1 US-MONGOLIA 'THIRD NEIGHBOR TRADE ACT' ON THE WAY WWW.THEDIPLOMAT.COM PUBLISHED:2018/11/17      2 CHINA'S FIGHT AGAINST SMOG MAKES PALLADIUM 2018'S BEST METAL WWW.MINING.COM PUBLISHED:2018/11/17      3 MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORPORATION PRESENTS GMS LICENSES WWW.MONTSAME.MN PUBLISHED:2018/11/17      4 MONGOLIA CALLS FOR GLOBAL ATTENTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE WWW.NEWS.MN PUBLISHED:2018/11/17      5 ADB OPENS A NEW WASTEWATER TREATMENT PLANT IN ARVAIKHEER, MONGOLIA WWW.AGENPARL.EU PUBLISHED:2018/11/17      6 CHINA TO BOOST COOPERATION WITH INDIA, MONGOLIA: DEFENSE MINISTER WWW.GLOBALTIMES.CN PUBLISHED:2018/11/17      7 DEATH ON MONGOLIA’S ‘COAL ROAD’ WWW.NEWS.MN PUBLISHED:2018/11/17      8 MONGOLIA SHAKEN BY WIDENING LOAN SCANDAL WWW.ASIA.NIKKEI.COM PUBLISHED:2018/11/17      9 MONGOLIA’S UNEMPLOYMENT FALLS BY 2.2 PERCENT WWW.NEWS.MN PUBLISHED:2018/11/16      10 MEETING MEAT DEMAND: MONGOLIA TO TRADE 17.9 PERCENT OF LIVESTOCK WWW.NEWS.MN PUBLISHED:2018/11/16      БНСУ-ЫН АЖ АХУЙН НЭГЖҮҮДИЙН АУТСОРСИНГ ЗАХИАЛГЫГ ГҮЙЦЭТГЭХ ЗАЛУУЧУУДЫГ СОНГОН, ШАЛГАРУУЛНА WWW.UNUUDUR.MN НИЙТЭЛСЭН:2018/11/17     НҮҮРСНИЙ ЭКСПОРТ 10 ХУВИАР ӨСӨЖ, 31.3 САЯ ТОНН БОЛОВ WWW.GOGO.MN НИЙТЭЛСЭН:2018/11/17     СУДАЛГААГААР ЖДҮ ЭРХЛЭГЧИД ЗЭЭЛИЙН ХҮҮНИЙ ЗАРДАЛ ХАМГИЙН ИХ ХҮНДРЭЛ УЧРУУЛДАГ ГЭЖ ХАРИУЛЖЭЭ WWW.BLOOMBERGTV.MN НИЙТЭЛСЭН:2018/11/17     ERDENE RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT: ХАЙГУУЛЫН ЗАРДАЛ III УЛИРАЛД 42 ХУВИАР БУУРСАН WWW.BLOOMBERGTV.MN НИЙТЭЛСЭН:2018/11/17     ГОРХИ, ТЭРЭЛЖИЙН БАЙГАЛИЙН БОХИРДОЛД АНХААРАЛ ХАНДУУЛЖ ЭХЛЭВ WWW.MONTSAME.MN НИЙТЭЛСЭН:2018/11/17     ИРЭХ БААСАН ГАРАГТ ХОТЫН ДАРГЫГ ОГЦРУУЛАХ ЭСЭХИЙГ ХЭЛЭЛЦЭНЭ WWW.MONTSAME.MN НИЙТЭЛСЭН:2018/11/17     “АМГАЛАН” ХОТХОНД БАЙРЛАХ ГЭРТЭЭ КАННАБИС ТАРЬЖ, УРГУУЛЖ БАЙСАН ТУРК ИРГЭНИЙГ БАРИВЧИЛЖЭЭ WWW.MEDEE.MN НИЙТЭЛСЭН:2018/11/17     ӨНӨӨДӨР АВТОМАШИНЫ ДУГААРЫН ХЯЗГААРЛАЛТ ҮЙЛЧЛЭХГҮЙ WWW.EAGLE.MN НИЙТЭЛСЭН:2018/11/17     ГАШУУНСУХАЙТЫН НҮҮРСТЭЙ МАШИНЫ ЦУВАА 120 КМ БОЛЖЭЭ WWW.EAGLE.MN НИЙТЭЛСЭН:2018/11/16     ТАТВАРЫН ОРЛОГО 32.2 ХУВИАР ӨСӨЖ, ТӨСВИЙН ТЭНЦЭЛ 341.9 ТЭРБУМ ТӨГРӨГИЙН АШИГТАЙ ГАРЛАА WWW.BLOOMBERGTV.MN НИЙТЭЛСЭН:2018/11/16    

Events

Name organizer Where
Frontier's "Invest Mongolia Tokyo 2018" Frontier Securities Tokyo Japan
"Open to Export" ICC WTO International business award ICC WTO London

NEWS

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New China-Mongolia Mining Deal: Economic Windfall or Environmental Threat? wsj.com

 
Mongolia recently reached a new deal to sell coal to China, helping it boost its faltering economy and start repaying billions of dollars it owes Wall Street lenders.
 
Under the landmark agreement completed late last year, Mongolia’s state-owned mining company will sell coal to China at roughly double the previously agreed-upon rate.
 
The deal follows a devastating four-year period when Mongolian miners exported coal to China at deeply-discounted prices, sometimes for as little as 11% of the global benchmark price, undercutting Mongolia’s economic growth. Mongolia agreed to those punitive terms to get the loan from China and has been struggling to repay it.
 
The new export agreement will help Mongolia pay its mounting debt, including bonds held by BlackRock Inc., Fidelity Investments, UBS Global Asset Management and other global investors that bought the debt for its double-digit yields, according to bond investors.
 
But the export deal has a downside for Mongolia: It effectively transfers much coal production from China, which is bent on cleaning up its environment, to its poorer neighbor.
 
That means worsening environmental damage is nearly certain in Mongolia, as its coal output ramps up, analysts say. Mongolia’s arid climate has been getting drier, in part because mining activities require large amounts of water. Dry conditions have been driving more of the population to the capital, Ulaanbaatar, where people commonly burn coal to stay warm.
 
Trucks carrying coal are backed up for nearly 40 miles at Mongolia’s southern border with China, in what some analysts call the world’s largest traffic jam.
 
"These trucks are on unpaved roads, the air pollution is getting worse, it impacts the communities and the region,” says Damdinnyam Gongor, a Mongolian and independent researcher on natural-resource governance.
 
Yet Mongolia seems willing to make that trade-off, with coal prices soaring since China has begun cutting production, analysts say. Market prices for the type of coal produced in Mongolia, which is used in steel- and iron-making operations, skyrocketed 200% in 2016 to $225 a ton.
 
“The Mongolian government’s most pressing target should be to create sustainable economics for its country,” said Adrienne Lui, an Asia economist for Citigroup. “The smog problem will improve alongside when more people are fed, working and warm.”
 
Mongolia is also in talks with some Asian firms to develop its Tavan Tolgoi coal reserves, analysts say. The Gobi desert site is one of the world’s largest untapped coal mines, with more than six billion tons of coal deposits.
 
Under emperor Kublai Khan, the Mongols conquered China in the 13th century and ruled a powerful empire that eventually collapsed. Today, the country of three million people is the most sparsely populated in the world, according to the United Nations. About 21% of Mongolians are in poverty, and 40% are classified as nomadic, the U.N. says.
 
Even before the new coal price agreement went into effect last quarter, Mongolia was benefiting from a boost in exports to China, after Chinese miners cut back production over the government’s environmental concerns. In November, Mongolia shipped 3.36 million tons of the fossil fuel to its neighbor —a 186% year-over-year increase, according to Chinese customs data.
 
Some analysts are forecasting coal sales to China will boost Mongolia’s economic growth by double-digits. BDSec JSC, Mongolia’s largest broker and investment bank, estimates that Mongolia’s economy could expand by as much as 25% this year if it continues to produce coal at the current rate and if plans for the development of Tavan Tolgoi move forward.
 
Mongolia needs that income to pay back debt. The government is on the hook this year for $800 million in external debt-service obligations, or 7.5% of its gross domestic product, according to Moody’s.
 
The country began borrowing heavily from banks, bond investors and China in 2012 to build infrastructure projects, including an agreement with metal and mining company Rio Tinto to develop copper and gold deposits in the Gobi desert.
 
But a collapse in commodity prices and internal government squabbles delayed mining projects that Mongolia was relying on to pay back those loans. Now the country is seeking new loans from the International Monetary Fund and China.
 
Mongolia’s debt burden upended a once-booming economy, which went from double-digit growth between 2012 and 2014 to about 1.3% this year, according to Standard & Poor’s.
 
Investors have demanded higher yields for taking on the credit risk that comes with the collapse in growth. The country’s most recent bond issue last year sold at an 11% yield, versus similar bonds that were sold in 2012 at 4% yields.
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Government`s actions against air and environmental pollution www.mongolia.gogo.mn

 
On Jan 10th, National Security Council of Mongolia held a meeting under topic of "Air and Environmental Pollution of Ulaanbaatar city" and discussed actions to be implemented in short and long terms.
At the meeting, Prime Minister J.Erdenebat has introduced the actions to be implemented by the Government of Mongolia.
ACTIONS TO BE IMPLEMENTED IN 2017:
In scope of free nighttime electricity discount, the Government will provide electricity meter with dual-tariff equivalents to 36.4 households.
The government proposed commercial banks to establish green loan fund to grant loans to households that will use electric heaters.
Establish a fund against air pollution.
Develop national program against air pollution.
Provide briquette to 23 thousand households.
Create campaigns to encourage good habits for the public.
Install smoke filters to vehicles.
Entitle paid leave for parents of the children up to age of five years, who receive a three to five days of treatment.
Cover costs of 10 types of medicines for children up to age of five years, who are suffering from influenza-like illness
Government of Mongolia has budgeted MNT 100 billion for the implementation of the actions.
ACTIONS TO BE IMPLEMENTED IN MID-TERM /2-3 years/:
Improve infrastructure of ger districts and build housing. Of which US$ 50 million from Chinese soft loan will be funded to the construction of housing in 100 ail area.
Scientists and researchers will conduct study on how to improve heat insulation of Mongolian ger.
Restrict the import of used vehicles.
City buses to run on compressed natural gas.
Increase the number of air quality monitor.
Create a partial heat supply.
Start an expiremental project to construct heating plant to run on natural gas
ACTIONS TO BE IMPLEMENTED IN LONG-TERM:
Develop regions to reduce migration to cities.
Continue ger district housing program.
Implement central and partial heat supply policies.
Develop city development plan with vision.
Improve public participation.
ACTIONS TO BE IMPLEMENTED IN ULAANBAATAR CITY:
Set up new residential areas at the outer parts of the city, especially in Nalaikh, Baganuur, Bagakhangai and Tuv aimag.
Create four smokeless zones in Ulaanbaatar city to increase the air quality.
Organizations and entities located in smokeless zones shall use gas or electric heaters.
Prohibit households to burn waste such as, old tires, used oil and plastics.
Supply air filter to secondary schools and kindergartens in 2017-2018.
Stop migration to the city from rurals until 2018.
Ban use of non-standard stoves starting Apr 1, 2017.
Install filter on buses and refuse diesel engine.
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China sets up $14.6 billion internet investment fund: Xinhua www.reuters.com

 
China has set up a 100 billion yuan ($14.55 billion) fund to support investment in the internet sector, said official news agency Xinhua on Sunday.
The fund, backed by China's cabinet, is designed to help turn China into a major player in internet technology, said the report.
An initial 30 billion yuan has already been raised from major banks and telecoms firms including ICBC, China Mobile and China Unicom. Up to 150 billion yuan in credit will be available to companies that have been invested by the fund, Xinhua said.
China said earlier this month it would invest 1.2 trillion yuan between 2016 and 2018 to develop information infrastructure.
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Wall Street Week Ahead: Optimism among S&P 500 CEOs as Trump takes power www.reuters.com

 
U.S. President Donald Trump's administration is only hours old, but already a small parade of S&P 500 companies' chiefs have voiced optimism that his promised tax cuts, stimulus spending and deregulation will boost corporate profits.
 
In the days ahead of Friday's inauguration, senior executives from Morgan Stanley (MS.N), Delta Air Lines (DAL.N) and other major U.S. corporations said the Trump White House has already sparked a brighter outlook for business.
 
"There is certainly more reason to be optimistic as we enter 2017 than there was at the beginning of 2016," Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman said on Tuesday after his bank said profit doubled in the fourth quarter. He pointed to factors including a surge in consumer confidence after the Nov. 8 election and lower taxes promised by Trump.
 
Just under way, fourth-quarter earnings reporting season is providing a glimpse of what major large companies expect under Trump, and their take is largely positive so far.
 
Over a dozen S&P 500 companies reporting results in the last week have signaled optimism about potential tax cuts, infrastructure spending, employee benefit costs and reduced regulation.
 
With corporate earnings already on the mend after a slump in oil prices and a strong dollar last year, S&P 500 companies are expected on average to grow their earnings by 6.3 percent in the December quarter and 13.6 percent in the March quarter, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
 
Since the November election, the S&P 500 has rallied 6 percent to record highs, in part due to expectations Trump will pass policies that stimulate the economy. Banks have led gains, with investors betting Trump will roll back regulations passed by President Barack Obama following the 2008 financial crisis, which many investors say went too far.
 
After United Continental Holdings (UAL.N) on Tuesday posted lower December-quarter profits, airline President Scott Kirby told analysts on a call, "It feels like we are on a really good path. It felt to me like there was an inflection point after the election for business demand."
 
An also upbeat Delta Air Lines Chief Executive Ed Bastian told analysts this month that he was excited about potential infrastructure spending promised by Trump, as well as a chance to make his case about unfair competition from Middle Eastern airlines heavily subsidized by governments.
 
Vince Delie, Chief Executive of F.N.B. (FNB.N), which own First National Bank, said on a quarterly conference call on Thursday that he was saw more confidence among commercial customers and a potential pickup in lending.
 
"There are at least conversations occurring about larger capex opportunities within our customer base, which didn't happen before," Delie said.
 
Not everyone is over the moon, however. Kansas City Southern's CEO (KSU.N) bemoaned an uncertain environment on Friday after the cross-border railroad reported lower quarterly profits, hurt by a slump in Mexico's peso since Trump's election.
 
"Obviously the political and economic uncertainty is probably first and foremost on most of our minds, and the irony of us reporting earnings on the Inauguration Day of the 45th President is not entirely lost on us," Chief Executive Patrick Ottensmeyer told analysts.
 
Indeed, some business leaders and lobbyists in Washington who were initially enthusiastic about Trump's victory have begun to exhibit some hesitance over his agenda amid confusing messages on healthcare, taxes and trade.
 
SURGING CONFIDENCE
 
Still, while Trump's views on immigration and a range of other issues are at odd with many Americans, most small businesses and consumers do see a brighter future as he launches his presidency.
 
An index of small business confidence in December hit a 12-year high, according to the National Federation of Independent Business.
 
The U.S. consumer confidence index in December hit its highest level since August 2001, a month before the Sept. 11 attacks.
 
Following strong stock gains in November and December, many on Wall Street are concerned that Trump may fail to deliver on all of his promises. A Republican-controlled Congress might balk at infrastructure spending or tax reductions that significantly widen the federal budget deficit.
 
Other investors worry that Trump could follow through on campaign-trail threats to tear up global trade deals and crack down on illegal immigrants from Mexico who provide low-wage labor in agriculture, restaurants and other industries.
 
"Folks are potentially underestimating the degree to which Trump is serious about real reform on trade an immigration," warned Jon Adams, senior investment strategist at BMO Global Asset Management. "Investors, in general, are hopeful Trump will take a more pragmatic approach on those issues."
 
Over the past two months, Trump has publicly targeted and threatened a range of multinationals, including Ford Motor (F.N), General Motors (GM.N), Boeing Co (BA.N) and Lockheed Martin (LMT.N). That may have left CEOs wary of publicly disagreeing with his policies.
 
"You don't want to step on a mine. So the best course of action is to be somewhat optimistic, positive but also somewhat noncommittal so you're not trapped one way or another," said Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist at Boston Private Wealth in New York.
 
Trump's frequent use of Twitter to single out companies for criticism or praise has created volatile spikes in trading of their shares, which is good for online brokers including Charles Schwab (SCHW.N) and TD Ameritrade (AMTD.O).
 
"Each time, it's a new market event and a potential trading opportunity for our clients. Like everyone else, we're watching it with interest," TD Ameritrade Director of Finance Jeff Goeser said on a conference call on Wednesday after the company reported an increase in quarterly profits.
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Foxconn CEO says investment for display plant in U.S. would exceed $7 billion www.reuters.com

 
Foxconn, the world's largest contract electronics maker, is considering setting up a display-making plant in the United States in an investment that would exceed $7 billion, company chairman and chief executive Terry Gou said on Sunday.
The plans come after U.S. President Donald Trump pledged to put "America First" in his inauguration speech on Friday, prompting Gou to warn about the rise of protectionism and a trend for politics to underpin economic development.
Foxconn's proposal to build a display plant, which would be planned with its Sharp Corp (6753.T) unit, depend on many factors, such as investment conditions, that would have to be negotiated at the U.S. state and federal levels, Gou told reporters on the sidelines of a company event.
Gou said that Foxconn, formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (2317.TW), had been considering such a move for years but the issue came up when Foxconn business partner Masayoshi Son, head of Japan's SoftBank Group Corp (9984.T), talked to Gou before a December meeting Son had with Trump.
As a result of the meeting, Son pledged a $50 billion of investment in the United States and inadvertently disclosed information showing Foxconn's logo and an unspecified additional $7 billion investment. At the time, Foxconn issued a brief statement saying it was in preliminary discussions to expand its U.S. operations, without elaborating.
"Son is a good friend," Gou said, adding that Son had asked for his views about investing in the United States.
Gou said he told Son that the United States has no panel-making industry but it is the second-largest market for televisions. An investment for a display plant would exceed $7 billion and could create about 30,000-50,000 jobs, Gou told Son.
"I thought it was a private conversation, but then the next morning it was exposed," Gou said. "There is such a plan, but it is not a promise. It is a wish."
Foxconn has existing cooperation and operations in Pennsylvania, which is a state Foxconn would prioritize, depending on land, water, power, infrastructure and other investment conditions, he said.
Gou added that Foxconn would also remain active in China, dispelling talk that Beijing may be pressuring Foxconn about its investments.
Taiwan's tech-dominated manufacturers have been nervous about potential U.S. trade policies because Trump has threatened to raise tariffs on imports from some countries, notably China.
Foxconn is one of the biggest employers in China, where it operates factories that churn out most of Apple Inc's (AAPL.O) iPhones.
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Australia begins discussing alternatives to TPP www3.nhk.or.jp

 
Australia has begun working with other nations to study alternatives to the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement without the participation of the United States.
 
Australian Minister for Trade and Investment Steven Ciobo issued a statement on Sunday following US President Donald Trump's pledge to withdraw the US from the TPP.
 
Trump announced his decision on his Twitter account on Friday.
 
Ciobo says Trump's decision is disappointing, though not unexpected. He says his government has begun discussing with its TPP counterparts possible ways to lock in the benefits from the TPP, without the United States.
 
Ciobo suggested an option of implementing the pact without the US. And he stressed that the Australian government will continue its strong advocacy of the benefits of the TPP.
 
Ciobo plans to visit the United States soon to seek the Trump administration's understanding of his government's intentions.
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Mongolia expects to settle Chalco debt in April www.montsame.mn

Ulaanbaatar /MONTSAME/ In regard to his meeting with Prime Minister J.Erdenebat on January 20, Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi CEO D.Ariunbold briefed reporters on the company’s operations at Tavan Tolgoi deposit, one of the world’s largest coal fields.

Since 2011, Mongolia has been paying off its USD 350 million debt to Chinese aluminum company Chalco in the form of deliveries of coal from East Tsankhi section of the Tavan Tolgoi deposit. According to the CEO, Mongolia’s debt to Chalco stands at USD 76.5 million.

Until March 31, Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi will supply coal from East Tsankhi to Chalco at the rate USD 59.3. “We estimated that the Chalco debt will be settled by April this year”, the CEO said.

About a month ago, Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi JSC resumed its operations at the West Tsankhi section of the deposit. During this time, the company has exploited 1.2 million tons of soil extracting 400-500 thousand tons of coal.

When asked how much coal the company plans to extract in 2017, he answered, “The Board of Directors of the company gave instructions to export 11.5 million tons of coal, and we see that it is possible”.

Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi JSC is a subsidiary of state owned investment company Erdenes Mongol which fully owns the Tavan Tolgoi deposit.

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Russia's Gazprom Owns 34% of European Gas Market www.themoscowtimes.com

Russian energy giant Gazprom now owns more than a third of the European gas market, the company's CEO claimed on Friday.

Gazprom chief Alexey Miller announced that the company now holds a 34 percent share in the European market, up from 31 percent in 2015.

The company produced 20 billion cubic meters of gas in 2016, with a record 180 billion cubic meters being sold abroad, the Interfax news agency reported Miller saying.

The company's shipments within Russia also grew, Miller said, adding that gas consumption was “an indicator of a country's economic growth.”

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Global markets steady as Trump takes oath of office www.rt.com

Global stock markets were flat to positive in cautious trading on Friday awaiting Donald Trump’s inauguration speech as the 45th President of the United States. He's expected to take the oath of office at about 5:00pm GMT.

As of 2:33pm GMT, Germany's DAX was up 0.11 percent at 11,609.93. The CAC 40 in Paris added 0.13 percent to 4,847.33. Britain's FTSE 100 was slightly down to 7,205.04.

The US dollar moved higher with analysts attributing it to the Trump administration's support for the greenback. Incoming Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the US prefers a strong dollar long-term. The euro was slightly lower, down 0.02 percent to $1.0648.

"Markets are now waiting for more evidence that Donald Trump will deliver on fiscal stimulus and deregulation, but uncertainty remains high about what he will do on trade," Shane Oliver of AMP Capital was cited as saying by AP. "The risk of a tit-for-tat trade war between the US and China is high, particularly if Trump formally brands China a currency manipulator."

Trump critic billionaire George Soros warned the stock market rally that followed Trump’s November election victory would fade once he takes office.

Wall Street's main index, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, has surged nearly ten percent since Trump's surprising victory on November 7.

“Right now uncertainty is at a peak,” Soros told Bloomberg at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “And, actually, uncertainty is the enemy of long-term investment. So I don’t think the markets are going to do very well.”

Stocks in Asia were also steady with the Shanghai Composite closing up 0.7 percent at 3,123.14 and Shenzhen Composite gaining 1.5 percent to 1,885.775. Japan’s Nikkei also rose 0.3 percent to 19,137.91, notching a third consecutive gain.

Shares in Shanghai and Shenzhen rose following the government’s announcement the economy grew at a 6.8 percent annual rate in the last quarter, helped by property investment and government spending. Full year growth was 6.7 percent, the weakest in three decades over concerns of a potential trade war with the US.

China’s Commerce Ministry, however, said on Thursday that Beijing was ready to work with the new US administration to promote the healthy development of commercial ties.

Oil was trading higher with benchmark US crude WTI up 2.51 percent to $52.66 per barrel as of 2:33pm GMT. Brent crude was up 2.44 percent at $55.48 a barrel.

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South Korea's culture minister arrested over arts blacklist in political scandal www.reuters.com

South Korean prosecutors arrested the culture minister on Saturday for suspected involvement in drawing up a blacklist of artists, writers and entertainers critical of President Park Geun-hye amid a graft scandal that led to her impeachment.

Cho Yoon-sun became the first sitting minister ever to be arrested, the special prosecutor's team, investigating the scandal, said.

The country has gripped by crisis for months, and Park could become the first democratically elected leader to be removed from office if her impeachment by parliament is upheld by the Constitutional Court.

Seoul Central District Court said on Saturday in a text message to reporters that minister Cho was arrested because her crime had been "verified and there were concerns over destruction of evidence".

The special prosecutor's office on Wednesday asked the court to issue warrants to arrest Cho and a former presidential chief of staff on suspicion of abuse of power and perjury.

The former chief of staff, Kim Ki-choon, was also arrested.

The same court on Thursday refused to grant an arrest warrant for the head of Samsung Group [SAGR.UL], the country's largest conglomerate, on charges of bribery, embezzlement and perjury amid the corruption scandal.

The reprieve for Jay Y. Lee, 48, may only be temporary, as the prosecutors said they would pursue the case.

The prosecution team questioned Cho and Kim this week over allegations that they created the blacklist of actors, writers and other cultural figures considered critical of the current administration, which both have publicly denied.

Park has been accused by legal authorities and lawmakers of putting pressure on the entertainment industry in retaliation against satirical attacks and criticism. The allegations have evoked bad memories of the oppression suffered when Park's late father, Park Chung-hee, ruled the country. [L4N1F81T1]

BLACKLIST? WHAT BLACKLIST?

The presidential Blue House denies that such a blacklist exists. Culture Minister Cho has said many times that she has heard reports of such a list but that she had nothing to do with it.

Cho did not respond to reporters on Friday at the court to attend a hearing on her arrest warrant.

Park was impeached by parliament in December after accusations that she colluded with long-time friend Choi Soon-sil to pressure big businesses to donate to two foundations set up to back the president’s policy initiatives.

Park, 64, remains in office but has been stripped of her powers while the Constitutional Court decides whether to uphold the impeachment.

The special prosecutor's office said on Friday it summoned Samsung Electronics Co Ltd Executive Vice President

Hwang Sung-soo for questioning. It did not elaborate.

Samsung Electronics is the flagship company of Samsung Group and is the world's top manufacturer of smartphones, memory chips and flat-screen televisions.

A Samsung Group spokesman declined to comment. Hwang was not available for comment.

The special prosecutor's office is investigating whether the

conglomerate paid bribes to Park's confidant, Choi Soon-sil, to

win support from the National Pension Service for the 2015

merger of two Samsung Group affiliates.

Park and Choi have denied wrongdoing. Samsung has acknowledged making contributions to entities

controlled by Choi but has denied accusations of lobbying to

push through the merger.

In another scandal indirectly affecting South Korea, the United States has asked South Korea to arrest a brother of former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on charges that he engaged in a bribery scheme to carry out the sale of a Vietnamese building complex.

Ban, who is ranked second in opinion polls among potential candidates for South Korean president, said in Seoul he knew nothing about the case but issued an apology for family members who have caused public concern.

(Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Nick Macfie & Simon Cameron-Moore)

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