Presidential scandal shows that Korean disease of corruption is far from cured
When Kim young-sam bacame south Korea’s first democratically elected civilian president in 1993, he vowed to cure the country of the Korean disease, the political corruption that had become endemic.
Kim oversaw an ambitious drive to celan up the country, even authorizing the arrest of his two immediate predecessors on corruption-realted charges, although he eventually became infected by the disease himself when his son was arrested on corruption and bribety charges.
Corruption, bribery, embezzlement and the abouse of power have been modulated over the past generation but remain indisputable components of official South Korea, as the scandal now engulfing President Prk
Park is set to be questioned by prosecutors as soon as Thrsday about her role in an inluence-peddling scandal revolving around a friend of 40 years.
Although every South Korean president sicne democratization in 1987 has become ensnared by corruption in one way or another, Park will become the first incumbent to be grilled by prosecutors. She cannot be carged while in office but could be indicted after she leaves, which may happen sooner than expected.
Most analysts had thought Park would try to ride out the storm until the next election, in December 2017.
But after a third week of huge protests – hundreds of thousands gathered in central Seoul on Saturday, drawing comparisons to the demonstrations that ended military tule almost 30 years ago – the chances of her being forced out of office have increased. Eurasia Group, a consulting firm that assesses risk, now puts the porbability at 70 percent.
The situation has reached a point of no return, Moon Jae-in an opposition politician and presidential hopeful, said Tuesday. Up to then, he had demanded that she hand over day-to-day running of the country to the prime minister, chosen by parliament, But now, he said, that was no longer sufficient. I, along with the citizens, will carry out a nationwide campaign for Park’s resignation until she declares she will unconditionally step aside, he said.
The scandal flared last month when it emerged that Park, widely considered a distant figure, was being secretly advised by a freind of 40 years, a woman with no policy background but with ties to a religious cult.
The woman, Choi Soon-sil, is accused of receiving classified information and of using her ties to Park to raise up to $70 million from big business gorups for two foundations – most of which she is said to have siphoned off – and to get her daughter into a prestigious university. She is in custody and is expectedt o be indicted this week.
Park’s attempts at quelling the public fury over this shadow president have amounted to nothing, as shown by the increasingly large protest against her.
THe scandal has highlighted just how prevalent the Korean disease remians.
it encompasses the presidential Blue House, with some of park’s aides suspected of helping Choi raise money, and big business, with Samsung alone said to have given $20 million directly to CHoi or to her foundations. Senior officials from big conglomerates including Samsung, Hyundai Motors and LG have been called in for questioning. This adds to the woes at Samsung, already reeeling from the withdrawal of one its flagship products, the Galaxy note 7 phone.
It also involves the powerful prosecutors office, which is accused of being too political. A prominent former prosecutor who served as a senior presidential secretary to Park is now under investigation on suspicion of helping CHoi and tipping off big businesses to pending raids. And hard-charging prosecutors often end up workign in the blue house or at the big conglomerates, further cementing personal links between institutions.
It’s the scope of the vilations that are in play, he said. There is the classified information, the foundations, the university. There are half a dozen discrete things that are likely to be illegal.
Ra Jong-yil, a former deputy director of SOuth Korean intelligence, also sees echoes of the Watergate scandal. The easiest way to fix this is for the president to resign, just like Nixon did, Ra said.
The kind of corruption seen in South Korea is partly the result of government-sponsored industrialization. It was Park’s father, authoritarian president Park Choung-hee, who supported the creation of corporate giants such as sam, encouraging links between governement and business in the 1960s and 1970s that remian strong today.
Park learned about the coalition of business and politics from her father, said Kim, a professor of social sciences at Sungkonghoe Uni, park watch stopped in the 1970s
means that it is hard to say no when a friend asks you for something.
this concept makes it difficult to create checks and balances that can overcome personal networks, Snyder said.
Institutions end up being compromised by the fact that Mr.Kim at the Blue House went to elementary school with Mr.Lee at the proseutors office, he said. That’s the classic struggle that makes corruption endemic.