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Korea Blog: Anti-Trump Protests, Anti-Park Protests, and the Koreanization of American Politics


Since the election of Donald Trump last Tuesday, protesters across the United States, thousands of them in downtown Los Angeles alone, have taken to the streets to make their displeasure heard. Coincidentally, anti-presidential protests have also erupted in South Korea own over the past few weeks, culminating in the unrelieved crush of humanity, comprising 500,000 to one million demonstrators — an astonishing number, even in a country with a rich tradition of protest — that filled downtown Seoul on Saturday night. They came not to object to an undesireable president-elect, but to demand the resignation of Park Geun-hye, the president of more than three years who stands accused of having handed the reins of power to an unelected and previously obscure confidante, herself the daughter of a religious cult leader.

In a widely circulated breakdown of the scandal, a blogger known as The Korean lists the accusations against Park and her confidante Choi Soon-sil, who, under Park’s watch, has been “running a massive slush fund, as she extorted more than $70 million from Korea’s largest corporations,” who routinely received “confidential policy briefings and draft presidential speeches — all on a totally unencrypted computer,” and who “rigged the college admission process so that her daughter, not known to be sharpest tool in the shed, would be admitted into the prestigious Ewha Womans University.” That last struck an especially sensitive nerve in this society, which has always turned a blind eye at embezzlement at all levels and especially in politics, but which can’t stand anything that throws the prized “fairness” of its higher-education system into question.

“Having survived a particularly tumultuous modern democratic history, Korean people may be the world’s most cynical consumers of politics,” writes The Korean. “But this. Even the most cynical Koreans were not ready for this. At first, there was a tiny bit of perverse relief, as all the bizarre actions of Park Geun-hye administration suddenly began to make sense. Why did the president only hold just three press conferences in the first four years of her administration? Why does the president always speak in convoluted sentences that make no sense? Why did the president fly off the handle and sue the Japanese journalist who claimed that she was with Choi Soon-sil’s husband while the ferry Sewol was sinking in 2014, drowning 300 school children? Why did the ruling party randomly host a shamanistic ritual in the halls of the National Assembly? Ohhhh, the relief went. Now it all makes sense.”

Read the whole thing at the Los Angeles Review of Books.