Tuesday, November 29, 2016

President Park's speech

For those of you who haven't been following along with the South Korean presidential scandal, which may well end with the downfall of South Korea's current president, Park Geun-hye, I'd advise you to read the excellent Cliff's Notes version of the crisis as written up over at the blog Ask A Korean.

Start here.

Continue here.

End up here.

The TL;DR version of the scandal is something like this:

1. Someone found an abandoned iPad and, as s/he dug deeper into what was stored on it, discovered that President Park had deep connections with confidante Choi Soon-sil.

2. This revelation has led to further revelations about the spooky nature of the Park/Choi relationship, and also about a complex web of influence-peddling and other forms of dirty dealing. Choi, who had no right to be so close to the reins of power, appears to have exerted an undue amount of influence over Park. Choi had access to thousands of pages of confidential/classified information—thousands of pages per day. This is Hillary's Servergate times a hundred.

3. The public is extremely pissed off. Demonstrations—peaceful in comparison to the shameful post-election rioting in the United States—have been going on every weekend for weeks. Park has addressed the public twice before today's speech; she has seemed unwilling to resign, thus putting the people in a fouler and fouler mood. Some of us on Twitter are wondering how long this state of affairs can remain peaceful.

4. Park just gave a speech today; it was Trumpian in its vagueness, openness to interpretation, and probable tactical significance. Park seemed to concede that she might resign, but she has apparently left it in the hands of the National Assembly (South Korea's analogue to the UK Parliament or the US Congress) to decide her political fate. I'm reprinting her brief address in its entirety below. The English translation is awful—stilted and unnatural—so you'll just have to bear with it. Source here.

Dear respected citizens,

Once again, I apologize for causing you enormous troubles because of my wrongdoings.

As I see the citizens suffering heartache due to this issue, I think it is evident that I must apologize even hundreds of times.

But despite such efforts, all the disappointment and fury that I have caused you cannot be resolved and that wrenches my heart.

Citizens, as I recall the past 18 years that I spent with you, the time has been all the more thankful and precious.

From 1998, when I began politicking for my inauguration as the President and finally to this very moment, I have invested all my efforts in serving the country and citizens.

Not for a single moment have I ever pursued my own interest, nor even thought about it.

The series of events that have occurred now are a result of my pursuit of public benefit for the nation. And I did not take a single benefit during the process.

But I admit it was my huge fault that I have failed to manage my personal life and take care of people around me.

I will explain all the details about this political scandal in the near future.

Dear citizens, I have stayed up countless nights to come up with a right decision for the country and the people as the situation is getting worse for domestic and foreign affairs.

Now, I would like to express my decision here.

I will follow the National Assembly's decision about my course of resignation as the President, including cutting short my remaining term.

When the ruling and opposition parties propose a plan to transfer governing power in a way that can minimize any chaos and power vacuum in state affairs, I will resign from the presidency according to the rules and schedules proposed by the National Assembly.

Now, I have laid everything down. My only desire is for South Korea to break away from this chaotic state and return to its original course as soon as possible.

Once again, I would like to apologize to the citizens and plead that the political circle will combine their wisdom for the hopeful future of South Korea.

Since the speech is heavy by nature, I will explain further about the details in the near future. Any questions can be dealt with at that time.

Some see the above as a sign that Park will definitely resign. Others say the speech is "a final fuck-you," because now the National Assembly will be forced to bicker over how best to proceed, which means Park will likely end up serving out her final year in office with no resolution. If that's true, she will have held on to power until the end of her term.

Personally, I think Park should have had the good grace simply to declare her resignation and step down immediately. A snap election to choose a one-year replacement would have occurred; that's in doubt, now, as people digest Park's speech and mull over how to move forward. The public, meanwhile, will become ever more fractious once it senses that this speech is part of a ploy by Park to keep herself in power. And what happens once the demonstrators decide they will no longer tolerate this state of affairs?


brier said...

I have some sympathy for her. I still don’t know what exactly she is being charged with, let alone if she is guilty of those charges. Sure she made mistakes, mostly likely it seems these mistakes will be criminal, and maybe this is a good thing for it shows that no matter who you are in Korean society, the law will work. But I just don’t see that happening. For this scandal, the number siphoned off from businesses I have seen is about 65 million usd. Seems she hasn’t benefited from this money, but she did help a friend organized it into foundations. (Maybe the ‘foundation’ economy in Korea really need to be looked at and changed.) 65 million isn’t huge compared to all the business heads who have been pardoned in the past for tax evasion and outright embezzlement. Park’s scandal is serious, but it shouldn’t bring down a government and all the ramifications that has. 5% percent approval ratings? Herd mentality. I have seen and experienced this with the 2002 anti-American protests. The 2008 mad cow protests, and now this. 5% approval rates in a democracy means a lot of people aren’t judging things for themselves. I also see a bit of Confucian misogyny in all of this. All the main players are female and one is quite young, but a legal adult. Clearly three apologies and her latest offer to resign if the conditions are right have humiliated her enough. There really needs to be an adult in the room for this. The opposition parties are wetting themselves silly with her embarrassing downfall.

Kevin Kim said...

I can see where you're coming from. PGH is nothing like her father. While she's shown some media-unfriendly repressive tendencies in the past, she's not a full-on dictator by any stretch, and I doubt she's really all that malicious (case in point: would a true dictator allow the people to have million-strong demonstrations week after week?). That said, she has handled her role as president very clumsily, so at the very least, she should be tossed out for gross incompetence. It bothers me that she still seems to be clinging to power; she should simply have bowed out as quietly as possible instead of leaving things to the National Assembly.