As Korean leaders meet, thousands rally in support peace process

By Jonathan Edward

SEOUL, Sept 18, 2018: As South Korean president Moon Jae-in met his North Korean counterpart in Pyongyang over the future of the peninsula today, thousands of peace activists converged at the Incheon Asiad Main Stadium in a show of support for the reunification talks.

Organised by the Heavenly Culture, World Peace, Restoration of Light (HWPL), a non-profit which advocates peaceful reunification with the North, the event drew over 50,000 supporters from 110 countries.

The gathering, held annually since 2014, drew 30 former heads of state from Romania, Ukraine, Burundi Nepal and Kyrgyzstan among others who joined delegates representing various religious organisations and other peace groups.

Also present were veterans of the Korean War, fought between the North and South between 1950 to 1953, resulting in a division that has persisted to the present day.

Besides those in Incheon, over 200,000 supporters gathered simultaneously in 97 countries including the United States, France, Mongolia Sri Lanka, Malaysia, South Africa and Germany chanting the groups’ slogans – “We are one” and “World Peace”.

Founded as a lobby group for the peaceful reunification of Korea, HWPL has since become a major force in advocating non-violent conflict resolution including successful involvement Mindanao peace process, resulting in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro in 2014.

Led by the charismatic Lee Man Hee, himself a Korean War veteran, the group has a presence in 170 countries and is lobbying for the United Nations to adopt its draft Declaration of Peace and Cessation of War (DPCW).

Engaging in “personality diplomacy”, Lee has managed to draw together an array of high profile individuals including political and religious figures besides building an international network of like-minded non-governmental organisations worldwide.

“I sincerely ask each nation’s head of state to show their endorsement of the DPCW to achieve peace and cessation of war that all nations and people long for.

In the near future, the DPCW, in the form of a resolution, will be submitted to the UN to have it implemented at the international level,” he told the gathered masses.

The document contains 10 articles concerning the outlawing of the use of force to settle disputes between countries, an end to racial and religious discrimination and an emphasis on peace education.

It aims to provide a legal framework to discourage the use of force in the settling of disputes between countries and is meant to be legally binding, though the ability to enforce its articles may limit its effectiveness.

Relations between Pyongyang and Seoul have markedly improved in recent months with Moon’s visit to the North’s capital being the first visit by a South Korean head of state to the North and the third dialogue session between the two leaders this year.

In June this year, Kim met with US president Donald Trump and signed a joint statement agreeing to security guarantees for North Korea, reaffirmation of the de-nuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, recovery of soldiers’ remains, and follow-up negotiations between high-level officials.

Despite combat operations ending 65-years ago, the two countries are still technically at war with only a cease-fire and not a peace treaty. Moon and Kim have pledged to bring a formal end to the conflict.

While there is nothing to stop the two Koreas from signing a bilateral peace treaty, analysts concede the involvement of China and the US in supporting the North and South respectively, means their blessing would be needed for any lasting solution.

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Samsung’s leadership vacuum may change the game or not!

WITH the flurry of accusations that weighed on Samsung Electronics and the sensational jailing of the boss of one of the world’s biggest conglomerate’s, things are about to heat up on the mobile horizon.

This may give Apple an edge but the Cupertino-based tech giant is surely hoping that it could bank on the leadership vacuum at Samsung to run over the South Korean giant.

The battle between the two global entities took shape with Samsung’s challenge to Apple’s domination in the smartphone segment.

But it took a nasty turn when Samsung had to retrieve and totally eliminate its flagship Note 7 from its sales force, leaving a dent in its competition against the iPhone range of products.

While Apple was missing out on the cheaper range of phones — it failed to push the iPhone 5s against the cheaper Samsung models — the South Korean company had its limitations too.

Samsung was largely missing out what could be the most important aspects of the mobile business: that is apps and online services.

It will take some time for the mobile maker to reach the level of Apple, but in the mobile industry, a quarter can be too long although Apple is still making strides in this aspect of the business.

But the jailing of Samsung Electronics vice chairman Lee Jae-yong could be a game changer in the mobile industry’s constant battle to better the each other.

Despite the South Koreans playing down the importance of the jailing, and some leniency is expected in the appeal process, this event may impact on the company’s mobile entity.

At some point, Samsung’s boss decided to rush the Note 7 ahead of the iPhone 7, but when it backfired — literally exploding — and sparking viral memes on social media, sketchy reports of the timeline to get Note 7 to the market before Apple showed how things went bad.

It was a question of leadership failure right at the top of the organisation with reports on how the mobile division was pushed to the brink, and how quality control was rushed in order to beat Apple to the game.

The orders, it is said, came from the big boss and if it is true, it would show the limitations of Samsung’s leadership structure, where a powerful owner can brush aside the rest of the board members to impose his will.

This came at a time when Samsung was losing ground to cheaper brands like Huawei and others.

The disaster was amplified with the Note 7 recall that was replaced by another version that again, backfired when they caught fire too.

In this long-running battles of the tech giant’s between Apple and Samsung, it has always been about the showing-off which technology and which end-products are better.

This could see an ugly ending for Samsung in its tech-price-configuration war against Apple, but analysts are cautious on Apple’s chances.

What has happened to Lee Jae-yong is a terrible adventure, one that would not be wished on any young and dynamic corporate leader, but there is a price to pay for every wrong move made.

And in South Korea, the case became a matter of national pride and justice, in which the right punishment had to be meted against the accused.

Samsung remains one of Asia’s largest conglomerate and it was running with a “business-as-usual” tag in the backdrop while the case against its de-facto leader was ongoing.

The latter was jailed since February and was on trial for charges ranging from embezzlement to perjury, in a scandal that gripped the country for months.

The ouster of former president Park Geun-hye is tied to the case in many ways, as it is the bribing of Park that triggered the downfall of Samsung’s de-facto boss.

But the Samsung boss — before the judgment — fought back tears and denied wrongdoing.

While analysts and economists are certain the case will spark reforms in the country’s giant conglomerates, forcing them to loosen their grip on the economy, the push will keep Samsung busy.

The company will probably be forced to deal with any transformation plans that will be rolled out by the authorities — plans that will be devised to curtail the conglomerate’s financial influence over the political system.

This will mean putting more resources in non-profit driven enterprises that may set the company back in the competitive marketplace.

Will Apple press forward on the double embarrassment the South Korean company has suffered or will it falter with product choices that initially gave Samsung an edge in capturing more market share?

The September release of the new Apple products with the latest software upgrades could indeed spark a rally for the American mobile maker or it could simply be business as usual for world’s most expensive conglomerate?

Kazi Mahmood is Malay Mail business news editor. This article first appeared in Malay Mail Money print version!

Samsung’s future at stake with heir conviction for bribery!

BBC video grap of Lee Jae-yong

Samsung, the global electronic giant, is facing troubled times.

The company’s heir Lee Jae-yong was convicted of bribery today in a South Korean court pushing the company to rethink its prospects, said The Journal today.

The company will have a prolonged absence of leadership following this conviction, a situation that could impact the electronic giant’s future in the tough game.

Lee is the vice-chairman of the company but is the de facto head of the Samsung conglomerate.

His conviction, as a result of his trial in a corruption case that has gripped the country and helped bring down the previous government, puts the company in a crisis.

Lee Kun-hee, was incapacitated following a heart attack in 2014. The younger Mr. Lee has been detained since his arrest in February.

The Financial Times said in February this year his jailing – and subsequent conviction – imperils both the company and the country.

it said the conglomerate is in crisis with Lee Jae-yong out of the picture.

The Financial Times had said the arrest of the man leading South Korea’s largest conglomerate pushes the company to the precipice. Management will need to be restructured immediately because Samsung’s role in the South Korean economy is colossal.

Lee, also known as Jay Y Lee, was detained since February on a string of corruption charges including bribery, embezzlement and hiding assets overseas.

He was accused of giving donations worth 41 billion won ($36m; £29m) to non-profit foundations operated by Choi Soon-sil, a friend of South Korea’s former President Park Geun-hye, in return for political favours.

Park impeachment divides South Korea further

Her political demise is sharpening and dividing the country further rather than healing it.

The removal of former President Geun-hye Park from office has descended South Korea into a political and social crisis. The political divisions between the pro-Park and anti-Park camps have sharpened greatly that discussion between them is turning improbable.

The Constitutional Court formally ended Park’s presidency on March 10 and ousted her from the presidential post. The judgement brings an end to Park’s four years in office as the country’s first democratically elected president.

The court’s judges unanimously decided that Park should be removed from office because her actions “seriously impaired the spirit of… democracy and the rule of law”.

They said she had violated the law by letting Choi meddle in public affairs and given her unauthorised access to official papers. Choi is accused of leveraging on her personal connections with Park to extort millions of dollars from companies in donations for her non-profit organisations.

Acting president and Park-appointed Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn said last week that the cabinet will restore stability in the country to avoid internal strife from escalating further. "I respect the constitutional court's decision…The cabinet should carry out state affair in a stable way and manage social order to prevent internal conflict from intensifying," Hwang told a cabinet meeting.

However, Park’s departure has shattered some of the country’s most powerful institutions and morphed it in an unprecedented social and political turmoil. South Korea’s deep divide was already conspicuous throughout Park’s impeachment process.

Park’s supporters who were against the impeachment think that she is a victim of a political decision and doesn’t deserve to be impeached. The country is now split between the pro-Park and anti-Park camps who often take their unhappiness to the streets by protesting.

While thousands of people flocked to the streets of central Seoul last week to rejoice Park’s removal from office, many of her supporters went to a nearby square to protest against her removal.

Three people died and dozens were maimed in fierce clashes between Park’

Protesters wearing cut-outs of South Korean President Park Geun-hye – BBC

s supporters and police after the judgment. Park’s supporters are now organising further protests and demonstrations.

The pro-Park protesters are mostly the conservatives who think that her removal has created an authority deficit. They have a strong stance on national security who criticise liberals for being too soft on security-related matters and even “pro-North Korea” sympathisers.

Liberals, on the other hand, derive their legitimacy from the pro-democracy movement of the 1980s who often condemn the conservatives of autocratic behaviour.

They have reiterated the need for a transparent leadership and restoring the country’s democracy. Many of them are keen to engage with North Korea and are critical of forging a closer relationship with the US.

Recently, it was announced that a presidential election to Park Geun-hye will take place on May 9.

Hwang said that he is not going to contest the election although he is one of the top conservative candidates, according to opinion polls.

The candidate expected to salvage the conservative camp was Ban Ki-moon, the former United Nations Secretary-General.

However, he abruptly dropped his presidential bid in February, leaving a void for the conservatives. The only way for South Korea to get over this power void is through a democratically-held free and fair election, which may be a challenge amid the divisions.

Opposition groups are worried that the conservatives may not accept the court’s verdict. “We are concerned about the aftermath rather than the trial itself,” Minjoo Party member Woo Sang-ho was quoted in an online article on Yonhap News Agency.

Whoever wins the forthcoming elections and becomes the country’s new president will face an uphill task to unite the deep divides and reinstate public confidence in the government.

From there, the new president and his cabinet will need to tackle social issues such as rising youth unemployment, security issues with nuclear North Korea and strained relationship with China.

Article written by:

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kapur.roshni@gmail.com