Thursday, September 2, 2021
Round-up of important news from major Korean dailies and from international media today
“Our independence will always be the brightest, unfading page in the glorious history of Uzbekistan”
Each year of independent development has left a significant mark on Uzbekistan’s history. Today the country is on the verge of the most important milestone--the 30th anniversary of independence. People of the country are celebrating this glorious day with great joy. This year’s main festive celebrations were held in the park created in honor of the anniversary, symbolically named “Yangi O’zbekiston” (New Uzbekistan). President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev delivered a speech and congratulated all people on the 30th anniversary of independence.
“Yangi O’zbekiston” Park and the Independence Monument opened in Tashkent
On August 31, 2021, the opening ceremony of the “Yangi O’zbekiston” (New Uzbekistan) Park and the Independence Monument, created on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the country’s independence, took place. The President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev addressed the event. “Today, all of us, all our multinational people, is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the independence of our dear Motherland with great joy. Our hardworking and noble people, since ancient times famous for their skill in building cities and villages, creation of gardens and parks, unique cultural monuments, despite the pandemic and the global economic crisis, meet this historic date with worthy labor victories, huge success and achievements”, said the Head of the state.
Special strategic partnership between Uzbekistan and Korea is strengthening further
It is a high privilege for me to address today the esteemed readers of The Korea Post on the occasions of the 30th Anniversary of Uzbekistan’s independence and 29th Anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations with the Republic of Korea. Over the past five years, under the leadership of the distinguished President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, Uzbekistan has clearly seen a steady pace of development in all areas. An effective multilateral foreign policy has become an important factor in increasing export potential and expanding economic opportunities of Uzbekistan. The ideas and initiatives advanced by the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan and the Action Strategy defined for 2017-2021, open up wide opportunities for deepening socio-economic reforms, further strengthening trade, economic, investment ties with other states.
Health Care Workers Call off Strike after Late-Night Deal with Gov't
Unionized health care workers called off a strike on Thursday, five hours before they were set to stage a nationwide walkout. The Korean Health and Medical Workers' Union (KHMU) said it reached an agreement with the Health Ministry early on Thursday in their marathon talks. The two sides, who held 13 rounds of negotiations since late May, reportedly agreed on the need to avoid strikes amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Health care workers have made five key demands, including better conditions for nurses, expanding public sector health care resources, drafting the criteria on personnel selection for hospitals treating COVID-19 patients and officializing hazard pay for these workers. The government is said to have actively accepted the workers' opinions and expressed its intent to review the demands.
US Extends Travel Ban on N. Korea for Another Year
The U.S. administration has extended a travel ban on North Korea for another year. According to the Associated Press, the U.S. State Department on Wednesday released a notice that the ban will remain in place until August 31, 2022, unless revoked by Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The department said that it determined there continues to be "serious risk" of arrest and long-term detention for U.S. nationals traveling to North Korea. Under the ban, all U.S. passports will remain invalid for travel to, in, or through North Korea unless specially validated for such travel. The ban was imposed in September 2017 following the death of American student Otto Warmbier, who died days after he was returned home following his release from North Korea. The ban has since been renewed every year.
Memorial Service in Tokyo Honors Korean Victims of Kanto Massacre
A ceremony has been held in Tokyo in remembrance of Koreans who were massacred by the Japanese military, police and civilians during the chaos of the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake. A memorial committee including local civic groups hosted the hour-long event at Yokoamicho Park in Tokyo from 11 a.m. In light of the pandemic, attendance was limited to related figures and journalists only. Japanese film director Yoji Yamada gave a speech saying the country must not forget that many Koreans who relocated to Japan met violent deaths due to discrimination and prejudice during the Kanto earthquake. As the seven-point-nine magnitude tremor struck the Kanto region on Honshu Island on September 1, 1923, rumors spread that Koreans were starting a riot and poisoning village wells. According to records, over 66-hundred were killed by Japanese vigilantes and troops.
Inflation growth hits over 2 pct for 5th straight month in Aug.
South Korea's consumer prices rose more than 2 percent for the fifth straight month in August due to high prices of farm and oil products, data showed Thursday, indicating a continued build-up of inflationary pressure amid an economic recovery. The consumer prices rose 2.6 percent in August from a year earlier, the same growth as the previous month, according to the data compiled by Statistics Korea. Compared with a month earlier, consumer inflation rose 0.6 percent last month, accelerating from a 0.2 percent on-month gain in July. Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and oil prices, rose 1.3 percent on-year in August. The country's price pressure has been under upward pressure as the economic recovery accelerates.
S. Korea alert against lambda variant, toughens measures against Peru, Chile arrivals
South Korea has adopted tougher measures to block the inflow of the lambda variant of the novel coronavirus as the country is struggling to contain the spread of variant cases amid the fourth wave of the pandemic, according to health authorities. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) announced Tuesday that arrivals from Peru and Chile will go through a mandatory seven-day quarantine at designated facilities starting Sept. 10.
S. Korea's Q2 economic growth faster than expected at 0.8 pct
South Korea's economy grew slightly faster than expected in the second quarter, thanks to a robust recovery of exports and service sectors, central bank data showed Thursday. The nation's economy grew 0.8 percent in the April-June period 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 April-June period was also revised up to 6 percent, up 0.1 percentage point. South Korea's exports rose 35 percent on-year to US$53.2 billion last month, extending their gains to 10 months. Last week, the BOK delivered its first pandemic-era rate hike to fight rising inflation and rein in surging household debts, ending 15 months of record low interest rates as the economy showed signs of improving.
The Korea Herald (http://www.koreaherald.com)
Moderna delays once again threaten Korea’s vaccine rollout
South Korea said Wednesday that any further delay in deliveries from Moderna could jeopardize the country’s goal to reach 70 percent first-shot rate by mid-September. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency’s head of vaccine planning committee, Hong Jeong-ik, told reporters in a closed-door briefing that without the additional supply from Moderna, vaccinating 70 percent of the Korean population with at least one dose of a vaccine by the Sept. 18 deadline “could be a stretch.” While the Ministry of Health and Welfare previously said Korea was due to receive 7 million doses from Moderna by the end of this week, only 1 million doses had made it into the country.
Ministry seeks to expand foreign aid by 17%
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said Wednesday the proposed 5.7 percent increase in its budget next year included a record amount set aside for foreign aid, as the country seeks to expand its role on the international stage. The ministry sought an allocation of 3.02 trillion won ($2.61 billion) for 2022, up from this year’s 2.84 trillion won, in what would be a record high if approved by the National Assembly later this year. It earmarked 1.11 trillion won, over a third of the budget, to official development assistance, up 17.3 percent from this year. It is the first time that the ministry’s ODA budget has exceeded the 1 trillion-won mark.
Exports continue record streak in August; growth in all major sectors
South Korea continued to report record-shattering export results in August, data showed Wednesday, reinforcing an economic recovery almost single-handedly driven by overseas sales as domestic spending remains weighed down by the pandemic. According to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, outbound shipments jumped 34.9 percent from a year earlier to $53.2 billion last month, the best performance that the Asia’s fourth-largest economy has ever pulled off in August. The previous record was set in the August of 2018, when the tally stood at 51.1 billion.
The Korea Times (http://www.koreatimes.co.kr)
Rights watchdog calls for halt to hate speech against sexual minorities
The nation's human rights watchdog has called on candidates of elections, public officials, and mass media to stamp out hate speech against sexual minorities, saying that it could instigate or strengthen prejudice against minority groups. The National Human Rights Commission of Korea expressed the opinion, Wednesday, in response to petitions that an election candidate's hate speech against a queer festival and a broadcaster's removal of a same-sex kiss scene from a movie discriminated against and infringed on the human rights of sexual minorities. During a televised debate among Seoul mayoral candidates on Feb. 2, Ahn Cheol-soo, the leader of the conservative minor opposition People's Party, voiced his opposition to holding the Seoul Queer Culture Festival in central Seoul, and claimed the "right to refuse it."
US extends travel ban on North Korea for one year: report
The United States has extended its travel ban on North Korea for one year, marking the first extension of the travel restrictions under the Joe Biden administration, a report said Wednesday. The State Department announced the extension of the ban until Aug. 31, 2022 in a Federal Register notice set to be published Thursday, according to the report by the Associated Press. "The Department of State has determined there continues to be serious risk to U.S. citizens and nationals of arrest and long-term detention constituting imminent danger to their physical safety," the department said in the notice, according to the report. "Accordingly, all U.S. passports shall remain invalid for travel to, in, or through the DPRK unless specially validated for such travel under the authority of the secretary of state.
Passage of anti-Google bill to benefit app developers, users
Korea's passage of the world's first law barring dominant platform operators' control over app market payments is drawing attention to its market impact. The bill that passed the National Assembly's main session on Tuesday bans app market operators such as Google and Apple from imposing a certain means of payment on app developers. This means Google and Apple will have to allow payments via outside services on their app stores. The passage of the bill could have a "ripple effect" around the world, given Google has introduced its in-app payment policy in a number of countries. It will accelerate moves by regulators in the United States and the European Union to diminish the dominant status of platform operators such as Google to provide fairer competition for other entities in the market.
Chosun Ilbo (http://english.chosun.com)
Korean Schools Hire No New Mandarin Teachers This Year
This academic year will not see a single new Mandarin teacher in any of the country's public middle and high schools. Education authorities decided to assign no quota for them because there is little demand. Not long ago Mandarin was considered the second language of the future, but now classrooms are emptying and for the first time in 25 years not a single new teacher will be recruited. Numbers had been dwindling, but in 2019 there were still 43 new teachers and last year 33. Teachers say students simply do not want to learn China's lingua franca. One Mandarin teacher in a high school in Seoul said, "Students find the tones too difficult and not enough students choose it, so there's a widespread fear that it's tough to get good grades in."
COVID-19 Infections Surge Among Teens
Coronavirus infections among teenagers are rising rapidly, but they will not be vaccinated until the third quarter of the year. A total of 11,601 youngsters aged 12 to 17 have contracted COVID-19 since the coronavirus pandemic started last year, and three of them are in intensive care, health authorities said Tuesday. Cases have been rising from just around 30 in February of 2020 to 2,211 in July this year and 3,100 in August. So far only 7.72 million Koreans are fully vaccinated, and an estimated 0.04 percent have become victims of so-called breakthrough infections. The rate was highest for Johnson & Johnson (0.113 percent), followed by AstraZeneca (0.068 percent) and Pfizer (0.021 percent) vaccines.
N.Korea Sends Young Elite into Internal Exile
The North Korean regime has been sending elite young Workers Party functionaries into internal exile at remote construction sites to shore up crumbling discipline. The practice is being presented as "volunteering," but it appears they are not given a choice. One senior defector said, "One of the biggest problems leader Kim Jong-un faces is young people who have been influenced by South Korean culture and angry about the economic crisis. The aim appears to be to neutralize them so they can't foment internal dissent." The official Rodong Sinmun daily on Sunday published a statement from Kim to mark Youth Day the previous day. "What makes me especially happy is to see young people who have been left behind make the magnificent decision to sacrifice themselves for their country and start fresh by moving on to difficult and demanding areas," he said.
HanKyoReh Shinmun (http://english.hani.co.kr)
“Graveyard of Empires” or punching bag of empires?
The war that had lasted for 43 years, since the establishment of a socialist regime in Afghanistan in 1978, was declared over with the withdrawal of US troops on Monday. Poor and isolated Afghanistan was occupied first by the Soviets and later by the US, its allies, and NATO member states. There have also been interventions by Islamic states such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Muslims from around the Islamic world converged on Afghanistan to wage jihad, meaning “holy war.” South Korea sent troops as well, which led to the kidnapping of a group of Christian missionaries in 2007. Two were killed and the rest were released after more than forty days in captivity.
Time of deliberation has come for media reform
After forming an “eight-member discussion body” to discuss a potential amendment to the Press Arbitration Act, the Democratic Party and People Power Party (PPP) reached an agreement Tuesday to present the amendment at the National Assembly’s plenary session on Sept. 27, just after the long Chuseok holiday. Given how extreme the battle over this amendment was becoming, it’s fortunate that the two sides managed to buy some time to pass it on a consensus basis. This establishment of a broader discussion framework beyond the realm of the political establishment is also a welcome development. But there are also questions about whether this eight-member discussion body will have the right membership and enough time even to deal with this one contentious issue.
N. Korea appears to have restarted Yongbyon nuclear reactor
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) detected signs that North Korea has resumed operations at its Yongbyon nuclear facility. In a report titled “Application of Safeguards in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” posted to its website on Friday, the IAEA observed that “since early July 2021, there have been indications, including the discharge of cooling water, consistent with the operation” of the 5MWe reactor at Yongbyon. This means that signs of renewed operation have been detected in the reactor, which had been offline since December 2018. A graphite-moderated reactor that first went into operation in 1986, the 5MWe reactor at Yongbyon could reportedly be used to produce around 6 kilograms of plutonium per year through reprocessing of the spent nuclear fuel that emerges from it.
The Dong-A Ilbo (http://english.donga.com/)
U.S. should focus on countering China’s rise, says Biden
Addressing the nation on Monday, U.S. President Joe Biden defended his decision to pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, saying it was the “right decision, a wise decision and the best decision for America.” “The world is changing,” Biden said. “We have to shore up America’s competitiveness to meet new challenges in the competition for the 21st century.” He vowed to focus on new challenges, including China, Russia, cyberattacks, and nuclear proliferation. President Biden chose strategic competition against China as a major challenge, saying America is engaged in a serious competition with China.
Highly enriched uranium is the key to N. Korea’s nuclear capability, says expert
With North Korea’s Yongbyun 5MWe reactor appearing to have restarted, Olli Heinonen, former Deputy Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told Voice of America in an interview on Tuesday that North Korea is trying to gain an upper hand over the U.S. with its plutonium production. It is uranium enrichment that constitutes the essence of North Korea’s production of fissile materials, he added. The former deputy director-general argued that plutonium produced in the Yongbyon nuclear reactor is just around seven to eight kilograms per year, with which only one or two nuclear weapons can be made, falling far short of achieving a significant shift in strategic balance.
Samsung to invest 240 trillion won and hire new 40,000 employees
South Korean conglomerate Samsung plans to invest 240 trillion won by 2023 in having a competitive edge in future strategic industries such as semiconductors, biotechnology and next generation communications. In particular, it will spend a total of 180 trillion won on the domestic market while directly hiring more than 40,000 employees over three years. Samsung’s regular public recruitment system stands to be in place for the sake of employment stability and predictability whereas other major domestic businesses have abolished or plan to remove the system. Samsung published the largest ever investment and recruitment plan on Wednesday. “We plan to prepare us for a series of major changes in industries, international order and social structures that will happen after the COVID-19 pandemic is over,” Samsung said. “Samsung will make the investment decision to make sure that it fulfills its corporate roles for large investments and job creation for next generations.”
The KyungHyangShinmun (http://english.khan.co.kr/)
The Sale of Namyang Dairy Fails to Go Through
On September 1, Hong Won-sik, chairman of Namyang Dairy announced, “We notified the other party in the contract, Hahn & Company, of the cancellation of the stock transfer contract due to its failure to implement prior agreements.” The announcement was made three months after Hong and his family signed a contract with the private equity fund to sell 53% of Namyang Dairy shares to Hahn & Co. for 310.7 billion won. Hahn & Co. immediately refuted and argued that the contract remained valid.This day, Hong released a statement and said, “After the sales contract was signed, we did not make any additional requests that were not agreed to at the time of the contract.
Debate over Yun Hee-suk’s Resignation Steals Attention from the Verification of Real Estate Allegations Concerning Public Officials
On August 29, the fifth day since People Power Party lawmaker Yun Hee-suk expressed her intention to give up her parliamentary seat following her father’s alleged violation of the Farmland Act, ruling and opposition lawmakers continued their debate on whether Yun’s resignation was appropriate. If the Democratic Party of Korea opposes, Yun’s resignation is not likely to be accepted. As attention shifts to the debate on Yun’s resignation, questions concerning irregularities linked to the real estate owned by elected officials and their families are getting less attention. This day in politics, the nation witnessed members of Yun’s party encouraging her to step down as lawmaker, while the members of the Democratic Party tried to stop her.
The Ultra-low Interest Rate after the Outbreak of COVID Ends: Base Rate Raised 0.25%
The Bank of Korea is closing the curtains on the low base interest rate, which it had maintained in response to the economic situation following the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. The Bank of Korea Monetary Policy Board raised the base rate by 0.25%. On August 26, the Monetary Policy Board held a meeting at the central bank in Jung-gu, Seoul and decided to raise the base interest rate 0.25% from an annual 0.5% to 0.75%. The Board had frozen the base rate after lowering the rate by 0.5% in March and by 0.25% in May last year because the economy rapidly froze due to the spread of COVID-19. The Board then decided to freeze the base rate nine times in July, August, October and November last year and in January, February, April, May and July this year, but it finally decided to raise the rate for the first time in fifteen months this day.
Maeil Business News Korea (http://www.pulsenews.co.kr/)
Korea’s Aug exports up 35% on yr to monthly record, Jan-Aug record also highest
South Korea’s exports kept up monthly record run in August with on-year gain of 35 percent, pushing accumulated shipment value to the biggest $411.9 billion in the eight-month period. According to data released by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy on Wednesday, the country’s outbound shipments totaled $53.23 billion in August, up 34.9 percent on year. The amount was a record high for August. Exports have been extending their gains for the 10th straight month and running on a double-digit growth for the sixth month in a row. The country also topped $50 billion in exports for the sixth month from March.
Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction to design X-energy’s advanced reactor project
South Korea’s Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction Co. (Doosan) has been invited to design for U.S. nuclear reactor and fuel design engineering company X-energy’s small module reactor project. Under the contract, Doosan will provide supports to X-energy on studying methods for developing the U.S. firm’s Xe-100 Generation-IV high-temperature, gas-cooled reactor and producing prototype on top of design creation, according to its announcement made on Wednesday. The company did not disclose financial terms of the contract. On Wednesday, its shares gained 4.8 percent to close at 21,900 won ($18.91).
Komsco switches to IBM blockchain platform for local currencies
The Korea Minting and Security Printing Corporation (Komsco) has enhanced its blockchain and database management system performance for local currencies based on a new blockchain platform offered by IBM Korea and Yeonmutech. The state-run corporation had introduced a local currency service based on an outside blockchain platform in 2018 but changed supplier upon increased demand that require improvement in speed and swift action to operation defects. The IBM Blockchain Platform upped system performance based on integrated data base system E-980 and blockchain LinuxONE main frame.
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