South Korea’s ousted President Park Geun-hye was arrested Friday on multiple charges of bribery and abuse of power, including colluding with her former aide to threaten the vice-chairwoman of CJ Group, one of the country’s top food and entertainment giants.
A comic parody of Park on Saturday Night Live Korea, broadcast back in 2012 on one of CJ’s cable networks, has been cited by prosecutors on Wednesday as one of the reasons the company provoked her wrath.
Rumors had long circulated in the Korean entertainment industry that Park, who was removed from office earlier this month, pressured Miky Lee, vice-chairwoman of CJ, to step down from the company in 2013. A recorded telephone conversation between Park’s then-presidential aide Cho Won-dong and CJ Group Co-Chairman Sohn Kyung-shik in July 2013 was revealed through earlier investigations. In the recording, Cho tells Sohn of “the VIP’s [president’s] wish for Lee to step down.” Perhaps not coincidentally, Lee has since distanced herself from the Seoul-based company to stay in the U.S., citing health reasons.
While Cho has since been indicted without detention, this is the first time that legal authorities have probed Park’s role in the CJ case and are seriously citing a notorious SNL Korea skit as a possible reason behind the threat.
According to local reports on Wednesday, the prosecution’s arrest warrant request includes a background explanation on SNL Korea‘s parody of politicians, which made the Korean edition of the show popular in the country after its launch in 2011. A sketch called Yeouido Teletubbies poked fun at the candidates of the 2012 Korean presidential election, depicting Park as a foul-mouthed Teletubbie.
Local cable channel JTBC last week reported that the presidential office had investigated the political orientations of SNL Korea writers, and Yeouido Teletubbies was canceled several months after Park took office in spite of its popularity. In the arrest warrant request prosecutors have also noted CJ’s blockbuster films Masquerade and The Attorney, which were both reportedly inspired by Park’s political opponent, former President Roh Moo-hyun.
Park has come under fire for muzzling Korea’s top businessmen and artists alike. The former head of state has been accused of colluding with a confidant to extort money from Samsung, among other major conglomerates, and blacklisting artists including the likes of Oldboy director Park Chan-wook. The blacklist has been reported to include supporters of Park’s political opponents. Park’s administration has also allegedly pressured local art show organizers to remove a mural satirically depicting the former president.
In the meantime, onlookers have noted that SNL Korea has regained some of its biting political humor since Park’s impeachment, with a number of sketches openly parodying the ousted president after years of relying mostly on sexual innuendo.
Meanwhile, an election to choose Park’s successor must be held within 60 days and onlookers expect it to fall on May 9.
Watch an episode of Yeouido Teletubbies, below, featuring Park’s character clad in red as Po.