South Korean Presidency Scandal

Stratis Bohle

The second impeachment in the Republic of Korea’s history is currently underway. President Park is accused of giving Choi Soon-sil unrestricted access to private information while allowing her to meddle with state affairs. Ms. Choi was arrested on the 20th of October for charges of abuse of authority, coercion, attempted coercion and attempted fraud.

Ms. Choi and President Park’s friendship dates back to the 1970s when President Park’s mother, Yuk Young-soo, was assassinated and Ms. Choi’s father, Choi Tae-min, became her mentor to help her with being the de facto first lady. Due to her close time with Choi Tae-min, President Park became close friends with his daughter, Choi Soon-sil, growing ever more close with the family after the assassination of her father, former President Park Chung-hee, in 1979.

Prosecutors say that Ms. Choi used their close relationship to pressure companies into donating to her own charity foundation and then siphoning the money off for personal use. Multiple prominent South Korean business leaders have admitted that their respective firms had given money in the past to Ms. Choi’s charity foundation. The biggest of those businesses, being Samsung, gifting a horse to Ms. Choi’s daughter, Chung Yoo-ra, a professional equestrian who competed in the 2014 Asian Games . The companies have denied that it was done in order to receive favors from President Park.

President Park claimed that she consulted with Choi prior to having teams of advisers aid her. Ms Choi received briefings and official papers long after that occurred while witnesses claimed that Choi continued to possess presidential documents on an unsecured tablet.

South Korea’s pension fund head, Moon Hyung-pyo, has been arrested in an investigation about alleged corruption involving electronic firm, Samsung and the country’s president. Several former presidential aides have been investigated in connection with the case while two of which are charged. An Chong-bum, President Park’s former senior secretary for policy coordination was charged with abuse of authority, coercion and attempted coercion. Jung Ho-sung, President Park’s former presidential aide, was also accused of passing classified presidential documents to Ms. Choi. However, Ms. Choi has denied all charges and appeared in court on the 19th of December.

Chung Yoo-ra is accused of staying in Germany illegally, and South Korea has requested her extradition after being arrested on the 1st of January in Denmark. Her mother has allegedly misused her friendship with President Park by getting Ms. Chung into a top Korean university. Her acceptance into Ewha Womans University has been revoked due to the scandal and her high school diploma was annulled due to falsified school records.

This case has sparked immense public anger in South Korea, prompting large demonstrations calling for President Park to step down prior to her impeachment on the 9th of October with 234 out of 300 votes for impeachment, which is well over the required 200. The Constitutional Court will now rule on the matter. If six of the nine judges endorse the parliamentary vote, Park will be removed from office. If the judges rule against Ms. Park, then new elections must be held within 60 days. Meanwhile, Hwang Kyo-ahn, South Korea’s prime minister, is serving as interim president.