Image Credit: The New York Times "Park Geun-hye, South Korea’s Ousted Leader, Is Arrested and Jailed to Await Trial"
This Friday, South Korea's impeached president Park Geun-hye was arrested. When her trials begin in the coming weeks, she will begin traveling from her cell to a Seoul courthouse. Although previous presidents have been arrested before, this is the first time since Korea's transition to democracy that a president has been sent to jail. The arrest finally puts an end to months of nationwide protests and turmoil concerning the deceits within the political and business arenas. Although some say that the arrest signifies a further strengthening of South Korean democracy, others are expressing worry about the political breakdown that might have long-lasting effects in relations with East Asian countries, especially China, North Korea, and Japan with regards to nuclear weapons and a potential arms race, as well as with the United States.
Political power in South Korea is projected to shift from conservative to more liberal hands, and Moon Jae-in, the liberal opposition leader expected to win the election on May 9th, plans to challenge many current policies including Washington's deployment of a missile defense system in response to North Korea's nuclear experiments as well as Park's agreement with Japan concerning comfort women during World War II. Moon may tip the delicate balance of relations in East Asia, siding with China, at least temporarily, on a the issue of an arms race, opposing Japan on the controversial deal regarding comfort women, and reaching out to North Korea, an action reminiscent of the Sunshine Policy of 1998.
Although the turbulence in Korea might have reached a momentary lull with Park's final arrest, troubles in the international sphere are brewing. The Park Geun-hye debacle has caused many Koreans to question their identities within the borders of South Korea as well as outside, many lamenting the damage Park has wrought upon Korea's national image from the eyes of the people as well as from other countries.