Understanding Moon Jae-in

Sans titre

South Korean president Moon Jae-In, front left, taking a selfie with a supporter after the vote on May 9, 2017 (Photo by Park Young-tae/ Newsis via AP)

-Article by Min Bae

One week has passed since the left-leaning liberal Moon Jae-in decisively won South Korea’s presidential election. “Harmony and incorporation” were the fundamental doctrines of his candidacy as South Korea has become an increasingly divided nation since the removal of Park Geun Hye due to a massive corruption scandal.

During the campaign, Moon pledged to reduce the political influence of chaebols, the large Korean business conglomerates typically owned by single lines of families, in the wake of the corruption scandals that tarnished the legacy of previous presidents. He also vowed to offer different methods to soothe North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs by enhancing dialogue rather than punishing Pyongyang, which was a policy of force employed by the former administration.

According to the Yeonhap News Agency, Moon’s close associates noted that Moon spent much of his life fighting for the socially weak, leading to say that the growing social and economic inequality should be the priority for the next government. In his inauguration speech, Moon swore that “once again, under the Moon Jae In government and the Democratic Party of Korea, everyone will have equal opportunities. The process will be fair, and the result will be righteous… I will be a president who wipes away the citizens’ tears. I promise to be a president who interacts with the citizens.”

Moon was born on South Korea’s Geoje Island in 1953 after his parents fled the North in

December 1950, the year that the Korean War broke out. At that time, the devastated postwar South Korea lacked the economic basis to sustain a families of refugees: In his autobiography, “Moon Jae In -The Destiny,” Moon recalls and ponders over his family’s difficult financial situation: “Poverty was at the center of my childhood, but being poor did teach me some lessons: I was more independent and mature than my peers. I also realized that money is not the most important thing in life.”

Despite his precarious situation, Moon excelled in school and earned a law degree from the prestigious Kyung Hee University. Moon took a prominent role in the student protests during the 1970s opposing the decades-long dictatorship of Park Chung Hee, father of former President Park Geun Hye. Although his activism momentarily penalized him during his university career with an arrest and brief expulsion, his activist background radically disqualified him when Moon applied for governmental jobs.

Moon then relocated to Busan, South Korea’s second-largest city, where he began his career as a human rights lawyer. He worked with his lifelong comrade Roh Moo Hyun during the 1980s under the governance of authoritarian military leader Chun Doo Hwan.
Even after Roh entered politics, Moon pursued his legal practice in Busan, defending students and workers arrested for leading protests and labor strikes.

After Roh’s election victory in 2002, Moon became one of the president’s aides, working to eliminate corruption in the highest spheres of the government and screening candidates for top government jobs. He was later promoted as Roh’s chief of staff where he gained his first experience in politics. Moon has been closely associated with Roh, until the latter committed suicide in 2009 as allegations of bribery started to threaten his family and close associates.

From day one, Moon displayed his willingness to break away from the pervasive

authoritarianism that have long been associated with the Korean presidency. He first visited the four top opposition parties and National Assembly Speaker Chung Sye Kyun before the inauguration ceremony. Though some might have been staged as a publicity stunt, Moon was also photographed moving along the line at the Blue House cafeteria while chatting with his aides in an informal setting – thus contrasting himself from his ousted predecessor Park.

Also, Moon’s decision to spend much of his time in one of the three small buildings designed for top presidential aides’ offices instead of the presidential compound is another proof of the new leader’s determination to make himself more readily approachable, unlike Park who rarely considerated her aides. Park’s lack of communication stemming from the detachment from the public and her aides is believed to be one of the leading causes that ruined Park’s presidency.

The newly elected South Korean Leader Moon Jae In’s life as a son of poor North Korean refugees, student activist, and renowned human rights lawyer seems to have shaped his core ideologies; as he successfully endured a turbulent life, Moon appears destined to lead South Korea’s complex affairs for the next five years, which is likely to promote hope in the country’s future.

 

South Korea’s second presidential debate

From left to right: Sim Sang Jung, Hong Joon Pyo, Yoo Seong Min, Moon Jae In, and Anh Cheol Soo (image courtesy of Nikkei Asian Preview)

by Min Bae

The five leading presidential candidates faced one another in their second TV debate last Wednesday, hosted by Korean Broadcasting System. The event drew nationwide attention as it was the first Korean presidential debate with candidates speaking without a script while standing up. The discussion was divided into two sessions: one on politics and national security, and the other on educational, economic, and sociocultural issues.

Although the pulpit method was implemented to facilitate discussion and appeal to voters, the two-hour debate seemed to revolve around grilling the dominant frontrunner Moon Jae In and the runner-up Ahn Cheol Soo over remarks they had made throughout their political careers.

Yoo Seong Min of the right-wing Bareun Party was first to unleash series of attacks on Moon, mostly concerning the controversy over the liberal front-runner’s decision to follow Pyongyang’s opinion on a 2007 UN resolution regarding North Korea’s human rights situation.

Hong Joon Pyo of the right-wing Liberty Korea Party accused Moon of condoning a charitable giving of $4.4 billion to North Korea when he was the chief aide to the liberal president Roh Moo Hyun. Hong also claimed that the money was used to fund North’s nuclear weapon program.

While Moon spent most of his discussion time defending himself, he asserted that the former President Kim Dae Jung’s Sunshine Policy and Roh’s engagement policy toward North Korea played a significant role in improving the relationship between the two Koreas. Moon also re-asserted his position against North Korea’s nuclear program, saying that the North’s nuclear issue has become much more serious and resolving it should be our priority.

Sim Sang Jung of the progressive Justice Party made sharp attacks to both Moon and Anh regarding the dispute around the deployment of an advanced missile defense system, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), the predominant topic in the debate’s first session. She criticized Moon’s description of the deployment as “strategic ambiguity.”

“I was perplexed by Moon’s expressions such as ‘strategic ambiguity’ or ‘strategic prudence.’ These are words of a critic, not of a political leader.”

Moon was also criticized by Sim on his recent change in viewpoint on the THAAD issue from opposition to conditional approval. Ahn was criticized for shifting his opinion earlier last week; He proclaimed that the continuing military provocation from North Korea made the deployment inevitable.

An early election has been scheduled to take place on May 9 following the impeachment of the former right-wing president Park Geun Hye over her participation in a multi-million dollar corruption scandal. Park is currently under arrest on 13 charges including bribery and abuse of power. Anh and Moon, influential candidates with left-wing affiliations, emerged as two leading presidential contenders in public opinion polls.

It seems that the biggest winner of the second debate is Moon Jae In, with 41% of support. He managed to distance himself from the runner-up, Anh Cheol Soo by 11 % in a recent poll as Anh has lost 7 % of support after the debate.

According to the Yonhap News Agency, the second debate was watched by 26.4 % of Korean households, tripling the 7- 8 % average of viewership of public network broadcasting.

Ousted South Korea President Park Geun-Hye is arrested, verdict is still on hold

 

92845714_gettyimages-626365118

Former South Korean President Park Geun-Hye (Getty Images – BBC)

 

Prosecutors on Tuesday questioned the former South Korea President Park Geun-Hye for the first time since the Seoul Central District Court issued her an arrest warrant on March 31st. The prosecutors focused on identifying Park’s role in allegations of bribery, coercion, and abuse of power, which amount to a total of 13 charges.

Park is accused of conspiring with her long-time friend and accomplice, Choi Soon-Sil, to receive bribes from Lee Jae-Yong, the heir of the nation’s most influential corporation: Samsung. Park assisted Lee’s inheritance of Samsung’s management sector from his father, the Chairman Lee Kun-Hee, who has been ill for almost three years.

The former president is also suspected of scheming with Choi to embezzle nearly 80 billion (71.8 million USD) – initially earned from dozens of conglomerate businesses – as donations to two non-profit organizations supposedly controlled by Choi.

 The questioning began at around 10 a.m. at the Seoul Detention Center in Uiwang, a city at the south of Seoul, where Park has been held in detention for a week. Such location for the interrogation was due to security issues and Park’s health concerns.

The first investigation took nearly 11 hours, ending at around 8:40 p.m., according to the Korean newspaper Kyunghayang Shinmun. Park was accompanied by her legal representative Yoo Yeong-Ha during the interrogation.

Despite the evidence presented to her during the interrogation, Park has denied all the allegations according to Yonhapnews. However, the criminal relationship between Park and Choi has already been identified by prosecutors. Choi had been arrested and sent to the same detention center where Park was sent last week, although it was recently announced that Choi would be transferred to another facility to prevent the accomplices from contacting each other.

Park’s next investigation is scheduled for Thursday, and prosecutors are considering to request for an extension on Park’s mandatory arrest, which will end on the April, 9. If the extension is granted, the prosecutors will be able to detain Park until April, 19.

Park Geun-Hye has become the third former South Korean president to be jailed, and the first democratically elected leader to be ousted from office. This massive political scandal has brought forth gigantic turmoil; it is now up to the new leader to reconcile the sharply divided nation and strive once again. South Korea will hold a presidential election on May 9.

. Article by Min Bae