South Korean activists prove mass demonstrations work as President impeached

by Aulani Capuchin, Staff Columnist

This has been an active season for American activists, but the U.S. is not alone in its political turmoil. South Korea, a notable strategic U.S. ally, just impeached their president.

South Koreans took their displeasure to the streets in October to demand the impeachment of their president, Park Geun-hye. The president has been embroiled in an almost movie-like political scandal in which secret connections to a woman named Choi Soon-sil, a supposed “shaman fortune teller,” was revealed. Soon-sil had access to confidential information — despite not having government clearance — and had a heavy influence on Geun-hye that some have compared to Rasputin’s influence on Nicholas II in imperial Russia.

Geun-hye relinquished high-level members of her cabinet and staff but did not step down herself. Protests involving approximately 20,000 people began Oct. 29, and grew into the hundreds of thousands, eventually reaching estimates of up to a million on Nov. 12. These demonstrations grew progressively larger as she refused to resign, reaching numbers of about 2.3 million on Dec. 3.

The protests have been notably peaceful. Violent protesters have been reprimanded for their behavior by some and advised to adopt peaceful behavior in lieu of violence, because violence can be used against their cause. Court decisions allowed a previously blocked-off area to be opened to protesters and authorities made the decision to bypass aggressive means of controlling crowds, such as pepper spray and water cannons, that have been used before. The result was not just a much more light-hearted protest, but a more powerful one. Geun-hye faced an impeachment vote on Friday, Dec. 9 and but was successfully voted out, 234-56.

With the news of the rerouting of the Dakota Access Pipeline, there is something to be learned. Peaceful protests work more so than violent ones – albeit they take time. The American government and police forces around the country should also take note that it took mutual respect from all participating parties in South Korea to reach a peaceful consensus. Democracy requires unity, not division.