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Member since: Sat Mar 14, 2009, 08:45 PM
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Hwang Kyo-ahn's hunger strike enters day 6

Hwang Kyo-ahn's hunger strike passes the six day mark. He's got a relatively small crowd of supporters, mostly religious and far right types setting up tents and making noise all day and night outside the Blue House in violation of various laws. There is a similar but smaller group outside the National Assembly. Two things could possibly happen, one, a police dispersal which could become a source of violence. The second could be the death of Hwang Kyo-ahn, the right wing leader, using the tactics of the left and occupy to attempt to thwart the fast track legislative reform legislation that will damage his party's prospects in the next election cycle. Na Kyung-won has been visiting Hwang in his tent in front of the Blue House. After the extension of the GSOMIA agreement, Hwang's hunger strike, had the appearance of some efficacy. An occupy like demonstration has emerged near the Blue House, that is reportedly in violation of different proscriptions, the first a security zone around the Blue House perimeter which Hwang's tent and the assembly nearby apparently violate. The second a violation of noise restrictions in the area. The third a violation of "anti-gypsy" proscriptions which disallow squatting or erecting quarters on public grounds for overnight occupation. The demonstrators claim there is an overriding Constitutional guarantee of political expression which protects them. Some critics dispute this. Hearing a debate on this subject, it appeared that time, place and manner restrictions are not a thing on the right for these purposes. There are similar concerns surrounding a related squatter type operation around the National Assembly grounds.

Moon Jae-in has been out of town the last few days for the ASEAN conference which Seoul is hosting in Pusan. The legal and political dilemna on the plaza and streets in front of the Blue House is apparently being handled by Blue House staff and other party leaders in his absence. Thus far, they have acted with great restraint unwilling to paint the disingenuous Hwang as a "patriotric martyr for the cause," as is portrayed on the new jackets worn by the occupiers in the streets. These squatters and their tents festooned with numerous US flags. Even if the legal grounds exist to disperse them, it would be likely to escalate into an undesirable situation. Thus far, Democratic party leaders have merely asked Hwang to have his followers leave voluntarily. Police have placed notices on the tents of their illegal status suggesting they may be removed by official action. One wonders how long this fiasco will go on.

Placards, banners and signs at demonstrators' scene, say Moon Jae-in is a communist, that he is a dictator ruining the country, that he should step down, etc. Moon's defenders point out that the incredible restraint shown by police is merely evidence of Moon's substantial resume as a defender of human rights and the principles of democracy.

South Korea: LKP leader on a "hunger strike"

(Source- JTBC News, 11.20) Liberty Korea Party leader, Hwang Kyo-ahn on a hunger strike.

Just over a month ago, in a commentary titled Political Turmoil in South Korea, I asked, "...So what will the wily LKP leaders come up with for their next move? More mass street demonstrations? Attempts by demonstrators to enter the Blue House? Violent Black Bloc type tactics seen in Hong Kong presaged in the October 3 Gwangwhamun demonstration? Anything could happen." Well now we have it. Right wing Liberty Party Korea leader, Hwang Kyo-ahn, has gone on a "hunger strike," the South Korean news media reported yesterday. This is a further variation on Hwang's holier than thou pose as an ascetic when he shaved his head as a protest against the suspected corruption of then Justice Minister Cho Kuk. That particular cause, after Cho's resignation, seems to have exhausted itself in light of the accusations against LKP floor leader in the Assembly, Na Kyung-won. Now, Hwang says he's "determined to die" as part of his sit-in hunger strike. His hunger strike started at 2:00 pm local time in Seoul according to JTBC.

The backdrop is the change in political tides against Hwang and his colleague, LKP floor leader Na Kyung-won. The latter has been accused in the press with corruption in connection with her daughter's college admission. This corruption is hypocritically tied to her self described sense of "public service" on behalf of the Special Olympics. Suffice it to say, her alleged corruption seems remarkably similar to that imputed to Cho Kuk, against whom she and Hwang campaigned making appearances in the streets in Gwangwhamun Plaza with hundreds of thousands to express their moral indignation until Cho's resignation. Now, Na plans to leave the country for a break from the focus on her corruption to address GSOMIA and SOFA disputes with members of the US Congress. Her appearance at the international airport on the way out of the country today presented an awkward sight to say the least. But it's better than staying in South Korea for the time being while two criminal inquiries are pending against her. This also gives Na the opportunity to dissociate herself from Hwang's hunger strike, while giving Na the appearance of actually being engaged somehow in a real political process rather than the obstructionism which is her forte in the Assembly as the LKP opposition leader. One has to wonder what her real intentions are. It almost gives the impression of leaving a house on fire.

(Source- JTBC News, 11.20) Reo Yeong-kuk, Justice Party, "While there is much talk inside and outside that the LKP must reform, the answer will not be a hunger strike; rather than cutting off food, he should cut off politics."

But back to Hwang's hunger strike. Hwang, The LKP leader and former prime minister under Park Geun-hye is resorting to the old tradition in the Chosun court to make an individual petition to the throne by placing oneself at risk in front of the palace royal hall. This involved the petitioner being subjected to the hardships of nature and the elements until one is either heard by the King and receives an appropriate response or literally dies in the process. Anyone who watches South Korean historical dramas is familiar with these scenes. However, what is curious is why a political party leader finds it necessary to do this when South Korea today is a democracy? Such actions are typically a manifestation of powerlessness and desperation. Yes, there is the dramatic patina of virtue which goes with such scenes where the historical actor risks their life for a principle. It is apparent that Hwang's demonstration is also drama for television, like shaving his head was several weeks ago. Apart from the dramatic pictures, it is certain that Hwang will be making trips to the rest room, and drinking water.

The public venues Hwang has chosen to to make his demonstration are subject to other pre-scheduled events which conflict with his plans. So he had to move from the venue in front of the Blue House to a position on the National Assembly grounds which again had an event conflicting with Hwang's demonstration necessitating another move. When the temperature dropped at night Hwang was seen donning his duck down winter outer clothing and a blanket, taking a departure from the historical practice. It was noted by newscasters that he used a cushion to sit on the hard ground surfaces. So Hwang is not so much placing himself under maximum deprivation or risking his health in an immediate sense as in the customary practice but grandstanding for the cameras. The act isn't going over well. One cannot overestimate the desperate situation the LKP leader finds himself in politically to undertake such posturing. JTBC news commentators and seasoned politicians referred to it as a crisis in leadership. It appears that Hwang may have coordinated this event with the evangelical leader Jeon Gwang- hoon, executive director of the United Christian Conference, who played a key role in the Gwanghwamun demonstrations where he called for the impeachment of Moon Jae-In, "effective immediately." Jeon has been criticized as a demagogue and right wing extremist.

Hwang said he's demonstrating against the harm the Moon Jae-in government has done to South Korea, and against the further harm it appears is on the way. Specifically he's referring to fast track legislation to which four other parties have agreed to circumvent LKP stonewalling on legislation during the 20th Session of the National Assembly. In his statement of grievances Hwang addressed the prosecution reform particularly the provision for a specific office for investigation of crimes by public officials. Hwang asserted this was a means for Moon Jae In to punish those who oppose him. Secondly, the fast track proposal increasing the number of proportional seats and reducing district representation seats, if approved on the Assembly floor is virtually certain to adversely affect the number of LKP representatives. This proposal according to Hwang was Moon Jae In's design to "serve himself." Yet this will benefit the under represented smaller parties in the National Assembly who support the reform. This is the real crisis for the LKP. Democracy in the form of proportional representation is rearing its ugly head. The far right conservatives in Hwang's party lose even more political power adding insult to injury after their collapse in the last election cycle. Hwang has adopted the GSOMIA issue as well. He's making the US argument on behalf of intelligence sharing with Japan. It's unlikely this will earn many political points in light the humiliating treatment South Korea has received from Abe's Japan over the past few months, and the continuing "shameful," browbeating the South Korean people have witnessed from US officials in the last few weeks.

(Source- JTBC News, 11.20) Hong Joon-pyo, "What sort of hunger strike? Will a hunger strike solve a problem? Before that there is the problem that must be politically solved."

It's not suprising that criticism of Hwang's hunger strike is coming from all quarters including his own party which is showing some signs of fracturing under the pressure. Obviously there would be criticism from the incumbent party in power, the Democratic Party which regards Hwang's hunger strike as a nuisance born of anxiety on his part. The Justice Party representative suggested that rather than quitting food Hwang should quit politics. Hong Joon-pyo the former leader of the LKP, with an eye to his successor in interest's faltering position, suggested that Hwang as a the party leader should be engaged in a political solution rather than a hunger strike. He also stated that Hwang's hunger strike wouldn't budge Moon Jae-in one bit. He made very critical statements about the matter on line. Another member of the LKP cited Hwang's action as more evidence of a leadership crisis in the LKP which requires the establishment of a new conservative party. A spokesperson for the Barun Mirae Dang on the center right, in favor of fast track legislation, was similarly critical of Hwang's leadership.

US diplomatic blunderers in South Korea compared to Alice Roosevelt

(JTBC News- 11.19) Alice Roosevelt riding a stone horse statue at the Memorial for Empress Myeongsong, acting as if she were "riding a carousel at an amusement park." The picture is from the Cornell University Library collection.

Alice cavorted around Seoul being treated like an American princess after Teddy Roosevelt had already sold out Korean sovereignty to the Japanese at the Treaty of Portsmouth September 5, 1905. The great powers bargained away Korea's sovereignty to Japan to serve their own imperial interests. Russia actually was the only power to resist the Japanese, but that was because they had wanted to make Korea a Russian domain. The Russians lost the Russo-Japanese War and had to sign the Portsmouth Treaty arranged by President Roosevelt, in which Japan's dominance in Korea was acknowledged. Later in September 1905, King Gojong still thought the US might be of help to avoid the Japanese takeover of Korea when President Roosevelt's daughter, Alice Roosevelt, visited Korea. Other high ranking US diplomats who had been traveling with Alice through other Asian capitals didn't bother to come. Korea's fate was already cast.

Alice attended a formal dinner presented in her honor by the "Emperor," and rode in his palanquin through the streets of Seoul. Her memorable faux pas was to jump on the back of a stone horse statue at the memorial mound of Empress Myeongseong who in 1895 had been assassinated by the Japanese. At least Alice had an excuse. She was immature, so the editorial goes. Alice wrote that Emperor Gojong of Korea, small in stature, cut a piteous figure. Here we are more than a hundred years later.

What is the excuse of the US Ambassador to Seoul Harry Harris, who is among those who have been jawboning Korean officials for weeks? Secretary Esper? Mr. DeHart? It isn't the 1950s or the end of the Russo-Japanese War during the heyday of imperialism. South Korea is no longer run by the conservative heirs of pro-Japanese dictators and their cronies. The "experts" are giving team Trump in Asia very bad advice. South Korea isn't going to "get over" it's dispute with Japan in the manner they have in mind. Nor will it cave to US extortion. And that is what it is being called in South Korea, extortion. The behavior of US officials is described as "shameful."

Esper, Harris, DeHart, along with Chairman JCS General Milley, USFK Commander General Abrams, and others are making unreasonable demands with no basis in existing agreements. Ambassador Harris has been buttonholing members of the Korean National Assembly, particularly the opposition members making the absurd demand for five times the current South Korean cost sharing contribution to US defense costs in Korea. Also, they are pressuring South Korea to cave in to US demands to participate in, what is in effect, a new defense alliance with Japan and other US allies against China throughout the Indo-Pacific. The US is blatantly taking up for Japan in the continuing political and economic dispute between the two countries. It's pretty clear that without some concessions by the imperial minded Abe, the GSOMIA agreement for sharing military information will lapse on the 23rd as scheduled. The Chair of the Intelligence Committee in the National Assembly, Lee Hye-hoon, referred to Ambassador Harris' repeated demands as rude and unreasonable. The US cost sharing demand has been dead on arrival since September. US diplomats and generals must be stone deaf.

The South Korean government has no intention of allowing the US or Japan to dictate their foreign policy. The South Koreans have repeatedly confirmed their commitment to the alliance with the United States but they are not capitulating to absurd or unreasonable demands.

As US troops leave Seoul, a peek inside Korea's Yongsan military base

As US troops leave Seoul, a peek inside Korea’s Yongsan military base
The Yongsan military base was manned first by the Chinese then the Japanese and finally the Americans
As US troops move to Camp Humphreys, people are getting a glimpse inside
Park Chan-kyong SCMP

Published: 3:00pm, 9 Nov, 2019

...South Korea and the US have been pushing to complete the total relocation of their Combined Forces Command headquarters out of Seoul by 2021. By 2022, Camp Humphreys is expected to house nearly 45,000 people, including soldiers, contractors, and family members, who have long considered Yongsan a home away from home.

To date, Yongsan’s population has dropped from more than 25,000 to about 4,000. Its last major unit is set to move in the near future after a new hospital at Camp Humphreys opens in a few months, allowing the medical facility in Yongsan to close.

The tree-lined Yongsan garrison site, which contrasts with the bustling cement metropolis, will be transformed into a public park similar to New York’s Central Park.

South Korea paid US$10.8 billion to build the massive new US garrison in Pyeongtaek, billed as America’s largest overseas military base, occupying 15 sq km. When the land is returned, the US will have given back 178 sq km by consolidating more than 91 bases throughout the country into the two regional hubs of Pyeongtaek and Daegu...


Article on the history of Yongsan Garrison in Seoul, the protracted US base transition in South Korea, and its significance. Some nice photos with the report of interesting sites on the base compound. Not covered in the article is the environmental damage done to the land within the base and what the plans are to remediate and pay for the damage. Nor is there a discussion of the plans for construction of the new US embassy compound there and their progress or the associated USMC security unit and heliport associated with the new embassy compound.

Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
January 24, 2017

The Department of State selected SHoP Architects of New York, New York for the design of the new U.S. Embassy complex in Seoul, Korea.

The multi-building complex will be situated on a 19.5-acre site in the Yongsan district of Seoul. The new complex will include a Chancery, support facilities and a Marine Security Guard Residence...


Overhead photo of Yongsan in Seoul Korea shown with hazardous hydrocarbon spill sites. JTBC News June 30, 2018

"JTBC is reporting 84 recorded incidents of diesel and JP spills at the former Yongsan base. Benzene levels in the water table are 162 times safe limits. It's clear from the MOU on environmental impact remedial measures agreed to by the US under the SOFA, that something needs to be done to correct the situation."


The Populist Pastor Leading a Conservative Revival in South Korea

The Populist Pastor Leading a Conservative Revival in South Korea
By Choe Sang-Hun
Nov. 8, 2019 The New York Times

Invoking God, patriotism and family values, the Rev. Jun Kwang-hoon is creating a backlash against the “Communizing” government of President Moon Jae-in.

Whatever else the Rev. Jun Kwang-hoon may be called, there is no denying that the 63-year-old Presbyterian pastor has become a force to be reckoned with in South Korea, spearheading a conservative pushback against President Moon Jae-in. Once dismissed as a crank, Mr. Jun has attracted huge crowds to his rallies in central Seoul in recent weeks, forcing Mr. Moon’s justice minister, Cho Kuk​, to step down. He is also demanding Mr. Moon’s resignation, ​calling it “an order from the Lord.”



I did a write up related to this character and far right extremism and dictator reverence posed by the Gwangwhamun demo in Seoul, South Korea Oct. 3:

(Source- JTBC News, 10.3) Jeon Gwang Hoon, executive director of the United Christian Conference, calls for the impeachment of Moon Jae-In, "effective immediately." He also blasted "those expletive deleted illegally impeached Park Geun Hye and instigated the press" (against her). Minister Jeon was criticized for soliciting contributions for himself citing the biblical rewards in store for contributors, while proverbial "men in black" stood guard nearby.

More at the link:

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