Protesters call for South Korean President Park Geun-hye's resignation at a rally in Seoul, South Korea on December 3, 2016. (REUTERS/KIM HONG-JI)
December 8, 2016
South Korean leaders have had a series of corruption scandals since the country adopted democratic governance two decades ago. But none have been as seismic as the current turmoil surrounding President Park Geun-hye. Park is facing calls to resign over a corruption scandal involving her close confidante, Choi Soon-sil. Choi has been arrested amidst allegations of her profiting off of her close ties to Park and of playing a major, shadow role in Park's decisions. The story there is complex. Choi is the daughter of a South Korean spiritual leader who became close to Park after Park's mother was assassinated in 1974. The assassin had meant to kill Park's father, Chung Hee, who was South Korean president at the time. Chung was ultimately killed by the state security chief in 1979. The elder Choi became close to Park by claiming to be able to communicate with her slain mother. There are reports the younger Choi took over her father's self-proclaimed necromancy in recent years, which has helped her get close to Park.
Top South Korean executives have admitted to giving money to Choi's foundations at the behest of Park's aides. And Choi has been found to have influenced on Park on everything from foreign policy to clothing choices. Prosecutors say Choi's maneuverings have netted her at least $70 million.
Rallies against Park have drawn crowds of close to 2 million people in Seoul, the largest mass protests in South Korea's history. Lawmakers are planning an impeachment vote on Friday. The upheaval comes at a time of economic stagnation and of heightened tensions with China over South Korea's hosting of a US military shield.
On this episode of The Stream, we'll explore Park's scandal in what could be one of the most consequential moments of recent South Korean political history.