SOUTH KOREA NEWS
South Korea’s Ongoing Political Circus
In her first public appearance since the South Korean national assembly voted to impeach her, Park Geun-hye met with a select group of reporters on January 1 to deny all allegations against her and accuse her opponents of framing her. “The matter is under investigation, so I can’t make detailed explanations that might put both sides in trouble,” she said, “but what I can assure you is that I have never conspired with anyone or did anything to give favors to someone, not even by a bit.”
Meanwhile, the special prosecutor charged with investigating the “Park Geun-hye-Choi Soon-sil gate” has reportedly gathered evidence that Park had three private meetings with Samsung Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong in 2015 and 2016 to recommend that his corporation give money to support a sports foundation run by Choi Soon-sil’s cousin. Samsung donated two large sums, totaling 1.6 billion won (approximately 1.3 million USD) to the sports foundation, according to the special prosecutor, and both transactions took place immediately after President Park privately met with the corporation’s vice chair. The special prosecutor is investigating allegations that Park, in exchange, orchestrated government support for a corporate merger that would clench Lee Jae-yong’s ascension to ownership of the Samsung group.
Delivery Drivers’ Union Drive
With the advent of online shopping, package deliveries have increased 27 times over the past ten years in South Korea. In order to make deliveries on time, drivers now work over 70 hours per week and are often forced to forego lunch breaks and work through the weekends.
In an effort to improve their working conditions, delivery truck drivers resolved to form a union under the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU). On January 8, the Korean Delivery Workers’ Union (전국택배연대노동조합) will hold its official inauguration event. As a union, they aim to achieve– reduction of their extreme workload and direct employment (and the benefits that come with it) for drivers currently working under contracts.
Ahead of the official formation of the Delivery Workers’ Union, CJ Korea Express, South Korea’s largest cargo delivery company, is allegedly threatening workers intending to join the union. On January 5, members of the Delivery Workers Union Preparatory Committee held a press conference to address the company’s threats. The preparatory committee revealed that CJ Korea Express threatened to discontinue contracts with drivers who attend the union inauguration. Such threats are considered illegal and in violation of basic workers’ rights.
At the press conference, the members of the Delivery Workers Union Preparatory Committee demanded CJ Korea Express abide by the labor laws and ensure that delivery workers are able to realize their constitutional right to assemble as an independent organization without fear of threats or retaliation.
Women Boycott Lotte to Stop THAAD Deployment
Women’s groups in Seongju, Gimcheon, the Won Buddhist community and other regions across South Korea are calling for a boycott against the Lotte corporation for its cooperation with the Defense Ministry in the deployment of the U.S.’ Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system.
On January 2, the women’s groups held a press conference in front of a Lotte department store in Seoul and demanded the company reject the government’s offer to exchange a military-owned plot of land with the Lotte Skyhill Golf Course in Seongju, where the USFK wants to deploy the THAAD system. They also vowed to protest in front of Lotte stores across the country and boycott its products and services until Lotte agrees to reject the Defense Ministry’s deal.
NORTH KOREA NEWS
Kim Jong-un’s New Year Address: “No Denuclearization without Change in U.S. Policy”
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un gave a 27-minute new year address on January 1, 2017. He praised the country’s achievements in 2016, including the successful seventh congress of the Worker’s Party and progress made in the development of its economy as well as nuclear weapons as deterrence. He listed implementation of the five-year economic plan produced by the seventh party congress as a key priority in 2017. He also urged Koreans in the North, South and overseas to step up efforts for peaceful and self-reliant reunification, and rebuffed the possibility of denuclearization without a fundamental shift in U.S. policy.