|Sarah Hassan (Department of International Trade)|
When we first think of South Korea, the image that comes to our minds is technological advancements, Hyundai cars, and, increasingly, Korean culture. A true nod to the phenomenon that is South Korea’s rise to the international stage. It came as a shock to the people of South Korea after the Choi Soon-sil gate scandal was exposed. Regarding the scandal, I think many people were shocked about the full scale of the corruption. Personally, I cannot say I was that surprised that the president Park Geun-hye was involved in corruption, that is how politicians have operated for decades. However, once the full scale investigation came out and the twists and turns of the scandal were exposed, that was when the shock began to set in.
A scandal to expose the true extent of corruption that extends into university admissions, corporate blackmail, and exposing national secrets is something that is inexcusable for any leader of a nation. It can be said that it is even worse to give this to a personal friend because it breaks any trust of the people. As expected, we have begun to see Korean society respond accordingly. Hundreds of thousands of South Koreans then came out and gathered in protest of the president, the gatherings becoming progressively larger and larger until the largest reported number on November 26th, 2016 with the official count of protestors up and around 1.5 million. It is truly a spectacular event that has the Korean people being admired for and hailed for showcasing the beauty of democracy.
As an exchange student in Korea, I have actually been following the scandal and protest very closely. Of course, it may also be because I am studying International Relations in my home university and anything related to politics excites me. I can honestly say that I did not expect to experience such a movement in South Korea while studying abroad. However, something even more shocking was that I have begun to see something I have not seen before going on in American social media. With the gathering movements, we have begun to see many social media sites beginning to refer to South Korea as the “example of democracy.”
This is an amazing phenomenon from the United States terms because honestly, in the USA, the only time South Korea is referenced is when talking about North Korea’s nuclear testing. I think one of the most amazing things about the movements is not only the scale of the people but the peaceful nature of the protests. One of the most amazing things is the variety of people that are going out to the demonstrations. Students, workers, and families are all turning out and showcasing to the people of South Korea and the rest of the world, the right way to exact change on the population.
Though we would not know the outcome of the scandal maybe until next year, it has been a privilege to be able to watch the movement of democracy in action. I have now attended the protest for four times so far, and every time I go out into the crowds I feel the spirit and the passion of the people. This experience is the one that has definitely impacted my view of South Koreans, and even after returning to my country, I will definitely be paying close attention to the developments unfolding in the nation that shows us all the beauty of comradery.
Sarah Hassan firstname.lastname@example.org
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