Friday, January 28, 2022
Round-up of important news from major Korean dailies and from international media today
The Korea Post ( www.koreapost.com )
Ven. Hyangdeok receives Voluntary Service Medal from U.S. President
Venerable Chief Abbot Hyangdeok of the Cheonman-sa Buddhist Temple in Ulsan received a Voluntary Service Medal from the President of the United States of America. The Medal was presented in a ceremony hosted by Korea Nobel Foundation at the Center Mark Hotel in Seoul on Jan. 19, 2022. The citation is known to be awarded only to American citizens. Ven. Hyangdeok received this citation as an honorary citizen of California, and Secretary-General Yoo Jae-ki of the Korea Nobel Foundation delivered it directly to Ven. Hyangdeok at the ceremony on that day. Statistics in South Korea show that there are some 7.62 million Buddhist believers in South Korea and in the past (2005) they were known to total 10.73 million. It means that at the time every third person in Korea was a Buddhist believer considering the fact that the population then is estimated at 30 million.
“We will carry out all reforms, all measures together with the society”
On January 26, President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev chaired a videoconference to discuss the New Uzbekistan Development Strategy for 2022-2026 and its implementation this year. Uzbekistan’s 35 million multinational people live with the great goal of achieving a standard of living corresponding to developed countries, building a just, free and prosperous society. Therefore, during the Presidential Elections last year, Shavkat Mirziyoyev put forward the ideas “In the name of human honor and dignity” and “The state for the people”. The Development Strategy for 2022-2026 has been developed to implement them based on the opinions and proposals of the population. This policy document determines what will be the development trends of Uzbekistan in the near and medium-term, sets priorities in this direction. The main attention was paid to ensuring the continuity of reforms based on the principle “From the Action Strategy to the Development Strategy”.
KFS selected as an 'excellence institution’ for government's evaluation
The Korea Forest Service, led by Minister Choi Byeong-am, received the honor of being selected as an 'Excellent Institution' as a result of the government’s comprehensive evaluation for two consecutive years in 2021 among 45 central administrative agencies. As the KFS was selected as a comprehensive excellent institution in this year's evaluation, it has been named as a comprehensive excellent institution six times in the nine-year evaluation since 2013, when the government’s evaluation started. According to the results of the '2021 government’s business evaluation' announced by the Office of Government Policy Coordination on Jan. 25, the KFS received high evaluations in the field of jobs and government tasks, government innovation and policy communication.
N. Korea Confirms Latest Missile Launches
North Korea says that it successfully conducted test launches of long-range cruise missiles and surface-to-surface tactical guided missiles this week. The North's official Korean Central News(KCNA) said Friday that the Academy of National Defense Science carried out the test launches to update the long-range cruise missile system and confirm the power of conventional warheads for surface-to-surface tactical guided missiles on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively. The KCNA said the two tactical guided missiles precisely hit an island target.
27 Crew Members on Cheonghae Unit's Destroyer Infected with COVID-19
Another COVID-19 cluster has hit a naval destroyer on an anti-piracy mission in waters off Africa, with nearly 30 crew members confirmed with the virus. The Joint Chiefs of Staff(JCS) said on Thursday that 27 members of the 304-strong Cheonghae Unit tested positive on polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests by a hospital in Oman. The unit conducted a rapid Xpert COVID-19 test on a member who showed suspected symptoms on Wednesday. As the person tested positive, the unit carried out the test on everyone else and confirmed the results with the PCR tests by the local hospital.
Drivers in Seoul, Daejeon Eligible for Mobile Driver’s License from Thursday
Drivers in two cities will be able to get a mobile driver’s license from Thursday, marking the first introduction of online licenses for the general public. According to the Ministry of the Interior and Safety and the National Police Agency Thursday, the Seoul Seobu and Daejeon Driver's License Examination Offices, as well as 14 police stations across the two cities began issuing mobile licenses. These licenses have the same legal validity as physical card licenses issued in plastic. Authorities plan to issue them nationwide from July following a six-month trial period. The online license can be issued in addition to a physical license, but only one will be issued per mobile device registered with one's own name.
S. Korea's daily COVID-19 cases surpass 14,000 amid rapid omicron spread
South Korea's daily COVID-19 cases hit over 14,000 on Thursday, breaking the record for a third consecutive day as the highly contagious omicron variant spreads across the country at an unprecedented speed. The country reported 14,518 COVID-19 infections, including 14,301 local infections, bringing the total to 777,497, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said. South Korea posted the first five-digit daily tally of 13,012 on Wednesday, following the previous record high of 8,570 on Tuesday. The per day counts have nearly quadrupled since early last week, when the figure had hovered around 3,800.
Lee, Yoon neck-and-neck in latest surveys
The presidential candidates of the ruling and main opposition parties are running neck and neck with support ratings of around 35 percent each, the latest surveys showed Thursday. Lee Jae-myung of the liberal Democratic Party (DP) is in a dead heat with Yoon Suk-yeol of the conservative People Power Party (PPP) at 35 percent against Yoon's 34 percent, according to a poll of 1,000 adults conducted Monday to Wednesday by Embrain Public, Kstat Research, Korea Research and Hankook Research. The gap between Lee and Yoon was within the margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.
Market access may make U.S.-proposed IPEF more attractive: S. Korean trade minister
Increased market access may make a U.S.-envisioned new economic framework in the Indo-Pacific region more attractive, South Korean Trade Minister Yeo Han-koo said Thursday. Yeo said the U.S.-proposed Indo-Pacific economic framework (IPEF) may provide common goods by setting rules and standards, especially for newly emerging industries, such as digitalization, but insisted many countries would consider increased market access as a return for taking part in such an initiative. "I think market access could be one of the important sorts of returns that countries in the region would expect from U.S. leadership," the South Korean minister said when asked if the lack of increased market access would make any difference for countries considering joining the IPEF.
The Korea Herald (http://www.koreaherald.com)
TV debates, where the ‘real battle’ takes place
The main opposition People Power Party on Thursday proposed a debate between its candidate Yoon Suk-yeol and Democratic Party of Korea candidate Lee Jae-myung, continuing the ongoing controversy over whether or not a presidential debate would take place ahead of the March election. The proposal, which attempts to bypass a court decision prohibiting the two leading candidates from holding a televised debate without including rivals from minor parties highlights the importance that political parties place on debates. For many, TV debates in presidential elections are where the “real battle” takes place.
Hyundai Motor developing ‘marine’ mobility platform powered by seawater3
Hyundai Motor will develop a marine mobility platform powered by seawater by 2023 to replace small and mid-sized diesel ships polluting the sea. The project has been directly reported to Hyundai Motor Chairman Chung Euisun. According to industry sources Thursday, the automaker is developing a 15-20 meter-long yacht powered by the firm’s hydrogen fuel cells. The trimaran yacht has three hulls, each of which is installed with equipment to break seawater into hydrogen. Then, hydrogen fuel cells mounted inside the hulls will use the extracted hydrogen to power propellers. Solar panels installed on the sail and two vertical wind turbines mounted on the platform will generate clean electricity to break seawater into hydrogen. The price per unit is 4.5 billion won ($3.7 million).
Netmarble to make a big bet on metaverse
South Korean game giant Netmarble said Thursday it will launch metaverse games that allow hyperconnection between the real world and virtual reality, expanding its footing in the fast-growing blockchain industry. “We plan to develop metaverse games that allow users, either individuals or companies, to gain virtual assets that can be exchanged for real assets such as currency through blockchain technology,” said Netmarble Chairman Bang Jun-hyuck. The metaverse concept has been used as limited term describing interaction between users through game characters and communities. But metaverse games will become another reality for new users who seek to find innovative ways to attain wealth, Bang added.
The Korea Times (http://www.koreatimes.co.kr)
Goldberg pick, harbinger of US' hawkish North Korea policy?
U.S. President Joe Biden nominated a former sanctions enforcer to be his first ambassador to South Korea, but it is too early to predict if the United States will return to a hardline stance against North Korea, according to diplomatic observers. According to diplomatic sources, U.S. Ambassador to Colombia Philip Goldberg has been tapped to head the U.S. Embassy in Seoul and the South Korean government is now said to be in the process of granting an agrement, which refers to a state approval of accepting a member of a diplomatic mission from a foreign country.
Fortune-telling and Korea's presidential election
On Jan. 19, prosecutors launched an investigation of the main opposition People Power Party's (PPP) presidential candidate, Yoon Suk-yeol, for violating the country's election laws, leaking confidential government information, and abusing his authority to sabotage law enforcement. The allegations, brought by the ruling Democratic Party of Korea's (DPK) election camp, relate to how Yoon, then-Prosecutor General, in February 2020 ordered police not to search the headquarters of Shincheonji, a religious cult, the members of which were largely held responsible for a major cluster infection resulting in over 5,200 COVID-19 cases in Daegu early that year, by breaking national pandemic prevention regulations. The DPK camp, basing the charges on a report from local daily Segye Ilbo, said Yoon had deliberately not made the order because an alleged fortune-teller named Geonjin advised him not to "get your hands dirty with unnecessary blood."
Hurdles remain for MSCI developed market status
The Korean stock market still faces multiple hurdles before it can achieve developed market status from Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI), despite the government's much-touted bid to ease regulations on the local foreign exchange market, experts said Thursday. Under the drive by the Ministry of Economy and Finance, Korea will ease rules on the local exchange and capital markets to place its name on the MSCI watch list by June 2022. The Korean equity market will be eligible for the much-sought-after status only a year after entering the list. The country's status may be upgraded in 2024 at the earliest under the assumption that it succeeds in gaining inclusion onto the watch list this year.
Chosun Ilbo (http://english.chosun.com)
LG Announces 3rd EV Battery Plant in U.S. with GM
LG Energy Solution on Wednesday confirmed that it will cooperate with General Motors to build their third electric vehicle battery plant in the U.S., following media reports early this week. The two companies will build the plant in Lansing, Michigan through their joint venture Ultium Cells. LG said the two companies will invest US$2.6 billion in the new plant, which will have an annual capacity of 50 GWh, enough for 700,000 EVs. Construction will begin within this year with a view to commencing production in early 2025. Once the No. 3 plant is completed, LG and GM will be able to produce 120 GWh of EV batteries in the U.S. annually along with the No. 1 plant in Ohio, which is set to begin production this year, and the No. 2 plant in Tennessee, due to start output next year. GM CEO Mary Barra said a total of $7 billion will be invested in the state of Michigan alone for EV production, including the latest joint venture plant.
N.Korea Expert Tapped as U.S. Ambassador to Seoul
U.S. President Joe Biden is going to nominate Philip Goldberg, the current ambassador to Colombia, as the new ambassador to South Korea soon, according to diplomatic sources. They said Biden began the process of nominating Goldberg late last year. The post has been vacant for over a year. A senior Cheong Wa Dae official told reporters, "We have been notified of his nomination." But it seems that Goldberg will not arrive before President Moon Jae-in leaves office because it takes several months to get approval from the Senate. Goldberg, who is known to be hawkish on the North, was the State Department's coordinator for implementation of UN sanctions on North Korea in 2009-2010, the early years of the Barack Obama administration.
N.Korea Suffers Debilitating Cyber Attack
North Korea suffered a massive cyber attack on Wednesday morning, which apparently brought its entre Internet down, Reuters reported. Junade Ali, a U.K. cybersecurity expert, told Reuters that a what appears to be a distributed denial-of-service attack on the North paralyzed all online traffic in the reclusive state for six hours. "When someone would try to connect to an IP address in North Korea, the Internet would literally be unable to route their data into the country," Ali said. "It's common for one server to go offline for some periods of time, but these incidents have seen all web properties go offline concurrently. It isn't common to see their entire internet dropped offline." A DDoS attack is an attempt to make an online service unavailable by overwhelming it with traffic from multiple sources. NK News, a website that monitors North Korea, reported earlier this month that network errors occurred in the North in what appears to have been another DDoS attack, when all e-mail and websites in North Korea were inaccessible.
HanKyoReh Shinmun (http://english.hani.co.kr)
Career diplomat Philip Goldberg tapped as US ambassador to S. Korea, sources say
Current US Ambassador to Colombia Philip Goldberg has been tapped to serve as US ambassador to South Korea, a post that has been vacant for the past year, sources said Wednesday. According to various diplomatic sources knowledgeable about South Korea-US relations, the Biden administration picked Goldberg as the ambassador nominee for the US mission in South Korea earlier this year and asked the South Korean government for an “agrément.” French for “agreement,” agrément is the procedure through which a foreign country asks a host country for approval of a diplomatic appointment.
PPP breathes sigh of relief after acquittal of Yoon’s mother-in-law
On Tuesday, a South Korean appeals court acquitted the mother-in-law of Yoon Suk-yeol on charges of defrauding the government during the establishment of a healthcare facility. The acquittal of the woman, only identified by her surname Choi, clears away much of the baggage weighing down Yoon, who is running for president on the conservative People Power Party (PPP) ticket. Members of the PPP expressed relief that some of the liabilities surrounding Yoon have been dealt with before the extended holiday for the Lunar New Year. Yoon Gang-yeol, a senior judge at the Seoul High Court, cleared Choi on charges of violating the Medical Service Act and committing fraud under the Act on the Aggravated Punishment of Specific Economic Crimes. That overturned a conviction in a district court that had sentenced Choi to three years in prison.
S. Korea’s COVID-19 response put to the test with skyrocketing cases
South Korea came close to 15,000 COVID-19 cases in a single day on Wednesday, with figures expected only to rise in the coming days due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant. Meanwhile, the South Korean government plans to expand its Omicron response system nationwide on Saturday, but preparations are still needed to prevent the collapse of not just patient management, but other essential social services like healthcare and education. According to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA), South Korea reported 14,518 new confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus as of the end of the day Wednesday, breaking the previous day’s record of 13,012 cases.
The Dong-A Ilbo (http://english.donga.com/)
Samsung, LG each rank No. 1 in semiconductor and household appliances
Samsung Electronics recorded the world’s highest sales of 94 trillion won in semiconductors last year, beating Intel in three years. LG Electronics also beat the Whirlpool Corporation in household appliances last year, taking the No. 1 position in the world for the first time. Samsung Electronics announced on Thursday that its sales reached 279.6 trillion won last year, up 18.1 percent from the previous year. It is the company’s highest record so far. Its operating profit recorded 51.63 trillion won during the same year, up 43.5% from the previous year, which is the third-highest figure following 58.89 trillion won in 2018 and 53.65 trillion won in 2017. The semiconductor sales of the company were at 94.16 trillion won last year.
Biden: Putin would face personal sanctions if Russia invades Ukraine
U.S. President Joe Biden said on Tuesday (local time) that Russian President Vladimir Putin could face personal sanctions if Russia invades Ukraine. President Biden sent a strong warning that U.S.-Russia diplomatic relations would be severed and the two countries would go back to the Cold War era confrontation in case of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. When asked by reporters in Washington if he would consider personal sanctions on President Putin if Russia invades Ukraine, President Biden said, “Yes, I would see that.” World leaders, who have faced U.S. sanctions, include North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (2016), Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro (2017) and Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (2019). These leaders are from the countries, whose diplomatic relations with the U.S. are practically severed.
‘Argument for retirement of 86 group’ falls on deaf ears
Despite ruling Democratic Party of Korea leader Song Young-gil’s announcement to not run for the next general elections, the ‘argument for the retirement of 86 group’ – referring to those who entered college in the 80s and were born in the 60s – is not garnering attention. While there is no more movement for an additional announcement to give up on running a presidential election, there are differing opinions within the ruling party regarding the argument. “The essence of the argument is to withdraw the old system of vested rights,” Kim Jong-min, the member of the Democratic Party of Korea who first publicly suggested the argument, said during an interview with MBC Radio on Wednesday.
The KyungHyangShinmun (http://english.khan.co.kr/)
“Companies Were Given a Year, But...” 38 Workers Died in Workplace Accidents in the New Year
The Serious Accidents Punishment Act is soon to go into effect, yet this January alone, nearly forty workers lost their lives in industrial accidents. In South Korea, everyday 1.6 workers go to work but never return home. According to the data that the Democratic Party of Korea lawmaker Lee Su-jin (proportional representation) received from the Ministry of Employment and Labor on January 26, 38 workers died due to a work-related accident from January 1-25. The five workers still missing from the collapsed building in the Hwajeong IPark complex in Seo-gu, Gwangju were not included in the statistics. The death toll dropped this year compared to the 43 workers who died in work-related accidents that occurred during the same period last year.
New Daily Cases of COVID-19: Another Record-breaking 14,518
The Central Disease Control Headquarters announced that as of midnight January 27, they confirmed 14,518 new cases of COVID-19 from the previous day. Authorities continued to confirm more than 10,000 cases for two consecutive days as the nation recorded another record high. The latest figures are more than double the number of cases confirmed three days ago, when the number of cases were around 7,000. A look at the transmission route showed that 14,301 of the new cases were transmitted in the local community while 217 cases entered from overseas. A regional analysis of the cases showed that 63.9% (9,133) occurred in the Seoul capital area with 3,385 cases in Seoul, 4,738 in Gyeonggi and 1,010 in Incheon. Authorities also confirmed 732 cases in Busan, 764 in Daegu, 337 in Gwangju, 408 in Daejeon, 146 in Ulsan, 76 in Sejong, 187 in Gangwon-do, 287 in Chungcheongbuk-do, 431 in Chungcheongnam-do, 308 in Jeollabuk-do, 289 in Jeollanam-do, 480 in Gyeongsangbuk-do, 654 in Gyeongsangnam-do, and 69 in Jeju-do.
Former Captain of ROKS Gang Gam-chan Demoted from Captain to Commander for Failing to Protect Dead Soldier from Mobbing
Last year, a Navy soldier on the ROKS Gang Gam-chan died after suffering from mobbing by his senior soldiers. The captain, who was the commanding officer at the time, and the executive officer both received severe penalties for failing to protect the victim. It is highly unusual for a commanding officer to be demoted for failing to implement measures to protect soldiers. On January 26, the Navy announced, “On December 20, we enforced severe penalties and demoted Captain A, captain of the ROKS Gang Gam-chan, who was subject to a disciplinary committee last November.” Thus Captain A has been demoted to the rank of commander.
Maeil Business News Korea (http://www.pulsenews.co.kr/)
Korean manufacturing lines keep strict quarantine rules amid Omicron fears
South Korean major companies like Samsung Electronics and Hyundai Motor remain vigilant to keep their production line running amid explosive growth in Omicron cases in the country, clinging to strict self-quarantine rules for employees, contrary to the government’s measure to ease restrictions on vaccinated people. Local health authorities launched a new virus response system on Wednesday, exempting vaccinated close contacts from quarantine mandates despite the Omicron spread.
LG Energy Solution debuts as Kospi No. 2, but in less fanfare
LG Energy Solution Ltd. zoomed to No 2. on Korea’s main Kospi Thursday, debuting at 597,000 won ($496.51) to slightly miss the doubled IPO price of 600,000 won despite red-hot subscriptions amid negative market sentiment over hawkish comments from the U.S. Federal Reserve. On Thursday, LG Energy Solution shares closed at 505,000 won, down 15.4 percent from the opening price. The stock, however, easily landed as the second most valuable Korean stock with market capitalization of 118 trillion won after Samsung Electronics. The first-day performance, however, pales against record-setting demand in IPO process.
Samsung Elec to keep capex “flexible” upon returning to No. 1 in chipmaking
South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co. returning to global No.1 in chipmaking by edging Intel Corp. with record sales of 94 trillion won ($78.2 billion) from chips will keep investment “flexible” this year after 25 percent increase last year as it expects increased demand regardless of market uncertainties. “We are currently reviewing investment plans in chip sector for this year as various uncertainties remain,” the company said during a conference call on Thursday. Samsung Electronics noted that it will stick to “flexible” investment depending on market conditions.
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