TIME South Korea

North and South Korea Pull Back From the Brink

South Korean Soldiers - North Korea
Kim Hong-Ji—Reuters South Korean soldiers at a checkpoint on the Grand Unification Bridge which leads to the truce village Panmunjom, just south of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Paju, South Korea on Aug. 24, 2015.

The talks came as the Koreas were at brink of a possible military confrontation

(SEOUL, South Korea) — After 40-plus-hours of talks, North and South Korea on Tuesday pulled back from the brink with an accord that allows both sides to save face and, for the moment, avert the bloodshed they’ve been threatening each other with for weeks.

In a carefully crafted, though vague, piece of diplomacy, Pyongyang expressed “regret” that two South Korean soldiers were maimed in a recent land mine blast Seoul blamed on the North. While not an acknowledgement of responsibility, let alone the “definite apology” South Korea’s president had demanded, it allows Seoul to claim some measure of victory in holding the North to account.

South Korea, for its part, halted anti-Pyongyang propaganda broadcasts on the border, which will let the authoritarian North trumpet to its people a propaganda win over its bitter rival — and put an end to broadcasts that outside analysts say could demoralize front-line troops and inspire them to defect.

The agreement marks a good first step in easing animosity that has built since South Korea blamed North Korea for the mine explosion at the border earlier this month and restarted the propaganda broadcasts in retaliation. But, as always on the Korean Peninsula, it’s unclear how long the good mood will continue.

Despite South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s expression of hope that the North’s “regret” will help improve the Koreas’ relationship, the accord does little to address the many fundamental, long-standing differences. The announcement of further talks to be held soon in either Seoul or Pyongyang could be a beginning, but the Koreas have a history of failing to follow through on their promises and allowing simmering animosity to interrupt diplomacy.

The negotiations that began Saturday at the border village of Panmunjom, where the Koreas agreed to the 1953 ceasefire that stopped fighting in the Korean War, also resulted in Pyongyang agreeing to lift a “quasi-state of war” declared last week, according to South Korea’s presidential office and North Korea’s state media.

While this declaration was largely a matter of rhetoric — the border is the world’s most heavily armed and there has never been a formal peace agreement ending the Korean War, so the area is always essentially in a “quasi-state of war” — there had been growing worry about South Korean reports that the North continued to prepare for a fight during the talks, moving unusual numbers of troops and submarines to the border.

The Koreas also struck an important humanitarian agreement by promising to resume in September the emotional reunions of families separated by the Korean War. They said more reunions would follow, but there were no immediate details. The next round of reunions could take place as early as October, considering the preparation time needed to match relatives and agree on a venue, said an official from Seoul’s Unification Ministry, who didn’t want to be named, citing office rules.

In a signal of North Korea’s seriousness, Pyongyang sent to the talks Hwang Pyong So, the top political officer for the Korean People’s Army and considered by outside analysts to be North Korea’s second most important official after supreme leader Kim Jong Un.

“I hope the two sides faithfully implement the agreements and build up (mutual) confidence through a dialogue and cooperation and that it serves as a chance to work out new South-North relations,” chief South Korean negotiator and presidential national security director Kim Kwan-jin said in a televised news conference.

The United States quickly welcomed the agreement and the prospect of tensions dropping.

Kim, the Seoul negotiator, described the North’s expression of “regret” as an apology and said the loudspeaker campaign would end at noon Tuesday unless an “abnormal” event occurs.

Pyongyang had denied involvement in the land mine explosions and rejected Seoul’s report that Pyongyang launched an artillery barrage last week. South Korea’s military fired dozens of artillery rounds across the border in response and said the North’s artillery strikes were meant to back up an earlier threat to attack the loudspeakers. There were no details on whether the North addressed the artillery claim in Tuesday’s deal.

North Korea often makes conciliatory gestures to win concessions and aid from rivals after stoking tensions. The North is now seen as keen on reopening the country to South Korean tourists, along with pursuing business and investment deals with its more affluent neighbor.

During the talks at Panmunjom, the North Korean negotiators raised the issue of restarting joint tours to the North’s scenic Diamond Mountain resort, said the official from Seoul’s Unification Ministry.

The tourism project began in 1998 during an era of warmer ties and was a legitimate source of hard currency to the cash-strapped North, but Seoul suspended the tours in 2008 following the shooting death of a South Korean tourist there. Issues related to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program or the joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea, which Pyongyang condemns as an invasion rehearsal, were not discussed during the talks, the official said.

These were the highest-level talks between the two Koreas in a year, and the length of the sessions was no surprise.

While the Koreas have difficulty agreeing to talks, once they do, marathon sessions are often the rule. After decades of animosity and bloodshed, finding common ground is a challenge. During the latest Panmunjom talks, the first session lasted about 10 hours and the second session about 33 hours.

The negotiations started just hours ahead of a Saturday deadline set by North Korea for the South to dismantle the propaganda loudspeakers. North Korea had declared that its front-line troops were in full war readiness and prepared to go to battle if Seoul did not back down.

South Korean defense officials said during the talks that about 70 percent of the North’s more than 70 submarines and undersea vehicles had left their bases and could not be located by the South Korean military. They also said the North had doubled the strength of its front-line artillery forces since the start of the talks.

Kim Min-seok, a spokesman for Seoul’s Defense Ministry, said Tuesday that the South Korean military was seeing signs that some of the North’s submarines and undersea vehicles were returning to their ports, but he did not elaborate further.

—–

AP reporter Kim Tong-hyung from Seoul contributed to this report.

TIME Korean Peninsula

Beijing’s Absence Conspicuous as the Two Koreas Engage in Tense Negotiations

“Kim’s recent actions are very clearly designed to drive a wedge between Seoul and Beijing”

As the two Koreas, which have traded artillery fire and very loud K-pop over their border in recent days, continue slogging through talks to de-escalate tensions, one traditional actor is missing: China. Beijing used to hover noisily around such talks. But as the negotiations, which are now routinely being described as “marathon,” drag on into their third day, China — North Korea’s historic brother-in-arms and South Korea’s largest trading partner — has resorted to quietly sniping on the sidelines.

“As North Korea’s only ally and South Korea’s new best friend in the region, China has a natural role,” says John Delury, an associate professor at Yonsei University in Seoul and an avid watcher of both China and the Koreas. “Beijing has been noticeably, almost painfully, absent from the escalating tension on the Korean peninsula in the last couple weeks. Other than anodyne calls for everybody to exercise self-restraint, Beijing has had nothing to say or do to improve the situation.”

Despite a truce in 1953, the two Koreas are still technically at war, and the latest frictions were catalyzed earlier this month by the maiming of South Korean troops in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) border area by land mines presumed to have been laid by the North Koreans. As talks ground on, South Korean President Park Geun-hye demanded an apology for the attack — for which the North Koreans deny responsibility — even as the South kept up its psychological warfare against its cloistered neighbor by broadcasting news and pop music from loudspeakers on the border. North Korea has responded to the aural assault by firing over the border, prompting South Korea to respond with its artillery. The South Korean Defense Ministry says that North Korean troops are amassing at the border and that North Korean submarines have left their normal base.

The relationship between China and North Korea used to be famously close, in Mao Zedong’s words, as “lips and teeth.” China sent waves of its troops to fight on the North Korean side during the Korean War; Mao’s own son died during the conflict. One of the members of China’s current Standing Committee, the country’s seven-man leadership clique, was educated at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang, where he studied — as hard as it may be to believe — economics.

But China-DPRK relations, already cooling during the rule of Kim Jong Il, have turned even frostier under the leadership of his son, Kim Jong Un. Chinese President Xi Jinping, himself in office since late 2012, has made it clear he believes North Korea should abandon nuclear weapons — a position not appreciated by Pyongyang. One Chinese expert on North Korea — who wishes to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak to the foreign media — says that he has heard that Chinese leaders have tried in recent months to arrange high-level meetings in Pyongyang but have been rebuffed. “The Chinese do not like to kowtow to a strange man,” he says, referring to Kim Jong Un. “We are losing our patience.”

Earlier this year in Dandong, a Chinese border town with North Korea, businessmen complained about how trade had dried up, ever since Kim’s uncle Jang Sung Taek, who was a leading proponent of economic reform, was executed in 2013. A fancy new bridge designed to facilitate economic activity between the two countries — paid for, naturally, by China — appeared empty and forlorn. Rather than tales of business deals, locals talked about the latest North Korean soldier who had slipped across the border and robbed Chinese at gunpoint. “Business is getting worse and worse,” said one Dandong businessman who has been to Pyongyang dozens of times. “No one knows when it’s going to get better.”

Meanwhile, on Aug. 24, the Global Times, a Chinese Communist Party–affiliated daily, published an editorial warning that forces on the Korean peninsula might be trying to “strip China of its strength and geopolitical advantages.”

China, under President Xi, has spent months building up to a blowout military parade scheduled for Sept. 3 in Beijing to mark the 70th anniversary of Japan’s defeat in World War II. South Korean President Park, representing a country that was brutally colonized by Japan, is expected to be in Beijing at that time, although it’s not clear whether she will attend the military festivities. There is, however, no word on the planned whereabouts of the North Korean leader. “Kim’s recent actions are very clearly designed to drive a wedge between Seoul and Beijing,” says Zhu Feng, a foreign policy expert at Nanjing University. “There is a lot of disappointment and dissatisfaction on both sides [in China and North Korea].”

The Global Times op-ed speculated that the latest Korean hostilities, some of the worst since the North sank a South Korean navy ship in 2010, could be aimed at forcing Park to cancel her trip to Beijing, at a time when China hopes to show off new military hardware and flex its geopolitical muscle. “Beijing will not be led by the nose,” went the editorial, “and there is no force on the [Korean] Peninsula that could easily maneuver China.”

For all its expanding military arsenal and economic influence abroad, China’s diplomatic efforts have been less successful. “The whole situation [of China’s absence in the latest Korea talks] speaks to the limits of Beijing’s diplomatic clout, even with its neighbors, despite all the talk of China’s rise,” says Yonsei University’s Delury.

Instead, he says, “in a situation like this of real crisis, the United States is the key third party as far as both Koreas are concerned. Indeed, the North Korean Foreign Ministry went so far as to obliquely chide Beijing for telling them to have restraint, in the face of large-scale military exercises by South Korea and the U.S. I would not go so far as to say this is any kind of tipping point in China–North Korea relations, but rather, it underlines how weak the ties are between Xi Jinping and Kim Jong Un.”

TIME North Korea

North Korea Declares ‘Quasi State of War’ With South Korea

Seoul said the North fired on Thursday across the Demilitarized Zone

(PYONGYANG, North Korea) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Friday declared his frontline troops in a “quasi-state of war” and ordered them to prepare for battle a day after the most serious confrontation between the rivals in years.

South Korea’s military on Thursday fired dozens of artillery rounds across the border in response to what Seoul said were North Korean artillery strikes meant to back up a threat to attack loudspeakers broadcasting anti-Pyongyang propaganda.

The North’s declaration Friday is similar to its other warlike rhetoric in recent years, including repeated threats to reduce Seoul to a “sea of fire,” and the huge numbers of soldiers and military equipment already stationed along the border mean the area is always essentially in a “quasi-state of war.” Still, the North’s apparent willingness to test Seoul with military strikes and its recent warning of further action raise worries because South Korea has vowed to hit back with overwhelming strength should North Korea attack again.

Pyongyang says it did not fire anything at the South, a claim Seoul dismissed as nonsense.

Kim Jong Un ordered his troops to “enter a wartime state” and be fully ready for any military operations starting Friday evening, according to a report in Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency. The North has also given Seoul a deadline of Saturday evening to remove border loudspeakers that, after a lull of 11 years, have started broadcasting anti-Pyongyang propaganda. Failure, Pyongyang says, will result in further military action. Seoul has vowed to continue the broadcasts.

The North’s media report said that “military commanders were urgently dispatched for operations to attack South Korean psychological warfare facilities if the South doesn’t stop operating them.”

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, citing an unidentified government source, reported Friday that South Korean and U.S. surveillance assets detected the movement of vehicles carrying short-range Scud and medium-range Rodong missiles in a possible preparation for launches. South Korea’s Defense Ministry said it could not confirm the report.

North Korea said the South Korean shells fired Thursday landed near four military posts but caused no injuries. No one was reported injured in the South, either, though hundreds were evacuated from frontline towns.

The loudspeaker broadcasts began after South Korea accused the North of planting land mines that maimed two South Korean soldiers earlier this month. North Korea denies this, too.

Authoritarian North Korea, which has also restarted its own propaganda broadcasts, is extremely sensitive to any criticism of its government, run by leader Kim Jong Un, whose family has ruled since the North was founded in 1948. The loudspeaker broadcasts are taken seriously in Pyongyang because the government does not want its soldiers and residents to hear outsiders criticize human rights abuses and economic mismanagement that condemns many to abject poverty, South Korean analysts say.

North Korea on Thursday afternoon first fired a single round believed to be from an anti-aircraft gun, which landed near a South Korean border town, Seoul said. About 20 minutes later, three North Korean artillery shells fell on the southern side of the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas. South Korea responded with dozens of 155-milimeter artillery rounds, according to South Korean defense officials.

South Korea’s military warned Friday that North Korea must refrain from engaging in “rash acts” or face strong punishment, according to South Korea’s Defense Ministry.

South Korea raised its military readiness to its highest level. Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman Jeon Ha-kyu told a televised news conference that South Korea is ready to repel any additional provocation.

Escalation is a risk in any military exchange between the Koreas because after two attacks blamed on Pyongyang killed 50 South Koreans in 2010, South Korea’s military warned that any future North Korean attack could trigger strikes by South Korea that are three times as large.

Many in Seoul are accustomed to ignoring or discounting North Korea’s repeated threats, but the latest have caused worry because of Pyongyang’s warning of strikes if the South doesn’t tear down its loudspeakers by Saturday evening. Observers say the North may need some save-facing measure to back down.

This is what happened in December 2010, when North Korea backed off an earlier warning of catastrophic retaliation after South Korea defiantly went ahead with live-fire drills near the country’s disputed western sea boundary. A month earlier, when South Korea staged similar drills, the North reacted with an artillery bombardment that killed four people on a South Korean border island. North Korea said it didn’t respond to the second drill because South Korea conducted it in a less provocative way, though the South said both drills were the same.

The rivals are currently also at odds over annual U.S.-South Korean military drills that North Korea calls an invasion rehearsal. Seoul and Washington say the drills are defensive in nature.

On Friday, residents evacuated in the South Korean town near where the shell fell, Yeoncheon, returned home, officials said. Yonhap reported that a total of about 2,000 residents along the border were evacuated Thursday.

Pyongyang was mostly business as usual Friday morning, although propaganda vans with loudspeakers broadcast the state media line that the country was in a “quasi-state of war” to people in the streets.

North Korean officials held a pair of rare briefings Friday to try to win support for their country’s ultimatum that South Korea stop anti-Pyongyang propaganda broadcasts by Saturday.

Kim Yong Chol, director of the general reconnaissance bureau of the North Korean army, in what was described as an “emergency situation briefing” for diplomats and military attaches in Pyongyang, said all front-line units are on full war readiness. He gave no details on what kind of military retaliation North Korea would consider appropriate “punishment” for the South.

In Beijing, at the North Korean Embassy, Ambassador Ji Jae Ryong told reporters that South Korea’s psychological warfare had “gone beyond the limits of tolerance.”

South Korea has said the two soldiers wounded in the mine explosions were on a routine patrol in the southern part of the DMZ that separates the two Koreas. One soldier lost both legs and the other one leg.

The Koreas’ mine-strewn DMZ is a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving the Korean Peninsula still technically in a state of war. About 28,500 U.S. soldiers are deployed in South Korea to deter potential aggression from North Korea.

 

___

Kim reported from Seoul. AP writer Foster Klug in Seoul contributed to this story.

Read next: North Korea Is Creating Its Own Time Zone to Spite The ‘Wicked Japanese Imperialists’

Listen to the most important stories of the day

TIME South Korea

North and South Korea Trade Fire on Their Border

South Korea's surveillance equipment detected a single North Korea shell

(SEOUL, South Korea) — South Korea’s military fired dozens of shells Thursday at rival North Korea after the North lobbed a single artillery round at a South Korean border town, the South’s Defense Ministry said.

The ministry said in a statement that its artillery landed at the place where North Korea had fired its shell. There were no other immediate details from the military, but it appeared that North Korea did not respond to South Korea’s returned fire.

About 80 residents in the South Korean town where the shell fell, Yeoncheon, were evacuated to underground bunkers, and authorities urged other residents to evacuate, a Yeoncheon official said, requesting anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media. He said there were no reports of injuries or damage in Yeoncheon.

In the nearby border city of Paju, residents were asked to stay home, officials said.

North Korea had previously threatened to attack South Korean loudspeakers that have been broadcasting, for the first time in 11 years, anti-Pyongyang propaganda messages across their shared border. Pyongyang also restarted its own loudspeakers aimed at the South.

The cross-border propaganda warfare followed accusations from Seoul that Pyongyang had planted land mines on the South Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone that maimed two South Korean soldiers last week.

Authoritarian North Korea is extremely sensitive to any criticism of the government run by leader Kim Jong Un, whose family has ruled since it was founded in 1948.

North Korea’s army said previously in a statement that the broadcasts were a declaration of war and that if they were not immediately stopped “an all-out military action of justice” would ensue.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye urged Pyongyang to “wake up” from the delusion that it could maintain its government with provocation and threats.

Pyongyang’s powerful National Defense Commission had claimed that Seoul fabricated the evidence on the land mines and demanded video proof. The land mine explosions resulted in one soldier losing both legs and another soldier one leg.

TIME China

The Shanghai Index Drops 4%, Further Dragging Down Asian Markets

South Korea Financial Markets
Ahn Young-joon—AP A currency trader watches a monitor screen at the foreign exchange dealing room of the Korea Exchange Bank headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, Aug. 19, 2015

"Market fear is growing"

(SEOUL, South Korea) — China’s main Shanghai stock index slumped more than 4% on Wednesday, leading Asian stock markets lower a day after a sharp fall rattled investors around the world.

KEEPING SCORE: The Shanghai Composite Index tumbled 4.4% to 3,581.26 after plunging as much as 5%. Other Asian markets widened losses. Japan’s Nikkei 225 slipped 0.5% to 20,458.50 and South Korea’s Kospi fell 1.6% to 1,925.17. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was down 1.4% to 23,145.17. But Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 1% to 5,357.80. Stocks in Taiwan and the Philippines were also lower but markets in Singapore and New Zealand were stable.

CHINA FEAR: China’s main Shanghai stock index staged a sharp fall for a second day in a row. The plunge comes after a short period of stability following a series of surprise devaluations of the Chinese yuan last week, which sparked jitters in the global markets. Analysts said investors are selling Chinese stocks fearing that the Chinese yuan may be devalued further. The devaluation of the Chinese yuan is expected to aid exports for the world’s second-largest economy, but it also underlined concerns about China’s economic outlook.

ANALYST’S TAKE: “Market fear is growing. Uncertainty is creeping into markets, as well as the economies on both sides of the Pacific, with China driving the fear,” said Evan Lucas, a market strategist at IG. “The market’s assessment of Chinese growth is dwindling.”

WALL STREET: The U.S. stock market shuffled to a slight loss in a lazy day of summer trading Tuesday. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index slipped 5.52 points, or 0.3%, to close at 2,096.92. The benchmark for most mutual funds has lost just 7 points this month. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 33.84 points, or 0.2%, to end at 17,511.34, and the Nasdaq composite sank 33.35 points, or 0.6%, to 5,059.35.

OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude fell 17 cent at $42.45 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract closed up 75 cents at $42.62 Monday. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, dipped 20 cents at $48.61 per barrel.

CURRENCIES: The U.S. dollar weakened to 124.300 yen from 124.391 yen while the euro strengthened to $1.104 from $1.103.

TIME South Korea

Seoul Restarts Propaganda Broadcasts to North Korea Over Land Mines

South Korea Koreas Tension
AP In this Aug. 9, 2015 photo provided by the Defense Ministry, a South Korean army soldier stands guard near the scene of a blast inside the demilitarized zone in Paju, South Korea.

South Korean officials believe North Korean soldiers planted the mines at the beginning of the month

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea restarted propaganda broadcasts across the border with rival North Korea on Monday for the first time in 11 years in retaliation for the North allegedly planting land mines last week that maimed two South Korean soldiers.

The anti-North Korean broadcasts over loudspeakers aimed across the world’s most heavily armed border are sure to worsen already terrible ties between the Koreas and infuriate the North, which is extremely sensitive to any outside criticism of the authoritarian leadership of Kim Jong Un.

South Korea’s military earlier Monday promised unspecified “searing” consequences for the mine blasts last week in the Seoul-controlled southern part of the Demilitarized Zone that has bisected the Korean Peninsula since the end of fighting in the Korean War in 1953. South Korean officials said they may take additional punitive measures depending on how North Korea reacts. It was unclear how long the broadcasts will continue.

The U.S.-led U.N. Command conducted an investigation that blamed North Korea for the mines. It condemned what it called violations of the armistice that ended fighting in the war, which still technically continues because the participants have never signed a peace treaty.

The soldiers were on a routine patrol near a wire fence in the southern side of the border when the explosions happened. One of the soldiers lost both legs, while the other lost one leg.

In 2004, the two Koreas stopped the decades long practice of propaganda warfare along the border to reduce tension. The practice had included loudspeaker and radio broadcasts, billboards and leaflets.

In 2010, South Korea restarted radio broadcasts and restored 11 loudspeakers as part of punitive measures taken after a warship sinking blamed on North Korea that killed 46 South Korean sailors earlier that year. But South Korea didn’t go ahead with plans to resume loudspeaker broadcasts at the time.

South Korea conducted loudspeaker broadcasts on Monday in the western and center portions of the border, said Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok. He said the broadcasts emphasized that the mine explosions were a provocation by the North.

South Korean defense officials earlier said the military planned to use two of the 11 restored loudspeakers. In the past, propaganda broadcasts typically blared messages about alleged North Korean government mismanagement, human rights conditions, the superiority of South Korean-style democracy as well as world news and weather forecasts.

More than a million mines are believed to be buried inside the DMZ, and North Korean mines have occasionally washed down a swollen river into the South, killing or injuring civilians. But North Korean soldiers crossing the border and planting mines is highly unusual.

The explosions come amid continuing bad feelings between the rival Koreas over the establishment of a U.N. office in Seoul tasked with investigating the North’s human rights record. North Korea also refuses to release several South Koreans it has detained. Things are expected to get worse next week when Seoul and Washington launch annual summertime military drills, which the allies say are routine but North Korea calls an invasion rehearsal.

Investigations by South Korea and the American-led U.N. Command showed that splinters from the explosions were from wood box mines used by North Korea, according to South Korea’s Defense Ministry.

South Korean officials say there’s no chance that old mines had dislodged and drifted to the South because of rain or shifting soil. The area where the soldiers were patrolling is on higher ground than the places where North Korean mines have been previously planted, meaning the recent mines must have been purposely laid there by the North, chief South Korean investigator Ahn Young-ho told reporters.

A senior South Korean military officer, Ku Hongmo, said Seoul believes North Korean soldiers secretly crossed the border and laid mines between July 23 and Aug. 3, the day before the three mines exploded. But he said surveillance cameras in the area did not detect any suspicious North Korean activities, apparently because of bad weather and forest cover.

A border line runs through the middle of the 4-kilometer (2.5-mile) -wide) DMZ, which is jointly overseen by the U.N. Command and North Korea. South Korean troops patrol the southern part of the buffer zone.

TIME North Korea

North Korea Is Creating Its Own Time Zone to Spite The ‘Wicked Japanese Imperialists’

It will return the country to the time standard it used prior to Japanese colonization

North Korea’s state media is reporting that on Aug. 15 the country will abandon the time zone it shares with Japan and South Korea and create its own.

Pyongyang Standard Time, as it were, will be 12 and a half hours ahead of the Eastern United States — 30 minutes behind Japan Standard Time, which both Koreas have used since Japan colonized the Korean Peninsula in 1910.

“The wicked Japanese imperialists committed such unpardonable crimes as depriving Korea of even its standard time while mercilessly trampling down its land,” said KCNA, North Korea’s state mouthpiece.

The decision serves to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Korea’s independence, which enabled the political rise of Kim Il Sung, North Korea’s founding father and grandfather to Kim Jong Un, the country’s third and current supreme leader. South Korea briefly returned to its precolonial time zone in 1954 before embracing Japan’s standard in 1961, citing diplomatic benefits.

TIME Soccer

A South Korean Billionaire Wants to Be FIFA’s Next President

FBL-FIFA-SKOREA-CORRUPTION-BLATTER-CHUNG
Ed Jones—AFP/Getty Images Former FIFA vice president Chung Mong-joon speaks during a press conference in Seoul on June 3, 2015

"We cannot leave FIFA in this kind of disgrace," Chung Mong-joon says

Correction appended, July 31

Chung Mong-joon, a 63-year-old South Korean billionaire who has a controlling stake in the shipbuilding company Hyundai Heavy Industries, says he will throw his hat into the race to replace Sepp Blatter as FIFA’s president.

Blatter, who served five terms as president of the embattled global soccer-governing body, will be replaced in an election slated for February 26, 2016, CNN reports.

Chung has told various news outlets that he will formally announce his candidacy by next week.

He’s up against some pretty well-known names already, according to CNN, including French former soccer star Michel Platini and Brazilian footballer Arthur Antunes Coimbra (popularly known as Zico), who have both confirmed their intentions to run.

Chung does have some football chops, though. He is a former FIFA vice president and also the president of the Korea Football Association (KFA). Under his 17-year stewardship, the KFA increased its budget from $3 million to $100 million, CNN reports.

So far, he has pledged to turn scandal-ridden FIFA around. “It’s not easy, but people don’t want to be part of corruption. They want to be part of the solution,” he told Reuters. “We cannot leave FIFA in this kind of disgrace.”

[CNN]

Correction: The original version of this story and the headline incorrectly described Chung Mong-joon. He is the controlling shareholder of the shipbuilding company Hyundai Heavy Industries.

TIME MERS

There May Have Been a Major Breakthrough in MERS Treatment

487737801
Getty Images

Researchers in Hong Kong have cured infected monkeys of MERS using existing drugs

Two existing and widely available drugs may prove to be effective treatments for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), new research published by the University of Hong Kong suggests.

According to the South China Morning Post, the medicines—lopinavir with ritonavir and a type of interferon—were tested on marmosets, small monkeys that a 2014 U.S. study concluded would be the best subject for MERS trials because of the way their reactions to the virus mimics human illness. The drugs, currently used to treat HIV and sclerosis, were found to be effective in curing MERS-infected marmosets.

The research is the first of its kind in the world.

“We would recommend doctors to start using both drugs immediately to treat MERS patients if they are critical,” said Jasper Chan Fuk-woo, one of the researchers, told SCMP. “The evidence in this study is quite strong in proving the effectiveness of these two drugs.”

Currently, there is no known cure for MERS.

Meanwhile, South Korea, which struggled with a MERS outbreak in May and June, has not reported any new MERS cases for 23 days and no deaths for more than two weeks. The country declared a “de-facto end” to its outbreak on July 28, although a spokesman for the World Health Organization told the BBC it would not declare an official end to the country’s outbreak until 28 days had passed with no new infections—twice the disease’s incubation period.

[SCMP]

TIME Japan

Japan’s Elderly Now Commit More Crime Than Its Teenagers

Over 23,000 seniors have been caught breaking the law this year

For the first time ever, Japan’s senior citizens are responsible for more crime than its teenagers.

More than 23,000 people over the age of 65 faced police action for unlawful activities during the first half of 2015, the BBC reported, citing Japan’s Kyodo news agency. In comparison, the number of criminals aged 14-19 was just under 20,000, a reversal of every year since the East Asian nation began releasing age-related crime data in 1989.

More than a quarter of Japan’s population is now of retirement age, and crime rates among the elderly have reportedly risen by over 10% from last year’s figures despite a reduction in the country’s overall crime rate.

Japan isn’t the only East Asian nation grappling with the sudden rise of geriatric lawbreakers, however, with neighbor South Korea — also home to swelling ranks of senior citizens — seeing a spike of nearly 40% between 2011 and 2013.

[BBC]

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