Omicron is coming, Japanese Embassy rejects Moon’s gift box, and why N Korea’s hypersonic missiles are troubling
Mon 2022-01-24 (KST)
Just letting you know there’s been a slight change in format, where we’ve moved parts of National and Coronavirus news to the bottom of the newsletter. After having a read, let us know what you think via this quick poll - just takes 30 secs, thank you!
Between next month and March 2025, students from elementary through to high school graduates, “who entered the country while under the age of six, and lived here for more than six years,” as well as children who were born here, will be able to apply for a long-term visa. Students from elementary through to high school graduates “who entered the country while over the age of six and lived here for more than seven years” are also eligible to apply. “After graduating from high school, they will be granted other visas that enable them to continue their education or pursue careers.”
“Before the policy change, only high school graduates, middle and high school students who were born here and lived here for more than 15 years were qualified to apply for a permit to stay here long-term… The policy will take effect temporarily, considering the possibility that it could be abused for the purpose of illegal immigration, the ministry said.”
Some young South Koreans, mostly girls, are looking for “pro-anorexia” friends on social media to encourage each other’s dangerous weight loss. A search with the hashtags #pro-ana on Twitter return a host of tweets, most made apparently by young girls. They announce one’s resolve to fast or seek “pro-ana” buddies. Pro-ana is a combination of the prefix “pro-,” meaning supporting or approving of, and “ana,” short for anorexia, a life-threatening eating disorder marked by self-starvation with an intense fear of gaining weight. It is neither a new phenomenon nor one that is confined to Korea… But in Korea, the trend appears to have caught on among younger people with the rise of social media.
Korea to limit PCR testing as omicron rises (2 min read)
A new testing protocol will become official “once omicron officially becomes dominant nationwide” to prioritize “vulnerable groups for access to limited medical resources.” The main change is the Priority-based PCR testing, which requires non-high-risk people submit a test recommendation from a doctor at designated clinics. Also, PCR will be replaced with rapid antigen testing, and a negative test result will be effective for 24 hours, despite accuracy concerns over the rapid test. All travelers are required to submit a negative PCR test conducted within 48 hours before arrival, use COVID-19-proof transportation methods upon arrival, and quarantine for ten days.
“The country added 7,630 new COVID-19 infections… raising the total caseload to 733,902. Sunday's figure marks the second-largest tally since the daily record high of 7,848 on Dec. 15… It also marks the highest number of daily cases reported on a weekend. Daily virus caseloads typically decrease on weekends and holidays due to fewer virus tests. The country reported 11 more COVID-19 deaths, raising the death toll to 6,540. The fatality rate came to 0.89 percent. The number of critically ill COVID-19 patients stood at 431.” As of Sunday, “85.4 percent of the country's 52 million population, have been fully vaccinated, and… 49.2 percent, have received booster shots.”
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“Cheong Wa Dae had sent a gift box with traditional liquor and other items to Ambassador Koichi Aiboshi and other foreign ambassadors in Seoul to celebrate the Lunar New Year that falls [on] Feb. 1. But the Japanese Embassy returned the gift Friday, as the box has an illustration that resembles the islets of Dokdo in the East Sea, according to the reports. Upon the refusal, the embassy lodged a protest and repeated Japan's territorial claim to the islets. The image of a sunrise is believed to represent South Korea's commitment to overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic and starting anew in the New Year. Dokdo is where people can watch the first sunrise in the country.” The article contains a photo of the image mentioned.
“South Korea is working to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which involves 11 nations, including Australia and Japan. Japan has long been reluctant to South Korea's joining due mainly to Seoul's ban on Fukushima seafood… South Korea needs unanimous support from the 11 member states to win the membership accreditation.” But South Korea is not considering lifting the ban as part of its efforts to join the mega free trade deal, as they see the ban and the CPTPP as two “separate issues”.
“Despite the focus of attention on the missile’s speed… [experts] say North Korea’s hypersonic missile is hard to track and intercept because of its ability to maneuver, leaving South Korea vulnerable to North Korea’s missile attacks…[They] also said using preemptive strikes to destroy the missiles or launchers as they are being prepared to take off is equally difficult because locating where North Korea would fire them is hard to assess and target.” This may leave “South Korea with little choice but to launch preemptive strikes on North Korea’s leadership before the regime orders the firing of missiles.”
North Korea’s Missile Tests: Biden’s Options (3 min read)
“The United States should not give up on a diplomatic way to reduce the risk of North Korea’s nuclear weapons. If Seoul is willing to end the Korean War, the United States should do more to champion this course of action. Diplomacy comes with its own set of uncertainties and challenges, but both maintaining the status quo and increasing pressure will have more dangerous consequences.”
“For the launch of Samsung’s next flagship smartphones — the Galaxy S22, S22 Plus, and S22 Ultra, we think — the Korean electronics giant will once again let you signal your intent to buy its phones before they’re even announced, much less go on sale… If it’s anything like previous occasions, you won’t need to plunk down a virtual wad of cash just yet — you’re simply reserving a slot to order the phone later, typically after the company’s actual smartphone keynote (coming February, the company just confirmed) ends.” The article contains a link to the preorder registration page.
“So I'm not confident that the Galaxy S22 will revolutionize gaming for me, but the Exynos 2200 is just the first step in Samsung's partnership with AMD, and it may well be that later generations — with all the refinements that come with them — will make a much more compelling case for both casual and enthusiastic gamers to take notice.”
“YouTube issued a [one week] suspension for ‘Hoverlab,’ a far-right YouTube channel here, for violating the platform's COVID-19 medical misinformation policy… The channel uploaded a video on Jan. 12… [which] said, ‘Omicron is like the flu and enforcing the vaccine pass to prevent the virus spread seems too much… Some say that getting vaccinated is even more dangerous (than the virus itself).’ The video was removed by YouTube. The far-right channel, with over 834,000 subscribers, has received criticism for spreading false information and exposing the personal details of local celebrities and politicians.”
“The horse fell on November 2 while filming a scene for period drama ‘The King of Tears, Lee Bang-won,’ Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) said in a statement Thursday.” “[An] actor in traditional costume can be seen riding a black horse, which has a rope tied to one of its back legs. As the rope gets tighter, the horse falls face first into the ground, sending the actor flying into the air, the video shows. The horse can then be seen kicking its rear legs while its head remains still.” The production crew is being criticized, “for allegedly failing to check the horse's condition after it fell… [and] public anger was mounting on social media.”
“It marked the first time in 28 years that the Jogye Order has organized a large-scale rally of monks from across the nation… Thousands of Buddhist monks held a rally in Seoul on Friday, demanding President Moon Jae-in apologize for what they called the government's anti-Buddhist bias after a ruling party lawmaker accused temples of collecting admission fees from visitors to national parks [and making a comparison] to a legendary swindler known for selling river water for money. … Temples argue they are entitled to such fees because the money is used to take care of temple assets and private areas belonging to temples inside the parks.”
HIV fight on hold for over 2 years (3 min read)
“All 25 local health centers in the capital used to provide free and anonymous sexually transmitted infection and HIV tests until 2019. Nearly two years into the pandemic, however, HIV and STI testing capacity has been drastically reduced with many locations having stopped testing all together.” Testing for other infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, are adversely impacted as well… “Members of the public have come to believe everything can be compromised for COVID. But the problem with that utilitarian approach is that difficulties faced by social minorities [who have non-COVID illnesses] are ignored and their deaths are shrugged off as inevitable or incidental.”
Omicron to engulf Korea faster, cause sharper rise (4 min read)
COVID-19 adviser to the prime minister Dr. Jung says, “the omicron wave is feared to be worse than previously thought,” with a daily peak of 100,000 or over projected, contrary to earlier projection of 10,000 cases. Loosening restrictions and unanticipated imported cases are likely to be key factors, and the “proportion of omicron in sequenced samples is anticipated to reach 50 percent this week.” “If omicron severity turns out to be a third of delta’s, not “one-half to one-fifth that of delta” as assumed, hospitals’ maximum capacity of 40,000 cases (per day) will be tested, and the government will need to “consider some form of intervention, like an emergency stop.” “Wider distribution of Pfizer pills and booster vaccinations are hoped to counter omicron’s impact.”
Since February 2021, COVID-19 victims have been forced to be cremated before their funeral, "which prompted protests from the bereaved families." "After confirming that there wasn't even a single case reported on COVID-19 infections involving the remains of a deceased patient who was diagnosed with the virus both at home or abroad, The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) have decided to allow a funeral service before cremation to guarantee the dignity of the deceased and the rights of their bereaved families." The new rules will be implemented following a five-day administrative procedure.
Gov't Shifts Pandemic Response to Cope with Omicron (1 min read)
With daily COVID-19 cases surpassing seven thousand (45 percent omicron variant), “the government will transition its pandemic response to deal specifically with the omicron variant.” From Wednesday, nationwide, the isolation period for fully vaccinated people will be shortened to seven days.” In the omicron dominant Gwangju, South Jeolla Province, Pyeongtaek and Anseong, “PCR tests will only be offered to high-risk groups including people 60 and older” and close contacts of confirmed patients and non-high-risks groups wanting testing [will need to] “take the rapid antigen test at private medical clinics or home using a self-test kit.” Other changes include lowered age limit to 60 for COVID-19 oral medication, supply of antiviral pills by 460 pharmacies during weekends and holidays, and supply to senior care facilities and infectious disease hospitals.
General COVID Information for residents in Korea:
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