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Thursday, August 22, 2019

Moon Landing - The Cheong Wa Dae Curse

Is MOON Jae-in losing it? Is the Cheong Wa Dae curse eventually catching up with him? How much is this weird leadership crisis affecting Korea's future? And to start with, am I sounding a bit too dramatic?

Last year (see "Checks and balances"), I singled out "three disturbingly noxious axes" around which MOON's very character was being questioned:
  • is he being too much played by KIM Jong-un
  • is he letting ideology too much undermine the economy
  • is he taking too much liberty with separation of powers?
Since then, the least one could say is that MJI did nothing to clear mounting fears around these axes. Worse, the way he's coping with CHO Kuk scandals is now threatening his whole presidency to its very core.

MOON's controversial decision to stop sharing intelligence with Japan as a retaliation to Shinzo Abe's trade war on Korea perfectly illustrates the malaise around all three axes:
  • North Korea? Clearly the biggest winner of this decision (not to mention China or Russia, also pleased to see the ROK-US-Japan tripartite alliance weakened in a most sensible part). South Korea has the most to lose as KIM Jong-un's most exposed neighbor, and MOON appears once more as someone eager to seize any alibi to undermine his own country's security in favor of the North.
  • The economy? By retaliating on political and military dimensions, MOON plays ABE's hand, and makes it even more difficult to quickly solve an already tricky trade conflict that impacts key parts of Korea's badly weakened economy. If ABE started the trade war as the one shooting himself in the foot ("Japan v. Japan - Artificial Belligerence v. Artificial Intelligence"), MOON not only follows suit, but does so with a bazooka.
  • Democracy? Pulling out of 'GSOMIA'* grabs all headlines when MOON needs a diversion from the CHO Kuk scandal. The decision came out of the blue (house), without a proper debate on the impacts.
If this looks bad, what to say of MOON's obstination to support CHO Kuk, his Justice minister nominee?

Every day brings new revelations about CHO's misdeeds. The man who posed as a champion against corruption managed to bring back memories of the two most corrupt characters in the saga that led to PARK Geun-hye's impeachment: like him, CHOI Soon-sil erected an outrageous system to illegally favor her daughter's studies and career, and like him, WOO Byung-woo brought shame on SNU Law School by bending law to destroy justice.

The controversial CHO Kuk
CHO's nomination for justice seems doomed, yet MOON Jae-in keeps supporting him as stubbornly as he does for economic advisers that have like himself no clues about economics, and accelerate a downward spiral ahead of the upcoming global downturn.

The case of CHO is much more serious, and existential for MOON, but all in denial, he doesn't seem to realize what's at stake. Everybody knew he was weak on North Korea and the economy, but failing on the very values that brought him there, on justice, on fairness, on transparency... this is the ultimate betrayal, and the president is already losing his base: recent polls show that a majority of youth have now a negative opinion of him. And Korea University students as well as Seoul National University students are starting to demonstrate following the footsteps of Ewha students, who started the movement that brought down PARK, and set the tone with apolitical approaches, focusing on wrongs to be fixed (CHOI Soon-sil's daughter benefited from illegal support at Ewha, CHO's daughter at KU).

The onus is also on lawmakers from the ruling party, who will have to face the consequences of enabling this mess (if not to face history the way GOP congressmen will for enabling Trump)... but no one wants to be the catalyst before the elections, and the scapegoat for the rout. 

No political leader, left, center, or right, seems to stand out as a credible solution for the future. Could a dangerous populist emerge from the ashes of burned illusions? Korea deserves so much better. It proved so beautifully that it could rise to the highest ideals of democracy.

Of course MOON Jae-in doesn't risk impeachment for defending one rotten apple, but his capacity to run the country could be seriously challenged if he loses all support, further undermining an already weakened nation. So let's hope the President sees reason before it's too late.

Seoul Village 2019
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