Saturday, January 18, 2020
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Seoul – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un Sunday attended the first concert in Pyongyang for over a decade by South Korean entertainers, including a K-pop girlband, the latest gesture of reconciliation before a rare inter-Korean summit.

The visit, described by many as a cultural charm offensive by the South, came as a diplomatic thaw quickens on the peninsula after months of tensions.

The 120-member group — 11 musical acts as well as dancers, technicians and martial artists — gave one concert on Sunday with another set for Tuesday.

Kim and his wife, a former singer herself, came to watch Sunday’s show, making him the first leader of the North to attend a concert by South Korean performers.

Kim shook hands and took photos with the stars backstage, saying inter-Korean cultural events should be held more often and suggesting another event in the South Korean capital this autumn, pool reports said.

The young couple were seen clapping their hands during the two-hour event — also attended by Kim’s powerful sister, Kim Yo Jong, and ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam.

“Please tell (South Korean) President Moon Jae-in how great an event like this is… I am grateful for a gift like this (concert) to the people of Pyongyang,” Kim told visiting Seoul officials.

Kim also showed “great interest in the songs and lyrics (of South Korean singers) during the concert,” Do Jong-hwan, Seoul’s culture chief and the head of the delegation, told reporters.

The South’s taekwondo athletes also staged a performance before an audience of 2,300 in Pyongyang on Sunday ahead of a joint display of the Korean martial art with the North’s practitioners on Monday.

The ongoing rapprochement was triggered by the South’s Winter Olympics, to which the North’s leader Kim Jong Un sent athletes, cheerleaders and his sister as an envoy.

A North Korean art troupe staged two performances in the South in February to celebrate the Games.

Kim followed up by agreeing to a summit with Moon, and offering a face-to-face meet with US President Donald Trump. Kim also met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing last week during his first overseas trip.

The inter-Korean summit, the third after meetings in 2000 and 2007, will be held on April 27. No date has been set for the US-North Korean summit although it is expected before the end of May.

In another sign of eased tensions, an annual US-South Korean military exercise which got under way in the South Sunday will last for just one month compared to some two months normally.

This year’s drills feature fewer strategic weapons such as nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, Seoul’s military has said. Such deployments during past drills has frequently drawn an angry response from Pyongyang.


– ‘Let’s do our best’ –


Sunday’s concert to a packed audience at the elaborately decorated 1,500-seat East Pyongyang Grand Theatre ended with a standing ovation after a finale in which all the stars appeared on stage to sing a song about unification.

One of the most closely watched acts was Red Velvet, part of the South’s hugely popular K-pop phenomenon that has taken audiences in Asia and beyond by storm in recent decades.

Before the concert, even the leader Kim joked: “There was so much interest in whether I’d come to see Red Velvet or not.”

The five-member girlband — known for its signature K-pop mix of upbeat electronic music, stylish fashion and high-voltage choreography — performed two of their hits, “Bad Boy” and “Red Flavour”.

“The North’s audience applauded to our performance much louder than we expected and even sang along to our songs… it was a big relief,” band member Yeri told reporters.

“I told myself, ‘let’s do our best even if there’s no response (from the audience)… but they showed so much reaction,” added a member called Wendy.

Another member, Seulgi, appeared red-eyed as she bid farewell to the audience at the end of the concert, apparently overcome with emotion.


– ‘Maze of Love’ –


Despite the North’s isolation and strict curbs on unauthorised foreign culture, enforced with prison terms, K-pop and South Korean TV shows have become increasingly popular there thanks to flash drives smuggled across the border with China.

The emcee of Sunday’s concert was a popular member of K-pop band Girls’ Generation, Seohyun, who had performed with the visiting North Korean singers during their Seoul concert in February.

Legendary South Korean singer Cho Yong-pil, who held a solo sell-out concert in Pyongyang in 2005, was another star of the show.

Kim’s late father and longtime ruler, Kim Jong Il, was known to be a fan of the 68-year-old Cho.

Another famous singer, Choi Jin-hee, also performed for the fourth time in the North and sang “Maze of Love” — a hit in both Koreas and another of the late Kim’s favourites.

But not all onlookers were receptive to the K-pop offensive.

During the taekwondo event, a previously-enraptured audience turned stone-faced during a performance combining K-pop dance and Taekwondo routines to a hit song by the ultra-popular boyband BTS.

The stiffened crowd refused to respond to the athletes who asked them to clap their hands to “Fire” — an intense electro-dance score peppered with rapid-fire rap delivered in both Korean and English. //AFP




LUCKY Union Foods Co Ltd, a Thai producer of surimibased products, plans to seek a balance between domesฌtic and overseas sales to counter any risks caused by a stronger baht and trade barriers raised by importing countries.

Vantanee Saeng-U-Tai, vice president of Lucky Union Foods Co Ltd, said the company is currently subject to 20 per cent import duty on exports of its surimi products to some markets in Europe and the United States.

This is despite rival producers in countries such as Vietnam and Lithuania exporting their surimi prodฌucts to these Western markets with zero import duties and thus gaining higher trade privileges.

“Because of the [previous] strategy set by our shareholders, we have neglected the domestic market in Thailand for more than 20 years, and it is now time to come back to penetrate this potential market seriously,” she said.

The company has been exporting its frozen surimibased products from its plant in Samut Sakhon province to more than 50 markets around the world. It set up a wholly owned processing plant in Poland in 2008 to be responsible for exports of its chilled products to about 25 markets in Europe.

Vantanee said that exports accounted for about 70 per cent of total sales in 2012 and 2014, but will reach 60 per cent this year.

“Our aim is to balance export and domestic sales at 50/50,” she said, adding that for exports, the company is penetrating promising markets in Africa. Vantanee said that in export markets, the company targets people in the middle to higherincome bracket as its core customers. While in Thailand, the customers of its surimi products cover the full spectrum of income groups.

There is little difference between the bottom line margins for domestic and overseas sales, Vantanee said.

Vantanee said that Lucky Union Foods a few years ago invested in new machinery at its factory, at Samutsakorn (Mahachai) Industrial Estate, to raise its production capacity from 20,000 tonnes per annum to 40,000 tonnes. The factory now produces between 30,000 and 35,000 tonnes per year.

Lucky Union Foods also aimed to penetrate modern trade and leading department stores including supermarkets, convenience stores, food chains, fresh market representatives, and with business partners. With 27 years in business, the company has notched strong export sales, with the expansion to Poland starting in 2005.

Kani Family by Lucky Union Foods, under the concept “LUF New Renovation”, recently launched the Kani Family Taraba Red King Crab stick and announced its strategy and brandbuilding efforts that are aimed at attracting young people.

Vantanee said that, with sales targeted at food service businesses, fresh markets, food chains, and modern trade outlets with a range of products, company’s sales volume reached Bt1 billion last year. For this year, the company aims to grow that by 30 per cent to Bt1.3 billion for the domestic market. The company will expand the market and create more awareness among consumers.

“We aim to distribute our products via food service at 50 per cent and modern trade at 50 per cent,” Vantanee said. For the modern trade sector, the company planned to import more products to respond to consumers’ need.

“For the export market, we aim to grow 15 per cent to Bt2.3 billion by penetrating new markets in Europe, America, Oceania, Africa and Asia with quality products with catch certificates. The company operates under Thai Union Group’s policies for both domestic and international markets,” Vantanee said.

“With our strong research and business development team and quality assurance team, the company can develop products and expand its business with the surimi products. Produced with high technology, Kani Family Surimi Taraba Red King Crab stick is inspired by Red King Crab and made from surimi to taste like Taraba Red King Crab for everyone to enjoy.”

Suradej Chinsakuljaroen, marketing director of Lucky Union Foods, outlining the strategies for 2018, said: “For 201820, the company aims to grow 30 per cent via modern trade by focusing on ready-toeat products. The company plans to invest Bt30 million to arrange marketing activities and promoฌtions for both domestic and international markets with online campaigns to engage consumers as well as product development for premiฌum crab sticks to continue its leadership.”

“The company launched Lucky Mart Shop Online, an ecommerce channel by joining logistics partners to provide convenience and speed. For 2020, the company will open 2020 Kani Family Global strategies to expand the market and expand Kani Family brand to international market including America, Europe, Middle East, Asia Pacific, and Southeast Asia with International Endorsement to grow the brand competency in the international market.”

Lucky Union Foods Co Ltd started commercial operations in 1992.

LUF is described as a highquality surimibased products processing factory.

“We are dedicated to delivering a wide variety and selections of surimi products to a large number of customers across the globe,” the company said. “The products have been widely served in types of cuisine, like sushi topping for Japanese food, in hot pots, noodles, soup toppings and cold – dishes in Chinese food, and in Westernstyle salads.

“Being a growing company, our commitment is to constantly provide our customers with wide range of healthy, quality and delicious products.”



YESTERDAY marked a milestone for Thailand’s existing political parties, who were allowed to start reaffirming their membership lists, and their leaders began declaring their new policies, with an emphasis on the lingering military influence.

While the Democrat Party, many of whose former MPs joined the whistle-blowing protests that preceded the 2014 coup, held firm that it would not support Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha remaining in office after the election, the Bhumjaithai Party was reluctant to make its position clear.

“Party members would have to support the party’s leader, whoever he or she will be. Those wanting to support Prayut should choose the other way and not come here. There are many parties that would endorse such support,” Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday.

We would have to see how the military would enter [politics] and how many votes they would have [in the parliament],” he said.

According to the junta-written 2017 charter, the Upper and Lower Houses would jointly nominate the prime minister, who could be an “outsider”, if MPs could not agree over a list of three candidates for the top job.

Given the charter-invented mixed-member apportionment electoral system, it is very likely that the majority of MPs will be from diverse medium-sized and small parties, and the major parties will have a hard time to gain a parliamentary majority.

Senators will not only be wholly handpicked by the junta, but some of the seats in the Senate will be reserved for top-ranking military officers.

Political observers have said that such a scenario would weaken the power of the major parties while empowering the military in post-election politics.

The Democrat Party’s headquarters in Bangkok yesterday was buzzing with hundreds of former MPs and supporters visiting to reaffirm their memberships.


Deputy PM General Prawit Wongsuwan said on Thursday that he has not yet done anything wrong in regard to his possession of the luxury watches.

The deputy PM was responding to the growing call for him to resign over the ongoing watch scandal, which began with a Cabinet group photo last December in which he was spotted wearing an expensive watch and a diamond ring. It was later learned that the items had not been reported to the National Anti-Corruption Commission, as required by the law.

Photos were compiled on social media and widely shared showing Prawit wearing more watches, up to 25, on various occasions.

Prawit said the issue needs to wait for the NACC’s ruling. He has clarified the issue following the legal procedures required, he added.

ocial advocate Ticha Nanakorn on Wednesday submitted a petition to NACC president Pol General Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit urging him to expedite the probe.

Ticha on January 31 started a campaign on which has garnered over 80,000 petitioners calling on Prawit to resign.

Ticha said that even though Prawit had last week submitted to the NACC a fourth written explanation about the origin of the watches, it remained unclear whether the agency would summon him for a meeting or take any other action.

“Society is suspicious about the NACC’s action in this case,” she said.

She also questioned why the NACC has not disclosed any detail about the case. People want to know how Prawit obtained the watches and why he was repeatedly allowed to fend off NACC calls for clarification, she said.

On Tuesday, the NACC panel in charge of the matter said it would submit its preliminary findings to the NACC board next week.

NACC secretary-general Worawit Sukboon said yesterday the panel had received a 38-page letter detailing the origins of the 25 expensive watches that Prawit has been seen wearing on various occasions.

The deputy PM has never declared any of them as personal financial assets, as required by law.