Pollution: South Korea To Suspend 25% Of Coal Plants

 

South Korea will suspend up to a quarter of its coal-fired power plants in the next three months, even as demand for electricity peaks during the bitter winter, as it seeks to tackle air pollution, Seoul said Thursday. 

The world’s 11th largest economy is struggling to address growing public concern over airborne particles and pollutants, known as “fine dust”, that have raised public fears of omnipresent environmental harm.

Air pollution is designated as a “social disaster” and many South Koreans blame China, the source of the prevailing winds and the world’s biggest polluter, which is more frequently affected by choking bouts of filthy air.

The South is generally poor in resources but still operates 60 coal-fired power stations, which provide over 40 percent of the country’s electricity supply.

At least eight and as many 15 will have operations suspended from Sunday until February 29, the Ministry of  Trade, Industry and Energy said in a statement.

The remaining plants will reduce output to 80 percent of capacity over the period, it said, adding the measures would reduce the sector’s fine dust production by up to 44 percent.

But its first priority would be to maintain a “stable power supply”.

Electricity demand soars for heating in winter, and is expected to peak in the fourth week of January. At that time stores will be banned from keeping their doors open as an energy-saving measure, the ministry said, with violators fined up to three million won ($2,500).

AFP

Rescuers Retrieve Two Bodies From South Korea Chopper Crash

A handout photo taken on November 1, 2019 and provided by South Korea’s National Fire Agency shows rescue members searching for survivors after a helicopter crashed into the sea near the Dokdo islets, known as Takeshima in Japan. handout / South Korea’s National Fire Agency / AFP

 

 

South Korean rescuers retrieved two bodies believed to be among the seven that went missing after their chopper crashed into the sea shortly after taking off from islets disputed with Japan, officials said Sunday.

The helicopter had just picked up an injured fisherman from Dokdo, which is known as Takeshima in Japan, when it went down on Thursday night.

Three bodies had been located on Saturday, including one found inside the crashed chopper sitting upside down on the seabed at a depth of 72 metres (240 feet).

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Two of those bodies, both male, have been retrieved, the Coast Guard said Sunday, adding that one was believed to be a fireman but it was still trying to identify the pair.

Dozens of divers were scouring the waters, authorities said, with Navy and Coast Guard vessels as well as helicopters and airplanes mobilised for the search.

Seoul has controlled the islets in the Sea of Japan — or East Sea — since 1945, when Tokyo’s brutal colonial rule on the peninsula ended, while Japan still claims sovereignty over them.

AFP

Nine Killed As Typhoon Lashes South Korea

 

 

At least nine people were killed and several others missing after Typhoon Mitag lashed South Korea with heavy rain and strong winds, authorities said Thursday.

The storm hit southern parts of the country on Wednesday night, prompting flood warnings and triggering landslides in affected areas.

A total of nine people were killed across the country as of Thursday afternoon, the Ministry of Interior and Safety said, but the toll was expected to rise with several people missing.

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A woman in her 60s was found dead after her home was buried in a landslide in the southern port city of Busan and around 600 rescue workers were trying to locate three others believed to be trapped beneath the rubble.

Park Young-hak was inside his tool shed — later buried in the landslide — and said he escaped after hearing a loud “roar”.

“When I ran out to see what it was the house next to me had already disappeared,” Park told AFP.

More than 1,000 homes were damaged and over 1,500 people evacuated their houses in advance, the ministry said.

Mitag is the 18th typhoon this year and seventh to hit the Korean peninsula.

Doctor Performs Abortion On Wrong Patient

File photo

 

 

A medical doctor is reported to have carried out an abortion on a wrong patient by mistake in South Korea.

The incident occurred on August 7 at a clinic located in the district of Gangseo, in the country’s capital Seoul.

The patient had gone to the medical facility to receive a nutritional shot, only for her to lose her pregnancy of about six weeks old.

A mix-up in medical charts and failure to confirm her identity reportedly led to the sad incident.

The woman was said to have been mistaken for another patient who was also at the clinic for an abortion while the doctor went ahead with the operation.

CNN quoted the South Korean news agency Yonhap to have reported that the nurse who attended to the victim allegedly injected her with anaesthesia without confirming her identity.

The news firm added that the doctor, who also obviously did not confirm his patient’s identity either, performed the abortion which cost the unsuspecting patient her foetus.

Police authorities in the country noted that they were aware of the incident and announced on Monday that investigation was ongoing.

According to them, the doctor and nurse in charge are under investigation and being accused of negligence resulting in bodily harm.

“The doctor and nurse have acknowledged their fault,” a police official told CNN while authorities say the case will soon be sent to the prosecutor’s office.

The incident occurred three months after South Korea moved to legalise abortion in April this year.

The country’s constitutional court had, however, ruled that lawmakers must revise existing laws by December 31, 2020.

Israel, South Korea Announce Free-Trade Deal

South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee (L) and Israeli Economy and Industry Minister Eli Cohen stand after signing a free trade agreement between Israel and the Republic of Korea in Jerusalem on August 21, 2019.  Gil COHEN-MAGEN / AFP

 

Israel and South Korea announced Wednesday they have concluded a free-trade agreement to eliminate tariffs on goods ranging from cars and medical equipment to lipstick and video games.

Israeli Economy Minister Eli Cohen called the deal “historic”, saying it was Israel’s first such agreement with an east Asian nation.

It was not clear when the agreement could enter into force.

“The advantage of this agreement will go beyond our economic ties,” Cohen said at a ceremony to announce the deal.

“I’m confident that this will also mark the start of a new era and an even closer friendship between Israel and Korea.”

South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee said at the ceremony that “I hope that Israeli companies will take full advantage of Korea as a stepping stone into the vast Asian market.”

Before Wednesday’s ceremony, the pending agreement had been the subject of political controversy in Israel over claims it would not apply to goods from Israeli settlements.

Cohen denied that was the case and said if businesses in settlements were in any way disadvantaged they would be compensated by the government, as is the case with other trade deals.

The issue is a sensitive one in Israel, particularly ahead of September 17 elections. Israeli settlements are viewed as illegal under international law.

Negotiations on the agreement stretched three years.

According to Israel’s economy ministry, trade between the two countries reached $2.5 billion last year, an increase of nearly 15 percent over 2017.

South Korea is home to companies including Samsung, the world’s biggest smartphone and memory chip maker, and carmaker Hyundai.

The deal foresees tariffs removed on Israeli imports of goods including vehicles, industrial machinery and video game consoles, according to Israel’s economy ministry.

Israeli exports to South Korea of goods including medical equipment, fertiliser, wine and cosmetics would also see tariffs eliminated, it said.

Israel is a major exporter of arms and defence equipment, but there was no mention of those being included in the deal.

AFP

North Korea Fires Projectiles, Rejects Dialogue With South

Replicas of a North Korean Scud-B missile (R) and South Korea’s Nike missile (L) are displayed at the Korean War Memorial in Seoul on August 16, 2019. Jung Yeon-je / AFP 

 

North Korea fired two unidentified projectiles into the sea on Friday and launched a scathing attack on “foolish” calls for dialogue from South Korean President Moon Jae-in, rejecting further peace talks with the South.

It was the sixth round of launches in recent weeks in protest at ongoing joint military drills between Seoul and the US. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has described the tests as a “solemn warning” to the South.

Pyongyang has routinely expressed anger at the war games, which it considers rehearsals for invasion, but in the past has avoided carrying out tests while the manoeuvres are taking place.

The South Korean military said the projectiles were fired from near the city of Tongchon, and flew some 230 kilometres (143 miles) before falling into the Sea of Japan, which is also known as the East Sea.

The latest test came as the North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country said it rejected comments by Moon on Thursday outlining his desire for unification, and said it had nothing more to discuss with the South.

It called Moon — who has long favoured dialogue with the North — an “impudent guy rare to be found”, for hoping for a resumption of inter-Korean talks while continuing military drills with Washington.

In a speech on Thursday marking the anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japan’s 1910-45 rule, Moon outlined a goal of “achieving peace and unification by 2045”, although his single five-year term presidency ends in 2022.

“His speech deserves the comments ‘foolish commemorative speech’,” the North said in its statement.

“We have nothing to talk any more with the south Korean authorities nor have any idea to sit with them again,” it added.

Seoul’s Unification Ministry said the North’s comments are not “consistent” with the spirit of inter-Korean agreements, including the Panmunjom Declaration signed by Moon and Kim in April last year.

“We want to clearly point out that (the comments) won’t help the improvement of inter-Korean relations at all,” a ministry official added.

The joint US-South Korea drills have been held for years but were scaled down to ease tensions with Pyongyang.

But the North threatened last week to carry out more weapons tests following the start of the latest joint drills between Seoul and Washington, which began on Aug.5.

Moon has played down the North’s recent tests, even suggesting potential inter-Korean economic projects as a way to tackle the South’s ongoing trade row with Japan, prompting critics to accuse him of having a “peace fantasy”.

The exact type of projectiles fired Friday was still not clear but Seoul has described most of the previous launches as short-range ballistic missiles, while Pyongyang has said some were a “large-calibre multiple-launch guided rocket system”.

The North is banned from ballistic missile launches under UN Security Council resolutions.

Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the South was “monitoring the situation in case of additional launches while maintaining a readiness posture”.

The tests come as plans to resume working-level talks between the North and Washington appear to have stalled.

After a year of mutual threats and mounting tension, US President Donald Trump and Kim held a historic summit in Singapore last year, where both leaders signed a vague pledge to work towards “denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”.

A second summit in Hanoi in February broke up amid disagreements over sanctions relief and concessions from the North.

The two leaders then agreed to resume nuclear talks during an impromptu June meeting in the Demilitarised Zone that divides the peninsula.

Pyongyang recently said nuclear talks will be “strictly” between the North and the US, refusing to hold separate dialogue with the South, having accused Seoul of posing as a “meddlesome mediator” following the collapse of the Hanoi summit.

South Korean authorities are “snooping about to fish in troubled waters in the future DPRK-US dialogue”, the North’s statement said Friday, “dreaming that the phase of dialogue would naturally arrive” once the joint Seoul-Washington military drills are over.

But Moon Jae-in “had better drop that senseless lingering attachment,” it said.

AFP

Trump Departs South Korea After Historic Meeting With Kim Jong Un

US President Donald Trump boards Air Force One to depart South Korea in Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, following his meeting with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un at the Joint Security Area (JSA) in Panmunjom in the Demilitarized zone (DMZ) on June 30, 2019.
Brendan Smialowski / AFP

 

US President Donald Trump left South Korea on Sunday after a trip to Asia that took in a G20 summit in Japan and a historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the Demilitarized Zone dividing the peninsula.

Trump departed on Air Force One just before 1000 GMT (7 pm local time) en route to Washington, a few hours after he became the first sitting US president to step onto North Korean soil.

Moments after becoming the only sitting US president to set foot inside North Korea on Sunday, Trump brought Kim back over the dividing line for a meeting where they agreed to start working-level talks on Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons.

Trump also said he had invited the young leader to the White House “anytime he wants to do it”.

“It’s a great day for the world and it’s an honour for me to be here,” Trump said. “A lot of great things are happening.”

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As they sat down for discussions, Kim said their “handshake of peace” in a location that was “the symbol of the division of north and south” showed that “we are willing to put the past behind us.”

The impromptu meeting in the DMZ — after Trump issued an invitation on Twitter on Saturday — came with negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington at a deadlock.

Their first summit took place in a blaze of publicity in Singapore last year but produced a vaguely-worded pledge about denuclearisation. A second meeting in Vietnam in February intended to put flesh on those bones broke up without agreement.

Contact between the two sides has since been minimal — with Pyongyang issuing frequent criticisms of the US position — but the two leaders exchanged a series of letters before Trump turned to Twitter to issue his offer to meet at the DMZ.

Trump’s entry onto North Korean soil — which he said was uncertain until the last moment — is an extraordinary sequel to the scene at Kim’s first summit with Moon last year when the young leader invited the South Korean to walk over the Military Demarcation Line, as the border is officially known.

Moon seized on last year’s Winter Olympics to broker the process between Pyongyang and Washington after tensions soared in 2017 as the North carried out multiple missile launches and its biggest nuclear test to date, while Trump and Kim traded mutual insults and threats of war.

The significance of the meeting in the no-mans-land often referred to as the world’s last Cold War frontier was “obvious”, said Stimson Centre Asia analyst David Kim.

“It’s historic for Trump to be the first US President enter North Korea soil, historic for Moon to meet, albeit briefly, with both leaders.”

The meeting had the “potential to kick-start stalled negotiations”, he told AFP but added that working-level discussions would be crucial.

“What we need is substance, not theatrics.”

The Hanoi summit foundered amid disagreements on what the North — which has carried out six nuclear tests and developed missiles capable of reaching the entire US mainland — would be willing to give up in exchange for relief from sanctions that have crippled its economy.

Soo Kim, a former CIA analyst now with RAND Corporation, said the North’s “gravitational force has pulled Trump across the DMZ”, calling it an “alluring elixir of wile, threatening rhetoric, stalling, and dangling of the remote possibility of resuming dialogue”.

Such a meeting has long been sought by the North, but “Kim didn’t have to lift a finger to get Trump to cross the DMZ”, she added. “It was, in all appearances, by Trump’s volition.”

The DMZ has been a regular stop for US presidents visiting the South, a security ally — although Trump’s helicopter was forced to turn back by fog in 2017 — while Panmunjom saw the first two summits between Moon and Kim last year.

AFP

South Korean Olympians In Sexual Harassment Incident

 

 

A South Korean Olympic short-track medallist sexually harassed another male Games podium-finisher, officials said Tuesday — prompting them to suspend the entire team.

The offender — who has not been identified — reportedly forcibly pulled down the victim’s trousers, leaving him standing in his underwear in front of team-mates at the national training centre in Jincheon.

In response coaches collectively punished the entire team — seven men and seven women — and expelled them from the facility for a month, a Korean Sport & Olympic Committee official told AFP.

“There had been a number of other cases of misbehaviour before this (in the short track speed skating team), and that’s one of the reasons why this decision was made,” the official said.

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Earlier this year, a male skater was suspended for a month after secretly getting into the female dorm at the Jincheon centre.

Both male skaters involved in the latest incident won medals at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics last year, the official said.

It is the latest in a series of embarrassing off-field incidents in South Korean sports.

The South is a regional sporting power and regularly in the top 10 medal table places at the summer and winter Olympics.

But in an already intensely competitive society, winning is virtually everything in its sports community — and physical and verbal abuse are known to be rife.

The nation’s short track speed skating community, in particular, has faced several serious abuse scandals in recent years.

In January, double Olympic short track gold medallist Shim Suk-hee went public with accusations her former coach sexually molested and physically abused her multiple times.

Another speed skater, Noh Seon-yeong, last year accused the Korea Skating Union (KSU) of forcing her brother Jin-kyu — a top medal contender for Sochi 2014 — to continue training rather than seek medical attention, despite chronic pain.

He was later diagnosed with bone cancer following a training injury, never went to Sochi, and died in 2016.

AFP

Ukraine Defeat South Korea To Win FIFA Under-20 World Cup

Ukraine’s players celebrate after winning the U20 final football match Ukraine against South Korea in Lodz, Poland, on June 15, 2019. Janek SKARZYNSKI / AFP

 

Ukraine recovered from the shock of falling behind to an early penalty as they beat South Korea 3-1 to win the under-20 World Cup final in Poland on Saturday.

Vladyslav Supriaha was the star forUkraine, the 19-year-old Dynamo Kiev player scoring twice as his country won the prestigious title for the first time, succeeding the England side who won in 2017.

The Koreans had taken an early lead in Lodz in central Poland, with Valencia starlet Lee Kang-in converting a fifth-minute penalty awarded following a VAR review after Kim Se-Yun had been fouled right on the edge of the box.

However, Ukraine levelled in the 34th minute, Supriaha turning and prodding in after the Korean defence had failed to clear a free-kick.

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The same player then gave Ukraine the lead eight minutes into the second half, firing home after Kim Hyun-woo had inadvertently played the ball into his path when trying to make a challenge.

The Koreans almost levelled when Lee Jae-ik’s header was saved by Andriy Lunin, the ball hitting the post on its way to safety.

Instead, Ukraine secured the title a minute from time when Heorhiy Tsitaishvili ran more than half the length of the field before finishing emphatically into the far corner.

Ukraine had finished top of a group also containing the United States, Nigeria, and Qatar, before seeing off Panama, Colombia and then Italy on their way to the final.

France, Argentina, and Portugal had been among the other nations taking part in Poland.

AFP

Nigeria Eye World Cup Knockouts After South Korea Win

Nigeria’s players celebrate after winning the France 2019 Women’s World Cup Group A football match between Nigeria and South Korea, on June 12, 2019, at the Alpes Stadium in Grenoble, central-eastern France. Jean-Pierre Clatot / AFP

 

Nigeria inched towards qualifying for the knockout stages of the Women’s World Cup for the first time in 20 years after beating South Korea 2-0 on Wednesday.

A comical 29th-minute own goal from Kim Do-yeon, who somehow hooked a long ball back past onrushing goalkeeper Kim Min-jung, and Asisat Oshoala’s neat finish 15 minutes from the end left the South Koreans pointless after their first two games in Group A and put Nigeria level on three with France and Norway ahead of their crunch clash in Nice later on Wednesday.

Thomas Dennerby’s Nigeria can now legitimately hope for a place in the last 16 regardless of what happens in their last group match against the tournament-hosting French.

Four third place finishers from the six groups will qualify, meaning three points could well be enough to see the Super Falcons through to the knockout rounds for the first time since 1999, when they reached the quarter-finals in the US.

South Korea meanwhile face an uphill task to go through now as they face a strong Norway side in their final match, after watching Lee Geum-min’s strike ruled out for a very tight offside just before the hour mark.

Later, Group B leaders Spain face off against strongly-fancied Germany in Valenciennes, with the two sides locked on three points and aiming to secure qualification with a game to spare.

The Germans are missing star playmaker Dzsenifer Marozsan, who has bee ruled out until least the end of the group stage after breaking her toe during her side’s 1-0 win over China on Saturday

North Korea Fires Unidentified Projectiles

People watch a television news programme showing file footage of North Korea’s projectile weapons, at a railway station in Seoul on May 9, 2019.  PHOTO: Jung Yeon-je / AFP

North Korea fired a number of unidentified projectiles on Thursday, the South’s military said, as a US envoy visited Seoul for discussions on how to break the nuclear deadlock.

“North Korea fired unidentified projectiles eastward” from Sino-ri in North Pyongan province, the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

The launch came just days after North Korea carried out a military drill and fired multiple projectiles, with at least one believed to be a short-range missile.

It was also hours after the US Special Representative on North Korea, Stephen Biegun, arrived in Seoul late Wednesday for talks with South Korean officials on the allies’ approach towards Pyongyang.

It is Biegun’s first visit to Seoul since the Hanoi summit between US President Donald Trump and the North’s leader Kim Jong Un collapsed without agreement.

“We are still analysing whether it is a single or multiple projectiles,” JCS spokesman Kim Joon-rak told AFP.

Pyongyang, Seoul and Washington have refrained from calling Saturday’s launch a missile, which could jeopardise the ongoing diplomacy by violating UN Security Council resolutions as well as Kim’s promise of a freeze on long-range missile tests.

The North has said Saturday’s drill involved multiple Pyongyang “long-range multiple rocket launchers and tactical guided weapons”.

But experts say the North launched at least one short-range missile during the exercise, with a report on the respected 38 North website suggesting that it was a “direct import” of a Russian-produced Iskander.

“The debris generated by the launch in North Korea is a virtual match of a launch of Iskander conducted by Russia,” it said.

If North Korea imported Iskanders from Russia, the report added, “it has an existing capacity to deliver warheads to targets in South Korea with great precision”.

A summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and the North’s Kim Jong Un a year ago triggered a rapid diplomatic thaw on the peninsula, paving the way for a historic first meeting between Kim and Trump.

But their second summit in Hanoi in February broke up without agreement on sanctions relief and what Pyongyang might offer in exchange, and the North has since blamed Seoul for siding with Washington, leaving inter-Korean relations in limbo.

A spokesman for the North’s delegation for military talks with the South said earlier Thursday that Saturday’s “routine drill” was conducted within its own waters and added the “flying objects” did not pose any threat to the US, South Korea and Japan.

“The firing of the intermediate- and long-range missile and the ICBM was not involved in it,” he said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

World’s First 5G Phone Released In South Korea

A Samsung Galaxy S10 5G smartphone is displayed at an SK Telecom shop during a launch event in Seoul on April 5, 2019.
JUNG Yeon-Je / AFP

 

Samsung Electronics on Friday released the Galaxy S10 5G, the world’s first available smartphone with built-in fifth-generation communications technology, as South Korea seeks to build a lead in the transformative system.

On Wednesday the South became the first country to commercially launch nationwide 5G services, with three super fast networks going live offering data speeds that allow users to download entire movies in less than a second.

Hours later US giant Verizon began commercial services in Chicago and Minneapolis, after rival AT&T made a 5G-based system available to selected users in parts of 12 cities in December.

South Korea’s three mobile carriers — SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus — held launch events across Seoul for the Galaxy S10, whose base version costs 1.39 million won ($1,200).

Interactive virtual-reality displays and robot demonstrations were on show to tout the capabilities of the latest iteration of mobile internet speed, and new users were excited about the possibilities, especially live streaming of sports games and university lectures.

“I watch a lot of videos often, movies and lectures,” said buyer Shim Ji-hye, 38. “I hope faster speeds will help me manage my time better.”

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Another user said he was most excited about virtual reality content — which includes games and even “celebrity VR dating” apps according to the country’s mobile carriers.

With 5G, said researcher Lee Sang-yoon, VR content “can be enjoyed in real time with no delay… I’ll be able to enjoy it in better resolution and speed”.

Before Friday’s roll-out of the Samsung phone, the 5G service had been restricted to a handful of specially selected users in South Korea.

Rival manufacturer LG is due to launch its V50 ThinQ, another 5G phone, in the South later this month, while in the US, Verizon’s network works with Lenovo’s Moto Z3 smartphone fitted with a special accessory.

Commercialising 5G gives South Korea the chance to build around the technology, which is crucial for the future development of devices such as autonomous vehicles and the Internet of Things.

It is expected to bring about $565 billion in global economic benefits by 2034, according to the London-based Global System for Mobile Communications, an industry alliance.

The implications of the new technology have pitted Washington against Beijing — whose firms dominate 5G technology — in an increasingly bitter standoff.

The US has pressed its allies and major economies to avoid 5G solutions from Chinese-owned telecom giant Huawei, citing security risks that technological backdoors could give Beijing access to 5G-connected utilities and other components.

Chinese entities own a total of 3,400 5G patents — more than a third of the total, according to data analysis firm IPlytics — with 1,529 of those registered by Huawei.

South Korea comes next, with its companies holding 2,051 patents, while US firms have 1,368 together.

Neither KT nor SK Telecom use Huawei technology in their 5G networks, but it is a supplier to LG UPlus, the companies told AFP.

AFP