The Republic of Korea, aka South Korea, is a young democracy of only 69 years. Its first democratic direct election was in 1948, followed by a series of military dictatorships from the 1960s up until the 1980s, after which the country developed into a successful, fully functioning modern democracy. That means a genuinely democratic South Korea is less than 40 years old. The country is ranked 37th on the Corruption Perceptions Index, with moderate control on corruption.
Though younger than the American republic by more than 200 years, South Korea manages to do something that the U.S. is unable or refuses to do — arrest and prosecute a female politician for pay-to-play political bribery.
Note: In politics, pay to play refers to a system by which one pays (or must pay) money to become a player. Typically, the payer makes campaign contributions to public officials, party officials, or parties themselves, and receives political or pecuniary benefit such as no-bid government contracts, influence over legislation, political appointments or nominations, special access or other favors. The contributions may also be to nonprofit or institutional entities, such as the Clinton Foundation.
65-year-old Park Geun-hye is South Korea’s Hillary Clinton — the first woman to be elected as President of South Korea in 2013, as well as the first female president popularly elected as head of state in all of East Asia.
Like Hillary, Park favors pant suits.
Cynthia Kim and Ju-min Park report for Reuters that South Korean leader Park Geun-hye was behind bars in the Seoul Detention Centre, after her arrest on March 3, 2017 on charges including bribery, in a corruption scandal that has brought low some of the country’s business and political elite.
In a dramatic fall from power, Park, 65, became South Korea’s first democratically elected leader to be thrown out of office. She is accused of colluding with a friend, Choi Soon-sil, to pressure big businesses (chaebols) to contribute funds to foundations that backed her policy initiatives.
She and Choi, who is already in custody and on trial, deny any wrongdoing.
Park and her lawyers had argued that she should not be arrested because she did not pose a flight risk and would not try to tamper with evidence. But the court disagreed, and said she might try to manipulate evidence.
Just before dawn on March 3, Park was driven to prison just outside Seoul in a black sedan, ashen-faced and flanked by two female officers in the back seat, her hair down apparently having removed the hairpins that held her hair in its usual classic chignon style.
Park’s removal from office capped months of paralysis and turmoil over the corruption scandal that also landed the head of the Samsung Group Jay Y. Lee, South Korea’s largest chaebol or family-run conglomerate, in detention and on trial.
Park could face more than 10 years in jail if convicted of receiving bribes from chaebol bosses.
Park was impeached on March 10, which upheld a parliamentary vote in December, effectively leaving a political vacuum with only an interim president in place before a snap May 9 election.
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