Last month, Park Geun-Hye, the 11th president of South Korea, was impeached by the national parliament with an overwhelming majority of 234 votes out of 300. About four to five months remain until the country’s constitutional court decides whether to accept or reject the impeachment motion.
Park’s impeachment was based on a political scandal that revolves around Park and her confidante, Choi Soon-sil, who is charged with abusing her connections with Park to influence political affairs and to force business conglomerates to donate several millions to her personal foundations and businesses.
These revelations outraged the Korean public, perhaps because Choi’s father was the founder of a Shamanistic-Evangelical cult. Many were ashamed and furious that a “phony” was controlling their president and accessing confidential documents.
It has also been confirmed that Choi has read and edited Park’s speeches, which explains the president’s use of unusual language in political settings. For example, Park, at a cabinet meeting regarding government-approved history textbooks in 2015, stated that “one’s soul inevitably will become abnormal if one does not properly learn their history,” which people saw as inapt and strange phrasing for the occasion.
After Choi’s connections to Park were exposed, many citizens, remembering the occasionally strange phrasings in Park’s speeches, came to link the cause of the Park administration’s incompetence to Choi’s influences.
Further speculations regarding Park and Choi have continued to surface, such as the one that suspects the cause of Park’s absence and slow response to the sinking of the Sewol ferry in 2014 and resulting deaths of 325 high school students to be the President’s preoccupation with a cult ritual with Choi. Coincidentally or not, the ferry owner Yoo Byung-eun also turned out to be a leader of a different Evangelical cult called “Salvation Sect.”
Why would the president of a nation willingly heed the advice of cult leaders? Choi’s father comforted and mentored Park since her early 20s when her mother was assassinated, claiming that her mother spoke to him in a dream to help Park. With her traumatized mental and emotional state and stressful responsibilities as the substitute First Lady, Park likely found the Chois’ support invaluable, which also resulted in profound influence of the Chois during almost 40 years of Park’s life.
Many Korean students at La Canada High School were unaware or indifferent towards the news, such as a junior Harrison Min, who expressed, “To be honest, although I was born in Korea, I don’t feel Korean. I think it doesn’t hold a lot of sway over me.” He also added, “I think that the impeachment should focus on actual crimes and actions committed, rather than only off of speculations of participating in a cult,” in response to the Korean citizens’ fury over the cult-related controversies regarding Park.
The Korean public surely was not very fond of such relations, as protests prior to the impeachment lasted months and etched the largest national protest yet onto South Korean history. With investigations and court sessions still ongoing, the Korean citizens continue to wait for a better government.