Wednesday, May 4, 2022
Round-up of important news from major Korean dailies and from international media today
The Korea Post ( www.koreapost.com )
Yoon Suk-yeol meets with Australian Ambassador Catherine Raper
President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol met with Australian Ambassador Catherine Raper at the office of the Presidential Transition Committee in Tongui-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul on May 3. Yoon said, "South Korea and Australia need to further strengthen their joint cooperation to contribute to maintaining international order based on values and norms." Bae Hyun-jin, spokeswoman of President-elect Yoon, said in a written commentary that Yoon asked Australian Amb. Raper to support cooperation between South Korea and the Quad working group. In response, Amb. Raper reportedly replied, "Korea and Australia are similar countries that share core values, and they believe there is a lot of room to strengthen cooperation in various fields, and I will do my best as ambassador to Korea."
The world's largest int’l event in forestry held in Korea
The opening ceremony of the 15th World Forestry Congress was held at COEX in Seoul on May 2, kicking off its five-day run until May 6. The opening ceremony started with a welcome speech by Minister Choi Byeong-am of Korea Forest Service, followed by the opening speech of the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on video and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) PR ambassador Princess Basma Bint Ali of Jordan. As a youth representative, President Magdalena of the International Forest Students' Association (IFSA), gave an opening speech.
23rd JEONJU International Film Festival, Press Conference to declare support for Ukraine
he 23rd JEONJU International Film Festival (JEONJU IFF, Festival Director LEE Joondong) held a press conference to voice support for Ukraine. The executive directors of Korea’s international film festivals who agreed to support Ukraine gathered at the 23rd JEONJU IFF on Friday, April 29. JEONJU IFF (LEE Joondong) raised its voice along with Busan International Kids & Youth Film Festival (Kim Sang-hwa), Busan Intl. Film Festival (HUH Moonyung), Bucheon Intl. Fantastic Film Festival (SHIN Chul), DMZ Intl. Documentary Film Festival (JUNG Sang-jin), Seoul Intl. Women's Film Festival (PARK Kwang-su), Ulju Mountain Film Festival (BAE Chang-ho), Jecheon Intl. Music & Film Festival (CHO Sung-woo), and PyeongChang Intl. Peace Film Festival (BANG Eun-jin) at the press conference that day.
Chosun Ilbo (http://english.chosun.com)
More Seoulites Look for Homes in the Suburbs
Seoul residents are increasingly looking beyond the capital to buy homes in the suburbs and satellite cities as prices spiral out of control. Last year, Seoul residents made up the highest proportion of people looking for homes in surrounding Gyeonggi Province since 2009. According to the Korea Real Estate Board on Monday, 17.3 percent of a total 327,992 apartment transactions in Gyeonggi Province last year involved Seoul residents, up 2.1 percentage points compared to 2020.
Japan to Send FM to Yoon's Inauguration
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is expected to send his Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi to president-elect Yoon Seok-youl's inauguration on May 10. The dispatch is a tentative conciliatory gesture after years of icy relations. When he was foreign minister himself, Kishida attended former President Park Geun-hye's inauguration in 2013 as a special envoy of then Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Last week, People Power Party lawmaker Chung Jin-suk met with Kishida for 25 minutes and delivered a personal invite from Yoon. Former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, a more pro-Korean politician, will also attend the inauguration.
Kim Jong-un Keeps Threatening Preemptive Nuclear Strikes
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has once again threatened unspecified "hostile forces" with preemptive nuclear strikes, the second time in less than a week. The official [North] Korean Central News Agency on Saturday quoted Kim as saying the North will continue developing nuclear weapons so it can "preemptively and thoroughly contain and frustrate all dangerous attempts and threatening moves, including ever-escalating nuclear threats from hostile forces, if necessary." He made the remarks while praising top brass for a huge military parade in Pyongyang to mark the 90th anniversary of the army.
Joongang Ilbo (https://koreajoongangdaily.joins.com )
Moon Jae-in signs bills cutting Korea's prosecution down to size
President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday signed into law the controversial bills that will strip the prosecution of its investigative powers. The signing was done at Moon’s last Cabinet meeting before his term ends on May 9. “The laws that we are promulgating today will reduce the scope of the prosecution’s investigation,” Moon said. “This is to ensure the basic rights of the people while guaranteeing that the authorities in power are faithful to their original roles according to the principles of checks and balances and democratic control.“Despite efforts and achievements, concerns about the political neutrality, fairness and selective justice of the prosecution have not been resolved,” Moon said.
Yoon Suk-yeol's education minister nominee flames out
Kim In-chul walked away from his education minister appointment Tuesday, becoming the first cabinet pick by President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol to flame out. Kim spoke to reporters in front of the preparatory office for confirmation hearings in Yeouido, western Seoul, on Tuesday morning but refused to discuss the family favoritism charges that doomed his appointment. “I wanted to return the benefits I had received from the country and society through my last public service, but I was lacking a lot,” Kim said. “I won't give any explanation,” he said. “It's all my fault and my negligence.” Kim thanked President-elect Yoon for “entrusting him with heavy responsibility” and wished him luck.
Moon Jae-in probably won't pardon Lee Myung-bak, Lee Jae-yong
Outgoing President Moon Jae-in is not expected to grant any special pardons before his term ends May 9, according to Blue House officials. There has been speculation that Moon might pardon political or business figures such as former President Lee Myung-bak, former South Gyeongsang Gov. Kim Kyoung-soo, Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong or Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin. Blue House officials said that Moon, after much deliberation, decided against granting pardons for Buddha's Birthday, May 8, a day before the end of his five-year term. A high-ranking Blue House official said Monday, "To make a decision to grant a pardon, the Ministry of Justice must hold a pardon review committee and vote in advance. Logistically, it will not be easy to grant a special pardon before the end of the term."
The Dong-A Ilbo (http://english.donga.com/)
Education minister nominee withdraws from candidacy
Kim In-cheol, who was nominated for Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education, has withdrawn from his candidacy. He is the first candidate among President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol’s cabinet members to be withdrawn, being named as candidate in 20 days. Kim had been scheduled for parliamentary hearing on Friday.“I will be withdrawing from my candidacy as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education. I wished to return what I’ve received from the state and society through my service, but perhaps I am not adequate for the position,”
Inflation rises to nearly 5% in April
Consumer prices in April reached well above 4%, recording the highest increasing in more than 13 and a half years. Oil prices have risen more than 50%, impacted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Higher public utility prices have also driven inflation. Some experts say that inflation may rise to 6%, due to ongoing instability in resource prices and easing COVID-19 regulations. There is growing attention on whether base interest rates would be raised at the first Monetary Policy and Operation Committee under the Yoon Suk-yeol administration scheduled on May 26.
U.S. Supreme Court might overturn Roe vs. Wade
The U.S. Supreme Court might overturn one of its landmark decisions made 49 years ago, which recognized women’s right to abortion as a fundamental human right. Politico published an exclusive report on Monday that a majority of Supreme Court justices assented to reversing Roe vs. Wade, citing an initial draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito, which the newspaper obtained. According to the Politico, Justice Alito wrote, “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” and that its reasoning was “exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences.” “We hold that Roe must be overruled. It is time to return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives,” wrote Justice Alito.
Maeil Business News Korea (http://www.pulsenews.co.kr/)
Yongsan may finally gain traction in development as home to presidential office
Yongsan, a district in central Seoul located on the northern bank of the Han River and long neglected as home to U.S. army base, is finally set for a complete makeover as the base for new presidential office. Yongsan had been regular target of development blueprints in the past decade with government and city officials pushing to transform the central region adjacent to Seoul Station into a commercial landmark. The projects repeatedly fell through amid an absence of a control tower on national level urban developments, mayorship of differing ruling force, and opposition from civic and environment groups.
Samsung Elec face disgruntled shareholders and employees on top of other whammies
Samsung Electronics Co. grapples with disgruntled shareholders and employees as its stock remains mired in 52-week weakest despite desperate moves such as executive campaign to buy treasury shares amid worsening business conditions. Samsung Electronics turned positive, adding 0.59 percent to close at 67,700 won ($53.38) on Tuesday. The small lift came as the company turned eager to bolster stock price to appease shareholders and hopefully employees as the union has filed complaint over the management with the labor ministry over 9-percent increase in wage which it found meager against hot earnings streak.
Kospi’s P/E ratio halved from a year ago and against global peers
Kospi’s price-to-earnings ratio (P/E ratio) has nearly halved in a year to hover far below global peers, both in developed and emerging markets, despite stronger earnings to reflect scope of discount in Korean shares. According to comparative report from the Korea Exchange, the country’s sole stock market operator, Tuesday, Kospi recorded P/E ratio of 11.1x based on annual 2021 statements, more than halved from 26x of last year. P/E ratio, comparing a company’s share price to its earnings per share, is used to show whether it is overvalued or undervalued.
HanKyoReh Shinmun (http://english.hani.co.kr)
Moon uses final Cabinet meeting to promulgate prosecution reform legislation
In the final Cabinet meeting of his term, President Moon Jae-in promulgated two bills that will separate the prosecution services’ powers of indictment and investigation. A National Assembly plenary session took place at 10 am Tuesday to vote on the revision to the Criminal Procedure Act. This followed Saturday’s passage of the revision to the Prosecutors’ Office Act, the other half of the prosecution reform legislation. Later in the day, Moon presided over a Cabinet meeting to promulgate the two bills, officially making them law. The promulgation of the bills marks the completion of the Democratic Party’s bid to reduce and ultimately remove the prosecution service’s powers of investigation.
Is it time to reevaluate the stable standard of S. Korean won? Some experts say yes
The South Korean won finished trading at 1,265.1 to the US dollar on the Seoul foreign exchange market Monday, a rise of 9.20 from the closing price on the previous trading day. With the exchange rate approaching 1,300 won to the dollar, some market observers are increasingly raising the need to reevaluate the “stable” standard for the currency’s value in consideration of South Korea’s economic fundamentals in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The won-to-dollar exchange rate has not crossed the 1,300 threshold since the global financial crisis of 2008. Recently, the rate has been at its highest level since March 19, 2020, when it reached a closing price of 1,285.7 amid the financial and foreign exchange market turmoil sparked by the pandemic.
How Ukraine is setting the stage for a nuclear domino effect in Northeast Asia
The Cold War was a time when humankind trembled at the fearful prospect of nuclear war. But it was also a time when strategic stability coalesced from the strategy of nuclear deterrence and a range of negotiations about nuclear disarmament. That’s known as the paradox of the Cold War. But as the war in Ukraine becomes protracted, the Pandora’s box of the “nuclear taboo” that has persisted for more than 70 years is starting to rattle. More specifically, the growing possibility of low-yield tactical nuclear weapons being used is triggering concerns and controversy in countries around the world. There are even concerns that the war in Ukraine will cause the nuclear dominoes to fall in Northeast Asia.
The KyungHyangShinmun (http://english.khan.co.kr/)
Kim In-chul Steps Down as Education Minister Nominee, “I Will Not Make Any Excuses. It Is All My Fault”
On May 3, Kim In-chul announced his resignation as deputy prime minister and education minister nominee. Kim is the first nominee in Yoon Seok-youl’s first cabinet to step down before his confirmation. This morning at 9:30 a.m. Kim held an emergency press conference in the lobby of the Korea Institute of Educational Facility Safety and announced his resignation saying, “I wanted to return the benefits I received from the state and society with my last service, but there was much that I lacked.” He further said, “I will not make any excuses. It was all my negligence and my fault.” He continued and said, “I have no way to hide how sorry I am to President-elect Yoon Seok-youl, who trusted me with such an important position. I wish the success of the Yoon Seok-youl government, albeit from a distance.” He added, “Once again, I apologize to the people and ask for your understanding.”
Pardon for MB: 51.7% Say No, 40.4% Say Yes
On May 2, a survey showed that more than 50% of the people opposed granting former president Lee Myung-bak (MB) a pardon, while President Moon Jae-in contemplates the issue. According to a survey of 1,012 adult men and women conducted by the Korea Society Opinion Institute (KSOI) and TBS on April 29-30, 51.7% of the respondents opposed the pardon of Lee, while 40.4% said they supported the pardon. Opposition was high among people in their thirties (62.5%) and forties (71.7%); in the Gwangju, Jeolla region (78.1%); among white collar workers (59.5%), liberals (76.6%), Democratic Party of Korea supporters (85.2%); and among people who had voted for Lee Jae-myung (83.8%).
The Look on the First Day of New Mask Guidelines: 8 out of 10 Citizens Wore Masks
May 2 was the first day that citizens were allowed go outside without their masks. How many citizens came out without their masks? The reporter went around Eco City, a new town in Deokjin-gu, Jeonju-si in Jeollabuk-do at 6 a.m. I walked along the streets, around commercial buildings, and a sports park for about an hour and counted the number of citizens who wore or did not wear masks. The result? Eight out of ten citizens had their masks on. The first person that the reporter encountered as he headed out of his apartment was the security guard. He was inspecting the parking lot with his mask on. When asked, “Isn’t it okay to take off your mask?” he answered, “Wearing a mask has become so natural, it never occurred to me that I should take it off.”
Gender Ministry's Key Roles Dropped from Announced Policy Goals
The announcement of key policy tasks of the incoming Yoon Suk Yeol administration has fueled speculation that the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family may well be facing dissolution. In the list announced by the presidential transition committee on Tuesday, the gender ministry's role as a control tower for policies related to women and family has been dropped. With the transition team earlier deciding to keep the current government structure and delay any reorganization until after the new administration takes office, it is widely believed the gender ministry will be maintained for now, but it does not appear to be part of the new government’s long-term plans.
Confirmation Hearing for Health Minister Nominee Ends Abruptly in Bipartisan Clash
The confirmation hearing for President-elect Yoon Suk Yeol’s health minister nominee ended abruptly on Tuesday evening after the ruling Democratic Party(DP) lawmakers walked out, questioning the nominee’s explanations regarding the allegations surrounding him and his family. Health and welfare minister nominee Chung Ho-young was apologetic for causing public concerns during the session hosted by the National Assembly’s Health and Welfare Committee. However, he strongly defended himself against the accusations, calling them “groundless.”
Prosecution, PPP Criticize Promulgation of DP-led Bills
The prosecution has cried foul after a pair of bills seeking to further limit the agency’s investigative power were approved and promulgated by the Cabinet on Tuesday. Acting Prosecutor-General Park Sung-jin told reporters that he feels despondent over the passing of the legislation, which he claimed lacked due process. Park argued not only the parliament but also the government turned a blind eye to the necessary in-depth discussions and deliberations. Expressing regret over the lack of reflections of the prosecution’s concerns over the bills’ possible impact on the public, as well as procedural flaws in their passage, the top prosecutor pledged to actively respond by reviewing all available legal means against the bills, including a constitutional lawsuit.
Moon promulgates prosecution reform legislation
President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday promulgated two controversial bills on prosecution reform at the final Cabinet meeting before his term ends next week, paving the way for eventually stripping the prosecution of its power to investigate. The promulgation came hours after the ruling Democratic Party (DP) railroaded the last remaining bill on prosecution reform through the National Assembly amid opposition protest, completing its push to reduce and ultimately remove the prosecution's investigative powers.
BOK board members call for further rate hikes amid rising inflation pressure: minutes
Members of the central bank's rate-setting board called for further rate hikes after deciding to raise borrowing costs in April, saying the current interest rate level remains still "accommodative" amid worries over rising inflation pressure, minutes from the latest policy meeting showed Tuesday. In the rate-setting meeting on April 14, the monetary policy board of the Bank of Korea (BOK) voted unanimously to hike the policy rate by a quarter percentage point to 1.5 percent. This marked the fourth rate increase since August last year, as it grapples with inflation running high amid soaring energy prices and a rebound in demand from the pandemic.
U.S. to boost defense posture, prepositioned stocks in Indo-Pacific: Austin
The United States plans to boost its deterrence against China and North Korea, partly by increasing its "prepositioned stocks" of military supplies in the Indo-Pacific, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Monday. The U.S. defense chief also said the defense department plans to spend some US$6 billion in fiscal year 2023 to boost its deterrence posture in the Indo-Pacific. "So this budget invests some six billion dollars in the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, and in keeping with our new national defense strategy, we are going to enhance our force posture, our infrastructure, our presence and our readiness in the Indo-Pacific, including the missile defense of Guam," he said in a budget hearing before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.
The Korea Herald (http://www.koreaherald.com)
Transition team sets out 110 national tasks for Yoon administration
Yoon Suk-yeol’s presidential transition committee announced 110 national tasks on Tuesday. The tasks include reversing the phase out of nuclear power, cut real estate taxes, and improve welfare for soldiers. The team estimated that the new government would require an additional 209 trillion won ($165 billion) over the next five years to implement the plans. Yoon Suk-yeol’s government will scrap Moon’s nuclear phase-out policy and work to strengthen the nuclear industry.
Moon Jae-in signs controversial prosecution bills into law
President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday promulgated the two controversial bills on prosecution reform despite fierce opposition from the public and related sectors, seeing further progress on his vow to overhaul the law enforcement agency. At the last Cabinet meeting of his five-year term held 2 p.m. Tuesday, Moon officially signed the two prosecution reform bills that passed the final vote at the National Assembly, completing the Democratic Party of Korea’s push to strip most of the remaining investigative powers from the prosecution.
S.Korean, Chinese nuclear envoys commit to ‘close strategic communication’ on N.Korea
The chief nuclear envoys of South Korea and China on Tuesday discussed ways to cooperate in managing the situation on the Korean Peninsula and committed to continue “close strategic communication” to resolve North Korean issues. Noh Kyu-duk, special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, held his first face-to-face talks with his Chinese counterpart, Liu Xiaoming, in the morning at the Foreign Ministry building in Seoul. Liu, special representative of the Chinese government on Korean Peninsula affairs, is on his first trip to Seoul since his appointment in April 2021.
The Korea Times (http://www.koreatimes.co.kr)
Moon signs controversial prosecutorial reform bills into law
President Moon Jae-in signed into law bills aimed at limiting prosecutors' investigative powers, snubbing protests from prosecutors and the main opposition People Power Party (PPP). During a Cabinet meeting, Tuesday, Moon approved revised bills of the Prosecutors' Office Act and the Criminal Procedure Act, which were passed by the National Assembly on April 30 and Tuesday, respectively. "Despite the government's achievements to help authorities to be faithful to their roles, there are concerns about the prosecution's political neutrality, fairness and selective justice," Moon said during the meeting. "I believe this is why the National Assembly took a step forward to separate prosecutors' investigative powers from their authority to indict."
US considers sending second gentleman to Yoon's inauguration
The U.S. government is considering sending the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris as an official delegate to South Korean President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol's inauguration ceremony in Seoul next week, according to a source Tuesday. Second gentleman Douglas Emhoff may lead the U.S. delegation to Yoon's inauguration ceremony, slated for Tuesday, with Labor Secretary Martin Walsh and Rep. Ami Bera among other members, added the source. In the United States, the second gentleman refers to the husband or male partner of a vice president. Bera currently serves as chairman of the House Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, Central Asia and Nonproliferation.
KFS minister stresses value of forests in reducing carbon emissions
Choi Byeong-am, minister of the Korea Forest Service (KFS), urged the global community Tuesday to start evaluating the public value of forests, as efforts by countries to prevent deforestation will consequently lead the way to achieving carbon neutrality worldwide. "In terms of responding to climate change, the importance of the forest needs no further emphasis. This was further clarified during the 26th U.N. Climate Change Conference of the Parties following the Paris Climate Agreement," the minister said during a ministerial forum on financing for forests held on the second day of the World Forestry Congress (WFC) in Seoul, which will run until Friday.
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