Saturday, September 4

Seoul in Nuclear Denial 

The tables have turned, and it is Seoul that is on the backfoot denying that it has processed uranium to weapons-grade.

Scientists at the state-run Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute, in Taejon, conducted an experiment with .2 grams of uranium in 2000.

The Ministry of Science and Technology denies that there were, or are any plans to develop nuclear weapons by South Korea, despite the fact that there are dozens over the border in the North.

It is not the amount that was enriched that is the problem- about 10 kilos are needed to make a weapon, the 0.2 grams is nothing really. The issue really is whether or not the Koreans were making weapons grade uranium, and if they were, who assisted them, and do the Americans and the IAEA know about it.

Korea uses a lot of uranium for nuclear power, with about 40% of the country's power coming from nuclear power plants. Most, if not all, is enriched to the level needed in either Europe or the USA, as there are no commercial enrichment facilities in Korea.

This could be embarrassing for the US government, after taking a hard line with Iran and North Korea over nuclear issues. To have an ally enriching uranium in a war zone is not the best thing to be announced during the Presidential campaign.


Friday, August 27

Smoking ban constitutional 

The Constitutional Court in Seoul has upheld a ban on smoking in public buildings. In its ruling the Court found that freedom of choice, and the rights of the individual could be were second to the health of non-smokers.

non-smokers all over the country- myself included, will breathe easier, knowing that the court said that smoking in public building violates the right to health and life of non-smokers.

The case found itself before the court after a smoker launched the case- probably because of the unreasonable demand that people be banned from smoking in schools, courts and other public buildings!

He claimed that not only was smoking good stress-release for citizens, but that smokers help the national economy, because 30 of the budget of local governments come from tobacco taxes!

The case comes after the the government was accused last week of suppressing rates of lung cancer, to keep tobacco sales high.


Wednesday, August 25

Trialling the jury system 

The Korean justice system is planning to make a huge change- trial by just is coming to a court room near you (or me at least)!

The current system has a judge deciding both guilt or innocence, and then setting a sentence.

There was a mock trial today, displaying the two options that the Supreme Court is considering- the traditional 12 member jury, and the German presiding judge system.

A vote taken by the 836 judges in Korea resulted in more than half wanting a jury system- but most of them wanted to introduce the German model, where 2 citizens sit with 3 judges. The argument was that is it too soon for Korea to change the system over to a full jury trial.

81% of Koreans want to have trial by jury, so the mock trial was held to show people both systems, to what their courts will soon look like, and collect public opinion as t which model to introduce.


Friday, August 20

Unemployment up 

The Korean unemployment rate has hit an eight month high of 3.6% seasonally adjusted. While this seems low to us from the west, where 5-6% unemployment is seen as a low rate, here it is a problem.

The biggest rises were in the construction and agricultural sectors, but about 50% of those unemployed are in the 15-29 year old bracket- a concern for the government. They are planning two things to help the rate drop. The first is a directive that government businesses should hire at least 3% of new staff as new university graduates, to help the youth unemployment rate, and secondly, they are aiming for 6% growth this year to help employment generally.

That rate seems high, considering the tough times at the moment for many people though.

In what seems to be a strange way of fiddling the figure though, 109000 long term unemployed are not included in the list of unemployed people! They are counted on a special list of long-term job seekers!


Seoul asks for US cut delay 

In a sign that the Koreans are not ready to depend themselves without the Americans they want to leave so badly, the Korean defense Ministry has asked the Pentagon to delay the planned setback of troops and heavy weaponry from South Korea.

It has pleased with the US to delay the troop cutback, of 12000, for at least a year, and also asked the US to leave missiles, Apache helicopters and other heavy weaponry when the pullout does take place. No word on if they have offered to pay for the delay, or for the weapons!


Military past comes back to bite politician 

The headline sounds like something that ill be written about Kerry in the next few months, but it actually applies to the former leader of the Uri Party here in Korea.

Rep. Shin Ki-nam was forced to resign yesterday over growing anger that his father was a collaborator with the Japanese Imperial Army during their time occupying Korea, from 1910-1945.

Sin' father was a Staff Sergeant in the Japanese Army, and it is claimed that he either tortured, or oversaw the torture of Korean independence fighters.

The issue came up because the Uri Party is trying to set up a ``truth, reconciliation and future’’ commission to investigate abuses of power by past administrations and pro-Japanese collaborators. The aim of the commission is to embarrass the leader of the GNP, whose father was a former dictator. Shin was leading this effort, without revealing to national assembly that his father was in fact one of the people who engaged in the abuses. As I have said before, the sins of the father carry over in Korea, and Shin really should have known that not only would this information come to light, that it would force him to resign as leader of the party.

The new leader is Lee Bu-young, who quit from the opposition GNP at the end of last year to join Uri. He failed to win a seat in the elections in April.


Sorry about the delay in posting! 

Well, I have been very slack in posting I know. I had a very relaxing vacation in Malaysia and Singapore- if you get the chance go to Malaysia, it is really a great place for a vacation. There is a lot to see and the people are really friendly.

My computer also just died, and I am in the process of selecting a replacement- so many choices out there now!

Enough of the excuses though! I am sorry that the postings have been so thin lately, and I will try to keep them up.


Sunday, August 1

Vacation time 

Just letting you all know that I'm im Singapore, and will be on vacation until Thursday, August 5th, with travel to Singapore and Malaysia- I'll be boarding the flight now


Saturday, July 24

John Kerry- Born to Run? 

CNN is running a special on who is probably their preferred candidate in November- John Kerry. One has to wonder though, who in the Kerry office allowed the infomercial title-'John Kerry Born to Run'?

This should just reinforce the idea that Kerry is an elitist from the North-East, who expects the country to be handed to him because he went to school in Switzerland, summered with the Kennedy's and married the Heinz money.

Lack of oversight is a wonderful thing.


Korea to get first female supreme court justice 

The Chief Justice of the Korean Supreme Court, Choi Jong-young, has recommended to the President that  Kim Young-ran be appointed to fill the vacancy on the bench. If the President agrees, and the National Assembly passes her nomination Kim will become the first woman to serve on the bench of the Supreme Court.

There are female judges in lower courts, in fact Kim is currently a judge in Taejon High Court (similar to a state supreme court), but none have ever made it through the strict vetting process to get to the highest bench. The vetting covers important areas:

" such as health, ability, personality and work attitude..."
Past judgments also played a part in her selection. Kim is seen as satisfying the public call for reform in the judicial system. She is a prominent advocate for minority groups. One famous ruling she ordered a school to pay compensation to a student who had bullied by other students.

In a move that will have men in Korea scratching their heads, Kim's husband, a former public prosecutor and now Seoul lawyer has said he will quit his job and support his wife from home!  


Refugee wave incoming 

In a move that is bound to cause waves in Pyongyang, South Korea next week will accept 450 North Korean refugees. They are coming to South Korea from an unidentified Asian third country.

The group will be the largest single intake of North Koreans since the end of the Korean war, and some local officals are voicing concerns that it may be disruptive to take so many at once- it is almost the same number as all of last year.

However, the South Korean government had little choice but to take them all at once. It is reported that the third country hosting them on the way to South Korea told the government if they didn't take them all soon, they would be returned to China. The Chinese would them send them all back to North Korea.


Saturday, July 17

Captial cost blowout 

The costs of the planned new capital for South Korea keep growing and growing, with President Roh now claiming the cost will be about 45 TRILLION won, and the Opposition, who is opposed to the plan claiming the costs will be around 73.6 TRILLION won.
Roh said that even if the cost was 100 TRILLION (83 billion US$) over 10 years then it would be worth the cost "because the plan can revitalize the construction industry and develop the country.''
So the truth is finally out- the relocation is pump-priming for the sagging construction industry!
As I said in an earlier posting in regards to the leader of the GNP, Park Geun-hye, the sins of the father continue. She is being attacked by critics for opposing the plan to move to capital BECAUSE her father was the first President to raise the idea!


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