Saturday, October 29, 2016

the Parkenhill scandals

Saw this on Twitter:

While I've promised not to talk about the US presidential election until after it's done and we're sitting around in the cinders, it's interesting to see some uncomfortable parallels unfolding between two female leaders: conservative (well, ostensibly conservative) South Korean president Park Geun-hye, on one side, and supposedly liberal presidential wannabe Hillary Clinton on the other. Clinton's being slowly but surely WikiLeaked and O'Keefed to death (see commentary here and here); meanwhile, a slew of revelations about Park and her administration have come to light. The parallel is not only about the fact that both Park and Clinton are female: it's also about the natures of the respective scandals. Both are about influence-peddling and the leaking of classified information. The Western mainstream media are finally starting to take Clinton's problems seriously, so there's little need to catch you, Dear Reader, up on what's happening in the States. Let's concentrate on Park.

The scandal isn't that old—maybe a week or two as of this writing. President Park is accused of passing along sensitive information to a friend, Choi Sun-sil; Choi apparently reviewed the material and gave her opinion on it, as well as on some of Park's speeches. According to one report, Choi was being sent reams of reports every single day—reams that stacked up to a foot high, i.e., thousands of pages of information not meant for public consumption. Investigations are ongoing; it's still unclear as to why Park would be so negligent as to crack open the shield of national security to allow a flood of information to rush into an outsider's clutches. Choi seems to hold a strangely eerie influence over Park, possibly religious in nature—or that's the impression one gets from the news media. I'm reminded of Nancy Reagan and her astrologer, but as far as I know, that First Lady never once lowered the portcullis to release secret information and/or to let in prying eyes.

Some members of Park's political party, Saenuri, are also under investigation for influence-peddling, echoing the Clinton Foundation pay-for-play scandal. With Park being conservative and Clinton supposedly being liberal, it should be obvious that such scandals can happen no matter a politician's political persuasion. Some voices are wondering aloud whether Park should be impeached; others wonder whether Park will last until the end of her term. She comes from a rich, privileged, storied family; I don't doubt that, like Hillary Clinton, she will escape justice. Perhaps Park will be offered a face-saving plan that allows her to retire quietly and in exile, a bit like what happened to Korean dictator Chun Doo-hwan. Personally, I think Park will survive this and serve out the rest of her term, but I doubt her approval ratings—currently in the teens—will rise much beyond 25% from now until the bitter end. By then, Koreans will be sick of having two conservatives in a row as president, and will elect a leftist like UN General Secretary Ban-ki Moon.

UPDATE: the Los Angeles Times has a decent primer on Park's scandal.

UPDATE 2: Ask a Korean has a good post on Park.

UPDATE 3: Joshua Stanton comments on the wider ramifications of "Choigate."

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