With conflict advancing between North Korea and America, sparking rumors of World War III, why should the world’s eyes be drawn towards South Korea?
Here’s why: Right now, in South Korea, former president Park Geun-hye is on trial for corruption. After allegations of bribery came out, hundreds of thousands of South Korean citizens protested against her, unwilling to be ruled by someone they once trusted enough to elect as their leader.
Park Geun-hye was voted in in 2012, winning by a landslide, mainly off the back of her dictator father, Park Chung-hee. Conservatives loved him because he helped to create economic stability in the 60’s and 70’s. The rest of the country however knew him for diminishing South Korea’s freedom of speech and association, resulting in many people being imprisoned and tortured. Park Chung-hee was assassinated in 1979 (after several previous attempts.)
After her father’s assassination, Park was approached by a man named Choi Tae-min. He was previously a Buddhist Monk, then a Roman Catholic and finally a self-professed “Modern day Buddah” and founder of “The Church of Eternal Light.” Choi told Park that he had spoken to her dead mother in his dreams. Afterwards they formed a close friendship, despite their age difference.
Choi’s daughter, Choi Soon-sil, then became best friends with Park, helping to bank roll her political career in the late 90’s. Choi Soon-Sil (also currently on trial with Park) began to become an influence in Park’s career, at first by editing her speeches, then by influencing her decisions.
In 2013, officials working with Park attempted to warn people about Park and Choi’s relationship, but all were silenced. In 2014, a police officer who worked within Park’s office again tried to warn the people of the influence Choi was having in the government. He was moved to a different job, then conveniently imprisoned for leaking government documents.
Park lost a lot of her popularity in April 2014 in the wake of the Sewol Ferry Disaster. After the deaths of 304 people in the ferry accident, Park seemed more interested in controlling protests rather than searching for the truth behind the accident or aiding the families of the many people (mainly high school students) who lost their lives.
In October 2016, allegations arose that many of South Korea’s prominent businesses, including Samsung and Hyundai, were extorted into giving over 40 million dollars in bribes to Choi in order to get business favors from the president and her friends.
During November, the people of South Korea protested in the thousands. Many prominent South Korean businesses ran away from questions regarding the legality of their dealings.
By December, they attempted to impeach President Park. This was finally upheld in March. Throughout this time, President Park refused to step down. On the 31st of March this year, Park Geun-hye was placed in jail and is currently facing a sentence of at least ten years, though many are hoping for longer.
Though the trial has just started, the act itself of putting the ex-President on trial for corruption and bribery is going to be remembered in history and seen by many South Korean’s as the beginning of an open and honest future.
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