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Looking back at 2012: Domestic news

In our final round-up of Korea-related stories which caught our eye in 2012, we look at domestic and business news.

Young students at a Confucian academy

Modern Life and how to escape it.

Korea came 24th out of 34 leading countries in an OECD quality of life index, coming bottom of the class in job security and gender income inequality and near the bottom in terms of working hours, but scoring high in the educational skills of their teenage population.

Perhaps reflecting people’s desires to escape from their high-pressure urban life, a decade’s worth of books was published on the subject of farming and rural life. Jeju Island is the most popular destination for real-life downshifters

Bullying continued to be in the news, with 1 in 4 elementary students admitting to being bullied. This may be behind many of the teenage suicides in Korea – which average one per day according to Statistics Korea.

Confucian academies reported an increase in the numbers of children attending for a course in Confucian teachings and etiquette.

Tabloid tales

A number of viral videos (dubbed Ladygate) were posted on the web showing, mainly, young ladies misbehaving on the Seoul metro system and elsewhere. But bloggers overstepped the mark with stories about “Poo-poo girl“.

A sector of the service industry known as “errand centres” made the news when a man hired someone from one of these odd job agencies to kill his wife.

A whistle-blower accused senior monks from the Jogye order of gambling and paying for sex.

The Korean Customs Service announced that in the course of 9 months they seized 17,000 capsules containing pulverised dead human babies, imported from China.


Independent candidate Ahn Cheol-soo stepped out of the presidential race, thus ending any hopes that Korea would wean itself off ActiveX any time soon. A three-way debate between the two remaining candidates plus far-left outsider Lee Jung-hee of the Unified Progressive Party turned into a catfight between her and Park Geun-hye.

Protests at Gangjeong in Jeju-do delayed but failed to stop construction of the controversial naval base.


Singer Patti Kim announced her retirement, aged 74.

Rev Moon Sun-myung, founder of the Unification Church, died aged 92. In the Financial Times obituary, Christian Oliver tells the following story:

When shells rained down on Heungnam labour camp in North Korea in 1950, Jesus Christ appeared to deliver a warning to a detained preacher called Moon Sun-myung. “Everyone stay within 12 metres of me!” Moon shouted, with a precision supposedly inspired by Christ’s instructions. Those inside Moon’s safety cordon survived.


The Korean Black Eagles aerobatic display team won the best display award at a British air show. The Korean government sold 16 of those T-50 jets to Indonesia. Daewoo won an order to build tankers for the British navy.

Business & Economy

The scandal of the Savings Banks rumbled on, with some bank bosses caught with their hands in the till in a big way. One bank boss committed suicide to avoid facing the music.

Lee Seung-han, the boss of Tesco in Korea, accused Lee Myung-bak of running a watermelon economy: on the outside, lots of rhetoric about “green” growth, but actually red on the inside. “Not even communist countries followed these kind of policies,” he is reported to have said. This is in response to government policies to restrict new large supermarkets opening within a kilometre of existing mom-and-pop stores.

Korea’s sovereign credit rating rose above Japan’s for the first time.

Lone Star was hit with a $208million tax penalty in respect of a property disposal in Seoul. The fund then took Korea to the Investor-State Dispute panel over the penalty and over its disposal of Korea Exchange Bank.

Three foreign law firms, including Clifford Chance, registered themselves as foreign legal consultants. In the countless disputes between Apple and Samsung, Apple in the UK was forced to apologise. Despite the opposition in signing up to free trade deals, it was discovered that Korean exports benefited from both the EU and US FTAs.

And Finally

A story from the Chosun Ilbo:

Increasing numbers of families are digging up tombs in the lunar leap month from April 21 until May 20. The leap month is thought to be the period during which the gods of the sky and the earth take a rest and stop watching people, so this is traditionally when people move tombs or buy shrouds in Korea because there will be no ghosts taking interfering with unpleasant tasks.

Other articles in the “Looking Back at 2012: series:

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