Tuesday, February 28, 2023
Round-up of important news from major Korean dailies and from international media today
The Korea Post ( www.koreapost.com )
“Bilateral ties reach great heights as exemplary model in political, economic, other areas”
Ambassador Deyab Al Rashidi of the State of Kuwait in Seoul said, “Since the establishment of relations between Kuwait and Korea in 1979, the strategic partnership has reached significant heights, and has been an exemplary model for political, economic and peaceful cooperation.” Speaking at a reception Ambassador Rashidi hosted at the Hyatt Hotel in Seoul on the evening of Feb. 23, 2023, Ambassador Rashidi noted, “As an indication of the special relations between Kuwait and Korea, strong cooperation and close communication between us never stopped despite the global challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic during the last few years.” (See further details of the speech toward the end of this article.)
Education gets more digital in China
The World Digital Education Conference was held in Beijing recently, where a series of digital education equipment made a buzz. For example, wearing a mixed reality headset, people could see a life-size aircraft engine in the virtual world, and even dismantle and assemble it with gaming controllers in their hands. A 5G-enabled video camera could capture students' motions in real time when they make a standing long jump and then provide targeted guidance. These devices are a miniature of the digitalization of China's education. Today, schools at all levels and of all types in the country are strengthening the application of digital technologies in educational activities.
President Yoon Suk-yeol thanks Mongolia for backing Busan's World Expo bid
President Yoon Suk-yeol hosted talks with visiting Mongolian Prime Minister Luvsannamsrai Oyun-Erdene on developing bilateral relations at the presidential office in Seoul on Feb. 15. "We highly appreciate the continuous development of Korea-Mongolia relations in a range of fields since the formation of diplomatic ties in 1990," President Yoon was quoted as saying by his spokesperson Lee Do Woon in a news release. "We look forward to expanding mutually beneficial cooperation in various fields such as economy and trade, rare metals and minerals, infrastructure, response to climate change, and human and cultural exchanges."
Chosun Ilbo (http://english.chosun.com)
Seoul's Population Flees to Suburbs
The population of central Seoul's Jung district is shrinking so fast as young people move to the suburbs that some fear it may be merged with the neighboring district of Jongno. Jung's population stood at 120,317 as of last month, down from 133,155 a decade ago and the smallest among the capital's 25 districts. A declining population translates into a drop in tax revenues and less money to spend on facilities and services. "At this rate, we could face problems operating the district," a district office staffer said.
No More Daily COVID Tally to Be Released on Sundays, Holidays
Health authorities released no daily COVID tally on Sunday for the first time since January 2020. The government decided not to publish COVID tallies for Sundays and holidays from this week since the situation has stabilized and in view of the fact that figures are always low on weekends, when fewer people get tested. Most major countries have stopped releasing daily COVID statistics, and the government is minded to follow suit.
N.Koreans 'Starving to Death'
The food shortage in parts of North Korea is so severe that people are starving to death, the Unification Ministry said Monday. "We believe some parts of the North are suffering from such a severe food shortage that people are dying of starvation," ministry spokesman Koo Byoung-sam told reporters. The protracted coronavirus lockdown made things even more difficult for the country, which has chronically suffered from malnutrition and famine. Last fall the regime started regulating food distribution centrally, which may, if anything, have exacerbated the situation.
Joongang Ilbo (https://koreajoongangdaily.joins.com )
National Assembly rejects arrest motion for DP chair Lee
The National Assembly narrowly rejected a motion to consent to the arrest of Democratic Party (DP) chief Lee Jae-myung over allegations of corruption and bribery Monday. Through a secret ballot, 139 lawmakers voted to consent to Lee's arrest and 138 against during a plenary session of the DP-controlled National Assembly. There were 9 abstentions and 11 invalid votes. This marks the first time parliamentary consent has been sought for the arrest of the chief of the main opposing party.
Yoon directs Education Ministry to eradicate school bullying
President Yoon Suk Yeol instructed the Ministry of Education to swiftly come up with measures to eradicate school violence Monday following a bullying controversy surrounding the son of a recent government appointee. In a meeting with meeting with senior aides, Yoon ordered the Education Ministry to "work together with local education offices and other related agencies to come up with measures to eradicate school violence as promptly as possible," according to Kim Eun-hye, senior presidential secretary for press affairs.
SK Telecom's transition to AI is to stay in touch with customers
For SK Telecom, the transition to an artificial intelligence (AI) company is its way of staying in touch with the customers, said the CEO. “The strength of an AI service lies in the fact that it creates a direct channel with the customers for us, bypassing the previously established big tech companies’ services,” said SK Telecom CEO Ryu Young-sang, during a press conference held on Sunday, a day before the opening of MWC 2023. “We have lost the direct touch with the customers to big tech companies, but plan to take it back,” said Ryu.
The Dong-A Ilbo (http://english.donga.com/)
More than 100 dead or missing as boat sinks off Italian coast
At least 59 people, including 12 children, have died after a boat carrying migrants crashed into rocks in rough seas off the southern Italian coast. Criticism against Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is growing stronger as her administration has imposed tough new laws restricting the activities of migrant rescue charities. Since Benito Mussolini, Giorgia Meloni is the first far-right prime minister in 100 years. Even before taking office, she was called the most dangerous woman in Europe or the female Mussolini due to her calls for anti-immigration and anti-Islam policies.
NPA chief feels regretful as person with recommendation right
“I am always thinking about my next step,” said National Police Agency Chief Yoon Hee-geun on Monday to reporters’ question on the voice calling for his resignation from the police. Some members of the police say that Yoon should voluntarily step down from his position as he recommended lawyer Jung as a candidate for the chief of the National Office of Investigation despite internal opposition that it would neutralize the adjustment of investigative rights between the prosecution and the police and Jeong got disapproved.
‘King dollar’ fear returns after U.S inflation figure
As concerns that the U.S. Federal Reserve System (Fed) will implement long-term austerity measures to lower inflation in the country, the fear of the ‘king dollar’ is returning. The won-dollar exchange rate rose 18 won from the previous trading date and exceeded 1,320 won per dollar. The won-dollar exchange rate closed at 1,323.0 won per dollar on Monday in the Seoul foreign exchange market, 18.2 won higher than the previous trading date.
Maeil Business News Korea (http://www.pulsenews.co.kr/)
KEPCO’s record loss in 2022 puts government in dilemma over future rate hikes
State-owned utility Korea Electric Power Corp. posted a record operating loss last year as energy prices surged due to the prolonged war between Russia and Ukraine, making it difficult for the government to further raise electric rates after it indicated public fee increases will be delayed to ease price pressure on households. The state-owned company reported an operating loss of 32.63 trillion won ($25.02 billion) in 2022 and 10.77 trillion won in the fourth quarter, far exceeding the previous loss of 7.79 trillion won in the first quarter of last year, KEPCO said Friday.
Swedish Wallenberg family’s EQT Partners to acquire SK shieldus
A private equity firm under Sweden’s influential Wallenberg family is expected to acquire management rights of South Korea’s second-largest security service provider SK shieldus Co. According to multiple industry sources on Sunday, EQT Partners AB is set to sign an agreement for a 70 percent stake in SK shieldus. The contract will be worth more than 3 trillion won($2.3 billion). SK Group, currently the largest shareholder of SK shieldus, will jointly manage the company with the Swedish firm as second-largest shareholder.
China Duty Free Group to submit bid for store operations at Incheon airport
China Duty Free Group Co. (CDFG), the only state-owned company engaged in duty free store business in China, is expected to take part in a bid to operate at Incheon International Airport in South Korea. According to multiple industry sources on Sunday, CDFG will submit a bid to operate duty free shops at Incheon airport’s Terminal 1 and 2 on Monday and a business proposal on Tuesday. “We will participate in the bid,” confirmed an unnamed official from CDFG. “We will submit a bid and business proposal on Monday and Tuesday and attend related business meetings.”
HanKyoReh Shinmun (http://english.hani.co.kr)
Nuclear armament is a lose-lose-lose for South Korea
After President Yoon Suk-yeol broached the possibility of South Korea developing its own nuclear weapons in January, discussion of that possibility has been picking up steam. According to the results of a poll of 1,000 people published by the Chey Institute for Advanced Studies on Jan. 30, 76.6% of respondents agreed that South Korea needs to develop nuclear weapons. Then on Feb. 15, the office of National Assembly lawmaker Choe Jae-hyeong and the Northeast Asia Diplomacy & Security Forum co-hosted a public debate about South Korea’s nuclear armament and a stronger alliance with the US.
Is importing US equipment, investing in China about to get harder for Korean chipmakers?
Attention is mounting after a US government official revealed that South Korean semiconductor companies in China may face difficulties in importing semiconductor equipment in the future. These comments precede the start of the subsidy application process for Samsung Economics and SK Hynix on Tuesday, local time. The news appears to suggest that Korean companies will face pressure to limit production in China in addition to that to invest in the US. For South Korean companies, geopolitical uncertainties are adding to their already sluggish earnings amid a weak semiconductor market.
N. Korea’s Kim Ju-ae is a star born of America’s tailored deterrence
The US is responsible for the hype surrounding Kim Ju-ae, the “respected daughter” of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, as she is a star born from the US’ “tailored deterrence” strategy. This may sound odd at first glance, so let’s go through everything one by one. The fundamental goal of the South Korea-US military alliance is deterrence and victory. The primary goal is to show off the formidable destructive power of their military to make North Korea fear war. It is a threat to North Korea: If you ever think about starting a war, you’ll come out of it worse than when you started. If North Korea ignores that warning and starts a war, this military will be forced to mobilize, and it will come out victorious.
The KyungHyangShinmun (http://english.khan.co.kr/)
Questions Raised on the Presidential Office’s Responsibility in the Disastrous Appointment of Chung Sun-sin
Voices are holding the Office of the President responsible for the latest withdrawal of the appointment of attorney Chung Sun-sin as chief of the National Office of Investigation at the National Police Agency. The presidential office failed to identify and verify issues, such as Chung’s secondary victimization in the process of resolving the school violence practiced by his child and in responding to the disciplinary actions taken by the school. The failure to properly verify the candidate in a timely manner has led to the cancellation of Chung’s appointment. The Office of the President mentioned its limitations in candidate verification and said it would improve the system.
Kim Gi-hyeon Requests Investigation into His Land Near the KTX Ulsan Station, “I Will Leave Politics If I Made Huge Profits”
On February 26, Kim Gi-hyeon, who is seeking a bid for the People Power Party (PPP) leadership, decided to ask the National Office of Investigation to investigate and verify the allegation that he gained profits from the land adjacent the KTX Ulsan Station. In a press conference at the National Assembly, Kim announced, “I plan to request a thorough investigation into my land in Ulsan, which they (opponents) are raising an issue with.” If authorities confirm that Kim had abused his authority to illegally change road plans or earned illegal capital gains that jumped 1800 times in connection to his land in Ulsan, Kim said he would “immediately leave politics.”
“Security Chief at the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office Has Taken over Yongsan” Park Hong-keun Responds to Yoon Suk-yeol’s “Construction Violence” Comment
On February 23, Democratic Party of Korea floor leader Park Hong-keun spoke on President Yoon Suk-yeol’s remark about violence in construction sites and the establishment of a police-prosecutor joint investigation team for such “construction violence” and said, “The chief of national security in the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office has taken over the presidential office in Yongsan.” He argued that the president wasn’t reforming labor, but declaring a new authoritarian rule in the name of national security. Park made the comment in a meeting to discuss the party’s policies at the National Assembly Thursday.
DP Chief Evades Arrest in Tight Parliamentary Vote
The prosecution’s attempt to arrest main opposition Democratic Party(DP) chair Lee Jae-myung was narrowly defeated in a parliamentary vote Monday afternoon. The National Assembly held a plenary session with 297 lawmakers in attendance, voting down a motion to allow the arrest of Lee with 139 for and 138 against. There were nine abstentions while eleven ballots were judged to be spoiled. With neither side reaching a total of 149 votes needed to approve the prosecution's request for consent to arrest Lee, the opposition chief will not be arrested on corruption and bribery charges in relation to scandals during his time as mayor of the Gyeonggi Province city of Seongnam.
‘N. Korea’s Missile, Nuke Activity a Challenge that Can’t be Ignored’
A senior U.S. official said that North Korea's continued ballistic missile launches and preparations for a nuclear test pose a challenge to global security that cannot be ignored. Bonnie Jenkins, U.S. under secretary of state for arms control and international security, made the remarks on Monday during a session of the UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, Switzerland. Jenkins said that the world is facing the consequences of Russia's invasion of Ukraine as well as other challenges, mentioning Iran's nuclear development and China's nuclear buildup, but recent global events have stalled action against nuclear threats.
N. Korean Leader Calls for 'Radical Change' in Agricultural Production
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has reportedly called for a "radical change" in agricultural production within a few years. According to the North's state Korean Central News Agency(KCNA) on Tuesday, the regime leader made the call on Monday during a plenary meeting of the central committee of the ruling Workers' Party. Kim said that the main purpose of the meeting was to find ways to successfully attain this year’s grain production goal and bring about a radical change in agricultural production within a few years in order to pave the way for stable and sustainable development in agriculture.
National Assembly votes narrowly to reject motion for opposition leader's arrest
The National Assembly voted Monday to reject the government's request for consent to arrest opposition leader Lee Jae-myung over corruption charges by a margin of only one vote, a surprising result that shows many of Lee's own party voted for his arrest. The motion was voted down 139-138 with nine abstentions and 11 deemed invalid. The result, though in line with widespread views that Lee's main opposition Democratic Party (DP) would use its majority power to reject the request, came as a surprise because it could mean that up to 30 DP lawmakers could have cast dissenting votes.
N. Korean leader calls for 'radical change' in agricultural output within few years
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has called for a "radical change" in agricultural production within a few years, attending the second-day session of a key party meeting, Pyongyang's state media said Tuesday. The North's leader stressed the need to find ways for "stable and sustained development of agriculture" during the plenary meeting of the central committee of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) held the previous day, according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
Finance minister urges close attention to China's reopening
South Korea's chief economic policymaker on Tuesday called for more attention to the reopening of the Chinese economy in order to address the prolonged downturn in the country's outbound shipments. At a Cabinet meeting, Finance Minister Choo Kyung-ho pointed out challenges facing South Korea, such as high inflation, higher borrowing costs and the strong U.S. dollar amid the war between Russia and Ukraine. The finance minister added each ministry should especially keep a watchful eye on the reopening of the Chinese economy, so that it can give a positive spillover into South Korea's exports.
The Korea Herald (http://www.koreaherald.com)
Arrest warrant motion for opposition head narrowly rejected by Assembly
Democratic Party of Korea leader Rep. Lee Jae-myung avoided an arrest warrant by a close margin in a National Assembly vote on Monday, despite earlier pledges from the party that the motion will be defeated by “an overwhelming majority.” The motion to allow a judge to consider an arrest warrant for Lee, submitted to the National Assembly last week by the Seoul Central District Court, was rejected by a slim majority of 139 to 138 in an anonymous vote. Nine were abstain votes and 11 were considered invalid.
Yoon vows to combat school violence amid bullying case fallout
President Yoon Suk Yeol has pledged to combat school violence and promote greater social justice after having to cancel a key personnel appointment when the chosen official was found to have defended his son in a school bullying case instead of holding him accountable. During a meeting with his secretaries on Monday, Yoon directed the Education Ministry to “collaborate with relevant organizations such as local offices of education to develop measures for eradicating school violence as quickly as possible,” according to a statement from Yoon’s senior press secretary, Kim Eun-hye.
Nat'l Assembly passes bill on new veterans affairs ministry, overseas Koreans agency
The National Assembly on Monday approved a bill on upgrading the state agency on veterans affairs to a ministry-level body and establishing a new government agency to handle policies on overseas Koreans. The revised Government Organization Act is expected to be endorsed by the Cabinet on Tuesday and take effect as early as June. As part of the revision, a sub-ministry-level agency will be created under the foreign ministry and replace the Overseas Koreans Foundation. The envisioned launch is aimed at strengthening government support for over 7 million Koreans living outside of their home country.
The Korea Times (http://www.koreatimes.co.kr)
Main opposition leader narrowly escapes arrest after National Assembly vote
Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) Chairman Lee Jae-myung barely escaped arrest, Monday, amid a relentless pursuit by prosecutors accusing him of corruption and bribery. The National Assembly narrowly voted down a motion to arrest Lee despite the DPK's parliamentary majority. The highly unexpected result is feared to wreak havoc on his leadership, pave the way for factional infighting and eventually weigh heavily on the main opposition party. During a plenary session of the Assembly, 297 out of 299 lawmakers cast their ballots on a parliamentary consent to arrest the former presidential candidate.
Kim Ju-ae's succession still unclear: unification minister
It is too early to tell if North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un's headline-grabbing daughter, Ju-ae, is the true heir apparent, South Korea's Unification Minister Kwon Young-se said, Monday. But he did not rule out the possibility either that she might become the next leader of the country, which has been ruled by three generations of the Kim family. "Even if North Korea begins grooming her as the next leader, questions remain as to whether she will be able to lead the military-oriented North Korean system," Kwon said during a radio interview with CBS.
US stocks close slightly up after prior week's selloff
U.S. stocks eked out a slight gain on Monday as investors engaged in some bargain hunting after last week's losses, the biggest percentage declines of 2023 for Wall Street's main benchmarks, as jitters persisted about coming interest rate hikes to tame stubbornly high inflation. All three main stock indexes climbed more than 1 percent shortly after the opening bell, in part due to an easing in Treasury yields, and all three closed well off their session highs. Stocks steadily gave up gains throughout the session as U.S. Treasury yields moved off the day's lows.
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