Tag Archive: SEOUL


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Students look at instructions in front of a makeshift clinic at Konkuk University in Seoul on Thursday. Students look at instructions in front of a makeshift clinic at Konkuk University in Seoul on Thursday.

english.chosun.com

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Biological Hazard South Korea Capital City, Seoul [Konkuk University,Neungdong-ro] Damage level Details

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Biological Hazard in South Korea on Thursday, 29 October, 2015 at 04:39 (04:39 AM) UTC.

Description
A mysterious virus has infected 21 graduate students at Konkuk University’s school of veterinary science in Seoul. Health authorities have placed all 21 in quarantine and closed off the school building. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday said the victims started coming down with pneumonia last week, and a team of epidemiologists have been dispatched to the university. According to the KCDC, those infected are master’s and doctoral candidates who used the school’s lab from Oct. 19 to 28. They are being treated in isolation at state-run hospitals. The first four graduate students who showed symptoms were hospitalized at Konkuk University Medical Center and then transferred to the National Medical Center on Wednesday. All of them visited a cattle fair in Gyeonggi Province last week as well as an animal farm owned by the university in Chungju, North Chungcheong Province. A university official said they may have contracted Brucellosis, which infects cattle and can be transmitted to humans. But some experts suspect Q fever, caused by the Coxiella burnetii bacteria found in the droppings of cattle, swine and sheep. It causes airborne infections among humans. Symptoms such as fever, headache and muscle aches appear after a two-week gestation period. But Song Dae-sup at Korea University said, “Brucellosis and Q fever are not commonly found in Korea and are rarely passed on to humans. We need to look at the possibility of pneumonia caused by germs or other toxic agents.” Lee Jae-gap at Hallym University Medical Center said since only the four visited the animal farm, the infection could be mycoplasma pneumonia or whooping cough, which sometimes occur in schools or communities. Konkuk University sealed off the veterinary school building and told the school’s 850 staff and students to report any suspicious symptoms. The building was thoroughly disinfected on Wednesday morning as well, according to school officials.
Biohazard name: Q Fever
Biohazard level: 3/4 Hight
Biohazard desc.: Bacteria and viruses that can cause severe to fatal disease in humans, but for which vaccines or other treatments exist, such as anthrax, West Nile virus, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, SARS virus, variola virus (smallpox), tuberculosis, typhus, Rift Valley fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, yellow fever, and malaria. Among parasites Plasmodium falciparum, which causes Malaria, and Trypanosoma cruzi, which causes trypanosomiasis, also come under this level.
Symptoms:
Status: suspected

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 Mystery Virus Sweeps Konkuk University

A mysterious virus has infected 21 graduate students at Konkuk University’s school of veterinary science in Seoul.

Health authorities have placed all 21 in quarantine and closed off the school building. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday said the victims started coming down with pneumonia last week, and a team of epidemiologists have been dispatched to the university.

According to the KCDC, those infected are master’s and doctoral candidates who used the school’s lab from Oct. 19 to 28. They are being treated in isolation at state-run hospitals.

The first four graduate students who showed symptoms were hospitalized at Konkuk University Medical Center and then transferred to the National Medical Center on Wednesday. All of them visited a cattle fair in Gyeonggi Province last week as well as an animal farm owned by the university in Chungju, North Chungcheong Province.

 

Read More Here

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english.chosun.com

10 More Catch Mystery Infection at Konkuk University

Ten more graduate students have come down with a mysterious pneumonia attack at Konkuk University’s Seoul campus on Thursday, bringing the total to 31.

Twenty-one people were diagnosed with the same symptoms earlier. But all have so far tested negative for a dozen well-known infectious diseases.

“We’re still trying to figure out the cause,” a spokesman for the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

Students look at instructions in front of a makeshift clinic at Konkuk University in Seoul on Thursday. Students look at instructions in front of a makeshift clinic at Konkuk University in Seoul on Thursday.

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Anxious islanders on the front line are evacuated as both countries exchange fire across their disputed western maritime border.

A North Korean soldier looks on at the South side

Video: North And South Korea Exchange Live Fire

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South Korea says it has fired shells into North Korean waters in response to live fire drills carried out by Pyongyang.

Residents of a South Korean island on the front line were evacuated as both countries exchanged fire across their disputed western maritime border.

Anxious residents sought refuge in shelters on Yeonpyeong island, where in 2010, North Korean artillery killed four South Koreans.

One islander, Kang Myeong-sung, said he did not see any fighter jets but could hear the boom of the shells.

North Korea had announced it was going to conduct some military drills.

South Korea and the US conduct a joint military exercise in Pohang
South Korea and the US conduct a joint military exercise in Pohang

Sky’s Asia Correspondent Mark Stone said: “These are worrying developments … but no one has been injured, no one has been killed and indeed none of these rockets or missiles landed on any military installations or any land, so this is effectively both sides showing their strength.”

 

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Channel News Asia

 

N Korea announces live-fire drill, driving up tensions

 

North Korea announced a live-fire drill Monday near its disputed maritime border with South Korea, further ratcheting up tensions a day after threatening a “new form” of nuclear test.

 

 

SEOUL: North Korea announced a live-fire drill Monday near its disputed maritime border with South Korea, further ratcheting up tensions a day after threatening a “new form” of nuclear test.

The South’s Yonhap news agency, citing an unnamed government official, said the exercise began around 12:15pm (0315 GMT), with artillery shells landing in North Korean waters, north of the South-controlled Baengnyeong island.

There was no immediate official confirmation that the drill was under way, but the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) warned of immediate retaliation if any ordinance landed on the South side of the border.

The Yellow Sea border is an extremely sensitive region that has been the scene of brief but bloody clashes in the past.

In November 2010, North Korea shelled a South Korean island near the border, killing four people and triggering concerns of a full-scale conflict.

It is not unusual for North Korea to carry out a live-fire exercise, but it does not normally notify the South in advance.

“The fact that they have sent such a message to us indicates their hostile intention,” said South Korean Defence Ministry spokesman Wi Yong-seop.

“The aim is to threaten us and rack up tension on the Yellow Sea border and the overall Korean peninsula,” Wi said, adding that Seoul was closely monitoring the situation.

The North’s notification designated seven areas close to the border and said all South Korean vessels should be kept away from them.

“We notified the North that we would strongly respond with fire if it fires across the border,” a JCS official told reporters.

Monday’s announcement came a day after North Korea threatened to carry out a “new form” of nuclear test — seen as a possible reference to efforts to build a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on a ballistic missile.

 

Read More Here

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Channel News Asia

Two Koreas trade fire across maritime border: military

North and South Korea traded fire across their disputed maritime border on Monday, with the South’s military saying it had responded to shells landing in its waters from a North live-fire drill.

SEOUL: North and South Korea traded fire across their disputed maritime border on Monday, with the South’s military saying it had responded to shells landing in its waters from a North live-fire drill.

“Some of the shells fired by North Korea dropped in our area and our side responded with fire,” a spokesman for the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff told AFP.

There was no indication that either side was firing at any particular target.

On South-Korea-controlled Baengnyeong island, close to the maritime boundary, officials said residents had been taken to shelters as a precaution.

“We are urging all residents to evacuate to shelters right now, and some have already done so,” a town hall official on the island told AFP.

North Korea earlier announced a live-fire drill Monday near its disputed maritime border with South Korea, further ratcheting up tensions a day after threatening a “new form” of nuclear test.

 

Read More Here

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South Korea returns fire after North Korean shells land in disputed waters

 
North and South Korea exchange fire after military drill – video

South Korean islanders fled to shelters as their country’s forces returned the North’s fire near a disputed sea boundary on Monday, amid renewed tensions on the Korean peninsula.

The skirmish in the Yellow or Western Sea came a day after Pyongyang warned that it could carry out a “new kind” of nuclear test , and followed multiple missile tests by the North. Experts have also warned that it could be harder to predict the country’s actions given the recent political turbulence which saw its youthful leader Kim Jong-un purge his uncle Jang Song-taek.

No shells from either side were fired at any land or military installations, an official with South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff told Associated Press. Unusually, the North warned in advance that it planned to hold a live-fire drill; when a shell landed south of the disputed boundary, the South, which had warned it would respond, returned fire into North Korean waters.

Tensions are common at this time of year because of the North’s anger at annual joint military exercises by the South and the US, but the exchange of fire was the most dramatic incident near the northern limit line since 2010.

The South scrambled F-15 fighters to patrol its side of the border and authorities evacuated the residents of five frontline islands to shelters. Kang Myeong-sung, a resident speaking to AP from a shelter on Yeonpyeong, said he did not see any fighter jets, but he could hear the boom of artillery fire. In 2010, North Korean artillery killed four South Koreans on Yeonpyeong; Pyongyang said it was responding to the South’s exercises.

 

Read More Here

 

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Earth Watch Report  –  Nuclear  Event

Image Source

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05.07.2013 Nuclear Event South Korea Province of Gyeongsangbuk-do, [Hanul Nuclear Power Plant] Damage level Details

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Nuclear Event in South Korea on Friday, 05 July, 2013 at 14:32 (02:32 PM) UTC.

Description
A South Korean nuclear reactor shut down Friday after a technical malfunction, operators said, at a time when the government is already warning of serious power shortages because multiple reactors are offline. The state-run Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP) said an investigation was underway to confirm the precise cause but added there was no immediate safety threat. The incident occurred at the Hanwool Nuclear Power Plant in Uljin County on South Korea’s eastern coast. At proper capacity, South Korea’s nuclear reactors supply more than 35 percent of the country’s electricity needs. But nine of 23 reactors are currently offline for multiple reasons, including a scandal involving parts provided with fake safety certificates. State prosecutors have launched an extensive probe into the fraud which forced the shutdown of two reactors in May and delayed the scheduled start of operations at two more. Last year, officials said eight suppliers were found to have faked warranties covering thousands of items used in a number of reactors. South Korea’s nuclear sector has been dogged by a series of malfunctions, forced shutdowns and corruption scandals that have undermined public confidence already shaken by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. Despite increasing public concern, the government has vowed to push ahead with its nuclear power program and plans to build an additional 16 reactors by 2030.

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CIVIL NUCLEAR

S. Korean nuclear reactor shuts down

by Staff Writers


Seoul (AFP) July 05, 2013

A South Korean nuclear reactor shut down Friday after a technical malfunction, operators said, at a time when the government is already warning of serious power shortages because multiple reactors are offline.

The state-run Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP) said an investigation was underway to confirm the precise cause but added there was no immediate safety threat.

The incident occurred at the Hanwool Nuclear Power Plant in Uljin County on South Korea’s eastern coast.

At proper capacity, South Korea’s nuclear reactors supply more than 35 percent of the country’s electricity needs.

But nine of 23 reactors are currently offline for multiple reasons, including a scandal involving parts provided with fake safety certificates.

State prosecutors have launched an extensive probe into the fraud which forced the shutdown of two reactors in May and delayed the scheduled start of operations at two more.

Last year, officials said eight suppliers were found to have faked warranties covering thousands of items used in a number of reactors.

South Korea’s nuclear sector has been dogged by a series of malfunctions, forced shutdowns and corruption scandals that have undermined public confidence already shaken by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.

Despite increasing public concern, the government has vowed to push ahead with its nuclear power programme and plans to build an additional 16 reactors by 2030.

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Published on Apr 6, 2013

North Korea: Beyond the cold war theatrics, is there really a nuclear threat to US?

April 6, 2013 By 2 Comments

PHPatrick Henningsen
21st Century Wire

The recent show of force by the United States marks one of the lowest points in modern diplomacy, but beyond the geopolitical threatrics it turns out that very little is actually known about the North Korean threat.

North Korea’s recent series of weekly verbal provocations towards Seoul and their ally the US – should be taken seriously in diplomatic terms, but is Pyongyang’s bark worse than its bite?

Instead of taking the high road of international diplomacy, Obama’s war hawks chose a more neoconservative approach by baiting the North with a nuclear-capable B-2 Stealth flyover of the country by the US, by F22 aerial exercises and a US Navy Destroyer parked off the South Korean peninsula this week. Further fanning the flames, China also mobilised some of its own troops and military assets along the North Korean border.

Dear Leader: N.Korean propaganda is bolstered by Washington DC’s own validation of it.

The regime in Pyongyang is clearly one on the brink of collapse. The reality is that the crypto-Marxist North Korean nation is one of the planet’s most marginalized states, not only on a diplomatic level, but also on an economically too – as evidenced by the state’s extreme internal propaganda designed to reinforce the state’s unworldly narrative for its own population.

Knowing full well that North Korea is already being strangled economically – effectively being starved by blanket UN and other sanctions, is it such a wise move for the US to poke them further?

As the young Kim Jung-un carries on his late father’s tradition of surreal state-run propaganda campaigns, so does the United States carry on with its own, slightly more sophisticated brand of propaganda as well. For the average American, their general grasp of geopolitical risk and strategy is still on the level of the film Team America, and Washington knows this, and has regularly attempts to pass off shallow intelligence as definitive, and building its foreign policy on top of this.

Still, amongst all the public war chatter back and forth between the US, South Korea and North Korea, one serious question is being mostly ignored – with regards to Pyongyang, what is exactly real, and what is fiction? If we ask this question, then the next most logical question naturally follows: to what degree is Washington DC inflating the threat from North Korea, and why?

The US ‘War Economy’

One can also be argued that there a very powerful vested interests in the US corporate structure who have and will continue to benefit from a heated arms build-up, and will certainly use the North Korea threat as a justification to push forward in spending, especially in light Washington’s new-found austerity culture ushered in through recent budget sequestrations. America’s new pivot towards Asia provides the catch-all policy net, while the two-way propaganda duel between the two countries provides the fear needed to justify a new military build up in the region.

In recent weeks and months, experts in Washington and the UN have been at pains to clarify and actually prove the full scope and ability of the North Korean nuclear threat, which so far are mostly theatre and little substance.

Pyongyang’s nuclear tests

Beyond all the flamboyant rhetoric from the succession of Dear Leaders, and beyond all of their spectacular military parades, there is very little proof that North Korea is advanced in its military prowess and nuclear abilities than many are led to fear in the United States and Western Europe. Their recent nuclear test on February 19th of this year was a perfect example of this.

US officials have speculated that North Korea has upgraded its nuclear capabilities from plutonium, to much more effective enriched uranium ‘HEU’ type warhead.

When no such evidence, or tell-tale physical data, was picked up from North Korea’s recent test – including readings taken from Japanese aircraft and multiple monitoring stations in South Korea, it prompted US officials to claim that the North Koreans merely “went to some length to try to contain releases. One possible reason to try to contain releases is secrecy, so we don’t know very much about their nuclear testing.”

In a recent report published in the Washington Post this week, a former senior Obama administration official admitted there is no evidence of any such advancement, saying, “We’re worried about it, but we haven’t seen it”.

These type of statements leaked into the media are seemingly always done under anonymity, perhaps because those people issuing them are in fear in of losing their jobs because their intelligence assessment does not jibe with US foreign policy rhetoric, nor does it promote the need for an expensive arms race.

Likewise, following North Korea’s previous test in 2009, US officials were on record as saying that unfortunately, the blast ‘left no detectable traces’.

Not convinced that North Korea’s capabilities are anything less than the most advanced, one U.S. official with access to the classified data on the tests derides the lack of evidence, claiming that: “Still, it would not be surprising for North Korea to take extra steps to prevent outsiders from gaining insights into its nuclear capability”.

As is the case with Iran, politicians in Washington and their corporate media partners have sought to validate the nuclear threat in such a way that suggests a pre-emptive strike may be necessary in order to save lives. Although we are used to hearing this every day in the US and Europe, that concept of a preemptive strike has been used as far back as Japan, and most recently in the context of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) in Iraq and now again in Syria.

Constantly, we see US officials sculpting the narrative in order to fit into a preconceived conclusion. Very sophisticated propaganda indeed.

Attaching North Korea to Iran

The big danger with Washington and its allies’ polarising approach to foreign policy today is that it is eerily remnant of the type of power-politics that led the world into two previous world wars.

In order to joint North Korea and Iran at the hip, links are needed, and speculation is then used in order to build the type of theoretical case that one often sees emanating from the mouths of both hosts and guests on networks such as FOX News, CNN and the BBC, which is then taken on by the general populace as a genuine threat, skillfully articulated by an official source. Although less blunt than Kim Jung-un’s style of state-run propaganda, it’s just as effective in the end.

Iran has been attached to North Korea through Washington DC’s ‘Axis of Evil’ concept, after pursuing its own nuclear power program.

Still, there is no actual hard evidence to show that North Korea and Iran are sharing uranium enrichment technology, which is of course countered by US officials by claiming that, ‘the sharing of enrichment know-how would be harder to spot than missile know-how’, and also admitting, “ and adding, “They cooperate in many areas, especially missiles. Why it hasn’t yet extended to the nuclear program is frankly a mystery.”

Again with Syria, the North Koreans are thought to have signed a technology exchange agreement with Damascus over a decade ago, which U.S. officials ‘think’ led to the construction of a secret reactor near Deir al-Zour which the Israelis bombed in 2007. Did this facility have anything to do with nuclear weapons? We’ll never know for sure, and neither will the intelligence community based on the ambiguous comments by US officials.

 

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U.S. F-22 stealth jets join South Korea drills amid saber-rattling

 

Two U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor stealth jet fighters fly near Andersen Air Force Base in this handout photo dated August 4, 2010. REUTERS/U.S. Air Force/Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald/Handout

WASHINGTON | Sun Mar 31, 2013 6:01pm EDT

(Reuters) – The United States sent F-22 stealth fighter jets to South Korea on Sunday to join military drills aimed at underscoring the U.S. commitment to defend Seoul in the face of an intensifying campaign of threats from North Korea.

The advanced, radar-evading F-22 Raptors were deployed to Osan Air Base, the main U.S. Air Force base in South Korea, from Japan to support ongoing bilateral exercises, the U.S. military command in South Korea said in a statement that urged North Korea to restrain itself.

“(North Korea) will achieve nothing by threats or provocations, which will only further isolate North Korea and undermine international efforts to ensure peace and stability in Northeast Asia,” the statement said.

Saber-rattling on the Korean peninsula drew a plea for peace from Pope Francis, who in his first Easter Sunday address called for a diplomatic solution to the crisis on the Korean peninsula.

“Peace in Asia, above all on the Korean peninsula: may disagreements be overcome and a renewed spirit of reconciliation grow,” he said, speaking in Italian.

Tensions have been high since the North’s young new leader, Kim Jong-un, ordered a nuclear weapons test in February, breaching U.N. sanctions and ignoring warnings from North Korea’s closest ally, China, not to do so.

 

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South Korea pledges strong response against North

Timeline: Korean tensions

  • 12 Dec: North Korea fires three-stage rocket, in move condemned by UN as banned test of long-range missile technology
  • 12 Feb: North Korea conducts an underground nuclear test, its third after tests in 2006 and 2009
  • 7 Mar: UN approves fresh sanctions on Pyongyang; North Korea says it has the right to a “pre-emptive nuclear strike” on the US
  • 11 Mar: US-South Korea annual joint military drills begin; North Korea says it has scrapped the Korean War armistice (the UN says the pact cannot be unilaterally scrapped)
  • 19 Mar: US flies B-2 nuclear-capable bombers over Korean peninsula, following several North Korean threats to attack US and South Korean targets
  • 20 Mar: Broadcasters and banks in South Korea hit by cyber attack, the origin of which remains unknown, days after North Korea says some of its sites were hacked
  • 27 Mar: North Korea cuts military hotline with South, the last official direct link between the two
  • 28 Mar: US flies stealth bombers over Korean peninsula; showcasing ability for precision strike “at will”
  • 30 Mar: North Korea says it is entering a “state of war” with South Korea

How potent are North Korea’s threats?

Lucy Williamson reports from the heavily-guarded inter-Korean border

 

South Korea has promised a “strong response” to North Korean aggression, amid high tensions on the peninsula.

Speaking to defence officials on Monday, President Park Geun-hye said that she took the series of threats from Pyongyang “very seriously”.

North Korea said on Saturday that it was entering a “state of war” with South Korea.

On Sunday, the US sent stealth fighters to South Korea, as North Korea pledged to build up its nuclear arsenal.

“If there is any provocation against South Korea and its people, there should be a strong response in initial combat without any political considerations,” Ms Park said.

In recent days North Korea has issued multiple warnings of attacks on US and South Korean targets – to which the US has responded with an apparent show of military hardware.

The communist state has been angered both by UN sanctions imposed after its nuclear test in February and the joint US-South Korea annual military drills.

‘Nation’s life’

The US flew F-22 planes from Japan to South Korea’s Osan Air base on Sunday, as part of ongoing joint military exercises with South Korea, officials said.

“[North Korea] will achieve nothing by threats or provocations, which will only further isolate North Korea and undermine international efforts to ensure peace and stability in Northeast Asia,” the US military command in South Korea said in a statement reported by Reuters news agency.

 

Read Full Article and Watch Video  Here

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WHALES AHOY

S. Korea formally dumps ‘scientific’ whaling plan

by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP)

 

Under International Whaling Commission (IWC) rules, a formal proposal for the hunt was required by 3 December, but none was filed.

“We’ve decided to carry out ‘no-kill’ scientific research and, therefore, it became unnecessary to submit such a request,” an official at the fisheries ministry told AFP.

South Korea had unveiled its plan to resume whaling at an IWC meeting in Panama in July, saying it would use a loophole in a global moratorium that permits killing of whales for “scientific” research.

At the time, Seoul cited what it called a significant increase in whale stocks in its waters.

But the move was condemned by many countries and environmental groups and reports emerged just weeks later that the government was reconsidering.

Greenpeace on Wednesday welcomed South Korea’s decision as a victory for tens of thousands of people who had sent individual letters to Prime Minister Kim Hwang-Sik, urging his government to drop the plan.

 

Read  Full Article Here

Politics, Legislation and Economy News

World News – Global Economy:   Corruption – Government Overreach – Taxation –  The American Constitution- National Sovereignty

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In am not  privy  to  the  way  other  Nations feel about this .  However  , I  seem  to  recall a  moment in  our  history where the  consensus  was ……. No  Taxation  without  Representation.  Since the  members of the  governing body  of WHO  are NOT  OUR  elected  officials  it is  clear who they represent.    I  wonder  what  kind  of  tea  they prefer?

Hmmmmmmmm…………………

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Taxes Without Borders

World Health Organization mulling global cigarette tax

WHO

WHO

BY:
The World Health Organization (WHO) is considering a global excise tax of up to 70 percent on cigarettes at an upcoming November conference, raising concerns among free market tax policy analysts about fiscal sovereignty and bureaucratic mission creep.

In draft guidelines published this September, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control indicated it may put a cigarette tax on the table at its November conference in Seoul, Korea.

“First we had doctors without borders,” said David Williams, president of the Taxpayer Protection Alliance. “Now you could have taxes without borders. … This is a new frontier in taxes. If they’re successful with this, consumers and taxpayers should be concerned about what’s coming down the pipe.”

Although WHO does not have any power to mandate taxes on sovereign nations, it is considering two proposals on cigarette taxes to present to member countries. The first would be an excise tax of up to 70 percent.

“The concept was initially proposed by a working group set up by World Bank to explore innovative sources of financing health care and envisions a voluntary action by interested governments to adopt an additional tax levy as part of their regular tobacco excise on each pack of cigarettes consumed,” the WHO said in a January statement. “This would increase the effective excise tax rate on cigarettes towards the WHO recommended level of 70 percent of the retail price and, by generating substantial revenues, could ensure a sustainable revenue stream for financing international health.”

The second proposal is a tiered earmark on packs of cigarettes: 5 cents for high-income countries, 3 cents for middle-income countries, and 1 cent for low-income countries.

WHO has estimated that such a tax in 43 selected high-/middle-/low-income countries would generate $5.46 billion in tax revenue.

“Cynically, the earmark tax is a smart move for the WHO because it’s tiered,” Williams said. “It’s a good way of buying votes in support. We see the same thing in the U.S. in the form of donor states and recipient states.”

Whichever option the WHO ends up backing, “they’re both two big, bad ideas,” said Daniel Mitchell, a senior tax policy fellow at the Cato Institute. Free-market tax policy analysts such as Mitchell and Williams have long argued against such taxes on tobacco, saying they are regressive, ineffective, and counter-productive.

Cigarette taxes hit low-income people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one third of Americans earning less than $15,000 per year are smokers, compared with only 11 percent of those earning more than $50,000 annually. Since cigarette taxes are fixed and not based on ability to pay, they necessarily consume a higher percentage of low incomes.

Critics also argue such a tax increase will not generate more revenue, but push more sales to the black market and counterfeit cigarette producers.

“It’s already huge problem,” Mitchell said. “In many countries, a substantial share of cigarettes are black market or counterfeit. They put it in a Marlboro packet, but it’s not a Marlboro cigarette. Obviously it’s a big thing for organized crime.”

By some estimates, counterfeit cigarette factories in China churn out 400 billion cigarettes annually.

The other concern is mission creep. Tobacco, Mitchell says, is easy to vilify, making it an attractive beachhead from which to launch future vice tax initiatives.

WHO says the “global tobacco epidemic” kills nearly 6 million people each year; 600,000 of these are people exposed to second-hand smoke.”

Update 10:20 A.M.: “The increase of the price of tobacco by national authorities through higher excise taxes is the single most effective way to encourage tobacco users to quit and prevent children from starting to smoke. In addition, it increases the revenue of governments without increasing illicit trade of tobacco,” said Tarik Jasarevic, a WHO spokesman.

“During the Conference of the Parties (COP5) of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) from 12-17 November in Seoul, the Parties will discuss draft guidelines on Article 6 of the Framework Convention. While the outcome of the discussion cannot be foreseen, Article 6 talks about ‘Price and tax measures to reduce the demand for tobacco.’ It links taxation to the curbing of demand, but does not relate to fiscal benefits. Such fiscal benefits from taxation are not being discussed during COP5. Further, implementation of national tax policies remains the full sovereign right of the Parties.”

Politics, Legislation and Economy News

Wars and Rumors of War

NKorea completes key step in reactor construction

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A new satellite image shows North Korea has completed a key step in the construction of a light-water reactor at its main nuclear complex, though it may take several more years before it is fully operational, an analyst said Tuesday.

North Korea says the reactor being built since 2010 at its Yongbyon complex is for electricity generation. But some experts have questioned the North’s intention since the reactor would give the country a reason to enrich uranium that could be used in nuclear bombs at higher levels.

North Korea revealed an industrial-scale uranium enrichment facility in 2010 and has vowed to bolster its nuclear capability, citing what it calls hostile U.S. policies toward the country.

The satellite images taken by the GeoEye-1 satellite on Aug. 6 show a dome has been hoisted on top of the reactor building, Allison Puccioni at IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly said in a statement provided to The Associated Press.

“The emplacement of the dome is a significant development, although it may take several more years for the facility to be completed and brought into full operation,” Puccioni said. The dome had been lying on the ground beside the building for a year, she said.

A U.S.-based institute said in May that satellite images showed that North Korea had resumed construction of the reactor after months of inactivity. An image from a commercial satellite dated April 30 showed progress in construction of the containment building for the reactor, according to the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

International disarmament talks on North Korea’s nuclear program were last held in December 2008. North Korea walked away from the negotiations in 2009 and later exploded its second nuclear device.