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In Collapse of a Venture, a Microcosm of South Korea’s Woes

In 2004, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp., China’s largest carmaker, took a small hop across the Yellow Sea and bought a controlling stake in Ssangyong Motor of South Korea.

Five years later, Shanghai Auto’s marriage with Ssangyong, a milestone of China’s rising industrial clout and South Korea’s deepening economic ties with its neighbor, is falling apart in acrimony and criminal investigations.

Walloped by declining sales and bitter battles with its Chinese parent, Ssangyong filed for bankruptcy protection this month. Its combative labor unions and some South Korean commentators have vilified Shanghai Auto as an exploitative owner that siphoned off Ssangyong’s technology, reneged on promises to invest, and dumped the company when the market turned sour.

Shanghai Auto has a different account of what went wrong. But the collapse of the venture is a black eye for China, which has pushed its top state-owned companies, including Shanghai Auto, to use the country’s enormous dollar-based savings to expand abroad.

Iraq Arrests 12 Policemen in Killings; 3 GIs Die

Twelve Iraqi police officers have been arrested in connection with a string of kidnappings and killings, including the killing of the sister of one of Iraq’s vice presidents, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry said Monday.

The announcement came as sporadic violence continued across Iraq, including the deaths of three U.S. soldiers and their interpreter who, the military said in a statement, died Monday in combat in Diyala province in the east. The military did not release further details.

Those arrested, who all were low-level police officers, admitted involvement in the killing of Maysoon al-Hashemi, the sister of Tariq al-Hashemi, one of Iraq’s two vice presidents, said Maj. Gen. Abdul Karim Khalaf, the ministry spokesman. Al-Hashemi, who was director of women’s affairs for her brother’s party, the Iraqi Islamic Party, was shot to death in 2006.

Another ministry official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, described the 12 suspects as members of a “gang” and said in a telephone interview that they were arrested two weeks ago. In addition to the 12 officers arrested so far, others remain at large.

New Pick for Commerce Post

President Barack Obama has settled on former Gov. Gary Locke of Washington state as his latest pick for commerce secretary as he tries a third time to fill a Cabinet position that has bedeviled his administration, a White House official said Monday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision has not been formally announced, described Locke as the “likely” nominee, a formulation the Obama team has used in the past for a candidate on the verge of being nominated pending final vetting checks. The official announcement could come as early as this week.

Locke would be the president’s third choice for the Commerce Department. Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico dropped out because of a federal investigation into state contracting and Sen. Judd Gregg, a Republican from New Hampshire, withdrew his nomination citing philosophical differences with the president.

A two-term governor, former state legislator and onetime county executive, Locke would bring a pro-business record to his assignment and a scandal-free reputation for the Senate confirmation process.