South Korea Removes President Park Geun-hye

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Photo

Supporters of President Park Geun-hye of South Korea at a protest near the Constitutional Court on Friday, before the court issued a ruling to oust her. Her removal from the presidency capped months of turmoil.CreditKim Hong-Ji/Reuters

SEOUL, South Korea — A South Korean court removed the president on Friday, a first in the nation’s history, rattling the delicate balance of relationships across Asia at a particularly tense time.

Her removal capped months of turmoil, as hundreds of thousands of South Koreans took to the streets, week after week, to protest a sprawling corruption scandal that shook the top echelons of business and government.

Park Geun-hye, the nation’s first female president and the daughter of the Cold War military dictator Park Chung-hee, had been an icon of the conservative establishment that joined Washington in pressing for a hard line against North Korea’s nuclear provocations.

Now, her downfall is expected to shift South Korean politics to the opposition, whose leaders want more engagement with North Korea and are wary of a major confrontation in the region. They say they will re-examine the country’s joint strategy on North Korea with the United States and defuse tensions with China, which has sounded alarms about the growing American military footprint in Asia.

Photo

Portraits of North Korea’s previous leaders, Kim Il-sung, left, and Kim Jong-il, on display in Pyongyang, the capital. North Korea’s nuclear weapons program will be a prominent issue in South Korea’s coming presidential campaign. CreditEd Jones/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Ms. Park’s powers were suspended in December after a legislative impeachment vote, though she continued to live in the presidential Blue House, largely alone and hidden from public view, while awaiting the decision by the Constitutional Court. The house had been her childhood home: She first moved in at the age of 9 and left it nearly two decades later after her mother and father were assassinated in separate episodes.

Continue reading the main story

Ms. Park’s acts “betrayed the trust of the people and were of the kind that cannot be tolerated for the sake of protecting the Constitution,” Justice Lee said.

As the verdict was announced, crowds watching it on large television screens near the courthouse broke out in cheers. In central Seoul, some people danced to celebrate their victorious revolt against an unpopular leader, with loudspeakers blaring, “All the power of the Republic of Korea comes from the people!”

With the immunity conferred by her office now gone, Ms. Park, 65, faces prosecutors seeking to charge her with bribery, extortion and abuse of power in connection with allegations of conspiring with a confidante, her childhood friend Choi Soon-sil, to collect tens of millions of dollars in bribes from big businesses like Samsung.

By law, the country must elect a new president within 60 days. The acting president, Hwang Kyo-ahn, an ally of Ms. Park’s, will remain in office in the interim. The Trump administration is rushing a missile defense system to South Korea so that it can be in place before the election.

Photo

Judges at the impeachment ruling at the Constitutional Court on Friday. The downfall of Ms. Park is expected to shift South Korean politics to leaders who want more engagement with the North.CreditYonhap, via European Pressphoto Agency

The last time a South Korean leader was removed from office under popular pressure was in 1960, when the police fired on crowds calling for President Syngman Rhee to step down. (Mr. Rhee, a dictator, fled into exile in Hawaii and died there.)

In a sign of how far South Korea’s young democracy has evolved, Ms. Park was removed without any violence, after large, peaceful protests in recent months demanding that she step down. In addition to the swell of popular anger, the legislature and the judiciary — two institutions that have been weaker than the presidency historically — were crucial to the outcome.

Photo

A protest last month in Seoul, South Korea, demanding Ms. Park’s resignation. CreditKim Hong-Ji/Reuters

“This is a miracle, a new milestone in the strengthening and institutionalizing of democracy in South Korea,” said Kang Won-taek, a political scientist at Seoul National University.

When crowds took to the streets, they were not just seeking to remove a leader who had one year left in office. They were also rebelling against a political order that had held South Korea together for decades but is now fracturing under pressures both at home and abroad, analysts said.

Ms. Park’s father ruled South Korea from 1961 to 1979. He founded its economic growth model, which transformed the nation into an export powerhouse and allowed the emergence of family-controlled conglomerates known as chaebol that benefited from tax cuts, anti-labor policies and other benefits from the government.

Photo

Ms. Park, top center, with her father, Park Chung-hee, left, and her mother, Yuk Young-soo, right, in an undated family photograph. CreditYonhap, via Reuters

Ms. Park was elected in 2012 with the support of older conservative South Koreans who revered her father for the country’s breakneck economic growth.

But the nexus of industry and political power gave rise to collusive ties, highlighted by the scandal that led to Ms. Park’s impeachment.

The scandal also swept up the de facto head of Samsung, Lee Jae-yong, who was indicted on charges of bribing Ms. Park and her confidante, Ms. Choi.

Samsung, the nation’s largest conglomerate, has been tainted by corruption before. But the company has been considered too important to the economy for any of its top leaders to spend time behind bars — until now. The jailing of Mr. Lee, who is facing trial, is another potent sign that the old order is not holding.

In the wake of the Park scandal, all political parties have vowed to curtail presidential power to pardon chaebol tycoons convicted of white-collar crimes. They also promised to stop chaebol chairmen from helping their children amass fortunes through dubious means, like forcing their companies to do exclusive business with the children’s businesses.

Photo

Celebrating after hearing the decision, in front of the Constitutional Court in Seoul, the capital, on Friday.CreditKim Hong-Ji/Reuters

With the conservatives discredited — and no leading conservative candidate to succeed Ms. Park — the left could take power for the first time in a decade.

The dominant campaign issues will probably be North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and South Korea’s relations with the United States and China.

If the opposition takes power, it may try to revive its old “sunshine policy” of building ties with North Korea through aid and exchanges, an approach favored by China. That would complicate Washington’s efforts to isolate the North at a time other Asian nations like the Philippines are gravitating toward Beijing.

Moon Jae-in, the Democratic Party leader who is leading in opinion surveys, has said that a decade of applying sanctions on North Korea had failed to stop its nuclear weapons programs. He has said that sanctions are necessary, but that “their goal should be to draw North Korea back to the negotiating table.”

He believes that Ms. Park’s decision to allow the deployment of the American missile defense system — known as Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or Thaad — has dragged the country into the dangerous and growing rivalry between Washington and Beijing; China has called the system a threat to its own security and taken steps to punish South Korea economically for accepting it.

Conservative South Koreans see the deployment of the antimissile system not only as a guard against the North but also as a symbolic reaffirmation of the all-important alliance with the United States. Mr. Moon’s party demands that the deployment, which began this week, be suspended immediately. If it takes power, it says it will review the deployment of the antimissile system to determine if it is in South Korea’s best interest.

Photo

Equipment for an American missile defense system arrived at an air base in South Korea on Monday. If the opposition party takes power, it says it will review the deployment of the system to determine if it is in South Korea’s best interest. CreditU.S. Forces Korea, via Associated Press

As South Korea has learned in painful fashion, it cannot always keep Washington and Beijing happy at the same time, as in the case of the country’s decision to accept the American missile defenses.

Yet Ms. Park’s impeachment was also a pushback against “Cold War conservatives” like her father, who seized on Communist threats from North Korea to hide their corruption and silence political opponents, said Kim Dong-choon, a sociologist at Sungkonghoe University in Seoul.

Ms. Park’s father tortured and even executed dissidents, framing them with spying charges. Now, his daughter faces charges that her government blacklisted thousands of unfriendly artists and writers, branding them pro-North Korean, and denied them access to government support programs.

15COMMENTS

“Her removal means that the curtain is finally drawing on the authoritarian political and economic order that has dominated South Korea for decades,” said Ahn Byong-jin, rector of the Global Academy for Future Civilizations at Kyung Hee University in Seoul.

Analysts cautioned that political and economic change will come slowly.

As Mr. Moon put it recently: “We need a national cleanup. We need to liquidate the old system and build a new South Korea. Only then can we complete the revolution started by the people who rallied with candlelight.”

China Reacts Angrily To South Korea Wanting To Be Able To Protect Themselves From North Korean Missiles

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

China angrily reacts with threats after South Korean missile defense decision

Chinese state media has reacted with anger and threats of boycotts after the board of an affiliate of South Korea’s Lotte Group approved a land swap with the government that will enable authorities to deploy a U.S. missile defense system.

The government decided last year to deploy the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, in response to the North Korean missile threat, on land that is part of a golf course owned by Lotte in the Seongju region, southeast of Seoul.

The board of unlisted Lotte International Co Ltd approved the deal with the government on Monday.

China objects to the deployment in South Korea of the THAAD, which has a powerful radar capable of penetrating Chinese territory, with Beijing saying it is a threat to its security and will do nothing to ease tension with North Korea.

Influential state-run Chinese tabloid the Global Times said in an editorial on Tuesday that Lotte should be shown the door in China.

“We also propose that Chinese society should coordinate voluntarily in expanding restrictions on South Korean cultural goods and entertainment exports to China, and block them when necessary,” it said in its English-language edition.

The paper’s Chinese version said South Korean cars and cellphones should be targeted as well.

“There are loads of substitutes for South Korean cars and cellphones,” it said.

The WeChat account of the overseas edition of the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily said late on Monday that cutting diplomatic ties should also be considered.

“If THAAD is really deployed in South Korea, then China-South Korea relations will face the possibility of getting ready to cut off diplomatic relations,” it said.

The official Xinhua news agency also said in a commentary late on Monday that China “did not welcome this kind of Lotte”.

“Chinese consumers can absolutely say no to this kind of company and their goods based on considerations of ‘national security’,” it said.

South Korea’s defense ministry said on Tuesday it had signed a land swap deal with Lotte on the golf course in exchange for providing military property. A South Korean military official told Reuters the military would begin installing fences and soldiers would patrol the area.

The Lotte Group said on Feb. 8 Chinese authorities had stopped construction at a multi-billion dollar real estate project in China after a fire inspection, adding to concern in South Korea about damage to commercial relations with the world’s second-largest economy.

Asked if South Korea had demanded the Chinese government suspend any economic retaliation, South Korean Defence Ministry spokesman Moon Sang-kyun said: “We have continuously persuaded China so far and will keep continuing efforts to do so.”

South Korean government officials have said THAAD is a defensive measure against North Korean threats and does not target any other country.

South Korea’s central bank said this month the number of Chinese tourists visiting the tourist island of Jeju had fallen 6.7 percent over the Lunar New Year holiday from last year, partly because of China’s “anti-South Korea measures due to the THAAD deployment decision”.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Ju-min Park in SEOUL; Editing by Paul Tait)

China’s Government Says That The U.S. Is Responsible For North Korea’s Missile Issues

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

CHINA says the root cause of North Korea’s missile launches is Pyongyang’s friction with the United States and South Korea.

North Korea fired a banned ballistic missile on Sunday, its first test since US President Donald Trump took office. The missile, launched as Trump hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Florida, is believed to have flown about 500 kilometers before splashing down in international waters.

Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the launch violated UN Security Council resolutions that call for an end to North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests.

Trump has complained that Beijing is not doing enough to put pressure on Pyongyang. Beijing counters that its influence is overstated and suggests Washington’s refusal to talk directly to North Korea is impeding progress toward a solution.

“The root cause of the nuclear missile issue is its differences with the US and South Korea,” Geng told reporters.

Geng said China, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, has been “completely and comprehensively” implementing Security Council resolutions on the nuclear issue.

He said Beijing “has been striving for a settlement of the Korean Peninsula issue by proactively engaging in mediation and promoting peace talks.”

Although generally dismissive of sanctions, Beijing has signed on to successive rounds under the UN Security Council, and last month banned more items from being exported to North Korea, including plutonium and dual-use technologies that could aid its nuclear program.

Geng urged all sides to refrain from provocative actions and said China would continue to participate in Security Council discussions in a constructive and responsible way.

Beijing appears concerned that the US and South Korea will speed up the planned deployment of an advanced missile defense system in South Korea that the two allies said was designed to counter a missile attack from North Korea. Beijing objects to the system because it would possibly be able to observe Chinese military movements.

Shi Yuanhua, a Korean studies professor at Shanghai’s Fudan University, said that from Pyongyang’s perspective it was a good time to launch a missile because the new US administration hadn’t decided what approach to take with North Korea, and Beijing was at odds with Washington and Seoul over the anti-missile system.

“Whether or not to abandon nuclear weapons concerns North Korea’s core national interests and there is no way for China to get it to change its stance with a few words of persuasion, and it can’t solve the problem by applying a ban on exports,” Shi said.

“The key for solving the problem lies in the hands of the US. If the US is willing to sit and talk with North Korea, China will be happy to promote it,” he added.

South Korea, Japan impose new unilateral sanctions on North Korea

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

South Korea, Japan impose new unilateral sanctions on North Korea

 (LOOK AT THE SMILING AND CLAPPING FRAUDS AS THEY ATTEMPT TO NOT BE MURDERED BY THE LITTLE FAT BOY LUNATIC WITH THE BAD HAIRCUT)(TRS)
By Ju-min Park and Kaori Kaneko | SEOUL/TOKYO

South Korea and Japan said on Friday they would impose new unilateral sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, following a fresh U.N. Security Council resolution imposed on the reclusive country this week.

North Korea has rejected the U.N. resolution, aimed at cutting Pyongyang’s annual export revenue by a quarter after its fifth and largest nuclear test in September, as a conspiracy masterminded by the United States to deny its sovereignty.

Both South Korea and Japan already have comprehensive unilateral sanctions in place against North Korea.

South Korea said in a statement its expanded measures would blacklist senior North Korean officials, including leader Kim Jong Un’s closest aides, Choe Ryong Hae and Hwang Pyong So.

Hwang, at one point considered North Korea’s second-most powerful official outside the ruling Kim family, is already subject to U.S. Treasury sanctions.

South Korea also said it would ban entry from the South by foreign missile and nuclear experts if their visits to North Korea were deemed to be a threat to South Korean national interests.

Japan said on Friday it too would add to its own list of unilateral sanctions, including a ban on all ships that have called at ports in North Korea, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.

“It is a new phase of threat that North Korea forced, carrying out nuclear tests twice this year and launching more than 20 missiles, and it is enhancing capability. Japan absolutely cannot tolerate these acts of violence,” Suga said.

“Japan will consider further measures depending on moves by North Korea and the international society,” he said.

Tokyo will freeze the assets of more groups and individuals connected to North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, he said.

The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, told the Security Council on Wednesday the United States was realistic about what the new sanctions on North Korea could achieve.

“No resolution in New York will likely, tomorrow, persuade Pyongyang to cease its relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons. But this resolution imposes unprecedented costs on the DPRK (North Korea) regime for defying this council’s demands,” she said.

In February, Seoul suspended operations at a jointly run factory park just inside North Korea, ending the only significant daily interaction across the heavily fortified inter-Korean border.

In March, Seoul released a list of companies and individuals it said were connected to North Korea’s weapons trade and nuclear and missile programs.

South Korea said its new sanctions would expand the entities on that list to include Dandong Hongxiang Industrial Development Co, a Chinese company sanctioned by the United States in September for using front companies to evade sanctions on North Korea’s banned programs.

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China was opposed to unilateral sanctions and urged countries to proceed cautiously.

“China always firmly opposes unilateral sanctions on a country outside the framework of U.N. Security Council sanctions, and is even more opposed to any party harming China’s reasonable and lawful interests through unilateral sanctions,” he told a regular news briefing.

The new U.S.-drafted U.N. resolution is intended to slash North Korea’s exports of coal, its biggest export item, by about 60 percent with an annual sales cap of $400.9 million, or 7.5 million metric tonnes, whichever is lower.

It also bans North Korean copper, nickel, silver and zinc exports – and the sale of statues. Pyongyang is famous for building huge, socialist-style statues which it exports mainly to African countries.

(Additional reporting by Jack Kim in SEOUL and Michael Martina in BEIJING; Writing by James Pearson; Editing by Nick Macfie)

China’s Women Win Volleyball Gold For Third Time In Rio

China wins third women’s volleyball gold

ZHU Ting propelled China to a 3-1 (18-25, 25-17, 25-23, 25-23) victory over Serbia to claim the gold medal of the women’s volleyball tournament at Rio 2016 Olympic Games on Saturday.

Zhu, who was named the Most Valuable Player, finished as the top scorer of the competition with a total of 179 points including a tournament-high 33 in the semifinals against the Netherlands. She capped her participation with 25 points as the main Chinese weapon in the triumph.

China climbed to the top of the podium for the third time in the history of volleyball at the Olympic Games and first since Athens 2004. They also won the gold medal in Los Angeles 1984, a silver medal in Atlanta 1996 and bronze medals in Seoul 1988 and also at home in Beijing 2008.

China’s Lang Ping became the first to win a gold medal as a player in Los Angeles 1984 and repeat the feat now as a coach.

The silver medal for Serbia is their best finish in three Olympic appearances after concluding fifth and 11th in Beijing and London, respectively.

China’s Hui Ruoqi and Xu Yunli contributed 13 and 12 points in the victory, while Yuan Xinyue added 9, including three blocks.

Tijana Boskovic and Milena Rasic were the top scorers for Serbia with 23 and 16 points, respectively, and Tijana Malesevic and Brankica Mihajlovic finished with 11 apiece in the loss.

The fourth set was a close battle until Zhu scored twice for a 16-13 lead. With Mihajlovic and Boskovic both on the bench, Serbia closed in to 19-18 with consecutive spikes by Malesevic and Veljkovic. Serbia tied at 20-all via opponent error. Then at 23-all, Rasic served out of bounds and China won 25-23 with the spike by Hui.

“We faced a very tough opponent but we concentrated on each point, one by one,” said Hui.