PYONGYANG: A top Chinese official Song Tao (head of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee’s international department, who was leading an art troupe to a spring festival here) has been personally greeted by N. Korean leader Kim Jong Un today.
On the occasion Kim Jong Un called for stronger ties with Beijing as the traditional allies seek to heal battered relations. Chinese delegation arrived just weeks after Kim made a surprise visit to Beijing and met Chinese President Xi Jinping, signaling an attempt by both leaders to shore up a key alliance ahead of a period of high-stakes diplomacy.
Kim is expected to hold summits with South Korean President Moon Jae-in this month and US President Donald Trump in the following weeks.
According to details Kim welcomed Song and his delegation in a meeting today at which Song conveyed Xi’s “warm greetings”. The two exchanged profound views on the important matters of mutual concern and the international situation, KCNA said, without providing details.
The Supreme Leader said that he would positively carry forward and develop the traditional DPRK-China friendship into a fresh phase of development as required by a new era. On his trip to Beijing, Kim had witnessed the remarkable achievement made by China and was happy for the brotherly Chinese people.
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Coffee shop run by blind people opens in Mongolia’s capital
ULAN BATOR: A coffee shop run by visually impaired people opened Friday in the building of Mongolia’s Ministry of Labor and Social Protection here.
“Cafe more” is the first such coffee shop in the landlocked East Asian country. The shop, sponsored by South Korea’s humanitarian organization Siloam Center for the Blind in collaboration with the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), is currently employing five people including a manager.
“Today, we opened the coffee shop in order to erase misconception on the skills of persons with disabilities from society and to help eliminate the barriers confronting them,” Jan Ying Geyong, a senior official of the Siloam Center for the Blind, said.
Mongolia has some 16,610 visually impaired people, with about 96 percent of them being unemployed, according to the Mongolian National Federation of the Blind. D. Gerel, chief of the blind people organization, said it is difficult for Mongolia’s visually impaired people to find a job. “I’m very happy that such a coffee shop staffed by visually impaired people opened in Mongolia,” she added.
Feeling the heat: Tokyo preps for sweltering Summer Olympics
TOKYO: A heatwave in Japan that has killed more than a dozen people is reviving concerns about the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, which will be held during the country’s notoriously sweltering summer.
While the Games have been held in places that are hotter or more humid than Tokyo, including Athens and Beijing, Japan’s sweaty summers offer both blistering heat and smothering humidity in a particularly unpleasant, and sometimes deadly, combination.
Olympic officials and Tokyo’s local government are touting measures from solar-blocking paint on roads to mobile misting stations to tackle the heat.
But some experts fear the efforts are insufficient, in a country where summer heat kills hundreds of people and hospitalizes tens of thousands each year.
The Games will be held from July 24-August 9, a period where temperatures can hit 37 degrees Celsius and humidity rises to over 80 percent.
“Compared to past Olympics, it’s fair to say that this will be the most severe Games, as far as heat conditions go,” said Makoto Yokohari, a professor of urban engineering at the University of Tokyo.
The International Olympic Committee has approved moving the marathon start to 7:00 am, with the men’s competitive walking beginning even earlier.
And Tetsuo Egawa, senior director of operation strategy planning for Tokyo 2020’s organizing committee, is working on other ways to beat the heat.
“The sports that tend to raise the most concern are the non-stadium ones,” he told AFP, citing the marathon, sailing and canoeing, and golf as examples where “special measures” will be needed.
The main concern is heatstroke, particularly among spectators unused to hot weather who will spend hours outdoors watching events or queuing.
“We will have tents covering queues at security gates… (and) we are aiming to limit lines to 20 minutes long,” Egawa said.
Large fans will cool people down and the new national stadium has been constructed to encourage air flow. Medical tents and rest areas will be air-conditioned.
Stress can increase the risk of heatstroke, so organizers will try to keep spectators relaxed even in queues. “There may be small shows and entertainment… maybe shows that involve spraying mist on people,” Egawa said.
Summer heat is hardly new for Tokyo, which experiences the “heat island” effect where urban areas are much warmer than surrounding regions, for reasons including blocked airflow and lack of greenery.
Local officials say Tokyo’s temperature has risen by three degrees Celsius in the last century, far more than the global rise of 0.7-0.8 degrees.
Tokyo officials have been working on the problem for years, but efforts are ramping up ahead of the Games.
One project aims to repopularise a Japanese tradition: “uchimizu”, or the sprinkling of water on the street to bring temperatures down.
Another measure is solar-blocking “paint”, which will cover the entire marathon route, though only on the road, not pavements where spectators will stand.
Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) officials say the coating can reduce temperatures at road level by up to eight degrees Celsius.
In other places, they are laying a road surface that can absorb rainwater, which evaporates when temperatures rise and cools the air.
“We take heat mitigation very seriously,” said Susumu Matsushima, an official with the TMG’s road management bureau.
He said 116 kilometers of road have already been treated, most of it with the solar-blocking coating. “If you touch (the road) you can really feel the difference, especially on a sunny day.”
But not everyone is convinced, with some noting that when Tokyo last hosted the Olympics, in 1964, the Games were held in October to avoid the heat.
Yokohari has studied the marathon route and warns that “athletes will run in very dangerous conditions,” particularly in the last quarter of the race when they pass Tokyo’s Imperial Palace.
“I believe athletes will feel the significant damage to their bodies in this phase,” he told the Media. “There is absolutely no shade.”
While the marathon will start early, Yokohari would prefer to see the route itself altered so runners are in the shade in later stages. He says plans to put in trees for shade are impractical with only two years to go, and even proposes moving the marathon to somewhere cooler in northern Japan.
“Unfortunately, the sense of urgency I feel is not shared by people concerned,” he said. “Tokyo residents may say ‘oh we know and are used to the heat’… but how many of us in Tokyo spend hours outdoors in the peak of August heat?”
S. Korea: Opposition lawmaker sentenced to 7 years in prison
SEOUL: A Seoul court sentenced an opposition party lawmaker to seven years in prison Thursday for accepting more than 1 million dollars in illegal political funds.
Rep. Lee Woo-Hyun of the Liberty Korea Party was indicted in January on charges of taking about 1.18 billion won (US$1 million) from provincial politicians and businessmen.
The Seoul Central District Court sentenced the two-term lawmaker to seven years in prison and 160 million won in fines and ordered him to forfeit 680 million won.
A relevant piece: President Moon Jae-in again called for stepped-up efforts Thursday to quickly remove excessive and unnecessary regulations, noting such regulations on medicine and medical equipment may affect or imperil the lives of patients.
“Should we be unable to use medical equipment that has been developed through an enormous amount of efforts to assist doctors in treatment and patients to recover due to regulations, there will be nothing more deplorable. In such cases, we cannot but help ask ourselves who those regulations are for and for what,” the president said in a meeting with a group of patients and their families at a hospital in Bundang, just south of Seoul.
The meeting also involved the mother of a young boy with diabetes, who was recently indicted for developing an unauthorized insulin-injection application using an unauthorized foreign testing kit.
President Moon said the story has forced the government to reflect on itself.
“Of course, we must carefully and cautiously approach such issues when they concern the safety of the people and our bioethics. However, in the case of medical equipment whose safety has been proven, there is a need to lower the wall of regulations to allow such equipment to more quickly enter the market and be used,” the president told the meeting.
“One well-made medical equipment may help save more lives. It may help identify a disease more quickly and easily. It may help prevent serious illnesses. We must be able to adequately use the innovative technology we possess in saving and treating the people in the medical field,” he added.
To this end, the government will work to quickly commercialize new and innovative medical equipment as long as their safety is guaranteed, the president said.
It will also simplify the process of government authorization for new medical equipment and supplies.
Such efforts are also needed to ensure the country’s leadership in the global market for medicine and medical equipment, Moon said, noting the global market is already growing at a rate of 5 percent a year.
“Our medical equipment sector is showing the rapid growth of an average 9 percent per year. The government’s support for research and development for medical equipment has also breached 360 billion won (US$318 million) in 2016 and was further expanded last year,” he said. “The government plans to move a step further and foster the medical equipment industry into a future growth engine.”
“It is a sector where deregulation is not easy, but if we are able to deregulate in the medical equipment sector, deregulation efforts in other areas too may be accelerated,” he added.