The United States needs to follow South Korea’s post-impeachment example.
As I watched the surreal scenes of the U.S. Capitol under siege on Jan. 6, another date came to my mind: March 10, 2017, when South Korea’s Constitutional Court sustained the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye on massive corruption charges. As in Washington, an authoritarian conservative president was defeated by the rule of law and the democratic process, and a rioting mob attempted to reverse the result by force. Like Jan. 6, March 10 was not successful, but the coup attempt was closer than most realized at the time. The actions taken by South Korea’s liberal administration in response are instructive for the Biden administration stepping into the aftermath of the attempted subversion of democracy.
On March 10, Park was staring down defeat: The National Assembly, South Korea’s legislature, had impeached her in December 2016, which meant the Constitutional Court would determine her fate on that day. Park’s presidential staff was certain that she would prevail, to the point of preparing a special cake to celebrate. Park’s rabid fans were equally confident—not least because they needed only three dissenting votes out of the eight Constitutional Court justices then sitting at the time, as the removal required at least six votes in favor.