S. Korean conservatives more fragmented than ever
January 12, 2020 at 11:59 PM - Views: 20 #249734
Posted on : Jan.12,2020 14:46 KST
Hankyoreh By Jung Yu-gyung
The “conservative unity” debate that has unfolded for nearly three years since the impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye not only failed to make progress, but is showing signs of backsliding. With just 100 days or so left before the general election on Apr. 15, conservatives seem to be splintering more than ever. Having been rent asunder by the impeachment, their political situation is now gravitating toward two extremes. Even as they appeal for unity amid their sense of crisis, they lack the leadership to drive it — along with any sign of willingness for collective self-sacrifice. Within the political community, the prediction is that it is conservatives, rather than progressives, who are in danger of collapsing from disunity. This is being attributed to the antics of Liberal Korea Party (LKP) leader Hwang Kyo-ahn, whose flirtations with the far right is only widening the gap with moderate and center conservatives.
The Hankyoreh presents a pretty good summary of the current disarray created by the far right in South Korea. The article really doesn’t go far enough. There are prosecutions pending against two dozen LKP members for various offenses committed in National Assembly last April in the initial attempt to thwart fast track referral of reform legislation. Those unlawful tactics, including the recent assault on the speaker of the National Assembly, were repeated at the end of last year in attempt to block passage of those same bills. Virtually every effort of the far right LKP party to block government reforms has failed as the so called pro-government coaltion led by the democratic party in power, (referred to as the 4+1 coalition) has passed the major reforms resisted by the far right.
At first, the LKP threatened to filibuster all the reforms, and since has boycotted the legislation. The four plus one coalition had a quorum and a majority to pass all measures agreed upon by the coalition. It can safely be said, that the tactics of occupation, sit in, demonstrations, physical violence, destruction of government records, and obstruction of the National Assembly have failed in two ways. Legislatively, they simply failed. In terms of political appeal the LKP has alienated the public with its radical support for the legacy of the right wing dictatorships of the past, radical right wing religious fundamentalism, and dare it be said, their militarism and US flag waving, at a time when the US has been pursuing widely unpopular diplomatic goals in South Korea.
Inside the beltway “experts” on Korea in the US are backing the wrong horse.
January 13, 2020 at 3:09 AM #249791
- Total Posts: 1,141
Another thing people in the USA do not know about South Korea is the country was under Authoritarian Military Rule until 1997.
(May 16, 1961, military coup led by General Park Chung-hee)
Park was heavily criticized as a ruthless military dictator, who in 1972 extended his rule by creating a new constitution, which gave the president sweeping (almost dictatorial) powers and permitted him to run for an unlimited number of six-year terms. The Korean economy developed significantly during Park’s tenure. The government developed the nationwide expressway system, the Seoul subway system, and laid the foundation for economic development during his 17-year tenure, which ended with his assassination in 1979.
The years after Park’s assassination were marked again by political turmoil, as the previously suppressed opposition leaders all campaigned to run for president in the sudden political void. In 1979 there came the Coup d’état of December Twelfth led by General Chun Doo-hwan. Following the Coup d’état, Chun Doo-hwan planned to rise to power through several measures. On May 17, Chun Doo-hwan forced the Cabinet to expand martial law to the whole nation, which had previously not applied to the island of Jejudo. The expanded martial law closed universities, banned political activities and further curtailed the press. Chun’s assumption of the presidency in the events of May 17, triggered nationwide protests demanding democracy, in particular in the city of Gwangju, to which Chun sent special forces to violently suppress the Gwangju Democratization Movement.
Chun subsequently created the National Defense Emergency Policy Committee and took the presidency according to his political plan. Chun and his government held South Korea under a despotic rule until 1987, when a Seoul National University student, Park Jong-chul, was tortured to death. On June 10, the Catholic Priests Association for Justice revealed the incident, igniting the June Democracy Movement around the country. Eventually, Chun’s party, the Democratic Justice Party, and its leader, Roh Tae-woo announced the 6.29 Declaration, which included the direct election of the president. Roh went on to win the election by a narrow margin against the two main opposition leaders, Kim Dae-Jung and Kim Young-Sam. Seoul hosted the Olympic Games in 1988, widely regarded as successful and a significant boost for South Korea’s global image and economy.
South Korea was formally invited to become a member of the United Nations in 1991. The transition of Korea from autocracy to modern democracy was marked in 1997 by the election of Kim Dae-jung, who was sworn in as the eighth president of South Korea, on February 25, 1998. His election was significant given that he had in earlier years been a political prisoner sentenced to death (later commuted to exile). He won against the backdrop of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, where he took IMF advice to restructure the economy and the nation soon recovered its economic growth, albeit at a slower pace.
Democracy is a new thing to South Korea. Some people just like the days of old.
If you cannot dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit WC Fields
January 13, 2020 at 3:52 AM #249800
Kim Dae Jung’s presidency was not a clean break with the authoritarian past. His rise to power was only the result of an accommodation with elites who had both the legacy of supporting prior dictatorships and accommodating themselves to pro-Japanese elements who profited from Park Chung-hee’s corrupt relationship with Japan. These issues obviously still complicate the domestic and international politics of South Korea today:
…Kim Dae Jung’s liberal administration only came to power by compromising with Kim Jong Pil, the former head of the KCIA during the Park Chung Hee, pro-Japanese ( 친일파 ) right wing dictatorship. Roh Tae Woo’s conservative administration continued to represent the interests and parties that had flourished under dictators Park and Chun Doo Hwan until Chun was forced out of power by pro-democracy demonstrations in the late eighties. Kim Young Sam and Kim Dae Jung did not and could not come to power until they accommodated those pro-Japanese right wing interests in a political alliance with Kim Jong Pil, a minority regional politician and conservative stalwart. During DJ’s rule as president, he pursued progressive initiatives such as the Sunshine Policy with North Korea, but was presented with the same obstacles Syngman Rhee had faced decades before. Namely, the notion that the popular grievances against domestic colonial era criminal collaborators with Japan (and their conservative progeny) would arrive at some just denouement was stifled by political compromise, this time by the need to form a governing coalition in a representative government. Forming a governing coalition could not yet be achieved without once again reigning back the historical issues domestically. This is what the NY Times had to say in its eulogy to Kim Jong Pil, the former KCIA director, and advocate for the 1965 Agreement with Japan:
…Any politician with presidential ambitions had to pay respects to Mr. Kim and win his favor.
He helped Kim Young-sam win the presidency in 1992, forming a political alliance with him and Mr. Roh, in which their three parties merged. Later, after a falling-out with Kim Young-sam, he merged his new party with that of Kim Dae-jung, who went on to be elected president in 1997. He became prime minister under President Kim Dae-jung, who would win a Nobel Peace Prize for his policy of outreach to North Korea, including a historic summit meeting with Kim Jong-il, then the North’s leader.*
*Kim Jong-pil, Political Kingmaker in South Korea, Dies at 92, NT Times obituary, By Choe Sang-Hun, June 23, 2018; https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/23/obituaries/kim-jong-pil-south-korea.html
The experiment of returning to a nostalgic revisionist view of South Korean dictatorships by electing Park Geun Hye, the daughter of the former Japanese Imperial Army officer, and dictator of South Korea, failed. This has allowed Moon Jae In, to finally repudiate the costs of the pro-Japanese element in conservative Korean politics to the chagrin of the right wing governments in Japan and the US.
Kim Jong Pil was a principal negotiator with Japan of the 1965 Agreement to “normalize” relations with Japan. It was a corrupt one sided agreement favoring Japan, on terms no prior South Korean government would have agreed to. Park was a former Japanese Imperial Army Officer and saw things eye to eye with the Kisi Nabusuke (Abe’s grandfather) who was the principal on the other side representing Japanese interests. Outstanding historical issues with Japan were papered over, not “settled.”
During the early months of 2017 during the Park Geun-hye impeachment proceedings, the Defense Security Command of South Korea, allegedly, along with the current leader of the LKP Hwang Kyo-ahn, drew up plans and contemplated implementing martial law again in South Korea.
January 13, 2020 at 11:46 PM #250163
- Total Posts: 1,141
Between our two post, South Korea is not a bastion of Democracy as advertised.
Your post also says a lot about Japan and their global reach.
If you cannot dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit WC Fields
January 14, 2020 at 2:16 AM #250252
Appreciate your comments @mrdmk.
I have been doing a lot of study on northeast Asian politics and history for the last few years, with a focus on Korea. It is the cold war San Francisco system which elevated Japan’s status soon after its defeat in WWII. It’s hard to find impartial analysis in the English language because the US and UK favor Japan, and Japan is active in promulgating its perspective in the English language media abroad.
As the headlines in South Korea are dominated by the current dispute with Japan and US demands lacking a sound diplomatic foundation, my search for resources on the subject of the so called San Francisco system came upon this surprisingly prescient and insightful undergraduate honors thesis disclosing the historical roots of the current problems among and between the three states.
I’m only disclosing content taken from the abstract to give the general premise of the 117 page thesis to anyone who may be interested:
The Casualties of U.S. Grand Strategy:
Korean Exclusion from the San Francisco Peace Treaty and the Pacific Pact
By Syrus Jin April 2019
…Through a series of short-term tactical decisions, U.S. diplomats also transformed the San Francisco Peace Treaty with Japan from a post-war agreement of reconciliation and moral redress into a Cold War device that would reinstate Japanese strategic advantages, albeit under American control. Emblematic of this shift was the exclusion of Korea from both the peace treaty itself and its complementary defense negotiations. State Department officials avoided the responsibility of resolving persisting wartime issues even while attempting to implement a new postwar vision for
Asia. U.S. diplomats had long-standing racialized assumptions about Korean cultural and political inferiority which corresponded with Americans’ growing distaste for rehashing the legacy of Japanese imperialism in Asia. The stark reality was that Cold War geopolitics had left little room for long-term multilateralist visions for the future. By failing to address Korean concerns in the San Francisco Peace Treaty and its complementary defense structure, the U.S. in turn generated a postwar design for the Asia-Pacific guided solely by efforts to maximize American tactical advantages in both diplomatic and military contexts, to its long-term detriment.
The US attempt to build an Indo-Pacific Alliance out of the bilateral relationships it has with South Korea, Japan, Australia and other powers, is raised currently in otherwise mystifying and relatively offensive negotiations with Seoul ostensibly over cost sharing for the US military burden in South Korea. This is a crude and undiplomatic method to do an end around the unresolved historical issues. There is no “Pacific Pact,” or NATO of East Asia. The thesis cited above discusses the historical roots of why and how that happened.
T.K. Park also known as AAK on twitter is quite knowledgeable on Korean affairs and has written a multipart series on the demise of the San Francisco system.
http://askakorean.blogspot.com/1998/02/korea-japan-and-end-of-65-system-series.html This is the index. The six part series is a major analytical work by TK, imho.
Coincidentally, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa had to run to San Francisco today to deal with ongoing differences in the alliance with the US including US demands for more money to support US military maneuvers in the Indo Pacific, and US demands that South Korea commit military elements to a US led task force operating near the Straits of Hormuz. A representative from the Japanese Foreign Ministry is expected to be present also with Mr. Pompeo.
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