The geopolitics of South Korea’s shaman scandal

South Korean protestors pull a cage with an image of President Park Geun-hye in a prison suit inside
Many South Koreans have lost confidence in President Park Geun-hye. Here, protestors in central Seoul make their feelings clear (source: dpa)
  • President Park Geun-hye’s scandal leaves South Korea with weak leadership
  • Elections will be held this year, but real change is unlikely to occur until 2018
  • Strong leadership is needed to implement tough economic reforms
  • It is also required to navigate a difficult foreign policy environment

In late October 2016, South Korean news company JTBC broke the story that President Park Geun-hye had given a friend unauthorized access to sensitive national security information, allowed her to influence governmental affairs and had herself taken part in a plot to extort millions of dollars from South Korea’s biggest companies. What at first may have seemed like a standard corruption story has quickly turned into arguably the biggest political scandal in the country since the end of the Korean War. Choi Soon-sil, the friend in question, is the daughter of a former religious fringe group leader. There are rumors she runs her own secretive cult and engages in shamanistic rituals. She now stands accused of using her influence with President Park to extract bribes from South Korea’s biggest companies.

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