North Korea to send ceremonial head Kim Yong-nam South

North Korea is to send its highest ranking official for years to the South amid an easing of tensions during the Winter Olympics.

Kim Yong-nam, the ceremonial head of state, will lead a 22-member delegation to the South beginning on Friday, said the South’s Unification Ministry.

The two Koreas’ athletes will march under one flag at the opening ceremony.

The North’s participation in the Games is widely seen as a diplomatic manoeuvre by Pyongyang.

It faces growing international pressure and sanctions over its nuclear and missile programmes.

The united Korean women’s ice hockey team played its first match on Sunday, but lost the friendly against Sweden 1-3.

They will get a chance to even the score when they face Sweden again during the Games.

Sunday’s outing was the first and only practice match for the newly minted Korean squad.

Kim Yong-nam is the head of the parliament in the North and will be the highest-level official to visit South Korea in four years.

An unnamed official from the South’s presidential Blue House told the BBC that they believe this reflected a willingness on the part of North Korea to improve inter-Korean relations, and demonstrated the North’s sincerity.

Mr Kim will lead a delegation of three other officials and 18 support staff, the Unification Ministry said.

It did not say whether he would attend the opening ceremony of the Games in Pyeongchang, a county in the mountainous east of South Korea.

If so, it would put him in the company of US Vice President Mike Pence at a point of high tension with Washington over the North’s nuclear ambitions.

The North has conducted a series of missile tests designed to demonstrate its nuclear capability.

North Korea’s participation in the Olympics, which run from 9 to 25 February, was a sudden turn towards reconciliation.

It came after the hereditary leader Kim Jong-un extended an olive branch to the South in a New Year message, saying he was open to dialogue and could send a team to the Games.

As well as the ice hockey players, North Korean athletes will compete in skiing and figure skating events. It is also sending hundreds of delegates, cheerleaders and performers.

However, there have already been some bumps in the road to reconciliation.

Earlier this week it emerged that the North had scheduled a large-scale military parade for 8 February, the day before the Winter Olympics commences.

Amid negative headlines, North Korea said no-one had the right to take issue with its plans and promptly cancelled a cultural event it was to hold jointly with the South.

Meanwhile, although Seoul and Washington have agreed to delay the annual big joint military exercises which always enrage the North, they will still go ahead at the end of the Paralympics.

Source: BBC

Xiaomi reportedly overtakes Samsung as top smartphone vendor in India

After potentially losing the top spot in feature phone sales to Reliance Jio in Q4 2017, Samsung has some bad news on the smartphone front as well. According to the latest data from market research firm Canalys, Xiaomi beat Samsung to emerge as the top smartphone vendor in India this part quarter.

Canalys says Xiaomi shipped close to 8.2 million units compared to Samsung’s 7.3 million smartphone shipments in Q4 2017. Xiaomi’s market share for the quarter stood at 27%, while Samsung came in second place at 25%. Together, they accounted for more than 50% of the smartphone market share in India for Q4 2017. Samsung registered an annual growth of 17%, but that was not enough to retain the top spot in the Indian market. Samsung was followed by Vivo, Oppo, and Lenovo for the next three spots.

Not final, but quite possible

It is worth pointing that smartphone shipment reports from market research firms are not always accurate and are typically based on incomplete and unofficial sources of data. In fact, reports from different firms often publish contradictory findings. However, it is not impossible that Xiaomi took over the top position from Samsung in India, given that there were visible signs of it last year.

Many market research firms were pointing to Xiaomi’s changing fortunes in India. In October, data from Counterpoint Research showed that while Samsung maintained its lead in Q3 2017, Xiaomi was at a striking distance to take over the top position. This was followed by Q3 2017 data from IDC which showed that both Samsung and Xiaomi were both tied at 23.5% market share.

An interesting factor to note in all these reports is that sales of Samsung smartphones are not declining in India, but instead Xiaomi is growing at a much faster rate than Samsung. The smartphone market in India is still growing and Xiaomi is taking a much larger pie of the growing market. The fact that Samsung reported a 27% increase in mobile revenues in India amidst all this noise of Xiaomi beating Samsung speaks volumes about the nature of expanding smartphone market in India.

Samsung’s weak point in India seems to be its mid-range and budget devices. None of them matches Xiaomi’s value for money offerings. There has been a lot of talk about Samsung revamping its strategy in India to counter Xiaomi. However, the efforts and the results so far are nothing substantial. It will be interesting to see how Samsung responds to Xiaomi’s onslaught in 2018.