Turmoil in Korean Peninsula


 

Park Geun-hye – Ousted from office

 

Park ousted but her policy stays in S.Korea

The South Korean Constitutional Court on Friday upheld the parliament’s decision to impeach Park Geun-hye, making her the first democratically elected president in the country to be deposed. Park may also face criminal charges.

A few months back, when Park’s close friend Choi Soon-sil was first exposed of wrongdoing, few people thought Park would be impeached. But as her misdeeds including her involvement in Choi’s illegal profiteering and graft by herself were disclosed one by one, the true life of Park startled South Korea and the entire world.

The impeachment of Park has no direct connection with its diplomatic policies. However, if the leader of the opposition party is elected president later, South Korea may have a chance to shift diplomatic policies.

During the first half of Park’s presidency, China-South Korea relations changed for the better, as Seoul maintained a balance between Beijing and Washington.

Despite South Korea being an ally of the US, its trade volume with China reached more than double that with the US.

There is a strong pro-US political faction in South Korea. Whenever South Korea’s relations with North Korea become strained, they would try their best to push the country back to its old route of aligning with the US.

The leader of South Korea’s biggest opposition party has been leading a popular poll as a presidential contender. He holds a negative attitude toward THAAD. South Korea may change its diplomacy if he wins the election, though the scale of change is still hard to predict.

South Korea appears to have completely overthrown Park, however, Park’s policies, especially her signature work to deploy THAAD in South Korea, are still being 100 percent implemented by the caretaker government.

If Park is only a “princess” lacking the ability of judgment and easily being manipulated, then her presidential decisions should be thoroughly re-examined; if she was truly strategically visionary for the country, then her relationship with Choi would not be so scandalous.

We have to say that South Korean society’s attitude toward Park is full of contradictions.

Attacking Park and in the meantime upholding her policy is not a reasonable behavior.

Park’s decision to accept THAAD has pushed her country closer to the US, which is a serious geopolitical mistake.

It turned South Korea from as a country benefiting from its proximity to two big countries into a pawn of the US in Asia, making it a miniature Japan instead of an independent country. If South Korea doesn’t correct its path, Park’s legacy would still be in control of the country, as if she remains in the presidential hall.

Seoul shares fate with Pyongyang, not Washington

The South Korea-US Combined Forces Command kicked off their annual joint Key Resolve military exercise on Monday. The USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier and F-35B stealth fighters will arrive in South Korean waters to conduct the exercise, which will simulate a preemptive strike against North Korea’s nuclear and missile facilities when signs of attack are detected. The US military is also deploying a new-type of Gray Eagle drone in South Korea that is capable of striking North Korean targets.

The Yonhap news agency, citing government sources, reported that the drills will include missions that could penetrate Pyongyang and target war command and key military facilities. They send an explicit radical threat to Pyongyang.

To decapitate the North Korean leadership and to punish “the South’s imperialist running dogs” with nuclear weapons are both the craziest threat Pyongyang and Seoul have sent to each other. They are equally hysterical, expressing both sides’ viciousness to destroy the other.

The US-South Korean joint drills without doubt are a deterrent against North Korea. How can Pyongyang remain indifferent facing a military exercise that includes more than 300,000 military personnel to carry out missions targeting its war command and top leader? In such a case, by no means will both sides be in the mood for negotiations. Even if they sit down, they cannot establish a minimum degree of trust for talks.

By deterring North Korea, the US and South Korea are encouraging the country to take a firm grip on the nuclear capabilities it has acquired so far. They intend to scare Pyongyang, but the actual effect is the opposite. Instead, Pyongyang believes that nuclear weapons are the reason why Washington and Seoul dare not put their plan of subverting the North’s regime into practice.

Through joint drills, more and more US strategic weapons are deployed on the Peninsula, posing a greater potential threat to China. Seoul may have more sense of security. But it disregards China’s security concern, it may even feel schadenfreude. To the Chinese people, the South Korean government has lost its rationality on the security issue.

China has participated in the tough sanctions the US and South Korea launched against the North, while the two countries rejected China’s proposal that the US and South Korea suspend their military exercises in exchange for a halt of North Korea’s nuclear activities.

The US and South Korea often accuse China of being uncooperative, but the reality is they are uncooperative over China’s mediation.

The US is here to stir up more trouble in Northeast Asia. By hitching itself to the US chariot, South Korea naively thinks it shares a common destiny with the US. However, if war breaks out, the battlefield is bound to be the Korean Peninsula while the US is on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. South Korea and North Korea are the two who really share a common destiny.

Put a break on Peninsula vicious cycle 

 
US and South Korean diplomats gave a negative response to the proposal raised by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi Wednesday on the issue of the Korean Peninsula. During a press conference Wednesday on the sidelines of the ongoing annual sessions of the National People’s Congress, Wang noted that Pyongyang, which is promoting its development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, and Washington and Seoul, which are holding large-scale military exercises to pile increasing military pressure on North Korea, are like “two accelerating trains coming towards each other, with neither side willing to give way.” Wang stressed that the priority for now is to “flash a red light and apply the brakes on both trains.”

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley responded Wednesday local time that the US must see “some sort of positive action” from North Korea before it could take Pyongyang seriously at the negotiation table. Cho Tae-yul, South Korea’s UN ambassador was more direct, saying “This is not a time for us to talk about freezing or dialogue with North Korea.”

However, those two diplomats’ remarks do not mean that the appeal from Beijing only had a life that lasted several hours.

In fact, Wang’s solution is the only way out to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue apart from the use of force. It won’t be easy for all three sides, the US, South Korea and North Korea, to take a step back, but when warfare is so imminent, if they don’t want to fight, they might eventually be forced to choose the path which China suggested.

Of course, if they are so determined to go to war, although China does not wish to see that, still, they are free to go ahead.

In the eyes of the Chinese people, the North Korean nuclear issue was not created by Pyongyang alone. The country’s insistence on developing a nuclear program is without doubt a wrong path, yet Washington and Seoul are the main forces that have pushed North Korea to this path.

Now they want to stop Pyongyang from going ahead while refusing to reduce the impetus they are giving to North Korea. In the end, they failed to reach their goal and blame China for not being cooperative enough.

Wang’s suggestion aims at stopping the vicious circle on the Peninsula through an abrupt brake.

It must be uncomfortable to do so, nevertheless, it can avoid the worst-case scenario. It is believed that even if Washington, Seoul and Pyongyang refuse to admit it ostensibly, they will consider the option raised by China to avoid war.

China has expressed its willingness to be a “railway switchman” over the Korean Peninsula issue, but what happens next depends on Pyongyang and Seoul, as well as on whether the new US President has the boldness to make a peaceful decision. If the two trains resolve to have a head-on collision, a switchman will be of no use even if he wants to help.

THAAD provides a reason for China to elevate nuclear prowess

According to reports from South Korea and the US Tuesday, the two countries have started deploying the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system in South Korea. Parts of the shield, including launch vehicles, have already arrived, and service personnel and other equipment will be put in place within two months.

It seems that Washington and Seoul are determined to accomplish the installation of THAAD before the coming South Korean presidential election.

In the end, China has not been able to prevent THAAD from being set up in South Korea, but this was predicted by most observers at the beginning. Therefore, Beijing should keep calm and adopt resolute and efficient measures to minimize its threat toward China. In the subsequent games, Beijing will step by step make South Korea feel the pain and make the US realize its mistake.

We should start from increasing sanctions toward Seoul in an orderly way, comprehensively lower the level of Sino-South Korean exchanges, roll back all the privileges that Seoul has gained from China, and just maintain a normal relationship between the two.

Over the past years, South Korean commodities and cultural products have been particularly popular among Chinese consumers given the close ties between Beijing and Seoul. But we can take the current opportunity to squeeze South Korean cultural products out of the Chinese market. This is the price the country must pay for the THAAD deployment.

China should also focus on military countermeasures and strategically deal with more threats. The deployment of THAAD in South Korea has two consequences – it directly threatens military activities within China, moreover, it sets a precedent that Washington can arbitrarily implement its anti-missile arrangements around China. Both will jeopardize China’s security.

Can we neutralize THAAD technically? Research in this field must be enforced. If possible, Beijing must realize it at all costs. One thing is for sure, China’s related strategic weapons must target South Korea’s Seongju County, where THAAD will be installed.

We must prevent the US from setting up more THAAD batteries to China’s southeast or redeploying tactical nuclear weapons on South Korean soil. All that cannot be achieved by simply sanctioning the Lotte Group. The THAAD deployment will become a turning point in the Northeast Asian paradigm. When we take one step forward, we must think two steps, three steps ahead.

The most essential task for China now is to boost its military power. The THAAD installation has offered China a crucial reason to increase and improve its tactical nuclear weapons. It would be worth it if Beijing can comprehensively elevate its strategic nuclear power because of THAAD.

The world has come to a crossroad where Washington is attempting to establish global military hegemony through its anti-missile system, while Beijing and Moscow are trying to smash that plan. This is the essence of the reality.

Sources: Global Times

Here come the robots; your job is at risk


Here come the robots & they are going to take almost all of our jobs…

The new automation revolution is going to disrupt both industry and services, and developing countries need to rethink their development strategies.

A NEWS item caught my eye last week, that Uber has obtained permission in California to test two driverless cars, with human drivers inside to make corrections in case something goes wrong.

Presumably, if the tests go well, Uber will roll out a fleet of cars without drivers in that state. It is already doing that in other states in America.

In Malaysia, some cars can already do automatic parking. Is it a matter of time before Uber, taxis and personal vehicles will all be smart enough to bring us from A to B without our having to do anything ourselves?

But in this application of “artificial intelligence”, in which machines can have human cognitive functions built into them, what will happen to the taxi drivers? The owners of taxis and Uber may make more money but their drivers will most likely lose their jobs.

The driverless car is just one example of the technological revolution taking place that is going to drastically transform the world of work and living.

There is concern that the march of automation tied with digital technology will cause dislocation in many factories and offices, and eventually lead to mass unemployment.

This concern is becoming so pervasive that none other than Bill Gates recently proposed that companies using robots should have to pay taxes on the incomes attributed to the use of robotics, similar to the income tax that employees have to pay.

That proposal has caused an uproar, with mainstream economists like Lawrence Summers, a former United States treasury secretary, condemning it for putting brakes on technological advancement. One of them suggested that the first company to pay taxes for causing automation should be Microsoft.

However, the tax on robots idea is one response to growing fears that the automation revolution will cause uncontrollable disruption and increase the inequalities and job insecurities that have already spurred social and political upheaval in the West, leading to the anti-establishment votes for Brexit and Donald Trump.

Recent studies are showing that deepening use of automation will cause widespread disruption in many sectors and even whole economies. Worse, it is the developing countries that are estimated to lose the most, and this will exacerbate the already great global inequalities.

The risks of job automation to developing countries is estimated to range from 55 to 85%, according to a pioneering study in 2016 by Oxford University’s Martin School and Citi.

Major emerging economies will be at high risk, including China (77%) and India (69%). The risk for Malaysia is estimated at 65-70%. The developed OECD countries’ average risk is only 57%.

From the Oxford-Citi report, “The future is not what it used to be”, one gathers there are at least three reasons why the automation revolution will be particularly disruptive in developing countries.

First, there is “premature deindustrialisation” taking place as manufacturing is becoming less labour-intensive and many developing countries have reached the peak of their manufacturing jobs.

Second, recent developments in robotics and additive manufacturing will enable and could thus lead to relocation of foreign firms back to their home countries.

Seventy per cent of clients surveyed believe automation and 3D printing developments will encourage international companies to move their manufacturing close to home. China, Asean and Latin America have the most to lose from this relocation.

Thirdly, the impact of automation may be more disruptive for developing countries due to lower levels of consumer demand and limited social safety nets.

The report warns that developing countries may even have to rethink their overall development models as the old ones that were successful in generating growth in the past will not work anymore.

Instead of export-led manufacturing growth, developing countries will need to search for new growth models, said the report.

“Service-led growth constitutes one option, but many low-skill services are now becoming equally automatable.”

Another series of reports, by McKinsey Global Institute, found that 49% of present work activities can be automated with currently demonstrated technology, and this translates into US$15.8tril in wages and 1.1 billion jobs globally.

About 60% of all occupations could see 30% or more of their activities automated. But more reassuringly, an author of the report, James Manyika, says the changes will take decades.

Which jobs are most susceptible? The McKinsey study lists accommodations and food services as the most vulnerable sector in the US, followed by manufacturing and retail business.

In accommodations and food, 73% of activities workers perform can be automated, including preparing, cooking or serving food, cleaning food-preparation areas and collecting dirty dishes.

In manufacturing, 59% of all activities can be automated, including packaging, loading, welding and maintaining equipment.

For retailing, 53% of activities are automatable. They include stock management, maintaining sales records, gathering customer and product information, and accounting.

A technology specialist writer and consultant, Shelly Palmer, has also listed elite white-collar jobs that are at risk from robotic technologies.

These include middle managers, commodity salespeople, report writers, journalists, authors and announcers, accountants and bookkeepers, and doctors.

Certainly, the technological trend will improve productivity per worker that remains, and increase the profitability of companies that survive.

But there are adverse effects including loss of jobs and incomes for those who are replaced by the new technologies.

What can be done to slow down automation or at least to cope with its adverse effects?

The Bill Gates proposal to tax robots is one of the most radical. The tax could slow down the technological changes and the funds generated by the tax could be used to mitigate the social effects.

Other proposals, as expected, include training students and present employees to have the new skills needed to work in the new environment.

Overall, however, there is likely to be a significant net loss of employment, and the potential for social discontent is also going to be large.

As for the developing countries, there will have to be much thinking about the implications of the new technologies for their immediate and long-term economic prospects, and a major rethinking of economic and development strategies.

Global Trends by Martin Khor

Martin Khor (director@southcentre.org) is executive director of the South Centre. The views expressed here are entirely his own.
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 China sends out positive signals

CHINA has sent out stabilising messages to the world on its economic, investment and foreign policies since it convened its two most important annual political meetings (“two sessions”) early this month.

The on-going “two sessions” inevitably attract global attention because China’s policies for the year are announced by top leaders at these meetings held in the imposing Great Hall of The People, to the west of Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

For this year, it is even more crucial for other nations to scrutinise the policies of China at the sessions, held from March 3 to 15, as US President Donald Trump has injected too much uncertainty into the global dynamics.

The world is weighed down by anxiety as Trump, who took office in January, abandons globalisation and advocates the return of protectionism. Hence, nations are looking for leadership from the world’s second largest economy, according to analysts.

The two sessions or lianghui refer to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) that began its session on March 3 and the annual National People’s Congress (NPC, or Parliament) that started on March 5. The CPPCC is China’s top political advisory body set up by the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 1949 after the CPC, led by Mao Zedong then, won the civil war.

Five years later, the legislative NPC was established.

Steady economic growth

China is expected to grow steadily at 6.5% or higher this year as it continues its restructuring and reforms. Last year, the country achieved growth of 6.7%.

China’s Premier Li Keqiang announced on March 5 that the growth target for this year would be around 6.5%, while he addressed more than 3,000 legislators.

This slower growth target shows China is opting for a steady growth to reduce financial risk from excessive borrowing, according to economists.

Like the rest of the world, China expects to continue to experience global headwinds and uncertainties. Indeed, the premier warned of a far more complicated global picture ahead in light of the threat of protectionism.

Alfred Schipke, an economist from the International Monetary Fund, told the South China Morning Post: “Anything between 6-6.5% will be appropriate. The key is to have sustainable growth.”

For this year, China will have to give its leaders more room to push through some painful reforms to deal with a rapid build-up in debt and over-capacity.

Li said he would tackle state-owned “zombie enterprises” producing more coal and steel than needed. And nationwide pollution, caused largely by heavy industries, has to be addressed to bring back blue skies. His list of China’s difficulties also included laziness of some government officials. But will China’s economy continue to slide?

Global Times, the party mouthpiece of the CPC, has this to say in its frank editorial: “There are many problems in China’s economy at the moment. Given that it is now stable on the whole, we do not fear these problems as they will most likely turn into future opportunities for further development.”

The news portal stated that structural reforms in the Chinese economy had been “comprehensively addressed”.

Many enterprises that are heavy polluters have been shut down. The country no longer helps inefficient enterprises to stay afloat.

The current anti-corruption campaign has curbed improper spending to the extent that businesses in classy restaurants and retail sector are badly hit.

“China’s biggest accomplishments in the past years are that it did not stop to make adjustments in its economic transition. Instead, it adjusted itself while continuing to move forward. Now, society has fully adapted to the new normal in the country’s economy,” said Global Times.

Despite having to tackle its own economic problems, China has sent out a heartening message that it will continue to be the strong engine of global growth. Last year, China contributed about one-third of the world’s economic growth.

“China’s steady growth has brought in greater demand, investment and products to the world economy … China will help improve global prosperity and regional infrastructure as it pushes its belt and road initiative,” said Wang Guoqing, spokesman for CPPCC on March 3.

More than 100 countries and organisations have joined the belt and road initiative and over 40 of them have cooperation pacts with China, added Wang.

The belt and road initiative, proposed by Xi in 2013, aims to build infrastructure and trade network to link Asia with Europe and Africa along ancient trade routes.

Since 2013, China has financed and gotten involved in projects on aviation, power, rail, road and telecommunications in participating belt-road countries. It is planning to host a belt and road Summit in May that could see China announcing more multi-billion dollar projects to benefit its trade partners and its own economy.

Opening up further

China had also told the world it would open up further and liberalise more sectors to promote trade and investment.

After the opening of the NPC session on March 5, core leader President Xi Jinping reiterated China’s commitment to “open up wider”.

“China will open up like never before. China’s opening door will not close,” said Xi in his report.

“China’s door will open wider, and China will keep working to be the most attractive destination for foreign investment.”

Xi made the remarks while joining in a panel discussion with lawmakers from Shanghai last Sunday, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

Foreign firms will be able to get listed on China’s stock markets and issue bonds. They will also be allowed to participate in national science and technology projects.

Foreign firms will also be treated as domestic firms in license applications and government procurement, and will enjoy preferential policies like locals under the “Made in China 2025” initiative aimed at modernising the manufacturing sector.

Service industries, manufacturing and mining will be more open to foreign investment.

Ian Yoong, a former investment banker in Malaysia, opines that Xi’s vows to open up and liberalise sectors “shows that China is ready to take over the mantle from the US as the dominant superpower”.

He tells Sunday Star: “The key themes of President Xi and Premier Li’s speeches are globalisation and liberalisation of trade, totally countering President Trump’s plans for the US.

“This is a signal to the world that China is ready to move into the trade and political leadership vacuum to be created by the US.”

Easing tension in South China Sea

For South-East Asian nations, there was some relief when the Middle Kingdom appears to have softened its tone in South China Sea disputes.

In remarks made on March 3, Wang, the spokesman for the CPPCC placed emphasis on “navigational freedom”, which the US has often advocated.

“As a major trading nation and the biggest country along the South China Sea, China attaches more importance than any other country to navigational freedom and security in the South China Sea.”

This stance was starkly different from the hard tone of previous months, during which China warned the US and Japan to stay away from its “own sea”.

China’s recent naval force demonstrations in South China Sea had also unnerved Asean nations.

Observed Panos Mourdoukoutas, a contributor to Forbes magazine: “The shift in China’s tone in the South China Sea disputes comes as a relief for investors in Asian equities.”

But what is more comforting for Asean is that last Wednesday (March 8), China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced that the first draft of a code of conduct (COC) for behaviour in South China Sea disputes has been completed.

He told a press conference: “Tension in the waterway has eased notably.”

Since 2010, China and the 10-member of Asean have been trying to work out a set of rules aimed at avoiding conflicts among nations laying rival claims over the waters.

China, which lays sovereign claim to over 80% of the resource-rich South China Sea through which US$5tril (RM22tril) worth of trade passes every year, has often stated it prefers to resolve disputes via peaceful talks with rival claimants – the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan.

Wang vowed China would not allow this new stability in South China Sea to be “disrupted and damaged” by outsiders.

There have been sporadic incidents between US and Chinese ships in the South China Sea. Late last year, a Chinese ship seized a US navy underwater drone off the Philippines, but later returned it.

Korean Peninsula crisis

At his press conference, China’s Foreign Minister also addressed the most pressing issue for the region now – the possibility of a war exploding at Northeast Asia.

North Korea recently launched four short-ranged ballistic missile in response to large-scale military drills held by the US and South Korea. It was reported that these launches were aimed at US military bases in Japan.

Wang proposed “double suspension” to defuse the crisis, urging North Korea to suspend its nuclear and missile activities while the United States and South Korea to cease their war games.

Describing the two parties as “two accelerating trains coming towards each other”, Wang said China was willing to be a “railway switchman” to switch the issue back to the right track.

But US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley promptly responded that the US must see “some sort of positive action” from North Korea, while Cho Tae-yul, South Korea’s UN ambassador, said: “This is not a time for us to talk about freezing or dialogue with North Korea.”

CPC’s Global Times, in its editorial, opined Wang’s solution is “the only way out” to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue peacefully.

The North Korean nuclear issue is not created by Pyongyang alone, it argued.

Although North Korea’s development of a nuclear programme is wrong, Washington and Seoul are the main forces that have pushed North Korea to this path, it added.

“Now, they want to stop Pyongyang from going ahead, while refusing to reduce the impetus they are giving to North Korea. When they failed to reach their goal, they blame China for not being cooperative enough,” said the editorial.

Despite the negative response to China’s proposal, Global Times opines Wang’s handling of the press conference “displays confidence of the country”.

By Ho Wah Foon The Star

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N Korean envoy declared as ‘persona non grata’ in Malaysia


Kang Chol

//players.brightcove.net/4405352761001/default_default/index.html?videoId=5347679568001

KUALA LUMPUR: North Korean Ambassador Kang Chol, who has accused Malaysia of colluding with foreign powers in the murder of Kim Jong-nam, must leave the country within 48 hours.

Kang Chol, who was summoned to Wisma Putra at 6pm yesterday, failed to turn up.

And in a turn of events, the ministry sent a diplomatic note to the embassy at about 9.30pm to inform the North Korean government that Kang Chol had been declared persona non grata.

Kang Chol has to leave by tomorrow.

In a statement, Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said the Malaysian Government had demanded a written apology from North Korea for the ambassador’s recent accusations against the country over Jong-nam’s assassination at KLIA2.

That demand, he said, had been made du­ring a meeting between Wisma Putra officials and the North Korean high-level delegation on Tuesday.

“The officials, led by deputy secretary-general for bilateral affairs Raja Nurshirwan Zainal Abidin, met the delegation headed by Kim Song on Tuesday.

“The delegation was informed that should there be no response by 10pm that day, the Malaysian Government would take measures to best protect its interest.

Here you go: A North Korean embassy official (left) accepting a letter from Muhammad Haidas Muhammad Sharif Song, an assistant secretary of the Malaysian Foreign Ministry’s East Asia Division, at the North Korean Embassy in Bukit Damansara. 

“Almost four days have passed.

“No apology has been made and neither has there been any indication that one is forthcoming.

“For this reason, the Ambassador has been declared persona non grata,” said Anifah.

Persona non grata, in Latin, means one who has been declared so by the receiving state and barred from entering or remaining in the country.

It is the most serious form of disapproval that the country can apply to foreign diplomats and is often used to express displeasure at the conduct or policies of the sending state.

In his statement, Anifah also gave details leading to the move.

He said he had instructed his officers to summon Kang Chol, but neither the ambassador nor the embassy’s senior officials came to Wisma Putra.

“For this reason, the ministry – via a diplomatic note sent to the embassy this evening – informed the North Korea government that His Excellency Mr Kang Chol is declared persona non grata by the Malaysian Government.

“He is expected to leave Malaysia within 48 hours from the scheduled time of the meeting, which is 6pm on March 4 (yesterday).”

Malaysia, vowed the minister, would strongly act against any insult made against it or any attempt to tarnish its reputation.

“It should be recalled that the ambassador has alleged that the conduct of the investigation into the death of a North Korean citizen on Feb 13 indicates that the Malaysian Government had something to hide and that it colluded with outside powers to defame his country,” he said.

However, recent events, including the release of North Korean Ri Jong-chol due to the lack of evidence, was proof that the investigation was carried out in an impartial, fair and transparent manner, said Anifah.

This, he added, as “befits a country that practises the rule of law”.

Kang Chol, 64, began his diplomatic career as an assistant officer in the Middle East Department of North Korea’s Foreign Ministry.

His previous postings were in Somalia and Ethiopia and he had also served as the ministry’s director-general of administrative affairs.

Kang Chol, an alumnus of the Pyongyang University of Foreign Language (1972-73) and Somalia National University (1973-76), has two children.

Source: The Star by mergawati zulfakar, farik zolkepli, qishin tariq, jo timbuong, neville spykerman, royce tan

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Police must act swiftly


Several recent crime cases have shaken Malaysians quite a bit. We leave it to our police force to provide answers to this madness.

RECENTLY, several widely reported crime cases, which many Malaysians are following, have really shaken us.

Yes, Malaysians complain a lot, and rightly so, about the never-ending burglaries and snatch theft cases in our neighbourhood and streets but these are merely incidents involving petty criminals.

Yes, we lose money and sometimes, there are fatalities involved but most are non-brutal and the motives are established quickly. I am not even talking about the high profile assassination of Kim Jong-nam, the exiled half-brother of North Korean dictator Jong-un, at the KLIA2 which has grabbed the world’s attention.

The police have been swift – two women who committed the crime were arrested and other suspects were taken in while more North Korean suspects have been identified.

There has been plenty of noise from the North Korean embassy but the case is being wrapped up, with fresh leads being revealed to the public daily.

But what has disturbed me most is the disappearance of Pastor Raymond Koh Keng Joo, who is well-known among the Christian community in Malaysia.

It has been reported that on Feb 13, occupants of a van stopped the pastor’s car, a silver Honda Accord, along Jalan Bahagia, Petaling Jaya, and abducted him.

(Left) Koh: Abducted in broad daylight. (Right) Sameera: Brutally murdered.

 

He had earlier left his Prima Sixteen Chapter Two home in Jalan 16/18, Petaling Jaya, at about 10am to go to the Puncak Damansara Condominium in Kampung Sg Kayu Ara, not far away. Koh’s family said the 62-year-old was en route to a friend’s home.

So far, there has been no ransom demanded or motive identified. We still don’t know the reason for the kidnapping.

A CCTV footage, currently with the police, purportedly showed the abduction taking place on a busy road.

It is believed that the pastor’s abduction involved several vehicles. It was professionally and very swiftly executed.

The case is under the personal attention of Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar, who announced that a special task force has been formed to investigate the case, saying police had recorded statements from eight witnesses but admitted that there had been little information to go on.

The team is led by Selangor Criminal Investigations Department chief Senior Assistant Commissioner Fadzil Ahmat.

The case is most baffling. Ours is not a South American or Middle Eastern country where people get abducted from busy streets.

The abductors appeared to be very organised, almost professional-like, in carrying out their task. One of them even diverted traffic while others grabbed Koh.

The fact that they have not demanded any ransom shows that they are not ordinary kidnappers looking for money.

The only possible answer is that some persons (or group) are not happy with the way he is handling his work. Koh’s colleagues have revealed that a bullet was sent to the pastor six years ago after the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) conducted a raid on a thanksgiving and fund-raising dinner organised at a church in Petaling Jaya, where he was accused of proselytising to Muslims.

Religious leaders of any faith must be mindful that attempting to convert anyone is really crossing the line. The majority of Muslims will not tolerate any attempt of proselytising, even in the most subtle form, and leaders of other faiths must understand and accept the sensitivity and reality of the situation.

However, any grievances or complaints relating to religion, a sensitive issue, should be directed to the religious authorities and police. In this case, the pastor was snatched away with no obvious clues, and no claims have been made.

This is distressing, and his wife has understandably sought counselling in Singapore as the family agonises over the unexplained incident.

In the absence of any information, this has led to speculation and it is unhealthy for Malaysia as we take pride in our religious diversity and tolerance in resolving conflicts.

The other widely talked about case involved transgender Sameera Krishnan, who was brutally murdered on Thursday. She was shot, had four fingers severed and suffered head injuries.

The cruelty inflicted on her was horrifying and something Malaysians just cannot imagine. Interestingly, Sameera was the main witness in her own kidnapping case two years ago and the trial has been set to begin early next month.

In 2015, she was rescued by police after she was abducted from her home in Klang, and repeatedly sodomised.

Enough. Malaysians must stand up and demand for justice. While Malaysia does not condone LGBT (lesbians, gays, bisexual, and transgender), this does not mean Sameera’s life is worth any less than ours. It doesn’t matter whether we refer to Sameera as him or her.

The fact is this – she was murdered and sexually violated. Her pride and dignity were snatched away from her and despite the prejudices of many Malaysians, this should not, in any way, diminish the diligence and commitment needed to solve the crime.

Her perpetrators must be brought to justice and if we have any conscience at all, we should all be furious. It will be abnormal to be indifferent about this. Sameera deserves justice, just like anyone else.

I believe that Malaysia is a country where minorities are protected. There are laws in our country and they are upheld.

The police have been professional, and I believe and respect our police force. They take every bit of information seriously and in my regular dealings with them, I have developed even more respect for them. They trudge on diligently despite their impossibly heavy work load.

I hope they will bring some sense and provide us answers to the madness and along the way, some reassurances to the public.

On The Beat By Wong Chun Wai The Star

Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 27 years in various capacities and roles. He is now the group’s managing director/chief executive officer and formerly the group chief editor.

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Retrenchments ahead, says Malaysian Employers Federation


The Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) believes that more people will get the axe this year due to the current economic challenges.

Apart from the weak economy, contributing factors include the introduction of “disruptive technology” in some industries, it said.

According to its executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan (pic), economic challenges would see bosses reviewing their workers’ requirements.

“I think slightly more workers will be retrenched this year,” he told a press conference after the Taxation and Employer seminar jointly hosted by the Inland Revenue Board and MEF yesterday.

Shamsuddin said in 2015, about 44,000 workers lost their jobs while up to September last year, about 40,000 workers were retrenched.

He said the complete data for 2016 has not been released by authorities yet, but the numbers could be higher than the previous year.

In 2015, said Shamsuddin, about 18,000 of those who lost their jobs were from the banking sector due to the introduction of what he termed as “disruptive technology”, where banks were increasingly adopting online transactions, for example.

Other industries that could be affected, said Shamsuddin, include insurance, manufacturing and construction.

He said for the insurance industry, many prefer dealing with the companies directly for their services, which makes the job of middlemen or agents, redundant.

“However, these agents are not really part of the retrenchment rate because they are considered to be self-employed,” he said.

Asked to comment on the E-kad (enforcement card) programme by the Immigration Department, Shamsuddin said the Government should consider widening the criteria.

He said the programme should be open to illegal workers who do not have permanent employers.

Currently, only illegal foreign workers with valid employers can register and legalise their work under the E-kad programme.

Shamsuddin said by including illegal foreign workers without employers, the source pool for workers can be widened.

By Hemananthani Vivanandam The Star/ANN

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Kim Jong-nam’s murder masterminds back in North Korea


 

Official story: Noor Rashid speaking to the media during the press conference at Bukit Aman.

KUALA LUMPUR: Four suspects being hunted by Bukit Aman in the assassination of North Korean exile Kim Jong-nam are believed to be back in Pyongyang after leaving the country for Jakarta immediately after the attack.

The four – Rhi Ji-hyon, 33, (arrived in Malaysia on Feb 4), Hong Song-hac, 34, (arrived Jan 31), O Jong-gil, 55, (arrived Feb 7) and Ri Jae-nam, 57, (arrived Feb 1) – left for Jakarta from KLIA2 immediately after the attack on Monday.

From Jakarta, sources say they flew to Dubai and Vladivostok before reaching Pyongyang.

“They may have taken the long route to shake off the authorities,” sources said.

Deputy Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Noor Rashid Ibrahim said Malaysian police are cooperating with Interpol and other relevant bodies overseas to track them.

Bukit Aman’s first priority is to collect all evidence on the suspects’ involvement in the case.

“Next plan is to get them. We will use all resources to pursue them,” Noor Rashid told a press conference, the first by the police since the killing.

On the possibility that the murder was politically motivated, Noor Rashid said the police were not interested in any political angle.

“What we are interested in is why they committed such a crime in our country.

“Any political angle can be put aside as it is not our job to worry about political matters.

“We want to get at the truth and bring the perpetrators to justice,” he said.

He said police were also looking for North Korean citizen Ri Ji-u, 30, also known as James, along with two others to help in investigations.

Of those arrested, Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, 28, arrived from Hanoi on Feb 4 while Indonesian Siti Aisyah, 25, a spa masseuse, entered the country via Batam on Feb 2.

North Korean Ri Jong-chol, 47, was arrested on Friday and entered Malaysia on Aug 6 last year.

“We are in the process of identifying the two others sought to assist in the investigations,” said Noor Rashid.

“We hope anyone with information can come forward,” he said.

On Jong-nam’s post-mortem, Noor Rashid said that it was conducted on Feb 15 at Hospital Kuala Lumpur.

“The cause of death is still unknown. We are waiting for the toxicology and pathological test results. I think in a few days, we will get the toxicology result.

“The case will be referred to the deputy public prosecutor for fur­ther instructions and investi­ga­tion,” he said.

Priority is given to close family members or next of kin to claim the body and they have been given two weeks to do so, added Noor Rashid.

“It is very important for close family members of the deceased to come forward to assist us in the process of identification, which is based on our legal procedures and Malaysian law.

“However, as of today, we have not met the next of kin. We are trying very hard to get the next of kin to assist us,” he said.

In the event that the family does not show up, Noor Rashid said police will look at further options.

Sources: By  farik zolkepli, jastin ahmad tarmizi, merga watizul fakar, adrian chan The Star

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