Friday, January 3, 2020
Round-up of important news from major Korean dailies and from international media today
The Korea Post (http://www.koreapost.com/)
U.S. defense secretary urges N.K. leader to exercise restraint
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Thursday urged North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to exercise "restraint" after the communist nation threatened to reveal a "new strategic weapon" in protest over stalled nuclear talks. Kim made the remark in a New Year's message that expressed his frustration over stalled denuclearization talks with the U.S. Experts have said the "strategic weapon" Kim said the world will see in the near future could be an intercontinental ballistic missile.
Court declines to issue arrest warrant for conservative pastor
A Seoul court on Thursday rejected a request for a warrant to arrest a conservative pastor for his alleged role in a violent anti-government rally. Following a hearing that lasted over two hours, the Seoul Central District Court dismissed the prosecution's request to arrest Rev. Jun Kwang-hoon. Prosecutors had requested the Seoul Central District Court detain Jun for allegedly inciting violence during a mass rally on Oct. 3 calling for the resignations of President Moon Jae-in and then-Justice Minister Cho Kuk.
Moon pins hopes on new justice minister's role in prosecution reform
President Moon Jae-in held out hope Thursday for the role of his new justice minister, Choo Mi-ae, conferring a letter of appointment on her and filling the post that had been vacant for more than two months. "I hope you will spearhead prosecution reform works well," Moon told Choo during a Cheong Wa Dae ceremony. Moon, a former lawyer, called for "innovative" changes in the way prosecutors conduct probes, related practices and the internal culture of the organization. He also stressed the importance of protecting human rights more strictly in the investigation process and the prosecution taking active self-reform measures.
Four Ministers to Announce Decision Not to Run in April Elections
Four incumbent ministers affiliated with the ruling Democratic Party(DP) will announce on Friday that they will not run for parliamentary seats in the April general elections. A DP official said the ministers are Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae, Interior and Safety Minister Chin Young, Land, Infrastructure and Transport Minister Kim Hyun-mee and SMEs and Startups Minister Park Young-sun. With the four ministers, the number of DP lawmakers who have formally announced their decision not to run in April will increase to 14.
Preemptive Fine Dust Reduction Measures Enforced in Seoul Metro Area
Preemptive fine dust reduction measures are being enforced for the first time this year in Seoul and the surrounding areas on Friday as fine dust concentration levels are forecast to be alarmingly high. The Metropolitan Air Quality Management Office under the Environment Ministry said on Thursday that the reduction measures will be enforced from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday in Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi Province. The preemptive measures are enforced in the public sector when emergency fine dust reduction measures are likely to be enforced the next day.
S. Koreans Continue to Refrain from Trips to Japan
Major South Korean travel agencies have reported sharp decreases in demand for trips to Japan last month amid South Koreans’ continuing boycott of Japanese products and services in protest of Japan’s trade restrictions on their country. Hana Tour said on Thursday that demand for its tour packages to Japan plummeted 84-point-two percent in December from a year earlier. Mode Tour reported an even steeper decline at 86-point-one percent during the same period.
Hyundai Heavy aims to win US$15.9 bln worth of deals in 2020
South Korea's Hyundai Heavy Industries Group said Friday its three shipbuilding units are seeking to secure combined deals worth US$15.9 billion this year. The combined target of Hyundai Heavy Industries Co., Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries Co. and Hyundai Mipo Dockyard Co. remains unchanged from last year's goal. Hyundai Heavy Industries said it aims to bag $8 billion worth of deals in 2020, according to a company official.
S. Korea eyes support for local companies in global infrastructure markets
South Korea will provide financial support worth 1 trillion won (US$864 million) to local firms seeking to make inroads into global infrastructure markets, a senior finance ministry official said Friday. Vice Finance Minister Kim Yong-beom said the government will ask state-run financial institutions, including the Export-Import Bank of Korea, to offer such support this year. The government will also help local firms win infrastructure orders by providing financial help, Kim told a meeting of senior economic officials.
Former secretary to President Moon named new IBK head
Yoon Jong-won, a former senior secretary to President Moon Jae-in for economy, has been named the new head of the state-run Industrial Bank of Korea (IBK), the lender said Thursday. The head of the state-run bank is appointed by the president at the recommendation of the finance minister, with Yoon's three-year term to start Friday, the bank said. The presidential office Cheong Wa Dae did not offer reasons for Yoon's appointment.
The Korea Herald (http://www.koreaherald.com)
N. Korea highlights legitimacy of leader Kim Jong-un in new documentary
North Korea on Thursday aired a new documentary film depicting leader Kim Jong-un's recent trip to Mount Paekdu and those of Kim's late grandfather and father, apparently highlighting the legitimacy of the current leader. The 61-minute film, titled "Will Forever Walk, the March of Mount Paekdu," began with Kim Jong-un and his wife, Ri Sol-ju, riding white horses up the mountain that sits on the border with China.
28 lawmakers indicted over parliament brawl
The prosecution on Thursday filed charges against 28 lawmakers from rival parties and main opposition Liberty Korea Party chief Hwang Kyo-ahn, in connection with a mass brawl that broke out inside the National Assembly in April 2019 over a set of reform bills. The Seoul Nambu District Prosecutors’ Office indicted, without physical detention, Hwang and 23 lawmakers from the Liberty Korea Party and five from the ruling Democratic Party for obstructing justice, breaching parliamentary law and causing disturbances.
Samsung to strengthen compliance programs via in-house committee
South Korea's top conglomerate Samsung Group said Thursday that it will strengthen its compliance programs by forming a groupwide committee dedicated to better complying with its own internal structure and related laws and regulations, as its key executives, including the group's de facto heir Lee Jae-yong, were embroiled in unlawful acts. Samsung said it is preparing to establish a compliance program led by former Supreme Court Justice Kim Ji-hyung, who previously headed a mediation committee to settle a long-standing dispute over work environment and employee illness issues at Samsung Electronics Co.
The Korea Times (http://www.koreatimes.co.kr)
Parties seek different North Korea policies
The ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) and the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) are pursuing different policies toward North Korea. The DPK has emphasized the importance of continuing dialogue in 2020, while the LKP criticized this engagement policy for bringing no results. The two parties showed different reactions to North Korea's New Year message which implied the possibility of resuming the tests of strategic weapons such as nuclear weapons or intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
Korea on track to becoming world's 10th largest economy in 2027: report
Korea is expected to become the world's 10th largest economy in 2027, according to a report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, a British think tank. It currently ranks 12th. The World Economic League Table 2020, which was published last week, also forecasts that China will become the world's largest economy in 2033 and that India will overtake Germany to become the fourth largest in 2026. The report says the economic slowdown in China has "badly hit" the Korean economy, which otherwise would grow faster.
Chosun Ilbo (http://english.chosun.com)
U.S. Deployment of Mid-Range Missiles in Asia Gains Traction
A mooted U.S. deployment of medium-range missiles in Asia and resuming full-scale joint South Korea-U.S. military drills are gaining traction in America. Support is growing after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un threatened to scrap a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests. China is already pressuring South Korea not to let that happen.
BOK Governor Expects Modest Economic Recovery in 2020
Bank of Korea governor Lee Ju-yeol said the Korean economy is expected to pick up in 2020. In a meeting with reporters on Thursday, he said growth and consumer prices are likely to go up slightly this year on easing U.S.-China trade tensions and the global economic recovery. Lee said Korea was negatively hit by the U.S.-China trade dispute which dragged down growth by 0.4 percentage points last year as well as the cyclical slump in memory chip prices which hurt Korea's exports. Though the economic outlook for 2020 is expected to be improved, Lee added that global uncertainties like trade protectionism and geopolitical risks still remain.
HanKyoReh Shinmun (http://english.hani.co.kr)
N. Korea reshuffles its leadership for 2020
The 5th Plenary Session of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) witnessed a sweeping reshuffle of the leadership, in a move inspired by the “frontal breakthrough offensive” ordered by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The reshuffle also represents a changing of the guard. Quite a few full and probationary members of the Politburo, a key body in the WPK, as well as WPK Central Committee vice chairs and department directors (minister level), were shuffled out. Some of the more notable changes were a lateral move by Kim Yo-jong, Kim Jong-un’s younger sister, and the rise of Kim Hyong-jun and Ri Pyong-chol, who were both appointed as vice chairs on the WPK Central Committee.
Lee Nak-yeon current favorite as next presidential candidate
South Koreans favor Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon as the next presidential candidate. In a survey commissioned by the Hankyoreh to the firm Global Research, among the 1,000 voters surveyed, 25.3% favored Lee, as opposed to 10.9% who favored current Liberty Korea Party (LKP) leader Hwang Kyo-ahn. A mere 5.5% favored former LKP leader Hong Jun-pyo, who was trailed by Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon at 3.8%.
S. Korean government to allot US$86 bln to public, private investments
Given doubts about whether South Korea’s economic growth rate will even reach 2% for 2019, the government has decided to focus all its efforts on engineering an economic rally next year, lining up 100 trillion won (US$86 billion) worth of public and private investments. Government statements show that its focus on boosting investment is based on an urgent sense of escaping from the low-growth trap. But critics say the investment plan bears little resemblance to the “human-centered economy” that President Moon Jae-in and his administration have championed. Pushed into a corner over the economy, the Moon administration is clinging to a familiar, but outdated, growth paradigm. Since the efficacy of such short-term measures is unclear, there are also doubts about whether the economy will rebound swiftly.
The Dong-A Ilbo (http://english.donga.com/)
Samsung chief Lee Jae-yong visits semiconductor R&D center
“Our past performance doesn't guarantee success in the future,” said Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong during his visit to a next-generation semiconductor R&D center on Thursday. “History is not what we should wait for – it is what should be made,” he added. As this was the vice chairman’s first visit to any Samsung Electronics site of the new year, industry experts say it re-emphasizes Samsung’s vision to become a leading player in the system chip sector, which was put forward publicly by the electronics giant last year. Lee attended a New Year’s celebration held at the international meeting room of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) in Jung-gu, Seoul on Thursday morning and headed straight to the company's chip R&D center in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province.
Large mural installed at Seou’s Oil Tank Culture Park
A large mural has been painted at the Oil Tank Culture Park in Mapo-gu, Seoul. The capital city’s Western Park Green Area Management Office reported on Thursday that British artist Stephen Pusey and four South Korean artists collaborated to complete a mural whose translated title is “a song of a dragon” on a pressurized pump station located at the entrance of the Oil Tank Culture Park.
The KyungHyang Shinmun (http://english.khan.co.kr/)
Last Year’s Exports Recorded -10.3%, a Double-Digit Drop
In 2019, South Korean exports were hit directly by falling oil and semiconductor prices and by the sluggish global trade, resulting in a double-digit decline for the first time since the global financial crisis. On January 1, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy announced that exports dropped by 10.3% from the previous year and recorded a volume of US$542.4 billion. This was the first time in a decade since 2009 (-13.9%) that exports fell by more than 10%.
Kim Jong-un’s “New Path” Has Room for Talks Despite Warning of New Strategic Weapon
At the plenary meeting of the Workers’ Party of Korea on January 1, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un warned that his country would “take shocking actions (aimed at the U.S.)” and that the U.S. would “soon witness a new strategic weapon.” He declared a hardline stance in the North’s relationship with the U.S. claiming that if the U.S. kept pursuing its hostile policy, the Korean Peninsula would never be denuclearized. Yet at the same time, the North Korean leader also said, “The length and depth of our efforts to strengthen deterrence will be increased according to the U.S. position on North Korea,” leaving room for dialogue. Chairman Kim presented his “new road” in the party’s plenary meeting instead of a New Year’s address, and his message was a mix of positive and negative signs.
Maeil Business News Korea (http://www.pulsenews.co.kr/)
Samsung Elec ready to start 3nm process on chip production
Samsung Electronics Co. has leapfrogged its chipmaking rivals in next-generation chip technology by becoming the world’s first to commercialize the 3 nanometer process in wafer fabrication. Jay Y. Lee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, on Thursday visited the company’s semiconductor R&D center in Hwaseong, south of Seoul, to inspect the newly developed 3nm chipmaking process. The breakthrough processor technology, called Gate All Around, is a fundamental reworking of the transistor structure that shrinks down chip circuitry to 3nm, or 3 billionths of meter, boosting speed by 30 percent while cutting power use by 50 percent compared to the 5nm chips. This puts Samsung Electronics ahead of its rivals by at least a year, experts said.
ESG practices emerge as corporate requirement to win favorable loans in Korea
Corporate commitment to better governance, environment and social benefits has become a winning point to draw loans from banks in Korea on top of positive business performance and outlook. According to financial industry sources on Wednesday, loan servicer Hyundai Commercial Inc. and impact investor Crevisse Partners Inc. have begun taking into account of environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices on top of traditional metrics such as financial performance when evaluating loan and investment applications.
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