The Constitutional Court of South Korea ousted President Park Geun-hye on March 9 after months of unrest in the country, including protests against government corruption.
Prosecutors had accused Park of being an accomplice in a case involving her close friend Choi Soon-sil, who was charged with forcing businesses into donating money to foundations under Park’s control. Additionally, Park was accused of allowing Choi an undue influence in state affairs.
Park’s powers had been suspended since a legislative impeachment vote in December, but she has lived in the presidential Blue House, her childhood home, until now.
"It’s indeed a momentous occasion in both national and international history when the frustrations, sorrows, hopes, and visions of the people of South Korea were finally seen and heard by the country’s representatives," Hyewon Kim '17 said. "It’s been an unbelievable experience, having participated in one of the candlelight protests in Seoul myself over winter break and witnessing family and close friends also sacrificing their weekends to make their voices heard in the streets."
The daughter of military dictator Park Chung-hee, Park was the country’s first female president. She served as an archetype of the Korean conservative establishment that, along with the United States, drew a hard line against North Korea’s nuclear activity.
Now, Park’s impeachment precedes a likely shift in the nation’s politics as power moves to the hands of the opposition, whose leaders are expected to improve relations with China and reevaluate a joint strategy with the United States and their relationship with North Korea.
“We’re very glad to see justice being restored in Korea,” Taek Yoon Lee ’18, President of Princeton for North Korean Human Rights, said. “As it’s most likely that a liberal candidate will win the election, I expect a more cooperative atmosphere in the peninsula but [one that] will still depend a lot on North Korea’s willingness to make peace. At the moment it is very hard to make a guess about the impact of impeachment to the North South relations, but in an ideal scenario a liberal government can help mitigate tension that could potentially elevate even more if the Trump administration takes a hawkish approach.”
In November, University students held a demonstration in front of Nassau Hall addressing Park’s political scandal. The students leading the demonstration, along with others who signed the declaration entitled “Declaration Regarding the State of Affairs in the Republic of Korea,” urged Park’s resignation. The students demanded investigations of accusations of corruption without regard for social status and demanded the government to pass legislation in an effort to prevent similar misconduct in the future.
"We have been waiting for this result since November,” Sejin Park ’18, who participated in the protest, said. “I believe there will be a lot of pressure put on the next government to unite the divided nation, but I’m very excited for the future of democracy in Korea.”
Kim, who witnessed the demonstration on campus, said that she now sees hope amidst the tragedies in recent years since former President Park took office in 2013.
"I can see that in my country, democracy is finally breathing again, and can only hope and pray that the injustices continually be shot down in the future by collective initiatives of the people themselves," she said.