Seoul Searcher

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Seoul Searcher

Friday, September 4, 2020


        Moon Jae-in, the Fence-sitter

From the outset of his presidency, Mr. Moon Jae-in wanted to play a role of a mediator between the United States and its democratic allies on one side and Communist China and North Korea on the other.

Mr. Moon’s idea of being a neutral mediator for the resolution of international disputes doesn’t make much sense because he couldn’t be “neutral” even in the post-Cold War era as his country is an ally of the United States. That was probably why he has never been invited to play such a role by other countries in three years since he became the president of the Republic of Korea.

Only a few occasions in which Mr. Moon made a diplomatic maneuver of sorts was his voluntary efforts to arrange three meetings between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in Singapore, Hanoi and the Korean truce village of Panmunjom. As we all know, nothing much came out of those meetings, however

His real diplomatic skills, if any, could have been used in the on-going negotiations to help settle hot disputes between the United States and China, but neither Washington nor Beijing asked for his service. Although Mr. Moon has not been critical of the United Stater on bilateral issues, he has never shown enthusiasm for the friendly ties between the two allies.

The latest case in point occurred when U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper asked his counterparts in Japan and South Korea to hold a meeting in Guam on August 29.  Japan’s defense minister Taro Kono flew to Guam while their South Korean counterpart was absent for the meeting. The meeting had been convened to discuss the problems related to North Korea and China.

South Korea’s official excuse was that because of the worsening crisis brought on by the Covid-19, the defense minister was unable to leave his post for an overseas trip. But as cynical press commentators in Seoul pointed out that the Corona pandemic was raging in America and Japan as well.

       Some pundits added that when Seoul cannot say openly “no,” to Washington, the government officials simply remain silent, lest what they say could upset the big and powerful neighbor, China.

In fact, Mr. Moon, a leftist politician, has been cozying up with Communist China since he became the President of the nation which has kept close and friendly ties with the United States since the founding of the Republic 70 years ago. And that is why Mr. Moon is often described by some pundits as a fence-sitter between Washington and Beijing.

However, the day will come sooner or later when Mr. Moon will have to come down to one side or the other for good. Otherwise, he will be like Humpty Dumpty who had a great fall after sitting on a wall. Then, we will have to change the last part of the old nursery rhyme: “All the president’s horses and all the president’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again.”  (End)

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Seoul Claims Coronavirus Is Leaving South Korea

President Moon Jae-in announced to the world the other day that his administration has successfully put the coronavirus pandemic under control and invited other countries that are interested in learning “how we’ve done it” are welcome to visit Korea.
Believing that Moon told the truth, almost all South Koreans, who had been gripped by fear and despair amid the fast-spreading disease for months were swept into the state of indescribable relief and hope. They were also proud of themselves before the world as the country has become one of the leading nations that had achieved such a feat of “winning the battle” against the vicious virus.
Meanwhile, the popularity of President Moon in opinion polls shot up, especially among the country’s voters who will cast their ballots on April 15 to elect the members of the National Assembly. It was not immediately clear whether the president made his remark prematurely in order to help the pro-government left-wing parties gain the control of the national legislature.
Despite the presidential announcement, however, the number of persons found to have contracted the virus continued to come in, proving that the pandemic is far from over. What’s more, as of Sunday, March 29, the government is debating whether to reopen the nation’s schools in early next month as having been announced or postpone the opening day yet again, contradicting the president’s proclamation that the threat of the coronavirus is over in South Korea.
“We cannot run a risk of opening schools nationwide and see some of our children getting infected,” one news commentator was quoted as saying. “As far as I’m concerned,” he added, “President Moon popped the champagne cork too early. (END)

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Japanese militarism

            A nation that fails to learn from its past mistakes is condemned to repeat them. This aphorism came to my mind the other day when I heard the news that some Japanese cabinet ministers and members of the Diet (Parliament) visited Yasukuni Shrine to pay tribute to their war dead including the war criminals who were executed at the end of the Second World War.
Japan, needless to say, is the only nation on earth, two of whose cities were destroyed by nuclear bombs. It was part of the price the Japanese had to pay for the cruel and inhuman aggression they had perpetrated against Korea, China and other Asian countries before and during the war that they started against the United States in 1939.
The nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as other painful experiences of the war that had “traumatized” the Japanese and forced them to do some soul searching after the war are apparently fading fast from their memories. Led by an increasing number of rightists, the Japanese voters elected Shinjo Abe as their prime minister late last year, paving the way for their country toward the revival of militarism.
Unlike Germany, Japan’s Axis partner, which has apologized for the atrocities that the Nazis had committed in Europe, Japan refuses to admit that it had brutalized Korea as a colonial overlord for 35 years. Instead, it claims that it had been a generous benefactor to Korea and China as it has helped modernize them

It says, for instance, it built railroads in Korea for the Korean people when it actually needed them to transport the minerals and other materials to Japan to produce weapons, among other things, in preparations for the war against America. Japan also claims that it had helped “Korean prostitutes” to earn their living when it had, in fact, forcibly recruited young, innocent girls and sent them to China to serve as sex slaves to Japanese soldiers fighting there

This kind of white lies are sweeping Japan these days in rightist efforts to cover up its wartime brutality.

In any event, Korea and China today are not what they used to be at the turn of the 20th century: a pair of meek and poverty-stricken neighbors. South Korea and China are the world’s 12th and second largest economies, respectively, with strong armed forces that could defend themselves against any foreign aggressors including, possibly, Japan. The Japanese would have to pay a heavy price once more, if they try and repeat their past mistake by arming themselves heavily and attack their neighbors again.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

North Korea wins again

         North Korea wins the game of chickens once again.

For the last two months, South Korea and the United States stood eyeball to eyeball with North Korea while Pyongyang threatened to nuke the South as well as some American cities. In the end, though, Seoul and Washington obviously blinked and are now begging Pyongyang to come out for another round of talks with them to resolve their problem peacefully.

The outcome of the talks, as they had done so many times in the past, will compel the United States and South Korea to provide the North with food, fertilizers, oil and the like for a few months of “peace and quiet.”

On the surface, the United States and its allies would agree to extend their economic aid to the North only on condition that it will give up its nuclear ambition. But we all know that North Korea will throw any international agreement like a pair of old shoes into a waste basket whenever it wants to.

That is not all. The gangsters in the North will shake the world with a new series of nuclear threats again after the economic aid from its "enemies" stops coming. Its young dictator and his lackeys will stage the worldwide circus again. Thus, the farcical North Korean show will go on and on ad infinitum.

In the meantime, American scholars and journalists as well as government officials will continue their current arguments on whether North Korea has or has not succeeded in miniaturizing its nuclear warheads and developing intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear bombs “to reduce the cities in the U.S. and South Korea to piles of ashes,” as North Koreans are fond to say these days.

While the Americans are arguing endlessly and fruitlessly, North Koreans would be able to arm themselves with viable nuclear weapons and missiles sooner or later. Then they would not only use the bombs for themselves without any hesitation but also sell them to any country or group of crazy people that are willing to pay.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A corrupt society

            Once upon a time in Greece, a philosopher named, Diogenes, became famous for walking the streets with a lighted lamp in the daytime looking for “an honest man.” He believed that the ancient Greek society of his time (about 412-323 BC) was full of corrupt and dishonest people that it was almost impossible to find an honest person.

Today, some 2,300 years later, South Korea’s new President, Park Geun-hye, could use the help of Diogenes, as she has been struggling to find honest men and women to fill the high posts of her administration.

More than a month after she became the nation’s chief executive, President Park saw six of her nominees for her cabinet posts resign, some even before facing the Congressional scrutiny, because of their past records that were tainted by financial irregularities, unscrupulous, if not illegal, accumulations of personal wealth, or other unethical conducts.

Meanwhile, opposition political parties and the news media were busy criticizing the President, day in and day out, for her “inability” to find well qualified officials for government positions. But they forget that the country is full of corrupt and sleazy people so that President Park, like Diogenes, is having a hard time finding “smart and able” persons who are also “clean and honest.”

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Rodman, once again

            A day or two after I posted the piece here on Dennis Rodman and his North Korean visit, it was reported that the American visitor told his hosts that he wanted to meet “Psy,” the South Korean rock star, who has become a worldwide sensation with his “Gangnam Style” video.

But wanting to meet Psy in Pyongyang? Despite his friendship with the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Un, Rodman apparently didn’t know the first thing about two Koreas. He was not aware obviously that Psy simply couldn’t be in North Korea to accommodate his wishes. Asking to meet Psy in North Korea is like wanting to eat a McDonald’s hamburger at a Chinese restaurant.

            Rodman has probably heard about the Korean War, recalling vaguely perhaps the facts that the North Koreans invaded the South in 1950 and that the United States and other allied forces fought, under the United Nations flag, with the South Korean Army to repel the Communist invaders.

Sure, the Korean War ended in truce in 1953. What Rodman probably didn’t know is that two Koreas are still technical at war as they have not signed a peace treaty. And under the hostile circumstances, no South Koreans are allowed to visit Pyongyang unless the North Korean dictator invites them as he did for Rodman and his friends.

The various remarks Rodman made in Pyongyang and in the United States after his return betrayed his ignorance of the situations in Koreas. But I am not surprised because I have run into many Americans who, like Rodman, were unable to distinguish between the two Koreas and say which side is America’s ally and which one is developing long-range missiles and nuclear bombs to fight the United States.



Friday, March 1, 2013

Judging people by the friends they keep

     I have nothing against Dennis Rodman. As National Basketball Association (NBA) players go, he was an above-average player, for sure, but it was his antics that attracted the attention of basketball fans more than anything. If the fans were to pick one great player purely on his athletic ability or even his charisma, there are a plenty of them, other than Rodman, to choose from.

     Strangely, though, Rodman's playing as well as his antics must have enthralled, of all people, Kim Jong Un when the current North Korean dictator was studying as a teenager in Switzerland. Year later, remembering him, Kim apparently invited Rodman to Pyongyang. And Kim has entertained the visitor with a sumptuous banquet after watching a game together between a North Korean team and the Harlem Globetrotters who accompanied Rodman.

     Press report said that Kim and Rodman have even vowed to keep their friendship in the rest of their lives. Hearing the news, I recalled a saying: "You can judge a person by the friends he or she keeps." But a dictator and a clown on the basketball court? They sure make an odd couple, I thought.

     It was also reported that Kim has expressed the hope that Rodman's visit would help thaw the frigid relations between North Korea and the United States. It is a good news, of course, provided the remark was not just a diplomatic nicety the 29-year-old leader of the Coimmunist nation was exercising.

     When I heard the news, I almost exclaimed: "A good show, Dennis!" After all, President Nixon established ties with China following his visit to Beijing with a U.S. table tennis team. The visit was later dubbed "ping-pong diplomacy." If Rodman's visit brings about a similar result, maybe we should give him some credit and call his visit the "slam-dunk diplomacy" or something.

     Being an eternal pessimist, however, I don't believe that there would be a thaw in the relations between Washington and Beijing as long as North Korea keeps developing nuclear bombs and refusing to denuclearize the Korean peninsula. His friendship with Rodman notwithstanding, Kim Jong Un cannot afford to give up his nuclear ambition. For, he knows it means the end of his regime and the Kim dynasty.


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