SPC Group CEO Detained Over Allegations of Union Busting and BriberyNorth Korea Removes Unification References from State MediaSouth Korea and U.S. Conduct Joint Air Exercises Amid Annual Military Drills

SEOUL — The CEO of South Korea's bakery and beverage conglomerate, SPC Group, has been detained following accusations of pressuring employees to resign from their labor union and offering bribes to a prosecution investigator. The Seoul Central District Court approved the arrest warrant for Hwang Jae-bok on Monday, citing the risk of evidence tampering.

According to Yonhap News Agency, Hwang allegedly coerced workers at Paris Baguette, a bakery chain operated by SPC Group, into leaving their union. He is accused of enacting punitive measures in personnel decisions against those involved from 2019 to 2022. Additionally, Hwang is charged with conspiring with a high-ranking company official to provide benefits valued at 6.2 million won (approximately US$4,650) to a prosecutor's investigator. This purported exchange was aimed at obtaining confidential information regarding an ongoing investigation into SPC Chairman Hur Young-in, who faced allegations of fair trade violations and dereliction of duty between 2020 and 2023.

PYONGYANG - North Korea has systematically deleted articles that include references to unification from the Korean Central News Agency's website, following leader Kim Jong-un's declaration of South Korea as the North's "primary foe."

According to Yonhap News Agency, the majority of content featuring terms related to unification, such as "peaceful reunification," "great national unity," and "northern half," have been removed from the state-run media outlet's online platform.

This action aligns with Kim's recent characterization of inter-Korean relations as those between "two states hostile to each other" during a party meeting at the year's end. In a speech on January 16, Kim emphasized the need to abandon language that misinterprets the North and South as compatriots, advocating instead for the adoption of a viewpoint that consistently regards South Korea as an "invariable principal enemy."

Furthermore, North Korea has also eliminated the image of the Korean Peninsula, which is typically seen as a symbol of unification, from its major websites. Additionally, commemorative stamps, including those from inter-Korean summits, have been removed from the website of the state-run stamp company, marking a significant shift in the regime's public messaging regarding unification with South Korea.

PYEONGTAEK — South Korea and the United States commenced their regular joint air exercise on Monday, integrating fighter jets as part of their extensive springtime military collaboration. The exercise, known as the Buddy Squadron, launched at Osan Air Base, located 60 kilometers south of Seoul, and is slated for a five-day duration, coinciding with the start of the annual Freedom Shield exercise.

According to Yonhap News Agency, this year's air drills, the first of its kind for 2023, will feature around 20 fighter jets, including South Korean F-15Ks and U.S. F-16s. The exercises are designed to enhance defensive counter air maneuver capabilities. These drills form part of 48 field training exercises planned this month in association with the Freedom Shield, which extends until March 14. The squadron-level exercise, initiated in 1991, aims to improve the fighter jet pilots' proficiency. The allies intend to conduct the exercise eight times throughout the year, signifying a deepened military cooperation.

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