CAN SOUTH KOREANS STOP MOON’S AUTOCRATIC GOVERNANCE?
South Koreans are putting up a new fight. On the heels of a massive demonstration in Seoul by conservative forces which drew more than a half million citizens on the National Founding Day October 3, another mass rally was carried out less than a week later, on October 9, to oppose Moon Jae-in’s arbitrary governance. Then on the night of October 25, citizens from all walks of life took part in yet another protest march in the capital—an all-night affair—vowing to bring down the Moon regime.
Korean protesters initially demanded the resignation of Justice Minister Cho Kuk who was mired in a snowballing series of scandals, including alleged irregularities in daughter’s admission to college. Since Cho’s resignation on October 14, the citizens have stepped up their push to topple the administration. Belatedly, many South Koreans have awakened to a realization that Moon’s leftwing administration is committed to destroying South Korea as a democratic state and will not end with Cho’s resignation alone.
The demonstrations by conservative forces have undergone a substantive change as reflected in how they have come to call their campaign—“a national revolution” instead of “conservative rallies.” Explained Cho Gap-che, a leading commentator in the conservative camp:
“Liberal forces in South Korea, with the Moon administration in the vanguard, refuse to give due credit to the Republic of Korea as a sovereign democratic state, referring to it only as ‘our race’ or ‘our people’ instead. South Korea’s national policy is founded on the principles of freedom and democracy, as our constitution stipulates. It is unconstitutional for the administration to shatter our treasured values by reforming the existing systems and institutions. If the state refuses to honor our constitution, then it is the duty of we the people to stand up to defend it. That is what I mean by a ‘national revolution.’”
It is noteworthy that the conservatives’ campaign for a “national revolution,” advocated by Cho and other leaders, is completely devoid of any anti-Japanese slogans. Tsutomu Nishioka, an expert on the Korean Peninsula, declared that their campaign represents a fight against totalitarianism by those who cherish freedom and democracy who have rid themselves of irrational anti-Japanese sentiment. Nishioka made these remarks as a guest of my regular “Genron” Internet news show last Friday.
Cho resigned as justice minister just 35 days after assuming the post. Many media outlets reported that he was forced to resign because of the demonstrations and harsh public criticism against him and Moon, plus the fact that he had been cornered by the prosecution investigating his scandals. But I suspect there is another pertinent reason for his resignation.
In stepping down as Justice Minister, Cho asserted he had “fulfilled the role entrusted to me.” I suspect that by this he meant he had paved the way for the possible realization of the leftwing revolution he had long worked for, including so-called “prosecution reforms” he announced just three hours before resigning. The essence of these reforms was in fact the creation of measures for “political prosecution”—the Korean version of the Gestapo that is his brainchild.
Cho’s Arrest is Matter of Time
Back in late April, the Moon administration took the step to fast-track four reform bills, including ones on election and prosecution. The latter bill calls for the creation of an independent agency to investigate high-ranking public officials, vested with the powers of investigation and indictment. Under this fast-track system, which incidentally is not employed in Japan, the bills will reach the floor for a general vote after 330 days of review by relevant parliamentary committees. If deliberations are stalled, the speaker of the National Assembly has the ultimate authority to adopt the measures.
The bill to reform prosecution is aimed at transferring the powers to investigate, arrest, and indict from the existing prosecutorial service to a Senior Civil Servant Crime Investigation Unit under the direct control of the president. Because Moon will personally appoint the head of the unit, his presidential authority will be enormously expanded. Possible targets of the investigation will be some 6,000 high-ranking public officials, including “the president, the speaker and members of the national assembly, the chief justice and other supreme court judges, the head of the constitutional court and other judges.”
Also targeted for possible investigation are senior officials charged with national policy decisions and maintaining public order across the board, including the military and the police. Although Moon comes first on the list of possible investigation candidates, he will be effectively spared, as he himself will appoint the head of the unit.
Journalist Hong Hyung, who previously served as minister of the South Korean embassy in Tokyo, was another guest on my show. He pointed out:
“The proposed investigation unit will have a total of some 6,000 personnel on its list of possible candidates for investigation, but 5,000 of them are judges or prosecutors. Read the bill carefully. Government officials on the list number roughly 1,000, categorized into ‘those above ordinary parliamentary officials,’ ‘special mayors,’ or ‘those above ordinary law enforcement officers.’ Meanwhile, every single judge and prosecutor in South Korea is targeted. Under the new law, the unit will assume full judicial powers, including the right to prosecute.”
The Moon administration obviously is in an unusual hurry to enact the prosecutorial reform bill in particular. Nishioka described an incident leading up to its passage on April 30:
“Opposition members fought hard in an effort to prevent Moon’s ruling Democratic Party from ramming through the bills on a fast track. A bloody exchange of blows ensued between lawmakers but the ruling party finally managed to pass the bills. And now, national assembly speaker Moon Hee-ang claims that the bills can be adopted after 180, not 330, days of deliberations. Nothing like that is stipulated in our constitution. The speaker is coming up with an extra-legal measure absolutely lacking legal foundation.”
October 28 is the last day of the 180 days that the Moon faction claims the deliberations will require. By the time the reader reads this column the bills could possibly have been enacted. Cho’s wife, a university English professor who faces allegations that she forged a college presidential citation to help her daughter gain admission to a prestigious medical school, was arrested on October 24. If the investigation progresses accordingly, Cho’s arrest could be just a question of time. I am curious as to what dark secrets will be revealed when that happens.
North Korean Narcotics Scandal
As mentioned earlier, Cho is the one who drew up the plan for the new investigative agency. He and President Moon are comrades in that they each have vowed to destroy South Korea through a leftwing “dictatorial revolution.” It would be safe to say that Moon was viewing the handsome and popular (until recently, that is) ex-college professor as his likely successor when his five-year term as president ends in 2022.
Sizable funds would have been necessary for Cho to establish himself as a politician. It is a well-known fact that Cho had invested substantially in a dubious equity fund. The City of Seoul is known to have placed massive orders with one of the companies in which the fund was invested, a manufacturer of street light flashers. This led to an allegation that the Moon administration was engaged in a veiled fund-raising scheme to back up Cho.
Experts raise another factor allegedly having to do with the administration’s scheme to support Cho. In May 2017, Moon appointed him as his senior presidential secretary for civil affairs. This post had customarily been filled by those with a prosecutorial background capable of overseeing the entire legal administration. It was highly unusual that someone like Cho from academia should be nominated.
According to Hong, there are also suspicions that Cho whitewashed a potentially huge scandal involving North Korean narcotics smuggled into the South during the two years in which he served as senior presidential secretary.
If the investigation progresses appropriately, the many doubts and suspicions about Cho’s acts may be quite damaging to Moon and his administration. It will therefore be highly likely for Moon to try and expedite an enactment of the bills in order to prevent an adverse situation from developing for himself.
That said, will the national assembly pass all of the fast-tracked bills? The single-house assembly comprises 300 seats, three of which are vacant today. To enact the bills, Moon’s ruling Democratic Party, which currently holds 128 seats plus one belonging to a non-affiliated lawmaker, requires an additional 20 votes to win a majority of 149 seats. If minority leftwing parties excluding the major opposition Liberty Korea Party cooperate with the administration, the reform bills will pass.
Meanwhile, rallies calling for a “national revolution” are markedly gaining momentum. Can leftwing minority parties afford to side with the Moon administration under such circumstances? Can the concerned people of South Korea score a victory? South Korea is right in the midst of a dangerously close battle today.(The End)
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 875 in the October 31, 2019 issue of The Weekly Shincho)