A court in South Korea has sentenced impeached former President Park Geun-hye to a 24 year jail sentence. She will likely die behind bars after being convicted on multiple charges relating to gross corruption. Park, like her famously dictatorial and pro-US father Park Chung-hee, was known to be overtly hostile to peace on the Korean peninsula. While North Korean media labelled her the “crazy old bitch”, it was ultimately domestic scandals which brought South Koreans to the streets over a period of months, in the largest protests the country had seen, which ultimately led to her downfall in March of 2017.
Among multiple corruption scandals which Park found herself embroiled in, one of the most damaging was the scandal involving her procurement of the South Korean National Intelligence Service (NIS) to meddle in the 2013 South Korean Presidential election where she triumphed over the moderate Moon Jae-in.
Park was later found to be at the centre of a conspiracy to assassinate the North Korean head of state. This combined with Park’s enthusiastic support of the US led militarisation of her country would have made the peace process currently underway in Korea, all but impossible. If anything, under Park’s leadership, Seoul would have pushed the Trump administration further and further towards the brink of war.
A special election held in May of 2017 saw Moon Jae-in attain the victory that was stolen from him by Park and the NIS in 2013. President Moon’s approach to the DPRK has been one that is constructive, open minded and has had the effect of moderating the militant US influence on the peninsula. Moon has also perused ever closer economics and diplomatic ties with China.
During his 2018 New Year’s Message, DPRK leader Kim Jong-un announced his desire to resume contacts with Seoul in order to foster a wider process of Korean reconciliation, something that would have certainly never happened had Park remained in Seoul’s Presidential Blue House. Things were so tense between Pyongyang and Seoul over the issue of Park’s extremist militant stance, that when it became known that she had explored the possibility of having the North Korean leader killed, Pyongyang issued a death warrant for Park.
With Park jailed for her corrupt activities, the peace process in Korea can now move forward with all sides knowing that a dangerous ghost of the recent past has been judicially ostracised and will now end her final years behind bars – far removed from the positive developments that Moon and Kim have helped to produce.
Indeed, much of the hostility that the US increased towards the DPRK in 2017 began shortly after the more peace minded Moon assumed his office. Many in Washington may have panicked at the prospect of a moderate and sensible man in the Blue House replacing the incredibly pro-US Park and thus increased provocations against the DPRK as a result. In any case, neither Park nor the US could derail Moon and prohibit him from accepting Kim Jong-un’s gracious extension of an inter-Korean olive branch that was long overdue.
While the leadership of China and Russia have worked diplomatically and indeed economically to help de-escalate the situation on the Korean peninsula, all of this would have likely been in vain if the intractable Park was not removed from office.
The world clearly dodged a bullet when Park was impeached as the combination of her leadership in Seoul combined with the pro-war Trump administration in Washington could have been a literally lethal combination for the wider world. One must not underestimate the fact that Park’s presence in Seoul may have pushed Pyongyang to hasten its progress in respect of developing nuclear capable intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Today things are luckily far calmer on the Korean peninsula. This is owed as much to the rise of Moon Jae-in as it is to the fact that the woman who stole his initial election victory from him is now in the only place she ever belonged, a prison cell.