Daily Update–March 29

South Korea

Politics- Today, Ex-president Park Geun-hye attended a hearing about the special prosecutors warrant for her arrest (Korea Herald). Park refused to answer questions from reporters as she entered the hearing. After completing its 70-day probe, the special prosecutor sought a warrant to arrest Park for charges of bribery, coercion and leaking classified documents, citing the possibility of destruction of evidence and graveness of alleged crimes. The bribery charge alone carries a possible sentence of 10 years (Korea Times). Park has denied all allegations brought against her. As of writing, Park remains in the hearing and this Korea Times article has a link to live video analyzing her remarks. The stream is in Korean.

5740(Photo:  Park showing up at Seoul Central District Court to attend the hearing over the arrest warrant against her. Source: Korea Times)

For your information: The Liberty Korea Party will announce its presidential candidate in two days.

Economy- Hyundai is working to create a dedicated platform for electric vehicles. Pushed by the introduction of Tesla Motors into the market, Hyundai and affiliate Kia Motors have been pursuing ways to make their electric cars more competitive in the market. Though this platform will not be completed in the near future, Kia and Hyundai are looking to roll out electric powered SUVs with a range of 186 miles per charge. Lee Ki-sang, a president at Hyundai Motors who heads Hyundai-Kia’s green car operations, hopes for the electric powered cars to account for 10% of total car sales by 2025, up from 1% today (NY Times).

Culture- A Russian trio has been arrested and charged with smuggling North Korean drugs into South Korea. The drugs were not illicit substances. The trio bought medications and health substances made by the North’s Pugang Pharmaceutic Co. in North Korea and airmailed them to South Korea through Russia. They sold them without a license, according to local police. The substances had a value of around 9 million won–$8,080 (Korea Herald). The import of North Korean goods without a license is a violation of the Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation Act which dictates strategy to deal with cooperation issues between the two Koreas (Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation Act).

North Korea

North Korean media has unleashed a vicious cycle of press against the United States, reacting to the military drills currently ongoing in South Korea. On March 29, KCNA published an article which threatened the use of a resolute preemptive strike in the face of American attack (KCNA; Yonhap)[1]. Another article argued that sanctions against the reclusive country are immoral (KCNA)[1]. And a final article rebuked an American State Department Official’s remark on a softer stance toward North Korea (KCNA)[2]. Each article contained a common theme: American Key-Resolve and Foal Eagle joint military drills in South Korea are immoral and a preemptive measure against North Korea. This style is not uncommon from North Korea and doesn’t really hint at any upcoming provocative actions from the regime.

In other North Korean news, a South Korean think tank reported that North Korea is estimated to have 1000 drones. Chung Ku-yoon, a research fellow at the Korean Institute for National Unification, said that Pyongyang is developing the drones to enhance spying techniques. Some fear the drones may be used in aerial terror attacks (Yonhap). This comes after South Korean Defense Minister instructed the troops not to hesitate if North Korea attacked (Yonhap).

Notes

[1] These sources are taken from North Korean media and linking to them is difficult. Also, please take any information presented from North Korean media with a grain of salt.

[2] Source is linked from KNCA Watch, a North Korean media aggregator run by NKNews. Again, please do not take any information from North Korean state media at face value.

 

Two News Articles (Post from previous blog site)

Found an interesting article this morning, well two, about South Korea’s current society.  The first was a diplomat article that delves into the effect that a growing multiculturalism can have on an initial unification attempt and the second looked at the growing numbers of South Koreans that are dying alone, with no family that is reachable for a multitude of reasons.

     First, the Diplomat article:

South Korea has a growing presence of foreign residents, some ethnic Korean, others none Korean.  Such a wide trend has lead to many estimates stating that by 2030, foreign residents in South Korea will be around 10% of the population, thus rendering the society no longer homogenous.  Now, you may ask, what effect would such a trend have in the event of unification?  The answer lies within the current structure of North Korean society.  In North Korea, which is still a very homogeneous nation, foreigners are ridiculed and, in the case of Americans, vilified to push the position that the party has taken.  This has lead to a serious divide in Korean society, one that will come to more light as unification happens and the homogeneous North Korean population has to learn to integrate with a ever mixing South Korean population.  Where I disagree with this article, however, is the extent that such a divide will hinder unification.  This argument is based on the fact that many North Koreans will flee to the southern part of a unified Korea, which is highly likely since they will most likely see the south as more prosperous section of Korea, but the extent of this migration will be smaller than most people think, since the newly formed Korea will want to have citizens in the northern areas to foster growth and maintain the area.  Therefore, post unification, there will be a disproportionate set of populations that will resemble what is currently on the Korean peninsula, leading to a gradual move of a mixed bag of nationalities up north and gradual assimilation of the North Korean people.  Therefore, this divide will have an effect on the outcome of unification, but not as drastic as the article sounds.

Now, the New York Times article:

This article was interesting and more so considering the current tide in the South Korean population.  Such a trend is also seen in Japan, where the population is rapidly ageing, with fewer and fewer children being born into these nations.  However, this article does not deal with this situation, it discusses what happens when people die and there is not a single person to claim them, for a variety of reasons.  The most common reason being the lack of money that is in the family.  The reason that monetary issues arise in this situation are due to the lavishness of funerals n South Korea – though I have personally never been inside of a South Korean funeral, I have seen them from the outside as I walked past Yonsei Funeral Home and can attest to the vast amount of people that attend them and can only start to guess the cost that goes into holding a funeral.  The article describes the position and actions of activist Park Jin-ok, who tries to care for such people, by holding simple funerals for those that find themselves without anyone to provide such a luxury.

The rapid rise of dying alone in South Korea attests to two major issues within the South Korean populace at the time, which are the lack to provide a sensible end to those that need it, based off societal norms that pressure people to hold lavish funerals, as well as showcasing a shift in the family structure that has been a huge part of South Korean society for centuries.  This trend can be fixed through providing cheaper and more affordable ways to say goodbye to those that have moved on, or by simply granting some ease when it comes to this process.  In the words of Park Jin-ok, “a society that lets its poor and abandoned die alone and leave without a funeral is itself dying at its heart,” (quoted in the article.)  Though this may not have a simple fix, I do agree with Park that societies are only as strong as the poor and the right to a proper funeral is something that should be bestowed onto the entire population, not just those that can afford them.  I wish that Mr. Park and his organization, Nanum and Nanum the best at rising awareness at such an issue, as well as providing for those that do have the money or family to provide even a simple funeral for themselves.