Korean News Roundup: PM resigns, contradictory rape laws and rethinking North Korea

Image: Former Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo at his departure ceremony

It’s been a while but we’re finally bringing back our daily news roundup feature. Reading all the latest news so you don’t have to. Today’s news features political unrest, rape laws, Muslims in Korea and much more.

Another Prime Minister has officially resigned after President Park Geun-hye accepted his resignation following yet another scandal – this time involving bribery. Lee Wan-koo was accused of accepting a $30,000 bribe in 2013 while running for election. Mr Lee replaced former Prime Minister Chung Hong-won who stepped down after the Sewol tragedy already remained in office until February this year.

All in all it’s a pretty trying time for President Park, as this Hankyoreh article sets out.

In vaguely good news for people in part-time work (which includes a lot of Korea’s young people), their average wage has exceeded the legal minimum wage for the first time ever. The bad news is that it’s still only 6,910 won which is pretty low. There’s more bad news in that even this lowest tier of the job market there is still a sizeable gender wage gap with male part-timers earning 766,667 won and female workers earning only 613,725 won.

The Korea Herald has a great, in-depth piece on the many problems with Korea’s current rape laws and what should be done to improve them. It focusses particularly on the need to recognise male victims of sexual assault as well as educating people throughout society about human rights.

In “Koreans live in the future” news: Samsung will be installing wireless charging facilities in 200 coffee shops and department stores. So you can just leave your phone on the table while you drink your cup of coffee and it will automatically charge. Still can’t even get WiFi in a lot of UK coffee shops.

Have you ever been as happy as this lady is while charging her phone wirelessly?

Have you ever been as happy as this lady is while charging her phone wirelessly?

The Guardian’s got an interesting piece from Hazel Smith, a professor of Korean Studies and author of a soon to be released book about North Korea. It’s a great read which completely reframes the media’s discourse surrounding the country.

“If Steve Jobs were alive today, even he would have liked the G4,” said an LG spokesperson today in a desperate bid to make their new phone relevant. To be fair to them, the leather back is an interesting design concept. A DSLR quality camera sounds great although the way f-stops are discussed in the article suggests the marketing team doesn’t really understand how camera lenses work.

A new exhibition showcasing relics of Korean shamanism has gone on display. The collection is part of the life’s work of Kim Taegon, a folklorist and academic who spent his life studying the sometimes ancient rituals. Sadly there’s only one photo in the article but the display looks fascinating.

The Korea Herald has an interesting little piece on the growing presence of Islam and Muslim people in Seoul driven mostly by tourism. More than a thousand people travel to the big mosque in Itaewon every weekend to take part in prayers and the street dubbed “Islamic Street” has become a hub for Muslim tourists looking for halal food.

And finally…

There’s a growing trend in Korea for spirits with lower alcohol content. Whiskies with 35-36.5% alcohol content (compared with a standard 40%) and soju with around 17% ABV (most of the popular brand are around 20% although they can go up to 45%) are increasing their market share while the traditional strength drinks are dropping in popularity. I may be at risk of having my Scottish card taken away but Diageo’s Korea-exclusive W ICE by Windsor which is blended with “select other ingredients including pine, dates and dried fig essence” sounds nicer than a standard Scotch whisky to me.


Amazingly, these are both new products and not leftover 1970s/80s kitsch.


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