Ask a Korean
President Park Geun-hye is in deep trouble. The stories have been out for a few days now
, and even the English-language papers have caught on
. Park’s confidant has been running a massive slush fund, as she extorted more than $70 million from Korea’s largest corporations. The confidant was receiving confidential policy briefings and draft presidential speeches–all on a totally unencrypted computer. The confidant rigged the college admission process so that her daughter, not known to be sharpest tool in the shed, would be admitted into the prestigious Ewha Womans University. That last bit turned out to be the first step toward the president’s ruin, as Ewha students’ protest over that preferential treatment developed into the larger investigation about the relationship between Park and her confidant, Choi Soon-sil.
For better or worse (mostly worse,) Korean people have come to expect corruption from their presidents. So why is this one by Park Geun-hye causing such a strong reaction? It is not because Korean people discovered that Park was corrupt; it is because they discovered Park was irrationally corrupt. Koreans are not being dismayed at the scale of the corruption; they are shocked to see what the scale of the corruption signifies.
As it turned out, Choi Soon-sil owned Park Geun-hye just as much as her father did. Peddling the presidential influence, Choi extorted tens of millions of dollars from Korea’s largest corporations. When they found a small and profitable company, Choi’s cronies would straight-up steal it, threatening the owner of the company with the company’s destruction and personal harm
. More importantly, Choi effectively controlled the presidential power. Every day, Choi would receive a huge stack of policy briefs
from the presidential residence to discuss with her inner circle–an illustrious group that included Choi’s gigolo (no, really) and a K-pop music video director (I’m serious.) Choi would receive ultra-confidential information detailing secret meetings between South and North Korean military authorities. Choi would receive in advance the budget proposal of more than $150 million for the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism
, and distributed them to her friends’ projects. Choi went around saying North Korea would collapse by 2017 according to the spirits that spoke to her,
and the Park Geun-hey administration may have set its North Korea policy based on this claim.