March 31, 2017

"Park Geun-hye’s arrest affirms South Korea’s rule of law"

[Editorial, Hankyoreh Daily, South Korea]

Former president Park Geun-hye has finally been put in jail. After Kang Bu-yeong, the judge in charge of warrants for the Seoul Central District Court, issued an arrest warrant for charges including bribery on Mar. 31, Park suffered the ignominy of being South Korea’s third former president to be jailed. While personally, this was no doubt a very unfortunate development, legally speaking, it was the obvious outcome.

While there were some who said that Park should be shown lenience out of respect for her status as former president or for the sake of national harmony and unity, it’s significant that the court has affirmed once again the great principle of the rule of law, namely, that all citizens are equal before the law. We hope that Park’s arrest will be a turning point confirming that the Republic of Korea is a democratic republic and ensuring that politics and leaders who think of themselves as above the Constitution and the law and who roll back democracy have no place in this country. READ MORE

March 24, 2017

Sunken Sewol Ferry Recovered

The sunken Sewol ferry has been raised from the bottom of the sea, near the third anniversary of its tragic sinking. Many questions still remain to be answered. The captain and crew got prison sentences for negligence, but it remains to be seen the true nature of the former Park Geun-hye's government in handling (or mis-handling) this incident and (delayed and disorganized) recovery efforts. Perhaps the current prosecution of Park Geun-hye will shed some light on this.

Hopefully the remains of the nine missing passengers will be found and some closures can be made for the families of the victims (304 bodies were retrieved, mostly high school students from one South Korean school on a school trip). The families went through tough ordeal because the government had portrayed them as being anti-government even though they were simply demanding answers.

March 17, 2017

Korea News Analysis Featured on Democracy Now!

PBS news program Democracy Now! (hosted by Amy Goodman) featured, on March 13,  extensive coverage and interviews on developments in South Korea and tensions with North Korea. Guests were activist Christine Ahn and well-known Korea scholar Prof. Bruce Cummings. See videos (above) or transcripts (part 1, part 2).

Park Geun-hye Ousted, Presidential Election on May 9

[From Reuters] South Korea said on Wednesday it will hold an election on May 9 to choose a successor for former President Park Geun-hye, who was removed from office in a historic court ruling last week over a widening corruption scandal. Prosecutors said on Wednesday Park - the first democratically elected president to be removed from office in South Korea - would be summoned for questioning on Tuesday into the influence-peddling scandal. The Constitutional Court dismissed Park from office on Friday when it upheld a parliamentary impeachment vote in December. READ MORE

December 9, 2016

The People Have Spoken

Koreans in South Korea have a long history of massive street protests that resulted in changes of governments. The April Student Revolution of 1960 led to the downfall of the Syngman Rhee dictatorship. The Bu-Ma Mass Protests of 1979 triggered a series of events that led to the end of the dictator Park Chung-hee's repressive regime. The June Democratic Uprising of 1987 brought democratic political reforms, including direct presidential elections.  Now, massive candlelight protests of Winter 2016, which was carried out peacefully with remarkable order, have prompted the impeachment of Park Geun-hye. 

Amidst popular outcry, the Park dynasty has come to an end. Park Chung-hee, a former officer in the Japanese Imperial Army who went after Korean independence fighters, made himself a president after staging a coup d'├ętat in 1961, ruling with iron fist while suppressing popular dissent with acute brutality. Park's seemingly-endless reign ended in 1979 when his own Korean CIA chief, fearful of massive bloodshed of protesting people, assassinated his boss.  Park Geun-hye, the daughter of Park Chung-hee, was elected to presidency in 2012, under some suspicions of voting fraud and irregularities of government interference. Yet, the Park Geun-hye's demise was her own doing, as the corruption and cronyism surrounding her inner circles finally caught up with her. It can be said then that both the father and the daughter were removed from the president's office, in large part, by the popular will and action.

This is not the first time that candlelight protests and impeachment played out in conjunction in South Korea. Former president Roh Moo-hyun was also impeached in 2004, on a minor charge of electioneering that was amplified by the conservative opposition party legislators based on political motivation. During that time, candlelight protests called FOR THE RESCINDMENT of the impeachment and gave support to Roh.  In the end, the Constitutional Court overturned the impeachment and Roh returned to power.

Though the impeachment of Park Geun-hye will not be finalized until the decision of the Constitutional Court is made in coming months, the impeachment decision will likely hold due to the extent and gravity of the charges. Moreover, currently only 3% of South Koreans support Park Geun-hye and many are beginning to see the fallacies of her failed policies, such as the revision of history textbooks, agreement with Japan on the "comfort women" issue, agreement with the U.S. to place the THAAD anti-missile defense system, and the neglect and incompetent handling of the Sewol ferry disaster. The people have spoken -- coming out to the streets in millions, in six consecutive weekends.  Now, the people await the transition of power to a new government.

"The Irrational Downfall of Park Geun-hye"

"The Irrational Downfall of Park Geun-hye"

This is a slightly dated article, but gives detailed background analysis of the crisis that led to Park's impeachment. Though the author of this piece did not predict the impeachment, the millions of people in South Korea and overseas (including in the Washington, DC area)
have spoken (peacefully) and their will was reflected in the impeachment vote result.

It is notable that the pseudonym "T.K." used by this author was also used by a famous prolific writer who clandestinely exposed repressive policies of the former president/dictator Park Chung-hee (Park Geun-hye's father) in the 70s and 80s, so "T.K." is fitting for this article.


Pres. Park Is Impeached

BREAKING NEWS (from ZoominKorea):

South Korean National Assembly passes motion to impeach Park Geun-hye; 234 out of 300 legislators vote in favor of impeaching Park.

Now that the National Assembly has passed the motion to impeach Park, it is up to the Constitutional Court to decide whether to make the impeachment final in accordance with the constitution. Park will be suspended for the time being as the Constitutional Court deliberates. During this time period, the current Prime Minister, Hwang Kyo-ahn, will serve as the acting president. In order for the impeachment to go officially in effect, six out of the nine judges of the Constitutional Court must agree to rule in favor of the motion within 180 days. And if Park is ruled impeachable, she is to be removed from office and investigated (and possibly prosecuted) for her involvement in the government corruption scandal. Consequently, she would be stripped of privileges normally granted to former presidents including a pension and government-provided security detail.

South Korea can also expect to see a presidential election held within two months following Park’s removal from office if the impeachment motion is approved by the Constitutional Court.