Culture News Alert: Pokémon Go Released in Korea

Ninatic has released its most popular game, Pokémon Go, in Korea on Tuesday. The release came as an unexpected surprise for one of the world’s largest gaming communities.  Pokémon Go is available in Korean on the Apple App Store and on the Google Play Store (Korea Herald).

Pokémon Go was released to the world in July 2016 when it came out in the United States to major success, shaping the culture of handheld gaming.

A Korean release was delayed due to technical and political issues stemming from the game’s technology; Pokémon Go relies on GPS technology similar to Google Maps for location services, but Korean law forbids storage of map data overseas (Bustle; New York Times).  Google and the Korean government have been in a long dispute over the storage of map data.  The dispute has resulted in several high-profile denial of access results favoring the Korean government (Wall Street Journal).  The Korean version, according to reports, relies on publicly available map data to augment its location services for South Korea (Reuters).  This circumvents some of the regulations in place by the Korean government, but may limit the game in terms of number of Pokéstops and so forth–compared with the game in other countries like the United States and Japan.

Prior to the release, Pokémon Go created a virtual tourism site in Sokcho, as residents flocked there to play the game. Hotels and business even got in the action, creating maps of free wifi zones for visitors to access while they visited.  Sockcho was able to utilize the games augmented location systems due to a technicality in the map data storage laws (The Korea Page; The Guardian).

(Post has been updated with linked source material, including the article which sparked this post.)

Update: Seoul Court Rejects Aresst Warrant

A Seoul court has rejected the warrant of arrest against Samsung’s Lee Jae-young.  The Special Prosecutor announced his intention to pursue the warrant on Monday, coming to the conclusion that donations and deals made by Samsung were bribes to gain political favors.

On Wednesday, after hearing both sides, Seoul Central District Court Judge Cho Eui-yeon rejected the warrant citing a lack of evidence (CNN Money).  In the decision, the court cited difficulty in determining if the money was in fact intended for a bribe or not in its decision to reject the warrant (Korea Post).  Lee, however, will remain under speculation as the investigation into the scandal continues to move forward.

The news was a sign of good fortune for Samsung as it struggles with internal struggles as well as international issues.  Currently, Lee is working to fill the vacuum left by his incapacitated father after a 2014 heart attack (Asia Times), and the company just released a report on the Galaxy Note 7 debocle, citing the battery as the reason for the phone catching on fire (Yonhap News).  These issues have created a negative buzz around Samsung; the company, however, seems to be weathering the times.

As for Korea, the Samsung case highlights the difficulties in reigning in large, family companies also known as cheobol.  Since President Park Chung-hee spurred South Korea’s economic growth in the 1960-1970s, large corporations such as Samsung have wielded tremendous power and policing them can be difficult.

Breaking News: Arrest Warrant wanted For Samsung Head

k2017011500130-6501(Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong.  Photo: Korea Times)

The Special Prosecutor in South Korea requested an arrest warrant for Samsung’s de-facto leader Lee Jae-yong.  Lee was questioned by an independent council team as a bribery suspect Thursday (Yonhap).  Currently, Lee is the Vice Chairman of Samsung Electronics, but is the only son of the incapacitated Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee.

During the scandal, Samsung was at the center of a few shady deals.  In August of 2015, the conglomerate signed a 22 billion won contract with a German company owned by a person in the midst of the scandal.  A few months later, in October of the same year, Samsung made a 20.4 billion won donation to two foundations set up by Choi Soon-sil; in 2016, Samsung became the biggest local contributor to those foundations (Yonhap).  In return for such moves, the Blue House supposedly pressured the National Pension Service to support the merger of Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries, a decision for which the NPS held the deciding vote (Korea Times).  The warrant was sought by the prosecutor on the grounds that such donations were bribes to gain political favors (NY Times).

The request for a warrant was pushed back until Monday since the Special Prosecutor wanted to weight the economic implications of Lee’s arrest (CNBC).  As one of South Korea’s largest conglomerates, some economic impact is certainly possible.  Samsung, however, may face more challenges internally.  The arrest will open a power vacuum within the company, making it difficult for Samsung to push through its reconstruction and merger and acquisitions campaigns (Korea Herald).

An arrest warrant against Lee casts more speculation against the president in the face of an already damning political scandal which has rocked the nation and resulted in the impeachment of Park Geun-hye on December 9 by the National Assembly.

2017 Post Schedule and Other Site News

Dear wonderful readers, I first want to start by expressing my deepest condolences to those who lost their lives and were injured in the airport shooting in Florida yesterday.  This was another senseless act of violence and my thoughts go out to everyone affected by this horrendous act.

As for my return, I am starting to work on my post covering the New Year’s speech by Kim.  That post will also include a look ahead for the peninsula into 2017.  That post should be up within a couple weeks at most – currently tied up by extraneous events.  This will be my first post of 2017.

As for returning to Daily Updates and other more regular functions of this blog, I am expecting to start those in February. I apologize for leaving out January, but personal items are coming first.  As for Breaking News and Updates, those will continue throughout January if anything of note is to happen in Korea.

Thank you for being wonderful readers and I look forward to having a lot of fun analyzing Korea in 2017 for all of you.

Breaking News: Chung Yoo-ra Arrested in Denmark

Chung Yoo-ra, the daughter of Choi Soon-sil, was arrested in Denmark over the New Year holiday on charges of illegal stay in the country (Yonhap).  She was arrested in the northern city of Aalborg (Yonhap*).  After ditching several summons by the special prosecutor, South Korea worked with Interpol to place her name on a wanted list.  South Korean authorities are currently working with Denmark to repatriate her.  Chung is charged with receiving special consideration at Ehwa University in line with the massive corruption scandal involving the president.

*Source is in Korean

Happy New Year

It is now officially 2017, in some locations, and I want to wish all a Happy New Year to everyone everywhere.  Also, let’s all send our thoughts out to Turkey as the start of 2017 with tradegy.  As for the Korean Peninsula, Kim Jung-un is giving his annual New Year’s speech.  I will post an alaysis of the speech and what signals Kim may have given for North Korea’s 2017.  For now, let’s all enjoy the evening and bring in 2017 with excitement and hope for the world and wherever the reader of this post may be.  I look forward to covering the Korean Peninsula in 2017 for all.