The Current

South Koreans call for President Park Geun-hye's impeachment amid corruption scandal

Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets demanding that disgraced president, Park Geun-hye, step down. In the weeks since the protests started, the political scandal has become a flash point for broad public discontent.
South Koreans have taken the streets in numbers not seen since the protests to democratize the country in the 1980's. They are demanding that South Korean President Park Geun-hye step down amid a corruption scandal that involved a powerful family friend to influence political decisions for personal gain. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)

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Following an investigation into whether South Korean president Park Geun-hye allowed a powerful family friend to influence political decisions for personal gain, thousands of protestors have flooded the streets calling for her resignation. 
Protesters wear cut-outs of South Korean President Park Geun-hye, right, and Choi Soon-sil, whose close friendship with the president has led to an investigation over meddling in state and big business affairs. (Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters)

The last time protests hit this level of intensity in South Korea was in the 1980s when citizens rallied for the democratization of the country.

For many protesters, this scandal is only a symptom of much bigger problems in South Korea, according to political science professor Kathy Moon

She tells The Current's guest host Kelly Crowe she's not surprised by both the scale and vigor of the demonstrations.

"South Koreans are used to going out and expressing their political opinions on the street. This time it's much more personal in some ways for a lot of these people," Moon says. 

"It's political of course but I think they feel genuinely hurt by their president … betrayed by her promise during her campaign to stay clean."

South Koreans hold candles during a rally against President Park Geun-Hye on a main street in Seoul, South Korea, Nov. 26, 2016. (Jeon Heon-kyun/Reuters)

President Park Geun-hye's legacy

According to Jason Struthers, a journalist based in Seoul, Park was not very popular even before this scandal came to light. Many were unhappy with the way she handled the 2014 sinking of the Sewol ferry in which over 300 mostly secondary school-aged children drowned and brought up issues of corruption.

"President Park more or less vanished during the first several hours while that incident unfolded," he says.

Park was not a popular president, says Moon. She won the presidency by a slim margin — "a 50/50 spilt."

"And she came into the presidency with a corruption scandal following her, that the National Intelligence Service, the Korea CIA ... manipulated or intervened in the election process to allow her to win."

According to professor Kathy Moon, the scandal linked to President Park Geun-hye has affected all levels of South Korean society. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)

Moon predicts the new president will be tied down by legal and political controversies but says regardless of the impeachment or resignation process, South Koreans need to define their future expectations.

"They really need to think about what kind of a national mandate they want to give and demand from the next president."

Listen to the full segment at the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Ines Colabrese, Shannon Higgins and Karin Marley.