It could always be worse

This is going to get into some weird territory; cults and robotic eyes and presidential politics … just a heads up.

Only a couple more days

Americans all over are ready to tune into the exciting conclusion of “Election 2016” in just two more days!

Ok, not all Americans. Aside from the regular “they’re all terrible candidates!” crowd we see every four years, this election has seen large groups of Americans, supporting either candidate, certain in their knowledge that should the other side prevail our country will be plunged into an inescapable darkness from which will emerge a new, terrifying America full of jackbooted thugs and roving gangs of Mad Max rejects trampling all that you hold dear.

What will the next president do? Will either of them be capable of governing our shattered collective culture? Between e-mail leaks and crude audio tapes could things possibly get any worse?

Emphatically yes! The election of 2016, as crazy as we all like to think it is, doesn’t even come close to the current hotbed of political crazy: South Korea.

MegaCorporations and Robotic Eyes

South Korea is pretty much the future. Giant, meticulously planned cities, cutting edge technology, creepy storm troopers; it’s like living in a William Gibson novel. Give them ten more years and those robotic eyes will be on the shelves in time for Christmas.

At the center of this Land of Tomorrow is President Park Geun-hye. President Park (family name comes first in Korea) is South Korea’s first female president.

How much power does a South Korean president have? Here’s a clear example: Forbes listed President Park as the 46th Most Powerful Person in the World … but she was the third South Korean, after the Chairman and Vice Chairman of Samsung.

So, she’s got juice, just not as much as the exploding cell phone guys.

Where did Park learn to be such a powerful leader in a country that has seen one cultural upheaval after another over the last seventy years?

Blood, war, and irony

President Park Chung-hee, President Park Geun-hye’s father, is one of those historical figures that will always be remembered with a “but.”

Park Chung-hee took South Korea from the brink of collapse after the Korean War and turned the country into an economic powerhouse, raising the standard of living for millions … “but” … he led a military coup to become president, established the Korean Central Intelligence Agency to crush all political dissent, got properly elected president, overthrew THAT government, altered the Korean constitution to abolish presidential term limits, watched his wife die from a bullet meant for him, and was eventually assassinated by the director of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency.

So, some good things, some truly horrifying things; the kind of moral mixed-bag you often find with authoritarians.

President Park Geun-hye is no authoritarian, but she does share one common trait with her father: the willingness to do what it takes to get things done.

For Park Chung-hee that meant spying on his fellow citizens, overthrowing his own government multiple times, and torturing just about everybody; for Park Geun-hye that means shamans, cults, and dancing horses.

Straight. Up. Crazy. Times.

Park Geun-hye is currently President of South Korea … currently.

Park Geun-hye is embroiled in a massive scandal about an unofficial abdication of power to her friend of 40-years, Choi Soon-sil.

After Park’s mother was assassinated in 1974 Park returned to Korea to live with her father. She was later approached by, I’m not kidding, a cult-leader shaman named Choi Tae-min (Choi Soon-sil’s father) who said that he could speak to the ghost of Park’s mother.

Whatever Rasputin nonsense was happening with Choi Tae-min and Park Chung-hee is left for another time; but Choi Soon-sil and Park Geun-hye remained friends.

Good friends. Really good friends. The kind of friends where one friend, who might be the president of a G20 country, asks the other friend, who might be the daughter of an influential cult-leader, never held elected office and has no security clearance, to read reams of classified information and make strategic decisions about finance, foreign policy, and national security.

South Korean media got nosy after they noticed Choi Soon-sil’s charity received donations totaling roughly $70 million in two months time, then Choi took off to Europe for a while and paid for her daughter to take dressage lessons.

Is there anything that says “I have entirely too much money” quite like dressage?

If the horse dancing wasn’t bad enough the media, and now prosecutors, got suspicious when Choi Soon-sil’s daughter was accepted into the prestigious Ewha Womans University; college acceptance is so important in South Korea that even the media knows when you didn’t have the grades to make the cut.

Now there is mounting evidence pointing to Choi being Park Geun-hye’s Éminence grise, or power behind the throne.

Park’s presidential authority is collapsing, she fired her entire cabinet, and tens of thousands of South Koreans haven taken to their high-tech streets, calling for her resignation. Park has been in seclusion and recently somebody was arrested after attempting to throw a bucket of feces on Choi at an airport.


On Tuesday, when you watch the results come in, if the person you voted for doesn’t win just remember: No amount of Hillary or Trump nonsense will ever be as bizarrely awful as a dictator’s daughter horse dancing with cult leaders underneath the feces bucket of Damocles.

But I’m still going to pre-order one of those robot eyes.


Copy Editor Wes Burns is a Sunday columnist. The views expressed in this column are personal views of the writer and don’t necessarily reflect the views of the T-R. Contact Wes Burns at 641-753-6611 or