South Korean president Park Geun-hye
Outraged South Korean citizens putting up posters featuring caricatures of Park Geun-hye as a puppet being controlled by puppet master Choi Soon-sil.

Park Geun-hye’s Days as President May be Numbered

South Korean President Park Geun-hye faces widespread calls for impeachment after reports surfaced revealing her involvement in a bizarre corruption scandal.

Park is specifically under criticism for sharing major classified government documents with her confidant, Choi Soon-sil, who has no official government credentials to access government files.

The scandal, also referred to as “Choi Soon-sil Gate,” exploded after the discovery of a trashed hard drive containing 200 classified government documents that Park shared with Choi.

Revelations suggest that Choi, the daughter of a fringe religious figure and long-time family friend of Park, was secretly coaching the president on how to run the country – from vetting public officials appointed at the highest levels of the administration to giving feedback on the president’s official speeches.

Even South Korea’s conservative news outlets, traditionally staunch supporters of the president, are now questioning her legitimacy. A headline in the Chosun Ilbo called the scandal “Embarrassing,” and a headline in DongA Ilbo asked if the true president of the country was not Park but Choi.

On October 29, people are expected to gather in Gwanghwamun Plaza for a mass demonstration to demand Park Geun-hye’s impeachment.

For Sukjong Hong’s take on the scandal, see “For a Truly Devastating Email Controversy, Go to South Korea” in the New Republic. 

For more, also see The Hankyoreh editorial “With scandal raging, is Park Geun-hye still laughing?



U.S. Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper; Photo - Associated Press

U.S. Intelligence Chief Recommends Negotiations with DPRK to Cap Nuclear Program

While President Park Geun-hye is embroiled in a public scandal that has sparked widespread calls for her resignation, U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper called the denuclearization of North Korea – arguably Park’s top foreign policy priority – a “lost cause.” 

Speaking to the Council of Foreign Relations on Tuesday October 25, Clapper gave his assessment of the nuclear capabilities of North Korea. North Korea possibly has the capability to attach nuclear warheads to intercontinental ballistic missiles that can reach parts of the U.S., particularly Hawaii and Alaska, he said. Although neither the U.S. nor North Korea can confirm that such missile systems work properly, he added, the U.S. should be concerned and should “make the worst case assumption.”

In a possible sign that the U.S. is distancing itself from Park’s unrestrained antagonism towards North Korea, Clapper concluded that denuclearization is unrealistic and the best option is to negotiate with North Korea with the goal of limiting its nuclear capabilities.



Baek Nam-gi supporters blocking entrances to funeral home building to prevent police from seizing Baek's body for an autopsy. Signs read, "Absolutely No to Autopsy."

Warrant for Baek Nam-gi’s Autopsy Expires, Police Give Up on Seizing Body

After one full month of struggle, the family and supporters of farmer Baek Nam-gi were finally able to prevent the police from seizing his body for an autopsy. The term for the warrant to claim the body for an autopsy concluded on October 25.

On October 23, two days before the expiration of the warrant, close to 1,000 cops were deployed with the intent of forcibly seizing the body of Baek. However, supporters of the Baek family were prepared to fight off the police as they neared the end of the term for the warrant. 500 people blocked off the entry ways to the funeral home, where Baek’s body had remained since his death. They were successful in preventing the police from entering the building. The family’s legal representatives directly communicated a message that reaffirmed the family’s refusal of an autopsy.

Although many suspected the police to reapply for the autopsy warrant, the Seoul Police Department announced on October 28 – amidst a public scandal that has sparked widespread calls for the ouster of the president – that it will not be pursuing another autopsy warrant.

On September 25, Baek succumbed to his injuries, originally inflicted by blasts of water shot by riot cops using a water cannon during a mass people’s protest in November of 2015. The farmer and activist passed away after spending nearly a year in a state of coma. Immediately following his passing, the police attempted to seize his body for an autopsy, despite overwhelming evidence proving his death to be the result of brain trauma caused by high-powered water cannon blasts shot by the riot police. Since Baek’s death, supporters have stayed in the vicinity of the hospital and the funeral home to protect his body from seizure by the police. The struggle to keep the police from getting their hands on Baek’s body lasted a full month before the autopsy warrant expired and the police gave up on applying for a renewal of the warrant.


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