Friday, April 15, 2022
Round-up of important news from major Korean dailies and from international media today
The Korea Post ( www.koreapost.com )
Yoon fills all 18 ministerial nominees
President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol has finished the nomination of all 18 Cabinet positions ahead of the launch of his administration on May 10. President-elect Yoon announced his nominees for agriculture and labor ministers on April 14 to complete his first Cabinet lineup. Earlier, Yoon announced the nominees for 16 ministers on two occasions on April 10 and 13. Chung Hwang-keun, former head of the Rural Development Administration and a former presidential secretary for agriculture, was appointed agriculture minister, while Lee Jung-sik, former secretary general of the Korea Labor and Employment Service, was named for labor minister.
Yoon taps Rep. Park as Foreign Minister, Rep Kwon as Unification Minister
Rep. Park Jin of the People Power Party (PPP) was nominated as the first foreign minister of the Yoon Suk-yeol government. Rep. Park, who passed the state-run foreign affairs examination, served as the secretary for political affairs and public affairs at the Presidential Office Cheong Wa Dae during former President Kim Young-sam’s administration, and held four terms as National Assemblyman after the 16th general elections. (See further personal details on Park toward the end of this report.)
Yoon meets Park, says he has always been sorry for the situation
President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol visited the residence of former President Park Geun-hye in Yuga-eup, Dalseong-gun, Daegu on the afternoon of April 12 for a meeting with her. After the meeting, President-elect Yoon said that he has personally been feeling sorry for what had happened to her and between Park and himself.: Yoon than said that he made the remarks to Madam Park. Yoon visited the residence of Madam Park in Dalseong-gun, Daegu on the afternoon of the day and had a conversation with her. After leaving his private residence and meeting with reporters, Yoon said, “We talked about President Park’s health.”
Chosun Ilbo (http://english.chosun.com)
New Household Loans Decline for 4th Month
Koreans are taking out less debt as tougher restrictions and higher interest rates bite. According to the Bank of Korea on Wednesday, outstanding new bank loans to households shrank by W1 trillion in March to W1,059 trillion (US$1=W1,229). Household lending finally began to shrink last December. It fell by W200 billion in December, W500 billion in January, and W200 billion in February. Housing loans increased by W2.1 trillion last month but other types of loans including unsecured loans shrank by W3.1 trillion. The central bank credited efforts by the government and banks to curb the increase as well as a hike in interest rates.
Yoon Spent Less on Presidential Campaign Than Ruling-Party Rival
President-elect Yoon Seok-youl spent around W3 billion less than his rival Lee Jae-myung of the ruling Minjoo Party on his presidential election campaign (US$1=W1,232). The National Election Commission said Tuesday that the MP spent W43.9 billion on the election campaign but the main opposition People Power Party only W40.9 billion. Political parties' campaign spending is fully reimbursed by the state if their candidate wins more than 15 percent of total votes. They get half their money back if their candidate wins 10 to 15 percent. Yoon won 48.56 percent of the votes and Lee 47.83 percent, so both will be fully reimbursed. The PPP's spending increased by around W6.7 billion compare to the previous presidential election, while the MP's saw a W4.3 billion decline.
Hyundai Chief Named Newsweek's Visionary of the Year
Hyundai chairman Chung Eui-sun has been named Visionary of the Year at the inaugural Newsweek World's Greatest Auto Disruptors Awards. The event was held in New York on Tuesday. Chung was in the U.S. to attend the New York International Auto Show, which opened on Wednesday. Newsweek chose Chung for playing a significant role in the growth of Hyundai and affiliate Kia as they try to redefine mobility and provide greater freedom of movement through electric cars, robotics and advanced air mobility, the magazine said.
Joongang Ilbo (https://koreajoongangdaily.joins.com )
Bank of Korea raises rates by a quarter point
The Bank of Korea voted to increase rates 0.25 percentage points Thursday as inflation rages globally and central banks elsewhere tighten monetary policy. It is the second increase of the base rate this year and the fourth in this round of tightening, which began in August 2021. Rates were taken from the all-time low of 0.50 percent to 0.75 percent in August. That was followed by an increase to 1.0 percent in November and another to 1.25 percent in January. The base rate is now 1.50 percent. The meeting took place without a Bank of Korea governor. Former governor Lee Ju-yeol left office in March, and chief nominee Rhee Chang-yong has yet to be confirmed. The monetary policy board on Thursday was presided over by acting board chief Joo Sang-yong.
Political 'bromance' between Yoon and Ahn crumbles
The alliance between President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol and software mogul-turned-politician Ahn Cheol-soo is crumbling.
What began as a campaign alliance was supposed to lead to some form of power sharing if Yoon won the presidency. But just 36 days after that victory, the two men seem to be parting ways after Yoon ignored Ahn, chairman of his transition team, in the selection of his Cabinet. Ahn, head of the minor People's Party, abruptly canceled his whole public schedule Thursday. He was scheduled to visit the Seoul Metropolitan Fire and Disaster Headquarters that morning. He skipped a transition committee Covid-19 response meeting later that afternoon.
Israeli ambassador says it's time the two countries get married
There’s no mistaking where you’re standing when you enter the Israeli residence in Seoul. Like windows looking in, landscape paintings of Mounts Tabor and Hermon, the Golan Heights and Tiberias decorate the walls on one side, while the other end is decorated with more modern expressions of the story of Absalom from the Bible and the ports of Haifa and Jaffa. The creators behind the works speak for the past and present of Israel, for they include Leo Ray, the artist who made Aliyah from Lithuania, landscape artist Ludwig Blum who fared from the Czech Republic, American-born Israeli artist Ivan Schwebel and sculptor and painter Menashe Kadishman known for his sheep motifs.
The Dong-A Ilbo (http://english.donga.com/)
Washington seeks to reduce Pyongyang oil imports by half
The Unites States called on the United Nations Security Council to halve a crude oil supply to North Korea and ban its imports of mineral products in a draft resolution, which prohibits not only nuclear and ballistic missile tests but also cruise missiles that are capable of delivering nuclear weapons to reach South Korea and Japan. Washington circulated a draft resolution against Pyongyang to the 15 UNSC members for the first time in five years following the Security Council Resolution 2397, which was adopted in December 2017, Reuters reported on Wednesday (local time).
Inflation soars in major economies
Major economies across the world are taking the big step (of increasing their base rate by more than 0.5 percentage points. On Wednesday, the Canadian central bank announced it had bumped up the base rate by 0.5 percentage points. The last time Canada took the big step was 22 years ago in May 2000. A day earlier, New Zealand took the big step, too. Having increased the base rate by 0.25 percentage points last month, the Federal Reserve is also expected to take another around of cranking up the rate by 0.5 percentage points next month.
S. Korea to send non-lethal military supplies to Ukraine
South Korean President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol drew a line to providing Ukraine with combat supplies after he takes office. The military announced that it would send non-lethal military aids worth 2 billion won to Ukraine.“As far as I know, the incumbent Moon administration denied providing weapons to Ukraine,” the president-elect’s spokeswoman Bae Hyun-jin said when asked about Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky’s request for military weapons support at the virtual speech on Wednesday. The response is that the new administration will not provide military weapons to Ukraine. Bae said the new administration will consider whether to expand humanitarian relief toward Ukraine.
Maeil Business News Korea (http://www.pulsenews.co.kr/)
BOK delivers this year’s second hike to raise rate to 1.5% before Fed’s big leap
South Korea’s central bank under acting governor on Thursday delivered the second hike for the year or fourth since August last year as inflation that hit 4 percent for the first time in a decade in March is expected to stay strong due to broad ramifications from Russian-Ukraine war.“The board was unanimous on a hike as inflationary buildup is expected to last longer than expected,” said BOK acting governor Joo Sang-yong after presiding the rate-setting meeting on Thursday.
S. Korea’s fiscal deficit widens to $12 bn by Feb on slowed tax income gain
South Korea incurred a fiscal deficit of 15 trillion won ($12.3 billion) despite on-year addition of tax income by 12 trillion won in first two months of the year as fiscal spending overwhelmed recovery in domestic income. According to the monthly fiscal balance report released by the Ministry of Economy and Finance on Thursday, South Korea collected more than 70 trillion won in tax revenue during the January-February period, up 12.2 trillion won from a year ago. The rate of government tax collection to the annual target stood at 20.4 percent in February.
Korea’s volatile markets see 239 testing annual lows vs 158 annual highs in a month
As many as 239 Korean stocks have hit fresh 52-week lows over a month as the Korean market becomes one of the biggest losers from foreign selling amid higher U.S. interest rates and geopolitical risk concerns. According to the Korea Exchange on Wednesday, 75 on the Kospi and 164 on the Kosdaq tested new 52-week lows in a month. The biggest losers were large-cap stocks, including Samsung Electronics, LG Energy Solution, Hyundai Motor, Kia Corp., LG Electronics, Hyundai Mobis, and SK innovation. Of them, 36 Kospi stocks with a market cap of more than 1 trillion won ($816 million tested new annual bottom.
HanKyoReh Shinmun (http://english.hani.co.kr)
Yoon taps close associate to head Justice Ministry, asserting grip on prosecution service
President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol named senior prosecutor Han Dong-hoon as his nominee for minister of justice on Wednesday. During his announcement, Yoon stressed Han’s qualification as the “best person to overhaul the judicial system,” describing his closest aide within the prosecution service as a “US attorney” who “speaks fluent English” and meets the “global standard.” Yet, Yoon made no reference to the descriptors that have frequently followed Han, such as his reputation as Yoon’s “closest associate” and“the best prosecutor of the prosecutorial division specializing in special crimes.”
US, Japan conduct joint exercises in East Sea in open show of force to N. Korea
For the first time in four years and five months, a US aircraft carrier has entered the East Sea and is conducting joint exercises with Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Forces. The move is interpreted as an attempt by the two allies to deter North Korea from launching another intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) or testing a nuclear weapon in the coming days as we near the Day of the Sun on April 15, the anniversary of Kim Il-sung's birth. However, the move could end up further jeopardizing the situation around the Korean Peninsula by provoking North Korea.
Yoon names 8 more Cabinet picks, including divisive justice minister
In his announcement of Cabinet selections on Wednesday, President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol named Judicial Research and Training Institute Vice President Han Dong-hoon, one of his closest associates, as his nominee to serve as his administration’s first minister of justice. The Democratic Party attacked the choice as a “declaration of the privatization of prosecutorial authority,” with Han being “given the roles of both minister of justice and senior presidential secretary for civil affairs.” Yoon has now completed his selections of ministers for 16 ministries, with only the Ministry of Employment and Labor and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs remaining. His choices include Kim In-chul,
The KyungHyangShinmun (http://english.khan.co.kr/)
Ahn Cheol-Soo Canceled His Official Schedules for This Day: Possible Turbulence?
Ahn Cheol-soo, chairman of the presidential transition committee, canceled all his official schedules for April 14. This came after Ahn said, “I had no opportunity to share my opinion,” on President-elect Yoon Seok-youl’s nomination of his cabinet members and canceled a dinner with the president-elect the previous evening, suggesting some turbulence in designing a coalition government. The head of the presidential transition committee canceled a visit to a site of the Seoul Metropolitan Fire and Disaster Headquarters where a fire safety policy was implemented, originally scheduled for 10:30 a.m. this morning.
Cho Eung-cheon, “Han Dong-hoon Will Become a Powerful Minister, Not a Powerful Secretary. The Nomination Was a Response to the Attempt to Strip Prosecutors of Investigative Authority”
On April 14, Democratic Party of Korea lawmaker Cho Eung-cheon spoke about justice minister nominee Han Dong-hoon and said, “It’s a justice minister who will also serve as senior secretary for civil affairs. He will become a powerful minister, not a powerful secretary.” He claimed that the nomination of Han could only be accepted as a countermeasure to the Democratic Party’s decision to strip the prosecution of investigative power. Cho spoke these words on the MBC radio show, Kim Jong-bae’s Focus, this day. The lawmaker said, “The affairs of the senior secretary for civil affairs include communication with the Prosecution Service, and since they can understand each other just by looking into each other’s eyes, they can take care of that without a senior secretary for civil affairs.”
Yoon Seok-youl, “No Need to Overread Apology to Park Geun-hye”
On April 12, President-elect Yoon Seok-youl met with former President Park Geun-hye and said, “I’m sorry.” The next day, the president-elect’s spokesperson brushed away any speculation on the apology saying, “He (Yoon) was only being respectful. There is no need to overread his words.” This morning at the presidential transition committee press room in Tongui-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, when a reporter mentioned how President-elect Yoon paid a visit to Park and extended words that seemed to say that he felt sorry for Park and how some people were criticizing his comments as “denying the impeachment,” Bae Hyun-jin, spokesperson for the president-elect said, “She (Park) is currently recovering her health, but is still very weak.
State Dept.: US Closely Monitoring N. Korea for Possible Provocation
The U.S. State Department said the United States is closely monitoring North Korea for possible provocations around the 110th anniversary of the birth of its founder Kim Il-sung on Friday. Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a press briefing on Thursday that North Korea has used the holidays and other notable occasions to engage in provocations. Price said that the U.S. is therefore watching closely for the possibility. Last week, U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Sung Kim also said that Pyongyang could be planning another missile launch or a nuclear test for its April 15 holiday.
IMF to Cut Growth Forecasts for 143 Economies amid Russia-Ukraine War
The head of the International Monetary Fund(IMF) reportedly said on Thursday that the organization will downgrade its growth forecasts for this year and next year amid the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. According to Reuters and other foreign media, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva revealed the intended adjustments in a speech at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. The IMF chief said that in the spring meetings of the IMF and World Bank next week, the IMF would cut its forecasts for 143 countries around the world, representing 86 percent of global gross domestic product.
Yoon, Ahn Agree to Continue to Move Forward as One Team
President-elect Yoon Suk Yeol met with the head of his transition team Ahn Cheol-soo on Thursday amid speculation of a rift between them over nominations for Yoon's Cabinet. Yoon's chief of staff Chang Je-won said on Thursday that Yoon and Ahn had dinner that day at a restaurant in southern Seoul and agreed to fully unite for the success of the Yoon government. Chang, who attended the meeting, said the dinner meeting was held in an amicable atmosphere and the two sides agreed to join hands and move forward as a coalition government. Yoon and Ahn reportedly agreed to seek a smooth merger of the People Power Party and Ahn's People's Party.
BOK raises interest rate to 1.5 pct amid growing inflation woes
South Korea's central bank raised its key interest rate by a quarter percentage point Thursday to the highest level in about three years to rein in rising inflation pressure as the ongoing war in Ukraine has sent oil and major commodity prices even higher. The monetary policy board of the Bank of Korea (BOK) convened a rate-setting meeting earlier in the day and voted to raise the benchmark seven-day repo rate to 1.5 percent, according to the central bank. The central bank increased the interest rate to the highest level since July 2019. "Currently available information suggests that inflation has accelerated while the recovery of the global economy has somewhat moderated, affected by the Ukraine crisis," the BOK said in a report on the decision.
Yoon says will expand breadth of diplomacy based on stronger alliance with U.S.: report
South Korea's incoming administration will expand the country's diplomatic efforts based on a stronger U.S.-South Korea alliance, President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol said in an interview published Thursday. Yoon also said he will seek to improve ties with Japan, calling current Seoul-Tokyo relations "the Achilles' heel" of trilateral cooperation between South Korea, Japan and the U.S. "The current administration placed too much emphasis on the relationship with North Korea alone, and was rather insufficient in global diplomacy, with some even saying that global diplomacy went missing," the incoming South Korean leader said in his interview with the Washington Post.
N. Korean provocations likely to continue for months: Jake Sullivan
North Korea is currently in a provocation cycle that may last for weeks or even months, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Thursday. Sullivan also said the North will continue efforts to advance its nuclear and missile programs, but that the capability to hit the U.S. mainland has yet to be proven. "A few weeks ago, they tested an intercontinental ballistic missile, which they had not done previously, they had not done since 2017. So yes, they are in a pattern of provocation, pattern of testing," Sullivan said in a seminar hosted by the Economic Club of Washington D.C., a non-profit organization based in Washington.
The Korea Herald (http://www.koreaherald.com)
Nomination adds fuel to prosecution row
The ruling and opposition parties are clashing over a plan to strip prosecutors of their investigative powers and the new administration’s nominee for justice minister. On Thursday, Prosecutor General Kim Oh-soo met Park Kwang-on, head of the parliament’s legislation and judiciary committee, to express objection to the ruling party’s move to enact legislation to deprive it of its remaining investigative powers. During the meeting, held hours before the legislation committee’s plenary session, Kim called on Park to “fully discuss and review various problems caused by the bill” such as institutional and budget aspects at the judiciary committee.
Yoon finalizes Cabinet nomination, taps umbrella union official as labor minister
President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol announced the final two minister nominees on Thursday, finishing up the first round of nominations for his incoming Cabinet. Yoon announced his choices for the other 16 ministerial posts in the past two rounds of announcements. In the press briefing, Yoon tapped Lee Jung-sik for minister of employment and labor. Lee formerly served as secretary general of the Korea Labor and Employment Service, and a top administrator for the Federation of Korean Trade Unions, an umbrella union organization.
BOK raises rate by quarter-percentage-point to quell inflation
South Korea’s central bank on Thursday raised its benchmark interest rate by a quarter percentage point to 1.5 percent, with an official warning of growing inflationary pressure and slower-than-expected economic expansion. The Bank of Korea’s six-member monetary policy board unanimously voted to raise the base rate to 1.5 percent -- the highest level since July 2019 –- during a rate-setting meeting. It marks the central bank’s fourth pandemic-era rate hike, dating to August last year when the BOK raised its record-low rate of 0.5 percent by a quarter percentage point.
The Korea Times (http://www.koreatimes.co.kr)
BOK raises key rate to highest level in 3 years to fight inflation
The Bank of Korea (BOK) raised its key interest rate, Thursday, by 25 basis points to 1.50 percent, the highest level since July 2019, in a desperate bid to curb inflation as well as a possible capital flight following the U.S. Federal Reserve's faster-than-expected tapering. The decision, which was made in the absence of a BOK governor, came as inflationary pressure mounts quickly with consumer prices rising at the fastest pace in over a decade amid skyrocketing energy and commodity prices triggered by a prolonged Russia-Ukraine war. "We judged that inflationary pressure can last longer than expected due to the Ukraine crisis, and correspondingly, had to take countermeasures despite the absence of a governor," Joo Sang-young, the acting chairman of the BOK's monetary policy board, said during a press conference.
US special envoy for North Korea to visit Seoul for talks: State Dept.
U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Sung Kim will visit South Korea next week for talks that will include discussions on a joint response to North Korea's recent missile launches, the state department said Thursday. The special representative for the DPRK will visit Seoul from Monday through Friday, according to the department. "During his visit, Special Representative Kim will meet with Republic of Korea (ROK) Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs Noh Kyu-duk and other senior ROK officials to discuss the situation on the Korean Peninsula, including the international community's response to the DPRK's recent ICBM launches," it said in a press release.
Yoon, Ahn agree to continue efforts to form coalition government
President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol and presidential transition committee chairman Ahn Cheol-soo agreed to make mutual efforts to form a coalition government as they agreed earlier, amid widespread speculation that their vision may be too difficult to fulfill. According to the president-elect's Chief of Staff Rep. Chang Je-won, Thursday, Yoon and Ahn met over dinner and "reaffirmed that they will be united for the success of the Yoon government." "The dinner was full of laughter, and the two leaders agreed to hold their hands firmly for the coalition government," Chang said in a text message sent to reporters.
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