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Dying with dignity

In a landmark ruling concerning a comatose woman, South Korea’s Buddhist-Christian-Confucian society confronts the right to die. The National Assembly votes on controversial media and workers’ bills. Minimum wage is boosted slightly. Business confidence posts the highest rate in more than a year, and the World Bank is bullish on recovery. LG pushes organic LED screens. And a disgraced biologist clones five puppies from a 9/11 rescue dog.



Top News: Doctors removed a comatose woman from life support, for the first time in South Korea. The country’s highest court ruled in favor of the woman’s family, which had requested the hospital treating her let her “die with dignity.” The case became a landmark ruling in a culture based on Confucian traditions with a large Christian and Buddhist population and revealed people’s evolving views towards death. In the past doctors were banned from removing a patient from life support or halting treatment if doing so was deemed a threat to the individual’s life.


Despite opposition from religious groups, most South Koreans supported the ruling, saying they believed it would relieve both the patient and family from lengthy and expensive medical treatment. Almost eight out of 10 said they agreed with the ruling, according to polls conducted by a parliamentary committee. Legislation outlining when “dying with dignity” should be permitted has not yet been drafted.


The leading Grand National Party (GNP) has opened an extraordinary session at the National Assembly to vote on controversial bills such as media reform legislation and laws related to temporary workers, in the midst of strong opposition from other parties.


The media reform bill has become the center of a dispute between the leading and opposition parties. The bill would allow companies or newspapers to hold shares in broadcasting channels, which is currently banned. Leaders of the GNP, which holds the majority, say they will pass the media reform bill in June but will remain open to negotiations with other parties.


South Korean workers will receive a minimum of 4,110 won per hour starting next year, a 2.75 percent increase from this year’s minimum wage, after representatives of labor, management and government concluded intense negotiations at the Minimum Wage Council.


Talks passed the set deadline due to difficulties cited by workers, who are receiving lower wages during the downturn, and small and mid-sized companies that could struggle under higher worker salaries. The wage boost is said to be the smallest since the Asian Financial Crisis in the late 1990s.


Money: South Korean businesses showed increased confidence in the economy, according to a survey conducted by the Bank of Korea, posting the highest rate in more than a year. The 13-month-high index suggests the economy may have seen its worst and that manufacturers feel more optimistic about the upcoming months. According to data from the Ministry of Finance and Economy, companies in several sectors, including automobiles and electronics, showed positive outlooks for the next quarter.


South Korea’s economy will likely contract by 2 percent this year, but experience a faster recovery than other countries, according to a senior official from the World Bank.


The official said the outlook for the South Korean economy has improved partly due to the government’s stimulus measures. The official explained that the economy will start picking up in the second half of the year, with an expected 2 percent growth in 2010.


LG Display said it has joined hands with Japan’s Idemitsu Kosan in its push to strengthen its position in the OLED — organic light emitting diode market. The alliance with the Japanese company, which is involved in developing new energy resources, would provide LG Display with a stable source of OLED materials.


LG is planning mass production of OLED screens, known to be thinner and less energy consuming, next year.


Elsewhere: South Korea launched its new 50,000-won bill, making it the largest denominated note in the country. The new bill features Shin Saim-dang, a renowned female writer and calligrapher from the Chosun Dynasty.


A South Korean scientist, disgraced for falsifying data on embryonic stem cell research, announced his team cloned five puppies from a 9/11 terrorist attack rescue dog that died at age 16, using preserved DNA samples from the canine.


Doctor Hwang Woo-suk, who is still on trial for fabricating results that was once hailed as a breakthrough in stem cell research, said the five puppies were identical clones of the rescue dog known for pulling out the last survivor at the site of the attack in New York.