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SEOUL – South Korea said on Tuesday it had blocked a North Korean bid for the right to detain South Korean businessmen working in the Kaesong joint industrial zone in the event of a dispute.

The Kaesong complex, which lies about 10 kilometres (six miles) inside North Korea, hosts some 100 Seoul-owned factories where 53,000 North Korean workers produce goods from clothes to watches.

Hundreds of South Korean managers also work in the complex, established in 2004 as a symbol of inter-Korea cooperation.

Last September, Pyongyang drafted a new operational regulation that would allow the North to detain South Korean businessmen when there is an unresolved business dispute.

“They sent us the request to change some rules on the Kaesong complex, including making it possible to detain our entrepreneurs,” an official from Seoul’s Unification Ministry told AFP.

“We rejected the request … and there has been no word from the North on that since then,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A precious source of hard currency for the impoverished North, Kaesong had until recently remained largely immune to the volatile swings in inter-Korean ties.

But in April 2013, the North effectively shut down the complex by withdrawing its workforce during a spike in military tensions that followed the North’s third nuclear test.

Kaesong reopened five months later, but the shutdown raised concerns over the safety of South Koreans working there.

In an effort to prevent any future closures, the North and South created a joint committee to oversee Kaesong and deal with any problems related to its operations.

S Korea says crashed drones came from North

Posted by pakin On May - 8 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Seoul says investigation shows “clear military provocation” by North, which denies link to unmanned vehicles.

South Korea has said it has proof North Korea flew spy drones into its territory in a “clear military provocation”, after an analysis of the wreckage of three crashed vehicles.

Kim Min-seok, a spokesman for the South’s defence ministry, said the provenance of the unmanned aerial vehicles was confirmed after a joint South Korea-US study of the GPS coordinates stored in their systems.

The drones were recovered from three separate locations near the inter-Korean border between March 24 and April 6, the ministry said.

“We have confirmed that all three UAVs originated from North Korea,” Kim said.

“North Korea’s action is a clear military provocation that violates the armistice and the South-North non-aggression agreement,” the ministry said in a statement.

One crashed due to an engine problem, while the other two ran out of fuel.

Although extremely rudimentary in design, they were all equipped with cameras and had taken pictures of border areas, major military installations and the capital Seoul, including the presidential palace.

North Korea has denied any connection to the drones, and accused Seoul of fabricating a link in order to smear Pyongyang.

Photographs unearthed by the North Korea Tech blog showed a drone made by a Chinese company with an almost identical size and shape to some of the drones found in South Korea, the Reuters news agency reported.

South Korea’s defence ministry said in April some of the parts in the recovered drones were made in China, Japan, the Czech Republic and the US, but it offered no further details.

The South in 2011 said it wanted to buy drone vehicles from the US. In 2012, the US agreed to sell Seoul four “Global Hawk” spy drones, after the Obama administration vowed to help the South counter its northern rival.

Arms control advocates expressed fears that the deal would increase instability and stir a regional arms race, as well as provide diplomatic cover for an expansion of such exports by Russia, China and others.

North Korea had displayed a set of basic drones during a military parade held in Pyongyang last July marking the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean war.

In March 2013, state media reported leader Kim Jong-un overseeing a military drill using “super-precision drone planes”.

Photographs of the exercise, broadcast on state television, showed what resembled air force target drones being flown into a mountainside and exploding.

An “X” on the price

Posted by pakin On May - 2 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Thai AirAsia X, a Bangkok-based low-cost carrier for long haul services, introduces daily flights from Bangkok to South Korea.

The Bangkok to Seoul service will start on June 17 and operate on Airbus A330-300 aircraft with two classes – Economy and Premium Flatbed. The airline promises cheaper air travel than the full-service carriers, with flights between the two cities taking five hours. AirAsia X’s next destinations are Tokyo and Osaka in Japan. Visit

On your bikes!

Samui Bike Week returns to the tropical island paradise this Friday and Saturday for its 2014 edition. This annual event draws international and local bikers and features a bike parade, workshops, stage performances and booths selling biking accessories and gear. Sometimes referred to as “Coconut Island”, Samui is one of Thailand’s best-loved destinations with palm-fringed beaches.

Holidays with a hash tag

Etihad Airways offers holiday inspiration with personalised travel tips on social media websites. The airline is now offering personalised travel tips as part of a brand new online initiative, titled #EtihadSuggests. The global campaign invites members of the public to ask holiday-related questions on Facebook or Twitter using the #EtihadSuggests hashtag. Etihad Airways’ online community team will aim to respond within 10 minutes, offering insider information on must-visit destinations, including suggestions for the best hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions.

All that jazz

Richard Jackson and Yuki Makita, Mellow Motif, Fried Pride, Banana Grooves, the Dan Phillips Quartet, Koh Mr. Saxman and Pui Dongpron “The Voice” are among the artists taking part in the Hua Hin Asia Jazz Contest on May 10. The free concert takes place on the resort’s beach and kicks off at 6.

Jindo, South Korea (CNN) — South Korean authorities searched the offices of the company that owns the sunken ferry Sewol on Wednesday, prosecutors confirmed to CNN, broadening a criminal investigation that has already ensnared 11 members of the ill-fated ship’s crew.

Investigators also searched the offices of 20 organizations affiliated with Cheonghaejin Marine Co. as well as the home of Yoo Byung-eun, a billionaire whose family appears to control the company, according to the semiofficial Yonhap News Agency.

Yoo is known in South Korea as the “millionaire with no face” because he rarely appears in public. According to major South Korean newspapers, he also has an artistic alter ego — Ahae — as a photographer who has won international acclaim.

His website appears to show Yoo taking pictures, but his face is not visible.

Through an investment vehicle and subsidiary, Yoo and his two sons control the shipping company that operated the ferry. Korean tax authorities say that under the family’s ownership, the ferry company has been struggling and reported a loss last year.

Days after the ferry sank, the company sent out its president to apologize, but not Yoo — who’s had a brush with bad publicity before.

In 1987, he was a religious cult leader. More than 30 people from his group were found dead, bound and gagged in a factory outside of Seoul. Officials investigated the incident as a mass murder-suicide, but found no evidence tying the event to Yoo.

Prosecutors in the South Korean city of Busan are also investigating the private organization responsible for inspecting and certifying ships for the South Korean government, Yonhap reported.

Investigators are looking for any evidence of possible wrongdoing in relation to the Korean Register of Shipping’s safety inspection of the Sewol, the news agency reported, citing an unnamed prosecutor.

The Sewol sank April 16 during a routine trip from Incheon to the resort island of Jeju. Among its 476 passengers and crew were more than 300 high school students on a field trip.

Authorities said Thursday the death toll had climbed to 162, leaving 140 passengers missing.

Eleven members of the Sewol’s crew, including its captain, have been arrested in connection with the disaster.

Capt. Lee Joon-seok and some other crew members have been criticized for failing to evacuate the sinking ship quickly and for giving orders for passengers to remain where they were. Lee has said he was worried about the cold water, strong currents and lack of rescue vessels.

Lee and others have also drawn public anger for leaving the ship while many passengers remained on board.

Authorities still do not know precisely what caused the incident. It did not appear that the ship was overloaded, according to figures provided by the company and the South Korean coast guard. But coast guard officials said investigators won’t know for sure how much cargo the ship was carrying until it is salvaged.

Young crew member hailed as heroine

Hopes fading

South Korean officials continue to call their operation a search-and-rescue mission, but hopes are fading that survivors may yet be found.

Some 700 divers are participating in the search, according to Ko Myung-suk, a spokesman for the joint task force coordinating the effort. He said 36 fishing boats were positioned around the area to prevent bodies being carried away by currents.

Rescue officials said Wednesday that divers have yet to find an air pocket on the third or fourth decks, where most of the passenger bedrooms and the ship’s cafeteria are located.

Rescuers haven’t found a single survivor since 174 people were rescued the day the ship sank one week ago.

Many of the bodies pulled from the ferry have come from bedrooms on the capsized ship’s fourth deck, said Ko.

Divers had expected to find passengers inside the third-floor cafeteria but failed to find any, the South Korean coast guard said.

While divers still have many rooms to search, no air pockets have been found on either deck, authorities said.

Students remembered

Grief over the sinking has spread across the Korean Peninsula. Even South Korea’s nemesis, North Korea, sent condolences Wednesday.

More than two-thirds of those on board the ferry were students from Danwon High School in Ansan, an hour’s drive south of Seoul.

On Wednesday, some of their faces stared out from photos amid a huge bank of white flowers at a basketball area in Ansan that has been converted into a temporary memorial.

A permanent memorial is being planned for a park in Ansan.

Hundreds of people filed through the memorial Wednesday, passing about 50 large wreaths on their way to the wall of flowers and pictures.

Somber music played as visitors, including friends and relatives, passed quietly among the tributes. Some wept.

One man, from Seoul, has no ties to the school but came to grieve for the young lives lost.

“I have a daughter,” the man told CNN’s Nic Robertson. “I think of her alone in black waters. It’s just so terrible. I’m angry that I couldn’t do anything. So helpless.”

The disaster has taken a devastating toll on the high school, where classes are due to resume Thursday.

The school is missing most of its sophomores and a vice principal who was rescued from the ferry but found dead two days after the sinking. He’d apparently hanged himself from a tree.

Lee Seung-min, 17, said one of her closest girlfriends is among the missing. She said she still holds out hope that her friend will return despite the increasingly slim chances of finding survivors.

Before the field trip, the two girls had talked about what universities they might attend, she said.

In recent maritime disasters, captains didn’t hang around

Students remember vice principal who took own life

Murky waters cloud the horror facing rescue divers

CNN’s Michael Pearson reported and wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Steven Jiang reported from Jindo, and Andrew Stevens reported from Ansan. CNN’s Jethro Mullen, K.J. Kwon, Kyung Lah, Tim Schwarz, Larry Register and Judy Kwon also contributed to this report.