Foreign children in Seoul get education fee support, vaccine pass rules eased, and N Korea launches a couple more
Wed 2022-01-19 (KST)
“Foreign children aged 3-5 in Seoul will receive education fee support equivalent to that for South Korean children from March, the city's education office said Monday.” It will provide, “up to 150,000 won ($126) -- 100,000 won for daytime programs and 50,000 won for after-school programs” per month for public kindergartens, and ”up to 350,000 won -- 280,000 won for daytime and 70,000 won for after-school programs” per month for private kindergartens. “Parents can apply for their children's education fee support at kindergartens with required documents, including [their] alien registration card.”
“Ruling party presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung has called for simultaneously pursuing North Korea's denuclearization and sanctions relief, while his main opposition rival Yoon Suk-yeol has vowed to strengthen the extended deterrence provided by the United States.”
Successful campaign efforts from Yoon Suk-yeol of the main opposition People Power Party, “following the end of a damaging internal feud, as well as the abrupt death of a whistleblower in a case involving main rival Lee Jae-myung of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, are believed to have aided Yoon in garnering more support in the last week. A Realmeter poll… showed Yoon leading with 40.6 percent support, up 6.5 percentage points from a week earlier. He is followed by Lee Jae-myung of the ruling Democratic Party at 36.7 percent, down 3.4 percent points on-week.”
On Sunday, MBC's investigative news show "Straight" disclosed the private phone conversations in which the main opposition People Power Party(PPP) presidential candidate Yoon Suk-yeol's wife Kim Keon-hee attempted to convince "The Voice of Seoul" reporter Lee Myung-soo to join her husband's political campaign by deprecating liberal politicians and promising compensation. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) describes Kim's efforts to "recruit" reporter Lee as an infringement of Korea's election laws and warns against decisions that could lead to a first lady with a warped sense of ethics. Meanwhile, criticizing MBC for breaking political neutrality and reporter Lee for ethically evil delivery, PPP accuses MBC of political sabotage.
“The planned expansion of the government's COVID-19 vaccine pass to include 12- to 18-year-olds will be implemented in March as scheduled, a government agency said Monday… citing a high percentage of teenagers among new daily COVID-19 cases… despite a Seoul court's recent ruling to rein in the mandate at educational facilities.” The agency said, “it expects the court to change its verdict in the main lawsuit, as educational facilities have been excluded from the vaccine pass mandate. As of Monday, 12- to 18-year-olds accounted for 28.8 percent of new daily COVID-19 cases, while their primary vaccination and second dose completion rates reached 78.6 percent and 66.5 percent, respectively.”
“Starting Tuesday [1/18], a COVID-19 pass will no longer be required for entry into department and large discount stores, movie theaters, museums, study rooms, libraries, and cram schools… While eating will be restricted in general, the system will remain for restaurants and coffee shops inside department stores and large discount stores. The minister said the adjustment comes as the nation's infection situation has improved and its medical capacity expanded. He also mentioned easing public confusion after a local court suspended the enforcement.”
“Health authorities have placed the COVID-19 risk level for the second week of January at ‘medium’ for the capital region, non-capital areas and also for the country at-large. The capital region and the nation as a whole were assessed at ‘medium’ a week earlier as well, but the level has gone up for non-capital areas from a ‘low’ evaluation the previous week. Officials said, though pandemic indicators are improving, the caseload has slightly risen and is feared to increase further due to the omicron variant.”
Daily cases back above 4,000 amid omicron woes (1 min read)
“The country added 4,072 new COVID-19 infections… raising the total caseload to 700,102, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA). The number of critically ill COVID-19 patients stood at 543 Tuesday. The country reported 45 more COVID-19 deaths, raising the death toll to 6,378. The fatality rate was 0.91 percent.”
General COVID Information for residents in Korea:
Seoul rebuts Japanese Dokdo claims (1 min read)
“Seoul on Monday strongly protested against Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi’s remarks that renewed territorial claims over South Korea’s easternmost islets of Dokdo, demanding an immediate retraction… Hayashi reiterated Tokyo’s stance that Dokdo, which is known as Takeshima in Japan, is a territory inherent to Japan in view of historical facts and international law in his speech outlining the government’s foreign policy vision at the opening of a parliamentary session.”
President Moon Jae-in will visit three countries during his 7-day Middle East tour. The first destination is the United Arab Emirates, where planned are talks over infrastructure, climate change and space, national security and defense, public health, and most importantly, Korea's bid to host the 2030 Expo. The next destination is Saudi Arabia, where discussions on bilateral cooperation in public health, artificial intelligence, hydrogen, and education and bolstering cooperation in energy, infrastructure, and construction are expected. Also, prearranged is "the announcement of the resumption of negotiations for a free trade agreement." In Egypt, Korea's "first free trade agreement on the African continent is expected if an agreement is sealed," and discussion over cooperation in electric cars, information technology, and transportation is planned.
"North Korea launched two apparent short-range ballistic missiles toward the East Sea from an airfield in Pyongyang" most likely to "improve … the precision of its missile." The firing also carries political implications. It is likely North Korea's strategy is to have the world accept it as a nuclear power and be paid for abstaining from incitements. The move may have been timed for the impending domestic and international events, including the South Korean presidential election and Washington's sanctions designation. Alternatively, it could be Pyongyang's move to “pave the way for more high-profile provocations this year," which marks Kim forefathers' 80th and 110th anniversaries, respectively, and the second year of a 5-year plan for advancing defense capabilities.
“Cargo trains between North Korea and China have resumed operation for the first time in nearly two years since the border closure due to the pandemic… The first train was empty when it arrived in China, but its return trip was likely loaded with daily necessities, medical supplies and other emergency relief items.” “But it is too early to say whether the two countries will resume full-fledged trade.” China accounts for more than 90 percent of North Korea’s trade.
“Researchers of Samsung Electronics successfully demonstrated magnetoresistive random access memory (MRAM)-based in-memory computing that simultaneously stores and processes data for the first time in the world, which could be utilized later to produce low-energy artificial intelligence (AI) chips.” “In-memory computing draws similarities to the brain in the sense that in the brain, computing also occurs within the network of biological memory, or synapses, the points where neurons touch one another.” The “demonstration will help with R&D on neuromorphic technology that mimics the human brain.”
Consumers dissatisfied with low 5G quality (2 min read)
Despite expected strong earnings from the nation’s carriers (SK Telecom, KT, LG Uplus), “complaints about 5G quality are continuing to grow… the average amount of 5G data consumers received from mobile carriers was 60.9 gigabytes while their actual data usage averaged 31.1 gigabytes… due to the narrow coverage of 5G or enjoyable [content]. The major cause of the 5G quality issue is a lack of network base stations.” As 5G frequencies travel shorter distances and are more susceptible to physical obstructions, mobile carriers are required to install more base stations to maintain service quality.
Is Korea a tsunami-free zone? (3 min read)
Korea calculates a relatively low possibility as experts examine its tsunami vulnerability. Still, strong quakes in the surrounding areas can pose risks, as shown in records of earth-quake-induced waves from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). In fact, according to vulnerability studies motivated by a 9.1 magnitude earthquake in Japan’s Tohoku region in 2011, Korea could be susceptible to earthquakes and tsunamis due to its location on the Eurasians Plate’s edge. Substantial damage can take place in Korea’s east coast from tsunamis triggered by earthquakes over magnitude 6.5, and tidal waves of half-a-meter in height by a magnitude 6.6 quake.
“KF94 masks, the Korean version of an N95 mask, are gaining popularity in the United States, with experts calling for upgraded protective options over cloth masks as the omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to spread rapidly throughout the country… KF94s have four layers of filtration against a typical three-layer cloth mask, but are cheaper, more breathable and more comfortable against sensitive skin than a lot of N95s.”
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