World roundup: May 17 2023
Stories from Thailand, Sudan, Russia, and elsewhere
TODAY IN HISTORY
May 17, 1980: The South Korean military, under General Chun Doo-hwan and members of a secret military society called Hanahoe, overthrows the country’s nominally civilian government in the “Coup d’état of May Seventeenth.” The coup ended the South Korean “Fourth Republic” and reified the political power Chun had amassed following the assassination of Park Chung-hee in October 1979 and the subsequent “12.12 Military Insurrection.” Chun removed interim President Choi Kyu-hah from office and suppressed the “Seoul Spring” protest movement that had emerged to challenge military rule. The coup sparked an uprising against the military in the city of Gwangju that Chun’s new government put down brutally, with perhaps upwards of 2000 people killed in the process. Chun would serve eight years as an essentially dictatorial president, but in 1995 he was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to execution for his actions in Gwangju. The sentence was adjusted down to life imprisonment and commuted in 1997 by then-President Kim Young-sam.
May 17, 1997: Having chased Zaire’s dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko, into exile the day before, military forces aligned with Laurent-Désiré Kabila and the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo enter Kinshasa, bringing an end to the First Congo War. Kabila succeeded Mobutu as president of Zaire, which was quickly renamed the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The war, which had begun the previous year when Rwandan Patriotic Front forces invaded Zaire in pursuit of fleeing Hutu génocidaires, was reignited the following year when Kabila expelled his erstwhile Rwandan and Ugandan allies from the country. The Second Congo War technically ended in 2003, though conflict in the eastern DRC has persisted through the present day.
In today’s global news:
Worldometer is tracking COVID-19 cases and fatalities.
The New York Times is tracking global vaccine distribution.
A new report from the World Meteorlogical Organization on Wednesday says that there’s now a roughly two-thirds chance that the world will for the first time top 1.5 degrees Celsius in warming sometime within the next five years. This does not mean humanity is going to violate the vaunted 2015 Paris Climate Agreement’s 1.5 degree standard, which is based not on an annual measure but on a 30 year average measure. But it’s certainly a step in that direction. An emerging El Niño partly explains this prediction, but humanity’s thorough failure to curb carbon emissions is surely the bigger contributor.
The Syrian government confirmed on Wednesday that President Bashar al-Assad will attend Friday’s Arab League leaders summit in Saudi Arabia, his first attendance at such a gathering since Syria’s League membership was suspended amid its civil war. The Saudis issued Assad an invitation last week, after League foreign ministers voted to readmit Syria to the club. To be clear there was never any serious question as to whether or not Assad would attend.