≡ Anticipation Runs High For Inter-Korean Talks Despite Skeptics
North Korea made contact again with South Korea this morning through the restored inter-Korean communication channel at the truce village of Panmunjom.
Seoul's Unification Ministry said the call was a brief checkup, and there were no significant exchanges about pending issues.
It appears that official talks between the Koreas are imminent but their agenda is still unclear.
Jeong-eun Lee reports.
Seoul is looking to start discussions soon over its proposal to hold high-level talks next week.
Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon indicated that they want talks to focus on North Korea's participation in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, but the two sides could also discuss "other matters of mutual concern."
But it seems Pyongyang wants to put a limit on their talking points.
After announcing the restoration of the communication hotline, North Korea said it aimed to discuss practical matters related to sending a delegation to the Olympics.
Anticipation is high for the first official inter-Korean meeting in nearly two years, but there's also concern about how far it will go while the North's nuclear ambition remains strong.
President Moon Jae-in said earlier that the improvement of relations between Seoul and Pyongyang cannot advance separately from resolving the North Korean nuclear issue.
And this was reiterated by Washington.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley also said the U.S. won't take any of the talks seriously if the North doesn't do something to ban all nuclear weapons in the country.
Jeong-eun Lee, eFM News.■
≡ Majority Of S. Koreans Support N. Korea At Olympics: Survey
A new tbs survey shows that eight out of 10 people in South Korea are in favor of North Korea's participation in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics to improve inter-Korean relations.
Realmeter conducted a phone poll on over 500 adults nationwide, yesterday, and found 76.7 percent of respondents back the move.
Those against it stood at 20.3 percent, citing the need to further strengthen sanctions and pressure on the regime.
Opinion was in favor of the North's Olympic attendance across all age groups, regions and party lines, except those for the main opposition Liberty Korea Party.
The survey had a response rate of 6 percent, with a 95 percent confidence level and a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.■
≡ President To Meet With Victims Of Japan's Wartime Sexual Slavery
President Moon Jae-in is set to meet with a group of Korean victims of Japan's wartime sexual slavery at Cheong Wa Dae this afternoon.
The gathering comes about a week after the government stated that the 2015 Seoul-Tokyo agreement over the so-called comfort women dispute, signed by the previous Park Geun-hye administration, failed to adequately address the concerns and grievances of the victims and Korean public.
A top office official noted that today's meeting partly intends to provide a chance for the president to offer his personal condolences to the victims, and also hear how they wish to resolve the longstanding issue.■
≡ Ex-President Park To Face Additional Bribery Charges
The Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office says it plans to indict former President Park Geun-hye this afternoon on additional bribery charges.
There's fresh allegations the National Intelligence Service provided Park with up to 200 million won in kickbacks every month between May 2013 and July 2016.
Prosecutors suspect the spy agency paid the former president around 3.8 billion won in total, and that she used those funds personally and to carry out illicit political activities.
Park is in detention and has been standing trial on 18 corruption charges in connection with the massive corruption scandal that led to her impeachment last March.■[2018.01.04]
≡ Govt Strengthens Bird Flu Quarantine Measure Ahead Of Olympics
The government is strengthening quarantine measures against bird flu as the latest outbreak in Gyeonggi Province has raised concerns with little over a month left before the start of the PyeongChang Winter Games.
Additional nationwide measures announced by the agriculture ministry this morning include restrictions on the shipment of hatching eggs to twice a week, while vehicles that transfer eggs will also be restricted from entering farms.
Meanwhile, an in-depth analysis is currently underway to figure out whether the latest case of AI involves a highly pathogenic strain.
Quarantine officials imposed a 48-hour standstill order on poultry, equipment and livestock breeders in Gangwon Province.■[2018.01.04]
≡ Culture Ministry To Fund Smithsonian's Korea-Related Projects
The Korean Cultural Center in Washington, D.C. says the South Korean government will fund the Smithsonian's Asian art museums with one million dollars for five years.
In return for the support, the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery will hold a special exhibition with Korean national treasures and hire full-time staff for their Korean collections.
They will also organize a Korean film festival and related academic programs and seminars.■
≡ Seoul Stocks In Mid-Day Trade
Turning to the local bourse, stocks in Seoul are trading _________ at this hour.
As of noon, the benchmark KOSPI was up/down _____ percent at _______, while the tech-heavy KOSDAQ was up/down _____ percent at _______.
The local currency was trading at _______ won against the greenback, up/down/unchanged _____ won from yesterday's close.■1,065[2018.01.04]
≡ (BBC) Iran Accuses US Of Meddling In Its Domestic Affairs
Iran has angrily accused the United States of meddling in its domestic affairs after President Trump backed anti-government protests.
The Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations said that Trump and his vice president had incited unrest with what he called numerous "absurd" tweets.
The BBC's Rana Rahimpour has this report.
[Reporter: Rahimpour: 00:23]■
≡ Cost Of Eating Out Rises Higher Than Inflation In 2017
The cost of dining out rose higher than the inflation rate last year.
According to Statistics Korea, the cost of eating out increased 2.4 percent in 2017 on-year, half a percentage point higher than the inflation rate of 1.9 percent, continuing the trend for a fifth year in a row.
Foods popular with ordinary citizens were heavily affected by price hikes.
The cost for a single roll of "gimbap" rose 7.8 percent, while soju and beer rose 5.2 and 2.5 percent, respectively.■[2018.01.04]
≡ Korail Opens Lunar New Year Train Reservations On Jan. 16
Train tickets for the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday, from February 14th to the 18th, will be available for advance reservation this month.
Passengers can book tickets through the Korail website from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. and at ticket counters in designated stations from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on January 16th and the 17th.
Tickets for the Gyeongbu, Donghae, and North Chungcheong lines will be available on the first day of sales, while those for other lines including Honam, Jeolla, and Jungang will be available the following day.
Any remaining tickets will be sold as normal after 4 p.m. on January 17th.
Korail will release full details and directions on how to purchase early holiday tickets on its homepage next Tuesday.■
≡ Weather Update 1200
Taking a look at the weather, it's partly sunny skies and frigid temperatures across the nation.
The local mercury will peak at zero, while Incheon will see a high of minus 2 degrees.
Cold wave advisories remain in effect in northern parts of Gangwon Province.
Tonight, snow is forecast for parts of the Gangwon and North Gyeongsang provinces.
As for the current reading in central Seoul, it is _____ degrees Celsius or _____ degrees Fahrenheit.■