Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Service Advisory

(Photo from The Hankyoreh: A Communist North Korean infiltrator in the pay of Kim Jong-il delivers a brutal Tae Kwon Do kick to freedom-loving ROK President Lee Myeong-bak. Democracy trembles.)

My laptop succumbed to a cola spill, so posting will be light to nonexistent while I work on replacing it.

There's an interesting article at The Hankyoreh, though, about the Lee administration's latest attempt to restore the ethos of more authoritarian times.
The Ministry of Unification demanded that the term “sunshine policy” of engagement with the North be described as a “policy of reconciliation and cooperation,” in public school history textbooks, one of a number of revisions suggested by the ministry.
"Sunshine policy" is the term used by former President Kim Dae-jung (1998-2003) for his policy of (yes) reconciliation and cooperation with the North. His successor, Noh Mu-hyeon (2003-2008) followed the same approach. So the Ministry's changes were a move to bring school textbooks into line with the new regime, and to rewrite history, just a little. The demands were met with criticism, which led to a very familiar kind of backpedaling:
As the controversy intensified, the Unification Ministry changed its stance, saying that both “sunshine policy” and “policy of reconciliation and cooperation” could be used in the textbooks. On September 21, Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Ho-nyoun said that rather than demanding the use of the official term, this was a request to use both the official term and the nickname together, with a phrase like: the policy of reconciliation and cooperation by the administration of Kim Dae-jung, which is also known as the sunshine policy. The ministry spokesman said there was no relationship between requesting to change the term and whether the current administration would fulfill the spirit of the sunshine policy or not.
The Korea Times reported this matter somewhat differently:
The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said Monday that it will "straighten the facts'' in history textbooks that allegedly promote the left-of-center viewpoint championed by the liberal government of the past 10 years.

The move comes on the heels of 3,732 requests from 19 government departments and conservative organizations to revise the content of the textbooks. ...

The ministry said the new history textbook will aim to give more pride to students rather than focus on criticism.
Among the changes proposed are moves to provide "more positive appraisal of two controversial Presidents ― Park Chung-hee and Chun Doo-hwan emphasizing their economic achievements" rather than their brutal repression of dissent, and referring to the 1948 Jeju uprising as the "Jeju Riot." Other complaints have targeted statements in textbooks like:
"Korea’s liberation by the victory of the allied nations after World War II hampered establishment of our people’s new government," which could be considered anti-American, and that "'the 'Saemaul Movement' was used to justify the dictatorship of President Park Chung-hee." Also, contents such as "Too much liberty in economic market drives a bigger gap between the haves and have-nots" was requested to be revised.
"Distorted historical facts and misleading views in textbooks should be corrected. We expect publishers of the problematic textbooks to correct the books spontaneously," a ministry official said. "If publishers do not listen to our requests, we will enforce our legal authority."
Well, let's see. The first two quotations are true; I guess reality has an anti-American bias. The third quotation is at least arguable, as Americans have seen in our own country.
Lee's administration is also trying to intimidate citizens to prevent further outbreaks of democracy in the streets:
With police launching an investigation of members of the “Baby Carriage Brigade,” a group of housewives who brought their children to the candlelight protests against U.S. beef, protests from civic groups, netizens and opposition parties are growing stronger. In particular, considering how the investigation is not against a few radical protesters but rather against ordinary housewives who used peaceful means to express their opinion, there is criticism that the police have launched the investigation to frighten people in order to “dry up the seeds of the candlelight protests.”
The three women who'd been called in for "questioning" held a press conference to protest the government's action.
Speaking at the National Assembly the same day, Eo Cheong-soo, the chief of the National Police Agency, announced he would review the cases of the three women for possible indictment on charges of child abuse. One of the women under investigation is suspected of using her baby carriage to block the movement of a police water cannon vehicle.
I'd like to see what that looked like. Maybe something like this?

These video clips from China in 1989 make an interesting comparison to Korea in 2008, especially given the conservative Korean and American hysteria about "violence", "anarchy," and "rioting" in the anti-beef import protests. This is what violence in the streets looks like, folks.