President Park greets Vladimir Putin at the 2013 G20 Summit in St. Petersburg.
On Saturday, November 5th, thousands flooded the streets of Seoul, South Korea, demanding the resignation of their embattled president Park Geun-hye. Park has been engulfed in a damaging political scandal over the pat few weeks after allowing a Choi Soon-sil view confidential government documents. Choi is not a government official and only a personal friend of Park, which sparked nationwide outrage over her abuse of power.
Park’s numerous heartfelt apologies haven’t appeased South Koreans, who still are calling for her dismissal from the government. Her removal of prime minister Hwang Kyo-ahn and two other top political aides hasn’t moved the needle much either, as thousands are still demonstrating in South Korea’s capital.
Corruption on the Korean peninsula is expected, if not a guarantee in the 21st century. But seeing it occur below the 38th parallel, instead of above it, is shocking. And what makes this scandal particularly damaging for South Korea isn’t the fact that government information might have been leaked, rather it’s North Korea’s presence as a northern neighbor. Sharing a border with the world’s most corrupt country sets an unfair standard of honesty and transparency for South Korea’s government. But it’s a standard that must be met.
South Korea must exist as a bastion of democracy and fully embody anti-corruption. Whatever North Korea is, South Korea should exist as its polar opposite. When oppressed North Koreans look across the border at their southern neighbors, they have to see a positive example of a people’s democracy. Even if the political scandal seems relatively minor when compared to the corruption that exists to the north (and relatively minor when compared to American politics as well), there must be severe consequences.
With Park’s approval rating plummeting to 5%, if the people demand her resignation, she must resign. There’s no other way around it. No contrite apology or cabinet reshuffle will fix the problem. The will of the people—when that overwhelming in numbers—have to be fulfilled, especially in a country like South Korea.