Thursday, February 17, 2022
Round-up of important news from major Korean dailies and from international media today
The Korea Post ( www.koreapost.com )
President Moon exchanges congratulatory message with President Fernandez of Argentina
President Moon Jae-in exchanged a letter of congratulations with President Alberto Angel Fernandez of the Republic of Argentina on Feb. 15, 2022. This was disclosed by Presidential Spokesperson Park Kyung-mi at a press briefing at the Presidential Mansion of Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on that day. In the letter, President Moon said that the relations between Korea and Argentina have been growing continuously since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1962 and have grown into a Comprehensive Cooperation Partnership, and expressed hopes that the bilateral relations will grow further on to a one-notch higher level.
“Sri Lanka maintains most affable, genial ties with Korea in all spheres”
Counsellor Mrs. Rekha Mallikarachchi of the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Seoul said, “Sri Lanka maintains most affable and genial bilateral relations, in all spheres with the Republic of Korea not only since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1977 but also since many decades ago.” In a recent interview with The Korea Post media, publisher of 3 English and 2 Korean-language news publications since 1985, Mrs. Mallikarachchi said, “This was hinged mostly on trade, popularly known as ‘Silk Route’ since Sri Lanka is strategically located in the midst of Indian Ocean.’
“Mongolia fully opens its borders to international travel”
Prime Minister L.Oyun-Erdene announced on Feb. 14 in Mongolia that the Cabinet approved a resolution on lifting the heightened state of readiness and downgrading the level of restrictions from ‘Orange’ to ‘Yellow’. With the updates that were made to COVID-19 temporary regulations in January this year, no restrictions will be imposed on business operations. Currently, 92 percent of the country’s total adult population have become fully vaccinated, while 52 percent of target group citizens have been administered with their third shot of COVID-19 vaccines. 90 thousand citizens have also been involved in their fourth shot so far.
US Deputy Secretary of State Urges N. Korea to Engage in Serious Diplomacy
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman has urged North Korea to engage in serious and sustained diplomacy. The U.S. State Department said on Wednesday that Sherman made the appeal the previous day in a phone conversation with Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Takeo Mori. The department said the two officials reaffirmed the importance of continued cooperation between the their nations in the effort to achieve complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Daily COVID-19 Cases Top 90,000
South Korea’s daily COVID-19 cases jumped by more than 30-thousand to above 90-thousand amid the rapid spread of the highly transmissible omicron variant. The Korean Disease Control and Prevention Agency(KDCA) said on Wednesday a record high of 90-thousand-443 cases were compiled throughout the previous day, bringing the total caseload to one-million and 552-thousand-851. All but 162 among the latest cases were domestic infections.
S. Korea Adds 1.13 Mln Jobs in January, Biggest Growth in 22 Years
South Korea posted its biggest job growth in nearly 22 years last month. According to Statistics Korea on Wednesday, the number of employed people stood at 26-point-95 million in January, up one-point-135 million from a year earlier. This marks the largest on-year increase in the monthly job tally since March of 2000, when one-point-21 million jobs were added as the nation recovered from the preceding Asian financial crisis.
Firefighters battling wildfire spreading in coastal county of Yeongdeok
Firefighters battled a major wildfire in the southern coastal country of Yeongdeok on Wednesday as the blaze spread to local communities, forcing the evacuation of more than 180 households. The fire started on a mountain in the county, about 350 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on Tuesday. It was extinguished but reignited overnight and spread to nearby residential areas, according to firefighters and local officials.
Independence fighters' association chief to quit amid embezzlement allegations
The head of a state-funded association of national independence fighters and their descendants offered to step down Wednesday amid growing calls for his resignation over embezzlement allegations. The announcement by Kim Won-wung, chief of the Heritage of Korean Independence (HKI), followed an audit outcome released by the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs accusing him of misappropriating part of profits from a HKI cafe run at the National Assembly.
Dead campaign workers' bus illegally modified: ministry
The election campaign bus involved in the deaths of two campaign workers for presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo turned out to be illegally modified without the authorities' approval, transportation ministry officials said Wednesday. The workers, a local campaign chief and a bus driver, were found unconscious inside a campaign bus in Cheonan, about 90 kilometers south of Seoul, Tuesday afternoon and later pronounced dead at hospitals.
The Korea Herald (http://www.koreaherald.com)
A rundown of leading candidates' positions on defense, foreign relations and the economy
The presidential election has once again come down to the candidates from the two major parties – the Democratic Party of Korea and the People Power Party. Both the Democratic Party of Korea’s Lee Jae-myung and the People Power Party’s Yoon Suk-yeol claim to be the only choice for a better future, and have made numerous pledges they claim are aimed at improving citizens’ lives. Many of their pledges on social issues outside of the field of politics are almost indistinguishable, promising more or better support for the people.
Education Ministry waters down guidance for school COVID testing
The Ministry of Education on Wednesday watered down its guidelines for school students’ COVID-19 testing, saying that students are recommended to take two rapid antigen tests a week. While saying that schools will be provided with testing kits, the ministry said that the tests were not mandatory and that schools will be given autonomy in implementing measures against spread of the virus. The measure comes days after the ministry came under fire over reports that COVID tests could be made mandatory for students.
UN expert discusses NK human rights
Tomas Ojea Quintana, the UN special rapporteur on North Korea’s human rights situation, met with senior officials in Seoul on Wednesday and discussed human rights concerns in the reclusive nation. Quintana arrived here on Tuesday for a nine-day stay, during which he will meet South Korean government officials, lawmakers as well as civic groups and North Korean defectors. The purpose of his visit is to collect data necessary for writing a report on the findings of right abuses in the North and relevant recommendations, which will be submitted to the UN Human Rights Council and General Assembly in March.
The Korea Times (http://www.koreatimes.co.kr)
Korean companies raise voices against European Union
The European Union's (EU) tendency of tightening industrial regulations against non-EU companies has been drawing backlash from Korean businesspeople, who view the tougher rules as trade barriers designed to protect European markets, according to the Korea International Trade Association (KITA), Wednesday. It said Korean companies joined foreign businesses in submitting a statement expressing their concerns about the European Commission's proposed regulation on foreign subsidies. The proposal is mainly intended to restrict the entry of foreign firms into the European market, if they were subsidized by non-EU governments.
Presidential campaign goes digital
Presidential candidates have launched online platforms and mobile applications for their campaigns to give voters a unique digital experience. The Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) on Tuesday unveiled a website named "Jaeming," offering plenty of videos and other digital content related to candidate Lee Jae-myung and his campaign pledges. Like the globally popular streaming service Netflix, Jaeming offers over 250 videos categorized under "Jaeming original," "Wiki Jaem," "Pledge Jaem" and "Participate Jaem." The website curates its content based on a user's selection of interests to customize the experience.
Daily infections expected to continue to rise
Korea's daily new COVID-19 infections will continue on an upward trajectory for a while and are highly likely to peak in the weeks to come, some experts forecast Wednesday. The prediction comes after 90,443 new cases were reported on Wednesday, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA). The figure jumped sharply from the previous day's 57,175. The daily figures had been below 60,000 since Feb. 10. The KDCA predicts that the daily new infection cases will soon exceed 100,000 and could reach somewhere between 130,000 to 170,000 by the end of this month.
Chosun Ilbo (http://english.chosun.com)
COVID Infections Surge to More Than 90,000 Overnight
Daily coronavirus infections have soared by more than 30,000 overnight to surpass 90,000. The daily tally had remained below 60,000 for almost a week until Tuesday but stood at 90,443 as of Wednesday morning. But the government is still minded to relax lockdown rules to permit bigger gatherings and allow restaurants and coffee shops to open an hour longer until 10 p.m. Severe cases and deaths are also on the rise, though not as drastically. The number of deaths reached 61 on Tuesday, the highest since Jan. 18, when 74 patients died. Severe cases have remained above 300.
Pandemic Boosts Telemedicine
Demand for online and remote medical services has skyrocketed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and industry watchers believe it is here to stay. Most telemedical services were banned until February 2020, when the government provisionally permitted them as the pandemic started. The change followed two decades of controversy with heavy opposition from some medical experts. But amid the recent explosion of cases due to the Omicron variant, COVID patients with mild symptoms are now getting home treatment by phone consultations with medical workers.
N.Korea Reactivates Uranium Enrichment Plant
North Korea has reactivated a uranium-enrichment plant and a 5-megawatt plutonium-producing reactor at the Yongbyon nuclear complex, according to Voice of America on Monday. The North has gone through a flurry of missile tests this year and now seems to be producing nuclear materials for their warheads. Olli Heinonen, formerly of the International Atomic Energy Agency, came to the conclusion based on satellite images from Feb. 1.
HanKyoReh Shinmun (http://english.hani.co.kr)
4 variables that could decide who becomes S. Korea’s next president
Tuesday marked the official start of candidates’ campaigns for president, but with a tight two-way race shaping up between Lee Jae-myung of the Democratic Party and Yoon Suk-yeol of the People Power Party, each candidate is doing what they can to ensure they’re the one who makes it to the Blue House. As the two candidates compete fiercely within the margin of error in various polls, attention is focusing on the main variables that could shake things up in the three weeks until the election.
And they’re off! Presidential candidates hit the campaign trail
With the period during which South Korea’s presidential hopefuls are permitted to officially campaign having kicked off Tuesday, banners for each of the candidates in the race can be seen flying on just about every corner you come across. Official campaigning by candidates can take place in the 22 days spanning from Feb. 15 to midnight of March 8, the eve of the election. During this period, candidates are permitted to deliver speeches and hold rallies in public spaces using campaign vehicles and loudspeakers and may air campaign ads.
Yoon under fire for pledging to bolster prosecutors’ authority
People Power Party (PPP) presidential nominee Yoon Suk-yeol laid out his pledges for judicial reforms on Monday. They included broadening prosecutorial authority to investigate high-ranking public officials, guaranteeing prosecutors authority to independently assign its own budget, and doing away with the minister of justice’s authority to direct investigations into the prosecutor general. It’s a promise to drastically increase prosecutorial authority, coming from a candidate and former prosecutor general who has ignited controversy with his references to investigations aimed at “eradicating deep-rooted vices” in the current administration — something critics have described as “political retaliation.”
The Dong-A Ilbo (http://english.donga.com/)
Biden: U.S. has not yet verified Russia troop withdrawal
U.S. President Joe Biden said on Tuesday (local time) that the U.S. has not yet verified Russia’s claim that some of its forces have withdrawn from Ukraine’s border, adding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine remains a distinct possibility. President Biden voiced skepticism over the Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claim that some of its forces pulled back from the Ukraine border and pointed out that the threat of invasion still remains.
Seoul, Washington discuss Biden’s visit to S. Korea in May
It was revealed on Tuesday (local time) that South Korea and the U.S. are discussing a plan to hold a summit between the new president of South Korea and U.S. President Joe Biden in South Korea at the end of May. President Biden is planning a visit to Japan at the end of May to attend the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue among the U.S., Japan, Australia, and India. He may add a visit to South Korea to hold a summit meeting.
Ahn urges Yoon to make a decision on unifying candidacies
Kicking off the official campaign period, minor opposition People’s Party presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo chose Daegu as the first spot on Tuesday, targeting conservative voters. As for unifying candidacies with the main opposition People Power Party’s presidential candidate Yoon Suk-yeol, Ahn said he hopes that Yoon makes his decision as soon as possible. After starting his campaign on the Beomeo crossroads in Daegu on Tuesday, Ahn visited the birthplace of former President Park Chung-hee.
The KyungHyangShinmun (http://english.khan.co.kr/)
“All My Fault” Kim Won-woong, Suspected of Embezzlement, Resigns as Heritage of Korean Independence President
On February 16, Kim Won-woong, president of the Heritage of Korean Independence (HKI), who is at the center of embezzlement allegations, announced that he was stepping down as president. In a statement he distributed to the press this day, Kim said, “I bow and apologize for the harm I have caused to the honor of the Heritage of Korean Independence and to the pride of our members.” He also wrote, “I did not have an eye for the right people, and I failed to properly supervise and manage affairs, which led to this unhappy event. It is all my fault.” Kim will resign dishonorably after serving for two years and eight months since his inauguration in June 2019.
A Record High 90,443 Cases of COVID-19 Confirmed in a Day: Number of Cases Set to Surpass 100,000
The Central Disease Control Headquarters announced that as of midnight February 16, they have confirmed 90,443 new cases of COVID-19 from the previous day. The number of cases jumped by over 33,000 from the previous day to set a new record surpassing 90,000 for the first time. According to the route of transmission, 90,281 cases were infected in the local community while 162 cases entered the country from overseas.
One Spouse and Underaged Children Only: Government “Selectively” Accepted Family Members of Special Afghan Contributors
The government selectively received family members of “special contributors” from Afghanistan, who requested to come to South Korea to escape threats of Taliban. According to the Kyunghyang Shinmun coverage on February 14, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs limited family members when allowing the entry of 390 special Afghan contributors to South Korea on August 26-27 last year to one spouse, parents and underaged children. The decision did not take into consideration the socio-cultural characteristics of Afghanistan, which has an Islamic culture of polygyny.
Maeil Business News Korea (http://www.pulsenews.co.kr/)
Shinsegae acquires Napa Valley winery for $250 mn
South Korean retail giant Shinsegae Group has acquired a Napa Valley winery in California of high-quality cult wines for $250 million for competitiveness in the growing wine market at home through direct production. Its discount-store chain operator Emart Inc. announced Wednesday that its property development subsidiary Shinsegae Property through wholly-owned U.S.-based Starfield Properties Ltd. has purchased a full stake in U.S. winery Shafer Vineyards for $250 million.
Samsung Heavy working to shed unsold drill facilities to private funds
Samsung Heavy Industries is working to shed four unsold oil drill facilities to private equity funds for about 1 trillion won ($843.7 million) while oil exploration has become active amid shortage of supplies, according to industry sources on Wednesday. The Korean shipmaking major is said to be in direct negotiations with individual PEFs for the offering without a sale manager and proposing to join financing of up to 200 billion won to ease the burden on the buyer, according to market sources close to the matter.
SK hynix develops next-gen accelerator-in-memory chip for AI, big-data storage
South Korea’s SK hynix Inc. announced Wednesday it has developed next-gen chip Processing-in-Memory (PIM) with computing capabilities that can solve data congestion issues for artificial intelligence and big data. Generally, memory chips store data whereas CPU or GPU process data. The latest SK hynix memory is enhanced with processing capabilities, according to the chipmaker.
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