South Korea. According to
COUNTRYAAH, President Park Geun Hye's support in opinion
fell to a 34% bottom listing at the beginning of the year.
She then launched a new Prime Minister, Lee Wan Koo. The
incumbent Head of Government Chung Hong Won had tried to
resign already after the ferry disaster in April 2014, but
the alternatives that Park then appointed jumped off. Lee
was approved by Parliament in February, but resigned in
April following allegations of bribery. Park then appointed
Hwang Kyo Ahn, which was approved in June.
On the one-year anniversary of the crash, President Park
promised to carry the ferry. Shortly thereafter, an appeals
court sharpened the captain's sentence: instead of 36 years
in prison for gross negligence, he was now given a life
sentence for murder. The captain had ordered passengers to
stay in place but then abandoned the sinking ship himself.
Fourteen others from the crew, however, had their sentences
reduced to between 1.5 and 7 years in prison. The penalty
was set by the country's highest court in November.
An outbreak of mers created concern over a few months
since a person who visited Saudi Arabia became ill with the
deadly corona virus. When the government declared in July
that the outbreak was over, almost 200 people had been
infected and 36 had died. The outbreak led to quarantine
rules and other restrictions that hit the economy hard, and
among other things, the number of foreign visitors fell by
40%. A package of measures worth approximately SEK 80
billion was approved to try to gain momentum for the
After two soldiers were seriously injured by land mines
at the border with North Korea in August, South Korea
resumed propaganda broadcasts through speakers across the
border, which otherwise ceased in 2004. This caused North
Korea to threaten with war, and artillery exchanges between
the countries. It was seen as the most serious confrontation
in several years. After high-level negotiations, the combat
measures were withdrawn at the end of the month. The parties
agreed on continued talks and on new reunification meetings
between members of families that split during the 1950-53
war. In November, both conversations and meetings were
In November, around 80,000 people took part in
demonstrations against the government and Park. The protests
aimed specifically at changes in labor law and a contentious
decision to only allow schoolbooks in history published by
The opposition's strongest force, the Great National
Party, won the parliamentary election in October 2005, when
it won four new districts. That brought its seats up to 127.
In turn, the ruling party suffered a major defeat as it
gained no seats in the election. The defeat was thus a
repeat of the defeat in April, with the government party
also losing. However, the election results have no major
direct impact on Parliament's work, as none of the parties
has an absolute majority.
In February 2006, South Korea and the United States began
negotiations on a free trade agreement to enter into force
the following year. For the United States, this would be the
most important trade agreement in Asia, and for South Korea,
it would be the most important event since the end of the
Korean War, in which the country entered into a military
alliance with the United States.
In June 2006, the sixth anniversary of the two Koreas was
marked by an event in the city of Kwangju. During the event,
President Dae Jung declared that the goal of both countries
is reunification. "The reunion must be gradually achieved
through a period of cooperation and peaceful coexistence,"
the president declared.
After a long period of tensions, South Korea and Japan
resumed negotiations that month to resolve the dispute over
the Dokdo Islands. the purpose of the negotiations is to
reach an agreement that is reasonable for both countries and
allows the sea border to be drawn between them - in line
with the international sea.
In July 2007, the FTA was signed between South Korea and
the United States. The agreement gradually removes the
tariffs on almost all consumer and industrial goods for a
three-year period following the signing of the agreement. At
the same time, farmers and professional leaders expressed
fears that thousands of Korean jobs will be lost as a result
of imports of goods and services from the United States.
The December presidential election was won by Lee
Myung-bak of the Conservative National Party, who after five
years resumed the presidential post. The Conservative
president wanted to further strengthen ties with the United
States, set the reconciliation policy vis-à-vis North Korea
and replace it with a tougher policy. The openings that had
been in the relationship between the two countries
immediately froze and the possibility of reuniting families
and mutual visits was set. At the same time, the protests
escalated against Lee's policy and it resulted in frequent
violent clashes between security forces and protesters.
Three months after Lee's appointment as president, his
popularity had dropped from 51% to 17%. Despite the lack of
popularity in South Korea, US President Bush was extremely
pleased with President Lee.