Daily Update – August 15

South Korea

Politics – President Park conducted a shift in the government in an attempt to inject fresh momentum into her final days as president.  The shift included the naming of three new ministers, as well as other high-level positions in the government.  Park’s term will end on February 24, 2018, with a presidential election to take place in December of 2017.

Economy – With growing concerns of household debt rising in Korea, government data released on Monday showed a decrease of 13.6% in home transactions from a year earlier last month.  The decrease is partially due to the remarkably high numbers of 2015 when July saw the most home transactions of any period since South Korea started to compile the data in 2006.  However, the July tally was still 33.8% higher than the five-year average.  The sharp decline comes as more legislation is being passed to restructure and examine loans, and a rise in household debt, which is currently the highest on record.

The value of foreign shareholdings rose 10.3 percent from end of 2015 numbers, with foreign investment in the Korean economy now taking up 30.56% of total market capitalization.  This increase represents a 1.42% increase from the end of last year.  Currently, foreign investors own 38.14% of large caps listed on the KOSPI market – numbers as of last Wednesday.  The data also showed foreign investors buying around 8.87 trillion won ($8.09 billion) on the main market this year.  The market with the highest foreign investment share is electronics, with foreign investors owning around 50% of the market.

Culture – During the peak season of Korea’s film industry, August 1-15, around 70% of movie tickets sold were for Korean films.  The number has shifted throughout the years.  A high number this year was reported because of the big 4 Korean films currently in theaters – “Operation Chromite,” “Train to Busan,” “The Last Princess,” and “Tunnel.”  Hollywood films saw the second highest number of ticket sales accounting for 26.1% of sales and Japanese films accounted for 3.1%.

North Korea

North Koreans enjoyed a wonderful break on August 15, also known as Korean Liberation Day.  Citizens were able to spend time with their families, with a brief respite from national duties.  Daily NK reported that bikes and cars filled the streets as families went to rivers and other sites to enjoy the brief break.  This year the break was more welcome, since it gave workers a brief break from the 200-day campaign.

A North Korean ambassador is rumored to have defected.  The ambassador worked at the North Korean Embassy in London and, if the story is true, would continue a trend of high-level defections since Kim Jung-un came to power.

Finally, 38 North published an interesting article examining the economic and technological ability for Pyongyang to place a man on the moon.

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