≡ S. Korea To Raise 2020 Minimum Wage By Smallest In Decade
South Korea has decided to raise its minimum wage for next year by 2.9 percent, the smallest amount in a decade.
Labor and business representatives eked out an agreement, but the umbrella union groups are calling it a "disaster."
Claudia Kim has more.
The Minimum Wage Commission agreed on an increase of 2.9 percent to 8,590 won an hour early this morning after a marathon meeting that ran past midnight between labor and business representatives.
The single-digit increase, the smallest hike in a decade, was widely anticipated as President Moon Jae-in signaled a more flexible approach to his minimum wage pledge amid an economic slowdown and sluggish job growth.
The raise follows a whopping 16.4 percent hike in 2018 and 10.9 percent for this year.
The labor-friendly president vowed to raise the minimum wage to 10,000 won by 2020, but last year he said it might be difficult to meet the goal.
Initially, the labor sector had demanded a 19.8 percent increase for next year, while the business sector proposed a 4.2 percent cut.
Labor circles are expected to fiercely push back as there is some time left for negotiations before the labor ministry finalizes the decision early next month.
Steep hikes over the past two years have been met with strong backlash from SMEs and mom-and-pop stores struggling under mounting labor costs.
Choi Bae-geun, an economics professor at Konkuk University, told tbs FM's "Kim Eo-jun's News Factory" this morning that a steady minimum wage increase is helpful to the self-employed in the long run since it will boost local consumption and revitalize the economy.
He said the government should also try to reduce small firms' debt burden by lowering lending rates to create a positive cycle for both supply and demand.
Claudia Kim, eFM News.■[2019.07.12]
≡ S. Korea, Japan To Hold First Working-Level Talks On Export Curbs
South Korea and Japan are set to hold their first working-level talks since restrictions were imposed on Japanese exports of high-tech materials to South Korean companies.
Seoul's trade ministry officials will sit down for a closed-door meeting with their Japanese counterparts this afternoon in Tokyo.
They are expected to prod Japanese officials on why their government decided to single out South Korea to tighten restrictions on exports of key materials used in smartphone displays and chips.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has expressed its willingness to help the two countries resolve the dispute "both publicly and behind the scenes."
A State Department official said on Thursday that Washington will do everything to strengthen ties between the two and amongst all three countries.
South Korea's deputy chief of the National Security Office Kim Hyun-chong, who is currently visiting the U.S., also said Seoul and Washington are "very eager" to arrange high-level talks among the three sides.
He said, however, that Tokyo has yet to respond to the idea.■[2019.07.12]
≡ N. Korea Changes Constitution To Make Kim Jong-Un Official Head Of State
North Korea has revised its constitution to stipulate that leader Kim Jong-un is the official head of state.
Naenara, a North Korean state media outlet, revealed on Thursday that the new constitution, revised in April, states the chairman of the State Affairs Commission, which is the regime's highest seat of power, serves as the supreme leader that "represents the country."
Kim currently rules the North as chairman of the SAC.
The previous constitution only stated that the chairman served as the supreme leader.
The new constitution also deleted the term "songun," or military-first policy, and focused on economic development through science and technology and the expansion of external economic relations, reflecting Kim Jong-un's current direction for the regime.■
≡ Seoul Stocks In Midday Trade
Turning to the local bourse, stocks in Seoul are trading _______ at this hour.
As of noon, the benchmark KOPSI was up/down/flat _____ percent at _______ while the tech-heavy KOSDAQ was up/down/flat _____ percent at _______.
The Korean currency was trading at _______ won against the U.S. greenback, up/down/unchanged _____ won from yestserday's close.■ 1,174[2019.07.12]
≡ S. Koreans Divided Over WHO Gaming Addiction Classification
South Korea, considered by many to be the e-sports capital, has a booming gaming culture that is enjoyed by tens of millions and rakes in billions of dollars.
But the World Organization's recent decision to officially list gaming disorder as a disease has divided the country, with government agencies, health experts and the gaming industry struggling to come up with countermeasures.
Our Hyeryeon Chung has more.
South Korea is the fourth-biggest market for digital games in the world.
Since the WHO's move to add excessive gaming to its International Classifications of Diseases list, local medical and game industry circles have been at odds.
Those who oppose the decision believe it will deal a blow to the country as it seeks to nurture the gaming industry and digital and virtual reality games as another major "hallyu" export.
Culture ministry figures show game exports rose 81 percent to 5.9 billion dollars in 2017 from the previous year.
Korea Mobile Game Association Vice Chairman Kim Hyun-kyu says cultural content creators will be hit the hardest by the WHO's move.
[Clip: Kim Hyun-kyu]
"Game contents are set to lead the fourth industrial revolution or the 5G era. Additionally, the VR and AR industries are developing at a fast pace and looking to make gaming one of their killer contents."
Health experts like Shin Yee-jin think differently.
Shin, a psychiatrist and professor at Yonsei University's College of Medicine, believes the classification will help to address the growing number of game addicts in the country and get them timely medical attention.
[Clip: Shin Yee-jin]
"In hospitals, severely addicted young gamers who can't perform daily activities are increasingly seeking help. For their mental health, it's crucial to tackle the symptoms of gaming addiction early on. So the WHO's inclusion of game addiction as a disease is a welcomed move to improve public health."
Many share Shin's stance, including educators and parents, who are witnessing a growing population of game addicts and related crimes and social issues.
The Office for Government Policy Coordination said it will launch a private-government consultative body this month to try and narrow differences between the two sides.
The country has until 2026 to find middle ground before officially revising its classification in line with the WHO.
Hyeryeon Chung, eFM News.■[2019.07.12]