Today’s Korean News summary 06/04/15


Today’s Korean News summary  06/04/15


Summarized and translated from Joseon Daily Post.


Daily MERS situation in Korea!
The MERS situation in Korean has become “Concerning” as the emotional response of public has turn to fear and not reason. At the present, there are 31 confirmed cases and 1364 people are quarantined for testing.

MERS Facts
The main symptoms of MERS are high fever reaching over 38 degrees, cough, shortness of breath, respiratory distress. While the symptoms are similar to the common cold, it is not common for a cold to generate a fever high enough to reach 38 degrees.

However,  MERS is not the plague!

The disease does not become infectious during its incubation period of 2 to 14 days.  The risk of getting infected with MERS can be considerably reduced just by being diligent with personal hygiene. Also, using face masks help prevent being infected or infecting others. The infection rate of MERS is less than half of SARS.

In a nation with modern medical infrastructure like Korean, there is no evidence that the death rate would be higher than 4%. Korea, only 2 patients died from MERS and both died from complications with existing medical conditions and not MERS alone.


The five actions one can take!
·         Use commonly available face makes if you are experiencing coughing and fever symptoms
·         Be diligent with one’s personal hygiene including washing one’s hands
·         Do not fear being quarantined for testing
·         Do not fall for unsubstantiated fear.
·         The elderly and chronic sick should avoid going out in public


Lack of civic consideration
At the same time with the growing public fear, there have been cases in which the careless action of  infectees and family members of infectees were stoking the flame. It is not difficult to see infectees irresponsibly disregarding the quarantine instructions given to them.

This includes not following curfew and visiting hours regulations. Some outright break quarantine to go out to eat or conduct other activities. Many even refuse to use face masks. Hospitals have been having difficulties in curtaining these behaviors because of push back by the infectees.

Public responses
As rumors and hearsay about the existence of an infectee in the region spread, many private tutoring institutions located in Dae-chi Dong have shut down for the unforeseeable future because of low attendance. Even among the public and semi-public schools including universities, about 544 of them have closedown also because of the public’s concern in reaction to factual and non-factual information.

Let’s stop the spread of fear with a “Martial Law” level response
There have been voices that say MERS patients need to be managed on a state level and not by individual hospitals in order to reduce the threat of further infections. This includes preventing secondary infections of non-MERS related hospital patrons by either existing patients or medical providers. However, some specialists say that wide spread infection within a community is not a significant threat as the rate of infection within a family is not that large. There is no example of this community wide infection happening from prior global experiences with the disease.

Government response
In several areas, the fear of MERS caused police stations to be closed.  Standard “drunk driving inspections”  have stopped in areas where infectees have been reported.

What to do?
The problem is the public’s fear!  The public should not over react or be discouraged from getting examined at a hospital. While there is no specific treatment for MERS, early treatment including anti-viral medicine can significantly reduce the death rate.

The government needs to respond in a scientific and calm manner to combat this fear. On the 3rd of June, the government published a manual on how to deal with self-imposed quarantine and infection prevention . The chairman of the Korean medical association said that “the public should not be too alarmed and provide detailed information regarding symptoms when visiting hospitals.”

 Defense News
1.       The president of Korea attended a firing test of the new domestically developed missile with a range of 500km. This seems to be in responses to the increasing North Korean nuclear and missile threats. The new missile with its extended range can cover most of North Korea and fire on threats including missile bases and portable launch platforms.

2.       The investigation into corruption charges involving the navy’s new maritime helicopter (AW-159) purchase program has gain momentum. One 3rd of June, a 2 star naval general was taken into custody. He is under suspicion of using his influence to falsify equipment testing of the new   helicopter which is meant to hunt North Korean submarines.

3.       The city of Seoul has decided to rent for free a navy escort vessel and two highspeed patrol vessels and turn them into attractions opened to the public. The cost of this project, that does not include the free rental fee, is estimated to cost about 4 to 5 million dollars. Some have voiced opinions that this is a wasteful “splashy” project.



Political News
Kim Moo-sung, the leader of the "Saenuri “ Party, stood by his criticism regarding the policies of the former president Roh Moo-hyun while he was giving a “Politics and Diplomacy” lecture as a guest lecturer. His criticism was of  Roh Moo-hyun’s policy of North Korean appeasement . More specifically, it was about the forgo of the upper north portion of Korean Territorial Waters which is called NLL.

Legal News
1.       The legal battle regarding the Labor department’s order to make the national teachers’ union illegal continues but with a hit to the union. The Supreme court of Korea turned over the High Court’s decision to temporary suspend the Labor department’s order during the period of the main legal battle. This means that the national teachers’ union is still illegal for the moment and it loses the financial and legal support from the government that comes with legal status.  It is estimated that the Supreme court will come to a verdict regarding the main suit the union has against the Labor department early next year.

2.       The Supreme court gave out a verdict today that states the family of victims killed by “civilian fighting” units during the Korean war more than 60 years ago were entitled to compensation by the state. These “civilian fighting” units composed of civilians were gathered up during the war to provide local security and were provided arms by the government.

3.       Today, the Supreme court said that, when a person with debt had died and his/her children forgo the right of inheritance, the grandchildren are automatically required to pay the debt of their grandparents. However, in this case, the grandchildren can also forgo the right of inheritance within 3 months of being told of the inheritance.

Political column
It states that the opinion regarding Korea is going to go over to China is gaining momentum within the U.S. official and specialist communities. This is in contrast to their opinions of Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Philippine who are alarmed about the aggressiveness of Chinese policies.

Considering that Korea has more in common with U.S. than China, even considering the economic situation, the column states that this is a surprise. However, it does agree that there is some truth to this as supported by the Korean government’s recent behaviors. It also conveys its concern that the Japanese is stoking the situation. It lays out the considerable history and relationship between the U.S. and Japan. The conclusion is that, Korea still needs US and, without considerable effort on the part of Korea, U.S. will side with Japan over Korea when Korea needs US on its side.

Economic News
Korean economy in flames
The recent low yen situation and MERS epidemic have constricted the Korean economy
 .
With the low yen and slow down of the Chinese economy, Korea’s exports have reduced by 10% compared to the same period last year. The low yen situation has hit Hyundai Automobile and Korean ship construction industry significantly by giving Japan a competitive price advantage.  This is the same for the tourist industry as more tourists have visited Japan compered o Korea over the last few month which is a shift from last year’s trend.

With the whole MERS situation, there are concerns that domestic economy will take a hit as consumer spending decreases. Similar responses were shown when “sewolho” incident occurred last year and with the SARS epidemic in China a decade ago.

However, the government’s response is almost non-existing. As a side note, OECD has estimated that Korean GDP for this year will only increase by 3% which is a 0.8% reduction of its estimation done 6 months ago.

No more Population premium!
World Bank Vice President for the East Asia and the Pacific region Axel van Trotsenburg says that the “Population premium” of major Asian and Southeast Asian nations, which is the benefit of having a high percentage of youth among the population, will disappear in a short amount of time. This means Korean and others will be entering “Aging” nation status.

Considering the dependence on these youth population, these nations will be seriously hit when this occurs. Thus, they have to increase the involvement of females in the labor market and encourage immigration.

Paris Baguette opens its 43th shop in the U.S.

Last month. Korean Bakery Chain Paris Baguette opened its 7th shop in Manhattan , NY and 43th store in the US. It sees its café style bakery concept to be behind the company’s success in the U.S.

Click to go to the Korean News Page

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