Monday, August 2, 2021
Round-up of important news from major Korean dailies and from international media today
North Korea's foreign trade volume decreased by more than 70 percent in 2020 compared to the previous year. The U.N.’s continued sanctions on North Korea and the border blockade caused by the COVID-19 have greatly reduced both exports and imports of North Korea. In a report titled "North Korea's Foreign Trade Trends in 2020" published on July 30, the KOTRA estimated that North Korea's total import and export volume last year was $863 million (about 990 billion won). It is down 73.4% from 2019. Exports fell 67.9 percent to $89.3 million and imports fell 73.9 percent to $773.67 million from 2019. The size of North Korea's trade was estimated by analyzing the size of trade with the host country and other overseas data at the KOTRA Trade Centers, which are located overseas.
Nexon founder Kim Jung-joo steps down from CEO of NXC
Nexon founder Kim Jung-joo will step down from CEO of NXC, Nexon's holding company. NXC announced on July 29 that it has appointed Lee Jae-kyo, head of the brand promotion headquarters, as its new CEO and recruited Alex Iosilevich, a former executive of a multinational investment bank, as CIO of global investment. Instead of resigning from the CEO position, founder Kim decided to maintain his position as an in-house director and registered director of NXC, participate in major company decisions, and focus on finding future businesses and fostering talent. "I've been the CEO of NXC for 16 years, and now it's time to leave it to a competent next runner," Kim said. "The newly appointed Lee is the best person to carry out NXC's various decision-making and management activities."
Yoon Seok-yeol joins the People Power Party
Former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-yeol has joined the main opposition People Power Party (PPP) on July 30. It has been a month since he announced his candidacy for the Presidential election on April 29. As Yoon, a leading conservative presidential hopeful, joined the party, the opposition party's Presidential election structure has taken a new turn. Yoon visited the headquarters of the PPP in Yeouido, Seoul, in the afternoon of the day, met with Kwon Young-se, chairman of the PPP committee for external cooperation, and submitted an application for joining the party. Later, he held a press conference at 1:50 p.m. to announce his plans to join the party. Meeting the press, Yoon said, “It was a due obligation for me to join the main opposition party and follow through with the PPP’s primary procedure from the first stage openly and squarely to achieve a change of the current regime. By doing so, I think I would be able to win higher and more universal support from the people.”
N. Korean Leader's Sister Warns S. Korea-US Drills Will Cloud Inter-Korean Relations
The powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un warned on Sunday that annual military exercises between South Korea and the United States will undermine prospects for inter-Korean relations. In a statement carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency(KCNA), Kim Yo-Jong said that North Korea will closely watch whether South Korea will carry out the hostile war exercise or make a bold decision. The warning came just days after North Korea restored communication lines with South Korea more than a year after cutting them off. Kim Yo-jong said that the restoration was nothing but a physical reconnection and it would be a hasty judgment for the South to interpret it as more. She added that she has been hearing an unpleasant story that joint military drills between Seoul and Washington could be held as scheduled.
S. Korea to Accept Reservations for Unvaccinated People Aged 60 to 74
Starting Monday, South Korea will begin accepting reservations for senior citizens who failed to receive COVID-19 vaccine in the first half of the year. According to the state vaccination task force, about one-point-27 million unvaccinated people aged 60 to 74 may make reservations from Monday through the end of the month. They can make appointments through community centers, the 1339 call center or the online reservation website. These people will receive the AstraZeneca vaccine from Thursday through September 3 at community health centers across the nation. About 600-thousand people aged over 75 may make reservations anytime regardless of the reservation period. They will receive the Pfizer vaccine at vaccination centers.
Foreign Ownership of S. Korean Stocks Dips to 5-Year Low
Foreign ownership of South Korean stocks fell to a five-year low last month due to continued sell-off by overseas investors. According to the Korea Exchange on Sunday, foreign stock ownership of the country's main bourse KOSPI came to 34-point-12 percent of the bourse's market capitalization as of July 29. The figure is the lowest since August 17, 2016 when it marked 34-point-03 percent. Foreign investors net sold 46-point-eight trillion won worth of Korean stocks since February 24, 2020 when foreign stock ownership hit a record 39-point-three percent. Overseas investors dumped a similar amount of stocks in the first seven months of this year. Foreigners net sold South Korean stocks every month this year except in April, when they net bought about 92 billion won.
Daily infections dip to 1,400s amid no signs of letup
South Korea's daily new coronavirus cases retreated to the 1,400s on Sunday due to fewer tests over the weekend, but the fourth wave of infections showed no signs of slowing down despite the adoption of the toughest virus curbs in the greater Seoul area. The country added 1,442 COVID-19 cases, including 1,386 local infections, raising the total caseload to 199,787, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA). The latest tally is down from 1,710 cases reported Friday and 1,539 cases Saturday. The country added three more COVID-19 deaths, raising the death toll to 2,098. The fatality rate was 1.05 percent. The daily caseload has remained above 1,000 since July 7 due to the resurgence in the greater Seoul area. Recently, cases elsewhere have been growing amid increased activities in the summer vacation season
N.K. leader's sister warns S. Korea-U.S. military exercise will cloud inter-Korean relations
The sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un warned Sunday that annual summertime military drills between South Korea and the United States will cloud the future of inter-Korean relations. Kim Yo-jong issued the warning in a statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency, just days after the North restored long-severed communication lines with the South and raised hope for a new round of detente between the two sides. "I view this as an undesirable prelude which seriously undermines the will of the top leaders of the North and the South wishing to see a step taken toward restoring mutual trust and which further beclouds the way ahead of the North-South relations," Kim said. "Our government and army will closely follow whether the South Korean side stages hostile war exercises in August or makes other bold decision," she added. "Hope or despair? Choice is not made by us."
July exports set fresh high on chips, autos
South Korea's exports jumped 29.6 percent on-year in July to a record high, extending their gains to a ninth consecutive month as the global economy maintained a recovery, data showed Sunday. Outbound shipments came to US$55.4 billion last month on strong auto and chip sales, according to the data compiled by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy. The monthly export volume marked the highest level since South Korea started compiling related data in 1956. The country's exports over the first seven months of 2021 came to $358.7 billion, also setting a fresh high. Imports climbed 38.2 percent to $53.6 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of $1.76. It marked the 15th consecutive month for the country to post a trade surplus.
The Korea Herald (http://www.koreaherald.com)
Bill allowing politicians to take babies to work look set to pass
After Rep. Yong Hye-in, 31, of the Basic Income Party, brought her 2-month-old son to her workplace on July 5, her photos went viral on social media. On the day, she held a press conference to urge the passage of her bill that would allow a lawmaker to enter a plenary session with an infant who needs nursing. Under the current law, only lawmakers, the prime minister, state council members and those authorized by the assembly speaker are allowed. When her photos made headlines, opinions were divided. Some have shown support to Yong for her moves to strengthen women’s rights in political participation while others accuse her of bringing a baby to work and demanding preferential treatment for politicians. “I was surprised for the attention and controversies as they were more than I thought,” Yong told The Korea Herald. “But I soon realized this could be a chance,” said the leader of the nation’s progressive minor party.
July exports best-ever in Korea’s history
South Korea’s exports in July surged 29.6 percent to $55.4 billion on-year, a record monthly figure since the nation began compiling the data in 1956, according to the Trade Ministry Sunday. In the first seven months of this year, Korea’s accumulated exports were worth $358.7 billion, setting another record. Also, this is the first time in 10 years that the country saw double digit growths for four consecutive months in 10 years -- 41.2 percent in April, 45.6 percent in May, 39.8 percent in 29.8 percent and 29.6 percent in July. “For two straight months from June to July, exports of the nation’s 15 core products all increased, 13 of them witnessing double-digit growths. Also, for four consecutive months, Korea’s exports grew in all nine major markets,” a Trade Ministry official said.
More Koreans suffer mental disorders amid pandemic
The number of Koreans who have suffered from mental disorders and eating disorders has risen in the pandemic, data showed Sunday. Last year, the number of people diagnosed with either depression, insomnia, anorexia or bulimia stood at 1,504,181, up by 67,233, or 4.67 percent, from the previous year, according to government data. The data, from the state-run Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service, was disclosed by independent lawmaker Lee Yong-ho. Depression accounted for 55.7 percent of all cases, while those suffering from insomnia stood at 43.8 percent. Those who were dealing with anorexia and bulimia took up 0.5 percent. The rise in the number of people with anorexia was the highest among all four conditions at 14.3 percent.
The Korea Times (http://www.koreatimes.co.kr)
Korean Catholic Church comes under fire over allegations of priest's crimes
The Korean Catholic Church has come under fire for allegations of crimes committed by its clergymen recently, facing criticism for its poor handling of the case. Local broadcaster MBC reported that a priest, who is also the head of the Catholic Church-run SOS Children's Villages Korea, a non-government organization providing care for those children without family care, will be suspended from duty from Aug. 6 after it made public that he was recently investigated by the police in Daegu as a suspect in a sexual harassment case involving two female staff members of the organization in 2018. The facility was founded in Daegu in 1965, and later expanded its operations to Seoul and Suncheon in South Jeolla Province. Until the mid-1980s, the facility was run to support Korean War orphans but later expanded its scope to all children in need of parental care.
Mobile exit, pandemic consumer habits hugely benefit LG Electronics
LG Electronics reported stellar second-quarter earnings results thanks to rising demand for electronic gadgets amid the continued COVID-19 pandemic, while its decision to pull out of the money-losing handset business also helped its bottom line. LG said Thursday that operating profit surged 65.5 percent year-on-year to 1.11 trillion won for the three-month period that ended on June 30. It was the highest quarterly operating profit seen since the second quarter of 2009. Second-quarter sales also jumped 48.4 percent to a quarterly high of 17.13 trillion won, LG said in regulatory filing to the Korea Exchange (KRX). Analysts were also impressed by LG's operating profit margin of almost 10 percent during the latest quarter, marking a major turnaround. The home appliance division reported 6.8 trillion won in quarterly sales, while the division's operating profit came to 653 billion won. Demand for LG's home appliances has soared because more people are spending an increasing amount of time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chung siblings take different steps in boosting Shinsegae's businesses
Two powerful siblings ― Shinsegae Vice Chairman Chung Yong-jin and Shinsegae Department Store President Chung Yoo-kyung ― are having one of the busiest times of their lives. The two Chungs are each taking risks to boost their businesses, but they show different characteristics in making these risks work. The older brother is more fearless than his sister. The vice chairman has invested over 4.31 trillion won ($3.76 billion) in acquiring companies in various sectors, from a sports team, to an e-commerce firm and an online fashion mall. The investment is nearly six times his company's annual operating profit. In addition, he recently obtained additional shares in Starbucks Korea, which was established jointly and previously divided into a 50/50 split between Shinsegae and Starbucks International. Chung Yong-jin is leading the company into new frontiers and taking an aggressive stance to develop businesses in almost all the areas that are in close contact with customers.
Chosun Ilbo (http://english.chosun.com)
Chinese Investors Snap up Apartments in Korea
Chinese investors are snapping up expensive apartments in Busan's upscale Haeundae district as well as Gangnam, Yongsan and Seongsu in Seoul. The number of foreigners who buy apartments in Korea has surged and Chinese make up by far the biggest group. Some of them show up at realtor's offices with suitcases full of cash, and there are fears that their willingness to splurge could distort market prices. There appears to have been some kind of viral spur to buying Korean real estate in China. On China's question-and-answer website Zihu, many comments recommend buying apartments in Korea as an ideal investment. They cite the low risk of price falls and ease of management due to proximity. Amid the current uncontrollable price spiral, some Chinese investors have made a lot of money buying apartments and reselling them.
Kim Jong-un Likens N.Korea's Plight to War
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has told war veterans that the impoverished state is experiencing a "crisis similar to a war" due to the coronavirus pandemic, the official Rodong Sinmun daily said Wednesday. "We are faced with difficulties and hardship caused by the unprecedented global health crisis and prolonged lockdown no less challenging than how it was during the war," he said. The remarks came on the day of a surprise announcement that Kim agreed with President Moon Jae-in to restore overland communication lines between the two Koreas. The North Korean economy is at its worst since the deadly famine of the 1990s because it sealed its borders with China, which supplies most of its necessities, amid the pandemic. Domestic food production has plunged after heavy flooding last year and food prices have reportedly doubled in some parts of North Korea. International sanctions and a devaluation of the U.S. dollar and Chinese yuan are making matters worse.
¼ of Yongsan Garrison to Be Returned to Korea
The U.S. Forces Korea will finally return a quarter or 500,000 sq.m of the Yongsan Garrison site in Seoul to the Korean government by early next year. A small part was already handed over last year. The government hopes to build a public park and a sprawling apartment complex on the prime site in the heart of the capital. The two countries agreed the timeline in a virtual meeting on Thursday, the Foreign Ministry said. But the government was unable to say when the USFK will hand over the whole site, saying only it will happen "as early as possible." Some 95 percent of USFK facilities and 92 percent of its personnel have already moved to Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province. The USFK's plan is to vacate the garrison as soon as construction at Camp Humphreys is complete.
HanKyoReh Shinmun (http://english.hani.co.kr)
US senior diplomat says Japan's 20th-century atrocities "are what they are," urges S. Korea, Japan to pursue good relationship
Mark Lambert, the US deputy assistant secretary of state for Korea and Japan, made reference Wednesday to Japan's atrocities during the 20th century but also stressed the need for South Korea and Japan to cooperate in forward-looking ways. During a conference organized by the ROK-US Alliance Foundation and others at a hotel in Washington that day, Lambert was asked about South Korea-Japan relations and the role of the US. "My country's two strongest allies in Asia are Japan and the Republic of Korea, and my country is less secure when Japan, Republic of Korea are not cooperating," he said. "I would argue that Japan and the Republic of Korea are less secure when they're not cooperating, as well," he added. Lambert also said it was "no secret that for many years, we have been working with Tokyo and Seoul to try to find common ground."
Greater Seoul area accounts for more than 50% of S. Korea’s population
The population of the greater Seoul area has exceeded 26 million for the first time. 50.2% of South Korea’s total population of 51,829,000 people live in the capital of Seoul, Incheon, and Gyeonggi Province. There were a total of 18,526,000 housing units in Korea last year, up by nearly 400,000 from the previous year. More than half of that increase occurred in the greater Seoul area. Single-person households account for 31.7% of all households in the country, making them the most common type. Koreans have an average age of 43.1 years, half a year older than a year before. A growing number of multicultural households and single-parent households are bringing greater diversity to Korean families.
Blue House denies report S. Korea, N. Korea are in talks over summit
Reuters reported Wednesday that the South Korean government is currently in talks with North Korea about reopening their joint liaison office and holding a summit. The Blue House denied the report but left open the possibility of holding a virtual summit. In its report, Reuters quoted three officials in the South Korean government saying that South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have explored ways to improve the two sides’ strained relationship in a series of letters exchanged since April. Two of these officials said that South and North Korea are currently discussing the idea of rebuilding the inter-Korean liaison office in Panmunjom, which the North Koreans detonated last year. Reuters’ sources also said that Seoul and Pyongyang are exploring the possibility of Moon and Kim holding a summit, but that they haven’t discussed the specific timing because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The Dong-A Ilbo (http://english.donga.com/)
S. Korea-U.S. joint drill reduced in size to start on second week of August
South Korea and the U.S. will start the joint military drill for the second half of this year from the second week of this month with its size reduced. Some within the government suggested the necessity to delay or suspend training to secure the momentum to resume talks with North Korea after restoring the inter-Korean communication channel, but the military authorities of the two allies decided to conduct the drill as planned. According to multiple government insiders on Sunday, military authorities of South Korea and the U.S. started preparations to conduct the drill from August 16 to 26, starting with the Crisis Management Staff Training on August 10 to 13.
U.S. court decides to seize Singaporean tanker for violating sanctions against N. Korea
The judicial branch of the U.S. decided to seize an oil tanker owned by a Singaporean national for violating the UN Security Council sanctions on North Korea on July 30. It is the second time that the U.S. government seized a vessel involved in transferring oil to North Korea that is illegally done at sea. The U.S. Justice Department announced on that day in a press release that it decided to seize the Courageous owned by Kwek Kee Seng, a Singaporean national. According to the press release, the 2,734-ton oil tanker was used to deliver oil products directly to the North through oil transfer and transshipment. The U.S. Justice Department said the vessel violated the U.S. law and the UN Security Council resolution.
Brooks talks about S. Korea’s populist presidential candidates
Former Commander of the R.O.K.-U.S. Combined Forces Command Vincent Brooks expressed concern that there are growing signs of anti-American sentiment across South Korea where the next presidential election is scheduled next March, highlighting that some candidates take advantage of populism to intensify anti-Americanism and anti-alliance politics. He opined that joint military drills between the two allies have been held back by South Korean political situations, putting emphasis on the significance of a stronger alliance between the two nations regardless of the forthcoming presidential election or pressure from China. Mr. Brooks on Thursday (local time) contributed an editorial titled “A Grand Bargain with North Korea” to Foreign Affairs, a U.S. magazine specialized in international relations and foreign policy, in collaboration with South Korean Gen. Leem Ho-young, former Deputy Commander of the R.O.K.-U.S.
The KyungHyangShinmun (http://english.khan.co.kr/)
Only a Pile of Unpaid Bills in the House of an Elderly Couple Who Died in the Scorching Heat
On the afternoon of July 27, when the nation experienced a relentless heatwave, an elderly couple was found dead in a multiplex house in Dobong-gu, Seoul. The couple were recipients of the government’s basic living allowance. Their refrigerator was empty and there was no air-conditioner to help them escape the heat. Among the clothes that were scattered here and there, one could catch sight of utility bills. The total amount of unpaid fees printed on the water bill was 190,620 won. A neighbor said, “How many people around here can afford an air-conditioner? We’re all poor people.” Another neighbor we met in the hallway asked, “What was the cause of death?” then murmured, “It was so hot….” According to the coverage by the Kyunghyang Shinmun on July 29, the husband, Jin, who was over ninety years old, and his wife, Wu in her seventies, were found dead in a multiplex house in Banghak-dong, Dobong-gu at around 1:30 p.m. July 27.
105 High-ranking Officials Disclose Their Property: Busan Mayor Park Heong-joon Turns out to Be a Rich Real Estate Owner
Among the new high-ranking officials, the wealthiest turned out to be Park Jong-seung, president of the Agency for Defense Development under the Defense Acquisition Program Administration with 6,234,620,000 won. Busan Mayor Park Heong-joon reported that he possessed real estate including land and an apartment with a market value of 6.3 billion won. The Government Ethics Committee disclosed the registered property of 105 high-ranking officials including these details on July 30. Among the officials whose property was disclosed were 39 newly elected and appointed officials, 19 who were promoted and 40 who resigned or retired. Among the incumbent senior officials, Park Jong-seung, president of the Agency for Defense Development owned the most property. He was followed by Yi Jin-gyu, governor of Hamkyong South Province in the Ministry of the Interior and Safety with 6,177,700,000 won and Bak Byeong-ho, president of Jeonnam Provincial College with 5,821,530,000 won. Lee Eung-se, former president of the National Institute for Korean Medicine Development was the richest among those who retired or resigned from public office with 7,336,510,000 won.
Yoon Seok-youl and Lee Jae-myung Compete for the Lead, While Choe Jae-hyeong Passes the 5% Barrier
On July 29, survey results showed that former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl and Gyeonggi Governor Lee Jae-myung remained the top two contenders, battling in a tight race among possible presidential candidates, with the difference in their approval ratings within the margin of error. Former leader of the Democratic Party of Korea Lee Nak-yon (Lee Nak-yeon) remained in third place with his approval rating continuing its climb, while former chairman of the Board of Audit and Inspection Choe Jae-hyeong stepped up to fourth place after passing the 5% barrier. The polling firm Realmeter conducted a survey of 2,058 men and women ages 18 and older nationwide. The survey on the public’s preference in future presidential candidates in the fourth week of July was commissioned by OhMyNews. According to the survey, former Prosecutor General Yoon topped the list of candidates with 27.5% of support. Governor Lee followed with 25.5%. The two men continued to engage in a close race, with only a 2.0% difference in approval ratings, which lies within the margin of error.
Maeil Business News Korea (http://www.pulsenews.co.kr/)
North Korean economy contracts 4.5% in 2020, the worst since Great Famine in 1997
North Korea who suddenly turned reconciliatory towards the South this week saw its economy contract more than 4 percent last year, the worst since the Great Famine in 1997 as its isolation deepened after borders were sealed to fend off Covid-19 on top of years-old international sanctions, the South Korean central bank projected. According to the Bank of Korea’s estimate released on Friday, North Korea’s real gross domestic product (GDP) contracted 4.5 percent on year to 31.4 trillion won ($27.3 billion) in 2020, shrinking back to 2003 levels. The contraction is the biggest since a 6.5 percent dip in 1997.
Korea’s automobile exports up 72% in Q2, 49% in H1 led by green cars
South Korea’s automobile exports by value surged nearly 72 percent on year in the second quarter, driven by solid sales of eco-friendly vehicles that took up one fourth of the entire outbound shipments amid fast green migration in the U.S. and Europe. Total outbound shipments by Korea-based finished carmakers came to $10.7 billion worth or 530,000 units in the April-June period, surging 71.9 percent and 50.3 percent, respectively from a year-ago period, according to the Korea Customs Service on Friday. The growth is much faster than the pace of 31.4 percent and 12.7 percent a quarter ago. Imports of passenger vehicles totaled $4.1 billion in value and 90,000 units in volume, up 38.3 percent and 9.3 percent, respectively on year.
Korean conglomerate Hanwha bets big on aerospace to lead its growth
South Korea’s seventh largest conglomerate Hanwha Group with interests spanning from defense and aviation to petrochemical, energy and financial services is poised to doubling down on space business. Chairman Kim Seung-youn has been hyping aerospace, future mobility, green hydrogen energy and digital financial solutions as the group’s new growth engines since his New Year speech early this year, celebrating 40 years of his leadership since 1981. Aerospace grabs the most attention among the areas as Kim takes command of Hanwha Corp., the parent company of the group and the largest stakeholder to Hanwha Aerospace. His first son and heir apparent Dong-kwan spearheads “Space Hub,” a task force responsible for the group’s aerospace business formed in March.
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