|On December 9, the President of south Korea, Park Guen-hye, was impeached by parliament, as a result of an ongoing corruption scandal. Impeachment of the president requires a two-thirds vote in favour. The combined forces of the opposition parties totalled only 175 votes, however members of the ruling Saenuri Party were permitted a free vote and a block of party members voted to impeach. The vote was 234 in favour of impeachment and 56 opposed, with two abstentions and seven spoiled ballots.
The situation is far from settled as Park continues to face pressure from the public and one of the opposition parties to resign immediately and it is unclear whether she can actually do so now that the impeachment process is underway. Furthermore, there are indications that some members of the opposition parties may not accept a caretaker government under Hwang because he is implicated in the current scandal. However, the constitution has no provision for such an eventuality, which could further exacerbate the political crisis.
Since the end of October, there have been massive rallies in Seoul and other cities and towns across the country. Similar actions have also taken place in 20 countries and 50 regions around the world. What started out as mass actions against the latest scandal and corruption of President Park Guen-hye grew to unprecedented levels with millions of people in the streets making the clear demand for her immediate resignation, which she repeatedly refused to do.
Origin of Current Scandal
Park is accused of collusion with her long-time confidante Choi Soon-sil. Choi is charged with embezzlement in the extortion of millions of dollars from major south Korean monopolies. Also at issue is Choi's unseemly relationship with the president, which permitted her to interfere in government matters and wield a large degree of political influence, as well as giving her access to government documents and the presidential residence -- the Blue House -- despite not holding elected office or having the required security clearance.
In late October, Choi was formally charged with abuse of authority, coercion and fraud. The prosecution accused Choi of using her relationship with President Park to extort millions of dollars from major south Korean firms such as Samsung to fund her own foundations and for personal use. Park has admitted that Choi edited or even wrote some of her speeches. These include the one Park delivered in Dresden, Germany in 2014, where Park asserted that Korea will be reunited when the south takes over the north just as West Germany took over East Germany.
The latest scandal involving Choi seems to have become the straw that broke the camel's back. Such ongoing anti-democratic corruption has hung over the Park government since it came to power in 2012. In that election, the military and secret service directly intervened by launching cyber attacks against democratic forces and opposition parties while extolling the virtues of Park. Since it took power, the Park regime has carried out an anti-social offensive and been servile to U.S. interests, militarizing the society and sabotaging relations between the north and south and ongoing efforts of the Korean people to achieve the reunification of their divided country.
Another black mark on Park's presidency is the Sewol ferry disaster, in which Park is increasingly seen to have shown callous indifference to the situation as it unfolded and a lack of compassion ever since for the families of the victims who are seeking answers and justice.
Crisis of Legitimacy of south Korean Governments
Servile to U.S. Interests
Park's impeachment comes in the context of the general political and economic crisis in south Korea which is linked directly to the fact that south Korea has been under U.S. dictate since 1945 when the U.S. divided Korea as part of its Cold War plans for world domination. As a consequence the Korean people have constantly lived under conditions of insecurity, crises and threat of war instigated by the U.S.
The threat of war includes the ongoing nuclear tension on the Korean peninsula that is a direct result of U.S. interference to block peaceful relations between north and south so as to realize the people's profound desire for the peaceful reunification of the divided Korean nation. Many south Koreans have protested the hysterical anti-communist tirades of the Park government against the government and people of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), the ongoing annual U.S.-south Korea war exercises and war hysteria aimed at military invasion and regime change in the DPRK.
Other Acts of Resistance Against Park Regime and Foreign Agendas
Members of the Korean Public Service and Transport Workers' Union began a national strike on September 27 to oppose the liberalization of the public sector, including the imposition of a performance-related pay and termination system. The action involved more than 60,000 workers. On October 10, 7,000 truck drivers also went on strike to improve their difficult working conditions. These are just the latest in a series of labour actions taken by workers this year. The regime has jailed union leaders and outlawed protests under the anti-communist National Security Law.
There is ongoing resistance against the building of a massive U.S. naval base on Jeju Island, as well as the escalation of nuclear tensions on the Korean peninsula with the agreement made with the U.S. to install the anti-ballistic missile terminal high altitude area defence (THAAD).
As well, despite being embroiled in a fatal political crisis, the Park regime signed a military pact with Japan on November 23, agreeing to exchange military intelligence, to the further outrage of the people. This collusion with the Japanese militarists of the Abe government is a profound insult to all those who suffered so terribly under Japanese occupation from 1910-1945. Not only have proper amends for their crimes not yet been made, but the Japanese militarists do not even admit to these well-documented crimes.
The political crisis in south Korea underscores that south Koreans, like peoples all over the world, are being blocked from being able to exercise political power by the ruling circles that act to defend their narrow interests and collude with foreign interests like U.S. imperialism. People in south Korea are second to none when it comes to standing up for their rights and demands, however their aspirations to exercise democratic control over their affairs have been waylaid time and time again by foreign interference, state repression and violence.
TML Weekly calls on all peace- and justice-loving people in Canada and around the world to stand with the Korean people in their struggle to be free of the yoke of U.S. imperialism and for a government that serves the national interests.