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Monday, March 20, 2017

Weapons of Mass Distraction

If Robert Kelly's adorable kids crashed his BBC interview, their cute videobombing provided a welcomed distraction from KIM Jong-un's WMDs, Cheon Wa Dae's implosion, or China's nuclear reaction to THAAD.

Korea definitely needs to embrace this joyful, multicultural youth coming in peace, but, like Kelly, we also need to keep our eye on the ball. Or rather on juggling balls that tend to multiply and to become highly explosive.

On one hand, many uncertainties seem to have been lifted: PARK Geun-hye's impeachment succeeded brilliantly, she meets her prosecutors tomorrow, a date has been set for the presidential election, conservatives all but gave up 2017*, and MOON Jae-in doesn't appear to lose ground in the polls (this morning RealMeter added 1.5 pts to both him and his main rival AHN Hee-jung, but fifty days before May 9, and even less before party primaries, the latter lags 21 points behind the former).

On the other hand, Korea's beautiful political moment and national unity receded as the old political barnum returned. Pro-PARK factions hijacked the Taegukgi, PARK herself formed a shadow cabinet of fellow hardcore deniers, and MOON tried to revive the Sewol's instrumentalization by tying it to the impeachment the very day the Constitutional Court explicitely confirmed that April 16 couldn't be used to justify PGH's eviction. Still struggling to pass for a uniter, the front runner has yet to reassure many voters about his positions regarding North Korea and national security.

BTW if the Trump Administration were clear enough to say that strategic patience was BAD and OVER, they have yet to say what they will replace it with. I guess something between Elusivarus Rex (Rex Tillerson's No Presser Mode), and Twitterrence (Trump's Twitter Deterrence). 

Anyway, South Korea's subtle balancing act between the US and China has been shaken and stirred by the THAAD crisis, whose impacts went from political to economic to social: in Korean minds, the favorability of China has now fallen even behind Japan's (see this excellent report from the Asan Institute: "Changing Tides: THAAD and Shifting Korean Public Opinion toward the United States and China"). China's retaliation came on top of an already weakened economy, which may face further shocks following the Fed's rate hikes (e.g. something's gotta give with this massive household debt).

As questions of survival reclaim the top of our agendas, can the great promises of last Fall survive this Spring? That hope for a reunited society, that hope for a deep and sound debate about the constitution, that hope for an eradication of corruption, that hope for a 'mani pulite' operation liberating justice from WOO Byung-woo and his friends...?

Yes let's keep our eye on the ball, and yes let's also let the kids roll in. In the end, it's all about them.

Seoul Village 2017
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* HWANG Kyo-ahn withdrew his candidacy (... and HONG Seok-hyeon from JoongAng Ilbo - could he be considering a bid in 2022?) 

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