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Landmark trade deal is signed

The North asks for aid after apologizing for dam deaths. South Korea signs a far-reaching free trade agreement with the EU. Chemical giant LG Chem hits a record high in profits and announces an investment in a U.S. battery plant. Over one million people subscribe to a new Internet TV service. Also, the Unification Church holds a mass wedding ceremony and South Korea wants to start production on electric cars.

Top News: North Korea apologized in cross-border talks with South Korea for the sudden release of dam water, which caused six deaths in the South from flood water that swept down across the border. Pyongyang offered its condolences for the loss of six South Koreans while adding that the release was inevitable due to a rapid rise in water levels.


Following the apology, North Korea requested, in a separate meeting, that South Korea send humanitarian aid, the first request made since the conservative Lee Myung-bak administration took office.


The two Koreas had convened to discuss continuing cross-border reunions for families separated by the Korean War when Pyongyang made the request. Lee’s administration said it is considering sending corn and other medical supplies to the North.


South Korea signed a free trade agreement (FTA) with the European Union, its second largest trading partner after China, which is slated to go into effect next July.


The deal, which needs final approval from legislators on both sides, is the first free trade agreement in Asia for the European bloc and is the second biggest free trade deal ever signed in the world.


The trade agreement would remove tariffs on 96 percent of the goods from EU and 99 percent of Korean products over a three-year period. Korean carmakers are expected to benefit from the tariff elimination and will be able to save at least 1,000 euros on each car once the trade barrier is lifted.


Money: South Korea’s largest chemical company, LG Chem, posted record profits and sales buoyed by strong demand for electronics and petrochemical products. LG Chem saw more than a 75 percent increase in operating profit compared to a year before. The chemical company also experienced a nearly 10 percent jump in sales putting the total at 4.36 trillion won.


In addition, the company announced it would make a $303 million investment in a Michigan-based U.S. battery plant between 2010 and 2013. The move was made as part of LG Chem’s ambitions to grab a larger market share in large and medium-sized batteries.


Subscription for Internet Protocol television, commonly known as IPTV, has skyrocketed in the first nine months of its launch in the country, attracting more than 1 million people to the broadcast service provided via the Internet. The service allows telecommunication companies, such as KT Corporation, SK Broadband and LG Dacom, to provide real time broadcasting in homes using broadband networks.


Local governments are also using the service to provide educational content for children from lower income households. Authorities at the Korea Digital Media Industry Association expect the number of subscribers to the new service to reach 1.5 million by the end of this year.


Elsewhere: Moon Sun-myung, the founder of the controversial Unification Church and head of a business empire, officiated, for what is likely last time, the marriage of thousands of couples from more than 100 countries in a mass wedding ceremony. The trademark event of the Unification Church drew flocks of couples to South Korea, many who had been chosen by Moon. The Church is known to be under a transition in power with founder Moon handing over many of his daily responsibilities in operating his business to his three sons.


Korea is aiming to mass-produce electric vehicles for its domestic market by the second half of 2011, pushing up the deadline it had previously set by two years. The Ministry of Knowledge Economy announced that by speeding up the process of mass-producing eco-friendly electric cars, it hopes to become the fourth-largest electric vehicle producer in the world.