Monday, January 23, 2017

AHN Hee-jung joins the fray

Frankly, there is no way out of impeachment for PARK Geun-hye - the sole story about that blacklist of artists should suffice to seal her fate. Now she's just trying to delay the process, wishing her judges were about to retire. 

Meanwhile, her partner in crime CHOI Soon-sil keeps denying the obvious, and pushing arrogance to new levels. The way she counterattacked her prosecutors by demanding proofs and testimonies, you'd believe she knows in which Thai river she had KO Young-tae's remains fed to the fishes.


"Dirty sleep", an art work featured in a special 'freedom of expression' exhibition at the National Assembly hall: PARK Geun-hye sleeps as the Sewol sinks, and CHOI Soon-sil provides syringes - 20170123 Chosun Ilbo "국회 의원회관에 '나체 상태의 박근혜 대통령' 그림 논란"
Again, let's hope justice will prevail (see "Of power vacua and excesses").

Now the question remains who's next in South Korea's doomest office (after acting prez HWANG Kyo-ahn), and in that regard, recent days have brought interesting developments: BAN Ki-moon has totally screwed up his return to Korea, LEE Jae-myung confirmed his candidacy, and AHN Hee-jung pulled out a perfect launch. Can MOON Jae-in maintain his lead until late Spring?

To sum it up: 

1) Korea needs a uniting, moderate, ideology-free leader to leverage on the formidable grassroot movement that saw 96% of the population stand up for democracy.
2) The political landscape is ultra-fragmented: Saenuri completely imploded around pro/anti-Park lines, and rivalries mar the opposition.
3) Two heavyweights lead in the polls, but fail to convince a majority. 
4) MOON Jae-in struggles to pass for a uniter after having embodied systematic opposition for years, and bullied AHN Cheol-soo out of the 2012 race. He's in Hillary's position: the best chance to win on paper, but a jaded politician, and a disliked favorite.
5) BAN Ki-moon had the resume: the UN international aura, ROH Moo-hyun-friendly enough to please the Left, conservative and reform-averse enough to please the Right, a soft spoken gentleman old enough to play the role of the benevolent patriarch of the nation..., but if he shined as a minister, BAN never proved his prowess in the driver's seat, and from the start he let his campaign be hijacked by a Dark Side of the Force desperate to find a leader following PGH's collapse. He had the ideal profile to reach from the center across the aisles, but it will be hard for him to claim the 96% after a week where he distinguished himself by calling PARK Geun-hye and meeting LEE Myung-bak.

6) If LEE Jae-myung gained momentum during the mass demonstrations, his controversial, Trump-style temperament undermines his candidacy. Should he leave the leading trio by the end of next month, his chances would be very slim.

7) It seems that whatever PARK Won-soon says or does, he can't rise in the polls. The Seoul mayor positioned himself as a reformer and an innovator, and counts on the inauguration of Seoul Station 7017 to feed the buzz, but his craze for media attention, very efficient at the local and international levels, tends to backfire at the national level.
8) The third man could turn out to be a different AHN than last time: AHN Cheol-soo did build a political base, but the democratic tsunami reshuffled the whole deck, and ACS is not as inspiring as he initially looked. AHN Hee-jung starts apparently without any base, but he's perfectly leveraging that freedom, and judging by its PR campaign and his no-nonsense, anti-populist positions, he can claim both conservatives and reformers. A convincing interview with Chosun Ilbo, followed by a praising editorial from Maeil Business Newspaper the day before he announced, and he put himself at the center of the map, making LEE Jae-myung's announcement almost inaudible.

As MOON Jae-in flies, BAN Ki-moon stagnates, and the LEE Jae-myung bubble deflates, AHN Hee-jung gains positive reviews for his Chosun interview - 20170122 - twitter.com/theseoulvillage/status/822980039536820224)

If by end of February, polls show AHN Hee-jung closer to - or even part of - the top 3, he stands a clear chance. The weeks to come will clearly test MOON's grip on the lead, and BAN's capacity to reset his campaign.


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Thursday, January 5, 2017

Handover Hangover

The unenthusiastic saehaebokmanibadeuseyos that evaporated as early as January 2nd, the post-truth / pre-Trump gloom / doom, the neverending Park-Choi-Woo drama*...

Korea seems to be dragging her feet into the young year, but I also see a lot of people taking the leap. And for a change, not only in that most tragic sense of the term.

Yes, this nation missed its momentum, piled up unnecessary crises, and failed to become a true leader while China and others were catching up, eager to follow the new benchmark. Yes, Korea was betrayed by her own leaders, and their fall will even undermine their too few good initiatives (e.g. nurturing creative ecosystems). Yes, no candidate seems to have the leadership qualities required by the moment.

But yes, new leaders are emerging from the bottom up. Sound citizens and entrepreneurs bringing positive social and economic changes across communities. And of course there is the formidable and overwhelmingly non-ideological democratic movement that bloomed over the last months, a new collective conscience and exigence that hopefully will debunk populists as well as other enemies of democracy.

Yes, Korea is in crisis, but that's precisely now that she can become a true leader, if she seizes the moment to redefine a sustainable vision for society, economics, and politics.

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* Park Geun-hye - Choi Soon-sil - Woo Byung-woo (see "Of power vacua and excesses"). Will they all be in jail one year from now? Distressing to see how the 3 topics in last year's first post (see "2016 under the carpet") managed to get even worse since:
- one year ago, Shinzo ABE and PGH agreed to insult history as a tandem, and today the former is recalling his ambo over the latest 'comfort women' row.
- one year ago, KIM Jong-un was playing with nukes, and today he's about to test Trump's control of the red and blue buttons (the blue one's for Tweeter, can you remember that, Don?)
- one year ago, the Korean opposition was fighting over who would be the best leader for the 2017 elections. Today, MOON Jae-in, AHN Cheol-soo, PARK Won-soon and all have to add LEE Jae-myung to their worries, and election day is likely to happen much earlier than scheduled.
... should I continue with time bombs that were bound to explode, yet somehow managed to grow even fatter (e.g. household debt)...? so happy next year! ("Happy New Year 2018" / "Bonne année 2018")

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