(2nd L) S. Korea’s top tech university courts bright int’l students, faculty

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By Kim Han-joo

SEOUL, June 23 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s top engineering and technology university, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), held an event in Seoul Friday to court talented international students and faculty as it strives to further expand its achievements.

In the first-ever meeting with foreign diplomats here, the school showcased the advances it has made and the top-notch education it offers to students. The “KAIST Embassy Day” event brought together about 90 diplomats from 65 nations in South Korea, including 31 ambassadors, organizers said.

“KAIST is the first and top science and technology university in South Korea. Today, it is being truly recognized as a world-class university. The presence of this leading group of diplomats reflects how KAIST’s reputation has blossomed,” Lee Sung-chul, the president of KAIST, said.

The school said the aim of the event is to eventually bring in more “qualified” and “diversified” students to further boost global competitiveness.

“A total of 710 foreign students from 86 countries, representing about 8 percent of the total student body, are currently studying at KAIST. We will actively recruit more foreign professors and students to KAIST in the coming years to achieve a truly global campus,” Lee said.

KAIST said its goal is to expand the ratio of foreign students from the current eight percent to 15 percent by 2021 and raise the number of international faculty to 12 percent by the target year.

Since its foundation in 1997, KAIST has consistently ranked as one of the country’s top technology-oriented schools. In 2016, KAIST ranked sixth on a list of the “world’s top 100 most innovative universities” and the first on a list of “Asia’s top 75 most innovative universities.”

Lee Sung-chul, president of KAIST, speaks during "KAIST Embassy Day" in Seoul on June 23, 2017. (Yonhap) Lee Sung-chul, president of KAIST, speaks during “KAIST Embassy Day” in Seoul on June 23, 2017. (Yonhap)

During the event, KAIST officials introduced the university’s education system, academic achievements and scholarship programs for foreign students and efforts to step up cooperation with universities around the world.

In addition to accepting more foreign students, KAIST said it hopes to add greater diversity among international students in terms of nationalities and regions as it aims to create a truly bilingual English-Korean campus.

International student enrollment has been increasing over the past four academic years, with the number of enrolled foreign students increasing from 45 in 2013 to 80 in 2016, KAIST said.

“The best ideas come from diversity. Brain drain no longer exists in the complex global era,” Lee said.

Among foreign students, Kazakhstan topped the list with 12, followed by Vietnam with eight, KAIST said, adding that it aims to target more students from developing countries.

“KAIST wants to partner with global talent all around the world. That is one way of giving back to the world what we have received from the global community,” the president said.

Specifically, KAIST said it plans to pick a select number of students annually through the recommendations of each ambassador and the chosen students will receive favorable admissions.

“Each ambassador may recommend up to two students per year, and the number of recommendations could be increased down the line,” said Shin Ha-young, dean of KAIST’s admission office, adding that such students will start studies at KAIST as early as the fall semester of 2018.

KAIST said it provides a special benefits package for its students including a full scholarship, free room and board, an allowance, and, for Korean men, waiving of their military obligations.

“A stipend worth US$300 and national health insurance are provided to each foreign student every month and, unlike other top tech universities, the undergraduate research program is highly active, with undergraduates having many opportunities to serve as lab interns,” Shin said.

KAIST said the recommendation by an envoy will be accepted for graduate students but it will not guarantee admission because each department has greater say in picking people it needs.

Toma Husak, ambassador of the Czech Republic to the Republic of Korea, said the event would open an opportunity for more qualified students to come to KAIST for quality education.

“Each year, 250-300 students from the Czech (Republic) come to (South) Korea and our government looks forward to expanding cooperation with KAIST,” the ambassador told Yonhap News Agency.

Jean-Charles Bazin, who spent a year at KAIST 13 years ago as an exchange student, returned to the school as an assistant professor in May.

“As an international exchange student, I was pleased by how KAIST makes a great effort to welcome international students,” the French professor in the fields of artificial intelligence and virtual reality said. “In my opinion, if you want to initiate or strengthen collaborations with Asia, KAIST is definitely one of the very best choices you can make.”




Source  :  Yonhap News Agency

THAAD deployment was ‘transparent’: US military

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The US military in South Korea said Friday that the deployment process of the US advanced missile defense system in South Korea was “transparent,” in response to President Moon Jae-in’s claim that the process was mysteriously accelerated.

In an email to The Korea Herald, the United States Forces Korea said that the US was fully transparent with the Korean government throughout the process, highlighting that Washington trusts South Korea’s official stance that the THAAD deployment was an alliance decision.

“The US trusts the (South Korean) official stance that the THAAD deployment was an Alliance decision. We have worked closely and have been fully transparent with the (South Korean) government throughout this process,” the USFK Public Affairs Office said.

The USFK, however, declined to comment on when the deployment would be finished and whether the process should undergo environmental assessment, citing operational security. Moon said that the deployment is subject to an environmental assessment that could take at least six months.

The announcement came amid controversy over Moon, who said in an interview with Reuters Thursday that “for the reasons unknown to him,” the allies have deployed the entire set of a THAAD battery, although they had initially agreed to deploy only one launcher this year.

Two THAAD launchers are stationed in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province, with the other four launchers stored in a US base in the southern part of the peninsula. The existence of the four launchers was not revealed to the public until last month.

THAAD battery in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province. Yonhap

The controversy is likely to weigh on Moon’s fist summit with US President Donald Trump, who was allegedly “indignant” over the South Korean government’s dealing with the THAAD deployment. Trump also demanded South Korea pay for THAAD, whose cost he estimated $1 billion.

In an attempt to minimize diplomatic impact, presidential office Cheong Wa Dae stressed that the president’s remark was designed to ensure “procedural legitimacy,” not an attempt turn the THAAD negotiation in its favor ahead of the summit scheduled on June 29-30.

“The president’s remark came as a part of his effort to explain that the South Korean government is not trying to postpone (the deployment of THAAD). It was aimed to highlight the government’s effort to follow the legitimate process for the deployment,” Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson Park Soo-hyun said.

Seoul’s Defense Ministry declined to comment on exactly what sort of agreement the allies made over THAAD when they decided to deploy the platform last year.

“There is nothing we can tell you beyond what the president said during the Reuters interview,” said a ministry official under the condition of anonymity.

Since Cheong Wa Dae found out last month that there was four THAAD launchers deployed on the peninsula without their knowledge, the government temporarily halted the stationing process by ordering an environment assessment on the THAAD battery site.

The measure came after the allegation that Seoul’s Defense Ministry deliberately dropped information about the four launchers from their report to presidential security advisers. The investigation is still underway over how and why such a decision was made.

By Yeo Jun-suk (jasonyeo@heraldcorp.com)


Source  :  The Korea Herald

Mobile carriers protest mobile bill cuts

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South Korea’s mobile carriers on Thursday expressed concerns over an expected fall in revenue due to the Moon Jae-in government’s plan to reduce the burden of mobile costs on low-income households and the elderly.

“Telecom companies are already suffering revenue falls,” said an official at one of the three mobile carriers here, who declined to be named. “The government’s plan poses a serious threat to not just a single company, but the whole industry.” The official said the government’s plan was not discussed with the telecom firms.


The State Affairs Planning Advisory Committee announced Thursday morning a package of measures to cut a total of 4.63 trillion won ($4.06 billion) worth of mobile costs.

The committee said it will revise the Telecommunications Business Act with the National Assembly in July in order to force the telecom firms to implement the measures stating September.

President Moon had pledged to scrap 11,000 won base rates for nearly all mobile phone users, but the announced measures appeared to have been scaled back due to strong backlash from the industry.

The debate over high telecommunications fees has remained persistent in South Korea, with Moon’s predecessors including former Presidents Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye all having introduced their versions of measures to cut costs. The measures, however, usually became half-baked due to conflicting interests of the involved parties.

Thursday’s decision by the government committee also drew flak from both consumers and the telecommunication industry, with consumer groups criticizing it as being scaled down from the original plan and companies protesting it as an “anti-market” move that would hinder their operations, such as investments in the upcoming fifth generation network.

Under the latest measures, the telecom industry would have to shave off its 11,000 won base rate per month for senior citizens aged 65 or above. The committee estimated about 1.93 million senior citizens would benefit from the plan.

Users from low-income households on state medical subsidies will also be eligible for the 11,000 won cut. In total, 58.4 million people, or 11.3 percent of the entire population would be eligible for the cut, the committee said.

For ordinary users, the committee expanded a current optional 20 percent discount for monthly bills to 25 percent. Users can choose whether to take a government subsidy worth 330,000 won for a new handset device or a 20 percent cut for their monthly mobile bills.

“These days, many users opt for the monthly discounts rather than taking the lump-sum subsidy,” an industry source said. “Larger discounts would also affect the sales of the telecom companies.”

Up to 19 million people are expected to be able to get the expanded discounts, which adds up to 1 trillion won, the committee said.

The committee also suggested the introduction of a universal mobile plan set at 20,000 won per month, which is 11,000 won cheaper than current plans that provide 200 minutes of voice calls and 1 gigabyte of data for about 25.7 million users. When introduced, this measure is estimated to help reduce a combined 2.2 trillion won in mobile costs.

“The Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning has studied details of mobile plans by each telecom firm,” said Lee Kai-ho, head of the committee. “The increase in the discount percentage is deemed endurable by the companies.”

Lee also said the measures are not a retreat from the initial campaign pledge, saying the introduction of the universal plan would have the same effect as lifting the mobile tariffs for fourth-generation Long Term Evolution bills, while the cuts for elderly are equivalent to scrapping the base rates for 2G and 3G network plan users.

As for an outright abolishment of base rates for all mobile plans, the committee said it will continue pushing for it based on social consensus in the long run.

However, mobile service providers are not on the same page as the committee.

Due to downward trends in profitability, the country’s three mobile carriers — SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus — have been adopting a negative view toward President Moon’s campaign pledge to abolish mobile tariffs.

“Since each mobile carrier offers consumers a variety of mobile plans tailored to age groups, soldiers and the low-income group, it is very difficult for the companies to come up with more,” said an official at another mobile firm.

The Korea Telecommunications Operators Association issued a statement, saying “It is a pity to see the committee announce the measures without discussion with the industry.”

“The association will seek measures to help both reduce the mobile burden and promote the industry’s development by holding discussions with the government on each issue,” it said.

The committee also mentioned the establishment of public Wi-Fi networks on 50,000 buses and at 150,000 schools, which is estimated to reduce up to 850 billion won in mobile bills for salarymen and students.

The heated debate has, meanwhile, rekindled calls for an overhaul of the distribution structure of mobile telecommunication devices — in which different parties are involved when the final cost is appropriated for customers — including the cost for telecommunication service, the handset, subsidies and sales incentives.

Over 90 percent of the mobile handsets are supplied to consumers through telecommunication companies here.

By Song Su-hyun (song@heraldcorp.com)


Source  :  The Korea Herald

Foreign teachers left stranded by crackdown on visa violations

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Foreigners teaching subjects other than English on E-2 visas may face eviction from South Korea, as the immigration office is cracking down on visa violations in English-only alternative schools.

Fourteen Canadian teachers at the Canadian British Columbia International School in eastern Seoul were the first to receive departure orders in April, after the authorities concluded the teachers should have obtained the E-7 visa, not E-2, to work as school teachers. The decision led to the shutdown of the institution, which had 160 students.

The CBIS, certified by Canada’s British Columbia, had run the same curriculum as public schools in the Canadian province. Students were to receive a diploma accredited by the province to enter other schools or universities in Canada. However, it was authorized as a hagwon, or private academy, not school, by the Korean education office.

There are a total of 11 such alternative schools certified by other Canadian provinces and jurisdictions in the United States.

An image of Canadian British Columbia International School (Herald DB)

The Korea Immigration Service, when contacted by The Korea Herald, declined to confirm or deny a further crackdown on E-2 visa holders at such institutions.

“We’re still in discussion of the matter,” an official said, adding the office will hold a meeting Monday to finalize its stance.

Meanwhile, CBIS teachers cried foul.

“When we desperately and very emotionally asked for help (for advice to understand the legal system here), we were given silence,” Margaret Hwu, who taught grade six at the CBIS, told local news outlets of Canada after being ordered to leave South Korea within 30 days, despite holding a government-endorsed E-2 visa.

“And we actually didn’t get all our money (due to the abrupt order),” Hwu added.

Another teacher argued that E-2 visa holders teaching subjects like math in English is a common practice at regular English academies.

“All teachers do that even at hagwons. We teach students not only English but math and science. That’s what we do to teach a foreign language,” the teacher recently deported to the United States said in a YouTube video. She taught English literature and composition to grades 9, 10 and 12, in addition to AP English.

The CBIS was not able to sponsor E-7 visas for its teachers, she insisted.

“Under hagwon licenses, you are not allowed to be issued with anything but E-2 visas. That’s what they have been doing for the past five years at the school, and now they say we should be deported,” she added.

As of April 30, 15,189 foreigners were working as language instructors under E-2 visas, according to the immigration watchdog. It is unclear how many of them are at risk for deportation for unauthorized teaching.

Some critics say the target of the crackdown is not individual E-2 visa holders, but the private educational institutions.

With relatively expensive tuition fees of between 12 million won ($10,500) and 16 million won a year, elite private institutions have become a favored choice among parents not satisfied with the country’s education program at regular schools.

President Moon Jae-in, who took office in May, also has vowed to get rid of elite private high schools, emphasizing “equal opportunity” and the negative impact such institutions have on the nation‘s current competition-driven education system.

“The problem is under the current education system, students who excel in a foreign language or have studied abroad at an early age have few options to choose schools of their best interest,” Lim Sung-ho, CEO of Jongro Haneul Education, told The Korea Herald, pointing to a lack of options for high-performing students.

“The new administration could face backlash from parents by blocking the English alternative schools without offering other options,” Lim added.

By Bak Se-hwan (sh@heraldcorp.com)


Source  :  The Korea Herald

S. Korean president says ‘original’ agreement was to deploy one THAAD launcher in 2017

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SEOUL, June 22 (Yonhap) — South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Thursday that only one rocket launcher was originally scheduled to be deployed in 2017 under the country’s agreement with the United States to host its THAAD missile defense system. He noted the deployment had “mysteriously” accelerated.

In an interview with Reuters, the new South Korean leader said an additional five THAAD launchers were set to be deployed next year under what the British news agency called the “original agreement.”

“But for some reason that I do not know, this entire THAAD process was accelerated,” he was quoted as saying.

So far, two THAAD launchers have been deployed, with the remaining four launchers already delivered and stored here.




Source :  Yonhap News Agency

[Newsmaker] Defense chief nominee on hot seat over scandal

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When former Navy chief Song Young-moo was nominated as the first minister of defense for the Moon Jae-in administration last week, hopes were high that the retired admiral will bring sweeping reforms.

In his first meeting with reporters after being nominated, Song laid out his vision with confidence. Describing the current security challenges as being paradigm-shifting, he pledged to “rebuild” the military by eradicating dubious military contracts.

But the path for Song’s appointment is likely to be arduous, one strewn with allegations that critics say contradicts Song’s vision for military overhaul. The controversy is likely to dominate Song’s parliamentary hearing slated for June 28.

Former Navy chief Song Young-moo (Yonhap)

Topping the list of accusations is that Song obstructed the military’s investigation into a dubious procurement contract of naval supplies when he served as the Navy’s top commander in 2007.

According to the investigation report obtained by Rep. Kim Hack-yong of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, Song ordered lenient penalties for officers involved in the scandal despite the report suggesting that the contract caused a massive waste of taxes.

“Song was trying to shoot down the investigation even after he was briefed about the wrongdoings,” said Kim. “Based on a series of allegations surrounding Song, I don’t think he is fit for South Korea’s defense chief.”

Officials close to Song denied the lawmaker’s accusation, saying Song had repeatedly instructed further investigation into the procurement scandal. Song was not immediately available for comments.

Another scandal surrounding Song is that he may have had improper ties with the businesses. The accusers cite the large payments he received in return for offering counsel for a law firm dealing with legal process over military contracts.

Lawmaker Kim suggested that Song offered “special advice” for Yulchon, a law firm, which helped local shipbuilders sign business deals with overseas military contractors. According to local daily Hankook ilbo, Song received about 990 million won ($868,000) from the law firm, working as an adviser between 2009 and 2011.

“He was not involved with individual cases. What he did was to explain military jargons and backgrounds for the lawyers who lacked the knowledge about defense affairs,” said an aide of Song’s told reporters in a text message.

Although Song‘s post-military career in private companies does not clash with laws, opposition lawmakers warn that Song’s initiative for military reform could be undermined by it.

“The defense minister is tasked with eradicating acquisition wrongdoings and overhauling defense policy. I’m afraid that there might be serious conflict of interest if Song became defense minister,” Rep. Joo Ho-young of Liberty Korea Party said on Thursday.

The allegation surrounding Song’s daughter is another controversial issue. Song was accused of pulling strings to help his daughter land a job at Agency for Defense Development, a state agency for defense technology, when Song served as a naval chief in 2008. After leaving the post, Song also worked as an adviser for ADD.

By Yeo Jun-suk (jasonyeo@heraldcorp.com)


Source  :  The Korea Herald

One-third of Koreans are obese, causing massive social costs

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A third of South Korean people are obese, causing Asia’s fourth-largest economy to shoulder nearly 7 trillion won ($6.12 billion) in social costs every year, the government said Wednesday.

Also, some 25 percent of boys aged between 5 and 14 in South Korea suffer from obesity, compared with an average 23 percent for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development member countries, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.


The percentage marked the highest number among Asian countries.

People whose body mass index reaches 25 kg/㎡ or over are considered obese.

The ministry said it will stage a nationwide campaign to reduce the obesity rate by encouraging people to eat more fruits and vegetables.

An average South Korean eats 198.3 grams of fruit per year, far lower than the recommended minimum of 300 g. (Yonhap)


Source  :  The Korea Herald