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Michael Auslin: South Korea’s Political Crisis Could Become Regional

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This is a time of extreme uncertainty on the Korean peninsula, and the next months could see dangerous instability.

Michael Auslin writes: After weeks of massive public protests in downtown Seoul of up to one million people, South Korea’s parliament decisively impeached President Park Geun-hye last Friday. The vote now propels South Korea into the next phase of its political crisis, which will culminate when the nation’s Constitutional Court ratifies or rejects the impeachment vote, within six months. Initially indicating during the run-up to the vote that she would resign if impeached, Park apparently has chosen to fight the parliament’s vote.

South Korean Prime Minister and the acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn bows after releasing a statement to the nation at the Goverment Complex in Seoul, South Korea, December 9, 2016.

South Korean Prime Minister and the acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn bows after releasing a statement to the nation at the Goverment Complex in Seoul, South Korea, December 9, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji.

According to South Korean law, Park is now removed from power, pending the court decision. The Prime 514fnemhevl-_sl250_Minister, Hwang Kyo-ahn, now becomes acting president. Yet Hwang is seen as a loyal Park subordinate, and is himself unpopular with the protesters and Korea’s opposition parties.

[Order Michael Auslin’s book “The End of the Asian Century: War, Stagnation, and the Risks to the World’s Most Dynamic Region” from Amazon.com]

This is a time of extreme uncertainty on the Korean peninsula, and the next months could see dangerous instability. Most importantly, North Korea may try to take advantage of the crisis, possibly by testing the caretaker president. An attack on South Korean territory or military facilities, as happened back in 2010, could result in a full armed conflict, if the caretaker government wants to show its power. Alternately, a lack of response would further embolden the North.

[Read the full story here, at RealClearDefense]

A missile test could also spark a South Korean response, especially if one goes wrong. While they may see the end of their term looming, those in the Obama administration should be prepared for a crisis in their last six weeks in power; just as importantly, the incoming Trump team needs a policy immediately, for they may face an alliance challenge soon after taking power. Read the rest of this entry »

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[VIDEO] South Korea Parliament Impeaches President Park Geun-Hye

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Seoul (AFP) – South Korean lawmakers on Friday passed an impeachment motion against President Park  stripping away her sweeping executive powers over a corruption scandal that paralysed her administration and triggered massive street protests.

The National Assembly motion — passed by 234 votes to 56 — transfers Park’s authority to the prime minister, pending a decision by the Constitutional Court on whether to ratify the decision and permanently remove the president from office.

Update: South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment Friday means she has been stripped of power — but not the perks.

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Even as her prime minister governs in her stead, Park gets to keep living at the presidential Blue House, using her official car and plane, collecting the same monthly salary (about $15,000 reportedly) and receiving round-the-clock security.

She also holds onto the title “President.”

But with nothing officially to do, it’s uncertain how she’ll spend her days during the up-to-six months the country’s Constitutional Court has to decide whether to accept the impeachment and formally end her presidency. Read the rest of this entry »