December 9, 2016

The People Have Spoken

Koreans in South Korea have a long history of massive street protests that resulted in changes of governments. The April Student Revolution of 1960 led to the downfall of the Syngman Rhee dictatorship. The Bu-Ma Mass Protests of 1979 triggered a series of events that led to the end of the dictator Park Chung-hee's repressive regime. The June Democratic Uprising of 1987 brought democratic political reforms, including direct presidential elections.  Now, massive candlelight protests of Winter 2016, which was carried out peacefully with remarkable order, have prompted the impeachment of Park Geun-hye. 

Amidst popular outcry, the Park dynasty has come to an end. Park Chung-hee, a former officer in the Japanese Imperial Army who went after Korean independence fighters, made himself a president after staging a coup d'├ętat in 1961, ruling with iron fist while suppressing popular dissent with acute brutality. Park's seemingly-endless reign ended in 1979 when his own Korean CIA chief, fearful of massive bloodshed of protesting people, assassinated his boss.  Park Geun-hye, the daughter of Park Chung-hee, was elected to presidency in 2012, under some suspicions of voting fraud and irregularities of government interference. Yet, the Park Geun-hye's demise was her own doing, as the corruption and cronyism surrounding her inner circles finally caught up with her. It can be said then that both the father and the daughter were removed from the president's office, in large part, by the popular will and action.

This is not the first time that candlelight protests and impeachment played out in conjunction in South Korea. Former president Roh Moo-hyun was also impeached in 2004, on a minor charge of electioneering that was amplified by the conservative opposition party legislators based on political motivation. During that time, candlelight protests called FOR THE RESCINDMENT of the impeachment and gave support to Roh.  In the end, the Constitutional Court overturned the impeachment and Roh returned to power.

Though the impeachment of Park Geun-hye will not be finalized until the decision of the Constitutional Court is made in coming months, the impeachment decision will likely hold due to the extent and gravity of the charges. Moreover, currently only 3% of South Koreans support Park Geun-hye and many are beginning to see the fallacies of her failed policies, such as the revision of history textbooks, agreement with Japan on the "comfort women" issue, agreement with the U.S. to place the THAAD anti-missile defense system, and the neglect and incompetent handling of the Sewol ferry disaster. The people have spoken -- coming out to the streets in millions, in six consecutive weekends.  Now, the people await the transition of power to a new government.

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