Friday, March 18, 2022
Round-up of important news from major Korean dailies and from international media today
The Korea Post ( www.koreapost.com )
‘Green development, digitalization, strong social ties 3 major areas of bilateral cooperation’
This year marks the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Uzbekistan and South Korea. Over the past period, cooperation between our countries has risen to the level of a Special Strategic Partnership. In the period since the establishment of diplomatic relations between our countries, South Korea has become a reliable friend and partner. This is evidenced by the fact that today this country is the fourth largest partner of Uzbekistan in foreign trade.
Data-processing, artificial intelligence actively contribute to actual farming
Rural Development Administration improves agricultural productivity using digital technology. It is expected that digital technology that brings together technologies related to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, such as big data and artificial intelligence, will be used in the agricultural field to greatly increase agricultural productivity. The Rural Development Administration (led by Administrator Park Byung-Hong) announced that his Administration has selected 10 core tasks to implement digital agriculture in the agricultural field at an early stage.
“After the tragedy in Myanmar, now we are facing it again in Ukraine!”
Chairperson Hyun-Sook Yoon of the International Women's Peace Group attended a ceremony to commemorate the 6th Annual Commemoration of the Declaration of Peace and Cessation of War. She said: "After the bloodshed in Myanmar, we are facing the tragedy of Ukraine again. The answer to peace is shown in the Article 10, Clause 38 of the DPCW,” which suggests a solution to preventing war. On March 14 at 8:00 pm (local time) in Korea during the HWPL 6th Annual Commemoration of the Declaration of Peace and Cessation of War (DPCW)' held online, Chairman Man-Hee Lee said: "DPCW is the answer from Heaven for cessation of war and to achieve peace.
Chosun Ilbo (http://english.chosun.com)
Online Shops Mushroom in Pandemic
Online stores have mushroomed thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, and so has the number of entrepreneurs taking a stab at the business. The prevailing view now is that starting an online retail business is less risky than the old staple for retirees who want their own small business of opening a franchise restaurant or convenience store. But while the entry barriers may be lower, the sheer number of new players means competition is just as fierce as in the offline streets and alleys. According to Café 24, the biggest e-commerce start-up platform in Korea, a whopping 288,762 online shops opened in 2020 and 2021 using its tool kit, up 35.8 percent compared to the previous two years.
Employment Grows But Not Among Core Workforce
Korea's employment rate rose to a record 60.6 percent last month but fell among people in their 40s, who are the backbone of the country's economy. Statistics Korea on Wednesday said 27.4 million were in work last month, up 1.04 million compared to a year ago and the second straight month of growth after rising by 1.14 million in January. The employment grew by more than 1 million for over a month was from November 1999 until May 2000. But experts said it is still too early to conclude that the job market has improved because the on-year comparison is with a deep slump in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.
Workers Dodge COVID Tests for Fear of Losing Pay
Workers paid on a daily or hourly basis like freelancers and delivery drivers increasingly shun COVID-19 tests for fear of losing pay if they are forced to self-isolate. Some even report to work despite coronavirus symptoms like fever and dry cough, which is possible because health authorities no longer track and trace patients, while the Omicron variant is generally mild. The trend is expected to spread now the government has cut down on support payments for people who are hospitalized or quarantined if they test positive. Some experts warn that this could lead to a growing number of "hidden" carriers.
Joongang Ilbo (https://koreajoongangdaily.joins.com )
Presidential office is likely moving to Yongsan
President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol is expected to move the presidential office to the Defense Ministry compound in Yongsan District, central Seoul, according to his officials Thursday. Yoon received a report from his transition team on options for relocating the presidential office Thursday afternoon. Key officials said Yongsan is pretty much confirmed, and that Yoon is expected to make a final decision by the weekend at the latest. During the campaign, Yoon pledged to move the presidential office to the central government complex in Gwanghwamun, downtown Seoul, to make the presidential office less isolated and more approachable to the public and the press.
Days may be numbered for Kumgang's floating hotel
Satellite imagery shows that North Korea has begun dismantling some of the facilities formerly operated by South Korean company Hyundai Asan at the Mount Kumgang resort, according to a report by Voice of America (VoA). Photographs of the resort taken between March 5 and 9 by Planet Labs show that the roof of the floating Haegumgang Hotel, docked on the coastal area of the resort, has become darker, according to Voice of America on March 11. Satellite images showed heavy machinery moved in front of the facility, raising suspicions it may be in place to remove or demolish the hotel. South Korean officials said on March 10 they had detected signs that the North could be moving to dismantle parts of the resort complex, but did not specify which.
BOK isn't fazed by Fed's jacking up of interest rates
The Federal Reserve’s lifting of its benchmark interest rate was hawkish but not unexpected, according to the Bank of Korea. The Federal Reserve on Wednesday approved an interest rate increase of a quarter percentage point to a range of 0.25 percent to 0.5 percent on an eight-to-one vote. One policy board member advocated a 0.5 percent hike. It was the first U.S. interest rate increase in more than three years. Interest rates have been near zero since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.“The result of the Federal Open Market Committee meeting was considered rather hawkish but not beyond expectations,” said the Bank of Korea Deputy Gov. Park Jong-seok.
The Dong-A Ilbo (http://english.donga.com/)
President-elect Yoon completes phone talks to all four Quad leaders
South Korean President-elect Yoon Seok-youl on Thursday had a phone call with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi – the 5th major head of state with whom he spoke since he was elected the 20th South Korean president. Yoon has talked to the leaders of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) – the United States, Japan, Australia and India – over the phone for the past eight days after being elected.
Zero percent quota tariff to be applied to key semiconductor parts
Zero percent quota tariff will be applied to neon, xenon, and krypton, which are used for semiconductor-related processes, starting April. The South Korean government has decided to provide support to businesses struggling with soaring prices caused by supply issues from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.“Zero percent quota tariff will be applied from April to neon, xenon, and krypton, whose supplies are highly dependent on Russia and Ukraine,” said Hong Nam-ki, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance, during an emergency economy meeting of the central response headquarters on Thursday. The materials’ current quota tariff is 5.5 percent.
U.S. key interest rates likely to increase to 1.9 percent this year
The United States has showed clear signals of raising key interest rates at last. It seemingly intends to hold back the rising prices to the worst levels in 40 years in the domestic market despite dark clouds over the global economy due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The U.S. Federal Reserve on Wednesday (local time) announced after two-day regular sessions of the FOMC Meetings that the key interest rates of zero to 0.25 percent will go up by 0.25 percentage points to 0.25 to 0.5 percent, marking its first move to increase key interest rates in three years and three months since December 2018.
Maeil Business News Korea (http://www.pulsenews.co.kr/)
President-elect Yoon reiterates need to move KDB to Busan
President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol has reiterated his firm stance on the relocation of state-run policy bank Korea Development Bank (KDB) to Busan from Seoul to groom the nation’s second largest city as a financial hub, a move that has already faced strong opposition from the bank’s labor union. Yoon on Wednesday had an in-depth conversation with Busan Mayor Park Hyung-joon over his presidential pledge to relocate KDB to Busan, according to President-elect Yoon’s chief secretary Chang Je-won.
KHNP keeps up sizable profit despite widening loss at KEPCO
South Korea’s state-run Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. (KHNP) was the sole unit to turn out a sizeable profit last year under state utility Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) which incurred a net loss of $4.3 billion last year, backing the rationale for greater employment of nuclear reactors to meet carbon emission goals amid soaring fuel import prices. KHNP reported a net profit of 302.2 billion won ($247 million) on sales of 9.32 trillion won last year, the best performer among public power generation companies, according to a report published by the KEPCO on Wednesday.
BOK may have to go under acting governorship during transition period
The Bank of Korea (BOK) may have to run under acting governorship for a month or so after governor Lee Ju-yeol finishes his second term late this month as tensions between the outgoing and incoming presidents can get in the way of the appointment that requires legislative confirmation process. President Moon Jae-in and president-elect Yoon Suk-yeol of the rivaling party were to meet on Wednesday, but the tete-a-tete was cancelled at the last minute to suggest bumpy transition.
HanKyoReh Shinmun (http://english.hani.co.kr)
Is Yoon’s earlier than expected call with Australian PM his first bid at joining Quad?
South Korean President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol discussed ideas for advancing South Korea-Australia relations in a telephone conversation Wednesday with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Addressing the press on Wednesday, spokesperson Kim Eun-hye said Yoon had “spoken by telephone with Prime Minister Morrison for 25 minutes at 6 pm today.” “President-elect Yoon and Prime Minister Morrison agreed on the need to expand their comprehensive strategic partnership, which was upgraded last year for the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations, and to pursue cooperation in advanced areas such as carbon neutrality and space while stepping up their collaboration on building stable supply chains in areas such as core minerals,” she noted.
Dispute over presidential pardons, personnel appointments likely at fault for Moon-Yoon meeting breakdown
A scheduled first meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol was abruptly canceled on Wednesday morning four hours before it was supposed to take place. It was the first-ever case of a meeting between the South Korean president and president-elect being canceled the same day that it was scheduled to take place. The decision appeared to have to do with their failure to bridge differences over appointment powers for public institutions and Yoon’s formal proposal to discuss pardoning imprisoned former President Lee Myung-bak. The tension between the two sides appears likely to continue for some time amid the head-on clash between the outgoing and incoming administrations during the transition period.
Joint Chiefs: Likely ICBM launched by N. Korea exploded in air
North Korea test-launched what is believed to have been a new intercontinental ballistic missile on Wednesday, but the projectile exploded in midair shortly after its launch. The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) announced Wednesday that North Korea “launched a projectile from the area of Sunan near Pyongyang at 0930 on March 16, but it is believed to have failed shortly after launch.” The projectile launch was North Korea’s 10th this year. A South Korean military official said, “It appears to have failed in the early launch stage without achieving much of an altitude.”
The KyungHyangShinmun (http://english.khan.co.kr/)
New Daily Cases of COVID-19 Reach 621,328. Number of Deaths Soar to 429
The Central Disease Control Headquarters announced that as of midnight March 17, they have confirmed 621,328 new cases of COVID-19 from the previous day. The number of daily cases jumped by over 220,000 in just a day pushing the total over 600,000 for the first time. Authorities also confirmed 429 more deaths, also a record high, which far surpassed the previous record of 293 set on midnight March 15. Currently, 1,159 patients are in critical condition.
“Hush!” to Positive Rapid Antigen Test Results: “Shy” Omicron on the Rise
A, who works as a security guard at an apartment complex in Seongdong-gu, Seoul, recently visited a COVID-19 screening center to get a PCR test, but turned away without getting tested. After suffering from a sore throat, he used a self-test kit, which came back positive, but instead of getting a PCR test, he spent a week going to work as usual. In a phone call with the reporter on March 16, A said, “They say you have to wait at least two hours to get a (PCR) test. Even if I’m confirmed positive, I can’t afford to not go to work, so I gave up (on the test).” He further said, “I didn’t have clear symptoms, and I thought it would be okay since I was alone at the security guard post.”
Today’s Meeting Between President Moon and President-elect Yoon Canceled, “Working-level Discussions Yet to Be Concluded”
The meeting between President Moon Jae-in and President-elect Yoon Seok-youl, scheduled for March 16, was canceled. In a written briefing this day, Cheongwadae spokesperson Park Kyung-mee said, “We decided to reschedule the meeting of President Moon and President-elect Yoon Seok-youl, planned for today, because working-level discussions have not been completed.” Park added, “We will continue our discussions at the working level.”
Yoon Holds Phone Talks with Indian Prime Minister
President-elect Yoon Suk Yeol held phone talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday and discussed expanding economic cooperation between the two nations. Yoon's spokesperson Kim Eun-hye said Yoon spoke with the Indian prime minister on the phone for about 20 minutes on Thursday. In the call, Yoon reportedly expressed hope that the two nations will develop and deepen their special strategic partnership on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of establishing diplomatic ties next year.
Large Automakers Allowed to Enter Used Car Market
The government has decided to allow large car companies to advance into the secondhand car market despite opposition from secondhand car dealers. A deliberation committee under the Ministry of SMEs and Startups held a meeting on Thursday and decided not to designate secondhand vehicles sales as one of the livelihood businesses that should be protected and reserved for small businesses. The decision effectively opened the used car market to large companies.
Yoon's Transition Team to Inspect Foreign, Defense Ministry Buildings Friday
President-elect Yoon Suk Yeol's transition team will inspect the buildings of the foreign and defense ministries on Friday before deciding the site for Yoon's office. Members of the subcommittee for planning and foreign affairs plan to visit the foreign ministry building in Gwanghwamun and the defense ministry building in Yongsan on Friday afternoon. The members plan to inspect the buildings closely and select one through consultation with Yoon. On Thursday, Yoon met with key members of his transition team, including Chairperson Ahn Cheol-soo, and decided to relocate the presidential office to either the foreign ministry building or the defense ministry compound.
S. Korea's new COVID-19 cases spike to over 600,000 amid omicron spread
South Korea's new daily COVID-19 cases spiked to more than 600,000 on Thursday, setting another record high, fueled by the spread of the highly transmissible omicron variant amid an easing of virus curbs. The country reported 621,328 new COVID-19 infections, including 62 cases from overseas, raising the total to 8,250,592, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said. The latest tally marks a 55 percent surge in just one day. South Korea has seen a spike in the caseload since it reported the first five-digit figures in late January of this year. Since then, the numbers have grown fast, surpassing 300,000 on March 9.
Yoon to move presidential office to foreign ministry or defense ministry building
President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol decided Thursday to relocate the presidential office to either the foreign ministry building or the defense ministry compound after weighing the options with his transition team, his spokesperson said. Yoon met with key members of the team, including Chairman Ahn Cheol-soo and members of the subcommittees for planning and foreign affairs, and chose the two sites, Kim Eun-hye said in a statement. "The members of the relevant subcommittees decided to visit the sites tomorrow afternoon for an inspection," she said.
Yoon completes composition of transition team
The remaining members of President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol's transition team were announced Thursday, including members of the subcommittees for the economy and science and three spokespeople. Lee Chang-yang, a professor of management engineering at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, was appointed to lead the second subcommittee for economic affairs, Yoon's spokesperson, Kim Eun-hye, said during a press briefing.
The Korea Herald (http://www.koreaherald.com)
Kim Jong-un views US military presence as ‘bulwark’ against China threat: Pompeo
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un views US forces stationed in South Korea as a counterweight and “bulwark” against China’s “real threat” to his sovereignty, former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday. The former top US diplomat underscored that a critical lesson he learned from nuclear talks with Pyongyang is Kim’s perception of the United States Forces Korea, although the Trump administration “didn’t get all the way to try to convince Chairman Kim that his nuclear weapons pose more of a threat to him than they did a security blanket.”
US Fed begins inflation fight with rate hike, more to come
The Federal Reserve launched a high-risk effort Wednesday to tame the worst inflation since the early 1980s, raising its benchmark short-term interest rate and signaling up to six additional rate hikes this year. The Fed's quarter-point hike in its key rate, which it had pinned near zero since the pandemic recession struck two years ago, marks the start of its effort to curb the high inflation that followed the recovery from the recession. The rate hikes will eventually mean higher loan rates for many consumers and businesses.
Samsung SDI hints at new EV battery plant in US
Samsung SDI CEO Choi Yoon-ho on Thursday hinted at the possibility of building the battery maker’s own plant in the US, a burgeoning market for electric vehicles where the company is setting up a joint venture with Stellantis, the maker of Jeep, Fiat and Peugeot vehicles.“Adding to the joint venture with Stellantis, we think there needs to be our own production base in the US,” Choi told reporters after a general meeting of shareholders in Seoul. “We are considering diverse ways to beef up production capacity there.”
The Korea Times (http://www.koreatimes.co.kr)
Fate of gender equality ministry back in limbo
The fate of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family has emerged as a controversial post-election issue, as President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol has refused to back down from his campaign pledge to abolish the ministry after winning the election on March 9. Yoon and his party, the conservative main opposition People Power Party (PPP), have accused the ministry of dividing men and women with certain policy measures such as setting quotas for women in public- and private-sector jobs, and claim the ministry's existence amounts to "reverse discrimination."
Once COVID-19 success stories, what went wrong in Hong Kong and Korea?
Using different approaches, Hong Kong and South Korea managed to keep COVID cases mostly under control until late last year. In fact, they did such a good job that the two countries were referred to as success cases of curbing the virus without resorting to draconian measures such as lockdowns, which wreak havoc on the economy. But the number of infection cases has shot up in both places in recent months, along with the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant.
Yoon, Indian PM discuss security, economic cooperation
President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol spoke by phone with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday and discussed expanding cooperation on security and economic issues, Yoon's spokesperson said. During the 20-minute call, Yoon said he hopes to deepen and develop the two countries' special strategic partnership on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations next year, Kim Eun-hye, the spokesperson, said in a written briefing.
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