Tuesday, May 17, 2022
Round-up of important news from major Korean dailies and from international media today
The Korea Post ( www.koreapost.com )
Yoon cites Churchill, Attlee for successful cooperation in time of difficulty
President Yoon Suk-yeol said, “Prime Minister Winston Churchill of the United Kingdom and Chairman Clement Attlee of the opposition Labor Party were good examples of win-win cooperation in time of emergency and difficulties of a nation.” Speaking at the National Assembly in Seoul on May 16, 2022, President Yoon stressed the importance of parliamentarism and declared, “True free democracy comes from proper management of parliamentary democracy.”
5-6 out of 7 army generals are likely to change this month
The government is known to carry out a large-scale reshuffle of military leadership early this month, replacing 5-6 out of 7 generals, including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Chief of Staff of the Army. It is highly likely that the Chief of Staff of the Army, which is a key position in the military, will be selected among those who are younger generation that the original custom-level. This is interpreted as reflecting President Yoon Suk-yeol's intention to early replace some of the military leaders who were controversial at the time of the Moon Jae-in administration and launch a new military chief selected based on ability as soon as possible.
Yoon says, “I look forward to more active Korea-India national exchanges”
President Yoon Suk-yeol met with Ambassador Sripriya Ranganathan of India in Seoul on May 6 and expressed his gratitude for Prime Minister Modi's congratulations on his election, spokesperson Bae Hyun-jin said in a written briefing. President Yoon said, “Ahead of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties next year, the two countries have been closely cooperating in various fields based on historical ties and friendly relations. In the future, I hope that national cooperation with India, which represents liberal democracy and market economy, as well as national exchanges will become more active,” he said.
Chosun Ilbo (http://english.chosun.com)
Yoon Launches Cabinet of Mostly Older Male SNU Graduates
President Yoon Suk-yeol's 109-member Cabinet consists overwhelmingly of men in their 50s who were born in Seoul, graduated from the prestigious Seoul National University and have previous government experience. The presidential office claims the appointments are strictly based on ability, but the shortage of women and people from liberal strongholds like Gwangju and neighboring Jeolla provinces is glaring. Their average age is 56.8, with 77 of the 109 members being in their 50s, while 26 are in their 60s and only five are whippersnappers in their 40s. All but nine of them are men.
Hyundai Announces Plan to Build EV Plant in U.S.
Hyundai will build a new plant in the U.S. exclusively for electric vehicles. The automaker said its first EV plant will be built near Savannah in Georgia. The decision comes just ahead of U.S. President Joe Biden's visit to Seoul this weekend. In fact, the plant was already envisioned as part of the automaker's plans, announced last year, to invest US$7.4 billion by 2025 in expanding production capacity in the U.S. It is also in line with Biden's ambitious goal to make half of all new vehicles sold in the U.S. eco-friendly by 2030. Hyundai also said it will invest $300 million to retool its existing plant in Alabama to produce hybrids and electric vehicles.
N.Korea Faces COVID Catastrophe
Suspected coronavirus cases are surging in North Korea, even according to official figures that are unlikely to give the true extent of the calamity. The number of reported cases of fever surged from around 18,000 on May 12 to 390,000 on Sunday, according to state media. Medical experts in South Korea expect the number of cases to surpass 1 million soon and some 100,000 deaths since the North lacks any vaccines or treatment. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has described to the outbreak as the "gravest national emergency" but claimed the crisis "can be overcome" independently rather than with outside help.
Joongang Ilbo (https://koreajoongangdaily.joins.com )
Yoon Suk-yeol tells Assembly bipartisanship is needed
President Yoon Suk-yeol stressed the importance of bipartisan cooperation to pass a supplementary budget and overcome global and domestic challenges in his first address to the National Assembly Monday morning. Yoon urged parliament to pass a 59.4-trillion-won ($47 billion) supplementary budget bill, approved by his Cabinet last Thursday, that will mainly focus on compensating small businesses hurt by the pandemic. "Considering that the stability of the people's livelihoods is more urgent than ever," Yoon said, "I earnestly request the National Assembly's cooperation so that the supplementary budget can be finalized as soon as possible."
Rhee Ken 'expects to be arrested' upon his return to Korea
Rhee Ken, a Korean YouTuber and former Korean Navy special warfare officer who went to Ukraine in March to fight Russia, said he “expects to be arrested at the airport when he goes back to Korea” during an interview with a Ukranian news outlet. Novoye Vremya, a Ukrainian weekly, uploaded an interview with Rhee on its website Saturday. The weekly introduces Rhee as a former special forces officer who worked for the United States and United Nations, now a military consultant and YouTuber with 800,000 subscribers who has been on a popular military-related show. In the interview, Rhee claims he was injured while fighting the Russian forces in Irpin, Ukraine and is currently saying at a military hospital.
Pyongyang turns to Beijing for Covid help: sources
North Korea has requested emergency medical supplies from China as it grapples with its first big wave of Covid-19 cases, according to sources in China. Sources familiar with North Korea-China relations who spoke to the JoongAng Ilbo on condition of anonymity Sunday said that the North “recently requested that China provide anti-disease assistance” through diplomatic channels. According to the sources, the items specifically requested by North Korea include polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test kits and medicines to treat Covid-19. Talks on the delivery methods and amount of equipment are currently underway between the two countries, the sources said.
The Dong-A Ilbo (http://english.donga.com/)
Pres. Yoon urges bipartisan cooperation in National Assembly
President Yoon Suk-yeol urged bipartisan support for reform in pension fund, labor and education on Monday, highlighting that unless immediate action is taken, they would threaten sustainability of our society.“The crisis and obstacles that we face home and abroad would be difficult to overcome unless we tackle the reforms that we’ve delayed so far,” said Yoon in an administration address to the National Assembly highlighting the rationale for a supplementary budget. In particular, he stressed the need for public pension reform for sustainability, labor reform for job creation, educational reform that meets technological advance.
BOK governor intends not to rule out the big step
“We cannot entirely exclude the possibility of a big step (increasing the base rate by 0.5 percentage points or more) in the future,” said Lee Chang-yong, the governor of the Bank of Korea (BOK), on Monday.The BOK governor told a group of reporters that while there is no need to consider taking the big steps given the circumstances up to April, the decision would have to be made comprehensively with the trajectory of prices taken into account,” after having his first one-on-one meeting with Choo Gyung-ho, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Economy and Finance, on Monday.
First protest takes place within 100 meters from new presidential office
A protest rally took place at the main gate to the Defense Ministry building in Seoul’s Yongsan district, which is home to the new presidential office at 5:30 p.m. Saturday. Some 500 members of ‘Rainbow Action Against Sexual-Minority Discrimination of Korea,’ who were marching on foot, stopped momentarily and cheered en masse upon hearing the moderator who said, “Senior minority is the first group of people who are marching in front of the new presidential office.”
Maeil Business News Korea (http://www.pulsenews.co.kr/)
Korea’s policy chiefs vow coordination to tame inflation, mention of big step rattles bonds
South Korea’s new fiscal and monetary chiefs vowed “optimum” policy mix against escalating volatility in financial and foreign exchange markets, rapid buildup in inflationary pressure, and slowing economic activities. Deputy Prime Minister for Economy and Economy and Finance Minister Choo Kyung-ho and Bank of Korea (BOK) Governor Rhee Chang-yong meeting for the first time on Monday agreed on the “gravity” of current economic conditions and promised to work closely.
Capital investment hardly grew under last Korean govt, calling for radical measures
Corporate investment hardly grew over the last five years under President Moon Jae-in government, raising alarm for sustainable growth in the South Korean economy.According to a joint study by Maeil Business News and Korea Economic Research Institute (KERI) comparing economic performance of past governments since 1987 constitutional amendment enabling current single-term five-year presidency, the gross fixed capital formation, or simply investment, gained 0.2 percent in average from 2017 to 2021 under Moon Jae-in presidency.
Korean financial authorities monitoring ripples on Korean investors from Terra downfall
South Korean financial authorities are closely monitoring the havoc on Korean investors estimated at minimum 200,000 from stablecoin Terra’s collapse, although they lack investigative or supervisory authority over the offshore assets. orea’s Financial Services Commission and Financial Supervisory Service are said to have embarked on emergency inspections on the crypto market as Luna heads for delisting with its value plunged 99.999921 percent in just a week, according to sources. The Luna crash has sent shockwaves throughout crypto markets worldwide, causing liquid cryptos like bitcoin to crash to incur massive losses to crypto investors.
HanKyoReh Shinmun (http://english.hani.co.kr)
The 3 topics Yoon plans to discuss during Saturday’s summit with Biden
A spokesperson for South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol said his first summit with US President Joe Biden on May 21 will have three main items on the agenda: responding to North Korean provocations, strengthening economic security, and bilateral cooperation on international issues.“The summit agenda will largely consist of the two countries’ strategy for responding to North Korean provocations, bilateral collaboration focused on economic security, and ways to contribute to major pending issues in the world,” a senior official working in the Office of the President told reporters Sunday.
Seoul plans to propose working-level talks as it races to aid N. Korea with COVID-19 response
As early as this week, the South Korean government may officially propose to North Korea that the two countries initiate working-level talks to send Pyongyang medical supplies such as COVID-19 vaccines. It’s also likely that the issue of providing North Korea with medical supplies will be discussed during the first South Korea-US summit between South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and US President Joe Biden. A high-ranking South Korean government official told the Hankyoreh on Sunday that Seoul is “considering a proposal to initiate working-level contact with North Korea within the week for the purpose of providing the country with medical supplies such as COVID-19 vaccines.”
Soon-to-be justice minister says he was “lynched” for investigating corruption by powerful
Justice minister nominee Han Dong-hoon stated Sunday that he “has been subjected to obsessive attention verging on madness and all kinds of lynching just for investigating [people on the side of his attackers].” He added that “he fought, armed with fact and common sense, uncovering the falsehood and the true nature [of attacks against him] as a result.” On Sunday afternoon, Han uploaded a one-page post to ePROS, the internal bulletin board of the prosecution service, in which he announced that he had submitted his letter of resignation. In order to be sworn in as justice minister, a political office, Han has to end his tenure at the prosecution service.
The KyungHyangShinmun (http://english.khan.co.kr/)
“Camp Kim Near Yongsan Park Buried in Carcinogens up to 9 Meters Deep”
An environmental pollution inspection of the former Camp Kim site in Yongsan-gu, Seoul, which the U.S. Forces Korea returned to the Ministry of National Defense a year and a half ago, discovered carcinogens 9 meters deep in the ground. About 97% of the total area was contaminated with substances hazardous to the human body including carcinogens. The Korea Environment Corporation conducted a survey to assess the soil contamination in the former Camp Kim site from October 25, 2021 until March 23, 2022 upon request from the defense ministry. The results will be used as the basis for cleanup operations of the site.
Secretary Yoon Jae-soon, at the Center of Controversy for Sexually Inappropriate Words and Actions, Nicknamed “EDPS” by Prosecutors for Repeated Sexual Harassment
A Prosecution Service insider revealed that Yoon Jae-soon, secretary for general affairs in the presidential secretariat who was subject to disciplinary action on two occasions for sexually problematic behavior when he was a prosecutor, frequently told dirty jokes and made reckless comments. Yoon, who is also a published poet, stirred controversy after news got out that he mentioned the sexual assault in subways and described subways as “a place where the freedom of boys was guaranteed” in one of his published poems. Despite that he frequently stirred trouble with controversial words and actions, Yoon was quickly promoted, and now attention is on the background to his successful career.
U.S. Base Spouting Carcinogens but Government Plans to Open a Park This Year after Restricting Visitors’ Time at the Park
The government plans to open a park in the former U.S. military base in Yongsan, Seoul, which the U.S. Forces Korea returned, by the end of this year without undergoing any cleanup despite that contamination of soil and underground water has exceeded safety standards. The government will only take temporary measures, such as restricting entrance and the time visitors stay in the park. President Yoon Suk-yeol (Yoon Seok-youl) ordered his officials to open the U.S. base to the public within this year, along with the relocation of the presidential office to Yongsan. And to carry out this order, the government will first open the park after makeshift measures and no cleanup operation. This has led to criticism of a hasty plan focused on opening the park rather than on the safety of the citizens.
N. Korea Reports 6 New Deaths, Nearly 270,000 More Fever Cases
North Korea, which confirmed its first COVID-19 case last week, has reported six additional deaths and nearly 270-thousand new fever cases. According to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Tuesday, the state emergency epidemic prevention headquarters reported six new deaths and 269-thousand-510 more people with fever symptoms from 6 p.m. Sunday to 6 p.m. Monday. The KCNA said the new figures raised the total number of fever cases to one million-483-thousand-60 since late April. It added that about 819-thousand of them have recovered and nearly 664-thousand are receiving treatment. The death toll rose to 56.
Top Diplomats of S. Korea, China Discuss Bilateral Ties, Korean Peninsula Issues
The top diplomats of South Korea and China held talks to discuss relations between the two nations and the Korean Peninsula issues. Seoul's foreign ministry said foreign minister Park Jin had video-linked talks with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on Monday. In the first talks between the top diplomats of the two nations since the launch of the Yoon Suk Yeol government, Park and Wang exchanged opinions on the peninsula situation. According to the ministry, Park said that North Korea's advancement in nuclear and missile capabilities worsens the situation on the peninsula and in the region, and hoped that Seoul and Beijing will cooperate to manage the peninsula situation in a stable manner. He also called for China's constructive participation in preventing additional provocations by the North.
US Senate Passes Resolution Stressing Importance of US Alliances ahead of Biden Trip
The U.S. Senate passed a resolution reaffirming the importance of the U.S.' alliances ahead of President Biden's upcoming trip to South Korea and Japan. The resolution, which passed last Wednesday, was introduced by Senators Jim Risch and Bob Menendez, ranking member and chairperson of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The resolution calls for the United States to reinforce its defense treaty commitments to all allies in the Indo-Pacific and Europe, and deepen and expand commitments to its allies such as South Korea, Japan, Australia and NATO.
N. Korea reports 6 additional deaths amid COVID-19; military mobilized for drug supply
North Korea reported six additional deaths Tuesday amid a surge in suspected COVID-19 cases, as it deployed its military to supply medicine to pharmacies in Pyongyang. According to the information of the state emergency epidemic prevention headquarters, over 269,510 people showed symptoms of fever and six deaths were reported as of 6 p.m. Monday, raising the total number of fatalities to 56 amid the epidemic, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.
S. Korea attempts to send message to North over aid; Pyongyang unresponsive: ministry
The South Korean government has attempted to send a formal message to North Korea through their liaison office for cooperation against the COVID-19 outbreak but Pyongyang has remained unresponsive, a related ministry said Monday. The unification ministry said it had sought to deliver the fax message, signed by its chief Kwon Young-se, to the North's head of the United Front Department, Kim Yong-chol, at 11 a.m. the same day. But the North did not clarify its intention on whether to "accept" the notification by 5 p.m. when the inter-Korean cross-border communication line was closed.
S. Korean volunteer fighter in Ukraine doesn't regret his action despite facing imprisonment at home
A South Korean volunteer fighter in Ukraine has told a local news outlet he is likely to be arrested on returning home but does not regret what he said was an inevitable action to support people suffering from an unjust invasion. Rhee Keun, a Navy SEAL-turned-YouTuber, traveled to Ukraine in March in violation of a government ban and has been fighting against invading Russian forces. "In South Korea, it is illegal to go to Ukraine, so when I return, I will likely be arrested at the airport for participating in the war," he said in an interview with weekly magazine Novoye Vremya, published Saturday.
The Korea Herald (http://www.koreaherald.com)
Kim reprimands officials for slow medical delivery
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un reprimanded officials for failing to deliver medicine in time, and ordered the mobilization of the military to stabilize the supply in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, North Korea’s state media reported Monday. Raising concerns over the virus spread, Kim also strongly criticized law enforcement officials for failing to prevent people from hoarding and illegally distributing the medicines, the Korean Central News Agency said.
Democratic Party cornered by yet another sex scandal
South Korea’s main opposition Democratic Party of Korea is yet again dealing with a sexual harassment controversy as it readies for an important election in less than three weeks. Legislators with the Democratic Party on Monday approved Rep. Park Wan-joo’s expulsion from the party over allegations that he sexually harassed a female staff member late last year. The party requested the National Assembly to penalize Park, which could cost him the lawmaker seat.
Corporate Korea bracing for Biden’s state visit
More chaebol groups are expected to join a business roundtable meeting held on the sidelines of summit talks between Presidents Yoon Suk-yeol and Joe Biden later this week in reflection of the growing presence of Korean businesses spending big in the US recently. The US president is scheduled to arrive in Seoul on Friday for his three-day state visit. His summit talks with Yoon are set to be held on Saturday. Even though full details of his itinerary still remain under wraps, expectations are already high for his possible meeting with local business leaders.
The Korea Times (http://www.koreatimes.co.kr)
North Korea wrestles with worst health crisis
The situation in North Korea has gone from bad to worse since the reclusive country confirmed its first official case of BA.2, the "stealth" variant of Omicron, on May 12. The country added 392,920 new cases of fever on Sunday, with eight new deaths. The aggregate number of suspected cases of the coronavirus now stands at 1,213,550, with 50 deaths, according to North Korea's emergency epidemic prevention headquarters. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un issued an order mobilizing military resources to stabilize medicine supplies, three days after declaring the implementation of a "maximum emergency prevention system."
Samsung drops plan to enter electric vehicle market
Amid the burgeoning presence of electric vehicles (EV), investors and consumers are paying attention to what role EVs will play in the automotive market and their environmental effects in the foreseeable future. Many pending technology challenges are being addressed, as battery costs are dropping and top-tier carmakers are bringing various types of EVs to market with enhanced batteries and expanded travel range. From a policy perspective, proven emission standards and the level of attractiveness ― enhanced due to government subsidies ― are luring tech firms and carmakers to join the EV frenzy.
IPEF will help enhance economic ties with Indo-Pacific countries: White House
The U.S.-proposed Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) will help further enhance the country's economic relations with countries in the region, a White House spokesperson said Monday. Karine Jean-Pierre also said the new economic framework will promote investment in green economy, which she said in turn will help level the playing field for workers and businesses here at home and in the Indo-Pacific region. The remarks come as President Joe Biden is set to travel to the region where he is widely expected to unveil the details of the U.S.-led economic framework.
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