Wednesday, January 26, 2021
Round-up of important news from major Korean dailies and from international media today
The Korea Post (http://www.koreapost.com/)
“We will endeavor to make Korea where senior citizens are happy!”
“We will try to help make the Republic of Korea where the senior citizens are happy together with all the others,” said Chairman Kim Ho-il of the Korea Senior Citizens Association at a recent interview with him at his office at KSCA in Seoul. Then he disclosed that there is much room for improvement in the area where the senior citizens are required to be treated and accommodated properly as in the case of many other countries of the world.
Gwangmyeong City signs MOU with Daegu Cyber Univ. to revitalize the learning city for the disabled
Gwangmyeong City in Gyeonggi Province, which declared a "lifetime learning city for the disabled" for the first time in the country, will focus on revitalizing related projects.
In particular, the city focuses on administrative power by recently signing an agreement with related colleges to revitalize such projects.
According to the city on Jan. 25, it signed a business agreement with Daegu Cyber University, a cyber university specializing in rehabilitation, on Jan. 22 to revitalize the lifelong learning city for the disabled. The agreement was carried out in writing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“I think I paid for my meal as I became a true Buddhist disciple through publication of this book”
Chief Abbot Hongpa of the Myogak-sa Buddhist Temple on the Naksan Mountain in Jongno in Seoul said, “I am glad that I have completed the Korean-language translation and published his book, Myobeop Yeonhwagyeong (Saddharma Pundarika Sutra), also known in English as the Sutra on the Lotus of the Wonderful Law, the Lotus Sutra.
Hongpa said it took him two full years of hard work.
Speaking at a meeting with this writer at his temple on January 15 this year, Chief Abbot Hongpa, who had now turned 77 in Korean age, said: “I think I paid for my meal as I became a true Buddhist disciple through the translation and publication of this book. I am in that stage of age where people would say there is nothing strange if I should leave the world putting an end to my life. Twenty to 30 years may pass after the end of my life, but I would still think that it was a truly good thing that I finished the work and published this book.”
S. Korea's Economy Contracts 1% in 2020, Worst Performance Since 1998
The South Korean economy shrank one percent last year to post its worst performance in over two decades.
According to tentative data from the Bank of Korea on Tuesday, the country's gross domestic product(GDP) shrank one percent in 2020 from a year earlier.
It marks the first on-year contraction and the worst growth since 1998 when the GDP shrank five-point-one percent amid the foreign currency crisis.
For the fourth quarter of last year, the nation's economy grew one-point-one percent on-quarter.
Missionary School Reports 39 More COVID-19 Infections
Almost 40 more cases of COVID-19 have been reported at an unaccredited international school in the central city of Daejeon, where 127 cases were confirmed Sunday.
According to health authorities in Gangwon Province on Tuesday, 37 students and two pastors from IEM School tested positive for the virus the previous day in Hongcheon in the province.
The pastors and 38 students were reportedly staying at a church in Hongcheon since January 16. The test results for one of the students has not been confirmed yet.
Global COVID-19 Cases Top 100 Million
Global cases of COVID-19 have reportedly surpassed 100 million, increasing by roughly ten million in about two weeks.
According to Worldometer, a website that provides real-time statistics for the pandemic, the global tally topped the grim milestone early on Tuesday, Korea time. The global death toll has surpassed two-point-14 million.
The latest tally means that one-point-three percent of the global population of seven-point-67 billion may have been infected by the virus.
S. Korea aims to vaccinate 70 pct of population by Sept.
SEOUL, Jan. 25 (Yonhap) -- South Korea aims to get 70 percent of its population inoculated by September and start the first vaccination next month, with so-called "herd immunity" here predicted to be created by November, health authorities said Monday.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) announced a set of core tasks for this year, which includes providing free COVID-19 vaccines to all nationals to form herd immunity by November.
The government has already secured COVID-19 vaccines to inoculate 56 million people under the World Health Organization's global vaccine COVAX Facility project and separate contracts with four foreign drug firms.
New virus cases over 400 again on cluster infections
SEOUL, Jan. 25 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's daily new coronavirus cases bounced back to over 400 again on Monday due to large-scale cluster infections linked to religious training facilities, as the country is set to decide whether to extend or lower its toughest-ever virus curbs later this week.
The country added 437 more COVID-19 cases, including 405 locally transmitted infections, raising the total caseload to 75,521, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
The figure was up from 392 on Sunday. Last week, the daily infections reached 392.6 on average.
Samsung heir Lee, prosecutors won't appeal ruling in bribery case
SEOUL, Jan. 25 (Yonhap) -- Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong and the prosecution said Monday that they will not appeal last week's appeals court ruling that sentenced him to 2 1/2 years in prison in a retrial of a high-profile bribery case.
Last Monday, the Seoul High Court handed down the verdict to the vice chairman of Samsung Electronics Co. for bribing former President Park Geun-hye and her longtime friend, Choi Soon-sil, to win government support for a smooth father-to-son transfer of managerial power at Samsung. Lee was sent back to prison after the sentencing.
His lawyer Lee In-jae said his client respected the court ruling and decided not to take further legal action.
The Korea Herald (http://www.koreaherald.com)
‘NK diplomat is living in South’
North Korea’s former acting ambassador to Kuwait has been living with his family in South Korea for at least a year, a local newspaper reported Monday.
The diplomat, Ryu Hyun-woo, was the North’s acting chief of mission in Kuwait in 2019, when he defected to the South with his family, who the source said had motivated him to defect in hopes of a “better future.”
If true, it is the second time a ranking official from Pyongyang has defected to Seoul since 2012, when leader Kim Jong-un came to power. In 2019, the North’s former acting ambassador to Rome deserted the totalitarian regime.
Virus variants, infection cluster in Daejeon put authorities on alert
South Korea is on alert as a new infection cluster traced to a missionary school in Daejeon could serve as a major threat to the country’s response to its ongoing third COVID-19 wave.
Since the outbreak first came to light Saturday, Korea discovered a total of 127 fresh cases traced to the IEM School, a Christian missionary training center in Daejeon, by Sunday’s end, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.
The boarding school, made to recruit and train teenagers as international missionaries under a Christian missionary society named IM, was found to have responded slowly to the virus spreading among its students.
Once the nation’s retail giant, Lotte Group in urgent need of transformation
The COVID-19 pandemic, along with the yearslong slow growth trend, has weighed upon most businesses but the burden was especially heavy for those that failed to grow out of conventional operating models.
An example among South Korea’s top businesses was the country’s retail giant Lotte Group which apparently is struggling to cope with the fast-changing market trend.
According to the nation’s bourse operator Korea Exchange, none of the Lotte affiliates were included in Kospi’s top 30 companies in terms of market capitalization as of market close on Jan. 21.
The Korea Times (http://www.koreatimes.co.kr)
Commercial banks call profit-sharing 'unfair'
Korea's commercial banks have called the idea of big companies contributing funds to ease the financial burden of coronavirus-hit merchants "unfair," saying the move would undermine the integrity of the capital market.
The ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) was the first to float the idea, with its chairman Lee Nak-yon suggesting that companies that generated profits last year should establish a joint fund with the government and provide financial support for the self-employed and small firms hit hard by the pandemic shock.
Following this plan, the nation's financial companies are emerging as "targets" of the government's possible move as they reported a cumulative trillions of won in profits last year. The nation's top four banking groups ― KB, Shinhan, Hana and Woori ― are estimated to have generated around 11 trillion won in net profits in 2020.
South Korea expects flexible solutions to joint military exercise
Unification Minister Lee In-young hoped Monday that South Korea and the United States will find a flexible way to conduct their envisaged combined military exercises to ensure North Korea does not react with tension-stoking provocations.
Lee also said the government will make efforts this year to normalize inter-Korean relations and restore communication channels.
The remarks at a press conference came after the North preemptively protested the annual joint military exercises. Seoul and Washington are now discussing how to configure an upcoming military drill in March.
SK, Geely to form ties on hydrogen business
SK Group will form a hydrogen business partnership with Geely Auto Group of China, which is thought to be related to projects for fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) using the gas, according to industry officials, Monday.
SK Holdings, the group's holding and investment company, said it was "in talks with Geely over a partnership in various businesses."
Though SK did not clarify which businesses it will pursue with the Chinese automotive titan, sources said they are planning to raise a mutual fund of hundreds of billions of won, which will be used to invest in the development of eco-friendly vehicles such as hydrogen FCEVs. Also, establishing a joint venture between the two groups is being considered as an option, they said.
HanKyoReh Shinmun (http://english.hani.co.kr)
Why did Biden call for Sung Kim’s return?
Sung Kim, an expert on the North Korean nuclear issue and the US ambassador to Indonesia, was named acting assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs on Jan. 20, the day of US President Joe Biden’s inauguration.
Since Kim was closely involved in the North Korean nuclear talks that were so energetically pursued by the Trump administration, his appointment is likely to speed up the Biden administration’s promised review of US policy on the North Korean nuclear program.
Key officials and nominees in the Biden administration have declined to comment specifically on how they’ll handle the North Korean nuclear issue, one of the most intractable US foreign policy challenges, and have only promised a review of past policies.
White House alludes to “new strategy” regarding N. Korea
Following Joe Biden’s inauguration as American president, diplomatic and national security officials in his administration have started making contact with their South Korean counterparts.
On Jan. 23, Suh Hoon, director of the Blue House National Security Office, had his first chat on the phone with White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. Then on Jan. 24, South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook spoke on the phone with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
S. Korea reports first case of pet being infected with COVID-19
South Korea has reported its first case of a pet testing positive for the coronavirus.
The government plans to have the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (MAFRA) and disease control authorities draw up guidelines for pets, but officials don’t think that people are likely to catch the coronavirus from their pets.
“The disease control authorities confirmed that a pet was infected with the coronavirus during an epidemiological study of a recent infection cluster,” Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said during a COVID-19 meeting of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters. The meeting was held at the Central Government Complex in Seoul on Jan. 24.
Chosun Ilbo (http://english.chosun.com)
1 in 4 Koreans Think Stocks Are the Best Investment
More and more people believe stocks are the best investment as the Korean stock market continues a bull run.
According to a poll of 1,000 people by Gallup Korea last week, a quarter of respondents chose stock investment as the best way to increase their money, up from 11 percent in the same survey last July.
"The nine surveys we've conducted since 2000 show that stock investments, which entail the risk of losing the principal, usually lagged behind real estate, but they became extremely popular this year," a Gallup staffer said.
Korea to Start Coronavirus Vaccinations Next Month
The government announces the country's coronavirus vaccination schedule on Thursday, which will begin next month.
All eyes are on who will be the first to receive the vaccine, and which brand they will get.
Nurses are likely to be first since they are on the frontlines of the fight against the virus, together with other medical workers and elderly patients in convalescent hospitals.
President Moon Jae-in said last week that there should be no priority group other than frontline health workers. He also pledged to take the shot himself first if public fears about safety mount.
Young Children Own More Than W870 Million Worth of Stocks
Minors own more than W1 billion worth of stocks in listed companies in Korea, according to a survey Sunday by financial information service FnGuide (US$1=W1,105).
Some 151 children under 10 had been given stocks by parents or grandparents who are major shareholders in publicly traded companies as of Jan. 20, up from 130 from the end of 2019.
They owned around W870 million worth of stocks on average per person, 28 of them more than W1 billion.
The Dong-A Ilbo (http://english.donga.com/)
Biden to sign ‘Buy American’ executive order
U.S. President Joe Biden, who has been “obliterating Trump” since he was sworn into office, is now takingl over the former president’s policy tack. On Monday, President Biden will sign an executive order designed to strengthen the U.S. government’s “Buy American” rules. The new executive order is in the same vein with Trump’s “American First”, making it a rule for the federal government to buy the products of American companies when spending taxpayers’ money for public procurements.
Unification minister stresses flexibility on sanctions against N. Korea
South Korean Unification Minister Lee In-young said on Monday that he hopes to find a “wise” and “flexible” solution to prevent ROK-US joint military exercise from causing serious military tensions with North Korea, commenting on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s demand to suspend the joint drills. As for applying tougher sanctions on North Korea, which has been suggested by the Joe Biden administration, Minister Lee said that Seoul thinks easing sanctions against North Korea can help expedite denuclearization talks. Minister Lee suggested the need to scale down or suspend ROK-US joint military drills and, at the same time, stressed easing of sanctions against the North.
S. Korea is likely to overtake Italy in national income
Bloomberg forecasted that South Korea’s Gross National Income (GNI) of 2020 will reach G7 levels, surpassing Italy.
According to the newspaper, Seoul’s per-capital income stood $33,790 in 2019 based on World Bank data, slightly below Italy’s $34,530. Italy has the lowest income among G7 countries.
It also said that economists estimate Italy’s economy shrank by around 9% last year due to mass shutdowns, a measure introduced to slow down the spread of COVID-19, adding that South Korea, on the other hand, is expected to report quarterly growth of 0.9% in the last three months of 2020 that would limit the contraction over the whole year to 1%.
The KyungHyang Shinmun (http://english.khan.co.kr/)
Why Lee Jae-yong Is Backing the Compliance Committee with a Message from Prison
Lee Jae-yong, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, in prison for his involvement in the abuse of state authority, supported the company’s compliance committee with a message from prison.
On January 21, Samsung Electronics conveyed that through his lawyer, Lee “expressed his determination to continue supporting the activities of the compliance committee” and sincerely asked “the committee chairman and members to be faithful to their roles in the future.” This day, the compliance committee held its regular meeting at the Samsung Electronics Seocho office in Seoul.
Kim Jin-sook Marches to Cheongwadae, “The State Too Is Responsible for Unfair Layoffs”
“We can’t put it off any longer. We urge the president, the government, Hanjin Heavy Industries, and the Korea Development Bank to acknowledge their responsibility and take immediate action.”
A debate was held to reinstate and restore the honor of Kim Jin-sook (61), an executive member of the Busan chapter of the Korea Confederation of Trade Unions who was laid off by Hanjin Heavy Industries, at the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy in Jongno-gu, Seoul on January 21. The debate was co-organized by ten lawmakers from the ruling and opposition parties including vice speaker of the National Assembly Kim Sang-hee and civic groups. Kim Jin-sook, who passed her retirement age without being reinstated at the end of last year, is currently marching in protest from Busan to Cheongwadae wearing the blue uniform worn by the workers at Hanjin Heavy Industries. She argued, “I cannot retire without being reinstated.”
President Moon Determined to Restart the Process for Peace on the Korean Peninsula
The replacement of Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, the only cabinet member from the first days of the Moon Jae-in government, with Chung Eui-yong, former chief of the Cheongwadae National Security Office shows the president’s determination to accelerate efforts to revive the process for peace on the Korean Peninsula. The latest reshuffle shows that the government will concentrate all its diplomatic ability into creating momentum and restarting the process for peace on the peninsula, which had been suspended along with the stalled talks between North Korea and the United States.
Maeil Business News Korea (http://www.pulsenews.co.kr/)
S. Korea’s Q4 GDP adds 1.0%, falls 1.0% for full 2020, deepest in 22 yrs
The South Korean economy added 1.1 percent in the fourth quarter thanks to recovery in global demand for chips and tech devices, although it finished the pandemic-ridden year of 2020 with a 1.0 percent contraction, the deepest in 22 years.
The gross domestic product (GDP) of Asia’s fourth largest economy grew 1.1 percent in the October-December period from the previous quarter, eased from a recovery pace of 2.1 percent in the third quarter, according to preliminary data from the Bank of Korea. Against a year ago, the economy contracted 1.4 percent.
Hyundai BNG Steel in talks to acquire auto materials business from LG Hausys
Hyundai BNG Steel Co. is in talks to acquire auto materials and industrial film business from LG Hausys Ltd., Maeil Business Newspaper found.
According to industry sources on Monday, LG Hausys is expected to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Hyundai BNG Steel on Tuesday to name the Hyundai Motor Group company dedicated to stainless steel sheets the preferred negotiator to acquire its auto materials and industrial business. The deal is estimated at some 200 to 300 billion won ($272 million), according to sources.
Samsung Elec shares boosted by expectation for undisturbed expansion in Lee void
Shares in Samsung Electronics Co. on Monday received a lift upon report of a $10 billion expansion at its chip foundry in Austin, Texas, after a brief upset in the blue chip’s hot streak following the imprisonment of its chief who on the day decided against an appeal to finish his prison term of one and half years.
The stock added 3 percent to close Monday at 88,000 won ($81.2) as investors’ jitters over decision-making at the world’s top memory maker eased from anticipated expansion plan and Lee’s move from the prison to signal undisturbed management during his absence.
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