Daily Update – August 4

South Korea

Politics – During a trip to the United States, South Korea’s Chief of Naval Operations Jung Ho-sub met with several top U.S. Navy officials to discuss joint maritime defense enhancement methods ahead of the planned Ulchi Freedom Guardian drill set to take place later this year.  This was Jung’s first trip to the United States since he took office in February of last year.

Prosecutors called Representative Lee Kyon-hoon, a member of the last National Assembly,  for questioning.  He is accused of using funds meant to pay his aides to run his office and pay other workers who worked for him.  Lee has agreed to cooperate in the investigation but did not comment on the accusations levied against him.

South Korea will dispatch 340 teachers and university students to developing nations in the latter half of the year to carry out educational programs.  The dispatchment is made up of 140 teachers who will stay over 1 year and over 200 trainees with shorter terms in the country.  Participants will travel to countries such as East Timor, Vietnam, and Kyrgyzstan in the largest dispatch of its type since 2013.

South Korea and the United States are looking to beef up military drills in the light of recent North Korean provocations.  The South Carolina National Guard arrived at Osan with 12 F-16 fighter jets and 200 airmen ready to fight.  Japan is also looking to bolster its cooperation with South Korea, in terms of defense, after the missile landed in Japan’s proverbial back yard.  After 2 missile tests in as many months, one can only hope North Korea does not take a provocative action against the drills.

Economy – Civic groups are speaking out against a tax plan introduced by the Minjoo Party of Korea.  The plan would raise the tax rate from 38% to 41% on employees making 500 million won ($449,000) or more, and hike corporate rates to 25% from 22%.  The plan is being called populist, with many also adding that the plan only was introduced to give the Minjoo Party more votes in the presidential election next year.  Where the party and civic groups are misaligned on the legislation is that it charges self-employed workers the same rate if they make that amount of money.

Culture – Businesses who sell alcohol to minors will face lighter penalties if caught.  A new which went into effect immediately shortened the normal 60-day suspension to 6 days if the accused can prove the act was an unintentional mistake.  The 6-day suspension will be in effect for first-time offenders, while second-time offenders will face an 18-day suspension.  Before the law, suspensions were 60 days for first-time offenders, 180 for second-time offenders and revocation of license on the third offense.  Under the new law, owners would have to prove a lack of intent to see to minors in order to receive the lenient punishments.

Korean adoptees searching for their birth parents has risen in the last three years, yet a slow digitizing of records has hindered their ability to find any records.  The most common records to be asked for are adoption records and birth certificates, but so far only 35% of some 230,000 documents have been digitized and archived.  Those whose documents are not digitized have only one option if they wish to see their records, going to the place they are stored in person.  Many are calling for the digitization of such documents, as several thousand Korean adoptees are actively searching to find their birth parents.

North Korea

A bridge of friendship between North Korea and China underwent repairs for a ten day period.  The bridge connects Dandong and Sinuiju together and is known at the Sino-[North] Korean Friendship Bridge.”  On the North Korean side of the bridge, damage was reported, and thus North Koreans carried out the repairs.  The repairs lasted from July 28-31, but due to the August 1 Chinese holiday, the opening of the bridge was pushed back to August 2.  However, the Chinese still are still worried as to the quality of the repairs.

Chamisul, a South Korean brand of Soju, is becoming a popular gift amongst the mid-level cadres and new monied class of North Korea.  Many are developing a taste for foreign liquor because North Korea only distills its own liquor for special occasions.  The South Korean brand is a luxury in the reclusive state, but it is growing in popularity among those with money and/or power in North Korea.  Naysayers also exist, saying the drink taste like water, but still consider the drink a delicacy because of the location of production.

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