SOUTH KOREA NEWS
Park Geun-hye “Will Cooperate with Investigations” but Refuses to Step Down
On November 4, President Park Geun-hye made her second apology since the public learned that she and members of her cabinet had allowed Choi Soon-sil, an individual not holding a government position, to access classified government information and abuse her close connection with the Blue House to collect enormous sums of funds from corporations for her so-called “charity” foundations. Reports also point to the possibility that Choi’s friendship with the president allowed her to influence key government decisions made under the Park administration. Although it is still unclear just how deep the rabbit hole goes, the evidence revealed thus far of Park’s involvement in allowing private interests to influence the operation of the government shows her administration’s willingness to violate South Korea’s democratic process.
With approval ratings at an all-time low (below 9%), Park Geun-hye is taking measures to lessen the damage on her image and deflect pressure from the public. Park’s second public apology on November 4 suggested her willingness to cooperate in an investigation by prosecutors, but Park still shows no intention to resign from the presidential seat. Citizens and many elected officials have been calling for the immediate resignation of Park as the first step in repairing the government.
Family of Fallen Farmer Baek Nam-gi Finally Gives Proper Send-Off
The funeral for farmer Baek Nam-gi began November 3 and will conclude on Saturday November 5. The official funeral service is being held more than one month after Baek was pronounced dead in September. The family members of Baek were unable to proceed with the funeral due to pressures from the police threatening to seize his body for an autopsy. The police, under the orders of the Park Geun-hye administration, tried to conduct their own post-mortem examination in a desperate attempt to avoid taking responsibility for causing the injury that landed Baek in a coma and eventually led to his death. In November 2015, riot cops used high-pressure water cannons against protesters. A blast of water immediately knocked out Baek, who never regained consciousness. Despite medical evidence of external force causing trauma to his brain, the police and the South Korean government refused to acknowledge their responsibility for the death of Baek Nam-gi.
From the day that he was pronounced dead until late October, Baek’s family and supporters fought hard and succeeded in preventing the police from forcibly entering the funeral home, where Baek’s body was kept for over a month.
Baek will be buried in a cemetery in Mangwol-dong, near Gwangju. Those who died fighting for democracy during the Gwangju People’s Uprising on May 18, 1980 are buried in the Mangwol-dong Cemetary.
The public memorial service for Baek Nam-gi is planned for Saturday November 5 at Gwanghwamun Plaza amidst ongoing protests calling for Park Geun-hye’s resignation over the “Choi Soon-sil” corruption scandal.
South Korea-Japan Hold Talks on Military Info-sharing
While South Korea is embroiled in a corruption scandal involving the president and key Blue House aids, the government continues to pursue a military alliance with Japan. On November 1, the two governments held the first round of bilateral talks on the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), which would streamline the exchange of North Korea-related intelligence between Japan and South Korea.
This was the first time that the two countries came together to resume talks about the GSOMIA since it collapsed in 2012 due to large-scale public opposition in South Korea. Although aggressively pushed by the United States, a military alliance between the two countries is widely opposed in South Korea due to Japan’s refusal to acknowledge its past war crimes. The South Korean government reportedly requested the word ‘military’ be removed from the name of the agreement to avoid offending the South Korean public.