Daily Update – November 28

South Korea

Politics – President Park Geun-hye, at 2:30pm local time, gave a public statement on the ongoing political scandal, her third statement since news of the scandal broke earlier this month.  In her statement, Park expressed her grave apologies for the continuing trickle of information regarding this scandal.  Park also stated that she never followed her personal interests throughout her 18 years in public office.  The major aspect of her short speech was Park saying that she will regulate the shortening of her term to the National Assembly.  This is the first Park has highlighted any path forward.  However, Park refused to answer questions following her statement.*  As Korea looks forward, Park’s future is uncertain, as the impeachment motion in the National Assembly will require votes from 28 Saenuri Party members. This is not a small task, though is not impossible (some local media outlets have hinted that this is fairly likely).  If impeachment passes the National Assembly, the motion will move to the Constitutional Court where it will need 6 votes from the judges to finalize Park’s impeachment – a total of 9 sit on the court.  If ousted from power, South Korea’s second most powerful politician, Prime Minister Hwan Kyo-ahn will take over as president.  This is uncharted for South Korea in a variety of forms.  Park is the first president to be a suspect in an abuse of power scandal – though many presidents have been tangled up in scandals while in office, many involving family members – and, if impeached, Park will be the first democratically elected South Korean president to be ousted from the office.

*I have sourced the video and the translated script of her third address.  Though the video is not my favorite, it does illistrate her walking off stage as reporters blurt out questions.

(Due to the importance of the above story, will include the other major political development in tomorrow’s Daily Update.)

Economics – The Korea Labor Institute (KLI) released a study showing that the top .1% of Koreans make around 360 million won ($308,000) per year.  This category was dominated by executive officers, who made up 29% of this group.  Other professions in this category included Doctors at 22%, Business Owners at 12.7%, Stock Shareholders at 12.5%, Financial Sector Employees at 7%, and Property Owners at 4%.  Specialist Laborers made up 0.1%.  Missing from this category were positions in public service as well general service positions.  KLI conducted this study by examing the tax reports and income survey data from the Ministry of Employment and Labor.

Culture – South Koreans have taken to the streets to protest against their scandal-ridden president.  On Sunday, 9 major protests all ended peacefully, while also breaking a national record with 1.9 million participants.  The U.S. State Department even heralded the protests, with John Kirby saying, in a press briefing, “that is how democracy works,” and that South Koreans are exercising their democratic right.  However, some protestors are arguing that the non-violence embraced in the protests is not working, citing the simple fact that Park remains president despite five straight weeks of 1 million plus people gathering in Seoul to call for the ousting of her from South Korea’s highest office.  Below are a few pictures of the protests:south-korea-protests-are-peaceful-democratic-us-state-department-saysFrom UPI on November 28, 2016Protesters hold candles during an anti-government rally in central SeoulFrom Reuters on November 19, 2016k2016111300122_650From the Korea Times on November 12, 2016 (Signs translate to Park Geun-hye Resign)

North Korea

News – Kim Jung-un has declared a three-day mourning period following the death of Fidel Castro this weekend.  Kim also visited the Cuban Embassy to pay his condolences to Castro, calling him a brave comrade in arms.  On Monday, a group of North Korean elite set off to Havanna to attend the memorial services for Castro; the group was headed by Choe Ryong-hae.  North Korea has also ordered its flags to be flown at half-mast, in honor of the dictator.

Seoul-based Traditional JusticeWorking Group is working to release a report on North Korean mass graves for victims of human rights abuses in the reclusive state.  The group says it has gotten a grasp of 12 places which may be home to mass graves, following its examination of satellite photos as well as 277 interviews with defectors.  They hope to publish the report in April-May of next year.

Yonhap News reported that a fresh new round of sanctions on North Korea may be handed down the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday.  According to sources cited by Yonhap, the new sanctions would place a cap on North Korean coal exports at 7.5 million tons, or around $400 million, a 60% cut from the North’s current export rate of around $700 per year worth of coal.  The new sanctions will also add copper, nickel, silver and zinc to the list of minerals North Korea is banned from exporting.  Overall, the sanctions may cut North Korean revenue by as much as $800 million annually.  This round of sanctions comes 82 days after Pyongyang conducted its fifth nuclear test in September, highlighting the growing divide over how to sanction the regime for its continued nuclear ambitions.

Leadership Watch – North Korean leader Kim Jung-un provided on the spot guidance to various fields in Samjiyon County on Monday.  During his visit, Kim paid homage to his father, Kim Jong-il, and grandfather, Kim Il-sung.  He also visited the Samjiyon Culture Hall where he learned about the production of art and film, pushing artists to create which will uphold the revolutionary ideals of Juche and the Workers Party of Korea.  Kim also visited a school where he underscored the need for a proper, North Korean education.  He visited the Camp for Visitors to the Samjiyon Revolutionary Battle Sites, and concluded his trip by watching Sajabong Sports team in training.  Accompanying Kim on this trip was Choe Ryong Hae, member of the Presidium of the Political Bureau of the C.C., the WPK, vice-chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the DPRK and vice-chairman of the C.C., the WPK, and Kim Yong Su, department director of the C.C., the WPK.+

+This report is based on sources from North Korean state media, mainly the Korean Central News Agency and should be taken with a grain of salt.

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