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Headlines, December 3, 2019

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Round-up of important news from major Korean dailies and from international media today

The Korea Post (http://www.koreapost.com/)

S. Korean negotiator hopes for 'win-win' burden-sharing deal with U.S.

South Korea's top negotiator in defense cost-sharing talks with the United States said Monday that he believes the two sides will be able to strike a "win-win" deal based on their common understanding of the bilateral alliance. Jeong Eun-bo, the top envoy to the Special Measures Agreement negotiations, made the comment upon arriving at Washington's Dulles International Airport ahead of the fourth round of talks slated for Tuesday and Wednesday.

Home-backed loans edge up in November

Home-backed loans extended by South Korea's five major lenders increased at a slower pace in November compared with the previous month, industry data showed Tuesday, as the government applies stricter lending rules. The outstanding home-backed loans extended by KB Kookmin Bank, Shinhan Bank, Woori Bank, KEB Hana Bank and NH Bank stood at 436.07 trillion won (US$368 billion) as of November, up 2.78 trillion won from a month earlier, according to the data.

Pompeo cites Samsung as alternative to Chinese tech giants

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday that Samsung is a "legitimate" substitute to Chinese companies in building 5G networks across the European Union. Pompeo made the case in an op-ed in Politico Europe ahead of an EU communications ministers meeting in Brussels on Tuesday. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday that Samsung is a "legitimate" substitute to Chinese companies in building 5G networks across the European Union. Pompeo made the case in an op-ed in Politico Europe ahead of an EU communications ministers meeting in Brussels on Tuesday. He argued that Chinese tech giants such as Huawei and ZTE cannot be trusted to build the critical 5G infrastructure across Europe, given that the Chinese Communist Party could use the technology to "steal private or proprietary information."

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KBS (http://world.kbs.co.kr/english/news/)

S. Korean Economy Grows 0.4% in Q3

The South Korean economy grew point-four percent in the third quarter from three months ago, meeting the Bank of Korea's earlier estimate. The central bank unveiled the growth rate on Tuesday, confirming preliminary growth domestic product(GDP) figures released in October. From a year earlier, the economy expanded two percent in the third quarter, also as estimated earlier. The country's real gross national income(GNI) grew point-six percent in the July-September period from three months earlier and point-four percent from a year earlier.

Top US Diplomat Notes 'Exponential' Growth of S. Korea's Capabilities ahead of Cost-Sharing Talks

The top U.S. diplomat for East Asia said on Monday that he sees opportunities for further cooperation with South Korea and Japan as the two U.S. allies' capabilities have grown "exponentially" in recent decades. The comment by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia David Stilwell comes as Seoul and Washington are set to hold a fourth round of defense cost-sharing negotiations this week. At a forum hosted by the Brookings Institution, a private think tank in Washington, Stilwell said that he thinks the U.S. can ask its allies to shoulder greater defense cost burdens.

Fast-tracked Judicial Reform Bills Added to Plenary Session Calendar

A set of controversial fast-tracked bills on judicial reform were added to the National Assembly's plenary session calendar on Tuesday amid partisan deadlock and threats of a filibuster from the main opposition. The four bills are aimed at establishing a special investigative body to probe corruption allegations among high-ranking public officials and at expanding the independent investigative rights of the police. Another controversial fast-tracked bill on election reform was added to the plenary session calendar last week.

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Yonhap (http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr)

National Assembly misses legal deadline to pass gov't budget bill

The National Assembly missed a legal deadline to handle the government's 2020 budget proposal on Monday amid intensified tensions sparked by the main opposition party's threat to use a filibuster. Dec. 2 is the legal deadline for lawmakers to pass the government's record high 513.5 trillion-won (US$435 billion) budget plan. But parliament sat out the Monday deadline, the fifth straight year it has missed the date, as the partisan standoff has shown no signs of easing over key contentious bills.

Son Heung-min becomes top Asian finisher in Ballon d'Or voting

South Korean football star Son Heung-min has become the top Asian finisher in voting for the prestigious Ballon d'Or Award. In a ceremony held in Paris on Monday (local time), Son, the South Korean men's national captain and attacking ace for Tottenham Hotspur, came in 22nd place among 30 nominees in balloting for the annual award recognizing the world's best football player. FC Barcelona icon Lionel Messi bagged his record sixth Ballon d'Or to break a tie with Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo.

N.K. leader visits Samjiyon ahead of year-end deadline for nuke talks with Washington

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un celebrated the completion of a newly-built urban township near the birthplace of his late father, state media reported Tuesday, in a visit that could suggest a major policy announcement is forthcoming. Kim attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Township of Samjiyon County on Monday, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported. KCNA photos showed Kim and top aides cutting a red ribbon to open the "the ideal town for the people" near the birthplace of his father and late leader Kim Jong-il.

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The Korea Herald (http://www.koreaherald.com)

Top US diplomat cites allies' growing capabilities amid defense cost-sharing talks with S. Korea

The top US diplomat for East Asia said Monday that he sees opportunities for further cooperation with South Korea and Japan as the two countries' capabilities have grown "exponentially" in recent decades. The comment by David Stilwell, US assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, comes as Seoul and Washington have been negotiating the terms of a new deal on sharing the costs for the stationing of 28,500 American troops in South Korea.

NK leader visits Samjiyon ahead of year-end deadline for nuke talks with Washington

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un celebrated the completion of a newly-built urban township near the birthplace of his late father, state media reported Tuesday, in a visit that could suggest a major policy announcement is forthcoming. Kim attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Township of Samjiyon County on Monday, the official Korean Central News Agency reported. KCNA photos showed Kim and top aides cutting a red ribbon to open the "the ideal town for the people" near the birthplace of his father and late leader Kim Jong-il.

Lionel Messi wins Ballon d'Or for sixth time

Lionel Messi won a record sixth men's Ballon d'Or award at a ceremony in Paris on Monday, beating Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk to take the honours. Now aged 32, it is Messi's first Ballon d'Or since 2015 and his sixth overall as he moves one ahead of his old rival Cristiano Ronaldo, who finished third in the voting. Messi, who attended the ceremony at the Chatelet Theatre in the French capital with his wife and children, succeeds Luka Modric, the Real Madrid and Croatia midfielder who won the prize last year.

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The Korea Times (http://www.koreatimes.co.kr)

FSS to lower barriers for foreign firms

The chief of the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS) pledged Monday to create a more favorable environment for foreign financial firms doing business here. FSS Governor Yoon Suk-heun's made the remark during a meeting with the CEOs of 18 foreign banks, brokerages, asset management firms and insurers based in Seoul. "We will improve Korea's shortcomings in cooperation with related ministries and local governments to foster Korea as a financial hub," Yoon said in the meeting held at the Conrad Hotel on Yeouido.

The Korea Times names Oh Young-jin as publisher, Cho Jae-hyon as management planning director

Oh Young-jin, digital managing editor of The Korea Times, has been additionally appointed as the paper's publisher, while Cho Jae-hyon, management planning director, has been named chief management officer, and will oversee the advertising department. The appointments took effect on Dec. 1.

A new momentum?

As inter-Korean relations have grown frosty, Cheong Wa Dae is considering reshuffling the presidential National Security Office (NSO). Officials at the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) and former presidential aides told The Korea Times Monday that Cheong Wa Dae was "on track" to complete "some reshuffling" of the NSO by the end of this year with NSO chief Chung Eui-yong and other presidential aides at the top security office being put on the possible replacement list.

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Chosun Ilbo (http://english.chosun.com)

Record Numbers Earn Less Than Minimum Wage

A total of 3.38 million workers were earning less than the minimum wage as of August this year, accounting for 16.5 percent of total workers. Both figures are record highs, according to Statistics Korea data. The main reason was a steep surge in the minimum wage, which many small businesses believe they are unable to handle. The government raised the minimum wage this year by 10.9 percent to W8,350 (US$1=W1,180). That translates into a monthly salary of W1.75 million for a 52-hour work week.

N.Korean Defectors Face Being Sent Back to China from Vietnam

Eleven North Korean defectors on their arduous journey to South Korea face being sent back to China after being arrested in Vietnam. One activist who aided the defectors' escapes said Sunday, "A car sent by the South Korean Foreign Ministry is said to have finally arrived at a border detention center in Vietnam late Saturday. The Foreign Ministry is not telling us anything, so we have no idea what talks are going on" between the two governments.

Korea Suffers 1st Double-Digit Export Decline in 10 Years

Export-dependent Korea's outbound shipments have declined continuously since December 2018. The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said Sunday that exports in November dropped 14.3 percent compared to the same month last year to US$4.41 billion. Korea's cumulative exports from January to November reached $545 billion, down 10.1 percent on-year. This is also the first time since the height of the global financial crisis in 2008 that annual exports declined in the double digits.

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HanKyoReh Shinmun (http://english.hani.co.kr)

A bird expert’s insistence on the preservation of Baengnyeong Island

On the afternoon of Dec. 12, a blue-eyed Briton was standing alone in an empty field, holding a telescope, on Baengnyeong Island, South Korea’s northernmost territory in the Yellow Sea. A military helicopter roared overhead, startling a few hundred geese in an adjacent reservoir and sending them aloft. The man was Nial Moores (56, PhD in ornithology), director of Birds Korea. Moores is an advocate of bird habitat conservation efforts who has been traveling between South and North Korea for some two decades. He gazed at the field with a look of concern, shaking his head.

Soldiers’ Cold War recollections

“When I go into the DMZ, I don’t have any fears about getting shot. Inter-Korean relations might seem frozen, but I think that as soon as we break the ice, exchange will really take off,” said Yong Seong-jung, 54. During an interview with the Hankyoreh at the DMZ tour information center at Imjingak, Paju, Gyeonggi Province, on Nov. 25, Yong was asked how he’d changed since becoming a “DMZ peace guide” this past July.

Blue House petition calls for Moon Hee-sang to withdraw proposal for forced labor issue

A petition posted to the Blue House website calls for National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang to rescind a proposal that seeks to resolve the issue of Koreans conscripted for forced labor during Japan’s colonial occupation. Following repeated opposition from victims who have filed lawsuits over the issue and NGOs that have been working on their own solution, this online petition appears to be part of an intensifying backlash to Moon’s proposal. The petition, which argues that Moon’s proposal should be scrapped because it ignores the victims of forced labor, was posted to the Blue House website on Nov. 28. As of the afternoon of Dec. 1, the petition had collected more than 10,000 signatures in just four days.

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The Dong-A Ilbo (http://english.donga.com/)

U.S. House Democrats seek impeachment vote before Christmas

U.S. President Donald Trump will not attend the House Judiciary Committee’s first impeachment hearing, The Washington Post reported Monday. Democrats in the House are apparently speeding up the process to conclude an impeachment vote before Christmas. The notice has been issued by the White House that Trump will not participate in the first hearing scheduled for Wednesday. “I will be representing our country in London at NATO, while the Democrats are holding the most ridiculous Impeachment hearings in history,” Trump tweeted Sunday.

U.S. reconnaissance plane flies over Korean Peninsula

A U.S. reconnaissance plane on an apparent mission to monitor North Korea was spotted flying above the Korean Peninsula, according to an aviation tracker, fueling speculation that the North could take on additional military provocations. With Pyongyang also known to have installed more concrete pads for missile launches using transporter erector launchers (TEL), tensions have ratcheted up over the Korean Peninsula nearing the end of the year.

Samsung Heavy Industries signs a deal to build two ice-class oil tankers

Samsung Heavy Industries has won 7.1 billion U.S. dollars worth of orders, including a recent deal to build two ice-class oil tankers, this year. According to the South Korean shipbuilder on Monday, it has signed a 187.5 billion won deal with a European shipping company to build two Aframax tankers by March 2022. The ice-breaking vessels are designed to operate in temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius and can resist a collision with ice of up to 70 centimeters thick. The price of the vessels is twice as high as those in the same rank.

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The KyungHyang Shinmun (http://english.khan.co.kr/)

Less Than a Year Since Kim Yong-Gyun's Death, 9 out of 10 Worksites Still Lack Safety Facilities

At the end of October, the Ministry of Employment and Labor caught a thermal power plant in Goseong, Gyeongsangnam-do, which did not install a safety fence to prevent workers from accessing an area under the conveyor belt used to transport coal. This power plant also failed to install facilities to prevent workers from falling off a work platform used to inspect the ceiling crane, which moves along a rail inside the building. The workers in both these areas are mostly employed to subcontractors.

Liberty Korea Party Wants to Pass the Popular "Minsigi Bill" But Refuses to End the Filibuster

The Liberty Korea Party's strategy against the "Fast Track bills" is expected to proceed in two stages: full protest and efforts to attract public support followed by negotiations. The major opposition party believes that even if it engages in a filibuster, basically, it won't be able to block the passing of the legislation on the Fast Track, as long as the situation remains four to one with the ruling party and the three other opposition parties on one side. The public's criticism of the party for holding back the legislative procedure on bills linked to the people's everyday lives with the indiscriminate filibuster is also a burden on the party. Therefore, it is likely for the "minority opinion" within the party, which calls for negotiations, to emerge as a new strategy when the National Assembly finalizes the passing of the Fast Track bills.

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Maeil Business News Korea ( http://www.pulsenews.co.kr/)

Surging private sector debts pose threat to S. Korean economy: report

South Korea could suffer from a debt crisis if the country fails to manage surging debt in the private sector, a state-run tax and economic policy research institute warned. According to a report released by Korea Institute of Public Finance (KIPF) on Monday, it is hardly the case at the current stage that Korea would face an economic crisis due to a high level of government debt, but the country could go into a debt crisis because of rapidly rising debts in the country’s private sector in the advent of events that negatively affect the economy.

Students with various backgrounds flock to SNU`s new data science grad school

A newly launched data science graduate program at Seoul National University has attracted talents from hundreds of undergraduate or advanced degree institutions and businesses with various backgrounds at home and abroad, proving the explosive interest in the core technology of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. South Korea’s most prestigious university did not disclose how many students applied for the Graduate School of Data Science, which will be open in March 2020, but Maeil Business Newspaper confirmed on Sunday that 40 students were accepted out of some 250 applicants.

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Lee Kyung-sik  edt@koreapost.com

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