Friday, March 10, 2017

Korea crosses a threshold

I was wrong yet again.

From the English Chosun Ilbo:

The Constitutional Court in a unanimous decision announced Friday morning upheld the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye, who was immediately stripped of office.

Park, the country's first democratically elected leader to be forced out of office, must presently leave Cheong Wa Dae, where she has been holed up since the National Assembly voted to impeach her in December.

In a ruling read out live on TV as both supporters and opponents massed around the court, the court said the president "seriously impaired the spirit of... democracy and the rule of law."

Acting chief justice Lee Jung-mi said Park's actions "betrayed the public's trust in the president and constitute unforgivable violations of the Constitution."

The court accepted that Park conspired with her longtime crony Choi Soon-sil to extort vast sums of money from conglomerates and allowed Choi to meddle in government business.

Worse, she promised to cooperate sincerely in the investigation but not only failed to live up to her words but "concealed completely Choi's meddling in state affairs and denied it whenever suspicions over the act emerged and even criticized those who raised the suspicions."

The court dismissed one ground in the National Assembly's impeachment bill, saying Park's unexplained seven-hour absence during the 2014 ferry tragedy that killed over 300 people, "cannot be seen as violating her duty to protect people's life" as the scope of a president's duties in the matter is "too abstract" to determine.

The ruling finally brings down the curtain on a standoff that has plunged the country into chaos since the scandal broke in October last year. Koreans must now go to the polls within 60 days to elect a new president while Park faces criminal prosecution like any ordinary citizen.

Wow. So Park gambled and lost, and now she's losing the one thing she wanted to keep: the Blue House. Dishonored, disgraced, she doesn't leave office so much as get kicked out of office. There's no way to spin this positively...although I'm sure that Park and her flunkies will try in the years to come.

Incredible. As of this morning's vote, Park Geun-hye is no longer president of South Korea. I think this means there'll be a snap election to install a president pro tempore (the current prime minister, Hwang Kyo-ahn, is at the wheel for the moment) who will then serve until next January or February. In the meantime, there will also be the regular election for the president whose term will begin in February of 2018.

The throng of protestors who have been taking to the streets for months must be ecstatic. Tons of semen must be flying higher than Seoul Tower, then raining down on the populace, spattering babies and grandmothers and homeless people alike with joy.

Savor this moment, Korea.

UPDATE: this is currently front-page news in France and the US. (Amusingly, the French article's headline says it's Park Chung-hee, not Park Geun-hye, who has been ousted. Click now and have a chuckle before that gets corrected!)

ADDENDUM: an election must now occur within 60 days. Very likely, a leftist candidate with a friendlier stance toward North Korea will be elected, but since this person will merely be pro tem, the country will still have a chance to do the right thing when the big election (for the 2018-23 term) comes to pass.

ADDENDUM 2: I've got people insisting that the upcoming election will be for a president serving out both the remainder of Park's term and an entire new term. Maybe this is true; maybe it isn't. I want sources, people. Evidence.


Charles said...

The French article is still, at the time of this comment, incorrect; the one comment there so far basically says, "Maybe reread the title before publishing the article, hmm?" Heh.

Meanwhile, the left is throwing a tantrum that Park didn't leave the Blue House the exact second that the decision was handed down. It is a bit odd that she hasn't said anything yet, though. I get the impression that she still doesn't understand what she did wrong. Throughout the whole thing, she struck me as someone who thought she was being wrongfully accused.

Kevin Kim said...

Yeah, I saw that comment. Funny.

My gut feeling all along has been that Park was guilty and needed to go, but the "lack of a preponderance of evidence" school of thought was eroding my confidence that she would end up removed from office, so this court decision came as a surprise. My boss wryly noted that none of the judges wanted to go down in history as the asshole who dissented, hence the unanimity.

One part of me agrees that Park might not truly understand what she did wrong; another part thinks she knew enough to try the cynical gamble of throwing legal proceedings in the way of her ouster, hoping to play for time and end her term while still in the Blue House. (Of course, she could cynically gamble while still not understanding her own situation; that's certainly a possibility, but cynicism, as a rule, falls on the opposite side of the spectrum from wide-eyed innocence.)

I don't know, and maybe now, it doesn't even matter. She's out.

Charles said...

I'm not sure about the cynical gamble. I genuinely think she is clueless, and if there was a gamble taken it was done so either at the advice of others or simply out of ignorance. If she truly believed that she did no wrong, is the gamble still cynical? I guess it depends on the object of that cynicism. But throughout the whole process she has had the air of one unjustly wronged. So either she truly does not get it, or she is a really good actress. I'm leaning toward the former.

Also not sure about the lack of evidence argument. There was actually a ton of evidence that CSS was pulling the strings and using PGH for her own benefit, and that PGH was complicit in this. There was no evidence for the Sewol conspiracy theories, though, which is why that was the only charge the court struck down.

I think your boss might be right about the unanimous decision. I should note that I have since read the judgment (or at least skimmed it), and if you read between the lines you can see that some judges felt a little more strongly about the decision than others. One judge appended a "supplementary opinion," stating that, "As this impeachment process is not an issue of conservative or liberal ideology but an issue of protecting Constitutional law, [we] had no choice but to find for dismissal in order to rid [our system] of corrupt political practices." (That's a pretty rough translation--the last part in particular, 정치적 폐습을 청산하기 위하여, was tricky.) I think it is telling that this opinion was only supplementary and ascribed to that one judge.

motorrad said...

I'm an expat living in Incheon and my fear is that another North Korean stooge anti American leftist will be elected and Sunshine II will be implemented. To paraphrase Margaret Thatcher, Now is not the time to go wobbly.

Kevin Kim said...


I'm not hopeful.


Park has been a politician for a long time. Can she really be that naive? I wouldn't dismiss the "really good actress" alternative, mainly because this society puts so much stock in myeongye and chemyeon. A lot of the theatrics we're seeing have to do with face and honor—how else can Park act? She's already tried the contrite thing with her non-apology last year, but now the rubber has met the road, and if she won't leave the Blue House willingly, she'll leave it forcibly.

There's also the "Bill Clinton" explanation: Park's naiveté comes from a politician's ability to compartmentalize things in her mind. Part of her sincerely believes she's been wronged—but only part of her.

Charles said...

Can she really be that naive? Yeah, I kind of think she can. Although I'm not sure if it is so much naiveté as it is utter delusion. Bottom line is that I'm not sure she's really clever enough to be that devious and deceptive.

Your compartmentalization theory is interesting, though. I suppose it is a possibility, although in that case I would say that the part of her that believes she is wronged has tied up the part of her that doesn't and stuffed it in a closet.

But who knows? This is all just speculation on what's going on inside her head, and it's unlikely that anyone but Choi knows what that is.

Charles said...

Also, clarification on my Sewol comment, which I just reread: What the court said was that Park did not act as a president should during a crisis, but that her actions also did not constitute a crime under the constitution. My original wording was a little vague.

Kevin Kim said...

I think Park had to have been at least partially in touch with reality if she felt the need to apologize (well... "apologize") at least once last year. She must have known she'd done something wrong, otherwise why feel the need to express regret? And it's even worse for her if she deliberately crafted her "apology" as a non-apology apology. That, to me, indicates cunning right there, and cunning implies knowledge because cunning folks use their knowledge to game whatever system they're in.

I'm not totally rejecting the idea that Park might be delusional. She repeatedly proved to be tone-deaf, especially when it came to her repressive relationship with the press, so there's evidence she can be detached from the goings-on. But if we grant that she's truly delusional, then she's not morally culpable, which is a conclusion I can't accept. It's easier to think she's acting this way to save face: better, and easier, to believe the whole world is crazy than to accept that the person in the mirror is the one who needs help.

I don't really have any sympathy for Park: she had to have known, going in, what it meant to be president of a country. It's not a position one enters into blindly. On some level, she must know that Choi-gate implicates her and not just her religious-weirdo friend. And in terms of allowing a political nonentity (Choi) to have access to thousands of pages of secret government documents... she had to have known this was a breach of national security. Yet she kept at it, which is why I wonder about mental compartmentalization.

Kevin Kim said...

I wrote:

"...better, and easier, to believe the whole world is crazy than to accept that the person in the mirror is the one who needs help."

Let me rephrase that:

better, and easier, to ACT AS IF the whole world is crazy than to accept that the person in the mirror is the one who needs help.

I don't know what Park actually believes.