SEOUL, May 31 -- North Korea's special representative for U.S. affairs Kim Hyok Chol, who led his country's preparations for its February meeting with the United States, has been executed for his role in the summit's breakdown, a South Korean newspaper reported Friday.
Citing an unnamed North Korean source, The Chosun Ilbo said the former ambassador to Spain was executed along with four senior Foreign Ministry officials in March at Mirim Airport in the suburbs of Pyongyang. The source said the punishment came after an investigation was conducted.
The report, which is yet to be independently verified, also said Kim Jong Un's younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, has been laying low after accompanying her brother to the summit in Hanoi with U.S. President Donald Trump. Kim Hyok Chol, who was involved in the pre-summit talks while serving on North Korea's powerful State Affairs Commission, and the ministry officials were accused of being U.S. "spies" who betrayed Kim Jong Un, according to the report.
Kim Yong Chol, a close aide to Kim Jong Un who was seen to have led the country's diplomatic efforts with the United States and South Korea, was banished to a hard labor and re-education camp in Chagang Province. He was dismissed as director of the United Front Department of the ruling Workers' Party, the South Korean daily said. The Feb. 27-28 summit in the Vietnamese capital ended abruptly amid differences over the scope of denuclearization measures North Korea would commit to taking in exchange for sanctions relief. The talks remain in a stalemate.
SHANGHAI, May 16 -- North Korea has suffered its severest drought in 37 years, state-run media reported Wednesday, fanning fears about food shortage in the nation whose economy has been already sluggish amid international economic sanctions.
"According to a meteorologist, the average precipitation of the country from January to early May was 54.4 mm (millimeters), 42.3 percent of the average annual precipitation," the Korean Central News Agency said. "It is the lowest figure since 1982" when the average precipitation in North Korea was 51.2 mm, the news agency said, adding, "The agricultural sector is directing efforts to securing water to prevent drought damage." The United Nations has estimated that more than 10 million North Koreans, or about 40 percent of the population, are undernourished. The country has faced food shortages due partly to natural disasters including floods and a failing food distribution policy in the past.
North Korea's economy is also believed to be lackluster against a backdrop of economic sanctions aimed at preventing it from developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
SEOUL, May 4 -- North Korea on Saturday fired a barrage of short-range missiles in the direction of the Sea of Japan, the Yonhap news agency reported citing South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).
Pyongyang "fired multiple rounds of unidentified missiles from its east coast town of Wonsan in the northeastern direction between 9:06 a.m. and 9:27 a.m. today," the JCS said in a release. The missiles flew for a range of about 70 km to 100 km. The Japanese government said these were not ballistic missiles and they did not reach the country’s exclusive economic zone.
In April 2018, Pyongyang announced it was halting tests of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles of various range with the goal of developing the socialist economy and improving living conditions of its citizens. After that last May North Korea eliminated the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, where six underground explosions had been conducted. Between 2016 and 2017, North Korea carried out nearly 40 ballistic missile launches.
ROTTERDAM, April 18 -- South Korean giant says it respects intellectual property and is disappointed at certain media reports.
Samsung Electronics has been dragged into the row surrounding intellectual property theft from Dutch chipmaker ASML. Earlier this month ASML admitted it suffered intellectual property theft in 2015, but it rejected a media report at the time that it had been struck by Chinese spies.
Court documents in the US reportedly showed six former ASML employees, all with Chinese names, had breached their employment contract by sharing information on ASML software processes with a company called Xtal Inc.
ASML is one of the world’s largest makers of microchip manufacturing equipment, and it said at the time that no “valuable” files had been accessed. But ASML latter admitted it had been robbed “by a handful of our own employees based in Silicon Valley, who had broken the law to enrich themselves.”
ASML said staff at a company (Xtal) were found by a US jury to have misappropriated ASML’s confidential and proprietary information and trade secrets in 2015. Xtal filed for bankruptcy in December after losing the $223m (£171 million) judgement to ASML over the matter. But now Samsung has been dragged into the row, after ASML CEO Peter Wennink, who had initially denied some Dutch media reports that the Chinese government had been behind the theft, then went to state that funding for Xtal had come in part from China and in part from Korea, Reuters reported. Wennink reiterated the alleged Korean connection in a TV interview with Dutch broadcaster NOS on Tuesday this week. “What we have found evidence for is that the (secrets) were stolen by people of American and Chinese nationality with Chinese background,” he allegedly told NOS. “Those products were used to provide services to our largest Korean customer.”
That last part has made Samsung very unhappy indeed, as Samsung is ASML’s largest South Korean customer and its largest customer overall. Samsung told Reuters in an emailed response that it was not involved in the industrial espionage. “Samsung makes it a top priority to protect and respect the intellectual property rights of others … No products that have resulted from our partnership with Xtal interfere with ASML’s intellectual property,” Samsung reportedly said. “We are deeply disappointed at media reports that had widely assumed or even suggested Samsung’s involvement in any wrongdoing against ASML, which are not true,” Samsung added. “While we cannot disclose details of our business deals, Samsung had made precautions so as to adhere to all laws and regulations with its development contract with Xtal, including a clause that specifically prohibits the illegal use of third-party IP,” Samsung reportedly said.
SEOUL, April 18 -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has attended the test launch of a new tactical guided weapon, the country’s KCNA news agency reported on Thursday.
"Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers' Party of Korea, chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and supreme commander of the Armed Forces of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, supervised and guided a test-fire of a new-type tactical guided weapon conducted by the Academy of Defence Science on Wednesday," the agency reported.
"The design indexes of the tactical guided weapon whose advantages are appreciated for the peculiar mode of guiding flight and the load of a powerful warhead were perfectly verified at the test-fire conducted in various modes of firing at different targets," the report reads.The report does not reveal the exact type of the weapon. Reuters suggested that the term "tactical" implies a short-range weapon, as opposed to long-range ballistic missiles which the US and its allies see as a potential threat.
According to the agency, it was the first weapons test officially announced by Pyongyang since the failed February 28 US-North Korean summit in Hanoi, Vietnam. When contacted by a TASS correspondent, a White House spokesperson said the US administration was not commenting on the report at present.
SEOUL, March 21 -- South Korean police have arrested two men for using illegal spy cameras at motels to film and livestream videos of about 1,600 guests, raking in roughly 7 million won ($6,200) over the past three months, police said on Wednesday.
Illicit filming has surged with growing use of mobile devices and South Korea’s pop music industry is reeling from a scandal over singer and television celebrity Jung Joon-young, accused of having shared videos he took secretly during sex. Police said the men, and two others, posed as customers to secretly install the cameras, obtained online from overseas, in 42 rooms at 30 places around the country since last August.
The footage from the cameras, hidden in television boxes, sockets and hair dryer holders, was broadcast live on a website, police added. “It was the first case we caught where videos were broadcast live online,” they said in a statement. More than 6,600 cases of illicit filming were reported to police last year, or about a fifth of all sexual abuse cases investigated, up from 3.6 percent in 2008, prosecutors have said. Last year, tens of thousands of women took to the streets of Seoul, the capital, to protest against the practice and other sexual violence, and demanded stricter punishment.
The law was amended last November to toughen penalties not only for illegal filming but also distributing images without consent, which could bring jail terms of up to five years or fines of up to 30 million won. The K-pop scandal also involved Lee Seung-hyun, a member of boy band BIGBANG who is better known by his stage name, Seungri. The 28-year-old is suspected of paying for prostitutes for foreign businessmen to drum up investment in his business.
SEOUL, March 12 -- Eastar Jet, one of Korea’s budget carriers, will voluntarily suspend operation of its two Boeing 737 Max 8s due to rising safety concerns, the company said Tuesday.
The low-cost carrier (LCC) said the planes will be grounded from Wednesday and said every effort will be made to minimize customer inconvenience. The company is the only airline in the country that operates the jet made by U.S. aerospace giant Boeing. It plans to add four additional B737 Max 8s to its fleet this year. The decision comes as the same plane operated by Ethiopian Airlines crashed on Sunday, with another that flew with Indonesia’s Lion Air having crashed a few months ago in October 2018. On Monday, the transport ministry sent a team of officials to Eastar Jet to conduct an emergency safety checkup on the pair of B737 Max 8s, but it didn’t issue a suspension order for the planes. The plane is more fuel efficient compared to other planes in the B737 family of planes. Local airlines such as Korean Air Lines, Jeju Air and T’way Air have also signed contracts to add the B737 Max 8 to their fleets in the coming years.
SHANGHAI, January 3 -- China's domestic mobile phone brands topped 2018 sales lists, while the country's market recorded an overall sluggish year, data from Sino Market Research has shown.
The data also showed that Honor, a smartphone brand owned by Huawei, overtook Apple's shipments to claim fourth spot with a 13 percent increase. Oppo registered a total shipment of 76.37 million units, beating all other brands, although this was a 6 percent year-on-year drop for the company. Oppo was followed by Vivo, Huawei, Honor and Apple in terms of aggregate sales.
Over the past year, China's domestic mobile phone shipments reached 414 million units, dropping 15.6 percent year-on-year, said the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, a government think tank, in a report earlier this month. It further said that 4G mobile phones accounted for 94.5 percent of the shipments, with total sales of 391 million units, a 15.3 percent drop. Bucking the trend were Huawei, Honor, Vivo and Xiaomi, which all saw shipment growth in 2018, while the figures for Apple, Meizu and Samsung all dropped – 5 percent, 46 percent and 32 percent, respectively, Sino Market Research reported.
The top-five mobile phone brands by sales value were Apple, Huawei, Oppo, Vivo and Honor, a separate list from the researching firm showed.
SEOUL, January 25 -- South Korea will steer away from medal-driven elite sports and pursue healthy sports values in the wake of a series of allegations of sexual abuse in the country's competitive and hierarchical sports.
"We will not associate sporting success with national pride," Do said at a briefing in Seoul, announcing measures to prevent physical abuse and sexual assault in sports. The ministry will launch a nationwide investigation with the state human rights commission and the gender ministry to uncover sexual assault and human rights abuse in sports. It will meet some 63,000 young athletes across the country during a year-long probe on the country's closed and competitive sports community. The South Korean sports community has been hit by sexual assault and harassment revelations by female athletes against coaches and powerful figures in sports. "The government will also review the current system that rewards athletes who won at Olympic Games or world championships to see whether it instigates too much competition for international sporting success," he said. South Korea offers prize money to athletes who win gold medals at international games and exempts male winners from the country's mandatory military service. "We can't push athletes to extreme competition under the goal of advancing national pride and let human rights violations happen in the course. We will work to change the way we view sports," said Do.
The government will consider closing the junior national sports competition, which they say encourages fierce competition at a young age. "The way young athletes train at a young age and develop their skills has exposed them to violence in the competitive training environment. We will review the current system thoroughly," said Education Minister Yoo Eun-hye, at the briefing. The government will also seek to revise the sports law within the first half of this year to strengthen punishment for sexual assault offenders, as well as those who attempt to conceal sexual abuse. It will also conduct a probe on the faculty of the Korea National Sport University, the nation's prestigious school in sport, which has been mired in allegations of sexual abuse and assault involving coaches and athletes from the school.