South Korea's political and business worlds have long been intertwined. The country has sought to create a "strong nation" that assumed a unity of interests between the two that blurred many distinctions between public and private sectors. This has meant that the government in Seoul has appealed to, and in some cases strong-armed, businesses to support government initiatives, usually with a promise of some future consideration. All countries experience some version of this; Japan's own history is a case study in the integration and coordination of business and political interests. But, too often, the interest promoted is not the national interest but that of particular politicians.
The allegations that South Korean President Park Geun-hye used the powers of her office for personal gains of her corrupt confidante, Choi Soon-sil, drove hundreds of thousands of Koreans into the streets to demand her resignation or her impeachment. After insisting that she will fight the charges, Park announced Tuesday that she will bow to the will of the people and resign if demanded by parliament — which critics called a ploy by her to buy time and avert an imminent impeachment. That may fend off the immediate crisis, but it will not fill the leadership vacuum in Seoul nor will it end the system that led to her resignation.
Choi, a longtime friend of the president, is accused of being a power behind the presidency, pulling strings and steering the ship of state. Those allegations were confirmed when a discarded computer from Choi's office was found with copies of national security documents and presidential speeches on it. Park twice apologized to the nation for the role afforded Choi and allowing her to interfere in government business. The allegations are embarrassing and will likely result in criminal charges against the individuals who provided Choi with government documents even though she lacked clearances.