A historic moment got unveiled in East Asia on Friday when South Korea’s parliament voted to impeach President Park Geun-hye. Unarguably, it’s the most unceremonious exit of Park, though she has been allowed to keep the title and other perks, while her Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn will be bestowed with the presidential powers.
A constitutional court comprising nine judges has to decide on the legality of the impeachment within six months if the court upholds the impeachment — favoured by 234 against 56 with some abstentions and invalid votes in the House of 300 members.
Technically, Park might still be residing in her official bungalow – the Blue House – and draw the presidential salary, but she loses power of being the Commander-in-Chief of the powerful military. The raison d’etre for the simmering discontent among South Koreans that ultimately led to the impeachment of Park is her alleged proclivity to surrender to the influences of her close aide Choi Soon-sil, a close friend for over four decades.
Choi is accused of forcing industrial conglomerates to funnel 80 billion South Korean won (nearly $70 million) to two foundations she controlled. Apparently, corruption, cronyism, growing income disparities, rise of unemployment forced the otherwise calm and peaceful South Koreans onto the streets for the last two months.
An unhappy and unified society forcing radical changes in polity is not new. The Trump phenomenon and the Brexit movement that forced Britain out of the European Union are the two best examples of how changes can be brought by society in a peaceful and well-orchestrated people’s movement.
The East Asian country is now the best example of how a determined society could initiate, what is now being described as a ‘well-mannered revolution’. It is worth a research for all the developing and under-developed nations to study how remarkably the South Korean society achieved a change by just organising demonstrations without resorting to violence, which is generally believed to be the sure-shot way of forcing a change.
For the last two months or so, Seoul’s Gwanghwa mun plaza had turned into a vast sea of humanity with tens of thousands of South Koreans wearing masks of Park and Choi. They would chant slogans and disperse by evening, most interestingly, after cleaning the plaza and removing the garbage.
Another distinguishable aspect of the peaceful protests is that barring a few instances of scuffles and an isolated incident of a trucker driving an earth mover into a building where he thought Choi was being questioned, the demonstrations were peaceful and the South Korean police too exhibited that rare humane countenance while dealing with protestors. All in all, South Korea appears to be a beacon of change that can be peaceful, powerful, even polite, but effective.