You might have come across a lot of Korea in the news lately. There is the infamous daughter of Korean Air CEO who apparently couldn’t contain her rage over the manner in which her macadamia nuts were served that she practically aborted the takeoff of a plane carrying more than 200 passengers, all the while scolding the flight attendants to the point of humiliation and harassment. More recently, Sony Corporation was slammed by a cyber attack possibly linked to North Korean government that must have gotten ticked off by the Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy The Interview. Sony has cancelled the release of the movie and is scrambling to find a way out of the mess that the hack has wrought. Maybe they will find means to distribute the film, but it’s not clear as of now.
It’s like a competition to figure out who can cause more trouble. Everyone would agree that North Korean government is whack. But South Korean government has been at the center of some riveting drama. Earlier this year, documents detailing Chung Yoon-hoi’s (President Park Geun-hye’s former chief secretary and advisor) regular meetings with her incumbent aides to influence important state decisions, were leaked. When a newspaper (Segye Ilbo) reported on the matter, introducing Chung to the wider public, President Park responded by calling the content of the documents a baseless rumor and ordered a thorough investigation into how the documents were compromised.
More news suspecting Chung of peddling influence followed when the former Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism referred to the possibility of Chung exerting control over the ministry’s personnel decisions with the help of the president. News also hinted at Chung’s thorny relationship with Park Ji-man (president’s younger brother) whose closest ties in the Blue House and the military were recently replaced, probably in an effort to limit Park’s reach into power.
The former Blue House (South Korea’s equivalent of White House) official who is said to have drafted the Chung documents was one of those people reassigned. He was reassigned as a senior police officer and is suspected to have taken those documents with him. Two police intelligence officers are alleged to have gained access to and provided those documents to reporters. One of the officers has since committed suicide, claiming his innocence, and the other is not saying much.
Prosecution investigating the leak is expected to conclude that the former Blue House official and possibly his superior are to blame for authoring groundless information and then removing it from the Blue House. Park Ji-man, initially portrayed to be having a power struggle with Chung, seems to have changed his stance so as not to be seen in conflict with his sister and her staff.
This series of events has led the public to question President’s decision making process and whom she includes in it, the dynamics within the Office of President, and the status on Chung and Park Ji-man power struggle. The prosecution has been rather busy investigating the source of the leak but has not provided information that many Koreans are itching to know. Who the heck is Chung Yoon-hoi? Who other than the President is to blame for all those personnel debacles? If those internal documents are groundless, why would someone author and leak such stuff, and why didn’t anyone do something about it before it got out of control?
Some have expressed concerns that the prosecution cannot conduct a thorough, independent investigation because President Park has already asserted that the leaked documents are nothing more than a groundless rumor. In other words, the Blue House has put the prosecution in an awkward position where they could either conduct a thorough investigation and potentially produce an outcome that contradicts the Blue House or look like a big stooge in the public eye. The recent dissolution of a leftist party in Korea and the continued attention on the Korean Air corruption have quickly overtaken the news real estate, but there are people who still want to know whether Chung meddled with the state affairs or not.
Prosecutors don’t just appear in the newspapers, they are also portrayed on television. Pride and Prejudice is a fascinating drama with multiple narratives and impressive characters driving each other forward to create one gripping story. The show touches upon various corruption scandals that have irked Korean society. You also meet different prosecutors and how many of them inevitably fall victim to higher powers. Watching this drama, one can see how risky it could be for prosecutors to conduct impartial investigation into cases involving super powers and then wonder if that’s what’s happening to the prosecution regarding the Chung documents. Punch, which just began last week, is another television drama that features prosecutors as main characters. We’ll have to wait for more episodes, but similar to the drama writer’s previous works (The Chaser and Empire of Gold), Punch is likely to portray power and class struggles, and personal and seemingly appropriate motives dictating life to the point of no return.
I’ve been enjoying Pride and Prejudice a lot and was excited to learn about Punch. Both are promising. They are also also fictional. The thing with the Blue House isn’t.