Why are South Koreans angry with President Park?

Why are South Koreans angry with President Park?

There's some really weird stuff going on in South Korea, apart from the protests

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South Korean protesters march in front of Gwanghwamun, the main gate to the Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul, calling for South Korean President Park Geun-hye to step down.
Photo: AP

Is South Korea imploding? Keeping up with the political scandal that's rocking the country is not easy. Here's what we know so far... 

What happened?

Investigators in South Korea have pointed a finger at South Korean President Park Geun-hye in a scandal that has rocked the nation. The public is demanding Park’s resignation and for her to be tried over allegations of graft.

Graft?

When a politician uses their power for personal gain, it's called "graft".

So what’s the story?

So yeah, Park has a bestie, Choi Soon-sil, who has no official position in the goverment. A television network JTBC found a Galaxy tablet in Choi's office which contained top secret information, that should not be in the hands of anyone outside the government. Oops. Choi was arrested, but Park has refused to meet prosecutors who are very keen to talk to her.

Choi Soon-Sil, the woman at the heart of the scandal.
Photo: AFP

So, wait, who is Choi Soon-sil?

Choi, 60, is the leader of a cult, the Eternal Life Church, founded by her father in the 1970s. The church incorporates aspects of Christianity, Buddhism and the indigenous Korean religion Cheondism.

How did they get to be friends?

Okay so this is where it gets to be, well, creepy. You need to know, if you don't already, that Park is the daughter of former South Korean president Park Chung-hee. He was a dictator and a few people were out to kill him. In fact he was assassinated in 1979. In a 1974 assassination attempt, Park Geun-hye’s mother was killed. Choi’s father told Park that he could talk to her dead mother. The religious leader gained a lot of influence over Park, who also developed a friendship with Choi. When Choi’s father died, she took over the role of being the link between Park and her dead mother.

Park Geun-Hye
Photo: Kyodo

Okay, that is weird. But how is wrong?

Park not only gave Choi a lot of money but also the power to get even richer. Choi is accused of using her influence to get wealthy corporations to donate to her charities, but it is believed she used some of the money for herself. Not only did Park apparently give her  money but allegedly also allowed Choi to see speeches before they were given, and to go through a lot of the confidential documents she had no business knowing about. People think that Choi has been able to talk Park into making important decisions.

What did the Galaxy have to do with this?

The Galaxy was found in Choi's office held confidential documents and a selfie of Choi. When news of the scandal became public, Choi left South Korea for Germany. But she returned to face the music and has been arrested. Park herself has said that once she came to power she cut off all ties with family and friends - except for Choi. She has apologised for the relationship, but that was not enough for her citizens.

Park Chung-hee, right, and his daughter, Park Geun-hye cast ballots in Seoul in 1977.
Photo: AP

How have South Koreans reacted?

The reaction of the South Korean public has been loud and clear as protestors march down the streets of Seoul. Many are calling for Park to step down from her position to move democracy forward in South Korea.

So what happens next?

Well, South Korea's first women president could just do nothing. She has got just over 100 days left in her term and the time it takes to impeach her would be too long to affect her. But, the opposition could ramp up its efforts to unseat her.

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