Thursday, January 20, 2022
Round-up of important news from major Korean dailies and from international media today
The Korea Post ( www.koreapost.com )
“Iran offers low-cost energy opportunities, young and active manpower”
Question: As the head of the Commercial-Economic activities at your Embassy, please introduce yourself fully. Answer: It is my great pleasure to introduce myself. My name is Hassan Molla Jafari and I am Deputy Head of Mission and First Counselor (in charge of economic affairs) of the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Before my term of office as First Counselor of the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Korea I served as the Second Counsellor (economic affairs) in Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Ankara, Turkey from 2012-2014 and First Secretary (economic affairs), Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Dhaka, Bangladesh from 2009-2011 and Expert at Economic Affairs Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran.
"We congratulate the 60th anniversary of Korea-Nicaragua diplomatic relations”
"Korea and Nicaragua mark the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations on Jan. 26, 2022. To celebrate this diplomatic occasion, I sincerely congratulate this day with an anniversary logo decorated with chrysanthemums and symbolic butterflies, meaning friendship and happiness between the Republic of Korea and Nicaraguan people," Ambassador Rodrigo Coronel Kinloch of Nicaragua in Seoul said on Jan. 18. In sending a congratulatory message and a commemorative logo to The Korea Post media, publisher of 3 English and 2 Korean-language news publications since 1985, Ambassador Cornel Kinloch said, "I deeply appreciate the creation of such a great friendship and hope that a more prosperous and friendly relationship will continue between the beloved Republic of Korea and Nicaragua people.
Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, an initiative to celebrate progressive India
The Embassy of India, Seoul and Swami Vivekananda Cultural Centre (SVCC) organised a Special week from January 9-15 under India@75 celebrating its historical legacy, vibrant cultural diversity and achievements of its people in India and abroad. The first event in this Series was organised on January 9, popularly known as Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) which is observed on January 9 every year to mark the contribution of the Overseas Indian community and strengthen their engagements with the Government of India and reconnect them with their roots. On this very day in the year 1915, Mahatma Gandhi, the greatest Pravasi, returned to India from South Africa, who led India's freedom struggle and changed the lives of Indians forever. Therefore, January 9 was selected as the Pravasi Bharatya Divas day, to celebrate this occasion.
N. Korea Warns of Ending Moratorium on Nuclear, Missile Tests
North Korea has hinted that it may end a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range ballistic missile tests. According to the North's official Korean Central News Agency(KCNA) on Thursday, the Central Committee of the ruling Workers' Party held a politburo meeting with leader Kim Jong-un presiding. The KCNA said the meeting received reports that analyzed the state of affairs around the Korean Peninsula and discussed the North's responses to the United States. The politburo reportedly ordered defense policy tasks for bolstering physical means and defense against the hostile acts of the U.S. The politburo also ordered the reconsidering of trust-building measures that the North took on its own initiative and instructed a related sector to promptly consider "restarting all temporarily-suspended activities."
Candidates Announce Pledges on Virtual Assets in Attracting Young Voters
Presidential candidates from the two major political parties announced pledges regarding virtual assets, in apparent moves to seek support from voters in their 20s and 30s, considered to be the deciding vote in the March 9 elections. Meeting with heads of cryptocurrency exchanges on Wednesday, ruling Democratic Party(DP) candidate Lee Jae-myung pledged to look into permitting initial coin offerings(ICO). Lee made the pledge on the condition that a system is adopted to protect investors and prevent market disturbance. The DP candidate also promised to accelerate the enactment of a law to protect investors and operators of virtual assets, and to consider allowing security token offering(STO) that can be used to trade real financial assets.
S. Korea, Saudi Arabia Sign MOUs on Hydrogen Economy, Other Sectors
South Korea and Saudi Arabia signed over a dozen preliminary deals to deepen cooperation in various fields, including energy, healthcare and the hydrogen economy. The signing of memoranda of understanding(MOU) was held during a business forum on smart innovative growth in Riyadh on Tuesday with President Moon Jae-in, who is on a two-day visit in the country, present. The MOUs seek strengthened cooperation with nine involving the hydrogen and energy sectors and the remaining five regarding manufacturing, infrastructure, healthcare and the digital sector. Under those deals, Saudi Arabia will provide carbon-neutral hydrogen and ammonia for South Korea while Seoul will assist in the operation of hydrogen-powered cars and hydrogen fueling stations in Saudi Arabia.
N. Korea hints at lifting moratorium on ICBM, nuclear tests over U.S. 'hostile policy'
North Korea held a policymaking politburo meeting of the ruling Workers' Party presided over by leader Kim Jong-un and decided to consider restarting "all temporally-suspended" activities, Pyongyang's state media reported Thursday, apparently referring to its nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests. The meeting took place after the North conducted four missile tests this month alone, including two of what it claims to be a hypersonic missile, prompting the United States to slap new sanctions on the regime. The U.S. is leading a campaign within the U.N. Security Council to extend its own sanctions, with a closed-door council meeting on the issue scheduled to be held Thursday.
Yoon, Lee in dead heat in presidential race: poll
South Korea's two leading presidential candidates are in a statistical dead heat, both with support ratings of around 35 percent, a poll showed Wednesday. In a survey by Gallup Korea conducted on 1,001 adults on Monday and Tuesday, Yoon Suk-yeol of the main opposition People Power Party led Lee Jae-myung of the ruling Democratic Party with 36.1 percent to 34.9 percent. The gap was within the margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level. Yoon gained 6.9 percentage points from the previous survey conducted from Jan. 3-4, while Lee lost 2.7 points. The latest result reflects changed sentiment among voters in their 20s, with Yoon's support in that age group rising from 15.6 percent to 29.1 percent and Lee's approval falling from 27.2 percent to 23.3 percent.
Yoon's wife seeks injunction to stop 2nd MBC broadcast on her phone calls
The wife of main opposition People Power Party (PPP) presidential candidate Yoon Suk-yeol has applied for an injunction to stop public broadcaster MBC from airing the second portion of her recorded phone conversations with a reporter, PPP's election committee said Wednesday. Last Sunday, MBC's investigative program "Straight" broadcast the first portion of seven-hour phone conversations between Yoon's wife Kim Keon-hee and a staff member of the YouTube channel Voice of Seoul after a local court partially adopted an injunction filed by Kim against the broadcaster. MBC has said it plans to air the second portion of Kim's phone recordings on the same program this Sunday.
The Korea Herald (http://www.koreaherald.com)
S. Korea’s daily COVID-19 cases surpass 5,000 for the first time in 20 days
South Korea’s daily coronavirus cases surpassed 5,000 for the first time in 20 days as the omicron variant began to spread rapidly. According to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency’s announcement on Wednesday, the country added 5,805 new COVID-19 infections as of midnight Tuesday, raising the total to 705,902. The figure was 1,733 up from that of the previous day. The figure went over 5,000 for the first time in 20 days since it reached 5,034 on Dec. 30. The number of critically ill COVID-19 patients as of midnight Tuesday reached 532, while the country added reported 74 COVID-19 deaths. The fatality rate came to 0.91 percent.
S. Korea, Saudi Arabia to bolster ties on hydrogen economy
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman held a meeting in Riyadh Tuesday to bolster ties between the two countries beyond construction and infrastructure into more future-oriented fields such as hydrogen. During the talks, the two leaders agreed to build a hydrogen ecosystem where Saudi Arabia supplies carbon-neutral hydrogen and ammonia while South Korea helps the Arab nation operate hydrogen-powered cars and hydrogen facilities like fueling stations.
Ahn up in arms against one-on-one debate
The minor opposition People’s Party presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo on Wednesday filed an injunction to stop the airing of the TV debate between presidential candidates of the Democratic Party of Korea and People Power Party, protesting the decision to exclude him. On Wednesday, Lee Tae-kyu, the head of the election committee at People’s Party, filed an injunction in Ahn’s name at the Seoul Western District Court to suspend three terrestrial TV stations KBS, MBC and SBS from airing the debate between Lee Jae-myung and Yoon Suk-yeol. I can say that this debate is a vicious act led by two major political parties. The people will have their own assessment about this,” Ahn said on a radio show on the same day.
The Korea Times (http://www.koreatimes.co.kr)
Korea, GCC to resume free trade talks after 12-year hiatus
RIYADH ― Korea will resume talks for a free trade agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in the first quarter of this year, nearly 12 years after negotiations were halted with the alliance of six Middle Eastern countries, Cheong Wa Dae said, Wednesday (local time). On the occasion of President Moon Jae-in's visit to Saudi Arabia, the two countries agreed to resume their talks for the agreement, with Korea's Minister for Trade Yeo Han-koo and GCC Secretary General Nayef Falah M. Al-Hajraf announcing the decision. During a meeting with Al-Hajraf, Moon said a potential free trade agreement between the two sides will increase mutual benefits in the fields of goods, service, investment, intellectual property and energy, and asked the secretary general to ramp up his efforts to facilitate an outcome which could be satisfactory for both sides.
Samsung battling TSMC, Intel to be global leader in foundry business
Samsung Electronics is facing growing competition with its rivals in the foundry business, as TSMC and Intel are expanding their investments in the rapidly growing, contracted semiconductor producing sector. TSMC recently revealed that it plans to invest between $40 billion and $44 billion this year alone, a move to solidify its leadership position in the foundry business. Industry analysts predicted Tuesday that this major investment will far exceed Samsung's annual investments in its chip business, including in the memory chip sector, a fact that will consequently become a major obstacle to the Korean company's plan to rank first in the sector by 2030.
Woori Financial marks sharp rise in market cap after successful privatization
Woori Financial Group is going strong on the stock market, after completing 23 years of government-led ownership and fully privatizing a little more than a month ago. Its market capitalization has grown by 17.3 percent, the sharpest rise seen on the benchmark KOSPI this year compared to the three other largest banking groups ― KB Financial Group at 12.2 percent, Hana Financial Group at 8.1 percent and Shinhan Financial Group at 5.4 percent. Increased market capitalization is prevalent among banking groups in general, backed by the latest hike in the key interest rate and hopes for record yearly earnings. "But even so, Woori Financial Group's performance is noteworthy," a market observer said, adding that its full privatization is helping to build more favorable investor sentiment.
Chosun Ilbo (http://english.chosun.com)
Young Koreans Lose Interest in Chinese Studies
A growing number of younger Koreans view China negatively as it becomes an assertive regional bully and exchanges between the two sides decline, although the world's most populous country is Korea's largest trade partner. The sentiments are reflected in a straw poll the Chosun Ilbo conducted among 30 Seoul National University politics students and graduates. About 20 or two-thirds said they dislike China, while the rest said the country was "so-so" and none of them ticked they "favor" it. Also, 29 out of the 30 said they feel anti-China sentiment increasing among Koreans. Chinese studies courses here are dwindling. There were just 14 graduate school students at SNU studying Chinese language and literature last year, halving since from 32 in 2017.
Populism Brings Fresh Risks for Economy
Korea's economy faces huge challenges this year, from the coronavirus prolonged coronavirus pandemic to stagnation. First of all, it is uncertain if the pandemic is really ending. If it drags on until the end of this year, sluggish consumption and production could drive Korea into a sump of low growth. The government targets 3.1 percent growth this year, but private research institutes forecast only growth in the mid two percent. Another risk is inflation. There is a possibility of consumer prices rising even more this year after increasing at the highest rate in a decade in 2021. Excess global liquidity stemming from quantitative easing programs around the world to cushion the impact of the coronavirus pandemic plus surging raw material prices and global supply chain disruptions amid mounting U.S.-China tensions could fuel inflationary pressure.
Leaked Phone Calls Deepen Minjoo Presidential Candidate's Woes
Potentially damaging phone calls between the ruling Minjoo Party's presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung and his mentally disturbed brother and sister-in-law were disclosed on Tuesday by a lawyer who has published a book criticizing Lee. The lawyer said the 160-minute-long expletive-laden recordings, which consists of over 30 phone conversations between Lee and the couple, were mostly recorded by Lee's brother, who refused to be sectioned in a psychiatric facility in 2012. He has since died. Lee apologized for the recordings. "Although there are things that are hard to explain as they are in the sphere of private and domestic affairs, I'm very sorry for causing trouble. I ask for forgiveness and promise things like this will never happen again," he added.
HanKyoReh Shinmun (http://english.hani.co.kr)
Countless ties to heterodox figures cast shadow over Yoon’s campaign
Associations with shamanism continue to be a source of controversy for People Power Party (PPP) presidential nominee Yoon Suk-yeol and his wife Kim Keon-hee. Since the primary, Yoon and Kim have faced accusations of consorting frequently with figures who bill themselves as Buddhist “monks” and “priests” and seeking their advice at crucial times. Yoon’s longtime associations with a fortune-teller also come up in the recordings of seven hours of telephone conversations between Kim and a journalist which were partially released this week. Claims of the couple’s reliance on shamans are prompting concerns due to memories of the Park Geun-hye government influence scandal, which involved the then-President taking advice from her eminence grise Choi Soon-sil, who has now legally changed her name to Choi Seo-won.
Lee calls for S. Korea to adopt possibility of 2 consecutive 4-year terms for presidents
On Tuesday, Democratic Party presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung called for an amendment to South Korea's Constitution that would allow for a four-year presidential term with a limit of two terms, served successively. Lee said he would be willing to accept a shortened term if elected.This marked the first time that a candidate has publicly presented the idea of reorganizing Korea’s power structure — an issue that had largely been avoided until now due to the low likelihood of being implemented. During an appearance on the evening news program “MBN Newswide” Tuesday, Lee said, "The president's authority is overbearing, decentralization of power is weak, and with the single-term system, a president goes downhill as soon as they take office.”
Polls show toss-up between candidates D-50 days to S. Korean presidential election
With less than 50 days left until South Korea elects its next president, multiple polls are showing Democratic Party presidential nominee Lee Jae-myung and People Power Party presidential nominee Yoon Suk-yeol to be neck and neck in the race for the Blue House, their support numbers falling within the margin of error. According to the results of an Embrain Public survey released on Tuesday commissioned by the JoongAng Ilbo, support for Yoon stood at 35.9% while Lee polled slightly lower at 33.4%. Yoon’s numbers are up 5.9 percentage points from the same survey three weeks ago while Lee dropped 6 percentage points. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
The Dong-A Ilbo (http://english.donga.com/)
Ukraine close to breaking point
The situation in Ukraine is getting close to the breaking point while the U.S. and other Western countries are saying that Russia may invade Ukraine soon in the future. The U.S. and Russia will sit at a dialogue table together to resolve the situation in Geneva, Switzerland on Friday. The Guardian said that the Geneva meeting will be the last attempt to resolve the situation diplomatically. According to The Associated Press, White House press secretary Jen Psaki described the Russian forces’ move into Belarus as part of as “extremely dangerous situation.”
U.S. defines North Korea’s missile tests as ‘attacks’
The Joe Biden administration defined North Korea’s continued missile provocations as “attacks,” hinting that North Korea will face a strong response. Ten days after the last U.N. Security Council meeting, Washington convened a new meeting to discuss North Korea’s missile launches.“We will continue to ramp up the pressure on the North Koreans,” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.Linda Thomas-Greenfield said in a virtual talk with The Washington Post on Tuesday (local time). “Their attacks are a violation of Security Council resolutions,” she stressed. When asked during a briefing if Pentagon is underestimating North Korea’s missile tests, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said it is taking the matter seriously and does not underestimate threats posed by North Korea.
Attack on UAE’s oil facilities pushes global oil prices to 7-year high
Global oil prices hit the highest level in seven years and three months. It is the result of concerns about supply shortage as Yemen rebels attacked oil facilities in the United Arab Emirates, one of the major oil producers. February West Texas Intermediate (WTI) closed at 85.43 dollars per barrel, up 1.9 percent from the previous day, on Tuesday (local time) in the New York Mercantile Exchange. It is the highest level since October 2014 and 13.6 percent higher than the end of last year. Oil prices are being pushed up as demand is constant due to heating in winter and economic recovery while concerns about supply shortages are growing.
The KyungHyangShinmun (http://english.khan.co.kr/)
A Firefighter Gets off with a Warning after Sharing Nude Video Captured During Rescue Operation
A firefighter dispatched to a rescue site downloaded a video of the person he rescued, who was lying down naked at the time, from a wearable camera onto his cell phone and later shared the video with a colleague. The firefighter was referred to the disciplinary board at the fire station, but only received a warning for his action. Fire stations introduced wearable cameras to prevent violence against rescue workers, but experts point out that the latest incident occurred because fire authorities had no guidelines on the operation and management of the videos captured on site, including editing and distribution.
The Shadow of a Split-off Hidden Behind the Subscription Frenzy over LG Energy Solution
On January 18, LG Energy Solution, cited as the biggest initial public offering (IPO) in the history of South Korea’s stock exchange, began taking bids from retail investors. That same day, the value of the parent company, LG Chem shares dropped for the fourth consecutive trading day. After the split-off of the battery business, expected to achieve steep growth, the price of an LG Chem share, which exceeded a million won early last year, fell below 700,000 won this day. LG Energy Solution attracted astronomical investments with the IPO, but LG Chem shareholders were forced to watch the value of their shares drop. The IPO of LG Energy Solution has led investors to voice opinions that authorities should stop split-offs that only strengthen the control of the majority shareholder.
Chung Mong-gyu to Remain as “Chairman” Even after Stepping Down from Management
Chung Mong-gyu, the chairman of Hyundai Development Company (HDC) resigned as chairman for the accident in Gwangju. However, he will remain chairman of the holdings company (group). The decision is likely to trigger further criticism that Chung only acknowledged partial responsibility. Yoo Byung-kyu, president of HDC Hyundai Development and Ha Won-gi, the company’s executive director, were present at the press conference, but there was no mention of their future course of action. On January 17, Chung Mong-gyu held a press conference at the HDC Hyundai Development building in Yongsan-gu, Seoul and announced, “I fully accept my responsibility for the two incidents that occurred in Gwangju, and from this moment, I will step down as chairman of Hyundai Development Company.”
Maeil Business News Korea (http://www.pulsenews.co.kr/)
SK Innovation develops fire suppression technology for ESS
SK Innovation has developed a heat transmission prevention technology that can block the spread of fire inside a battery pack, making a breakthrough in the lithium-ion battery energy storage system (ESS) market that has been marred by a slew of battery pack fire incidents. According to SK Innovation on Tuesday, the company has filed for registration of patents for its fire prevention technology in energy storage systems at home and abroad, while its proprietary E-pack technology designed to prevent fire spread in EV batteries is about to be applied to mass production.
LGES IPO draws near $100 bn retail bids, causes market selloff
Retail frenzy was as hot as the astronomical institutional craze over the LG Energy Solution IPO, with deposits for public subscription swelling to near $100 billion at the expense of falls in both Kospi and Kosdaq markets. Up to 12.75 million shares or 30 percent of total 42.5 million initial shares were put up for public subscription until Wednesday. Its seven underwriters - securities firms KB, Daishin, Mirae Asset, Shinyoung, and HI, plus Shinhan and Hana financial investment companies – drew 32 trillion won ($27 billion) on the first day. Retail deposits vying for initial shares hit 114.1 trillion won ($96 billion) by the deadline on 4 p.m.
Doosan Heavy I&C, Aramco to build Saudi’s largest casting & forging factory
South Korea’s Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction Co. (Doosan Heavy I&C) will build Saudi Arabia’s largest casting and forging factory with an annual capacity of 60,000 tons, which would be the largest in the Middle East. Doosan Heavy I&C on Tuesday signed an amendment to shareholders’ agreement to build a joint venture dubbed TWAIG Casting & Forging for a project to build a casting and forging factory with Saudi Arabian Industrial Investments Company (Dussur) and Saudi Aramco Development Co. The signing ceremony which took place in Riyadh was timed with state visit by South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
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