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Main opposition wrestles with exodus over nomination spat – The Korea Herald

The main opposition party on Wednesday was grappling with a mass exodus of non-mainstream faction lawmakers, as many of them questioned the authenticity of its candidate nomination process for the April 10 general election. Five-term lawmaker Sul Hoon announced he would leave the Democratic Party of Korea after being placed in the bottom 10 percent of the party leadership’s performance review for legislative activity. The leadership has claimed they made fair decisions on candidate nomination based on the performance review. “I have decided to leave the Democratic Party after 40 years,” said Sul, adding, “I have been placed in the lower 10 percent bracket after criticizing the omnipotent Lee Jae-myung.” Sul has been viewed as an aide to former Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon, who himself left the Democratic Party in December last year to launch his own political party. He is the latest to hop on the bandwagon of non-Lee faction lawmakers who have been either quitting the party or stepping down from key leadership roles in response to conflict over the party’s candidate nomination process. Observers have been witnessing a widening intra-party rift between the pro-Lee faction and the rest ahead of the legislative election. Four-term lawmaker and Deputy National Assembly Speaker Rep. Kim Young-joo, Rep. Lee Su-jin and Rep. Park Young-soon also announced their departure from the party the previous day. Democratic Party Rep. Ko Min-jung on Tuesday announced her resignation as a member of the party’s Supreme Council, claiming that she believes the party should openly discuss its election candidate nomination process. The non-Lee faction has claimed that the leadership has made biased decisions in the candidate selection process by choosing more Lee faction members to run in the election. Several non-Lee faction members said that they were placed in the bottom 10 or 20 percent on purpose when the leadership assessed them for legislative activity, giving them a disadvantage in the nomination process. In line with the growing complaints of the leadership’s election-related decisions, a former presidential chief of staff under the previous Moon Jae-in administration on Wednesday called on the main opposition party leadership to reconsider its recent rejection of his nomination for the upcoming election, amid escalating tension within the party. “I request politely and earnestly to the party leadership that they reconsider their nominee choice for the Jung-Seongdong district,” Im Jong-seok said in a press conference held at the National Assembly. The leadership recently tapped Jeon Hyun-heui, the former chairperson of the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission, to run in the Jung-Seongdong district, instead of Im who had represented the district for two terms. “I strongly believed that (the Democratic Party of Korea) Chair Lee Jae-myung would follow through his pledge (with Moon) to make the party a melting pot (of the liberal bloc),” he added. He was referring to Lee’s visit to Moon’s home in the southeastern city of Yangsan early this month, where the two vowed unity within the main opposition party. Im added that he would “decide his next step” depending on the leadership’s next decision, hinting that he could follow several other members outside of Lee’s faction and leave the party.

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Seoul shares end over 1% higher ahead of key US data – The Korea Herald

South Korean stocks ended higher Wednesday as investors closely awaited key data from the United States later this week. The local currency fell against the US dollar. The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index added 27.24 points, or 1.04 percent, to 2,652.29. Trade volume was moderate at 409.7 million shares worth 10 trillion won ($7.4 billion), with gainers outpacing losers 559 to 302. Individuals were net sellers by offloading 539.2 billion won, while foreigners scooped up a net 458 billion won. Institutions bought a net 42.9 billion won. The US’ personal consumption expenditures price index is set to be released Thursday, as well as fourth-quarter gross domestic product growth Wednesday. “It is significant that the KOSPI is steadily building up its bottom line approaching the 2,700 level,” said Han Ji-young, an analyst from Kiwoom Securities. Major shares closed bullish across the bourse, with techs, autos and battery stocks leading the overall market advance. Top tech giant Samsung Electronics added 0.41 percent to 73,200 won, and No. 2 chipmaker SK hynix rose 2.73 percent to 158,000 won. Battery makers traded mixed, with LG Energy Solution decreasing 0.74 percent to 400,500 won, while Samsung SDI increased 0.13 percent to 381,500 won. Top automaker Hyundai Motors gained 3.98 percent to 248,000 won, and its sister Kia Motor added 4.53 percent to 117,700 won. Auto parts maker Hyundai Mobis climbed 3.64 percent. Korea Gas, which announced a weak earnings report the previous day, fell 4.72 percent to 28,250 won. The local currency ended at 1,333.6 won against the greenback, down 2.6 won from the previous session’s close.

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Celltrion begins shipment of Remsima SC for US debut – The Korea Herald

Biopharmaceutical giant Celltrion announced Wednesday that the first batch of its new autoimmune disease treatment Zymfentra, also known as Remsima SC, has been shipped for its planned debut in the US next month. Zymfentra is the first and only subcutaneous injection version of Remsima, Celltrion’s infliximab biosimilar, to have been approved by the US Food and Drug Agency. The company said its more patient-friendly administration compared to the current intravenous injection version is expected to address the needs of both patients and health care professionals for more convenient treatment options. Recognized for its therapeutic effectiveness and convenience, Remsima SC has received authorization in over 50 countries, encompassing Europe and Canada, leveraging its success to penetrate the lucrative US pharmaceutics market. Remsima SC and Remsima together achieved a 72 percent market share in the five major European countries by the third quarter of last year, with Remsima SC alone securing 20 percent, according to IQVIA, a pharmaceutical market research firm. Tailoring to the US market, Celltrion focuses on its self-injection capability to address health care accessibility challenges. The company has secured patent protection for its SC formulation and administration method until 2040, enabling competitive pricing and revenue stability over biosimilars. IQVIA reports that Zymfentra’s target market for inflammatory bowel disease, focusing solely on TNF-alpha inhibitors, was valued at approximately $9.83 billion in 2022, potentially expanding to $21.8 billion when considering other treatment types. While the first batch left for Atlanta, the company anticipates that the product will be available for market supply by mid-March — following the completion of import customs clearance, transportation and wholesaler stocking processes. “As medical professionals’ and patients’ expectations for Zymfentra are increasing, we will make all necessary preparations to ensure that the therapeutic benefits of Zymfentra are delivered to patients in the US as well, including final checks on various launch marketing activities, such as patient support programs,” a Celltrion official added.

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US Navy secretary scouts Korean shipbuilders for fleet support – The Korea Herald

US Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro toured the shipyards of HD Hyundai Heavy Industries and Hanwha Ocean on Tuesday to explore their military shipbuilding capabilities for handling comprehensive support services for the US Navy fleet, as part of US defense needs to bolster its naval presence in Asia. Del Toro’s visit to Korea comes as the US contemplates outsourcing naval ship maintenance, repair, and overhauls, or MRO, to alleviate domestic capacity constraints. These services keep naval vessels in optimal condition and ready for deployment. There is also an interest in constructing naval vessels in allied nations like South Korea and Japan as cost-effective alternatives to strengthen the US naval presence in Asia in response to China’s rapidly expanding fleet. HD Hyundai Vice Chairman Chung Ki-sun met Del Toro at the company’s Ulsan shipyard on Tuesday, where they discussed the shipbuilder’s technological capabilities and strategies for strengthening US-South Korean maritime cooperation. Del Toro personally inspected significant naval projects at the HD HHI shipyards, including the Republic of Korea Navy’s forthcoming Aegis destroyer, the ROKS Jeongjo the Great, and the Chungnam-class frigate, both nearing delivery. HD HHI previously submitted an application for a Master Ship Repair Agreement in 2023 to qualify for US Navy ship MRO tasks, which was followed by a successful yard inspection early this year. By establishing a logistics support center in the Philippines in 2022, HD HHI became the first Korean shipbuilder to expand its MRO business internationally. Moreover, HD HHI is actively engaged in building 14 ships for international clients, including patrol vessels and frigates in the Philippines. Del Toro also visited Hanwha Ocean’s shipyard in Geoje, South Gyeongsang Province, guided by CEO Kwon Hyek-woong on the same day. He observed the construction of the advanced JangBogo KSS III Batch-II submarine and toured the shipyard’s modern production facilities. Hanwha Ocean has engaged in international technical partnerships to deliver full-spectrum MRO solutions, including technology transfers and support services. The company has a track record with the overhaul of 24 Jangbogo-I and II-class submarines, enhancements to three Jangbogo-I-class submarines, and current performance upgrades for three Gwanggaeto the Great-class destroyers Earlier on Monday, South Korean Defense Minister Shin Won-sik and Del Toro convened at the Yongsan National Defense Complex, agreeing that defense industry collaboration is vital for reinforcing the naval strength of both nations by ensuring supply chain stability and improving joint operational efforts. According to the US Naval Institute, China commands almost 50 percent of the global shipbuilding market, with South Korea and Japan following at nearly 30 percent and 17 percent, respectively. US capacity is only 0.13 percent. The Pentagon’s National Defense Industrial Strategy report last month pointed out the decline in the US’s maritime military production capacity, leading to delays and increased costs in key weapons programs. The report attributes China’s commercial shipbuilding success over the past 40 years to the US’s market-driven approach since the 1980s. In the strategy report, Del Toro criticized defense contractors for their late and over-budget project deliveries, though he did not name specific companies.

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Rush of male singers’ concerts, fan meetings marks spring – The Korea Herald

Xiumin and Baekhyun of EXO will hold a solo fan meeting and a concert, respectively. Xiumin’s standalone fan meeting titled “Frozen Time” will take place March 23 at Yes 24 Live Hall in Gwangjin-gu, Seoul, to celebrate his birthday. This is the second birthday fan meeting following “XHBD: Xiumin, Happy Birthday,” which was held on March 26 last year. After presenting a total of seven solo fan meetings in several Korean cities earlier this year, Baekhyun will return with solo concert “Lonsdaleite” at the KSPO Dome March 16-17. After the concert in Seoul, Baekhyun will tour 13 Asian cities, including Tokyo, Singapore, Taipei, Ho Chi Minh and Manila through May. In addition to performing solo, Xiumin and Baekhyun will take part in EXO’s fan meeting on April 14. “2024 Exo Fan Meeting: One” will be held at Inspire Arena in Yeongjong-do, Incheon. The group’s fan meeting comes in a year, and six members — Suho, Xiumin, Baekhyun, Chen, Chanyeol and DO — will participate, as Kai and Sehun are currently doing the mandatory military service.

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Coupang reports first profitable year – The Korea Herald

New York-listed e-commerce giant Coupang on Wednesday reported its first-ever annual operating profit of $473 million last year, marking a milestone since its inception in 2010. It also reported $24.4 billion in sales, a notable 20 percent jump from 2022. In the fourth quarter alone, its quarterly sales soared 20 percent to a record $6.6 billion, while its operating profit saw 51 percent on-year growth to $130 million. “Since the beginning of this company, we have made foundational bets on ‘new-competency initiatives,’” Kim Bom, founder and CEO of Coupang, said during an earnings conference call earlier in the day. “These are bold bets that required years of investment, persistence and patience before they began producing meaningful free cash flows for our business.” Kim noted the company’s flagship “Rocket Delivery” service as a case of such an initiative that has brought the company to manage inventory, open fulfillment centers, assemble nationwide logistics fleets, and orchestrate same-day delivery via an integrated network. “Today, small and medium enterprises who do not have access to physical shelves in traditional retail and lack the capital to build their own technology and infrastructure, account for over 80 percent of our merchant base in fulfillment centers. We’re delighted to share with these enterprising small businesses access to billions of dollars of historical investment we’ve made in our Rocket network to help them delight customers and grow their businesses,” Kim said. Meanwhile, net revenues in developing ventures such as its food delivery platform, Coupang Eats, video streaming service Coupang Play, fintech business Coupang Pay and overseas business totaled $273 million in the fourth quarter, doubling from the same period a year earlier. The firm’s free cash flow generation for 2023 totaled $1.8 billion, even after an investment of over $450 million in developing offerings. Kim particularly elaborated on expansion plans for Taiwan as an example of an incremental investment, which is proving its potential for growth, scale and impact. “Since launching the Rocket (service) in October 2022, Taiwan’s customers and revenues have continued to compound at an incredible rate, more than doubling over the last two quarters alone. It’s a pace of adoption and growth that exceeds what we experienced in Korea over the same period of time,” Kim said. Meanwhile, Coupang had slashed its annual operating loss by 92 percent, reducing it from $1.5 billion in 2021 to $112 million in 2022, before finally turning a profit last year. The company has sustained a surplus for six consecutive quarters since achieving its first quarterly profit in the third quarter of 2022. Coupang’s active customer base, defined as customers making at least one purchase per quarter, surpassed 21 million by the end of last year, representing a 16 percent year-on-year increase. Coupang’s paid Wow membership surged by 27 percent to 14 million over the past year. “This year we provided a record $3 billion in benefits and savings to our Wow members, providing relief amidst high inflation,” Kim said. “Customers are increasingly turning to the Wow membership for its unparalleled value, from exclusive discounts on retail products and Eats, to free Dawn Delivery, to unlimited Play content streaming and much more.” The company’s chief financial officer, Gaurav Anand, commented that the firm is still in the early stages of its growth journey in Korea, as Coupang currently represents a very small fraction of the $560 billion in total commerce spending projected here by 2027. “While we are pleased with the progress we made this quarter, we see even an greater opportunity in front of us, as we represent just a single-digit share of the vast retail spend in Korea, and even smaller in Taiwan,” said the CFO. In regards to Coupang’s recent acquisition of Farfetch, the luxury shopping platform in the UK, Kim said that the firm hopes to turn it into a business that transforms customer experience around luxury fashion. Kim added that they will come up with a plan to make Farfetch “self-funded,” making it a worthwhile investment for shareholders.

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KT CEO renews vision for growth at MWC – The Korea Herald

KT Corp. CEO Kim Young-shub declared the company’s new vision that accelerates innovation and growth in information technology, artificial intelligence and communications technology. “Although KT is a leading telecom company in the world, it lacks IT competitiveness. We must make up for weak points by combining our CT and IT,” the CEO said at a press conference held on the sidelines of the Mobile World Congress 2024 in Barcelona, Spain, on Tuesday. Kim urged KT Corp. to embark on a company-wide AI transformation to innovate into an “AICT company,” while stressing that every company has to be concerned about AI when seeking growth. The word AICT is a combination of AI, IT and CT, according to the telecom giant. “(To reform as an AICT firm), we plan to secure world-class competitiveness through active partnerships with global tech companies,” he said. “We’ll quickly internalize the world’s best know-how and capabilities.” The company’s Executive Vice President Oh Seung-pil explained that the telecom giant would offer several types of large language models through global partnerships for corporate clients, in addition to its homegrown language model specialized in Korean. Kim, who participated in the world’s largest mobile tech show for the first time after taking office in August, said he has concluded that innovation with AI and IT is the only way to survive. At the same time, he presented three key strategies for KT’s AI transformation: internal innovation, talent recruitment and open AI partnership. The KT chief said the company would recruit up to 1,000 experts in the AI ​​and digital fields within this year, including experienced workers. From there, the company will shift to focus on and internalize AI through strengthened internal education. “For the future of Korea and the growth of KT, it is most important to secure AI talent and provide an environment where workers can develop their capabilities to become top experts,” Kim added. Additionally, the company plans to develop an internal business innovation platform based on the multi-LLM strategy to increase convenience and strengthen security, as well as establish an AI governance system and a system to constantly monitor and evaluate the risk level of AI.

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CJ’s Tous Les Jour seeks bigger footing in Indonesia – The Korea Herald

CJ Foodville, the operator of the bakery chain Tous Les Jour and a subsidiary of South Korean conglomerate CJ Group, said Wednesday its bakery stores in Indonesia have surpassed 60 in number, with a recent addition in Bandung, located southeast of the capital Jakarta. Having entered the Indonesian market in 2011, CJ Foodville initially focused on opening branches around the capital city. However, the company has been recently diversifying its focus to include major cities, including Tangerang, Bekasi, Bandung, Bali and Medan. Since November, the company has opened eight new stores across the country. In 2022, CJ Foodville experienced a drastic surge in sales in Indonesia. It achieved a record sales figure of 33.4 billion won ($25 million) that year, marking a 71.4 percent rise from 19.5 billion won in 2021. The company attributes the success to Indonesia’s economic growth, which has led to a preference among locals for CJ Foodville’s premium cafe-style stores and fresh bread over mass-produced alternatives. As part of its marketing strategy, CJ Foodville has also concentrated on appealing to Indonesia’s culture. In 2019, CJ Foodville became the first South Korean bakery chain to receive Halal certification in Indonesia, ensuring that all its products meet Halal standards. The food company’s offerings in Indonesia include the pudding product lineups designed to cater to people seeking light and enjoyable treats after the Ramadan period. CJ Foodville said it plans to broaden its range of products to better appeal to the young demographic in Indonesia, given the country’s significant population of young people, while expanding the number of its stores across the country. “Drawing upon the business experience we have garnered in Indonesia, CJ Foodville has solidified its position as a premium bakery chain in the country,” stated an official from CJ Foodville. “We will also leverage our success in Indonesia to enhance CJ Foodville’s competitiveness as a premium Korean bakery chain in the broader Asian market.”

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New Galaxy S24 sales top 1 million in S. Korea – The Korea Herald

Samsung Electronics Co. said Wednesday sales of its latest Galaxy S series smartphones have exceeded 1 million units in South Korea within just 28 days of their launch. The Galaxy S24 series, which was unveiled on Jan. 16, reached the 1 million mark on the previous day, beating the previous record set by the Galaxy S8 series released in 2017 by nine days, according to Samsung Electronics. The achievement was three weeks ahead of its predecessor, the Galaxy S23 series, but just three days behind the Galaxy Note 10 smartphone released in 2019, the company added. The most expensive S24 Ultra model accounted for 55 percent of the total sales, with the cheaper Galaxy S24 Plus and the Galaxy S24 taking up the rest. The Galaxy S24 series is Samsung Electronics’ first smartphone model with on-device artificial intelligence, featuring real-time translation for phone calls and improved camera performance.

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S. Korea urges caution in Golden Triangle region amid increasing crimes – The Korea Herald

The foreign ministry on Wednesday urged caution against increasing cases of employment fraud in the “Golden Triangle” region straddling Thailand, Myanmar and Laos. The ministry urged South Koreans to take extra caution in the area as cases involving luring people with the promise of high profits, then kidnapping and forcing them to engage in illegal activities have recently increased there. A total of 55 such cases concerning 140 victims have been reported so far in the region since 2021, according to the ministry. Of them, four victims were reported in 2021 and 2022, respectively. The number of victims suffering from employment fraud surged to 94 people last year, it added. Thirty eight victims were reported in January this year alone. The government has decided to issue special travel advisories at two border checkpoints — Chiang Saen and Mae Sai — in Laos and Myanmar, respectively, as most Koreans employed in the region travel via Thailand, the ministry said. In October last year, 19 South Koreans were held captive by an illegal firm in the border town of Tachileik in Myanmar before being released in November. (Yonhap)

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