Wednesday, June 9, 2021
Round-up of important news from major Korean dailies and from international media today
ICCK signs a business pact with KONMA to explore non-ferrous markets
The Indian Chamber of Commerce in Korea (ICCK) and the Korea Non-ferrous Metal Association (KONMA) signed a mutual cooperation agreement on June 3 to promote exchanges between member companies and explore markets. The agreement ceremony, which was held to mark the 14th Non-ferrous Metal Day, was attended by Sachin Satpute, chairman of the ICCK, Lee Je-joong, chairman of the KONMA, and Vice Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy Park Jin-kyu. Last year, Korea’s non-ferrous metal industry achieved $11 billion in exports, up 0.4 percent from the revious year, despite the difficult situation of Covid-19. Through this agreement, both sides said they will support companies to secure growth engines in preparation for the post-corona era.
Samsung Electronics wins ‘Triple Standard’ by Carbon Trus
Samsung Electronics has received the semiconductor industry’s first “Triple Standard” for carbon, water and waste by Carbon Trust, the company said on June 3. Samsung was awarded this certification by reducing the amount of carbon emissions, water use, and waste discharge over the past three years at five operations --Giheung, Hwaseong, Pyeongtaek, Onyang and Cheonan factories in Korea and four global manufacturing sites in U.S. and China (Austin, Suzhou, Tianjin and Xi’an). This is a huge feat, considering that it is extremely challenging for semiconductor manufacturing companies to meet all three qualifications at once. “For decades, Samsung has been striving to incorporate environmental sustainability into every aspect of the semiconductor manufacturing process,” said Jang Seong-dai, senior vice president and head of DS Corporate Sustainability Management Office at Samsung Electronics. Jang added, “We’ll continue to pursue more environmentally sustainable policies across the entire production and supply chain.”
Guri City Mayor Ahn wins the "Excellent Award" at 2021 Governance Local Political Awards
Guri City, Gyeonggi Province, announced on June 3 that Mayor Ahn Seung-nam won the Excellence Award in the category of expanding residents' living benefits at the "2021 3rd Governance Local Political Awards" held at the Seoul Women's Plaza International Conference Hall in Daebang-dong, Seoul on June 2. Guri City Mayor Ahn Seung-nam wins the Excellence Award in the category of expanding residents' living benefits at the "2021 3rd Governance Local Political Awards" on June 2. Guri City Mayor Ahn's award was highly praised for building a local community after considering "citizens' happiness" as the top priority in all processes of municipal administration with the vision of "Guri, Citizens' Happiness Metropolitan City." In particular, Mayor Ahn sought for civil happiness by revitalizing the local economy and creating jobs, laying the institutional foundation for creating a "special city for citizens' happiness" such as the enactment of an ordinance to promote citizens' happiness.
S. Korea's Economy Grows 1.7% in Q1, Faster than Expected
The country's real gross domestic product(GDP) grew one-point-seven percent in the first quarter from the previous quarter, returning to pre-pandemic levels. The Bank of Korea(BOK) announced its final estimate for the January-to-March period on Wednesday, which is zero-point-one percentage point higher than its tentative figure announced on April 27. Compared to the April data, growth in the manufacturing industry was one-point-one percentage points higher while growth in the service sector was zero-point-one percentage point lower. Last year, Asia’s fourth largest economy contracted in the first two quarters due to the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, dropping one-point-three percent in the first and three-point-two percent in the second. However, it turned around in the third quarter with growth of two-point-one percent, followed by growth of one-point-two percent in the fourth. A minimum growth of one-point-three percent in the first quarter of 2021 would ensure the economy’s recovery to pre-pandemic levels.
US Lowers Travel Advisory for S. Korea to Lowest Level
The U.S. has lowered its travel advisory for South Korea by one notch to the lowest level in its four-tier travel alert system. The update made on Tuesday by the U.S. Department of State showed that Korea’s position was shifted from Level Two: Exercise Increased Caution to Level One: Exercise Normal Precautions. It is the first time the U.S. has issued the lowest travel advisory for the country since it raised the status to Level Two on November 24 of last year. The department cited a “low level of COVID-19 in the country,” based on an assessment by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC). South Korea registered an average of 613 COVID-19 cases a day for the past seven days through Tuesday with vaccinations picking up speed toward the goal of one-fourth of the population receiving at least one shot by the end of this month.
S. Korea Plans to Push for 3-Way Summit with US, Japan at G7 Summit
Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun said no official trilateral summit among South Korea, the U.S. and Japan has been scheduled on the sidelines of the Group of Seven(G7) summit this week, but Seoul is open to and will actively seek it. Cho made the remark in a meeting with reporters upon arrival in the U.S. on Tuesday on his way to meet his counterpart Wendy Sherman to discuss a follow-up to the South Korea-U.S. summit last month. Choi said “there can be many possibilities” for meetings among the leaders participating in the G7 summit to be held in Cornwall, England, from Friday to Sunday, referring to the White House’s recent statements on the matter. U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Monday that no trilateral meeting has been scheduled, but he noted a possibility "for virtually anything," citing the small space of the venue.
Job additions stretched to 3rd month in May
South Korea reported job growth for the third straight month in May, data showed Wednesday, in the latest sign that the job market is recovering from slumps caused by the pandemic. The number of employed people reached 27.6 million last month, 619,000 more than a year earlier, according to the data compiled by Statistics Korea. The May addition was lower than the previous month's 652,000 increase, the largest job growth in almost seven years. In March, the number of working people increased by 314,000 from a year earlier, the first job growth in 13 months. The COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a severe blow to the job market, with the country reporting job losses for the 12th straight month in February. But amid an economic recovery, a lower base effect and relaxed distancing rules helped create more jobs in May, according to the statistics agency.
S. Korea's Q1 economic expansion faster than expected at 1.7 pct
South Korea's economy grew slightly faster than expected in the first quarter, thanks to a robust recovery of exports and facility investment, inching the nation's economic growth closer to the pre-pandemic level, central bank data showed Wednesday. Asia's fourth-largest economy grew 1.7 percent in the first quarter from three months earlier, 0.1 percentage point higher than earlier expected, according to preliminary data from the Bank of Korea (BOK). The country's annualized growth in the January-March period was also revised up to 1.9 percent, up 0.1 percentage point. "Facilities investment grew by 6.1 percent, led by the growth of investment in machinery and transportation equipment," the BOK said in a statement. "Exports increased by 2 percent, as exports of goods, such as motor vehicles and mobile phones, expanded," it said.
New virus cases in 400s for 2nd day amid vaccination push
South Korea's daily new virus cases remained in the 400s for the second straight day Tuesday amid efforts to boost the country's vaccination campaign. The country reported 454 more COVID-19 cases, including 435 local infections, raising the total caseload to 145,091, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said. Tuesday's figure was down from 485 cases Monday. But daily cases usually go up starting Wednesday as more people get tested. Daily caseloads have been going through some ups and downs between the 400s and 700s in recent months with no significant signs of a letup as cluster infections continue to pop up across the nation. The country added one more death, raising the death toll to 1,975. The fatality rate was 1.36 percent.
The Korea Herald (http://www.koreaherald.com)
US lowers travel advisory for S. Korea to lowest Level 1
The United States on Tuesday lowered its travel advisory for South Korea to the lowest level, which advises people visiting the Asian country to exercise normal precaution. The State Department said the latest update reflected a low level of COVID-19 infections in South Korea. "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 1 Travel Health Notice for South Korea due to COVID-19, indicating a low level of COVID-19 in the country," it said. The US had maintained a Level 2 travel advisory for South Korea since Nov. 23, which advises US travelers to exercise increased caution. The State Department or the CDC did not provide reasons for the downward revision. South Korea has reported a total of 145,091 infection cases as of Tuesday (Seoul time), with 1,975 deaths.
LG automates vacuum cleaner dust removal
Cordless stick vacuum cleaners have made hoovering a lot more convenient, but they have a drawback: the need to empty dustbins frequently due to their small capacity. A team of engineers at LG Electronics worked to solve this problem for years and recently came up with an answer -- a new charging system integrated with automatic dustbin removal technology. Every time a user docks the vacuum cleaner in its stand to charge, the dustbin is automatically emptied. “Regardless of nationality, age and gender, a common wish among users of vacuum cleaners is to have someone else do the cleaning,” said Yoo Byung-do, who led the planning for the stick vacuum cleaner product at LG. “The acts of cleaning are pretty much the same in Korea and elsewhere, and users put the top priority on convenience.” And so came the LG CordZero A9 Kompressor+ with the “All-in-one Tower” charging stand.
Korea's exports of computer, display panels feared to weaken later this year: FKI
South Korea’s exports of computers, display panels and home appliances could weaken later this year as a result of declining global demand and growing tensions between the US and China, a new report has warned. But other sectors -- secondary cell, automobile, semiconductor and shipbuilding industries -- would fare better and expect to enjoy an upward trend at least until next year, according to the according to the report released on Tuesday by the Federation of Korean Industries. The report’s results were based on the federation’s survey of senior researchers at a dozen securities companies on prospects of some of the country’s main exports. Kim Bong-man, head of the international affairs division at the federation, urged the government to provide help for South Korean companies. “South Korea’s exports are breaking records day after day even when the coronavirus pandemic isn’t over, but a crisis can arrive at any time,” Kim said.
The Korea Times (http://www.koreatimes.co.kr)
irtual school tours to Korea grow popular in Hong Kong, Taiwan
A program offering virtual school tours to Korea, operated by the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO), has become popular in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan. The KTO said its "Digital School Tour to Korea" program, which was designed in response to the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic, enables students in other countries to interact with Korean students via video conferencing and virtually experience Korean food, K-pop and tourist attractions in the country. Since the organization's Hong Kong branch began the program on April 15, targeting 120 middle school students of Christ College, the program has been drawing attention from other schools. Some 20 schools in Hong Kong have since applied for the program for their 3,900 students. The number is higher than the 3,209 students there who visited Korea in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic started. In Taiwan, Kaohsiung Girls' Senior High School became the first to participate in the program in May. The KTO said some 400 Taiwanese students are expected to participate in the program annually.
Industry minister vows to strengthen supply chain in core industries
Industry Minister Moon Sung-wook said Tuesday that the Moon Jae-in administration will keep working to strengthen supply chain capabilities for core industry sectors such as semiconductors, electric vehicle (EV) batteries and biotechnology, to help local companies continue to lead in their business fields. The minister added the government is set to announce specific guideline to help domestic firms, regardless of size, better achieve carbon neutrality, which has emerged as one of the most important goals in the global energy sector. Moon was appointed as a new industry minister May 6, and given that President Moon's remaining term is less than a year, he is set to become the last industry minister under the current administration. So the minister emphasized his role is to help the administration finish on top with fruitful results in the industry sector and to establish a future strategy for the following administration.
Korean sculptor becomes Italian town's honorary citizen
Italy-based sculptor Park Eun-sun has received honorary citizenship from Pietrasanta, a town in Tuscany, Italy, for his artistic contributions to the city famous for sculpture. Pietrasanta Mayor Alberto Stefano Giovannetti awarded the certificate to Park during a ceremony attended by Korean Ambassador to Italy Kwon Hee-Seog at the Church of Saint Augustine, local media outlet La Nazione reported. Park is known as the third foreign artist having received honorary citizenship from the Italian town. The two others are Colombian sculptor Fernando Botero and Polish sculptor Igor Mitoraj. In an acceptance speech, he was quoted as saying by the local newspaper, "I am touched and honored. I want to thank all the people who have helped me and my family. In Pietrasanta I made my dreams come true, it is my home … We are happy. The city has made me grow as a person and artist. It is a great joy to be able to carry the name of this little big city on my shoulders and to be able to represent it."
Chosun Ilbo (http://english.chosun.com)
Forced Labor Victims' Claim Against Japanese Firms Dismissed
A Korean court has rejected a lawsuit filed by 85 victims of wartime forced labor and their families against Japanese firms. The Seoul Central District Court on Monday threw out their suit against 16 Japanese companies such as Nippon Steel, Nissan Chemical and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, citing a 1965 treaty between Korea and Japan that settles all reparation claims. The decision runs counter to a 2018 Supreme Court ruling in a similar case that treaties between states cannot override individual rights to seek compensation. "While individual Korean citizens' right to claim against the Japanese state or Japanese people has not been terminated or waived by the 1965 treaty, it does restrict the exercise of their individual rights through lawsuits," the court ruled. Permitting the plaintiffs to enforce any claim through a Korean court would be both a "violation of the constitutional principles of national security and public order" and an "abuse of power," considering the international backlash if treaties can be challenged by individuals, it added.
Koreans Open More Stock Accounts Than Bank Accounts
Some 4.84 million new stock accounts were opened here in the first four months of this year, according to the Financial Supervisory Service, but the number of bank accounts increased by just 4.47 million. This is the first time that stock accounts grew at a faster rate than bank accounts. Deposit accounts increased but savings accounts dwindled amid record-low interest rates. Overseas stock accounts also increased by 1.15 million during the same period. The figures show a surging interest in stock and cryptocurrency and waning preference for bank savings. The number of new stock accounts this year already surpassed last year's total of 4.11 million. Millions were motivated by the stock market’s bumper performance last year. Stock accounts were opened by people of all ages, but the increase was particularly marked among the younger generation. Koreans in their 20s opened 1.16 million accounts, those in their 30s 1.26 million and those in their 40s 999,000.
Gov't Handouts Are Blatant Vote-Buying
Out of W19 trillion in higher-than-expected tax revenues during the first quarter of this year, 43 percent was due to one-off gains unrelated to the economic recovery (US$1=W1,115). W3 trillion came from drastically increased real estate taxes, W1 trillion from inheritance taxes, W2 trillion from stock transactions and W2 trillion from late taxes collected from refiners. The on-year increase only looked so high because tax revenues a year ago were so low that any improvement would seem impressive. By law, any surplus in tax revenues must be used to pay off sovereign debt, which stands at a record W104 trillion. But Cheong Wa Dae and the ruling Minjoo Party want to shower it randomly on voters. President Moon Jae-in has called for "additional tax spending," while the ruling party is preparing to ratify another supplementary budget scaled at W30 trillion.
HanKyoReh Shinmun (http://english.hani.co.kr)
S. Korean court dismisses forced labor case against Japanese companies, overturns Supreme Court decision
A South Korean district court has dismissed a personal damages lawsuit filed by victims of forced labor during Japan’s colonial rule over Korea. The court said the victims’ right to claim damages had been exhausted by a claims agreement reached by South Korea and Japan back in 1965. A dismissal occurs when the court throws out a lawsuit without reviewing the substance of its claims because the suit fails to meet the minimum requirements. This district court faces criticism for taking into account the extralegal argument that poor relations with Japan could undermine South Korea’s alliance with the US. On June 7, Kim Yang-ho, senior judge in the 34th Civil Division at the Seoul Central District Court, dismissed all lawsuits filed against 16 Japanese companies implicated in war crimes, including Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, by 85 forced labor victims and their surviving family members. This would have been the largest trial involving forced labor victims.
Late Air Force sergeant’s father says her superiors abetted sexual assault
Identified by her surname Lee, the Air Force master sergeant was found dead on May 22 — three months after she reported being sexually assaulted. “There are no words to describe just how wronged and bitter I feel. How could I ever imagine that photograph of my sweet and beautiful daughter would end up being used as her funeral portrait? To see her there, surrounded by chrysanthemums...” The father trailed off as he imagined his late daughter. Her family could not bear to let her go. To right the wrong they suffered, they demanded an investigation and punishment of those responsible. Rather than holding a formal wake, they set up a temporary memorial, which only went up on Friday. It showed photographs of Lee while she was still alive, with a stuffed cat standing in for her beloved pet.
Former Prosecutor General vows to make S. Korea place “that doesn’t anger” fallen patriots
Yoon Seok-youl, former prosecutor general and the most likely opposition candidate in the upcoming presidential election, paid his respects at Seoul National Cemetery on June 5, one day before Korea’s Memorial Day, and vowed to “make our country a place that doesn’t anger those who laid down their lives for it.” Yoon’s message about making the country better during a visit to a national cemetery is seen as strongly hinting that he plans to run for president. Yoon’s staff told the press that he’d paid a visit to a chamber holding spirit tablets and a memorial to unknown soldiers below Chunghon Tower at the cemetery on Saturday. Yoon also reportedly expressed his condolences during a meeting with family members of those killed in the Vietnam War and in counterespionage operations. In the visitors’ log, Yoon wrote that he would “make our country a place that doesn’t anger those who laid down their lives for it.”
The Dong-A Ilbo (http://english.donga.com/)
Samsung Electronics localizes the entirely imported semiconductor material
Samsung Electronics, along with mid-sized South Korea company Paik Kwang Industrial, has successfully localized ultra-high purity hydrogen chloride, a key material used for semiconductors that is entirely imported from Japan and Germany. The company succeeded in the localization of a material for which South Korea has been heavily dependent on Japan in about two years after the Japanese government-imposed export controls in semiconductor materials in July 2019. According to Samsung Electronics and the semiconductor industry on Tuesday, the two companies recently completed a quality test for ultra-high purity hydrogen chloride, which is actually applied to semiconductor facilities of Samsung Electronics. Their contract will be finalized in the second half of this year.
FDA approves new medicine for Alzheimer
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new medicine for Alzheimer for the first time in 18 years. It is good news to patients with dementia as some 70 percent of senile dementia cases develop from Alzheimer. But whether it can be of help to eradicate Alzheimer is still unknown as there are still controversies among experts on the efficacy of the medicine and it costs tens of millions of won won per year. The FDA gave a conditional approval for Aduhelm co-developed by Biogen, a U.S. pharmaceutical company, and Japan’s Eisai on Monday (local time). Alzheimer patients have to get a shot every four weeks. According to overseas media, previously developed medicines were only able to manage symptoms of dementia, but the new medicine developed for the first time in 18 years carries greater significance as it is used to treat the disease.
S. Korean Democratic Party’s seats decrease from 180 to 162 in just a year
The number of seats held by the Democratic Party of Korea will decrease further from its current figure of 174 as the party decided on Tuesday to expel 12 party members suspected to have been involved in real estate speculation. The party secured 180 seats, including its satellite party members, at the April 15 general election last year but lost 18 members in 14 months, raising criticism for its poor nomination. The biggest cause of the reduction of the democratic party’s seats was the real estate issue. It turned out that Yang Jeong-sook, a proportional representative, has owned three houses right after the general election and she was removed even before the opening of the 21st National Assembly. Another member Kim Hong-gul was also expelled from the party in September last year due to the suspected activities to underrepresent his real estate.
The Military Justice System Was Bound to Lead to Allegations of Concealing Sexual Assault in the Air Force
Allegations that the military tried to conceal the sexual assault of an Air Force noncommissioned officer have led to more people supporting the call for changes in the military justice system. The military operates a justice system different from the civilian one because of the special nature of the organization. On June 7, the Kyunghyang Shinmun consulted a legal expert and analyzed the current Military Court Act. The result showed that the current structure was susceptible to unfair investigations and trials because the military prosecutors’ office and court were both subordinate to the commander.According to the Military Court Act, a prosecutor in the military prosecutors’ office lies under the supervision and command of the unit commander. A general prosecutors’ office is located in Army divisions, Navy fleets, and Air Force wings, and it investigates and prosecutes cases that occur in the unit.
“Moon Government Must Not Undermine Fairness and Justice in Order to Release One Business Tycoon”
Among the academia and civic groups, the majority oppose the pardon of Lee Jae-yong, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics. They argued that the pardon would be an act deserting the fairness and justice that the Moon Jae-in government had stressed and another form of abuse of state authority. Park Sang-in, a professor at the Seoul National University Graduate School of Public Administration criticized the discussions on a pardon for Lee as a game rigged by Cheongwadae, Samsung and businesses. In a phone conversation with the reporter on June 3, Professor Park said, “Are we facing serious challenges in the semiconductor competition or in securing vaccine supplies right now because Lee is in prison? Absolutely not.” He further said, “Samsung and businesses created a popular opinion that we would face a big problem shortly after Lee was convicted and sentenced to imprisonment, and some members of the press played the role of a loudspeaker. Cheongwadae sided with them and created the public opinion.”
Biden Narrowly Ahead in U.S. Election: His Tasks and Policies on the Korean Peninsula
Democratic candidate Joe Biden is currently ahead in the U.S. presidential election. According to the U.S. press on the morning of November 5 (local time), Biden has secured 264 of the electoral votes and is expected to have no problem obtaining the 270 votes necessary to win the election. Thus the unilateral state administration by President Donald Trump, which had given the world a hard time the last four years, is likely to make an exit. During the campaign, Biden put a distance between himself and Trump’s “America first,” anti-globalization, protective trade, and anti-immigration policies and pledged to restore a liberal international order. We expect Biden to return the U.S. to normalcy according to the wishes of the international community. The first task Biden will have to tackle is switching Trump’s foreign policy. The key issue would be putting an end to the America-first policy. Biden and the Democratic Party had emphasized multilateralism, restoring alliances damaged by Trump and strengthening U.S. influence.
Maeil Business News Korea (http://www.pulsenews.co.kr/)
Multiple bidders for consumer unit of Citibank Korea, but none promises job security
Minimum four bidders have come forward either to acquire all or part of consumer banking from Citibank Korea, but whether a sale can take place is doubtful as none promises job security. According to briefing of Yoo Myung-soon, interim CEO at Citibank Korea Inc. on the exit plan to employees, more than four financial companies have expressed interest in buying all or part of retail operations as of June 3. The foreign bank name folding consumer banking business includes retail banking, individual wealth management and credit card operation. Selling the retail operations in full is the most desired option for the bank but it is also reviewing plans of breaking up the business for separate sales or phased liquidation if conditions are not met.
Doosan Heavy I&C roars back on track as renewable builder and reactor exporter
South Korea’s Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction Co. has risen fast from last year’s default crisis that required state bailout as its devastation from government policy to phase out from nuclear and fossil fuel improved on state-backed transition to a builder behind renewable infrastructure and Korea-U.S. agreement to partner in exploration of global nuclear reactor market. Doosan Heavy I&C share price has more than doubled since May 24 after South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden in their summit agreed on cooperation in overseas nuclear markets. Its shares soared from 14,550 won ($13.10) on May 24 to close at 32,000 won on Monday, pushing up its market value by more than 10.6 trillion won.
LG Energy Solution to invest $10.7 mn in QPM for stable supply of EV battery materials
South Korea’s LG Energy Solution said on Tuesday it has signed an agreement to buy a 7.5 percent stake in Australia-based Queensland Pacific Metals (QPM) for about 12 billion won ($10.76 million). The transaction aims to increase the Korean battery maker’s footprint in the supply of key electric vehicle battery materials such as nickel and cobalt. QPM, a smelting company established in 2007, is building a nickel sulfate and cobalt sulfate production plant for EV batteries with an eco-friendly new processing method in northern Queensland, Australia, with the goal of production in the second half of 2023. LG Energy Solution also inked a long-term purchase contract with a stable supply of 7,000 tons of nickel and 700 tons of cobalt annually for 10 years from the end of 2023.
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