South Korea’s top court ordered new trials Thursday for former president Park Geun-hye and Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong over the corruption scandal that brought her down, in a blow to the world’s biggest smartphone and memory chip maker. Park is serving a 25-year jail term after being convicted last year on bribery and abuse of power charges. But Lee, whose sprawling conglomerate is vital to the health of the world’s 11th-largest economy, had many of his convictions quashed on appeal in February 2018 and was released after being given a suspended sentence. Their trials highlighted shady links between big business and politics in South Korea, with Park and her close friend Choi Soon-sil accused of taking bribes from corporate bigwigs in exchange for preferential treatment. South Korea’s Supreme Court on Thursday sent all three of their cases back for new proceedings, saying that errors had been made in the judgements. After a 10-month trial — in which she boycotted most of the proceedings in protest at being held in custody — Park was convicted in April last year of receiving or demanding more than $20 million from conglomerates, sharing secret state documents, “blacklisting” artists critical of her policies, and firing officials who resisted her abuses of power. She was sentenced to 24 years, later extended for an additional 12 months. But the Supreme Court ruled that under the country’s public official election act, courts must rule separately on bribery accusations when incumbent or former presidents face multiple criminal charges. “We
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said South Korea’s decision to cancel a deal to share military intelligence, mainly on North Korea, is damaging mutual trust and vowed Friday to work closely with the U.S. for regional peace. Abe also accused South Korea of not keeping past promises. The intelligence agreement started in 2016. “We will continue to closely coordinate with the U.S. to ensure regional peace and prosperity, as well as Japan’s security,” he said ahead of his departure for the Group of Seven summit of industrialized nations in France. South Korea announced Thursday it would terminate the intelligence deal because Tokyo’s decision to downgrade South Korea’s preferential trade status had caused a “grave” change in the security cooperation between the countries. Seoul says it will downgrade Tokyo’s trade status as well, a change that would take effect in September. Senior South Korean presidential official Kim Hyun-chong on Friday defended his government’s decision. He told reporters that “there is no longer any justification” for South Korea to continue the deal because of Japan’s claim that basic trust between the countries had been undermined. South Korea has accused Japan of weaponizing trade to punish it over a separate dispute linked to Japan’s brutal colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945. Japan denies any retaliation. Kim accused Japan of having ignored South Korea’s repeated calls for dialogue and other conciliatory steps to resolve the bitter trade and history disputes. He said Japan’s “breach of diplomatic etiquette” had undermined “our
North Korea launched at least two short-range ballistic missiles on Friday, South Korea’s military said, shortly after Pyongyang described South Korea’s president as “impudent” and vowed that inter-Korean talks are over. The North has protested against joint U.S.-South Korea military drills, largely computer-simulated, which kicked off last week, calling them a rehearsal for war. It has also fired several short-range missiles in recent weeks. North Korea fired two more short-range projectiles into the sea off its east coast on Friday morning, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a statement. Japan’s defence ministry said it did not see any imminent security threat from the latest projectile launch. A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said initial information indicated at least one projectile was fired by North Korea and appeared to be similar to the short-range missiles fired in previous weeks. Another official said the United States was consulting with South Korea and Japan. An official at Seoul’s defence ministry said the latest test involved ballistic technology and detailed analysis was under way with the United States with the possibility that the North fired the same type of missiles it used on Aug. 10. The missiles were launched shortly after 8 a.m. Friday (2300 GMT Thursday) and flew around 230 kms (142 miles) to an altitude of 30 kms (18 miles), South Korea’s JCS said. The launches have complicated attempts to restart talks between U.S. and North Korean negotiators over the future of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and ballistic
The United States will “do what it can do” to help defuse a worsening political and economic dispute between South Korea and Japan, a senior U.S. diplomat said on Wednesday, as South Korea warned that the row would have global repercussions. The United States has been hesitant to publicly wade into the feud between its allies, but the dispute, which threatens global supplies of memory chips and smartphones, has overshadowed the visit by David Stilwell, the top U.S. diplomat for East Asia policy. Stilwell told reporters in the South Korean capital, Seoul, that he took the situation seriously but did not elaborate on what steps Washington might take and said fundamentally it was up to South Korea and Japan to resolve their differences. “We hope that resolution will happen soon,” he said. “The United States, as a close friend and ally to both, will do what it can do to support their efforts to resolve it.” Last week, Stilwell had told Japan’s NHK broadcaster the United States would not intervene in the dispute, and instead encouraged dialogue between Washington’s two biggest allies in Asia to settle it. Simmering tension, particularly over the issue of compensation for South Koreans forced to work for Japanese occupiers during World War Two, took a sharp turn for the worse this month, when Japan restricted exports of high-tech materials to South Korea. Japan has denied that the dispute over compensation is behind the export curbs, even though one of its ministers cited broken trust with
The son of the highest-profile South Korean to defect to North Korea has arrived in the North to permanently resettle, North Korean state media said. The state-run Uriminzokkiri website reported that Choe In-guk, about 72, arrived in Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, on Saturday to dedicate the rest of his life to Korean unification at the guidance of leader Kim Jong Un. The website published photos and a video showing a bespectacled Choe in a beret reading his arrival statement at Pyongyang’s airport. Choe said he decided to live in North Korea for good because it was his parents’ “dying wishes” for him to “follow” North Korea and work for its unification with South Korea, according to a written statement published on the website. Choe is the son of former South Korean Foreign Minister Choe Dok-shin, who defected to North Korea with his wife in 1986, years after he was reportedly embroiled in a corruption scandal and political disputes with then-South Korean President Park Chung-hee. He died in 1989. Some analysts say North Korea accepted Choe In-guk so it could use him as a propaganda tool to tell its citizens its system is superior to South Korea’s. North Korea is struggling to revive its moribund economy and improve people’s livelihoods, since the United States has not agreed on major sanctions relief until it takes significant steps toward nuclear disarmament. South Korea’s Unification Ministry said Choe In-guk was in North Korea without special permission from the Seoul government to visit the North.
North Korea said Thursday that South Korea must stop trying to mediate between Pyongyang and Washington, as it stepped up its pressure on the United States to work out new proposals to salvage deadlocked nuclear diplomacy. The North Korean statement was an apparent continuation of its displeasure with Seoul and Washington over the stalled diplomacy. But there are no signs that North Korea would formally abandon talks anytime soon as an inter-Korean liaison office in North Korean remains operating and the North still talks about good relations between its leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump. The statement came two days before Trump visits South Korea for a two-day trip. There have been no public meetings between the United States and North Korea since the breakdown of the second summit between Trump and Kim in Hanoi in February. Kim returned home empty-handed after Trump refused to provide him with badly needed sanctions relief in return for a limited denuclearization step. The summit’s collapse was a blow to South Korean President Moon Jae-in, a liberal who shuttled between Washington and Pyongyang to facilitate talks between the countries to help find a diplomatic settlement of the North Korean nuclear crisis. Talks of revival of diplomacy, however, has flared after Trump and Kim recently exchanged personal letters. Moon said earlier this week that U.S. and North Korean officials were holding “behind-the-scene talks” to try to set up a third summit between Trump and Kim. Moon also said talks between the two Koreas
Impoverished North Korea is suffering its worst drought in decades and food supplies are reportedly running low, but South Korea’s push to provide aid is bogged down in the growing tension marked by missile tests and sanctions crackdowns. South Korea is seeking to send food directly to the North while scaling up donations to international agencies including the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP), two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters. If it comes off, it would mark the South’s first bilateral food aid since 2010, when it delivered 5,000 tons of rice, Unification Ministry data shows. The WFP says more than 10 million North Koreans are in urgent need after crop output plunged to a decade low last year. On Monday, the Red Cross said this year’s early drought is threatening the summer harvest, adding to the crisis. A devastating famine in the 1990s, exacerbated by drought, killed as many as a million North Koreans, with many resorting to eating tree bark and grass. The North’s official KCNA news agency on Wednesday said this year’s rainfall so far was the lowest since 1982, while the Rodong Sinmun newspaper called for staging “war against the nature”, mobilising all available water pumps and irrigation equipment. But tension again has mounted since a second summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump, aimed at bringing about the denuclearisation of the North, broke down in Hanoi in February. The North has fired two missiles and multiple projectiles in
North Korea fired several “unidentified short-range projectiles” into the sea off its east coast on Saturday, prompting South Korea to call on its communist neighbour to “stop acts that escalate military tension on the Korean Peninsula”. The South Korean military initially described it as a missile launch, but subsequently gave a more vague description. The latest firing came after the North’s test of what it called a tactical guided weapons system in April.
Analysts suspected the flurry of military activity by Pyongyang was an attempt to exert pressure on the United States to give ground in negotiations to end the North’s nuclear programme after a summit in February ended in failure. South Korea’s presidency urged North Korea to refrain from further action in one of the most stiffly-worded statements since the two Koreas embarked on reconciliation efforts early last year.
“We are very concerned about the North’s latest action,” South Korea’s presidential spokeswoman said in the statement, adding that it violates an inter-Korean military agreement.
“A North Korean soldier was detected crossing the military demarcation line” by South Korean troops using surveillance equipment, the military Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a statement. “Related agencies plan to investigate him regarding the details of how he came to the South,” it said.