Recently, South Korea has been a bit of a mess. There is heightened tension with North Korea leading to the decision to implement the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, problems with China because of it, and the impeachment of former president Park Guen Hye. This post will be a bit long, but stick with me. Hopefully, I can clear up what’s going on in South Korea.
Though South Korea and North Korea are not actively at war, they aren’t at peace either. They’ve been in a state of ceasefire for over 60 years after the signing of the Armistice Agreement in 1953 at the end of the Korean War. Both sides upheld the agreement for a while, but North Korea has blatantly disregarded it for a long time. Because they keep testing nuclear weapons and there have been multiple recent provocations from Pyongyang, (the capitol of North Korea) the implementation of THAAD was approved in July 2016 and is now being deployed. THAAD is an anti-ballistic missile system that can shoot down missiles in their terminal phase, meaning it is only good for protecting the country it is situated in. China is upset about the implementation of THAAD because it feels that it threatens China’s security. Because the range of the radar is very broad, it could see into China and in the event of a war China claims it would give the US an advantage. Because China disagrees with THAAD, they’re trying to hurt South Korean economy by boycotting their products and companies and restricting travel. They are now refusing to watch K-dramas and listen to K-pop, both of which are extremely popular in China, and boycotting the Lotte company. A travel ban was implemented on March 15, but already the Chinese tourist numbers have dropped 70-80%. China is maintaining this stance against THAAD, but hopefully they will calm down and stop this unnecessary ‘retaliation.’
And now, more on the impeachment… Park Geun Hye was officially impeached on March 10, after the impeachment motion was voted on and passed on December 9. She was questioned on March 21 for 14 hours about her involvement in the corruption scandal that led to her impeachment. Now that she is officially out of office, she has lost her presidential immunity and will face criminal charges for her actions. She is facing bribery charges and 13 other various criminal charges, and could potentially face a life sentence. It is likely that she will be indicted, but as of today no decision has been made. Basically, she was involved in a corruption scandal involving big companies such as Lotte, Samsung, CJ, SK and Hyundai and was taking orders from her friend Choi Soon-sil. Her approval rating dropped as low as 1% between the months after this information became known and her impeachment, and there were protests held every Saturday. The new presidential election will be held of May 9, and the current acting president Hwang Kyo-ahn has announced that he will not be running. Some South Koreans hope that the news of this impeachment will reach North Korea and plant the idea in the people’s heads that it is possible to get rid of leadership they don’t like… even though this idea is a bit far-fetched.
As you can see, there is quite a bit going on here, but hopefully the country will re-stabilize soon. If you are interested in reading up more on South Korean news, here are a few links:
Thanks for reading!