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Korean Prime Minister resigns after corruption scandal

Before committing suicide on April 9, Wan Jong Sung, former chairman of now-bankrupt construction company Keangnam Enterprises, revealed in a telephone interview with the Kyunghyang Shimun, a Korean newspaper that he had bribed politicians and senior officials, including Prime Minister Wan Koo Lee. Though Prime Minister Lee has continued to deny having accepted 30 million won in illegal funds for his senatorial re-election campaign in 2013, he offered to resign on April 20 this year, just two months into his post. According to the BBC, President Geun Hye Park accepted his resignation on April 27 after returning from her state visit to Peru.

Because of the amount of corruption potentially involved with the scandal, President Park has faced difficulty in dealing with the situation. According to research agency Gallup Korea, her approval rating fell from 39 percent to 34 percent the week of April 17, with 54 percent of respondents additionally giving a negative assessment of her job performance. Most respondents cited personnel issues as the reason for their disapproval, as this was not the first time that President Park has had problems with cabinet members.

“Corruption is something that has an insidious effect both politically and economically,” said Paul Roberts, Government and Politics teacher. “When people believe that government officials are corrupt then they will start losing faith in the government. It also leads to the wasting of resources that could have been used for something else but now lines someone’s pockets.”

Furthermore, her government faced additional criticism due to its perceived inaction regarding the Sewol Ferry incident, especially regarding the salvaging of the hull. A tribute held by families commemorating the first anniversary of the accident on April 19 turned violent, with protestors and police clashing in Seoul. The government ultimately announced on April 22 that it would start salvage work in September, conceding to the wishes of the victim’s families.

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