It would come as unsurprising if you were to tell me you’ve been completely unaware of the last 6 months in South Korean politics. It isn’t a topic that has really gotten a lot of Western media attention overall and generally wouldn’t be assessed as something that a lot of people would have interest in.
In the case of South Korea’s recent political happenings however, it is honestly a shame that only those who are digging through the internet for the latest news are getting the full scoop, because this shit has been the biggest and most entertaining soap opera within the last decade.
In today’s episode of South Korea: Bold and the Corrupt we’ll be re-capping the events that led to this fantastic and ugly spectacle.
Your cast involves the former female president of South Korea, Park Geun-hye.
Her best friend who is also the daughter of a shaman cult leader, Choi Soon-sil.
As well as a whole slew of high ranking South Korean politicians and business men who, through manipulation and bribes from their hands, threw themselves into political suicide.
Hooooooooo boy we’re in for a ride.
We have to trace a fair few steps back to get the full picture of how this cluster-fuck of events has really played out. I take you back to August 15, 1974, the beginning of this great opera. The First Lady of the current South Korean presidency is assassinated, shot in the head by a bullet that was intended for her husband and then President of South Korea.
A young Park Geun-hye, daughter of the First Lady and President receives a message from home telling her to come back immediately.
This would not crush the young girl, oh no. It would only fill her with an incredible sense of determination to stand by her father’s side and do her mother proud. But tragedy would strike her again in October of 1979, as her father is gunned down during dinner by his own security chief.
Through this tragedy however, a light would shine through in the name of Choi Soon-Sil, the perfect friend for Park in this time of need. But this light came with dark shadows, particularly that Choi’s shamanistic cult leader father telling Park that he could communicate with her mother from beyond the grave. It was unfortunate that this was the medicine Park chose for her aches, as it would eventually be her undoing.
Whenever you wish to hear your mother’s voice, you may do so through me.
Mr Choi Tae Min in a letter to Ms Park, citing what he called a “spiritual message” from Ms Park’s late mother.
Throughout Park’s time in presidency Choi held significant power over the political decisions that were made in house. Like a Power Rangers villain whose identity stayed in the dark up until episode 48, it would be shockingly revealed that she would be the mastermind of this whole dark tale.
Because Choi Soon-sil and her father had known Park Geun-hye since she was in her early 20’s, they practically had control over her entire adult life. David Kang, director of the Korean Studies Institute at the University of South California put things in a much darker perspective; “It’s much more than simply, ‘Oh she knows this person,’ it’s deeply intertwined, almost like they’re Rasputin and Park Geun-hye is just a puppet.”
Choi certainly wasn’t scared of flexing the power she had either, and it’s fair to argue she was probably a little too cocky with it. In hearing on the scandal with the former head of the Creative Economy Initiative, Cha Eun-taek accounts simply recommending people to fill various Minister roles that were immediately filled by said recommendations. Shortly after Choi requested another set, which again went through in an incredibly convenient short amount of time.
What the FUCK. Imagine your friend asking you what shoes you thought were cool and then as soon as you told them they just went out and bought all of them. These are people who are going to be the forefront of a countries political progression and decisions, you don’t just pick people based on the fact someone goes “Yeah they’re a pretty nice dude”.
Choi’s government meddling involves a whole cascade of really suspect activities, including being able to access private and confidential government documentation and starting business that would amass millions upon millions of dollars in a matter of days due to extremely generous and not-suspicious-at-all donations from South Korean industry super powers. Not to mention she was directly giving Park ‘advice’ when it came to making political decisions and handling government funds.
When these allegations and the evidence behind them started breaking the airwaves the people of South Korea were pissed, and rightfully so. Hundreds upon thousands of people swarmed the streets of S.K. in order to demand Park’s resignation.
Her image got so bad in fact that as all this came to its climax, Park’s presidential rating dropped to an abysmal 4%. ABSOLUTELY DECIMATED.
Fortunately for the South Korean people their voices were heard and Park’s presidential position was impeached. Choi was also heavily investigated into and arrested. What followed up until February of 2017 was a string of 15 arrests on those who were involved with both Park and Choi in political misdeeds, with the last arrest being the Vice President of Samsung, Lee Jae-Yong.
As if iPhone users didn’t have enough to brag about when it comes to their phones, now they can add “Not a part of government meddling” to the list.
It’s incredibly unnerving that something this severe and of this magnitude can just fly under the radar. South Korea is already in a very tricky political spot simply because of the unhappy marriage with North Korea. Pilling all this drama on top of it is of course is going to strike a heavy chord on the Korean people, as in “LOOK AT ALL THIS OTHER SHIT WE HAVE TO DEAL WITH AND YOU’RE DOING THIS!?”.
We stand above this pile of political vomit on the floor and say “Oh yeah that’s corruption alright”, but is it really? As many political academics have put it, there simply hasn’t been concrete enough research in defining what constitutes an act of political corruption. On a base level we look at political corruption as the decay or destruction of the political, in the West the ‘political’ is often defined as ‘democracy’ or the ‘democratic’
While I certainly don’t disagree that this isn’t right, and it for sure breaks a lot of the ideals that democracy attempts to uphold, I can’t say that incompetence = corruption. Park was a young girl who put way too much on her plate and was easily molded due to how much responsibility she put on herself. The issue is far more complex that just defining it as a black and white outlook on corruption.
As I said in the beginning this whole situation wasn’t greatly covered in Western news media, which is a real shame. While a lot would argue “well it’s not my country so why care”, well to counter that, that’s a stupid argument and you’re an idiot.
It’s important to know that even something this outrageous as this actual political soap opera can happen in real life right over the top of everyone. We had a whole country stand up and say “Yo this shit sucks and something needs to be fixed” and it was.
This was one of, if not the most interesting and outrageous global political scandals of the last 10 years, and the best part is it may not even be over yet. The last arrest was in February of this year (2017) and they still have names and companies they need to look into.
So keep your eyes open for this one folks, it’s been a long road and it isn’t exactly finished yet. You may not have caught the wave of explosive developments in the first season with everyone else however I’m sure there’s bound to be some last minute revelations in the next few episodes.