Miners killed in explosion
A gas explosion has killed 11 miners at a coal mine in the province of Jilin, the official Xinhua news agency said yesterday. The blast happened in the early hours of yesterday morning at the Xinyu mine near Baishan city, trapping the 11 who were working underground, it said. Rescuers found their bodies five hours later, Xinhua added. China is struggling to meet booming demand for coal, which fuels about 70 percent of its energy consumption. In the rush for profits, safety regulations are often ignored, production is pushed beyond limits and dangerous mines that have been shut down are reopened illegally.
■ South Korea
Seeking solace in sex
Condom sales and pay-by-the-hour "love motel" bookings surged across the country in the aftermath of North Korea's nuclear test, the nation's top newspaper reported yesterday. South Koreans are used to living in the shadow of war, and life has continued as normal in Seoul, in the wake of the Oct. 9 test. But figures published by the Chosun Ilbo yesterday suggest that despite their apparently blase reaction to the North's nuclear bluster, many South Koreans may be seeking solace in sex.
■ South Korea
Choi Kyu-ah remembered
The country bade farewell yesterday to its shortest-serving president, holding a national funeral for a man whose eight turbulent months in office marked one of the darkest chapters of the country's modern history. Choi Kyu-ah rose to the top job while serving as prime minister in 1979, after then-president Park Chung-hee was assassinated by his own intelligence chief. However, Choi was forced to quit eight months later after a coup.
The government stands by its past apology to women forced into sexual slavery during World War II, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki said yesterday, after his deputy questioned the official line. Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hakubun Shimomura called on Wednesday for a review of the landmark 1993 statement in which Tokyo apologized to "comfort women," who were forced into sex when Japanese troops invaded other Asian countries. Shimomura said in a speech that he personally believed the 1993 statement needed to be reviewed "by studying more about the facts after collecting objective and scientific knowledge." Shiozaki indicated that Shimomura would not be reprimanded as he was speaking in a personal capacity.
New party formed
A group of politicians resigned from Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) yesterday and launched a new political group, accusing her government of corruption and incompetence. The formation of the Liberal Democratic Party was announced at a news conference in Dhaka. The desertions came only two days before Zia was constitutionally set to hand over power to a caretaker administration, completing her five-year term. The interim government will hold a national election within 90 days.
Cleric's words cause offense
A senior Muslim cleric triggered outrage yesterday for likening women who dress immodestly to meat that is left out for prey to eat -- a comment critics said excused rape. Sheik Taj Aldin al Hilali's spokesman said the cleric's comments in a sermon last month had been taken out of context in a report in the Australian newspaper. "If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden, or in the park, or in the backyard without cover, and the cats come to eat it ... whose fault is it, the cats' or the uncovered meat's," the paper quoted Hilali as saying. "If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab, no problem would have occurred," he said.