In a unanimous vote, South Korea’s Constitutional Court upheld the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye marking the end of a scandalous political collapse and what may be the start of a dramatic personal one. The decision to ratify the parliamentary ouster prompted by massive social unrest was not unexpected, but it was nonetheless welcomed in the nation as it struggles to contain domestic strife and confront international threats to its economy and security.
Park, now divested of political power, will return to her personal home in Seoul where she will await notice of any potential charges for her part in alleged conspiracy with close friend and confidant Choi Soon-sil. In what may be a presage of what’s to come, Lee Jae-yong, one of Samsung’s vice chairmen, is now facing charges for his dealings with Choi that resulted in millions being funneled out of the company at Choi’s behest.
Security concerns intensify
Park’s impeachment comes at a darkly inopportune time. North Korea has made major strides in its missile program, launching several ballistic missile tests and rattling East Asia and the Pacific Rim. China has also used South Korea as a target of ire, accusing the United States of pitting the nation against China by asking the nation to host an anti-missile battery—even as China tacitly acknowledges the risk to South Korea by ramping up its diplomatic mission against North Korea’s efforts at acquiring further firepower.
To make matters worse, Park’s attorneys have accused her political opponents and anyone who has even looked at her askance of being a North Korean stooge.
According to the Washington Post, Park’s attorney Suh Suk-koo said appeal was likely and that “[t]he biased Korean media, coupled with left-leaning and North Korean sympathizing labor unions, have led anti-Park protests to the streets of South Korea.”
Political change likely
With a new election now necessary in the coming weeks, a new president will be elected. Park’s outgoing Liberty Korea Party could not be further from power at this point, with polling numbers so low that, when considering the margin of error, they could conceivably be near zero. Meanwhile, the center-left Democratic Party of Korea is flying high with poll numbers nearing 40percent.
The election of the Democratic Party of Korea’s Moon Jae-in may be a boon to the left in South Korea, which as traditionally been suppressed politically. National security interests are often aimed at left wing parties due to remote proximity to Marxism—and North Korea by extension—a perception that Moon may want to change.
As the election nears, expect more of the respective candidates’ platforms to emerge. However, with Moon’s dominant position, expect most of the conversation to surround his program.
With the election gearing up it is hoped that the troubles that Park brought may be left behind.