22 September 2008

Deja Vu

It's noon on Tuesday the 23rd.

The parallels between the US Republicans and the South Korean Grand Nationals are even more striking than I thought. If someone told me that South Korea secretly joined the US as its 51st State, that the Grand Nationals are really the state-level Republicans, and that Lee Myung-bak is the governor, I'd readily believe that.

The Lee government has just announced massive income and property tax cuts for the wealthy. While I know that wartime tax cuts and neoliberal propaganda and ideology have pretty much wrecked the US government, I don't know the balance sheet of the South Korean government, honestly. However, it can't be much better over here either, because it does cost a lot of money for Lee to fund the Unification Church's activities in the US (and hopefully get John McCain elected as President, and get gay marriage banned in California). Don't forget that South Korea has more troops in Iraq than anyone except the UK, to help the illegal American occupation and hopefully get some oil concessions in return; that costs money too. While South Korea sent troops to Iraq as a Confucio-Christian sign of gratitude for America's defense of South Korea during the war, few in the US, liberal or conservative, say thanks; most American conservatives, idolized so much by South Korea's Christians and Grand Nationals, would've preferred to re-deploy some of the South Korea-based US troops instead.

Last year's free trade agreement between the two countries (currently stalled by the courageous Democrats in US Congress), while negotiated by the leftist Roh Moo-hyun government, is an extension of this scheme. For South Koreans, the FTA will impact them negatively in two ways; South Korea's current multipayer healthcare system (where private insurers are primary, with government insurance for those the private sector won't cover) will probably be replaced with American-style broken healthcare system (something private insurers, like Samsung, would love), and vehicle emissions standards will have to be relaxed to accommodate heavily polluting American gas guzzlers (such as the Chevy Suburban and the Cadillac Escalade). Of course, Lee's resumption of import of American beef without adequate safety precautions also ties into this. But the Grand Nationals have been quoted as saying that any FTA with the US is an "honor" - no matter how lopsided it is for the average South Korean. Any political party with this kind of a mindset does NOT deserve to rule a sovereign nation.

The only silver lining is that while it took the Americans six years of W's presidency and Republican monopoly to see the errors of their ways (and the Democratic leadership still doesn't "get it"), it's only taken South Korean voters six months at most. It was too late to influence the legislative election, which took place only 4 months after the presidential race; the Grand Nationals now hold an outright majority in the National Assembly, which grows even more if other right-wing parties are counted. But the whole hoopla over American beef was the final straw, even though fears of mad cow disease are at most hysteria. Nevertheless, it will be four long years before a new National Assembly is elected, and another six months before Lee's successor is voted in.

I sometimes find myself wishing for dual nationality in the US and South Korea, so that I can stop the Lee regime right at home, and prevent its menace on America. But South Korea doesn't allow dual nationality, and even if it did, I won't be able to vote in South Korean elections without actual permanent residence in South Korea anyway. And honestly, that's a good thing; otherwise, Korean-Americans would be voting overwhelmingly Grand National in Korean elections and Republican in American elections, their menace will be truly unstoppable, and the democratic institutions of both nations will be destroyed.

And below are two photos that tie into this discussion.

A pre-dawn photo of a bus shelter, featuring two pro-independence fighters from the Japanese era. The guy on the right was a pro-labor anarchist, according to the poster, dedicated to not only fighting the Japanese imperial government, but all dictatorships in general; if he were alive today, I am pretty sure the Lee Myung-bak government would've locked him up in a political prison.

A Christian prayer hall in a residential area. Its name suggests that it is the Korean people's patriotic duty to engage in Christian prayers, harking back to the Christians' reputation as modernizers, patriots, and reformers. The reputation is no longer deserved, as far as I know. Christians fought the Japanese not because they were foreign, but because they demanded conversion to Shintoism; if the colonial power were Christian, like the US Republicans, they would've collaborated instead. Of course, today it's the Christians who are wholeheartedly supporting Lee and W; if US statehood were indeed offered to South Korea, the Christians will consider that the biggest honor.