Tuesday, July 6, 2021
Round-up of important news from major Korean dailies and from international media today
Papa John’s Chairman Seo inaugurated as governor of Rotary International District 3650
Seo Chang-woo, chairman of Korea Papa John’s, a premium pizza brand, took office as governor of the Rotary International District 3650 for 2021 and 2022 at Grand Hyatt Seoul in Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul on July 1. His term of office runs from the same day to June 30 next year. Seo was also elected chairman of the Korea Governors’ Club, which consists of 19 regional governors of Rotary International. The inauguration ceremony was held with the attendance of Yoo Jang-hee, former governor of the Rotary International District 3650 (also former chairman of the Commission for Shared Growth) and Lee Dong-gun, former chairman of the Rotary International (also chairman of Boobang Group), and other guests.. Founded in 1905 by U.S. Attorney Paul Harris, Rotary International is the world's largest private service organization with 1.2 million members from 203 countries. In 1927, when Japanese colonial era was established, Korea joined the Rotary International Club.
Hanwha Chairman Kim seeks stronger Korea-U.S. ties with U.S. Heritage Foundation chairman
Hanwha Group Chairman Kim Seung-yeon met with Edwin John Feulner Jr., chairman of the U.S. Heritage Foundation's Asia Research Center, for dinner at the Plaza Hotel in Jung-gu, Seoul on June 30, a group spokesman said. The dinner meeting took place on the occasion of Chairman Edwin Feulner's visit to Korea to participate in a domestic conference seeking ways for the Korea-U.S. alliance in the post-Covid-19 era. At the dinner, which lasted more than two hours, Chairman Kim and Chairman Edwin Feulner candidly shared their opinions on ways to promote Korea-U.S. coexistence and prosperity after the Covid-19 pandemic crisis, the spokesman said. Kim Dong-sun, Chairman Kim’s third son and managing director of Hanwha Hotel & Resort, and Executive Director Hwang Jin-woo, head of Hanwha Life Insurance's economic analysis office, were also present at the dinner.
The 200th anniversary of the birth of Father Kim Dae-geon, the great journey
In commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Father Kim Dae-geon, the first priest in Korea and selected as a UNESCO world monument figure in 2021, Dangjin City in Chungcheongnam-do and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Daejeon will hold a large-scale commemorative event in the area of Solmoe Seongji in Dangjin for nine days from August 14 to 22. The event commemorating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Father Kim Dae-geon is a “one heart event” where Catholics and general participants become one beyond religion, a “public interest event” that prioritizes social values, and a “sustainable development event” that reflects the UNESCO philosophy. aepo region and Catholicism, Catholicism in Korea has been continuously transmitted since the formation of a community of faith in the Joseon Dynasty in 1784.
Catholicism, which was adopted by the Southern scholars, was transmitted to Naepo and Jinsan in Chungcheong Province, and spread around these two places.
KDCA Warns of COVID-19 Spillover to Regions outside Seoul Metro
Health authorities warn regions outside the greater Seoul area could also see a spike in COVID-19 infections, adding the country is at a critical juncture to stem that outflow. Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency(KDCA) Commissioner Jeong Eun-kyeong in a regular media briefing on Monday said there are multiple cluster infections emerging, as well as confirmation of the more transmissible Delta variant among them. According to KDCA, the cumulative number of infections involving the infectious Delta strain in South Korea climbed to 416 as of Sunday. Of the recent COVID-19 cases in the nation, 35-point-seven percent were diagnosed with variants, with the Delta variant accounting for four-point-five percent. KDCA chief also warned that the reproduction rate rose to one-point-two percent and that the portion of COVID-19 tests coming out positive also grew to one-point-eight percent.
Defense Ministry: Date, Scale of Upcoming S. Korea-US Drill Not Yet Finalized
The Defense Ministry said Monday the date, scale and format of the South Korea-U.S. summertime command post exercise have yet to be determined. Ministry spokesperson Boo Seung-chan gave this response in a regular briefing when asked to confirm several media reports that said the August drill will be scaled back. Boo said that discussions are also under way with Pentagon regarding whether to test Full Operational Capability for the envisioned transfer of wartime operational control during the upcoming exercise. The two sides had planned to conduct the test last year as part of combined training maneuvers but failed to do so amid the pandemic. Some media outlets earlier reported the computer-simulated command post exercise is expected from the second week of August in a scaled-back manner without outdoor drills, raising prospects of skipping a major field training exercise for the fourth year.
Chinese Foreign Minister Urges US to Reflect on Exerting Pressure on N. Korea
Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi has criticized the United States for allegedly posing military threats to North Korea, calling for a resolution of the Korean Peninsula issues through dialogue and negotiation. According to China's Foreign Ministry on Sunday, Wang made the call the previous day in a speech at the World Peace Forum organized by Tsinghua University. The top diplomat reportedly urged Washington to reflect on the continuous pressure and threats it has been exerting on North Korea over the past few decades. Wang then stressed for a peaceful resolution of the peninsula issues through dialogue and negotiations. As for U.S. special representative for North Korea Sung Kim's recent trip to South Korea, Wang said that China supports all the moves that contribute to peace and stability on the peninsula.
Ex-Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon declares presidential bid
Ex-Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon officially launched his presidential bid Monday, pledging to recover the country's dwindling middle class. Lee, also a former five-term lawmaker and ex-chief of the ruling Democratic Party, announced that he will join the race to win the party's ticket to run in the March 9 presidential election. With the slogan of "a country that safeguards my life," Lee focused his campaign message on his pledges to relieve the country's growing economic disparity and beef up the national welfare system. "The middle class, which represented 65 percent (of the country's population) 10 years ago, has now come down to 57 percent," Lee said, announcing his presidential bid via his YouTube channel. "I will build a middle class (oriented) economy. I will expand the proportion of the middle class to 70 percent."
Police summon 6 people over weekend mass rally
Police said Monday they have summoned six people in connection with an illegal mass rally that took place in Seoul over the weekend. An estimated 8,000 people took to the streets of Seoul's central Jongno Ward on Saturday to demand better working conditions and a higher minimum wage. The rally was organized by the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), an umbrella labor union, and defied bans that had been placed by the Seoul metropolitan government and the police to stem the recent resurgence of COVID-19. "We booked six people yesterday, including organizers of the rally, on suspicion of violating the laws on assembly and demonstration and the prevention of infectious diseases, as well as obstruction of traffic, and immediately asked them to make their first appearance," a Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency official said.
S. Korea, Israel to speed up joint R&D projects
South Korea and Israel said Monday they plan to speed up joint research and development (R&D) projects to cope with the changing business environment amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The announcement came after the two countries announced earlier this year that they will increase contributions to the Korea-Israel Industrial R&D Foundation. The foundation kicked off in 2001 to promote bilateral technology exchanges. In May, South Korea and Israel vowed to each disburse US$4 million annually for the foundation, which is double the previous annual budget of $2 million. On the back of such efforts, the foundation on Monday decided to fund two new projects, namely the development of AI-based ultrasound self-diagnostic devices and a new type of medical treatment based on genes.
The Korea Herald (http://www.koreaherald.com)
S. Korea excluded from Italy’s quarantine-free travel scheme
It may take more time for South Korean people to travel to Italy without a 10-day quarantine requirement as the nation has been excluded from an initial list of countries that are subject to the Italian government’s new quarantine-free travel scheme, called certificazione verde, or green pass. Starting this month, quarantine-free travel is allowed in Italy for people from the US, Canada, Israel and Japan as well as those from EU countries if they present a digital health certificate that proves they have been fully vaccinated, tested negative or recovered from COVID-19. Korea’s Foreign Ministry had also sought to get the green pass, but the request was not accepted. Korea reportedly asked the Italian government to include Korea, citing its successful control of the coronavirus pandemic and strong travel demand.
Restrictions remain in place amid COVID-19 resurgence.
South Korea has walked back its plans to ease restrictions in the capital region for people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, as the country struggles with another virus resurgence despite continued vaccination efforts. Face masks will again be mandatory and drinking outdoors past 10 p.m. will be prohibited in the Greater Seoul area, even for those vaccinated against COVID-19. These rules are to be enforced indefinitely until the authorities decide that the COVID-19 situation has improved. Korea’s disease control authorities said Sunday that the government had decided to strengthen virus control measures in Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi Province, effective immediately, as the number of cases remained high in those regions. The country reported 711 new COVID-19 cases throughout Sunday, 644 locally transmitted and 67 imported from overseas, raising the cumulative total to 160,795, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.
Former ruling party leader Lee Nak-yon runs for president
Former Democratic Party leader Rep. Lee Nak-yon announced his presidential bid Monday. With Lee’s announcement, the race among the ruling bloc’s “Big Three” -- the others being Gyeonggi Gov. Lee Jae-myung and former Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun -- began in earnest. In a video clip released on YouTube at 10 a.m., the former prime minister and Democratic Party leader presented a five-point policy blueprint for South Korea that consisted of a new approach to social welfare, a middle-class economy, amendment of the Constitution, a new diplomacy based on soft power, and culture power. “As the gap in our society widens, inequality has grown through the pandemic,” Lee said. “As many people, including the young, are protesting against unfairness in the world, it is urgent to ease inequality and we need to rebuild the damaged justice.
The Korea Times (http://www.koreatimes.co.kr)
China's role growing in North Korean denuclearization
Amid a prolonged deadlock in North Korean denuclearization talks, diplomatic observers believe that China should play a critical role in resolving the impasse. Efforts to address the decades-long issue have stalled since former U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un failed to produce a nuclear deal in Hanoi, Vietnam in February 2019. Despite repeated dialogue offers by U.S. President Joe Biden, who took office in January, the reclusive country has been refusing to engage with the United States, increasing calls for Beijing to cooperate in dealing with Pyongyang. "As North Korea believes that it can achieve economic development via cooperation with China, the North has been refusing to engage either the U.S. or South Korea," said Cheong Seong-chang, director of the Center for North Korean Studies at the Sejong Institute.
KDB's HMM stock conversion to have limited impact
After Korea Development Bank (KDB) converted its HMM convertible bonds into stocks at the end of last month, market watchers are closely following the state-run bank's moves regarding the global shipping company's sizable shareholding. HMM's public disclosure last week showed that KDB exercised its right to convert 100 percent of the shipping company's convertible bonds ― worth 300 billion won ($264 million) ― into 60 million common shares on Monday, resulting in the state-run lender now owning 24.96 percent of all HMM shares, or 101.1 million shares. Convertible bonds are a type of bond that can be converted into a specified number of common stock shares. The number of such bonds that were converted into stocks this time only accounted for around 22 percent of KDB's entire holding of any HMM bonds. The state-run lender still owns 208 million perpetual bonds issued by HMM, which offers the bank a fixed-rate interest with no maturity date.
Biodiversity becoming next keyword in ESG disclosures
Biodiversity is becoming another keyword after climate change for listed companies in disclosing environmental, social and governance (ESG) information, according to multiple business and finance experts. During the "2021 Europe-Korea Virtual Business Conference" jointly hosted by the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) and the European Chamber of Commerce in Korea (ECCK) in Seoul, July 2, participating experts said large business groups should cope with both global and domestic issues at the same time when it comes to ESG management. The two chambers co-hosted the conference to share each other's experience of ESG that seeks joint prosperity between the business community and society. For listed firms, ESG management is becoming increasingly important with regards to their share values. Companies will be required accordingly to disclose mandatory ESG reports from 2025. "To predict future changes in the ESG ecosystem, we need to pay attention to the newly proposed disclosure standards along with monitoring major global disclosure standards," said Kim Dong-soo, head of the Korea Productivity Center and one of the speakers on ESG disclosure.
Chosun Ilbo (http://english.chosun.com)
Ex-President Lee's House Auctioned for W11.2 Billion
The home of ex-President Lee Myung-bak, who is in jail for corruption and embezzlement, has sold at auction for W11.2 billion (US$1=W1,134). The house in Gangnam's swish Nonhyeon area was seized because Lee failed to pay W18.78 billion in fines and auctioned off by the Korea Asset Management Corporation. Lee bought the house in 1978 and has been living there ever since except during his five-year term as president. The three-story property measures 673.4 sq.m. The successful bidder has already paid a 10-percent deposit and must complete the payment within 30 days. Lee's attorneys plan to file a formal objection claiming that former first lady Lee Yun-ok owns half of the property. The Seoul Central District Court seized the property when Lee was indicted in April 2018 to prevent him from selling his assets until a ruling was made. Last October, the Supreme Court sentenced him to 17 years in prison and also slapped him with a W13 billion fine and W5.78 billion forfeiture of assets.
Kim Jong-un Sacks Officials over COVID 'Crisis'
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has fired several senior officials for causing a "crisis" in the fight against coronavirus. They included a member of the top standing committee of the politburo, which only has five members including Kim himself. The drastic action suggests either that there has been a major outbreak or that Kim is trying to deflect attention from his self-inflicted food crisis. The state-run Rodong Sinmun daily reported that Kim chaired an extended party meeting and quoted him as saying, "In neglecting important decisions by the party that called for organizational, material and science and technological measures to support prolonged anti-epidemic work in face of a global health crisis, the officials in charge have caused a grave incident that created a huge crisis for the safety of the country and its people." It gave no details of the incident or the decision they allegedly neglected.
Fiscal Budget to Surpass W600 Trillion This Year
The government's total fiscal budget will surpass W600 trillion for the first time ever this year if a second supplementary budget of W33 trillion announced Thursday is passed by the National Assembly (US$1=W1,134). With the extra budget, total fiscal spending will amount to W604.7 trillion, compared to W384.9 trillion in 2016 before President Moon Jae-in took office. The government said in its budget proposal to the National Assembly last September that total state expenditures would surpass W600 trillion in 2023. But emergency support during the coronavirus pandemic and greater welfare handouts brought the milestone forward by two years. Fiscal spending grew 5.6 percent in 2017 to W406.6 trillion, but then the government tapped into state coffers to cover the fallout of its "income-led growth" policy, causing spending to rise 6.8 percent in 2018 to W434.1 trillion and another 9.5 percent in 2019 to W475.4 trillion. Last year, after four separate supplementary budgets due to the pandemic, expenditures surged 15.7 percent to W549.9 trillion.
HanKyoReh Shinmun (http://english.hani.co.kr)
UNCTAD classifies S. Korea as developed economy
The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has reclassified South Korea as a developed economy. This is the first time the UN agency has upgraded a member state’s development status since its establishment in 1964. “In the closing session of its 68th board meeting on July 2, the UN Conference on Trade and Development unanimously decided to move South Korea from Group A [Asian and African countries] to Group B [developed economies],” South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Sunday. “We’d pursued a move to the group of developed economies in order to take on a bigger role befitting the reality of Korea’s elevated status on the international stage. That includes the fact that we’re now the world’s 10th largest economy, that we hosted the P4G Summit, and that we attended the Group of Seven summit [as an observer country]. That decision was finalized in this meeting of the board.”
Gyeonggi Gov. Lee Jae-myung leads Yoon Seok-youl in latest matchup poll
Gyeonggi Province Gov. Lee Jae-myung on Thursday announced his bid for the presidency of South Korea. Lee asked Korean voters to equip him to “apply my proven abilities for our country.” After losing in the Democratic Party’s presidential primary on April 3, 2017, Lee pledged to “return after building a dream for a new world.” In the video he released to announce his presidential ambitions, in lieu of an in-person event, Lee explained why he wants to be president and what he means to do if elected. The words that appeared the most in Lee’s video announcement were “economy” (18 times) and “growth” (11 times). Korea is currently in a crisis, Lee said, because of “unfairness and polarization.” He unveiled a plan for solving those problems through a “fair economy” and “growth.”
“We members of the older generation lived in a world where, despite hardships, we had new challenges to undertake, and the belief that tomorrow would be better. But people in Korea today are facing a crisis,” Lee said.
How Japanese right-wingers attack freedom of expression
Located in a residential section of Tokyo’s Shinjuku neighborhood, the area around the Session House gallery garden started becoming quite noisy this past May 6. Strangers showed up walking through the side streets and chanting loud slogans. On some days, they would use vehicles and loudspeakers. “Stop the anti-Japanese exhibits! Stop with the comfort women statues!” , These were members of right-wing groups attempting to stop an exhibition titled “After ‘Freedom of Expression’?”, which was scheduled to run from June 25 to July 4. They appeared to have been spurred into coordinated action by the inclusion of items, including a statue symbolizing victims of sexual slavery by the Japanese military. As the intimidation tactics continued, the gallery finally gave in. It notified the exhibitors that it could not loan out the space it had already promised them on the grounds that it could not allow the inconvenience to local residents to continue.
The Dong-A Ilbo (http://english.donga.com/)
Americans in their 20s and 30s struggle with rising housing prices
Americans in their 20s and 30s are sighing at the soaring housing prices in the country. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on Sunday (local time) that the housing issue is delaying the marriages and childbirths of those who are economically vulnerable due to student loans and unemployment from COVID-19. The WSJ pointed that it is becoming more and more difficult for the millennials to buy a home as the supply of starter homes is decreasing, because the preference for comfortable mid- to large-sized houses has grown with more time spent at home due to COVID-19.
Xi: Those bullying China will have their heads bashed and bloodied
Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China on Thursday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said foreign forces that bully China will “find their heads bashed bloody against a great wall of steel forged by over 1.4 billion Chinese people.” President Xi declared his intention to take a resolute action if foreign countries, such as the U.S. intervene in its own issues with Taiwan and Hong Kong, saying it is China’s “historic task” to complete reunification with Taiwan. His remarks are regarded as a declaration of war against the Joe Biden administration, which has continued pressure on China since it took office in January. “With a history of more than 5,000 years, China has made indelible contributions to the progress of human civilization,” President Xi said at the 100th anniversary celebrations held at Tiananmen Square on Thursday. “No one should underestimate the resolve, the will, and the ability of the Chinese people to defend their national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Business people scheduled for emergency overseas trips can get vaccinated within 1 month
Hyundai Motor Company announced on Sunday that it has spun off its three in-house start-ups with promising business ideas. The newly spun-off start-ups are Difon, AutoL, and Datamond. They developed and are preparing to commercialize a smart window film that allows users to control the amount of sunlight, a high-resolution lidar for self-driving, and an easy and convenient point service led by customers, respectively. Hyundai Motor Group will support them based on the belief that they can be used for not only cars but in other areas. Difon’s smart window film was developed as the company’s unique technology and can be used in not only cars, but also for buildings. It is easy to install and cost-competitive, while providing the benefit of blocking harmful UV rays and saving energy. AutoL’s lidar is more compact and capable of recognizing the surrounding environment more accurately, which makes it suitable for cars.
Lee Nak-yon Officially Declares His Bid for the Presidency and Presents Vision on 5 Major Areas: New Welfare, Economy of the Middle Class, Cultural Superpower
On July 5, Lee Nak-yon (Lee Nak-yeon), former leader of the Democratic Party of Korea announced his official bid for the presidency. He was the last to announce his bid among the potential candidates in the Democratic Party’s primary. Lee stressed the efforts of President Moon Jae-in and the people in the nation’s fight against COVID-19 and presented his vision on five major areas including new welfare, economy of the middle class and a cultural superpower, saying, “I will make it happen.” At 10 a.m. this morning, Lee released two videos on YouTube: an epilogue and a video announcing his presidential bid. The video announcing his bid for the presidency was 8 minutes and 40 seconds long and throughout the video, Lee stood before a computer graphic background and gave a speech announcing his presidential bid. The epilogue titled, “Lee Nak-yon Is Coming,” which ran for 3 minutes and 30 seconds, traced Lee’s steps from his days as prime minister, the 21th parliamentary elections last year, his inauguration as leader of the Democratic Party and his achievements after he stepped down as party leader. The video showed Lee engaging in election campaigns, speaking as the representative of a negotiation group, and meeting young people and residents.
The 52-Hour Workweek Applied to Workplaces with 5-49 Workers Beginning July 1
The Labor Standards Act amended in March 2018 stipulated the phased application of the 52-hour workweek starting with workplaces with 300 or more employees in July that year, moving on to companies with 50-299 employees in January 2020, and workplaces with 5-49 employees in July 2021. As of 2019, there were 783,072 workplaces with 5-49 employees, and they hired over 7.8 million workers. According to the amendment, if an employer fails to apply the 52-hour workweek despite employing five or more full-time workers, he can receive criminal punishment. However, workplaces with less than 30 employees are allowed overtime of up to eight hours a week until the end of next year, as long as there is an agreement between the employer and workers. In other words, such workplaces are allowed up to a 60-hour workweek. Earlier, the Korea Enterprises Federation argued, “Small businesses and SMEs hiring less than 50 workers face challenges in responding to the shorter working hours due to their management situation,”
Cases of COVID-19 & Delta Strain Surge: New Distancing System Pushed Back in Greater Seoul Area
On June 30, a day before the government was to enforce a new social distancing system easing restrictions on the size of private gatherings and the operation of public facilities, the government decided to maintain the current distancing system and delay implementing the new system for a week in Seoul, Gyeonggi and Incheon. The decision came after authorities confirmed nearly 800 new cases of COVID-19 and the number of cases in the Seoul metropolitan area approached level-3 standards. Authorities are on alert after they confirmed a case of the delta strain, known to be more contagious than the existing virus, among the cases from clusters of transmission around private academies teaching English in the greater Seoul area, linked to a gathering of native English-speaking teachers. As of midnight this day, authorities confirmed 794 new cases of COVID-19. This was the highest number in 68 days, and the biggest number of cases this year in the city of Seoul (375). Seoul confirmed 284 more cases by 6 p.m. this afternoon, so the total number of cases in Seoul surpassed 50,000 (50,271).
Maeil Business News Korea (http://www.pulsenews.co.kr/)
Jungheung picked as top bidder for bigger Daewoo E&C
Jungheung Construction, a mid-sized South Korean builder, is poised to leapfrog to No. 3 in the country’s construction market after it was named as the preferred bidder for bigger peer Daewoo Engineering & Construction Co. (Daewoo E&C) on Monday even after lowering the bidding price from initial 2.3 trillion won ($2 billion). KDB Investment, the majority shareholder of Daewoo E&C, announced on Monday that it picked Jungheung Construction as the preferred bidder for the country’s sixth largest construction company. The announcement came after the state-run Korea Development Bank`s private equity arm stirred controversy last week with a rare decision to allow the preliminary bidders including Jungheung Construction to bid with revised offering prices upon request by Jungheung that was the apparent winner over its rival by a huge difference during the main tender on June 25.
Samsung Heavy Industries bags $580 mn order to build 3 LNG carriers
Samsung Heavy Industries Co. has won a deal worth 654.5 billion won ($579.2 million) to build three liquefied natural gas (LNG) carriers. The shipbuilder announced in its regulatory filing on Monday that it signed the deal with an Oceanian company to deliver the three 180,000-cubic meter LNG carriers by February 2024. The LNG vessels will be equipped with ME-GA dual-fuel LNG engines manufactured by MAN Energy Solution, Germany’s dual-fuel marine engine provider. The ME-GA engine significantly reduces methane slip and improves fuel efficiency.
As many as 30 healthcare companies may join Korean stock markets this year
Bio entrants to the Korean stock markets will likely be outnumber last year’s record as the second-half pipeline is more packed than the first. A total of 16 pharma and biotech firms are prepping to go public on the Kospi or Kosdaq, of which five companies (SD Biosensor, Curacle, Deepnoid, Vigencell, and HK inno.N) already passed a preliminary IPO review. Eleven others including Abion and CHA Vaccine Institute filed for preliminary review on their prospectuses. In the first half, 10 pharma and biotech firms went public. Eased regulations and favorable market environment has been hastening IPOs in the healthcare sector, with the annual count expected to reach 30. Voronoi, Toolgen, Shaperon, and D&D Pharmatech are among these hopefuls in the latter part of the year.
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