SABRINA VERDUZCO WRITES – In an historic rebuff, President Park Geun-hye has been hit with impeachment. In an overwhelming vote South Korea’s National Assembly has voted to do just that. Now a Constitutional Court is to rule on that legislative action, while a caretaker president moves into the Blue House as interim president for the time being.
The National Assembly action met with wide public approval. On November 26, 800,000 South Koreans participated in the largest ongoing series of demonstrations that South Korea has seen since the 1987 movement to democratize the nation.
Park has been accused of allowing her close friend, Choi Soon-sil, to view official government documents and advanced drafts of presidential speeches even though she is a civilian. In addition, Choi has been accused of colluding with the president to put pressure on big corporations in order to accumulate millions of dollars in donations to her foundations.
Park will not be charged with these criminal allegations due to the South Korean Constitution that provides the President with immunity while in office. But that did not negate all the political unrest as South Koreans clearly refuse to look the other way over the President’s corruption and collusion allegations, whatever her Constitutional protection.
Immense demonstrations in front of the Blue House have raised concerns that the scandal will hinder the South Korean government from being able to execute major decisions amidst so much opposition from the people. The types of individuals that banded together for these public demonstrations included a wide variety of parents, children, university students and Buddhist monks.
To many, exercising their right to protest means more than just making a political statement. Shim Kyu-il, a 47-year-old company employee, stated “I came here because I wanted to show my children that people are the owner of this country, not the power holders.”
Park Geun-hye’s approval ratings have dropped to the single digits. According to the AFP, a poll taken last week states that nine out of 10 South Koreans want the President to step down. If she does, a new election to fill the presidential vacancy will be snappily organized. Included among the candidates who might declare their candidacy is Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general who ends his 10 year run as chief of the sprawling United Nations organization this month.