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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.

Still not talking to Japan, PGH’s sneakers, N. Korean beauties, K-pop and Youtube, and frisky students

Not talking to Japan

Note to President Park: Look, I happen to agree that certain Japanese leaders are being, to put it politely, dickheads, Still, don’t you think you’re overreacting a bit here:

All of which makes South Korea’s current relationship with Japan all the more striking. Eight months after taking office, Ms Park has still not met her neighbour and fellow US ally, and talk of a summit, she said, was still premature.

“The fact is there are certain issues that complicate [that relationship]” she said. “One example is the issue of the comfort women. These are women who have spent their blossoming years in hardship and suffering, and spent the rest of their life in ruins.”

“And none of these cases have been resolved or addressed; the Japanese have not changed any of their positions with regard to this. If Japan continues to stick to the same historical perceptions and repeat its past comments, then what purpose would a summit serve? Perhaps it would be better not to have one.”

I don’t see PM Abe and Co. growing more repentant any time soon, which means unless Park wants to spend however long Abe lasts pretending the man doesn’t exist, she’s eventually going to have to talk to him, and when she does, she’s going to look like she’s giving in.

Nice kicks

I suppose Park isn’t completely anti-Japanese. Certain jokes—most of them related to “Park Chung-hee” and “Japanese uniforms”—probably present themselves at this point. I won’t make them, though.

North Korean beauties

In Japan Focus, Christopher K. Green and Stephen J. Epstein look at “Ije mannareo gamnida,” the Channel A program that could be seen as Misuda, but with North Korean beauties. Read it in its entirely—here’s just the into:

In 2011, the recently established South Korean broadcasting network Channel-A launched Ije mannareo gamnida (Now on My Way to Meet You), a program whose format brings together a group of a dozen or more female talbukja (North Korean refugees)2 on a weekly basis. These women interact with host Nam Hui-seok, an additional female co-host (or, in the earlier episodes, two), and a panel composed of four male South Korean entertainers. Episodes typically open in a lighthearted manner, with conversation about daily life in North Korea alongside mild flirtation between the Southern male and Northern female participants, often involving song and dance, but climax with a talbuk seuteori, an emotionally harrowing narrative from one of the border-crossers detailing her exodus from North Korea. Via this framework Ije mannareo gamnida attempts to nurture the integration of North Korean refugees into South Korean society; personalization of their plight occurs in conjunction with reminders of a shared Korean identity maintained despite the regime they have fled, which is depicted as cruel, repressive and backward. The show has proven a minor hit within South Korea and received coverage from local and global media (see, e.g., Kim 2012; Choi 2012; Noce 2012).

The unusual subject matter of Ije mannareo gamnida itself renders the show worthy of analysis; equally significantly, it offers a useful window into attempts to address South Korea’s increasingly diverse society, which now includes a large number of North Koreans, as well as media practice in the face of this demographic shift. Nevertheless, other than journalistic treatment, only a limited number of South Korean scholars (e.g. Tae and Hwang 2012; Oh 2013) and Western academic bloggers (Draudt and Gleason 2012) have thus far investigated the show and its larger social ramifications. In this paper, we ask how Now on My Way to Meet You is to be understood within the contexts of South Korean society, its evolving media culture, and developments in South Korean popular representations of North Koreans. We offer close readings of segments from Ije mannareo gamnida in order to elicit motifs that recur as it pursues its stated goal of humanizing North Korea for a South Korean audience and giving defectors a voice amidst the general populace. Given that the show’s very title intimates that a genuine encounter is about to take place, one might reasonably ask how successfully Ije mannareo gamnida establishes a meeting point for South Koreans with these recent arrivals from North Korea: in other words, does the show fulfill its stated aim of breaking down prejudices against North Korean refugees and supplying them with a vehicle that allows self-expression?3 Or, alternatively, does it reinforce, even if unintentionally, pre-existing regimes of knowledge and actually impede understanding of North Korea and its people? As we will argue, given the broader sociopolitical context, the show’s desire to reinforce elements of commonality between North and South while illuminating life in North Korea leads to a double bind: viewers are encouraged to recognize homogeneity with the newcomers based on a shared ethnic and cultural identity, even as the conversations and editing techniques applied to the material often represent the Northern panelists as Others.

K-pop and Youtube

Over at the WSJ, Jeff Yang asks why Girls’ Generation and K-Pop won big at the YouTube Music Awards. Ordinarily, I’d say the answer to that is simple—there is no God—but then again, considering the disgrace that was the MTV Music Awards, perhaps somebody really is watching over us.

Anyway, to win those sorts of things, a passionate fan base and a very mobile-savvy population help:

Having just returned from an extended trip to Korea, I can attest to that: For Korean consumers, whose mobile broadband cups runneth over, watching video is like breathing — they’re virtually never not in front of a screen, whether they’re sitting on the subway, walking through busy intersections, or hanging out at home. It’s quite common to see family members in Korean households sitting around “alone together,” each viewing their own media on their own respective screens while ostensibly in the same room. I was, in fact, nearly run over by a kid watching some kind of video while riding a bicycle, steering with his elbows. And a huge percentage of the content they watch is music videos — almost all of it via streaming sites like YouTube.

“When country restrictions are in place, like the way every country has its own iTunes Store, one can’t witness the power of a global K-pop fanbase,” says Jeff Benjamin, who covers K-Pop for the music industry’s periodical of record, Billboard. “But when no restrictions are in place, like on YouTube, it’s amazing what they can do. ‘I Got a Boy’ received millions of views in its first few hours.”

Hey, anything to beat Justin Bieber.

Keep your hands to yourselves, kids!

The first reaction to hearing that kids are getting punished for holding hands at school may be, “Gee, how medieval.”

Then again, at least I haven’t read about kids recording themselves having sex in class. So perhaps the Korean schools are on to something 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.


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.

Talk to Abe, for Christ’s sake

President Park Geun-hye has proposed—sit for this—a “Northeast Asia Peace Pact”:

Countries in Northeast Asia economically depend on each other but their cooperation in politics or security is not that advanced, she was quoted as saying by Cheong Wa Dae officials.

Lack of trust is generated by such a paradoxical situation. We can build trust through jointly carrying out relatively small but meaningful dialogue.

As a first step, Park pointed to making concerted efforts to deal with terrorism, climate change and nuclear power before dealing with sensitive political issues later.

This is all fine and good, mind you, but rather odd coming from the mouth of a president who will not hold a summit with the leader of one of Korea’s closest neighbors. Look, I happened to agree that a number of leading Japanese politicians are, to put it politely, dicks, but come on now, Japan’s Asahi Shimbun actually makes a point here:

Why doesn’t Park speak directly to Abe since she has issues with him?

We say this because Park has so far discussed her Japan-related problems repeatedly with top officials of other countries.

During her visit to the United States in May, Park told President Barack Obama, “Japan must have the proper recognition of history in order to have peace in Northeast Asia.” In China, too, she bemoaned the deepening rift and suspicion in the region over history and territorial issues.

But it is her own stated belief that diplomacy is really all about trust, and that trust is built up through patient dialogue.

And in the countries she has visited to date, she has appealed for their support for her signature policy of a “Northeast Asia peace and cooperation initiative,” also known as the “Seoul Process.” Park seeks to establish a multinational framework to discuss issues affecting the region, starting with noncontroversial topics such as the environment and energy. Japan’s participation is said to be essential.

Given the gap between Park’s lofty ideals and the reality of the extremely chilly relationship between her country and Japan, we find her attitude quite confusing.

It’s all the more confusing since she’s apparently more than happy to talk with the Chinese premier and has already been on a state visit to China.

President Park addresses Congress in English

Not only does President Park address the US Congress in English, she does so rather well:

For those keeping score at home, six Korean presidents have addressed the US Congress. Park, Syngman Rhee, Roh Tae-woo and Kim Dae-jung did so in English, while Kim Young-sam and Lee Myung-bak did so in Korean.

Park has earned kudos for her English skill. She apparently took off her translation equipment at the beginning of a joint press conference with President Obama and didn’t put it back on for the rest of the 30-minute session:

One of his aides said that Park is perfect in understanding English and is able to make herself understood without difficulty.

“She is relatively fluent in English,” said the aide who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to talk to the press.

“Sometimes she tells interpreters about their mistakes after meetings with high-profile figures.”

I don’t envy the interpreters she’s gotta work with.

The Park Geun-hye Era Begins

Technically, Park Geun-hye’s term officially began at midnight, but she was sworn in this morning.

Read her inauguration address (in English) here.

Park wants to oversee a “Second Miracle on the Han River.” It’s am ambitious goal, to be sure. My expect considerably less from politicians, though. As long as she doesn’t completely screw up the place over the next five years, I’ll count it as a successful term.

Good luck to her and her team, though. I mean that sincerely.

Team Park shaping up/Lincoln worse dictator than Park Chung-hee?

So… Park Geun-hye’s transition team is shaping up, with former Constitutional Court chief justice Park Yong-joon as its chairman.

Two “foreigners”—I’d come up with a better term, but I’m feeling lazy—made it onto the committee, too.

Musical director Kolleen Park was named to the transition team’s special committee for youth. Good for her.

Also getting named to Team Park was In Yo-han, a.k.a. Dr. John Linton, who was named the vice chair of the team’s Committee for Grand Public Unity (or however they want to translate that).

Linton is a fifth-generation resident of Korea. The family came to Korea in the 1890s with the American Southern Presbyterian Mission—some years back, I posted a photo essay of the mission’s many historic homes, churches and schools that remain to this day in the city of Gwangju.

Dr. Linton noted during a Royal Asiatic Society lecture that the American Southern Presbyterian missionaries came to Korea not long after the Civil War, a conflict he jokingly referred to as the “War of Northern Aggression.” Five generations later, feelings are still raw, apparently—Press By PLE alleges he’s also said US President Abraham Lincoln was 100 times the dictator Park Chung-hee was—Honest Abe, after all, shut down 300 newspapers and arrested a state legislature without trial (I’m guessing he’s referring to this).

I’d be outraged, except a) I’m not seeing a time or place attached to that alleged comment, and more importantly b) even if he did say it, I’ve written far worse about President Lincoln myself.

I do have a serious question, though. Not serious like in important, but like in I’m honestly asking. Not to put to fine a point on this, but it seems the old missionary families here are just as lily white now as they were when they got off the boat a century ago. Are there rules in missionary societies—formal or otherwise—against marrying the locals? Just curious.

Post-election laborer suicides

Since the election of Park Geun-hye, three labor activists and a unification activist have committed suicide. Another labor activist died while attending the binso of one of the laborers who took his own life.

You won’t find much in English on the suicides outside of this Kyunghyang piece (and this one).

Moon Jae-in visited the binso of one of the dead laborers yesterday to offer condolences and words of support.

A reader suggested I post about this, so I have. Not sure exactly what to say about it, though. Even leaving aside the fact that three of the suicides were officials in unions affiliated with the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions—of which I’m not a huge fan—and the other was a member of the this group, I don’t really want to turn people taking their own lives out of dissatisfaction with the results of a democratic election into heroes.

That said, while there’s nothing the Park administration could ever do to win the support of the likes of the KCTU, there are things it could do to improve industrial morale. The Kyunghyang ran an editorial on the deaths, calling on the government to do something about companies suing unions over strikes. In the case of Hanjin Heavy Industries, the company dropped its suits against individual unionists, but still has a 15.8 billion won suit against the union itself. This despite the fact that the company agreed to drop its lawsuits when it reached an agreement with its union in November.

The mood at Hanjin has reportedly been quite dour even after the November agreement, in which the company withdrew its mass layoffs. The fact that the company seems to be moving its operations overseas might have something to do with it:

Another reinstated worker said, “After Hanjin constructed a shipyard in Subic Bay, Philippines in 2006, they have hardly obtained any orders for their Yeongdo shipyard even though the shipbuilding industry was prosperous. In 2010, they separated the design unit of the shipyard, which is its core unit.

All the reinstated workers feel that the company has no intention to operate the Yeongdo shipyard.” He continued, “The company has not acknowledged the apparent failures of management, and instead have blamed the workers claiming that the labor disputes have made it difficult to win orders. We expected for a better relationship with management when we were reinstated, but they’re neglecting the basics such as issuing ID cards and leaving us out in the cold.”

One of the more critical labor issues is the use—in some cases, illegally—of irregular workers and inhouse contractors, such as at Hyundai. The problem here, though, is that not only do the companies unenthusiastic about changing their hiring practices, the regular unions don’t seem particularly keen to help out irregular workers, either. And how you resolve this without scaring companies into moving their operations overseas, I don’t know.

President-elect Park apparently laid down the law during her meeting with major business heads yesterday (see English here), asking companies not to lay off workers. This reportedly even impressed the French. This was something I sort of expected—one of the first things her old man did after taking power was arrest 24 of Korea’s top businessmen just to let them know who was boss. Whether that sort of intimidation works as well in the globalized market of the 21st century, though, has yet to be seen.

So much for togetherness

Suffice it to say, the Hankyoreh is not happy with Park’s selection of Munhwa Ilbo columnist Yoon Chang-jung as her chief spokesman. Yoon’s is not the intuitive choice for the face of an administration advocating harmony and togetherness—he referred to the mourners at late President Roh’s funeral as “Yellow Guards,” frequently refers to the opposition—and the 386 generation in general—as pro-North Korean, and seems to think the LMB administration wasn’t hard-line enough.

UPDATE: More about the opposition’s calls for Yoon’s resignation here.

Park Geun-hye speaking English

Kushibo has posted a video of Korea’s incoming president speaking English at a 1974 (?) event in Hawaii to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Korean immigration to the state.

And OK, I’ll say it—Park was a good-looking young woman. She’s still quite a handsome woman, for that matter, regardless of her politics.

UPDATE: And here she is speaking in English in November of this year at the SFCC (HT to Steve Herman). Seems like a prepared speech, but she reads it well.

More presidential election post-mortem analysis

– Ye Olde Chosun—or at least the two companies it hired—broke down the Twitter numbers over the last three months and discovered something interesting—contrary to popular opinion, which holds that the Korean Twitterverse is a bastion of left-wing/progressive opinion, most (62.6%) of the tweets (including retweets) that mentioned “Park Geun-hye” and her dad Park Chung-hee in the same tweet were positive, while the overwhelming number (90.1%) of tweets that mentioned Moon Jae-in and his former boss, Roh Moo-hyun, in the same tweet were negative. Tweet mentions also roughly mirrored the election results.

– The conservative press is piling on United Progressive Party candidate Lee Jung-hee. According to experts, a sense of insecurity among voters in their 50s and 60s was a major factor in Park’s victory, reports the Chosun Ilbo. North Korea’s missile launch and suspicions that late President Roh tried to abandon the NLL were among the causes of this insecurity, but Lee’s rhetoric during the debates also helped drive older voters to the polls. In sum, older voters felt attacks on Park Chung-hee were attacks on them. The Chosun also suggests that the opposition siege of the NIS agent also led to blowback.

The Dong-A Ilbo also pointed to Lee’s rhetoric as a factor in mobilizing the conservative vote. It also notes that her party may now become the wangtta of the progressive movement.

Now, how much of this is true and how much of this is self-justifications of the conservative media’s pre-election coverage, I leave up to you.

Some of the names being bandied about within the SNP for chairman of the presidential transition team include Public Happiness Promotion Committee chairman Kim Jong-in, former Kim Dae-jung chief of staff Han Kwang-ok, National Future Institute (or something like that) director Kim Gwang-du, and former Deputy Prime Minster in Charge of Economic Affairs Jin Nyum. A lot of folk from the Honam region, including several former Kim Dae-jung administration officials. Some other names being talked about are SNU professor Song Ho-geun and former People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy co-chair and former Beautiful Foundation head Minister Park Sang-jeung, who recently seems to have undergone a conversion to the (moderate) right.

– That a lot of former DJ folk might be included in the Park administration shouldn’t be surprising. In the Jeolla provinces, there seems to be some resentment that a) the current DUP movers are former Roh guys from Busan/Gyeongsangnam-do and b) that the DUP takes them for granted, or as former Democratic Party heavyweight Han Hwa-gap (from the Jeolla provinces) put it while announcing his support for Park Geun-hye prior to the election, “The current Democratic Party just needs the Jeolla provinces for votes; it doesn’t do anything for the Jeolla provinces. As long as the Jeolla provinces support the Democratic Party, it’s a Democratic Party colony.” Now, the Jeolla provinces still voted heavily in favor of Moon Jae-in, so make of that what you will.

– Something interesting about the Seoul Education chief elections—according to exit polls, voters in their 20s broke in favor of the conservative candidate. According to the Chosun, this is because voters in their 20s are the first generation to have been schooled after the legalization of the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union (KTU) in 1999. To sum up the Chosun, voters in the 30s (who voted for the progressive candidate, the former chief of the KTU) remember KTU teachers as hardworking, friendly and passionate, while those in their 20s remember them for their excessive political and ideological activity.

– The good folks at podcast Nakkomsu are currently facing complaints from the NIS, Park Geun-hye’s brother and the Saenuri Party. Jesus. See this for some background.

– Last, but not least, Russian-born entertainer Larisa kept her pre-election promise. In a theater in Daehangno, she did the horse dance nude. And the Dong-A Ilbo, bless their hearts, were there to photograph it.

Park Geun-hye: The Old Folk Strike Back

The JoongAng Ilbo examines the role older voters—who make up 40% of the electorate—played in putting Park on top.

In particular, the JoongAng noted that polling data prior to the election tended to skew progressive since most polling is online, favoring younger, more Internet-savvy voters. In the words of one consulting company head, the “hidden conservative vote”—I guess something akin to Nixon’s Silent Majority—wasn’t being reflected in the polls.

The result was that older voters—watching the online polls—turned out en masse Wednesday out of a sense of crisis to vote for Park Geun-hye.

In particular, security issues—the North Korean missile launch and allegations the Roh administration wanted to abandon the NLL—may have played an important role in Park’s better-than-expected performance in Gyeonggi-do and Incheon, where districts close to North Korea or with lots of military facilities voted heavily in favor of Park.

The JoongAng also cited some other victory factors, most notably Park’s own personal “brand,” which allowed her to win as a ruling party candidate despite the current administration’s approval rating of just 25.6%. Also helping was Park’s strong support in her home region, her double-digit performance in Honam (a first for the conservatives), a unified conservative movement and disorder and mistakes by the opposition.

North Koreans disappointed with Park victory

Reporting from North Korea, China’s official CCTV says most of the North Koreans it talked to were disappointed with Park Geun-hye’s victory.

North Korea’s official media, on the other hand, has yet to issue a position on the election results.

CCTV thinks the glum mood in Pyongyang is because North Koreans believe Park will treat the North much as Lee Myung-bak has.

Anyway, the North is expected to say, well, something about Park’s victory soon.

Meet the new bosses

The JoongAng Ilbo looks at some of the folk who are likely to play major roles in the Park Geun-hye administration.

The two men at the center of Team Park are Rep. Choi Kyung-hwan and former lawmaker Kim Moo-sung.

Choi was the first head of Park’s campaign team, but when Park’s numbers began plummeting due to historical issues, he took responsibility and resigned. As the Chosun Ilbo notes, though, he’s been taking separate orders from Park since, and he’s considered “one of the most influential of the influential.”

Kim and ran a very effective campaign as Park’s “field general.” He’s an interesting figure—he was passed over for nomination by the GNP/SNP not once but twice. The first time was in 2008, when he was one of several Park loyalists who were virtually purged from the party ahead of the general election. He ran in his district in Busan as an independent, won, and rejoined the party. Then this year, he was passed over for nomination again. Rather than leave the party and possibly cause a split, he fell on his sword and stepped aside. This is credited with keeping the party intact, leading to the SNP’s surprising victory in the April general election.

Some other names you’ll probably be hearing a lot in days to come are Yu Jeong-bok, Hong Mun-jong, Seo Byeong-su, Lee Ju-yeong, Yun Sang-hyeon, Lee Hak-jae, Lee Sang-il and Gwon Yeong-se.

At any rate, Park plans to name the head of her transition team by Dec 23 and fill out the rest of the team by the 26th, or at the least by the end of the year. One of the biggest gripes Park’s people had with Lee Myung-bak early on was that LMB filled his transition team out largely with his own people. Park is expected to include a lot of academic types and experts in her transition team. She’s also expected to include politicians from outside the Yeongnam region and perhaps even opposition figures. In particular, don’t be surprised if a non-politician gets named as the head of the team.

Oh, and the “keywords” of the incoming administration include taetangpyeong (basically, overcoming factionalism), citizen unity, 100% Republic of Korea, economic democratization, coexistence, era of citizen happiness, strong security and diplomacy of trust, and proper historical understanding.

Korea gets its first woman president

Moon Jae-in is conceding, which means Park Geun-hye is the president-elect.


– The Asia Gyeongje is pointing to three major reasons for Moon’s defeat:

1) The DUP couldn’t answer why voters should vote for Moon. They ran against Park, not for Moon. Hard to pick up centrists and independent voters like that.

2) Moon Jae-in’s campaign team was a disaster.

3) Tepid support from Ahn Cheol-soo.

– Yonhap notes that not only is Park the first woman president, she’s the first presidential candidate to get over 50% of the vote. This is largely thanks to the absence of any popular third-party candidates.

Unless you live in the Honam region or Seoul, you voted for Park Geun-hye.

– According to exit polling data, women broke slightly for Park Geun-hye, while men broke slightly for Moon Jae-in. Voters 50 or over broke for Park (with voters over 60 heavily breaking for Park), while voters under 50 went for Moon.

– Not to pile on, but the SNP won the Gyeongnam gubernatorial race (not surprising, considering the opponent), and conservative Moon Yong-lin wil be the next Seoul education chief.

– The Hani notes that the surprising result of this election—with a conservative winning despite high voter turnout—might reflect changes in Korea’s demographics, which is to say, there’s a lot more older voters now.

– Enjoying a nice Chilean cabernet as I go through the post-game analysis. Wife is watching “Upside Down.” Saw “Dredd” earlier this evening. Not a bad film, even in 2D.

– Yonhap has a good summary of how the Gyeongnam gubernatorial race went down.

– Teachers, break out your “love sticks”—the new Seoul education chief is already talking about changing the students human rights ordinance, blamed by conservatives for making classrooms unmanageable.


The sun still rose this morning. Well, that’s promising.

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