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South Korea: Msgr. Lazzaro You (Daejeon), “the new President? He will need to be a man of dialogue and peace”

It was a very heated week in South Korea: with a unanimous vote the Constitutional Court upheld the impeachment of President Park Geun-Hye, hit by a corruption scandal and forced to leave her presidential palace, where she had closed herself in for days. The population celebrated peacefully, but there were violent clashes in the streets caused by a minority who rejected the verdict of the Court. The bishop of Daejeon expressed his "joy and hope”, describing it as “a step in the right direction, a starting point.” The new President – he said – will need to be “a man of dialogue and peace, one who gives priority to diplomatic agreements over arms race”

“Joy and peace.” “A step in the right direction, a starting point. Now we have to look ahead”, said Msgr. Lazzaro You Heung-sik, bishop of Daejeon, who described the heated week to SIR, that led ex South-Korean President Park Geun-Hye, to leave the Blu Palace in Seoul, the Presidential residence where she had closed herself for days.

The Constitutional Court unanimously upheld her impeachment, previously proclaimed by Parliament, with eight votes out of eight. The decision of the Court finally shed light and did justice on a scandal of corruption at the centre of public attention in the Asian Country for months. No President in the history of Korea was ever as unpopular as Park Geun-Hye, whose public appreciation dropped to 4%.

“86% of the population – confirmed bishop You – was in favour of the President’s deposition” in fact when the judgement was delivered people started celebrating in the streets with chants and dances

“People peacefully demonstrated holding candles”, the bishop said. “The streets were clean. It was a feast.” Then the supporters of the President took the streets and the clashes began, and some lost their lives. But “very few” demonstrated against the Court’s decision. The majority of the population expressed support for new elections.

Bishop You has a positive outlook, “for two sets of reasons at least.” After Korea’s independence the Country progressed, but criticism against the government in office was forbidden and was branded as Communist propaganda.

With the President’s deposition “the people said no” to this system, demanding a higher degree of democracy. 

With a plethora of companies and corporations successful worldwide, such as Samsung, in the past years Korea experienced a political and economic connivance system made of corruption and money-laundering. “The people said NO also to that system” the bishop said, asking that “politics and economy be clearly separated spheres.” President Park Geun-Hye was dragged into a scandal by her friend, Choi Soon-sil, that sent to jail Samsung’s top manager Jay Y. Lee, charged with having paid bribes amounting to tens of million dollars. “The incarceration of the Samsung owner – You said – has ushered in a new path, and a step has already been made in the right direction. Let us hope that in the next two months, with the new government, this process will continue with increasing honesty, transparency and justice.”

The date of the new elections has not yet been fixed. According to Korean Law, a new President must be elected within 60 days since the removal of the previous President. “All of us as bishops, and myself personally as President of the Council for Justice and Peace, released a set of statements – even before the Court’s decision – calling for a just democracy, which for us is a democratic system that puts human value at the centre”, said Bishop You

The bishop of Daejeon, the Korean diocese that welcomed Pope Francis in August two years ago, gave an outline of the ideal new President. “He must be a man of dialogue and communion, capable of representing everyone. He must be open, democratic, respectful of human rights.” Lazaro You added that the Korean peninsula is becoming a dangerous place in the arms race, a delicate crossroads between China and the United States, where North Korea’s initiatives are followed by the rest of the world with bated breath. That’s why “the new President must be a man of peace, of dialogue, a man capable of giving priority to diplomatic agreements over arms race.” He concluded: “those who made mistakes – some using power and others corruption – and who caused so much suffering, must recognize their mistakes, repent and ask for forgiveness. We will be merciful, for only mercy is the way leading to a future of authentic democracy, justice and peace.”

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