Monday, April 18, 2022
Round-up of important news from major Korean dailies and from international media today
The Korea Post ( www.koreapost.com )
Korea, Indonesia hold talks regarding CEPA, IPEF
Trade, Industry, and Energy Minister Moon Sung-wook held a videoconference with Indonesia’s Trade Minister Muhammad Lutfi on April 11 to discuss the Korea-Indonesia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), and other trade issues. This meeting was a follow-up to further the Korea-Indonesia Economic Cooperation Committee talks held in Jakarta on Feb. 22. The two trade chiefs concurred that it would be vital for both countries to continue expanding their cooperation based on trade platforms such as CEPA and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in order to respond effectively to the rapidly changing trade landscape and global supply chain uncertainties triggered by the recent Ukraine crisis.
Yoon fills all 18 ministerial nominees
President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol has finished the nomination of all 18 Cabinet positions ahead of the launch of his administration on May 10. President-elect Yoon announced his nominees for agriculture and labor ministers on April 14 to complete his first Cabinet lineup. Earlier, Yoon announced the nominees for 16 ministers on two occasions on April 10 and 13. Chung Hwang-keun, former head of the Rural Development Administration and a former presidential secretary for agriculture, was appointed agriculture minister, while Lee Jung-sik, former secretary general of the Korea Labor and Employment Service, was named for labor minister.
Yoon taps Rep. Park as Foreign Minister, Rep Kwon as Unification Minister
Rep. Park Jin of the People Power Party (PPP) was nominated as the first foreign minister of the Yoon Suk-yeol government. Rep. Park, who passed the state-run foreign affairs examination, served as the secretary for political affairs and public affairs at the Presidential Office Cheong Wa Dae during former President Kim Young-sam’s administration, and held four terms as National Assemblyman after the 16th general elections. (See further personal details on Park toward the end of this report.)
Chosun Ilbo (http://english.chosun.com)
Top Korean, U.S. Brass Board American Aircraft Carrier
Top South Korean and U.S. brass have boarded the 100,000-ton nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in the East Sea to send a warning to North Korea. Gen. Won In-choul, the chair of the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Paul LaCamera, the chief of Combined Forces Command, met aboard the Lincoln on Thursday, a military spokesman here said. Won and LaCamera spent five or six hours aboard the carrier, where they had discussions and met with crew. They exchanged opinions on the tactical plans of the CFC and discussed an upcoming joint naval exercise that kicks off next Monday.
Tainted Builder Fights off Suspension
A court has issued an injunction against an eight-month ban of builder HDC Hyundai Development over a fatal accident on a demolition site in Gwangju. The Seoul Administrative Court on Thursday granted the injunction filed by HDC saying, "There are concerns that the applicant could suffer from irreparable damage due to the business suspension." The Seoul city government suspended HDC's business license on March 30 for eight months for failing to abide by building regulations, resulting in the collapse of a five-story building on a bus that was arriving on the roadside during demolition in Gwangju in June of last year, killing nine people and injuring eight.
Who Are Korea's 1%?
The top one percent of Korea's rich owned W2.92 billion in net assets last year, about W310 million more than a year earlier (US$1=W1,230). Those in the top 0.1 percent who are considered VVIP clients in banks, brokerages, airlines and department stores now have at least W7.7 billion in net assets. NH Investment and Securities in a report said the threshold for the One Percent has risen by 12 percent over the past year, mainly due to quantitative easing amid the coronavirus pandemic, which boosted stock and real estate markets. But who are these people? In a snapshot, they look rather old -- the biggest proportion are in their 60s with 34.6 percent, while 25.3 percent are in their 50s and 21.4 percent in their 70s. Only a very small proportion are in their 30s and 40s.
Joongang Ilbo (https://koreajoongangdaily.joins.com )
North tests 'new' tactical guided weapon in show of force
North Korea launched two short-range projectiles Saturday, according to South Korea's military Sunday, after Pyongyang announced it had conducted a new weapons test. The new weapons system "is of great significance in radically increasing the fire striking power of the long-range artillery units on the front and strengthening the effectiveness of tactical nuclear operation of the DPRK and diversification of the firepower task," said the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in an English-language report. It referred to the acronym for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un watched the test-firing of a "new-type tactical guided weapon" which "proved successful," according to the KCNA, without elaborating further on the date or type.
Social distancing ends Monday, but mask rules will remain
All social distancing restrictions end Monday with the exception of rules related to the wearing of masks. The lifting of the restrictions after two years comes as the number of Covid-19 cases drops dramatically. From Sunday at midnight, groups of any size can eat together, restaurants, bars and other establishments can stay open as late as legally allowed, the 299-person cap on assemblies and protests will be ended and religious gatherings will no longer have a 70-percent capacity limit. From April 25, visitors to movie theaters, indoor sports venues and religious facilities will be allowed to eat food at these sites.
Prosecutor General Kim Oh-soo submits resignation
The chief of the state prosecution service submitted his resignation Sunday to protest the ruling Democratic Party's (DP) push to strip the law enforcement agency of its investigative powers. Prosecutor General Kim Oh-soo issued a statement after tendering his resignation saying he bore responsibility for the ruling party's legislative drive to defang the state prosecution service. In the statement, he apologized to the people and prosecutors for the ongoing political conflict and turmoil surrounding the push to "completely deprive the prosecution of investigative powers," as the DP has described the issue. Since President Moon Jae-in took office in May 2017, his administration and ruling DP have pushed a series of so-called reforms to weaken the power of state-run agencies, particularly the prosecution service.
The Dong-A Ilbo (http://english.donga.com/)
Prosecutor General Kim submits letter of resignation
Prosecutor General Kim Oh-soo (photo) submitted a letter of resignation to Justice Minister Park Beom-gye on Sunday in protest of the bill proposal to entirely remove investigative rights of public prosecutors. If Kim, whose term lasts until May next year, resigns, it is deemed to impact the resignation of other district and local public prosecutors.“I sincerely apologize for the conflicts and disputes on the legislative procedures taking place for the proposed bill.
3.22 million workers paid less than minimum wage in Korea
The number of workers who were paid less than the minimum wage reached a total of 3,215,000 last year, a survey showed. It was the second largest yearly number after 2019 (3,386,000). The number of workers earning less than the minimum wage stays at the 3 million level since 2018 when the number topped 3 million for the first time and when the minimum wage was raised 16.4 percent from the previous year. Announced on Sunday, the Korea Employers Federation’s analysis showed a total of 3,215,000 of 20,992,000 salaried workers were paid less than the minimum wage last year.
Ukraine president asks US to name Russia as state sponsor of terrorism
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky warned of Russia’s possible use of nuclear weapons and asked the U.S. to name Russia as state sponsor of terrorism.“The intelligence that Russia may use nuclear weapons could be true. It should be a matter of concern not only for myself but to every country in the world,” said President Zelensky on CNN on Friday. “Given the potential desperation of President Putin and Russian leadership, given the setbacks they’ve faced so far militarily, none of us can take lightly the threat posed by a potential resort to tactical nuclear weapons or low-yield nuclear weapons,” said CIA director William Burns on Thursday.
Maeil Business News Korea (http://www.pulsenews.co.kr/)
S. Korea entirely returns to normal from Covid-19 mitigation rules from next week
South Korea is lifting all quarantine regulations to contain virus spread from business restrictions to isolation for infected people except for mask-wearing starting next week. Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum announced Friday that restaurants, cafes and other multiuse facilities will be able to operate freely without the current midnight curfew, starting Monday, while the 10-person limit on the size of private gatherings will be lifted together with entrance control at religious establishments.
Korea’s No. 2 app market One Store keeps to IPO band of $28-34 for pricing on May 10
One Store Co., South Korea’s No. 2 mobile app store in joint venture with Korean wireless carriers and internet giant Naver, confirmed it would price initial shares at a band of 34,300 won ($28) to 41,700 won on May 10. One Store set book-building session for May 9-10, later than its initial plan under revised IPO prospectus filed with the financial authority on Thursday. Public subscription will take place on May 12-13 with an aim to list the company on the Kospi market by the end of May.
LG Energy Solution CEO buys $341,000 worth treasury shares, but stock unmoved
The chief executive of South Korea’s top battery maker LG Energy Solution bought 1,000 shares of the company whose stock has been battered since blockbuster debut on the Kospi in January. Kwon Young-soo, chief executive officer of LG Energy Solution Ltd, purchased 1,000 common shares for total 420 million won ($341,075), or 420,000 won apiece. On Friday, the No.2 Kospi stock stayed flat at 441,000 won as of 1:10 p.m. in Seoul. The stock debuted on Jan. 27 at 597,000 won but it has been downhill since.
HanKyoReh Shinmun (http://english.hani.co.kr)
Caught Omicron? Here’s what you can do to manage the pain
The Omicron wave of the COVID-19 virus has represented a shift in the dominant disease control paradigm from that of “zero COVID” to that of “living with COVID.” China’s zero-COVID regime operates under the assumption that stringent disease control measures can curb the spread of the virus. In contrast, the “living with COVID” paradigm, which was spearheaded by Japan when it pushed ahead with the Tokyo Olympics despite the Delta wave last year, acknowledges the limits of disease control. As Omicron became the dominant strain of the COVID-19 virus across the world this year, most countries except China decided to adopt a system of living with COVID.
Han Dong-hoon: Yoon’s right-hand man and soon-to-be “super” Cabinet member
President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol’s choice of Han Dong-hoon as his justice minister nominee is prompting criticism from those within the People Power Party and the larger conservative camp, who are calling the appointment incomprehensible as it pertains to national unity and cooperative governance. It’s an unprecedented move of favoritism based on personal relations, but more than that, it’s already prompting predictions that Yoon hopes Han, his right-hand man and closest associate, will play a role much more significant than that of justice minister, and may even go so far as to actually assigning Han such a role.
Ukrainian ambassador calls off visit to S. Korean missile manufacturer
The Ukrainian ambassador to South Korea canceled a planned visit to a Korean company that manufactures missiles.
Ambassador Dmytro Ponomarenko had been planning to visit LIG Nex1 on Friday but called off the visit after it was reported on by the press, a source in the defense industry told the Hankyoreh on Thursday. The Ukrainian embassy to South Korea had recently set up a visit for the ambassador to the company’s headquarters in Pangyo, south of Seoul. LIG Nex1 is the manufacturer of multiple missile systems, including the Cheongung medium-range surface-to-air missile, the Singung portable surface-to-air missile, and the Hyeongung portable anti-tank missile.
The KyungHyangShinmun (http://english.khan.co.kr/)
Paintings by Wife of Prime Minister Nominee Han Duck-soo Sold to Hyosung Group and Booyoung Housing for Tens of Millions of Won
Choi (74), an artist and the wife of prime minister nominee Han Duck-soo, sold four pieces of her artworks to the Hyosung Group and Booyoung Housing for 39 million won. She held two solo exhibitions in the last ten years and sold tens of millions of won worth of her paintings, but she stated her occupation as “housework” in a document submitted for her husband’s confirmation hearing. Choi’s cash assets increased by 850 million won in the last ten years. The Democratic Party of Korea requested Choi and the owner of the gallery where Choi’s works were on display as witnesses in the confirmation hearing to see who bought Choi’s paintings, the price of the paintings, and how Choi came to increase her property.
Ukraine Asked South Korea for the Russian T-80 Tank Surprising the South Korean Military
On April 14, it was confirmed that Ukraine, at war with Russia, originally asked the South Korean defense ministry for 150-200 items of military supplies. The items Ukraine requested included weapons of destruction as well as non-destructive military supplies. Among the items on the list was the T-80U, a Russian tank that the South Korean military imported as part of the Brown Bear Project. The Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov asked for weapons in a phone call with Minister of National Defense Suh Wook on April 8. A military official said, “In the process of preparing for the ministerial phone call, the working-level staff at the defense ministries of the two countries adjusted the agenda,” and added, “In these discussions, the Ukrainian defense ministry requested military supplies of around 150-200 items.”
Cho Eung-cheon, “Han Dong-hoon Will Become a Powerful Minister, Not a Powerful Secretary. The Nomination Was a Response to the Attempt to Strip Prosecutors of Investigative Authority”
On April 14, Democratic Party of Korea lawmaker Cho Eung-cheon spoke about justice minister nominee Han Dong-hoon and said, “It’s a justice minister who will also serve as senior secretary for civil affairs. He will become a powerful minister, not a powerful secretary.” He claimed that the nomination of Han could only be accepted as a countermeasure to the Democratic Party’s decision to strip the prosecution of investigative power. Cho spoke these words on the MBC radio show, Kim Jong-bae’s Focus, this day. The lawmaker said, “The affairs of the senior secretary for civil affairs include communication with the Prosecution Service, and since they can understand each other just by looking into each other’s eyes, they can take care of that without a senior secretary for civil affairs.”
US Nuke Envoy in S. Korea for Talks on N. Korea
U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Sung Kim will arrive in South Korea on Monday for a five-day trip. Seoul's foreign ministry said Kim will hold talks with his South Korean counterpart Noh Kyu-duk on Monday afternoon at the ministry building in Seoul. The meeting comes two weeks after their talks in Washington on April 4. The top envoys are expected to share their assessments of the situation on the Korean Peninsula and discuss the international community's response to the North's recent intercontinental ballistic missile(ICBM) launches. During the trip, the U.S. envoy will reportedly meet with President-elect Yoon Suk Yeol's nominees for foreign minister and unification minister.
Inflation in OECD Area Rises 7.7% in February, Highest since 1990
Members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) saw their prices soar to the highest levels in over three decades in February. According to the recent data by the OECD on Sunday, the inflation rate of 38 OECD members came to seven-point-seven percent in February. The reading marks the highest in 31 years and two months since December 1990, right before the Gulf War. Inflation climbed further in February, up point-five percentage points from a month ago and six percentage points from a year earlier. The OECD said that soaring energy prices continued to boost inflation in a majority of OECD countries, but inflation of food prices also showed a notable increase.
High Prosecutors to Hold Meeting to Discuss Responses to Reform Bill
The Supreme Prosecutors' Office will convene an emergency meeting of senior prosecutors on Monday to discuss responses to the Democratic Party’s legislative drive to strip the state prosecution of its investigative powers. The meeting, set for 9:30 a.m. on Monday, will be attended by the six heads of high prosecutors' offices across the nation. The meeting comes after Prosecutor General Kim O-su submitted his resignation on Sunday in an apparent protest against the DP's push for the reform bill. On April 8, the senior prosecutors held a similar meeting chaired by Kim and decided to actively oppose the passage of the bill. In the planned meeting on Monday, the prosecutors' office chiefs are expected to discuss follow-up measures to Kim's resignation.
N.K. leader inspects new tactical guided weapons test to improve nuke efficiency
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un oversaw the successful test-firing of a new tactical guided weapon meaningful in improving the efficiency of tactical nuclear operations, Pyongyang's state media announced Sunday. The new weapon system is "of great significance in drastically improving the firepower of the frontline long-range artillery units and enhancing the efficiency in the operation of tactical nukes of the DPRK and diversification of their firepower missions," the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said. The DPRK is the acronym for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Top prosecutor offers to resign amid liberal party's reform drive
Prosecutor General Kim Oh-soo tendered his resignation Sunday in an apparent protest against the liberal Democratic Party (DP)'s push for stripping his organization of investigative powers as part of its politically controversial reform drive. Kim issued a statement making public his decision, saying it is to take responsibility for a related ongoing legislative process against the state prosecution service. He apologized to the people and members of the service for conflicts and trouble surrounding the matter. He said he hopes that his move will serve as an opportunity for lawmakers to closely review the highly sensitive issue that requires public consensus through hearings and an agreement between the ruling and opposition parties.
New COVID-19 cases below 100,000; distancing rules to be lifted this week
South Korea's new coronavirus cases fell below 100,000 on Sunday amid the continuing slowdown in infections, with the country set to lift major social distancing rules this week to return to pre-pandemic normalcy. The country added 93,001 more COVID-19 infections, including 18 cases from overseas, bringing the total caseload to 16,305,752, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said. The tally marked a drop from 107,916 Saturday and 125,846 Friday. Daily virus cases fell below 100,000 for the first time in nine weeks for any virus counts announced Sunday. Daily virus infections have been on the decline after peaking at 621,178 on March 17 amid the fast spread of the omicron variant.
The Korea Herald (http://www.koreaherald.com)
Russia renews strikes in Kyiv, hits other cities
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) -- Russian forces accelerated scattered attacks on Kyiv, western Ukraine and beyond Saturday in an explosive reminder to Ukrainians and their Western supporters that the whole country remains under threat despite Moscow's pivot toward mounting a new offensive in the east. Stung by the loss of its Black Sea flagship and indignant over alleged Ukrainian aggression on Russian territory, Russia's military command had warned of renewed missile strikes on Ukraine's capital. Officials in Moscow said they were targeting military sites, a claim repeated -- and refuted by witnesses -- throughout 52 days of war.
Sewol ferry disaster lives on in memories
ANSAN, Gyeonggi Province/MOKPO, South Jeolla Province -- Ceremonies were held across the country on Saturday to commemorate the eight years since the April 16 sinking of Sewol ferry. Sewol’s sinking left a long-lasting mark on the collective memories of Koreans. From the moment the first 119 call for help was routed, up to the ferry’s submergence into the water, the tragedy was televised as it unfolded on April 16, 2014. The ferry, which was sailing through the Jindo archipelago in the farthest southwestern corner of Korea, sank at 2:37 p.m., nearly seven hours after capsizing that morning. Among 476 people aboard, 339 were Danwon High School students and faculty members on a field trip to Jeju Island.
N.Korea tests new guided missiles to reinforce ‘tactical nuclear operation’
North Korea on Sunday said the country test-fired a “new-type tactical guided weapon system” to enhance its capabilities to effectively operate “tactical nuclear weapons,” as part of a five-year defense plan to bolster up its “war deterrent.” North Korean leader Kim Jong-un observed the test launch of the new weapons system which has been “developed under special attention of the Party Central Committee,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported without revealing the date of the test-firing.
The Korea Times (http://www.koreatimes.co.kr)
Health minister nominee denies allegations surrounding his children
Health minister nominee Chung Ho-young, who has been mired in allegations of using his position to help his children enter medical school and avoid mandatory military service, denied all of the accusations on Sunday. "I assure you that I never did anything wrong regarding my children using my social title," Chung said during a press conference at National Medical Center. "My children transferring to a medical school and my son being exempt from mandatory military service had all proceeded according to ways in which the maximum level of fairness was guaranteed."
President-elect to send diplomatic delegation to Japan
President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol will send a diplomatic delegation to Japan next week, two weeks after his first group of emissaries to the United States returned to Seoul after wrapping up their meetings with government officials and think tank experts. This is seen as an indication of Yoon's diplomatic goal of mending Seoul's ties with Tokyo and improving trilateral cooperation between South Korea, the U.S. and Japan particularly to counter North Korea's escalating missile and nuclear threats. Yoon's spokesperson Bae Hyun-jin said Sunday that Yoon will send a delegation comprised of seven diplomats and scholars to Japan on April 24. After meeting their counterparts at Japan's foreign ministry, National Diet and academia, they will return home on April 28.
'Rebellious' candidates become headaches for parties
"Fasting: Day 3. Being hungry is tough to endure. But finding peace in my mind is tougher," former lawmaker Kim Jin-tae tweeted on Sunday, reflecting his struggle to control his anger. His social media post was uploaded hours before he held a press conference to urge the main opposition People Power Party (PPP) to hold a primary to select its candidate to run in the election for the governor of Gangwon Province and cancel its earlier top-down decision to give President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol's aide the green light to run in the actual election without an internal competition. Kim said he was told that the PPP's committee had disqualified him as his past disparaging remarks about the May 18 Uprising in the southern city of Gwangju and active involvement in right-wing rallies to fight for the release of then-jailed former President Park Geun-hye would do a disservice to the conservative party's effort to unify its voters
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