Monday, May 8, 2017
7 May 2017
Author: Hyung-A Kim, ANU
South Korea’s presidential election on Tuesday is both a test and milestone in South Korea’s democratic development. The fall from grace of yet another president — the conservative Park Geun-hye — frames victory for the left and elevates constitutional reform as a national priority.
Supporters of South Korean President Park Geun-hye attend a protest before the Constitutional Court ruling on Park’s impeachment (Photo: Reuters/Kim Hong-J).
The indictment of the recently-impeached Park Geun-hye on a total of 18 charges has big implications for South Korean democracy. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the country’s 1987 democratic constitution, a constitution whose flaws are now all too obvious. Five of the past six democratically elected presidents have fallen from grace, usually over corruption charges.
Besides Park — whose corruption trial began on 2 May and who has been indicted on a total of 18 charges, including the charge of either receiving or demanding $US52.1 million in bribes — one former president Roh Tae-woo was imprisoned for mutiny and bribery. Former presidents Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung saw their sons imprisoned for receiving bribes and influence-peddling. President Roh Moo-hyun committed suicide amidst an investigation into a corruption scandal that involved his wife and children.
Yet South Korea is generally regarded as one of Asia’s most active democracies. The impeachment of Park was seen as an ‘historic milestone in the development of modern democracy across Asia’.