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Corruption Scandal: Viagra adds pep to South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s Impeachment Move

A presidential spokesman, Jung Youn-kuk, insisted that besides the more common bedroom use, the pills are sometimes taken to prevent or treat altitude sickness

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South Korean protesters wearing masks of South Korean President Park Geun-hye, right, and Choi Soon-sil, who is at the center of a political scandal, stage a rally calling for Park to step down in downtown Seoul, South Korea, Nov. 2, 2016. VOA

Seoul, Nov 24, 2016: The discovery that the staff of South Korean President Park Geun-hye, who is currently mired in a huge corruption scandal, stocked up on drugs like Viagra, added pep to the opposition move to impeach her early in December.

South Korea’s main opposition party, the Democratic Party, on Thursday said it will put the impeachment motion to vote in the National Assembly between December 2 and 9, Efe news quoted a party spokesperson as saying.

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On Monday, the three largest opposition parties announced their intention to call for Park’s impeachment after the prosecution indicted her as an accomplice to her confidante Choi Soon-sil in a large-scale corruption and influence-peddling case.

Park, already getting mounting calls for her to step down over the scandal, now also has to explain why her staff stocked up on drugs like Viagra, commonly prescribed for erectile dysfunction.

Kim Sang-hee, an opposition lawmaker, on Wednesday raised the issue by citing medical insurance data showing the Blue House, as the President’s office is known, had bought 60 Viagra ‘Blue pills’ and 304 pills of the generic equivalent, sildenafil citrate, last December.

A presidential spokesman, Jung Youn-kuk, insisted that besides the more common bedroom use, the pills are sometimes taken to prevent or treat altitude sickness.

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Jung said doctors had prescribed them for presidential aides to have handy for that purpose during Park’s official visit in May to Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda. Those countries’ capitals are all well above sea level — Addis Ababa’s elevation is 7,700 feet.

As it happened, Jung said, none of the pills was used on the trip.

None of this was of much help to Park, who has been struggling with the corruption scandal for weeks.

For the impeachment motion to be successful, it first needs the approval of two-thirds of Parliament’s Lower House.

While the opposition does not enjoy such a broad majority, the motion could still go through as several lawmakers from the ruling party Saenuri, have joined the demand for the President’s resignation.

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Should the motion be approved in Parliament, six of the nine Constitutional Court judges will then have to give their nod to what would be the first impeachment proceedings in South Korea since the country was founded in 1948.

Prosecutors believe it was in collusion with Park that Choi — now dubbed the “Korean Rasputin” and who has never held public office — secretly intervened in state matters, used her influence to illegally extort funds from companies, and secure academic privileges for her daughter.

The scandal has sparked great outrage in the country, with over a million protesters taking to the streets over the past few weeks asking the President to step down. (IANS)

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South Korea Installs Laser Beams at a Road Crossing to Warn ‘Smartphone Zombies’ of Traffic

In addition to red, yellow and blue LED lights on the pavement, "smombies" - smartphone zombies - will be warned by laser beam projected from power poles and an alert sent to the phones by an app that they are about to step into traffic

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A researcher demonstrates an application that gives an alert to a user distracted by using smart phone while crossing a zebra crossing, in Ilsan, South Korea, March 12, 2019. VOA

A city in South Korea, which has the world’s highest smartphone penetration rate, has installed flickering lights and laser beams at a road crossing to warn “smartphone zombies” to look up and drivers to slow down, in the hope of preventing accidents.

The designers of the system were prompted by growing worry that more pedestrians glued to their phones will become casualties in a country that already has some of the highest road fatality and injury rates among developed countries.

State-run Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology (KICT) believes its system of flickering lights at zebra crossings can warn both pedestrians and drivers.

In addition to red, yellow and blue LED lights on the pavement, “smombies” – smartphone zombies – will be warned by laser beam projected from power poles and an alert sent to the phones by an app that they are about to step into traffic.

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A warning sign is projected next to a zebra crossing in Ilsan, South Korea, March 12, 2019. VOA

“Increasing number of smombie accidents have occurred in pedestrian crossings, so these zombie lights are essential to prevent these pedestrian accidents,” said KICT senior researcher Kim Jong-hoon.

The multi-dimensional warning system is operated by radar sensors and thermal cameras and comes with a price tag of 15 million won ($13,250) per crossing.

Drivers are alerted by the flashing lights, which have shown to be effective 83.4 percent of the time in the institute’s tests involving about 1,000 vehicles.

In 2017, more than 1,600 pedestrians were killed in auto related accidents, which is about 40 percent of total traffic fatalities, according to data from the Traffic Accident Analysis System.

South Korea has the world’s highest smartphone penetration rate, according to Pew Research Center, with about 94 percent of adults owning the devices in 2017, compared with 77 percent in the United States and 59 percent in Japan.

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For now, the smombie warning system is installed only in Ilsan, a suburban city about 30 km northwest of the capital, Seoul, but is expected to go nationwide, according to the institute.

Kim Dan-hee, a 23-year-old resident of Ilsan, welcomed the system, saying she was often too engrossed in her phone to remember to look at traffic.

“This flickering light makes me feel safe as it makes me look around again, and I hope that we can have more of these in town,” she said. (VOA)