Mixed Reactions to South Korean President’s Impeachment

By Aishwarya Rai, International News Assistant Editor

On March 10, South Korea’s first female president Park Geun-hye was impeached, also making her the first president to be impeached.

The decision was announced by the Constitutional Court, based on a corruption and influence-peddling scandal, according to The Washington Post.

Park had seemingly been influenced by her long-time friend and advisor, Choi Soon-sil, who had been extracting bribes from big businesses, creating grounds for cronyism in the scandal, too.

Abuse of power and leaking confidential information was included in the thirteen charges against her.

Since Park has now been impeached, she has lost her immunity from prosecution.

The impeachment was received with joy by some, whilst others were distraught.

Park left the presidential Blue House on March 12, two days after her impeachment and three months after her suspension.

The delay wasn’t received well, as Lee Ha-na, a 24-year-old present at the rally after her impeachment stated, “I want her dragged out because that’s what is right.”

Shin Tae-soo, a 37-year-old law student carried a sign with “Unemployed civilian Park Geun-hye is illegally occupying the Blue House.

Park Geun-hye must immediately move out. The place she belongs is prison,” according to The Washington Post.

Many found that Park’s ascendency into presidency came solely from her father’s success as the country’s leader in the 1960s and 1970s.

Some found her impeachment to be the real start of democracy, which had been achieved 30 years ago.

Majority of the support for the impeachment came from younger individuals, as Yang Mi Hye-ja, a 73-year-old noted that “Young people know what’s happening now, but we old people were living in the past.”

Crowds of thousands flocked to the rally in the central Gwanghwamun Plaza, celebrating with songs, signs, snacks, and selfies in front of a replica jail cell containing cardboard cutouts of Park. A band played Queen’s “We Are the Champions,” capturing the catharsis of the crowd.

According to CNN, three people died due to the protests in Seoul. One death was confirmed at a local hospital, whilst the other two were confirmed at the scene by firefighters.

Dozens were injured, too. Around 21,000 police officers were on standby for the protests, in response to an emergency order of the highest level being issued. The impeachment has also put South Korea in a politically uncertain situation. A presidential election will be held within 60 days from the impeachment but as Park Jin-gyo, a middle school teacher, pointed out, “Without reform, we will just have a different leader with a different face, not a different system,” pointing out that the corruption that came to light through the scandal is a cause for concern in the democracy’s well-being.

The uncertainty also includes potential threats from North Korea. The acting-president, Hwang Kyo-ahn, pointed out that North Korea may take advantage of South Korea’s given state, which comes at a bad time as tensions with North Korea and China have been at a high. The next presidential candidate can lead a different course of engagement with North Korea. According to CNN, Moon Jae-in, a liberal candidate of the opposition Democratic United Party is currently leading the opinion polls; he lost to Park in 2012.

Acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn appealed for unity, aiming to bring the tensions between the opposing sides to an end, stating on a televised address that “Now is the times, however, for acceptance.”

                 

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, March 21st print edition.

Contact Aishwarya at

aishwarya.rai@student.shu.edu

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