The Korean government announced Thursday that it will introduce a new residential electricity price system aimed at easing financial burden for households. The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy presented to the National Assembly, three alternatives of the new three-stage program from the current six-tier system, which is expected to lower the electricity bill by an average of 11 per cent. Currently, local households pay 60 Korean won or 0.05 U.S. dollars per kilowatt for the first 100 kilowatts used, but pay 0.11 dollars for the next 100 kilowatts, and for the last tier of over 500 kilowatts, they are charged a whopping 0.6 dollars per kilowatt. In other words, based on the power usage, users are charged based on the cumulative rate, with the top rate being more than 11 times higher compared to the lowest one. However, under the first alternative proposed by the ministry, and still based on the fundamental principle of the progressive pricing system, households will be charged 0.09 dollars per kilowatt for the first 200 kilowatts; from 201 to 400 kilowatts used, they will be charged the average unit price of 0.11 dollars, and 0.26 dollars per kilowatt above that. This will help households save electricity cost by 10.4 per cent on average. The second plan eliminates the cumulative rate on energy consumption, and it is expected to reduce the utility bills by 11.5 per cent, charges 0.05 dollars for the first 100 kilowatts used, 0.11 dollars from 101 to 200 kilowatts, and 0.16 dollars per kilowatt above 201 kilowatts. The last alternative, which is a mixture of the first and second plans, charges 0.08 dollars for the first tier, 0.16 dollars per kilowatt from 201 to 400 kilowatts used, and 0.24 dollars for the last tier. This, evaluated to be the most fair and viable system pf the three, alleviates household burden by 11.6 per cent, while providing a monthly 47 per cent discount for heavy electricity users who consume over 800 kilowatts per month. The government will also provide price benefits for vulnerable households, including those in the low-income bracket and families with new-borns.
Once finalized, the new system will be applied retrospectively starting from December 1st.
South Korea decided Friday not to allow Google Inc. to take government-supplied map data outside the country, citing possible security breaches. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, which supervises mapping policy, announced the decision after a meeting with officials from the foreign, defence and other-related ministries. "There are security concerns amid the confrontation between the South and the North," the ministry said. "(The ministry) suggested Google come up with supplementary measures to relieve security concerns, but Google did not accept this." The Seoul government had said it might allow Google to use the government-supplied maps if it deleted or blurred sensitive and military facilities, including the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae. Google reportedly did not accept the request, citing the company policy only to provide the best quality service. Google first launched its basic map service in South Korea in 2008 but has failed to offer full-fledged service, including 3-D maps and driving directions. Google first sought approval from the Seoul government in 2010 to store South Korean map data in its foreign servers, such as in Singapore and the United States. The request was rejected by the government due to South Korea's National Security Law, drafted more than a half century ago to fight communism, that bans the South Korean government from sending such map data to other countries. The tech giant currently offers only 20 per cent of the total service in South Korea, one of the world's most wired nations.
Korea is expanding cooperation on intellectual property (IP) rights, specifically in terms of IP education and IP protection, with China, Japan, the U.A.E. and Iran. On November 22 and 23, the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) launched a two-day meeting in Seoul for leaders of IP training centres from Korea, China and Japan, with the goal of improving IP education across the region. Specialists from Korea's International Intellectual Property Training Institute (IIPTI), China's Intellectual Property Training Centre (CIPTC) and Japan's National Centre for Industrial Property Information and Training (INPIT) attended the event to share their expertise on IP education. Participants shared information about the inner workings of their training centres, and discussed topics related to IP education, such as special lectures, student exchange programs, as well as classes on IP rights for elementary and middle school students. On Nov. 23, the three countries engaged in a joint seminar to provide briefings on their respective IP database systems. Presentations were given on the Korea Intellectual Property Rights Information Service (KIPRIS), the Japanese Platform for Patents (J-Plat Pat) and the Chinese patent system. A Q&A session followed, during which participants exchanged information about IP laws and regulations shared across their borders. Korea also recently discussed measures to increase cooperation on IP protection and IP education with the U.A.E. and Iran. On Nov. 14, the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) held a meeting with the Iranian Ministry of Justice with the objective of setting up an education system for IP rights in Iran. The Iranian officials asked that Korea share its curricula and training programs for IP rights teachers, along with other insights the KIPO has accumulated over the years. To follow up on these requests, the KIPO has begun making plans to collaborate with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA). In Dubai on Nov. 15, an MOU was signed between the KIPO and the Emirates Intellectual Property Association (EIPA), outlining cooperation on the administration of IP rights protection and raising awareness about IP. Korea and the UAE have been cooperating on patent examinations, patent information systems, as well as legal consultations on IP rights, and with the new agreement the list will also include IP rights protection.
Medical centres and hospitals located in smaller towns and areas across the country will soon receive more nurses and trained medical staff, allowing them to take care of their district's medical needs, particularly patients in dire need of emergency medical treatment. The Ministry of Health and Welfare announced on November 24 that starting next year it would increase the number of nurses it dispatches to hospitals in rural communities. These efforts are part of one of the ministry’s projects launched in July to make up for the shortage of nursing manpower in less-populated areas. Current laws covering the medical industry require that an emergency room (ER) has at least five primary care nurses. However, results from a 2015 inspection of emergency medical treatment centres across the nation revealed that more than 68 per cent of such centres located in less-populated communities were found to not meet the required manpower levels. To deal with this shortage, since July the ministry has hired more nurses to reside in isolated communities or has dispatched two to five nurses to rural clinics in need. Hospitals that have benefited from this project include ones on Baengnyeongdo Island in Ongjin-gun County, Incheon, in Cheongyang-gun County, Chungcheongnam-do Province, and in Wando-gun and Jindo-gun counties, both in Jeollanam-do Province. The ministry will expand this project to cover more rural areas across the nation next year. “This project will allow medical centres in rural parts of the nation to run their emergency rooms more stably. This will, in turn, help local residents have easy access to emergency care in their hour of need, as well as improve the overall quality of treatment,” said an official from the health ministry.
Korea will ramp up cooperation on information technology and online government services with four countries from the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC): Turkey, Serbia, Albania and Azerbaijan. On Nov. 20, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of the Interior dispatched a delegation of experts on e-government services to visit these four governments. Its mission is to host the sixth Korea-BSEC IT Cooperation Workshop in each of the four countries. The BSEC was launched in 1992 at the instigation of Turkey, aiming to increase trade and expand economic cooperation among countries in the region that border on the Black Sea, as well as neighbouring countries that don’t have direct access to the waters of the Black Sea. The body’s 12 members are Turkey, Serbia, Albania, Azerbaijan, Russia, Armenia, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Ukraine, Moldova and Romania. Korea has served as a sectoral dialogue partner (SDP) at the organization since 2011. The Korean government and the BSEC are co-hosting the Korea-BSEC IT Cooperation Workshop with the aim of sharing knowhow about state-of-the-art IT and e-government services, and also of expanding mutual cooperation on the sector with each other. The workshop marks its sixth year this year. Talks touched upon the development of Korea’s information communications networks and public data, smart cities and the Internet of Things (IoT), and, also, cyber security and big data. In addition, participants were briefed on some of successful examples of the Korean government rolling out e-government services. They touched on an electronic customs clearance system that expedites the handling of imports, exports, taxes and custom duties, an automated tax return system called Hometax, a national archives management system and general online e-learning platforms. The next forum, set to be held in Serbia, will focus on an e-government project for 2017 being pushed forward by the Serbian government. A memorandum of understanding on e-government was signed between Korea and Serbia in March this year when former Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Kori Udovicki visited Seoul. The upcoming Serbian forum will introduce Korea’s national pension service, knowhow on the identification of illegal pension claims, and on the analysis of financial quotas. Experts in electronic taxation from the Korea Customs Service will also be part of the discussion, covering ways to enhance Korea-Serbia customs cooperation under the theme of “Modernization of Customs Administration in Serbia.” Finally, e-government experts from Albania and Azerbaijan will have a chance to learn more about the Korean government's range of e-government services, as well as talk about cyber security, open data, big data and ways to further boost cooperation on these sectors among industrial and academic bodies.
More than 1 out of 3 people suffering from depression last year were aged 65 or over, data showed Friday. According to the data by the Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service, 680,000 people received treatment for depression in 2015, and out of the number, 224,000, or 33 per cent, were senior citizens. The number of the country's senior citizens receiving treatment for the disease increased by an average of 6.8 per cent on-year in the past five years, the data showed. Noticeably, the number jumped 13 per cent in 2015 from a year earlier, the data showed, underscoring that the country's population is aging at a fast pace. Medical experts, however, said depression among the elderly population is often misdiagnosed as dementia. "There is still some prejudice among people in our society about mental disease, such as depression," said Lee Dong-woo of Inje University, urging more patients to actively seek treatment. The number of senior citizens aged 65 or over rose to an all-time high of 6.57 million, or 13.2 per cent of the country's population of 49.7 million, last year.
Kortnyheterna är sammanställda av YoonJung Ku och Niklas Z Kviselius vid Tillväxtanalys kontor i Tokyo och från Seoul.