Today’s Korean News summary 06.17.15

Today’s Korean News summary 06.17.15
Summarized and translated from Joseon Daily Post.

Daily MERS situation in Korea!
Experts are trying to keep MERS patient zero alive
Patient zero who brought the MERS virus to Korean is taking a turn for the worse as medical professionals try to keep him breathing. He is 68 years old.

Korea has to fix it backward patient visiting culture
While there have been attempts before, Korean hospitals have never been able to really control the actions of patients’ family members and visitors within their facilities. In many ways, it seems like it is the other way around with the hospitals being the party being controlled.

In many cases, it is not uncommon to end up having more family members and visitors in a hospital than nurses. And they end up resisting any attempts to limit their actions even for medical reasons. So, they have basically free reign in many cases moving in and out of hospitals all around the clock.  And this is not limited to immediate family members as visitors act in the same manner. With most of the spread of MERS resulting from these persons actions, there are voices stating the need to change this Korean culture.

Others say that the problem is caused by the lack of nurse. In the U.S. the patient to nurse ratio is 3.6. In comparisons, it is 19.2 in Korea. So, it may not be too surprising that the family members run amok. In addition, this lack of control is not limited to the family members. Patients display similar resistance to control wondering around, smoking, eating outside, and etc.

Defense News
North Korea is escalating its military posturing
Just in this month, North Korea entered South Korean waters on 4 different occasions. It is known that South Korean ships had to fire warning shots to chase them out. Considering North Korea’s recent activities, this is thought to be deliberate acts of aggression.  Last month, North Korea conducted artillery training by shooting off hundreds of shells near the upper borders of South Korean waters.  They also tested out new anti-ship missiles around the same period.

North Korea has 13 different types of bio weapons ready for action
The Korean DOD stated that North Korea could deploy its bio weapons within 10 days of receiving the word to attack.

Economic News
The costs of basic groceries are on the rise
With recent natural events such as droughts, high temperatures, and pests, the prices of popular food staples are increasing in Korea. For examples, the price of a 10kg cabbage has increased by 176% because the total supply has reduced by more than 40% with less production acreages compared to last year and the weather ruining this even reduced crop.  Onion production was also hit by sudden rain storms and subsequent heat waves. Its price has risen by 70%.

This price increase is not limited to produce. The cost of Mackerel which is also a Korean dinner table staple fish item has also risen by 30%. The supply was reduced by 30% because of the temperature increase off the Korean coast. The increase of illegal Chinese fishing off Korea shores did not help the situation also. The cost of Pork shows similar trends.

Predictions regarding the outcome of the Samsung C&T merger are mixed
Just a month away from the vote regarding the Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries merger, many experts are producing contradictory predictions. Some say Samsung will succeed in pushing through the deal as they think Samsung has gathered enough votes from domestic institutional investors to have about 40% of the total votes behind the deal. Others say that it would not be that easy as Elliott management seems to have garnered enough support from foreign investors to make the road to the merger bloody. Thus, at the end, they think that Samsung may just have to give up on the deal.

Major Korean banks are going after people with low credit score to borrow money from them
Just until recently, Koreans with low credit scores have been forced to go to 2nd tier “savings and loans” banks for the financial services. The major Korean banks didn’t welcome their kind showing up and asking for loans because of the lack of collateral and high risk. However, this has been changing.

Because of basic low interest rates set by the Korean central bank and the political pressure from the government, major Korean banks are now selling financial packages with high interest rates but barely any prior screening. Leaving aside whether this is a good thing, more people are starting to borrow money via these packages. Now the “savings and loans” banks are complaining that the major banks are stealing their customers.

Land line phones are disappearing from Korean businesses
With new services being provided by Korean telecommunications companies, businesses are ditching their land line phones for mobiles. These new services make it possible for employees’ cell phones to use their employer’s land line phone number and extension numbers by installing an app on their smart phones.  

Korea banks want to raise fees
Over the past few years, Banks in America have displayed growth primarily from the fees they charge their customers. This is not the case for Korean banks who are being hit hard by recent low interest rates. In many areas, the fees which Korean banks charge are around 10% of what U.S. or UK banks charge. Even compared to Japan, Korean banks charge about 40% less. This is in contrast with the far better service that Korean banks offer.

This low fee situation can be traced back to the cutthroat competition between Korean banks over the last decade or so and the government’s price control policies. With the threat to their bottom lines looming, Korean banks want to raise their fees but, according to this article’s reporter, they need to generate widespread public consensus for it. The government is not happy also.


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