Connect to share and comment
Bill Clinton helps secure the release of the Current TV journalists, but five South Koreans still remain in North Korean custody. Violent clashes at Ssangyong Motors end after layoffs are reduced. Youth unemployment falls. Korea sells 37 times more milk than it did last year. And two doctors are indicted for disfiguring women seeking beauty treatments.
Top News: The big news was former U.S. President Bill Clinton's surprise visit to Pyongyang, where he successfully negotiated the release of two American journalists who had been sentenced to 12 years in a North Korean prison for trespassing and committing “grave crimes.”
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-il, after meeting with Mr. Clinton, pardoned the two reporters. They had been picked up in mid-March by North Korean patrol guards while working on a story about North Korea’s defectors, for San Francisco-based Current TV.
Most South Koreans remained indifferent to the news, but the release of the American journalists rekindled concern in the media about the fate of a South Korean man who was detained by North Korean officials roughly two weeks after the reporters. In addition, four fishermen have been held in the North after their boat mistakenly crossed into North Korean waters due to a faulty GPS system.
South Korea’s foreign ministry spokesman later announced that Mr. Clinton had urged Pyongyang to release the South Korean worker and fishermen, but there has yet to be any official notice from North Korea. Seoul has requested that the boat be sent back to the South, but the North has said it is still conducting investigations. South Korean vessels on two occasions in 2005 and 2006 had crossed into North Korean waters but were sent back.
In other news, violent clashes occurring for months between union workers and riot police were put to an end after financially-troubled Ssangyong Motors, South Korea’s smallest carmaker, agreed to reduce layoffs in its company survival plan. Ssangyong, which mainly produces SUVs and luxury sedans, went into court-approved bankruptcy protection in February and had announced plans to cut more than 36 percent of the workforce. Workers went on strike in mid-May bringing production to an all-stop, costing the company $245 million.
Money: South Korean youth unemployment rate hit its lowest since the Asian Financial Crisis, dropping down to 41.3 percent in May for those between the ages 15 to 29. The youth jobless rate was at its lowest 40.3 in 1999. The National Statistical Office said that many university students are also delaying graduation due to the fierce competition in the job market, and those who are on temporary leave from their studies rose to 5.9 percent in May from 5.3 percent last year.
Korean milk companies have experienced a boost in its exports to China after its markets were hit with a tainted milk scandal last year. Dairy farmers have exported 744 tons of raw milk in the first half of the year, compared to 20 tons during the same period in 2008. Of this milk roughly 82 percent of the exports were to China, worth $759,000.
Elsewhere: South Korea’s highest court indicted two dermatologists for causing severe injury to 10 women who were given chemical face peeling procedures. The chemical treatment, which is originally used to rejuvenate the skin, was conducted without approval from the Korea Food and Drug Administration, a fact of which the women were not informed. The two doctors had worked in a well-known clinic in Seoul under the founder that originally developed the treatment. The clinic was closed last year after the founder died. The victims suffered from facial burning with some of them being classified as disabled due to the disfiguration of their faces.
A number of civic groups providing humanitarian aid to North Korea will receive finally financial assistance from the South Korean government. The funding was originally scheduled for April but held back after North Korea launched a rocket and held nuclear tests in the midst of strong opposition from the international community. Civic groups that provide aid for children, pregnant women and the disabled will have priority for the approximate $2.93 million the government has allocated.