The de-facto leader of the sprawling Samsung group Lee Jae-yong went on trial Tuesday on charges of illegally using the anaesthetic propofol, the latest legal travail to beset the multi-billionaire. Lee — the vice-chairman of the world's biggest smartphone maker Samsung Electronics and according to Forbes the world's 297th richest person — is accused of having repeatedly taken it at a plastic surgery clinic in Seoul in 2017 and 2018. Propofol is normally a medical anaesthetic but is also sometimes used recreationally, and an overdose of the drug was given as the cause of pop star Michael Jackson's death in 2009. Usage is normally seen as a minor offence in the South and prosecutors originally proposed fining him 50 million won ($42,000) under a summary indictment, a procedure where less serious cases do not go to court. But the court overruled the prosecution and ordered a trial. Wearing a dark grey business suit and a facemask, Lee remained tight-lipped as he entered the Seoul Central District Court, skipping questions from reporters. In court, prosecutors demanded a larger fine of 70 million won, Yonhap news agency reported. Lee's lawyers maintain the substance was administered for medical reasons. "It was prescribed in accordance with medical procedure by a doctor during Lee's treatment," they said in a statement. Samsung Electronics declined to comment. The firm is the flagship subsidiary of the giant Samsung group, by far the largest of the family-controlled empires known as chaebols that dominate business in South Korea, the world's 12th largest economy. Lee became the conglomerate's de facto leader following the death of his father last year. Two months ago he was released early from a two and a half year prison term for bribery, embezzlement and other offences in connection with the corruption scandal that brought down ex-South Korean president Park Geun-hye. The early release was seen as the latest example of South Korea freeing on economic grounds business leaders imprisoned for corruption or tax evasion. Samsung Electronics subsequently announced a giant $205-billion investment plan, three-quarters of it planned for the South. But Lee remains on trial on separate accusations of manipulating a takeover to smooth his succession at the top of the Samsung group — the same controversy over which he was said to have sought help from Park.
Lee Jae-myung became the presidential candidate for South Korea’s ruling party yesterday, hoping to overcome a property scandal and gather national support. Lee, governor of Gyeonggi province and a party outsider often critical of incumbent President Moon Jae-in, sealed his victory in the primary to represent the Democratic Party in the March 9 presidential election. Moon cannot stand for re-election under Korean law. The leading contender among a fractured field from the main conservative People Power Party, Yoon Seok-youl, has been caught up in scandals of his own — including murky ties to an acupuncturist — and criticism he relies on fortune-tellers. “It used to be at most a single candidate who had such scandals, but the top two frontrunners are both embroiled in scandals in this election, which shows South Korea is regressing politically,” Lee Jun-han, professor of political science at Incheon National University. Lee secured 50.29% of the votes in an 11-round primary that ended yesterday. His closest rival and initially the establishment favourite, former prime minister Lee Nak-yon, finished with 39.14%. His outsider image was once seen as a liability in the face of establishment competitors with closer ties to the outgoing Moon, but Lee rose to prominence with an aggressive pandemic response and a populist economic agenda. Dogged by a scandal involving a residential development plan when he was mayor of Seongnam in 2015, Lee used his acceptance speech to pledge progress on policy issues, including a push for universal basic income and more affordable housing amid skyrocketing property prices. Next year’s election represents “the ultimate battle against the corrupt establishment,” he said. Prosecutors and police have been investigating the Seongnam project amid controversy over Lee’s ties to a former official, who has been arrested on corruption charges related to the deal. Lee has denied any wrongdoing. His office did not respond to requests for comment. Housing-related scandals are a particular sore spot for voters in South Korea, where home prices have soared beyond the reach of many. Lee’s party has been damaged by allegations of property speculation. On the other side, conservative Yoon — a former top prosecutor who joined the opposition after gaining prominence during a political fight with President Moon — was forced in a televised debate last week to distance himself from an unlicensed acupuncturist.
North Korea said on Sunday the United Nations Security Council applied double standards over military activities among UN member states, state media KCNA said, amid international criticism over its recent missile tests. The Council met behind closed doors on Friday upon requests from the United States and other countries over the North's missile launches. The meeting came a day after Pyongyang fired a newly developed anti-aircraft missile, the latest in a recent series of weapons tests including the launches of a previously unseen hypersonic missile, ballistic missiles and a cruise missile with potential nuclear capabilities. Jo Chol Su, director of the North Korean foreign ministry's Department of International Organisations, said the UNSC meeting means an "open ignorance of and wanton encroachment" on its sovereignty and "serious intolerable provocation." Jo accused the Council of double standards as it remains silent about US joint military exercises and weapons tests with allies, while taking issue with the North's "self-defensive" activities. "This is a denial of impartiality, objectivity and equilibrium, lifelines of the UN activities, and an evident manifestation of double-dealing standard," Jo said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.
North Korea has successfully fired a new anti-aircraft missile, state media said Friday, as the United Nations Security Council prepares to meet in response to a recent flurry of weapons tests by the nuclear-armed nation. The anti-aircraft missile had a "remarkable combat performance" and included twin rudder controls and other new technologies, the official Korean Central News Agency said. A picture in the official Rodong Sinmun newspaper showed the missile ascending at an angle into the sky from a launch vehicle on Thursday. It is the latest in a series of tension-raising steps by Pyongyang, which had until recently been biding its time since the change in US administrations in January. In September, it launched what it said was a long-range cruise missile, and earlier this week tested what it described as a hypersonic gliding vehicle, which South Korea's military said appeared to be in the early stages of development. And on Wednesday, the North's leader Kim Jong Un decried Washington's repeated offers of talks without preconditions as a "petty trick", accusing the Biden administration of continuing the "hostile policy" of its predecessors. South Korea's defence ministry told AFP it was unable to immediately confirm the latest launch. Anti-aircraft missiles are much smaller than the ballistic missiles the North is banned from developing under United Nations Security Council resolutions, and harder to detect from afar. Pyongyang is under multiple international sanctions over its weapons programmes, which have made rapid progress under Kim, including missiles capable of reaching the whole of the US mainland and by far its most powerful nuclear test to date. The latest tests have sparked international condemnation, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying they created "greater prospects for instability and insecurity". Friday's UN Security Council meeting on North Korea, called by the United States, Britain and France, was originally due to take place on Thursday. But it was delayed by Russia and China, who asked for more time to study the situation, a diplomatic source said. Beijing is Pyongyang's key ally and in normal times its biggest provider of trade and aid, although the North has since early last year been under a self-imposed blockade after it shut its borders to defend itself against the coronavirus pandemic. The North has a long history of using weapons tests to ramp up tensions, in a carefully calibrated process to try to forward its objectives. With its latest actions, Kim was looking to "test the waters with Washington" and its "threshold for weapons provocations", Soo Kim of the RAND Corporation told AFP. "He may wish to see how much he can get away with until the Biden administration starts to flinch," she added. The South's President Moon Jae-in has recently reiterated his calls for a formal declaration that the Korean War is over -- hostilities ceased in 1953 with an armistice rather than a peace treaty. Moon has only a few months left in office and Soo Kim pointed out he could be looking to secure an "accomplishment" with the North before his term runs out. "Kim may be playing to his strengths -- and the Moon administration's weaknesses -- by taking things up a notch on the provocation ladder." Talks between Pyongyang and Washington have been effectively at a standstill since the collapse of a 2019 Hanoi summit between Kim and then-president Donald Trump over sanctions relief and what North Korea would be willing to give up in return. Washington and Seoul are security allies, and the United States stations around 28,500 troops in the South to protect it from its neighbour. In August, the two held joint military drills that always infuriate Pyongyang. Under President Joe Biden, the United States has repeatedly declared its willingness to meet North Korean representatives anywhere, at any time, without preconditions, while saying it will seek denuclearisation. But in a speech to the Supreme People's Assembly, the North's rubber-stamp parliament, Kim condemned the offers as "no more than a petty trick for deceiving the international community and hiding its hostile acts", according to KCNA. The new administration was pursuing the same "military threats" and "hostile policy" as the past, but in "more cunning ways and methods", he said. Nonetheless, he expressed a willingness to restore North-South communication lines in early October. North Korea has not shown any willingness to give up its arsenal, which it says it needs to defend itself against an invasion by the United States.
North Korea announced recently for the first time that it launched a new hypersonic missile. This came after South Korea announced Tuesday that North Korea had fired an unidentified projectile into the East Sea. The North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the country's Academy of Defense Science conducted the first test fire of the hypersonic Hwasong-8 missile from Toyang-ri, Jagang Province, on Tuesday. Scientists confirmed the navigational control and stability of the missile in the active section and its technical specifications, KCNA said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un did not attend the launch of the new missile, according to KCNA. He previously announced the missile's launch at a conference of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) in January.
Nuclear-armed North Korea fired a presumed short-range missile into the sea yesterday, the South’s military said, as Pyongyang’s UN ambassador insisted it had an undeniable right to test its weapons. The projectile was fired from the northern province of Jagang into waters off the east coast, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a Japanese defence ministry spokesman said it “appears to be a ballistic missile”. Less than an hour later, Pyongyang’s United Nations ambassador Kim Song told the UN General Assembly in New York: “Nobody can deny the right to self-defence for the DPRK”, North Korea’s official name. It was the latest in a series of mixed messages from Pyongyang, coming days after leader Kim Jong-un’s influential sister Kim Yo-jong, a key adviser to her brother, dangled the prospect of an inter-Korean summit. But she insisted that “impartiality” and mutual respect would be required, calling for South Korea to “stop spouting an impudent remark”. She condemned as “double standards” South Korean and US criticism of the North’s military developments, while the allies build up their own capacities. Washington condemned the latest launch, with the state department calling it a threat to North Korea’s neighbours and the international community, and a “violation of multiple UN Security Council Resolutions”. In recent days, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who has only months left in office, reiterated at the UN General Assembly his longstanding calls for a formal declaration of an end to the Korean War. The North invaded the South in 1950 and hostilities ceased three years later with an armistice rather than a peace treaty, leaving them technically still in a state of conflict. Pyongyang is under multiple sets of international sanctions over its banned programmes to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. In his own General Assembly speech, ambassador Kim Song said North Korea had a right to “develop, test, manufacture and possess” weapons systems equivalent to those of the South and its US ally. “We are just building up our national defence in order to defend ourselves and reliably safeguard the security and peace of the country,” he said. Pyongyang has already carried out several missile launches this month, one involving long-range cruise missiles and another that the South Korean military said was of short-range ballistic missiles. Seoul also successfully test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) for the first time, making it one of a handful of nations with the advanced technology.
North Korea fired a missile towards the sea off its east coast on Tuesday, South Korea's military said, as Pyongyang called on the United States and South Korea to scrap their "double standards" on weapons programmes to restart talks. The missile was launched from the central north province of Jagang at around 6:40 a.m. (2140 GMT), the South's Joint Chiefs of Staff said. Japan's defence ministry said it appeared to be a ballistic missile, without elaborating. The latest test underscored the steady development of North Korea's weapons systems, raising the stakes for stalled talks aimed at dismantling its nuclear and ballistic missile arsenals in return for US sanctions relief. The launch came just before North Korea's ambassador to the United Nations urged the United States to give up its hostile policy towards Pyongyang and said no one could deny his country's right to self defence and to test weapons. South Korea's President Moon Jae-in ordered aides to conduct a detailed analysis of the North's recent moves. "We regret that the missile was fired at a time when it was very important to stabilise the situation of the Korean peninsula," defence ministry spokesman Boo Seung-chan told a briefing. The US Indo-Pacific Command said the launch highlighted "the destabilising impact" of the North's illicit weapons programmes, while the US State Department also condemned the test. At the UN General Assembly, North Korea's UN envoy, Kim Song, said the country was shoring up its self-defence and if the United States dropped its hostile policy and "double standards," it would respond "willingly at any time" to offers to talks. "But it is our judgment that there is no prospect at the present stage for the US to really withdraw its hostile policy," Kim said. Referring to a call by Moon last week for a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War, Kim said Washington needed to permanently stop joint military exercises with South Korea and remove "all kinds of strategic weapons" on and around the peninsula. The United States stations various cutting edge military assets including nuclear bombers and fighter jets in South Korea, Guam and Japan as part of efforts to keep not only North Korea but also an increasingly assertive China in check. Kim's speech was in line with Pyongyang's recent criticism that Seoul and Washington denounce its weapons development while continuing their own military activities. Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, has said the North is willing to improve inter-Korean ties and consider another summit if Seoul abandons its double standards and hostile policy toward Pyongyang. "The conditions she suggested were essentially to demand that the North be accepted as a nuclear weapons state," said Shin Beom-chul, a senior fellow at the Korea Research Institute for National Strategy in Seoul. "Their goal is to achieve that prestige and drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington, taking advantage of Moon's craving for diplomatic legacy as his term is running out." Moon, a liberal who has prioritised inter-Korean ties, sees declaring an end to the Korean War, even without a peace treaty to replace an armistice, as a way to revive denuclearisation negotiations between the North and the United States. However, Moon, who has been in office for a single term, faces sagging popularity ahead of a presidential election in March. Hopes for ending the war were raised after a historic summit between Kim Jong Un and then US President Donald Trump in Singapore in 2018. But that possibility, and the momentum for talks came to nothing, with talks stalled since 2019.
South Korea said on Monday it would begin inoculations next month for children aged 12 to 17 and offer COVID-19 vaccine booster shots to those 75 years and above as the country starts to transition to normalcy by the end of October. South Korea, which has been battling a fourth wave of infections since early July, scrambled over the weekend to contain a surge in cases. Infections topped 3,000 for the first time fuelled by last week's public holidays. The vaccination advisory committee of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) has ruled that the benefits outweigh the risks in vaccinating children. However, parents who have healthy children, such as those who do not have underlying conditions, are advised to weigh the relative benefits in making their decision, KDCA Director Jeong Eun-kyeong told a news conference on Monday. While approving vaccinations for 12 to 17 year-olds, who will be given Pfizer shots, the panel and the government had not mandated that all children should take the shot. The United States had by August vaccinated 50% of 12-17 year-olds and some European and Asian countries, including Germany and the Philippines have also been recommending vaccines for the age group. Jeong said the initial booster doses from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna will go to those with weakened immune systems or deemed to be at high risk - the elderly, nursing home patients and staff. The country aims to boost vaccination and fully immunise 90% of those aged 60 and older, and 80% of 18 to 59 years-old by the end of October. Over 91% of the people aged 60 and above have so far received at least one dose, and vaccinations are under way for those 18 and above, 86.3% of whom have already had the first shot. South Korea has reported 2,383 new coronavirus cases for Sunday, bringing total infections to 303,553, with 2,456 deaths. Despite the high daily case numbers, the country has kept its mortality rate and severe COVID-19 cases relatively low and steady at 0.81% and 319, respectively, as of Sunday. Some 74.2% of its 52 million population have had at least one dose of a vaccine through Sunday, and more than 45% are fully vaccinated.
South Korea's President Moon Jae-in said on Monday there might be a need to prohibit dog meat consumption amid debate over the controversial practice and growing awareness of animal rights. While no longer as common as before, dog meat is eaten mainly by older people and is served in some restaurants and can be bought at specific markets. Moon made the remarks after being briefed by Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum on efforts to improve the handling of abandoned animals and a mandatory registration system for dogs. "After the briefing, he said time has come to carefully consider imposing a dog meat ban," Moon's spokeswoman Park Kyung-mee said in a statement. It was the first time that Moon raised a ban, which is likely to give fresh momentum to debate over whether to curtail the practice. To boost their popularity, several presidential hopefuls have pledged to ban dog meat in recent weeks, especially as dogs have become popular as pets and advocacy groups have urged South Korea to close down restaurants and markets selling dog meat. Lee Jae-myung, governor of the country's most populous province of Gyeonggi and a leading presidential contender from Moon's party, has vowed to push for a ban through social consensus. But Yoon Seok-youl, an opposition frontrunner, has said it was a matter of people's personal choice. A poll commissioned by animal welfare group Aware released this month said 78% of respondents believed the production and sale of dog and cat meat should be prohibited and 49% supported a consumption ban. But, another survey by polling firm Realmeter found people were divided over whether the government should ban eating dog meat, though 59% supported legal restrictions on dog slaughter for human consumption. Dog meat sellers have insisted on the right to their occupation, saying their livelihoods are at risk.
North Korea is willing to consider another summit with South Korea if mutual respect between the neighbours can be assured, state news agency KCNA said on Saturday, citing Kim Yo Jong, the sister of the North's leader Kim Jong Un. South Korea welcomed the prospect on Sunday, with the Unification Ministry saying it expected to swiftly engage in talks with Pyongyang, while urging the need to restore a hotline link between the two. Kim's comment came after the North urged the United States and South Korea last week to abandon what it called their hostile policy and double standards towards it, if formal talks are to be held on ending the 1950-53 Korean War. North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons has complicated the question of a formal end to the war, which halted with an armistice, rather than a peace treaty, leaving US-led UN forces technically still at war with the North. "I think that only when impartiality and the attitude of respecting each other are maintained, can there be smooth understanding between the north and the south," said Kim Yo Jong, who is a powerful confidante of her brother. Constructive discussions offer a chance for solutions on issues such as "the re-establishment of the north-south joint liaison office and the north-south summit, to say nothing of the timely declaration of the significant termination of the war", Kim said. Speaking on Tuesday to the UN General Assembly, South Korean President Moon Jae-in had repeated a call for a formal end to the war, but later said time was running out for such progress before his term ends in May. North Korea has sought an end to the war for decades, but the United States has been reluctant to agree, unless it gives up nuclear weapons. In Saturday's remarks, Kim said she noted with interest the intense discussion in the South over the renewed prospect of a formal declaration. "I felt that the atmosphere of the South Korean public desiring to recover the inter-Korean relations from a deadlock and achieve peaceful stability as soon as possible is irresistibly strong," she said. "We, too, have the same desire." On Sunday, responding to the remarks, Seoul's unification ministry said in a statement, "For these discussions, the inter-Korean communication line must first be restored swiftly, as smooth and stable communication is important." The hotline, maintained by South Korea's military to handle relations with Pyongyang, has not operated since August, as North Korea stopped answering calls. Talks with the United States have been stalled since 2019, when expectations had grown for a declaration on ending the war, even if not an actual treaty, ahead of a historic summit of former US President Donald Trump and Kim Jung Un in Singapore. But that possibility, and the momentum the leaders generated over three meetings, came to nothing. In his own UN speech, US President Joe Biden said he wanted "sustained diplomacy" to resolve the crisis over North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes. North Korea has rejected US overtures on dialogue and the head of the U.N. atomic watchdog said this week its nuclear programme was going "full steam ahead".
North Korea is willing to consider another inter-Korean summit if mutual respect between the rivals can be assured, state news agency KCNA reported yesterday, citing Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The comment comes just a day after North Korea urged the United States and South Korea to abandon what it called their hostile policy and double standards towards it before formal talks can be held on ending the 1950-53 Korean War. The 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice not a peace treaty, leaving US-led UN forces technically still at war with North Korea. The question of formally ending the war has been complicated by North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. “I believe only when fairness and mutual respect can be maintained smooth communication between the North and the South can take place,” Kim Yo-jong said. “Issues such as meaningful and timely declaration of an end to the war, reopening the joint liaison office and a summit meeting between the North and South can be resolved in the near future through constructive discussion.” Addressing the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in repeated a call for a formal end to the war but later said time is running out to achieve such progress before his term ends in May. North Korea for decades has sought an end to the war but the United States has been reluctant to agree unless North Korea gives up its nuclear weapons. Kim, who is a powerful confidant of her brother the leader, said she noted with interest the intense discussion in the South over the renewed prospect of a formal declaration of the end of the Korean War. “I felt that the atmosphere of hope to restore strained inter-Korean relations and achieve peaceful stability seems irrepressibly intense in South Korea,” she said. “We are no different in wishing for the same.” Expectations were raised that a declaration on ending the war, even if not an actual treaty, would be made during a historic summit between then US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jung-un in Singapore in 2018. But that possibility, and the momentum that the two leaders generated over three meetings came to nothing. Talks have been stalled since 2019. US President Joe Biden said in his own UN address that he wanted “sustained diplomacy” to resolve the crisis surrounding North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes. North Korea has rejected US overtures to engage in dialogue and the head of the UN atomic watchdog said this week that its nuclear programme was going “full steam ahead”.
S.Korea says successfully test fired missile from submarine N.Korea fires two ballistic missiles into sea - S.Korea Japan condemns North's 'outrageous' test as threat to peace U.S. calls N.Korea tests destabilising but no immediate threat Both North Korea and South Korea test fired ballistic missiles on Wednesday, the latest volley in an arms race that has seen both countries develop increasingly sophisticated weapons while efforts to get talks going on defusing tension prove fruitless. South Korea tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile(SLBM), becoming the first country without nuclear weapons to develop such a system. South Korea President Moon was attending that test firing when word came of the North Korean launches, its first ballistic missile tests since March. North Korea fired a pair of ballistic missiles that landed in the sea off its east coast, according to officials in South Korea and Japan, just days after it tested a cruise missile that is believed to have nuclear capabilities. North Korea has been steadily developing its weapons systems amid a standoff over talks aimed at dismantling its nuclear and ballistic missile arsenals in return for U.S. sanctions relief. The negotiations, initiated between former U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in 2018, have stalled since 2019. "North Korea fired two unidentified ballistic missiles from its central inland region toward the east coast, and intelligence authorities of South Korea and the United States are conducting detailed analysis for further information," South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a statement. The missiles were fired just after 12:30 p.m. (0330 GMT), flying 800 km (497 miles) to a maximum altitude of 60 km (37 miles), the JCS reported. The U.S. military's Indo-Pacific Command said North Korea's missile launches did not pose an immediate threat to U.S. personnel, territory, or allies, but highlight the destabilising impact of its illicit weapons programme. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga called the missile launch "outrageous" and strongly condemned it as a threat to peace and security in the region. China's foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a daily briefing that China hoped "relevant parties" would "exercise restraint". 'THE STRONGEST KOREA' South Korea has been splurging on a range of new military systems, including ballistic missiles, submarines, and its first aircraft carrier. It has a stated policy of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and a nuclear-free Korean peninsula. The arms race has accelerated under Moon for a number of reasons, including his push for more foreign policy autonomy, wariness of relying on the United States after Trump's presidency and military developments in both North Korea and China, said Ramon Pacheco Pardo, a Korea expert at King's College London. "South Korea would face many political and legal obstacles to develop nuclear weapons, both internal and external," he said. "So it will develop all other capabilities to deter North Korea and show who the strongest Korea is." Officials at the SLBM test announced the development of several other advanced missiles including a supersonic cruise missile and a ballistic missile with a larger warhead. Moon cited the nuclear-armed North's "asymmetric capabilities" as a reason for South Korea to develop better missiles. "Enhancing our missile capability is exactly what's needed as deterrence against North Korea's provocation," he said, while stressing that the SLBM test had been planned and was not in response to the North's launches. Unlike the South, North Korea's ballistic missile systems have been banned by U.N. Security Council resolutions. In November 2017, North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the entire United States and declared it had become a nuclear power. It has since focused mainly on testing shorter-range missile and rockets. North Korea this year declared it was seeking to miniaturise nuclear warheads, which could potentially be fitted to tactical missiles. "North Korea continues to prioritise military modernisation," said Leif-Eric Easley, international studies professor at Ewha Womans University in Seoul. 'GREAT SIGNIFICANCE' The latest launch came as foreign ministers of South Korea and China held talks in Seoul amid concern over North Korea's tests and the stalled denuclearisation negotiations. North Korea said it successfully tested a new long-range cruise missile last weekend, calling it "a strategic weapon of great significance". Analysts say that weapon could be its first cruise missile with a nuclear capability. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, when asked about the cruise missile tests, said all parties should work to promote peace and stability on the Korean peninsula. "Not only North Korea but other countries are carrying out military activity," he told reporters. "All of us should make efforts in a way that helps resume dialogue." In a meeting with Wang on Wednesday, Moon asked for China's support to restart dialogue, saying North Korea had not been responding to South Korean and U.S. offers for talks or engagement such as humanitarian aid, Moon's spokesperson said. The nuclear envoys of South Korea, Japan, and the United States were meeting in Tokyo this week as well. U.S. envoy Sung Kim said on Tuesday the United States has no hostile intent towards North Korea and hoped it would respond positively to calls for talks. The United States wants North Korea to give up its nuclear and missile programmes in exchange for sanctions relief. North Korea has refused.
The jailed de facto leader of the giant Samsung group will be released early on parole this week, South Korea’s justice ministry said yesterday, easing concerns over a possible leadership vacuum at the conglomerate. Lee Jae-yong — the 188th richest person in the world according to Forbes, with a net worth of $12.4bn — is currently serving a two-and-a-half year prison sentence for bribery, embezzlement and other offences in connection with the corruption scandal that brought down ex-South Korean president Park Geun-hye. But calls for his early release from both politicians and business leaders have grown in recent months over concerns about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the South Korean economy, the 12th-largest in the world. His freedom will ease concerns over decision-making at Samsung, by far the biggest of the family-controlled conglomerates, or chaebols, that dominate business in the country. There is a long history of top chaebol figures being charged with bribery, embezzlement, tax evasion, or other offences. But many of those convicted have subsequently had their sentences cut or suspended on appeal, with some receiving presidential pardons in recognition of their “contribution to the national economy”. South Korea traditionally issues pardons around this time of the year as it celebrates Independence Day on August 15, and the justice ministry said this year 810 people had been approved for release on parole. Justice Minister Park Beom-kye said Lee was “among those granted parole in consideration of the national economic situation due to the prolonged coronavirus pandemic”. The decision was “based on various factors including public sentiment and his attitude in prison”, he told reporters. Local reports said he was a “model prisoner” and this month a rule change came into effect cutting the proportion of the sentences prisoners must serve to be eligible for parole. Lee, 52, just comes into compliance with the new requirement and will be released on Friday. He was first jailed for five years in 2017, after Park’s ouster, then walked free the following year when an appeals court dismissed most of his bribery convictions and gave him a suspended sentence. But the Supreme Court later ordered Lee to face a retrial, which convicted and jailed him again. Even so, yesterday’s parole announcement will not be the end of his legal travails: he is currently on trial on separate accusations of manipulating a takeover to smooth his succession at the top of the Samsung group – the same issue on which he was said to have sought help from Park. Yesterday’s announcement comes after five major South Korean business groups in April appealed to the presidential Blue House for a pardon for Lee on national economic grounds. In June, leaders of the country’s top four conglomerates – SK Group, Hyundai Motor Group, LG Group and Samsung – also met with President Moon Jae-in to press him to pardon Lee. Polls also show an increasing number of South Koreans supporting the idea of granting him parole, with more than 66% of respondents in favour in a recent Realmeter survey. The turnover of the overall Samsung group is equivalent to a fifth of the national gross domestic product and it is crucial to South Korea’s economic health. Analysts have warned the prolonged absence of its de facto leader could hamper its decision-making on future large-scale investments of the kind that have been instrumental to the rise of its flagship subsidiary Samsung Electronics to become one of the world’s top smartphone and computer chip makers. Last month, Samsung Electronics recorded a more than 70% jump in second-quarter net profits.
For the first time in South Korea, a nursing assistant who was paralysed after receiving a Covid-19 vaccine was recognised as a victim of an industrial accident, making her eligible for government benefits and compensation. The nursing assistant, who has not been identified, received AstraZeneca's shot on March 12 and later suffered from double vision and paralysis and was diagnosed with acute encephalomyelitis, the state-run Korea Workers' Compensation & Welfare Service said on Friday. The service said in a statement the woman did not have underlying conditions and there seemed to be a "a reasonable causal link between the side effects and the vaccination". AstraZeneca, asked about the case, did not refer to it directly but said patient safety was of the utmost importance for it and regulators around the world. "International regulators, including the World Health Organization, continue to reaffirm that the vaccine offers a high-level of protection against all severities of Covid-19 and variants of concern, and is a key part of global efforts to overcome the virus," AstraZeneca said in a statement. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) had determined that with the available evidence, it could not verify a connection between the woman's case and the vaccine but it was open to re-evaluation when more evidence was available, said agency official Choi Seung-ho. South Korea, like many other countries, has indemnified major vaccine makers against claims and set up funds to cover any costs. It offers up to 10 million won ($8,747) to anyone who suffers serious side effects from the coronavirus vaccines but this is the first case in which the side effects are considered an industrial accident. Healthcare workers were among the first to be eligible for the vaccines in South Korea and were encouraged by employers to be vaccinated but they were not forced to. The compensation service concluded that the woman was eligible for government compensation and benefits under the Industrial Accident Compensation Insurance Act because her medical situation was related to her work. She will be compensated for missed work hours and benefits will cover her medical expenses and disabilities, the service spokesman told Reuters. There were six more cases pending a decision, the spokesman said. The KDCA said a total of 1,562 cases, including 14 deaths, had been reviewed for compensation regarding damages from Covid-19 vaccination, of which 983 had been compensated. There has been no compensation for a case involving a death. AstraZeneca has been granted protection from product liability claims related to its Covid-19 vaccine by most of the countries with which it has struck supply agreements. After reports of a rare blood clots associated with the vaccine this year, several countries announced restrictions on its use in younger people. In Asia, countries including Singapore, Australia, Thailand and Malaysia have financial assistance programmes or set up compensation funds for those who suffer serious side effects from vaccines. In Thailand, the government has paid out 13 million baht ($389,454) to 400 cases of Covid-19 vaccine side-effects, its health agency said. In cases of death, it pays 400,000 baht, and side effects that impact daily life, 240,000 baht. Payments are not proof, however, that the vaccines have side effects, it said, because that is under the purview of an expert panel. This year, the World Health Organization agreed a no-fault compensation plan for claims of serious side effects in people in 92 poorer countries due to get Covid-19 vaccines via the COVAX sharing scheme. India, which has the second-highest number of cases globally, is a holdout, The government is in talks over legal protection sought by companies like Pfizer and Moderna, and no shots have been shipped by these companies. The U.S. government has compensation fund for people who are victims of side effects of a vaccine, but lawyers say few claims have been compensated historically.
North Korea wants international sanctions banning its metal exports and imports of refined fuel and other necessities lifted before it restarts denuclearisation talks with the US, South Korean lawmakers said yesterday. The North has also demanded the easing of sanctions on its imports of luxury goods to be able to bring in alcohol and suits, the lawmakers said after being briefed by Park Jie-won, head of the National Intelligence Service (NIS), South Korea’s main intelligence agency. The briefing came a week after the two Koreas restored hotlines that North Korea suspended a year ago, the first hint in months that North Korea might be more responsive to engagement efforts. “As a precondition to reopen talks, North Korea argues that the US should allow mineral exports and imports of refined oil and necessities,” Ha Tae-keung, a member of the parliamentary intelligence committee, told reporters, citing Park. “I asked which necessities they want the most, and they said alcohol and suits were included, not just for Kim Jong-un’s own consumption but to distribute to Pyongyang’s elite,” he said, referring to North Korea’s leader. North Korea’s state-run media made no mention yesterday of any new request for the lifting sanctions to restart talks. The UN Security Council has imposed a wide range of sanctions on North Korea for pursuing its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes in defiance of UN resolutions. North Korea has conducted six nuclear tests since 2006 and test-fired missiles capable of hitting the US. The US, Japan and South Korea have also imposed their own sanctions on North Korea. North Korea has not tested a nuclear weapon or its longest-range intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) since 2017, ahead of a historic meeting in Singapore between Kim Jong-un and US president Donald Trump in 2018. Trump had two subsequent meetings with Kim but without progress on getting the North to give up its nuclear and missile programmes in exchange for sanctions relief. Kim Byung-kee, another South Korean legislator, said North Korea appeared to have “harboured discontent” with the US for not offering concessions for the moratorium on nuclear and ICBM tests. “The US should be able to bring them back to dialogue by readjusting some sanctions,” Kim said, citing Park. A senior official in President Joe Biden’s administration said in March that North Korea had not responded to behind-the-scenes diplomatic outreach. After a review of North Korea policy, the US administration said it would explore diplomacy to achieve the goal of complete denuclearisation of North Korea but would not seek a grand bargain with Kim. Military exercises involving US and South Korean forces, which North Korea sees as preparations for an invasion, could stymie any positive steps. The North Korean leader’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, who has assumed a significant role in the administration, warned South Korea on Sunday that joint exercises with the US would undermine a thaw between the two Koreas. South Korean legislator Kim quoted Park as saying that the question of exercises had to be considered: “There’s also a need to consider responding flexibly to South Korea-US military exercises.”
South Korea is in talks with mRNA vaccine makers including Pfizer and Moderna to produce Covid-19 shots in the country and is ready to offer the capacity to make up to 1bn doses immediately, a senior government official said. The plan, if agreed, would help ease tight global supply of Covid-19 vaccines, particularly in Asia which lags North America and Europe in vaccine rollouts, and put South Korea a step closer to its ambition to become a major vaccine manufacturing centre. South Korea already has deals to locally produce three coronavirus vaccines developed by AstraZeneca/Oxford University, Novavax, and Russia. It also has a vaccine bottling and packaging deal with Moderna. “We’ve been holding frequent talks with big pharmaceutical companies to produce mRNA vaccines,” Lee Kang-ho, director general for the global vaccine hub committee under South Korea’s health ministry, said in an interview. “There are only a few mRNA vaccine developers — Pfizer, Moderna, CureVac and BioNTech. Thus there’s a limit to how much they can produce to meet global demand...South Korea is keen to help by offering its facilities and skilled human resources,” Lee said. It’s not immediately clear how advanced these talks are and whether and when a deal will be agreed. BioNTech declined to comment, Moderna and CureVac did not reply to Reuters’ requests for comments. A Pfizer spokesperson said the company is making efforts to enhance its Covid-19 vaccine supply chain but added “we do not have anything specific to announce at this time.” Lee declined to name local vaccine makers which have the capacity to produce mRNA vaccines immediately, but a government source said they include Hanmi Pharmaceuticals Co and Quratis Co. Hanmi confirmed that it has a big capacity reserved for Sanofi’s diabetes drug and it can be used for Covid-19 vaccine production as the Sanofi project has stalled. “We happen to have this facility available right now because our clinical trial (with Sanofi) was discontinued in the middle of last year,” Kim Soo-jin, senior vice president of Hanmi, said. “It’s very timely that we have a fully ready, GMP, state-of-the-art facility available,” she said, referring to good manufacturing practice. Quratis, which makes a tuberculosis vaccine, said its new factory built last year can now be used for mRNA vaccine production. South Korea has stepped up its effort to produce more vaccines since US President Joe Biden in May agreed with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on a comprehensive partnership on Covid vaccines. Lee said his team is having frequent video conference calls with the vaccine makers and the World Health Organisation (WHO). WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said the organisation is “talking with South Korea and other countries,” but did not elaborate. The WHO said last month it will set up a hub in South Africa to manufacture mRNA vaccines within 9-12 months that will give companies from poor and middle-income countries the know-how and licenses to produce Covid-19 vaccines.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un replaced several senior officials after a ‘crucial’ coronavirus incident, state media reported Wednesday, potentially signalling a breach in the country's epidemic defences. Pyongyang closed its borders in January last year to try to protect itself against the virus that first emerged in neighbouring China and has gone on to sweep the world. It has not publicly confirmed any cases of the disease at any point, either in state media or in the test statistics it has disclosed to the World Health Organization. But analysts said the latest development was a clear indication there had been infections in the isolated North, which is under international sanctions for its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes. Officials had neglected their duties and caused a ‘crucial’ incident, ‘creating a great crisis in ensuring the security of the state and safety of the people and entailed grave consequences’, Kim told a politburo meeting, according to the state Korean Central News Agency. It did not specify any details of what had happened. But Kim added that cadres' ‘lack of ability and irresponsibility’ had hindered important work, accusing them of ‘self-protectionism and passiveness’. The impoverished country's ramshackle health system and lack of medical supplies would leave it struggling to cope with a major Covid-19 outbreak. Members of the presidium of the politburo -- the highest decision-making body of the ruling Workers' Party -- and the politburo were recalled and new ones named at the meeting on Tuesday, KCNA reported, adding that government officials were ‘transferred and appointed’. The KCNA dispatch ‘basically means North Korea has confirmed cases’, defector-turned-researcher Ahn Chan-il told AFP. ‘The fact that the politburo discussed this, and that the KCNA reported about it, signals Pyongyang is probably in need of international aid,’ he said. ‘Otherwise they would not have done this as it inevitably involves acknowledging the regime's own failure in its anti-epidemic efforts.’ Park Won-gon of Ewha Womans University in Seoul pointed out that the meeting's attendance was unusually large and said the reference to ‘grave consequences’ meant it was ‘possible’ that the North had confirmed cases. ‘It does look like Pyongyang is going through something serious that's related to Covid-19,’ he added. - High price – Ever since the pandemic began, North Korean state media have highlighted anti-coronavirus measures and officials have exhorted citizens to remain vigilant. At a military parade in October, Kim himself tearfully thanked his people for their efforts and said the North had not seen a single case of the ‘evil virus’, although analysts have long doubted the assertion. And Pyongyang's coronavirus defence has come at a high price. Its self-imposed and strictly enforced blockade has left it more isolated than ever: trade with Beijing -- its economic lifeline -- slowed to a trickle while all international aid workers have left. Several UN relief groups confirmed to AFP that the Needs and Priorities document -- a key report that summarises the humanitarian situation in the country and forms the basis of UN appeals -- will not be published this year. And this month, Pyongyang admitted it was tackling a food crisis, sounding the alarm in a nation with a moribund agricultural sector that has long struggled to feed itself. Earlier, Kim warned his people to prepare for the ‘worst-ever situation’. Pyongyang has been looking to shore up loyalty to the authorities, with state television last week showing a resident of the capital expressing concern and saying everyone was ‘heartbroken’ over the ‘emaciated’ condition of Kim, who has lost significant weight recently. Analysts say Pyongyang is using Kim's appearance as a way to glorify him by portraying him as a ‘devoted, hardworking’ leader as the country struggles to tackle its food crisis and other challenges. In recent months, Kim has issued a series of lengthy letters to regime organisations such as the Youth League and the trade union federation exhorting them to pursue ‘loyalty and patriotism’. At the same time, authorities have mounted a campaign against ‘criminal’ youths tarnished by foreign influences that are ‘dangerous poisons’ to state ideology, according to KCNA.
A senior North Korean official ridiculed American hopes for talks on Tuesday, as the United States and South Korea agreed to consider scrapping a controversial working group established to coordinate their policy toward Pyongyang. Kim Yo Jong, a senior official in the ruling party and sister of leader Kim Jong Un, released a statement in state media on Tuesday saying the United States appears to be interpreting signals from Pyongyang in a way that would lead to disappointment. She was responding to US National Security adviser Jake Sullivan, who on Sunday said he saw as an "interesting signal" in a recent speech by Kim Jong Un on preparing for both confrontation and diplomacy with the United States. "It seems that the US may interpret the situation in such a way as to seek a comfort for itself," she said in a statement carried by KCNA. "The expectation, which they chose to harbour the wrong way, would plunge them into a greater disappointment." Kim's statement came during a visit to Seoul by recently appointed US special representative for North Korea Sung Kim, who was scheduled to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Unification Minister Lee In-young, who handles relations with the North, on Tuesday. On Monday Sung Kim said he was willing to meet with the North Koreans "anywhere, anytime without preconditions" and that he looks forward to a "positive response soon". During talks between Kim and his South Korean counterpart Noh Kyu-duk, the two agreed to "look into terminating the working group" while reinforcing coordination at other levels, the South Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The working group was set up in 2018 to help the two allies coordinate their approaches to issues such as denuclearisation talks, humanitarian aid, sanctions enforcement and inter-Korean relations amid a flurry of diplomatic engagement with North Korea at the time. When asked last year about Seoul's proposals such as reopening individual tourism to its northern neighbour, US ambassador to South Korea at the time, Harry Harris, said that "in order to avoid a misunderstanding later that could trigger sanctions... it’s better to run this through the working group." Though Harris added that it was not the United States’ place to approve South Korean decisions, the remarks caused controversy in Seoul and a former aide to South Korean President Moon Jae-in later told parliament the working group was increasingly seen as an obstacle to inter-Korean relations. The Moon administration would see ending the working group as a goodwill gesture from new US President Joe Biden, said Ramon Pacheco Pardo, a Korea expert at King's College London. "From a South Korean perspective, this was basically a mechanism for the US to block inter-Korean projects during the Trump years," he said. "It would be a clever political move for the Biden administration to end the group, since consultation between Washington and Seoul will take place anyway."
The United States' new top envoy for North Korea said on Monday in Seoul that he looks forward to a "positive response soon" on dialogue from North Korea. US special representative for North Korea Sung Kim is in South Korea for a five-day visit, amid an impasse in denuclearisation talks with Pyongyang, with no word of any planned efforts to contact the North. "We continue to hope that the DPRK will respond positively for our outreach and our offer to meet anywhere, anytime without preconditions," Kim said, using the initials of North Korea's official name. Kim arrived on Saturday, a day after North Korean state media reported that leader Kim Jong Un urged preparation for both dialogue and confrontation with the United States, particularly the latter. "We will be prepared for either, because you know, we are still waiting to hear back from Pyongyang for a meeting," Sung Kim said. "Hopefully dialogue indicates that we will get a positive response soon." In the meantime, the United States will continue to enforce U.N. Security Council resolutions that have imposed sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear weapons programme and urge other countries to do the same, Kim said. Kim, who doubles as ambassador to Indonesia, had back-to-back meetings with South Korea's top nuclear envoy, Noh Kyu-duk, as well as a trilateral session involving his Japanese counterpart, Takehiro Funakoshi. Noh said he and Kim discussed ways to cooperate and facilitate the "prompt" resumption of dialogue with North Korea. Noh and Funakoshi were also scheduled to have a bilateral meeting to discuss North Korea. Kim's appointment came after US President Joe Biden's administration conducted a review of North Korea policy that concluded the United States would seek to find "calibrated and practical" ways of inducing Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons. The United States said on Sunday it saw Kim's comments as an "interesting signal," but added that Washington was still waiting for direct communication from Pyongyang to start any talks relating to denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. China is North Korea's only major ally, and is seen as a key player in any efforts to resolve tensions over Pyongyang's nuclear programme. In a rare op-ed published in North Korea's main state newspaper on Monday, China's top envoy to Pyongyang, Ambassador Li Jinjun emphasised the long-standing ties between the two countries. With the relationship between China and North Korea at a new starting point, they will strengthen communication at every level and boost cooperation to "contribute to regional peace, stability, development and prosperity," Li wrote.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has said the country must prepare for both “dialogue and confrontation” with the United States, but with a particular emphasis on the latter as Pyongyang probes for any US policy shift under President Joe Biden. It was Kim’s first reaction to the Biden administration’s recent review of its North Korean strategy that promised a “practical, calibrated approach” – including diplomatic efforts – to persuade Pyongyang into giving up its nuclear and missile programme. Since Biden’s election, the two countries have adopted something of a strategic wait-and-see attitude following the diplomatic roller-coaster ride under Donald Trump that produced three historic summits with Kim but no agreement on dismantling the North’s nuclear arsenal. Kim “stressed the need to get prepared for both dialogue and confrontation, especially to get fully prepared for confrontation in order to protect the dignity of our state” and reliably guarantee a “peaceful environment”, state news agency KCNA said yesterday. Kim’s comments at Thursday’s central committee meeting signal a wait and see approach where the “ball is now in the US’s court” to push for either dialogue or confrontation, Hong Ming from the Korea Institute for National Unification, told AFP. Pyongyang had already accused Biden of pursuing a “hostile policy” and saying it was a “big blunder” for the veteran Democrat to say he would deal with the threat posed by the North’s nuclear programme “through diplomacy as well as stern deterrence”. Biden said he “would not meet” Kim without a concrete plan for negotiating on Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal, during a visit to Washington last month by South Korean President Moon Jae-in. He also made a clear criticism of Trump’s chummy relationship with Kim, saying he “would not do what had been done in the recent past. ”