The removal of South Korean president Park Geun-hye, by a court upholding her impeachment, may well affect relations with North Korea, the US and China at an anxious time in the region – especially if Moon Jae-in, the opposition MP currently leading what is likely to be a crowded field, succeeds her. The internal repercussions are also critical.
South Koreans are used to corruption scandals exposing the failings of their leaders and the extraordinary economic and political power of the chaebols, the huge family-run conglomerates such as Samsung. Politicians and business people usually escape with at most token punishment. Ms Park is the first democratically elected leader removed from office, thanks to her incompetence and authoritarianism, perhaps in some part her gender, and growing disaffection among voters angered by what they call “Hell Joseon”: a country where elites protect each other while ordinary people face faltering growth, increasing inequality, casualised labour and cut-throat competition.
Curbing excessive presidential authority is a first step. But the chaebols, which fuelled Korea’s development under Ms Park’s dictator father, have also amassed far too much power and are holding their country back. They, too, must be reformed.