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.
A typhoon has made landfall in South Korea after causing destruction in southern Japanese islands, where four people are currently missing. The storm reached Ulsan, just north of Busan, South Korea’s second-largest city, on Monday. It had sustained winds of up to 89mph, but the Korea Meterological Administration (KMA) has said it has since weakened, with maximum winds now reaching 67mph.
The missing mayor of Seoul, who had reportedly been accused of sexual harassment, has been found dead more than half a day after leaving a message for his daughter that was “like a will”. Police said rescue dogs found Park Won-soon’s body near a restaurant in wooded hills in northern Seoul, more than seven hours after they launched a search for him.
More than 500 schools closed again Friday to students after briefly reopening, as South Korea moves to stamp out a resurgence of the coronavirus in the capital, Seoul, and its surrounding metropolitan area. Parks, art galleries, museums and theaters operated by the government in the Seoul metropolitan area — home to about half the country’s population of nearly 52 million — have also been closed to the public for the next two weeks.
China and South Korea reimposed lockdowns Monday after a spike in new infections of the coronavirus raised concerns of a second wave of the pandemic. At least 15 cases of the virus have been confirmed in Shulan, China, prompting officials to quarantine 290 people. Meanwhile, South Korea, which eased social distancing requirements last week, recorded a spike in cases linked to nightclubs in Seoul.
A fire at a warehouse in South Korea killed 38 construction workers and left another 10 injured according to reports. The blaze at the unfinished four-storey warehouse site in Icheon on Wednesday, 80km (50 miles) southeast of Seoul, spread “extremely quickly” and rendered those inside “unable to evacuate”, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported citing fire officials. Witnesses said they heard at least 10 explosions.
South Korea’s ruling party has won a landslide victory in national assembly elections, in what is being seen as an endorsement of President Moon Jae-in’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Moon’s left-leaning Democratic party and its smaller affiliate won 180 seats in the 300-seat assembly. Turnout was 66.2%, higher than any parliamentary elections held in South Korea since 1992.
In a surprisingly high turnout, millions of South Korean voters wore masks and moved slowly between lines of tape at polling stations on Wednesday to elect lawmakers in the shadows of the spreading coronavirus. The government resisted calls to postpone the parliamentary elections billed as a midterm referendum on President Moon Jae-in, who enters the final two years of his single five-year term grappling with a historic public health crisis.
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.