Saturday, December 28, 2013

An Analysis of the "Are You All Right?" Movement - Part 4: The Union's False Narrative

That the government has broken its promises as well as lost the public’s trust is a given. However, assuming that the unions and their student supporters are nothing more than unfortunate victims is the pinnacle of naiveté.

Regardless of one’s political inclinations, everyone must recognize the unions’ right to exist, as well as the AYAR Movement’s support for the unions, as it is guaranteed by the Republic of Korea Constitution in Article 21, Section 1, which states:

All citizens shall enjoy freedom of speech and the press, and freedom of assembly and association.

However, it has to remembered that a right cannot and must not violate the rights of others. Any right that does so ceases to be a right and instead becomes a privilege that can only be guaranteed through violence.


Furthermore, it must also be remembered that the Korea Railroad Corporation (KORAIL) is a government-owned corporation, which is funded by government subsidies. It also has to be remembered that the government has no money of its own. The only source of funds that the government has is its tax revenue and its mint.

As such, this state-run rail operator’s labor union is a public union, a union that has successfully managed to compel KORAIL to pay out bonus payments and raise employees’ wages by more than five percent every year since 2005 despite the fact that the company was posting an average annual operating loss of US$470 million. KORAIL’s debt is currently estimated to be around US$17 billion. This debt is expected to reach ₩50 trillion (US$47 billion) by 2020.

Only a public-sector industry can limp along for as long as KORAIL has while paying wages and bonuses that it cannot afford without being forced to declare bankruptcy.

Although we have to wait until the dust settles, which could take a long while, before it can be calculated how much the union’s strike is costing the overall economy, it is already estimated to have reached into the millions of dollars, and could potentially reach into the billions.

Essentially, this monopolistic public union of a monopolistic government-owned corporation has once again decided to hold the public hostage in order to guarantee that its members can continue to hold on to their iron rice bowls at the taxpayers’ expense.


The union, along with the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), as well as the AYAR students have attempted to paint their strike against the government as a battle between the People and the Police State. For reasons that have already been mentioned in my previous post and its near-fascistic use of the police to arrest union workers, the government has all but ensured complete alienation from the people.

The unions, for their own part, are reliving their glory days. Since the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, union memberships have continuously fallen with the exception of those in the civil service, which has actually seen an increase in membership (surprise, surprise). However, thanks to President Park Geun-hye’s spectacularly mediocre ability at governance, the unions have come roaring back to life as they have been given the perfect excuse to appear to be resisting against a dictatorship; just as they had done in the 1970s and 80s.

Despite all of the Park administration’s faults, and they are legion, it is not a dictatorship. Nor is there even a real threat of a return to dictatorship. Any contrary claim is hyperbolic speech. But its incompetence has given the impression of a return to the bad old days. This impression was all that the unions needed.

We have to take note that the main thrust of the unions’ argument is that they are opposed to the privatization of KORAIL. This is despite the government’s (frustratingly) repeated insistence that it has no plans to privatize KORAIL and its promise to revoke the proposed subsidiary’s rail service license if its stakes are ever sold to private investors.

We also have to take note that the unions seldom ever talk about the aforementioned numbers. It cannot afford to do so unless it wishes to lose the people’s sympathies. Any prolonged mentioning of economic realities will not do the unions any favors. As a result, the unions continue to obfuscate the numbers and have gamed the narrative as an ideological battle.


As far as the unions are concerned, this is not a fight about how much their salaries and benefits are costing (or will cost) the taxpayers but rather about how President Park is trying to force her right-wing, anti-union agenda at the expense of the working class.

What the unions are NOT saying is that they feel they are entitled to continue to suckle on the teat of the taxpayers in order to preserve their iron rice bowls; damn the fact that the business they work for is a bottomless money pit.

We have to keep in mind that neither the unions’ nor the AYAR Movement’s message is about freedom against a dictatorship – as was the case in the 1970s and 80s. What they are calling for is the maintenance of the broken status quo. The unions have claimed that they are fighting for their families and that they are champions of the working class, but at the end of the day, what they want is for the taxpayers to continue to pay up. Damn the consequences and damn the ethics!

The KORAIL union’s successful attempt at conscripting the aid of the rest of the unions under the KCTU umbrella is a cynical ploy to fool the people into believing that they are one and the same despite the fundamental difference between private and public-sector unions. That is because the public-sector union workers do not have a leg to stand on without the aid of private-sector unions.

Although union strikes have the same goal in mind, the main distinction between private and public unions is that private sector unions cannot make unreasonable demands of their employers. The best example of this is what had occurred in General Motors Korea (GMK). During the summer, GMK workers went on a partial strike to demand a raise in their monthly salaries as well as for a one-time bonus payment of ₩6 million each.

GMK workers have since been forced to learn that there are consequences to their actions when it was recently reported that General Motors plans to reduce its workforce in Korea. There is also increased speculation that one of the reasons that General Motors may eventually shut down its operations in Korea is due to Korea’s frustrating labor environment.

On the other hand, public-sector unions are under no such constraint. KORAIL is a monopolistic government-owned corporation. Although not unheard of, governments are much less likely to end up in bankruptcy court than privately owned businesses. As such, public sector unions can hold the government and the taxpayers hostage with relative impunity.


If the government refuses to give in to their demands, which will either force the government to go further into debt (which increases the risk of government insolvency) or raise taxes or borrow from future generations, the unions either slow down or shut down essential(?) government functions through strikes. Unsurprisingly, the unions then lay the blame on conservative politicians.

Though this is certainly not to say that all KORAIL workers are cynical politicos, it has to be recognized that the aggregate public sector employees’ salaries, benefits, and promised pensions that the government (read, taxpayers) is supposed to pony up is both an economic as well as an ethical problem.

There is nothing to suggest that the students behind the AYAR Movement are in cahoots with the public sector union. For all intents and purposes, despite the claims about not being oblivious about politics or economics, it seems that the university students are not, in fact, fully aware of the facts. Filled with energy and rosy ideals, it would appear that the students, both pro-union and pro-government, are once again being used as pawns in a political battle whose outcome, either way, will not be helpful to them.

The Occupy Movement started with grand hopes and ideals. For all their hopes and ideals, however, they lacked the insightful knowledge about politics or economics that they claimed to possess. As a result, just like the Tea Party Movement was hijacked by Republican operatives, the Occupy Movement was hijacked by Democratic operatives. If history is any indicator of what is to come, it would seem that the progressive AYAR Movement, as well as its as yet unnamed conservative counterpart, is destined to become part of the political machine, too.

What a shame that would be for everyone.

(Next and final installment: Choosing Sides)


  1. Did any of your previous posts explain why the rail system is in such dire financial trouble? I'm trying to remember. I know you mentioned rail workers salaries in an earlier piece but I know from experience that workers salaries are rarely the real problem when these things go south. Pensions might be part of the problem as investment losses have hit many a pension fund over the past decade. I see you also reserved your most colorful and inflammatory language for the workers. How very Ayn Randian of you. I suppose the rail workers should sit on their hands and wait to see what the president plans to do. Better yet maybe they should take one for the team and give up all or part of their salaries for the greater good of people. Without knowing exactly why the rail system is bleeding money I think it's just good old American disdain for organized labor why you would accuse them of "hanging on to their rice bowls".

    1. No, I did not go into details as to why KORAIL is in so much debt. Workers' salaries, benefits, and pensions are only part of the problem, to be sure. There are also problems with management and political decisions. Those in management who are to blame should have been fired a long time ago, and those politicians who set up laws/regulations/protections/etc. should have been hounded out of office.

      This is why I am not on the side of the government as well. Personally, I want to see a complete and genuine privatization of KORAIL, as well as most other government services. That way, politicians will be chucked out of the picture by default, poor performing managers and executives can be voted out by shareholders, and workers cannot make unreasonable demands. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view) neither the government nor the KORAIL business executives nor the workers are saying that they want to privatize the railway. Yes, they do have their own reasons for not wanting to do so but they do share the same end goal - keeping it under government ownership and control.

      And which words of mine did you find colorful and inflammatory? I was quite sure to be as honest as I could.

      Now, as a student of Objectivism, I do not mind being compared to Ayn Rand. In fact, I think of it as a badge of honor. Regardless of whether her name is being used as an epithet or not. However, I do not ever bring up her name because of the gut reaction it seems to inspire, both in her supporters and opponents. However, since it was you who brought up Ayn Rand - " I see you also reserved your most colorful and inflammatory language for the workers. How very Ayn Randian of you." - I would like to ask you to give citations. When did Ayn Rand attack workers or express hate for them?

      I also never said that the workers should sit on their hands and wait for the powers that be to determine their fate. Firstly, you will note that I had already mentioned that the ROK Constitution guarantees people the right to freely assemble and associate. However, you're implying that the choices are either to strike (and in this case, since the workers are public sector workers, they are striking against the government they are sworn to uphold as well as forcing taxpayers to continue to fund their jobs) or to do nothing. To limit their choices to only one or the other is surely a limitation of imagination.

    2. I found the line "hanging on to their rice bowls" to be condescending and narrow minded. However misguided or even disingenuous you may find the position of the union we need to remember that these are people, who fear losing everything. I think King Baeksu is right when he accuses the "left" or the unions of being "emotional". I say, so what? As you so astutely pointed out in part 3 so far the Park administration has not provided the public with clear answers to their questions. I also have to admit that the entire scheme is a little above my level of understanding since I'm not a business major nor a great thinker. The other problem is that the Park administration has not shown these people that anything she says can be trusted.
      I think King Baeksu is also correct that these students are not disgusted by the system they are paranoid that the system they have devoted their young lives too will not embrace them. Now he seems to think that they are wrong to be upset by their current situation. He compares it to wooing a beautiful girl. (Not to telling where his head is huh?) So he's saying, "you win some, you lose some" no guarantees in life. Good advice, why are they just getting it now? He indicates that their expectations are too high. That they aren't willing to do honest work for less pay. Fair enough, but I would argue that the Korean government and the older generation has broken their social contract with their children. Weren't they the ones that molded these kids into what they are today? Did they or did they not lead them to believe that if they did everything expected of them at the end they would be rewarded? Now he expects them to "man up" "grow up" figure this all out on their own? I call shenanigans. They have every right to believe that they will receive everything they have been promised. Would you enter into a legally binding contract with someone, not deliver and then say, sorry that's the way it goes, nothing left for you now? I hardly think so, you would be sued and rightfully so. Koreans promised their children if they worked hard, did everything they were told there would be a good life waiting for them at the end of all their hard work. Don't tell me Koreans don't believe this because they do. It's a huge meme in the Korean psyche, hard work pays off, money buys respect and happiness, respect most of all. If anything I admire the Korean students. It's too bad it will take so much more than this to get American young people off their butts and complaining about the shitty world we've left them. They may be slightly misguided or even focusing on the wrong thing but at least they have the courage to stand up and say, you don't get to break your bargain with me without a fight.

    3. The "iron rice bowl" comes from a Chinese phrase, which is used to refer to an occupation with guaranteed job security, as well as steady income and benefits. Especially considering the fact that this is a job that the union workers are fighting for that comes at the expense of taxpayers despite the fact that their business is a financial sinkhole, it is an apt description.

      “Fair enough, but I would argue that the Korean government and the older generation has broken their social contract with their children.”

      I think the term “Social Contract” is inappropriate in this discussion. That being said, I agree with your sentiment. The government as well as the older generation have taken young people for a ride.

      “Now he expects them to "man up" "grow up" figure this all out on their own? I call shenanigans.”

      Then what is your solution? To keep waiting for benefits that will not come? To do the same thing that the older generation has done, ie. borrow even more from future generations? Did the older generation cheat the younger generation? Yes. But does that change reality or morality? No.

    4. Anonymous, if you don't like my metaphor of capitalism as seductive cock-tease, how about this instead?:

      The slaves are upset that Master lied to them, but they still desperately want to work on the plantation.


  2. Minor point - earlier, I said that railways by their nature tended to be monopolies. You countered that they were not, because of the possibility of road transportation. Now you describe both Korail and the union as monopolistic. By your own argument, the first is not a monopoly, and in one of the articles you linked, it says that Korail is hiring hundreds of outside workers to cope with the strike. By your (excessively absolutist and binary, but that is to be expected) definition of a monopoly, neither Korail nor the union could be considered monopolistic.

    Major point: You have reduced your analysis of the AYAR movement to a very narrow debate about a labor dispute. You claim that this is the only consistent theme in the letters, and thus the only part susceptible to analysis, but you have missed the far more obvious and more important theme: the question itself. "Are you alright?" What you have done is like analysing the entire US civil rights movement in terms of whether Rosa Parks had a right to her seat, or was just in a bad mood that day.

    The labor dispute is trivial. What is incredibly important is a generation of students who have been indoctrinated to believe that their fate has been predetermined - that they must spend all their time studying to get into a good university, get a job at a chaebol, work 80 hour weeks, get married, and fulfill their duties as part of the "human resources" of Korea, Inc - standing up and saying, "We're not OK with all this." It is about the student movement, which has been so important in the past in bringing change to Korea, rediscovering its voice and asking relevant questions about where the country is heading, and if that direction is the correct one.

    But to analyse that you need a broad, nuanced perspective. It is not reducible to a textbook problem with a binary answer, one of which is absolutely correct according to libertarian/objectivist principles.

    The world is a complex place, but you insist on seeing it in absolutist terms. I see your next article will be about "choosing sides" - again, a binary choice. Reducing things to binary choices with an absolutely correct answer is very unlikely to ever be an insightful analysis of complex issues.

    1. As I said before, a monopoly refers to a single business that provides a good or service for which there is no substitute.

      The term "monopolistic," on the other hand, in economics parlance, is derived from monopolistic competition, which refers to an event where there are services and goods that are somewhat differentiated from one another but not offered as perfect substitutes.

      That is why I make it a point to say "monopolistic" and not "monopoly."

      You are right that I have discussed the AYAR Movement as a labor dispute for the most part. That being said, I have mentioned the NIS scandal in a previous post as well because besides the labor dispute, that was the one other common theme found in the students' letters. But that was because the contents in those thousands of letters that have been posted are very disparate. The labor dispute and the NIS scandal were the only two common elements that I found in the majority of the letters that I read. Admittedly, I only read a few dozen letters. I had neither the time nor the incentive to read hundreds or even thousands of those letters.

      There were some letters that also mentioned the heavy workload that Koreans are expected to bear in the workplace. Some also mentioned about being fired without cause (of course, it is all hearsay) while others have mentioned that the Park administration ought to be supported so that it could get on with its job to help the people (nice try, Saenuri). There were just too many disparate elements to cover. So I picked the one theme that I saw popping up almost everywhere I looked - the supposed privatization of KORAIL.

      That being said, I did write about what you were inferring to (to some extent) in an earlier entry before I began this series about the AYAR Movement:

      As for my next post, perhaps you should read it first before judging that it is binary? I haven't even written it yet, though that's not to say I haven't already made up my mind.

    2. "What is incredibly important is a generation of students who have been indoctrinated to believe that their fate has been predetermined - that they must spend all their time studying to get into a good university, get a job at a chaebol, work 80 hour weeks, get married, and fulfill their duties as part of the "human resources" of Korea, Inc - standing up and saying, "We're not OK with all this."

      I disagree. Korean university students, especially at "elite" schools like Kodae where this so-called "movement" started, are heavily invested in the system, want to join the system, indeed are driven by a sense of entitlement in which they feel that all the sacrifices of their youth mean that the system should welcome them with open arms after they graduate and provide them with good jobs and a great future. Their present dissatisfaction, in other words, has much to do with a feeling that the system has "spurned" them, which is quite different from arguing that that they reject the fundamental tenets and structure of the system. Do you really think that an "elite" student from Kodae sacrificed their entire youth without believing in the system, and having great faith in it? Absurd.

      This present "movement," in other words, is rather disingenuous, in my opinion (sort of like arguing that unionized rail workers who make $80,000 a year are members of the "working class," or that flooding the Internet with "tweets" by government employees constitutes "rigging the election"). The original AYAR letter basically questions the political apathy of his fellow students ("Do you turn the other cheek because you think that it is someone else’s problem? Are you stepping back, rationalizing your indifference to politics?"). But this sentiment was driven not by a belief in what was right in and of itself, namely concern for something greater than oneself, for society as a whole, but by a selfish belief that because the system was not meeting his expectations, he thinks that isn't fair and feels sorry for himself and feels that a group hug is the best way to remedy the situation and move "forward." It's politics as emotionalism, rather than politics as rigorous critique.

      Think of it this way: He sees a hot girl and gets it into his head that he wants to date her with a view towards marrying her in the end. The girl, however, has different feelings and just isn't that into him. So then he turns to all his friends and says, "Isn't this situation messed up? That hot girl doesn't like me and I don't think it's fair so we should start a movement to get hot girls to like us or something like that. We should all support each other and feel sorry for ourselves because we can't get any action."

      But, in fact. if the hot girl suddenly changed her mind he would go for her in a second and forget everything and everyone else. The problem, of course, is that he's superficial and needs to go for a girl who he really cares about and relates to on a deeper level, not just because she's "hot."


    3. [Continued]

      In short, these students still think the system is "hot" and just resent it because it won't date them. Their "political consciousness" is a shallow joke, and pretty hard to take seriously. I mean, if Moon Jae-in had been elected president instead of Park Geun-hye, the political economy of Korea, Inc. would have hardly changed because Lee Kun-hee is the real president of this country, of course, but does anything one think this AYAR "movement" would have ever gotten off the ground under such circumstances?

      Of course not. Sometimes I feel that "Korean politics" is an oxymoron since it's mainly driven by emotion, but then again, U.S. politics is hardly any different these days, is it? In any case, I feel sorry for the students of Kodae since the kind of shallow thinking displayed in the aforementioned letter indicates to me that "elite" education in Korea is actually rather "common." No wonder he's pissed off: He gave up his entire youth for this?

      I'd be pissed off, too!

    4. Though your points are not entirely implausible, I think you may be being a bit too harsh on the majority of these students. The majority of the young people that I have spoken to never talked about believing in a system that ought to welcome them with open arms. There were some who genuinely believed that but most of the young people I spoke to told me that they simply did what they did because it was just what everyone else did. Granted, most of the young people I spoke to did not attend any of the SKY universities. Perhaps it's different there.

      But your comment "It's politics as emotionalism, rather than politics as rigorous critique" was very well put. I wish I had thought of it myself.

    5. "There were some who genuinely believed that but most of the young people I spoke to told me that they simply did what they did because it was just what everyone else did."

      But don't you see that proves my overall point? They gave their young bodies and souls to the system with the expectation that the system would give them back something in return. It was, in essence, a Faustian contract: "I'll give up my youth to the system, and in return I expect the system to guarantee me happy and comfortable adulthood."

      What they never bothered to ask themselves was, "Does the system even give a fuck about me?" Of course it doesn't, so why did they even believe in it in the first place?

    6. Hmm... Not entirely implausible.

    7. "Of course it doesn't, so why did they even believe in it in the first place?"

      I'll answer my own question: Because the system taught them to believe in it, from a very early age.

      After all, the fact that they're trying to reform the system, to negotiate with it, to reason with it, means that they still believe in it. Every time you address the system, whether negatively or positive, you affirm its power and "reality."

      They're still trapped in the logic of the system. They think posting letters on walls or writing comments online is going to change anything. It won't. The system doesn't give a fuck. Indeed, it helps sell newspapers and attract eyeballs for advertisements, so the system actually likes it.

      As the Situationists said back in 1968, "Reform is chloroform." Anyone remember what happened to the so-called May '68 "revolution" in France?

      Nothing, that's what. The only reason the system continues to exist is because people continue to believe in it. Therefore, it exists.

    8. Here's a typical example of the kind of "entitled" and rather self-pitying thinking one often sees among Korea's younger generation these days:

      This guy is in the prime of his life can only seem to scrape together W500,000 a month or so, year after year after year. Are you fucking kidding me? I live in the Korean countryside myself and see hundreds of Southeast Asians everywhere who are happy to work industrial jobs for a minimum of a million won a month, and are willing to leave their own countries to do so. I also know Korean-Chinese who come to Korea and work in restaurants for around W1.2 million a month, sometimes even more.

      These spoiled mama's boys need a swift kick in the ass. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and expecting the world to care about you. It doesn't. More to the point, however, do you think "Min Cheol-sik" cares about "society"? If not, then why should society care about him?

      Society, in other words, is not your "foul-weather friend." You either care about it all the time, or you don't. It's not there to bail you out just because you can't get your own shit together. Give and take, my friend, give and take.

  3. It's a little hard for me to debate the point, being limited as I am to translated reports. You may be right. Or perhaps each of us sees what we want/expect to see - for you, a privileged elite trying to maintain the status quo; for me, a movement for social change; for TKF, a mob of misguided labor supporters.

    I don't share his distaste for "mobs", at least not as a blanket generalisation. But I would agree that the Occupy movement suffered from a lack of a clearly articulated goal. I think where such social movements have been successful, their goal has been fairly easy to encapsulate. An end to British rule, or "down with President Marcos", or the like. If this movement turns out to be primarily about well paid jobs for life, either in a public union or a chaebol, I will be disappointed. But it's not my job to speak for them - hopefully they can more clearly articulate what it is they want, beyond a general dissatisfaction, and it's not something completely selfish.

  4. Has the railway-workers' union been able to provide any actual proof that Park wants to "privatize" Korail? Just because you say the earth is square doesn't make it so:

    "The ordinary citizens that the Hankyoreh reporter met at the rally at Seoul Plaza were unanimous in their criticism of President Park’s my-way-or-the-highway management style. “Before, I wasn’t very interested when labor unions went on strike, but this time I think the union has a valid reason for the strike. It wants to provide the Korean people with safe, cheap railroad service,” said homemaker Jeong Seong-mi, 47. “I don’t understand why the Park administration keeps trying to privatize the railroads even though the Korean people don’t want this to happen.”"


    These people keep talking about "democracy" but I don't think they understand what it really means. A democracy requires an informed citizenry that make decisions based on facts, not fantasy:

    "“I believe that MINBYUN’s activity - advocating the basic human rights in the constitution and calling for the restoration of democracy - is the way to carry out the mission of a lawyer, which is to bring about social justice,” said MINBYUN Chairman Jang Ju-young. “We have come to this meeting in order to connect with people who want democracy to be restored.”

    "Pre-rallies were held by about 300 university students - the leading players in the “How are you nowadays?” craze - in front of the Korea Development Bank at Cheonggye 2-ga Street and by around 500 members of the Korea Teachers’ and Education Workers’ Union (KTU) at Tapgol Park. Next, the groups converged on Seoul Plaza.

    "“The Park Geun-hye administration is treating a legal railway workers’ strike as illegal and rashly issuing arrest warrants for the leaders of the labor union,” said KTU General Secretary Byeon Seong-ho. “If the administration does not take its knife from the necks of the workers and the people, we will have to become knives and bring this administration down.”"

    The reason the progressives here discredited themselves in 2008 was because they chose a fake issue, namely "deadly US beef," and used it to try to overthrow the conservative government. We see the same thing repeating itself five years later. As I have argued above, this is politics as emotionalism and is no way to run a proper revolution. Korean youth these days seem to lack the necessary intellectual firepower and transcendent vision required to confront the system with any kind of effectiveness, it seems. At best, this is a kind of therapy that may make its participants feel better about themselves, but not much more. Indeed, the unions themselves seem to have figured this out, which is why they have called off their strike for now in the face of lukewarm public support.

    Does the AYAR movement see reality so clearly, or do they think politics is just a Broadway musical?

  5. Here's the main voice of the "loyal opposition," which is really anything but. Is this actually an official editorial from a mainstream newspaper, or a high-school newspaper rant? No wonder Park has a hard time "communicating" with them or taking them seriously:

    "[Editorial] 2013 ending with a frigid blast from a water cannon

    "The sun is setting on 2013, and a grim, desperate scene is unfolding on the streets in subzero temperatures. We see 13,000 police officers clashing with 100,000 workers and citizens. We hear calls for President Park Geun-hye’s resignation ringing out past the fortress of police vehicles surrounding the demonstrators. As the curtain falls on the Park administration’s first year, we find the hearts of the public met not with rays of hope, but frigid jets from a water cannon."

    "It’s difficult for any of us to recall President Park smiling during the past year. About the few times we saw her beaming was when she was traveling abroad, showing off her fashion sense. To her own public, the only face she has shown has been one of anger - a grim determination to smash, wipe away, root out, annihilate, purge, punish, and show “zero tolerance” to anything she finds displeasing. The country is tired of its President governing by glare."

    "The reason all those people crowded onto Seoul Square, braving temperatures of three degrees below zero, is not simply to show their support for the campaign against railway privatization. You can also see the anger, the resistance to a governance approach that has been far colder than those winter temperatures. If Park hopes to go down as a successful president, she must do whatever it takes to avoid treading the same path as her father, former President Park Chung-hee. But for the past year, we’ve seen her looking around for his footprints. She has been drawing the people back into a ghastly history of iron-fisted rule, an experience that we must never relive. Those cries from Seoul Square show that anger at her perverse patterns of power is fast approaching critical mass."

    "You have to pity a government that sees shows of strength as the same thing as “governing.” Politics is not about handcuffs, police batons, tear gas canisters and water cannons. By resorting to them, the President is basically admitting that she lacks the wisdom, the confidence and the necessary ability to lead. A government that depends on physical force is not strong, but the weakest kind. The hallmarks of a truly strong government are a determination to win over citizens who think differently, the generosity to open doors to opponents even as others are closed."

    "A solution that involves heavy-handedness is not an end to the problem, but the beginning of a new one. Suppose the government succeeds in having the police hunt down and round up all the wanted members of the Korean Railway Workers’ Union, bringing the workers to their knees with suspensions and other forms of threats and intimidation. This doesn’t heal the wounds. It pours salt into them, and the conflict will only deepen."

    "How are things with President Park lately? History shows that rulers who use force to keep their publics in check have not done well."


  6. Another sad example of politics as "emotionalism" in Korean society, or rather as extreme melodramatics:

    "At the place where the self-immolation occurred, Lee’s diary was discovered, containing his final words. Before setting his body ablaze, Lee wrote a message at the back of the diary titled “How are you nowadays?” It also included, “Although Park’s government has intervened in the general election through NIS, the truth was hidden while only regarded as personal deviation. This is clear infringement upon democracy. I will bear all the fears on behalf of the public. Everyone, please stand up for it.”


    Hello, how could "Park’s government intervene in the general election through the NIS" if it wasn't even part of the government at the time? Did this man really give up his life based on an erroneous view of reality? Here we see one of the biggest problems of Korean "democracy": Irresponsible media outlets like The Hankyoreh prefer emotion over logic, inflated rhetoric and cheap point-scoring over the unvarnished truth. The consequence is that large segments of society do not even have a clear understanding of the basic facts of the biggest news stories of the day. How can a democracy even function without a properly informed citizenry?

    Indeed, I would say that "progressive" media outlets like The Hankyoreh have the blood of this man on their hands, and yet instead of pausing for a moment of self-reflection to consider their own role in such events, they keep on exploiting whatever issue they can so as to score yet more political points, and thereby sell yet more papers and yet more of their own distorted ideology. Shame on them, I say.

  7. More crappy "reporting" from The Hani: "Educators, Parents and Students Shunning Textbooks for Historical Distortions and Factual Errors"


    I've read through the entire story and literally can't find one example of the so-called "errors" they are so worked up over, and as for the "historical distortions," I guess we'll just have to take their word for that as well. The result is that some high school or university student who reads this story will then talk to their friends and say something like, "The authoritarian Park government is forcing Korean students to use textbooks with riddled with errors and historical lies!" If they're lucky, their more intelligent friends might think to ask, "Really? What kind of errors? What specific distortions?" but they'll only be able to reply helplessly, "Well, I can't remember (i.e., I don't know), but The Hani said it was so!"

    Can you imagine reading this crap day after day, year after year? Your brain would surely turn to mush! No wonder even my more intelligent liberal friends in Korea call Korean progressives "zombies." The Hani would prefer to demagogue issues like this one instead of educate their readers with the facts and let them draw their own conclusions, it seems, not only because of their own ideological bias but also because their reporters are just too lazy to even go out and read the textbooks themselves in this case. Once again, shame on them, I say.