End of President Park's sordid saga
china.org.cn / chinagate.cn by Sajjad Malik, March 14, 2017 Adjust font size:
The political career of President Park Geun-hye may be over after she was removed from the office by the constitutional court. The life and activities of the scandal-hit leader was paralyzed since December last year after the vote for her impeachment by the parliament. The unanimous decision by the eight judges did the rest of the job.
Now stripped of the immunity she enjoyed as president, Park will have to put up with the corruption case like any common citizen. She would have to go through the agony in the coming months, the severity of which would depend on the nature of the charges and the result of investigations.
Park inherited a rich legacy when she took over as the 18th president four years ago by majority vote in 2012. She was the first woman president of the country. Part of her charm was due to her father Park Chung-hee, who is remembered as a leader for speeding up the industrialization of the country. She was able to win the support of the conservatives who have now expressed anger at her removal.
Her troubles started in October last year due to the leaks that she allowed her friend and long term confidante Choi Soon-sil to see official documents and use her close ties with the president to get financial benefits from rich companies and conglomerates.
Choi had no official position in the government and her access to secret files might have comprised national security. It was a breach of trust on the part of the president who, as the custodian of the nation, must behave in more responsible manner. Higher standards of responsibility are expected from elected leaders.
Choi is also facing trial for abusing power and committing fraud. She has denied any wrongdoing but it is for the court to decide her final fate. As the probe deepened, Lee Jae-yong of Samsung group was also taken into custody last month for allegedly paying bribes to Choi in return for getting support for his company.
Protests broke out last year after the scandal surfaced, and since then the country has been going through political unrest. The president was effectively put out of work since the impeachment vote, which was not a good sign for a nation looking to have a strong leader to provide security against the threats of North Korea as well as a direction for sustained economic growth.
After the removal of Park, the country will head to the polls to elect a new leader within 60 days. It would be a safe bet to assume that the upcoming elections would be hotly contested. Already supporters and opponents of Park are on the streets and matching each other in fury, which will run through the polls. Signs of violence are also looming on the horizon, as according to reports, at least two pro-Park protestors have been killed.
The scale of protests shows South Korea to be a divided country. As the conservative lose their leader in Park, the leftist and liberals might make gains. It is too early to predict the outcome of the election, but it is likely that the election of a leftist leader would try to change the direction of policy towards North Korea and in the process might anger the United States, which wants strong arm tactics to tame the North.
There are also questions being asked about the democratic system in South Korea. The ousting of a popular leader on the charges of corruption might be good for the future of democracy but it may not work properly due to a peculiar social system in which big businesses are run by families. Without changing the ground realities in the country, removal of an elected leader may further weaken the political system.
Park's tragedy is not only political and personal. She will have to leave the presidential palace for the second time after leaving in 1979 when her father was killed. She was at the time the official first lady after her mother was killed by an assassin's bullet actually meant for her father.
The worst part of the saga is that she may end up in jail. Her story is typical piece of Asian family politics involving murders, betrayal, downfall, trial and imprisonment. The stuff is worthy of a Shakespearian tragedy.
Sajjad Malik is a columnist with China.org.cn. For more information please visit:
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