South Korea after Park Geun-hye

By Samantha Deng,

On March 10th, South Korea’s constitutional court upheld the legislature’s impeachment vote. After several months of domestic turmoil and protest against her corruption scandal, Park Geun-hye, the first female President of the country, was removed from office. Park, icon of the conservative party, held a pro-American stand and pressed a hard line against North Korea. Her downfall will definitely affect South Korea’s domestic politics and foreign policy.

Protests in South Korea

Before the corruption scandal, Park Geun-hye had received much objection domestically. Although she pledged to revamp South Korea’s economy, the economy grew slowly. Besides, her labor and education policies were believed to have worsened labor conditions, which led to a protest in November 2015. The corruption scandal that Park and her close friends received money from biggest family-owned companies which she had promised to overhaul fueled the objection and finally led to the impeachment.

Now South Korea’s liberal opposition party may retake the Presidency. The Presidential hopeful, Moon Jae-in, wants to push dialogue with North Korea to rethink South Korea’s relationship with its current most important ally, the United States. He and his liberal partners think that the missile-defense system, Thaad, deployed by US is an unnecessary escalation of tensions between North Korea and South Korea and harm the relationship between China and South Korea.

There is a split of domestic opinions in South Korea. Ms. Park’s supporters, comprised mostly of older South Koreans, claimed that Ms. Park’s policy protected national security. One elderly protestor said that if Mr. Moon succeeded Ms. Park, “Korea will become a communist nation.” Her opponents think that she subverted the hard-won democracy of the country and hope that the next government will truly listen to people’s opinions.

Considering the current situation of South Korea, it is very possible that in the Presidential Election in 60 days South Korea will have a very liberal government. Some people argue that the impeachment will bring Korea a healthier democracy. However, the Presidential Election may broaden the gap between Ms. Park’s supporters and opponents. Besides, the new government’s international policy will bring huge effect to the turbulent East Asia. With Thaad removed, will there be a more aggressive North Korea or not? The new government does not want to be dragged into competitions between big powers, but can they do that?

Sources:

https://www.ft.com/content/34152354-0529-11e7-ace0-1ce02ef0def9

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/10/world/asia/south-korea-liberals-impeachment.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fasia

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/10/world/asia/south-korea-president-impeached-protests.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fasia

https://www.ft.com/content/21674e74-8b74-11e5-94a4-639039952d45

https://www.ft.com/content/840b203a-b177-11e6-a37c-f4a01f1b0fa1

 

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