PROSPECTS FOR SOUTH KOREA UNDER LIKELY LEFT-WING ADMINISTRATION
On March 10, the eight judges of the South Korean Constitutional Court unanimously upheld a decision by the country’s National Assembly to impeach President Park Geun-hye. The root of the current political upheaval in Korea, seemingly traceable to a corruption scandal involving the president and her dubious female confidant, actually runs much deeper than meets the eye.
Liberalism and communism have been clashing fiercely in South Korea, with Park’s recent removal from office possibly signaling the moment at which the Republic of Korea took the first step towards its own end. The indescribable tragedy of President Park’s impeachment and removal from office will now be the dominant and disturbing image in my mind when I think of the future of this nation.
By rule, Park’s successor must be elected within 60 days of her dismissal. At this stage Moon Jae-in, former leader of the liberal Democratic Party of Korea with more than 30% support ratings in recent polls, is leading the pack of predominantly left-wing candidates. Korean popular sentiment being highly volatile, however, there is no guarantee the current trend of public opinion will remain unchanged up to election day.
If Moon becomes president, one can expect South Korea to come heavily under the influence of North Korea in a short span of time.
Moon’s sympathetic stance towards North Korea and China is well known. Below I will examine his views in terms of three categories: (1) South Korea’s future relations with Japan and the United States; (2) its relations with North Korea; and (3) whether or not Moon is a communist.
As regards category (1), Moon took a step back from his usual hardline positions in answering questions during a news conference two days after Park’s dismissal on March 10. However, to understand Moon’s true intent one has only to look at the remarks he made last December 15, during a news conference sponsored by the Seoul Foreign Correspondents Club.
At that news conference, Moon asserted that matters involving the controversial deployment of the THAAD (Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense) missile defense system must be left to the new administration, and that the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMNIA) with Japan must also be reviewed. Moon also made clear his basic position regarding the “final and irreversible” agreement on the so-called “comfort women” reached with Japan on December 28, 2015: it must be abrogated.
Noting that “leaders change over time, that’s not new,” US Department of Defense spokesman Jeff David declared: “We made an agreement (on THAAD) with the Republic of Korea…that agreement was reached and we remain committed to delivering on it.” Cho Gab-je, a prominent conservative figure in Korean journalism, had this to say: “If South Korea rejects THAAD, its relationship with the US will go down the drain. Nothing would delight North Korea more.”
“Unified Federal Government of Korea”
The ongoing crisis in South Korea has serious implications for Japan. Opening its ports in the 1850s to end its 250 years of seclusion, Japan eventually went to war first with China and then with Russia. In both cases Japan felt imminently threatened by its two bigger neighbors. More than a century later, Japan today feels similarly imperiled: the present Korean chaos could lead to a scenario in which communist forces dominate free and democratic South Korea and, joining hands with China, ultimately close in on Japan.
In this vein, carefully scrutinizing category (2) is extremely important. Moon’s North Korean policy is appalling, as it proposes to Pyongyang a unified federal government of Korea. The idea calls for the two Koreas to jointly form a federal government on equal footing and accomplish true reunification of the divided peninsula after a certain period of time, eventually making it possible for Koreans to regain what used to be one nation.
This idea was originally proposed by the late Kim Dae-jung. The former president (1998-2003) managed to hold a summit with Kim Jong-il in June 2000 by going down on his knees, offering US$500 million in a slush fund. Testimony from North Korean defectors has revealed that the North Korean dictator felt that the proposed federal government scheme was most attractive to the North, allegedly reasoning:
“If the two Koreas form the proposed federal government as equals, half of South Korean delegates will be pro-North. Because all of our delegates will naturally be pro-North, it will mean that all the policies will be voted 3-1 in our favor.”
Moon also refers to a need to review the Northern Limit Line (NLL), a disputed Yellow Sea demarcation line separating the two Koreas. The North Koreans, who refuse to recognize the line extending west of the peninsula, have unilaterally established their own marine military demarcation line further south of the NLL. They have engaged in military activities beyond the NLL, sinking a South Korean Navy’s Cheonan corvette on March 2010 and attacking Yeonpyeong Island six months later.
The area in question is an ideal route for North Korean agents to infiltrate into the South. Apparently reflecting the North’s desire, Moon has remarked that a new administration would review the NLL while also going ahead with plans to abolish the National Security Law, which bans communism and takes measures to crack down on North Korean operatives in the South.
In other words, Moon has pledged to remove the legal pillar supporting the South in its fight against the North. Here lies one of the reasons why Moon is charged with being a North Korean agent.
Is Moon in fact a full-fledged communist banned by law in the South? A close scrutiny of category (3) is vitally needed. Yang Tong-an, Emeritus Professor at the Center for Korean Studies in Seoul, one of South Korea’s leading experts on the strategies and tactics of communism, sheds light on this question.
Yang attaches much value to Moon’s autobiography, published in 2005. In it, Moon wrote that he was “overjoyed “ with America’s defeat in the Vietnam War and the communization of Vietnam, further noting that he does not necessarily take a negative view on China’s Cultural Revolution. As regards Kim Won-bong, the communist under Japanese rule who rallied to Kim Il-sung to serve as his labor minister, Moon reportedly wrote that he wished from the bottom of his heart to confer on him the highest honor possible for his contribution to the North’s independence.
While serving as chief of staff to the late President Roh Moo-hyun, known for his overt subservience to the North, Moon also supported the campaign to legalize the Federation of All Student Associations of Korean Universities, known as Hanchongryun, while protecting the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union, or Jeon Gyojo.
“Determination” of Left-Wing and Right-Wing Forces
Infatuated with Kim Il-sun’s ideology of “juche” (self reliance), Hanchongryun is the student body which provided the impetus for the birth of the pro-North Unified Progressive Party (UPP) in 2011. The party secured six lawmakers but was disbanded three years later, having been found guilty of working on a secret plan to instigate a revolution in the South by collaborating with the North. Jeon Gyojo is a left-wing body far more radical than the Japan Teachers Union.
It seems quite clear that drastic changes will be unavoidable on the Korean Peninsula if Moon takes over the reins of government. That is why conservative Korean journalist Cho, gripped by a growing sense of crisis, sternly pointed out on the day of Park’s dismissal from office: “I can hardly accept Ms. Park’s dismissal even if it was purportedly upheld under our constitution. Did the South Korean Constitutional Court truly honor the spirit of our constitution?” Conservative forces in South Korea, with Cho heading the list, maintain that they will take to the streets to continue protesting against the impeachment verdict.
Can the court’s decision be justifiably reversed by means of demonstrations—a form of violence, per se? Under the right of resistance, South Koreans are entitled to protest when the three powers of government fail to function properly. The conservative camp in South Korea asserts that the impeachment of its president is a matter which calls for the people to exercise this right.
How does the-left wing camp view the situation? In his autobiography Moon declares: “The point I wish to stress the most is that the mainstream forces in South Korean politics must be replaced. It’s time for sea changes—coming to terms with the past, implementing major social and political reforms, rising above the times, and transforming history!”
Moon was also quoted before the Constitutional Court’s ruling as stating: “If the Constitutional Court dismisses the impeachment vote, the only recourse left is a revolution.”
These “resolutions” of the liberal and conservative forces in South Korea clearly are a warning that Korea’s ongoing political chaos is bound to have its consequences. It is time for we Japanese to properly recognize how pressing the Korean situation truly is and make every effort to bolster close cooperation with the US in order to effectively respond to every situation.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 746 in the March 23, 2017 issue of The Weekly Shincho)