The World Today for March 13, 2017


A Funeral, A Festival

The crowds in Seoul on Sunday symbolized South Korea’s two minds on the impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye.

CNN described the demonstrators who came out in support of Park as mostly older folks who saw Park’s departure as a sad statement on the country’s politics and a shame upon the memory of Park’s father, Park Chung-hee, the third president of South Korea. The atmosphere in their camp was like a funeral.

Nearby, younger demonstrators, happy that impeachment proceedings had revealed the inequities and corruption in South Korea and doled out punishment, played drums and danced. Their rally was more like a festival.

The two groups gathered to commemorate Park’s exit from the presidential palace after the country’s Constitutional Court removed her from office two days earlier on corruption and abuse of power charges, the New York Times reported.

Three men in their 60s and 70s died in protests that erupted after the court ruling went public.

While she accepted the judgement, Park suggested she didn’t agree with it. “It will take time. But I am sure that the truth will be known,” she said.

Park is accused of colluding with a friend, Choi Soon-sil – a cult leader’s daughter whose ex-husband was Park’s chief of staff – to extort millions from Samsung and other big South Korean businesses. Samsung Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong (also known as Jay Y. Lee) allegedly gave Choi’s daughter, an equestrian, a $1 million dressage horse.

It’s still not clear whether gifts like the horse led to a quid pro quo between the politicians and businesses, but the optics were enough to trigger Park’s downfall as well as bribery charges against Lee and other Samsung executives. Lee denies the charges.

Now out of office, Park no longer enjoys diplomatic immunity. Prosecutors must decide whether they want to bring criminal charges against her.

As they consider their options and South Koreans prepare to elect a new president in May, North Korea stands to gain from the uncertainty, the Washington Post noted.

Given the controversy over Park’s conservative administration, a liberal has a good chance of winning the next presidential election. Left-wing South Korean presidents tend to seek a more conciliatory role toward North Korea and China than American and Japanese leaders perfer.

That shift could have far-reaching consequences.

Seoul’s relationship with China is at a nadir over the US deployment of a missile defense system in South Korea. South Korean politicians have also called for renegotiating agreements that Park reached with Japan during her four-year-long tenure.

North Korea is a trickier subject. Recently, the Hermit Kingdom allegedly assassinated Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un’s half-brother, tested missiles and presumably continues work on its nuclear weapons program.

How South Korea’s new president deals with those challenges is arguably as important as healing a divided nation.


Welcome Walmart

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won an unexpected landslide victory in key state elections last week, in what experts say could pave the way for an acceleration of market-friendly reforms.

The BJP’s stunning landslide in Uttar Pradesh, the country’s most populous state, marks Modi as India’s most powerful leader in two generations, Bloomberg noted. Together with better-than-expected results in several other state polls, that will likely pave the way for him to loosen restrictions on foreign direct investment by “multi-brand” retailers like Walmart – which his opponents on the left oppose as a threat to small shop owners, the Times of India reported.

Projected to squeak out a narrow majority in a best-case scenario, Modi’s BJP won 312 out of 403 state assembly seats in Uttar Pradesh, and made substantial gains in all but one of five states that went to the polls. Modi addressed his victory speech to India’s middle class and he spoke in favor of “opportunity” instead of “charity.” But some commentators warned that the win could as easily result in a more populist agenda as a new commitment to business-friendly reforms.

Fighting Words

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the weekend accused the Netherlands of acting like the Nazis, deepening a growing rift with Europe as a referendum on a new Turkish constitution approaches.

This incident and another in Germany involve his government’s efforts to woo voters from the Turkish diaspora. Earlier, Germany barred Turkish officials from attending campaign events there, while on Saturday Dutch authorities stopped the Turkish foreign minister from landing in the Netherlands to attend a rally, the New York Times reported.

“I thought Nazism was over, but I was wrong,” the paper quoted Erdogan as saying in a speech that prompted protests in Rotterdam – where police had to deploy water cannons to disperse demonstrators.

It’s a fraught time. Erdogan is pushing for constitutional changes that will expand his power, even as he is engaged in a far-reaching crackdown on dissent in the wake of a failed coup in July. But he’s seeking to rally the diaspora to support his referendum just as right-wing parties in the Netherlands and Germany are trying to raise support for their agendas by stoking tensions with the millions of people of Turkish heritage who call these countries home.

Oil and Troubled Waters

The deputy crown prince of Saudi Arabia is headed for the US to meet with President Donald Trump this week, even as King Salman visits Japan as part of a month-long tour to strengthen the oil-rich kingdom’s relationships in Asia.

In his meeting with the US president, Prince Mohammed, who is also the Saudi defense minister, is expected to “discuss reinforcing bilateral relations and review regional issues of mutual interest,” Reuters cited an official Saudi statement as saying.

The tour comes at a pivotal time for Saudi Arabia. It is endeavoring to sell a 5 percent stake in the state-owned oil company, Aramco, for as much as $100 million as part of King Salman’s Vision 2030 plan to diversify the country’s now oil-dependent economy. Meanwhile, it’s vying with Iran for influence in the Middle East through proxies and direct involvement in Yemen and other regional conflicts – where it’s a key US ally.


Ramses’ Return

Pharaoh Ramses II, better known to many as Ramses the Great, was the most powerful ruler of ancient Egypt until his death in 1213 BCE.

And after some 3,000 years, the Pharaoh is back.

German and Egyptian archeologists recently uncovered an eight-meter statue submerged in groundwater in a Cairo slum that they say probably depicts the revered Ramses.

“Last Tuesday they called me to announce the big discovery of a colossus of a king, most probably Ramses II, made out of quartzite,” Egyptian Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani told Reuters last week, adding that the find was potentially “one of the most important ever.”

Archaeologists said the location where the statue was found – near the ruins of Ramses II’s sun temple in the ancient city of Heliopolis, now the eastern part of Cairo – means it’s likely the statue is Ramses.

If the underwater colossus is proven to be Ramses the Great, the Pharaoh will find a different place in the sun – at the entrance of the Grand Egyptian Museum when it opens in 2018.

Not already a subscriber?

If you would like to receive DailyChatter directly to your inbox each morning, subscribe below with a free two-week trial.

Subscribe today

Support journalism that’s independent, non-partisan, and fair.

If you are a student or faculty with a valid school email, you can sign up for a FREE student subscription or faculty subscription.

Questions? Write to us at

You don't have credit card details available. You will be redirected to update payment method page. Click OK to continue.