The president of South Korea Park Geun-hye was involved in the most severe corruption scandal in her four-year presidency. She was accused of releasing official documents to her friend Choi Soon-sil. She was also blamed for forcing big companies, such as Samsung and Hyundai, to make donations into two non-profit organizations. Thousands of citizens took the street, holding banners and forcing Ms. Park to resign. Her approval ratings decreased rapidly. According to a Gallup poll released on Nov. 4th, Her approval ratings went down to 5 percent, which was the lower than any former presidents in South Korea. Media of South Korea called this scandal as “Choi Soon-sil Gate”.
Unequal admission of Choi’s daughter became the stimulus
The intimate relationship between Ms. Park and Choi has been found after the event of students’ protest in the Ewha Womans University. First, students in the Ewha Womans University complained on a school online forum that professors gave Jeong Yoo-ra, the daughter of Choi, good grades despite her long absence from classes. Students discussed Jeong on the campus and said that it was because she had a powerful person standing behind her. In addition, it has been found that Jeong received special favors when she was admitted. Students felt that they were treated unequally, so they held several rallies and protests demanding the president’s further explanation. On Nov. 17, the president of Ewha Womans University resigned, under the pressure of the accusation--“undemocratic operation of the school and involvement in corruption” (The Korean Herald, 2016/10/17).
After hearing the protest in Ewha Womans University, Choi escaped to the Germany in order to be away from public anger. Journalists found 44 government documents saved on Choi’s abandoned computer. According to related security laws, all these documents should be kept secret. However, it was found that marks and notes had been added to these documents, which meant Choi reviewed the documents and gave some suggestions. As an unauthorized individual, Choi was accused of being involved with policy-making process and changing the national policy in her favor.
Involved corruption was discovered
Choi was also accused of forcing big companies to donate over 69 million dollars to two foundations that she controlled. The Financial Time said that these big companies included Samsung, LG, etc. Taking the Samsung as an example, this company was suspected of transferring 3.1 million dollars to a company owned by Choi in Germany. People also suspected that Samsung has secretly funded Choi’s daughter to be a dressage rider. South Koreans were shocked by the power of Choi and her families. As more information has been exposed by the media, South Koreans thought that Choi had created a secret group called “the eight fairies” to give suggestions to Ms. Park behind the scenes (The Washington Post, 10/29/2016). The eight Women have worked in different industries and companies, such as Hyundai, Hanwha, Korea Development Bank (KDB), etc. As the corruption index from the Transparency International organization showed, South Korea scored 56 out of 100 in 2015. Scores range from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). Now, citizens feel that the degree of corruption is much higher than they thought.
On Oct. 30, Choi went back to Seoul from Germany. It was her first time that she appeared in public after the accusation. She said, “I have committed a deadly sin, please forgive me” (Yonhap News Agency, 10/31/2016). Even though Choi apologized to the public, people still felt angry and chanted outside the Blue House (presidential palace) “Down with Park Geun-hye!” and “Arrest Choi Soon-sil!”.
President Park admitted of sharing “certain documents” with Choi. She said, “She (Choi) continued to help me for a certain period of time after I took office” (BBC, 10/31/2016). In order to assuage the public anger and regain the public trust, she replaced the country’s prime minister, fired eight presidential aides, and also replaced her chief economic minister and domestic safety minister. Such actions could not ease people’s anger. On Nov. 13, over 100,000 people protested on the streets and called for President Park’s resignation. CNN commented on this event as “It was one of the biggest anti-government protests the country has seen in decades.”
Voices/actions in South Korea
A review published by Korea Expose Magazine described Choi as a person who rarely made public appearances. After the corruption scandal of President Park, citizens felt that Ms. Park had hidden too many things from the public and she lied to every one. As one of the protesters on Nov. 13, the high school student Chi Hee Jung said, “She says so many lies and she's a liar, but we didn't know that for a long time and now we have to speak loud.” (CNN, 11/13/2016)
Although Ms. Park have apologized twice to the public, reshuffled several top officials and accepted investigation from the prosecutor, people still felt angry and called for her resignation. In earlier November, Ms. Park delivered a speech on television and said “I have already instructed the Blue House secretary's office and security office to fully co-operate with the prosecutor's investigation” (CNN, 11/13/2016). All these actions could not assuage people’s anger. Protesters took the streets and chanted in the square of central Seoul, holding banners with “Park Geun-hye out” and “Treason by a secret government”. Choi Kyung-ha, a mother of three children, explained the reason why she joined the protest, “I came out today because this is not the country I want to pass on to my children. My kids have asked me who Choi Soon-sil was and whether she's the real president, and I couldn't provide an answer.” (Chicago Tribune, 11/05/2016)
The influence on U.S.-South Korea relations and deployment of THAAD
President Park Geun-hye played an important role in deploying the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea. THAAD is a missile defense system conducted by the United States. The cooperation between the U.S. and South Korea on THAAD system can maintain the U.S. power on the Korean peninsula, put pressure on North Korea and balance the power of China and Russia. The corruption scandal of Ms. Park brought the concern about whether the execution of THAAD on South Korea would continue or not.
Benjamin Lee, a junior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Asia Program, thought that “South Korea would most likely delay and potentially even cancel the deployment of THAAD batteries” based on the analysis of current situation (the Diplomat, 2016/11/03). It was because the South Koreans showed a level of disagreement about the deployment of THAAD. For example, local people protested when Park government announced putting the THAAD battery in Seongju, the central area of South Korea. The opposition parties in South Korea also showed disagreement with President Park’s decision on THAAD. They suggested that the National Assembly should have rights to vote on the issue of deployment.
In addition, Russia and China consistently opposed the deployment of THAAD in South Korea. After hearing the official announcement of THAAD deployment, the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed a very serious concern about it. They also warned that this event would bring dangerous consequences to Russian-South Korean relations.
The deployment of THAAD also brought damage to Chinese- South Korean relations. The Washington Post said that China was South Korea’s biggest trade partner and South Korea was originally ambivalent about deploying THAAD because it was afraid to break ties with China. As it predicted, China reduced the number of tourists and denied visas to express opposition to THAAD deployment. For example, over 60 percent of the bookings have been cancelled from Chinese tourists in the two weeks since South Korean announced the THAAD program (The Global Times, 2016/8/1). According to the data from Korea Tourism Organization, Chinese tourists took almost half of total foreign tourists in South Korea (Chinese tourists/ total foreign tourists= 47.7%). The reduction of Chinese tourists set pressure on South Korean’s economy and Park government. Based on all the reasons, South Korea might suspend the deployment of THAAD, and the U.S.-South Korean relations will be more complicated, when the most possible situation--Ms. Park’s resignation from the president and a reshuffle of her cabinet or administers — is considered (The Daily Caller News Foundation, 10/29/2016).
Aa an old saying goes, “A little leak will sink a great ship”. At the beginning, students protested for the unequal admission of Choi’s in the Ewha Womans University. Then, journalists found 44 government documents in Choi’s abandoned computer. As the best friend of President Park, Choi used her power to force big companies to donate money to two foundations owned by her. It was found that eight women from different industry were also involved with the corruption scandal. South Koreans felt disappointed about Ms. Park, so they chanted on the streets and called for Park’s resignation. Some protesters said that they would continue on protesting until Park resigns.
This scandal would have influence on U.S.-South Korea relations and deployment of THAAD. South Korea and U.S. officially confirmed to deploy THAAD on July 7, 2016. Park government faced lots of pressure from domestic opposition and diplomatic criticism, especially Russia and China. If Ms. Park resigned from the presidential position, the deployment of THAAD would be suspended, and American efforts on east Asia would be more complicated.
1. Corruption scandal threatens to derail South Korea’s president, Financial Times,
2. S.Korea president's approval rating falls to 5 percent: Gallup, Reuters,
3. South Korea’s Metastasizing Crisis, NY Times,
4. Strategic Implications of South Korea’s Political Scandal, Diplomatic
5. Chinese tourists cancel trips to South Korea after THAAD
6. South Korean protesters march against President again
RDD attack preparation and response
Radiological Dispersal Device (RDD) is any weapon that is designed to spread radioactive material with the intent to kill and cause disruption. RDD combines the conventional weapons with radioactive material together. This kind of weapon may not kill hundreds of people immediately, but it will cause psychological panic among people, especially in places with high population density. The Department of Homeland Security mentions that wind and precipitation might expand the dispersal of radioactive materials, broadening the affected areas. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission states that the contamination and anxiety caused by a RDD attack meet the major objectives of terrorists.
What is Radiological Dispersal Device (RDD)?
Radiological Dispersal Device is designed to release radioactive materials into a specific area. The media usually describe it as a “dirty bomb” or “dirty nuke”. “Dirty bomb” is one type of RDD that uses the explosion to release radioactive materials. Dirty bomb will cause physical injury to victims and will contaminate the local environment. This contamination easily triggers the panic of local residents, since the radiation can not be seen. If the government delays its reaction and emergency response to a dirty bomb attack, it might cause a chaotic and unstable situation.
A dirty bomb is not the only form of RDD. U.S. Department of Health and Human services provides other dispersal methods of RDD, such as placing radioactive materials in an open container on the street and using airplanes to deliver radioactive materials. The health and environment impacts of the RDD depend on the design of the device and the types of radiation. For example, using airplanes to drop radioactive materials results in a larger contaminated area compared with a small dirty bomb. Gamma and X-rays can travel long distance and penetrate human skin, and thus hurt people badly compared with Alpha radiation.
The most obvious difference between dirty bombs and nuclear bomb is that the nuclear bomb has nuclear chain reaction, while dirty bombs are more similar to conventional bombs. The power of a nuclear bomb is thousand to millions times that of a dirty bomb, since the nuclear bomb can destroy a city in a few seconds and spread radioactive dust to a large area. Although a dirty bomb is not as powerful as a nuclear bomb, a dirty bomb is easier to make and terrorists may have access to radioactive martials from labs of universities or hospitals in war areas.
The brief history of RDD attack
The first attempt of a RDD attack happened in 1995. The Chechen rebels claimed that they buried a container of radioactive materials in Izmailovsky Park of Moscow. These radioactive materials were traced to cancer treatment equipment. In 1998, 19 tubes of cesium ware stolen from the Moses Cone Memorial Hospital in North Carolina. The police inferred that the thief was trained to handle the cesium since the direct contact would have brought a serious injury to his body. After the loss, the hospital strengthened their security on radioactive materials. In 1998, a container of radioactive materials, which was attached to a mine, was buried near a railway line outside the Argun. It was discovered before its explosion.
In 2001, Jose Padilla was accused of planning to deliver a dirty bomb in an American city and was arrested in Chicago O'Hare airport. Before he was arrested, he had connection with Al Qeada and was trained in Pakistan. According to the overview RDD response report from Lessons Learned Information Sharing Program, during 2003 to 2005, at least 38 Alazan rockets (a type of Cold War-era, 82mm Soviet rocket) carried radioactive materials were available for sale in Trans-Dniester, which is a self-proclaimed republic near Ukraine. The website of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) shows that numerous radioactive materials were missing every year. For example, there are 153 incidents was reported to IAEA in 2013. Among them, missing radioactive materials in 7 incidents were identified as having great risks. More and more countries are working on nuclear studies, which brings the potential risk of uncontrolled management on radioactive materials. The information shows that it is important that we take the preparation and response to a RDD attack seriously.
The danger brought by the RDD attack
As the emergency preparedness guidance from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security stated, the main purpose of RDD attack is causing economic disruption and fear. The RDD attack will bring economic disruption because the local government would have to spend considerable resources and time on post-attack recovery of environment and healing people who are exposed to radioactive materials. The immediate impact is that local people near the site of the attack might have physical injury, such as burning of skin and internal organs. In the long run, the local government has to deal with the dispersal of radioactive materials in water, air and soil. In addition, residue of the radiation may be left on the buildings and infrastructure near the attack site.
The psychological panic caused by a RDD attack is the another problem that need to be considered seriously. An article posted on Stratfor website states that the psychological panic is the biggest threat of dirty bombs. It is because dirty bombs are not likely to kill mass casualties, but people who live in the attacked places fear the spread of invisible radiation and may respond unpredictability. Scholars also point that the reason why citizens feel panic is that the invisible radiation makes them feel vulnerable and loss control of life. Thus, it is important for governments and related organizations to release credible information in time, and inform citizens on how to protect themselves.
The personal preparation and response of RDD attack
According to the emergency preparedness guidance from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, it is necessary for people to get some preparations before a RDD attack, so that they stay calm when accident happened. Similar as preparations for other natural disasters, people should make emergency supply boxes and family emergency plans. An emergency supply box usually contains some long term food, a radio, batteries and a flashlight. Family emergency plans includes details such as the location they can hide and meet after the attack. It is essential for them to be familiar with where nearby shelters are.
For people near the place of attack, they should leave the place of releasing radioactive materials as soon as possible. The two ways for people to protect themselves are preventing exposure to radiation and removal of radiation. In the aspect of preventing access to radiation, they can use tissues or damp clothes to cover their noses and mouths, to prevent the inhalation the radiation. People can also go into a building without opening windows and doors and wait for the instruction of authorities. In the aspect of removing radiation, people can take off contaminated clothes and put the clothing into a sealed bag. People can wash their skin to clean radiation but they need to make sure radioactive materials will not enter their mouths.
The agencies preparation and response of RDD attack
As the local governments or agencies that deal with the RDD attack, they need to provide emergency response and long-term recovery for an event like this. The Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response published a playbook which mentioned four phases to deal with a radiological attack. The first phase is Pre-Incident, which requires the local law enforcement and FBI closely monitor events and get advance preparations for possible attacks. During this phase, agencies can publish brochures to provide suggestions when people meet emergency situations. Agencies or organizations can deliver recommendations approved by experts and first responders. They can also test their communication systems before the attack, in order to make sure availability and functionality of the systems.
The second phase is the first 24 hours after the RDD attack. During the second phase, the main strategy is assessing the events, saving maximal number of victims, and treating those affected. The third phase is 24 hours to 72 hours after the RDD attack. During this phase, the main strategy is providing surge capacity, rapidly deploying assets to save lives and minimizing adverse health effects. The last phase is 72 hours to two weeks after the attack. During the last phase, the main strategy is creating an implementing long-term recovery and rebuilding local or regional public heal infrastructure.
The long-term recovery is usually very complex which needs to involve the efforts of local, federal, and state governments and agencies. It is important to know that the recovery of contamination might never reach the pre-incident levels. People usually have a misconception that the decontamination means there are no radioactivity at all. But, in the practical level, the goal of decontamination is reducing the radioactivity to a normal level rather than getting rid of it.
According to the RDD incident response report from Lessons Learned Information Sharing Program, the design of decontamination should be adjusted based on the locations, types and distribution of radiation. The contamination might be attached to the external surfaces of buildings and internal infrastructure. The transportation and water supplies also need to be tested to assess if the level of radiation is over standards. Some radioactive materials might penetrate into soil which needs to be dumped when its level of radiation is overweight. The radioactive materials usually are liquid spilled or in solid form, therefore the design of recovery needs to consider part of radioactive materials might be absorbed by some porous materials, such as concrete, wood and plants. The distribution of radioactive materials in a RDD attack tends to be uneven because wind and rain have influence on the spread of radiation. The recovery design needs to cover not only the concentrated radiation places but also other places of relatively lower level radiation.
Fengyao Luo, a journalism graduate student studying in USA. Love reading, photography, travel. Want to see a wider world.