Posts Tagged ‘Korea’

Where In The World

April 19, 2018

If and when Kim Jong-un actually does sit down for talks with The Great Satan in the merrie, merrie month of May, where-oh-where will those talks take place?  This is the question that has occupied the minds and mouths of media mavens for several past weeks, but their proffered suggestions thus far lack both credibility and imagination.  Here’s what little they’ve been able to muster thus far:

  • Bangkok [Bloomberg]
  • Beijing [AFP]
  • Singapore [Bloomberg/AFP]
  • Ulan Bator [Bloomberg/AFP]
  • Vietnam [AFP]
  • Panmunjom [Reuters/AFP]
  • Pyongyang [AFP]
  • Seoul [AFP]
  • Jeju Island [Hankyoreh]
  • Geneva [Bloomberg/Reuters/AFP]
  • Stockholm [Bloomberg/Reuters/AFP]
  • Oslo [Bloomberg/AFP]
  • Helsinki [Bloomberg/AFP]
  • Prague [Bloomberg]
  • Warsaw [Bloomberg]
  • None of the above.  [Lunghu]

Lunghu is gonna do everybody a favor and name two other places with an actual shot at ending up as host venue.  One might be Kim’s choice, the other would be Melania’s.  Both locations feature beautiful natural landscapes and crisp, clean mountain air.  In May, the stark grandeur of vertiginous granite and limestone slopes will be softly accented by the delicate colors of alpine flowers in full bloom.  Book your airline tickets now to take advantage of the cheap fares. You can thank me later.

Kŭmgangsan Resort Area  [Kangwon Province, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea]

home of nine dragons in Kuryong Falls

 

Lake Bled  [Julian Alps, Slovenia]

The World Rowing Championships were held at Lake Bled in 1966, 1979, 1989, and 2011.  So it’s Lunghu’s sentimental choice.

 

However, it’s always possible that outsize egos and diplomatic protocol won’t permit a meeting at any site perceived to be either man’s home turf.  Sadly, that probably also rules out Doonbeg [Co. Clare, Eire].  A loovely spot it is, to be sure.  Instead, let’s consider a darkhorse candidate:

Sapporo  [Hokkaido, Japan]

  • Sapporo was host city for the 11th Winter Olympics (in 1972), the first ever held in Asia.  This history provides a neat cultural/thematic link to the recent role of the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics in jumpstarting inter-Korean dialog. Furthermore, the city is considering a bid for the 2026 or 2030 Winter Olympics.
  • Sapporo might sometimes be a little chilly in May, but it’s the sunniest month of the year, and it has the topography and infrastructure to handle a sudden influx of dignitaries, security personnel and media masses.  Better still, the island of Hokkaido is replete with beautiful landscapes, mountain vistas, flora and fauna: truly a fairy-tale wonderland for a nature-lover like Kim Jong-un.  There are golf courses too.
  • Shinzo Abe is the odd man out in YoDg’s improbable Kim-Moon-Trump schmooze-fest, and his newly-marginal position in the geopolitics of northeast Asia is compounded by domestic corruption scandals that have undermined his party base at home.  For Trump, this weakness is a vulnerability that can (and will) be exploited for economic gain.  In exchange, he can offer Abe the illusory prestige of summit host and the appearance of ‘inclusion’ at the negotiation table.  Kim might be willing to go along with the program because he understands that this would actually be a humiliating role for Abe and running-dog imperialist lackey Japan.
  • Recent fire-over-earth volcanic eruptions are in southern Japan.

But really, how likely are any of Lunghu’s suggestions to be chosen as a summit site?  It all depends on whether desperate men will continue to accept his sage counsel as the best path to a satisfactory outcome for all concerned.

 

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Full Snow Moon … (or, Kisaeng Cousins)

February 25, 2018

Once upon a time, dutiful daughter Goldilocks paid a visit to the winter cottage of the Three Bears.  She borrowed Cinderella’s golden carriage and traveled for twelve hours through cloudy skies, across trackless wastes, above stormy seas, until the jagged mountain crests of the Three Bears’ homeland at last appeared, shimmering far below in the pale golden light of dawn.  Her carriage glided softly down to earth … and landed at Incheon International Airport. Welcome to Korea.

Thus ends our fable, and so another one begins: The moonarch of New Baekjae sought to renew his nation’s spirit and the mandate of heaven after abrupt dynastic change.  The former kingdom of Old Silla had proven itself grossly unworthy of the people’s trust and had disintegrated in shameful disgrace.  The courtiers of Old Silla had hoped to distract their subjects with an elaborate festival of winter rites, but their greed and crimes had been too brazen to be ignored.  The angry minguk brandished their moral outrage in the faces of their rulers, and sent them scurrying to seek cover in whatever refuge could be found.  A new leader was acclaimed for his righteousness and the new dynasty installed upon the ruins of the old.  The winter festival proceeded almost exactly as scheduled, further adorned by the addition of ritual specialists from the neighboring northern kingdom of New Goguryeo.

Such was the splendor of these winter rites that emissaries from around the world came to New Baekjae bask in the reflected radiance of the ritual performance.  However, some such emissaries were less welcome than others.  A century-long tradition had established an implicit protocol (widely understood among most nations) which specified the appropriate political status of the visting dignitaries.  Distant lands, poor countries or tributary states could be represented by mid-level functionaries.  In contrast, close allies and near neighbors of the host nation were expected to send officers of the highest rank to attend the ceremonies: if the king himself could not attend, his chief minister should represent him.  New-found frenemies were a special case, and could pose something of a protocol dilemma.

Take, f’rinstance, the usurper tyrant of Beautyland.  Under their respective previous dynasties, Beautyland and Old Silla had been the closest of allies for more than half a century.  New Baekjae hoped to maintain that traditional friendship, but the new king of Beautyland was more interested in amassing tribute “gifts” than in maintaining harmony among nations.  His demands became increasingly crude, insistent and abusive.  He repeatedly tried to goad New Goguryeo into attacking its southern neighbor, while simultaneously professing warm friendship for New Baekjae.  As a further sign of his contempt and arrogance, he sent his young daughter Goldilocks to act as Beautyland’s representative at the winter festival ceremonies, even though she held no official post within the government.  So once upon a time, dutiful daughter Goldilocks paid a visit to the winter cottage of the Three Bears…

Thus ends our second fable.

Backgrounder

On several previous occasions, Waking the Dragon has taken inordinate delight in pointing out the cultural significance of backdrop scenery that invariably adorns the performance of public political ritual in Korea. During the Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye regimes, the traditional Korean screen panels displayed at Cheong Wa Dae were used as a coded reference to mark the social status of foreign visitors being received at Old Silla’s royal palace.  A lavish and ornate gold screen embellished with auspicious symbols denoted a valued friend, while a Jeosun-era scene of kowtowing barbarian emissaries was reserved for lower-status races and classes.  The moonrise kingdom of New Baekjae has continued these practices … with a new twist.

Thus, behind the banquet table at Goldilocks’ state dinner, we can discern a newly-visible panel of that familiar Jeosun screen painting on display. Who are those tiny two-dimensional figures in the background?

They’re kisaeng entertainers, that’s who.  Traditional female singer-dancer-whatever partytime companions … low-status women who perform a function in Korean culture similar to that of geishas in Japan.  They’re renowned for their beauty, manners and feminine talents, but their only job is to serve men.  This is the woman’s role in patriarchal Jeosun society … and in some other places with which you may be familiar.

But what’s the message, and to whom is it directed?  Well, since Koreans know that the barbarians of Beautyland are too ignorant and self-absorbed to understand an implicit rebuke even when it’s staring them in the face, it seems likely that this coded message is intended for another audience –the courtiers of New Goguryeo.  The northern kinfolk need no translation: “Beautyland has sent a kisaeng as its emissary, and we in New Baekjae regard her as of no importance. Whatever she may say will be (politely) ignored.”

Get the picture? Liu Yandong certainly does.

Moon-walkin’

January 1, 2018

While some folks talk their talk, others walk the walk.

President Moon Jae-in on Monday welcomed the new year with a three-hour mountain hike up Bukhan-san, [located north of Seoul], and watched the New Year’s Day sunrise.  Moon made the climb with a group of six young Koreans honored as “righteous persons” for the year 2017 because of their good deeds. Among them was Park Jeong-hyon, who was recognized for saving a woman from sexual assault despite being stabbed in the abdomen by the assailant.

Afterward, the hikers had breakfast with Moon’s chief secretaries at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae.

As I have pointed out on several prior occasions, political events and photo ops in Korea always have a subtext that is silently staged in the background, either with an artificial scenic backdrop or –as in this case– with a powerful natural landscape. Let’s review the messages and the medium.

First, Moon is acknowledging his political base –Korean youth– by publicly recognizing and rewarding their “righteous” civic behavior.  Moon is implicitly paying tribute to those tens (hundreds?) of thousands whose Yin Fire candlelight lit the way for his landslide election.  The fact that all six of his fellow hikers were male is either an effort to avoid sexist innuendo or a practical concession to the masculine feng shui energies of the current double-Yang-Water Rat month.

Second, President Moon is showcasing his personal physical vigor and active spirit. What other national leaders in the northeast Asian region are getting out of bed at 4AM in mid-winter for a three-hour mountain hike?  Kim Jong-eun? Not hardly.  Shinzo Abe? No chance.  Xi Jin-ping? Probably not.  Donald Trump? Not even for an early tee time.  Vladimir Putin? Sure, he could do it, but only for a covert operation.  Moon’s morning hike is a declaration that he’s healthy, he’s strong, and he’s going to work long hours to accomplish righteous deeds.

Third, the Bukhan-san Moonwalk evokes the awe-inspiring terrain and sweeping vistas that Koreans can expect to experience at the PyeongChang Olympics, just two months away.  Spectator attendance is likely to be a problem: bone-chilling cold and high travel costs will deter many Europeans and North Americans, as will lingering anxieties about potential flareup of geopolitical tensions in the region.  But all those doubts and inconveniences can be set aside when you’re gazing across a beautiful landscape from atop a majestic mountain peak.  At least that’s the hope of the PyeongChang Olympic organizing committee.

need lots more snow…

 

OK, that’s the more-or-less obvious political meaning to be inferred from President Moon’s New Year’s Day excursion. But what about the sub-subtext, the historical/cultural allusions that a cultivated Korean sensibility might be able to discern in this public performance? Here are some aspects to consider:

  • Location: Bukhan-san is a national park of 80 square km situated on the northern fringes of Seoul. Its name means “big north mountain.” It is also called Samgak-san, which means “three-peak mountain.”  In starting off his New Year by getting up early to climb the big mountain in the north, President Moon is yet once again asserting his intention to seek amity with the DPRK despite the fact that it’s uphill all the way.  Perhaps we can think of the three Kims as the three peaks of Samgak-san.
  • Amity is one thing, preparedness is another.  The mountain is also the site of Bukhansanseong fortress, built with a wall about 8.5 km long specifically to stop foreign invasion.  It is one of the representative mountain fortresses of the Joseon Era.  Who was invading Joseon back in the day?  Jurchen tribesmen from the north … or the Chinese.
  • Contemplate this: Sangunsa Temple (built by the monk Won-Hyo), Seungasa Temple on east Bibong Peak, Munsusa Temple halfway up Musubong Peak, and numerous other temples are scattered throughout the mountain area.

One day, King Taejo visited the great monk Muhakdaesa. The King wanted to amuse himself, so he proposed that they freely exchange jokes without concern for social status. “You look like a pig!” said Taejo to the monk.
Muhakdaesa replied, “And you, sir, look like Buddha to me.”
King Taejo was confused, “We agreed to forget our politeness and make fun of each other.  If you say I look like Buddha, how could that be funny?” asked the King.
Muhakdaesa replied, “Pigs can only see other pigs and Buddha can only see Buddha.”
Hearing this, Taejo realized his character was still immature and come to admire Muhakdaesa even more.

  • Taoism precedes Buddhism: The Year of Yin Fire Fowl is almost over, its flickering flame being inexorably quenched by the double-Yang-Water Rat (Dec/Jan) and yin-water/yin-earth Ox (Jan/Feb) months.  In forty-five days or so, the approaching double-Yang-Earth Dog Year will be here.  Double-Yang-Earth (strong earth supporting strong earth) is not merely soil heaped upon soil like a cropland furrow: it is solid rock piled high –a mighty mountain.  Moon Jae-in is already climbing that big north mountain, in company with six righteous citizens.  Does he know that the #5 Yellow Misfortune Star will reside in the North during the Year of the Dog?  I think he does, hence the six righteous citizens in his entourage.  There’s nothing like righteousness to ward off misfortune.

Later in the day, Moon made phone calls to public officials, including quarantine officials combating the outbreak of bird flu, PyeongChang Olympic organizers … and American soldiers stationed in South Korea and thanked them for their dedication to service.

On Tuesday, he is scheduled to invite people from every social sector, including business leaders, to his office to exchange New Year’s greetings.

Compare and contrast.

 

Xu Drop

September 12, 2017

“Although it has involved [a series of] disturbing events, the North Korean “crisis” of recent months is largely an invented one.”

“In light of the undeniable reality of mutual [nuclear] deterrence, the North Korean “crisis” of 2017 can most accurately be seen as a media puppet show put on by Chairman Kim and President Trump for their own public relations purposes.”

“[Analysts] say there is no definitive, publicly available proof that North Korea has a missile with the range to strike the continental United States, a miniaturized nuclear warhead to mount on it, and the shielding technology to make sure the warhead survives the heat and pressure of reentry to the atmosphere.”

“The North Korean situation might begin to [move toward] difficult diplomacy [and] an acceptable resolution if journalists downplayed the Chairman Kim-President Trump Puppet Show and focused on reality: North Korea is a tiny, impoverished country that would be instantly vaporized if it ever launched a serious attack on the United States.”

John Mecklin is the editor in chief of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Reuters News Service thinks him sufficiently credible to give his op-ed piece a relatively prominent place on its September 12 webpage.

 

In contrast, Lunghu is a wild-eyed conspiracy theorist (well, maybe not) considered credible by a relatively small number of people who believe that past performance might be a possible indicator of occasional insight.  The fact that Mr. Mecklin makes several of the same points advanced by Lunghu in an August blogpost should not be used by skeptical readers to disparage either writer.  Lunghu is unconstrained by institutional responsibilities and obligations that discourage venturesome speculation or insolent provocation: Editor Mecklin is not.  Thus there’s a limit to what he can say in public, and there’s a limit to what Reuters will publish.  Will Reuters‘ editors learn to read between the lines as well?

Rarer Earth Metals

August 15, 2017

Carbon and iron are among the most commonly-occurring, non-gaseous elements on Earth –thus, effusive chemists might (with scant exaggeration) claim that our planet’s core and surface are largely composed of these two substances.  However, long before Mendeleev and Meyer thought of rearranging our whirling atomic chaos into serried tabular ranks, Taoist seers had divided all existence into five elemental categories: water, wood, fire, earth, metal.  Carbon (earth).  Iron (metal).  Carbon (coal).  Iron (ore).

China has announced that it will cut off imports of North Korean coal, iron ore, seafood and other goods in three weeks, under U.N. sanctions imposed over the North’s nuclear and missile programs.  The Chinese customs agency said Monday that it will stop processing imports of North Korean coal, iron and lead ores and fish at midnight on September 5.  A veteran trader based in Shandong who deals in coking coal and anthracite, and a Beijing-based iron ore trader with a company that handles North Korean iron ore, said the government stopped issuing permits to bring in iron ore several weeks ago.  Iron ore cargoes from North Korea are usually in concentrate form with relatively high iron content of 60-63 percent.

I like the timing of this announcement, coming as it does in the final week of the yang earth/yang metal Monkey Month.  Even better, the import ban goes into effect right in the middle of the yin earth/yin metal Fowl (Rooster) Month, just before the Full Corn Moon of September 6.  It’s probably no coincidence that this adjustment to Chinese trade policy will bring importation of elemental earth and metal feedstock commodities into closer harmony with the timeless rhythms of the celestial calendar.

From September 6 through September 20, the yin earth and yin metal energy of the Fowl Month will gradually transform into the yang metal/yang earth configuration of the Dog Month/October (essentially reversing the energy pattern of Monkey Month/August).  All the while, Tai Sui will be watching developments in the East from this year’s Western throne.  Nobody with any sense of the possible consequences will want to create a disturbance in the “self-penalty” Fowl Month.  Even when the official party line dismisses feng-shui as a feudal superstition, why take unnecessary risks with the people’s welfare at stake?

 

Red Glaring Era

August 12, 2017

Not so very long ago, just a few years back –when Kim Jong-il was Washington’s designated Yellow Peril boogeyman– a couple of American rocketry specialists proposed a novel and intriguing thesis … which they then backed up with data and analysis in an unclassified monograph.  Long story short, they asserted that North Korea lacked the scientific, technical and industrial infrastructure (as well as the money) required to design and manufacture the relatively sophisticated missiles then soaring off the sacred soil of the DPRK.

Curiously, however, these missiles exhibited all the operating characteristics (range, payload, telemetry, engine thrust, etc.) of hardware with which the American rocketeers were already quite familiar: Russian missiles.  And when Kim Jong-il paraded his missiles through the streets of Pyongyang on major holidays, whadda ya know, they looked an awful lot like Russian missiles too.  Not top-tier stuff; second-class, older-model Russian rockets.

Golly, how can this be?  Were these Korean missiles carefully copied exact clones?  Uh … probably not, for the reasons noted above.  Instead, concluded our intrepid aeronautical engineers, it was much more likely that Kim Jong-il was sourcing his hardware inventory in off-the-shelf, plug-and-play, launchpad-ready condition from (cue the gasps of surprise and dismay) Comrade Bear.  That’s right, Bad Vlad hisseff.  Now, of course, as former employees of –and current consultants to– the United States military-industrial complex, these analysts didn’t come right out and accuse democratically elected officials of the Russian Federation of violating UN sanctions and the rules of fair play.  Such forthright candor would have been undiplomatic and downright unseemly.  But they took pains to point out that medium-range missiles are generally considered a closely-guarded defense technology and are very rarely known to cross international borders unassisted.

Then, just for fun, the analysts built a timeline of Kim Jong-il’s nuclear tests and missile launches … cross-referenced with a chronology of Russian foreign policy initiatives.  Should we be surprised that they found repeated instances in which tensions between Russia and the United States or Japan were promptly followed by bellicose posturing from Pyongyang?  This pattern suggested the possibility that North Korean weapons tests were in some cases “commissioned” by Russia, with the requisite materiel furnished on an as-needed basis.  When Comrade Bear wanted to twist the trousers of the US, South Korea or Japan, Kim Jong-il was exactly the right man for the job.

So, was this –is this– at all a credible thesis?  Those who might know ain’t talkin’ ’bout it in public.  Nobody’s even botherin’ to ridicule the possibility, fer cryin’ out loud.  What might we infer from that?

That was then, this is now

Here we are in the Year of the Fowl and it’s déjà vu all over again.  Seems that those who don’t care to know recent history are only too happy to repeat it.  Kim Jong-un suddenly starts launching missiles that (allegedly) have intercontinental capability, and Chicken Little promptly notices that the sky is falling.  How convenient.

It’s not surprising that Donald Trump has seized this marvelous opportunity for saber-rattling with both tiny hands: he desperately needs an excuse to deflect public discourse away from his amply-demonstrated ignorance, incompetence and venality.  To that end, his overheated rhetoric is furiously furnishing further fuel for the waning yin fire that still lingers from the Sheep Month.  Not to worry (too much): it’s all part of the script for Trump’s latest “reality” television series.  The plotlines were laid out over dessert at G20, and almost everyone (even you) is playing their appointed roles.  We haven’t yet seen the credits roll, but in reality TV, the screenwriter’s name never appears. How convenient.

It should be pretty obvious what the donald might hope to gain from edging to the brink of his own splendid little war, but perhaps some readers may find it less clear what Putin gets out of this artful deal.  Here ya go:

Comrade Bear benefits from 2017’s DPRK Monkey Month antics in at least 4 ways:

  • a manufactured war crisis diverts U.S. media attention away from the Mueller investigation of Russia-Trump collusion.  A helping hand extended to his fellow Gazprom shareholder?
  • payback for U.S. Senate sanctions against Russia’s siloviki kleptocracy.
  • a wedge into the joints of America’s North Asia alliances with Japan and South Korea: each nation has different interests at stake.
  • the usual suspect, China, gets all the Confucian blame for the misbehavior of Number One Son Kim Jong-un … while sly Comrade Bear basks in the sun at a lakeside dacha.  He’s not actually relaxing.

In these circumstances, what would Marshal Shaposhnikov suggest?  Perhaps a peek at the Vostochny cosmodrome might provide an answer.

 

Tuber Or Not Tuber

August 3, 2017

Beginning in May, Korean agricultural researchers in Okcheon, Chungcheong-bukdo implemented a novel experiment intended to reduce crop damage caused by feral hogs.

Farmers in the region began leaving piles of carrots and sweet potatoes along the woodland fringes adjacent to their fields.  These are foods enjoyed by wild boars, who often demolish wide swaths of cropland while rooting through the fields in search of the sweet, starchy tubers.

On June 10, the National Institute of Biological Resources installed surveillance cameras in two locations to observe the effects. They recorded five wild boars eating the carrots and sweet potatoes and leaving without damaging crops.

For centuries, Korean farmers have endured freezing cold and scorching heat, drought and floods, insect pests and yangban taxation. For millennia, wild boar have been a serious nuisance as well.  Trapping the wily, wary hogs is usually difficult, and hunting them is always dangerous.  Perhaps this “Franciscan” approach will be somewhat effective.

However, Korea being Korea, the appearance of this story in the peninsular news media isn’t merely about 21st century agricultural techniques and methods.  Instead, this mini-narrative is also operating at an additional abstract level of metaphorical reference in order to propose (or perhaps to endorse) a geopolitical strategy for dealing with the wild young boar of the North … Kim Jong-un.  Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that carrots and yams will be enough to satisfy his appetite for la dolce vita.

Hedged Funding

July 7, 2017

Wait, is that an actual hedge or a virtual (Photoshopped) hedge in the background of this photo? Perhaps only Yonhap’s photo editor knows for sure.  It doesn’t really matter: the underlying message is the same either way.

 

Large-scale and green: we should expect forthcoming news of YUGE clean-energy investment deals between Siemens and KEPCO.  Moon has promised to reduce Korea’s reliance on nuclear power plants by adding cleaner electricity generation capacity.  Wind, tide and solar are obvious candidates to augment hydroelectric and thermal power stations.  Furthermore, significant job creation would be necessary to build and operate new energy infrastructure. This project is gonna get green-lighted (using dis term in da trad Hollywood vernacular, not in da bogus interwebs ish).

Lunar Land-scapegoat

June 22, 2017

Outmoded rituals –like the minor habits of daily domestic life– can be difficult to set aside even once their original purpose has long been lost to modern memory.  Nowhere is this more true than in the Moonrise Kingdom of New Baekje now taking shape upon the ruins remaining from Old Silla.  Amid the tumult and confusion of foreground regime change, longstanding cultural practices keep-on-keepin’-on … at the very margins of visibility.  Case in point, the presidential photo-op:

Way back yonder in the Lee Myung-bak era, Lunghu pointed out that visiting dignitaries at Cheong Wa Dae were sorted by their hosts into a hierarchy of international importance that was signalled by the subtly-coded backdrop before which the traditional handshake photo was staged.  Barbarian emissaries of semi-savage nations (Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia) were received in front of a Chosun-era folding screen depicting lowly foreign messengers performing their kowtow to the Korean emperor.  Diplomats and officials from valuable export markets in Europe and North America posed for their handshake with a glowingly resplendent golden screen behind them.  Close neighbors from China and Japan rated an auspicious Asian landscape painting replete with Sinitic symbolism.  A place for everyone, and everyone in their place.

This pattern from Lee Myung-bak’s Republic of Hyundai didn’t change during Park Geun-hye‘s Republic of Samsung, and thus far it hasn’t changed under Moon Jae-in‘s Republic of Candlepower.  That’s why Beijing-bound Beltway advanceman Richard N. Haass is backlit with a golden aura in the photo above.  Despite what Koreans might think of the monarch whose message he bears, the United States is still a precious ally in an unfriendly neighborhood.  As far as Koreans are concerned, the U.S. alliance is a vital relationship that can –and must– outlast four years of attempted sabotage inspired by Comrade Bear.

Upshift

That said, let’s never forget that national politics is –in every nation– a cutthroat, zero-sum, feast-or-famine struggle for survival.  So it should be absolutely no surprise that the newly-exiled courtiers of Old Silla (under the rebranded label of Liberty Korea Party) are seeking to exploit their well-established backchannel links with American conservatives to discredit the Moon government’s national security policies.  According to these hardened cold-warriors, a left-center/progressive/human activist like Moon Jae-in is someone who will place the freedom-loving Korean nation in jeopardy by being soft on China and squishy on Kim Jong-un.  Since President Moon currently has public approval ratings above 80%, they’ve inevitably chosen to attack his appointees rather than the man himself.  Thus their overt parliamentary maneuvering and covert media campaigns against foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha and national security adviser Moon Chung-in.

In fact, Hannara/GNP/Saenuri/Liberty Korea knows quite well that the new administration has no real wiggle room to dramatically alter inter-Korean relations: Kim Jong-un ain’t playin’.  Instead, what really worries the kleptocrats of Liberty Korea is the inevitable, inexorable impact of a looming government crackdown on chaebol corruption. Coming soon: a long overdue Brazilian-style carwash investigation, transplanted to Gangnam and points South-Southeast.

 

Frisson d’Avril

April 1, 2017

The yin water Rabbit month ended earlier this week (on Monday or Tuesday, depending on your location under the rising new moon), but feng shui misfortunes persist for those whose star-crossed destinies are in clash with the Year of the Fowl.  Case in point: Park Geun-hye, dowager queen of Hell-Joseon.

Four years and three months after being elected, the same Park Geun-hye who vowed to become a “public welfare president” and “a president for unity” was incarcerated on March 31 as a suspect in 13 criminal charges, including bribery. The arrest warrant, which was issued by Seoul Central District Court 21 days after the Constitutional Court removed Park from presidential office, is based on a number of charges against her, including the acceptance of a 43.3 billion won (US$38.6 million) bribe from Samsung.  “Since the main charges have been established and there are concerns about the destruction of evidence, we grant the grounds for detention, its necessity and its significance,” Judge Kang Bu-yeong said.

Prosecutors managed to back up their charge that Park received 43.3 billion won from Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong (in jail under investigative detention) in return for government rulings that helped him inherit management rights over the Samsung Group.  Their evidence included the notebook of Park’s former aide, Senior Secretary for Economic Affairs Ahn Jong-beom (in jail awaiting trial) and several text messages exchanged by Samsung staff who were discussing financial support for Choi Sun-sil’s daughter Jung Yu-ra.

Prosecutors are very likely to file charges against Park before April 17, which marks the beginning of the official election period [stipulated under Korea’s Constitution].  Prosecutors are also likely to speed up their investigation of Samsung and other chaebols, including Lotte and SK, who have come up in the investigation of Choi Sun-sil.

Mene, Mene, Tekel Upharsin

Two years ago, the handwriting on the wall which foretold Park’s downfall was literally there to be seen  –hiding in plain sight in her presidential palace.  But the message was written in the language of images rather than in Hangul or Roman characters.  I blogged about this cryptic portent in January 2015, parsing the symbolic meaning of imagery depicted in a scenic backdrop that formed part of the stage set for Park’s New Year’s message to the Korean people.  In retrospect, given what we now know about Choi Sun-sil’s control over the presentation of Park’s public persona, it’s clear that the iconic symbols crammed into the landscape were almost certainly chosen by Choi herself as a coded message to the business executives she was shaking down:  the president’s treasure bowl is to be filled through the three Blue House aides portrayed as grazing deer.

So, because Korean history inevitably repeats itself, I’m not at all surprised that the ROK is once again submerged in a tsunami of scandalous corruption.  Lee Myung-bak‘s Republic of Hyundai was briefly succeeded by Lee Jae-yong‘s Republic of Samsung, and now something else will be hastily cobbled together to masquerade as governance in the southern provinces.  In a waning Yin Fire year, Earth and Metal are signs of Korea’s future.