SEOUL, Feb 12 - South Korea's central bank is forecast to keep the policy rate unchanged in February but is likely to take action in coming months as rate cut pressure grows on a mix of downbeat economic data and a wave of global monetary easing, analysts said Thursday.

All 17 analysts surveyed by Yonhap Infomax, the financial news arm of Yonhap News Agency, projected the Bank of Korea (BOK) to keep the base rate on hold at its policy meeting on Tuesday. If the forecast is on track, it will extend the BOK's wait-and-see stance to a fourth consecutive month.

The country's policy rate has been standing at a record-matching low of 2 percent since October after the BOK cut the rate by a quarter percentage point each in August and October to support the government's stimulus efforts.

"Governor Lee Ju-yeol said that the BOK needs to monitor the impact of the two rate cuts delivered in 2014. Distortions from the Lunar New Year also support a wait-and-see approach," HSBC economist Ronald Man said.

In a press conference following the monetary policy committee's Jan. 15 decision to freeze the rate, the top central banker distanced himself from market anticipation over a rate cut, saying that the base rate is "sufficient enough" and that using monetary policy is "inappropriate" at this point.

Some analysts cited the country's ever-growing household debt, breaking 1,000 trillion won (US$905 billion) last year, as a factor that blocks additional rate cuts.

"One concern is that household debt is now growing too fast as a result of the rate cuts last year. Cutting rates further can only come if there is significant and sudden deterioration in the activity indicators. So far, there is no sign of this," said Leong Wai Ho, an economist at Barclays.

Analysts, however, projected the central bank to take action in the first half as tepid growth and rate cuts by global central banks heighten pressure for an additional rate cut.

Five out of 15 analysts who submitted their forecast for end-March expected the BOK to cut the base rate next month. The case for a rate cut increased going forward, with 11 out of 16 analysts forecasting a rate cut by end-June.

HSBC's Man said the move may come as early as next month.

"As data are expected to continue to show suppressed economic activity and private sentiment, we expect the central bank to respond and lower its policy rate by 25 basis points at its March 12 meeting," he said, also noting how a handful of central banks have recently joined monetary easing.

Some still argued that the global move will not push the central bank to take action unless it clearly impacts the local financial market.

"Some say that the monetary authority will join the recent wave of global monetary easing. But unless it bolsters a stronger won, (the BOK) is unlikely to bow to the global easing stance," said Kim Jong-soo, an economist at Taurus Securities.

Kim instead forecast the central bank to start hiking the rate in the fourth quarter following the U.S. Federal Reserve's rate normalization and easing volatility in the global financial market. (Yonhap)

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 12 -- Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on Thursday said further integration in ASEAN will lead to the world witnessing the emergence of a new economic power in Southeast Asia.

"I say new, because although our economies have been trade and commercial hubs for centuries, we are today creating an economic union unlike anything since the days of empire," he said.

In realising that, the Prime Minister said ASEAN's priority must be to ensure that integration leads to equitable wealth creation and distribution as well as deepen financial integration and inclusion.

"We must ensure that all sectors of our economies are fully engaged in the ASEAN Community," he said in his keynote address at the ASEAN CAP10 CEO Summit here Thursday.

Najib said an economically integrated ASEAN benefits all of its member states with freer movement of goods, services, skilled labour and capital.

He said ASEAN is projected to have 125 million households with an income of over US$7,500 (RM26,826) in the next 10 years, and would be the seventh largest economy in the world, with a combined gross domestic product expected to reach US$4 trillion (RM14.3 trillion) by 2020, if it were a single country.

The establishment of ASEAN as a single market and production base would also unlock the potential to level the playing field with the world's biggest economies, he stressed.

"Harmonising and standardising trade and customs, processes and procedures will reduce transaction costs, making ASEAN even more attractive as an investment location and enhance export competitiveness.

"Liberalising the financial services sector while ensuring responsible investment and sustainability will further increase investor confidence, stability and growth," he said.

Najib said Malaysia, as Chair of the Association this year, would continue to work closely with other member states to ensure that ASEAN delivers on key initiatives.

Malaysia will be recommending at the 26th ASEAN Summit in April that an enhanced ASEAN secretariat be deployed to ensure member states work together to craft and implement its post-2015 agenda.

"Malaysia will play a key role in building a stronger, more prosperous, more open Southeast Asia," Najib said. (BERNAMA)

SEOUL, Feb 11 - The student council of state-run Seoul National University (SNU) launched Wednesday a body to cope with sex offenses on campus following a recent series of sexual harassment cases involving professors.

Prof. Kang Seok-jin from the Mathematical Sciences Department at SNU, the most prestigious institution of higher learning in the country, is now undergoing a court trial on charges of sexually abusing nine female students.

Two more SNU professors from the dentistry graduate school and the business administration division are also under investigation by the university's human rights center on similar suspicions.

"The student community's efforts are needed to overhaul the fundamental structure where such cases are created," SNU's acting student council and the council for graduate students said in a press conference.

"We will propose measures to overhaul the current system in order for (sexual abuse) victims to be able to come forward more safely to disclose their issues and to create a forum in which students can make their voices heard."

Many student victims usually shy away from reporting sexual abuses by professors because they are afraid of the power and influence professors often wield, the students said, urging SNU authorities and the judiciary to come up with due punishment on Kang.

The new student body will closely audit the court proceeding on Kang while pushing to create a consultative body between students and school authorities on the sexual abuse field, according to the student council.

It will also get involved in collecting sexual damage cases among students and launch campus campaigns against sexual violence by professors, it also noted.

The SNU university faculty came under fire late last year for accepting the resignation of the mathematics professor amid mounting sexual abuse allegations.

The resignation, if recognized, would have sustained Kang's entitlement to severance pay and pension right and automatically ended the school's internal investigation on him.

In the face of rising criticism, the school withdrew the decision and the prosecution formally charged Kang in late December for sexually molesting nine students from 2008 to July 2014. (Yonhap)

BANGKOK, Feb 11 - Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will preside over a ceremony to launch an 18-day floating market at Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem, a canal near Government House in Bangkok on Thursday, according to government spokesperson Maj Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd.

BANGKOK, Feb 10 -- Thailand and seven other countries have agreed to form a task force to help control illicit drug precursor substances.

The Special Meeting on Precursor Control, which gathered concerned authorities from Thailand, Cambodia, China, India, South Korea, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, reached a resolution on the formation of the taskforce on Tuesday.

The taskforce will have concerned authorities from the eight countries exchange information and knowledge about operations to block precursor supplies.

The operations include setting up checkpoints, a capability enhancement programme for personnel and exchanging information on precursor chemicals.

Thailand will coordinate the task force.

Permpong Chaovalit, secretary-general of the Narcotics Control Board, said the United Nations specified 14 precursors and viewed that Asia remained the hub of the narcotic precursors, especially ephedrine in India, China and South Korea.

He said the UN also noted that the use of acetic anhydride in aspirin as a heroin precursor was growing and urged Asian countries to enact laws to control the narcotic precursors.

Thursday, 12 February 2015 15:44

A safer Internet needs better governance

BEIJING, Feb 10 - As the world marked Safer Internet Day 2015 on Tuesday, which aims to promote safer and more responsible use of digital technology for children and young people, China was concerned about Internet safety in a broader sense.

China had 648 million Internet users by the end of 2014 and more than 70 percent were worried by Internet security.

Besides the safety of computers, servers and online content, cyber security includes the safety of national interests.

China has been the target of cyber attacks, over 10,000 Chinese websites are maliciously tampered every month and 80 percent of the government's websites have been hacked, according to Lu Wei, minister of the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC).

IT development globally is uneven, which means some less-digitally developed countries are at risk of being controlled by more sophisticated nations.

Mass surveillance by the United States National Security Agency (NSA) on governments and individuals disclosed since June 2013 by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden show that cyberspace also has boundaries.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, who also heads the central Internet security and informatization leading group, told a meeting in February 2014 that "no Internet safety means no national security".

Countries should respect for each other's sovereignty in cyberspace; all countries have the right and power to exercise jurisdiction over information facilities and activities within their own territories, and to enforce their own policies.

When governments regulate the Internet within their boundaries, they should act in line with laws and regulations, which is what China has been doing.

As the flow of information is border-free and cyber security is a common challenge faced across the globe, shared governance should also be advocated globally, just like this year's slogan for the Safer Internet Day -- "Let's create a better Internet together." (Xinhua)

Thursday, 12 February 2015 15:44

S. Korea to discuss safety of citizens overseas

SEOUL, Feb. 10 (Yonhap) -- South Korea plans to hold a meeting of government bodies this week to discuss ways to better protect its citizens overseas after a number of South Koreans were killed abroad, the foreign ministry said Tuesday.

Vice Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yul will preside over the meeting of officials from the national safety, justice and national defense ministries as well as the police and food safety agencies on Wednesday, ministry spokesman Noh Kwang-il said in a briefing.

The officials plan to discuss how to better facilitate collaboration among the government bodies to step up efforts to protect South Koreans staying in foreign countries, the official said.

In the Wednesday meeting, they will touch upon last December's deadly sinking of a South Korean fishing vessel, the murder of a South Korean woman in the Philippines as well as the safety of South Korean citizens in unstable regions in the Middle East, the spokesman added.

The pollack-fishing Oryong 501 carrying 60 crew sank in the western Bering Sea on Dec. 1, leaving more than 50 crewmen killed or missing.

One South Korean woman was murdered by a robber in Manila, the Philippines, earlier this week, further sparking safety concerns on South Koreans in the Southeast Asian country.

A total of four South Koreans have been killed in the Philippines so far in 2015.

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 10 - Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's conviction and five years' jail sentence for sodomy means that he can be disqualified as a member of parliament (MP).

The Federal Court today upheld the Court of Appeal's decision to convict and condemn Anwar to jail for sodomising his former aide, Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan.

This is the second time that Anwar can be disqualified as MP after he was found guilty sentenced to six years' jail for corruption on April 14, 1999.

Article 48 (1) (e) of the Federal Constitution states that an MP can be disqualified if he is jailed for more than one year and fined more than RM2,000.

The Federal Court today rejected Anway's appeal to set aside the Court of Appeal's conviction and five years' jail sentence passed on March 7, 2014.

He was charged with sodomising Mohd Saiful,29, at Unit 11-5-1 Kondominium Desa Damansara in Jalan Setiakasih, Bukit Damansara, between 3.10 pm and 4.30 pm on June 26 2008.

Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria lead a five-member panel comprising the Court of Appeal President Tan Sri Md Raus Sharif and judges Tan Sri Abdull Hamid Embong, Tan Sri Suriyadi Halim Omar and Datuk Ramly Ali.

Anwar,66, of Cherok Tok Kun, Bukit Mertajam, Penang first contested the Permatang Pauh parliamentary seat in the 1982 general election.

Representing the Barisan Nasional (BN), Anwar easily beat Zabidi Ali of PAS with a 14,352 majority vote.

He retained the seat in the following general elections until he was jailed six years' on April 14, 1999 for corruption and was disqualified.

The Permatang seat was then contested and won by his wife, Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail in the general election on Nov 10, 1999.

Wan Azizah continued to defend the seat until her resignation on July 31, 2008 to make way for Anwar to contest the seat in a by-election in Aug 2008.

Anwar won the seat by beating Datuk Arif Shah Omar Shah (BN) with a majority of 15,671 votes. (BERNAMA)

BANGKOK, Feb 10 - Thailand’s government and its National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has not infringed on the rights of any individual summoned for attitudinal discussions, said Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paojinda.

He also said that the martial law was enforced only to the necessary extent as the new constitution was being drafted to pave the way for the next general election.

Gen Anupong responded to the statement of Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Research Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, who said he was concerned by soldiers’ efforts to expand their detention authority.

The minister said that depended on different perspectives but that and the NCPO did not violate people’s rights. It took action only to ensure national peace and order.

“I assert that soldiers are not increasing their own power,' he said. "They have not issued any additional regulation and martial law is exercised only when it is necessary,” the interior minister said.

“The demonstration against the prime minister in Japan showed different opinions that we must listen to, but the overall situation in the country must be considered too,”  he added.

Gen Anupong said that all Thai people hoped for true democracy and said that it was not different from the demand of the United States. He said that the democracy would have to be sustainable and have legal foundations.

The new constitution would lead to an election and true democracy, he said.

The interior minister said that the NCPO and the government were determined to follow their national reform roadmap to introduce true democracy in Thailand.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015 15:23

UNIDO praises Thailand on industrial investment

Li Yong, director-general of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), last week met with Deputy Prime Minister Pridiyathorn Devakula and praised the Thai government on its attempts to improve the industrial sector and promotional privileges offered by the government’s Board of Investment (BoI).

Pridiyathorn told journalists later that talks with Li, a former deputy finance minister in China, focused on how to further develop Thailand’s industrial sector, and the BoI’s promotional privileges given to industrial factories which help in conservation of environment and energy.

He said Li told him that the UN felt comfortable that Thailand was going in the right direction, especially on the country’s assistance to neighboring countries to also grow by investing in those nations.

Assuring Li that Thailand’s economy would grow, Pridiyathorn said he had also told him that about 1,800 new factories would be established in Thailand in the next 4-5 months while some 2,400 had already been opened.

Besides creating new jobs, combined investment of new factories would total about Bt450 billion.

But problems remain in Thailand’s exports as key importers, including the US and European countries, are confronted with a sluggish economy, he told Li.

He also briefed Li on a proposal by the Chinese government to the Thai administration to jointly seek loans from the Export-Import Bank of China to fund the dual rail track for 873 kilometers in the kingdom, in which the interest rate is reportedly higher than that offered by the Japan International Cooperation Agency in the past.

Pridiyathorn said loans which would be funded on the project are “not a problem” because the government could borrow from local financial institutions.

The important point lies in verifying the actual cost, he added.

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