipalities.

Realtors believe the rental market in the Sultanate is at a very interesting stage and that any change in rents in the future would depend on expatriate demographics and the development of Oman’s economy. “In the public sector, the government has decided to reduce development expenditure. So there will be fewer contracts. Contracting will be under some pressure,” said Sudhakar Reddy, chief executive officer of noted real-estate company Al Habib & Co LLC.

On the private side, he said, a slight reduction in construction is expected.

“But let me tell you this is going to be tough for everyone, including the construction and real-estate industry,” he added.

Some realtors, such as Salman Jalil of Eqarat, believe that apartments will remain vacant for long particularly the high-end units “and that this might contribute to the lowering of rents.”

“Well, the budget has proposed austerity measures. It will have an overall effect as people will tend to cut expenses wherever it is possible for them to cut. Renting and rentals are already affected because of abundant supply and in the current scenario, it will only increase,” he told TOO.

The Eqarat official further stated, “If saving becomes a real challenge, the smaller and cheaper properties would see more demand.”

Contracts on hold

Others are also expecting a depressed real-estate market in the country.

“We are witnessing a gloomy picture ahead. Many companies are insisting that we put on hold contract renewals for apartments, especially contracts for luxury apartments,” explained a top official from a real-estate group, who wished to remain anonymous.

“We feel that either they are expecting their employees to move out to smaller spaces or they’re downsizing staff. It looks like the usual business will be bad. Rents will come down,” he said, adding, “The workers are planning to send their families back home. Sending back their family to the home country is the only option to cut the expenses.”

The realtor said his company will not be taking up new buildings and apartment projects anytime soon. He said the occupancy rate of hotels and apartments, which was 95 per cent in 2015, is expected to go down “drastically.”

Sudhakar Reddy of Al Habib, however, argued that rents could remain unchanged.

“Not because of inflation, but because supply and demand are in balance. Rents will be stable overall,” he hoped.

“The only thing that has gone up are the transportation costs. That’s a small part of the total cost. Per head, it won’t be more than five riyals. Petrol prices may increase but I don’t think people can change apartments to save five riyals,” he noted.

Subsidy cuts could push up consumer prices in Oman and exert upward pressure on foreign workers’ wages, potentially hurting companies’ competitiveness, according to Philip Paul, country head, Cluttons Oman.

“It is our view that the real-estate sector will record declines as the low oil price era beds in and government spending levels retreat. This course assumes the absence of any major global economic or oil price shocks over our forecasting horizon,” he said.

Source : Times Of Oman

Ban on shrimping starts

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KUWAIT: Kuwaiti shrimp are displayed at the fish market in Sharq yesterday.

A ban on shrimp fishing in Kuwaiti waters goes into effect today and lasts until Sept 1, 2016.

It is enforced to prevent overfishing and help the marine species reproduce in territorial waters.

A similar ban on mullet (mayd), another popular seafood item in the Kuwaiti cuisine, has been in effect since Dec 1, 2015 and ends on June 1, 2016.

A 45-day ban on fishing for zubaidi (silver pomfret) often starts on June 1 every year. – Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat


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