Sunday, June 21, 2009

No Breaks for South Korean President Lee Myung Bak

Incredibly, former President and Nobel laureate President Kim Dae Jung had a lot to say about current President Lee Myung Bak (left photo, source: Agence France-Presse).
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"On Thursday, former President Kim Dae-jung likened some actions by current President Lee Myung-bak to those of a dictator and said Mr. Lee threatened South Korea's progress as a democracy. Mr. Kim made the remarks at an event commemorating the June 2000 inter-Korean summit and stood in front of a picture of himself and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il at that summit" (Wall Street Journal)."

While former President Kim Dae Jung's words about democracy are backed up by a lifetime of suffering that he endured at the hands of South Korean military dictators, he should understand that just because a right exists it doesn't mean it should be exercised recklessly. And, while I'm not a lawyer here, I believe citizens, even past presidents, have a duty to exercise their rights in a responsible manner (for example, pulling the fire alarm only when there's a fire). And, I feel sorry for President Lee Myung Bak. Especially as I feel he is probably not the most astute politician the world has ever seen and compounding to terrible economic circumstances and geopolical realities he inherited, a past president has now come out to give this president a tough time. More on this soon. It is worth noting that the Sunshine Policy is effectively dead.

"After a decade of false optimism, harsh realities permeated the aura of good-will engendered by North-South agreements. The Bush administration, having demanded 'complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement' [CVID] of North Korea's nuclear program, gave up using that term but was not willing to abandon the goal. It became clear that the next U.S. president eventually would have to face the North's refusal to come clean on its uranium program, highly enriched or not" (Wall Street Journal's Far Eastern Economic Review).
As the article notes, two U.S. administrations over four terms (that's sixteen years) have tried to engage North Korea, but to no avail. It really is not President Lee Myung Bak's fault that engagement in the true sense of the word is no longer an option for the United States. I have great respect for President Kim Dae Jung (More so for how he handled the IMF crisis that was forced on him rather than for his unbridled optimism towards a unified Korea). But now, it seems to be a rather petty (and very unpresidential) act for former President Kim Dae Jung to attack the current President as the former president's Sunshine Policy has become discredited.

One aspect of the Sunshine Policy that many people don't mention is that since the Sunshine Policy was first instituted as President Kim Dae Jung took office in 1998 (and, no, it's not the United States' fault that President Kim Dae Jung became president at such a late age) is the divergence in economic performance. One of the key tenets of the Sunshine Policy is that the gap in living standards between North and South is so much that if the economic burden of unification were to fall on Seoul, then the country could not simply afford it. But, supporters of the failed and discredited Sunshine Policy and detractors of South Korea's current president should note that the gap in wealth between North and South Korea has only grown since the Sunshine Policy was first instituted.

Moreover, in defense of South Korea's current president, who once again, I'd like to say doesn't really ooze charisma, but is nonetheless really a victim of circumstances and situations. Consider this with South Korea's limited flexibility and power as a half nation (and here Korean nationlists should take heed that unification should be goal number one). I believe that the Economist put it best:

"That is probably wishful thinking [desirable policies]. For no matter what efforts South Korea makes on the global stage, it is still a shrimp among whales in its own region, and even there the power of its American godfather may decline in relative terms. Only the unification of a divided peninsula might bring South Korea the standing it craves. And given the fearsome problems North Korea would carry with it, even that is far from guaranteed" (Economist).

While this posting may put my blog to the far right for some, my hope is that you the reader can examine my reasoning in its own light and not that of some far right "blogger." My aim isn't to write words to an audience that already might agree with everything I might have to say (as most blogs and news networks are these days).

Other stuff:

1. Check out how South Korea's High School Uniforms have changed on

2. After much thought, I've also decided to make a major life changing decision -- I am going to buy a book to read for fun for the first time in like five years. And, it looks like the book will be:

*drum roll*

3. Also, added a link to both the National Intelligence Committee's 2025 vision which predicts Korea will most likely be united in some form (more on this one day as well) and the special report: "Koreas: The Odd Couple" (Economist).

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