Youth vaccine mandates, S Korea’s middle power influence, and Seoul says N Korea didn’t test hypersonic missile
Mon 2022-01-10 (KST)
Recently there have been some articles with quite strong opinions stated by the authors of those articles. Hence, I thought it was timely to reiterate the following.
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Can scandal-ridden candidates be replaced? (2 min read)
“With controversies and allegations continuing to mar the ongoing presidential race, calls have grown for the ruling and main opposition parties to replace their nominees and install ones with cleaner pasts and clearer views… A survey conducted by Korea Information Research… on Sunday showed that 49.2 percent of respondents wanted a change in the presidential candidate for the Democratic Party. More than 50 percent of respondents favored the candidate for the People Power Party being changed as well. Yet the reality is that it is almost impossible for candidates to be replaced at this stage, as regulations state that a candidate can only be replaced if he or she voluntarily resigns, dies or is stripped of party membership.”
“The ruling and main opposition presidential candidates shared an understanding Friday that they should have more TV debates than the minimum three rounds required under law before the March 9 election. Lee Jae-myung of the ruling Democratic Party (DP) told reporters that he welcomes a proposal from Yoon Suk-yeol of the main opposition People Power Party (PPP) who earlier called for holding presidential debates more than three times… Even though Lee and Yoon agreed to hold debates, experts said the two sides are likely to have a tug-of-war over selection of debate agenda and format.”
“There has been “another dramatic reconciliation [between] People Power Party Chairman Lee Jun-seok, [and] Yoon Suk-yeol, the presidential candidate of the main opposition party… At a general meeting Thursday where opposition party lawmakers demanded Lee’s resignation, Yoon made a surprise appearance to offer his hand for reconciliation to Lee. The candidate also urged the party members to join forces for victory in the rapidly approaching presidential election, to settle the resignation resolution against Lee, as some lawmakers have put blame on the chairman for the candidate’s plunging support rating. ‘You and the people chose me and party leader Lee Jun-seok. Let’s all work together to win in the March election,’ Yoon said.”
“Contrasting performances on a Christmas Day YouTube program appear to have opened a gap between South Korea's two main presidential candidates. Support for conservative hopeful Yoon Suk-yeol of the opposition People Power Party has tumbled since his interview… For many viewers, the show seemed to confirm their suspicions the former prosecutor is an unskilled politician, not ready for the big stage of the presidency… [and] drew criticism for offering up vague and muddled answers… Lee Jae-myung, the candidate from the left-leaning ruling party… a maverick politician who left his job as governor of South Korea's most populous province to run for president, came across in his interview as an effective communicator with clear ideas on how to manage the economy. The article contains a link to the 1h 30m long video interview (but unfortunately is in Korean only).”
“Protesting business owners did not accept customers after the 9 p.m. curfew but left their empty stores and neon signs ablaze with light well past midnight. ‘This is an expression of our hopes and determination to stay open and do business,’ Cho Ji-hyun, who represents an emergency association of small business hit by COVID-19, told the Yonhap News Agency. She said the business curfew as well as the vaccine pass program in place are putting the burden of virus prevention on small business owners, calling for their withdrawal or a sweeping revision. The association has warned of ‘stronger collective action’ if the current business restrictions are further extended.”
“From Monday, Korea’s vaccine pass regime is expanded to department stores and big supermarkets measuring 3,000 square meters or more. Following a weeklong grace period, people will be asked to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result before entering the retail outlets… Those who have not been vaccinated will need to resort to online purchases, or plan to take PCR tests in advance. Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said on Friday, “The vaccine pass is a system aimed at accelerating people’s gradual return to normal life. More discussion is needed to find balance between virus prevention and human rights. If it needs improvement, the government will do it with an open mind.”
“At its core, the debate comes down to whether the rule unduly infringes upon unvaccinated individuals’ general right to education, as stated by the issuer of the injunction, or if it is a necessary measure to protect children given the rising virus cases among minors, as claimed by the government. Soaring infections among teens is not a problem confined to Korea. The US and many European countries have been grappling with it for weeks now.”
Vaccine passes are required for those aged from 12 in San Francisco, 5 in New York, 12 in Canada, 6 in Germany, 12 in Israel, and 18 in the UK. “None of the countries mentioned, however, limit unvaccinated minors’ access to education, be it public or private… There are private cram schools in Germany teaching German to Korean immigrants and their children… but these places have been exempt from the tightened rules… There were some attempts, however, to introduce a vaccine mandate for students at public schools. But most failed amid strong backlash from the public.” Some states in Australia require only teachers and staff, but not students, to present their vaccine passes. It should be noted that “none of the countries mentioned have such a massive private education industry as seen in Korea.”
“The country added 3,376 new COVID-19 infections, including 3,140 local infections, raising the total caseload to 664,391, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA). The daily caseload fell from 3,510 the previous day and 3,716 on Friday. South Korea reported 51 more COVID-19 deaths, raising the death toll to 6,037… The fatality rate was 0.91 percent. The number of critically ill COVID-19 patients stood at 821, staying below 1,000 for six consecutive days… South Korea plans to bring in antiviral COVID-19 treatment pills this week, vowing to make sure they are used as swiftly as possible.”
General COVID Information for residents in Korea:
What’s Next for ASEAN-South Korea Security Ties? (4 min read)
“[The] highlight of [South Korea’s Defense Minister Suh Wook’s] visit [to Singapore and Thailand last month,] was the delivery of a lecture at a Singapore think tank, where he laid out South Korea’s defense vision for the region… While much of what Suh touched on was in line with what South Korea is already doing, it was not without significance… Suh’s positioning of Seoul as a country supporting multilateralism and AOIP [ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific] principles like inclusivity will be welcome in some regional circles where there is lingering nervousness about minilateral institutions such as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) and the Australia-U.K.-U.S. (AUKUS) security mechanism, either because they are seen as exacerbating U.S.-China rivalry or undermining ASEAN centrality in the regional architecture.”
South Korea’s middle power aid diplomacy (3 min read)
“Most studies of South Korean ODA [Official Development Assistance] suggest it serves the country’s national and strategic interests. While others argue that South Korea’s ODA should serve humanitarian values and goals, few deny the primacy of state interests, with many arguing that South Korea’s ODA can serve both state and humanitarian purposes without flouting global ODA norms. South Korea’s ODA is also heavily skewed towards Asia, and its priority partners include upper middle income countries — many of which need ODA less than least developed or lower middle income countries. A significant proportion — almost 40 per cent — of South Korean ODA went towards economic infrastructure and production in 2019, while humanitarian assistance was merely 2 per cent.”
“… South Korea has recently expanded its ODA disbursement and sought a more active role in bridging the interests of different ODA stakeholders… South Korea’s ODA volume averaged annual growth of 12 per cent — the highest among DAC [Development Assistance Committee] members that otherwise averaged 2 per cent… As long as its pursuit of state interests is not seen as one-sided and its ODA to some extent serves global public goods, ODA will remain a successful part of South Korea’s middle power strategy.”
Seoul says N.Korea did not test hypersonic missile (3 min read)
“The South Korean military on Friday said North Korea did not test a hypersonic missile, clarifying that the launched projectile was a Maneuverable Reentry Vehicle, or MaRV. North Korea’s state media on Thursday claimed the country had test-fired a ‘hypersonic missile’ the previous day… [The] South Korea’s Defense Ministry said that North Korean state media appeared to ‘exaggerate performance including travel range, lateral movement’ and maneuverability of the missile launched Wednesday… When asked about the intent behind North Korea’s claim of launching a hypersonic missile, another military official said the report appears to send a message targeting domestic audiences with various goals, including boosting confidence… [and to] enhance the accuracy [of the missile system].”
“[State] media, including the party organ Rodong Sinmun and Korean Central News Agency, reported in a Korean-language dispatch., ‘.. we have become unable to participate in the Olympics due to the hostile forces’ maneuvers and the worldwide pandemic situation… ‘But we would fully endorse and support the Chinese comrades in all their work to hold a magnificent and great Olympic festival.’” In the letter, Pyongyang said the, “anti-China conspiracy and machinations by the US and its following forces are becoming more vicious.”
In a separate article, N Korea said that the US and its allies' recent diplomatic boycott was “an insult to the spirit of the international Olympic Charter and as a base act of attempting to disgrace the international image of China.”
Innovators at South Korea's Ajou University have created a robotic hand that is capable of holding fragile objects like eggs. It can also crush cans and work with tools like tweezers and scissors… The device is made of steel and aluminum, and each finger is powered by three small motors in the palm… ‘The greatest strength of the developed robotic hand is that it is very easy to attach to existing commercial robot arms while having both strong grip and delicacy’... A lighter version of the device could be used as an advanced prosthetic, while this version could be integrated into robots that use AI to manipulate objects. The team is now planning an artificial skin for the hand so that it can replicate the softness of a human's touch.
“The Seoul Digital Foundation said an accumulated 16,067 people joined the metaverse festival marking the new year during its eight-day run from Dec. 25. The metaverse event included a midnight bell-ringing ceremony on New Year's Eve, to which some 3,000 people connected simultaneously, according to the foundation. The popular year-end bell-ringing celebration that used to be held at Bosingak Pavilion in central Seoul was canceled last year and switched to the metaverse due to the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic. Held via the metaverse platform ifland, operated by mobile carrier SKT, the event featured Seoul Plaza as the background and included a video clip showing a bell-striking ceremony at Bosingak, the foundation said.”
“Consumers are concerned that Starbucks will increase caffeinated beverage prices for the first time in eight years as the price of coffee beans reaches its highest level since 2012. If the production of raw material decreases due to the worsening climate crisis and blockages in logistics transportation continue, the price rise appears inevitable…. ‘Starbucks' coffee has been more expensive here than in New York since seven years ago. There is no country in the world that sells Americano at a higher price than Korea,’ a local customer said.”
“A Seoul court on Friday ruled against a same sex couple demanding the same spousal health insurance coverage as heterosexual couples, saying matrimony in South Korea is still considered a union between a man and a woman… The court also said it did not find the NHIS [National Health Insurance Service] in violation of the principle of equality under the Constitution, saying the union of a man and a woman and that of homosexuals ‘fundamentally cannot be seen as equal’... ‘We will appeal, and the world will change,’ [So Seong-wook, who filed the administrative lawsuit] said in a press conference after the ruling. ‘I believe a world in which people can live equally is coming soon,’ he added”
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