Saturday, April 10, 2004


must have been the favorite song of whoever designed the subservient chicken (hat tip to A Small Victory)

Thursday, April 08, 2004


Others have already noted the campaign by "Civil Action for 2004 General Elections" to give politicians red cards of disapproval. The groups list has burgeoned to 208 candidates.
Civil Action for 2004 General Elections, an alliance of advocacy groups, has recently announced a list of 208 candidates whom it vows to defeat in the upcoming elections. It has also selected another eight who, it claims, are unqualified to be elected by proportional representation.

The alliance believes the blacklisted candidates are too corrupt to be elected, or that their voting records and other performances fail to meet the standards it has established. Its campaign is not prohibited unless it exceeds legal bounds
Of course when one digs a bit deeper one finds that the vast majority of the blacklisted (red carded?) politicians are of one of two categories: either they were blacklisted last time around (a sign that the Alliance's campaign was less than successful in the previous election) or that they voted for impeachment of Roh. I think that the phenomenon of non-partisan political organizations getting involved in ROK politics is generally a welcome sign of a growing civil society. However, in this case, I suspect that the Alliance has cast its net too widely and will, therefore, find its significance and influence on the elections to be considerably diluted.


The Associated Press ("NORTH KOREA SAID TO SEEK RESOLVE WITH JAPAN," Tokyo, 04/07/04) reported that the DPRK wants to resolve its differences with Japan and restart talks with Tokyo on establishing diplomatic relations, a former Japanese lawmaker was quoted as saying Wednesday. Taku Yamasaki, a former national lawmaker in Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's conservative party, made the remarks while briefing Koizumi on recent meetings he held with DPRK officials in the PRC, Kyodo News reported. Yamasaki and another politician from the party went to the northern PRC city of Dailin last week on what was billed as a private diplomatic initiative to jump-start negotiations with the reclusive communist state. He told Koizumi at a dinner late Wednesday he came away from the meetings "convinced" that the DPRK wants to normalize relations with Japan during the prime minister's tenure, Kyodo said, citing unidentified participants at the dinner.
Of course Kim Jong Il would like to normalize relations with Japan. The only significant question worth asking is, "at what cost?" Is Kim willing to give anything up in order to improve relations with Japan (letting all the family members of abductees move to Japan if they wish, or tone down on the incessant anti-Japanese rhetoric that is nearly daily fare from the KCNA--see here for the latest--for example).


Financial Times (Andrew Ward, "N KOREA ENDORSES ROH'S PARTY IN SOUTH'S POLL," 04/07/04) reported that the DPRK has urged South Koreans to vote against "conservative forces" in next week's general election, in what amounts to a de facto endorsement of president Roh Moo-hyun and his supporters' left-of-centre Uri party. The DPRK's intervention appeared designed to deepen divisions in ROK society between older conservatives loyal to the country's military alliance with the US and younger liberals more sympathetic towards the DPRK. Without mentioning Uri directly, the DPRK's state news agency urged voters in the ROK to "totally bury the pro-US conservative parties including the Grand National party [GNP] and the [Millennium] Democratic party," and help the "pro-reunification candidates win in the election".

This sounds like a Korean government institution expressing a preference for a particular political party during a campaign. Watch for the GNP to impeach the entire DPRK government next!

Thinking more seriously, it will be interesting to see whether this announcement has any effect at all on the ROK electorate. Probably not. Anti-DPRK hardliners were going to vote for the GNP anyway and pro-engagement groups continue to favor Roh and the Uri party. So what did North Korea think it would gain from this announcement?

Wednesday, April 07, 2004


Antti Leppanen notes that the powers that be are proposing to invent a new name for the ROK capital for the ease of Chinese speakers. There are a number of proposals aimed at approximating the sound of "Seoul" (서울) in Chinese. None of them, in my humble estimation, are very elegant or do a very good job. Alternately, there are also proposals for rendering the meaning of Seoul with phrases like Hanjing (韓京) or Zhongjing (中京). Whatever the committee decides, my question is how they plan to promulgate and enforce such a change. Will the ROK government insist that Chinese maps switch to the new Korean rendering of their capital in Chinese? If not, why should it expect anyone to follow their lead?


Among the other campaign promises made and issues raised by GNP leader Park Geun-hye is this interesting blast from the past:
GNP chairwoman Park Geun-hye created stir when she expressed support for the introduction of a new system for allowing current president to extend his stay in office for another tenure.

"I have long backed such system although I need to consult the party over whether to make it our official campaign pledge or not," she said in an interview.
In the later years of his regime, Park's father, Park Chung Hee, took steps to insure that he could be president for life. Little did he know how well his aims would be realized.

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