The Korea Herald


A look back at 2023

By Korea Herald

Published : Dec. 28, 2023 - 17:25

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The year 2023 saw very few ups and an overbearing number of downs, with war, climate threats and social and economic woes posing existential questions. The Korea Herald runs the top 10 news stories of the past year for Korea and the world, with hopes that humanity will prevail to overcome the challenges we continue to face in the new year.

[Top 10 News in Korea]

Teachers' deaths ignite outrage

A series of apparent suicides among teachers since July sparked outrage, exposing the grim reality of schools where the authority of educators has been collapsing.

A 23-year-old teacher at Seoi Elementary School in Seoul and other deceased professionals reportedly had all grappled with immense workloads, students misbehaving in classrooms and parent threats of reporting them for child abuse, according to reports quoting their surviving families.

Fueled by the deaths of fellow workers, teachers took to the streets on Sept. 4, calling for legal protection to safeguard their rights in classrooms.

Violent crimes, faceless threats spike

In July, a man went on a stabbing rampage in Seoul, just because he "wanted to make others as miserable as he was." A month later, another man attempted to rape a woman before killing her.

In March, a woman was kidnapped and killed in Gangnam-gu, in a crime related to a cryptocurrency investment.

In response, the Korean government initiated measures to implement life sentences without parole and introduced "less-lethal" weapons to allow police officers more freedom to use force when upholding the law.

Korea also saw a string of anonymous online posts threatening violence, many of which turned out to be pranks. In August, an online threat of a stabbing attack at a K-pop concert turned out to be a prank by an 11-year-old girl.

World Scout Jamboree in Saemangeum hit by heat, lack of preparation

The 25th World Scout Jamboree, the world's largest youth camping festival hosted by South Korea in Saemangeum, North Jeolla Province, this year, faced daunting challenges such a lack of infrastructure for the summer heat and an inadequate number of hygiene facilities despite prior warnings.

As hundreds of participants reported heat-related illnesses, scouts from the US, UK and Singapore pulled out of the campsite early.

The Korean government also implemented a plan B, relocating all jamboree participants to Seoul and nearby cities.

It also relocated its closing ceremony and K-pop concert to the capital, citing safety risks from Typhoon Khanun that was approaching the peninsula at the time.

Nuri rocket ushers in new space era

South Korea ushered in a new space era as its homegrown Nuri rocket succeeded in placing a satellite into the targeted orbit.

The Nuri rocket, also known as Korea Satellite Launch Vehicle-II, blasted off from the Naro Space Center in Goheung, South Jeolla Province, on May 25 and reached an altitude of 550 kilometers in approximately 13 minutes to shoot out the eight small and cube satellites into orbit.

With the launch, South Korea became the seventh country in the world to have the capability to put a homegrown satellite into orbit using a homegrown launch vehicle.

'Parasite' actor Lee Sun-kyun found dead amid drug probe

Korean actor Lee Sun-kyun was found dead inside a car in Seoul on Dec. 27, days after the third round of police questioning over suspicions of illegal drug use. He had been claiming innocence and requested a lie detector test.

Lee was first summoned for police questioning in October on suspicion of using marijuana and other illegal drugs several times at the home of a host working at a high-end bar in Gangnam, southern Seoul.

During the three rounds of questioning, Lee claimed that he had been tricked by the host into taking the drugs.

Separately, Lee had filed a complaint against the woman for blackmail and the extortion of some 350 million won ($270,000) from him.

Thaw in Korea-Japan ties

President Yoon Suk Yeol is pursuing a “future-oriented” approach to the country’s relations with Japan.

His administration decided to settle issues related to the forced mobilization of Korean labor by Japan during World War II by compensating the victims through a locally funded firm.

This drew criticism domestically for Yoon, but the president’s diplomacy with Japan has been applauded as a step forward by Washington.

Yoon visited Japan for a summit with his counterpart Fumio Kishida, becoming the first South Korean leader to do so in 12 years.

Strained inter-Korean relations

Relations between the two Koreas have become increasingly strained, with North Korea firing intercontinental ballistic missiles at least five times over the year and launching a military reconnaissance satellite into orbit.

North Korea has amended its constitution to support its right to develop nuclear weapons to protect its existence and to deter war.

North Korea scrapped an inter-Korean agreement for minimizing tensions around the border, after South Korea protested its launch of the spy satellite.

South Korea has responded to North Korean provocations by seeking a stronger alliance with the United States and Japan.

Runaway food prices

The runaway prices of groceries and dining out strained many households in South Korea in 2023, as pandemic-induced supply chain disruptions, the war in Ukraine and extreme weather pushed up food commodity prices worldwide.

Global sugar prices, for instance, rose to their highest level since 2011 in May, heaping upward pressure on the prices of snacks, bread and beverages here.

Government efforts to curb price hikes of essential items, such as milk and instant noodles, led to the launch of task forces under several ministries in charge of monitoring and proactively managing prices.

Meanwhile, the practice of "shrinkflation" -- a tactic deployed by some food producers to keep a product's price the same while reducing its size -- sparked controversy.

LG Twins win Korean Series

After 29 years of waiting, the LG Twins were finally able to lift up the Korean Series trophy once more on Nov. 13.

The Twins defeated the KT Wiz 6-2 in Game 5 of the Korean Series, winning their fourth straight game after dropping the opener of this best-of-seven competition.

The last time the Twins captured the title was in 1994, marking one of the longest title droughts in the history of the KBO.

Over 20,000 fans were able to witness this historic event in the Twins’ home turf of Jamsil Stadium in southern Seoul.

Busan's failed bid to host World Expo 2030

In November, South Korea faced a bitter loss in its attempt to host the World Expo 2030 in Busan, after missing the threshold vote by a big margin.

Saudi Arabia's capital city Riyadh won 119 votes out of 165 from the members of the Paris-based Bureau International des Expositions, eliminating Busan and Rome in the first round out of two potential rounds. Busan gained 29 votes.

In an all-out effort to support the bid, South Korean government officials and business leaders are estimated to have circled the Earth a combined 295 times to rally support from the BIE members over the past year.

[Top 10 News in the world]

Israel-Hamas war

Palestine's Hamas militants launched a surprise attack on Oct. 7 on southern Israel, killing over 1,100 people and taking around 250 hostages.

In retaliation, Israel conducted an aerial bombardment campaign and a ground invasion in the Gaza Strip.

Over 20,000 Palestinians are estimated to have been killed in the Israel-Hamas War, according to Palestinian authorities.

The two sides implemented a four-day cease-fire and extended the truce by three days, in which Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners were exchanged.

However, the UN Security Council resolutions calling for a cease-fire in Gaza have been vetoed by the US, which has supported Israel, and the war is still ongoing.

Deadliest earthquakes

Earthquakes in Turkey and Syria in February killed 56,000 people and injured 138,000, marking the event as one of the worst natural disasters of the century.

Many of the victims could not escape as the quakes occurred during the early morning.

A series of aftershocks also contributed to an increase in the number of victims.

In September, a 6.8-magnitude quake killed 3,000 people and destroyed 50,000 houses in Morocco.

Historic landmarks in the city of Marrakech were also devastated.

It was the strongest recorded quake in the country, and the Moroccan government announced a three-day period of mourning in the wake of the disaster.

Ukraine war in second year

The war in Ukraine is in its second year after Moscow invaded Kyiv in February 2022.

Over the nearly two years, 200,000 Russian soldiers, 100,000 Ukrainian forces and 10,000 civilians were killed.

The Russian invasion was condemned as a war of aggression, and the International Court of Justice ordered Russia to suspend its war operations.

Many countries imposed sanctions on Russian businesses and provided humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine.

Experts believe that the war between the two sides have entered into a war of attrition, with neither side willing to give up on its endeavors.

Heat, wildfires break records

Wildfires in Hawaii and flooding in Libya which killed about 100 and 4,000 people, respectively, are thought to have been caused by the world's hottest year on record, scientists say.

The world saw a warming of 1.46 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures this year, and global greenhouse gas emissions also hit new highs.

As world leaders gathered at the COP28 UN climate summit in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, experts warned that the record-breaking weather incidents of 2023 serve as a great warning of what is to come if countries do not decrease their use of coal, gas and oil.

ChatGPT: Start of AI revolution

ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence chatbot developed by OpenAI that is capable of generating human-like responses to text-based conversations.

It uses deep learning algorithms to understand the context of a conversation and generate relevant responses. ChatGPT has revolutionized AI by enabling chatbots and virtual assistants to provide more natural and engaging interactions with users.

With the opening of the large language model-based AI market, IT giants such as Google, Microsoft, Apple and Meta have entered a development war.

All these changes began with the advent of ChatGPT and generative AI, which were unveiled late last year.

End to COVID health emergency

The World Health Organization declared an end to the COVID-19 pandemic as a public health emergency in May, when cumulative cases stood at over 760 million, with about 7 million deaths.

Over 13 billion vaccine doses have been administered since the emergency was put in place in January 2020.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted that the COVID-19 pandemic exposed political fault lines, eroded trust between governments and caused enormous economic upheaval.

The WHO emphasized that the end of the emergency does not mean COVID-19 is over as a health threat and warned that humans still have weaknesses that have the potential to be exposed by another virus.

Trump indictments

In March, a Manhattan grand jury in New York City voted to make Donald Trump the first former US president to face criminal indictment in a case related to hush money paid to an adult film star.

Within a few months, he was already facing a fourth criminal case, when an Atlanta-based grand jury on Aug. 14 indicted him and 18 others on state charges stemming from their alleged efforts to overturn his 2020 electoral defeat.

In total, Trump faces 44 federal charges and 47 state charges across the four cases.

The former president, who is also the front-runner to be the Republican Party’s presidential candidate in 2024 by a wide margin, has denied all wrongdoing.

India 4th nation on moon

India has landed its Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft on the moon, becoming only the fourth nation ever to accomplish such a feat.

Previously, only the United States, China and the former Soviet Union have completed soft landings on the lunar surface.

Chandrayaan-3’s landing site is also closer to the moon’s south pole than any other spacecraft in history has ventured.

The south pole region is considered an area of key scientific and strategic interest for spacefaring nations, as scientists believe the region to be home to water ice deposits.

Japan releases radioactive water

Japan discharged treated radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear plant in August into the Pacific Ocean, a move strongly opposed by its neighboring countries, such as South Korea and China.

Before the release, the International Atomic Energy Agency concluded after a two-year review that the Japanese government's plan meets international safety standards.

The contaminated water has been stored near the damaged plant, which saw one of the worst nuclear disasters in history, following the earthquake and tsunami.

Japan has finished three rounds of wastewater release as of November.

Coronation of King Charles III

When Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, passed away after 70 years of rule on Sept. 8, 2022, Crown Prince Charles immediately succeeded the role as King Charles III, but his crown had to wait.

In May 6, 2023, Charles, at age 74, was officially crowned at Westminster Abbey in London during an ancient ceremony originating from the 8th century, with some modern touches.

The newly-crowned king’s first words were, “I come not to be served, but to serve,” setting the theme for the intimate yet grand proceedings.