As Park apologizes, talk of “impeachment” and “resignation” dominate online sphere

Posted on : 2016-10-26 16:12 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Netizens express anger at situation where unelected power broker exerts influence over state affairs
South Korean web portals on Oct. 25
South Korean web portals on Oct. 25

Three search terms ranked at the top for South Korea’s main portal sites on Oct. 25: “Impeachment,” “Resignation,” “Choi Sun-sil.”

Even those who had remained highly skeptical or on the fence when the first allegations were made about the Mir and K-Sports Foundations and privileged treatment by Ewha Womans University are beginning to change their views. The South Korean public was seething after a report by the JTBC network the night before on evidence that Choi Sun-sil, 60, received and partially edited advance copies of “remarks” from President Park Geun-hye’s speeches and Cabinet addresses.

The first reaction was anger.

“This is not a country,” literary critic Hwang Hyeon-san wrote on Twitter that day. “Whether or not [Park] is impeached, we need to at least go through impeachment proceedings. We need to make it official that this is an important matter connected with the very framework of the state.”

Another internet user (@jim***) tweeted, “At least Park Geun-hye is someone the public entrusted with power. Now there are behind-the-scenes power brokers receiving advance copies of her speeches? At this point, impeachment is looking like the obvious conclusion.”

After Park‘s apology to the public at 4 pm that day, another Twitter user (sunh****) wrote, “The President herself acknowledged the truth of the power broker allegations. We need an apology, but there also needs to be a punishment. The President has undermined the very foundation of a democratic republic and needs to take responsibility befitting her station.”

In particular, file names shared online from a folder reportedly included on Choi’s tablet PC - some apparently related to government policy, including “Employment and Welfare,” “Briefings,” and “Reference Materials,” along with others believed to be related to events from Park’s inauguration, including “My Own Stamp” and “Obangnang” - sparked an emotional response from netizens, who said they felt “insulted” by a “governance monopoly” beyond their imagination.

“I thought the Republic of Korea was a neoliberal state, but it turns out it’s a theocracy,” wrote one.

“We’ve had a lot of figurehead presidents at companies in our history - now we finally have a figurehead president of the country,” wrote another.

Seongnam Mayor Lee Jae-myung posted a Facebook message reading, “At this moment, I really would like to deny I am a citizen of the Republic of Korea. My face is burning and my pride is hurt over facts that are totally unacceptable.”

Kyung Hee University global communications professor Lee Taek-gwang said the Park administration “has destroyed its last trust from the public as a democratic administration. From now on, Park cannot count on the majority’s support beyond her die-hard base.”

It remains unclear for now what practical results the indignation will have.

“Under a presidential system, an impeachment is difficult to accomplish because of the rigidity of terms,” said Park Sang-hoon, director of the school at the Political Power Plant.

“The public‘s objections may grow more forceful, but there will also be a backlash from the other side, so it’s tough to get all citizens behind a single opinion,” Park added.

“The best approach would be to pick a better administration in the next election. That‘s both a limitation of democracy and a strength.”

By Kim Ji-hoon and Kim Ji-sook, staff reporters

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