MOON JAE-IN’S HARD-LINE POLICIES MAY LEAD TO COLLAPSE OF SOUTH KOREA
Top Japanese and South Korean trade control officials met in Tokyo on December 16 for the first time in more than three years in an effort to alleviate protracted economic friction over Japan’s tightened control of strategic materials export. The Japanese side positioned the ten hours of talks as “dialogue” while the Korean side described them as “consultations.”
In the vocabulary of diplomacy, dialogue and consultations are two different matters. The former means exchanging ideas and opinions in an effort to better understand each other’s stance. The latter, on the other hand, means expounding one’s opinion in an effort to negotiate a better deal for oneself.
Masahiko Hosokawa, a former trade ministry bureaucrat who now teaches at Chubu Institute of Advanced Studies in Aichi Prefecture, commented:
“Export control is a decision that respective governments make on their own. It is unfit for negotiations.”
As is generally known, South Korea—angered by being removed in August from Japan’s “white list” of countries deemed to have sufficient export controls—warned it would in retaliation abrogate the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), a bilateral agreement on the exchange of sensitive military information. After grudgingly extending the agreement under strong pressure from the US, Seoul called the trade meetings “consultations” in a ploy to look as though it were wringing concessions from Japan and avoid domestic criticism for having compromised over GSOMIA.
South Korea made another preposterous move on the same day when National Assembly speaker Moon Hee-sang submitted a bill designed to resolve the “wartime conscripted workers” issue. The bill would establish a fund with seed moneys from both governments as well as corporations and private contributors of both countries in order to compensate the former workers.
I find this idea ridiculous, although some Japanese lawmakers, including Takeo Kawamura, an influential member of the Japan-South Korea Parliamentarians’ Association (JSPA) and former chief cabinet secretary, are enthused about it. As far as Japan is concerned, the workers issue was settled once and for all under the terms of the Japan-Republic of Korea Basic Treaty normalizing diplomatic relations in 1965. Japan’s contributing to the proposed fund simply does not make sense, as it runs counter to the spirit of the Basic Treaty. Nor will it lead to a resolution of the issue in question.
The “comfort women” issue is a typical example of Japan mismanaging its dealings with South Korea, having continually made occasional compromises after initially turning a blind eye to the importance of strictly adhering to the intergovernmental agreements. If Japan should make another compromise now, the workers issue will become yet another “comfort women” issue, only contributing to a further aggravation in Tokyo-Seoul relations.
Members of the JSPA who are eagerly trying to influence the government’s policy towards South Korea must prudently consider if Moon Jae-in’s domestic and foreign policies are credible. After bowing to the pressure from the US to retain GSOMIA, Moon invited Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Seoul. On December 5, Wang demanded that South Korea:
•Strictly refrain from deploying the US Terminal High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD)
•Not deploy new US-manufactured medium-range missiles;
•Not participate in the US-led Indo-Pacific Strategy;
•Consider more positively Beijing’s “One Belt, One Road” scheme.
Demands as Supreme Ruler
Wang’s high-handed posture toward South Korea reminded me of the ASEAN Regional Forum held in Hanoi in July 2010, when 27 foreign ministers of the region congregated to discuss security in the South China Sea. Glaring at his counterparts, China’s Yang Jiechi imperiously declared:
“China is a big country and other countries are small countries, and that’s just a fact.”
The pressure Wang applied to Seoul this time in making his demands reflected the same Han Chinese ethnocentrism that propelled Yang to make that haughty declaration nine years ago. Wang, like Yang, spoke as a “supreme ruler.” Moon kept a self-deprecating posture before Wang throughout his stay. Didn’t his posture show the true colors of the South Korean leader, who on August 15—the National Liberation Day of South Korea—indicated his readiness to release his nation from a trilateral alliance with the US and Japan to form a new alliance among a unified Korea, China, and Russia?
Two days after the Moon-Wang meeting, on December 7, Trump called Moon from Washington for a 30-minute chat. Trump couldn’t possibly have asked Moon another favor—such as acting as an intermediary for a new summit—now that he neither trusts nor relies on Moon. It is almost certain that Trump put a check on Moon instead, specifically underlining how strictly Washington is dealing with Beijing and Pyongyang.
Following the telephone conversation, the Moon administration announced that the two leaders “shared an assessment that the current situation on the Korean Peninsula is grave.” That Moon this time refrained from expressing dreamy optimism about peace on the peninsula obviously indicated the seriousness of the nature of their conversation. Ms Ruriko Kubota, an editorial board member of the conservative daily Sankei Shimbun, had this to say when she appeared as a guest of my regular “Genron” Internet television news show last Friday:
“Since November 28, American reconnaissance planes have daily been flying over the peninsula, wiretapping and making ground reconnaissance. On December 11, two US B-52 bombers flew over the East Sea on a mission possibly to send a warning in response to Pyongyang’s recent series of missile launches. Clearly, the US is intentionally taking the wraps off these military maneuvers it ordinarily conducts under cover. Appearing on “Fox News Sunday” on December 8, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said: ‘My job is to ensure that we are ready, prepared to fight and win tonight, if necessary. I believe we are in a high state of readiness now.’ Esper declared that US forces are fully ready for action.”
What Trump told Moon must have been harsh in every respect, including a possible US military intervention in the North. It would be logical to assume that he warned Moon against his propensity to lean toward China.
Amid the pressures from both the US and China, Moon continues to devote all his energies to the implementation of the socialist revolution he envisions. He has just submitted two bills to the National Assembly that may lead to a collapse of South Korea, although the Japanese media have scarcely reported on either development. The first bill, submitted on November 27, would reform the electoral process. The second bill, submitted on December 13, would establish a new prosecution office directly under Moon’s control, ostensibly to crack down on crimes of high officials. If the administration manages to enact these bills by collaborating with a group of minor parties, it could fundamentally transform—and effectively destroy—a free and democratic South Korea.
Unification with North
South Korea, unlike Japan, has a single chamber system of parliament comprising 300 seats—253 directly elected and 47 allocated by nation-wide proportional representation. At present, there are three vacancies, making for a total of 297 representatives. To command a majority, 149 seats are needed. Explained Tsutomu Nishioka, an expert on the Korean Peninsula and a senior research fellow at the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals (JINF), a privately financed think tank that I head in Tokyo:
“Moon is trying to push the electoral reform bill under which single-seat representatives will be reduced to 225 and proportional representatives increased to 75, making it more advantageous for minority left-wing parties to win proportional seats.”
At present, the leftist ruling Democratic Party of Korea, with 129 seats-20 short of a majority. The conservative leading opposition Liberty Korea Party has 108 seats. There are seven other parties, all minor with seats ranging from 15 to 1, including the Bareunmirae Party and the Justice Party. All but one of them are extreme left.
Nishioka explained further:
“Electoral reform will prove advantageous to these minority parties. Critics assert that the bill is so complicated no one will be able to figure out how each vote should be allocated. Since the bill has already been fast-tracked, the committee chairman is entitled to approve it without the need for bipartisan support.”
With the reform bill Moon Jae-in is plotting to enable leftwing forces to secure an absolute majority in the legislature by changing the electoral law first. Once that is accomplished, he will move to revise the constitution, making it legally possible to reunite with the North under a federal system, which is currently prohibited. Secondly, he will put the newly established second prosecution office (i.e. political prosecution) above the present prosecution, giving it the power of investigation and prosecution of crimes committed by high officials. Moon then intends to scrap the present prosecution office, which has been exposing the injustice of his administration, putting the judiciary completely under his control.
When the South Korean national parliament came to a close on December 10, Moon attempted unsuccessfully to reopen it on December 11, 13, and 16 in order to expedite passage of the controversial bills. The Liberty Korea Party and volunteers representing the people physically blocked the ruling party’s attempts to resume deliberations. And yet they have so far been unable to halt Moon’s drive towards a socialist revolution.
Compromising with a Moon administration making a dash for a leftwing totalitarian revolution is not good for Japan. Backing up pro-democracy forces standing face to face with the Moon administration undoubtedly is in our best interest. (The End)
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column #882 in the December 26, 2019 issue of The Weekly Shincho)