Flavour of The Month: The Chaebol Recipe Is Still Hard to Swallow

chaebol_recipeThough August has yet to arrive until next week, this taste sensation can not be denied, so please pardon my haste in posting.  I also note that, once again, my psychic link to certain editors at the JoongAng Ilbo is resonating. Upon penning an unctuous article on the president’s “creative economy” shiz-nizzle
(Park thanks tycoons for support on creativity), an companion editorial observes that:

The innovation incubator project underscores the country’s reliance on our chaebol (a major weakness). The large conglomerate groups were put in charge of hosting innovation centers according to their corporate home bases…Whether the projects can last and bear fruit is also questionable because of the pretentious way the government and chaebol address the project. Large companies announced investment plans in time for the center opening and the arrival of the president. The heads of the 17 conglomerates that took part in the project were invited to a luncheon at the Blue House. Now the president has also decided to include jailed corporate heads on the list of special pardons on Aug. 15, Liberation Day… other conditions should be right to encourage start-ups.
Start-ups (should) not be afraid of failure if there are sufficient programs to support them in their new ventures.
Start-ups and innovation cannot sprout under heavy layers of regulations and (under) a discouraging business culture.
Various funding and support programs should come under one roof (with simplified procedures for implementation).
The centers must be able to assist individuals and companies in the entire process of starting a business or venture.
The innovation network should not end as the showpiece of an administration that lasts five years (but be a part of a sustained, bi-partisan effort – without the politics).

Meaning, these chaebol heads take nice pictures with the prezildent and smile but, unless pushed and unconditionally held to a meaningful program of a sustained hands-off, support for entrepreneurs (start-up companies), this whole “creative economy” is just 17 ways to float down the four rivers, while Korea is stuck up shitzzle creek without a paddle.

UPDATE: July 29, Wenesday

The JoongAng Ilbo has added further depth to their observations in a new article, in regards to the waste of resources due to poor management, oversight and a lack of political will to make a sustained effort in developing a better business climate:

Lee Byung-woo, head of the South Chungcheong center, pointed out earlier this month that the new centers for creative economy and innovation overlap with existing local government-backed institutions designed to support start-ups, such as the techno parks scattered nationwide that actually accommodate the creative economy centers.

however,

Techno parks and creative economy centers are supposed to be partners. The former caters to already established companies and the latter to start-ups,” said Koh Hyung-kwon, head of the Creative Economy Initiative for Public-Private Partnership, which overseas the creative economy center project.

These heads seem confused as to what is what. The uncertainty of politics almost certainly ensures that this creative shizzle will be lost:

I am not sure what’s going to happen [with the creative economy centers] in three years, said an executive from one of the participating conglomerates who is now dispatched to a center. “There is a saying already that the centers will be gone at the turn of the administration. We also think the centers will pretty much be temporary.

 

Trump on US-ROK Cost Sharing Agreement: “It’s Crazy”

Trump's Misguided Comment about Korea - USA Military Spending

(Current) Republican presidential nominee front runner Donald Trump blew a sour note in Korean media, criticizing South Korea for riding the backs of U.S. taxpayers for its security while giving “nothing” in return.   According to the Korea Herald,

Trump made the remark during a campaign speech in South Carolina on Tuesday, mentioning South Korea apparently as a nation similar to Saudi Arabia that he accused of enjoying a security free ride on U.S. taxpayers’ money while giving “nothing” in return.

“I like the Saudis … They buy all sorts of my stuff, all kinds of toys from Trump. They pay me millions and hundreds of millions. But you know what? They make a billion dollars a day, folks, and whenever they’re in trouble, our military takes care. You know we get nothing,” he said.

“South Korea,” he said before a member of the audience apparently shouted “crazy.”

“Who said that? Stand up, stand up. He said it’s crazy. It’s true! It’s true! It’s crazy. They make a billion dollars a day,” Trump said.

Trump did not elaborate on South Korea, but in 2011, ahead of the 2012 presidential election, he made a similar remark that the U.S. is protecting South Korea, but “they don’t pay us.”

Seoul and Washington reached a new five-year Special Measures Agreement (SMA) last year, with Seoul agreeing to increase its contribution 5.8% to $867 million adjusted each year by formula for inflation with increases capped at 4%.  The agreement increased Korea’s cost share from approximately 40% to 42% and proved unpopular with Korean media and among Koreans.


 

Arirang TV broadcast two different segments.  In the first segment Mark Broome cited Trump’s “critical comment”.  In the later segment, the visibly ambivalent Broome cited Trump’s “misguided comment” and opined that “the flamboyant American billionaire… might want to get his facts straight.

Here’s the first, “critical comment” video:

…and here’s the “misguided comment” video:

Arirang Television is operated by the Korea International Broadcasting Foundation (KIBF).

 

Addendum: Ruthless-Non-Jewish Samsung Wins

Addendum, July 20:

Ruthless-Non-Jewish Samsung Wins . . .

Bloomberg has a further analysis of the merger deal and why Korea and Park Geun Hye was the loser in the deal:

Long before the South Korean media began indulging in anti-Semitism, Samsung’s recent effort to pull a fast one on its own investors was already firmly in insult territory. The company’s affront extended both to shareholders and to the Korean public.
The bid by Samsung’s de facto holding company, Cheil Industries, to buy Samsung C&T at a laughably below-market price was a naked power grab by the company’s founding Lee family, but Samsung so dominates South Korea that it managed on Friday to convince the subsidiary’s shareholders to ignore their own interests.
The merger marks a defeat for South Korean President Park Geun Hye, who won office in late 2012 with promises to rein in the family-owned companies that stifle Korean innovation. Friday’s vote was Park’s economic Waterloo, the moment her government decisively lost the fight against the oligarchs.

The article is here.

Flavor of the Month – A Mysterious Ingredient Is Added

He burned coal while sitting inside his car.
He is now dead.

This someone is an employee of the NIS that has killed themselves (in Yongin).

As the reader may recall, On July 8, WikiLeaks released over 400 gigabytes of leaked data from Italian surveillance malware vendor Hacking Team, which included correspondence between officials from South Korea’s 5163 Army Division – a code name for the NIS – and the company about its remote control spyware system.

Now, an 46-year-old employee of the NIS has been found dead from apparent suicide and he left a will inside the car, along with his body, that discusses his family and work, namely the hacking activities of the NIS:

The apparent suicide and the will are expected to further stoke the controversy surrounding where and how the NIS used the hacking program. The software program, which uses Remote Control System technology, allows hackers to manipulate and track smartphones and computers by installing spyware.
The NIS said it bought the program made by an Italian company in 2012 and confirmed it can be used to hack into up to 20 mobile phones simultaneously.(cite)

Of course the NIS has denied it has been snooping on people with the software, in a statement, asking “Why would the NIS carry out surveillance on our own people?”

[gobsmacked!]

Update, July 19

The suicide note left by the agent claimed the spy agency had not used the software for domestic spying (cite):

A South Korean intelligence agent found dead in an apparent suicide left a note denying his team had used spyware to tap the mobile phones and computers of private citizens in the latest scandal involving the spy agency.

which leads me to wonder – why would an agent kill himself for not doing something wrong or was he simply a depressed man?
Either way, may God bless and help him and his family.

Ruthless-Non-Jewish Samsung Wins

Samsung has won the merger war:

. . . C&T shareholders approved the contested merger, with almost 70% voting in favour. (Earlier in the day Cheil’s shareholders had voted unanimously to pass the bid.) (cite)

Samsung did everything it could do to win:

Watermelons and walnut cakes were hand-delivered to shareholders’ homes; text messages implored them to toe the line. Solemn front-page advertisements, which ran in almost every local newspaper this week, put forward an “earnest plea to shareholders.

however, nothing stays the same:

Whatever the legal outcome, Elliott’s continuing defiance will be an irritant to Samsung and the Lee family. Its protest—a rare challenge by a foreign activist fund to South Korea’s biggest business group—has stirred public debate in the country about its corporate-governance standards, at a time when disenchantment with the families that own its large corporations, or chaebol, is growing. Local minority shareholders have rallied in online communities over the past six weeks. Many hoped C&T’s biggest single investor, South Korea’s National Pension Service (NPS), would oppose the bid—just as it did recently with a similar in-house merger at another chaebol, SK Telecom. However, the NPS appears to have cast its vote in favour this time.

Other “ants” or smaller shareholders, such as Grace Jeon had plenty to say about the merger:

Grace Jeon, a 53-year-old freelancer from the city of Ilsan, is one of those shareholders (ants). . . Ms. Jeon said in an interview ahead of the vote that she planned to oppose the merger, which she called an attempt to push through family succession over the best interests of small shareholders.
“This merger is for Lee Jae-yong, by Lee Jae-yong and of Lee Jae-yong,” she said in an interview, referring to the 47 year-old son of Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee. She added that foreign shareholders deserve the same rights. (cite)

One commenter in the Economist article raised issues with how Samsung had conducted its campaign, based on what amounts to Samsung’s sponsored libel against Elliot Partners and Jews, in general:

The ugliness is, in part, that Samsung resorted to blunt hateful Jew-hating cartoons posted on C&T’s own website depicting Elliott’s Jewish CEO as a vulture. And Samsung refused to acknowledge, let alone stop this until a NY Observer story was picked up by the AP and spread around the world. Only then did the company issue a standard retraction. Samsung also appears to be behind a campaign pushed by a company called Mediapen whose former head and large shareholder is a deputy minister in the South Korean government, which included their own materials and enlisted columnists and TV to write about “ruthless” Jewish money. This campaign includes saying that Jewish “money” controls Institutional Shareholder Services Inc., a US shareholder advisory service – which conveniently of course ignores the fact that the Korea Corporate Governance Service advised against the deal.
So the lesson for me, other than not buying Samsung products, is that the Lee family is ruthless though they are not Jewish.

Of course I really hope the commenter is not living in Korea since he might have a problem with such a litigious and ruthless-non-Jewish company as Samsung.

Update:

S.Korea pension advisory committee says regrets being bypassed on Samsung:

The advisory committee on Friday requested that the fund
revise its internal rules and regulations to minimise potential
controversy on future decisions, without elaborating further.

Would they have recommended against this merger since the board had already made up their minds before the vote?

Flavour of the Month – We Know Who You Really Should Vote for

On July 8, WikiLeaks released over 400 gigabytes of leaked data from Italian surveillance malware vendor Hacking Team, which included correspondence between officials from South Korea’s 5163 Army Division – a code name for the NIS – and the company about its remote control spyware system. The local intelligence office has been suspected of spying on civilians since the Park Chung Hee era, but due to such suspicions, it was unable to acquire the spyware systems necessary to infiltrate mobile devices for legitimate espionage activities…the NIS is obligated to clearly explain why it purchased the wireless monitoring device so discreetly and for what purpose it has been used. Since the agency did not obtain a court warrant, those kinds of surveillance activities are illegal. (more)

The NIS has a lot more going on than is in the newspapers too (backdoors into software (Kakao (?) and Samsung phones, etc.)

Pardon My “National Development”

The president has more ideas for national development:

ex-felonWe need to carry out pardons to promote national development and forge national reconciliation” on the occasion of the 70th Liberation Day,” President Park Geun-hye said Monday.
“This year marks the 70th anniversary of Korea’s independence from Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule. We will have to promote pride in Korea and make it the first year to take another giant leap, overcoming various challenges,” Park said in a regular meeting with her top aides at Cheong Wa Dae.
The President ordered her top aides to examine the scope and target of special pardons next month as part of celebrations of the 70th anniversary. Park vowed to limit presidential rights of special pardons during her presidential campaign in 2012. Park exercised special pardons once so far only for minor crimes committed by those living in poverty on Lunar New Year’s Day last year. . . Park’s remarks immediately raised questions over whether imprisoned business tycoons will be affected by the special pardons. (cite)

Of course, only convicted felons know what is best for Korea since the current leadership doesn’t seem to know.

UPDATE: July 16, Thursday

The Saenuri response to this idea?

I will propose to the president to grant magnanimous pardons to convicted businessmen and politicians within the scope that is acceptable to the public so that it will serve as an opportunity to unify the nation, . . . Rep. Won Yoo-chul, the Saenuri Party’s new floor leader

As I might paraphrase: 유유상종

Samsung Versus the Ants & the Jews – A Never-ending Saga of Korean Shizz-biz

Greece is not the only suspenseful yes-or-no vote that has been on everyone’s minds as of late.

Samsung is having one heck of a knock-down shareholders fight. This Friday will be the day that Samsung C&T shareholders will vote on its future and “essentially the fate of the whole conglomerate and determine whether they approve its merger with Cheil Industries, the de facto holding company of Samsung Group.” (cite)

To summarize the situation:

Samsung Group, South Korea’s largest conglomerate made up of 67 companies, is controlled by the powerful Lee family via a complex web of cross-shareholding. Samsung C&T owns 4.06 percent of the group’s crown jewel, Samsung Electronics, with the value of its stake in the electronics giant standing at more than 7.6 trillion won ($6.7 billion) alone. Samsung Life Insurance controls 7.2 percent, while Cheil controls 19.3 percent of Samsung Life Insurance.
Last but not least, Jay Y. Lee owns 23 percent of Cheil, with his sisters Lee Boo-jin and Lee Seo-hyun controlling 7.7 percent each. Lee Kun-hee, the Samsung Group chairman, owns 3.4 percent.
Although Cheil has nothing to do with financial businesses on paper, it acts essentially like a financial holding company, controlling a significant stake in Samsung Life Insurance.
The merger between Samsung C&T and Cheil is certain to help the Lee family exert more influence over Samsung Electronics and is seen as a necessary step as the conglomerate prepares to make a generational change from the now-hospitalized Lee Kun-hee to his 47-year old son.

This is a very big deal, for example:

South Korea’s $422bn National Pension Service is poised to make one of the most high-pressure interventions in its 28-year history, with a vote that could swing the fate of a key merger in the Samsung group. . . The NPS holds big stakes in both companies — a situation that has highlighted the huge domestic clout of the world’s fifth-biggest pension fund, while heightening calls from activists for it to take a lead in defending South Korean corporate governance standards. . . The NPS is at the centre of the whole controversy — it’s created an awkward situation for them,” says Park Yoo-kyung, an investment adviser at the Dutch fund APG Asset Management, which holds a stake in Samsung C&T. . . Analysts say that this week’s vote is likely to be close and that the NPS — Samsung C&T’s biggest shareholder with 11.9 per cent — could decide the outcome. . . the NPS has courted controversy by making its decision in-house without turning to an advisory committee set up to assist with difficult voting decisions. That committee has shown willingness to oppose controversial management decisions, last month opposing a merger of two SK group companies citing similar objections to those made by Elliott in the Samsung case.

Line of marching ants with 11 different ant images
Samsung small investors are angry and are marching . . .

One shareholder, Elliott Associates LP (hedge fund), intensified its opposition to Samsung Group’s proposed merger of two units, a day before the U.S. hedge fund’s dispute with South Korea’s largest conglomerate went to court in Seoul. (cite) Elliot has also attracted the many small investors, referred to in South Korea as being “ants”, and have joined forces with Elliott.
According to Elliot, Cheil Industries Inc.’s offer to buy Samsung C&T Corp. is “unlawful” and creates “open-ended regulatory risks,” the fund headed by billionaire activist Paul Elliott Singer said in an online presentation on Thursday that laid out its case against the deal.
According to some analysts, this “showdown” between Samsung and Elliot Associates will shake up South Korea.

“Lawyers say the controversy will also prompt a rethink of the rules governing mergers between sister companies, which allowed the lowball offer in the first place. In any case, the backlash should make the chaebols less dismissive of outside shareholders.”

Meanwhile, South Korean media, in a typical demonstration of some of its totally irrational bias has managed to infuriate Jews:

jewish_bankerJewish organizations over the weekend denounced what they say are anti-Semitic statements in the South Korean media blaming Jews for attempts to block a corporate merger between two subsidiaries of the Samsung conglomerate. The Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center have called upon the Asian country’s government and on Samsung to repudiate the claims, which have appeared in a number of business publications supportive of the deal.
The target of the opprobrium is Paul Singer, the Jewish head of the Elliot Associates hedge fund, which owns a seven percent stake in Samsung C&T, which seeks to merge with Chiel Industries.
According to South Korean financial publication MoneyToday, “Elliott is led by a Jew, Paul E. Singer, and ISS [an advisory firm that analyzed the merger] is an affiliate of Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI), whose key shareholders are Jewish. According to a source in the finance industry, Jews have a robust network demonstrating influence in a number of domains.”
Meanwhile, Mediapen, another local publication, asserted that Jews are known to wield enormous power on Wall Street and in global financial circles” and that it is a “well-known fact that the US government is swayed by Jewish capital.” (cite)

Per Mediapen: “Jewish money, it reported, “has long been known to be ruthless and merciless.”

Mind you, it would be irresponsible to note that South Korean media also has long been known to be unprofessional and racist, especially considering their important role in revealing the hordes of HIV/AIDS infested, foreigners and the ongoing foreigner-driven crime-wave. The JDL and others have to realize that Koreans actually admire Jewish thought since the Talmud has been transmogrified into Korean.

Flaming Flags

South Korea Flag Burning

Seoul Metropolitan Police filed on May 31 for an arrest warrant against a 24-year old Korean man, identified only by his surname Kim, for flag desecration.  According to the Hankyoreh,  Kim “burned a piece of paper showing an image of the South Korean flag while facing off with police who had erected a vehicle barricade at a memorial demonstration for the first anniversary of the Sewol ferry sinking.”

Kim is accused of setting fire to the paper showing the South Korean flag in front of the barricade of police buses after large sections of major roads around Gwanghwamun Square in downtown Seoul were closed off during the Sewol memorial demonstration on April 18. After images of the scene appeared in the press and politicians began calling for harsh punishment, police spent 40 days tracking Kim’s activities before finally arresting him on May 29 at a park in Anyang, Gyeonggi Province.

…In requesting an arrest warrant, police also charged Kim with general traffic obstruction, failure to obey an order to disperse, and damage to public property (a police bus).

The most interesting charge pertains to Article 105 of the Criminal Act, Pofanation of the National Flag or Emblem:

A person who damages, removes or stains the national flag or the national emblem for the purpose of insulting the Republic of Korea shall be punished by imprisonment or imprisonment without prison labor for not more than five years, suspension of qualifications without prison labor for not more than five years, suspension of qualifications for no t more than 10 years, or a fine of not more than seven million won.

Article 105 specifically requires intent or “purpose of insulting the Republic of Korea” for the charge of flag desecration.

According to the op. cited Hanky article, “during questioning by police, Kim said he ‘did not have the aim of desecrating the flag,’ adding that he set fire to it ‘spontaneously out of rage at the police’s unjust use of authority.’  Kim’s attorney, Jeong Min-yeong, said Kim ‘only set fire to the flag as an expression of protest at the police’s excessive suppression tactics. There was no other aim besides that.'”

Chief of the SMPA’s second investigation section Kim Geun-man said,”the purpose of his flag burning is still under investigation.  It has not been confirmed whether Mr. Kim is affiliated with any specific groups.”

An attorney with the group MINBYUN-Lawyers for a Democratic Society, Park Ju-min commented “we should take a separate view when it comes to criticizing the government’s exercise of public authority, as opposed to insulting the state.”


For those who wonder “what constitutes a flag” and for comparison, U.S. code uses the term “flag of the United States” to mean “any flag of the United States, or any part thereof, made of any substance, of any size, in a form that is commonly displayed.”  In short, that Kim burned a paper picture of a Korean flag is likely a non-starter as a principle of defense.

U.S. law also has provisions for criminal prosecution of U.S. flag desecration:

§700. Desecration of the flag of the United States; penalties
(a)(1) Whoever knowingly mutilates, defaces, physically defiles, burns, maintains on the floor or ground, or tramples upon any flag of the United States shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both.

U.S. code considers flag desecration damaging the U.S. flag for clothing material or using the U.S. flag for a beach blanket.  I found nothing in Korea’s Criminal Act that criminalizes such uses.

Korea’s Criminal Act, Article 109 (Profanation of Foreign Flag or Foreign Emblem) also criminalizes damaging, removing, or staining a foreign national flag or emblem for the purposes of insulting a foreign country.  Article 110 requires, in effect, the consent of the foreign government concerned, which might explain the absence of criminal prosecutions when Koreans burn U.S. flags in protest.

The key difference is that the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently held that flag desecration as a form of political protest, even against the United States, is protected speech.

I do not want to make spectator sport of another man’s life, but I hope Kim is forced to mount a constitutional challenge based on political speech.  Korea’s Constitutional Court has made some head scratching rulings regarding political speech in Korea, and the Constitutional Court’s prior rulings paint itself into a corner.

UPDATE:  Arrest warrant rejected for protester who burned national flag

A local court refused to issue an arrest warrant Tuesday for a protestor accused of burning taegeukgi, the Korean national flag, during a rally in April after concluding that the incident as an impulsive act

…Seoul Central District Court said, “It seems that Kim was stirred up, inflicting an injury on himself on the arm during the rally, and burned the flag impulsively and unpremeditatedly.”

It said that the prosecution would be able to investigate Kim without arresting him, considering that he did not commit the crime systematically or with other accomplices, that he has reflected on his acts and that he has no previous criminal record.

Seeking the warrant prompted criticism of the police and the prosecution, because it is unusual to do so for burning a taegeukgi.

There have been many incidents during which protestors, conservative and progressive, have burned the national flag during rallies. But such people have usually not faced indictment, as the law states only those who damage the national flag “with intention to defame the country” are subject to punishment.

 

United Nations to ROK: Testing Foreigners for AIDS to check ‘values and morality’ Is Discrimination

UNHRSeveral years back, an English teacher refused to take a second test for AIDS because she believed the testing was “discriminatory and an affront to her dignity” and was refused a contract renewal by the city of Ulsan. The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination took up the case and has decided that this is discrimination against foriengers and that they teacher should be compensated for lost revenue by the South Korean Government.

One article states that:

South Korean nationals in equivalent jobs were not required to do so (be tested for AIDS).
South Korea has said it scrapped the HIV/AIDS tests for expatriate teachers in 2010 (they knew it was discriminatory). The Geneva-based Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said the HIV/AIDS test “does not appear to be justified on public health grounds or any other ground and is a breach of the right to work without distinction to race, colour, national or ethnic origin”.
It called on South Korea to grant Ms Griffin “adequate compensation for the moral and material damages she suffered”.
It also said South Korea should “counter any manifestations of xenophobia, through stereotyping or stigmatising, of foreigners by public officials, the media and the public at large”, and gave the country 90 days to inform the committee of the steps it has taken. (cite)

This much delayed vindication should also be a reminder of just how low politicians (like Lee Ju-yeong or Kim Han-gil) can get in their pursuit of bad ideas (cite).

Much thanks to Professor Benjamin Wagner for news of this recent development.

Strange Denials

South Gyeongsang Province Gov. Hong Joon-pyo (Yonhap)

Prosecutors will question South Gyeongsang Province Govenor Hong Joon-pyo Friday at 10 a.m. over allegations that he received 100 million won from late Keangnam chairman Sung Woan-jong in 2011.  Sung named Hong and the amount in a note found in Sung’s shirt pocket on Sung’s dead body the day Sung committed suicide.  Hong is the first of the eight fingered in Sung’s note to be questioned by the prosecution.

Hong is a former prosecutor who launched a political career in the 2000’s after prosecuting many high-profile corruption cases in the 1980’s – 1990’s.  Friday he will face questioning from his former “junior prosecutors“:

The prosecution decided to call in Hong after the authorities obtained testimony from Yoon Seong-mo, the former vice president of Keangnam Enterprises, who claimed that he was the one who carried the political funds to the former four-term lawmaker four years ago. Hong was then running for chairman of the Grand National Party, the precursor to the ruling Saenuri Party.

…The prosecution appears confident about the case as authorities have also interrogated Hong’s aide to cross-check Yoon’s testimony. For the prosecution, the outcome of summoning Hong is crucial as they are also tasked to reveal the truth behind the scandal that involves President Park Geun-hye’s close confidants including former Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo and incumbent Chief of Staff Lee Byung-kee.

“Pundits said it would not be easy to bring the ex-prosecutor to court as he knows the process well.”

Hong seems to have taken the aforementioned former Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo’s and PGH’s incumbent Chief of Staff Lee Byung-kee’s tactic of spinning the press with strange denials.  According to the Korea Herald,

The governor tried to water down the claim, raising fresh speculation that Yoon has been making inconsistent testimonies. Hong claimed Yoon’s memory was not accurate because he delivered Sung’s money to many politicians.

That not only doesn’t make me think he’s innocent but also makes me wonder how he knows Yoon “delivered Sung’s money to many politicians”?  I can only hope that prosecutors press Hong to elaborate.

Hong’s denial follows Lee Wan-koo’s threat (?) of suicide (!), Lee Byung-kee’s vow to quit immediately if any of the bribery allegations against him are proven to be true (duh), and my personal favorite, PGH’s first Chief of Staff Huh Tae-yeol’s spit-take worthy  non-sequitur “‘such money trade is unimaginable’ as then-candidate Park stressed the need for a ‘clean primary’.”

There are more, but I’ve got to towel off my keyboard.


(Featured photo:  South Gyeongsang Province Gov. Hong Joon-pyo. (Yonhap))

 

Another Saenuri Victory

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So the most recent parliamentary election results are in and it appears that the Saenuri Party has defied expectations and won. Again.

Despite the fact that Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo resigned after serving for only two months; despite the fact Sung Wan-jong made his now infamous list of people before committing suicide; despite the fact that many have accused the government’s handling of the Sewol protests as excessive; despite the fact that a lot of buzz has been made about the timing of President Park Geun-hye’s South American trip; despite her plummeting  popularity – the Saenuri Party won three out of the four contested parliamentary voting districts. The one race that it didn’t win was in Gwangju – the NPAD’s stronghold. That seat was swept up by an independent lawmaker who had defected from the NPAD.

This election was supposed to have been an easy win for the NPAD – a symbolic “f-you” to the president. And it failed. Again.

It might be worthwhile to read Steven Denney’s article “What’s Wrong with South Korea’s Liberals?” again. Not to mention Joshua Stanton’s reply to Steven Denney’s question.

So what happens to Mr. Moon Jae-in now? As the NPAD’s chairman, he was supposed to direct the party’s political goals and objectives to help it make big gains in next year’s general election. On a more personal level, he was supposed to be the NPAD’s once and future king when he inevitably makes his second presidential bid.

Will Mr. Moon follow in the footsteps of Ahn Cheol-soo and Kim Han-gil and resign from the party’s leadership after taking responsibility for the electoral loss? Or will he stay and attempt to duke it out with the left’s other rising star, Mayor Park Won-soon?

Either way, at least for now, the Saenuri Party seems unstoppable. Rather inexplicably.

 

EDIT: I guess it wasn’t that easy for the NPAD to have won.

Seoul Ed Superintendent likely expelled

…and in other corruption news….

The Seoul Central District Court convicted Cho Hee-yeon, superintendent of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, of disseminating false information against his rival during last year’s election.  The Seoul Central District Court Wednesday fined Cho five million won (US$4,600) for spreading false rumors against his conservative rival Koh Seung-duk during the election campaign.

Under current election law, any fine for “running a smear campaign” in excess of one million won leads to an automatic nullification of one’s election.

Cho is appealing to the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court upholds the Seoul District Court’s decision, Cho will forfeit his office and be made to return three billion won in campaign funds. The Supreme Court’s decision is expected to be announced in one year.  (One year???)

Cho, the only liberal candidate and a former sociology professor, earned a surprise victory in the election for Seoul education chief last June, beating two favorites, including conservative rival Koh Seung-duk, a lawyer turned politician.

The Seoul District Court found that Cho disseminated false information about  Koh by claiming Koh was a permanent resident of the United States and used his permanent resident status to educate his two children in the U.S.  Koh publicly explained that he did not hold permanent U.S. residency and his children were U.S. citizens by birth.   The court found that Cho continued to accuse Koh with the allegations even after providing a valid explanation.

Cho is the third of four Seoul education superintendents and latest Seoul education superintendent to be convicted of violating Korea’s election laws.  In 2009, Gong Jeong-taek lost his post after the Supreme Court fined him 1.5 million won for receiving bribes to bankroll his election campaign.  In 2012, Kwak No-hyun lost his office after the Supreme Court upheld his conviction on charges of bribing Park Myoung-gee to withdraw from the 2010 election for the job.  The court sentenced Kwak to one year in jail and made him return 3.52 billion won he received as a refund for campaign costs.

What of our one beacon of hope?   “Cho’s predecessor, Moon Yong-lin, was also put on trial on similar charges after he stepped down.”

So the soap opera is told and unfolds
I suppose it’s old, partner, but the beat goes on
Da da dum da dum da da….

PM offers to resign, President Park meets with K-Pop fans in Peru

Prime Minister Offers to Resign

Oh, how the blogging gods have conspired against me.  I have been working on pieces and considering titles: “Prime Minister impeached, President Park impickled” and “PM impeached, PGH in Peru“.

Alas, they are not to be.

According to the Korea Herald, Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo submitted his resignation today to President Park Geun-hye amid accusations that he took bribes from Sung Won-jong.  Sung named Lee Wan-koo among seven others in a note found on Sung’s dead body, which was found hanging from a tree in an apparent suicide.

“Prime Minister Lee offered his intention to resign to President Park as of April 20,” the Prime Minister’s Office said. “The president will decide whether to accept his resignation or not after she returns from her trip.”  A presidential spokesman, Min Kyung-wook, accompanying her in Lima, Peru, confirmed the announcement of the Prime Minister’s Office.

President Park is currently in the middle of a 12-day Latin America trip.  Park departed on the first anniversary of the Sewol Ferry sinking, this Korean generation’s where were you moment akin to Americans’ Pearl Harbor, FDR death, JFK assassination, John Lennon murder, or WTC 9/11 attack, and amid the growing bribery scandal that threatens not only Korea’s government’s credibility but also constitutional succession:  the prime minister is first in line in case of the South Korean president’s incapacitation.

Despite (or perhaps because of) the Sewol Ferry sinking’s first anniversary, the crisis engulfing PGH’s presidency, and by-elections on April 29, less than two days after President Park’s return,  Blue House Foreign Affairs and National Security Secretary Ju Cheol-gi said in a media brief one day before PGH’s departure, “there is no good reason to delay the trip, and it must go forward as planned. We have to create opportunities to help the economy, and ethnic Koreans in Central and South America are looking forward to the trip, so we will do what needs to be done.”

President Park is scheduled to return to Korea next Monday and as of this writing has no plans to cut short such an important tour of South America.  “President Park Geun-hye met with hallyu fans in Peru, Sunday, during the second leg of her South American tour. …Park’s encounter with 14 Peruvian hallyu enthusiasts took place at a hotel in Lima at the request of some of the fan clubs.”

President Park meets with K-Pop fans in Peru
President Park pictured at an important meeting with part of and receiving a present (???) from a contingent of 14 K-Pop fans in Peru

“I heard that members of the fan clubs learn Korean dance and ‘hangeul’ (Korean alphabet) together,” Park said. “These activities will bring our two countries closer,” she added.

Park’s other important accomplishments on this trip include a pledge from Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to accelerate efforts toward ratification of their free trade agreement (FTA,) which was signed more than two years ago.

I have seen no press information whether members of the Korean press corp have deigned to ask President Park “might she return?”

(Damn you, blogging gods.)


UPDATE:  PM’s resignation tender written large on CNN’s front page.  According to CNN’s article, “Park is in Peru and is expected to arrive back to South Korea on April 27.”

CNN Front page April 21, 2015

(I have no further updates on the K-Pop diplomacy initiative.)

Random Thoughts from the First Anniversary of the Sewol Accident

Absconding President and Angry Parents

On the day of the first anniversary of the accident that took more than 300 lives, President Park Geun-hye hurriedly absconded the country for a previously scheduled 12-day tour of four South American countries.

Her decision to leave the country on that particular day has been the source of much tongue wagging, for understandable reasons, as can be seen from John Power’s tweet here.

(For those who do not read Korean, Power’s tweet translates to: “Are there cases in other countries where the president has left on the first anniversary of a big tragedy?”)

The president’s decision does, indeed, stink, just like the way the government’s response to the aftermath of the tragedy has stunk for the past year. But would her being at the ceremony helped? What would it have accomplished?

When President Park visited the memorial site in the morning before she left for South America, the families of the victims refused to meet with her. Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo was also blocked from paying his respects by the families. Never mind that he was not in office when the Sewol accident took place.

 

Prime Minister being blocked from paying his respects
Prime Minister Lee being blocked from paying his respects

 

People on this blog have told me that the president should have “bitten the bullet.” But what kind of bullet would she have bitten? It’s quite clear that the families are not looking for an apology from the president. They don’t even want to see her or allow her to pay her respects or even allow her cabinet ministers to do the same.

Their anger is understandable. However, seeing how they do not seem to wish to have their anger assuaged, at least not by President Park, I do not see how the president’s presence at the ceremony would have helped to improve things in any way, shape, or form.

It’s true that President Park has handled the aftermath of the sinking very poorly, amateurish, in fact. There is no question about that. However, as I have said before, I am convinced that her decision to leave the country yesterday may have been the least bad decision that she could have made about attending the ceremony.

For reasons that could have been avoided, President Park has become such a toxic figure to so many people that her presence there would have only exacerbated matters.

 

Korea the Police State?

Here is the way Merriam-Webster defines “police state.”

A political unit characterized by repressive governmental control of political, economic, and social life usually by an arbitrary exercise of power by police and especially secret police in place of regular operation of administrative and judicial organs of the government according to publicly known legal procedures.

There was a time when this description DID apply to South Korea. The Park Chung-hee and Chun Doo-hwan administrations come immediately to mind.

Other examples of police states that come to mind are North Korea, Nazi Germany, East Germany, the Soviet Union, and Apartheid South Africa.

Modern-day South Korea, however, is NOT an example of a police state. Regardless of anyone’s rhetoric.

So why am I bringing this up? That’s because any time a massive rally or protest takes place, and the protesters are met by thousands of police officers, people never seem to fail to mention, carelessly I might add, that Korea is either turning into a police state or is already a police state.

For instance, Se-Woong Koo, the editor-in-chief of Korea Exposé published this image on his Facebook page, which he captioned by saying:

“The sad reality of South Korea: a police state protected by frightened barely legal kids wielding video cameras from people holding flowers.”

Simply because there is a large police force in an area where thousands of mourning (and potentially angry) protesters have all gathered together for a common cause just a stone’s throw away from the Blue House does not mean that the country has turned into a police state.

Mr. Koo is not the only person to be guilty of resorting to this type of logic. Many people think the same way.

What I do not understand is the mentality behind it. Why is it that it never seems to occur to some people that it was precisely the presence of huge numbers of police officers on the scene that prevented potential rioting without actually having to use excessive force? Why do some people immediately jump to the conclusion that any police presence is “excessive” or “an overreaction?”

More importantly, what would those same people be saying today had there not been such a police force and the ceremony had become more violent?

And it is not that hard to imagine that any mob could grow violent. The fact of the matter is that violent protests are not unheard of in Korea. There have been times when what started out as peaceful protests ended with arson (see here and here). There was also that one time when the chief of the Jongno Police Precinct was assaulted by demonstrators in what was supposedly a peaceful political protest against the ROK-US free trade agreement.

Just because yesterday’s rally was not marred by violence does not mean that the police can afford to take chances and simply assume that thousands of mournful and angry protesters in Gwanghwamun Square will not decide to do something as foolish as trying to storm the Blue House.

The police erred on the side of caution. This is something to be praised, not derided.

So what police state are people talking about? I don’t see one. Do you?