Removal of South Korean President Park Geun-hye
post date : 2017.03.17
Asahi: Urgent to restore stability to national government
Sankei: Avoid crisis and restore calm
Nikkei: South Korean presidential election campaign must take current realities into account
Mainichi: S. Korea must overcome challenges, build stability after Park's impeachment
Yomiuri: Is Park removal just excessive political maneuver by court? / Japan-ROK relations must be protected
On March 10, the Constitutional Court of South Korea gave their decision on President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment, and she was immediately removed from power with a presidential election to be held within 60 days. In their March 12 editorials, all five Japanese national daily papers (March 11 for the Mainichi) indicated concerns that the confusion in South Korea’s domestic politics could have a major impact on the situation in East Asia, including Japan–South Korea relations and responding to North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile development program.
■ Opinions on Impeachment and Removal
The Nikkei expressed concerns that President Park’s removal could cause political turmoil in South Korea, but noted, “The responsibility for so much turmoil having been caused lies at the feet of Park herself,” and argued that in order to expunge from South Korean politics the evils of abuse of power and collusion with businesses, “It is vital that a thorough investigation be carried out.”
The Mainichi stated, “It was determined that the negative impacts that Park's actions have on constitutional order far outweigh the demerits of dismissing her from the presidency. The judgment is understandable, considering the chaos in which the country now finds itself.” The paper also noted that the impeachment, which had overwhelming public support, “…is an answer to the political question of whether or not to strip one of her public position, and is not one that pursues criminal punishment,” and so called for the situation to be handled calmly.
Calling the first removal of a South Korean president from office “an alarming situation given the rising military threat from North Korea,” the Yomiuri expressed strong concerns over the negative impact it may have on the situation in East Asia and Japan–South Korea relations. The paper suggested, “Both sides must maintain their composure to prevent social division further deepening,” but also added, “If the Constitutional Court has exercised its power to placate the will of the people seeking Park’s dismissal, it seems to have gone too far.”
The Sankei, stating that the “abnormality” of the Kim Jong-un regime is significant, argued that “It is difficult to deny that South Korea not functioning properly has increased risks…. Calm must be restored in order to rebuild the nation.” The paper further emphasized, “Stopping North Korea’s reckless actions is the highest priority. Japan, South Korea, and the U.S. must all cooperate, with each member in peak condition and forming plans to apply pressure to North Korea."
The Asahi argued that the removal of President Park “delayed reactions to many problems, including responding to North Korea…. Above all, it is urgent that stability be restored to the national government.” The paper also suggested that to quickly stabilize the governing structure, “The impeachment should be taken as an opportunity to reevaluate the governing system.”
■ Comfort Women Issue and Japanese Ambassador to South Korea
As the implementation of the agreement between Japan and South Korea on comfort women grows even more uncertain, all four dailies other than the Asahi called strongly for a clear implementation of the agreement.
The Yomiuri called for South Korea to implement the deal, describing it as “a precious diplomatic achievement realized through concessions between Park and Japan.” The paper also expressed strong concerns over Moon Jae-in, a strong candidate for the upcoming presidential election who is a member of the Minjoo Party of Korea, a left-leaning opposition party: “He has rejected a Japan-South Korea deal regarding the issue of comfort women, and has also openly supported a citizens group that erected a statue of a girl symbolizing comfort women in front of the Japanese Consulate General in Busan.”
The Sankei strongly criticized how despite the leader of the South Korean government indicating support for removal of the statue of a girl in Busan symbolizing comfort women, no action was taken: “This issue could affect international trust in South Korea. No matter what administration comes into power, they must fulfill this promise with Japan.”
Regarding the suggestion among South Korean opposition parties that the agreement could be renegotiated, the Nikkei stated, “Renegotiating an agreement that states the issue is ‘finally and irreversibly resolved’ is out of the question. If South Korea ignores this agreement, it will damage faith in Japan–South Korea relations, and there will also be a loss of trust in South Korea from the international community.”
The Mainichi stated, “The…bilateral agreement contributed greatly to repairing tense relations between the two countries. Both sides must retain their commitment to it.” The paper also suggested, “While our neighbor faces domestic turmoil, Japanese ambassador to South Korea, Yasumasa Nagamine, is still in Japan…. Isn't it about time he be sent back to Seoul?”
■ Response to North Korea
The Nikkei indicated concerns that “There have been calls for shifting towards reconciliation with North Korea, and reevaluating security cooperation between South Korea, the U.S., and Japan.” In particular, on the topic of the South Korean deployment of the U.S. military’s THAAD missile defense system and the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) between Japan and South Korea, the paper argued, “Cooperation between Japan, the U.S., and South Korea is vital in order to respond to the North Korean threat.”
The Yomiuri also commented, “South Korea will be required to assume an unbending stance in this respect, not yielding to various forms of pressure exerted by China, which has persistently opposed the THAAD deployment.” Regarding how left-leaning candidates have questioned the THAAD deployment and GSOMIA, the Sankei declared, “Ignoring the international situation and carrying out a presidential election filled with populist rhetoric is irresponsible and foolish.”
*English translations of The Yomiuri and The Mainichi are from The Japan News and The Mainichi, respectively. Those for The Asahi and The Sankei are provisional. The content of this page was made by the Foreign Press Center Japan and does not reflect the opinion of the Japanese Government or any other organization.