Thursday, December 12, 2019
Round-up of important news from major Korean dailies and from international media today
Parliament in lull before storm over electoral, prosecution reform bills
Political parties here appeared to be taking a breather Wednesday following a round of arguments over the handling of next year's budget bill. The National Assembly passed the bill, worth 512.3 trillion won (US$429.9 billion), Tuesday night, the last day of this year's regular session.
S. Korea, Germany to open joint R&D center for deeper tech ties
South Korea and Germany have agreed to establish a joint research and development (R&D) center to further promote bilateral cooperation and penetrate deeper into new lucrative industries such as material and part industries, Seoul's trade ministry said Wednesday. The state-run Korea Institute for Advancement of Technology and NRW.INVEST, an investment promotion agency of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, signed a memorandum of understanding to build the new research center there in the first half of 2020, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.
U.S. says it is ready to be flexible, urges N. Korea to avoid provocations
The United States is ready to be flexible in negotiations with North Korea on dismantling the regime's nuclear weapons program, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations said Wednesday, urging Pyongyang to refrain from provocations. Ambassador Kelly Craft made the remarks at a U.N. Security Council session as Pyongyang's year-end deadline for nuclear negotiations with Washington draws near.
China, Russia Urge UNSC to Ease N. Korea Sanctions
China and Russia, key allies of North Korea, have urged the UN Security Council to ease sanctions against the regime in a bid to move the situation on the Korean Peninsula forward. At a UN Security Council session on Wednesday, China's Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun said that it is imperative for the Security Council to take action and invoke reversible provisions in North Korea-related resolutions as soon as possible in light of the evolving situation on the peninsula.
Authorities Continue to Fight Forest Fire in Gangwon Province
Fire and forest authorities resumed operations on Thursday morning to put out a forest fire that broke out the previous day on a mountain in Gangwon Province. Authorities mobilized about 110 firefighters and forestry officials and seven helicopters at 7 a.m. to contain the blaze, which started on Mount Baekseok in Jeongseon County at 7:18 p.m. Wednesday.
38 North: Personnel Likely Stationed at N. Korea's Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site
A U.S.-based North Korea monitoring website says that recent commercial satellite imagery reveals vehicle and personnel tracks at North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear test site. In an article and photos published Wednesday, 38 North says vehicle tracks along roads leading to the site's former Main Administrative Support Area as well as personnel foot tracking in the lower courtyard of that area are visible in imagery from November 18 and December 7. The website said the foot tracking appears to lead to a small assembly area at the base of the stairs leading to a courtyard.
U.S. returns 4 bases, Yongsan Garrison return process begins
The United States on Wednesday returned four of its military bases in South Korea in a decision to end a yearslong delay caused by differences on decontamination procedures and to allay worries over the adverse impact of the delay on regional development schemes. South Korea and the U.S. also initiated the long-awaited return process for the Yongsan Garrison in central Seoul, once home to the headquarters of the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK), to ensure that a mega project to establish a national park there proceeds as scheduled.
Ex-justice minister grilled for 3rd time over family scandal
Prosecutors questioned former Justice Minister Cho Kuk for a third time on Wednesday over alleged wrongdoings involving his family. The Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office said Cho, 54, was quizzed over his alleged involvement in a dubious private equity fund investment by his family and the suspected fabrication of his daughter's credentials for school admission. Cho, a key ally of President Moon Jae-in, resigned in mid-October.
HDC remain committed to sign deal for Asiana takeover this year
HDC Hyundai Development Co., the preferred bidder for Asiana Airlines Inc., said Wednesday it remains committed to signing a deal this year to acquire the country's second-biggest airline. The company made the statement in response to market concerns that the HDC-Mirae Asset Daewoo consortium won't be able to sign an agreement to purchase a controlling stake in Asiana Airlines from Kumho Industrial Co. on Thursday due to differences over prices and debts.
The Korea Herald (http://www.koreaherald.com)
US Fed says will focus on low inflation, global economy
The Federal Reserve kept its key lending rate unchanged on Wednesday but said it will turn its sights to low inflation and developments in the world economy. That was a signal that central bankers, who have repeatedly pledged to change course if needed, are monitoring the global slowdown and persistent absence of price pressures, which could open the door to further rate moves. At its final meeting of 2019, the Fed's policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee left the benchmark interest rate in the target range of 1.5-1.75 percent, as expected, where it has been since the third rate cut of the year in October.
S. Korea beat Hong Kong 2-0 to start men's E. Asian football tournament
Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Hwang In-beom scored a free kick as South Korea squeezed past Hong Kong 2-0 to open an East Asian men's football tournament at home on Wednesday. FC Tokyo midfielder Na Sang-ho headed home an insurance goal in the second half, helping South Korea take their first match of the East Asian Football Federation E-1 Football Championship at Busan Asiad Main Stadium in Busan, 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul. South Korea, world No. 41, are trying to win their third straight EAFF title, but the narrow win over the 139th-ranked team won't inspire confidence in the famously fickle and demanding fans.
Trump urges passage of defense bill with provision against troop drawdown in S. Korea
US President Donald Trump on Wednesday urged Congress to pass a defense bill containing a provision restricting the drawdown of American troops in South Korea. On Monday, the House and Senate Armed Services Committees agreed on the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, which authorizes funding for the Department of Defense.
The Korea Times (http://www.koreatimes.co.kr)
'Seoul becoming darling of city diplomacy'
Korea's modern history could be described as "turbulent." Starting with the colonial occupation, the nation was divided and almost totally destroyed by war. It also experienced rapid economic development and decades of dictatorships as well. However, Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon believes that what he calls the "experience of troubles" is a selling point as he pursues "city diplomacy," under which the capital shares its best practices and systems in public transportation, water supply, e-government and smart city planning with developing cities and even countries.
Biegun may visit Panmungak for 'undisclosed meeting' with NK
U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun may visit the North Korean side of the Joint Security Area early next week, for a meeting with a high-level North Korean official, sources familiar with the issue told The Korea Times, Wednesday. "Biegun plans to visit South Korea later this week or early next week, after attending a meeting of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in New York. Talks are underway for Biegun to possibly meet with a high-level North Korean diplomat on the North's side of the border village of Panmunjeom," a senior lawmaker from the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) said.
Japanese Foreign Minister allegedly describes Korean counterpart Kang as 'decoration'
Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi described his South Korean counterpart Kang Kyung-wha as "a decoration," according to a Japanese weekly magazine report. The Shukan Bunshun magazine reported in its Nov. 28 publication Motegi said South Korean foreign minister "does not have any leverage" to influence Cheong Wa Dae's decisions. South Korean "[Her influence] won't work in Cheong Wa Dae," it reads citing sources familiar with the matter. "Kang is a decoration. President Moon Jae-in pays little attention to thoughts and observations on key issues by Foreign Minister Kang no matter how much she tries."
Chosun Ilbo (http://english.chosun.com)
U.S. Ramps up Pressure on N.Korea
The U.S. is ramping up diplomatic and military pressure on North Korea ahead of the year-end deadline set by Pyongyang for restarting nuclear talks. Stephen Biegun, the U.S. special representative for North Korea, on Wednesday met representatives of UN Security Council member countries, who gathered to discuss a response to North Korea's latest provocations. Biegun asked for their cooperation in putting pressure on the North.
Samsung's Network Business Buoyed by 5G
Samsung's network business, which makes communications equipment, is expected to post record earnings this year thanks to the next-generation 5G mobility services. Over the past year, Samsung doubled its share of the global market for communications equipment. It started supplying 5G equipment to SKT, KT and LG Uplus last year. According to market researcher IHS Markit on Tuesday, Samsung ranked fifth last year in the global communications equipment market with five percent, behind ZTE (12 percent). But by the end of the third quarter this year it had risen to fourth place with 11 percent after Huawei (34 percent), Ericsson (24 percent) and Nokia (19 percent).
Young Schoolkids Would Rather Be YouTubers Than Doctors
Elementary schoolchildren would rather be YouTubers than doctors, according to a survey on Tuesday. The Ministry of Education and the Korea Research Institute for Vocational Education and Training conducted an online survey of 24,738 students in 1,200 elementary, middle and high schools. The top job in the eyes of elementary schoolkids was athlete followed by teacher, but YouTube creator came third. Teacher had been the favorite job until 2017 but dropped to second place last year.
HanKyoReh Shinmun (http://english.hani.co.kr)
S. Korean defense minister expresses “deep concern” about N. Korea’s missile and engine tests
On Dec. 10, South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo expressed “deep concern” about North Korea’s continuing ballistic missile launches and its engine testing near Tongchang Village, on the Yellow Sea. This is the first time a high-ranking official in Seoul has confirmed that the “very important test” that North Korea carried out at Tongchang Village on Dec. 7 was an engine test and expressed concerns about it. In the opening remarks of a joint press conference for the “two plus two” meeting between South Korea and Australia’s foreign and defense ministers, held in Sydney on Tuesday, Jeong said, “My Australian counterpart and I strongly call on North Korea to respond to the efforts by the South Korea-US alliance and the international community to resolve issues through dialogue by immediately halting actions that raise military tensions.”
S. Korean government pushes forward Moon Hee-sang proposal in spite of public objection
A proposal by National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang that involves paying compensation to forced labor mobilization survivors through a foundation created with donations by South Korean and Japanese businesses and voluntary contributions from members of the public is set to be put before the National Assembly this week. This suggests that despite objections from survivors of forced labor mobilization by imperial Japan -- who were victorious in a related court case -- and related civic and social groups, the “Moon Hee-sang plan” is being pushed forward to coincide with a South Korea-Japan summit currently being coordinated for an upcoming trilateral summit with China on Dec. 23-24.
Moon to visit China for trilateral summit with Japan on Dec. 23
South Korean President Moon Jae-in is visiting China on Dec. 23-24 to attend a trilateral summit with China and Japan. The next question is whether a bilateral South Korea-Japan summit will be held during the same period to address Japan’s export controls and the two sides’ General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA). Blue House Spokesperson Ko Min-jung said on Dec. 10 that Moon “will be arriving in China on Dec. 23 for a two-day visit to attend the eighth South Korea-China-Japan summit.”
The Dong-A Ilbo (http://english.donga.com/)
U.S. to return 4 USFK bases to S. Korea
Four military bases of the United States Forces Korea (USFK) are returned to the South Korean government on Wednesday after a long delay since the agreement between South Korea and the U.S. The two countries will begin the return process of the Yongsan Garrison as well. “The governments came to an agreement on Wednesday at a joint committee meeting of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA),” said the Ministry of National Defense and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at a joint briefing session on Wednesday.
SoftBank CEO to withdraw investment in Wag
The Vision Fund led by SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son decided to sell its shares of Wag, a dog- walking agency. The fund recorded its worst performance in the third quarter of this year since its launch in 2016 due to failed investments in WeWork and Uber. The investment in Wag is another case added to the list of Son’s failed investments. The serious decline of the Vision Fund’s performance seems to have created a vicious cycle by affecting the rest of the group.
Vietnam explodes in jubilation over its SEA victory
Vietnamese people across the country exploded in jubilation when the final whistle was blown after Vietnam won the gold medal at the 2019 Southeast Asian Games (SEA) on Tuesday. A local daily newspaper described the moment, “The whole nation is in joy and delight after realizing a dream cherished for 60 years. The country is in a self-congratulatory mood.”
The KyungHyang Shinmun (http://english.khan.co.kr/)
President Moon Will Be in China on Dec. 23-24 to Meet Leaders of China and Japan: Talks in Progress for Bilateral Summits
On December 10, Cheong Wa Dae announced that President Moon Jae-in would attend a trilateral summit with China and Japan at Chengdu, Sichuan in China on December 23-24. The government is currently discussing with relevant authorities for possible bilateral summits with China and Japan during the president’s stay in China. If a summit with Japan is held, the focus will be on whether it can create a breakthrough to resolve conflicts between the two countries, triggered by Japan’s tighter export controls in July. If President Moon meets Chinese President Xi Jinping, eyes will be on whether the two leaders will discuss measures to prevent military tensions from rising in the Korean Peninsula, since the end-of-year deadline set by North Korea for its denuclearization negotiations with the U.S. will be imminent.
YouTubers Outrank Doctors as Primary School Students’ Dream Job
“Content creator,” which refers to YouTubers appeared on the list of future jobs preferred by elementary school students. Teachers remained the most popular job among middle and high school students for over a decade. However, the survey results showed a clear difference between genders. According to this year’s “Major Results of a Survey on Elementary and Secondary Career Education” released by the Ministry of Education on December 10, the most popular job among primary school students was athletes, followed by teachers and content creators. The top two choices were the same as last year’s survey, but last year doctors had ranked third. In this year’s survey, doctors came in fourth. Content creators, which refer to online content creators, is a word that includes YouTubers, broadcast jockeys (BJs), and online streamers. An official from the education ministry said, “The popularity of online video contents seems to have influenced the results.”
Maeil Business News Korea ( http://www.pulsenews.co.kr/)
Korean PEFs with abundant capital eye on major M&A deals
South Korea’s merger and acquisition (M&A) market is expected to heat up next year as the country’s major private equity funds with a large fresh capital worth more than $12 billion in total are expected to seek attractive buyout deals aggressively for higher returns. According to multiple sources from the investment banking industry on Wednesday, local private equity fund majors are anticipated to raise a combined 15.23 trillion won ($12.7 billion) capital once they complete their ongoing capital raising for blind funds.
S. Korean lab develops new catalyst to convert CO2 into gasoline
South Korean scientists have successfully developed a new catalyst to convert carbon dioxide (CO2) into commercially viable gasoline, according to state-run Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology (KRICT) on Tuesday. A research team of Dr. Jun Ki-won and Dr. Kim Seok-ki at the institute’s Carbon Resources Center said when carbon dioxide passes through the conversion process, 20 percent of the gas is made into gasoline and the direct conversion rate goes up to 90 percent through a repeated conversion process.
S. Korea’s fiscal deficit at all-time high by Oct as tax revenue falls below target
South Korea’s fiscal deficit stretched to a record high by October this year as tax revenue failed to keep up with the government’s supersized spending plans amid stubbornly sluggish economy. According to the finance ministry’s monthly fiscal report published on Tuesday, the country’s consolidated fiscal balance, or the difference between the government’s total income and spending, recorded a deficit of 11.4 trillion won ($9.6 billion) for the January-October period this year. The operational fiscal balance, which excludes social security funds from the consolidated balance, was 45.5 trillion won also in the red.
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