Daily Update – February 14

South Korea

Politics – South Korea and the United States have agreed to send strategic assets to the joint military drills next month, such as the F-35 fighter jet, in response to Pyongyang’s escalation of tensions on the peninsula.  The two governments are in talks to determine the size of strategic assets being sent to the drills (Yonhap).  South Korean analysts are also working to determine the overall impact of the missile launch on the South Korean economy.  Kim Yong-gu, an analyst at Hana Finacial Investments, said the economy may suffer more in the long-term despite a limited effect in the short-term.  Other analysts are more worried about China’s opposition to THAAD deployment than the missile launch (Korea Times).  As for the American response to the test, Donald Trump called North Korea a “big, big problem” while vowing to strongly deal with the issue (ABC News).  U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said in a statement that “it is time to hold North Korea accountable,” and called on the Security Council to “make it clear to the North Korean regime — and its enablers — that these launches are unacceptable” (Business Insider).

Prosecutors sought another arrest warrant against Samsung Heir Lee Jae-yong on charges of bribery in connection with the impeachment scandal of Park Geun-hye (Korea Times).  Special prosecutors have charged the de-facto leader of Samsung for contributing or promising around 43 billion won ($36.3 million) worth of bribes in order to get the National Pension Service to back a controversial merger involving Samsung (Yonhap; HanKyoreh).  The prosecution said it has leveled more charges against Lee since the court denied an arrest warrant last month. in addition, the warrant also calls for a writ for Samsung Electronics President Park Sang-jin over his involvement in the irregularities.  The court will hold a hearing on Thursday morning to decide the legality of the warrant (Yonhap).

Economy – The National Pension Service will get over 1 trillion won in dividends from the country’s top 30 conglomerates this year.  65 affiliates have disclosed their dividend payout plans and will contribute 1.06 trillion won from them, a 20.5% increase from last year.  Samsung, overall, accounted for around 40% of the total; Samsung Electronics alone will contribute 361.8 billion won to the service and Samsung’s overall contributions will be 424.1 billion won.  These numbers were reached in an analysis of 97 affiliates at the top 30 conglomerates, all of whom the National Pension Service holds over a 5% stake (Korea Times).

Culture – International Youth Fellowship (IYF), an international Christian organization which sends university students on year-long volunteer trips, will tour Korea in 2017, stopping in 10 different cities.  The GoodNews Corps Festival–GoodNews Corps is the name of the volunteer group of the IYF–will start Thursday in Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi Province and will travel to 10 other cities throughout Korea before it ends in Hiroshima, Japan.  The GoodNews Corps Festival offers a chance for some of 2016’s 422 volunteers to share their stories of life volunteering abroad (Korea Herald).

North Korea

North Korea’s half-brother, Kim Jong-nam was killed in Kuala Lumpur International Airport, supposedly by two women who poisoned him then fled away by taxi (TV Chosun*).  Kim Jung-nam is the son of Kim Jung-il and his first wife Sung Hae-rim and soured his chance of taking the helm of North Korea in 2001 when he was arrested trying to enter Japan on a fake Dominican passport (The Telegraph).  Currently, Malaysian authorities are investigating Kim Jung-nam’s movements within the country (HanKyoreh).  Some have speculated that Kim Jung-un ordered the assassination of his half-brother for his close ties to China, a reason echoing of Kim Jung-un’s justification for killing his uncle Jang Song-taek in 2013 (Korea Economic Institute).  The exact reason for the assassination of Kim Jung-nam may never be known outside the elite structure in North Korea, but his death is the highest-profile one since Jang Song-taek was purged.[1]

* Source is in Korean

[1] For my more detailed reporting of Kim Jung-nam’s assassination, see “Breaking News: Kim Jung-un Brother Dead in Malaysia

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