The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

Category: South Korean Politics (page 2 of 46)

Flavour of the Month – Wait, I’ve Tasted This One Before . . .

“Regrettably, wrong practices of the NIS and holes in its management system have been revealed (yet again). . . The NIS must make excruciating efforts to overhaul itself to make sure this kind of incident won’t repeat itself.”
<The prez> (cite)

Wait, the NIS is under the direct control of the president, so does that not mean that the president should be in charge of fixing their “wrong practices” and this on the heels of the NIS electioneering in the last presidential election and the subsequent attempt to “fix” the NIS!?

The difficulty of the birth of a new party – what Ahn is up to

I belong to the camp that tends to criticize President Park and I guess I am more left leaning than right in my political disposition due to various factors such as my background, age, socio-economic and education level. So far, the less she speaks the better it has been, and with respect to Japan, grudgingly I have to admit that Abe’s consequent actions have vindicated her somewhat.

In my opinion one of the fundamental problems with Korean politics is that there is simply little choice for people like me because there is no character or party ideal that can effectively represent the more moderate views. Due to the turbulent history of South Korea since its inception (or going back even further with regionalism – Cholla-do/Kyungsang-do divide goes way back into the times of the dynasty) the left has had to take a very revolutionary approach against the military dictatorship and is always addled with accusations of inciting, protesting, mass-demonstrating, colluding (with people up North).

Perhaps it is to depart from this extreme ways that we were backing Ahn Chulsu during the last pre-election. Since the last election, he has been quiet and trying to gather some people for the creation of a new party for what he calls “새정치 new politics”. This kind of reminds me of what Tony Blair tried to do with “New Labour”.

So far, the characters in Ahn’s camp: Song Hochang has caught my eye (I saw him on 김구라 Kim Kura’s semi-political entertainment show “적과의 동침” – despite the fact Song is meant to have jokingly denied being on “Ahn’s camp” saying he is 무소속 independent” on the same show. I have much hope for him so hopefully our commenter Salaryman will find some faults with him in no time.

More Recently, the inclusion of Yoon Yeohjoon, an old haraboji character who likes to flip political sides as much as a grandma flips kimchi-potato-pancakes, has made many people complain, but this may just be a necessary step by Ahn to actually garner some momentum within the political scene.

More importantly, Ahn got a lot of flack for going to pay his respects at Park Junghee’s grave for the New Year – a move seen by the Minju 골수 as some sort of “coming out with his true colours as actually a Saenuri in Saejungchi’s clothing”.
To me, this really highlights the complicated issues Korea has with its own history, especially when it is criticizing the neighbour for a similar sort of behaviour.

I think the crucial step for Ahn et al. now is to generate some strong momentum, and get more good people on board. Here’s to quietly hoping, again.

So, President Park had a press conference

President Park Geun-hye gave her year-end press conference yesterday.

In case you were wondering, yes, that’s the first press conference she’s held in her term. You can read the address (and the subsequent Q&A) in Korean here.

As for the address, I didn’t find it terribly exciting. The Q&A, on the other hand, turned up some interesting nuggets.

Since many readers are interested in foreign policy, I’ll start there. President Park said she was willing to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, but she didn’t want to have “talks just for talks,” and stressed the need for environment in which talks can lead to tangible results. A lot of folk found her use of the term “jackpot” (daebak) to describe Korean reunification to be rather interesting linguistically:

“Due to prohibitively high costs, some seem to be satisfied with the status quo of separation. But reunification is a ‘jackpot’ for us as shown by the fact that famous investors vow to invest all of their wealth in Korea after reunification. Our economy will be able to rack up a quantum leap,” she said.

I hope she’s right, because the more I see of Kim Jong-un, the more I think reunification is coming sooner than later.

She also said she’d be willing to meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, but she also suggested work needed to be done before that happened. She also called on Prime Minister Abe to, well, stop being a dick:

“Since taking office, I have wished to improve the relationship between Korea and Japan. And to build mutual trust, I have stressed an appropriate historic view and a sincere attitude,” Park said.

“It is regrettable that the atmosphere has been broken repeatedly at this important time when cooperation between the two nations must be expanded.”

On the domestic front, President Park wants us to know she’s really not such a bad communicator after all. In fact, the problem is really that society apparently doesn’t know what true communication is:

“I think that we are required to understand what communication really means. It is not communication to have pointless meetings or compromise against the interests of the people,” Park said.

“Thus far, even illegal demands were accepted if they continued. It is not right to criticize me for not condoning convention. Genuine communication is possible when everybody abides by the law and the law is appropriately enforced.”

If society accepts irrational requests in the guise of communication, she said that it will end up harboring more distortions, which eventually cause more problems for the people.

I don’t think that’s going to have the intended calming effect. It goes without saying that the Hani wasn’t impressed, but heck, even the Chosun Ilbo’s editorial team wrote that if the government wants to be pursuasive, it needs to free itself of its own irregularities and chronic problems before lecturing the public. It also notes that almost nowhere in the OECD does it take the head of government a full 10 months before she gives her first press conference.

More on this later.

UPDATE: Government officials are bitching to the Dong-A Ilbo that Japanese correspondents were “rude” during the press conference. More specifically, they apparently approached President Park and asked why they hadn’t been allowed to ask any questions. One official asked whether Korean correspondents in Tokyo have ever gone up to PM Abe and asked why they weren’t allowed to ask any questions.

Well, if it makes the Japanese reporters feel any better, they weren’t the only ones not allowed to ask any questions. As TK points out, the Q&A was an entirely scripted affair. Representatives were selected according to media type—national news dailies, broadcast media, regional papers, foreign media, etc. The Dong-A- says that in the case of national dailies, a lucky draw was held (which the Dong-A and Segye Ilbo won). Foreign media are normally allotted two questioners—one from the Western press and one from Asia. This time it was Reuters and China’s CCTV. Questions were sent to Cheong Wa Dae ahead of time.

I should point out that Cheong Wa Dae’s relationship with the press—and some of the newer media in particular—is very much something to watch.

Business As Usual – Let’s Eat Chinese!

fortune_cookieThe senior members of the ruling and opposition parties met over lunch at a Chinese restaurant the other day.  Their goal was to help end the impasse between the two parties in the National Assembly.

While this seems useful, this idea to meet was reportedly put forward by Suh Chung-won and Chung Moon-joon, which is ironic if you consider Suh is an ex-felony, who was an advisor of the Saenuri Party and the current president, and was convicted of selling legislative election nominations. Suh was released in 2009, on parole, and received a special pardon last January.  As another bit of ironic and poignant hindsight, a JoongAng Ilbo article, that mentions Suh’s parole, from last June, on how the rich and politically connected find ways to stay out of jail, quotes former Prosecutor General Chae Dong-wook (a current victim of an apparent Blue House sponsored smear campaign) “who ordered prosecutors to do their best to improve the integrity of the parole system”:

“Although prosecutors succeed in laying bare the truth and winning stern punishment from courts, their efforts will be in vain if the integrity of the execution of the sentences is tainted,”

Chae sought to make the justice system function better, however, in this case, instead of an open political system that works as intended, the two main parties have resorted, once again, to private meetings with political deal makers, of which one is an ex-felon, because their “perspective” is needed to make the system work as intended!?  Well, integrity & trust is something that is an off-menu item, especially in a Chinese restaurant (a lot more irony there).

Getting Smart – A Bipartisan Plan For Reforming The NIS and Its Role in A Democracy?

The Saenuri Dang and Democratic Party have finally reached an agreement to form a special committee to reform the NIS, in light of the twitter electioneering performed by NIS agents during the last election:

. . . the NIS reform committee will have the right to review and pass bills. It will be operational through February 2014.
It will consist of seven lawmakers from each party and be headed by Representative Chung Se-kyun, a fifth-term Democratic lawmaker. “I feel an immense historical responsibility,” Chung said in a statement after being selected. “I think turning the NIS into an agency that citizens can rely on, rather than one they fear, is the task of the times.” (link)

Get_smart

Former NIS Director Won Sei-hoon took direction from . . . ?

Under the direction of Won Sei-woon, indicted former Director of the NIS, a group of NIS agents posted and reposted up to 22 million messages, in support of Park Geun-hye’s campaign:

 

 

 

Prosecutors isolated a primary group of 383 “definite” accounts, including ones admitted to by NIS agents, and found that messages from those accounts had simultaneously gone out to another 2,270 accounts, which were found to be shared by NIS agents. By looking at the total of 2,653 accounts administered by the agents, they found 22 million tweets that were posted or linked between January 2011 and December 2012.

The committee future agenda is agreed upon, only in principle, since both parties are still arguing over just how far reform should go and in what form “reform” will come in since there are upcoming elections that Saenuri Dang is worried about negative PR regarding their role in this fiasco :

(the) agreement laid out Tuesday night states that both parties will “continue discussing when to hold the special investigation, and the scope of the probe,” leaving room for further negotiations. (link)

As the editorial in the JoongAng Ilbo put it “The bipartisan initiative may be more productive than Park Geun-hye’s idea of encouraging the agency to reform itself.” (link), which, of course is like a gentleman’s spanking club – it sounds like punishment but seems more like strange entertainment.

A bipartisan plan is desperately needed to remedy the polarization of politics in South Korea, IMHO.  Per an excellent essay, about the current state of South Korean politics, by Jamie Doucette and Se-Woong Koo:

(There has been) a broader shift in political discourse (in South Korea). For the purpose of discrediting its opponents, the broader South Korean right has returned to its cavalier use of the chimerical label chongbuk chwap’a: a term commonly translated as ‘pro-North leftists,’ encompassing not only suspected proxies of North Korea but anyone seen as deferential to the wishes of the North. The term ‘chong’ means to obey or follow, with connotations of being slavish, while ‘buk’ means North. Chwap’a stands for ‘left faction,’ or leftist. The way in which chongbuk has been coupled with chwap’a as a compound term in contemporary conservative discourse attempts to erase the distinction between what were originally two very different concepts, such that in the current political climate the left become synonymous with chongbuk, and vice versa. This terminology has been used to discredit groups from across the liberal-left opposition, including not only the UPP, but also Democratic Party politicians associated with the liberal administrations of Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun. These politicians have faced vilification by the right as chongbuk for assuming a conciliatory stance towards North Korea, and for seeking to reform the state apparatus designed by former military governments to contain dissent.
In this essay, we argue that this rhetorical shift has been accompanied by an expansion of what South Korean intellectuals term ‘politics by public security,’ a phrase used to describe the use of public security as a ground for stifling dissent and criticism. What is unique about the present moment is not simply the evocation of a threat to national security but the extent to which state agencies have been actively involved in this process, whether it be in the form of direct electoral interference, the leaking of confidential state documents, or the initiation of probes into prominent critics of the government from across the liberal-progressive opposition. In what follows, we examine the recent sequence of events from NIS electoral interference to the more recent move to disband the United Progressive Party in order to better understand distorting effects to Korean democracy brought about by this recent rhetorical shift and its intricate relation to ‘politics by public security.’

The link to this essay is here.

The Revenge of Chae Dong-Wook – A Blue House Aid Busted!

bustedApparently, the trail of the person involved in discrediting General Prosecutor Chae Dong-Wook has been followed to a Blue House Staff member, who – naturally – acted without the knowledge or instructions of his superiors in the Blue House:

“Cho, who was on the Blue House general affairs team, sent a text message via mobile phone to Cho Lee-je at the Seocho District Office asking him to verify the information on June 11,” said Lee Jung-hyun, the senior presidential secretary for public affairs, at a press briefing yesterday. . . Cho, had “received the personal information of the woman and her son,”. . . The Blue House official added it was a government worker at the Ministry of Security and Public Administration who asked Cho at the Blue House to open up the woman’s family history. Cho, the Blue House staffer, also knew the other Cho at the Seocho District Office, who was previously a close aide to Won Sei-hoon, the former chief of the National Intelligence Service. . . “No one [in the upper chain of command] at the Blue House was confirmed to have asked Cho [to ask for the illegal access],” said Lee. “It was Cho’s unilateral action.”

It is still uncertain but I am sure that Blue House officials are searching to determine just how many “Cho”s were involved in this conspiracy to derail the NIS electioneering investigation.

The Blue House! – Step by Step, Inch by Inch . . .

Like an old American Vaudeville gag routine – with each step and turn, each tick of the tock from the clock on the wall, someone is going to get burned and it looks like it may be someone from the Blue House that was found to be behind the Chosun Ilbo’s libelous attack on former General Prosecutor Chae in an illegal bid to stop the investigation into the NIS electioneering.

Seeing how Saenuri Dang is looking more and more like they are going to be found behind this case, maybe Chae can give them tips on how to deal with bad publicity.

update

 

More on the duplicity of a “Blue House Staff member”:

Seocho District official Cho Lee-je claimed that he exchanged six text messages with a Blue House staffer, in which the presidential office worker requested that he illegally access the personal information of a 54-year-old woman and her 11-year-old son – the alleged paramour and illegitimate son of former Prosecutor-General Chae Dong-wook.  . . (Cho’s) remarks are a direct contradiction to the presidential office’s initial claim that no one on its staff ever made such a request.

An NIS Link to the “Character Assassination & Libel” of Chae Dong-wook?

prosecutedThe JoongAng Ilbo reports that the very source of the leaked information regarding Chae Dong-wook, and the alleged son that caused his disgrace and subsequent resignation, came from an official working within the Seocho District Office that was a former aid of Won Sei-hoon, indicted director of the spy agency.  Won Sei-hoon is the one and the same NIS head that has been charged with running the online smear campaign against the Opposition Party candidate. (cite)  The information was used by the Chosun Ilbo in a thinly disguised bit of libel that had the effect of derailing Choe’s ongoing investigation into the electioneering activities of the NIS.

The Seocho District Office official, named “Cho”, had accessed the records of Chae Dong-wook several months in advance as well as being directly connected to former NIS director Won:

. . . Cho, 53, is known to be close to Won, who appointed him as his administrative secretary when he was the public administration and security minister in 2008 under the Lee Myung-bak administration. Cho followed Won to the NIS and moved to the Seocho District Office after Won’s stint as NIS chief ended in January this year.

The prosecutor’s office seems to have done some excellent work, as of late, especially when they are motivated by injustices committed against the function of their office, however this leaves us with the question of just who ordered Won to do what he did and why?

A Giant Twittering Flock Is Not Just A Few Birds

flockA few tweets and a few agents tweeting is not very important.

Choi Kyung-hwan, floor leader of the Saenuri Party would have the public believe this, as per October 24th:

. . . Prosecutors only confirmed 2,233 [out of the 55,000 tweets] as evidence of NIS interference in the presidential race,” Choi said. “Even among the 2,233 posts, only 6 percent of them were written by NIS agents and the remaining comments were retweeted messages [originally written by average people] (link).

However, in reality, as of today:

The nation’s main spy agency issued 1.21 million tweets, or postings on social networking site Twitter, to sway voters in last year’s legislative and presidential elections, the prosecution said yesterday. . . .

As Senior Prosecutor Lee Cheong-hoe describes this:

. . . The 26,550 initial postings are actual texts without counting overlapping messages. They were duplicated and reposted, raising the total to 1.21 million. . . The power of propagation is important in an election, so we believe all 1.21 million postings are illegal.”

The JoongAng Ilbo rightly describes this as “wholesale meddling” in the last election:

The huge number of tweets and retweets by the agents in the controversial case contradicts the top spy agency’s previous explanations that the posting of online messages was done individually by agents. . . One of the most shocking allegations is that the NIS used professional programs (software) for a massive circulation of tweets. The prosecution said they used a special program that enables them to disseminate hundreds of newspaper articles by automatically creating scores of new IDs. They also used a semi-automatic “tweet-back program” to circulate as many messages as possible . . . Now suspicion is growing over the possibility that the spy agency was systematically involved in giving a helping hand to President Park Geun-hye in the election.

Which means the NIS was using software designed to hack Twitter’s weaknesses so as to spawn new users IDs – exactly what spam gangs do to spread spam through out the internet.

So, why is it that the government and Saenuri Dang have credibility problems, still?

A Gentlemen’s Spanking Club?

justice spanking

Just when the chain of libel, reprimand and punishment was thought to have played out at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office, the senior prosecutor who sacked the prosecutor investigating the NIS agents that were involved in electioneering activities has sacked himself.

A senior prosecutor accused of exerting political pressure on a junior prosecutor investigating the spy agency’s election interference scandal tendered his resignation yesterday despite the prosecution’s official announcement that he did nothing wrong . . . Cho’s resignation came less than an hour after a junior prosecutor faced suspension for refusing to follow his directions of ordering arrests of National Intelligence Service agents outside the chain of command. (cite)

Senior Prosecutor Cho’s decision is based upon the actions of his subordinate prosecutor’s (Yoon Seok-yeol) decision to not follow procedure by warning the very people he would be raiding or arresting first since he was concerned that this could cause a rush to destroy or hide evidence (cite). Now, Yoon Seok-yeol, head of the Yeoju Branch of the Suwon District Prosecutors’ Office will be indefinitely suspended for doing his job a little too well, all in the name of internal procedure. (cite)
All this probably would not have happened if the office of General Prosecutor were not subject to political pressure from the members of the majority political group that has a vested interest in what gets investigated.  This is a primary concern since illegal actions, instigated by group members, can remain unchecked and unpunished due to interference:

. . . The prosecution also said that they could not reveal the truth about whether Cho indeed pressured Yoon not to arrest the NIS agents because of political reasons. . . Allegedly, at a private dinner, Cho told Yun, “If we arrest the NIS agents, it would help the [opposition] Democratic Party,” and “Do that [arrest them] after I resign.” (cite)

The President has promised corrective action, in a vague sort of manner, regarding this issue (taken from the JoongAng Ilbo):

. . . (I will) “strictly” investigate the allegations (electioneering, etc., etc.) and promised that anyone found guilty will be punished . . . With only two months left in this year, it is very regrettable that urgent state affairs tied to past political issues remain pending, . . . as the prime minister emphasized days earlier, I will make sure various charges now in court and under investigation are clarified according to the law.

Though the president says she “did not personally do anything to arouse suspicions,” she can certainly choose what to see or what not to see since one can not be held accountable for what they don’t see or say.  I believe that this is a major distinction between criminal activities and political solutions and, since she is a politician, she will surely keep looking until she finds nothing.

Saenuri lawmaker warns Paris protesters, “I’ll make you pay.”

Saenuri Party lawmaker Kim Jin-tae is not happy that a small group of protesters turned up in Paris to welcome President Park to the city.

Kim, who is accompanying Park on her European tour, posted on his Facebook page today that he would make the protesters “pay a steep price.”

He also wrote that anyone whose blood didn’t boil upon seeing those protesters mustn’t be a Korean. Or South Korean, anyway.

He said he would have the Justice Ministry collect evidence such as photos, which he would turn over to the Constitutional Court.

A few dozen Korean residents of France and Korean exchange students held a candlelight protest in Paris during Park’s visit to the city on Nov 2—3. The protesters held a sign that read—in Korean and French—that President Park was not the legal president of Korea. I just hope they stay away from any chicken farms.

Kim is one of the lawmakers involved in the ruling party’s attempt to equate the government workers unions’ alleged political activity with that of the NIS. Mind you, I’m not a huge fan of public sector unions, and even less a fan of the bureaucracy organizing as a political interest group, but I do think there’s a difference between a union entering into a political alliance with a party and the national intelligence service attempting to subvert the political process with a clandestine online campaign.

The Party’s Over – Disbanding the United Progressive Party?

party_overThe Government has asked the Constitutional Court of South Korea Tuesday to disband the United Progressive Party.  The Saenuri Dang has long reviled the UPP and, now, after the arrest of Lee Seok-ki and subsequent revelations of UPP personnel participating in a campaign of anti-ROK activity, the majority-lead government now wishes to put an end to the UPP for good.

This is notable since this, like more than a few current events in government, is unprecedented, Per Choe SangHun:

. . . The government’s decision was adopted at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday and quickly endorsed by Ms. Park, who was on a visit to Europe. It is the first lawsuit of its kind. No political party in South Korea has been shut down by the government or a court decision since Syngman Rhee, South Korea’s dictatorial founding president, forced the closure of a leftist party in 1958.

As quoted, Lee Jung-hee, head of the UPP said:

This is a rude anti-democratic violation of the Constitution, which guarantees the freedom of political activities, . . . this is a blatant and shameless political revenge. (cite)

Ms. Lee does have a point, considering the ambush tactics employed by the Chosun Ilbo against the former General Prosecutor, which bore the faint whiff of Saenuri Dang elements, as well as other incidents that mark a very volatile political environment from now on that may well lead to more radicle events due to a generally perceived curtailing of the political process and freedom within South Korea.

To read Choe SangHun’s excellent article, please go here.

PGH Speaks, Suh Chung-won’s Back, the FA-50 and Korea’s Gay-friendly but Xenophobic Youth

President Park says something about the NIS

Ahead of a tour to Europe, President Park speaks about the NIS allegations:

“I personally didn’t do anything suspicious, but suspicions have been raised that state agencies meddled in the election. I will clearly shed light on those suspicions without fail” and punish those responsible, Park said during a meeting with senior secretaries.

She also called on politicians—read: the opposition—to avoid causing public division and patiently wait for the legal system to do its job. Considering a) if it weren’t for politicians causing public division, it’s doubtful this issue would have even come to light, and b) the chicanery within the prosecution doesn’t instill much confidence in the legal system, I think it’s safe to say Park’s statement won’t shut the opposition up.

Some foreign correspondents offered their opinion on the NIS mess to the Korean Times. For instance:

“What President Park needs to do is open a bipartisan, cross-party investigation,” said Andrew Salmon, a Seoul-based journalist. “The prime minister’s pledge comes only halfway.”
[...]
“I think she needs to get the house in order and get rid of old-fashioned right wingers in certain institutions who may be thinking that they are helping her but in fact are a danger to the democratic process,” Salmon said.

As to why these right-wingers would operate in such fashion, he saw them stuck in a past mindset ― in the Cold-War perspective. “Such forces should leave the institution or start writing blogs.”

I’ll do my part by offering any stuck-in-the-past, Fifth Republic holdovers space on my blog, provided they first resign from their official posts.

2013 By-elections: Return of the Suh Chung-won

So, the Saenuri Party swept both by-elections. The key one was Hwaseong-A District, where Suh Chung-won won, and won big. Everything you need to know about Suh I shall reprint below:

The return to the political scene of heavyweight Suh, President Park’s long-time ally who served two separate prison terms for violating election-finance laws, may signal a wind of change in the leadership structure at the ruling Saenuri Party.

Ugh.

He is also expected to present a challenge to Representative Kim Moo-sung, who has been building his clout in the party and has recently emerged as one of the strongest candidates for the next presidential race. Kim is highly likely to run for the party chairmanship in a party convention scheduled for next year.

Party insiders say Kim is remote from the president, who has strong confidence in Suh because he is less politically ambitious and more loyal.

Double ugh.

The FA-50 Is a Good Plane. But It’s Not an Easy Sale

Will anybody buy the FA-50? That’s what the boys and girls at War is Boring ask (HT to Geek Ken):

Nonetheless, at $35 million a pop, the FA-50 is a bargain for the capabilities it offers. Plus the aircraft has operating costs that are a fraction of that of other fighters—even something as small and comparatively low-cost as a JAS-39 Gripen. For that relatively low price, a country gets an aircraft that has much of the performance of a full-sized fighter — a 75-percent solution.
[...]
But as impressive as the FA-50 is, especially for its price, the small fighter faces an uncertain future. “The problem isn’t the plane — they have designed one of the best lightweight fighters in years,” says Richard Aboulafia, an analyst at the Teal Group. “The problem is the market.”

The market has shifted in over the years. Countries that used to buy light fighters such as the F-5 — Turkey, for one — have moved on to more expensive aircraft like the F-16. But other nations have fallen upon hard times and have not been able to purchase modern fighters in decades — Argentina, for example. “The market has kind of bifurcated into haves and have-nots,” Aboulafia says.

Now, Korea did sign earlier this month an MOU with the Philippines to export a dozen FA-50s. What make that sale even MORE interesting is that Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun—quoting multiple Korean officials—reports that Seoul made that deal over the objections of the Chinese, who asked Korea not to sell the fighters to the Philippines.

Koreans Grow More Conservative. Young Koreans Least Homophobic, Most Xenophobic

The Dong-A Ilbo and The Asan Institute for Policy Studies conducted a poll of attitudes in Korea, yielding some interesting results. Up to last year, self-identified progressives outnumbered self-identified conservatives by about 10 percentage points, but this year, centrists (41.2%) and conservatives (32.7%) outnumbered progressives (26.1%). In particular, the percentage of self-identified conservatives grew by 9 percentage points among those in their 20s and 11 percentage points among those in their 60s.

A researcher at the Asan Institute said the drop in support for progressives was largely thanks to support for Park’s strong response to North Korean provocations soon after she took office, late President Roh’s statements about the NLL, and the whole UPP/Lee Seok-ki fiasco.

Meanwhile, conservatives are growing more conservative and progressives more progressive. Slightly more Korean feel the government should focus more on growth than distribution, but conservatives and progressives responded to this quite differently. Conservatives also tended to more heavily favor limits on personal freedom for the public interest—not exactly good news for you classical liberals out there.

Even more interesting—especially for some readers—is that it was young respondents in their 20s that revealed the highest degree of xenophobia. Some 23.9% of respondents in their 20s said they disliked foreigners living in Korea, the highest of any age group. Respondents in their 30s were the least xenophobic, with just 16.1% saying they disliked foreigners living in Korea.

Likewise, 31.3% of respondents in their 20s agreed that foreign laborers were making a mess of Korea’s social values, 10 percentage points higher than the 21.5% for the survey as a whole. This was followed by 21.6% for those in their 50s and 60s and 19.1% for those in their 30s. Only 15.3% of those in their 40s agreed with the statement. Furthermore, 35.1% of those in their 20s said that multicultural families were raising the level of social instability and complicating social unity.

That said, those xenophobic 20-somethings are not equal-opportunity in their hate. They especially dislike immigrants from China and the Philippines, but they are actually less adverse to immigrants from the United States and Japan than those of other age groups, and especially those in their 60s. This is believed to be the result of discomfort resulting from the growth in the number of Chinese students studying in Korea and concern about crimes committed by foreign laborers like the Oh Won-chun murder. Also believed to be at play is the feeling that foreigners are stealing jobs at a time when it’s difficult to find work.

Koreans still don’t like gays, though. Some 78.5% of respondents said they didn’t like homosexuals, although this number has come down year-to-year. That said, 42.5% of respondents in their 20s said they didn’t dislike gays, as opposed to only 8.3% of respondents of in their 60s. Some 53.0% of respondents in their 20s said same-sex marriage should be legalized, while only 7.6% of those in their 60s believed so. Interestingly, there was little ideological difference on the question of homosexuals—84.9% of conservatives and 70.3% of progressives disliked gays.

As for abortion, 55.3% of respondents said they believed abortions should be permitted only when the life of the mother is threatened. Only 29.9% said abortion should be left up to the mother’s choice, and even fewer (14.8%) said it should be banned outright. Younger respondents tended to support the permitting of abortion, while older ones did not. As with homosexuality, the numbers did not change much according to ideology, with conservatives and progressives responding similarly.

Flavour of the Month Addendum-addendum – A Cherry Is Found

Since scary stories are perfect for Halloween, we now hear that North Korea meddled in 2012 election, NIS claims (cite). Per Representative Suh of the Saenuri Dang:

“It is confirmed that the North actively used social network services to criticize the ruling party and its candidate, and influenced the presidential election, . . . The National Intelligence Service had no choice but to counter such moves.”

However as the opposition party points out . . .

“It is nonsense for him to argue that the NIS deserved to intervene in the presidential election because the North had done so,”

I am reminded of the last Bush Administration’s use of 9/11 to justify a host of intrusive measures into the daily lives of Americans, under the auspice of countering terrorism.  Would the use of the DPRK as a bogeyman serve the same use as the terrorism bogeyman did for the Bush Administration in their misadventures in Iraq and elsewhere?

Flavour of the Month Addendum – A Topping of Sprinkles

Prime Minister Chung Hong-won has promised to get to the facts behind the NIS Electioneering and the subsequent assassination of prosecutors.  His reason why people should not be so upset? – . . . continued confusion over the issue, already under investigation, “won’t help the national economy.” (cite)

Of course, it’s the economy that’s the problem.

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