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Seoul Republic - 07/29/2020

Updated: Mar 20, 2022

Editors’ Note: This article contains the contents of one of the first editions of KOMMON. While we are proud of this work, you may notice that it is a different style than our current publications. In this phase of KOMMON, we were still experimenting to find what style worked the best for us. Additionally, if you were an early subscriber, you may notice that this post differs slightly from the original version; we have gone back and edited for clarity, consistency, and accuracy.

Edited by: Fred McNulty and Amal Kadir

Hello, readers! Today, we’re covering:

1. No more “Seoul republic” 😤

2. Relations with Japan are getting tenser 💣

Also, upcoming events, trends, and weekly hot topics await you.


Policies for the “Balanced Regional Development”

“Balanced regional development” is the central task of President Moon Jae-in’s (문재인 대통령) administration. Have you heard of the term “Seoul Republic (서울공화국)”? It is a nickname which mocks the fact that a large part of South Korea, including the population, infrastructure, politics, economy, and society is concentrated in Seoul.

The population of Seoul (서울) is about 10 million, which is one-fifth of the total population of South Korea. The total number of people in the Seoul metropolitan area (수도권) which includes the population of Incheon (인천) and Gyeonggi-do (경기도) adds up to 26 million, which accounts to more than half of the total population.

Additionally, about 2 million of the 4 million businesses nationwide are concentrated in the metropolitan area. The cultural infrastructure gap is also noticeable. Almost half (1,040) of the 2,825 cultural facilities nationwide are located in the metropolitan area, and of those 1,040 cultural facilities, 367 of them are registered in Seoul. The same goes for the medical field. Of the 363 general hospitals nationwide, 139 hospitals are located in the metropolitan area.

The government has declared that it will implement two policies in this regard. ☝ Public institution relocation and ✌ medical school admissions expansion.

Public institution relocation

Moving the administrative capital to the countryside

The government has begun to move public institutions to other provinces. The intention for this move is to disperse the population. Such thinking is commonly based on the United States’ example, where Washington D.C., the capital, and New York City, the largest city, are separate entities.

In Korea, the plan is to make the city of Sejong (세종특별자치시) into the new capital. President Moon will report the detailed strategies after reviewing the comprehensive plan.

In fact, this is not the first proposal 😮

Back in 2003, the government under President Roh Moo-hyun (노무현 대통령) established the National Balanced Development Committee (국가균형발전위원회) with which the main purpose was to strive for balanced national development.

In July 2012, Sejong was launched as a regional self-governing city, and it currently serves as a multifunctional administrative city. According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (국토교통부), a total of 153 institutions have moved to innovative cities across the country except for the metropolitan area in the first public institution relocation work.

✌ Medical school admissions expansion

What’s going on?

The government has decided to increase medical school admissions. Starting in 2022, 400 more medical students will be admitted each year, and a total of 4,000 additional students will be admitted over the next ten years.

  • Health workforce shortage😰: There are currently 2.4 doctors per 1,000 people, which is lower than the average of OECD countries (3.5). It is the third-lowest among OECD countries after Colombia and Poland. Specific disciplines are suffering from the shortage even more. For example, the division of infectious diseases, which plays a huge role during the COVID-19 situation, has only 277 specialists in the entire country. The same goes for pediatric surgery. There are only 46 surgeons specializing in pediatric surgery.

  • Regional disparity 😷: There are 3.1 doctors per 1,000 people in Seoul, but 1.4 doctors in Gyeongsangbuk-do (경상북도, sometimes spelled (Kyeongbuk”). Ulsan (울산광역시) and Chungnam (충청남도) are also experiencing a severe shortage. The death rate that would not have occurred if proper treatments are given per 0.1 million people is 29.6 in Gangnam, Seoul. However, in the Gyeongsangbuk-do region of Yeongyang (영양군), it is 107.8. Meaning that more people would have been saved in Seoul’s Gangnam district (강남구) compared to those in Yeongyang.

Okay so admitting more students... and then what?

Out of the 400 added students each year, 50 will be assigned to a specific discipline such as 'major trauma'. Another 50 will be assigned to 'medical science' and the remaining 300 will be “local doctors”.

* Local doctors:Those who will study in universities in the provincial area and serve in the public health institution in that provincial area for 10 years. They will get a full scholarship but must return it if they don’t serve as a local doctor and their medical license will get canceled. Local doctors can only specialize in specific disciplines where there is a shortage of doctors.

Curious what doctors think...? 😦

There are many conflicting opinions. Some say that the government needs to take a look at the exact reason why doctors are avoiding specific disciplines or regions, before increasing the number. Others say that admitting 4,000 extra students still won’t be enough to solve the shortage.


The possibility of additional countermeasures by Japan

Don't even think about seizing ✋

According to Japan's Kyodo News on July 25, the Japanese government is considering countermeasures against a South Korean court's ruling in 2018 ordering Japanese firms to compensate for forced wartime labor in World War II. This move is to prepare for the possibility that Nippon Steel Corp.'s assets will be seized and sold from August 4th. In July 2019, the Japanese government imposed regulations on the export of three key materials for semiconductors and display device manufacturing.

  • Forced wartime labor: Korea was colonized by Japan from 1910 to 1945. Japan enforced a national law in 1938 which contained the forced labor clause. The number of Korean forced workers is estimated to be 1.13-1.46 million. Most of them worked in hazardous mines and military factories with poor working conditions.

What are the procedures of compensation ruling?

On Oct. 30, 2018, the South Korean Supreme Court sentenced Nippon Steel, one of the companies related to forced wartime labor, to compensate ₩100 million each to 4 forced workers. However, the Japanese government claimed that Japan's enterprises are not responsible for compensation due to “the agreement on the right of claims” between the Republic of Korea and Japan, which was signed in 1965.

  • The agreement on the right of claims: A treaty signed in 1965 between Korea and Japan. South Korea received economic aid at that time in return for ending its claims on colonization and war crimes. Because of this agreement, Japan argues the dispute was settled in 1965 when diplomatic ties were normalized between them. However, individual claims are valid according to the Korean Supreme Court's ruling in 2018.

The Japanese government refuses to deliver the Korean court's decision including the application of seizure to Nippon Steel. A local court in Pohang (포항시) issued a public notice of the asset seizure decision to the company on June 1, and after midnight on the 4th of next month, the court can begin the process of forcing the sale of the asset as a follow-up measure.

What are the predicted countermeasures by Japan?

  1. Korean visa restrictions. However, Japan has already banned entry from Korea after the COVID-19 crisis, this countermeasure is currently less effective.

  2. Summoning Japanese Ambassador to Korea, Tomita Koji, to Japan without setting a date for his return.

  3. Regulations on the Korean Economy: Additional Tariffs on Korean imports and exports.

The Korean government's stance on these measures

According to the Korean government's position, as there are many procedures left, it will take a considerable amount of time before the actual sale process can be implemented. The sources also mentioned that the Korean government will be keeping an eye on Japan's movement.


💘What's trending now

1. Rupee is here! 🙈

Have you ever heard of the Korean animation Pororo (뽀롱뽀롱 뽀로로)? One of Pororo's best friends, Rupee is gaining popularity after being adopted by the netizens as a meme. You might come across these images on social media.

2.사흘(Saheul)and 나흘(Naheul)? Koreans are also confused 😖

When counting days in Korean, these pure Korean words are used: 하루 (haru) 1 day - 이틀 (iteul) 2 days - 사흘 (saheul) 3 days - 나흘 (naheul) 4 days etc. Notice how 사흘 (saheul) and 나흘 (naheul) are extremely similar? 😨 Well, Koreans were confused as well, and therefore ‘사흘' (saheul) took the top spot on portal site Naver's real-time search results on the 21st. As August 17 was set as a temporary holiday, the media reported that there would be a holiday for "사흘 (saheul)”. However, people were confused about whether 사흘 (saheul) means '3 days' or '4 days' and started a debate.

(The correct answer is of course '3 days' 😉)

3.Have you ever heard of '숨듣명'?

숨듣명 is an abbreviation for 곡 (“listening to a hidden masterpiece”). K-pop songs from 10 years ago are back in style and stealing the show. The lyrics and concepts, which were thought to be cool at that time, will make you burst out of laughter now. Try listening to one of these hilarious but addicting songs: ZE:A - “Mazeltov”, “후유증(Aftermath)”, Teen Top - “향수 뿌리지마 (No More Perfume on You)”, and U-KISS - “시끄러 (Shut Up)”.


Miscellaneous Headlines

1. Busan was struck by heavy rain up to 83 mm per hour for 3 hours on the 23rd which caused massive property damage and several casualties. 👉Link

2. The Korean government will revise a law about disease prevention which lets non-citizens waive their COVID-19 treatment fee. So far, the Korean government has paid all medical expenses for non-citizen COVID-19 patients. The medical expanse differs depending on the diplomatic relationship of the patient's nation with Korea, and the economic status of the patient's nation. 👉Link

3. A Chinese giant panda in amusement park Everland (에버랜드) has given birth to a cub, which is rare for the endangered species. This is the first baby panda born in South Korea. 👉Link

4. The Korean government designated August 17 as a temporary national holiday, allowing workers in the nation to have three consecutive days off during a summer season that is expected to be dampened by the drawn-out fight against the COVID-19. 👉Link

5. Two South Korean military planes carrying 293 Korean nationals from Iraq arrived back in Korea, amid the severe novel Coronavirus outbreak in the Middle Eastern country. Among them, 86 people showed potential COVID-19 symptoms. The patients who were tested positive for COVID-19 will be transferred to a hospital or residential treatment center.👉Link

6. A Seoul taxi driver who caused public outrage by blocking an ambulance transferring an emergency patient was formally arrested on July 24th.The driver is suspected of intentionally colliding with an ambulance last month and delaying the transfer of the patient for roughly 10 minutes. The 79-year-old patient, who was brought to the hospital by another ambulance, passed away that night. 👉Link

7. After the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters (중앙 재난 안전 대책 본부) eased restrictions for public facilities in the Seoul Metropolitan area, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (문화체육관광부) announced the reopening of cultural facilities under its umbrella including the National Museum of Korea from Wednesday on and national theaters and troupes will also resume performances. 👉Link

8. Funds are being raised for worldwide advertising efforts to criticize South Korean courts for their slap-on-the-wrist punishment of Son Jong-woo (손정우), the 24-year-old operator of Welcome to Video (웰컴투비디오), the world’s largest child pornography website. People are angered by Seoul High Court’s decision on July 6 not to allow Son’s extradition to the US and is now stretching across national borders.👉Link



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