South Korean President Park Geun-hye is embroiled in political scandal following the recent revelation that Choi Soon-sil, her close friend, held significant sway over her and in her administration for years despite never holding any formal government position. The allegations of puppetry come and at a time when much of the global political establishment is reeling from accusations of cronyism and corruption.
Navigating this crisis will not be easy for the President, nor will the people of South Korea have a smooth time in picking up the broken pieces of their democracy. One thing, however, is certain; Park must go.
An establishment that has lost the faith of the people it represents is doomed to eventual collapse and a harsh reformation – just ask the European Union or our new President-elect Donald Trump. Park, however, has gone a step beyond traditional governments in her failures.
It is widely believed that Park shared classified information with Choi Soon-sil, her personal “shaman” according to some reports, and that Choi exercised a frightening level of power within the government. The peculiarity doesn’t end there; Choi is the daughter of Choi Tae-min, a long-dead cultist who claimed to be the Messiah.
The reasonable belief that the president may have been puppet of the occult has taken root among many South Koreans, leading protesters to throng the streets of Seoul by the hundreds of thousands. It has become clear that a political recovery for Park is out of the picture.
The question for South Koreans then remains: what do we do next?
The Republic of Korea has a troubled history with its presidents, to say the least. The first president, Syngman Rhee, was ousted after popular revolt and died in exile in Hawaii. The second, Yun Posun, was overthrown in a military coup that placed Park Chung-hee in power until his assassination. The fourth president, Choi Kyu-hah, was also forced to resign.
This list actually continues on for some time. It, coupled with the fact that the past 4 presidents have in some way been embroiled in a corruption scandal, gives a brief history of South Korean leadership.
It is clear that the Republic of Korea has suffered from a continuously unjust plague of dismal leadership, and is long overdue for reformation and self-introspection. The people must now take it upon themselves to demand greater transparency and accountability from their government at any cost.
The people of South Korea find themselves in a unique geographic position in world history; trapped between an ocean and a northern neighbor that frequently prattles on about its world-destroying tendencies. For that reason alone, the hand at the wheel of the country must be calm, resolute and incorruptible – everything the disappointing Park is not.
Article 65 of the Republic of Korea’s constitution requires the support of one-third the national assembly to even begin impeachment proceedings, and even more stringent majorities further down the line to actually carry one out. Rather than submit the country to the arduous and painful process of removing her forcibly from office – which some argue drove the last president to suicide – Park would be well advised to set a date for her resignation and allow the country’s next prime minister to take the reins until a new presidential election can be held. She has lost any scrap of legitimacy she’s had, and must now focus on preparing for her successor’s transition and getting out of office as soon as possible.
While this is an imperfect solution at best, the reality on the ground is there are few, if any, viable alternatives to her leadership. The people of South Korea will need time to collect themselves and scrutinize their leaders following such a staggering scandal.
Whether or not their unfriendly neighbors to the north will use this opportunity to rattle their sabers and attempt to sow discord in the country remains to be seen, but I remain hopeful yet for our ally’s future.
After all, life on the Korean Peninsula’s never been a walk in the park.