Her political demise is sharpening and dividing the country further rather than healing it.
The removal of former President Geun-hye Park from office has descended South Korea into a political and social crisis. The political divisions between the pro-Park and anti-Park camps have sharpened greatly that discussion between them is turning improbable.
The Constitutional Court formally ended Park’s presidency on March 10 and ousted her from the presidential post. The judgement brings an end to Park’s four years in office as the country’s first democratically elected president.
The court’s judges unanimously decided that Park should be removed from office because her actions “seriously impaired the spirit of… democracy and the rule of law”.
They said she had violated the law by letting Choi meddle in public affairs and given her unauthorised access to official papers. Choi is accused of leveraging on her personal connections with Park to extort millions of dollars from companies in donations for her non-profit organisations.
Acting president and Park-appointed Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn said last week that the cabinet will restore stability in the country to avoid internal strife from escalating further. "I respect the constitutional court's decision…The cabinet should carry out state affair in a stable way and manage social order to prevent internal conflict from intensifying," Hwang told a cabinet meeting.
However, Park’s departure has shattered some of the country’s most powerful institutions and morphed it in an unprecedented social and political turmoil. South Korea’s deep divide was already conspicuous throughout Park’s impeachment process.
Park’s supporters who were against the impeachment think that she is a victim of a political decision and doesn’t deserve to be impeached. The country is now split between the pro-Park and anti-Park camps who often take their unhappiness to the streets by protesting.
While thousands of people flocked to the streets of central Seoul last week to rejoice Park’s removal from office, many of her supporters went to a nearby square to protest against her removal.
Three people died and dozens were maimed in fierce clashes between Park’
s supporters and police after the judgment. Park’s supporters are now organising further protests and demonstrations.
The pro-Park protesters are mostly the conservatives who think that her removal has created an authority deficit. They have a strong stance on national security who criticise liberals for being too soft on security-related matters and even “pro-North Korea” sympathisers.
Liberals, on the other hand, derive their legitimacy from the pro-democracy movement of the 1980s who often condemn the conservatives of autocratic behaviour.
They have reiterated the need for a transparent leadership and restoring the country’s democracy. Many of them are keen to engage with North Korea and are critical of forging a closer relationship with the US.
Recently, it was announced that a presidential election to Park Geun-hye will take place on May 9.
Hwang said that he is not going to contest the election although he is one of the top conservative candidates, according to opinion polls.
The candidate expected to salvage the conservative camp was Ban Ki-moon, the former United Nations Secretary-General.
However, he abruptly dropped his presidential bid in February, leaving a void for the conservatives. The only way for South Korea to get over this power void is through a democratically-held free and fair election, which may be a challenge amid the divisions.
Opposition groups are worried that the conservatives may not accept the court’s verdict. “We are concerned about the aftermath rather than the trial itself,” Minjoo Party member Woo Sang-ho was quoted in an online article on Yonhap News Agency.
Whoever wins the forthcoming elections and becomes the country’s new president will face an uphill task to unite the deep divides and reinstate public confidence in the government.
From there, the new president and his cabinet will need to tackle social issues such as rising youth unemployment, security issues with nuclear North Korea and strained relationship with China.
Article written by: