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SEOUL, July 14, 2018 (News Wires) - South Korea on Saturday decided to raise the minimum wage by 10.9 per cent to 8,350 won an hour next year but a small-business group said it would refuse to implement the reform as its members were already grappling with a slowing economy.

South Korea’s labour-friendly President Moon Jae-in has pledged to raise the minimum wage by 55 per cent to 10,000 won per hour by 2020 as part of efforts to boost consumption and growth.

After a 19-hour-long meeting ending today, the Minimum Wage Commission agreed on the wage increase, which was smaller than this year’s 16.4 per cent rise, amid worries about weak job growth.

South Korea added a monthly average of 142,000 jobs between January and June this year, the slowest growth seen since the 2008-09 global financial crisis, according to Statistics Korea.

A lobby group representing small business owners called the wage increase a “unilateral decision” and said it would impose a “moratorium” on its implementation.

“We can’t accept the decision by the Minimum Wage Commission,” the Korea Federation of Micro Enterprise said in a statement.

“Small-business owners are at crossroads where they cannot help but choose either business shutdowns or staff cuts,” the association said, adding that they were facing a “miserable reality.”

It said its members would discuss the possibility of more action.

“We may not be able to satisfy both companies and workers, but after a heated debate, we proposed levels that can contribute to improving the income of low-wage workers and alleviate an income cap, without hampering the economy and employment,” Ryu Jang-soo, chairman of the commission, said in a statement.

He also said the commission would submit to the government proposals to support small merchants facing difficulties.

 

SEOUL, South Korea, July 10, 2018 (News Wires) — South Korea has suspended its summertime civil defence drills aimed at preparing against a North Korean attack to keep alive a positive atmosphere for nuclear diplomacy with the North.

Seoul's decision on Tuesday to "temporarily suspend" the nationwide civilian drills had been anticipated since the United States and South Korea halted their annual military exercises following a summit last month between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Streets in South Korean cities froze at the sound of air-raid sirens every year during the Ulchi drills in August with cars stopping on roads, pedestrians moving into buildings and subway stations, and government workers evacuating from their offices.

Kim Boo Kyum, minister of the interior and safety, said the suspension of the civilian drills was a follow-up to the suspension of the military exercises amid recent changes in "South-North relations and other security situations." He said the government and military will work to design a new civil defence programme to be launched next year that will be aimed at preparing people for natural disasters and terrorist attacks in addition to military attacks.

"The government will firmly maintain national preparedness for emergency situations," Kim said in a news conference also attended by Defence Minister Song Young-moo. The ministers did not take reporters' questions.

After their summit in Singapore, Trump and North Korean leader Kim issued a vague aspirational statement on the North's denuclearisation that didn't describe when and how it would occur. It's now up to a US delegation led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to hammer out details in discussions with senior North Korean officials. The follow-up talks got off to a rocky start, with the North accusing the United States of making unilateral demands, though Pompeo called the talks in Pyongyang last week productive.

The Ulchi civilian drills were launched in 1969, a year after a failed attempt by North Korean commandos to assassinate then-South Korean dictator Park Chung-hee. Since 2008, the civilian drills have coincided with the Ulchi Freedom Guardian military exercises between South Korea and the United States. Following his summit with Kim, Trump said that the allies would suspend the war games as long as negotiations with the North continue in "good faith."

There had been criticism on whether the civilian exercises were adequately preparing South Koreans from North Korean threats. For most South Koreans, there's no real training, with people standing around in gathering spots, staring into their phones or looking frustrated. Many schools didn't participate in the air-raid drills.

While South Korea has nearly 19,000 evacuation shelters, mostly in subway stations and parking garages, surveys have shown most people did not know which shelters were closest to their homes.

SEOUL, July 2, 2018 (News Wires) - South Korean President Moon Jae-in will visit India from July 8 to 11 and hold a summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi where their discussions are expected to focus on economic co-operation, his presidential office said on Monday.

Having been invited by Modi, Moon will also meet President Ram Nath Kovind on his first visit to the country, the statement said.

South Korea's presidential Blue House added India is becoming a crucial partner for Seoul not only in terms of the economy, but regarding its plans for peace and prosperity on the Korean peninsula as well.

South Korea established formal ties with India in 1973.

After his visit to India, Moon will also visit Singapore from July 11 to 13, the Blue House said, and give a speech on his vision and policies for permanent peace on the Korean peninsula as well as co-operation with Asian countries in the region.

SEOUL, June 29, 2018 (MENA) - South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had a phone conversation on Friday to coordinate strategies for denuclearization and permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula, Kang's ministry said.

During the 33-minute conversation, Kang explained outcome of the recent South Korea-Russia summit and the latest progress in inter-Korean dialogue and relations, while Pompeo explained Washington's preparations for its upcoming negotiations with North Korea, the South Korean news agency Yonhap reported on Friday.

Kang and Pompeo also held in-depth discussions on concreted strategies to faithfully implement South Korean and US summit agreements with North Korea, it noted.

They shared the view that this is a critical moment in denuclearization and other tasks and agreed to strengthen bilateral consultations at both high and working levels to jointly respond to future circumstances.

The ministry said Kang and Pompeo have held their fourth talks since the North Korea-US summit in Singapore on June 12.

SEOUL, S. Korea, June 28, 2018 (News Wires) — U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis reassured South Korea on Thursday that the United States will maintain its current number of troops on the Korean Peninsula.

“The U.S. commitment to the Republic of Korea remains ironclad, and the U.S. will continue to use the full range of diplomatic and military capabilities to uphold this commitment,” he told Defence Minister Song Young-moo.

Mattis met with Song during a brief stopover on his way from China to Japan.

The U.S. has 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea.

His stop carried a clear message of reassurance to South Korea following the sudden cancellation of a major joint military exercise planned for later this summer.

Mattis said the U.S. commitment includes keeping “current U.S. force levels” on the peninsula.

The military exercise was cancelled after President Donald Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Song said Kim’s separate meetings with Trump and with South Korean President Moon Jae-in have laid the foundation for a permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula.

“If North Korea maintains its commitment to denuclearisation and proves its willingness with actions, we will continue to devise measures to build mutual trust and establish peace,” he said.

JAKARTA, Indonesia, JUNE 28, 2018 (News Wires) — The Olympic Council of Asia says North and South Korea will field combined teams in three sports — canoeing, rowing and women’s basketball — at the Asian Games in the latest sign of co-operation between the countries.

The Koreas will also march together at the opening and closing ceremonies at the games in Indonesia from Aug. 18 to Sept. 2.

Ties between the neighbours have improved since the Pyeongchang Olympics in South Korea in February. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed at a summit in April to jointly participate in international sports events.

Vinod Kumar Tiwari, the OCA director of international and National Olympic Committee relations, says on Thursday, “This will be an historic Asian Games for the Olympic Council of Asia and for the continent because it will be the first time that North Korea and South Korea will form a unified team in certain sports.

“They have marched together before in the opening ceremony and we are delighted that they are extending their joint co-operation further in the spirit of unity and friendship.”

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