When I read “S. Korean Court Impeaches president (Park, Geun-Hye) in the Star two days ago, two things came to my mind: “trusting” is a dangerous business for everyone and that Koreans are extremely sensitive about “corruption” due to their turbulent past.
A Korean-American who lived in the U.S. over a half century, I know how corruption had ruined past presidents of my native land, and the vicious cycle of trust, bribery, and corruption repeated itself on the peninsula as long as I can remember. Park Geun Hye’s father, late president Park Chung-hee, made many enemies during his 16 years of ruling of South Korea (1963-1979) after he and his military colleagues had succeeded in a military coup in 1961, over-throwing the incompetent government, and ruled with iron hands. In truth, the Park Administration made of predominantly active military officers served as “a good-evil” as it booted out “corrupted” government employees and civilian leaders. The government also demanded that all able citizens donate their time and labor to convert miles and miles of dirt roads to paved roads, the primitive thatched roofs to sleek slate roofs, and modernize the general living conditions, providing materials and equipment.
It was also this period when “freedom” suffered as the Special Forces arrested journalists, religious leaders, and students who relentlessly voiced their anger against the dictator. But today, late Park Chung-hee is recognized as a visionary who helped his countrymen to set higher goals for themselves and for the nation they lived in., the reason South Korea became one of the world’s strongest economy today.
His daughter Park, Geun Hye, followed her father’s footsteps in politics as a single lady and was elected to be the nation’s 11th president in 2013. She was also the first female president in Korea’s history. But four years later, she was booted out of her presidential seat by the court.
BBC (online) News reports: “At the heart of the drama lies the close friendship between the president and (her childhood friend) Ms. Choi (soon-sil). Ms. Choi is accused of using her presidential connections to pressure companies to give millions of dollars in donations to non-profit foundations she controlled. Ms. Park is alleged to have been personally involved in this, and to have given Ms. Choi unacceptable levels of access to official documents.”
Choi is a phony psychic who gained Park’s trust by telling the president that she had the ability to get in touch with her deceased parents, late president Park and late First lady Yuk Yung-suk. Ms. Park lost both of her parents as a young adult in a most tragic way. Her mother, then the first lady, was accidentally killed on August 15th, 1974, by a Japanese-Korean communist, who had meant to shoot the president himself while he was giving a speech on the anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japan but shot his wife who had been directly behind her husband. And her father too was assassinated five years later by his military confidant during a private meeting at a restaurant.
Ms. Park must have believed her friend’s fabricated stories of her parents. No matter how much she had suffered from her loss as a young woman, trusting a “friend” like Choi was unwise as the president. And Ms. Park allowed Choi access to secret government documents, as well as pressuring companies to donate millions of dollars for her personal wealth.
South Korea has many issues to deal with at the moment–North Korea, the U.S. with a new president, and the recently declining economy. I hope she will soon recover from the messy end of the Park administration and launch a new journey with the new president.