South Korea. After months of political turmoil and massive street protests, the Constitutional Court in March decided to dismiss President Park Geun Hye. In connection with the decision, Park lost its prosecution immunity and was arrested the same month on suspicion of bribery and abuse of power. The background was the revelation that big companies paid high sums to Park’s close friend Choi Soon Sil’s foundations in exchange for political support from the president. From the foundations, Choi learns to have raised the equivalent of hundreds of millions of SEK to finance, among other things, his daughter’s career as a competition rider. According to Countryaah.com, Park had committed the crimes under the influence of Choi and his father, a quasi-religious leader and former friend of Park’s murdered father, dictator Park Chung Hee. The largest contributor to the foundations was the electronics giant Samsung. See ABBREVIATIONFINDER for frequently used acronyms and abbreviations related to as well as country profile of South Korea.
In the spring, the US and South Korea began the deployment of the US robotic defense system THAAD in South Korea. The installation aroused strong reactions in both China and North Korea. In China, the advanced defense system was seen as a threat to the country as its powerful radar could be used to monitor Chinese territory.
In the May presidential election, Liberal candidate Moon Jae In won by 41% of the vote. The main opponent, the conservative Hong Jun Pyo, got 24%.
In June, Choi Soon Sil was sentenced to three years in prison for using her relationship with the president to pressure a prestigious university to adopt her daughter. Several judgments awaited Choi, who was also charged with extortion, abuse of power and fraud by corporate giants.
Tensions between South and North Korea increased after North Korea fired a second intercontinental robot in just a few weeks. In response to the launches, South Korea’s defense ministry announced that the country had developed a new ballistic robot with the capacity to achieve “any target”. Furthermore, the US and South Korea conducted a joint precision exercise with robots. In addition, South Korea’s President Moon Jae In said that the deployment of THAAD would be resumed quickly after it was halted in June for a climate review. The decision was criticized by China at the same time as North Korea threatened South Korea with a “miserable fate” if the deployment continued.
In the wake of the big corruption scandal, in August, Samsung chief Lee Jae Yong was sentenced to five years in prison for bribery.
In response to North Korea’s sixth nuclear test, in September, South Korea conducted an exercise with ballistic missile test shots at targets in the East China Sea. The Ministry of Defense announced that the country’s defense would be strengthened by four more units of the THAAD missile defense, while considering “all sorts of military opportunities” to meet the threat from North Korea.
If the South Korean trade balance has been able to maintain an active trend even in difficult circumstances, the greatest credit goes to the resolute choices made in favor of research and innovation, which constantly had resources at their disposal in excess of 2.5 % of GDP. It is in relation to this effort that high-tech goods have been placed at the top of the country’s production and that, in particular, the South Korean industry has occupied a prominent position on the automobile markets (3.7 million cars produced in 2005), machine tools, civil electronics and shipbuilding (for which it firmly occupies the second place in the world after Japan). After all, the sector high-tech accounted for about one third of the total export of manufactured goods in 2003. It is always the large incidence of technological innovation that explains the continuing weight of the industrial sector on GDP (about 40 % in 2005), even in the presence of a sharp decline (almost 10 percentage points in a decade) in the share of its employees. on the total number of employees (27 %). The service sector is also affected by the robust introduction of new technologies, considering that the percentage of its employees has stabilized at 55 %, while its contribution to GDP is now approaching 60 %, with an incidence that has increased by 12.% in less than ten years. In spite of the demanding modernization campaigns, however, the capacity of agriculture to cope with the high internal demand remains very weak: the workers represent just 4 % of the employed, while the contribution to overall production has dropped to around 3-4 %. The arable land remains less than 20 % of the surface and the fundamental harvests are always those of rice, horticultural products (primarily cabbage) and fruit (especially mandarins, apples and pears).
A brake on the industrial expansion of South Korea derives from the scarce availability of energy sources, since internal resources cover just 17 % of needs. The country is therefore in third place in the world among oil importers and fifth among those of natural gas, with a heavy dependence on foreign countries. To partially remedy this deficit, a vast plan has been launched to upgrade nuclear power plants, which already supply around 40% of the energy produced. But such extensive use of nuclear sources, in a very populous area characterized by a high seismic risk, causes many concerns, underlined by increasingly pugnacious environmental movements. Moreover, when we add that in South Korea there are also oil refining plants with an installed capacity of almost 130 million tonnes, it is understood how many and what risks are affecting the environment, especially in some regions with high urban-industrial concentrations. In fact, the country has a dangerous average level of polluting substances in the atmosphere and waters, with serious consequences on the health of citizens. The policy of environmental protection still seems to be at a modest stage: a territory covered with forests for two thirds of its extension includes, for example, only 3 % of protected areas.
The rulers of South Korea initiated in 2000 a phase of meetings with those of North Korea, in order to achieve a gradual reconciliation or, at least, to ease the tension between the two countries (see Korea, republic people’s democracy). The talks came to a halt after the Central Bank relaunched its nuclear program. Nonetheless, a partial opening of the border was finally allowed to facilitate the meeting of families separated for decades, while in North Korea, close to the demilitarized area that flanks the armistice line of the 38th parallel, the ” activation of factories with South Korean capital and North Korean workforce.