TOKYO, November 13 -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence reaffirmed on Tuesday their countries' cooperation in resolving North Korea's nuclear and missile development programs, and its abductions of Japanese citizens decades ago.
At a meeting held at the prime minister's office in Tokyo, Abe and Pence also confirmed close bilateral collaboration in order to realize constructive dialogue with China. They agreed to expand trade and investment in a way to benefit both Japan and the United States through bilateral trade pact talks seen starting in January 2019. The two sides reaffirmed the need to fully implement U.N. Security Council sanctions resolutions against North Korea toward realizing the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, Abe told a joint press conference after the meeting.
Abe also underscored that he and Pence agreed on close Japan-U.S. cooperation for the early resolution of the abduction issue, which is of the most importance for Japan.
SEOUL, November 13 -- South Korea will ban alcohol advertisements from showing models stage drinking or making a sound effect that could trigger alcohol consumption among viewers as part of measures to discourage drinking and prevent alcohol-related crimes.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare announced Tuesday restrictions on alcohol advertising and kicked off a nationwide campaign to encourage people to drink less. Such measures come amid calls to strengthen punishment for drunken driving after a 22-year-old college student, who was hit by a drunk driver in September, died last week.
Yoon Chang-ho, who was serving in the Korean Augmentation Troops to the United States Army, had suffered severe brain damage after the devastating car accident. While he was in a hospital, his friends campaigned for a legislation for stronger punishment for drunken driving.
The government said it will ban alcohol advertisements on various media platforms, including digital multimedia broadcasting and Internet protocol television, in addition to television channels, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
It will also offer a standard glass for soju and beer that will set maximum alcohol consumption at 7 grams per glass. It also set the standard for heavy drinking at 7 glasses a day and 14 glasses a week.
The country was ranked the ninth-heaviest drinking nation among developed countries, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. South Koreans over the age of 15 drink 11 liters of alcohol a year on average, according to the World Health Organization.
Drunken driving deaths account for 10 percent of the total car accident deaths, according to a 2018 figure by the Road Traffic Authority agency. The state statistics office said more than 4,800 people died of alcohol-related diseases in 2017, Yonhap News reported.
SEOUL, January 10 -- At least three people died and almost one hundred were injured as a big fire broke out on Saturday morning at an apartment building in the South Korean city of Uijeongbu, north of Seoul, local media reported.
According to Yonhap news agency, eight of the 97 injured were in critical condition. Rescue crews were now evacuating people through the roof, the agency said.
The fire is reported to have erupted from a car parked on the ground floor of the building, blocking off the front entrance and preventing residents from evacuating. The police are searching for the cause of the fire, while fire crews are battling to bring the blaze under control and rescue the remaining residents.
SEOUL, November 9 -- North Korea unexpectedly released two American prisoners, Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller, following a Saturday conclusion of closed-door negotiations led by U.S. director of intelligence James R. Clapper.
The surprise development, which follows the release of fellow American citizen Jeffrey Fowle earlier this month, now brings the count of detained U.S. citizens in North Korea to zero.
“We can confirm that U.S. citizens Kenneth Bae and Matthew Todd Miller have been allowed to depart the DPRK and are on their way home, accompanied by DNI Clapper, to re-join their families,” a rare statement published by the office of the Director of National Intelligence said on Saturday.
“We welcome the DPRK’s decision to release both Mr. Bae and Mr. Miller. We want to thank our international partners, especially our Protecting Power, the Government of Sweden, for their tireless efforts to help secure their release,” the statement continued, adding that Washington was “facilitating their return to the United States”.
The State Department subsequently told CNN that Clapper, who visited Pyongyang as an envoy of President Barack Obama, did not make a ”quid pro quo” offer for the men’s release.
The development comes as a major surprise to North Korea watchers, something for which the rationale may not be revealed soon, one observer suggested.
“The United States will probably not admit to talking with North Korea, especially under these circumstances,” said North Korea watcher Christopher Green, also international editor at the Seoul-based Daily NK.
“We’ll likely never be told the content of the dialogue that goes on in Pyongyang, either, unless North Korea reveals it in a fit of pique at a later date. But at the end of the day James Clapper is a very serious man, and his presence cannot be overlooked,” added Green.
Bae was arrested on November 3 2012 in the northeastern city of Rajin, and found to possess a computer hard drive containing pictures of starving North Korean children and a copy of the 2007 National Geographic documentary “Don’t tell my mother I’m in North Korea.”
Sentenced to 15 years hard labor in May 2013, Bae was sentenced on four counts:
- Plotting the overthrow of the North Korean government with a plan called “Operation Jericho.”
- Admitting setting up bases in China to overthrow the government.
- Inciting North Korean to overthrow their government.
- Conducting a smear campaign against the DPRK.
North Korea’s Supreme Court sentenced American detainee Matthew Miller to six years of hard labor in October 2014, for allegedly destroying his tourist visa and announcing his intention to seek asylum.
In reports released after his trial, KCNA said that Miller “committed acts hostile to the DPRK while entering the territory of the DPRK under the guise of a tourist in last April”.
“Prison life is eight hours of work per day. Mostly it’s been agriculture, like in the dirt, digging around. Other than that, it’s isolation, no contact with anyone,” Miller said in an interview with AP following his sentencing.
“But I’ve been in good health and no sickness or no hurts (sic),” Miller added.
SEOUL. October 4 -- Asian countries are not contributing enough to the global effort to fight Ebola, despite having a wealth of trained medical personnel who could help stop the spread of the deadly virus, World Bank Group president, Jim Yong Kim, said.
Addressing a news conference in South Korea's capital Seoul on Tuesday, Kim called on leaders across Asia to send trained health professionals to the three West African countries hardest hit by the epidemic.
"Many countries in Asia who could help simply are not [helping], especially when it comes to sending health workers," Kim told the news conference.
Thousands of healthcare workers are needed to help combat the deadliest outbreak of Ebola since records began in 1976. The virus has killed nearly 5,000 people, mainly in the West African countries of Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.
South Korea has pledged to contribute $5.6m to combat the virus, and both Japan and China have sent equipment or medical staff to the Ebola-stricken countries in West Africa. China has so far donated $123m to 13 African countries and international organisations to combat Ebola, according to the government. It has also sent hundreds of health workers. But the overall response from Asia has lagged contributions from the United States, which has sent thousands of troops and has pledged $1bn.
"We need thousands of health workers, and we're going to need them over the next six months to a year. The fight against Ebola is not over until we get to zero cases in those three countries," Kim said.
PYONGYANG, October 25 -- The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea “has repeatedly warned the South Korean authorities that such actions can lead to resolute counter-measures,” the newspaper said
Planned launches of balloons by South Korean activists to send provocative leaflets to North Korea “may trigger large-scale military activities,” North Korea’s state-run Minju Choson newspaper writes on Saturday.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea “has repeatedly warned the South Korean authorities that such actions can lead to resolute counter-measures,” the newspaper said. This position “affects inter-Korean relations extremely negatively,” it said.
Earlier reports said activists from a South Korean conservative organization, having North Korean defectors in its ranks, plan to launch balloons carrying up to 50,000 leaflets from Imjinkak area close to the border with the North.
A representative from the South Korea’s Korean National Police Agency said in this connection that “the government has no legal foundations to block launches of leaflets by private organizations”.
SEOUL, October 19 -- South Korea and North Korea exchanged fire at the border, the Republic of Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff reported on Sunday.
Another border incident occurred at about 17:40 local time (9:40 Netherlands time) as near the city of Paju in the western sector of the demilitarisation zone, dividing the two countries, several warning shots were made from the South Korean side as North Korean soldiers were approaching the demarcation line in the middle of the demilitarisation zone. Before the shots, the military of South Korea voiced several warnings through loudspeakers.
North Korea, in its turn, fired back. Traces from North Korean shooting were found at the South Korean border station. In response, the South Korean military fired back. No victims were reported in South Korea.
Technically, Seoul and Pyongyang are in the state of military confrontation, as the Korean War of 1950-1953 finished by signing of only a truce agreement, and the countries do not have a peace treaty.
Exchanges of fire between the North and the South were registered several times last week at the sea and land borders.
SEOUL, October 18 -- A South Korean official has reportedly taken his own life, a day after 16 people were killed in an accident at an outdoor concert he helped organise and secure.
The body of the 37-year-old man, surnamed Oh, was found near a 10-storey building in in Seongnam on Saturday, a day after the accident at a concert in the city by the all-girl band 4Minute.
It was believed that Oh leapt from the building, police inspector Park Jeongju said. Oh worked for one of the concert's sponsors and handled safety measures, officials said, and had been questioned by police on Friday night over the accident. .
"I am sorry for the dead victims... please take a good care of my children," he wrote in a short message to his wife, officials said.
Those killed at the concert were standing on a ventilation grating when the structure collapsed, sending them plunging 18.7m into an underground parking area. Amateur video footage obtained by the YTN news channel showed spectators surrounding the collapsed grate as 4Minute, apparently oblivious to the accident, continued performing on stage.
City spokesman Kim Namjun said there was a possibility that the death toll could rise. Of the 11 people treated at hospitals, eight had life-threatening injuries. Witnesses said the concert's 400 seats were full before it began and there were no guards or safety fences to prevent overspill.
"The show host repeatedly told the spectators to come off the grate but no one paid heed," one witness told the paper.
South Korea is still struggling with the effects of a ferry disaster in April which killed hundreds and prompted government promises of a national review of safety standards. In February, the roof caved in on a student-packed auditorium near the southern city of Gyeongju, killing 10 people and injuring more than 100. An investigation uncovered evidence of structural flaws and poor management controls.
PYONGYANG, October 18 -- The United States and its allies deliberately distort the human rights situation in North Korea "to tarnish its reputation in the international arena," a representative of the National Association for the Study of Human Rights said in a statement released on Saturday via the KCNA news agency.
Western countries criticise the report, which was presented recently to the United Nations Organisation as an official document and which received international recognition, to "focus on activities of the committee they created to investigate into human rights violations in the North," the report reads. Pyongyang believes that this committee makes decisions based on data provided by defectors from North Korea, "who have committed serious crimes in their home country."
In Association stressed that North Korea "is taking efforts to strengthen international cooperation in the human rights area." However, the United States and its allies, "seek to politicize the issue of human rights and undermine the social system of the DPRK under the pretext of their violation."
The Association’s representative said the DPRK would disrupt attempts from "hostile forces" to cause damage to the country "by means of their inflated campaign in human rights, and will undertake all necessary measures to protect the socialist system of the Korean style.
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