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Cheap Solar Ambulances to Speed into Service in Rural Bangladesh

An inexpensive, solar-powered ambulance that can fit down narrow laneways is set to hit the road in rural Bangladesh this year, its manufacturers say.

The three-wheeled van, as well-equipped as ambulances used in Bangladesh’s cities, runs entirely on solar power — including solar battery power at night — and can be used in rural areas with no grid electricity, according to the developers.

A Bangladeshi university, a government organization and a local vehicle manufacturer who are collaborating on the vehicle say it should for the first time bring ambulance service to rural areas without it.

The vehicle is in the field-testing stage and there are plans to launch it by the end of 2017.

In many rural areas, emergency patients are often taken to the hospital in hand-pulled rickshaw vans. But the new, small three-wheeler ambulance will fit along narrow roads in rural areas where it is difficult for larger ambulances to run.

Zahidul Islam, a farmer in Saturia in Manikgonj district, said that when his first child was born his wife had a difficult delivery and was taken to the nearby clinic in a hand-pulled rickshaw — a trip that took too much time.

“If I had taken her to hospital a little earlier, she would have had fewer complications,” he said. But larger vehicles could not reach his house, he said.

He believes that faster, smaller ambulances would be helpful for rural people.

Safe and comfortable

Kamal Hossain, a driver who has tested a prototype of the ambulance, said that it was safe and comfortable to drive on both smooth and rough surfaces, and went at a good speed.

A.K.M. Abdul Malek Azad, the project’s team leader and a professor at BRAC University in Dhaka, said that most rural community health clinics cannot afford conventional ambulance services, but that the new ambulance would be cheap to buy and to run.

“I thought a low-cost ambulance service would be a good idea for these rural clinics. And by using solar power, we can reduce operational costs and save the environment,” he said.

The ambulance is expected to cost $1,900 to $2,500, a small fraction of the price of conventional ambulances, which can cost at least $30,000 in Bangladesh.

BRAC University’s Control and Applications Research Center is running the project in association with vehicle manufacturer Beevatech. Financing comes from the World Bank through Bangladesh’s Infrastructure Development Company Limited, with seed funding from the U.S. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

Race car inspiration

Azad said that, as far as he is aware, there is no equivalent elsewhere in the world of the solar-powered three-wheeler ambulance his team is developing. The inspiration for it came from solar racing cars in Australia.

“I thought if researchers can develop a solar racing car, there is potential to develop a solar ambulance,” he said. A vehicle that would not be reliant for power on Bangladesh’s overburdened national power grid would be a bonus, he explained.

The new ambulance can accommodate three people. It has a maximum speed of 15-20 km per hour (9-12 mph), and a range of up to 50 km (30 miles).

By day, it is powered by four 100-watt solar panels on the roof. At night, it runs on four 12-volt batteries, which are charged from the solar panels.

“The last layer of the development includes installation of a battery-charging station [at a hospital or other site close by] that is completely fueled by a solar canopy,” Azad said.

“This step is taken to ensure complete independence of these electrically assisted rickshaws from the national grid.”

The ambulance’s battery can recharge in three to four hours, he said.

Azad said his team has built and tested five prototypes over the past year. The new ambulances are expected to hit the roads at the end of 2017.

He expects that buyers will include community clinics across the country run by the BRAC non-governmental organization. Azad says officials of the BRAC Health and Nutrition Program have assured the team they will consider using the vehicles in their clinics.

Dr. Shahana Nazneen of the BRAC Health and Nutrition Population Program said that the vehicles are cost-effective and should be affordable for rural hospitals.

Habibur Rahman Khan, an additional secretary at the Health Ministry in charge of hospitals, agreed that the low-cost ambulance would help the ministry boost health facilities in rural areas.

“We will certainly consider purchasing [them] for rural hospitals,” he said.

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Hopes Fade for Cambodia Winning US Debt Relief, Analysts Say

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s recent plea for relief from decades-old debt to the United States appears to have little chance of success, regional analyst say.

Cambodians, they say, would be better off seeking to restructure the debt, easing the repayment burden.  But Hun Sen is sticking with his mantra and has repeatedly noted the debt issue in public since Donald Trump was elected U.S. president in November.

“It is difficult for us to tell Cambodians to accept debt to buy bombs and bullets to kill Cambodian people,” Hun Sen said, last week.

Cambodia racked-up $278 million in U.S. loans under the Lon Nol government in the 1970s, whose efforts to defeat the Khmer Rouge were undermined by gross corruption within his own administration.  U.S. records say the loans were for food and other agricultural goods.

But the amount has gone up sharply over the years due to interest.

Cambodia now owes the U.S. about $505 million, all in arrears with a concessional three percent interest rate, which is below market rates.

Last debt talks in 2011

“We believe resolving the issue would be in both countries’ interest,” said Jay Raman, public affairs officer with the U.S. embassy in Phnom Penh.  “The United States has encouraged Cambodia to work with us on finding a solution to the debt since shortly after the 1995 Paris Club negotiations.”

Raman said there was a brief discussion of Cambodia’s official debt to the United States during the November 2015 U.S.-Cambodia Competitiveness and Growth Dialogue, while the last detailed discussion of the issue occurred in 2011, when a U.S. delegation visited Phnom Penh.

In 2008 testimony before Congress on the debt, U.S. officials said they had negotiated for several years with the Hun Sen government to work out a payment schedule but to no avail.  U.S. and World Bank officials have said Cambodia doesn’t meet World Bank standards for debt forgiveness.

Importantly, Congress must agree to write off debts for countries that are able to pay, as Cambodia is.

Cambodia does not suffer from the same poverty levels as it once did.  It was recently promoted to the ranks of the lower-middle income countries and despite this, the U.S. allocates an average of about $70 million a year in direct foreign aid.  It has committed $78 million for 2017.

Subtle approach urged

Billy Chia-Lung Tai, an independent human rights consultant at CL Consulting, urged Cambodians to think carefully on this issue, even though they can argue the debt is the result of U.S. backing for the weak Lon Nol government and Washington’s bombing in Cambodia during the Vietnam War.

“I don’t think having a shouting match with the Americans helps.  I agree the Americans in a way don’t really have the moral high ground, considering what they were doing in the early ’70s in the region and this essentially is money that was used to prop [up] a regime that they desperately want legitimacy [for] in the middle of the Vietnam war,” Tai said. “So, you know, I wonder if a more subtle diplomatic approach would be the way to go.”

Hun Sen began his push for debt relief in 2002 when the Chinese wrote off debts incurred by the Khmer Rouge during their 1975-79 rule.  But Russia has also balked at canceling $1.3 billion worth of loans made during the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia in the 1980s.

Ongoing debate

Sambo Manara, a history lecturer with Pannasastra University said it remains unclear whether the U.S. money was debt or humanitarian aid because it arrived during a difficult period in Cambodia’s history, during a civil war, and as the Khmer Rouge militants were threatening the government.

“Whether it was for humanitarian aid or diplomatic relations, these are important factors that need to be considered.  Is it a debt or humanitarian?” asked Manara. “Clearly, the U.S. must accept that this was the beginning for them to use all their resources to compete in this war.  Therefore, it cannot be a debt because it was an action to resolve the tension with the Cold War between two powerful ideals, democracy and communism.”

Analysts said there were several other reasons why President Trump is unlikely to listen.

“It is a lot of money, but I think the real point is the Americans always favor the sanctity of the International finance system,” said one analyst, who declined to be named out of fear of upsetting the Hun Sen government.  “I’m sure there is room in there to reschedule the debt with lighter payments over a longer period, but they have to act and negotiate within that system.”

 

Molyny Pann contributed to this report.

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Forbidden Love: Valentine’s Day Banned for Some in Asia

Valentine’s Day celebrations on Tuesday were banned by authorities in parts of Indonesia and Pakistan, home to Asia’s largest Muslim populations, saying the romantic tradition encouraged casual sex and ran counter to cultural norms.

In Indonesia, officials from the country’s second largest city, Surabaya, ordered schools to prohibit students from celebrating Valentine’s Day, while in Makassar, police raided minimarts and seized condoms in a bid to prevent teenagers from having sex.

“These raids were done after we received reports from residents that the minimarts were selling condoms in an unregulated way, especially on Valentine’s Day,” Makassar police official Jufri was quoted as saying in a media report.

Indonesia’s highest Islamic clerical council declared Valentine’s Day forbidden by Islamic law in 2012, saying it was contradictory to Muslim culture and teachings.

But the vast majority of Indonesia’s more than 220 million Muslims follow a moderate form of Islam in a country with sizeable Christian and Hindu minorities. Indonesia is a secular country whose state ideology enshrines religious diversity.

In Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, and other parts of the country, Valentine’s Day has grown in popularity with companies, like national flag carrier Garuda Indonesia, looking to cash in by offering special discounts and promotions.

In Pakistan, an Islamic republic, a court banned public Valentine’s Day celebrations in its capital.

The Islamabad High Court also ordered the media to “ensure that nothing about the celebration of Valentine’s Day and its promotion is spread”.

That hurt some businesses in the city of 2 million people. “I’ve sold at least 50 percent less flowers today than in past years. People just haven’t come out to buy them,” said Haider Ali, who works at the F7 flower market in Islamabad.

Promoting love

In other Asian countries, authorities took the opposite position on Valentine’s Day, imposing preemptive measures to protect festivities and even encouraging sex.

Thailand’s government, concerned with its falling birth rate, handed out vitamins to married couples to try to encourage them to have children.

While in eastern India, police placed two members of the Bajrang Dal – the youth wing of the hardline World Hindu Council – and four activists from a fringe political party in preventive detention to ensure they didn’t disrupt celebrations.

Security in Bhubaneswar, capital of Odisha state, was stepped up in public spaces including parks, cinemas and malls to prevent activists from taking the law into their own hands, Deputy Commissioner of Police Satyabrata Bhoi told Reuters.

In Mumbai, the Hindu-nationalist Shiv Sena party dropped its earlier opposition to Valentine’s Day after its activists had in the past beaten up couples spending the day together.

“We are neutral about Valentine’s Day,” said Shiv Sena Neelam Gorhe. “As far as this year is concerned, we have asked cadres not to give any violent reaction.”

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ГПУ: щодо Клименка порушували два кримінальні провадження, одне зупинили

Головна військова прокуратура порушувала два кримінальні провадження щодо колишнього міністра доходів і зборів України Олександра Клименка. Про це йдеться у відповіді Генпрокуратури на запит Радіо Свобода.

За даними відомства, у червні 2014 року відкрито кримінальне провадження за підозрою Клименка у зловживанні владою та службовим становищем. 

Водночас у Генпрокуратурі зазначають, що наразі досудове розслідування у цьому «кримінальному провадженні зупинене у зв’язку з розшуком підозрюваного». 

Крім того, відкрите провадження від 19 січня 2017 року за підозрою колишнього голови Державної податкової служби Клименка у створенні злочинної організації, привласненні та розтраті майна шляхом зловживання службовим становищем, у фіктивному підприємництвіта службовому підробленні, досудове розслідування триває.

За даними ГПУ, Клименко оголошений в міжнародний розшук за статтями про створення злочинної організації та розтрату. Водночас на даний час інформація про Клименка на сайті Інтерполу відсутня. Також захист екс-чиновника заявляє, що їхній підзахисний не розшукується Інтерполом.

Також за іншими статтями було подано клопотання про оголошення екс-чиновника в розшук, наразі Генсекретаріат Інтерполу рішення не ухвалив, додають у Генпрокуратурі. 

Апеляційний суд Києва 8 лютого повідомив, що заочно заарештував Клименка. 

Наприкінці 2014 колишньому міністрові уряду Миколи Азарова повідомили про підозру у заволодінні державним майном в особливо великих розмірах. Із 2015 року він перебував у міжнародному розшуку. Олександр Клименко залишається почесним головою партії «Успішна країна», осередки якої діють в різних містах України.

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Турецькі ЗМІ: поліція затримала підозрюваного в організації нападу на нічний клуб Стамбула

Поліція Туреччини затримала підозрюваного в організації нападу на нічний клуб Стамбула 1 січня, внаслідок якого загинули 39 людей, повідомляють турецькі ЗМІ.

За повідомленнями, громадянин Франції турецького походження був затриманий в аеропорту Стамбула 12 лютого.

Влада повідомляє, що підозрюваний, якого ідентифікують лише як А.С., вважається одним із організаторів нападу.

Турецька поліція ввечері 16 січня під час спецоперації затримала підозрюваного у нападі на нічний клуб Стамбула. Громадянина Узбекистану Абдулкадира Машаріпова затримали під час рейду поліції в районі Бешикташ.

Вночі 1 січня озброєний нападник відкрив вогонь у нічному клубі Reina в історичному районі Стамбула Ортакей, коли там зібралося понад півтисячі людей для святкування Нового року. Він розстріляв охоронця-поліцейського на вході і влаштував стрілянину з автоматичної зброї всередині. В результаті нападу 39 людей загинули і понад 60 були поранені.

Відповідальність за напад на себе взяло угруповання «Ісламська держава», заявивши, що це помста за дії турецьких військових у Сирії.

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Speed a Possible Factor in Taiwan Bus Crash That Killed 33

Investigators were looking into excessive speed as the possible cause of a bus crash in Taiwan that killed 33 people and injured several others in the island’s worst road accident in more than three decades, an official said Tuesday.

 

The bus flipped over Monday evening while cornering on an expressway ramp in Taiwan’s capital Taipei after taking a tour group to view cherry blossoms.

 

Highway police spokesman Ma Ling-wen said the speed limit on the ramp was 40 kph (25 mph) but it was not clear how fast the bus had been going. Ma said speed had not yet been ruled out as a cause of the crash.

 

The bus was carrying 44 people, mainly senior citizens, many of whom were trapped under the crushed wreckage. Rescuers were forced to use a crane to pry the vehicle open.

 

Thirty-two people, all Taiwanese, were confirmed dead and the remaining passengers were sent to hospitals for treatment. Both the bus driver and tour guide were among the dead.

 

Taiwan’s Premier Lin Chuan told reporters the government would provide assistance to the bereaved families and conduct a “thorough review” once the immediate work had been completed, the official Central News Agency reported.

 

The agency said the accident was the worst ever on Taiwan’s highway network and the island’s deadliest since a tour bus crashed into a ravine on a winding mountain road on Oct. 8, 1986, killing 42 people.

 

The bus belonged to the private Yongli Keyun transit company and had been turning off the No. 5 freeway onto the No. 3 freeway in the eastern Taipei district of Nangang when it crashed at about 9 p.m.

 

A bus accident in Taiwan last July killed 26 tourists from mainland China, prompting an across-the-board review of tour bus safety. Investigators said the driver in that crash was drunk and had intentionally set the bus alight as it traveled to Taiwan’s main airport.

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Росія заперечує втручання у президентські вибори у Франції

Росія заперечує заяви про те, що кандидат партії «En Marche!» («Вперед!») на виборах президента Франції Еммануель Макрон став мішенню російських засобів інформації й інтернет-атак.

14 лютого речник президента Росії Дмитро Пєсков заявив, що звинувачення на адресу російської влади є «просто абсурдними».

Раніше генеральний секретар партії «En Marche!» Рішар Ферран заявив, що кандидат цієї партії на виборах президента Франції Еммануель Макрон є мішенню російських засобів інформації та інтернет-атак. Ці дії Москви мають на меті допомогти передвиборчим кампаніям прихильних до Росії кандидатів, вважають у партії Макрона.

Ферран, який сказав, що Москва прихильна до лідера ультраправих Марін Ле Пен і правоцентристського кандидата Франсуа Фійона, закликав уряд вжити заходів, щоб гарантувати відсутність «іноземного втручання» у вибори.

Проводячи паралель зі США, де спецслужби заявили про втручання Кремля у президентські вибори, Рішар Ферран сказав: «Американці побачили це, але занадто пізно».

Колишній член Соціалістичної партії, Макрон у 2016 році вирішив створити власний рух «En Marche!» і балотуватися від нього у президенти Франції. Свій рух він називає центристським, однак боротиметься і за лівий та правий електорат.

Макрон нині претендує на вихід до другого туру виборів. Соціологи твердять, що Макрон переможе, якщо 7 травня в другому турі його опоненткою буде лідер «Національного фронту» Марін Ле Пен. Ця політик налаштована проти ЄС і підтримує політику Росії щодо України, зокрема, вважає законною анексію Криму.

У Кремлі раніше також заперечували звинувачення з боку США про використання Москвою кібернападів й інших методів для втручання в американські вибори 2016 року.

 

 

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Уряд не запроваджував надзвичайного стану в енергетиці – Зубко

Уряд не розглядав впровадження надзвичайного стану в енергетиці у зв’язку із блокадою залізниці на Донбасі. Про це заявив за підсумками засідання віце-прем’єр-міністр України Геннадій Зубко. 

За його словами, ще день-два повинне тривати обговорення, яким чином зменшити споживання вугілля із 28 тисяч тонн до 20 тисяч. 

«Це введення надзвичайних заходів, я б хотів, щоб ми не плутали це з надзвичайним станом. Надзвичайні заходи дозволяють в оперативному режимі давати можливість експлуатації енергоблоків теплогенерації, які працюють в Україні. Це не стосується надзвичайного стану якогось спеціального для населення, це стосується сталого функціонування енергетичної системи в Україні», – сказав Зубко. 

Водночас сьогодні прем’єр Володимир Гройсман заявив, що він проти «контрабандного переміщення товарів» через лінію розмежування на Донбасі. Він зазначив, що уряд якісно підготувався до опалювального сезону, але «деякі українці» хочуть його зірвати і спонукати тимчасові вимкнення електроенергії.

«Нам треба розмежувати боротьбу з контрабандою і розмежувати боротьбу з українським народом», – наголосив Гройсман.

13 лютого відбулося засідання Антикризового енергетичного штабу. Серед заходів, які пропонувались під час засідання,– перенесення базового навантаження на атомну енергетику, коригування графіку роботи промисловості, щоб мінімізувати споживання електроенергії в години пік, та пріоритетне постачання електроенергії населенню.

Міністерство енергетики і вугільної промисловості та Міністерство регіонального розвитку заявили про намір подати на розгляд уряду план дій за умови надзвичайної ситуації в енергетиці.

Як повідомляв міністр енергетики Ігор Насалик, наявні запаси антрациту на українських електростанціях – 900 тисяч тонн, цього має вистачити на 30 днів функціонування енергетики у нинішньому режимі. 

Поклади вугілля антрацитової групи в Україні є лише в зоні бойових дій на Донбасі.

У січні активісти, серед яких депутати Верховної Ради та ветерани АТО, розпочали блокаду залізниці «Луганськ-Лисичанськ-Попасна» з метою припинити торгівлю із окупованими районами Донбасу. Вони пообіцяли влаштувати повну блокаду, якщо найближчим часом не звільнять чи не обміняють усіх українських військовополонених. Донецька поліція почала 4 кримінальні провадження за фактами блокування залізничного сполучення та захоплення електровозів.

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Report: North Korean Leader’s Half Brother Killed in Malaysia

The half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was assassinated Monday in Malaysia, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

Yonhap reported that a South Korean government official said Kim Jong Nam was killed. The official did not provide additional information.

VOA contacted South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, which neither confirmed nor denied the story.

Kim Jong Nam reportedly was killed by two unidentified female agents who used poisoned needles at Kuala Lumpur International Airport before hailing a cab and fleeing the scene.

Kim Jong Nam was once considered the heir apparent to lead North Korea, but he fell out of favor with his father Kim Jong Il after a failed 2001 attempt to enter Japan on a forged passport to visit Disneyland.

Since then, Kim Jong Nam has lived in virtual exile, primarily in the Chinese territory of Macau.

Kim Jong Un assumed leadership of North Korea when his father died in 2011.

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Екс-депутат Держдуми Росії заявляє, що отримав громадянство України

Колишній депутат Держдуми Росії від КПРФ Денис Вороненков заявляє, що у грудні отримав громадянство України. Про це він сказав в інтерв’ю порталу censor.net.ua.

За словами Вороненкова, це сталося через два дні після закінчення його повноважень депутата російського парламенту.

Вороненков також підтвердив опубліковану раніше ЗМІ інформацію про те, що він дав свідчення Генеральній прокуратурі України проти колишнього українського президента Віктора Януковича.

«Так, я дав свідчення у справі про державну зраду Януковича. Я вважав це своїм обов’язком, допомогти своїй країні і викрити цього негідника. Янукович – маріонетка», – заявив Вороненков.

Про те, що Вороненков «сам проявив ініціативу» і дав свідчення Генпрокуратурі України у справі про держзраду екс-президента країни Віктора Януковича, написала в кінці січня газета «Коммерсант». Раніше у цій же справі дав свідчення інший колишній російський депутат Ілля Пономарьов.

Раніше російська прокуратура відмовилася порушити справу на Вороненкова, якого Слідчий комітет Росії підозрює в рейдерському захопленні будівлі в центрі Москви. У грудні 2016 року екс-депутат переїхав до Києва.

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Moscow Hosting Afghanistan Talks

Russia is expected to host Wednesday a second round of international talks on Afghanistan in Moscow, with Afghanistan representatives invited for the first time. The United States has not been invited. Russia says it wants stability and cooperation in the fight against extremists in the region. But Afghanistan officials are not happy with Russia’s direct talks with the Taliban, which U.S. officials say are aimed at undermining their efforts. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.

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China’s Xi Says Officials Should Prevent Abuse of Power

Top Chinese officials need to “build a fence” to ensure neither they nor those around them abuse power, and must practice greater self-discipline, state media cited President Xi Jinping as saying as he drives home his anti-corruption message.

Since assuming office four years ago, Xi has waged war on deep-seated graft, warning, like others before him, that the problem is so bad it could affect the party’s grip on power.

Dozens of senior figures have been jailed for corruption and abusing their positions, including China’s once powerful domestic security chief, Zhou Yongkang.

Speaking at a workshop on fighting graft, Xi said leading officials must practice strict self-discipline and “eliminate special privileges”, state news agency Xinhua said late on Monday.

Senior officials should “build a fence against special privileges to prevent themselves and those around them from abusing power” and use their power impartially, cautiously and legally, the news agency cited Xi as saying.

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South Korean Far-Right Rises Up to Defend Impeached President

A new South Korean conservative far-right coalition is forming to fight against what they say is the “illegal” impeachment of the duly elected president, Park Geun-hye, by the “lying media” and pro-North Korean “establishment elites.”  

The pro-Park conservatives have been slow to organize in the wake of a presidential corruption scandal that erupted in October of last year. 

“Maybe our attempts to rescue the president are too late, or a little bit late. Why? Because the whole thing was unexpected,” said Chulhong Kim, an associate professor at the Presbyterian College and Theological Seminary in Seoul, who has become a leader of a new conservative group that has yet to become a formal organization. 

October surprise 

President Park was brought down by allegations that she colluded with or was manipulated by her long time friend Choi Soon-sil, along with some close presidential aides, to force Korean conglomerates to donate nearly $65 million to two dubious foundations. Choi reportedly benefited from lucrative side contracts to companies owned by herself and her friends.  

There were also other charges that outraged the public but carried less legal weight, that Choi used her presidential connections to gain her daughter admission into a prestigious university, and that Park was negligent in handling the 2014 Sewol ferry disaster that killed over 300 people, many of them school age children. 

The fast moving scandal sparked weeks of widespread public protests across the country, and saw the president’s public approval rating plummet to below 10 percent. In December, the National Assembly voted overwhelmingly to impeach Park, while at the same time appointing a special counsel to investigate the charges. Since then Park has been suspended from office while the Constitutional Court reviews the impeachment motion, that if upheld will result in an early presidential election some time this year.  

The president’s defenders contend the impeachment legislative process is overtly political, pressured by bias media coverage and unduly influenced by public demonstrations, and legally flawed in convicting Park and suspending her from office before even holding official hearings. 

“Under the current law, impeachment is not illegal but subsequently the immediate suspension of the president is against the principle of presumption of innocence,” said Professor Kim. 

Protests and term limits 

Over the weekend, both pro and anti-impeachment demonstrations were held in Seoul and across the country.  

Korean media reported that 750,000 pro-impeachment supporters held a candlelight vigil on Saturday evening in downtown Gwanghwamun Square despite freezing temperatures that dropped to minus 9 degrees Celsius. Moon Jae-in, a progressive leader of the opposition Democratic Party and the leading presidential contender in opinion polls, joined with the demonstrators, saying that, “the voices of the people are the constitution.”  

The renewed surge of protesters coming out against President Park reflects concerns the Constitution Court could become deadlocked if they do not soon conclude their judicial review. 

The nine member Constitutional Court must reach the required quorum of six votes to uphold the impeachment motion. However the court is already down to eight members as the term of the chief justice ended in January. Another justice will reach his term limit in March. Then the court will be down to seven members, but six votes will still be required to reach a verdict. And Constitutional Court justices cannot be replaced until the impeachment issue is resolved.  

Lying media 

Park’s supporters also held a rally earlier on Saturday in front of City Hall.  Media reports say the number of anti-impeachment demonstrators reached over 200,000, but organizers claim that more than a million people participated. 

The hardline pro-Park organizers discount mainstream media reports, saying they are biased against the president and her ruling Saenuri Party, and working with opposition groups to topple the president. 

“I want (to say to the) dishonest media, you, please, do not deceive our people,” said Jiyeon Ihn, an activist and attorney that heads us up a group called Now! Act for North Koreans! (NANK.) 

Pro-American 

At the conservative rallies, American flags are proudly displayed. The deployment of the U.S. THAAD missile defense system is widely supported.  And China objections about increasing U.S. military capabilities, and reservations expressed by opposition leaders, are loudly jeered. 

Many of these Korean far-right activists see Park’s impeachment as part of an insidious leftist, communist movement backed by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.  

“If the attempt succeeds the future government would be pro-North Korean, anti-American, anti-free market, anti-human rights. It would inaugurate a unified communist regime in the Korean Peninsula,” said Professor Kim. 

Unable to get their views expressed in traditional news outlets, the new Korean far-right is spreading the word through social media. While their rallies are still smaller than their opponents, they say their movement is growing. And even if President Park’s impeachment is upheld, these conservatives intend to become an influential political force in future elections.

Youmi Kim contributed to this report in Seoul