Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Manufactured Political Scandals

Korea is being rocked with one political scandal at a time lately.

The National Intelligence Service (NIS) is being investigated for interfering in last year’s presidential election in favor of the ruling Saenuri Party. Their crime? Trolling the internet and for getting the police to cover up the incident. Well, it wasn’t vote rigging, but the law is the law. They broke the law and they should be held accountable. Problem solved, right?

But of course, the Saenuri Party can’t just let the law take its course. It has to manufacture another political scandal to distract everyone from the NIS scandal. So why not dig up transcripts that a dead president once said about the Northern Limit Line (NLL) in 2007? Moon Jae-in was President Roh’s chief-of-staff, and so that must mean that Moon must be also willing to give up the country's sovereignty to the North as well.  So why not use this old transcript to tar and feather Moon as well, right?

And of course the NIS, goaded by Saenuri Party lawmakers, would leak those transcripts that are not supposed to be leaked without the majority of the National Assembly’s vote. As long as they’re breaking the law, why not break some more along the way?

The Democratic Party lawmakers, being their usual incompetent selves, are calling for President Roh's statements to be fully disclosed but only after the NIS scandal has been 'properly' investigated.  Politics much?  Instead of simply distancing themselves from a stupid dead president, they decide to double down on a stupid political gambit.  Are they trying to lose again in every upcoming election for the next five years?  As for other progressive Koreans, instead of either distancing themselves from Roh or stating that they disagree with those views, they dig up a letter from about thirty years ago showing that disgraced former President Chun Doon-hwan once sent Kim Il-sung a sweet love letter.

So here’s what we know so far.

The Saenuri Party has once again shown that it is not above bullying a near hapless opposition by manufacturing a political crisis in a poor attempt to distract people from a real legal mess.

The Democratic Party, instead of at the very least distancing itself away from a dead president who didn’t seem to have any moral qualms about selling out the country’s sovereignty, decides to keep digging the hole that they're in.  And some of their supporters think that an appropriate defense is pointing at the Saenuri Party and basically say, “They did it first.”

The NIS broke the law and is still breaking the law. An intelligence service that doesn’t answer to the law and does whatever it wants as it sees fit? What could possibly go wrong?

And of course, there’s the mainstream media! The conservative Chosun Ilbo has long ago lost interest in the NIS scandal. Now they can’t seem to stop talking about what a stupid dead president said six years ago. Even Yonhap, the news organization that is supposed to be neutral is saying nothing about the NIS scandal or the the NLL scandal or Chun’s love letter. The liberal Hankyoreh, on the other hand, seems to be more interested in talking about how President Park ought to take responsibility for the NIS scandal, despite the fact that there seems to be no evidence to suggest that she was actively a part of it and suggesting that all she seems to be doing is thinking of future elections.

And the Hankyoreh seems to want to bring attention to the student-led protests against the NIS. Actually that’s a pretty good thing. It’s good to see the young people of this country stand against political corruption. But of course, what the Hankyoreh does not want to seem to talk about is that the student-led protest isn’t just against the NIS. Like the OWS movement in the US, this movement seems to be all over the place with no fixed message either.

For those who can't read Korean, the girl with the glasses is carrying  a sign that is condemning, besides the NIS' attempt to tamper with public opinion prior to last year's elections, President Park Geun-hye's failed campaign promise to cut college tuition fees by half.
Source: http://imgur.com/a/eJYD6#kvcF3zT

Really? Half-priced tuition? Yes, it was part of President Park’s campaign pledges. But did anyone actually expect her to follow through on that? Why is it that when it comes to politics, people seem to always forget that you can’t get something for nothing? If the government is going to cut tuition costs in half, it’s going to have to pay for it somehow, like I don’t know, through higher taxes? But I am digressing. This is a different topic.

Source: http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/3uz0xk/

The point is, young, idealistic college types seem to have picked up the scent of blood in the water but they’re not always the most informed group of people, despite what they might think.  Furthermore, by failing to focus on the NIS scandal and demanding different things at the same time, they are playing right into the hands of whoever wishes to discredit them.  It becomes very easy to belittle them by claiming that they are simply children who are angry at everything in the world and are now making a ruckus over the NIS scandal because this was the convenient excuse that they needed to blame everything, except themselves, for their own shortcoming and failures.

And yet, next election season, the same guys will be involved. The Saenuri and the Democratic Parties may change their names yet again but it will still be the same people. The media, divided along ideological lines, will weigh their support behind either the party that wants to fiddle while Rome burns or the party that wants to burn Rome and then fiddle. Young people, fired on by the passion of their ideology, will vote for whoever they think will be the next Messiah, only to become sorely disappointed and bitter working stiffs in a few years. Older people, cowed by their fear of retirement and lack of savings, will vote for whoever they think will fill up their coffers, only to realize too late that there is no money and then die broke.

Source: http://www.martaandreasen.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/fiddling-while-rome-burns.jpg

And as the economy slows down, as inflation threatens to wipe out everyone’s savings, as the credit bubble and the housing market are about to burst, as Korea’s inevitable pension burst threatens to destroy the Korean economy, as the manufacturing industry is about to be overtaken by their Chinese competitors, as an unstable North Korean government becomes more and more unpredictable, we keep distracting ourselves with one manufactured political crisis after another.

Well, I suppose it just goes to show that elections are nothing more than a failure to learn from history.

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