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Monday, January 1, 2024

Seoul Village Season XVIII

(*NB I was finishing this post when I learned about the Assassination attempt on LEE Jae-myung in Busan - I decided not to alter what I wrote below)

Even if it will only start on February 10 with the lunar new year, happy Year of the Blue Dragon.

We can't tell which flames 2024 will throw at us, but let's wish we won't get too much sabre-rattling from the North (3G KIM Jong-un? 4G KIM Ju-ae a.k.a. Joseon's Morning Star General?), the South (Taiwan strait, East China Sea?). the West (a third front after Eastern Europe and the Middle East?). or even the East (so far, Fumio KISHIDA plays it much smarter and more efficiently than fellow Nippon Kaigi predecessor Shinzo ABE to restore the lobby's Imperial Japan revival dreams).

We know for sure that the new year will bring us critical elections in Korea (April 10) and the US (November 5), and that in both cases, the key issue remains 'will moderate at last manage to get rid of controversial figures that have been undermining democracy and their own parties for years?'

A return of Donald TRUMP would undoubtedly weaken US presence in the region and jeopardize South Korea's security. The lack of courage of moderates within GOP ranks leaves the job of removing this cancer to judges, and should TRUMP make it all the way to the RNC, he would face a struggling Joe BIDEN and get the support of a third candidate likely to siphon a lot of ballots off the incumbent (the inept Robert F. KENNEDY Jr only runs on his name and Republican funds).

Korea can't seem to remove its own destructive cells from both ends of the spectrum, but at least there are signs that moderates are starting to realize that their parties have no future with people like LEE Jun-seok on the right and LEE Jae-myung on the left*. 

Toxic anti-feminist LEE Jun-seok is threatening to found his own party ahead of the elections, and contributed to discourage IHN Yohan/ John LINTON and his short-lived innovation committee supposed to reform an irrelevant PPP.

Korea's own TRUMP, LEE Jae-myung, resists all demands to quit as DP head - like the 45th US president, he only cares about himself and eluding jail. His party courageously accepted to end his impunity but justice, crippled as much as the police by the controversial reforms of YOON Suk-yeol's predecessor, can't reach him, even as deaths linked to the scandals surrounding him keep piling up.

At least, moderates seem to have been gaining some momentum lately. LEE Nak-yon to the left and HAN Dong-hoon to the right, far from being the divisive figures painted as devils by radical media from the opposite sides, are taking the right steps for the future; LEE by taking a moral stand against the DP's controversial leader (at last some hope to restore the values of KIM Dae-jung and ROH Moo-hyuns within the party), HAN by forming a dream team of advisors ticking at least on paper all the relevant boxes to fix the nation's structural divides.

But even before considering any potential presidential face-off for 2017, the unproductive stalemate between an often self-destructive executive power and an assembly controlled by an almost always obstructive opposition must end this coming April. Of course, that may not happen...

Another thing we already know about 2024: Korea will smash its own infamous record low fertility rate, now expected to nosedive down to .62.

A toxic global and local political climate, a toxic climate, period, and toxic tensions at all levels certainly don't help young Koreans (who already struggle to purchase a home) prioritize babies. For the first time this year, more strollers were sold for pets than for kids...

Mainstream media start paying attention to the not so long term consequences for the nation at the economic, social, but also political level - even a stronger than ever K9 unit won't stop tanks at the DMZ.

On one hand, ever more pressure on young Koreans, on the other, already less competition for decent universities... If that could mean down the road less hagwon - budongsan rat race insanity...

Let's talk about mental health, precisely. And not just because the suicide of Parasite actor LEE Sun-kyun ended an already far too tragic year 2023. 'It's okay not to be okay', and to talk about it. So reach out, don't let yourself and others slip down any kind of rabbit hole. And don't judge yourself or them if you or they do. It's a beautiful sign of strength to make a call that can save a life (Korea Suicide Prevention Center: 1393 - Life Line Korea: 1588.9191); it's a sign of great character to keep reading opinions you disagree with. 

We all know peace and love are hard to find, but we all can start by stopping making war at ourselves and each other. And yes, even in the darkest times, we must never forget to laugh. Because humor is all about facing tragedy. And yes again, we must never lose our sense of wonder, because for better or  for worse, life is full of wonder.

Have, literally, a wonderful new year.

UPDATE 202402

Scratch part of that. Days after I wrote these lines, LEE Nak-yon disgraced himself by palling around with the very noxious LEE Jun-seok. A short-lived but damning bromance...

Seoul Village 2024
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