Park impeachment and SK foreign policy
By Sandip Kumar Mishra
South Korean President Park Geun-hye was impeached by the National Assembly on 9 December 2016. There were 13 charges against her; these included bribery, influence peddling, and dereliction of duty. On 10 March 2017, the Constitutional Court of Korea unanimously upheld the impeachment, and sent Geun-hye to prison on 31 March.
In fact, the process of Park Geun-hye's downfall began in October 2016, when it was reported that her old family friend, Choi Sun-sil, had access to government documents, took final decisions on government policy and appointments, and embezzled huge sums of money from Korean business houses by establishing various foundations. The widespread shock among South Koreans reflected in her popularity ratings, which reached a low of 4 per cent after these revelations.
Geun-hye's downfall has been perceived in South Korea as a positive moment in their democratic processes. An entirely peaceful people's movement has shown that the South Korea polity is governed by the 'rule of law' and that nobody is above it. In the peaceful protests that took place across South Korea over the past five months and in which more than half of the Korean population participated, there was no report of violence, destruction of public property, or rioting. The South Korean polity, which was earlier supposed to be divided between the conservative and progressive parties, appears much more cohesive than is believed – less than 20 per cent favours conservative forces.
The impeachment, apart from having consequences for domestic politics, is also going to have some important implications for South Korea's relations with the US, China, Japan and North Korea.
One of the most important issues for the next South Korean presidential elections scheduled for 9 May 2017 is the installation of the Terminal High Altitude Air Defence (THAAD) system in the country. South Korea's progressive parties are campaigning to review this decision. It has been alleged that Geun-hye did not allow enough public discussion on the subject and quite suddenly decided to deploy THAAD in early-2016, after North Korea's missile and nuclear tests.
In the first three years of her term, Gen-hye was keen on engaging China and had annual summit meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, 2014 and 2015. In this period, South Korea joined the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), Chinese initiative, in spite of Washington's displeasure. Earlier, it officially denied, on multiple occasions, that they were discussing THAAD with the US. It appears South Korea did not conduct a sufficient cost-benefit analysis of the situation, as China's displeasure would have serious implications for their bilateral economic and security exchanges.
For the same reason, the US sent its first major installment of THAAD equipment to South Korea when the process of impeachment was underway. The intention was to move forward to a point of irreversibility or no return. The tactic may work, and if the process of installation moves beyond the critical phase, it will not be easy for the next South Korean President to reverse the decision even if they undertake a review.
However, despite the unlikelihood of a reversal of the decision on technical grounds, the next progressive President may try to mend relations with China, which have deteriorated in the past year and a half owing to THAAD. Over two South Korean progressive administrations, from 1998 to 2002, the country forged close ties with China in the political and strategic domains, and this might be repeated.
Geun-hye's administration also reached a hasty 'final deal' with Japan in late December 2015 on the issue of comfort women.
South Korea's progressive parties have been consistently critical of this deal, and the new president in all likelihood will review it.
It has been alleged that in the first three years of her presidency, Geun-hye held several South Korea-Japan bilateral exchanges hostage to the comfort women issue, and she agreed to a less-than-satisfactory deal when this started having a negative impact on South Korea. Notwithstanding domestic contestation, Japan-South Korea relations may deteriorate if the next president tries to revise or scrap the deal.
The Geun-hye administration has been criticized by the progressive parties on the issue of North Korean missile and nuclear tests as well, and her policy to engage North Korea has been deemed a failure.
Although Geun-hye had initially proposed 'trust politik' with North Korea, inter-Korea relations and lines of communication worsened during her presidency. The next president may have a more genuine policy of engagement that would not demand mechanical or short-term reciprocity.
Overall, the South Korean President's impeachment will lead to a significant shift in South Korea's foreign policy orientation with implications for East Asian regional politics.
Sandip Kumar Mishra is Associate Professor, Centre for East Asian Studies, JNU, & Visiting Fellow, IPCS
- China to provide 90 water bowsers worth Rs 1b 2291
- Wag the Dog 2287
- A brief look at FARC’s origins in Colombia 2235
- ‘Panama Papers’ bags Pulitzer 2258
- SAITM will cooperate with Govt 2262
- dead man was near fashion mall 2300
- Japanese MPs back Lanka’s development 2263
- CB Bond earnings whitewashed – JVP 2273
- Talks to extend Lanka’s Continental Shelf 2282
- Ex-DIG and son re-remanded 2274
- Government can be sent home 2813
- GMOA flogging SAITM for Mahinda– Rajitha 2282
- Ranil invites Japan to invest in S. Asia 2250
- Somali Pirates’ Captives Back Home 2267
- Customs in Rs 8 M bust 2261
- Redefining Rape 2430
- The march of folly Our mad Cabinet system 1912
- First adventures in Europe 1998
- Inspiration for writers 1968
- Sri Lanka’s sustainable development dream 2285
- Sinhala and Tamil New Year with Easter 2167
- Filipino Oconer wins overall title 1903
- Unsporty conduct by Joes 1953
- Bertie Wijesinghe, pre-Test era Sri Lankan cricketer, dies aged 96 1927
- CEAT revs up for 2017 1917
- Palace shock Arsenal 1891
- Argentina fire coach Bauza 1913
- BCCI postpones SGM to 18 April 1883
- Murray returns from injury 1903
- New mum Azarenka to return to WTA 1861
- Galle win by 188 runs 1873
- Keeping Cool 1900
- Do the right thing and do it now! 1906
- Ravi Jayewardene Pious son of a political giant 2502
- In the heart of the old country 2325
- Sarath Weerasekera’s Geneva adventure 2153
- No moral right to play with public funds 2083
- No need for fine if route permits are issued in fair, just manner 1997
- UDA incurs Rs 330M Loss 1922
- DOUSING A MEGA SHIP FIRE 1739
- Health authorities in denial? 2226
- Minorities’ frustration a powder keg – VIDURA 2249
- Administrative powers a must for the Plantation Tamils –Radhakrishnan 1504
- Rajapaksa sought advice from McGuinness– Indika Perera 2650
- I will lead SLFP to victory in future elections – President 2029
- Hang the ‘traitors’– RTD. REAR ADMIRAL WEERASEKARA 2440
- We oppose Nationalism and Federalism – Samarasinghe 3104
- SilkAir launches direct flights to Colombo 1964
- Rupee falls on thin volumes 1936
- SriLankan, Japan Airlines add new routes 1924
- Colombo Port box volume up 5.6-pct in Jan 1918
- Private sector to transform into main domestic growth engine 1926
- Oil eases from 5-week top, rising US production weighs 1889
- Tight fiscal and monetary policies constrain SL’s growth 1916
- Shell admits dealing with money launderer 1898
- Toshiba may sell chip business to Foxconn for $27bn 1908
- Asian shares pressured by geopolitical risks; Nikkei down 0.25% 1892
- SLIM launches Certificate in Digital Marketing 1895
- Microsoft Hosts Second ‘Device Day’ in Sri Lanka 1895
- Emirates named Best Airline in the World 1877
- Turkish Airlines and social media assist Somalia 1896
- Brain cell therapy ‘promising’ for Parkinson’s disease 1891
- Trump pushed into bombing Syria 1951
- Thailand discovers Power of Women Travellers 1917
- Economics of gambling 1823
- Trans National Aural Identity 3479
- Queen Anula The Shadow of Cleopatra 3539
- Poetry and its possibilities Part 2 3540
- The Enigma of Labyrinths 3631
- From Couture to Kutir 3528
- Hybrid Sources 4919
- Offering Riddles & Enigmas 4982
- Poetry and its possibilities 5036
- With a festive bang! 1140
- Easter Fun 1130
- Arrogance and crowing is the way of the doomed 1177
- Avurudu on the streets 1187
- Tick control 1168
- Sunny Sunday on the beach 1148
- It’s time to save the world 1196
- From viewer to YouTuber! 1215
- Expert skincare and makeup 1237
- Avurudu at Induruwa 1206
- Exo 1233
- Remembering our fallen heroes 2324