Ahn Cheol-soo Changes Position On Deployment of THAAD to South Korea

It looks like the Korean political left is slowing coming around the the realization that the deployment of a THAAD missile defense battery to South Korea is in the security interest of the ROK:

Ahn Cheol-soo

Ahn Cheol-soo

The second largest opposition People’s Party is in a heated debate over whether to drop its opposition to the planned deployment of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery on South Korean soil.

The party adopted its official stance against THAAD in July last year soon after Seoul and Washington announced their decision to deploy the system this year to better deter nuclear and missile threats from North Korea. At the time, the party cited the negative impact on Seoul-Beijing relations and strong protest from local residents over concerns about detrimental health and environmental effects.

The move to change such a stance comes as some members, including former co-chair and leading presidential hopeful Ahn Cheol-soo said the situation has changed. They cited the North’s latest missile launch, which showed significant progress in its missile technology, as well as the apparent assassination of Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, in Malaysia last week.

“South Korea and the United States have already concluded an agreement on the deployment,” Ahn said.  [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link.

ROK Presidential Candidate An Hee-jung Raises Poll Numbers By Supporting THAAD Deployment

Things can change very quickly in South Korean politics as ROK Presidential front runner Moon Jae-in knows very well:

South Chungcheong Governor An Hee-jung’s approval rating for this year’s election rose to 19 percent in the latest poll, proving him to be a formidable contender to frontrunner Moon Jae-in and raising the prospect of a hard-fought Democratic Party primary.

In a poll by Gallup Korea, the 51-year-old two-term governor came in second with 19 percent, trailing Moon, who won 29 percent of support.

While An is still 10 percentage points behind Moon, the latest poll is an encouraging sign for his supporters considering the fast pace at which his popularity has risen: 9 percent in a matter of one week.

The poll has reaffirmed the strong position the governor has secured in recent days, as seen by the growth of his public appeal, while Moon, who ran in the 2012 race and was bitterly defeated by President Park Geun-hye, is struggling to raise his rating beyond the 30 percent range.

Acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn came in third with 11 percent, up by two percent from a week earlier, demonstrating continued support from conservative voters disheartened by the Choi-gate scandal, which led to President Park’s impeachment.

Seongnam Mayor Lee Jae-myung and Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo of the People’s Party followed with 8 and 7 percent each.  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

You can read more at the link, but what is interesting is that An Hee-jung is raising his poll number by making himself the only liberal candidate so far who has come out to defend the deployment of the THAAD missile defense system to Korea.

Danish Court Extends Chung Yoo-ra’s Detention to February 22nd

It appears we will not have an answer on whether Denmark will deport Chung Yoo-ra until late February:

A Danish court has allowed the Danish prosecution to keep Choi Soon-sil’s daughter Chung Yoo-ra in custody until February 22nd.

The court in the Danish city of Aalborg made the ruling on Monday, granting the prosecution’s request to extend Chung’s detainment period. She has been at the detention center in Aalborg since her arrest early this month.

Initially, the Danish prosecution was expected to decide by Monday whether or not to repatriate her to South Korea, where she faces a probe by special prosecutors investigating a massive influence-peddling scandal. However, last Friday it requested further materials on Chung’s case from the special prosecutors while seeking the court’s approval to extend her detention.

The Danish prosecution has said it will take some weeks before it finishes the review of the additional documents and reaches a decision on her extradition.   [KBS World Radio]

Ban Ki-moon Announces He Will Not Seek Presidency of South Korea Because of “Fake News”

This is a big surprise and it shows how poisonous the political environment in South Korea is right now.  With that said Ban clearly doesn’t have what it takes to be President if he can’t handle “fake news” put out by the political opposition:

Ban Ki-moon

Former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon dropped his bid for president Wednesday, capping an end to his three-week journey to the Blue House as he has found himself facing a myriad of controversies and questions over his political skills and qualifications.

Standing before reporters during a hastily arranged press briefing at the National Assembly around 3:30 p.m., the former UN chief announced he would stop seeking to capture the country’s highest elected office while acknowledging that he had wanted to lead the nation as it is mired in a crisis with President Park Geun-hye now impeached.

“I told the people my intention was to bring about national unity because the country was deeply divided,” said the 72-year-old, adding he had wanted to capitalize on his 10-year career as the UN chief to help the country by throwing himself into politics.

Then Ban blamed the political establishment for his decision to drop out of the race, saying, “I have found political players very selfish, whose mindsets are stuck in the past. I have come to the conclusion that it is meaningless for me to continue my path with them. Reflecting on this judgment, I decided to rescind my decision to take a lead in reforming politics and accomplishing national unity.”

Ban used harsh words in denouncing the political establishment and press for having washed his political aspirations away, going so far as to liken critical reports of his domestic activity over the past three weeks to character assassination.

“My sincere patriotism has been tainted by fake news and rumors that are akin to an act of murder of my character, leaving a scar on the UN for which I devoted 10 years as its chief and disappointing many people.”  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

You can read more at the link.

Overseas Koreans Protest In Front of Danish Detention Center

I guess when it is winter in Denmark there must not be anything better to do then protest outside a detention center:

In front of the detention center where Chung Yoo-ra is held on Jan. 13, a candlelight rally is held demanding her repatriation. About 20 overseas Koreans and locals exclaim, “Yoo-ra, let’s go back to Korea!” [LEE HYUN]

On Jan. 13, there were about 20 overseas Koreans, from places such as Copenhagen, London, and Sweden, gathered with locals carrying candles in front of the detention center in Aalborg. Like the weekly Saturday rallies held in Gwanghwamun square in Seoul, they were picketing, saying, “Yoo-ra, let’s go back to South Korea” and “Instead of pizza, eat some [Korean food].”

At the Aalborg detention center one has the luxury to order in pizza. The individual to first propose a candlelight vigil was an overseas Korean residing in Sweden named Lim Ji-hye.

“Compared to Northern Europe,” she said, “our country is still at a stage where we do not have democracy. I think that this is something we must experience as democratic growing pains.”  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

You can read more at the link.

A Detailed History of the Park Geun-hye Presidential Scandal

The below article from The Diplomat is a really good article that details the complexities and key players of the current ROK presidential crisis.  Like I have always said if it wasn’t for the tablet PC that JTBC News acquired the impeachment likely never would have happened due to the all the backroom deals in place to keep things quiet:

As someone living in Korea and having watched history unfold these last few months, it has been impossible to shake the feeling the media did what the Prosecution Service was reluctant to do. Without media involvement, the engagement of bystanders, and the propinquity of various storylines coming together, it appears possible and even likely the Choi Soon-sil scandal would have been snuffed out like so many other allegations before it. It was only after Park had been impeached and a special prosecutor assigned that more proper investigations began, culminating in the parliamentary hearings and the shocking indictment of Samsung’s chief, Lee Jae-yong. The courts, unfortunately, have yet to demonstrate a change from the norm, flatly denying the special prosecutor’s request for a warrant to arrest Lee, citing “a lack of evidence” despite overwhelming media coverage and Lee’s own admissions in parliamentary hearings to the contrary.

Based on the evidence presented here and in those hearings, it becomes difficult to view the current presidential scandal as a single, isolated incident. Instead, the picture painted depicts a deeply embedded tradition of backdoor dealings on an epidemic scale affecting all levels of government, especially the very bureaus that should be overseeing justice. Beyond influence-peddling, the scandal extends to strong-arm tactics to suppress the truth by manipulating the press, questionable due process in the courts, and possible tampering with the Prosecution Service.

Had it not been for Choi Soon-sil’s tablet, Park may have never been impeached.  [The Diplomat]

I highly recommend reading the whole thing at the link.  By the way I don’t think I will ever buy another Nature Republic product ever again after reading about the shadiness of its CEO in the article.

Danish Authorities Suspend Extradition of Chung Yoo-ra

It is looking like whatever evidence Korean prosecutors have against Chung Yoo-ra it must be quite flimsy considering Denmark has suspended the ROK extradition request:

South Korea’s special prosecutors said Saturday that they will send documents requested by Danish authorities concerning the daughter of a woman at the center of a snowballing corruption scandal as soon as possible to speed up her repatriation.

Chung Yoo-ra, the 21-year-old daughter of President Park Geun-hye’s close friend Choi Soon-sil, was arrested in the northern Danish city of Aalborg earlier this year for illegal stay. She is suspected of receiving favors from a college in Seoul during its admissions process and on tests by taking advantage of her mother’s ties to the president.

Chung has been in the custody of Danish authorities and has showed no sign of voluntarily coming back home to face a probe.

South Korea’s special prosecutors looking into the alleged corruption scandal surrounding the president and Choi earlier asked local authorities to extradite Chung.

After weeks of review, the Danish prosecution released a statement on Friday that they suspended the repatriation process and asked South Korea to send extra information before making a final decision.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link.