Understanding Moon Jae-in

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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.

 

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President Macron’s government disclosed

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L’Elysée (courtesy of Thomas Samson from APF via LesEchos.fr)

– Article by Alice Ferré

This article has been updated. 

As Emmanuel Macron was inaugurated on Sunday as France’s new president, he is now expected to announce his Cabinet’s choices. According to the French newspaper Le Monde, a high official declared Macron’s government will embody “the unexpected mating of Michel Rocard and Dominique Strauss-Khan,” resulting in technocratic and practical leftist politics.

The Elysée Secretary of State is the 44-year-old Alexis Khoner, also part of France’s young political elite. His role is to coordinate the cabinet officials, advise the president, and take decisions that are considered to be within the president’s political line of action. Khoner graduated from Sciences Po and the prestigious ESSEC and ENA, three schools that form the politicians of tomorrow. He also worked as the secretary of the Treasury and for the IMF before 2012. In 2014, he moved to Geneva, Switzerland, where he became the director of the Italian cruise company MSC Cruises. Described as “loyal” and “always enthusiastic” by one of his relatives, according to Le Monde, Khoner will become Macron’s right arm.

Patrick Strozda was named the Elysee Chief of Staff. The former prefect of Bretagne and head of the defense and security zone in the West of France is remembered for his iron fist during the protests last summer against the El Khomri law. He was also prefect of Corsica, one of the most delicate prefectural functions in France, from 2011 to 2013, and of other regions over the past ten years. He seems to have had no political attachments or preferences in his career, according to Le Monde.

The head of the National Security Council is Philippe Etienne, former French ambassador in Berlin. This choice underlines Macron’s will to keep strong links with Germany in a European-oriented politic. Etienne is also part of the French political elite and is a polyglot, mastering seven languages other than French, including English, Romanian, German, Russian, Spanish, and Serbo-Croatian. Etienne’s diplomatic career amounts to Belgrad and Bonn in the 1980s, and to Brussels where he was a prime counselor at the European Union in the 2000s before becoming the EU’s ambassador from 2009 to 2014. He directed Former French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner’s cabinet from 2007 to 2009. Etienne’s team is also supposed to be composed of specialists in the Middle-East and the United States.

The new president seems to have chosen an experienced cabinet aligning with his intentions and wishes for the president’s five-year term. President Macron’s pick for Prime Minister is the former mayor of the city of Havre, Edouard Philippe.

The 16 ministers appointed by the Prime Minister are:

  • Gérard Collomb as Secretary of the Interior. Collomb was one of the first politicians to endorse Macron and was in charge of collecting sponsorship signatures for his candidate. He was also the socialist mayor of Lyon since 2001.
  • Nicolas Hulot as Minister of the Ecology (equivalent to the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S.). President Macron respected his promise of implementing a partly civilian government with half of the ministers having no previous political background albeit being specialists in their fields. Hulot is a widely-known ecology activist who co-founded and hosted the ecological awareness campaign and TV show “Ushuahia” for 25 years on France’s first TV channel. Former presidents Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy, and François Hollande solicited his expertise in the past, without success.
  • François Bayrou as Minister of Justice. Bayrou is well-known on the political scene: he is the MoDem leader (a centrist party) and unsuccessfully ran for office three times. Bayrou was, however, nominated twice as Minister of Education in the 1990s and also accumulated the titles of Mayor of the city of Pau, Congressman over 35 years of political service.  He was Macron’s devoted supporter even before the first round.
  • Sylvie Goulard as the Secretary of Defense. Goulard is a pro-Europe and centrist Congressman who joined Macron’s party in 2016. Working at the European committee since 2009, she is a member of a “europhile” association over the past four years. She is defending the idea of a federal Europe.
  • Jean-Yves Le Drian as the Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs. He was previously Minister of Defence and Veteran Affairs under Hollande’s government.
  • Richard Ferrand as the Minister of Territorial Cohesion; he was the first socialist to leave the Socialist Party to join En Marche! in 2016 after 18 years at the SP. Macron’s blacksmith and ally in the implementing of the “Loi Macron,” Ferrand worked at the Ministry of Social Affairs since 1991 and was one of the Finistère’s Congressmen.
  • Agnès Buzyn as the Secretary of Health and Human Services. She is also unknown in the political sphere; she is a doctor and medical studies professor, head of the National Cancer Institute. In 2016, she was the first woman to be appointed as the head of one of France’s highest independent research centers.
  • François Nyssen as the Minister of Culture. Nyssen also has no political experience but is a heavy-weight in the editorial world: she is the head of Actes Sud, received the Legion of Honor in 2013, and the title of best businesswoman in 1991. She has been co-coordinating Luc Besson’s movie label group EuropaCorp since 2011.
  • Bruno Le Maire as the Minister of Economy. Le Maire was candidate during the right party’s primaries and is accustomed to political life as he was L’Eure’s regional counselor, Secretary of State and minister. He was the first rightist politician who offered his services to Macron on May 7.
  • Muriel Penicaud as the Minister of Labor. Penicaud is Danone’s previous director of human resources. She also worked at administrative councils for SNCF and Orange. In the 1990s, she was the counselor of previous Minister of Labor, Martine Aubry.
  • Jean-Michel Blanquer as the Minister of Education. Blanquer, being the director of the prestigious management and business schools l’ESSEC, is well-respected in the educative community and could be seen as an expert, a technocrat of the educative system. He also previously worked at the Minister of Education as the right arm of Luc Chatel from 2009 to 2012.
  • Jacques Mézard as the Minister of Agriculture. Congressman of Cantal since 2008, Mézard is also representative of the extreme-left movement; however, he was a fervent Macron supporter during the presidential campaign.
  • Gérald Darmanin as the Minister of Budget (Secretary of the Treasury). Darmanin, 34, is the youngest minister. His ministry includes the management of the Treasury and Social Security. Darmanin is one of the rising stars of the rightist party Les Républicains and was Mayor and Congressman of Tourcoing.
  • Frédérique Vidal as the Minister of Superior Education, Research, and Innovation. Vidal is also not a politician but is a researcher and director of the famous Nice university and predominant research pole Sophia Antipolis.
  • Annick Girardin as the Minister of Overseas Territories. Girardin worked under the Hollande’s administration and was a regional counselor and Congressman of Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon.
  • Laura Flessel as Minister of Sports. Five years after returning her sword, the former fencer, who received an Olympic medal and was six times world champion, enters the political scene. She is a member of numerous Handicap International associations.

Presidential inauguration in France: Emmanuel Macron becomes the 8th president of France’s fifth Republic

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France’s new president Emmanuel Macron during his first presidential speech, on May 14. (courtesy of RTL.fr)

– Article by Alice Ferré

On May 14, only a week away from the election, Emmanuel Macron officially became France’s newest president.
Mr. Macron is the 8th president of the Fifth Republic launched in 1958 after then-president Charles de Gaulle had orchestrated constitutional changes to reinforce the executive’s powers.

The inauguration ceremony started with a private meeting between President Macron and former President Hollande in the presidential office, the Golden Salon. Although the talk was supposed to last thirty minutes, the two politicians reappeared an hour later. Once they walked out of the Elysée, Macron walked Hollande to his car. As Hollande’s Renault Espace drove away under the applause of Macron and the public, the new president was led inside.

The swearing-in ceremony continued with the president receiving the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour, the highest French order of merit for military and civil merits since 1802. President Macron entered the room to the rhythm of the symphony he had himself chose for the event, Camille Saint Saëns’ “Lauriers,” written in 1919 to celebrate the Allies’ victory.  A speech from the president of the Constitutional Council Laurent Fabius followed; it traditionally announced the results of the presidential election to remind the legitimacy of Mr. Macron’s investiture. Traditions, although, were momentarily put aside as Fabius declared Macron to be “a man of our time” with a “revolutionary” campaign.

The new president then gave his first presidential speech before television cameras and 300 guests. “The French chose hope and competitive spirit. They entrusted me with a responsibility that is an honor of which I measure the solemnity.” Macron called for more business innovation and creation in France, as well as a newly founded hope in Europe. “We need a more efficient, democratic, and political Europe because it is the instrument of our power and sovereignty. I will make sure of it.” Macron also claimed that he will devote himself to bringing the French together after years of division.

The President then saluted the military before going to La Place de L’Etoile with a presidential escort (the motorcycle cops and cavalry of the Republican Guard) to pay homage to the unknown soldier, buried under the Arc de Triomphe and symbol of all fallen French soldiers of any war France fought.
The president also insisted on visiting the three French soldiers, that were wounded in Mali and Afghanistan, at the hospital where they rest. “For my first presidential trip, I would like to be at their bedsides to defend our nation and freedom around the world,” said Macron.

Macron’s first international presidential trip will be in Germany today to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel.

 

Emmanuel Macron, the new French president to bring a fresh air of optimism and relief

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President-elect Emmanuel Macron imposed himself as the symbol of renewal, hope, unity, and resistance against extremism. The sign reads, “Together, France!” (courtesy of 20minutes.fr)

 

-Article by Alice Ferré

Emmanuel Macron, leader of the centrist party “En Marche!” was elected the new president of France this Sunday. He ousted Marine Le Pen of the National Front out of the race with a score of 65,8%. Le Pen scored 34,2%.
The participation rate amounted to 74,7% according to the French polling institute Ipsos-Sopra Steria, meaning that 25,3%, or 12 million people, did not vote. 4,2 million people left their ballots blank. It is the highest abstention rate for a second presidential tour since 1969.

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Vote participation at the presidential second tour over the years from 1965 to 2017 (courtesy of LeMonde.fr)

‘The lost credibility and legitimacy of the main political parties’

During her defeat speech, Le Pen announced that she had congratulated Macron for his victory and wished him luck to fight against “the immense challenge that France is facing.” She thanked the 11 million voters and the royalist François Dupont-Aignan from the political party La France Debout that “trusted and supported” her over the past months of campaigning for “their courageous and founding choice.”

“With such a historical and massive result for the National Front, the people designated us as the only legitimate patriotic and republican force of opposition. Those who took the responsibility to elect Mr. Macron lost their credibility and legitimacy to represent an alternative political force.”

Le Pen also pointed out that this election signed off “the decomposition of the French political scene through the elimination of the two main parties, Les Républicains and the Socialist Party, and thus reorganized the division between patriots and globalists.

She called her supporters to prepare for the legislative elections of the French Assembly on June, 11. “For those who want to choose France, defend her independence, liberty, prosperity, security, identity, and social model. For those who are worried about the next five years.”

‘Renewal of faith and strength’

President-elect Macron also thanked his voters for their trust and expressed his “profound gratefulness.”

“Nothing was written, so I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your votes and support. I will invest all my energy in being worthy of your trust.”

He also addressed the National Front and France Insoumise voters. “To all citizens, difficulties have weakened us for a long time now. I would thus like to salute all of you and respect those of you who voted for the extremes and those who doubt. I respect you.”

“I want to ensure our nation’s unity because behind each one of my words, there are men, women, children, and families. Tonight, I am talking to you. The people of France have duties to their country: we are the heirs of a grand story and humanist message. We have to transmit this story, this message, and those values to our children and carry them towards the future to give them a new lifeblood.”

“I will defend France’s interests and image; I hold this commitment before you. I will reforge the links between Europe and the peoples that form it.
I also address to all nations in the world a fraternal, peaceful, and respectful salute from France…from a France who respects its commitments towards the fight against terrorism and climate change.”

“Tonight is the night of a new page of a long story: the story of renewed hope and faith, democratic vitality, and pluralism. I will endorse the responsibility to appease the fears, rebuild the optimism, and gather the French to fight the great upcoming challenges.”

“Let us love France from tonight and for the five next years. I will, with humility and devotion, serve this country on your behalf. Vive la République et vive la France.”

Unlike in the United States, the president-elect will hold office a week after he got elected, on May, 14. Choices for prime minister and its newly formed government will also be unveiled mid-May.

Violent Protests Rein Maduro’s Regime

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Venezuelans protesting in Caracas – (picture by Fernando Llano/AP for the New York Times)

by Rebecca Arce

Last Friday, the Venezuelan Ministry confirmed that 11 civilians were killed and six were wounded during protests against Nicolás Maduro’s government in El Valle, a city southwest of Caracas, the capital. This raises to 20 the number of deaths due to riots in the last three weeks.

NGOs such as the Venezuelan Program of Education and Action in Human Rights (PROVEA), stated that manifestations were heavily repressed by the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB) and by “chavists,” defenders of Maduro’s dictatorship.

During the protest, a children’s hospital in El Valle, where 54 infants were hospitalized, was forced to be evacuated. According to the Venezuelan government, the hospital was attacked by armed groups financed by the opposition, known as the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), that denied any involvement with the case.

Riots have become more intense since last Tuesday, as Maduro announced the activation of the FANB’s “Zamora Plan,” to maintain internal order against “coup threats convened by Washington.”

“Given this scenario, I decided to activate the special civil-military strategic plan to ensure the country’s functioning, its security, internal order, and social integration,” added Maduro during a speech at his official workplace, the Miraflores Palace.

The content of the plan was not stated, causing the MUD to question if all opposition to the government will be viewed as a coup. “The military has a lot of power in Venezuela, so there could only be immediate changes if this system crashes,” said Rafael Uzcátegui, member of the PROVEA.

Last Thursday, nine Latin-American countries released a statement mourning the tragic events of the Venezuelan protests. The governments of Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay strongly condemned “the violence unleashed in Venezuela” and lamented “the loss of more lives.”  The Chilean Foreign Minister, Heraldo Muñoz, added that “it is urgent that the Venezuelan authorities adopt measures to ensure fundamental rights and preserve social peace.”

The nations also urge the Venezuelan government to “take back the path of a democratic institution” and to “set dates for compliance with the electoral timetable, release political prisoners and ensure the separation of the constitutional powers.”

Demonstrations against Maduro’s undemocratic administration have been raging since February 2014 when Leopoldo López, opposition leader, activist, and former Mayor of Caracas’ Chacao district, assembled students to protest peacefully against the lack of basic daily products supplies. Following this protest, Lopez was sentenced to 14 years for public incitement to violence.

Three years after the first protest, the lack of such products is still a predominant issue in the country. On March, 25, the city council of Barute promoted public bartering between civilians under a reinforced police control for safety purposes.

 

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.

Opinion: Turkey’s Democracy Has Not Died This Week

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‘No’ supporters in the Kadikoy neighborhood, Istanbul (Image by AFP for Hürriyet Daily News)

The most dubious and critical election of the republic’s history has now just passed. Reason points out that mathematically “no” has won, but this issue was not a battle between simply “yes” or “no.” The government validated 2.5 million invalid “yes” votes, and Erdoğan gave a victory speech as if to say “let it go, we won already” that befooled the people when sealed ballot boxes were still waiting to be opened.

And now, the Republic is trying to balance itself on a rock with the compromise attempts from both sides of the status quo.

First of all, the opposition has never sufficiently answered the public demand for “no.” The CHP (The Republican People’s Party) leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, was never fully ready, and the AKP (Justice and Development Party) would have shifted the helm in their favor with more chaos if the “no” had won.
All the same, Kılıçdaroğlu has done nothing but preach compromise throughout the referendum campaign. The CHP is a pro-order hallow party that stands in the way of public outrage, a party that Erdoğan should be thanking at every opportunity. In every election, it successfully suppresses the accumulated anger and energy among its grassroots who wonder if it “would be different this time.”

Secondly and more importantly, the referendum result profits a majority of big businesses and international corporate hegemonies. Local CEOs and their international partners have been the ones proposing the absolute presidency for years.

The mainstream media institutions’ publications of junk articles such as “Turkey is Following a Path Towards Dictatorship” or “Turkey’s Democracy Has Died Today” are nothing but a perpetuation of what imperialist hubs have been propagating in the past. The only issue these publications have with Erdoğan, whom they kept listing him as one of the top “most effective leaders,” is his arrogance and extreme gestures. Sent out on the web like spam emails for the past days by Western media outlets, these articles have problems not with Turkey’s democracy but with a compulsive need to sensationalize its politics.

The “yes” vote that won by a small margin will tie Erdoğan’s hands and keep an agenda that will increase the circulation of capital. It happened as they wished. This has been Kılıçdaroğlu’s mission for years.

Politically, status quo has won, even if  24 million people have “officially” said “no” to this order of things. However, this balance will not remain through compromise. The largest cities in the country, including İzmir, İstanbul, and Ankara have said “no”: A government that has lost in these places does not have the license to run the country anymore. Turkey no longer carries Erdoğan.

Hundreds of thousands of people worked for “no” during the campaign through great sacrifice. Erdoğan is aware of how many votes he stole, and even as he is still trying to cover up the mess with speeches, our hearts and reason indicate “no” has won.

Nothing is over yet, it has only begun. 24 million people should not remain silent.

The insufficient opposition is looking for new compromises as the CHP wants to pacify millions of honorable citizens who voted “no” and got their votes stolen. This treachery will be heavily paid for: A referendum designated through tyranny, deceit, and theft could have no legitimacy.

But this fight is neither between Erdoğan and the West nor between CHP and AKP; it is the fight of the people for the Republic. And yet again, the republic cannot be defended through silence.

Article by Metin Demirli