President Moon Warns Defense Ministry that Clashes Along Korean DMZ Are A “High Possibility”

I think President Moon is telling these ROK military leaders something they already know all to well:

South Korean President Moon Jae-In warned Wednesday there was a “high possibility” of military clashes along the border with North Korea as tensions mount over Pyongyang’s weapons ambitions.

Moon, who was sworn in last week, warned that the North’s nuclear and rocket programs were “advancing rapidly”, days after Pyongyang launched what appeared to be its longest-range missile yet.

“I will never tolerate the North’s provocations and nuclear threats,” he said on a visit to the defence ministry, urging the South’s military to adopt a “watertight defence posture”.

“We are living in the reality where there is a high possibility of military clashes” along the disputed sea border off the Koreas’ west coast or along the heavily-fortified land frontier that divides them, he said.  [Korea Herald]

You can read more at the link.

Korean Feminists Protest Government Issued Fertility Map

I think we can agree the fertility map released by the Korean government was pretty stupid because I am not sure what they expected to accomplish by it?  Did they expect males to rush to these so called more fertile cities to find women to make babies with?:

Top: The Ministry of the Interior’s controversial “Birth Map,” left, that was introduced Dec. 29. A few hours after introduction, the ministry closed the website saying it will repair to reflect corrections. Above: BWave, a coalition of feminist groups online, holds a one-woman protest while wearing a red “Baby Vending Machine” to “criticize how the government sees women as mere baby makers.” The demonstration has been going on at Gangnam Station and in front of the Ministry of the Interior in central Seoul. The protester hands out a flier reading: “I’m sorry I’m not a baby vending machine, but a human being.” [CAPTURE FROM THE MINISTRY OF THE INTERIOR WEBSITE,BWAVE]

On Dec. 30, a person dressed as a red “Baby Vending Machine” walked back and forth in front of the Ministry of the Interior’s building in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul. When a passerby pressed a button on the box, a paper was released which read: “I’m sorry. I’m not a baby-making machine. I’m a human being.”

The 20-something woman inside the box, a member of BWave, a coalition of feminist groups online, said that the group decided to create the box to criticize how this country sees women as mere baby-making machines.

What troubled them was the “Birth Map” created on Dec. 29 by the Ministry of the Interior. The website, using shades of pink, included information on starting a family, giving birth and raising children. It all seemed helpful for the public, but the problem was that amongst the information, it also ranked towns and cities across the country by the number of women who are of childbearing age – or more bluntly, fertile.

According to the ministry, the map was created to “show what kind of services and benefits are available in 243 different local government zones across the country, to induce competition between local governments, and to inform the public with statistics regarding marriage and pregnancy.” It was a part of the government’s plan to tackle Korea’s low fertility rate.

However, they went too far.

“The country that’s always been so discrete went overboard this time and disclosed too much information,” said Kang Seung-ji, 30, who said she was furious upon seeing the map that “just shows you how this male-dominant country sees women as merely baby-making machines.”  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

You can read more at the link, but the real question the Korean people need to ask themselves is if they really do need a higher birthrate in a country already overpopulated?

New Korean Anti-Corruption Law Called Unconstitutional

It will be interesting to see where this goes in regards to for example members of the media being covered by this bill even though they are not public servants:

rok flag

Admitting to hastiness and poor preparation, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle vowed Wednesday to revise the controversial anti-graft law they passed only one day earlier.

The National Assembly Tuesday passed tough anti-corruption legislation after years of debate despite concerns that it would surely face constitutional challenges for its vagueness and overly wide scope.

On Wednesday, even lawmakers who voted the bill into law admitted a need for revisions. “We will listen to all the voices pointing to shortfalls with a humble attitude,” said Rep. Yoo Seong-min, floor leader of the ruling Saenuri Party who participated in the negotiations with the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) over the law. “During the one and a half years of grace period before it takes effect, we will make necessary modifications.” According to the law, a public official will face criminal punishment for receiving money or favors worth more than 1 million won ($912) even if they are unrelated to his or her job. Beyond bribes, entertainment like expensive meals, golf games and paid vacations is also covered by the law. A wide range of professions including civil servants, legislators, teachers at private schools and employees of media companies are covered because the law considers the nature of their work “public.” Their spouses will also be covered.

In media companies, both journalists and people in non-journalism related jobs will be covered. NPAD Rep. Lee Sang-min, chairman of the National Assembly’s Legislation and Judiciary Committee, called the law “unconstitutional” and “unreasonable,” promising to make speedy revisions.

“Almost all lawmakers pointed to the law’s problems and they said it seemed unconstitutional,” Lee said in an interview with CBS radio. “The scope of the law was expanded unreasonably to the media and the private sector. The law was too ambiguous and it is destined to create many innocent victims.”  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

You can read more at the link, but the golf course and massage parlors in Korea must be in a panic about now.

 

South Korea Passes Anti-Corruption Law

It is sad that it took a major tragedy like the sinking of the Sewol to expose just how the corruption of public officials in South Korea had become a major safety hazard:

rok flag

The National Assembly of South Korea passed an anticorruption law on Tuesday that calls for up to three years in prison for journalists, teachers and public servants who accept single cash donations or gifts valued at more than a million won, or about $910.

Passage of the law signaled a milestone in the country, where bestowing and receiving envelopes of cash and other gifts have long been part of the culture — and a suspected channel of bribery.

In South Korea, businesspeople, politicians and senior government officials often host expensive dinners, send gift sets during holidays and make cash donations at weddings and funerals, making it difficult to determine what amounts to corruption and what should be accepted as part of social etiquette.

Until now, people have been punished for graft only when it was established in court that they had accepted a gift in return for doing a specific favor, like helping the gift-giver obtain a government license or school admission.

Such a stringent legal requirement has raised concerns that much of the corruption in the country has gone unpunished, especially the so-called sponsorship relationships that some businesspeople and politicians were said to maintain with prosecutors, government officials and journalists. Under that arrangement, the “sponsors” would wine and dine the recipients, as well as provide them with financial support, not necessarily for any immediate favor but for long-term collusive ties.

Under the new law, which is to take effect in October 2016, public servants, teachers and journalists will face fines or prison terms of up to three years for taking such gifts exceeding about $910, regardless of whether there is evidence of bribery or influence-peddling.

They will face similar punishment if their spouses receive such gifts from people that involve conflicts of interest. (Those who report their spouse’s gifts to the authorities will be exempt.) Those who receive gifts valued at less than the designated amount may be fined if those gifts involve a conflict of interest.  [New York Times]

You can read more at the link,but I wonder how long before the Korean politicians discover campaign contributions as a way around anti-corruption laws?

You can also read more about this topic over at the Marmot’s Hole.

Korean Government At Crossroads On Welfare and Tax Pledges

Here is just another example of how South Korea is following the same road the US has gone down where people want government services without paying more in taxes and politicians keep promising that they can do this:

Civic groups hold a rally after the government scaled down support for pension plans and health care promised during the 2012 presidential election. (Yonhap file photo)

If broader welfare without a tax hike sounds too good to be true in a country where people live longer and give birth to fewer babies in an era of slow economic growth, it probably is.

Taking office two years ago with the promise of more social welfare, President Park Geun-hye said she will dig up the underground economy for tax revenue and eliminate unnecessary spending to finance welfare programs, such as child care, college tuition support and a pension plan for seniors.

So far, the government has done little to show results.

Considered too unrealistic by many economists from the outset, and even questioned by her own party, Park’s welfare goal may be derailed as her administration comes under growing pressure for a tax overhaul to meet growing demand for a better social safety net.

The government came under fire for its clumsily patched year-end tax adjustments that resulted in several tax deductions and other tax breaks being scrapped, diminishing the amount of tax refund for salaried workers and, in some cases, forcing them to cough up more. Officials defended the new system as having been designed to “collect less, return less,” but taxpayers blamed the government for tweaking the tax code to deliberately raise the burden on the middle class.

The government apparently lost the argument. President Park’s popularity rating dipped to a record-low 29 percent last week.

The extra cash from the tax refund may be small in amount, but coming after a sharp surge in tobacco prices and the ongoing push for residential and auto tax increases, the strong resistance forced the finance minister to apologize and the tax office to return part of the taxes retroactively, the first such move.

The tax refund fiasco is just one example of mixed challenges faced by Asia’s fourth-largest economy, which is struggling to strike a balance between a budget shortfall and rising welfare costs from the rapidly increasing elderly population.

Now nearing the midpoint of her single, five-year term, Park needs to make a critical political decision: raise taxes or discard welfare pledges, experts say.

“People were enraged because they felt the government lied about not raising taxes,” Shin Yul, a political science professor of Myongji University, said. “Welfare without tax increase was not a realistic goal from the beginning. If the government does not acknowledge this simple fact and sticks to its oxymoronic pledge, it would result in an early lame duck.”

South Korea’s tax rate is equal to 20 percent of the gross domestic production (GDP), lower than the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) average of 25 percent, while its public welfare budget is just half of the OECD average at 10 percent of the GDP.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link, but to complete this cycle the next thing politicians will likely do is turn to blaming rich people for not paying their fare share.

Korean Government To Spend More On Welfare to Spur Economy

The Korean government plans to raise the amount of money spent on Welfare in the country:

South Korea plans to raise its budget for welfare programs by more than 10 percent in 2015 from a year earlier in an effort to establish a better social safety net and revitalize the economy, the government and ruling party said Wednesday.

“The burden for the low-income bracket has been soaring due to the slowed economic recovery,” a Saenuri Party official said. “To ease such agony, we plan to raise the welfare budget by over 10 percent to between 118 trillion won (US$115.12 billion) and 120 trillion won.”

The increased rate for the welfare budget will hover far above the 5 percent rise slated for the combined state expenditure estimated for next year. It will also mark the first time since 2009 that the government has increased the welfare budget at a two-digit rate.

“We plan to push up the economy by lowering the burden for education, living and medical services, and setting up a social safety net, and expand expenditures on health, welfare and employment,” a government official said, adding the finalized plan, including detailed numbers, will be rolled out next week.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link.

 

ROK Defense Minister Receives Threatening Package

I just don’t get why any South Korean would sympathize with North Korea and send threatening packages like this to ROK officials?:

This potho shows the knife contained in a parcel sent to Defense Minister Han Min-koo. (Yonhap)

A parcel containing a knife, suspicious powder and a threatening letter has been sent to South Korea’s defense chief, prompting authorities to launch a probe, the ministry said Friday.

The package addressed to Defense Minister Han Min-koo contained a 32.8-centimeter kitchen knife and some 20 grams of white powder with a two-page letter, according to the ministry, noting that the suspicious powder was later found to be flour.

The letter sent by the “International Peace Action Corps” reads, “Why are you bringing a fire cloud of a nuclear war to the Korean Peninsula by wagging your tongue?”

“I’ve decided to punish him out of concern that just leaving you like this would kill the whole people,” the letter said, warning to “get rid of” him and his family members.

On one side of the knife, the sender wrote in a red pen, “Han Min-koo,” and on the other side, “punishment,” the ministry noted.  [Yonhap News]

You can read more at the link, but this guy will likely be caught soon since they have video footage of him mailing the package as well as a fingerprint they pulled off the box that may be his.