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North Korean refugees breach marine surveillance

A group of North Korean refugees are seeking asylum after drifting into South Korean waters. A six-day family reunion for those separated by the Korean War was held at a resort in the North. Kim Jong-il says he may be willing to return to multilateral talks. South Korea is cracking down on draft dodgers' creative schemes to avoid military service. The won is regaining its strength. The iPhone will be released in the coming months. And the president has demanded more information be made public about child sex offenders.

Top News: A group of eleven North Korean defectors drifted across the maritime border on a boat into South Korean waters seeking asylum, defying tight surveillance practices between the two countries. Pyongyang has demanded the civilians be repatriated to the North, while the defectors have refused to return.


Military officials said the group of defectors landed off the coast from the East Sea. North Korean defectors more commonly cross over into China and head to third countries before arriving in South Korea. The number of North Koreans defecting to the South has been on the rise since the mid-90s when a nation-wide famine struck the country.


North and South Korea held a six-day reunion for families divided by the Korean War at a resort area in North Korea in which almost 100 members met with siblings, parents and children that they had been separated from for more than half a century. The two Koreas first agreed to hold the reunions in 2000, after the first summit meeting between late South Korean president Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. However, Pyongyang suspended the event two years ago as a conservative leader took office in the South.


The reunion and a series of other movements are considered part of Pyongyang’s conciliatory gestures towards the South and the international community. In a recent meeting with China’s Premier Wen Jiabao, Kim Jong-il is said to have expressed his willingness to return to multilateral talks if relations with the United States improve.


The police are cracking down on military draft-dodging scams in the country that are increasing in numbers and the variety of methods used. South Korean men must serve in the military for a rough two-year period unless physical conditions prohibit them from doing so. In a series of investigations, police have uncovered a number of scams involving brokers, hospitals and surgeons suspected of receiving money in return for falsifying medical records to help men escape military service.


Athletes and celebrities have been exposed in the past for dodging their military service, but police said they are broadening the scope of their investigation as the methods are becoming more complex and unconventional.


Money: For the first time in a year, the Korean won dropped below the 1,200 won mark to a dollar indicating the local currency is regaining its strength after dwindling last year. Experts say Korea’s rapid recovery from the economic crisis has encouraged investors to buy in the local market strengthening the won against the dollar. Export companies that enjoyed the weak won over the past year will face challenges, as most expect the local currency to continue to strengthen throughout the rest of the year.


Apple’s iPhone has finally received clearance for the South Korean market and is expected to start being distributed by November. The iPhone had faced regulations in the country that allowed handsets to operate only by domestic GPS locating technology, but the Korea Communications Committee announced it would make an exception for the 3G handset. South Korea’s second largest mobile operator KT will sell the iPhone, which is expected to bring about competition in the mobile phone market dominated by local handset makers such as Samsung and LG.


Elsewhere: President Lee Myung-bak has ordered more data be released to the public on child sex offenders in the country, saying neighbors and people in the community have the right to know of potential danger. The government is reviewing measures to publicize information of child sex offenders and, starting January next year, is expected to disclose the identities of convicted offenders.


These movements have come about as a response to public outrage over the brutal rape of an eight-year-old child and the 12-year sentence handed down to the man convicted. The case was exposed by the media, and many outraged people flocked to the Internet to protest that the sentence was too light.