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Did North Korea torpedo the South’s ship?

A naval vessel mysteriously sinks, apparently killing dozens. The North threatens the South over journalists in the DMZ. Amidst economic turmoil, Pyongyang abandons markets in favor of rationing. The president pardons a tycoon, who rejoins Samsung’s board. And a famous actor commits suicide after bereaving his actress-sister’s suicide.

 Top News: South Korea has yet to identify what caused a patrol ship to split into two and sink in the West Sea. More than 40 of its crewmembers are still missing after over a week of rescue operations.

The defense minister speculated that a torpedo was the likely cause of the sinking that occurred minutes after the ship was ripped into half, raising concerns that North Korea may be involved in the incident that happened adjacent to the maritime border between the two countries.

Bad weather conditions have hampered the effort of rescue workers who are battling cold temperatures and high sea levels, as they attempt to gain access to the sunken front and rear section of the 1,200-ton corvette Cheonan.

Only 58 sailors of the 104-member crew were saved in the initial rescue, while angry family members of the remaining crewmembers, who are believed to have mostly been under deck when the accident happened, wait anxiously for results from the military.

Many of the distressed family members have questioned whether the military responded adequately to the sinking of the ship and are demanding swift answers to why the accident happened.

North Korea issued a warning to the South that there will be unpredictable incidents, including the loss of human lives, if Seoul continues to permit journalists into the demilitarized zone that divides the two countries.  

The threat came at a time when South Korea continues its investigation into the sinking of a patrol ship that the defense minister has said could have been caused by a torpedo. The military has been cautious about pointing its finger at Pyongyang, but the media continues to report that North Korea may have been involved in the incident.

The North has yet to make any official remarks on the sinking of the 1,200-ton naval patrol ship in the South. The threats are believed to be in relation with media reportage inside the demilitarized zone that has been allowed by the South Korean military to mark the 60th anniversary of the Korean War.

North Korea will return to its state rationing system and phase out its attempt to introduce private markets in its economy, according to a North Korean government economist.

The economist said the markets that are allowed in the country for convenience in people’s daily lives in the North will gradually be removed, while state-run commercial operations will expand in the country.

These comments come at a time when speculations that the North’s leader Kim Jong-il will visit Beijing are heightening. The leader is believed to be making the trip in order to secure aid from China to battle the financial turmoil in the country.

Money: South Korean business tycoon, Lee Kun-hee, who was convicted of corruption but then pardoned by the president, returned to the boardroom of Samsung Electronics, after executives of the conglomerate appealed to Lee for his return.

The electronics giant said it is in need of strong leadership at a time when global companies are under pressure in the face of the economic crisis.

South Koreans have seen a number of tycoons returning to their management positions after receiving favorable sentences or being pardoned. Civic groups expressed their anger at the decision and said the move highlights the distorted decision-making process within the global company.

Lee led the company for more than two decades until 2008, after his father, the founder of Samsung, stepped down from the chairmanship.

South Korea’s oil and gas self-sufficiency rate is on the rise due to investment in overseas development.

Daily production of local oil and gas rose by 50 percent compared to a year earlier, according to the Ministry of Knowledge and Economy.

The ministry attributed the growth to an increase in investment purchasing gas and oil fields abroad. South Korea imports roughly 97 percent of its energy, but has increased its target energy self-sufficiency rate to more than 10 percent this year from 7.4 percent last year.

Elsewhere: Actor Choi Jin-young, who is also well-known as being the brother of an actress who committed suicide, was found dead in his home. The 39-year-old hanged himself, according to the police, in what appeared to be out of depression from losing his sister 18 months ago. South Koreans were shocked by the abrupt death of the actor especially as it came at a time when he was preparing to make a comeback on a local TV show.