US, Korea kick off military drills amid tensions on peninsula

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Military tensions are expected to come to a critical juncture on the Korean Peninsula this week, with South Korea and the United Sates beginning Monday their annual military exercise in the wake of a standoff between Washington and Pyongyang over the latter’s threat to launch missiles toward the US island of Guam.

The Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise, a computer-based military drill, is to kick off with some 50,000 South Korean and 17,500 US troops participating to simulate a war with North Korea. It will last until the end of the month. The number of US forces mobilized this year is markedly lower than last year’s 25,000.

This year’s exercise will focus on deterring North Korea from launching nuclear attacks and preparing the allies’ forces for a pre-emptive strike against it. The drill is reportedly based on Operational Plan 5015, which contains a scenario for carrying out a pre-emptive “decapitation” of North Korean leadership.

“If the enemy provokes, (our military) will retaliate resolutely and strongly to make it regret it bitterly,” Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Jeong Kyeong-doo said during a change of command ceremony held at the Ministry of National Defense compound in Seoul. President Moon Jae-in attended the event.

South Korea`s marines participate in an amphibious landing drill near Ulleung Island in the East Sea. (Yonhap)

The exercise comes amid under Pyongyang’s looming threat to fire ballistic missiles to waters near the US island of Guam. Delaying a decision on the island attack plan last week, the North’s Kim Jong-un said he would “wait and see” how Washington reacts.

On Sunday, Pyongyang’s state-run media lashed out at the allies for holding the exercise, saying they were “adding fuel to the fire.” North Korea and the US have traded warlike rhetoric since the North succeeded in launching two intercontinental ballistic missiles in July.

“It would be a great mistake for the US if they have such a delusion that the war is somebody else’s business happening across the Pacific,” said North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun, the communist party’s official newspaper.

The command-post exercise UFG takes place every year at about this time and always elicits a reaction from Pyongyang. But the North’s harsh rhetoric heeds more attention this year, military experts said, since it is the first major drill since the North test-fired ICBMs.

In recent years, North Korea has also conducted military provocations around the time the UFG is held. Pyongyang launched a submarine-based ballistic missile last year and fired off antiaircraft guns at an anti-North Korea propaganda loudspeaker unit on the cross-border region in 2015.

The reduced number of US participants — which includes 3,000 reinforcements — has sparked speculation the allies might have scaled back the annual exercise in consideration of military tensions with North Korea. Korea’s Ministry of National Defense, however, has dismissed such a view, stressing the exercise would be played out on a level similar to that of last year.

“The number of US troops participating in the exercise can vary depending upon circumstances,” said a Seoul military official who declined to be identified, rejecting any link between the numbers and current tensions on the peninsula.

The US is also unlikely to send to the peninsula its strategic assets, such as nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, submarines and long-range fighter-jets carrying nuclear bombs, according to Seoul’s military officials. Those assets were not deployed here during the UFG in 2016.

US Pacific Commander Adm. Harry Harris(left) and South Korea`s Defense Minister Song Young-moo. Yonhap.

Meanwhile, a group of top US military leaders paid a visit to South Koreaand met with their counterparts in Seoul on Sunday to ease jitters over the US commitment to defend South Korea following the North’s successful ICBM tests.

Among them were Adm. Harry Harris, commander of the US Pacific Command, Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of the US Strategic Command. Samuel A. Greaves, director of the US Missile Defense Agency, is to visit later this week.

During his meeting with Defense Minister Song Young-moo, commander Harris pledged an “iron-clad” defense commitment to the South against North Korea’s “ever-evolving” nuclear and missile threats.

“In order to respond to any provocation from North Korea, it is more important than ever before to maintain a robust Korea-US alliance,” Song was quoted as saying by the Defense Ministry during the closed-door meeting.

Harris and other military leaders are expected to observe the UFG exercise and meet with other South Korean senior military officers this week. They will also hold a press conference with local reporters.

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

 

Source  :  The Korea Herald

Moon says quality jobs, reduced working hours keys to addressing low birthrate

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President Moon Jae-in on Sunday reaffirmed his efforts to create new quality jobs, especially for the youth, calling it a part of efforts to fight the country’s low birthrate.

(Yonhap)

“Creating good jobs is not only a way to give hope to young people, but also increase the number of taxpayers and consumers,” the president said in a rare event attended by his ministers and top presidential aides to explain the new government’s policy measures.

Sunday’s event also involved some 250 citizens who voluntarily took part in what is named the people’s transition team that partly helped set up the Moon Jae-in administration’s policy initiatives. (Yonhap)

 

Source  :  The Korea Herald

Four killed in explosion at STX plant in Changwon

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Four workers have been killed in an explosion at the STX Offshore & Shipbuilding plant in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province, fire authorities said Sunday.

The blast occurred at around 11:37 a.m. when workers were doing painting works inside of a 12-meter-deep tank of a 74,000-ton oil carrier.

STX Offshore & Shipbuilding, a Korean shipyard company focusing on small- and mid-sized ship constructions, has been schedule to deliver the carrier to a Greek shipping company Andriaki Shipping by October.

The deceased were identified as employees hired by a subcontractor company. They were each aged 33, 45, 52 and 53.

Four workers were killed in an explosion at an STX Offshore & Shipbuilding plant in Changwon. (Yonhap)

The fire squad was dispatched to the accident site and entered the interior of the tank at around 12:04 p.m., upon report of the blast that was followed by smoke.

The carrier was anchored at some 250 meters from the front gate of the plant and no additional casualties were found, the authorities said.

The local police and fire authorities said they are currently investigating the details of the accident including the cause.

The workers were donned in goggles, dustproof clothing and other protective gear, company officials were quoted as saying.

Painting inside an enclosed space entails high risk of an accident in the shipyards due to oil mist created during the process that could cause an explosion or suffocation, according to the industry. Strict maintenance and safety regulations are thereby applied, such as by measuring the oxygen density and applying tools and clothing with explosion-proof functions.

The company reportedly explained one of three of the safety maintenance managers who came to work on the day gave the go-ahead for the painting job upon normal procedure and that no inflammable-related operation was being conducted in the vicinity.

By Shim Woo-hyun (ws@heraldcorp.com)

 

Source  :  The Korea Herald

Water bobsleigh

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Water bobsleigh

South Korean citizens enjoy a water slide set up at Gwanghwamun Plaza, central Seoul, on Aug. 19, 2017. The 300-meter-long giant slide is for the “Bobsleigh in the City” event that is designed to promote the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games. (Yonhap) (END)

 

Source  :  Yonhap News Agency

PM orders egg farms not following food safety standards to be strictly dealt with

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SEOUL, Aug. 19 (Yonhap) — South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon on Saturday said local authorities should deal strictly with egg producers who are not complying with the government’s food safety standards as he conducted on-site inspections to handle an insecticide-contaminated egg crisis in the country.

“I strongly think those who poorly manage food that is consumed by the majority of people should not be forgiven,” Lee said at the agriculture ministry’s office in Sejong. “There could be elements threatening food safety at every stage of production, so we must get rid of those problems this time.”

For his on-site inspections, Lee first headed to Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province, for the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety’s briefing on the distribution of the tainted eggs and its countermeasures. He then moved to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs’ office building in Sejong to check its reports. He also visited a large discount store to listen to people’s opinions.

Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon (L) speaks at a meeting at the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs in Sejong on Aug. 19, 2017, amid the tainted egg crisis. (Yonhap)

Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon (L) speaks at a meeting at the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs in Sejong on Aug. 19, 2017, amid the tainted egg crisis. (Yonhap)

As of Saturday, the agriculture ministry’s inspection results showed 49 farms had used illegal insecticides, and some 624.51 million eggs are produced and distributed annually from these farms, which accounted for 4.6 percent of the total eggs produced and distributed last year.

Lee ordered the ministries to learn from the current crisis. There has been a confusion over boundaries of work between the agriculture ministry and the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, while the National Agriculture Products Quality Management Service was accused of poor handling of stamping environmentally friendly certifications for poultry producers.

“If people’s trust in the government’s administrative work, such as environmentally friendly certifications and the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), is damaged, this could be more painful than the current egg crisis,” he said. “It’s really sad that the government agencies related with food safety didn’t do a good job to earn people’s trust. We need to reorganize perfectly and fix the problems.”

Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon (R) speaks with a South Korean citizen about egg products at a discount store in Sejong on Aug. 19, 2017. (Yonhap)

Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon (R) speaks with a South Korean citizen about egg products at a discount store in Sejong on Aug. 19, 2017. (Yonhap)

President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday ordered Lee to comprehensively oversee the egg issue and thoroughly inform the public about the inspection results. Lee said he will give clear guidelines to each ministry’s job to solve the egg crisis.

“The president will talk at the Cabinet meeting Monday, but it’s going to be clear what each ministry should do,” he said. “I want to establish a system that can ensure food safety by creating a task force and other effective measures necessary.”

Lee said that ministries should apologize for their wrongdoings even if such actions were accepted in the previous administrations.

“We have to cut bad habits from the past, and it’s not right to think that this is the fault of the previous government,” he said. “Even if it was done in the past, we’re not free from it unless we apologize and fix the problems.”

Lee said follow-up measures for poultry producers should be executed to prevent further troubles even if all tainted eggs are removed from the market.

“Probably early next week, we will see (egg) consumption getting normalized,” he said.

kdon@yna.co.kr

(END)

 

Source  :  Yonhap News Agency

Outcome of tainted eggs inspection to be announced later this week

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SEOUL, Aug. 19 (Yonhap) — South Korean health authorities said Saturday they will announce the outcome of the inspection into eggs tainted with the insecticide fipronil later this week amid an unfolding egg contamination scandal in Europe.

Details such as how the contaminated eggs could harm human organs when ingested, and how many contaminated eggs have been collected or destroyed will be disclosed as early as Sunday, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said.

“The result of the analysis and the total amount will be announced tomorrow,” said a ministry official, who asked not to be named.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs recently completed inspections on 1,239 egg farms and related facilities nationwide that showed 49 farms had used illegal insecticides.

The farms used fipronil on their hens, prompting the government to halt egg production in South Korea.

The same insecticide has been at the center of the massive health scare that erupted in Europe last month. A total of 17 countries on the continent have received eggs or egg products tainted with fipronil.

khj@yna.co.kr

(END)

Source  :  Yonhap News Agency

[Newsmaker] Korean retailers stop egg sales after fipronil found in some eggs

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Major Korean retailers, convenience store chains and online retailers decided Tuesday to immediately halt sales of eggs at their branches nationwide after the government warned of pesticide-tainted eggs earlier in the day.

It is unprecedented for all of the country’s major retailers to stop selling eggs simultaneously.

The companies include the nation’s three largest retail firms, E-mart, Homeplus and Lotte Mart, as well as leading convenience store chains CU, GS25 and 7-Eleven.

(Yonhap)

E-mart’s spokesperson said, “The company has not purchased any eggs from the farm that is currently accused of shipping contaminated eggs, but decided to stop sales as a preventive measure.”

Later in the day, Nonghyup’s Hanaro Mart, which operates 2,120 branches nationwide, also decided to halt all sales of eggs. Internet shopping sites including Coupang and Wemakeprice suspended sales of fresh and boiled eggs as well as food items with eggs, such as cookies.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs found that a farm located in Namyangju, Gyeonggi Province, had delivered eggs contaminated with fipronil. The farm reportedly produced 25,000 eggs per day.

Fipronil is a broad-spectrum insecticide used to treat lice, fleas and ticks. Ingestion of small doses has few effects and requires little medical treatment, but it can cause liver, kidney and thyroid gland damage if taken in large amounts over time, according to the World Health Organization. The same pesticide has been found in eggs in 17 European countries.

The owners of the farm reportedly said in the inspection that they had used the substance upon hearing of its effectiveness in killing ticks and that they were not aware it was fipronil.

Another egg farm in Gwangju, Gyeonggi Province, was also found to have used above-recommended amounts of bfenthrin, an insecticide used against the red imported fire ant.

The owner of the farm reportedly said that they had used the insecticide to shoo away flies.

Amid the public’s growing concerns over possible contamination of eggs, the government released a sequence of measures throughout the day.

The Food Ministry immediately banned all shipments of eggs from local egg farms with at least 3,000 chickens. It also started to conduct inspections of local egg farms across the country.

“The ministry will put its utmost efforts to first finish inspections of the largest farms with over 200,000 hens in order to cope with the supply problem,” Kim said.

“Starting Wednesday, local farms will be able to resume supplying 25 percent of the normal supply level,” he added.

A ministry official said the nationwide inspections are expected to be completed by the end of the week. “Starting with the largest egg farms, the ministry will inspect every local egg farm in the nation.”

The Food Ministry will lift the shipment ban for farms that have no fipronil detected in their eggs upon inspection in order to cope with the supply problem.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety is set to track the distribution channels of the contaminated eggs that the farm in Namyangju shipped out. It plans to recall and discard all such eggs upon locating them.

The egg industry enduring yet another crisis, following the spread of bird flu last winter and the mass perish of chickens from a recent heat wave.

Other related industries such as bakeries and restaurants are expected to be dealt a blow as well. Egg prices are expected to soar as the supply remains unstable.

The government, meanwhile, has decided to hold preventive education sessions on insecticides for egg farms.

The Korea Poultry Association has put up on its website a schedule for sessions to be held in the Gyeonggi, Chungcheong, Gyeongsang and Jeolla provinces from Aug. 22.

By Shim Woo-hyun (ws@heraldcorp.com)

 

Source  :  The Korea Herald