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  1. SEOUL (Reuters) - A South Korean court on Monday jailed three executives of Samsung Electronics for their role in a plot that included burying computers under factory floors at its biotech affiliate, in an investigation of alleged accounting fraud. Prosecutors began investigating the suspected fraud at Samsung Biologics after South Korea’s financial watchdog complained the firm’s value had been inflated by 4.5 trillion won ($3.82 billion) in 2015. The episode is the latest legal trouble for South Korea’s top conglomerate, whose leader Jay Y. Lee is embroiled in separate trials in a corruption scandal involving former President Park Geun-hye. “The boldness of the defendants’ criminal acts was beyond the public’s imagination and stunned society,” Judge Soh Byung-seok said, handing down sentences of up to two years. “Most South Korean people want Samsung ... to become the world’s top-class company contributing to the country’s economy,” the judge added. “However, if such growth is based on breaches and unlawfulness, it will not be applauded.” Lawyers for the executives were not immediately available for comment. Samsung Electronics declined to comment, and representatives of Samsung Biologics were not immediately available for comment. Prosecutors accused the executives of ordering employees at the biopharmaceutical firm to destroy and conceal internal documents, as authorities investigated accusations of a violation of accounting rules there. The efforts included inserting nearly two dozen computers and notebooks as well as computer servers in spaces under the floors of Samsung Biologics factories near the capital, Seoul, they added. Civic groups have said the alleged fraud aimed to boost the value of Samsung Biologics’ parent Samsung C&T (028260.KS), adding this was achieved by smoothing the way for a 2015 deal involving the parent and consolidating Lee’s control of the group. Lee faces charges of having bribed former President Park in return for seeking support in Samsung’s succession planning. Source
  2. The government in South Korea says that it shuttered 25 pirate sites in 2018 and arrested the operators of more than half of them. It also announced the launch of a new response center to more quickly deal with pirate sites via blocking. Thousands of platforms are already blocked in the country. South Korea has long been associated with some of the fastest average Internet connection speeds available anywhere in the world. The country topped the list in 2017 and is still a key player today. While fast Internet speeds are great for average users, Internet pirates are always particularly grateful for speedy transfers and those in South Korea are no different. As a result, authorities in the country have been under pressure to do something about piracy rates. In an announcement this week, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism revealed that specialist Intellectual Property Rights police shut down 25 pirate sites in 2018, adding that the operators of 13 had been arrested. Some will face criminal proceedings alongside claims for civil damages, reports suggest. One of the largest targets appears to have been Marumaru, a local site that specialized in Japanese manga content. After being founded in 2013, Marumaru grew at an impressive rate, allegedly earning around a million dollars in advertising revenue while offering an estimated 42,000 copyrighted manga works. Last November, however, the show came to an end after the platform was shut down. A month later, two alleged operators of the site were charged with copyright infringement offenses. South Korea’s commitment to tackling piracy appears to be hardening. This week the Korea Communications Standards Commission said it had launched a special unit (Copyright Infringement Response Team) to tackle pirate sites in order to protect local industries. In common with similar initiatives in other regions, the aim is to target platforms based overseas that are claimed to be out of local authorities’ reach. It’s no surprise that web-blocking is considered part of the solution. The KCSC said that it blocked around 50 websites to 2014 but last year that total had risen to 2,338. A 2018 report from the MPA (pdf), that studied South Korea’s blocking regime, declared that the practice meant that “total visits to piracy sites declined following each wave of site blocking.” It now appears that even more stringent steps will be taken to prevent direct visits to pirate sites. The ‘Response Team’ has been tasked with monitoring pirate sites “round the clock” in order to provide a “rapid and strong response” to infringement and evasive action by site operators. Sites that spring up to facilitate access to previously-blocked sites, such as mirrors and proxies, will be dealt with within four days, with complaints from rightsholders actioned within the same time-frame. The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism is promising to continue the crackdown for years to come and indicates it will work also with foreign authorities to tackle all types of pirate sites. Original Article
  3. Government says hackers breached 30 computers and stole data from 10. Hackers have breached the computer systems of a South Korean government agency that oversees weapons and munitions acquisitions for the country's military forces. The hack took place in October 2018. Local press reported this week[1, 2, 3] that hackers breached 30 computers and stole internal documents from at least ten. The breached organization is South Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), an agency part of the Ministry of National Defense. It is believed that the stolen documents contain information about arms procurement for the country's next-generation fighter aircraft, according to a news outlet reporting on the cyber-attack. Reports claim that hackers gained access to the server of a security program installed on all government computers. Named "Data Storage Prevention Solution," the app is installed on South Korean government computers to prevent sensitive documents from being downloaded and saved on internet-connected PCs. According to reports, hackers gained admin access to the software's server and used it to siphon documents from connected workstations. The country's intelligence agency (NIS, National Intelligence Service) investigated the breach in November and reported its findings to government officials, who disclosed the cyber-attack to the public this week. Government officials didn't pin the blame on North Korean hackers, as they usually do, although it wouldn't surprise anyone if they did, as North Korea has often launched cyber-espionage and intelligence collection operations against its southern neighbor. For example, in October 2017, South Korea accused North Korea of hacking and stealing the South's secret joint US war plans, which included detailed plans to attack the North in case diplomatic relations deteriorated to a point where military action was needed. Source
  4. SEOUL (BERNAMA) - A KTX bullet train en route to Seoul derailed shortly after departing from Gangneung with 198 passengers aboard on Saturday (Dec 8), South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported the operator as saying. The KTX bullet train went off the tracks only around five minutes after departing, passengers said. No casualities were reported and 14 passengers suffering from minor injuries were transferred to nearby hospitals. An official from Korea Railroad Corp (Korail) said the train left the city, located 237 km east of Seoul, and derailed while approaching Jinbu Station at around 7.35am. The train went off the tracks only around five minutes after departing, passengers said. Almost all of the train's 10 cars went off the tracks due to a yet-to-be-determined reason, with Korail saying it is carrying out an investigation. The train was originally set to reach Seoul at 9.30am. The passengers were transferred to other stations by buses. Korail said other trains are running on a normal schedule from Seoul to Jinbu. "I was travelling from Gangneung to Pyeongchang in the sixth car. But shortly after the train departed, it went off the tracks with a thud," a 22-year-old passenger said. "It was as if the train slid for around 50 metres, and I could hear the train dragging pebbles with a metallic sound." The passenger said people were hanging on to their chairs, with some injured people screaming during the accident. "Even after we got off the train, we had to wait around 50 minutes outside," the passenger added. "I saw an old lady bleeding from her head." Source
  5. South Koreans who use cannabis while in Canada could face criminal charges when they return to their home country, Korean police are warning. An official from South Korea’s narcotics unit gave the message earlier this week, saying marijuana is treated as a serious offence. Violators could face up to five years in prison. “Weed smokers will be punished according to the Korean law, even if they did so in countries where smoking marijuana is legal. There won’t be an exception,” said the official, according to the Korea Times. The South Korea government also put out a warning last week, the day before Canada legalized marijuana. On Oct. 16, the South Korean Embassy in Canada said on Twitter: “Even if South Koreans are in a region where marijuana is legal, it will be illegal for them to consume it. Please take care not to commit an illegal act and be punished.” Korean police said they plan to hold briefing sessions in Canada and Uruguay (the first country in the world to legalize pot) to explain the risks of smoking marijuana to Korean residents, the Korea Times reported. “It’s possible that a country could make it an offence … as there are issues of sovereignty there,” said Harrison Jordan, a Toronto-based cannabis lawyer. “There are certainly other countries who have done so … like Saudi Arabia, (which makes) it illegal to have any THC in your system.” Japan also gave its residents a warning. On Oct. 4, the Consulate-General of Japan in Vancouver issued a statement saying the possession and purchase of the drug is not only illegal in Japan, but “may be applied … in foreign countries.” Under South Korea’s narcotics law, selling, buying or consuming marijuana is a crime punishable by up to five years in prison or a fine of up to 50 million won, around $57,000. The use of marijuana is illegal and considered a serious crime in South Korea. According to Korean media, “marijuana is on the same level of taboo as a hard drug like heroin or crystal meth.” In July 2017, South Korea pop star T.O.P, was given a suspended 10-month jail sentence for smoking marijuana. The singer was charged after using marijuana four times in October 2016 at his home in the capital, Seoul. How will South Korea test for marijuana? “South Korea can’t screen everyone who visited a foreign country, but the police maintain a blacklist that leads to certain individuals being supervised,” Lee Chang-Hoon, a professor in the department of police administration at Hannam University in Daejeon told the Guardian. “But the police are more concerned with the transportation of marijuana into South Korea, and the police messaging shows they are anxious about tackling this issue in the near future.” Around 286,000 South Koreans visited Canada in 2017, according to Statistics Canada. Source
  6. Despite having a domestic workforce of around 200,000 employees, fewer than 300 Samsung employees are part of a union, which seems a little curious. So South Korean regulators decided to dig a little deeper, and after a five-month investigation spurred by officials from South Korea’s Justice party, prosecutors have reportedly slapped Lee Sang-hoon, the chairman of Samsung’s board of directors, and 31 other Samsung execs and affiliates with charges of union sabotage. According to the Financial Times, prosecutors for the case say Samsung’s efforts to prevent its workforce from establishing unions is in violation of South Korean labor law and “an organised crime that mobilized the whole company to its full capacity.” Investigators claim some of the tactics employed by Samsung execs include threatening to cut the wages of employees linked to unions, pulling out of deals with subcontractors that appeared to be pro-union, and just generally hampering union activities. Compared to the national average of 10 percent, the number of Samsung employees that are part of a union stands at barely more than 0.01 percent. With Samsung’s revenues estimated as being worth as much as 17 percent of South Korea’s total GDP, however, it’s possible controlling Samsung may be too much for government regulators to handle. Source
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