South Korea saw hundreds of thousands demonstrating last week, with some counts stating that over one million participated in demonstrations on November 12th. Protests have now entered their fourth week. The ongoing scandal regarding embattled South Korean president Park Geun-hye’s bizarre devotion to her friend and spiritual advisor, Choi Sil-soon, is not going away anytime soon. Demonstrators called on Park to step down, stating Park was no longer suitable to be president of South Korea. Reportedly, Park allowed Choi access to classified information and to embezzle tens of millions of dollars in government funds and to dictate aspects of her life ranging from wardrobe choices to presidential speeches. Park’s approval rating is currently below five percent.
After being questioned by prosecutors, prosecutors concluded that Park colluded with Choi to embezzle money. Because South Korean presidents can only be prosecuted for insurrection or treason, Park may only be prosecuted once out of office. Regardless, Park would be the first South Korean president to be interrogated in an ongoing criminal case. This is despite high-profile cases of political corruption in the past such as Chun Doo-hwan embezzling nearly one billion dollars during South Korea’s authoritarian period in the 1980s, and the arrest of family members of President Lee Myung-bak on charges of corruption during the democratic period. The history of corruption in South Korean politics raises serious questions about the country’s political system.