Since I made my revamp decision on the July 4th weekend, I apologize for my horrid timing, and I had a lot of family obligations, I was unable to start this yesterday. However, I have made a choice and that is daily updates. During the week, Monday-Friday, I will post an update of news from Korea. Each will reflect on the current news on the peninsula, North and South.
Economy – The budget carrier Air Seoul, the daughter airline of Asiana Airlines, will start to make flights between Jeju Island and Seoul next week. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transportation concluded its assessment of trial flights on Tuesday.
South Korea is currently under extreme economic turmoil from the Brexit decision. In the aftermath of the decision, South Korea cut its growth expectancy rate from 3.1% to 2.8%, and KPOSI experienced a fall of about 3.3% in the immediate aftermath, with many experts saying that the KPOSI may dip to below 1850 points. British trade with South Korea amounted to a mere 4% of total exports and 1% of total direct investment. The won is also expected to weaken against the dollar, falling to 1,240 per dollar, versus a first half average of around 1,800 per dollar. Investors in South Korea are also moving to more stable investments, such as gold and other metals, and out of the stock markets. Despite such major fallout, South Korea has approved a 20 trillion won bailout plan which is geared to shore up more residual fallout from Brexit. However, these measures have not been implemented. South Korea is not the only country hit hard by Brexit, as the world is looking to recover about $4 trillion (USD). (This article is from 7/1/2016, will provide a more updated report tomorrow).
Politics – The Choson Ilbo reports that Park Geun-hae, current President of South Korea, and Shinzo Abe, Prime minister of Japan, will not be meeting on the sidelines of the ASEM summit in Mongolia to discuss payment for wartime sex slavery. Several Cheong Wae Dae officials have commented that South Korea is currently not preparing for a meeting between the two leaders. In December, Japan and South Korea reached a landmark agreement in which Japan has committed to pay reparations as a solution for the sex slaves issue.
South Korea is working to ease regulations for internet-only banks. In late November, the South Korean government granted permits for two web-only banks in an effort to reinvigorate the banking sector, steering it away from slow growth. This current deregulation will work to help make it easier for web-only banks to get permission to expand into credit card businesses, insurance, and investment systems, regardless of staff employment. This is a part of the continued attempt to diversify the Korean banking system, but some politicians do not have a very rosy picture of the new regulations. They would also provide monitoring through KCREDIT and a few other services for the banks and customers.
Culture – An article for the Korea Herald reports that a majority of the top 500 companies in South Korea are above the age of 40, with only a mere 20% being young aspirants. The oldest of all is Woori Bank, which is 105 years old. The youngest is Dongducheon Dream Power at 5 years old.
South Korea is also slated to hold two major conferences in July, “Understanding Disability Through Literature” and “The Story of Ecology and Religion.” These conferences will provide Korean scholars a way to present their own research as well as work with scholars from a variety of countries.
Other News – According to Yonhap News Agency, the Busan Regional Office of Meteorology reported a magnitude 5 earthquake around 8:30pm, across North and South Gyeongsang Province. The Ministry of Public Safety and Security is reporting zero casualties at this time. Several sources report that the earthquake was strong enough to shake buildings, and make objects fall from shelves and tables. Busan also had a rise in people calling the emergency hotline.
Politics – South Korea is going to double its loudspeaker broadcasts into North Korea. In August of last year, the broadcasts were resumed, after an 11-year pause, in response to a land mine incident and subsequent exchange of fire at the DMZ. They were stopped, only to be resumed following the January nuclear test. In response to the most recent missile test, South Korea is hoping to add an additional 10 stations along the border. This will bring the current number of stations to more than 20.
The United States State Department will release a report on Human Rights in North Korea this week. The report will be submitted to congress, where it may be used to draft America’s first set of sanctions in response to the human rights situation in North Korea. (I will cover the report in a separate post, so just a brief mention here.)
Economy – North Korea says that production has topped targets due to its 200-day hard-work drive, according to North Korean newspaper Rodung Shinmun. Coal, steel, and electric power production grew at a rate of 2.1 percent in response to the drive, according to North Korean media, with reported growths of 120% in electrical power and 140% in coal. The 200-day drive is the second nationwide campaign that is has undertaken, as it also implemented the 70-day campaign in February as Pyongyang tried to prepare for its 7th Worker’s Party Congress. (Article used for this report is from Korea Herald, but I can work to find the Rodung Shinmun article if anyone wishes.)
Culture – Last month, two brothers were arrested for using a Chinese cell phone that was smuggled into North Korea, according to Daily NK. A Ministry of People’s Security was also apprehended for letting the phone calls persist. Currently, there is split opinion as to how the situation will be handled, with some saying the brother’s loyalty may work to grant them leniency, while others hold a more grim look as to the outcome of the case. Freeing the brothers will cost upwards of 39 million KPW (North Korean Won), an exorbitant amount. This case highlights tightened security in North Korea, as the crackdown on illegal activities is still strong. (Here is an article which highlights the grim punishment the three men may face.)
According to the Korea Times, North Korea will be represented by at least 36 athletes, competing in 9 events, including weightlifting and marathon. This comes at a time when foreign travel, in general, is being sharply reworked in North Korea, as travel permits to China have been ceased and several workers from China have had to return home for re-indoctrination sessions.
Other News – North Korea has opened the floodgates on the Hwanggang dam located on the Imjin River, without warning, causing flooding in the Yeoncheon Area in South Korea. This is not the first time such an incident has occurred, as North Korea opened the gates without warning in May, causing several fishing tackles to float away, and in 2009. Another concern with the opening of the damn is that landmines from the DMZ area may float into South Korea.