Daily Update – August 1

South Korea

Politics – United States Forces Korea Commander Vincent Brooks stated that THAAD deployment in Seongju will not pose any health risks to the community.  This statement is the latest in a long debate over THAAD deployment, a debate which has deepened the divide between the parties.  Seongju residents also protested THAAD claiming it would present a health hazard.  After running a barrage of tests, USFK Commander Brooks was able to make his claim.  He reiterated the need for community safety, stating that his men would be the closest to the THAAD battery and he would not place them in a position which would compromise their health.  He also touched on the need for cooperation between China, South Korea, and Japan in order to achieve denuclearization of North Korea.

Economy – Expanding of the breaking news story from earlier, South Korea’s Ministry of the Environment revoked the certifications and banned the sales of 80 Volkswagon models in the country.  This was not the only action taken against Audi Volkswagon Korea, as the Ministry also levied a 17.8 billion won ($16 million) on the company.  These actions come after a long probe investigating if the company had cheated on emissions tests.  Out of the 300,000 models the company sells in Korea, the revocation has affected 209,000, about 68%.  These restrictions will not affect the owners of the models who want to sell their car in the future, according to the Yonhap New service.

South Korea’s consumer prices rose 0.7% on year, the worst on year rise this year.  For May and June the index rose 0.8%, and for the period of February to April it grew 1%.  This trend comes at a time of flaccid economic recovery.  As for the month, the index only rose 0.1% from last month.  Core inflation also increased by 1.7% on year, up 0.2% from last month.

Culture – Military culture has long been seen as brutal and unbecoming of the nation.  A document received by Yonhap News Agency from a military court under the Ministry of Defense offers more insight into just how brutal military life can be in South Korea.  The documents reveal cases of sexual assault by officers, assaults, and a variety of other heinous actions within the military.

Naver is in the middle of an interesting trend regarding its webtoons – comic strip style stories published online for the reader to enjoy.  The majority of Naver webtoon readers are foreigners, not Korean.  Naver started to publish webtoons in 2014 with a mere 4 artists.  Currently, 127 artists working on Naver webtoons, with more than 197 works published online.  Line also publishes webtoons, but in a variety of languages including English, Chinese and Indonesian.  Line’s webtoons have amassed 18 million views while Naver has only amassed 17 million reads.  Naver has been focusing on webtoons for the Asian market, but is currently looking at expanding its services to a variety of regions, including the United States in the future, acknowledging the huge growth potential of webtoons across the globe.

North Korea

Politics – South Korea’s Supreme Prosecutor’s Office released news that North Korea attempted hacked into the emails of over 90 South Korean diplomats, officials, and journalists.  A few North Korean affairs researchers also fell victim.  South Korean officials received word earlier this year that North Korea was attempting to hack into emails and the currently, North Korea has attempted to hack into the email account 27 times, using a pishing attack (look at the article for more details).  Currently, the attempts have compromised 57 email accounts, as passwords to the accounts were leaked.  State officials are currently looking to see if any state secrets were leaked in the hack.

North Korean military around the Chinese border has seen an increase in desertions, in some cases resulting in cross border escapes.  This trend has led to the belief that North Korea is having a difficult time in keeping the discipline of their soldiers.  This report is also tied into the one I reported in Breaking News: Rouge North Korean Soldiers in China; five rouge soldiers had crossed the border and robbed residents, beating some, ultimatley ending in a shootout which left two Chinese officers sustained severe injuries.

Culture – North Korean officials developed a new messenger application in the wake of dwindling reserves of foreign currency due to the recent sanctions levied on the country.  The app, known as “Sae Byeol,” is being used to promote trade between China and North Korea.  Only trading companies are allowed to use the app, and all messages are monitored by the State Security Department to ensure that topics stay on trade.  Logically, the app does require an internet connection to use, but this does not mean that the internet is coming to North Korea, in a more free format, anytime soon, and those who were contacted are not optimistic about the possibility of the internet expanding in North Korea anytime soon.

Breaking News: South Korea Bans Sells of Volkswagon Cars

A few days ago I mentioned in an update about the possibility of South Korea revoking the certifications of 80 Volkswagon cars.  An urgent update on Yonhap, which was preceded by a full length article, confirms that South Korea has officially revoked the certificates of several Volkswagon models.  I will detail the current restrictions and several other ramifications for the German automaker in my daily update later this evening.