South Korea is on the verge of a civil war as a soft coup is being waged by pro-NK factions. The values of liberal democracy behind the US-Korea alliance are under attack.
Korean President Park is under the following major charges:
Park's confidant and long-time friend (Choi) has been running a massive slush fund, as she strong-armed more than $70 million from Korea's largest corporations, including Samsung.
The confidant was allowed access to classified national policy briefings and to draft versions of presidential speeches on her personal unencrypted tablet PC.
The confidant rigged the college admission process for her daughter to receive admissions into a prestigious university.
However, President Park has publicly stated that she was “totally framed.” The criminal investigation team has yet to find any concrete evidence linking Park to any crime, despite having summoned and/or detained over 10 high-profile witnesses and cabinet members.
Her consistent position is that she never conspired with anyone or did anything to give special favors to anyone for unjust enrichment.
Park, however, made public apologies for her carelessness over her ties with Choi.
Choi, currently in detention while on trial, also denies any wrongdoing. She is accused of exploiting Park’s position for unjust personal enrichment.
The corruption scandal has failed to uncover a modicum of plausible evidence, despite the criminal authority’s unbridled foray into dozens of key government officers and key witnesses under suspicion. On the contrary, the nationally-sensationalized hearing process has discovered that the key witnesses over the tablet PC and the key managers of companies suspected to be controlled by Choi were part of an intricate team of conspirators. They have known each other for several decades and became involved in the companies under question through personal referrals.
Key facts and Defense:
On October 24, a cable TV operator called JTBC reported that its journalist found a Samsung tablet PC called Galaxy Tab belonging to Choi Soon-sil in one of her former offices. The tablet reportedly contained presidential speeches with Choi's editorial changes, presidential briefings for cabinet meetings, appointment information for presidential aides, chat messages with presidential aides, and even the president's vacation schedule.
The news that sensitive government documents were found on a tablet PC owned by an individual who does not hold any public position shocked the audience. The sensational news that Choi has misused her influence over Park was mind-boggling.
The news network also alleged Choi of “strong-arming” companies into giving massive donations to two non-profit organizations – which she has links to. The donations may have been misappropriated.
Choi’s defense theory is that the key managers (Ko Young-tae, Ryu Sang-yeong, Roh Seung-il and Park Heon-yeong) conspired to extort donations from Korea’s largest corporations and to frame Choi. When they failed in their attempt to do so, they blackmailed Choi into giving them a large sum of “shut-up” money in exchange for the information on the tablet PC, which in fact was under the ownership and control of one of the conspirators.
Choi dismissed all testimonies unfavorable to her as “fabricated.”
Ko offered testimonies implicating Choi for coercing donations from conglomerates during the prosecutorial questioning and parliamentary inquiry. However, Ko has yet to be cross-examined by Choi and has failed to present himself for further inquiry.
However, the speculation that Choi exercised undue influence over governmental affairs for her own personal gain has not been corroborated by any credible hard evidence. The Special Prosecution Team, after a month of locking up top government officers and cabinet members, has not been able to secure water-tight evidence or incriminating testimonies against Park. The Prosecutors have failed to prove that:
Choi meddled in an extensive range of state affairs, including appointments of key officers of state bodies and diplomats.
Choi played a central role in the establishment of scandal-ridden nonprofit foundations for the purposes of extorting money from Korea’s leading companies.
Choi created dubious non-profit entities -- the Mir and K-Sports Foundations -- to use them to channel public funds for her private gains.
Choi controlled and masterminded the key witnesses from the Mir and K-Sports foundations.
Choi received detailed “Presidential report packets” almost every day, and arbitrarily arranged back-door meetings with high-ranking government officers, despite the accusation by a former manager at one of the two non-profit foundations, the Mir Foundation,
Choi directed the President to do things her way, despite Lee Sung-han’s claim.
Choi effectively owned the tablet PC.
Choi purportedly made voice recordings of her conversations with the managers from the Mir and K-Sports foundations, who she theorizes are the conspirators.
Samsung’s de facto owner Lee Jae-yong offered bribes to Choi or Choi’s foundations in return for support for a merger deal of two Samsung affiliates.
Korean leading companies, such as Samsung, Hyundai, and LG, have been coerced to offering contributions to any of these foundations.
In fact, Choi testified that “President Park is not a person who would derive personal benefits or give her family members or close friends personal favors,” during her appearance at the Constitutional Court.
Choi further stated: “Park has no one else around, so I just wanted to help her. It is regrettable that I was completely framed and caused trouble.”
Choi said, “Those who spread false rumors about me should all be harshly punished. I really don’t deserve this.”
However, Choi admitted to having met President Park at the presidential office to help her with “private matters” without specifying how often she visited Park for confidentiality.
The allegation that Choi misused her ties with the president is one of the key grounds behind the parliament’s impeachment of Park on Dec. 9.
Choi herself is facing charges of abuse of power, fraud and coercion.
Korean Geopolitics and undue political influence peddling by China and North Korea
A theory that factions that are pro-China and pro-North Korea are actively behind the current scandalizing is gaining public support.
Lending support to this theory is a recent comment in Rodong Sinmun, North Korea’s national newspaper, which stated, “The Park government faces de-facto collapse… Park Geun-hye and her party face the worst political crisis ever.” The Park administration has implemented some of the staunchest anti-North policies in recent years.
To this point, the Wall Street Journal speculates that Park’s impeachment could shift the power toward left-of-center parties that value improved relations with China and even North Korea. The recent Korea-US agreement to deploy American THAAD anti-missile defenses in South Korea has figured prominently in the South Korean Left’s list of complaints, in part because of China’s vehement disapproval.
“Trade tension with the U.S. could potentially flare if Ms. Park is replaced by a left-leaning president. Huge public demonstrations against Ms. Park have been swollen by farmers and labor unions seeking more protectionist trade policies and government subsidies for products such as rice,” the WSJ adds.
It is no surprise that the U.S. State Department, in its reaction to Park’s impeachment, stressed the need for “policy consistency and continuity across a range of fronts, including DPRK, other regional issues, and international economics and trade.” (“DPRK” refers to North Korea.)
To the supporters of liberal democracy in South Korea, therefore, America’s alliance with South Korea will continue to be a linchpin of regional stability and security as the two countries continue to meet alliance commitments, especially with respect to defending against the threat from North Korea.