Park ousted, but chronic ailment in South Korea’s politics lingers

By Li Jiacheng Source:Global Times Published: 2017/3/12 21:33:39

Former president of South Korea Park Geun-hye was officially removed from office on Friday after the country's Constitutional Court unanimously upheld her impeachment, a decision made by the National Assembly over corruption and influence-peddling scandals.

Park left the Blue House on Sunday evening and apologized to the nation in a statement.

Park is the first incumbent president to be ousted and has the lowest approval ratings in the history of South Korea. This is also the first time for the country's top court to throw a sitting president out of the office for the abuses of power, a historic rule which is of unprecedented significance.

On Friday, a panel of justices upheld the motion to dismiss Park for violating the Constitution and the law by allowing her confidante Choi Soon-sil to interfere in state affairs and abusing her power in aiding Choi.

The court's chief justice Lee Jung-Mi said in the verdict that Park had "violated the principles of democracy and rule of law … and completely concealed Choi's meddling in state affairs and denied it whenever suspicions over the act emerged and even criticized those who raised the suspicions … thereby nullifying the functions of the press and the constitution to check and balance."

The eight-person court said, "The accused showed no willingness to uphold our constitution," which is exactly the case. Park, who vowed to abide by constitutional principles, made three speeches to the public and pledged to cooperate with prosecutors in the investigation.

But later, she refused to cooperate and offered investigators no access to the Blue House.

In retrospect, she failed on so many occasions during her four years in office which has made her a disappointment to the South Korean public.

In 2013, her government policy led to severe social polarization. In 2014, she floundered in tackling the aftermath of a devastating shipwreck. In 2015, she was chewed out for securing an agreement with Japan on the issue of "comfort women." And last year, a slew of candlelight protests demanded the president to step down over alleged corruption.

It is of great importance that the country's Constitutional Court upheld the impeachment as the South Korean people adopted legal democratic procedures to dismiss a president in power. Though they have lost a president, they have succeeded in defending their sovereignty, rule of law and democracy that were once shaken by Park's actions. Law can prevail anywhere at any time and those who will take power should learn from Park.

Both political and business communities across South Korea accepted the ruling. The main opposition parties, including the Minjoo Party of Korea and the People's Party, spoke highly of the result and the ruling Liberty Korea Party, known as the Saenuri Party, expressed its respect of the ruling and apologized to the public.

The financial community conveyed their support and acceptance of the ruling and called South Korea to end the political turmoil and aid the staggering economy.

A spokesperson of the Minjoo Party of Korea suggested that South Korean society remains split on the impeachment case and urged Park play a positive role in bridging the social division.

On Friday, Park's critics hailed the rebirth of constitutional democracy during their last candlelight protest in Gwanghwamun Square where three died and many were injured in the rally held by Park's supporters. It is predicted that street politics will gain more momentum in the future.

With more and more voices calling for imposing criminal proceedings on Park and a substantial reform to the Constitution, Seoul will remain mired in a political turmoil for some time. How to treat the chronic ailment embedded in South Korea's politics, narrow down its social division, heal the massive trauma brought about by Park's scandals and create a renewed country are high on the agenda of the next South Korean president.

The author is a research fellow at the Research Center for the Economies and Politics of Transitional Countries, Liaoning University. Follow us on Twitter @GTopinion


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