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Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Seoul Village Season XVI

Happy New Year of the Tiger! Let's see how this young cub grows and roars.

And let's hope the pandemic will spare us another scary sequel...

As we've known from the start (see "Kudos to Korea's 4 Ts, but please no complacency"), we can never let our guard down while riding such roller coasters. This year, as expected, after failing to secure vaccines as early as other wealthy nations, Korea caught up very quickly once they arrived. But a populist decision to ease restrictions at the worst moment (during a surge and before year end festivities - not to mention an unexpected new variant) led to record cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. Fortunately, the population started to react and the government to backpedal, so the last couple of weeks have seen a steady decline in the number of cases. Keep safe and carry on.

This year, barring more surprises (and we've had our share of those lately), the presidential election could be the most defining moment for a country where the balance of powers has been dramatically altered over the past few years.

LEE Jae-myung is now leading in the polls, with the help of YOON Seok-youl (definitely not a seasoned politician), and of course MOON Jae-in. Interesting contrast: while LEE remains totally protected from any investigation around the Daejang-dong scandal, the controversial CIO has been spying the phones of campaigning opposition members in a local version of the Watergate...

In a brilliant lame duck move, MOON pardoned PARK Geun-hye, the equivalent to throwing an elephant into the opposition's already unstable porcelain store before the elections: now YOON, who investigated the scandals surrounding the former president and CHOI Soon-sil, will have an even tougher time getting votes from hardcore PARK supporters... 

That LEE Jae-myung could envision the White House in spite of his sulfurous reputation and the ruling party's unpopularity speaks volumes about the opposition's ineptitude. Character-wise, LEE is clearly closer to Donald TRUMP than to KIM Dae-jung - but at least, unlike the former POTUS, he's working very hard to change his image during the campaign.

Beyond securing the elections, MOON is focusing his final months on an intense lobbying to formally end the Korean War, which requires an agreement from other stakeholders. But unless Trump returns to power, the US will demand significant concessions from KIM Jong-un, and that is precisely what MOON wants to avoid.

MOON Jae-in's goal is to remove pressure on the North Korean regime and US troops from the Peninsula. South Korea's recent displays of weaponry and hikes in military budgets are supposed to prove that the nation can defend itself (should of course its leaders actually decide to defend it). Needless to say, both China and Russia would also love to see Yankees go home. 

Soft-power-wise, at least, Seoul can count on its Weapons of Mass Distraction, even if topping 2021 will be very hard for 'k-content' providers.

We'll need some cheering up to cope with real life drama (and at the macro level household debt, inflation, rising rates, overdue bubble bursts across the globe...).

Maybe we don't want that tiger to roar, after all. A cute yawn could be a welcome break.

Please be safe, but remain wild and playful. Have a great, full, and happy 2022.

Seoul Village 2022
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