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The Star Online: World Updates

South Korean PM resigns over government response to ferry disaster

Posted: 26 Apr 2014 07:50 PM PDT

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong-won announced his resignation on Sunday over the government response to the ferry disaster, in which it was first announced that everyone had been rescued, focusing attention on poor regulatory controls.

The Sewol ferry sank on a routine trip south from the port of Incheon to the traditional holiday island of Jeju on April 16.

More than 300 people, most of them students and teachers on a field trip from the Danwon High School on the outskirts of Seoul, have died or are missing and presumed dead.

The children on board the Sewol were told to stay put in their cabins, where they waited for further orders. The confirmed death toll on Sunday was 187.

South Korea, Asia's fourth-largest economy and one of its leading manufacturing and export powerhouses, has developed into one of the world's most technically advanced countries, but faces criticism that regulatory controls have not kept pace.

As part of the investigation, prosecutors raided two shipping safety watchdogs and a coastguard office. They have also raided two vessel service centres, which act as maritime traffic control.

Chung's resignation has to be approved by President Park Geun-hye, who has the most power in government.

"Keeping my post too great a burden on the administration," a sombre Chung said in a brief announcement. "...On behalf of the government, I apologise for many problems from the prevention of the accident to the early handling of the disaster.

"There are too many irregularities and malpractices in parts of society that have been with us too long and I hope those are corrected so that accidents like this will not happen again."

Chung was booed and someone threw a water bottle at him when he visited grieving parents the day after the disaster. President Park was also booed by some relatives when she visited a gym where families of the missing were staying.

Tempers have frayed over the slow pace of the recovery and frequent changes in information provided by the government.

The Gyeonggi Provincial Office of Education sent text messages to parents that "All Danwon High School students are rescued" in the hours after the disaster, media reported.

(Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Michael Perry)

North Korea says army must develop to be able to beat U.S.

Posted: 26 Apr 2014 07:40 PM PDT

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un urged the army to develop to ensure it wins any confrontation with the United States, the reclusive country's news agency said on Sunday, a day after U.S. President Barack Obama warned the North of its military might.

Kim led a meeting of the Central Military Commission and "set forth important tasks for further developing the Korean People's Army and ways to do so", KCNA news agency said.

"He stressed the need to enhance the function and role of the political organs of the army if it is to preserve the proud history and tradition of being the army of the party, win one victory after another in the confrontation with the U.S. and creditably perform the mission as a shock force and standard-bearer in building a thriving nation."

Obama said on Saturday on a visit to Seoul, where the U.S. army has a large presence, that the United States did not use its military might to "impose things" on others, but that it would use that might if necessary to defend South Korea from any attack by the reclusive North.

North and South Korea are still technically at war after their 1950-53 civil conflict ended in a mere truce.

The impoverished North, which routinely threatens the United States and the South with destruction, warned last month it would not rule out a "new form" of atomic test after the U.N. Security Council condemned Pyongyang's launch of a mid-range ballistic missile into the sea east of the Korean peninsula.

North Korea is already subject to U.N. sanctions over its previous three atomic tests.

Recent satellite data shows continued work at the nuclear test site in North Korea, although experts analysing the data say that preparations do not appear to have progressed far enough for an imminent test.

"We don't use our military might to impose these things on others, but we will not hesitate to use our military might to defend our allies and our way of life," Obama told U.S. forces at the Yongsan garrison.

"So like all nations on Earth, North Korea and its people have a choice. They can choose to continue down a lonely road of isolation, or they can choose to join the rest of the world and seek a future of greater opportunity, and greater security, and greater respect - a future that already exists for the citizens on the southern end of the Korean peninsula."

(Editing by Michael Perry)

White House looks at how 'Big Data' can discriminate

Posted: 26 Apr 2014 06:15 PM PDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration is preparing to release a report next week that will outline concerns that current U.S. privacy laws and regulations do not do enough to protect consumers from potential discrimination due to "big data" algorithms that crunch through information gathered online, a White House official said on Saturday.

The review, led by President Barack Obama's senior counsellor, John Podesta, was sparked by the revelations last year of former spy contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked classified information about how the National Spy Agency uses big data analytics methods for surveillance.

Obama has moved to rein in some of the activity by U.S. intelligence agencies. But he also asked Podesta to take a 90-day look at how the private sector, medical researchers and other parts of government are innovating with big data, and whether privacy is at risk.

"The challenges to our privacy do not come from government alone. Corporations of all shapes and sizes track what you buy, store and analyze our data, and use it for commercial purposes," Obama said when he announced Podesta's review in January.

Podesta and other senior officials have met with Internet companies, data brokers and advertising agencies, academic researchers and privacy and civil liberties groups privately and in three public workshops to explore the opportunities and issues involving big data.

"It was a moment to step back and say, 'Does this change our basic framework or our look at the way we're dealing with records and privacy?'" Podesta said in an interview with the Associated Press published on Saturday.

Earlier this month, at a workshop at the University of California, Berkeley, Podesta said he believed updates were needed for the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, a statute governing Internet communications, which he helped draft as a legislative aide on Capitol Hill in 1984.

Podesta described the advances that big data has helped make in climate science and medical treatment and research. But he also pointed out that information shared on social networks about race, religion, age and sexual orientation could be used for ill.

"It's easy to imagine how big data technology, if used to cross legal lines we have been careful to set, could end up reinforcing existing inequities in housing, credit, employment, health and education," he said.

He described a program called "Street Bump" in Boston that detected pot-holes using sensors in smartphones of citizens who had downloaded an app. The program inadvertently directed repair crews to wealthier neighbourhoods, where people were more likely to carry smartphones and download the app. The city later fixed the app.

"The lesson here is that we need to pay careful attention to what unexpected outcomes the use of big data might lead to, and how to remedy any unintended discrimination or inequality that may result," Podesta said at the workshop.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Dan Grebler)


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