The controversy that has left Park Geun-hye’s presidency hanging in the balance tells us as much about this overlooked country as it does about her
North Korea’s bombastic rhetoric, nuclear programme and now the killing of the leader’s half-brother ensure – as intended – that this impoverished and insular country grabs extraordinary international attention. More surprising is that South Korea inspires so little interest in the west. It is, perhaps, too prosperous and stable to intrigue. But its rise has been spectacular. When Korea was divided in 1953, the south’s prospects looked gloomy. Life expectancy stood at around 50 years. Now it is a major global economy. By 2030 its women are expected to live past 90, leading the world. And a “Korean wave” of popular culture – K-pop, cosmetic brands and dramas – has swept through Asia and onwards.
Seoul’s latest soap opera is its most riveting and its most absurd. But this one is factual and threatens to make President Park Geun-hye the country’s first democratically elected leader to be forced from office early. It involves a “female Rasputin”, multimillion-dollar bribery allegations that have led to the arrest of Samsung’s acting head, and an actual, not merely metaphorical, gift horse. On Monday, the court deciding whether to uphold Ms Park’s impeachment will hear closing arguments. Her powers are already suspended and she has vowed to resign if it rules against her; critics say she has been stalling to see out the last year of the single term that presidents are allowed.
Link : The Guardian view on South Korea: scandals and successes | Editorial