LANDSLIDE ELECTION WIN WILL ENABLE MOON TO IMPLEMENT TOUGHER ANTI-JAPANESE POLICIES
One world leader who has shrewdly turned the Wuhan virus crisis to his advantage is South Korea’s left-leaning Moon Jae-in. Moon’s Democratic Party and its satellite party scored a landslide victory in the general elections earlier this month, securing 180 seats—a whopping 60 percent—of the total 300 seats in South Korea’s unicameral national legislature. While following this “formula for success” may not necessarily be easy for Moon going forward, the fact that an anti-Japanese administration has managed to significantly strengthen its power base in South Korea does not bode well for Japan.
In South Korea, a party gathering more than 60% of the seats in the national assembly is entitled to “fast-track” legislation. Bills designated for this process can be passed at the plenary session at the discretion of the assembly president without going through committee deliberations.
Having secured 60% of the seats, it has now become possible for the ruling party to pass any bills it wants by fast tracking them, except for a constitutional revision which calls for support by two-thirds of the members of the national assembly. This means it has become possible for the administration to install a dictatorship in South Korea.
There are specific bills the Moon administration is expected to submit to parliament that can be characterized as anti-Japanese and revolutionary. They include four new bills aimed respectively at: 1) punishing those who make, or have made, pro-Japanese statements; 2) confiscating pro-Japanese collaborators’ property; 3) stripping pro-Japanese collaborators of government decorations and honors; and 4) digging up and transferring the graves of pro-Japanese collaborators.
Observed Tsutomu Nishioka, an expert on the Korean Peninsula, as he appeared as a guest on my weekly Internet “Genron” TV news show:
“In South Korea, there have always been those strongly condemning pro-Japanese Koreans. On top of that, there have consistently been voices calling for punishment of those willing to discuss issues relating to ‘comfort women’ objectively from a historical perspective. Bills have been crafted many times and submitted for deliberations at ad-hoc committees, but have been defeated thanks to opposition from conservative forces. But the situation has since changed drastically. More so than prosecution of those seen as pro-Japanese, there’s the possibility of those who discuss the history of the bilateral relations based on objective historical facts being abruptly subjected to criminal punishment.
I am concerned that at least two South Koreans I have introduced in my columns face the risk of being incarcerated before anybody else under bill 1). They are co-authors of the best-selling book Anti-Japanese Tribalism: the Root of the Korean Crisis (Miraesa, Seoul: July 10, 2019)—Lee Young-hoon, an emeritus professor at Seoul University, and Lee U-yeon, a professor at Naksundae Institute of Economics. Based on historical records, the latter testified during a UNHRC (United Nations Human Rights Commission) symposium in Geneva last July 2, explaining that wartime Korean workers in Japan had not been coercively brought into Japan as “slave laborers” and that they had been paid the same salaries as their Japanese co-workers free from unequal treatment.
Suppression of Christians In the Officing
Bill 2) has already been enacted, but is expected to be enforced more strictly on the grounds that it is “weak.” Bills 3) and 4) will be fully utilized in staging an elaborate “political show” aimed at bringing shame on all of the pro-Japanese Koreans past and present, with the late President Park Chung-hee possibly at the top of the list.
When the remaining bills are enacted, virtually every empirical scholar in South Korea will face criminal punishment, leading to a further deterioration of the already deplorable relations between Tokyo and Seoul. Warned Hong Hyung, editor-in-chief of the Tong-il Ilbo (“Unification Daily”), a Japanese-language weekly for Koreans residing in Japan. He was another guest of my show:
“The three domestic policies the Moon administration has mapped out are an unambiguous declaration of its resolve to forge ahead with a socialist revolution in South Korea. He has declared that after the general election he would change his administration’s stance vis-à-vis the market, religion, and the freedom of speech.”
By transforming the market, Moon obviously means switching the free market economy to the socialist economy that he has been advocating over the years. Moon leans heavily toward an “anti-zaibatsu,” “anti-affluence,” and “anti-market economy” thinking. With a particularly strong prejudice against the rich, Moon advocates for the redistribution of their wealth. Under his administration, big corporations like Korean Airlines and Hyundai Group have seen their business fundamentals crumble—presumably a realization of Moon’s conviction that all zaibatsu (powerful financial and industrial conglomerates) must be dissolved.
Moon is also antagonistic toward religion. Hyung had this to say about the ongoing suppression of Christians in South Korea:
“Christians make up a quarter of the Korean population. The conservatives have held many anti-Moon demonstrations, with Christian churches across South Korea at the center of their movement. Therefore, Christians are the biggest nuisance for Moon.”
Before the election, the Moon administration had arrested Rev. Jun Kwang-hoon, a popular leader of Christian church groups, on dubious charges. Sources express concern about Jun, who is in jail in poor health. Without their beloved leader, the church forces appear to have lost their political influence at a stroke. How could these forces, made up of more than 10 million members—or a quarter of the total population—lose their power so suddenly just because they have lost one leader?
“That shows how wily Moon’s leftwing forces are,” explained Nishioka. “They took advantage of the Wuhan virus to the hilt, isolating Rev. Jun by creating an image of him as an insane and weird pastor.”
In South Korea, a mass coronavirus infection within a newly formed religious group called Shincheonji in Taegu, southern Korea, developed into a major social problem in March. Because Shincheonji identified itself as a Christian body, a strong sense of caution against Christian churches in general developed across Korean society. Against such a backdrop, Jun allegedly said during an outdoor mass: “God will cure us of the coronavirus disease.”
The South Korean press repeatedly reported on Jun’s remarks, which any pastor would quite naturally be expected to make under dire circumstances, and the authorities made the most of the situation, arresting Jun for political reasons. South Korean churches began distancing themselves from Jun, which is said to have led to a loss of unity among the Christian forces.
General Election Fought Like “War Between South Korea and Japan”
Moon most likely will suppress South Korea’s freedom of speech, transforming the nation into an authoritarian state which will not tolerate any criticism of his administration. This year’s general election played out like a proxy war between South Korea and Japan. It was a Korean election but Japan was the focal point. Election posters put on the Internet by the supporters of the ruling party were painted blue and red, half and half, with blue symbolizing the ruling party and red the opposition forces. The names of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, his grandfather and former prime minister Nobusuke Kishi, wartime prime minister Hideki Tojo, and feudal daimyo Toyotomi Hideyoshi (who commanded two unsuccessful invasions of Korea in the late 1590s), were written on the red side, with the Chosun Ilbo, the JoongAng Ilbo, the Donga Ilbo, and the Liberty Party of Korea written in large red letters on the border between the two colors. The posters were designed to paint the three major media outlets and the top opposition party as pro-Japanese.
“I don’t think the Korean media quite understands the severity of the Moon administration’s posture toward them,” observed Nishioka. “The Chosun Ilbo is being targeted now, and I fear the ChoongAng Ilbo and the Donga Ilbo will meet the same fate.”
South Korea will be tossed into a cataclysmic storm during the two remaining years of Moon’s presidency. But the election results show that not every Korean is backing Moon and his administration. This time, his party garnered 14.3 million votes and secured a stunning 180 seats—a 60% majority in the national assembly—against 11.9 million votes and 103 seats for the opposition United Future Party. Although the Moon administration won 2.4 million more votes than the opposition in the single-seat constituencies, that accounted for only 49.9% of the total votes.
The opposition forces in South Korea still remain large, but the biggest hurdle they face is the inaccurate perception of the history of Japan-South Korea relations. Pursuing a cultural strategy over the years, South Korea’s leftwing forces have promoted a “pro-North Korean” view of history. That inevitably has led to a criticism of today’s South Korea, a country built on an economic prosperity achieved in cooperation with Japan.
While South Koreans are entitled to criticize Japan for legitimate reasons, the conservative forces should have implemented an education for the youth based on historical facts. They should have taught the youth what the empirical research by the likes of Professor Lee Young-hoon has laid bare in terms of the history of Korea’s relations with Japan. In reality, however, neither the government nor the adults have bothered to realize that type of education. As a result, neither the threat of North Korea nor Japan’s contribution to South Korea’s growth, both well understood by the older generation, is recognized by the younger generation. They have become the power base of the anti-Japanese Moon administration.
A lack of courage to implement a fact-based history education has led to the reality of South Korea today. Let it be a valuable lesson for Japan. (The End)
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 899 in the April 23, 2020 issue of The Weekly Shincho)