South Korean women hope for change to abortion laws

Incheon (South Korea)

(AFP) – More than a quarter of a century after the first of her three abortions — illegal in South Korea — Lim is still haunted by her sense of shame.

She was 24 and had a boyfriend, but neither was ready to wed. And it was 1993, when sex before marriage was still very much a taboo in the conservative country.

Keeping the baby would have meant living with stigma, even if the couple married after the birth, so she chose an illegal abortion — also a taboo.

The country’s constitutional court is due to rule Thursday on the legality of the ban, which campaigners say is unfairly applied and targets mostly young, unwed women.

“I still remember the disgusted look on the doctor’s face -– he kept on clicking his tongue and shook his head,” Lim told AFP.

“When I told him it hurt when he inserted a medication, he said it shouldn’t hurt me because I was a woman who had already ‘done everything’. It was humiliating.”

Fast forward 26 years, and South Korea remains one of the few developed economies that still bans abortions except in cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s health is in danger.

Women who undergo the procedure can be jailed for a year and fined, while doctors who carry out terminations can be given two years in prison.

The law is widely flouted and rarely results in prosecutions, but campaigners say it leaves young women facing being unable to pay for terminations, unsafe procedures, and social isolation.

When Lim had her second and third abortions — as a married woman with two children — she says her experience was dramatically different, with pleasant medical staff and her mother even accompanying her to the clinic.

“All I had to say was that my husband and I already had two kids,” she said. “The doctor was suddenly very caring –- he said to me: ‘Of course, we totally understand’.”

Statistics show that as recently as 2011, most South Korean women who had abortions were married, but rights groups say the majority of those charged for undergoing the procedure have been unmarried, including teenagers.

They also say many women whose relationships are breaking up fear their husbands or partners could report their past terminations to authorities.

In 2017, a high school student told a rally in Seoul she had been forced to end her education after having an abortion.

“My teacher told me if I don’t leave school, he’d report me to the legal authorities,” she said. “He said I’d committed a sin because I fell pregnant as a student.”

South Korea comes near the bottom of many OECD gender equality tables and Ryu Min-hee, the lead counsel on the constitutional court case, said that as long as women cannot make their own choices about pregnancy and parenthood, the country “won’t be able to establish an equal society in its true sense”.

– Secrets and stigma –

The day she had her abortion in 1993, Lim — who asked for her forename not to be used to protect her anonymity — stayed in a cheap motel room by herself.

She rested there as long as she could and then headed home to her parents, acting as if nothing had ever happened.

To this day, aside from her husband, no-one in Lim’s life knows about it.

“I didn’t dare to share it with anyone,” she said. “My parents would have been very ashamed of me.

“This was an era where people would count the (pregnancy) months when a baby was born to figure out whether the baby was conceived before or after the wedding –- and call the mother promiscuous if the child was born too fast.”

Religious belief is widespread in South Korea, and some of its evangelical mega-churches are among those leading the charge against overturning the ban.

“There is nothing in the world that comes before the life of a human being,” a group of mostly Catholic professors said in a statement last year.

But Lim says her own experience demonstrates how South Korea’s pro-lifers have been selective about which lives matter.

“If the goal of this abortion law is really to protect all lives, then I should have been shamed for undergoing my second and third abortions, as well as my first,” she said.

“I just hope no one has to go through what I had to go through in that motel room.”

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Thousands flee wildfire in South Korea’s eastern coast, one dead – Yonhap

SEOUL (Reuters) – A wilfire in South Korea killed one person and forced more than 4,000 people to flee their homes, Yonhap news agency reported on Friday.

The fire broke out in eastern Gangwon Province on Thursday evening and spread to the seaside holiday city of Sokcho, burning about 385 hectares (950 acres) of land and 310 homes, warehouses and other buildings, Yonhap reported citing the government.

About 4,230 citizens had been evacuated to gymnasiums and schools, and 52 schools would be closed on Friday.

President Moon Jae-in has ordered the use of all available resources to extinguish the forest fire, the Ministry of the Interior and Safety said in a statement.

The government has deployed about 45 helicopters, 77 firefighting vehicles and 13,000 personnel from around the country to contain the fire, Yonhap said.

Reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing by Stephen Coates

A month after Hanoi summit, Vietnam starts deporting North Korean refugees – The Washington Post

SEOUL — Just a month after hosting a summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Vietnam has deported three North Korean refugees, sending them home via China to an uncertain future in their homeland.

The deportations mark a worrying new development for fleeing North Koreans, who previously had been safe if they managed to evade capture in China and reach a third country.

The deportations could also be an indication of North Korea’s growing diplomatic clout and lessening isolation since Kim stepped onto the global stage over the past year.

“I am worried that Kim Jong Un’s diplomatic engagement with Vietnam could have influenced them to deport North Korean refugees,” said Sokeel Park, South Korea director for a group called Liberty in North Korea, which helps North Korean refugees cross borders and adjust to life in the South.

But refugee groups also blamed South Korea’s government, amid reports it failed to respond promptly to a request to help the refugees after they were arrested in Vietnam. North Korean refugees in South Korea accuse the Seoul government of putting ties with Pyongyang ahead of human rights issues.

Aid workers told South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper that the South Korean Foreign Ministry failed to respond to a request to assist the refugees, a claim the ministry denied.

Three North Koreans who fled their country via China were arrested in the Vietnamese town of Ha Tinh on Monday, according to Chosun Ilbo. Aid workers who were assisting the refugees reached out to the South Korean Embassy in Vietnam and were told to contact Seoul’s Foreign Ministry directly.

The ministry repeatedly told them to wait, but no assistance was provided before the refugees were sent to China on Wednesday, the aid workers told Chosun Ilbo. China views North Korean defectors as illegal economic migrants and repatriates them to their home country, where they face severe punishment.

The Foreign Ministry in Seoul denied the report, saying in a statement that the ministry “immediately got in contact with the local authorities and took a stand against forcible repatriation to North Korea.” The ministry declined to comment on the safety and whereabouts of the refugees.

Han Jin-myung, a North Korean diplomat who served in Vietnam before defecting to South Korea in 2015, said the government in Seoul should have acted more quickly.

“Vietnam is in a tricky position, politically close to North Korea, and economically close to South Korea. Only the Seoul government can take the initiative to rescue those refugees,” he said. “Vietnam couldn’t have deported them if South Koreans promptly stepped in. It is irresponsible for the Seoul government to have let this happen.”

Vietnam has been one of Southeast Asian countries that provide safe haven for North Korean escapees, helping them reach South Korea.

“Once North Korean refugees make it through China, then they are normally safe,” said Park of Liberty in North Korea. “The fact that they were repatriated from Vietnam, after all that, is really concerning. . . . We don’t want this to set a precedent.”

The number of North Koreans coming annually to the South has dropped by half since Kim Jong Un came to power in 2011. South Korean lawmakers attribute the decline number to tighter border controls and China’s repatriation of refugees to North Korea.

via A month after Hanoi summit, Vietnam starts deporting North Korean refugees – The Washington Post

And the worst part… The girth of the supreme leader continues to widen. Go on, eat more cheese fatboy. -Ed

S. Korea to launch world’s first national 5G networks | AFP

South Korea launches the world’s first fully-loaded 5G mobile networks Friday, a transformational leap that already has superpowers sparring for control of an innovation that could potentially change the day-to-day lives of billions of people.

The super fast communications heralded by fifth-generation wireless technology will ultimately underpin everything from toasters to telephones; from electric cars to power grids.

But while the South has won the race to be first to provide the user experience, that is only one part of a wider battle that has pit the United States against China and ensnared giants including Huawei.

Hyper-wired South Korea has long had a reputation for technical prowess, and Seoul has made the 5G rollout a priority as it seeks to stimulate stuttering economic growth.

The system will bring smartphones near-instantaneous connectivity — 20 times faster than the existing 4G — allowing users to download entire movies in less than a second.

In the same way that 3G enabled widespread mobile web access and 4G made new applications work ranging from social media to Uber, 5G will herald a new level of connectivity, empowered by speed.

It is crucial for the future development of devices ranging from self-driving vehicles that send data traffic to one another in real time, industrial robots, drones and other elements of the Internet of Things.

That makes it a vital part of the infrastructure of tomorrow, and the 5G standard is expected to bring about $565 billion (S$764 billion) in global economic benefits by 2034, according to the London-based Global System for Mobile Communications, an industry alliance.

‘ONE MILLION DEVICES’ 

But the implications have pitted Washington against Beijing in an increasingly bitter standoff.

The US has pressed its allies and major economies to avoid 5G solutions from Chinese-owned telecom giant Huawei, citing security risks that technological back doors could give Beijing access to 5G-connected utilities and other components.

But Chinese firms dominate 5G technology.

Huawei, the global leader, has registered 1,529 5G patents, according to data analysis firm IPlytics.

Combined with manufacturers ZTE and Oppo, plus the China Academy of Telecommunications Technology, Chinese entities own a total of 3,400 patents, it says — more than a third of the total.

South Korea comes next, with its companies holding 2,051 patents.

In contrast, US firms have 1,368 altogether, IPlytics said — 29 fewer than Finland’s Nokia alone.

All three of South Korea’s mobile networks — KT, SK Telecom and LG UPlus go live with their 5G services.

“5G’s hyper speed can connect one million devices within a one square kilometre zone simultaneously,” KT said in a report.

On the same day, Samsung Electronics will release the Galaxy S10 5G, the world’s first available smartphone using the tech, with rival LG following with the V50s two weeks later.

COST BARRIER

More than three million South Koreans will switch to 5G by the end of this year, predicted KT vice-president Lee Pil-jae.

Until now, no mobile networks have offered nationwide 5G access. In the US, hotspots in a few selected cities have offered 5G speeds but over wifi only, while Qatari firm Ooredoo says it offers 5G services in and around Doha, but does not have devices available to use them.

US network carrier Verizon will launch fifth-generation services for mobile users in Chicago and Minneapolis next week, with more than 30 cities due to follow this year.

Japan is also expected to roll out a limited deployment in 2019 before full services start in time for next year’s Tokyo Olympics.

But cost is likely to be a barrier for user uptake initially, analysts say: the cheapest version of the new Galaxy handset will be 1.39 million won (S$1,623).

“While there are many cheap 4G smartphones under $300, Samsung’s 5G phones are well over $1,000, which could be a major minus point for cost-savvy consumers,” a KT representative told AFP.

None of South Korea’s three network operators would say how much they have invested in 5G — but Seoul’s economy minister Hong Nam-ki put it at at least $2.6 billion this year alone.

“If 5G is fully implemented,” he said, “it will greatly improve people’s lives”.

 

South Korean Leader to Meet With Trump, Hoping to Salvage His Role as Mediator – The New York Times

SEOUL, South Korea — President Moon Jae-in of South Korea will meet with President Trump in Washington on April 11, his office announced on Friday, as Mr. Moon struggles to salvage his role as a mediator between Mr. Trump and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un.

Mr. Moon has devoted his government’s diplomatic efforts to facilitating a deal between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim on dismantling North Korea’s nuclear arms program and building lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula. But those efforts hit a wall when Mr. Kim and Mr. Trump ended their summit meeting in Vietnam last month without a deal, confirming how far apart they were on the terms of denuclearization.

Mr. Moon has since vowed to continue to work as a mediator, with his office saying that Mr. Trump had asked for that. But Washington wants Mr. Moon to focus on persuading Mr. Kim to denuclearize before expecting the United States to lift sanctions. The North, conversely, wants Mr. Moon to help ease sanctions first.

“The two heads of state will hold deep consultations with the aim of further strengthening the South Korea-United States alliance and building a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula through complete denuclearization,” Mr. Moon’s office said in a statement announcing the April meeting.

Since the breakdown of the talks in Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital, many analysts, including Mr. Moon’s conservative critics at home, have voiced concern over the future of the U.S.-South Korean alliance. Mr. Moon has alarmed conservatives by declaring that he would push for joint North-South Korean economic projects, even though the United States insists that this is not the time to ease economic pressure on the North.

A day after the Hanoi summit collapsed, Mr. Moon said he would discuss with Washington the possibility of reopening of a joint inter-Korean factory park in the North Korean city of Kaesong, as well as resuming South Korean tours of Diamond Mountain, a resort area in the North. He later told his government to look for ways to help advance the dialogue between Washington and the North “through improving South-North Korean relations.”

Go read the full article via South Korean Leader to Meet With Trump, Hoping to Salvage His Role as Mediator – The New York Times

South Korea’s factory output contracts sharply to two-year low on slowing car production

South Korea’s February industrial production contracted sharply to a two-year low and missed forecasts by a large margin, government data showed on Friday.

Industrial production dropped 2.6 percent from a month earlier, marking the biggest on-month fall since February 2017 and coming out much worse than a 0.9 percent decline tipped in a Reuters survey.

Production of cars declined 3.2 percent from a month earlier, while that for transportation equipments and food items fell 8.0 percent and 4.8 percent, respectively.

On a year-on-year basis, factory output dropped 2.7 percent last month.

(Reporting by Cynthia Kim; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

‘Racist’ German advertisement infuriates women in South Korea – The Straits Times

SEOUL (AFP) – A German advertisement showing an Asian woman getting aroused after smelling dirty laundry worn by white men has fuelled anger in Seoul, with many women calling it racist and demanding an apology.

The commercial, produced by German DIY-store chain Hornbach, shows white men working outside in a garden before removing their sweaty clothing and dumping it in a box.

The ad then cuts to a grey, industrial city that resembles Tokyo, where an Asian woman buys a bag of dirty clothes – previously worn by the men – opens it and moans with pleasure, as the commercial ends with a slogan saying: “That’s how the spring smells”.

An online petition asking for a public apology from the German firm and the removal of the ad had secured almost 1,000 signatures by Thursday (March 28) afternoon.

Angry users on social media accused the company of promoting stereotypes against Asian women.

“How many more Asian female voices will you need to take us seriously and be aware of your thoughtless deeds and apologise?” a South Korean woman tweeted to Hornbach, which uploaded the ad on March 15.

The German firm has defended the commercial, tweeting that it was not “racist” and showed the “decreasing quality of life in cities”.

The firm also said that the industrial town featuring the Asian woman was meant to be a “fictional city”, not one based in Asia.

But its critics were unimpressed, with another South Korean woman tweeting: “No matter what you say, the ad was inappropriate”.

“Asian women in Western society have gone through numerous sexual assaults based on racial slurs.”

via ‘Racist’ German advertisement infuriates women in South Korea, East Asia News & Top Stories – The Straits Times

Germany, you guys have problems, first its article 13 then its this steaming pile of shit – Ed

South Korean officials to press for Iran sanctions waiver in United States

South Korean government officials are expected to press for extending a sanctions waiver on Iran’s petroleum exports that expires in May on a visit to Washington this week.

South Korea’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Economic Affairs Yoon Kang-hyun and other leaders will meet with U.S. State Department officials on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss the waiver issued in November to keep buying Iranian oil in exchange for having reduced such purchases, the Seoul government said in a news release on Monday.

The Trump administration has unilaterally reimposed sanctions on Iran’s oil exports, the lifeblood of its economy, as it seeks to curb Tehran’s nuclear and missile ambitions and its influence Syria and other countries in the Middle East.

Washington issued sanctions waivers for eight economies in November, including for South Korea, Iran’s fourth largest oil customer in Asia. But the administration has said it wants the exports to go to zero as quickly as possible.

The U.S. goal is to reduce the number of sanctions waivers and to cut Iran’s oil exports about 20 percent, to below 1 million barrels of oil per day from May, sources said this month.

The South Korean officials will meet with the State Department’s top energy diplomat Francis Fannon on Thursday. On Wednesday they will meet with Brian Hook, the U.S. special representative for Iran, and David Peyman, the deputy assistant secretary of state for counter threat finance and sanctions.

A State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed the meeting with Peyman. Officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the other meetings.

Peyman met with South Korean officials in Asia earlier this month. He offered “to continue to closely consult on the extension of sanctions exemption and Korean companies’ technical issues regarding trade with Iran,” a statement from Seoul’s foreign ministry said at the time.

South Korea is a large buyer of a light oil called condensates from Iran and has told a former U.S. official that there are few options for getting the same quality of condensate from other suppliers.

South Korea’s oil imports from Iran fell 12.5 percent year-on-year in February, customs data showed this month.

Yonhap news agency quoted a South Korean official as saying that Seoul has had discussions since November with Washington on gaining an extended exception and that ending the purchases of condensates would affect its economy. “No extension means no imports of Iranian condensate,” an official told Yonhap.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Tom Brown and Grant McCool)

Singaporeans spend more time playing video games than South Koreans, Japanese: Survey, Singapore News – AsiaOne

Local gamers spent more time playing video games than their East Asian neighbours, a survey by US-based edge cloud services provider Limelight Networks has shown.

Singaporean gamers spent 7.44 hours on average each week playing video games, compared with South Koreans (6.69 hours) and the Japanese (6.88 hours).

The Germans spent the most time playing such games, spending an average of almost eight hours a week. They were followed closely by United States gamers (7.61 hours) and then by Singaporean gamers.

The survey was based on responses from 4,500 consumers – aged 18 and above who played video games at least once a week – in nine countries including Singapore, Germany, Japan, South Korea and the US.

Conducted between January and February this year, the survey polled respondents on a variety of topics, from the types of games they played to the devices they used.

Local gamers had the longest average video-gaming duration in the world. They spent an average of 1.56 hours playing video games consecutively, edging out their counterparts in the US (1.54 hours) and South Korea (1.49 hours).

Video producer Seow Yang Wei, 39, is a Singaporean gamer who plays up to eight hours straight sometimes. This happens especially when it is a new role-playing game, like the recently released Devil May Cry 5, he said.

Such games usually let a gamer play a character with quests to finish. Often, these have an immersive storyline.

“Role-playing games are like good Korean dramas. When I start playing, I just can’t wait to find out the twists and the endings to the plot.

“So I will just keep on playing,” said Mr Seow, who owns a Nintendo Switch and a PlayStation 4 Pro gaming console.

Mr Seow reckoned that he spends around 20 hours a week on average playing video games. “I usually play during weekends. But if I am not so busy, I will play on weekday nights too,” he said.

Public relations intern Cassandra Choi, 23, plays games for at least an hour a day on her Apple iPhone 7.

The mobile games she plays range from the SuperStar BTS music rhythm game to the Drive and Park car-parking simulation game.

“I find these games addictive, as there is this sense of achievement when I unlock the next stage,” said Ms Choi.

Plus, her curiosity to see what happens on the next stage drives her on, she added.

Mobile phones remained the most popular device for gaming in the world, according to the survey.

Singaporean and Japanese gamers tied for second place among those using mobile phones most of the time to play games. South Korean gamers led the pack in this area.

“It is much more convenient to play games on mobile phones, as I can play while commuting, waiting for the bus or whenever there are pockets of time,” said Ms Choi.

via Singaporeans spend more time playing video games than South Koreans, Japanese: Survey, Singapore News – AsiaOne

Pork for pollution? South Koreans fight smog with grease | Reuters

SEOUL (Reuters) – Whenever dust particles hang thick in the air in South Korea, sales of pork rise.

This quirky correlation in Asia’s fourth-largest economy, where air pollution outstrips industrialized peers, stems from an old belief attributed to coal miners, that the slippery pork oil helped cleanse dirt from their throats.

photo-1470297045518-35eb4bf6c00e
Photo by Natalie Ng on Unsplash

For middle school student Han Dong-jae, eating greasy barbecued pork belly on a smoggy day is a life lesson imbibed from his mother.

“I eat more pork when fine dust is dense like today,” said the 15-year-old as he dug in over a sizzling grill at a barbecue restaurant in Seoul with his mother after school.

“I think it’s somewhat helpful, because pork meat has oil and the oil soothes my throat.”

Scientists say there is no rationale for the belief, but pork sales jumped about a fifth on the year from Feb. 28 to March 5, when pollutants blanketed most areas, data from major retailers E-Mart and Lotte Mart showed.

SOCIAL DISASTER

South Korea faces a battle against unhealthy air, a combination of domestic emissions from coal-fired power plants and cars, and pollutants wafted in from China and North Korea.

Its air quality was the worst among its industrialized peers in 2017, data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) grouping of wealthy nations showed.

South Korea registers 25.1 micrograms per cubic meter of fine particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers on average each year, just over double the OECD figure of 12.5, but far lower than the world average of 44.2.

The pollution has affected South Korean policy and businesses, driving up shares of companies that make air purifiers and masks.

Legislation this month included a measure designating the problem a “social disaster”, which could unlock emergency funds.

Cho Seog-yeon, an environmental engineering professor at Inha University, called for more study of the exact damage wrought by high levels of concentrated pollutants, adding, “We don’t know now where the damage is done (by air pollution).”

People battle the air pollution by wearing masks and staying indoors. But in a country where 28 percent of all households have a pet, furry companions are a priority too.

Sales of pet masks surged more than five times in early March, said Suh Hyuk-jin, director of pet products maker Dear Dog.

Cho Eun-hye, who lives in the northwestern city of Incheon, bought a mask for her 18-month-old brown Korean Jindo dog, Hari, who needs to be walked two times a day.

“It’s inconvenient, but I think we have to keep living with that,” said the 36-year-old office worker.

via Pork for pollution? South Koreans fight smog with grease | Reuters

Philippine Navy looks to join rescue bid for Subic shipyard – Nikkei Asian Review

MANILA — The Philippine Navy wants to join South Korean or U.S. companies in a rescue bid for the country’s largest shipyard in Subic Bay, as it seeks to preserve local shipbuilding and quell national security concerns after the facility’s collapse in January.

Vice Adm. Robert Empedrad told Nikkei Asian Review in an interview that the navy is seeking a “small” stake in the local unit of South Korea’s Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction, which ceased full-scale operation last month after defaulting on debts totaling $1.3 billion.

“The navy will come in as a part owner if that is possible,” he said.

There were “strategic implications,” to the ownership of Subic Bay that meant a purely foreign bid was less desirable, he added. “What’s important is it should be a joint ownership between a Filipino company and a foreign company,” Empedrad said.

Empedrad’s comments follow a sharp backlash from the Philippine defense establishment after it emerged that two Chinese companies had expressed interest in the shipyard, once home to a major U.S. naval base. The Subic Bay facility is extremely sensitive, sitting at the entrance to the hotly-contested South China Sea. Rich in fish and other natural resources, Beijing’s moves to increase its military presence in disputed areas of the South China Sea have sparked severe tensions with several countries including the Philippines.

Read the full article via Philippine Navy looks to join rescue bid for Subic shipyard – Nikkei Asian Review

US, South Korea to end key joint military exercises – Channel NewsAsia

SEOUL: The US and South Korea said on Sunday (Mar 3) they will end their annual large-scale joint military exercises as Washington pursues efforts to improve ties with North Korea.

The decision comes days after the conclusion of US President Donald Trump’s second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, which ended without a formal agreement but with both sides suggesting they would keep talking.

Trump has ruled out withdrawing any of the 28,500 US forces based in South Korea to defend it from its nuclear-armed neighbour, which invaded in 1950.

Any such drawdown would face strong pushback from the US Congress and Japan, whose conservative government is deeply wary of North Korea’s intentions.

But the US president has complained repeatedly over the cost of the military drills, which Pyongyang has always condemned as provocative rehearsals for invasion.

During a Saturday phone call between South Korean Defence Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo and his US counterpart Patrick Shanahan, “both sides decided to conclude the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle series of exercises,” according to a Pentagon statement.

Foal Eagle is the biggest of the regular joint exercises held by the allies, and has always infuriated Pyongyang.

In the past, it has involved 200,000 South Korean forces and some 30,000 US soldiers.

It is accompanied by Key Resolve, a computer-simulated war game conducted by military commanders which usually begins in March and runs for about 10 days.

Read the full article via US, South Korea to end key joint military exercises – Channel NewsAsia

K-pop shows may return to China in sign of easing Korea tensions – Entertainment – The Jakarta Post

K-pop entertainers such as BTS, which last year became the first South Korean band to top the U.S. Billboard charts, haven’t been able to get permits to perform in China for years as part of a broader campaign against Korean businesses. (Shutterstock/Boontoom Sae-Kor)

Chinese concert promoters are seeking permission for South Korean bands to perform in the country, according to people familiar with the matter, a sign of growing optimism that relations between the two countries are thawing.

Ties between Beijing and Seoul have been strained since South Korea agreed in 2016 to host a U.S. missile defense system strongly opposed by China. No major South Korean musician has performed in China since, and promoters haven’t bothered to invite Korean acts for a couple of years because of the perception that the government would reject such visa applications.

But they’ve recently started making such requests, according to the people, who asked not to be named because the topic is politically sensitive. It’s unclear whether the country’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism is inclined to approve any of the applications, they said.

K-pop entertainers such as BTS, which last year became the first South Korean band to top the U.S. Billboard charts, haven’t been able to get permits to perform in China for years as part of a broader campaign against Korean businesses. The rift prompted China to launch a slew of punitive measures that cost the Korean economy billions of dollars in lost business.

That’s why the stakes over these permits could be much higher than the fate of a few concerts.

“People are getting ready,” said Archie Hamilton, managing director of the China-based music promotion company Split Works. “There is a lot of money there.”

Big Hit Entertainment Co., which manages BTS, declined to comment. China’s culture ministry didn’t respond to a faxed request for comment.

Thank goodness for that. -ed TBNW

Read the whole article via K-pop shows may return to China in sign of easing Korea tensions – Entertainment – The Jakarta Post

Cobra Gold: One of Asia’s largest war drills opens in Thailand

SATTAHIP, Thailand: With weapons drawn camouflaged troops leapt out of amphibious assault craft while explosions sounded and parachutists glided in from above as the annual Cobra Gold war games took over a placid Thai beach Saturday.
Now in its 38th year, Cobra Gold is one of the largest military exercises in Asia, bringing thousands of forces from the United States, Thailand and other countries together for 11 days of training on Thai shores.
This year’s drill includes some 2,000 US Marines, 1,000 US soldiers and hundreds from the country’s Navy and Air Force.
On Saturday US, Thai and South Korean forces descended on Namsai beach in Chonburi province in a joint drill intended to simulate securing the territory.
Captain Melvin Spiese said the goal was to “bring power from ship to shore” and be ready for “any kind of future crisis we might need to respond to with our Thai counterparts.”
Helicopters buzzed overhead and fighter jets roared across the skies.
Cobra Gold exercises span air, land and sea and feature a jungle survivalist session where participants take turns drinking blood from a severed cobra and snacking on insects and scorpions.
Singapore, Japan, Indonesia and Malaysia also took part in the war games.
A 2014 army coup in Thailand tested ties with Washington and the kingdom tilted towards China with high-profile arms buys.
But US military sales continued and the two countries have upped their engagement under US President Donald Trump, who has stepped back on human rights issues and invited junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha to the White House.
Prayut, who led the 2014 coup, is standing for prime minister in elections set for March 24.

Wow all sounds very exciting and dramatic via Cobra Gold: One of Asia’s largest war drills opens in Thailand

Japan demands apology from South Korea over remarks on Emperor | South Korea News | Al Jazeera

Japan has lodged a complaint with Seoul and demanded an apology after a South Korean legislator said the Japanese emperor should apologize over the military’s use of so-called “comfort women” during World War II.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said South Korea’s National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang ought to retract his comments and offer an apology.

“Speaker Moon’s remarks were extremely inappropriate,” Sang told reporters on Tuesday.”We strongly protested as his remarks have absolutely inappropriate content and are extremely regrettable,” Suga added.

“At the same time, we demanded an apology and withdrawal of his remarks.”

Last week, Bloomberg reported that Moon called the emperor “the son of the main culprit of war crimes”, referring to his late father Emperor Hirohito, in whose name Japan fought World War II.

Up to 200,000 women and girls, many of them South Korean, were coerced into serving the Imperial Japanese Army as so-called “comfort women”, a euphemism for women forced into prostitution and sexually abused at Japanese military brothels before and during World War II.

Seoul told Tokyo that the Bloomberg report did not reflect Moon’s “true intentions” as he was seeking an improvement in bilateral relations, Suga added.

Kim Bok-dong, one of the victims, who had long demanded Japan make reparations and issue an official apology, died in Seoul in late January. She was 92.

Only 23 registered South Korean survivors are still alive, highlighting a sense of urgency behind efforts by the women to receive a formal apology and legal compensation from Japan while their voices can still be heard.

via Japan demands apology from South Korea over remarks on emperor | South Korea News | Al Jazeera