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Childbirths in South Korea hit another low in January: Report

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Seoul, March 27 (IANS) The number of babies born in South Korea fell to a record low for any January this year, data showed on Wednesday, deepening woes about the country’s demographic picture due to rapid ageing and ultra-low birth rate.

A total of 21,442 babies were born in January 2024, down 7.7 per cent from a year earlier, according to the data compiled by Statistics Korea. It marked the lowest figure for any January since the statistics agency began compiling related data in 1981, Yonhap news agency reported.

The decline has also accelerated in recent years from a 1 per cent on-year fall in January 2022 and a 5.7 per cent decline in January 2023.

In January 2000, newborns stayed over 60,000 but fell below 50,000 in 2002 before sliding further to the 30,000 level in 2016.

The report said the January figure has hovered around the 20,000 level since 2020.

In terms of monthly readings, it marked the first time since March 2023 that the number of newborn babies rose to the 20,000 level, and the country usually logs a larger number of newborns in January, according to the agency.

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South Korea is experiencing grim demographic changes, as many young people opt to postpone or give up on getting married or having babies in line with changing social norms and lifestyles, as well as facing high home prices, a tough job market, and an economic slowdown.

Last year, the number of babies born in the country dropped 7.7 percent on-year to an all-time low of 229,970, the report said.

The total fertility rate, the average number of expected births from a woman in her lifetime, also hit a record yearly low of 0.72, which came far below the 2.1 births per woman needed to maintain a stable population without immigration.

In the fourth quarter of last year alone, the rate came to 0.65, the lowest-ever quarterly figure.

The number of deaths inched down 0.5 per cent on-year to 32,490 in January this year, the report said.

The population, accordingly, declined by 11,047, the sharpest fall for any January ever. The number of deaths has outpaced that of newborns since November 2019.

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The number of couples getting married rose 11.6 per cent on-year to 28,000, the data also showed, as more couples tied the knot after delaying marriage during the earlier stages of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The number of couples getting divorced climbed 9.5 per cent on-year to 691, according to the data.

South Korea is expected to be a highly aged country by 2072 as the median age will increase from 44.9 in 2022 to 63.4 in 2072, and the population will tumble to around 36.22 million in 2072 from last year’s 51 million.

–IANS

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Child among four injured in London shooting

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London, May 30 (IANS/DPA) Three adults and a child have been injured in a shooting near a restaurant in the London neighbourhood of Hackney.

London’s Metropolitan Police said the child is in a serious condition and that they are awaiting updates on the condition of the adults after the shooting on Kingsland High Street.

The four were taken to an east London hospital with “gunshot injuries.”

Police said they were called to the scene at around 9.20 pm (1820 GMT) on Wednesday with specialist firearms officers attending.

The force said no arrests have yet been made.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Ward said: “We know Londoners will be shocked by what has taken place tonight.

“Our thoughts go to all those affected.

“Fast-moving inquiries are underway and we will update as soon as we can. If anyone has any information, please contact us.”

–IANS/DPA

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Fourteen Hong Kong activists convicted under national security law

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Shenzhen, China, May 30 (IANS/DPA) Fourteen Hong Kong opposition figures were convicted on Thursday under Beijing’s controversial national security law, the South China Morning Post reported.

Meanwhile, former district councilors Lawrence Lau and Lee Yue-shun were acquitted, becoming the first to do so after trial since the legislation was implemented in June, 2020.

The 16 pro-democracy activists were among 47 people charged with subversion in relation to an unofficial primary election for Hong Kong’s 2020 Legislative Council (LegCo).

The 16, which include former lawmakers Leung Kwok-hung and Helena Wong, had contested the charge while the remaining 31 pleaded guilty before the start of the four-month trial, the Post reported. The charge carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

The landmark case saw the highest number of activists ever charged under the national security law at one time since it was imposed in response to mass pro-democracy protests.

The national security law has made it easier for the Chinese authorities to crack down on activists for behaviour they class as secession, subversion, terrorism or collusion with a foreign power.

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–IANS/DPA

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Thousands protest in New Zealand as government reveals budget

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Wellington, May 30 (IANS/DPA) Thousands of New Zealanders took to the streets on Thursday in a nationwide protest ahead of the new government’s first budget.

Te Pati Maori (the Maori Party) alongside the Toitu Te Tiriti (Honour the Treaty) called for the protests to demonstrate a unified response to “the Government’s assault” on Maori and New Zealand’s founding document, Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Te Pati Maori called for the establishment of a Maori Parliament after the protests.

“Up and down the country, near 100-thousand people have taken part in activation rallies and we have saturated social media networks. We have mobilised our people in a matter of days in a beautiful harmonious activation against this Government,” it said in a statement.

“Seeing Tangata Tiriti (non-Maori) and Tangata Whenua (Maori) as one, which is the true intent of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, is exactly what scares the bejesus out of this government.”

“We now begin the process of establishing our own Parliament. Our people will design what this looks like for us, nobody else.”

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Police Assistant Commissioner Mike Johnson said officers were monitoring multiple gatherings across the country.

“While there has been disruption to travel in some locations, the participants have been well-behaved overall.”

Johnson said in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, hundreds of vehicles had clogged roads.

Groups were converging in Auckland central, on Parliament Grounds in Wellington, and in many other cities and towns.

“Police are in attendance and are focused on maintaining public safety while recognising the right to peaceful protest,” Johnson said.

Finance Minister Nicola Willis revealed her first budget on Thursday afternoon in Wellington.

“This year’s Budget is the clean-up job New Zealand needs after six years of economic mismanagement,” she said.

“We are welcoming in a new era of careful government spending, lower taxes for hard-working New Zealanders and a strong focus on rebuilding the economy.”

The protests were a follow-up of Te Pati Maori’s Day of National Action in December, in response to the policies of the coalition government.

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Since the new government was formed in November, it has overturned some of the anti-tobacco laws introduced by the previous left-wing government, axed the country’s Maori Health Authority and encouraged its ministries to roll back the use of the Maori language.

–IANS/DPA

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Mayoral candidate killed during campaign appearance in Mexico

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Mexico City, May 30 (IANS/DPA) An aspiring mayor was killed in Mexico, the latest in a string of attacks in the Latin American country ahead of elections.

Alfredo Cabrera, a candidate for the mayoral position in Mexico’s Coyuca de Benitez, in the southern state of Guerrero, was shot during a campaign rally on Wednesday.

Guerrero Governor Evelyn Salgado condemned the “cowardly crime.”

Salgado had asked the state prosecutor’s office to bring “the full weight of the law against the person or persons responsible,” she wrote on social media platform X.

Prosecutors said that they started the investigation into the homicide. They added that the alleged assailant was killed at the scene.

At least 20 people running for office have been killed since September, according to local media.

Presidential, parliamentary and regional elections are due to be held in Mexico on Sunday.

–IANS/DPA

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IDF takes control of key Gaza-Egypt border road, discovers 20 tunnels

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Tel Aviv, May 30 (IANS) The Israeli military has said that it has taken operational control of the entire route along the Gaza-Egypt border, known as the Philadelphi area, and discovered 20 tunnels that were used for cross-border smuggling.

This was announced by the spokesperson of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Rear Admiral Daniel Hageri on Wednesday night.

He said several rocket launchers were discovered on the border.

The IDF spokesman said that the newly captured strip of land runs 14 km along the Gaza-Egypt border and is considered Hamas’s Oxygen Pipeline for smuggling weapons.

Hageri said that of the 20 tunnels discovered, some were known to the Israeli Army but others were discovered for the first time.

The spokesperson said that 82 tunnel shafts leading into the tunnels have been located in the newly captured border area.

The IDF said its troops are physically controlling most of the corridor but a small section is controlled by aerial surveillance. The Israel Defense Forces spokesperson in the statement also said that Hamas terrorists positioned the rocket launchers near the Egypt border believing that Israel won’t shoot fearing that it would reach into Egyptian territory.

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“Hamas took advantage of the Philadelphi area, and built its infrastructure just dozens of metres from the border with Egypt so that we can’t strike there,” Hageri said

–IANS

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