South Korea

Israel will sign a free trade agreement with South Korea this week, marking the first such arrangement with an Asian market, Israel's economy ministry said on Sunday, Reuters reported. The deal is meant to bolster bilateral trade by cutting out customs duties and offering safety nets on investments. Bilateral trade reached about $2.4 billion in 2020, about two thirds of it goods and services imported into Israel, the ministry said. The deal will be signed this week in Seoul during a visit by Israel's foreign affairs and economy ministers.
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World shares advanced Thursday ahead of the release of U.S. economic growth data and following a speech by President Joe Biden outlining ambitious plans for beefing up early education and other family oriented policies, the Associated Press reported. London’s FTSE 100 jumped 0.7% to 7,013.40. In Paris, the CAC40 climbed 0.6% to 6,344.17. Germany’s DAX slipped 0.2% to 15,262.39 as a report showed weakening consumer confidence. The future for the Dow industrials rose 0.4% and that for the S&P 500 surged 0.6%. U.S.

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Samsung’s ruling Lee family unveiled plans to pay one of the world’s largest-ever inheritance tax bills, unloading rare Picasso and Monet paintings while trumpeting its extra donations to South Korean society, the Wall Street Journal reported. South Korea’s wealthiest family faces more than $10 billion in estate taxes, following the October death of Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee. The inheritance tax rate is 50% in South Korea and that can inch higher for the transfer of company shares. Lee Kun-hee’s wife and three children had until Friday to detail how they would pay the bill.

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South Korea’s SsangYong Motor has been put under court receivership, the Seoul Bankruptcy Court said on Thursday, in an attempt to rehabilitate the car maker after majority owner Mahindra and Mahindra failed to secure a buyer, Reuters reported. SsangYong applied to the court in December for receivership after it defaulted on a loan repayment. The South Korean automaker is expected to submit a rehabilitation plan to the court by June.
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Bank of Korea Governor Lee Ju-yeol said the economy will still expand faster than previously expected, even as rising coronavirus infections and a slow pace of vaccinations at home raise concerns over the outlook, Bloomberg News reported. Growth will probably reach the mid-3% mark this year, above a 3% central bank forecast in February, Lee said at a press briefing after the board held its key interest rate at 0.5%.
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SsangYong Motor's bid to file for a prepackaged bankruptcy is showing no progress, as its negotiation with new investor HAAH Automotive Holdings is being stalled amid the looming deadline to submit a restructuring plan to a local bankruptcy court, Korea Times reported. According to industry officials, Sunday, SsangYong Motor and HAAH have not reached an agreement over the latter's investment into the former, despite SsangYong's request for HAAH to express its intention to invest by Saturday.
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Seoul’s public transportation operators are in serious financial trouble as the number of bus and subway users sharply dropped last year due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Korea Herald reported. The Seoul Metropolitan Government said Wednesday that 1.45 billion passengers used regular city and local “maeul” buses last year, down 23.6 percent from 1.95 billion a year earlier. The number of airport bus users dropped 85.4 percent on-year to 2.12 million passengers.

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SsangYong Motor Co. is prepping to file for a pre-packaged bankruptcy in South Korea, a speedier turnaround with the help of creditors, after winding up talks with a new potential investor, Maeil Business News Korea reported. SsangYong Motor CEO Yea Byung-tae said the company would be drawing up a prepackaged prospectus with HAAH Automotive Holdings, a candidate to buy stake from Indian parent Mahindra & Mahindra, according to industry sources on Thursday.

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In any normal year, a 1% contraction in South Korea’s economy would be disappointing. In 2020, it is a mark of resilience, as strong exports and success in containing Covid-19 buoyed Asian economies against one of the worst global downturns in modern history, the Wall Street Journal reported. The drop in gross domestic product, reported by the Bank of Korea on Tuesday, is expected to be one of the smallest among major economies, according to estimates from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

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A South Korean court sentenced Samsung Electronics vice chairman Jay Y. Lee to two and a half years in prison on Monday, which could delay the group’s ownership restructuring following the death of Lee’s father in October, Reuters reported. The ruling also cements a major shift in South Korea’s view on wrongdoings committed by the owners of the country’s powerful conglomerates, or chaebol, which led the country’s economic rise after the Korean War on the back of what has been criticised as cozy relations with politicians.

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