South Korea. After North Korea tested a nuclear weapon
and launched a long-range rocket, South Korea decided in
February to close operations at the Kaesong Joint Industrial
Zone. As a reason, it was stated that it wanted to prevent
North Korea from withdrawing hard currency that could be
used for weapons development. According to
countryaah, Kaesong opened in 2004 as a
joint project involving over 120 South Korean companies
employing 54,000 North Korean workers.
Ahead of the April parliamentary elections, it looked
promising for President Park Geun Hye's conservative
government party Saenuri after a split in the Liberal
opposition party. But the result was surprisingly a success
for the leading liberal group, which received 123 of the 300
seats, a mandate more than Saenuri, which has been the
largest party since 2008. The liberal party, which has
undergone several name changes, called itself the October
Korean Democratic Party.
During the summer, Seoul agreed to a request from the
United States to deploy an American anti-robot system in
South Korea as protection against North Korea. China
objected sharply, claiming that the anti-robot system was as
provocative as test blasts. In September, North Korea
blasted its fifth and so far most powerful nuclear weapons
charge. It prompted Prime Minister Hwang Kyo Ahn to call for
a crisis meeting and President Park returned prematurely
from a visit to Laos.
In the fall, a scandal was revealed that led to demands
for Park to step down. A close friend of hers, Choi Soon
Sil, proved for a long time to have had a great influence
over political decisions on key issues. Choi was accused of
embezzlement when she was suspected of having managed large
companies to donate money to foundations which she herself
controlled. Representatives of Samsung, Hyundai and six
other South Korea's largest companies were forced before a
committee of parliamentarians to respond to allegations that
they had donated millions of dollars to foundations in
exchange for benefits. During weeks of street protests,
millions of citizens demanded the president's resignation.
In December, Parliament voted to put Park in charge of state
law for corruption.