Das geteilte Land - KOREA

2016: Park Geun-hye's government

Südkorea <> Nordkorea

Source:  The Hankyoreh, 31.10.2016, Editorial
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For Park Geun-Hye's government, the collapse has already begun

Candlelight protests calling for the resignation of South Korean Park Geun-hye captivated the country on Saturday and Sunday night. The voices of angry citizens filled plazas in major cities around the countries - not only Gwanghwamun in Seoul but also Busan Station in Busan, Taehwagang Station in Ulsan, Save Zone in Jeonju and Haengbok Street in Uijeongbu. In Jeonju, the drivers of city buses honked their horns to take part in the protests.

Watching these demonstrations felt like witnessing a reoccurrence of the democratization movement that swept the entire country in 1987 and brought down the dictatorship. In the sense that the protestors spanned a wide spectrum of people - men and women, young and old, parents and children - there are similarities to the candlelight vigils held to protest imports of American beef at the beginning of the Lee Myung-bak presidency in 2008.

But the demonstrations calling for Park to step down are much more serious than those held during the scare over mad cow disease. Instead of being mobilized by organizations, most of the protestors are showing up on their own will, and popular interest in the demonstrations has been intense since the day they began. Apparently, rage that had been simmering quietly has boiled over all at once. Professors and students from universities around the country have been racing to draft “emergency declarations,” which have been almost unheard-of since the democratization movement.

The shifting stance of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency shows that one section of the wall protecting the Park administration is crumbling. On Oct. 29, a message that the police broadcast to protestors on Gwanghwamun acknowledged that the protestors were “concerned about the country”; on Oct. 30, after the illegal demonstration on the previous day, the agency released a highly unusual press release expressing its gratitude to the protestors. This shows how the Park administration is imploding as it loses its legitimacy even on the inside. This is not a government on the verge of collapsing; the collapse has already begun.

Park remains far too nonchalant, considering the urgency of the situation. After making a public apology on Oct. 25, she solicited the resignations of all her senior secretaries at the Blue House on the evening of Oct. 28, and it was not until Oct. 30 that she sacked her most controversial secretaries: Ahn Jong-beom, Woo Byung-woo, two of the three associates that make up the so-called “doorknob triumvirate.”

But on Oct. 29, she absurdly invited Kim Ki-choon, her former chief of staff, to a conversation with senior members of the Saenuri Party, even though he may also be implicated in the Choi Sun-sil scandal. Since Oct. 28, Park had been bringing in Saenuri Party leader Lee Jung-hyun, floor leader Chung Jin-seok, veteran members of the party and respected members of society to make it seem as if she was trying to consult public opinion, but this all looks suspiciously like a sneaky attempt to deflect public anger.

Public sentiment has been clearly expressed, and the people whom Park is meeting do not so much represent public sentiment as they contradict it. We hope that she will not tempt fate by trying any more silly tricks.



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