Both North and South Korea tested ballistic missiles on Wednesday, ratcheting up tensions exponentially in what was already one of the most volatile regions on the planet. Pyongyang fired the first missiles on Wednesday, sending two into waters off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula five minutes apart. Seoul followed that test less than three hours later, firing a new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).
Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong has been released from a South Korean prison and is now on parole. He served 207 days in jail – just over half the sentence he received after being convicted of bribery and embezzlement in January. The case involved the country’s former President Park Guen-hye, who is also in jail for bribery and corruption. Samsung Electronics was founded by Lee’s grandfather.
At least nine people were killed when a five-story building undergoing demolition collapsed onto a bus in South Korea on Wednesday, according to the country’s Ministry of the Interior and Safety. The bus, which was stationary at the time on a busy road, was buried under the rubble in Gwangju, some 270 kilometers (168 miles) southwest of the capital, Seoul. A further eight people were injured, the ministry added.
South Korea’s president ordered officials on Wednesday to explore petitioning an international court over Japan’s decision to release contaminated water from its wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea. According to plans unveiled by Japan on Tuesday, the release of more than 1 million tonnes of contaminated water into the sea from the plant crippled by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011 will start in about two years after filtering it to remove harmful isotopes.
South Korea’s top court upheld on Thursday a 20-year prison sentence for former President Park Geun-hye on graft charges that led to her downfall, bringing an end to the legal process and for the first time raising the possibility of a pardon. Park became South Korea’s first democratically elected leader to be thrown out of office when, in 2017, the Constitutional Court upheld a parliament vote to impeach her.
South Korea recorded more deaths than births in 2020 for the first time ever, raising fresh alarm in the country which already has the world’s lowest birth rate. Only 275,800 babies were born last year, down 10% from 2019. Around 307,764 people died. The figures prompted the interior ministry to call for “fundamental changes” to its policies. Last month, President Moon Jae-in launched several policies aimed at addressing the low birth rate, including cash incentives for families.
South Korea said on Thursday it will scrap an intelligence-sharing pact with Japan, drawing a swift protest from Tokyo and deepening a decades-old dispute over history that has hit trade and undercut security cooperation over North Korea. Seoul’s decision not to extend the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) shows how the political and trade dispute between the Asian neighbors and U.S. allies has hit some of the region’s most sensitive security issues.
Former South Korean president Lee Myung-bak was jailed for 15 years for corruption Friday, October 5, becoming the latest of the country’s ex-leaders to be sent to prison. Lee, in office from 2008 to 2013, is the fourth former South Korean president to be jailed. Lee Myung-bak faced charges of having accepted around US$10 million in illegal funds from institutions like Samsung and his own intelligence service.
A North Korean delegation, including singer Hyon Song-wol, completed their visit to South Korea, Monday, during which they examined venues for Winter Olympic performances. The delegation was met by both cheers and protests from South Koreans, with a North Korean flag and a photo of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un being burned.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said, Wednesday, North Korea will face stricter sanctions if they resume weapons testing, and gave credit to the United States President Trump for facilitating the resumption of dialogue between North and South Korea. The White House reported that Trump and Moon spoke about ‘continuing the maximum pressure campaign against North Korea.’