Daily Update – September 7

South Korea

Politics – President Park Geun-hae met with Shinzo Abe, Japanese Prime Minister, in a sideline summit in Laos on Wednesday.  The two discussed North Korea, both highlighting the need for cooperation among the international actors to curb the North Korean provocations.  The two also discussed the Comfort Women Deal among a variety of other bilateral issues during the summit.

A South Korean provincial governor was sentenced to 18 months for bribery.  Hong Joon-pyo, South Gyeongsang Province’s governor, was included on a bribery list of Sung Wan-jong, who gave the politician an alleged 100 million won ($91,300) in 2011.  A close aide to Sung also received a six-month sentence.  The businessman also included Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo on the list, though Lee’s case is currently pending.

Economy – South Korea’s economy is still struggling to show signs of a recovery, despite a small tick up in exports.  Domestic Demand in Korea is slowing as a tax-cut program expires, one offing the rise of exports.  Retail sales fell 2.6%.  The worst hit was the auto industry, with automobile sales falling 26.4%.  Though a small increase industrial output, up 1.4% in lieu of the Olympics, though it is not a strong enough rise to counterbalance the fall in demand.  Earlier, the government announced a plan to pour 30 trillion won into the economy, with 11 trillion being allotted to extra budget.

Culture – The Busan International Film Festival is scheduled to take place on time – October 6-15 – in Busan.  The Busan Festival is the largest film festival in Asia, and this year will feature 301 films from 69 countries.  Over the past few years, the festival has been mired in controversy after screening a film covering the Sewol accident in 2014.  Many involved with the festival claim budget slashes and other action of the Busan government were in retaliation to the screening of the film, which the Busan mayor wished not to be shown.  This year the organizers hope to maintain the integrity of the festival, saying it will be a place where “citizens and the film industry coexist.”

North Korea

North Korea has called for complete loyalty for the upcoming celebration of its founding anniversary.  On September 8, North Korea will officially turn 68 years old and the state outlets are pumping out stories highlighting the legitimacy of the Kim regime in lieu of the upcoming celebrations.

Harvest time is approaching in North Korea, though the forecast is bleak.  In North and South Hwanghae Provinces, North Korea’s breadbasket, are withering due to lack of fertilizer and abnormally hot weather.  Taehongdan County, a place known for its potatoes, is projected to see a harvest 20-40% less than last years.  Despite the bleak outlook, a few state-run farms, such as the 10.18 Cooperative are forecasted to well this year.  It appears a cash-strapped North Korea is prioritizing state-run agricultural output over others, which is leading to the sharp decline in North Korea’s harvest this year.

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