What was the lead up to the impeachment of President Park Geun Hye in the media?

It was an historic moment last Sunday evening when former President Park Geun Hye finally left the Blue House after her impeachment. She was the first female president of Korea :) and the first president to be impeached :(

Over the past few months the newspapers have been full of the scandals involving the president and the Choi Sun Sil Gate. Here are 5 pictures that made the international news and tell the story of the lead up to the impeachment, from the revelations of the president’s relationship with Choi Sun Sil to her eviction from the Blue House shown live on TV.

1 PUPPET MASTER

choi Sun sil gate

photo: Choi Sun Sil pulling the strings on a President Park puppet BBC

Choi Sun Sil Gate began when cable network JTBC revealed that the president had allowed her confidante Choi Sun Sil, the daughter of a cult leader, to be involved in government matters. They had acquired Choi Sun Sil’s computer which allegedly contained proof about all sorts of dodgy dealings. Here’s a great series of articles about the lead up to the impeachment of President Park and the key players in the whole debacle.

Choi Sun Sil went into hiding in Germany when the story broke, but when she finally came back to Korea to be questioned a huge crowd gathered outside the prosecutor’s office. And in the scuffle with the press on the way in, she lost her shoe. A picture of the shoe made it to the front pages of the newspapers because of the brand – Prada – which added insult to injury from the public’s point of view as Choi Sun Sil was accused of making herself very rich through dubious methods using her relationship with the president. I wrote about this before here in the post The Devil Wears Prada Shoes

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2 CANDLELIT PROTESTS USED TO SELL ALCOHOL

absolut-vodka-south-korea-protest-advertisement-780x439

photo: Absolut vodka Facebook

The revelations about the extent that the president had allowed her friend to get involved with government affairs as well as allegations of corruption led to weekly candlelit protests outside Gwanghwamun in central Seoul calling for the president’s resignation.

At the end of last year, the image of the anti-park candlelit protests inspired this controversial advert for Absolut Vodka Korea. The statue of Admiral Yi Sun Shin is in the middle of the ‘bottle’ and the gates of the palace are the ‘lid’. Some comments see the advert as creative and a positive reflection of the peaceful protests in a democratic society.  But with the slogan ‘The Future is Yours to Create’ the image was also criticised by many who saw it as inappropriate. After all, Absolut is Swedish and has had nothing to do with the political protests in Korea which were supposed to be serious demonstrations – where alcohol was not allowed! There have been over 1,000 angry face responses on the Absolut Facebook page. (I don’t know how to do an angry face here so I’ll just do a grumpy face :(

After the protests began calling for the president to resign, a growing group of Park supporters began to demonstrate too – mainly older people who supported her father President Park Chung Hee. Once all the mainstream media turned against the president, many of her supporters turned to fake news sites to find sympathetic articles supporting her. See this interesting article on fake news in Korea.

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4 HAIR ROLLERS ON IMPEACHMENT DAY

Acting Chief Justice Lee Jung-mi arrives with curlers in her hair at the Constitutional Court in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, March 10, 2017. In a historic, unanimous ruling Friday, South Korea's Constitutional Court formally removed impeached President Park Geun-hye from office over a corruption scandal that has plunged the country into political turmoil and worsened an already-serious national divide. (Kim Ju-sung/Yonhap via AP) KOREA OUT

Lee Jung Mi was one of the 8 judges of the Constitutional Court (and the only woman) involved in the impeachment trial. On Friday she arrived for work ready to announce the decision to the country, but she still had two pink rollers in her hair. It looks so cute. I have to say I love the rollers. :)

South Korean Constitutional Court's Chief Judge Lee Jung-Mi delivers judgment on the impeachment charge against South Korea President Park Geun-hye, at court in Seoul Friday, March 10, 2017. In a historic ruling Friday, South Korea's Constitutional Court formally removed impeached President Park Geun-hye from office over a corruption scandal that has plunged the country into political turmoil, worsened an already-serious national divide and led to calls for sweeping reforms. (Pool Photo via AP)

Of course the image has led to all sorts of memes and parodies involving pink hair rollers (see this article in Korea Exposé for info on this and more impeachment humour).  But the image has also been used to as a symbol of a hard working woman who is so busy that she forgets to take her rollers out.

The rollers have also been seen as endearing as they reveal that the judge clearly does her own hair in the morning. This is especially meaningful since there have been so many rumours about the incredible amounts of time Park Geun Hye spends on her beauty regimes. She has even been accused of being so obsessed with her appearance that she decided to have her hair done during the Seowol Ferry Disaster in 2014. How much of this is fake news I can’t say, but it seems that we can be quietly confident that she definitely does NOT do her own hair.

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5 STILL SMILING

park geun hye

PHOTO: Former President Park arrives at her private residence after leaving the Blue House NYTIMES

Last Sunday evening, all the major TV channels suspended regular shows to be live at the Blue House to follow the former president’s car and motorcade across the river to her private home in the south of the city. We tuned in to watch it too. But whilst it may have been a historic moment, it wasn’t particularly exciting waiting and WAITING for her car to come out of the presidential residence. She was in no hurry to leave. Eventually Mr Kim was shouting words to the effect of COME ON! And HURRY UP! at the TV. (No patience whatsoever. 😕 ) And as nothing was happening the news presenters seemed to be struggling to find something to comment on too!

Anyway finally the car appeared and the city’s traffic lights were set to green along the route for a speedy trip home. The car was chased by a flock of cameramen filming out of sunroofs and shepherded by a team of motorcycle police. There were a few supporters along the way waving Korean flags and hundreds more waiting when her car pulled up slowly outside her home flanked by bodyguards.

She was smiling and waving to the crowds from the backseat. News readers reported that it seemed she had NOT expected the impeachment decision because her house, which had been empty since she moved to the Blue House, had not been prepared for her return.

She later announced that she took ‘responsibility’ for the situation but then added that she believed the ‘truth’ would be revealed in the end. Talk about ‘double-speak.’ This surely means that she DOESN’T take responsibility for anything and believes she has done nothing wrong. Her reaction has led to frustrated reactions from the public as she continues to act the victim and by doing so encourages her supporters to keep protesting against the impeachment. Several supporters have already died in the protests. But this is her only hope of having her reputation restored. Now that she is no longer president she could face criminal charges and has been called to the prosecutor’s office for questioning next week. A sober end to a presidency.

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5 THAT VIRAL VIDEO

Ironically the news clip that made the biggest international impact did not focus on the impeachment bit of the news at all. Is there anyone who hasn’t seen the clip of the American professor and expert on Korean politics being interviewed after the impeachment announcement by the BBC via Skype? The one where his children come bursting into the room followed by his wife flying in after them to ‘surreptitiously’ drag them out?

There was even an interview with the grandparents in the Daily Mail who suggested that the kids came in because they thought their father was talking to their grandparents on Skype. And there have been follow-up interviews with the family after many complaints that the mother was mistaken for the nanny. I think the video has been analysed and discussed more than the actual impeachment. And of course there have been lots of parodies of the video including this one on The Daily Show.

Anyway, back in Korea, the country now only has 60 days to prepare for the next presidential election. Meanwhile former president Park may face criminal charges. Who knows what’s going to happen next. 😕

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