• travel guides Travel guides
    Tips to experience holidays as a local
  • Miami Miami
    Florida colors
  • Seoul Seoul
    Oopan Gangnam style!
  • Cape town penguins South Africa
    Rainbow vibes
  • Bangkok Bangkok
    City of angels
  • French Polynesia French Polynesia
    6 islands in the South Seas
  • Skyline Hong Kong
    Skylines, bar streets, markets & islands
  • Sydney Opera Australia
    Sydney's NYE, Gold Coast & Great Barrier Reef
  • Gecko Hawaii
    Aloha nature wonders
  • Japanese Wedding Japanese Wedding
    The dark side of the rising sun
  • Yakushima Yakushima
    Hiking the Princess Mononoke Forest
  • Ishigaki Lighthouse Ishigaki
    Okinawa's shades of blue
  • Yuki Matsuri Hokkaido
    Powder Snow Festival
  • Daikanyama Daikanyama
    Tokyo's SoHo
  • Cosplayer Comiket
    The Biggest Cosplay Event
  • Cherry Tree Blossom Hanami (花見)
    Sakura by the skyscrapers
  • Hiroshima bomb time Hiroshima
    The Bomb & Miyajima
  • top of mount fuji guide to climb Japan
    Top of Mt.Fuji
  • Kyoto & Nara Nara & Kyoto
    Ciervos nadando en lagos de roca
  • Formentera House Formentera
    Mediterranean Sun
  • Stockholm Stockholm
    5 year resident, to guide around the local wonders


Seoul - Samsung and Park

All that shines... Is not always full of light

DISCLAIMER: I don't consider myself an expert on local politics, just writing this post based on what I see on the streets and what I can read on international press.

Spending a slightly longer period in a new country gives you a chance to learn about their history, their culture and some of the current issues in the society. Before coming to Seoul, I had mistakenly assumed that Koreans were almost same as Japanese in many ways. Not only is that wrong, but given the history of occupation and war crimes during WWII (such as comfort women), this kind of prejudice is insulting here. I am quite thankful to having gotten this chance to learn more about Korea, including many outstanding issues behind the glitz of Seoul streets.

What remains true is the relevance of chaebol「재벌」in the society.Chaebol, that literally stands for chae (wealth, property) and bol (clan) is the Korean word used to name the business conglomerates that were borned in the post Korean war period, as outcome of Korean's major industrial programs. With the country in ruins, the Government identified an urgent need to move away from consumer goods and light industries, towards heavy, chemical, and import-substitution industries. These industrial programs funded by the Government brought incredibly fast growth, it also accelerated the monopolistic and oligopolistic concentration of capital and economically profitable activities in the hands of a limited number of conglomerates.

The tremendous growth experienced by the chaebol, was closely tied to the expansion of South Korean exports. The strategy was to produce and export diversity, rather than just one or two products. Innovation was critical, switching from one to the next success:
  • 50s-60s: Wigs and textiles
  • 70s-80s: Heavy, defense and chemical.
  • 90s-...: Electronics and hi-tech
In 2014, Samsung aka the largest chaebol, accounted for 17% of the total economy in South Korea. Samsung is the world largest television, mobile phone, memory chip and semiconductor chip (for PC) in the world - larger than Intel since July 2017. The semiconductor industry is therefore the heartbeat of Korean economy. Interestingly enough, walking around on Sunday we bumped on the following installation.

Can you guess what is it? A white ninja and some weird lady?

Located right in between the Samsung Electronics' HQ buildings in Gangnam, this is a protest illustrating how careless practice on the semiconductor industry ends up in leukemia and death. Many lives are torned while (apparently) the leadership moves focus on profits. For those of you not so familiar with semi-conductors, these materials are essentially the heart of all electronics, but the manufacturing process involves toxic gasses and chemicals that are carcionogenous, but the cleanrooms are designed to protect the wafers, not the workers.

NOTE: Korean names are written with the surname in front, so in the coming paragraphs you will find first e.g. Park and then the actual name

The guy below is Lee Jae-Yong, known in the West as Jay Y. Lee. He ended up on the top of Samsung after his father - Samsung's Chairman, Lee Kun-hee suffered a heart attack in 2014. Lee Jae-Yong is known in the press as the Crown Prince of Samsung, the eldest child and only son. Besides not treating his workers well, Lee Jae-Yong was arrested as part of the president Park scandal that ended up with her impeachment.
Mr. Lee was accused of instructing Samsung subsidiaries to make payments totaling 43 billion won, or $36 million, to the family of Ms. Park’s confidante, Choi Soon-sil, and to two foundations Ms. Choi controlled in exchange for help from Ms. Park in facilitating a father-to-son transfer of ownership control of Samsung.
NY Times, January 2017

Who is Park Geun-hye aka Ms Park? Who is Choi Soon-sil aka Ms Choi? What is the scandal all about?

The whole thing goes back to the 70s, when Parks and Chois met each other. Park's mother was killed by a North Korean spy who had actually tried to kill her father, who was at the time a military leader and president of Korea, Park Chung-hee.

Ms Park, who was only 22 at the time, became stand-in first lady for her widowed father. At the time, he got to know Choi Tae-min, a pseudo-Christian leader who set up a cult called The Church of Eternal Life and claimed to have been visited by the soul of her mother - in a recent post we discussed about the abundance of shamanistic cults in Korea, remember?

Park's father was assassinated by his head of intelligence in 1979, the killing was controversial as speculations about the underlying reason being related with the spy chief concerns about a potential manipulation of Park Chung-hee by Choi Tae-min, dubbed as "the Korean Rasputin".

At this point, Ms Park was friends with Choi Soon-sil, the daughter of "the Korean Rasputin". As in a soap opera, she is believed to have followed her father's steps, manipulating Ms Park and using her direct connection to the lady who eventually became president of South Korea to pressure companies for millions of dollars in donations to two non-profit foundations controlled by Ms Choi.

Scandal broke on 24th October 2016 upon the discovery of Choi's tablet full of presidential speeches and other sensitive information. Ms Park became the third South Korean leader on trial for corruption - and we thought it only happened in Spain - but the first democratically elected one.

Ms Park was impeached upon 18 charges:
- Charge sheet running to about 120000 pages
- Maximum sentence for corruption in South Korea being life
- Having allowed Ms Choi to use her presidential connections to pressure companies to donate to her foundation, in exchange for favours
- Leaking state secrets to Choi
- Running a blacklist of media figures, barred from state support due to being critical of her goverment

The craziest part is when you ask yourself, what on the hell was Choi doing with 50MEUR? What did she want the money for? Choi was using a large part of this money on her daughter, who was sent to Germany for equestrial training for 3MEUR and then allowed to enter the prestigious Ewha Women-s University, despite being a terrible student that attended 17 out of 193 days of class the previous school year. Even the Education Minister acknowledged that the treatment received by Choi's daughter, Chung Yoo-ra, had been illegal.

You have to put this in perspective. I mean. Korea is a country where kids kill themselves studying since very early age, in order to make it into a prestige high school, which will then pave their way into a prestigious University. Many commit suicide if they fail! Can you imagine how outrageous it is for young people to learn that others are literally buying their way in?

This whole story is so crazy, that sounds like pure fiction but it is real.

As real as the protests requesting for Park to be freed and for support to the United States we continue to bump into, 2 weekends in a row, 2 different locations, same storyline.

Why would people still support Ms Park? So far, my conclusion is that it is because of her origin. As daughter of Park Chung-hee the leader that brought economical recovery to Korea, some believe that she got the same skills as him.

But where are all the pro-Trump messages coming from? How do they fit in this  Korean plot?

Turns out that the last leg of Park's mandate gave final approval to the deployment of THAAD system owned by the US, in South Korean territory. THAAD is essentially designed to shoot down short- and medium-range ballistic missiles in the latter stages of their flight as they plunge toward their targets. It features a sophisticated radar that fits into an overlapping series of US missile defense systems, including Aegis warships operating in the Pacific and Patriot missile batteries deployed in Japan.

Unsurprisingly, THAAD is just another piece of the US strategy to maintain Global naval control, with bases strategically located all over the world. The problem comes when this triggers diplomatic tensions with China, who fears it could be used to spy on their own defense and nuclear deterrent systems, which in turn backfires into Korean business interests in China, where their goods and shops were boycotted as a consequence.

pro president park and US demonstration in Seoul
pro president park and US demonstration in Seoul
pro president park and US demonstration in Seoul
pro president park and US demonstration in Seoul

No comments

© dontplayahate. All rights reserved.