SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korean politicians want to ensure that the country never again sees a leader like Park Geun-hye, who was booted from office over an explosive corruption scandal. But they are far apart on whether doing so would require rewriting the country's 3-decade-old constitution, a treasured symbol of the bloody transition from dictatorship to democracy. Several parties, including conservatives scrambling to distance themselves from Park, say South Koreans should vote in a new constitution in addition to a new president in early May. They say the shocking downfall of Park, who may face criminal charges over extortion and bribery, shows that the constitution places too much power that is easily abused and often goes unchecked into the hands of the president.
BEIJING (AP) — The convictions of a prominent defense attorney and his associates were among the country's top legal achievements last year, China's chief justice said Sunday, highlighting a case that has been criticized by Western governments and rights groups. In a report to the national legislature, Zhou Qiang also said that China, which is believed to execute more people than the rest of the world combined, gave the death penalty "to an extremely small number of criminals for extremely serious offenses" in the past 10 years. The actual number of executions in China is a state secret. A 2007 decision that all death sentences must be reviewed by the Supreme People's Court is believed to have reduced the number of executions dramatically.
BEIJING (AP) — Because safety comes first, fire extinguishers are ubiquitous in and around Beijing's Great Hall of the People during the annual sessions of China's ceremonial parliament and its official advisory body. That's partly for standard purposes of preventing any sort of fire-related emergency. However, it also speaks to the fear of self-immolation as a form of dissent in China, acting as a safeguard against any rogue elements who might infiltrate the gathering in hopes of staging a grisly protest. In January 2001, five purported followers of the banned Falun Gong meditation sect set themselves on fire in Tiananmen Square in front of the hall in what was believed to be an extreme protest against official repression.
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A day after a court removed her from power over a corruption scandal, ousted South Korean President Park Geun-hye maintained her silence on Saturday as her opponents and supporters divided the capital's streets with massive rallies that showed a nation deeply split over its future. Park has been unseen and unheard from since the Constitutional Court's ruling on Friday, which ended a power struggle that had consumed the nation for months. Park, whose fate was left in the court's hands after her parliamentary impeachment in December, has yet to vacate the presidential Blue House, with her aides saying they need more time to prepare for her return to her private home in Seoul.
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia's foreign minister said Saturday that the government hopes to begin formal talks with North Korea in the "next few days" on solving a diplomatic dispute that has seen the two countries bar each other's citizens from leaving. The dispute stems from the mysterious poisoning death of the estranged half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Feb. 13 at Kuala Lumpur's airport. Malaysia says Kim Jong Nam died after two women smeared his face with the banned VX nerve agent, but North Korea — which is widely suspected to be behind the attack — rejects the findings.
NEW DELHI (AP) — India's ruling Hindu nationalist party won landslide victories in results announced Saturday from key state legislative elections that are seen as a referendum on the performance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's nearly 3-year-old government. Leaders from Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party said the party's victory in Uttar Pradesh, India's largest state, would boost Modi's chances of winning another term as India's prime minister in 2019 elections. The Election Commission said the BJP won 311 out of 403 seats in Uttar Pradesh's legislature. The party's president, Amit Shah, described it as "a historic verdict." In another northern state, Uttarakhand, the BJP won 56 of 70 seats and was leading in one other constituency, wresting power from the Congress party, the main opposition at the national level.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — At least eight members of the security forces were killed by two of their colleagues in southern Zabul province late Friday night, An Afghan official said. Gul Islam Seyal, spokesman for the provincial governor, said Saturday that both attackers fled the area after killing their colleagues in Shinkia district. He said the two policemen also took all the weapons and ammunition from the checkpoint. Seyal said an investigation is underway to find out what caused the incident or if the two have links to insurgent groups. Insider attacks are not unusual in Afghanistan. In a similar incident in late February, 11 police were shot and killed by another policeman from the same checkpoint in neighboring Helmand province and the attacker managed to flee in a police vehicle.
NEW DELHI (AP) — Maoist rebels on Saturday shot and killed at least 11 Indian paramilitary soldiers in an ambush in central India, police said. The attack also left three soldiers wounded in the rebel-infested Sukma forest area in Chattisgarh state, top police officer R.K. Vij said. It wasn't clear if any rebels were killed or injured when the Central Reserve Police Force soldiers returned fire, he said. The Press Trust of India news agency said the rebel attack targeted more than 100 soldiers who had gone to the area to clear a road blocked by the insurgents. The insurgents, who say they are inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, have been fighting for more than three decades in central and eastern India, staging hit-and-run attacks to press their demand for a greater share of wealth and more jobs for farmers and the poor.
TOKYO (AP) — Six years ago, more than 18,000 people died or went missing as a tsunami triggered by a massive quake engulfed coastal areas of northeastern Japan. Tens of thousands more people's lives were unraveled when they lost family members, friends, homes and livelihoods. The displacement widened as entire communities fled after meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant. Japan is marking the anniversary of the disaster Saturday with somber ceremonies in Tokyo and in cities and towns in the northeast. Most of the towns devastated in the March 11, 2011, disasters have only partially rebuilt, and local authorities are struggling to finance construction.
BEIJING (AP) — Encompassing the area of 24 soccer fields, the Great Hall of the People, where China's ceremonial legislature and its official advisory body hold their annual sessions, is a cavernous edifice that dwarfs the humans who work in it. Aside from the Great Auditorium said to seat 10,000 in all, the building features grand hallways, dozens of meeting rooms and spaces for state banquets where visiting foreign dignitaries and honored Chinese citizens are entertained. While it buzzes with activity during those occasions, especially the roughly two weeks of the legislative session, at other times the hall is strangely quiet, with voices echoing off its marble walls and sentinels standing silently in its forecourt that looks out onto the vast expanse of Tiananmen Square.