South Korea: A Presidential Scandal

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Chloe Yueh '17, Arts and Entertainment Editor

President Park Geun-hye of South Korea is now knee-deep in the biggest scandal of her political career. The scandal, ignited back in late October, involves the influence of Park’s close confidante, Choi Soon-sil, the daughter of a Shamanistic cult leader.

This problematic relationship began in the 1970’s, when the two met through Choi’s father, who became Park’s mentor by claiming he had been visited by the soul of Park’s mother who had been assassinated while amassing power and wealth. Since the start of Park’s presidency, Choi, who does not have an official government title, has been overly involved in state affairs, and has even handled classified documents and edited important speeches. She has also been accused of abusing her closeness with the president to coerce large corporations into donating almost $70 million to the two nonprofit foundations she runs. Hearings with large conglomerates, including Samsung Electronics and Hyundai Motor Groups, have been scheduled to be held at the National Assembly on the second week of December.

The revelation of Choi Soon-sil’s involvement in political decisions sparked the public’s fury, and revealed their prolonged disappointment and frustration with Park’s administration since the tragedy of the Sewol ferry two years ago. Although the scandal itself seems bizarre, it resonates because it reinforces longstanding criticism that the president is a disconnected leader who relies only on a trusted few. Since late October, millions of citizens have participated in massive peaceful demonstrations demanding Park’s resignation throughout the country, and the number is still growing.

On 29 November 2016, Park offered to resign as president, and invited the National Assembly to arrange a transfer of power. However, the opposing parties rejected the offer, and filed a motion for impeachment, which is scheduled for a vote on 9 December. According to South Korean media, there are indications that close to forty party members of parliament will support impeachment, which would be more than enough to reach the two-thirds majority needed for the proposal to pass.

 

**Image Source: CNN**