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)

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.

 

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

2048x1536-fit_french-president-elect-emmanuel-macron-waves-to-the-crowd-as-he-delivers-a-speech-at-the-pyramid-at

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)

 

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.

Capture d_écran 2017-05-07 à 20.40.52

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.

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.

Macron and Le Pen, winners of the first round

by Alice Ferré

18057634_10156157753159625_2128141904667852718_n

Image with courtesy of “LaLibre.be”

At 8 p.m., Paris time, Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen were the selected candidates for the second round of the French presidential election, at 24,01% and 21,30% respectively.

“En Marche!” 

Emmanuel Macron achieved to incarnate the people’s demand for change, something which can be considered quite spectacular as Macron founded the “En Marche!” party, a mix of left and right ideologies, just a year ago.

Few minutes after the release of the results, many members from the entire political spectrum minus the extreme right appealed French voters to rally behind the centrist Macron: Rightists Christian Estrosi, François Baroin or leftists Jean-Pierre Raffarin, Benoît Hamon (the socialist party’s candidate who scored 6%) and President François Hollande all joined the call.

A slight divide in the right party “Les Républicains” can although be seen, as some rightists like Laurent Vauquier nuanced their statement, not appealing voters to vote for Macron but against Marine Le Pen. Two dangerous trends could be developing in the right party that would need to consolidate itself before the legislative elections early June.

Bleu Marine

The National Front candidate, Marine Le Pen, made it to the second tour without surprise. It is the second time since 2002 in the history of the French elections that the National Front qualifies itself for the second tour; last time was, however, less expected and caused a horrified reaction in the political sphere. Le Pen’s more expected score this time could be explained by the French’s frustration and fear triggered by a high rate of unemployment, the refugee crisis, and the repeated terrorist attacks on France and Europe over the past few years. Marine Le Pen claims to be the candidate of anti-mundialization and anti-European Union. She calls for a strong, united, and independent France.

However, Le Pen will still have to fight the “Front Républicain,” the gathering of politicians of diverse ideologies against her own party. This multi-party coalition failed her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, in 2002 and led to the victory of the rightist candidate Jacques Chirac. Rightist François Fillon (who scored 20%) called for a gathering behind Macron, as “extremism can bring only despair and division in France.” Benoît Hamon, in a similar spirit, called for “fighting at our best the extreme right.” One dissenting voice was Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s from the extreme-left; He claimed of having no “mandate to speak on the behalf of French voters.”

Nonetheless, the possible tension in the right party “Les Républicains” could certainly lead to Le Pen’s victory, said David Rachline, campaign director of the National Front: Extreme-right and right voters often share common values on fighting the laxist judiciary system, immigration, and unemployment. He added that Le Pen’s score today was a great leap forward for the party and showed that the people want their voice to be heard. Marine Le Pen declared that her first-round victory was a sign that it was “time to free French people from arrogant elites.”

A historical election

Such an unpredictable future for France underlines the historically unique aspect of this election. Moreover, we can notice the development of an unprecedented quadrualism political system as the addition of Macron’s and Le Pen’s scores are only about 45%, less than the majority. Indeed, the four first candidates shared the French’s convictions.

The French political landscape is currently exploding but one thing remains stable: the need to block the National Front from the path to victory with a call for an amplified dynamic of recomposition throughout the country.

France’s second presidential debate

presidentielle-les-declarations-de-patrimoine-des-11-candidats-disponibles_0

From top left clockwise: François Fillon, Benoît Hamon, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Marine Le Pen, Emmanuel Macron, Philippe Poutou, Jean Lassalle, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, Jacques Cheminade, François Asselineau, Nathalie Arthaud – (by ouest-france.fr)

After receiving criticism from the entire political spectrum for only having invited the five frontrunners at the first presidential debate, the national French broadcasting channel France 2 widened its panel of candidates. For the second debate, the six other candidates (or “little” candidates) were invited to participate; according to France 24, it was historically the first debate in France to host all the candidates of a presidential race.

Although it gave an opportunity to the smaller candidates – François Asselineau, Nathalie Arthaud, Nicolas Dupont Aignan, Jacques Cheminade, Jean Lassalle, and Philippe Poutou – to voice their ideas, this wider panel seemed to have spread confusion on the discussions of issues and shadowed the frontrunners.

It quickly became a “three-hour marathon” of attacks:

Philippe Poutou, affiliated to the far-left, ridiculed Marine Le Pen’s main claim to being “anti-system” as he declared that she used her parliamentary immunity to protect herself from judicial prosecution in the affair of illegal payments to her staff.

Ms. Le Pen was relatively passive throughout the debate, although she threw a cutting remark at the centrist Emmanuel Macron (who currently leads the polls). Ms. Le Pen mocked Mr. Macron’s self-proclamation of “the candidate of a new hope,” advancing that his politics were new in form but not in content.

Nathalie Arthaud (Workers’ Struggle) and Philippe Poutou (New Anti-Capitalist Party), both sharing ideologies for the empowerment of the working class, heavily criticized most of the frontrunners for their lack of political ethic: François Fillon from the right party and Ms. Le Pen for the scandals and other corruption affairs they were involved in a few weeks ago.
Mr. Poutou said to Mr. Fillon: “François Fillon, the more we dig, the more we smell corruption, cheating; these are guys who tell us that we need rigor, austerity, when they steal from the coffers,” according to France 24.

Mr. Poutou, who refused to join the ten other candidates on the picture taken before the debate and wore a plain white shirt with blue jeans, also greatly accentuated how he is the only candidate, with Ms. Arthaud, who work a job. (Mr. Poutou is a Ford mechanic). He denounced the “corrupt politicians, disconnected from reality,” according to France 24.

Mainly, it seems like the debate was an excellent opportunity for “little” candidates to settle accounts with the big political figures and the fruitless political establishment they embody.

The third debate has been scheduled by France 2 for April, 20th; however, Mr. Mélenchon and Ms. Le Pen have refused to participate so far, considering it would take place three days before the first election round.

In any case, the race to presidency remains one of the most unpredictable in years, with scandals and surprises that undermined the big players and reinforced the smaller ones.

According to the latest polls published by L’Internaute on April, 15th, Emmanuel Macron  (yellow line) remains winner of the election, closely followed by Marine Le Pen (black line). Jean-Luc Méchelon (red line) has gained 6% of voting intention since March 27th and is now on an equal footing with François Fillon (blue line). Conversely, Benoît Hamon has lost more than 5% of voting intention.

Capture d_écran 2017-04-15 à 23.02.47

Article by Alice Ferré

Recap: François Fillon’s corruption cases: a legal, ethical, private, and public affair

fillon

Courtesy of JAMnews

The French presidential election’s first round will be held on April 22nd; here is a recap of the corruption scandals that surrounded the candidate François Fillon over the past weeks.

So far, the right party has been in hot water. Although its candidate had always claimed their honesty and high morals, recent events proved the contrary.

François Fillon from the right party Les Républicains (LR) has been involved in more corruption scandals over the past few months than he has been during his entire political career as revelations poured:

On January 24, the French newspaper “Le Canard Enchaîné” revealed that the right party candidate’s wife, Pénélope Fillon, was paid for fictional work as a parliament assistant for 15 years, earning a total of 680.000 euros. Her severance pay amounted to 45.000 euros. Later on, during an interview on French channel TF1, Mr. Fillon declared that, while he was Senator, he employed his children as parliamentary attachés, which violated the Senate’s legislation. They earned 84 000 euros.

Mr. Fillon is also charged with influence peddling, as Penelope Fillon was employed by « La Revue des Deux Mondes, » from 2012 to 2013, and paid 5000 euros per month, regardless of having written only two notes for it. The publication’s owner, Marc Ladreit de Lacharrière, is close to the Fillons and received the Legion of Honor in 2011.

Finally, Les Républicains are accused of misappropriation of funds earned by the parliamentary aides from 2005 to 2007. Mr. Fillon received 21.000 euros.

Following these revelations, Mr. Fillon’s investigation procedure started on March, 15. He, nonetheless, chose to remain in the presidential race. The investigation procedure allowed Mr. Fillon to access the accusation files and build a defense against all the charges. The investigation is however disturbed by the electoral calendar: if Mr. Fillon is elected, he cannot be prosecuted.

The seventh article of the French Constitution allows postponing the election if a candidate withdraws themselves from the race, or is impeached, and if they are not replaceable by another candidate from the party’s primary election. The Constitutional Council decides whether the election should be postponed.

However, such scenario seems unlikely, as Mr. Fillon declared he will remain in the race. The UDI (Union of Democrats and Independents), which had previously abandoned their support for Mr. Fillon early March, changed their minds and agreed to endorse him again – for the sake of the party. Thierry Solère, Mr. Fillon’s campaign spokesman who also resigned early March, stayed in his position.

Article by Alice Ferré

France: More surprises in primary elections process lead to uncertainty on presidential race this May

benoit-hamon-manuel-valls-primaire-gauche-second-tour-ps-francesoir_field_mise_en_avant_principale

Benoît Hamon (left) Manuel Valls (right) – France Soir

 

France’s upcoming presidential election in May is sure to be full of surprises. The Right Party presidential primaries held in December ousted former President Nicolas Sarkozy and Chirac’s former Minister Alain Juppé from the race and nominated former Prime Minister under Sarkozy, François Fillon, a less charismatic but quieter figure.

The second round of the Socialist Party presidential primaries will be held this Sunday, with two completely different profiles competing: former Prime Minister Manuel Valls and Yvelines’ deputy Benoît Hamon. Under Hollande’s presidency, Mr. Valls had drifted from the socialist ideology to a more conservative one, especially with the El-Khomri law. On the contrary, Mr. Hamon advocates for more left-oriented policies and radical change. The French press mentions a “left with two faces.”

No second chances?

Recent polls are not in Mr. Valls’ favor, owing to his unpopularity as Prime Minister. He also has to face contradictions during debates: to defend what he stood for over the past four years whilst also promising change. Unfortunately, many fear a continuity of policies if Mr. Valls gets elected. The candidate claims the El-Khomri law was an ultimatum for him and promises to abrogate the 49-3 article that validates it, since they do not represent “our society of participation,” he told France 2‘s news channel.  Addressing the nation’s current preoccupations with Islamophobia, Mr. Valls contends all religions are compatible with republican values; and “although the Republic protects and helps all victims of intolerance, it belongs to them to defend themselves against obscurantism,” he told L’émission politique in January. He also intends to open up a dialogue on Islam and “free French Islam from outside influences.”

Hamon: from third man to rising star of the polls

After the disappointing mandate of François Hollande, the surge of terrorist attacks, and the alarming rise of unemployment, France needs to dream a better future. There is no desire to recycle politicians, and Mr. Hamon appears to provide enough dream material for the French to win the primaries this Sunday. Polls estimate Hamon to lead the race by 4%.

The main line of his program is the cancellation of the El-Khomri law, which facilitates the ability of firms to fire employees when faced with competition. Mr. Hamon also hopes to see a France move toward utilizing renewable energies by 2050, and away from nuclear use and schist gas. He advocates for the legalized use of cannabis – a concern rarely addressed in national debates – which could reduce underground trafficking and other related troubles within concerned communities.

Results from this primary will likely determine the candidate that will measure himself against the two other main running parties, Le Pen’s far-right and Fillon’s right. This panel of candidates was unexpected to make it so far, leading to many questions and uncertainties for the May election.

The second most popular competing parties are Emmanuel Macron’s independent party (neither left nor right), Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s far-left, and Yannick Jadot’s green party.

Edit, 01/29/2017: Benoît Hamon wins with 58,88% of the votes against 41,12% for Manuel Valls

Article by Alice Ferré, CAS’19