Lee Jae-yong, the heir to Samsung, is to be indicted on bribery charges related to the Choi scandal. The special prosecutor announced his indictment on Monday, though he was detained earlier in the week (Korea Times). This is a breaking story which will be updated as information becomes available.
Politics – Lotte and the South Korean military have approved a land swap which would allow the government to deploy the THAAD missile defense system at the Lotte owned golf course in Seongju County. In the swap, Lotte relinquished the golf course in exchange for government owned land east of Seoul (Yonhap). After being greenlighted last year, THAAD has opened a contentious debate throughout the region. China, who has constantly expressed dissent on the issue, repeated its stance. In a daily press briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Geng Shuang said China would take necessary measures to counter the deployment (NY Times). THAAD is scheduled to deployed before June.
Korea’s leading parliamentarian, Chung Sye-kyun, in a statement commemorating the Independence Movement on March 1, highlighted the need for the country to accept the results of the Constitutional Court no matter what they decide. In the statement, Chung said “whatever results may come, we should accept it fully and be reborn as a new Republic of Korea” (Yonhap). In an interview with The Diplomat, Chung echoed a similar view, arguing South Korea should remain devoted to the democratic process (The Diplomat).
In a poll released Friday by Realmeter, Moon Jae-in increased his lead in the polls, reaching a 33.5% approval rating. His lead against An Hee-jong expanded from 12.1 to 14.6 as An’s approval rating dipped 1.5% to 18.9% (Korea Times). Reports state that An fell out of favor after saying that Park had good will in setting up the foundations with Choi Soon-sil (Korea Times). Moon’s rise in the polls solidifies his position as a leading candidate for the upcoming election, though Korea’s political future is still up in the air. Acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn took third place at around 10% as far-right voters solidify their support behind the parties de-facto leader (Korea Times).
Culture – According to data released by the Ministry of Justice 1 in 10 foreigners in Korea are illegal aliens. The data shows that 211,320 foreigners–around 10.1% of the total number–are illegal aliens (Korea Times). Though high, the percentage has been on a downward trend; in 2012 around 12% of foreigners in Korea were illegals. Many Southern Asian immigrants come to Korea seeking a better life, though they are sometimes taken advantage of. In 2014, 44.2% of South Koreans said they did not see migrants or migrant workers as their neighbor and an Amnesty International Report urged the South Korean government to address the problem of exploitation of migrant workers (The Diplomat). As South Korea becomes a more diverse nation, it is imperative that the government address a wide variety of immigration issues.
(Due to the amount of political news in this update, there is no economic news.)
Trade between the European Union and North Korea shrunk for the third year straight. The Korea Herald, citing a Voice of America article, noted that trade between the European Union and North Korea shrunk 6.6% to $29 million in 2016 (Korea Herald). Official documents show that annual growth of imports from North Korea to the European Union was negative 49.5% while exports to North Korea had an annual growth rate of 13.6% (European Union Trade Document). This trend piggies on China’s decision to cease import of North Korean coal for the rest of 2017. China’s decision will have a pretty noticeable effect on North Korea throughout the year–though this may not be noticeable to many–since North Korea exported $1.9 billion worth of coal to China last year (NPR). 2017 may be a very difficult year, economically, for North Korea. But the country has proven resilient before, even displaying an aptitude for subverting sanctions imposed on Pyongyang.
Greetings! I’m Leon Newkirk, your local anime nerd with a casual interest in Korean and Japanese culture. I’m here to cover the non-political topics like webtoons, dating, nightclubs, Korean food and whatever else comes to my mind that week. I hope to add some new things to the blog as well as learn and expand my knowledge of Korean culture. I’m happy for you all to have me and hope we can all have a good time. Until then!
Editor’s Remarks: All of Leon’s posts can be found under the tag with his name. Feel free to check out his fast facts on our “About the Authors” page.
This site has been expanding throughout the last half year, and I am proud to announce the biggest expansion since I have started this site. The Korea Page now has a new contributor. Leon Newkirk is a man who is obsessed with Asian cultures and will focus mostly on Korean cultural analysis and reporting. This will include posts about manhwa and so on, though he shall have the ability to post about anything. I hope you all find his wonderful posts insightful and enjoyable. Like all of you glorious readers, I am excited to read what he has to offer and look forward to him sharing his thoughts on this website. Welcome to the Korea Page family Leon Newkirk.
I apologize for their being no daily updates this week. In lieu of Daily Updates, I shall post two more analytical pieces this week. One will cover North Korea’s new missile–it is mostly done, just need to get it up–and the other will cover the interesting story of Kim Jung-nam. Also coming up is the two month late New Year’s speech analysis, though that may not be this week. I look forward to posting these and stay informed my friends.
Also, when Daily Updates resume next week, look for the Leadership watch feature to restart.
Malaysia has officially declared North Korea as a suspect behind the death of Kim Jong-nam (Korea Times). This is a breaking story and will be updated when more information becomes available.
Economy – I put economy first, breaking with the typical tradition of this post, because a story is currently breaking. A South Korea court has ruled Hanjin Shipping Company, a leader in the South Korean shipping industry for decades, officially bankrupt (MarketWatch). In August of 2016, Hanjin went into receivership and applied for court protection. However, it was unable to get money from its creditors. Therefore, the company will be liquidated and all assets sold off (Yonhap). As a result of the news, many Hanjin ships were denied entry at ports for fear that payments would not be made (BBC). The fall of Hanjin also means that most of the companies seamen are suddenly out of a job. Some analysts have commented that the failure of Hanjin may work to bring down overcapacity in the shipping industry down to a sustainable level, arguing that a crash of another major Korean shipping company was unlikely (BBC).
(Image: Hanjin employees lobbying to save their company. Source: BBC)
(Image: Cargo sitting on a Hanjin ship in a German port. Source: MarketWatch)
Politics – Choi-gate has continued to claim victims throughout every aspect of life in South Korea. This week, two different arrest warrants were issued. On Wednesday, Special Prosecutors formally arrested Choi Kyung-hee, the ex-head of Ehwa University. She has been charged with giving admissions and grading favors to Choi Soon-sil’s daughter (Korea Times). Last month, Choi Kyung-hee avoided arrest when her name was brought before the court. De-facto head of Samsung, Lee Jae-yong, also had a warrant issued for his arrest when his name came up a second time in court. Lee was arrested on the same day, charged with paying over 40 billion won to get the National Pension Service to back a controversial merger (Yonhap). These arrests come as Park is still waiting for the Constitutional Court to make their decision on her impeachment.
Culture – South Korea is home to some of the worst air in the world. According to the “State of Global Air 2017” report, South Korea’s population -weighted national average concentration of PM2.5–ultra-fine particles or matter of a diameter of at least 2.5 microns–was 29 micrograms in 2015, well above the OECD average of 15 micrograms (Korea Herald). Over the past 25 years, South Korea’s PM2.5 problem has gotten worse while the OECD average has gotten better. In 1990, the OECD average was 17 micrograms while Korea’s average was 26 micrograms (Korea Herald). Many point to China as the culprit, but the South Korean government highlights emissions from diesel engines. To combat this, the Environmental Ministry rolled out anti-yellow dust measures in June. This plan did not garner the public’s interest (Korea Herald).
North Koreans have not heard of the death of Kim Jong-nam, Kim Jung-un’s half brother. State media has not reacted to the slew of media reports covering the news. A source cited in the Korea Herald commented that he thought Kim Jung-un was the oldest son of Kim Jung-il (Korea Herald). As Pyongyang looks to strengthen its hold on power, the government may suppress news of Kim Jung-nam’s death due to his close ties to China. Despite the lack of official coverage in North Korea, some reports of Kim Jung-nam’s death have gone viral in the border region (Korea Herald).