Tuesday, August 31, 2021
Round-up of important news from major Korean dailies and from international media today
Is President Moon turning a bit business-friendly for the Korean economy?
This is the first installment in a series of special feature articles of The Korea Post media on the leading business conglomerates of Korea, which sheds light on the past, present and future prospects of the company.—Ed. In Korea whenever a new political party comes into power, big businesses called Jaebeol, all but invariably, undergo the ordeal of having to adjust themselves to the new surroundings under the new government. Here in the ‘Land of the Morning Calm,’ there is a very often-used old adage, “When you dust a person, there is not a single one who is clean!” However, President Moon Jae-in seems to be trying to differentiate himself from some of his predecessors, and recently released Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong of Korea’s top business conglomerate, Samsung, in a parole measure for a number of prison-term servers on the occasion of the Liberation Day of Korea on Aug. 15, 2021. This day is in celebration of Korea’s winning freedom from the yokes of colonial rule of the then Imperialist Japan on that historical day.
"Culture is not possession, but sharing with others"
"Culture is not possession, but sharing with others," said Hong Gap-pyo, founder of the Latin American Cultural Center Museum. In an interview with the Korea Post media, publisher of 3 English and 2 Korean-language news publications since 1985, Director Lee Bok-hyung of the Latin American Cultural Center Museum, said, "Our couple (Director Lee and Chairman Hong) want to preserve Latin American cultural center for a long time, and we want to assure young people that they will come true someday if they try to the end with a dream." From a country receiving help to a country giving help, Korea has countless hidden heroes who have worked faithfully and did their best in various fields. Among them is former Ambassador Lee Bok-hyung, who was active for the national interest in the most important field of diplomacy.
Tajikistan extends, strengthes friendly, equal, mutually beneficial ties with most countries
The following article is based on a contribution made by H.E. Ambassador Yusur Toi Sharifzoda of the Republic of Tajikistan in Seoul on the occasion of the Independence Day of his country on Sept. 9, 2021.—Ed. Since the early days of gaining its state independence, the Republic of Tajikistan, based on the principles of the “open doors” policy, peacefulness, and objectivity, established and subsequently extended and strengthened friendly, equal, and mutually beneficial relations with most countries of the world, and with a number of them established a strategic partnership.
US Announces Completion of Withdrawal from Afghanistan
The U.S. Department of Defense announced on Monday that the U.S. military has completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan, ending a 20-year war against the Taliban. In a Pentagon press briefing on Monday, Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, announced the completion of the U.S.' withdrawal from Afghanistan and the end of the military mission to evacuate American citizens, third country nationals and vulnerable Afghans. McKenzie said that the last American military plane took off from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul at around 3:30 p.m. East Coast time, on August 30. The mission was completed before August 31, the actual deadline set by President Joe Biden, marking an end to the 20-year war triggered by the attacks on September 11, 2001. U.S. President Joe Biden said in April that it was time to end America's longest war.
White House: US Continues to Seek Dialogue with N. Korea
The White House has reaffirmed that the U.S. continues to seek dialogue with North Korea to discuss issues related to denuclearization. The White House issued the position on Monday after the International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEA) said in a report that the North appears to have restarted a plutonium-producing reactor at its Yongbyon nuclear complex. White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a press briefing that the U.S. is well aware of the IAEA report, adding that it “underscores the urgent need for dialogue and diplomacy" to achieve the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The spokesperson said the U.S. "continues to seek dialogue" with the North so it can address this reported activity and the full range of issues related to denuclearization.
Top Nuclear Envoys of S. Korea, US Discuss Humanitarian Aid for N. Korea
Washington's top nuclear envoy said on Monday that he discussed with his South Korean counterpart humanitarian aid for North Korea and expressed hope that the North would return to dialogue. U.S. Special Representative Sung Kim made the remarks after talks with South Korea's Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs Noh Kyu-duk in Washington. Kim said that the two sides exchanged views on the situation, as well as some ideas and initiatives for engagement, including possible humanitarian assistance. The U.S. envoy said they also reaffirmed their shared commitment to pursuing the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula through diplomacy, adding he looks forward to hearing back from Pyongyang. Noh said that Seoul and Washington have held discussions on areas where they can jointly pursue a North Korean humanitarian assistance program, as well as inter-Korean cooperation projects.
S. Korea's trade ministry launches task force on vaccine production
South Korea's trade ministry on Monday launched a new task force that will establish a long-term strategy to help Asia's No. 4 economy emerge as a global vaccine production hub amid the protracted COVID-19 pandemic. "Based on South Korea's various free-trade networks with 57 countries, the country will bolster ties with major partners in terms of the global vaccine supply chain," Trade Minister Yeo Han-koo said in a statement during a meeting with related organizations. During the meeting, the ministry said it plans to support South Korean firms' efforts to join the global supply chain of the vaccine industry, while providing a set of incentives for overseas firms seeking to invest here.
U.S. continues to seek dialogue with N. Korea: White House
The United States continues to seek negotiations with North Korea to discuss a range of issues related to denuclearization, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki affirmed Monday. Her remark comes after the U.N. nuclear watchdog said the North appears to have restarted its plutonium-producing nuclear reactor at Yongbyon. "We continue to seek dialogue with the DPRK so we can address this reported activity and the full range of issues related to denuclearization," Psaki said at a daily press briefing at the White House. DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name.
S. Korea to dole out cash handouts to ordinary people next week
South Korea said Monday it will begin providing emergency relief funds to people in the bottom 88 percent income bracket next week in the latest move to help them cope with the fallout from the pandemic. The government will begin to provide up to 250,000 won (US$215) per recipient on Sept. 6 as part of an 11 trillion-won cash handout program, according to the interior and finance ministries. The money must be spent by end-December. In July, the country drew up an extra budget of 34.9 trillion won, the second of its kind this year, to finance another round of relief funds to support pandemic-hit small merchants and most other people. In May last year, the country doled out 14.3 trillion won in relief funds to all households to help them tackle the economic headwinds from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Korea Herald (http://www.koreaherald.com)
NK appears to have reactivated Yongbyon nuclear reactor: IAEA
North Korea appears to have restarted operations at its main Yongbyon nuclear reactor in July, a UN nuclear watchdog said, raising the alarm that the reclusive regime could be increasing its nuclear arsenal. The International Atomic Energy Agency, in an annual report dated Friday, said it detected “deeply troubling” indications that the 5-megawatt nuclear reactor at the Yongbyon nuclear complex -- the country’s main source of weapons-grade plutonium -- has been reactivated. “Since early July 2021, there have been indications, including the discharge of cooling water, consistent with the operation of the reactor,” the report said, noting this was the first sign of activity detected since December 2018.
Moon orders readiness for booster shots
President Moon Jae-in on Monday suggested that coronavirus vaccine booster shots will be available here soon, with health care workers and older adults the first to receive the extra shots. “Based on guidance from health authorities and experts, the government will start offering booster shots for high-risk groups like elderly people and health care workers and expand the recipients in phases,” the president said in a weekly meeting with his aides at Cheong Wa Dae. His remarks came as the nation’s disease control and prevention agency announced that it could start offering booster shots beginning in the fourth quarter this year, advising a third shot to be given six months after the second. The boosters will go first to “high-risk groups,” who were the first to receive the initial round of vaccinations when the nation’s vaccination scheme started early this year.
Advisory panel accuses military of sitting on human rights reforms
The Ministry of National Defense is not living up to its promise to better protect human rights, members of a civilian-led advisory panel said Monday. The 88-member panel – of which 15 have either left or decided to walk out – was put together by the Defense Ministry in late June, amid a public outcry following the death of an Air Force master sergeant who died by suicide after alleged sexual abuse. Her family claims cover-ups led to her death. “I had thought the ministry was committed. I’m not so sure about it right now,” said one member on the panel who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter. The member referred to recent friction between the ministry and the panel over what to do with military courts.
The Korea Times (http://www.koreatimes.co.kr)
Electronic anklets fail to prevent crimes by sex offenders
A series of crimes committed recently by ex-convicts who were obliged to wear an electronic anklet has prompted criticisms that the tracking device is ineffective in deterring perpetrators from reoffending. The government introduced the GPS-enabled electronic device in 2008 to keep a close watch on sex offenders after their release from prison. They are ordered to wear the tracking devices for a designated period of time, enabling probation officers to check their whereabouts in real time. However, a number of ex-convicts have committed crimes either while wearing or after removing the electronic trackers. Most recently, a man surnamed Kang, 56, was arrested, Sunday, for allegedly murdering two women and removing his electronic anklet.
Tesla, Amazon oppose Nvidia's acquisition of Arm
U.S. graphic chip giant Nvidia's suggested multi-billion-dollar acquisition of British chip design company Arm is rattling the market as Tesla, Amazon and even Samsung Electronics were said to have strongly opposed the acquisition due to looming antitrust issues. Citing multiple sources, U.K.-based outlet Telegraph said Samsung Electronics expressed its opposition to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (USFTC) over Nvidia's acquisition of ARM. Also, Amazon and Tesla have voiced their suspicions of the validity of the deal to the U.S. antitrust regulator. Established in 1990 in the U.K., Arm is a global leader in mobile chip architecture design. It generates profits by licensing its intellectual property to tech firms including Samsung Electronics, Apple and Qualcomm.
COVID-19 deaths on the rise amid 4th wave of infections
The health authorities here are alarmed by a recent surge in the number of deaths from COVID-19 as the country grapples with its fourth wave of infections. According to data from the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA), the country reported 64 deaths of coronavirus patients this week, raising the death toll to 2,279. The average daily number for this week stood at 9.14, up from 8.4 in the previous week and more than double the 4.1 between Aug. 5 and 11. In particular, on Thursday, Korea recorded 20 deaths, the highest daily death toll since the beginning of the fourth wave of infections.
Chosun Ilbo (http://english.chosun.com)
N.Korea Sends Young Elite into Internal Exile
The North Korean regime has been sending elite young Workers Party functionaries into internal exile at remote construction sites to shore up crumbling discipline. The practice is being presented as "volunteering," but it appears they are not given a choice. One senior defector said, "One of the biggest problems leader Kim Jong-un faces is young people who have been influenced by South Korean culture and angry about the economic crisis. The aim appears to be to neutralize them so they can't foment internal dissent." The official Rodong Sinmun daily on Sunday published a statement from Kim to mark Youth Day the previous day. "What makes me especially happy is to see young people who have been left behind make the magnificent decision to sacrifice themselves for their country and start fresh by moving on to difficult and demanding areas," he said.
Would-Be Home Buyers Panic over Lending Curbs
Banks have abruptly tightened lending rules or halted home loans under pressure from financial authorities, triggering panic among people who were hoping to lease or buy apartments once their rental contracts expire this year. Since Aug. 20, loan applications at the five top banks -- KB Kookmin, KEB Hana, NH Nonghyup, Shinhan and Woori -- have shot up six-fold. According to industry insiders, credit loans increased by a whopping W2.88 trillion from Aug. 20 to 26, up 6.2-fold compared to the previous week (US$1=W1,170). Financial authorities told banks to curb lending after Korea's household debt surpassed W1,800 trillion. Banks either froze housing loans altogether or imposed tougher restrictions. "We saw a surge in new loan applications from customers whose leases are set to expire later this year or who need to cover wedding or other expenses," a bank staffer said.
Int'l Condemnation Mounts on Attempts to Gag Press
The government faces mounting international criticism for its attempt to curb media freedom in Korea in the name of cracking down on "fake news." The proposed media reform bill would make reporting "fake news" punishable by vast punitive damages, and has been widely condemned as a tool to quell criticism of the government ahead of next year's presidential election. At home, the main opposition People Power Party said it will filibuster the bill tabled by the ruling Minjoo Party, which has a sweeping majority. The filibuster may delay the bill past the August session of the National Assembly, but the MP will simply table it again in September.
HanKyoReh Shinmun (http://english.hani.co.kr)
How to fight extreme weather before it's too late
Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of China’s state-run Global Times and a fiercely nationalistic pundit, said on July 17 that the disastrous floods that had struck Western Germany, Belgium, and France five days earlier, on July 12, “illustrated the level of governance in the West and the bankruptcy of [Western] humanism.” Hu went on to rave about the high-speed railway network and cities that China has built.
These were tactless comments to make after a disaster that had taken the lives of over 220 people. Hu was also contradicting himself, considering that he’d criticized the Communist Party of China’s Central Politics and Law Commission a few months before when it posted a meme on its official social media account mocking Indians suffering from the coronavirus.
Forest bathing through Seoul Guided Walking Tours
The second summer of the pandemic is drawing to an end. This summer, social distancing restrictions have kept many of us at home. But that irrepressible itch to travel remains somewhere in the back of our minds. Several times a day, I’m filled with the urge to go somewhere, anywhere. But there are few decent places to go. At times like these, I like to go traveling in the middle of the city. I recommend going for a walking tour of the tranquil forests of Seoul. My destinations on Aug. 15 are Gyeomjae Jeongseon in Yangcheon-ro and Seonjeongneung Royal Tombs, two of the Seoul guided tours provided by the Seoul Tourism Organization (STO). Both tours feature leisurely walks along a forest path, with commentary provided by a tour guide. It turns out that the forest is closer than we think!
It’s time to look back on original aims of press reforms
It’s been 30 days since the Democratic Party announced plans to push an amendment to the Press Arbitration Act through a plenary session of the National Assembly. Its official position had not changed as of last Sunday, four days after that session was postponed on Wednesday. It’s time for the Democratic Party to stop trying to push this amendment through in defiance of all the concerns that have been raised — and to start belatedly marshaling its collective wisdom to uphold the original aims of these press reforms. If the party views the public’s increased interest in press reforms as an achievement in itself, then this is a moment that calls for a strategy of taking a step back so they can take two steps forward and parlay that interest into a driving force for real reform.
The Dong-A Ilbo (http://english.donga.com/)
Gov’t puts forward same solution against criminals ripping off electronic ankle bracelet
Minister of Justice Park Beom-kye apologized on Monday to the public regarding Kang who ripped off his electronic ankle bracelet and killed two women. The ministry announced measures to prevent damages to ankle bracelets in just one day after Kang turned himself to the police in consideration of the public’s criticism. “I offer my sincere apology to people for the crimes committed by a perpetrator under electronic monitoring,” said Minister Park to the press on his way to the Gwacheon Government Complex. He added that there are still limitations in terms of physical and human resources for monitoring. “For the electronic monitoring system to effectively prevent second offenses, changes in budget, human resources, and organizational culture are required.”
Lee Jae-myung vs. Lee Nak-yon
In the race for candidacy to represent the Minjoo Party of Korea in next year’s presidential campaign, Gyeonggi Governor Lee Jae-myung has promised to put in place a state-run healthcare system to take special care of five groups of citizens – the elderly, patients, the disabled, children and infants. By contrast, former Minjoo Party Chairman Lee Nak-yon has made a pledge to make sure that his administration, if he is elected president, has the first prime minister from the Chungcheong provinces, gearing up to win over the hearts of its voters in the first region to run the ruling party’s primary. Governor Lee held a press conference at Care Friends in Songpa District, Seoul, on Monday, saying, “It is a communal responsibility to take care of those in need of care and assistance.
Samsung to invest 240 trillion won and hire new 40,000 employees
South Korean conglomerate Samsung plans to invest 240 trillion won by 2023 in having a competitive edge in future strategic industries such as semiconductors, biotechnology and next generation communications. In particular, it will spend a total of 180 trillion won on the domestic market while directly hiring more than 40,000 employees over three years. Samsung’s regular public recruitment system stands to be in place for the sake of employment stability and predictability whereas other major domestic businesses have abolished or plan to remove the system. Samsung published the largest ever investment and recruitment plan on Wednesday. “We plan to prepare us for a series of major changes in industries, international order and social structures that will happen after the COVID-19 pandemic is over,” Samsung said. “Samsung will make the investment decision to make sure that it fulfills its corporate roles for large investments and job creation for next generations.”
The KyungHyangShinmun (http://english.khan.co.kr/)
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Debate over Yun Hee-suk’s Resignation Steals Attention from the Verification of Real Estate Allegations Concerning Public Officials
On August 29, the fifth day since People Power Party lawmaker Yun Hee-suk expressed her intention to give up her parliamentary seat following her father’s alleged violation of the Farmland Act, ruling and opposition lawmakers continued their debate on whether Yun’s resignation was appropriate. If the Democratic Party of Korea opposes, Yun’s resignation is not likely to be accepted. As attention shifts to the debate on Yun’s resignation, questions concerning irregularities linked to the real estate owned by elected officials and their families are getting less attention. This day in politics, the nation witnessed members of Yun’s party encouraging her to step down as lawmaker, while the members of the Democratic Party tried to stop her. This was an unusual scene that occurred after Yun expressed her intention to step down on August 25, the day after the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission announced officials with questionable real estate transactions.
Richest of Newly Appointed or Promoted Officials Had 33 Billion Won in “Cash,” While Richest of Retired Officials Possessed Real Estate Worth Billions of Won
Among high-ranking public officials who disclosed their property in August following changes in their status--new appointments, promotions, and retirement--the richest was Lee Jong-in, head of the Press Office in the Prime Minister’s Secretariat, who had nearly 33 billion won in savings. The richest of retired public officials turned out to possess real estate valued at billions of won. The Public Service Ethics Committee released the property registered to high-ranking officials including these details on August 26. A total of 110 officials--40 newly appointed, 21 promoted, and 31 retired--were subject to disclose their property this month. The government discloses the property owned by high-ranking officials with changes to their personnel status each month.
The Ultra-low Interest Rate after the Outbreak of COVID Ends: Base Rate Raised 0.25%
The Bank of Korea is closing the curtains on the low base interest rate, which it had maintained in response to the economic situation following the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. The Bank of Korea Monetary Policy Board raised the base rate by 0.25%. On August 26, the Monetary Policy Board held a meeting at the central bank in Jung-gu, Seoul and decided to raise the base interest rate 0.25% from an annual 0.5% to 0.75%. The Board had frozen the base rate after lowering the rate by 0.5% in March and by 0.25% in May last year because the economy rapidly froze due to the spread of COVID-19. The Board then decided to freeze the base rate nine times in July, August, October and November last year and in January, February, April, May and July this year, but it finally decided to raise the rate for the first time in fifteen months this day. The decision to raise the rate and not simply maintain the existing rate comes after two years and nine months (33 months), since the Monetary Policy Board last raised the interest rate from 1.50% to 1.75% in November 2018.
Maeil Business News Korea (http://www.pulsenews.co.kr/)
Korean investment banks bet on additional rate hike in November
As many as 13 out of 20 domestic investment banks bet the next rate hike in South Korea after last week’s raise by a quarter of a percentage point to come in November. According to an analysis on interest rate outlook reports released by 20 brokerage houses in Korea, 16 forecast an additional hike during the two remainder policy meetings for the year. The base rate was raised from the country’s historic low of 0.5 percent kept since May 2020 to 0.75 percent last week, faster than expected due to undying Covid-19 spread. Bank of Korea Governor Lee Ju-yeol warned the hike won’t be the last as it is just the “first step” to contain unfazed gains in household debt and inflationary buildup.
Upbit emerges as dominant exchange as other crypto operators fail to make rule cut
Monopolistic abuses pose as emerging risk in the cryptocurrency market in Korea as investors flood to the most reliable exchange among the select three to four expected to survive after near-impossible-to-meet new regulations for hundreds of smaller players by next month. Upbit has become unrivaled dominant player with 5.3 trillion won ($4.6 billion) in customer deposits, or money placed into the exchange by customers for crypto currency trading, as of July 31. It accounted for 80 percent of the combined deposits at the country’s top four crypto exchanges - Upbit, Bithumb, Coinone and Korbit, according to the latest figures compiled by the country’s conservative opposition party People Power Party Rep. Yoon Doo-hyun on Sunday.
Cheap, lush liquidity makes mid-tier players bolder to go after big rivals in Korea
Mid-tier companies in South Korea have been ambitiously going after bigger players for a leapfrog by leveraging on lush liquidity hungry for big bets and returns. Auto parts maker DTR Automotive has recently become the new owner of Doosan Machine Tools by winning the controlling stake of MBK Partners at 2.4 trillion won ($2.05 billion). Established in 1971, DTR Automotive is a manufacturer of batteries, tires, and auto parts with annual operating margin of nearly 10 percent and a modest market cap of 500 billion won. The auto parts company’s latest takeover of Doosan is aimed at diversifying its business portfolio in response to the dwindling demand for traditional automotive parts in line with the transition to electric vehicles.
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