Saturday, May 29

US to withdraw 30% of troops 

The Blue House (the Korean President's official Residence) has announced that the US informed Korea in November 2003 that they plan to withdraw around 12000 troops from Korea, or about 30% of the 37000 US troops based here.

Thoughts of the feared security vacuum from the redeployment of 3600 troops to Iraq have been forgotten, as experts, politicians and the public now digest the news that 12000 are too leave the country.

It is thought that Roh and the Blue House kept quiet on the plans until the April Parliamentary elections were over- he didn't want the election to be fought under the shadow of a North Korean threat, and a US withdrawal. The probability that it would have forecasted attention on security issues would have been bad news for URI, who went on to win.

Why the US didn't leak news of the withdrawal to assist the conservative GNP to win is beyond me.

Fractured banking sector 

In news that shows just how fractured the banking market in Korea is, the first quarter profits for the 19 domestic banks in Korea have just been reported.

Combined net profits were 1.68 trillion won (US$1.44 billion). While that is 33 times higher that the first quarter last year, it averages just US$75.2 million per bank! This is in a market of almost 50 million people.

In the Australian market, which is less than half the size, the first quarter profit of Westpac, which isn't the biggest bank was about US$400 million!

In order for Korean banks to compete internationally there needs to be a rash of mergers in the financial markets, and the number of banks dropping from over 30 (the 19 mentioned aren't all of the banks in Korea, just the biggest ones), to about 10-15. This should ensure that they can ride out problems such as the accounting scandal at SK Global (Korea's Enron), and the collapse of LG card, the biggest credit card firm in the country.

NK runs hacking unit 

The head of the Defence Security Command has admitted that North Korea is running a sophisticated hacking unit to steal information for South Korean government departments. In a country where the internet is banned, and most people don't have even enough food this is an impressive achievement!

It is thought that the unit is as skilled as the computer unit in the CIA.

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