Emira Sabanovic explains the government scandal causing protests across South Korea.
The Korean Government Scandal
Late October, Korean citizens started organizing mass protests across the country for the resignation of Korean president, Park Geun-hye.. The protests arose in response to the revelation of the extremely close relationship between Geun-hye and her friend, Choi Soon-sil.
Choi Soon-sil is the daughter of Choi Tae-min, the founder of the Yongsaenggyo cult. This cult combines many religions such as Christianity and Buddhism, promoting that every man is born as God and we, as humans, should strive to achieve eternal life. After her father’s death in 1994, some say Choi has succeeded her father’s role as the cult leader.
The cult has a long tradition of controversy; for example, after Choi Tae-min founded the cult in 1970s, he called himself a modern Buddha and a pastor. According to the same source, Yongsaenggyo cultists have the ability to talk to the dead and provide magical objects for protection.
Many close friends have shown concern about the Park-Choi relation. In 1990s, Park’s siblings filed a petition, claiming that Choi is fully manipulating Park. Although Choi never held an official position in the government, Korean media has recently published that Choi was given full insight into government files and presidential speeches.
These revelations have resulted in over 200,000 people in Seoul coming out to protest. Protestors are stating that this relationship is a mark of corruption and are calling for Park’s resignation. According to Korea Times, the representative of Democratic Party in Korea, Choo Mi-ae, has called for the meeting between the party and the president. The aim of this meeting would be resolution of the current tension among people. However, the proposal has been cancelled, after party strongly criticized Choo’s decision. They further stated that Korean Democratic Party will continue to support the people with their goal to make Park’s resignation happen.
“[It’s impressive] how many people have been turning out to the protests,” said a Korean NYU Shanghai student Skye Im, “ [it] is not an easy thing to do when there’s the chance of the police brutally suppressing you…[in Korea] protesting is not a right per se, [and] the police usually are allowed to end any protest.”
Park Jung Hwan, a sophomore at NYU Shanghai, shared Skye’s enthusiasm about such powerful protests, but said that “the chances of [Park] stepping down would be pretty low, [because] it seems like she doesn’t want to resign, and the Congress won’t impeach her because it is too risky for them”.
According to CNN, Park has stated that she is “shocked and [her] heart is breaking for causing public concern”, but does not plan to step down.