From South Korean president to prisoner 503, Park Geun Hye goes to jail.

Ousted South Korean president Park Geun-Hye is now just prisoner 503, incarcerated in a spartan cell while prosecutors decide whether to indict her over a corruption scandal that precipitated her fall from grace.

The former head of state spent her first night in solitary confinement at Seoul Detention Centre after a court Friday ordered her to be held pending charges.

She had her mugshot taken and was given a prison kit including toiletries, a meal tray and a quilt, reports said.

After being processed like any other prisoner, Park, 65, was assigned a 10.6 square metre (114 square feet) solitary cell, larger than the average 6.5 square metre cell, Yonhap news agency said.

“After taking a bath, she changed into green-coloured winter-season prison garb” an official of the Justice Ministry was quoted as saying by the Joongang Ilbo daily.

The chest of Park’s uniform was emblazoned with her prison number — 503 — by which she will be known during her incarceration.

Park burst into tears as guards showed her to her cell, TV Chosun said, quoting unidentified sources.

Prosecutors have yet to specify the formal charges against her, but have previously said she is suspected of bribery, abuse of authority, coercion, and leaking government secrets.

They plan to resume questioning her early next week, most likely by visiting her in the prison instead of summoning her to their office, Yonhap said.

Prosecutors have until April 19 to question Park before they indict her.

Park secured the largest vote share of any candidate in the democratic era when she was elected in 2012.

But she was impeached by parliament in December, as the scandal combined with mounting economic and social frustrations to trigger huge candlelit demonstrations. The Constitutional Court later upheld the decision.

Park, the daughter of late dictator Park Chung-Hee, is the third former leader to be arrested over corruption in Asia’s fourth-largest economy, where politics and big business have long been closely tied.

If eventually found guilty, she would face at least 10 years in prison, legal experts said.


Source: The Guardian

South Korean Ex-leader, Park Questioned For 14 Hours Over Corruption Scandal

South Korea’s ousted President, Park Geun-Hye, has been questioned for 14 hours over a corruption scandal.

The 65-year-old has been allegedly
colluding with close friend Choi Soon-Il, to coerce tens of millions of U.S. dollars out of big Korean companies like Samsung.

Choi Soon-Il is currently in Police detention and on trial, so is heir apparent of Samsung, Lee Jae Yong.

Just before she entered the prosecutor’s office, Ms Park apologised to the people and promised to cooperate with questioning.

She, however, did not exercise her right to remain silent during the marathon questioning session which lasted into the night.

According to reports, the prosecutors would have to determine based on their investigation and Ms Park’s statements, whether or not to issue a warrant for her arrest.


Source: Channels TV

Impeached South Korean president apologises for corruption scandal

Park Geun-hye, ousted South Korean president, on Tuesday apologised to the country’s citizens after appearing in the prosecutors’ office for questioning over corruption allegations that led to her impeachment.

According to NAN, Geun-hye said she was sorry in front of the cameras at Seoul central district prosecutors’ office, vowing to face her interrogation faithfully.

“I am sorry to the people. I will faithfully cooperate with questioning,” Geun-hye said as she proceeded to the prosecutors’ office.

Geun-hye who has stayed in her private home since she vacated the presidential Blue House on March 12, was slammed with a total of 13 counts.

She will be interrogated by state prosecutors for her alleged involvement in the scandal, which removed her from office after the impeachment was passed in the parliament on December 9. The constitutional court upheld the motion on March 10.

During the interrogation, prosecutors would focus on Geun-hye’s alleged involvement in bribery, abuse of power and leakage of state secrets.

Geun-hye, 65, has been accused of colluding with her decades-long confidante Choi Soon-sil, who is now in custody, to receive tens of millions of US dollars in bribes from Samsung Electronics vice chairman Lee Jae-yong, the heir apparent of Samsung group.

The kickbacks are suspected of being offered in return for helping Lee inherit the overall management control of the country’s biggest family-controlled conglomerate from his ailing father Chairman Lee Kun-hee, who was hospitalised after a heart attack almost three years ago.

Geun-hye was also identified as an accomplice of Choi in helping solicit tens of millions of US dollars from scores of large business conglomerates to establish two non-profit foundations Choi used for personal gains.

Choi has been charged with meddling in state affairs behind the scenes by receiving government documents on a regular basis delivered by one of Park’s former presidential secretaries.

Geun-hye will be the fourth South Korean former president to be questioned by prosecutors.


Source: The Cable

U.S. deploys attack drones to South Korea amid tension with North

The U.S. has started deploying attack drones to South Korea, a U.S. military spokesman said on Monday, days after it began to deploy an advanced anti-missile system to counter “continued provocative actions” by isolated North Korea.

U.S. Forces Korea spokesman Christopher Bush said in a statement that the drones, Gray Eagle Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) coming to South Korea are part of a broader plan to deploy a company of the attack drones with every division.

“The UAS adds significant intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability to U.S. Forces Korea and our ROK partners,” Mr. Bush said.

He did not say exactly when the drones would arrive in South Korea, officially the Republic of Korea.

North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests and a string of missile tests since the beginning of last year, despite the imposition of new UN sanctions.

On Friday, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said Washington was re-evaluating its North Korea strategy and “all options are on the table.”

The Gray Eagle is a remotely controlled attack drone made by U.S.-based General Atomics.

Mr. Bush said they will be stationed at Kunsan Air Base, 180 km (112 miles) south of Seoul and would be permanently based in South Korea.

On March 7, the U.S. deployed the “first elements” of the controversial Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) anti-missile system to South Korea, inspite of angry opposition from China.

Once fully deployed in South Korea, a THAAD battery could theoretically use its radar to see and monitor activity beyond North Korea, deep into Chinese territory.

Russia also worries the deployment could compromise its security, and said it would lead to a stalemate on the Korean peninsula.

South Korea will hold a presidential election by May 9 after the impeachment and dismissal on Friday of its former president, Park Geun-hye, and policy on North Korea and the THAAD system are likely to be contentious issues in the campaign.


Source: Reuters/NAN

UPDATE: South Korean President, Park Geun-hye has been impeached.

South Korean lawmakers on Friday impeached President Park Geun-hye, a stunning and swift fall for the country’s first female leader amid protests that drew millions into the streets in united fury.


After the vote, parliamentary officials hand-delivered formal documents to the presidential Blue House that stripped Park of her power and allowed the country’s No. 2 official, Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, to assume leadership until the Constitutional Court rules on whether Park must permanently step down. The court has up to six months to decide.

“I’d like to say that I’m deeply sorry to the people because the nation has to experience this turmoil because of my negligence and lack of virtue at a time when our security and economy both face difficulties,” Park said after the vote, before a closed-door meeting with her Cabinet where she and other aides reportedly broke down in tears.


Hwang separately said that he wanted “the ruling and opposition political parties and the parliament to gather strength and wisdom so that we can return stability to the country and people as soon as possible.”


Once called the “Queen of Elections” for her ability to pull off wins for her party, Park has been surrounded in the Blue House in recent weeks by millions of South Koreans who have taken to the streets in protest. They are furious over what prosecutors say was collusion by Park with a longtime friend to extort money from companies and to give that confidante extraordinary sway over government decisions.


Organizers said about 10,000 people gathered in front of the National Assembly to demand that lawmakers pass the impeachment motion. Some had spent the night on the streets after traveling from other cities. Scuffles broke out between angry anti-Park farmers, some of whom had driven tractors to the assembly from their farms, and police. When impeachment happened, many of those gathered raised their hands in the air and leapt about, cheering and laughing.


“Can you hear the roar of the people in front of the National Assembly?” Kim Kwan-young, an opposition lawmaker said ahead of the vote, referring to South Korea’s formal name. “Our great people have already opened the way. Let’s make it so we can stand honorably in front of history and our descendants.”


The handover of power prompted the prime minister to order South Korea’s defense minister to put the military on a state of heightened readiness to brace for any potential provocation by North Korea. No suspicious movements by the North were reported, however.


Park will be formally removed from office if at least six of the Constitutional Court’s nine justices support her impeachment, and the country would then hold a presidential election within 60 days.

National Assembly speaker Chung Sye-kyun said the bill on Park’s impeachment was passed by a vote of 234 for and 56 opposed, with seven invalid votes and two abstentions. That well surpassed the necessary two-thirds vote needed in the 300-seat assembly, with the opposition getting strong support from members of Park’s party.


Present for the vote were relatives of the victims of a 2014 ferry disaster that killed more than 300 and was blamed in part on government incompetence and corruption; they cheered and clapped after the impeachment was announced. Most lawmakers left the hall quietly, though some could be seen taking selfies as they waited to vote.


Lawmakers from both parties faced huge pressure to act against Park, the daughter of a military dictator still revered by many conservatives for lifting the country from poverty in the 1960s and 1970s.


Her approval ratings had plunged to 4 percent, the lowest among South Korean leaders since democracy came in the late 1980s, and even elderly conservatives who once made up her political base have distanced themselves from her. An opinion survey released earlier Friday showed 81 percent of respondents supported Park’s impeachment.


South Korean lawmakers last voted to impeach a president in 2004, when they accused late liberal President Roh Moo-hyun of minor election law violations and incompetence. The Constitutional Court restored Roh’s powers about two months later, ruling that his wrongdoings weren’t serious enough to justify his unseating.


The chances of the court reinstating Park are considered low because her charges are much graver. Some legal experts say the court might need more than a couple of months to decide. This is because Park’s case is much more complicated than Roh’s, and because her lawyers will likely press the court not to uphold the impeachment unless the suspicions against her are proven.


Hundreds gathered Friday night at a boulevard in front of an old palace gate in downtown Seoul, which has been the center of demonstrations in recent weeks calling for Park’s removal. Protesters planned to march close to the Blue House.


The impeachment is a remarkable fall for Park, who convincingly beat her liberal opponent in 2012. Park’s single, five-year term was originally set to end Feb. 24, 2018.


The political turmoil around Park comes after years of frustration over a leadership style that inspired comparisons to her father, Park Chung-hee. Critics saw in Park an unwillingness to tolerate dissent as her government cracked down on press freedom, pushed to dissolve a leftist party and allowed aggressive police suppression of anti-government protests, which saw the death of an activist in 2016.


She also was heavily criticized over her government’s handling of the 2014 ferry sinking; most of those victims were school kids.


Park has repeatedly apologized over the public anger caused by the latest scandal, but has denied any legal wrongdoing. She attempted to avoid impeachment last month by making a conditional offer to step down if parliament could come up with a stable power-transfer plan, but the overture was dismissed by opposition lawmakers as a stalling ploy.


In indicting Park’s longtime friend, Choi Soon-sil, and two former presidential aides last month, state prosecutors said they believed the president was “collusively involved” in criminal activities by the suspects. Choi and the two former aides were accused of bullying large companies into providing tens of millions of dollars and favors to foundations and businesses Choi controlled, and enabling Choi to interfere with state affairs.


Park’s lawyer has called the accusations groundless.


Park first met Choi in the 1970s, around the time Park was acting as first lady after her mother was killed during a 1974 assassination attempt on her father. Choi’s father, a shadowy figure named Choi Tae-min who was a Buddhist monk, a religious cult leader and a Christian pastor at different times, emerged as Park’s mentor.


The Choi clan has long been suspected of building a fortune by using their connections with Park to extort companies and government organizations. Choi’s ex-husband is also a former close aide of Park’s.

The South Korean parliament has voted to impeach their president

South Korean president Park Geun-hye is fighting for her political life after MPs voted to impeach her over a corruption and cronyism scandal that has made her the country’s most unpopular leader since it became a democracy in the late 1980s.


Friday’s vote in favour of impeachment is also being seen as a reflection of public anger over how South Korea, despite decades of economic development and freedoms that contrast dramatically with its neighbour North Korea, remains in the grip of a corrupt political and industrial elite.

By the time the votes were tallied, enough members of Park’s own Saenuri party had voted against her to bring about her impeachment – a measure of the damage inflicted on her reputation since the scandal surfaced less than two months ago.

The National assembly speaker, Chung Sye-kyun, said the bill had passed by a vote of 234 to 56, with nine invalid votes and abstentions. The bill needed the support of 200 of the assembly’s 300 members to pass.

As politicians brought Park’s presidency to the brink of destruction, protesters gathered in front of the national assembly in Seoul calling for her to resign. Inside the chamber, opposition MPs sat on the floor, raised their fists and chanted “Impeach!”

Park is expected to wait for the country’s constitutional court to decide whether Friday’s impeachment vote is valid – a process that could take up to six months. The success of the impeachment bill – on which MPs voted anonymously – means Park will be stripped of her power. Her duties will be temporarily transferred to the prime minister, Hwang Kyo-ahn, while the court reviews whether her impeachment is constitutionally sound.

If six of the court’s nine justices support the impeachment, Park will be removed from office and a new presidential election held within 60 days.

The crisis, sparked in late October by Park’s relationship with Choi Soon-sil, an old friend, is by far the most serious of her presidency, which was supposed to run until early 2018.

Revelations that Park abused her position to help Choi secure tens of millions of dollars in funding for her foundations from major South Korean companies, and even allowed her to influence policy, have provoked a wave of anger across the country, sending the president’s approval rating to a record low of 4%.

Choi faces embezzlement charges. Park, who has been named as a formal suspect, has denied seeking any personal gain.

The revelations have led to massive protests in recent weeks, with organisers claiming that as many as 1.5 million people turned out in the capital, Seoul, last weekend to demand that Park step down.

South Korea says Trump pledged commitment to its defense.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump pledged his commitment to defending South Korea under an existing security alliance during a phone call with South Korean President Park Geun-hye on Thursday, her office said.

Trump had said during the election campaign he would be willing to withdraw U.S. military stationed in South Korea unless Seoul paid a greater share of the cost of the deployment. There are about 28,500 U.S. troops based in South Korea in combined defense against North Korea.

Park said the alliance between the two countries had grown as they faced various challenges over the past six decades, adding she hoped the ties would develop further.

She asked Trump to join in the effort to help minimize the threat from the North, which has carried out a series of nuclear and missile tests in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions and sanctions.

Trump agreed with Park and said: “We will be steadfast and strong with respect to working with you to protect against the instability in North Korea,” the presidential Blue House said.

The official newspaper of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party said on Thursday the U.S. wish for North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program “is only a fantasy of a bygone era” and the policy of pressure and sanctions had failed.

“The only accomplishment of the Obama administration is that it is leaving behind for the new administration coming next year the burden of having to deal with a strong nuclear power,” Rodong Sinmun said in a commentary.

It did not mention Trump by name. But Choson Sinbo, a pro-North newspaper published in Japan and controlled by Pyongyang, said: “Trump is well advised to learn the lesson of history from Obama’s failure.

“Otherwise, the new owner of the White House will be met with the ashes of the calamity started by the previous owner.”

The call between Park and Trump lasted about 10 minutes and Park said she hoped Trump would be able to visit South Korea soon, according to the Blue House.

There has been concern in South Korea that a Trump presidency will demand that Seoul sharply raise its share of the cost of maintaining the U.S. military presence in the country.

Trump said earlier this year in various media interviews that he would be willing to withdraw U.S. forces from South Korea and Japan but “would not do so happily”.

“We get paid nothing, we get paid peanuts” for deploying the troops to South Korea,” he said in an interview with CNN.

Under a five-year cost-sharing accord reached two years ago, Seoul agreed to contribute $867 million toward U.S. military costs in 2014, about 40 percent of the total. The deal called for the amount to rise annually at the rate of inflation.

South Korea believes its share of the cost is much higher when the vast amount of land occupied by the U.S. forces including a large area in central Seoul are considered.

Some members of parliament have suggested that the country has little choice but to consider nuclear armament if U.S. forces are withdrawn while North Korea continues to develop nuclear weapons and missiles that could carry them.

South Korea’s Defence Ministry spokesman Moon Sang-gyun said on Thursday the country has paid for its share of the cost of maintaining the U.S. military and the contribution has been recognized by the U.S. government and Congress.

South Korea and the United States have also agreed to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) anti-missile system with the U.S. military to counter missile threats from North Korea.

South Korea has consistently said it had no plan to buy the THAAD system, which is built by Lockheed Martin Corp and costs an estimated $800 million a piece, that will likely add to the cost of maintaining the U.S. military presence.

The two Koreas remain in a technical state of war after their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

North Korea’s ‘Saturday Night Live’ Mocks Obama, South Korea

“I smacked my head on the bathroom floor,” a bloodied and bandaged President Barack Obama says, “as I was so shocked by North Korea’s hydrogen bomb detonation!”

This is satirical political comedy, Pyongyang style.
A recent episode of the snappily named “The stage of optimism that Songun presented — Volume 11,” which airs on state-controlled Korea Central Television (KCTV), lampooned the US leader and “oppressed” South Koreans ahead of the North’s nuclear warhead test this month.So, Mr. President, you were testing the hardness of your skull while the North was testing its hydrogen bomb?” an actor playing Obama’s secretary asks him.
Later in the show, Seoul’s envoy to the US is described as a “bitch on the run,” while her Japanese counterpart is called a “monkey.”
According to NK News, a specialist website focused on North Korea, “this is the first time the North has explicitly used US and South Korea-related satire in its comedy.”
Read More: CNN

Top Diplomats From U.S., Japan, South Korea To Meet Over North Korea

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts in New York on Sunday to discuss responses to North Korea’s latest nuclear test, South Korea’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

The three countries are pushing for tough new U.N. Security Council sanctions on North Korea after the isolated country on Friday conducted its fifth and largest nuclear test.

The blast was in defiance of U.N. sanctions that were tightened in March.

China, the North’s chief ally, backed the March resolution but is more resistant to harsh new sanctions this time after the United States and South Korea decided to deploy a sophisticated anti-missile system in the South, which China adamantly opposes.

South Korea said Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and his counterparts Kerry and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida will meet during the annual U.N. General Assembly to discuss putting further pressure on North Korea.

The United States wants China to do more, with U.S. Defence Secretary Ash Carter last week singling out the role he said China should play in curbing its neighbour.

Read More: reuters


N. Korea Elevates Tensions, Fires Missiles, Liquidates South Assets

North Korea looked to ratchet up already elevated tensions on the Korean peninsula still further Thursday, firing a pair of short-range missiles and announcing the liquidation of all remaining South Korean assets on its territory. The moves were a direct response to unilateral sanctions announced by South Korea on Tuesday to punish the North for its January nuclear test and last month’s long-range rocket launch. Military tensions have been on the rise ever since the January test — the fourth nuclear device North Korea has detonated in defiance of UN resolutions.

The UN Security Council responded with tough, new sanctions, which Pyongyang condemned as a “gangster-like” provocation orchestrated by the United States. The North also reacted furiously to the start earlier this week of large-scale South Korea-US military drills, threatening pre-emptive nuclear strikes against both Seoul and the US mainland. The asset seizure announced on Thursday referred to two now-shuttered joint projects, the Mount Kumgang tourism resort and the Kaesong joint industrial complex. “We will completely liquidate all assets of South Korean firms and related institutions left behind in our region,” the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said in statement carried by the North’s official KCNA news agency. – ‘Nullify all agreements’ – “From this time on, we nullify all agreements adopted by North and South Korea on economic cooperation and exchange programmes,” the committee said.

It also warned of other unspecified “special measures” — political, military and economic — it would take against the South in the future. South Korea announced the suspension of operations at the Seoul-funded Kaesong industrial complex last month, saying that money Pyongyang made from the venture was going towards its nuclear weapons programme. The shock announcement prompted the North to expel all South Koreans from the estate and freeze all assets there, shutting down the last symbol of cross-border economic cooperation. An association representing the 120 firms operating factories in Kaesong, which lies just across the North Korean border, estimated the value of the assets left behind at 820 billion won ($663 million). The head of the association, Jeong Gi-Seob, described the liquidation order as “outrageous”.

Hundreds of South Korean men give up nationality to avoid military service

More than 16,000 South Korean men have given up their nationality to avoid the mandatory military service in recent years, South Korean opposition lawmaker said on Monday in Seoul.

Rep. Jin Sung-joon of the main opposition, New Politics Alliance for Democracy, said that a total of 4,386 men opted for foreign citizenship in 2014, up from 3,470 men in 2011.

He said the information was contained in a data of the Military Manpower Administration submitted to the National Assembly for annual audit.

Sung-joon said that in the first seven months of 2015, 2,374 men gave up their nationality to avoid military service.

He said that majority of the men became citizens of the U.S. followed by Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

“Separate data showed that nearly 1 in 10 high-ranking public officials was exempted from the military service.

Sung-joon said it is mandatory that all able-bodied South Korean men must carry out military service for about two years.

US Ambassador Attacked in South Korea

The US ambassador to South Korea has been attacked by a knife-wielding man shouting anti-war slogans during a public event at an arts centre in Seoul.

The ambassador, Mark Lippert, was assaulted during a breakfast conference on Thursday as he was preparing to give a lecture about prospects for peace on the divided Korean Peninsula.

The US embassy said Lippert was in stable condition after surgery at a Seoul hospital. Hours after the attack Lippert tweeted that he is “doing well and in great spirits”.

The suspect, identified by police as Kim Ki-jong, 55, was immediately apprehended at the scene. Police said he slashed Lippert on the face and wrist with a knife. Kim had a previous conviction for hurling a stone at the then Japanese ambassador to Seoul in 2010, police said.

“We have detained him and are investigating the cause of the attack and other circumstances,” said district police chief Yoon Myung-soon.

Sources told Al Jazeera that Kim is the head of a relatively small civic organisation that has been calling for peace and reconciliation with North Korea.

Read More: Aljazeera