■ SOUTH KOREA
Groups urge end to probes
Civic groups yesterday urged police to stop investigating mothers who brought babies in strollers to this summer’s mass protests against US beef imports. The heads of 21 civic groups — including Christian priests, Buddhist monks and human rights lawyers — issued a statement denouncing what they called an “oppressive” crackdown by police. The street protests began in May after Seoul lifted a ban on US beef imposed in 2003 over mad cow disease fears. The rallies died down after Seoul negotiated extra safety conditions for the imports. Police have been looking into several groups accused of instigating the sometimes violent rallies, which took on an anti-government flavor and rocked the new administration of President Lee Myung-bak. Police said on Monday they were investigating three women for organizing and joining a “baby strollers’ unit” mobilized for the rallies.
Third space mission planned
The nation’s third manned space mission, which will include the country’s first space walk, will blast off late today, a senior official confirmed. The Shenzhou VII spacecraft carrying three astronauts will lift off from the Jiuquan launch center in the northwest part of the country, Wang Zhaoyao (王兆耀), spokesman for the country’s manned space program, said in a televised press conference yesterday. The launch is expected to take place at some time between 9:07pm and 10:27pm, Wang said.
Miner death toll rises
Rescuers struggled yesterday to save 13 miners trapped for two days in a flooded shaft in the northern part of the country as the nation’s death toll from Typhoon Hagupit rose to eight, officials said. The rescue operation was slowed down by floodwaters inside the mineshaft in Itogon town in Benguet Province, 225km north of Manila, said chief superintendent Eugene Martin, a regional police chief.
■ SOUTH KOREA
Police round up Thais
Police have rounded up 111 Thais for selling or consuming drugs. The Gyeonggi Provincial Police Agency said three of the suspects had been formally arrested for allegedly consuming methamphetamine and other drugs and selling them to other Thai workers in the country since January. Yesterday’s police statement said the others are accused of consuming the narcotics and had been released pending further investigation. Four had been deported because they overstayed their visas. Police said it was one of the country’s biggest drug roundups involving foreigners.
■ UNITED KINGDOM
Theater tickets on offer
The government plans to distribute 1 million free theater tickets to people under age 26, the country’s culture ministry said on Tuesday. The plan, aimed at introducing new audiences to British theater, will go into effect in February next year. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport said the tickets would be made available to all people below the age limit, regardless of whether they are British or not. “It will be good for theaters who will see their audience broaden, and it will be good for actors who play at their best when performing to a full house,” Culture Secretary Andy Burnham said.
Chinese toys pirate songs
A shipment of musical Chinese toys hit a sour note at the Russian border when officials seized them and accused their manufacturer of pirating popular songs from Soviet-era cartoons. Authorities charged the maker of the electronic toys with breaking copyright law for borrowing songs beloved by generations of Russian children without notifying the song writers, the daily Noviye Izvestia reported yesterday. Siberian customs officials uncovered the violation on Tuesday despite the low quality of the recordings, which made it hard to identify the songs, a customs spokeswoman said.