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.