Civic group asks prosecution to probe free upgrades by Korean Air

SEOUL, Dec. 26 (Yonhap) — A local civic group asked the prosecution Friday to look into suspicions that government officials got free upgrades from the country’s top airline, Korean Air Lines Co., which is at the center of controversy over an air-rage incident.

Cho Hyun-ah, the eldest daughter of Korean Air chairman Cho Yang-ho, resigned earlier this month after a national uproar over her conduct aboard a Seoul-bound Korean Air flight at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

She ordered the cabin crew chief of the plane that was already on the taxiway to disembark because she was displeased with the way she was served her macadamia nuts — in an unopened pack instead of on a plate. She chastised the crew for not following the service manual for first-class passengers.

The flight, with some 250 other passengers aboard, had to return to the gate to deplane the purser, causing an 11-minute delay in its arrival at Seoul’s main gateway, Incheon International Airport.

The civic group’s move came after allegations surfaced that several ranking transportation ministry officials were bumped up to business class regularly for free.

“Such allegations could be interpreted as bribery,” People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy said in a press release, adding that Korean Air executives suspected of giving such privileges to ministry officials could face breach of trust charges.

The ministry said it will launch an internal inspection into the mounting allegations and will take appropriate disciplinary measures against those who received free upgrades.

Also Friday, a Seoul court issued an arrest warrant for a transport ministry official accused of leaking details of the ministry’s investigation into the incident to a Korean Air executive, saying his detention is necessary to prevent the destruction of evidence.

The transport ministry official surnamed Kim, who formerly worked for Korean Air, is suspected of having talked over the phone with the executive surnamed Yeo dozens of times over the three days following the start of the ministry’s probe into the incident on Dec. 8.



Source : Yonhap

Korea DPR returns South Korean man via Panmunjom


North Korea on Friday repatriated a South Korean man accused of illegal entry, Seoul’s unification ministry said.

The 52-year-old, identified only by his surname Ma, was sent back to the South through the truce village of Panmunjom, it said.

“The government will proceed with medical check-ups for him and work to confirm the reason for, and method of, his entry into the North,” Park Soo-jin, the ministry’s deputy spokeswoman, said at a press briefing.

North Korea said Ma entered the North illegally in late November.

Pyongyang’s repatriation of him is apparently a routine humanitarian move. In a similar case, the North returned a South Korean man in September.

Earlier this week, the South sent a North Korean fisherman back home after he was found on a drifting vessel in the East Sea. (Yonhap)

Source : The Korea Herald

Korea Republic to offer talks with Korea DPR on Gaeseong wages


South Korea said Friday it will soon propose talks with North Korea on ways to set the wages for the North’s workers at the Gaeseong Industrial Complex.

“The government has plans to offer consultations with the North in the near future in order to resolve the issue,” the Unification Ministry’s deputy spokeswoman, Park Soo-jin, told reporters. “The timing has not been decided yet.”

The South is upset about the North’s unilateral decision to amend the wage system for its 53,000 workers at the joint venture just north of inter-Korean border.

Early this month, the North announced that it would scrap the 5 percent cap on wage increases. It also announced plans to relax requirements for overtime and severance pay.

The South maintains that such matters should be decided through inter-Korean dialogue.

Earlier this week, a group of South Korea businessmen with factories in Gaeseong filed a formal complaint with the North over the issue.

Regarding the broader issue of inter-Korean relations, the ministry official reiterated that Seoul is closely watching Pyongyang’s attitude.

A cautious optimism has been revived here following a Dec. 24 meeting in Gaeseong between Kim Yang-gon, the top North Korean official in charge of South Korean affairs, and representatives from the Kim Dae Jung Peace Center.

Kim was quoted as saying that he understands the Park Geun-hye administration‘s seriousness about improving Seoul-Pyongyang ties and that he hopes to see improved relations between the two sides. (Yonhap)

Source : The Korea Herald

Yoon Mi-rae to sue over use of song in ‘The Interview’

The management agency of South Korean pop singer Yoon Mi-rae said Friday that it will take legal action against Sony Pictures Entertainment for allegedly using one of her songs in a controversial movie without permission.

“The Interview,” a comedy about the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, hit about 320 theaters in the United States on Thursday. The film has drawn huge attention at home and abroad due to a cyber attack blamed on North Korea and threats against its release.

“We came to know that ‘Pay Day,’ a track from Yoon’s third studio album (2007), was used for the film ‘The Interview,’ only after it was released,” her management agency Feelgood Music said.

“We initially received an offer to insert the song, but discussions were on hiatus on some points. Sony Pictures Entertainment used the music without due procedure or contract,” it claimed.

Part of the refrain of Yoon’s song, “Yell louder, Yell louder, yell louder,” was inserted in a scene in which Kim drinks and play billiards with women in lingerie and an American talk-how host who came to interview him, according to the management agency.  (Yonhap)

Source : The Korea Herald

Major North Korean websites remain unstable for 5th day



Access to major North Korean websites remained unstable Saturday for the fifth straight day following U.S. hints at cyber retaliation last week.

The homepages of the North’s main propaganda organ, Uriminzokkiri, and three other sites whose servers are based in China were inaccessible Saturday morning, since going down on Friday evening.

The website of Chosun Shinbo, a newspaper published by the General Association of North Korean Residents in Japan, could be accessed only intermittently.

Meanwhile, the homepage of the North’s official Korean Central News Agency and the communist party’s official newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, were stable.

North Korea experienced sweeping Internet outages for hours before coming back online on Tuesday following a cyber security row with the U.S.

U.S. President Barack Obama had earlier pledged a “proportional” response to the recent hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment that was blamed on Pyongyang. (Yonhap)


Source : The Korea Herald

Korea DPR denies Sony hacking, offers joint probe



North Korea again denied its involvement in a cyber attack on Sony Pictures on Saturday and offered to jointly conduct an investigation into the case with the U.S. government, as websites of its major propaganda organs continued to remain unstable.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation last week said North Korea was responsible for the Sony hacking, without revealing evidence because of the “protection of sensitive sources.” U.S. President Barack Obama said the U.S. would respond “proportionally” to the attack.

“Once again, we make it clear that North Korea has nothing to do with the hacking attacks against Sony Pictures,” a spokesperson for the North’s powerful National Defense Commission said in a statement carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.

“If the U.S. wants to continue to blame us, it must provide evidence right now. If not… the U.S. could jointly conduct an investigation with us behind closed doors.”

The communist state has repeatedly balked at Sony’s comedy movie “The Interview,” which depicts the assassination of its leader Kim Jong-un.

North Korea’s Internet went down on Tuesday after an apparent attack amid the cyber security row with the U.S. Access to major North Korean websites remained patchy Saturday for the fifth straight day.

The North also launched a personal attack against Obama, accusing him of instigating the release of the film on Christmas Day and calling him “a monkey living in the rain forest.”

“What if somebody made a movie about terror attacks or encouraging the assassination of Obama? Will he welcome the freedom of expression?” the spokesman said.

After the FBI pointed the finger at Pyongyang, Obama said Sony Pictures made a “mistake” in canceling the release of the movie after the cyber attack blamed on North Korea. (Yonhap)


Source : The Korea Herald