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News from Korea

Ipak sam odlučio ponovno krenuti s vijestima. Svakod tjedna primam jedan Google Alert s vijestima o Koreji pa ću onda jednom tjedno nastojati kopirati najzanimljivije i najvažnije. Na engleskom jer, tko bi to prevodio, a ionako svi (?) razumiju eng.

US Talks with North Korea Move Forward

The United States and North Korea held a first round of historic talks in New York earlier this week aimed at establishing normalized, diplomatic relations between the two countries. The U.S. negotiator, Ambassador Christopher Hill, is upbeat about the nature of the discussions. He also admits the hardest part -- verifying that North Korea is dismantling its plutonium production capabilities -- is still ahead.

US says it is ‘optimistic’ that S Korea trade talks can succeed

The US is optimistic a $29 billion free-trade accord with South Korea can be concluded by the end of this month, the top US negotiator said on Thursday. “We remain optimistic this accord can be done by the end of the month,’’ assistant US trade representative Wendy Cutler said on the first of five days of talks in Seoul. Seven previous rounds of negotiations failed to reach agreement on issues including auto imports and trade penalties.

Negotiators have already missed their original goal of completing the talks by the end of 2006 and must reach agreement by the end of March to get the deal to Congress before President George W. Bush’s trade negotiating authority expires June 30. An accord could boost US exports to South Korea by $19 billion, with a $10 billion jump in shipments the other way, according to the US International Trade Commission. “Korea and the US will both be smart enough to recognize the benefit of an FTA,’’ said James Rooney, president and chief executive officer of Market Force Co. “It’s not a certainty, but we’re all looking forward with positive expectations.’’

South Korea on Thursday agreed to resume imports of US beef after rejecting three shipments since November, meeting one of the main US demands. South Korea, formerly the third-largest buyer of US beef, will still reject individual shipments if bone fragments are found during inspections, according to a statement from its agriculture ministry. Cutler said today that South Korea policy of zero tolerance for bone chips “is not based on science.’’ Among the major hurdles still remaining are tariff cuts to allow the US to send more rice to Korea, changes in US anti-dumping laws to lower tariffs on Korean goods, and changes to South Korea tax laws to allow more imports of US vehicles with larger engines.

North Korea slaughters animals after hoof-and-mouth disease outbreak

Impoverished North Korea has slaughtered hundreds of cows and pigs after an outbreak of hoof-and-mouth disease, according to the World Organization for Animal Health. The outbreak occurred in January at a farm in the capital, Pyongyang, sickening 431 cows, according to a North Korean government report dated Wednesday that was posted on the website of the Paris-based animal health agency, known by the initials OIE.

Since the outbreak, quarantine officials have killed 466 cows, including the sickened ones, as well as 2,630 pigs to prevent the spread of the disease, the North's Agricultural Ministry said. Some 100,000 animals within the 70-kilometre radius of the outbreak site will be vaccinated, it added. The sickened cows were imported from Tieling, China, the report said. The communist North has been suffering from food shortages since the mid-1990s, when natural disasters and mismanagement devastated its economy and led to a famine estimated to have killed some two million people.

South Korea to resume fertiliser aid to North

South Korea plans to resume fertiliser shipments to the North in time for spring sowing in the next few weeks, a senior official said on Thursday, about eight months after Seoul cut off aid in response to Pyongyang's missile tests. Ties between the two Koreas, chilled by North Korea's defiant missile launch in July 2006 and its first nuclear test a few months later, have improved since Pyongyang agreed last month at six-country talks to start scrapping its nuclear arms programme. North Korea sent a formal request for 300,000 tonnes of fertiliser on Wednesday through its Red Cross society.

International aid organisations say North Korea suffers from chronic food shortages because of its mismanaged farm policy. Even in a good year, it still falls about 1 million tonnes short of what is required to feed its people. South Korea has typically sent as much as 500,000 tonnes of rice and 350,000 tonnes of fertiliser to the North a year.

Pyongyang agreed at their recent meeting to restart reunions of family members separated during the 1950-53 Korean War.

North Korea accuses Japan of intensifying suppression of Koreans who support Pyongyang

North Korea accused Japan of a growing effort to suppress Koreans who support Pyongyang and urged U.N. members not to support Tokyo's campaign for a seat on the U.N. Security Council. In a letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon circulated Wednesday, North Korea's U.N. Ambassador Pak Gil Yon said the crackdown was directed toward Chongryon, an umbrella group of pro-North organizations. Japan is creating "a horrific atmosphere of terror and plunging the human rights issues of Koreans in Japan into a grave situation," the letter said. North Korea frequently resorts to harsh words when criticizing its foes.

Tomohiko Taniguchi, deputy press secretary of the Japanese Foreign Ministry, said the charges were groundless. The Japanese government has acted "in accordance with the law" and the North Koreans can sue the government if they are dissatisfied, he said. North Koreans in Japan have long been vilified, a sentiment that intensified following Pyongyang's Oct. 9 nuclear test that led to U.N. sanctions. Japan sees North Korea, with its secretive Stalinist regime and record of political repression, as a threat to regional security.

South Korea Drafting Robotic Laws

South Korea is promoting an ethics charter for robots. The new ethical charter will set standards for users and manufacturers of robots and will be released later in 2007. The charter is being drafted by a five member team of experts that includes futurists and a science fiction writer and will draw upon the three laws of robotics originally created by the science fiction writer, Isaac Asimov in the 1940s.

South Korea is one of the world leaders in robotics. The new ethical guidelines are seen as a natural development in a country where the government pumps millions into robotic research every year. The robotic charter comes after a recent government report forecasted that every South Korean household will have a robot by between 2015 and 2020 and that robots would routinely perform surgery by 2018.

The team of experts from Korea will have several considerations in mind when drafting the robotics ethics charter. Among other things they will have to consider ensuring continued human control over robots, preventing illegal use of robots and protecting data acquired by robots. The three robotic laws created by Asimov in his 1942 short novel "Runaround".

Robotic Laws:
1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
In his 1985 novel "Robots and Empire" Asimov added a fourth law (called the zero law) which stated that:
0. A robot may not injure humanity, or, through inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.

Low Awareness of Mental Disease in Korea

Mr. Hong (Age 68, Daegu), a dementia patient, called a shaman to his house to perform an exorcism last August. The reason he did so was because he was hearing the voices of his parents who had passed away long ago, and saw visions of his daughter hanging upside down on the wall. One day he perceived his wife, who was nursing him, as a devil trying to harm him, and made a big commotion, after which he momentarily came to his senses and asked his wife for an exorcism. The exorcism, which cost several million won, was of no use. Later, at a university hospital, Mr. Hong was diagnosed with dementia caused by hydrocephalus, which is caused when water fills up in the brain, and after receiving surgery, his condition improved. Hong and his family spent millions of won on an exorcism because they were not aware of his mental disease.

The number of mental patients in Korea is around five million (based on a research conducted in 2001), but there are still a considerable number of people like Hong who do not visit a psychiatry hospital at the early stages of their disease. In such circumstances, as the recent wave of suicides has shown, Korean society finds it hard to free itself from the social loss and shock of mental disease.

In the hopes of making a healthier society, this newspaper and the Korean Neuro-Psychiatric Association conducted a mental health study of the public, the first of its kind in Korea. In March, a survey was conducted on 303 adults aged in their twenties and above who attended a health lecture at five university hospitals in Seoul and the metropolitan area. The results showed that six out of ten people were ‘mental health ignorant,’ having little knowledge on mental health. In response to the 10 questions asking about types and causes of mental disease, and ways to deal with them, 57.6% of the participants received a failing grade of lower than 40 out of 100 points. Only 5.6% of the participants scored over 70 points, which indicates that the person is well aware of mental health; there was not a single person who answered all questions correctly. 46.4% of the participants answered that depression was a disease that occurs when one is weak-hearted, and 76.2% answered that it is impossible to completely cure dementia, which is incorrect.

Professor Ryu Sung-gon of Kangdong Sacred Heart Hospital’s neuropsychiatry department said, “This survey showed that the percentage of correct answers on questions regarding the causes and treatment of the disease was extremely low, which suggests that there is a problem in the way Koreans perceive mental illness.”

Cyworld fever cools

An online consultant company's statistics suggest that people are now spending less time on South Korea's top social-networking website. Tens of millions of people still frequent Cyworld, South Korea's top social-networking site, but they spend less and less time on the popular Internet site.

But their average time on the site declined after peaking at six hours and 48 minutes in July 2004. The figure tumbled to five hours and 28 minutes in July 2005, four hours and 49 minutes in June 2006 and four hours and 21 minutes last month.

"The falling length of visiting time indicates that Cyworld users spend less time at the community site. It's bad news for Cyworld," said Shim Jun-ho, an analyst at Goodmorning Shinhan Securities. As a rough equivalent to MySpace of the United States, Cyworld is Korea's foremost online community that boasts of more than 20 million subscribers. Unlike a blog, short for Web log, Cyworld uniquely interconnects personal homepages, prompting users to form a network with their friends and colleagues. Cyworld became a "must have" site for young Koreans, who typically spent several hours a day decorating their homepages or scrolling through others' to forge new networks.

However, young Web junkies recently started shifting their interest to other services including video footage created by ordinary people from the time-consuming works at Cyworld. "It is really hard for Internet companies to regain support of users once they lose popularity. SK Communications can face problems in this sense," Shim said.

Post je objavljen 08.03.2007. u 23:14 sati.