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News Today January 2, 2015 




Report: 김혜윤 (Freelance News Reporter)

1. Kim Jong-un's open to high level talks with S Korea



Henry: So yesterday, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un gave a new year's address and... said that he is open to high level talks with South Korea... details on this please.

That's right Henry, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un suggested in his New Year's speech that he would be open to talks with South Korea saying, there is no reason not to hold a high-level summit between North and South Korea. He also emphasized the importance of dramatic change in diplomatic relations between the two Koreas through talks and exchange. He added that both North and South Korea should obey their own regime and should not challenge each other's leadership; reunification of Korean peninsula is solely in hands of Korean people and the matter should be solved in the pursuit of mutual benefits, adding that even though the communist regime worships socialism, the regime has never forced the South to follow the same.
As a response to North Korean human rights issue raised in the international community, 김정은 kept the country's original stance, saying that the US and its followers are clinging on human rights issue as they fail to destruct North Korea's nuclear power. He also said, the US and South Korean joint military drills intensify tension in Korean peninsula, and drive the two Koreas into nuclear war.

Henry: How did the South Korean government and its officials react to North Korea's suggestion?

Well, the Minister of Unification said yesterday that North Korean leader 김정은's new year's speech is meaningful and South Korea is positive about 김정은's proposal, hoping the two Koreas to soon open a dialogue regardless of its format. He said it has been 70 years this year since Korea was divided and the government has to practically discuss many inter-Korean issues, including the biggest tragedy, separated family issue and highest-level dialogue which North Korean leader suggested.
Unification Ministry spokesperson 임병철 added on top of what the minister said earlier today at the briefing that if North Korea is indeed willing to mend fences, it shouldn't ask for any requirements. The remark was made as a response to North Korea's condemnation against the US and South Korean joint military drills. The spokesman also added that the government will maintain a principles-based approach toward North Korea's unilateral claim on the issue.
Prime minister 정홍원 also promised earlier today that South Korea will make the best effort to resolve the confrontation between the two Koreas. He said that the government will take active gesture to terminate the inter-Korean confrontational mood and promote co-prosperity. He also commemorated the 70th anniversary of Korea's independence and said it is unfortunate that North Koreans can't enjoy the true meaning of independence.

Henry: What was the defense ministry's reaction?

Well, as a response to building peaceful environment for inter-Korean dialogues, which North Korean leader suggested, ministry of defense announced earlier today that it would have to continue the on-going military training with the US, claiming that it is to keep military readiness posture.
One defense ministry official said at the briefing that as of now, there is no plan for the South to change the schedule of the joint defense drills, and added the training is essential to maintain its capabilities for fighting.

2. President 박근혜 holds New year's meeting at 청와대

Henry: Let's now turn to President 박근혜... so there was New Year's meeting this afternoon and I believe the meeting is still going on now... what did she say about North Korea's suggestion and inter-Korean relations?

Sure Henry, so President 박근혜 invited influential figures from each field to 청와대 to attend the New Year's greeting ceremony around 3pm today. The ceremony was held to mark her third year in office and to show the administration's plan for 2015, while chairman of the national assembly 정의화, chief justice of the Supreme Court 양승태, chief justice of the Constitutional Court 박한철, prime minister 정홍원, chairman of the Central Election Management Commission 이인복 and about 200 high-ranking government officials attending.
As she expressed her determination to improve relations between Seoul and 평양 on the last day of 2014 during her New Year's address, her expected response to North Korea's suggestion has drawn great attention. She said quote, "Unified Korea is no longer a dream or an idea and the government will put its utmost effort to actualize the unification of Korea." She also urged South Korean people's cooperation to help establishing the historical moment.

Henry: What about the economic plan?

Sure, so the president called for support for her three-year economic innovation plan and expressed her strong will to revitalize the economy through innovation and regulatory reforms. She said quote "The government will abide by the three-year economic innovation plan and bring the era of 30 thousand dollars per capita income, and build a stepping stone to head to 40 thousand dollars per capita income."

3. Poor tobacco sales on first day of price hikes

Henry: Governmental taxation policy... increasing tobacco price to shape our behavior under the name of public health has been controversial... and it was first implemented yesterday... how did it go?

Actually the first day market performance wasn't as vibrant... as the average tobacco price increased two thousand won, deterring smokers from purchasing cigarette. Compared to last new year day's tobacco sales, that of this year dropped 60 percent... and concerns are mounting among domestic cigarette distributors. Given that staring yesterday, smoking in restaurants is completely prohibited... and restaurants are required not to have smoking sections as well, tobacco sales are expected to decrease at least for a while.
The average cigarette pack now costs 4,500 won after the parliament approved an increase in related taxes last month. The fine for smoking indoors at public restaurants or coffee shops is now 100,000 won, while shop owners who allow indoor smoking can now be fined up to 5 million won.

Henry: I see, well... the low tobacco sales I believe... also has to do with new year's resolutions.. as many smokers usually decide to quit smoking around this time of the year.

That's right Henry so according to a research organization called MONO Research, more than half of domestic smokers have decided to quit smoking staring this year.... The survey was done on December 30th and 190 respondents, who identified themselves as smokers among the 1,000 people asked via phone, participated... 59.5 percent of them said they will quit smoking, whereas 34.2 percent said they won't, and 6.3 percent responded they haven't decided yet.
52.2 percent of those who answered they will quit, said it is for their health and 31.9 percent of them cited tobacco price hikes... 13.3 percent of them replied it is because they didn't want to pay tax anymore, and the rest accounts for 16.6 percent. A total of 1,000 valid samples over 19 years old nationwide participated for the survey with a confidence level of 95 percent and a margin of sampling error of ±3.09 percentage points.

4. Defense ministry increases 5 percent in daily food expenses per soldier

Henry: Now let's turn to our last story of the day Haeyoon... the defense ministry is increasing its food budget to better feed its soldiers... details please.

That's right, so the ministry of defense announced earlier today that it has decided to increase daily food expenses per soldier by 5 percent... so from 6,848 won to 7,190 won... to improve the food quality. The raised food expenses will help provide soldiers with higher calories and expanded menus.

Henry: It is important to feed the soldiers with food that are high in nutrition... so specifically... what menu changes will take place?
Well, to be specific... the ministry said it will provide 69 grams of pork a day instead of 60 grams a day... and Korean beef, 갈비 will be on their plate three times a year instead of once a year.
Special meals such as duck meat, seafood like octopus and squid, and spaghetti will be served more often annually to please the soldiers. Yet, Ramen noodles will be provided less, three times a month instead of four, since it contains a lot of sodium and is considered bad for the soldiers' health. The ministry is also planning to hire 1,721 private chefs in total this year and 2,332 by 2020.

Thank you so much for the reporting, 혜윤.