There’s an previous, unwritten legislation in South Korea’s political circles: When a president nears the tip of his time period or returns to civilian life, he nearly at all times faces an ignominious finish. Some have even labeled this seemingly inevitable demise a curse.
Curse or not, the phenomenon is definitely observable within the historical past of South Korea.
Syngman Rhee, the nation’s first president, was compelled to resign in 1960 after scholar demonstrators rose up in opposition to his authoritarian rule. Rhee escaped judicial supervision and fled into exile to Hawaii, the place he later died.
Park Chung-hee, who got here to energy in a army coup in 1961, was brutally murdered in 1979 by his confidante Kim Jae-kyu. By then, Park had maintained his iron grip on energy for eighteen years.
The vacuum park assassination was stuffed by two military veterans, Chun Doo-hwan (in elected workplace from 1980-1987) and later Roh Tae-woo (1988-1993). After leaving workplace, the 2 had been charged with, amongst different issues, masterminding a coup and treason. Chun was sentenced to life in jail and Noh to 17 years in jail. They had been launched solely after being pardoned by the identical president, Kim Younger-sam, who investigated them and led their arrests.
This pattern continued into the 2000s. Roh Moo-hyun (in workplace 2003–2008), a civil rights lawyer who rose to prominence via a grassroots political motion, died by suicide in 2009 whereas below investigation for allegations following his presidency of bribery.
Lee Myung-bak (in workplace from 2008-2013), who succeeded Roh, was arrested after leaving the Blue Home for committing crimes comparable to embezzlement and tax evasion.
In 2017, Park Chung-hee’s eldest daughter, Park Geun-hye, grew to become the primary incumbent chief to be ousted in South Korea. Park (in workplace from 2013-2017) was later sentenced to 24 years in jail (later elevated to 25 years) for bribery and abuse of energy.
Each Lee and Park spent practically 5 years behind bars earlier than being pardoned.
Nevertheless, the ‘curse’ seems to be nearing its finish as former President Moon Jae-in (in workplace from 2017-2022) has prevented the setbacks of his predecessors – at the very least for now. Moon accomplished his five-year time period final Might and has carried out so ever since returned to his house base of Yangsan, South Gyeongsang Province. He now runs a small, unbiased bookstore and stays largely out of the general public eye.
Now that Moon has left excessive workplace, has the “curse” that has plagued South Korean leaders for thus lengthy been lifted? Sadly, it is nonetheless too early to inform.
Though the present authorities of Yoon Suk-yeol has proven little curiosity in investigating Moon, it’s totally dedicated to the arrest of Lee Jae-myung, Moon’s closest confidant and political inheritor. Whereas an arrest warrant for Lee was linked to corruption and abuse of energy lately denied by a South Korean courtroomthe Yoon authorities stays adamant about persevering with the wayward investigation. And there’s a clear motive for that.
Yoon first rose to prominence by main the investigations in opposition to Lee Myung-bak and Moon’s predecessor, Park Geun-hye. Yoon, who grew to become lawyer basic below the auspices of the liberal Moon regime, ran for and gained the presidency of the then-conservative Individuals Energy Celebration (PPP). He did this by confronting Moon’s try to weaken prosecutorial authorities midway via his time period. The strain then reached a boiling level Yoon efficiently prosecuted Cho Kuka detailed ally of Moon and former Minister of Justice below the Moon administration.
To Moon, Yoon could have been a traitor, however by turning in opposition to Moon whereas heading the prosecutor’s workplace, Yoon grew to become an in a single day movie star among the many conservative crowd. The prospect that Yoon would equally denounce Moon and his allies if he had been elected president was one motive why rightists favored a political outsider with no earlier ties to the conservative occasion. In that sense, Yoon owes a big debt to his voters, which he has but to repay.
In different phrases, it additionally implies that Yoon’s political base is as weak as his loyalty to the occasion. And this vulnerability is beginning to present itself in actual life. Yoon’s approval score has dropped since he took workplace in Might 2022, and now hovers across the mid-30 % mark at greatest. Including to the distress, the PPP, led by Yoon, lately suffered a serious defeat in an important by-election within the Gangseo district of the South Korean capital Seoul.
With two and a half years left in his time period, there are already reviews suggesting that Yoon might expertise an early lame-duck presidency. The current rumors that Yoon could kind a brand new political occasion are due to this fact not fully unfounded.
Traditionally, South Korean leaders have used anti-Japanese nationalist sentiments to revive their approval scores and divert voters’ consideration from home failures. Moon Jae-in deployed this technique Throughout their tenure, for instance, nosedives between Japan and South Korea are at their lowest level in many years. However for Yoon, who’s deeply dedicated to reviving bilateral ties with Tokyo, this isn’t a viable possibility.
Likewise, Yoon’s makes an attempt to mobilize his conservative base via the current ideological warfare, primarily by stoking opposition to communism, have been largely fruitless. The little increase it gave him appears to be sporting off.
Yoon’s beleaguered PPP faces essential basic elections subsequent April. If the occasion fails to safe sufficient seats and the opposition Democratic Celebration retains its majority, it might utterly fracture an already polarized conservative base. And when push involves shove, Yoon and people round him will strive even tougher to tackle the conservative’s arch-enemy: Moon Jae-in.
However the tit-for-tat type of demonizing and persecuting political opponents has largely run its course in South Korea. Pursuing Moon – whose presidency is a Approval price of 45 %larger than Yoon’s present numbers – might backfire by stoking sympathy for the opposition.
Whether or not Yoon can lastly break the age-old curse depends upon his political will and braveness. First, Yoon should persuade his voters. He should then refocus on speaking with and bettering the livelihoods of the folks, as he promised in a current assembly behind closed doorways. This can be a tall order, and it isn’t but clear whether or not Yoon, who made a profession as a technocrat within the prosecution, is as much as the duty. Nonetheless, this can be the one alternative for him to keep away from an early lame-duck standing and re-establish himself as a real unifying chief, which he has strived for since his inauguration.