Soul Searching in South Korea
South Korea is very likely on the cusp of another political housecleaning. But, regardless of who succeeds Park Geun-hye as president later this year, their job – and the job of their party – will be to tackle several urgent challenges that Park, disgraced and now ousted from power, was so ill equipped to address.
SEOUL – The impeachment, and removal from office, of South Korean President Park Geun-hye on charges of corruption and abuse of power has rocked the country’s political establishment and divided the electorate. Not since the Asian financial crisis of 1997, rooted partly in the flawed economic policies of Park’s father, Park Chung-hee, have South Koreans faced such an impasse.
It’s still too early to know who will succeed her in the Blue House (the presidential seat); a special election has been called for May 9. But this much is clear: with Park’s unceremonious departure, a change in South Korea’s ruling party is all but assured. And with new blood must come renewed vigor to tackle governance problems – from dirty money in politics to incoherent foreign policy – that have plagued South Korea for far too long.
South Korea’s current political crisis began in October 2016, when allegations emerged that Park had pressured the chaebols – the country’s giant family-owned conglomerates – to funnel huge sums of money into two foundations controlled by her close personal friend, Choi Soon-sil. Word of Park’s cronyism left many South Koreans feeling betrayed by a president who had vowed to lead differently.