Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Look to the Future, Don't Dwell on the Past

This morning, while I was getting ready to leave for Gumi, my host's TV set was on, tuned to the news. Although my Korean is rudimentary to the point of nonexistence, I could tell just by the sound that something was up, so I looked at the screen. It was President Lee Myung-bak, solemnly intoning something or other. For a while I was nervous that he might be announcing a declaration of war against the North, but my host's wife, who was watching and listening, didn't seem perturbed, so I figured it wasn't too big a deal, and left for the bus station.

Now I've had a chance to find out what was going on. As I prophesied here a couple of weeks ago, the ruling party did badly in the recent local elections -- spectacularly badly, in fact. So President Lee was making an apology to the nation and promising to be better in the future. He said he will accept the results of the election -- which is big of him, don't you think? He will reshuffle his cabinet. (Again.) He promised to give up the Sejong City boondoggle (which was originally a pet project of his disgraced but martyred predecessor Noh Mu-hyun) and let the legislature dispose of it. There were hints that he would abandon his big Four Rivers restoration project, which is opposed by many if not most Koreans. Do I believe him? Nope. Nor do many Koreans.

The Hankyoreh reports that Lee's tax cuts benefited only the top twenty percent of Korean households. (No wonder he got along so well with George W. Bush.) And it's an interesting coincidence that Lee and his administration trumpeted the sinking of the Korean ship Cheonan in the run-up to the elections: the accusations against North Korea were first publicized on the day the election campaign began. Oh, and the Korea Times, striking another blow for journalistic integrity, reports (in a story the required the efforts of two staff reporters) that sales of condoms increased dramatically on the night Korea defeated Greece at the World Cup.