“The whole political system is crashing down.” — a 2016 KakaoTalk Text Message from a Korean-American in South Korea
April 16th, 2014: the Sewol, a ship carrying 476 passengers, most of whom were school children, has capsized. 304 have drowned. South Korean president Park Geun-Hye, the first female president, was noticeably absent for seven hours after the incident. It is believed that the ship was dangerously packed with cargo causing the weight to shift to one side resulting in its turning over. As water flooded the interior, the school children were told to remain where they were as further disruption of the ship’s gravity could cause an erratic exacerbation of the danger. Later, as most of the children drowned to death, television imagery showed the captain abandoning ship alone in his underwear.
Gangnam, Seoul: outside the window of an 11th floor apartment, a plume of smoke swirls suspended in a sunbeam, the Navier-Stokes equations of fluid dynamics acting out their cryptic calculations adjacent to a man who intercepts the wavelengths of a faint drum beat beyond the walls out in the vacuum of the city. A South Korean political protest is hard to distinguish from a soccer match celebration. Be the Reds. Run from the dead.
1979: “At first, I was afraid. I was petrified. Kept thinking I could never live without you by my side, but then I spent so many nights thinking how you did me wrong,” on a transistor radio in a dark office in Seoul, the head of Korea’s version of the CIA, Kim Jae-Gyu, is loading a pistol, preparing to assassinate the man he was sworn to protect: his close friend, Park Chung-Hee, the president of South Korea, Park Geun-Hye’s father.
‘Must bullets have fates?’ The answer, of course, is yes, but not the ones chosen by their authors.
Some years before President Park Chung-Hee was finally killed, a bullet meant for him found Geun-Hye’s mother instead — killing her. This time around, the bullet found its intended end.
Choi Tae-Min, a Buddhist monk gone rogue and converted Roman Catholic, finally settled on a hodgepodge of religious systems rooted in ancient Korean shamanism. He founded the Church of Eternal Life or Yongsaenggyo in the 70’s. Tae-min claimed that every man was God in the beginning and should strive to win salvation to become God again and live eternally. He himself claimed to be Maitreya, the Last Buddha or final fulfillment. He would be the voice in the dark for Geun-Hye after her mother’s untimely murder by political foes. Recognized as a fraud and charlatan by the authorities, Tae-Min, nevertheless, amassed a small but strong following on the subterranean outskirts of a new Korea. Plans for secret agents to send him back to the spirit world in a coffin were already wrung in smoke-filled administrative conference rooms sanctioned by the state.
“The failure to prevent Choi Tae-min’s corrupt activities and keep him away from his daughter” was the motive the head of Korea’s spy agency claimed for killing the president. Released by WikiLeaks in 2007, the U.S. Embassy in Korea reported to American officials that “rumors are rife that the late pastor [Choi Tae-min] had complete control over Park’s body and soul during her formative years.” It was Tae-Min who prophecized that Geun-Hye’s father would be assassinated. He told Geun-Hye that he was in communication with her dead mother. As a medium, he delivered the young Geun-Hye messages she could no longer access because her mother was no longer in this world. To Geun-Hye, only Tae-Min could give her what she longed for most: a portal to a place where history was told differently. She could still hear her mother’s voice.
April 16th: Two days after the anniversary of Choi Tae-min’s death in 1994, a shamanistic rite was performed. This is where Park Geun-Hye, along with Tae-Min’s daughter Choi Soon-Sil who was now the leading minister of the Church of Eternal Life, was reported to be during the mysterious seven hours after the Sewol overturned.
Geun-Hye, although considered a conservative, was a progressive, feminist symbol to many. Her election as president was a glimmer of hope in an ultra male-dominated society. She was unmarried and childless. Her strange fantasies that led to her demise only gave fuel to those who believed she was mere woman. After being forced out of office, Geun-Hye sits behind bars awaiting a May 2018 trial for her many crimes.
Her charges are classified into four categories:
- abuse of power
- attempted coercion
- leakage of government secrets
The prosecution charged Park of illegally collecting a total 59.2 billion won ($52.1 million) through organizations controlled by her friend Choi Soon-Sil, daughter of Choi Tae-Min, adding 7 billion won later returned to Lotte Group and 8.9 billion won promised by SK Group as bribes in exchange for favors on top of already accused 43.3 billion won squeezed out of Samsung Group.
‘Must people have fates?’ The answer, of course, is yes, but not the ones chosen by others.
The destruction of ideals, the new desert; new arts by means of which we can endure it, we amphibians can swim under water to eventually breathe on land. In a biological state of change, we are the in-between of what drowns and what survives.
1952: the revolutions of propellors vibrate the steel interiors of a military aircraft. For the situation, the moment in eerily quiet. Soon, it will be Incheon — a surprise incursion behind North Korean enemy lines.