The Young and the Restless

A presidential scandal ignites discontent among South Korea’s students

01 March 2017
In South Korea’s largest social movement in decades, thousands have taken to the streets to demand the impeachment of President Geun-hye, who faces charges of corruption.
jung yeon-je / afp / getty images

As a 22-year-old university student in her fourth year of a nutrition course, Kim Sung-eun had never been much interested in politics. But recently, with a political crisis convulsing her country, she was compelled to take to the streets. “Of course I read the news, and I see that our country has issues with corruption,” she said. “But this time, I saw someone in my own age group benefitting, just because she is from a rich family.”

From October through December last year, Kim was among the hundreds of thousands of South Koreans who participated in a protest movement that culminated in the achievement of its primary goal: the ousting of the country’s president, Park Geun-hye.

Park faces allegations that she conspired with her confidante Choi Soon-sil to pressure corporations to donate billions of South Korean won to foundations that the latter controlled. On 9 December, the country’s legislature voted 234 to 56 in favour of Park’s impeachment. Despite the vote, Park is still technically president, though she has been suspended from any role in governance. The motion for Park’s impeachment must be approved by the Constitutional Court, which is in the midst of hearings.

Steven Borowiec is a journalist based in Seoul. He tweets as @steven_borowiec.

Keywords: politics corruption Asia president students South Korea Choi Soon-sil Impeachment discontent Park Geun-hye Chung yoo-ra