Chung Min Lee

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South Korea is in the midst of an unprecedented political crisis, the worst since the restoration of democracy in 1987. The latest flare-up could potentially result in President Park Geun-hye’s resignation, a profoundly damaged and irreparably weakened presidency, a massive altering of the political landscape more than a year before the next presidential election in December 2017, and a growing impetus to revise the 1987 constitution.

On Monday, longtime presidential confidant Choi Soon-sil was arrested by the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office after revelations that she was deeply involved in affairs of state without any formal role in the Park administration. Indeed, the local press has dubbed Choi the “President of the Night” to highlight her behind-the-scenes influence in shaping critical national policies, creating new policy initiatives, planting her cronies in ministries and agencies, enriching her family and her associates through lucrative government contracts and real estate purchases, and twisting the arms of leading Korean conglomerates to “donate” millions of dollars to two foundations that she spearheaded.…  Seguir leyendo »

Riding the crest of seemingly unstoppable growth, Asia’s rise has captured the popular imagination for three decades. By most hard-power measures, such as gross domestic product, trade volumes, technological prowess and military capabilities, Asia has emerged as the world’s third pillar, along with the United States and Europe. Indeed, many commentators have argued that the 21st century will not only be dominated by key Asian states such as China, India and Japan, and major middle powers including South Korea, Vietnam and Indonesia, but also that the region as a whole is on its way to eclipsing the West.

But as President Obama embarks on a highly symbolic trip to Asia, it’s timely to point out that such linear conceptions of Asia’s inexorable rise are misleading and incomplete, given the magnitude of political, security and socioeconomic problems confronting Greater Asia.…  Seguir leyendo »