South Korean President Park impeached

This video says about itself:

South Korea sees largest protest in weeks of demos against president Park Geun-hye

27 November 2016

A flood of candles in downtown Seoul give a stunning visual to the peaceful protest and show the scale of anger in South Korea over the corruption scandal surrounding the country’s embattled leader.

By Ben McGrath and Peter Symonds:

South Korean President Park impeached

10 December 2016

South Korea’s National Assembly yesterday voted to impeach President Park Geun-hye, the first step in her removal from office. The vote of 234 to 56 in the 300-member Assembly was well over the necessary two-thirds required and indicated that significant sections of Park’s own right-wing Saenuri Party supported the impeachment.

The impeachment follows weeks of massive protests involving millions of people demanding Park resign over a scandal involving her close personal confidante, Choi Soon-sil. Although she holds no official position in the government, Choi allegedly influenced its decisions, was privy to classified documents and used her ties with Park to solicit donations from South Korean companies.

The protests—the largest in South Korea’s history—reflect widespread hostility and anger towards Park over broader issues: the deepening gulf between rich and poor as well as her administration’s anti-democratic methods in silencing critics, disbanding an opposition party and suppressing strikes.

After the vote, Park apologised once again for the “grave national turmoil” that her “carelessness and shortcomings” had produced, but gave no indication that she would resign. Park has been named as a criminal suspect in legal proceedings involving the Choi scandal but she cannot be indicted while in office.

Following yesterday’s Assembly vote, presidential authority and duties have been transferred to Prime Minister Hwang Gyo-an who becomes acting president. The impeachment case now goes to the Constitutional Court which has six months to decide if the charges against Park warrant her removal from power.

Six of the nine justices must support Park’s dismissal which would be followed by a fresh presidential election within two months. Six of the judges were appointed by Park and her immediate predecessor Lee Myung-bak, also from the Saenuri Party. However, a court decision to keep Park in office would likely reignite the protest movement and plunge the country into even deeper crisis.

Park’s impeachment reflects deep divisions within the South Korean ruling elite as well as intense public alienation from the entire political establishment. Yonsei University professor Moon Chung-in told the Financial Times last month: “South Korea is in a state of total crisis. We have intertwined political, geo-political and economic crises… and no leadership to mend the fractures or drive society.”

Park, like other Asian leaders, has attempted to balance between China, which is South Korea’s largest trading partner, and the US, which is a long-time military ally. South Korea hosts key American military bases and currently nearly 30,000 US troops. Park, who came to office in 2013, sought to improve relations with China and earned US displeasure when she appeared last year at a military parade in Beijing alongside Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Significantly the Obama administration offered no support to the embattled Park. The US embassy even signaled sympathy for the protests in Seoul by turning its lights off along with other nearby buildings at a time fixed by protest leaders. State Department spokesman Mark Toner declared yesterday that the United States “is there with Korea as it undergoes this political change and transition”—thereby tacitly accepting that Park would be removed.

At the same time, under pressure from Washington, the Park administration agreed in July to the US deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system to South Korea, angering Beijing. While nominally directed against North Korea, the THAAD installation on the Korean Peninsula is part of the US military build-up throughout Asia in preparation for war against China.

The election of Donald Trump as US president has further heightened the dilemmas confronting the South Korean ruling elites. According to the Financial Times, financial officials in Seoul in the wake of Trump’s election win “directed banks to prepare for external shocks, while the Blue House [presidential residence] convened a national security council session.”

Although Trump told Park following his election win that he agreed “100 percent” with the US-South Korea alliance, he threatened, in the course of his campaign, to withdraw from the alliance if South Korea did not pay more towards US military bases. Despite Trump’s reassurance, he has placed a question mark over the alliance that can only compound uncertainty in Seoul and exacerbate divisions within the ruling elites over South Korea’s strategic orientation.

Trump’s extreme economic nationalism is also destabilising South Korean politics. He has declared that he will tear up the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and threatened trade war measures against China that would heavily impact on the South Korean economy. While South Korea is not part of the TPP, Trump has also criticised South Korea’s free trade agreement with the US as unfair on American businesses.

Trump’s stance is encouraging opposition parties—the Minjoo (Democratic) Party, People’s Party and Justice Party—to ramp up their calls for protectionism. The Democrats strongly opposed the free trade agreement with the US and, along with other opposition parties, have been seeking to channel popular opposition in an economic nationalist direction. Trade unions and farmers groups have taken part in the anti-Park protests to demand trade restrictions and government subsidies for products such as rice.

The South Korean economy is stagnating with the latest OECD forecast putting growth for 2017 at just 2.6 percent. Exports, which comprise about 45 percent of the country’s GDP, shrank by 3.2 percent year-on-year in October after a 5.9 percent drop in September. Hanjin Shipping, which was once South Korea’s largest shipping company, declared bankruptcy in August. Household debt exploded to a record $1.15 trillion by mid-year—the eighth highest in the world.

Rising levels of poverty and unemployment, particularly among young people, are fuelling social discontent which the opposition parties are seeking to exploit. …

An article in Bloomberg on Thursday likened the protests calling for Park’s resignation to political upheavals around the world, stating: “The wave of populism that fueled Brexit, the rise of Donald Trump and the fall of Italian leader Matteo Renzi has reached South Korea, where street protesters see Friday’s parliamentary vote to impeach President Park Geun-hye as a step towards toppling the establishment she symbolises.”

The opposition parties are also seeking to capitalise on growing fears of war. The Minjoo Party criticised but did not oppose the installation of the THAAD anti-ballistic missile system which makes South Korea a target in any war between the US and China. The People’s Party and Justice Party opposed the move on economic grounds, reflecting fears in business circles of economic retaliation by China.

The political turmoil in Seoul is raising fears in Washington that Park’s removal could result in a win by an opposition presidential candidate who would adopt a more moderate stance towards North Korea and China. Such an administration might limit US military involvement in South Korea and could adopt protectionist measures.

South Korean prosecutors are seeking an arrest warrant for the ousted president.

Former South Korean President Park Geun-hye was detained Friday after a judge granted the prosecutors’ request for an arrest warrant at a hearing the previous day. She has been charged with bribery, abuse of power and leaking state secrets, the same allegations that led to her impeachment and removal from office on March 10. A formal indictment is expected by mid-April. If convicted, Park could face between 10 years to life behind bars: here.

26 thoughts on “South Korean President Park impeached

  1. Saturday 10th December 2016

    posted by Morning Star in World

    Judges will decide on scandal-hit leader’s fate

    SOUTH KOREA’S parliament voted yesterday to impeach President Park Geun Hye over the scandal around her arrested confidant.

    With at least 62 members of Ms Park’s right-wing Saenuri Party siding with the opposition — almost twice as many as expected — MPs voted 234 to 56 for the motion.

    A super-majority of 200 in the 300-seat National Assembly was required for impeachment. There were nine invalid votes and abstentions and one MP was unaccounted for.

    Present for the vote were relatives of the victims of the 2014 ferry disaster that killed more than 300 people and was blamed on government incompetence and corruption. They cheered and clapped after the impeachment was announced.

    Ms Park was immediately suspended from the presidency — on full pay — and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo Ahn, a leading apologist for the disgraced leader, was appointed acting president.

    The nine-member Constitutional Court now has six months to rule on whether Ms Park should be removed from office, with a two-thirds majority needed for her impeachment to take effect.

    If that happens, new presidential elections must be held within 60 days.

    In a step reminiscent of his predecessor, Mr Hwang immediately ordered Defence Minister Han Min Koo to put the armed forces on raised alert

    in case of “provocations” by North Korea. But Pyongyang seemed oblivious as the climax to the crisis in Seoul unfolded.

    The scandal that hit the daughter of former military dictator Park Chung Hee revolves around her childhood friend Choi Soon Sil.

    She is the daughter of late cult leader Choi Tae Min, dubbed the “Korean Rasputin,” who enthralled Ms Park in her youth.

    Prosecutors allege that Ms Choi had access to privileged state documents, influenced government decisions and used her relationship to the president to wring some £55 million in “donations” from corporations including Samsung.

    Other controversies of Ms Park’s presidency included the banning of the social democratic Unified Progressive Party (UPP) in 2014 for advocating reunification with the North — on the South’s terms.

    That followed the jailing of UPP MP Lee Seok Ki for 12 years for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government if hostilities with Pyongyang broke out again.

    And this year, several leaders of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, including its president Han Sang Gyun, were sentenced to long prison terms for organising protests against Ms Park’s policies.


  2. Friday 16th December 2016

    posted by Morning Star in World

    SOUTH KOREA’S opposition leader said yesterday the government should reconsider the provocative deployment of US missile defence systems.

    Minjoo Party chairman Moon Jae In said the security benefits of hosting the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) anti-ballistic missile system would be outweighed by damaged relations with neighbours China and Russia.

    The decision to host the sparked vehement protests by local residents.

    Beijing and Moscow have charged that the deployment, approved by now-suspended Saenuri Party President Park Geun Hye, is aimed at neutralising their nuclear deterrents rather than defending South Korea from North Korea’s nascent nuclear arsenal.

    Mr Moon was a presidential candidate in 2012 and could run again next year if Ms Park is impeached.

    “The issue of whether or not to deploy Thaad should be pushed to the next government,” Mr Moon said.

    “I don’t think that the reconsidering of Thaad would harm the South Korea-US alliance.”


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  9. Tuesday 28th February 2017

    posted by Morning Star in World

    SOUTH KOREA’S opposition vowed to impeach the acting president yesterday, alleging he was “shielding” his disgraced boss Park Geun Hye.

    The three main opposition parties warned Prime Minister and acting president Hwang Kyo Ahn after he denied a request to extend corruption investigations into Ms Park past today’s deadline.

    Minjoo leader Choo Mi Ae — whose party is the largest in parliament — said the decision showed Mr Hwang was trying “to become Park’s shield to protect her and her associates.”

    Independent prosecutor Park Young Soo’s team asked for 30 more days to gather evidence in the case of Choi Soon Sil, Ms Park’s childhood friend and daughter of Choi Tae Min, the cult leader who held sway over Ms Park after the assassination of her dictator father and mother.

    The probe has ensnared executives in South Korea’s all-powerful chaebols — family-run corporations — which allegedly paid tens of millions of pounds to Ms Choi’s bogus charities.

    Among them is Samsung heir and vice-chairman Lee Jae Yon.

    Mr Hwang’s office said it had rejected the request as the team has already indicted key implicated figures, adding that state prosecutors can look into any possible remaining areas of the scandal.

    But his spokesman Hong Kwon Heui told reporters that a longer investigation could influence the presidential election that would result if the Constitutional Court approves Ms Park’s permanent removal from office.

    Investigation team spokesman Lee Ky Chul called Mr Hwang’s decision “very regrettable.”

    The court is expected to rule in the case next month, and Mr Hwang is among those tipped as a presidential candidate for Ms Park’s conservative Liberty Party — after former UN secretary-general Ban Ki Moon ruled himself out.

    Impeaching Mr Hwang would only require a simple majority, which the opposition parties have between them.

    Ms Park was suspended on December 9 by a vote of 234 in the 300-seat parliament, well over the two-thirds majority required after at least 62 of her MPs voted with the opposition.

    That followed weeks of protests numbering up to a million people, including members of trade unions whose leaders have been jailed under Ms Park’s regime.


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  11. Moon chosen by Democratic Party

    SOUTH KOREA: Opposition leader Moon Jae Win, who advocates improved ties with North Korea, was chosen as the Democratic Party’s candidate to succeed ousted president Park Geun Hye.

    His nomination boosts his status as frontrunner in the May 9 election, triggered after Ms Park was removed from office over corruption allegations.

    Mr Moon, who lost the 2012 presidential election to Ms Park, has called her hard-line policy toward North Korea a failure.


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  24. SOUTH KOREA: Former president Park Geun Hye received an additional eight-year sentence yesterday on corruption charges, added to the 24 years she is already serving.

    Ms Park received a six-year sentence for illegally accepting funds from intelligence services and two years for interfering with elections.

    She was jailed for 24 years in April after being convicted of abuse of power and coercion.


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