Tuesday, February 8, 2022
Round-up of important news from major Korean dailies and from international media today
The Korea Post ( www.koreapost.com )
SKT, Joby of the U.S. join hands to bring air taxi service to South Korea
SK Telecom and Joby Aviation in the U.S. have decided to work together to introduce emissions-free aerial ridesharing services to cities and communities across South Korea, they announced on February 7. Joby Aviation is a California-based company developing an all-electric, five-seat aircraft that can take off and land vertically (eVTOL). CEO Ryu Young-sang of SKT and Joby’s founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt signed a strategic collaboration agreement at Joby’s manufacturing facility in Marina, California. The agreement will see the two companies work closely on introducing this revolutionary form of transportation in support of the South Korean Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport’s “K-UAM” (Korean Urban Air Mobility) Roadmap, first announced in 2020.
Leaders of Korea, Turkmenistan exchange letters, celebrating the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations
President Moon Jae-in exchanged letters with President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov of Turkmenistan to celebrate the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries and strengthened friendship between the leaders on February 7. President Moon evaluated the two countries' cooperation in various fields such as politics, economy, culture, and human exchange since diplomatic relations in 1992 and expressed expectations for expanding the field of cooperation in the future, Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson Park Kyung-mi said in a written briefing.
UN Security Council failed to reach joint agreement
The United States has called on all Council members to speak with one voice in condemning these dangerous and unlawful acts in relation to North Korea's recent launch of an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM). However, at the UN Security Council meeting on February 4th, the US and China had different positions and could not issue a full-scale joint statement. On the 30th of last month, and the United States have been clear and unequivocal in expressing concern over the DPRK’s continued Security Council violations and its alarming behavior.
Second TV Debate among 4 Presidential Candidates Slated for Friday
The second television debate among the top four presidential candidates will be held on Friday. The Journalists Association of Korea on Monday announced the four-way debate will be aired live on six cable news channels for two hours from 8 p.m. Friday. The moderator will be chosen from a pool of candidates drawn from all six cable broadcasters and the association, and agreed upon by the four parties involved, including the ruling Democratic Party and the main opposition People Power Party. The candidates—DP’s Lee Jae-myung, PPP’s Yoon Suk Yeol, as well as the Justice Party’s Sim Sang-jung and the People’s Party’s Ahn Cheol-soo—are scheduled to reveal their opinions on a variety of issues, including politics, economy and society, and also engage each other on free debate sessions.
Prime Minister Hints at Possibility of Increasing Extra Budget Plan
Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum has hinted at the possibility of expanding the government’s supplementary budget proposal that would provide compensation to small business owners hit hard by COVID-19. Attending a full session of the National Assembly’s Special Committee on Budget and Accounts on Monday, Kim said now is the time for parliament and the government to hold sincere discussions on the extra budget while prioritizing the needs of the people. The prime minister stressed that the government will actively pursue reasonable measures if parliament agrees on the need to provide appropriate support to small business owners who have made sacrifices out of consideration for the lives and safety of the populace for over two years.
KDCA Director: 1 Million At-Home COVID-19 Patients Possible by Early March
The number of COVID-19 patients being treated at home and those under quarantine could reach 1 million by early March. Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) Commissioner Jeong Eun-kyeong was asked during a parliamentary session of the possibility, which she confirmed. Jeong added the number of new COVID-19 infections is doubling every three weeks, and while the number of critically-ill is decreasing, the increase in infections among those over 60 needs to be watched closely. She said though many have been boosted, there are unvaccinated people who are vulnerable to a bad case of the virus if infected, and said the situation will be observed closely for a couple more weeks.
N. Korea convenes key parliamentary meeting without leader Kim's attendance
North Korea had a two-day session of its rubber-stamp legislature earlier this week to discuss budgetary and other pending issues, with the country's leader Kim Jong-un not present, according to its state media Tuesday. The 6th session of the 14th Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) was held in Pyongyang on Sunday and Monday, attended by senior ruling party and Cabinet officials, the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported. The major event has drawn keen attention from the outside world as a potential opportunity to get a clue on the reclusive regime's policy directions, coming on the heels of a barrage of missile tests, including that of an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) late last month.
S. Korea to ease monitoring on COVID-19 patients; new virus cases above 35,000 for 3rd day
South Korea will ease some monitoring and quarantine measures for low-risk COVID-19 patients, health authorities said Monday, as the highly infectious omicron variant continues to strain medical workers and government officials. On Monday, the country reported 35,286 new COVID-19 infections, staying at more than 35,000 cases for three days in a row Monday despite fewer tests over the weekend, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA). The total caseload increased to 1,044,963. The accumulated virus caseload surpassed a grim milestone of 1 million the previous day, two years after South Korea reported its first COVID-19 case.
Three-way cooperation of U.S., S. Korea, Japan 'indispensable' to denuclearizing N. Korea: Price
Trilateral cooperation between South Korea, Japan and the United States is one of the most important and effective tools to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, State Department Press Secretary Ned Price said Monday. He made the remarks as Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to hold a trilateral meeting with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts later this week. "I can be confident that one of the priority issues of discussion in that setting will be the recent provocations we have seen from the DPRK including its missile launches," the spokesperson said of Blinken's upcoming talks with South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, which will be held in Hawaii on Saturday.
The Korea Herald (http://www.koreaherald.com)
Moon says current surge ‘last hurdle,’ warns against panic
President Moon Jae-in on Monday warned against panic in face of the spike in COVID-19 cases saying that it could be the “last hurdle” in returning to normalcy. They say it’s always the darkest before dawn,” Moon said, referring to the record number of COVID cases in Korea. “I think this is the last hurdle on the way to recovery. If we believe in the government and work together, we will be able to progress toward normal life more quickly.” Moon made the remarks at a meeting of the COVID-19 Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters. It was the first time in more than six months that he has presided over the meeting since July 25 last year.
Ruling party's attempt to revive late progressive icons backfires
The presidential campaign for Lee Jae-myung of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea is embroiled in fresh controversy, this time over accusations of posthumous defamation of two iconic progressive presidents. The Democratic Party on Saturday uploaded two videos on its official YouTube channel featuring former presidents Roh Moo-hyun and Kim Dae-jung. The videos portrayed the two presidents backing Lee, separately, in the presidential election next month, even though they both died years ago. In the videos, voiceovers mimicking the two former presidents with the liberal bloc asked voters to cast their ballots for Lee next month citing his background as a member of the working class.
Police investigate gang fight in North Jeolla Province
South Korean police have launched an investigation into a fight between two gangs at a funeral in North Jeolla Province, it said Monday. According to the North Jeolla Provincial Police Agency, two gangs got into a fight at the funeral of a former triad member held in Iksan around 2 a.m. Sunday. Police officers were dispatched after local police received a call from a citizen who had witnessed the brawl. But the involved parties had already fled the scene before the officers arrived, according to police. Police said the triad members started quarreling at the funeral, which then became a group fight.
The Korea Times (http://www.koreatimes.co.kr)
Persuading voters: Lee concise, detail-oriented; Yoon emphatic
Debates reveal a lot about politicians. It's a rare opportunity for people to see them talking unscripted for hours, except for a few pages of notes. It provides viewers with plenty of insights and clues as to who the people on the platforms really are, while hundreds of news reports produced daily share rumors that are often inaccurate. The preparations for the first TV debate between four leading candidates for the March 9 presidential election weren't always smooth, as opposition between the candidates' election camps continued to delay plans for debates, much to the disappointment of an uneasy public. In addition, the two minor parties insisted that it was illegal and undemocratic for the two giant parties to hold their own one-on-one debate.
Soaring oil prices, weakening won weigh on Korea's economy
A toxic mixture of soaring oil prices and a weakening Korean won are expected to put a further drag on the Korean economy, with international oil prices forecast to surpass $100 per barrel soon and the local currency hovering around the worrying threshold of 1,200 won per dollar. Benchmark crude oil prices have surged to the highest levels in seven years, with Dubai, Brent and West Texas Intermediate (WTI) all rising above $90 per barrel, Feb. 4. Analysts said Monday the upward trajectory will continue at least through the second quarter of this year, fueled by optimism over a decline in Omicron coronavirus variant infections and a recovery of international travel. Escalating Ukraine-Russia tensions also remain as a critical variable as supplies of Russian natural gas can be jeopardized.
Seoul mayor stands firm on cutting budget for 'questionable' civic groups
Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon vowed that he would continue his thorough review of the city government's financial support for civic groups and make cuts where necessary, as he has maintained the city has misspent its budget for the last decade when his predecessor, Park Won-soon, was in power. Oh also promised to reduce the subsidies for civic group-related projects for at least three years. Regarding this project, called "Set up right Seoul City," Oh said, "The Seoul Metropolitan Government will review the financial support that has been extended to civic groups mostly with a 'questionable' history despite not making tangible progress over the past decade directly and indirectly, and will tighten morale among public servants in the city government."
Chosun Ilbo (http://english.chosun.com)
S.Korea Treads Softly on N.Korea Missile Condemnation
South Korea has declined for the third time this year to co-sponsor a U.S.-led joint UN statement condemning North Korea's missile provocations. Eight members of the UN Security Council plus Japan issued a joint statement last Friday condemning Pyongyang for the launch of a Hwasong-12 mid-range ballistic missile "in the strongest terms." The U.S. brought the eight other like-minded countries together for a joint press conference to issue the statement as it became impossible to adopt a UNSC resolution to put pressure on the North Korean regime due to the resistance from Chin and Russia, but South Korea was conspicuously absent.
New Guidelines Mean Hefty COVID Test Bills
Koreans are up in arms after the government revised its COVID response to offer free PCR tests only to the elderly and vulnerable groups to keep the medical system from being overwhelmed by the Omicron variant. Many are saying they face massive costs for their own PCR tests, especially family members of suspected cases and other caretakers who are hired by patients (US$1=W1,199) Hospitals charge between W80,000 and W120,000 for s PCR test. A person who is a caretaker of a family member with cancer posted a complaint on the Cheong Wa Dae website on Friday saying that he has to accompany the patient to hospital once every two weeks, which means W200,000 spent on mandatory PCR tests a month or W2.4 million a year.
Sole American Hacker Took down N.Korea's Internet
A lone disgruntled American hacker identified only as "P4x" was behind the breakdown of all online traffic in North Korea for six hours on Jan. 26, U.S. magazine Wired said Wednesday. The websites that were brought down by his distributed denial-of-service attack included "Naenara," the official portal for the North Korean government, and the websites of the Foreign Ministry, the official Rodong Sinmun, the Korean Central News Agency, and Air Koryo. According to Wired, P4x is an independent hacker who does not belong to any agency. 'It was the work of one American man in a T-shirt, pajama pants, and slippers, sitting in his living room night after night, watching Alien movies and eating spicy corn snacks -- and periodically walking over to his home office to check on the progress of the programs he was running to disrupt the internet of an entire country," the magazine wrote.
HanKyoReh Shinmun (http://english.hani.co.kr)
National security policy should be based on one thing: Facts
In both South Korea and elsewhere in recent years, subjective speculation appears to be prevailing over facts as the boundary between objective truth and public opinion blurs. In the US, for example, conspiracy theories such as climate denial, the “anti-vax” movement, and claims about election rigging have had a bigger political impact than judicial decisions and pronouncements by the government and credible research institutions. Such trends impede healthy discussion of policy and make it harder to craft reasonable policies. This phenomenon is becoming more noticeable as political disputes inevitably heat up in Korea’s current presidential campaign. One example is the foreign policy and national security platform that Yoon Suk-yeol, presidential candidate for the People Power Party, announced on Jan. 24.
S. Korea reports first teen COVID-19 death
A high school student undergoing home treatment for COVID-19 in Gwangju passed away from a pulmonary embolism four days after being released from isolation. This is South Korea’s first recorded death of a COVID-19 patient in their teens. Experts are calling for a review of the current home treatment system, noting that while the likelihood is low, healthy young people are also vulnerable to losing their lives to COVID-19 infections. On Sunday, the city of Gwangju announced, “A 17-year-old second-year high school student surnamed Song passed away Friday after undergoing home treatment for COVID-19 and being released from isolation.”
Fewer loans, more savings: S. Korea’s aggressive investment climate shows signs of subsiding
This is how Jeong Sang-jin, director of the Gangnam Star PB team for KB Kookmin Bank’s Star advisory group, described the recent investment climate to the Hankyoreh on Wednesday. "Investors are losing money on existing investments, so they’re very cautious about purchasing additional assets,” he explained. We’re also seeing people keeping their funds in short-term deposits and savings products,” he noted. Is this the end of the asset investment boom that had South Korea buzzing for the past two years? Signs of change are palpable in the air, with a sharp contrast from the previously aggressive investment environment that saw people going into debt in order to invest.
The Dong-A Ilbo (http://english.donga.com/)
Gov. to focus on high-risk groups as Omicron cases surge
Only high-risk groups among COVID-19 patients under at-home treatment will be managed by health authorities from Thursday. Patients aged 60 or above, and the 50s with underlying diseases prescribed with oral antiviral treatments are classified as “intensive care group.” The remaining at-home treatment patients, who are under 60 or have mild or no symptoms, need to manage their own health conditions. The government held a meeting of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters presided over by President Moon Jae-in on Monday and confirmed the quarantine and medical response plan for the Omicron variant.
U.S. says Russia could invade Ukraine any day during Beijing Olympics
The White House said that Russia may invade Ukraine before the Beijing Olympics ends (on Feb. 20). Russia has been known to deploy military forces around 20-30 kilometers from Ukraine borders, the largest since the Cold War. U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said that “Russia could invade Ukraine any day” and that “we need to prepare military invasion that may occur before the Olympic ends” on ABC and Fox News on Saturday Russia had invaded Georgia, who had been in conflict on whether to join NATO, on the opening day of the Beijing Olympics on Aug 8, 2008. The U.S. is saying that Russia might take the Olympic opportunity to invade Ukraine. U.S. intelligence agencies have also reported to the U.S. Congress of Russia invading Ukraine from mid-February to early March.
Controversy over Beijing Olympics’ artificial snow making
Concerns are growing that the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics may have a negative impact on the environment as many competitions will be held on man-made snow. Almost a daily amount of drinking water for 100 million people will be turned artificially into snow over the Olympic period, increasing concerns that residents around event venues will face a severe water scarcity. Although China promoted its pursuit of eco-friendliness during the opening ceremony with a smaller-sized flame on display, the very opposite is happening on the site. Beijing does not only have a climate not conducive to winter events but also has to spend more electricity and water producing snow amid growing global temperatures due to a warming planet, according to CNN on Saturday.
The KyungHyangShinmun (http://english.khan.co.kr/)
New Daily Cases of COVID-19 Reach 35,286: Number of Cases Exceeds 30,000 for the Third Consecutive Day Even over the Weekend
The Central Disease Control Headquarters announced that as of midnight February 7, they have confirmed 35,286 new cases of COVID-19 from the previous day. Due to the spread of the omicron variant, the number of daily cases surpassed 30,000 for the third consecutive day despite it being the weekend. The number of omicron cases in South Korea exceeded 20,000 after more than 5,000 new cases were confirmed from the previous week. A look at the transmission route showed that 35,131 cases contracted the virus in the local community, while 155 entered the country from overseas. A regional analysis confirmed that 54.1% (19,019) of the cases occurred in the Seoul metropolitan area with 6,873 cases in Seoul, 9,780 in Gyeonggi and 2,366 in Incheon.
A Stop to Smombie: Why Samsung Electronics Banned the Use of Smartphones While Walking
Samsung Electronics has made the Five Major Safety Regulations, including a ban on the use of cell phones while walking, mandatory in its main worksites. The company seems to be making an effort to improve safety in its workplaces after the Serious Accidents Prevention Act was enforced on January 27. On February 2, Samsung Electronics announced that it notified its workers of the official implementation of the Five Major Safety Regulations for a Safe Workplace. The regulations state no using cell phones while walking, no jaywalking, no using cell phones while driving, remaining within the speed limit in work sites and no speeding while driving, and wearing helmets while riding a bicycle.
A Judge Advocate in the Hanbit Unit Sent Home for Drunkenness and Indecent Language: Shameful Conduct of Units Dispatched Overseas Continues
A series of shameful incidents occurred involving drunk officers, leaders in the military, in units dispatched overseas. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, which manages the units sent overseas, repeatedly announced that it would handle the incidents according to regulations, neglecting to seek a fundamental solution. Meanwhile, problems of military discipline continue to occur overseas. This time, a drunk judge advocate in the Hanbit Unit caused a disturbance and was deemed unfit for overseas duty and sent home early. The Hanbit Unit was established in 2013 and dispatched to the United Nations (UN) Peacekeeping Forces in South Sudan.
Maeil Business News Korea (http://www.pulsenews.co.kr/)
LGES soars 8.7% on strong buy from pension funds, foreign investors
Shares of LG Energy Solution on Monday extended their winning streak to three straight sessions on strong buys from pension funds and foreign investors, surpassing a market capitalization of 128 trillion won ($106.6 billion) to further widen its gap with Kospi’s third largest market value stock SK hynix. According to market data, LGES shares climbed 8.73 percent on the first day of this week to end at 548,000 won. The second-largest stock on the Kospi in terms of market cap gained 24 percent in the past three trade sessions, bouncing back from the lowest 441,000 won after retreating from its peak at 598,000 won on its first trading day on Jan. 27.
SK Telecom partners with Joby Aviation for UAM takeoff in Korea
South Korea`s top wireless carrier SK Telecom Co. and Joby Aviation, a US-based aerospace company, have struck alliance to launch urban air mobility (UAM) in Korea. SK Telecom announced on Monday that it signed partnership agreement with Joby Aviation at Joby’s manufacturing facility in Marina, California. The two companies formed a regular consultative body for their UAM business and “mobility as a service” (MaaS) which allows users to plan, book, and pay for transportation through a single mobility platform.
KEPCO’s operating loss to widen to $8.3 bn in 2022 amid higher fuel costs
Korean state utility firms are expected to slip deeper into the red amid surge in imported fuel prices coupled with transitional cost to renewables, with loss at Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) projected to snowball to 10 trillion won ($8.3 billion) this year. According to Korea Power Exchange on Sunday, average system marginal price (SMP) in January rose 8.1 percent from the previous month to 154.42 won per kilowatt hour (kwh). It marks the highest in nearly nine years since 155.29 won in July 2013.
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