Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Burning The Candle From Both Ends

There's nothing special about this opinion piece by Lee Jae-young, except for its calm good sense, which Korean President Lee Myeong-bak and his supporters would do well to heed. Not that they will, of course -- the Korea Herald prefers to spotlight stuff like this anonymous Ignorance Is Strength rant, full of historical distortions and hysteria. Headed "Perplexed by inscrutable South Korea" and evidently written by a Korean, it barks out every possible cliché from its opening paragraph.
In the eyes of many foreigners, Korea is a place full of mysteries. South Korea, for example, is currently divided between the East and West, left and right, and the haves and have-nots, who ruthlessly antagonize each other. Workers' strikes and candlelight demonstrations constantly erode the vitality of the nation. Yet, South Korea seems to be thriving, not faltering.
Yes indeed, how mysterious that those "have-nots ... ruthlessly antagonize" the "haves"; have they nothing better to do? Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses? And how unique that there should be divisions between left and right; you won't find that in the scrutable Occident! The writer doesn't even pretend to balance those "workers' strikes and candlelight demonstrations" with the malfeasance of the other side, as responsible corporate journalism normally requires; perhaps he can't think of anything their opponents have done wrong.

Then there's the predictable hand-wringing about Korean "anti-Americanism." True, as the writer and his correspondent say, "it was the United States that liberated Korea from Japanese rule in 1945", but then the United States also callously handed Korea over to Japan in 1910, forgetting its own friendship treaty with Korea (after having invaded Korea ourselves in 1871). "It was also the United States that saved South Korea from the North Korean invasion during the Korean War," says our writer. It was also the US that, in collaboration with the USSR, imposed the division between the north and south and thereby brought about the Korean War in the first place. "The leftists believe that the United States has always been a main obstacle that has hampered the merging of the two nations," the writer says. Perhaps not the main obstacle, but a very material one at times. But as a very great American once said, "Facts are stupid things."

Perhaps most revealing is "For example, South Korea is no longer under a dictatorial regime, and yet the Korean people continue to demonstrate on the streets." I've seen this plaint in numerous defenses of Lee during the past months. Um, people demonstrate on the streets even in non-dictatorial countries, often defying attempts by their elected governments to stop them. One could even say that such demonstrations are part of what democracy is all about, as Lee Jae-young points out in the piece I linked above.

Anyway, there's an interesting article at the Korea Times website too, which says that beef consumption is down in Korea. I thought that Korean consumers were flocking to the stores to buy US beef by the ton? Or maybe the figures that indicate "stagnant" beef sales refer only to the bad old days; the article is vague on this.

Lee's government continues to try to intimidate its critics, and Lee's sense of religious mission sounds suspiciously like that of his counterpart in Washington. And so it goes.

(Top photo, "Civil Rights March on Washington, D. C.", 08/28/1963; NWDNS-306-SSM-4D(86)3; Records of the United States Information Agency; Record Group 306; National Archives, via; second photo of the June 10 vigil from OhMyNews.)