SEOUL, Feb. 19 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye expressed concern Friday over possible terror attacks or a cyberattack as North Korea is allegedly preparing for attacks on South Korea.
Tensions have soared on the Korean Peninsula over North Korea's nuclear test and long-range rocket launch in recent weeks. South Korea has joined the United States and other regional powers in pushing for strengthening U.N. sanctions on North Korea for its latest provocations.
"New types of threats such as terror (attacks), cyberattacks or biological weapons could occur anywhere," Park said in a meeting with mayors and governors at Cheong Wa Dae, South Korea's presidential office.
She also renewed her calls for the establishment of a system to thwart possible terror attacks.
Earlier in the day, presidential spokesman Jeong Yeon-guk told reporters that South Korea is bracing for any possible terror attacks by North Korea.
South Korea believes that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has ordered intensified preparations for terror attacks on South Korea, Kim Sung-woo, chief presidential press secretary, told reporters on Thursday.
Police said earlier this week that North Korean hackers sent massive amounts of spam emails to South Korean public organizations last month, the latest in a series of cyberattacks against the South in recent years.
Lee Chul-woo, a lawmaker of the ruling Saenuri Party, said on local radio that North Korea could launch a cyberattack in March or April, citing the North's track record of waging such attacks against South Korea soon after its nuclear tests.
North Korea launched a cyberattack against South Korea in July 2009, two months after its second nuclear test. It also hacked South Korean media organizations in March 2013, a month after its third nuclear test.
North Korea carried out a fourth nuclear test last month, followed by a long-range rocket launch earlier this month.
North Korea also has a track record of staging terror attacks against South Korea in the past few decades, including the 1987 midair bombing of a Korean Air flight that killed all 115 people aboard.
Also Friday, presidential chief of staff Lee Byung-kee met with the parliamentary speaker and leaders of the ruling and opposition parties at the National Assembly to persuade them to pass an anti-terrorism bill.
The rare visit is the latest move in the push by the presidential office to win parliamentary blessing for a bill meant to better protect the lives of South Koreans from possible terror attacks.
SEOUL, Feb. 19 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's finance minister said Friday that the recent shutdown of an inter-Korean industrial complex will have little impact on the economy amid rising concerns about heightened geopolitical risks and an economic downturn.
Seoul closed the joint factory park in the North Korean border city of Kaesong, the last remaining symbol of South-North cooperation, in retaliation for Pyongyang's nuclear test in January and long-range rocket launch in February.
The measure has drawn mixed views on its effect, given the fact that 124 local manufacturers had run factory lines there with their output amounting to over US$500 million last year.
"The production from Kaesong accounted for 0.04 percent of the total gross domestic product," Finance Minister Yoo Il-ho said in a parliamentary session.
"Many global credit rating agencies, including Moody's, have mentioned the Kaesong issue, but they made it clear that they will not change the country's grade."
Earlier this week Moody's said that the closure of the Kaesong complex will be "credit negative" for South Korea due to the heightened geopolitical risks, but it left the country's rating unchanged.
The agency upgraded South Korea's credit rating to Aa2, the third-highest on the company's sovereign table, late last year.Yoo did not give details on speculation that North Korea used the money paid to its workers at the joint industrial park to fund its nuclear and missile programs.
To aggressively cope with fast-escalating uncertainties in the world economy such as the cooldown in China, the finance minister said the government may take further expansionary fiscal policy measures down the road.
Earlier this month, the finance ministry announced an additional 21 trillion won (US$17.4 billion) pump-priming stimulus for the first quarter including a six-month extension of a consumption tax cut program.
"We don't consider an expansionary fiscal policy at this point, but it will be necessary if we face further challenges in the future," Yoo said. "We need to carry out short-run measures to some extent because an excessive short-term shock can undermine a country's long-term growth potential."
The top economic policymaker said the government can handle any risks of household debt, although critics warned that rapidly rising mortgages will stunt consumer spending and weigh on the economy struggling with plummeting exports.
"We can fully control any risks stemming from household loans, regarding many facts including low delinquency rates and the recent loan tightening guidelines," said Yoo, who also doubles as the deputy prime minister for economic affairs.
The country's home-backed household credits reached more than 1,100 trillion won (US$896.4 billion) last year, with the growth pace getting faster on the back of the government-led deregulations and a low rate trend.
To rein in the growth pace, the financial authorities came up with a plan to stiffen the loan screening process by money lenders and encourage fixed-rate loan programs.
Meanwhile, the delinquency rate for loans extended by local banks fell to a record low of 0.58 percent in 2015, with the figure for household loans standing at 0.33 percent.
Against this backdrop, Yoo said it is not necessary to tighten a set of mortgage regulations of the loan-to-value (LTV) or debt-to-income (DTI) ratios.
The LTV and DTI were eased in mid-2014 in order to give homebuyers greater access to mortgages and thus help boost the sluggish local housing market, as well as the overall economy.
The finance minister also said the government has no plans to lower taxes imposed on gasoline amid rising concerns that the local fuel tariffs have kept gas prices at the pump from going further down despite falling crude prices.
South Korea's fuel tax, which is paid in a lump sum, accounted for around 60 percent of the average gas price of 1,390 won per liter in January.
Meanwhile, prices of Dubai crude, South Korea's benchmark, hovered around $30 per barrel last month, nearly halving from $53.70 a year earlier.
SEOUL, Feb. 18 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's unification ministry said Thursday that it is aware of the alleged North Korean internal document outlining plans by Pyongyang to operate the Kaesong Industrial Complex on its own.
The state-run broadcaster citing the document said the North's ruling Workers’ Party of Korea in 2006 outlined a plan to kick out South Korean companies and run Kaesong itself. It urged workers to acquire the necessary know-how to manage the facilities as soon as possible. The document also called South Korea the enemy of the North.
"The government thinks the document is North Korean in origin," it said, adding that the government cannot directly elaborate further on the matter because private companies are involved.
The complex located just north of the inter-Korean border started churning out products in late 2004. It has been viewed as the crowing achievement of late President Kim Dae-jung's rapprochement policy.
Seoul decided to close the complex on Feb. 10 following North Korea's fourth nuclear test and firing off of a long-range missile this year. Pyongyang responded by expelling all South Korean personnel and confiscating their assets.
Besides the document, KBS showed documents saying that North Korea's 6th division, in charge of the Kaesong area, has intensive ideological indoctrination of its troops to prevent them being "contaminated" by capitalistic influences.
This, the broadcaster said, is a sign that Pyongyang was worried about South Korean thoughts and culture seeping into the North through the industrial complex.