The Irrational Downfall of Park Geun-hye
October 29, 2016 1:06 PM   Subscribe

Even assuming the unlikely possibility Park Geun-hye might not have had the discernment to know firsthand (unlikely because she grew up in the lap of luxury,) the obvious cheapness of Park's clothes and bags even made the news. Yet nothing came of it. Choi Soon-sil dressed Park Geun-hye liked an unwanted doll, and Park, the president of the country, did not care.
Ask a Korean attempts to explain the current South Korean presidential corruption scandal and why it shocked the country more than previous such scandals.
posted by MartinWisse (69 comments total) 74 users marked this as a favorite
 
This wouldn't even pass as the plot of the laziest Korean drama.
posted by 1adam12 at 1:26 PM on October 29, 2016 [15 favorites]


WHOA this is insane. I hadn't heard of any of it. Thanks for posting.
posted by holyrood at 1:33 PM on October 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


I had no idea. This is...well, this is 2016.
posted by nubs at 1:34 PM on October 29, 2016 [12 favorites]


Didn't know that corruption was this common or insane in South Korea. I mean, outright extorting entire businesses from people?

Is Park Geun-hye as unhinged as she's portrayed to be?
posted by Foci for Analysis at 1:41 PM on October 29, 2016


In addition to the bizarre and interesting story, it has also added "Tyson Zone" to my political vocabulary.
posted by JHarris at 1:48 PM on October 29, 2016 [17 favorites]


This makes even Rob Ford look sensible and in command of his situation by comparison.
posted by Dysk at 1:51 PM on October 29, 2016 [6 favorites]


Alas, things were not much better as far as leadership back in 1950, when I was in South Korea, and their dictator leader Syngman Rhee wanted to prevent a cessation of hostilities the the UN was working on between the North and the South. The US and our allies prevailed, though, and though still no peace treaty at least fighting between the two sides has stopped.
posted by Postroad at 1:54 PM on October 29, 2016 [6 favorites]


Hell, this makes fucking Watergate seem sensible. This part stuck out:
Why did the ruling party randomly host a shamanistic ritual in the halls of the National Assembly? Ohhhh, the relief went. Now it all makes sense.

But this brief relief soon gave way to the terrifying realization: actually, it does not make sense. None of this makes any sense.
And we Americans think that our current election has scandals. Sheesh.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:29 PM on October 29, 2016 [4 favorites]


Wow. Quite a read.
posted by brambleboy at 2:38 PM on October 29, 2016


Canada's longest serving Prime Minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King regularly consulted his dead mother, dog, and dead dog for policy advice in between reading tea leaves and numerology. So the problem, I would argue, is not seeking advice from one's dead mother while in high office. It's finding a reputable medium. It's a pity Nancy Regan passed away recently. She could probably have given Park Geun-hye some good advice about handling politics and the occult.
posted by Grimgrin at 2:41 PM on October 29, 2016 [20 favorites]


There has been much speculation about the "missing seven hours," where the president's whereabouts were completely unknown for seven hours in 2014 during the Sewol ferry disaster. Rumors are now running rampant that Park Geun-hye was attending a memorial shamanistic ritual for Choi Tae-min, who passed away 20 years ago on the day of the ferry disaster. The more lurid version of the rumor says that Park's government actually sank the Sewol to offer human sacrifice for the dead cult leader. As ridiculous as these rumors are, Park Geun-hye's behavior forces even reasonable people to think, maybe.
Holy shit, South Korea! I thought the US election was topping the total insanity, anything-is-possible charts right now but this really takes the cake!
posted by indubitable at 2:41 PM on October 29, 2016 [6 favorites]


Faith based initiatives.

What could possibly go wrong?
posted by srboisvert at 2:45 PM on October 29, 2016 [11 favorites]


Rational people can expect that a corrupt politician may steal money for himself. They can even expect that he may steal for his family. But no one can expect that a corrupt politician would steal money for a daughter of a fucking psychic who claimed to speak with her dead mother.

The sad thing is that I kind of can imagine this happening again, and I'm not sure what that says about me or this world.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:08 PM on October 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


The sad thing is that I kind of can imagine this happening again, and I'm not sure what that says about me or this world.

Maybe is says that you have a realistic view of the world, and that it is truly awful to grow up in a corrupt Korean political family where both your parents are assassinated when you're in your 20s. It really sounds like a miserable life, and not everyone is strong enough to survive such trauma intact. It's pretty sad, indeed.
posted by brambleboy at 3:24 PM on October 29, 2016 [22 favorites]


The interesting part about this is that it is written up as if it was a step change in the nature of corruption as if somehow a difference in motive represents something drastically different in terms of unpredictability. A person who values something more than money is apparently gobsmackingly incomprehensible and potentially uncontrollable.

So it is really a battle between some sort of filial longing and religious mysticism mixed with lifelong friendship versus a neo-liberal capitalist/organized crime greed is everything consensus.

Personally, I find it horrifying how much corruption was tolerated in the past. The present seems merely a continuation by someone who had slightly different goals and the dynastic qualities of the democratic system in South Korea seem pretty appalling in that they resist the taint of previous generations massive corruption!. If a leader is so widely considered corrupt that their own intelligence service assassinates them you would expect that would result in a break in the succession but apparently not! It seems so weirdly feudal.
posted by srboisvert at 3:27 PM on October 29, 2016 [5 favorites]


person who values something more than money is apparently gobsmackingly incomprehensible and potentially uncontrollable.


Not just uncontrollable, but unpredictable. If you live in a society with a certain predictable corruption and nepotism, you learn to work around it. You learn how to deploy your money to even the way for your business. You learn what do do when your family or livelihood is threatened. You learn how to hedge your bets .
But this is unpredictable corruption. And it knows no limits because it is not governed by a common understanding of what is acceptable and what isn't.
This is corruption without boundaries or safeguards.
posted by Omnomnom at 3:42 PM on October 29, 2016 [18 favorites]


Huh. It seems to me like the whole "corrupt leaders will embezzle and engage in nepotism that favors their families" thing is exactly what happened here. Isn't it the MO of most small scale cults to explicitly replace their victims' family structures? Looks to me like the Choi cult were Park Geun-hye's family, as far as she was concerned. They started occupying that role by convincing her they had a connection to her murdered birth mother, and then moved in completely when her father was murdered as well. What seems really alarming and bizarre about this is that the president of a country was in this terrifying cult/family victim role, right? That she wasn't the one driving?
posted by moonlight on vermont at 3:43 PM on October 29, 2016 [16 favorites]


The thing that is really terrifying is the ferry disaster possibly being setup as a human sacrifice.
posted by gucci mane at 3:49 PM on October 29, 2016 [3 favorites]


One of the possibilities the author does not want to write is a military coup in support of the party, isn't it?

We've lost Russia, Hungary, Turkey and the Phillipines to no-kidding authoritarian Fascism. Hell, why not toss South Korea on that bonfire... we'll have two intractable enemies to American-style Democracy on the Korean Peninsula! This will at least be an excuse for China and Russia to abandon North Korea until they give up the nukes courting to be the new hegemon, so we have that going for us, which is nice.

It will be very interesting seeing the Russian or Chinese army inheriting our bases in the DMZ, both of which have major cities within reach of Nork's Nukes. Good luck, we're all counting on you.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:36 PM on October 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


One of the possibilities the author does not want to write is a military coup in support of the party, isn't it?

No.
posted by Panthalassa at 4:40 PM on October 29, 2016 [3 favorites]


I suspect the main possibility the author is alluding to is Park reopening active hostilities with the North. (Why would the military support her? No-one's even suggested they were part of all this.)
posted by No-sword at 4:41 PM on October 29, 2016


We've lost Russia, Hungary, Turkey and the Phillipines to no-kidding authoritarian Fascism.

The continuum running from authoritarianism to bona fide Fascism is rather long. Could you kindly explain how each one of these countries are "no-kidding Fascism"? The reality is a lot more complex.

And who is "we"? And did "we" ever lose Russia to begin with?

And now, while I'm all worked up, is the Philippines "lost" yet? Or perhaps civil society will do its job and rein in Duterte. Or perhaps the military will launch (another) coup (can't really have Fascism without the military, by the way).

Speaking of civil society, it's doing *its* job in South Korea at the moment. The results may not be perfect from a Western (or, to be more precise, American) liberal point of view, but the country is very far from "Fascism".

Unless the meaning of the term "Fascism" has been totally deprecated.
posted by My Dad at 4:54 PM on October 29, 2016 [26 favorites]


This is fascinating... what are some good English language news sources to follow this story as it unfolds?
posted by overglow at 4:56 PM on October 29, 2016 [3 favorites]


The thing I don't get is the outrage over the fact Choi "doesn't hold any public office." She's a political appointee and adviser.
posted by My Dad at 4:59 PM on October 29, 2016


What I find most delicious is that on Oct 25th, Park Geun-hye was on the front page of the newspapers because she said she wanted to amend the constitution to remove presidential term limits.
posted by Literaryhero at 5:08 PM on October 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Here is a link in case anyone is interested. Made even funnier because she said term limits are "a jacket that no longer fits". I guess she would know about ill-fitting clothes.
posted by Literaryhero at 5:11 PM on October 29, 2016 [7 favorites]


The thing I don't get is the outrage over the fact Choi "doesn't hold any public office." She's a political appointee and adviser.

By way of comparison, in the United States political appointees go through a vetting process, are publicly named and it's made clear what their roles and titles are, go through security clearances and background checks if they'll be in a position of handling sensitive information, and in the context of high level appointtees, there's a legislative vetting process where the Senate holds hearings to confirm the appointee into office.

Similarly, in Korea their State Council (executive cabinet) members are appointed, but also have to be confirmed by the national assembly.

These processes are in place because if they're non-public, having a shadow cabinet/cabal breeds corruption and leads to questions of accountability. You also don't want, non-public people without appropriate vetting and transparency to be a part of planning on national policy decisions and presumably, things that could harm national security.

None of that appears to have happened for Choi Soon-sil and she appears have been given even greater access to than many of the State Council members.

So no, she's not a political appointee.
posted by Karaage at 5:22 PM on October 29, 2016 [11 favorites]


This is so sad.
posted by E. Whitehall at 5:31 PM on October 29, 2016 [1 favorite]




One of the weirder touches in this whole bizarre story is that the clique that Choi formed was called the Eight Fairies or Eight Goddesses
posted by themadthinker at 7:10 PM on October 29, 2016


Could you kindly explain how each one of these countries are "no-kidding Fascism"?

Oh, my god, YES.

Let's begin with Russia. Someone with deep ties to the government apparatus is declared successor, and he has shut down all opposition media, while fueling his favorite businesses, while identifying domestic ethnic enemies.

Hungary? All press shut down, all Gypsies blamed for everything. The right sort of industrialists rewarded with loyalty to the state with fat contracts and lax enforcement of laws.

Turkey? Gullenists and Kurds and secular, independent media, responsible for everything. I mean, really, do I have to spell this out?

The Philippines. Kill all drug dealers on sight. Laws suck, I rule. Fuck America, we like strong-man autocracy! China, Russia, you are cool! By we, I mean, Duterte.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:57 PM on October 29, 2016 [4 favorites]


"Strong-man autocracy" isn't a synonym for fascism.

And there's no chance of that happening in the ROK, come on now.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:58 PM on October 29, 2016 [9 favorites]


Mod note: Couple deleted. If you want to discuss definitions of strong-man autocracy vs. fascism, I'm sure it can be done politely and productively rather than through excess snark.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 8:20 PM on October 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


*is out-processing from Army posting in Korea right now*

welp look at the time gotta go byeee
posted by Punkey at 8:34 PM on October 29, 2016 [8 favorites]


I find it horrifying how much corruption was tolerated in the past. The present seems merely a continuation by someone who had slightly different goals and the dynastic qualities of the democratic system in South Korea seem pretty appalling in that they resist the taint of previous generations massive corruption!

Much has been written criticizing the West for individualistic, atomized culture as opposed to the implicitly superior "consensus" or "group-minded" mentality of Eastern countries. This seems like a good reminder that in practice, that consensus works out to be a lot of corruption that enriches the children of government officials, rather than any good-faith collective orientation, especially in China and Korea.

Perhaps the rule of law requires a certain "cold-hearted" distance from the normal impulse to provide for one's children. Or at least, we require leaders to provide for their families out of their own personal takes from the legally restrained (if not banned) forms of corruption we provide for famous and powerful people in general. (Government officials are definitely at the bottom end of that cohort, in terms of money made.)
posted by msalt at 9:47 PM on October 29, 2016 [3 favorites]


Since it wasn't mentioned above (though possibly in a deleted comment) this is one of the countries that Trump is okay with getting nuclear weapons.
posted by XMLicious at 10:38 PM on October 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


I find it horrifying how much corruption was tolerated in the past. The present seems merely a continuation by someone who had slightly different goals and the dynastic qualities of the democratic system in South Korea seem pretty appalling in that they resist the taint of previous generations massive corruption!

Much has been written criticizing the West for individualistic, atomized culture as opposed to the implicitly superior "consensus" or "group-minded" mentality of Eastern countries. This seems like a good reminder that in practice, that consensus works out to be a lot of corruption that enriches the children of government officials, rather than any good-faith collective orientation, especially in China and Korea.
This is bull, sorry. Only 30 years ago South Korea was ruled by an autocratic military dictatorship (not exactly "consensus" government), which are basically petri dishes for breeding corruption—see Nigeria for an example which also happens to neatly resist your East vs. West dichotomy. Corruption wasn't tolerated in the past: another feature of military juntas is that they're not too keen on people being intolerant of whatever they're doing, and South Korea's last military dictator didn't shy away from brutal crackdowns on his citizens. Many of the politicians active in South Korea today and/or their parents would have been in prime positions pre-democratisation to take advantage of endemic corruption, if they so chose to; the situation is compounded by the close ties between business and politics formed back under another strongman dictator (the current president's father) in the 60s and 70s. Even today Singapore is perceived as much more incorrupt than many Western countries; Japan has a score 1 point below the United States, and South Korea and Taiwan are on a comparable level to Spain and (well) above Italy and Greece. So I think your East vs. West theory of corruption has very little merit.
posted by Panthalassa at 1:25 AM on October 30, 2016 [39 favorites]


This is not the usual money-and-influence kind of corruption; it goes to an entirely different level.
Every day, Choi would receive a huge stack of policy briefs from the presidential residence to discuss with her inner circle--an illustrious group that included Choi's gigolo (no, really) and a K-pop music video director (I'm serious.) Choi would receive ultra-confidential information detailing secret meetings between South and North Korean military authorities.
I hope Western intelligence agencies were aware of this, and somehow cut S.Korea out of the loop on sensitive information.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:41 AM on October 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


And in this case, the corruption didn't even enrich the children of government officials. Park has no children, has never been married, and the pastor who brainwashed her into all this cult crap wasn't even a government official. This corruption is as 'individualistic' as anything you see in the West.
posted by Panthalassa at 3:29 AM on October 30, 2016 [3 favorites]


Ask a Korean! has some must-read analysis.

Part of the problem with reading about this from English-language news sources is that generally-speaking there is no one with any particular knowledge of South Korea writing about the nuances of the country right now. Even the Diplomat blog is lacking; I think the last piece on South Korea was published back in the summer.

None of the English-language news sites such as Korea Time and Chosun Ilbo are any good either.

So Ask a Korea! is playing a pretty important role here.
posted by My Dad at 10:32 AM on October 30, 2016 [3 favorites]


Alas, things were not much better as far as leadership back in 1950, when I was in South Korea, and their dictator leader Syngman Rhee wanted to prevent a cessation of hostilities the the UN was working on between the North and the South. The US and our allies prevailed, though, and though still no peace treaty at least fighting between the two sides has stopped.

Uh, OK, but Syngman Rhee was placed there by the heroic US. Let's hold off on the self-back pats, there.
posted by ignignokt at 10:34 AM on October 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


This is bull, sorry.

Yeah, a lot of the foreign coverage we read in the main English-language news outlets is complete fantasy. One of the reasons is there are very few journalists who actually speak or read the language of their host country—Japan and the Koreas are a good example.

So you have reporters supposedly reporting on countries who have no background on the country, and no way to get any more background. And it's a small community, and they all chase the same stories. It's an echo-chamber.
posted by My Dad at 10:35 AM on October 30, 2016 [3 favorites]


The major breakthrough occurred on October 24, when a cable TV network JTBC discovered a Galaxy Tab belonging to Choi Soon-sil in the office that she abandoned. The tablet was the Pandora's Box--it had the presidential speeches with Choi's markups, presidential briefs for cabinet meetings, appointment information for presidential aides, chat messages with presidential aides, the president's vacation schedule, draft designs for commemorative stamps featuring the president, and much, much more.

And they say you can't be productive with a tablet.
posted by ignignokt at 10:41 AM on October 30, 2016 [15 favorites]


This story is bananas. My sympathies to the millions who have to deal with the fallout.

My one sniffle: this is very far from the first time that a politician has indulged in corruption that is not literally, materially self-serving. Not a supposed East v. West thing, just a life thing. Humans are zany, wherever you go.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:54 AM on October 30, 2016 [3 favorites]


By way of comparison, in the United States political appointees go through a vetting process

However, in Canada (a country with a similar population and economic output as Korea), political appointees do not. Not sure why whether or not the US does is more relevant (still relevant).

Based on the last 18 months or so (or even the past 48 hours) I'm not sure if we need to use the US as the best example of a democracy that "works."
posted by My Dad at 12:38 PM on October 30, 2016 [8 favorites]


This story is shocking, but I don't find the idea that a person in power would do things not in their own self-interest for the sake of their spiritual advisor or based on the advisor's advice all that shocking. Rasputin anyone?
posted by peacheater at 12:39 PM on October 30, 2016


This is more like Rasputin pillaging the Hermitage and fucking off to Istanbul while Tzar Nicholas, in rags, leads the Imperial Army to the German front.
posted by at by at 1:02 PM on October 30, 2016 [3 favorites]


Park Geun-Hye is the victim of a vicious level of emotional abuse by someone so wrapped up in their own power trip that they by extension abuse almost the entire population of a country! If we aren't using sociopathic to describe this kind of mindset, what do we call it? I wish to avoid such toxic people, and I want to know what to call them.
posted by asok at 1:54 PM on October 30, 2016 [8 favorites]


I don't think Karl Rove had to go through an elaborate screening process btw.
posted by My Dad at 1:56 PM on October 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


in this case, the corruption didn't even enrich the children of government officials. Park has no children, has never been married, and the pastor who brainwashed her into all this cult crap wasn't even a government official. This corruption is as 'individualistic' as anything you see in the West.
So your refutation of filial ties leading to corruption is that president Park (elected because she is the daughter of a corrupt dictator) is enriching her cult leader (the daughter of the corrupt cult leader that Park and her father followed) and the younger cult leader's children, instead of the children Park doesn't have?

As the OP article notes, filial corruption is such a problem in Korea that this was an explicit argument for Park's candidacy:
In fact, one of Park's selling points as the presidential candidate was that she was less likely to be corrupt because she had no family.
It's pretty clear that, as moonlight in vermont commented earlier, the Chois got through to Park by offering a substitute family, after claiming to reconnect her with her dead mother, and reaping every bit of the expected filial corruption.
posted by msalt at 2:22 PM on October 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


Even today Singapore is perceived as much more incorrupt than many Western countries; Japan has a score 1 point below the United States, and South Korea and Taiwan are on a comparable level to Spain and (well) above Italy and Greece. So I think your East vs. West theory of corruption has very little merit.
I never offered an East vs. West theory of corruption. I was critiquing the argument made by some that Eastern (especially Asian) societies emphasizing consensus are superior to the individualistic approach more typical in Western societies.

I don't think either is superior to the other. Each has some pretty serious downsides, and there are are large differences between different nations in each group. I specified China and Korea, which have very well documented problems with nepotistic corruption.
Call it what it is--a form of racism.
That's a pretty outrageous personal attack. Do you have anything to base it on? You should consider apologizing.
posted by msalt at 2:32 PM on October 30, 2016 [3 favorites]


Rasputin anyone?

A couple of days ago, "rasputin" was the #2 popular search term on a Korean portal.

I didn't see mention of it in the AAK article or comments here (pardon if I missed it) but on 10/29 Saturday there was a massive protest in Seoul and other cities, demanding Park resign or be impeached & Choi arrested. Many stirring photos on Twitter of protestors breaking through several police barricades. I found this one quite iconic. You can browse that user's tweets for many more pics of the protest in Seoul.

Re: the AAK article, the one nitpick I had was the bit about the father Park's assassin claiming one of the reasons was because of Choi Tae-Min's influence. I thought it was well-known that the assassin was badly tortured before his execution. God knows how accurate his confessions are.
posted by shortfuse at 2:35 PM on October 30, 2016 [3 favorites]


It's pretty clear that, as moonlight in vermont commented earlier, the Chois got through to Park by offering a substitute family, after claiming to reconnect her with her dead mother, and reaping every bit of the expected filial corruption.

This seems spot-on. Maybe the next election, we'll see campaigns claiming "Candidate A has a family, and thus will not be subject to manipulation by a cult! You voters only have to worry about his deadbeat brother who might embezzle millions earmarked for the winter Olympics construction or something. You know, back to traditional Korean corruption."
posted by shortfuse at 2:47 PM on October 30, 2016 [5 favorites]


Plot twists keep coming: Chosun Ilbo is quoting sources close to Choi to claim the real person in charge was Choi's older sister, who would tell Choi what to do (article in Korean). The older sister was in the same high school class as President Park.
posted by shortfuse at 6:19 PM on October 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's pretty clear that, as moonlight in vermont commented earlier, the Chois got through to Park by offering a substitute family, after claiming to reconnect her with her dead mother, and reaping every bit of the expected filial corruption.

Cults establish themselves by offering substitute families. A cult operating in Western Civilization does the same thing. Filial ties are rarely blamed for Jonestown.
posted by ignignokt at 7:27 PM on October 30, 2016 [5 favorites]


I never offered an East vs. West theory of corruption. I was critiquing the argument made by some that Eastern (especially Asian) societies emphasizing consensus are superior to the individualistic approach more typical in Western societies.

msalt, why exactly would you bring that up here? No one here or in the OP made the argument that Asian societies are superior to Western societies.

Much has been written criticizing the West for individualistic, atomized culture as opposed to the implicitly superior "consensus" or "group-minded" mentality of Eastern countries. This seems like a good reminder that in practice, that consensus works out to be a lot of corruption that enriches the children of government officials, rather than any good-faith collective orientation, especially in China and Korea.

Perhaps the rule of law requires a certain "cold-hearted" distance from the normal impulse to provide for one's children. Or at least, we require leaders to provide for their families out of their own personal takes from the legally restrained (if not banned) forms of corruption we provide for famous and powerful people in general. (Government officials are definitely at the bottom end of that cohort, in terms of money made.)


Honestly, I see no way to not read that as condescending racist. You have taken a single failure of an Asian government and used the opportunity to point out that weak "Eastern" thinking just doesn't cut the mustard. What if someone responded to a post about Trump or about a spectacular US healthcare system failure with "hey, this is just what's going to happen with that dang Western thinking."
posted by ignignokt at 7:40 PM on October 30, 2016 [12 favorites]


There's no such thing as "Eastern thinking," anyway. There may be differences in culture, but liberal democratic polities (e.g., S. Korea, Japan, Canada, the US, the UK) function in the same fundamental ways.

Having spent so long connected to Japan, I've never ever really understood the "consensus-based" society trope, other than that people generally don't get a lot of satisfaction out of vociferously expressing their opinion about every goddamn abstract thing under the sun, no matter how trivial. Like I'm doing here.
posted by My Dad at 10:17 PM on October 30, 2016 [4 favorites]


I've lived in Korea since 2002 and msalt's cultural (or racial) essentialism is nothing short of bullshit and motherfuck it all the way to the grave.

Korean culture doesn't render people more susceptible to manipulation or cult behavior, full stop.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:32 PM on October 30, 2016 [3 favorites]


Mod note: One deleted. msalt, please let it rest now. While you may have your own thoughts on the "consensus-based trope," that's not what this post is about at all, and your digression of personal opinion is taking over the entire discussion. This is a hard news item that we can discuss on its merits, rather than anyone's "let me explain Asia to you" thoughts, so let's get back to that, please.
posted by taz (staff) at 11:22 PM on October 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


Video of Choi appearing at the investigative offices in Gangnam. She did not stop outside for any statement, but did say she begs for people's forgiveness. It's also been reported that she said before entering the elevator that she committed a death-deserving crime (a Korean expression for grave sins).
posted by shortfuse at 11:34 PM on October 30, 2016


(As an aside, my Korean students and friends have a lot of thoughts and feelings about all this, but perhaps foremost among them is embarrassment, which is understandable--this is nuts!--but I can't help but take a small amount of relief from it after all these many months of being asked to explain Trump, and the attendant shame and embarrassment I feel for my country, some non-trivial segment of which is enthralled by him...)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 1:23 AM on October 31, 2016 [7 favorites]


It's also been reported that she said before entering the elevator that she committed a death-deserving crime (a Korean expression for grave sins).

A "deadly sin" perhaps?
That would make it more of a Christian thing, which wouldn't be surprising given that her father was a pastor. Of course I have no idea about the Korean expression.

"Greed" comes to mind...
posted by sour cream at 2:06 AM on October 31, 2016


The Korean "crime/sin that deserves death as punishment" phrase that she used, to my ears, is firmly in the tradition of people confessing to serious criminal acts and begging for forgiveness from the courts or the public. Or, say, it might be heard in historical K-dramas where a character has to prostrate and confess in front of the king for plotting against him. I'm not familiar with how the Christian "deadly sin" concept is phrased/expressed in Korean, though.
posted by shortfuse at 5:22 AM on October 31, 2016


Another video of Choi at the prosecutor's office, taken inside the building as she is taken to the elevator while being followed by the media.
posted by shortfuse at 5:30 AM on October 31, 2016


Cults prey on lonely, socially isolated people. That is how cults recruit new members and keep going - they sniff out the socially vulnerable. I've seen it happen to people right here in the US. The common denominator is always social isolation, often after the death of close family or the breakup of a relationship.

It seems obvious to me that the Choi father and daughter zeroed in on Ms. Park after her mother died, using what is really one of the oldest tricks in the flim-flam book - "I can communicate to your dead loved one in spirit! Now give me all your money and control over your life."

People have compared Choi Soon-sil to Rasputin - who also claimed to be able to heal the Empress Alexandra's son with hemophilia. It's also notable that Alexandra, who became so dependent on Rasputin, did not fit in at court or with her in-laws, and had lost her mother very early in childhood. Even the highest placed people, with power, wealth, and notable families, can be vulnerable in a way that they can be suckered in by a cult. The problem is that people in Ms. Park's position can do much more collateral damage than an ordinary private citizen in the grips of a cult.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:14 AM on October 31, 2016 [7 favorites]


I've seen it happen to people right here in the US.

Understatement. If you know 100 people, odds are you know someone who has been / is in a cult. In the US many of them go under the guise of small churches but practice the same tactics of isolation/family replacement.
posted by benzenedream at 8:35 AM on October 31, 2016


Not sure why whether or not the US does is more relevant (still relevant).
In my post I pointed out Korea's system requires that cabinet level positions are named publicly and must be confirmed by their legislature. I've never said the United States is the superior option, just simply that political appointees are publicly known. You bring up how Canada appointees "don't go through a vetting process" - but I don't think that means your appointees can operate secretly does it?

I don't think Karl Rove had to go through an elaborate screening process btw.
I can't tell if you're intentionally missing the point here, but again - the mere fact that you knew Karl held a specific position as a political appointee, named by the administration with a specific title and given a role publicly to work on policy decisions, illustrates why public knowledge of someone holding "public office" is important. A public appointment of an appointee doesn't mean it's going to result in you liking his policy actions, it simply means that you know now as a member of a public that this person, for better or for worse, is involved with national policy issues (and thus the administration and him personally) can be held accountable.

Revisting your original comment:
The thing I don't get is the outrage over the fact Choi "doesn't hold any public office." She's a political appointee and adviser.

The outrage is that Choi was not publicly and officially appointed and known to be a member of her administration, yet was given the sort of access and control you're reading about now. This is a problem for accountability and transparency reasons, and precisely why people are angry.

So again, I don't see where you're getting the idea to call her a political appointee as a way to downplay people's outrage at the fact that she doesn't hold public office.
posted by Karaage at 11:48 AM on October 31, 2016 [2 favorites]


Fair enough, but it's worth noting that political appointees in the United States do not, as you noted in your last comment, need to be vetted. They are appointed at will by the office of the President.

However it is indeed worth noting the lack of transparency over Choi's appointment. However, I don't think the public outrage is particularly unique to South Korean society or culture.

I'd be more curious to read about informed Korean reactions to the scandal than anything else, though.
posted by My Dad at 2:49 PM on October 31, 2016


Fair enough, but it's worth noting that political appointees in the United States do not, as you noted in your last comment, need to be vetted. They are appointed at will by the office of the President.

As someone who has served in a political administration, I assure you there is a vetting process where the Office of the President's personnel office conducts all sorts of vetting and questions on your background and work history (to ensure you don't bring baggage and scandal to the administration), a separate ethics office will run all of your conflicts of interest and advise you and what you can and cannot work on (to ensure you don't violate ethics laws that apply to the executive), and several different agencies will then conduct your background check to get you a security clearance if you need access (to ensure that you can be trusted and don't have a high risk of being blackmailable or turn to work with enemies). On top of that, your name and title is publicly published and announced.

So yes, they need to be vetted. Not confirmed by the Senate, maybe, but there is absolutely a vetting that goes on in the United States, and it would be insane for governments to not run such similar processes, which is why I'm also skeptical of your claim that absolutely no vetting goes on with Canadian appointees. It's not a perfect process, but it's not like the President just says Joe Schmoe is a secret appointee now and he gets to be an appointee.
posted by Karaage at 3:02 PM on October 31, 2016 [3 favorites]


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