Daily Update – December 1

South Korea

PoliticsPark Young-soo was named special investigator in the Choi Soon-sil scandal which has riddled Park Geun-hye throughout the final year of her term and destroyed her legitimacy as president.  In a press conference, Park Young-soo promised to carry out a thorough investigation into the scandal, though some are worried his ties to an offical implicated in the scandal may hinder his overall effectiveness in this position.  When asked if President Park must cooperate in the investigation, Park Young-soo said he did not want to jump to conclusions.  His first task will be to assemble a team of over 100 staff members to oversee the investigation.

Opposition parties have agreed to introduce the impeachment motion on Friday with a vote to occur on December 9, no matter what plans the presidential office releases for her early resignation.  The motion cited the Sewol Ferry incident from 2014, as well as the current scandal.  Opposition parties agreed to persuade Saenuri party members to take part in the vote, though there is one complicating factor; many Saenuri lawmakers are waiting to see if Park announces an early resignation on Wednesday.  If she does not, those lawmakers have said they will partake in the vote.  In order to pass, the motion will require 200 votes out of 300 possible.  This means 28 Saenuri lawmakers will have to vote with the opposition to impeach the president.

Economics Food and alcohol were the most popular selling items at South Korean convenient stores.  E-Mart, a chain run by Shinsaegae, reported that liquor was the most popular item during the first 11 months of the year, highlighting a growing trend of at home drinking.  Other popular items included prepared food, snacks and sushi rolls.  Coffee and cosmetics, however, saw a slight dip in popularity.  Other stores saw a similar trend.  As for online products, baby foods and toys saw a major increase in sales, jumping to ninth place on E-Mart’s online marketplace, of about 63%.  When combined with offline sales, baby related products at E-Mart increased by 98.5% in sales, as companies work to slash prices to attract more customers.

Gas and oil prices are on the rise throughout the world, with some analysts seeing the possibility that oil may top $60 a barrel as OPEC agreed to cut production output by 1.2% on Wednesday.  The West Texas Intermediate for January delivery rose 3.3%, about $1.62, to $51.06 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, as the Brent crude for February delivery added $2.48, about 4.78% to finish at $54.32 per barrel.  This spike could lead to more drilling requests which would increase business possibilities for South Korean companies.  This comes as good news to Korean shipping companies, who have been experiencing a steep decline throughout the year.

Culture – Life expectancy in South Korea is on the rise; a baby born in 2015 can expect to live beyond the threshold of 82 years old, according to a report by Statistics Korea.  Average life expectancy in Korea has edged to 82.1 years for a baby born in 2015, with a baby boy expected to live 79 years and a baby girl 85.2 years, dropping the gender gap by 0.2 years to 6.2.  The gender gap has been in steady in decline since it peaked at 8.5 years in 1985.  As for older individuals in 2015, a 40-year man and woman can expect to live another 40.1 years and 56 years respectively; at 60 years old, a man can expect to live another 22.2 years, while a woman can expect another 27 years of life.  The possibility of a child being born in 2015 reaching 100 is 1% for boys and 3.6% for girls.  The rise in life expectancy comes as the risk of death has been diminished due to medical advancements.

North Korea

South Korea released new sanctions on North Korea.  Coming after the United Nations released its new round of sanctions, the new South Korean sanctions blacklist several entities and persons involved in the North’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, including Choe Ryong-hae and Hwang Pyong-so, two high-ranking North Korean officials.  The Worker’s Party and the State Affairs Commission were also added to the blacklist.  “We have expanded the number of those subject to sanctions y adding to the list 35 entities and 36 individuals that are playing a critical role in developing weapons of mass destruction and contributing to the North Korean regime’s efforts to secure foreign currency,” Lee Suk-joon, the top official in charge of policy coordination at the Prime Minister’s Office, told reporters.  The blacklist was introduced as a follow-up to UNSCR 2270 and currently targets more than 70 people and entities.  This new round reinforces Seoul’s commitment to cooperate with the sanctions regime, and to close loopholes currently present in the sanctions on North Korea.  (Sorry this update is all over the place.)

North Korea carried out a provocation which simulated the shelling of South Korean islands.  The exercise was timed to be a protest to the new round of UNSC sanctions on the regime, and Kim Jung-un was in attendance at the drills.  The exercise is a part of North Korea’s winter schedule which runs from December to April.  2017 is also an important year in North Korea; it marks the 105 birthday of Kim Il-sung, the 75th birthday of Kim Jung-il and the 85th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Army.  This means 2017 may be a provocative year, though exactly how provocative remains unknown as Kim is experimenting with a wait and see policy until he knows how Trump will react to provocations.

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