One could be forgiven for mistaking South Korea as the democracy that Hong Kong should aspire to be. But behind the glitz and glamour of boy bands and TV dramas lies the ordinary South Korean youth.
The impeachment of former South Korean president Park Geun-hye is testament to their anger and should serve as a warning for Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.
Park’s scandals, including collusion with big companies and the leaking of classified information, were not the only triggers for the subsequent mass protests in Seoul; the entire system seemed to be rigged in favour of those in power.
Case in point: an old friend of Park’s was alleged to have arranged a place at a prestigious university for her daughter. South Korea’s university entrance exams are renowned for being stressful, so these special arrangements angered many young voters.
This sentiment is echoed amongst Hong Kong students – as proven by the brewing divide between the Joint University Programmes Admissions System (Jupas) and non-Jupas applicants, in which non-Jupas entries are considered as a conduit for the rich and privileged.
Another problem was Park’s lack of response to grievances. She was scrutinised for not showing concern for the people, as demonstrated by her delayed statements regarding the Sewol ferry disaster in 2014, where more than 300 people lost their lives, many of them students. Even at that time, South Koreans took to the streets and protested for Park’s removal from office, causing Park’s own party to turn against her.
South Korea embodies the worst of Hong Kong in many ways: student deaths, social inequality and growing political discontent. However, our counterparts have something powerful: democracy – the ability to hold those in office accountable and to remove those who fail to listen. What do we have?