President Yoon Vows Regulatory and Tax Incentives for Foreign-Invested Firms in South KoreaNorth Korea Accused of Selling Illegal Gambling Websites to South Korean CriminalsSouth Korean Bond Yields Rise on February 14, 2024

SEOUL - In a significant move aimed at bolstering foreign investment, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol announced on Wednesday his administration's commitment to extend regulatory and tax benefits to foreign-invested companies operating within the nation. This pledge was made during a luncheon meeting with executives from leading foreign-invested enterprises, including the South Korean branches of Applied Materials and DuPont, two major American firms specializing in semiconductor equipment and chemicals, respectively.

According to Yonhap News Agency, the decision underscores the government's recognition of the substantial role these companies play in the South Korean economy. "You all are greatly contributing to our country's economy, and I think it is time for our government to provide systems and a regulatory environment that meet, or are more favorable than, the global standard, and not spare various tax and other support measures," he remarked.

The president emphasized the need for a cooperative effort with the National Assembly to address legislative and budgetary requirements that support these initiatives. He highlighted the critical contribution of foreign-invested companies to the South Korean economy, noting their responsibility for 21 percent of the nation's exports and 6 percent of its employment. Yoon assured that while some measures would require legislative action, his administration is prepared to proceed with changes within the executive's authority, including subordinate legislation, to facilitate a more favorable business environment for these enterprises.

This policy direction aims to enhance South Korea's attractiveness as an investment destination by aligning its regulatory and tax frameworks with international standards, thereby encouraging further contributions from foreign investors to the country's economic development.

SEOUL - The National Intelligence Service (NIS) of South Korea disclosed on Wednesday that a North Korean organization, linked to the ruling Workers' Party, has been implicated in creating and selling thousands of illegal online gambling websites to a South Korean cybercrime syndicate for substantial profits. This operation, conducted by Gyonghung Information Technology Co., a 15-member group stationed in Dandong, China, allegedly netted initial payments of $5,000 from the South Korean group for each website's creation, with ongoing maintenance fees of $3,000 per month.

According to Yonhap News Agency, additional revenues ranging from $2,000 to $5,000 were secured through bank accounts in the names of Chinese nationals and via transactions on PayPal, depending on the user traffic generated by these websites. The agency has identified these activities as part of efforts to support Bureau 39 of the North Korean Workers' Party, a division tasked with managing the secret funds of North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un. The report highlighted that each member of the Gyonghung Information Technology Co. contributed approximately $500 monthly to the North Korean government.

Kim Kwang-myong, an official initially associated with North Korea's Reconnaissance General Bureau, is reported to lead the implicated organization. This bureau is recognized as Pyongyang's primary intelligence entity. The NIS further alleged that the North Korean group engaged in cyber extortion by harvesting personal information from users through malicious software embedded in the websites it operated.

The total earnings accrued from these illicit activities remain undisclosed. However, the South Korean criminal organization involved is believed to have generated profits in the multi-trillion won range. An investigation into this cybercrime ring is currently in progress, as stated by the NIS.

In addition to financial details, the NIS claimed to have obtained photographic and video evidence documenting the activities of the North Korean group. This evidence reportedly reveals the identities and false Chinese national personas of the organization's members. The NIS commentary extended to the broader context of North Korean operations in Dandong, noting the city's role as a hub for apparel production and a cover for North Korean IT organizations seeking to illicitly earn foreign currency.

This revelation underscores ongoing concerns regarding North Korean entities' engagement in international cybercrime and sanctions evasion, particularly in light of United Nations Security Council resolutions aimed at curtailing Pyongyang's ability to fund its nuclear and missile programs through overseas labor and illicit activities.

SEOUL - South Korean bond yields experienced notable increases on February 14, 2024, across various maturities, reflecting a shift in the debt market dynamics.

According to Yonhap News Agency, the one-year Treasury bond (TB) yield rose to 3.454% from the previous session's 3.417%, marking a 3.7 basis point increase. Similarly, the two-year TB yield climbed to 3.493%, up by 6.3 basis points from 3.430%, while the three-year TB yield increased by 7.2 basis points to 3.425% from 3.353%. The ten-year TB yield also saw an uptick, moving to 3.502% from 3.453%, a 4.9 basis point rise.

In the money market sector, the two-year Monetary Stabilization Bond (MSB) yield advanced to 3.465% from 3.397%, a 6.8 basis point increase. The three-year Corporate Bond (CB) with an AA- rating experienced a rise in yield to 4.141% from 4.074%, indicating a 6.7 basis point gain. Additionally, the 91-day Certificate of Deposit (CD) rate marginally increased by 1.0 basis point to 3.680% from 3.670%. These movements in bond yields highlight the changing investor sentiments and economic outlook within the South Korean financial markets.

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