Former South Korean President Park Geun-hye was arrested Friday, March 31st, 2017 for bribery, power abuse, and leaking sensitive information. Ms. Park is currently in a detention center in Seoul awaiting the court’s final indictment. She can be detained by state prosecutors for up to 20 days in harsh conditions with strict schedules starting at 6:30 am to 9 pm and, if convicted, spend up to 10 years in prison. Other high-profilers involved in the scandal, including Choi Soon-sil and Samsung’s Vice Chairman, Lee Jae-Yong, are also currently at the same center.
On March 10th, 2017, the Constitutional Court of Korea unanimously voted to impeach Ms. Park for corruption charges, and she was subsequently removed from office. Ms. Park was the first female elected President of South Korea but also the first democratically elected President to be impeached.
Prime minister Hwang Kyo-ahn is presently the acting president until the May 9th presidential election. Mr. Hwang has declared South Korea to be in an emergency state amidst internal turmoil and international tensions. Two citizens were reported dead after riots on Friday morning from Park’s conservative supporters against the former president’s detainment. Outside South Korean borders, North Korea is making threats and firing missiles, and the tension between South Korea and China is increasing since South Korea deployed United States’ missile defense system, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD).
Results from national polls speculate that Moon Jae-in, nominated by the Democratic United Party, might be the next president. Mr. Moon was Ms. Park’s opposing candidate in the 2012 presidential election. Unlike Ms. Park’s more conservative policies, Mr. Moon is a supporter of the “Sunshine Policy” — a foreign policy looking to improve relations between North and South Korea from 1998 to 2008. It will be interesting to note how Korea’s policies shift as a new power transition takes place.