Daily Update – August 2

South Korea

Politics – Three major opposition parties in South Korea – The Minjo Party, The Peoples’ Party and Justice Party – have agreed to set up a panel to address the ongoing debate about THAAD deployment in South Korea.  The parties are set to send the proposal for the panel to the ruling Saenuri Party soon.

For South Korea, image abroad has been a long standing issue.  Textbooks in several countries had false depictions of the country until vigilant diplomats fought to change the depictions of South Korea in those books.  Public diplomacy will also get a boost this week, as South Korea’s first public diplomacy law will go into action, which gives the foreign minister to preside over public diplomacy programs.  The law will also create a public diplomacy committee with 20 people.  The committee will be tasked with releasing 5-year public diplomacy outlooks, with the first to be released in 2017.

In Japans most recent Defense White Paper, the Japanese restated their claim of the Dokdo Islands, an island which has been the center of ownership disputes since the Colonial Period.  The paper listed Dokdo under its Japanese name Takeshima, a name which is excluded in the Joson Ilbo article, and listed the airspace as Japanese airspace.  The paper only strengthens the Dokdo dispute between the two nations, which has long been a thorn in South Korea-Japan relations.

Economy – Employment in the OECD countries stagnated in the first quarter, only rising by about 0.3% to 66.8% average employment across all OECD countries.  However, South Korea’s employment rate held constant at 65.9%, the same number it reached at the end of the fourth quarter last year.  With downsizing and failing industry possibly leading some major layoffs in the second half of 2016, South Korea is currently forecasted to see a rise in unemployment by the end of the year.

July 25 was the two-year anniversary of the start of the basic pension system in South Korea.  Currently, the system offers 200,000 won a month to citizens over 65 years old, with opposition lawmakers looking to expand those benefits to 300,000 won a month.  A report released by Lim Wan-sub of the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs showed the pension system as resulting in a 4.7% drop of elderly citizens living in poverty.  Despite a very outspoken favor of raising the benefits, and excluding them from recognized income, the opposition parties have been unable to amend the law due to high estimates of the programs per year cost.  Currently, the government is maintaining the argument that the system is too recent to amend.  (I know I butchered this explanation, but the HanKyoreh describes the pension system fairly well).

Culture – Protestors at Ehwa Womens University stage a second day of protesting a new program coming to the univeristy.  The program is called LiFE (Light up in Future Ehwa) and works to bestow working women with little to no experience with a bachelors degree from the university.  Current students at the Ehwa are outspoken against the program, saying it devalues the standing of a degree from the university in a society which is already teetering toward overeducation of its population.  South Korea is also known for its competitive education system which places high importance on grades and has led to a boom in college educated citizens within the country.

North Korea

Politics – North Korea launched a ballistic into the sea from Hwanghae province, according to South Korea.  The missile was a Rondung medium range ballistic missile and flew 620 miles before crashing into the sea.  President Park Geun-hye restated South Korea’s resolve to deploy THAAD in the aftermath of the launch.  United States Strategic Command said the North launched a second missile as well, but it blew up shortly after launch.  The test comes a few weeks after North Korea’s last launch in opposition to the THAAD deployment, but there is no word yet as to the motivation behind the most recent missile launch.

South Korean Coverage of the launch – Yonhap, Korea Herald, Korea Times

American Coverage of the launch – New York Times

Due to the nature of the report above, it has dominated South Korean news outlets, and therefore, I have no other updates on North Korea for today.




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