Daily Update – October 24

South Korea

Politics – On Monday (Korean time) President Park Geun-hae called for a constitutional revision to change the structure of the Office of President of South Korea.  Currently, an elected South Korean president serves a 5-year term and cannot be reelected.  This, as argued by Park, has made litigating long-term policy a struggle for South Korean presidents.  “It is time that we put aside the 1987 constitution and draw up a new one for the country to make a leap forward,” she said.  Park’s call for revision is the most serious attempt to change South Koreas constitution since its last revision in 1987 to limit presidents from keeping power through illicit means.

Opposition parties are expressing mixed reactions to the call for revision.  While many think a revision is in order, they have questioned the intent of the move.  In a press conference, opposition leader Choi Mi-ae demurred Park’s proposal, but vowed that her party would create a research panel on the amendment.  She also called for Park to stay out of the negotiations.  Many opposition leaders criticized Park for calling for the revision as well, as Park has been in the middle of a scandal which has caused her approval ratings to dip to 25%, the lowest they have been since she took office.  Chief spokesman of the Democratic Party of Korea Youn Kwan-suk told reporters that her pushing of the issue is “highly suspicious, especially if it is to cover up the corruption scandals involving her confidants.”  Representative Son Kum-ju, Chief Spokesman of the Minor opposition party, called the timing all wrong, saying anyone would question her motives.  Despite this, many see a constitutional revision as necessary.

The Saenuri Party has heralded the call.  Party floor leader Representative Chung Jin-suk said “Park’s proposal came out of a shared concern that the current constitution cannot promote the future of the country.”  Lee Jung-hyun, Saenuri Party Chairman, said “we should view the constitutional revision separately from national from political issues,” calling it a “national agenda item.”  The stark division this has caused is nothing new; the parties recently clashed over the deployment of THAAD.  It is this division which the constitutional reform looks to fix, as a change of term limits or power structure of the president would give the government more time to bridge the divide and enact more long-term policy.

Currently, the revision has not garnered any real ideas.  The Korea Times reports that the best idea is to implement a second term of four years.  Others view the semi-presidential system as a viable alternative to the current system.  Under this system, the president would control diplomacy, national defense, and other external policy while a prime minister would control domestic policy.  Kim Jae-won, President Park’s Senior Secretary for Political Affairs, noted that Park favored the addition of a second term, but also stressed that they are not considering any one option.  The one clear aspect is that President Park would be exempt from the reform and thus unable to run for reelection.

Economy – Hyundai Heavy won a bid to construct two 2,600 ton naval frigates for the Philippines.  The closed deal was worth 370 billion won ($322 million).  Each frigate is 107 meters long, has a max speed of 46 kilometers/hour, and is equipped with modern military technology.  Hyundai beat out competitors from France and Spain to become the preferred bidder in August, then closed the deal with the Philippine Defense Ministry on Monday.  The vessels will be delivered by 2020.

North Korea

North Korea’s airline, Air Koryo, now has a very limited scope of operations; its flights are only able to operate in China and Russia.  Air Koryo flew to Kuwait in August, but Kuwaiti authorities denied its ability to land.  In April, the carrier suspended its once a week flight linking Pyongyang to Bangkok, and the Pakistani Government told Voice of America that it would not issue a flight permit to Air Koryo.  International sanctions have choked Air Koryo’s scope of operations from 5 countries to 2.

Leadership Watch

On October 15, Kim Jung-un sent a letter of condolence to the crown prince of Thailand.  (Due to technical difficulties, unable to elaborate any more on this one).

Kim Jung-u visited the Ryugyong General Ophthalmic Hospital.  During a tour of the hospital, Kim noted the quality of construction of the hospital, saying its facade represents that of an ophthalmic hospital.  He took in the specifications of the hospital as well.  Kim also noted that the Munsu area has bloomed into a perfect hospital village, pleased to picture those enjoying the people enjoying the socialist medical system.

(All leadership watch stories are taken from KCNA, the official news agency of North Korea.  They should be treated as such and read with scrutiny.)

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