Monday, March 27, 2017

The Bigotry Against Korean Democracy

Candlelight Protest, Nov. 12, 2016. Crowd estimated to be ~1 million.
(source)

The impeachment and removal of former president Park Geun-hye is a stunning triumph of democracy: an illiberal and anti-democratic president is taken down peacefully, in an orderly manner, pursuant to the rule of law. And for the most part, it has been received as such. Yet there have been a small group of critics who insist on spitting on this achievement. 

Now, I respect differences in opinion if the differing opinion derives from a solid understanding of facts on the ground. But no—not these people. They uniformly advance two bits of criticism: (1) the impeachment process ignored proper procedure, because; (2) the Korean public formed a mob that intimidated the politicians and overrode the democratic process. These two arguments only reveal their proponents’ ignorance of Korea’s constitutional structure, and the actual events on the ground during the 17 weeks of candlelight protests. 

The two most prominent examples of these critics are Michael Breen and Euny Hong, who make their case in a similar manner. Breen, on the Atlantic, opened by questioning the impeachment procedure:
Acting Chief Justice Lee Jung Mi said, her court building ringed by riot police behind a wall of police buses that held back supporters of the embattled president. “Her violations of the Constitution and the law are a betrayal of the people’s trust and cannot be tolerated.” 
If this seems a little vague, it gets more so. Hearings by the court, another series of proceedings by the National Assembly that impeached her, and a 70-day investigation by a special prosecutor, have determined that Choi Soon Sil was indeed sent presidential speeches to edit. But none of these bodies appears to have established what makes this an impeachable offense.

Similarly, Euny Hong wrote:
By US legal standards, Park's impeachment is peculiar in that she was ousted before even being fully investigated. Even the special prosecutors making the case against Park reportedly claimed they didn't have time to complete the inquiry and were denied an extension. (…) Though a Korean prosecutor alleged that Park had knowledge of this—and she may well have—what is significant is that the impeachment was pushed through before the conclusion of the investigation.

Both of these arguments are simply ignorant about what actually happened as a matter of law. Breen’s claim that the pronouncement by Acting Chief Justice Lee was “vague” is pure nonsense, when the quoted sentence comes at the end of a rigorously written court opinion. If one bothered to read the entire impeachment opinion—which I translated in this post, by the way—it is impossible for one to conclude that the Constitutional Court have not “established what makes this an impeachable offense.” The Constitutional Court considered four arguments in favor of removal, and found three—abuse of authority of appoint public official, infringement of freedom of press, and violation of the duty to exercise due diligence as a public official—were not enough to support removal. The court, however, found Park’s use of presidential power to assist Choi Soon-sil’s private profiteering does not only violate the constitution and the law, but also seriously enough such that removal from office is warranted. All of this is clearly spelled out in the opinion; none of this is vague.

(More after the jump.)

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.



Hong’s argument is even stupider—in fact, it is one of those sentences that are so stupid that you would be at a loss figuring out just where to start. (“By U.S. legal standards”? Why would U.S. legal standards even come into play when the impeachment is in Korea?) By referring to how the special prosecutor could not “complete the inquiry,” Hong is displaying a total ignorance in how the impeachment process under the Korean constitution works—because the special prosecutor is not the one who conducts the investigation for an impeachment trial. 

The investigation and fact-finding authority for an impeachment trial belongs to only one body: the Constitutional Court. This makes perfect sense under Korea’s constitutional structure. Although it is called a “court,” the Constitutional Court is not a part of the judiciary under Korea’s constitution. Rather, it is a constitutional council that sits above the three branches of the government—executive, legislative and judiciary. Each of the three branches of the government appoints three justices to the Constitutional Court, in a manner that symbolizes the Constitutional Court’s role as the final arbiter of different branches. This is why the Constitutional Court runs the impeachment trial, because an impeachment is a dispute between the legislature and the executive.

Under Korean law, a special prosecutor is an investigator for a criminal trial, not an impeachment trial. A special prosecutor may be appointed when the ordinary prosecutor may be conflicted from conducting a proper investigation. In other words, a special prosecutor is an ad hoc member of the executive branch, because a prosecutor is a part of the executive branch. So it would make no sense for the Constitutional Court to rely on the special prosecutor to investigate for the impeachment trial—because it would mean that the subordinate part of the government (i.e. the executive) is wielding the power of the superior part of the government (i.e. Constitutional Court.) There is no reason for the Constitutional Court to wait for the executive branch before ruling on an impeachment trial. You would understand this if you spent just a few hours studying Korea’s constitutional structure.

Having convinced themselves of this stupidity, both Breen and Hong proceed to the next garbage argument: that Korea’s protesters were a mob that demanded this (imaginary) deviation from proper procedure. Breen again:
As protests swelled in downtown Seoul last fall, and millions held candles in the street and dads hoisted their kids atop their shoulders to get a better view of history in the making, the establishment knew what it had to do. Prosecutors had to find a reason to put Park and others behind bars, politicians had to find the pretext to impeach, and, yes, the Constitutional Court had to find the justification to uphold the impeachment.
Hong is similar:
Three deaths and 30-odd serious injuries were reported as having arisen from post-impeachment protests, but had Park not been impeached, a revolution with far more fatalities would have been inevitable. Her removal was probably the only outcome the Korean people would accept, and the Korean senate and courts knew that.
These arguments are not just stupid; by claiming (with no basis) that the Constitutional Court worked backwards to find some justification under mob pressure, they are positively insulting. 

Let’s quickly go over the stupidity first. It is laugh-out-loud hilarious that Euny Hong wrote the words “the Korean senate,” and the CNN editor let those words slide. Korea’s legislature is called the National Assembly. You can find this information in five seconds on Google. (Here, I even did the search for you.) Someone who cannot be bothered to look up the proper name for a governmental branch should not be in the business of writing political takes; the editor who let this laziness slide deserves to be fired.

Now, the insult. It is slanderous to imply that Korea’s candlelight protesters were anything like a mob. Here is some perspective. The Women’s March was a big deal in the U.S. recently. The largest Women’s March was in Washington D.C., with estimated 500,000 people in attendance. Now compare: the largest candlelight protest calling for Park Geun-hye’s impeachment was estimated to be 2.3 million. The candlelight protests went on for 17 consecutive weeks, and each protest drew a rough average of a million people. Can you imagine the United States being able to hold this kind of a protest—double the size of D.C. Women’s March for 17 weeks—without breaking into violence? Heck, is there any country in the world other than South Korea that can pull this off?



Really, show me where the mob was, because a proper mob made up of a million people would not have shown up 17 times. It would have shown up once, smashed everything on its way to the Blue House, and dragged Park Geun-hye to be hung in the middle of Seoul’s City Hall Square. What happened is the opposite of that. In the frigid winter cold, up to two million people gathered, raised their candles, sang, chanted—then cleaned up and went home. While clearly signaling their desire as citizens and voters, the candlelight protesters patiently waited for the democratic institutions do their jobs in accordance with the rule of law. They waited the National Assembly to impeach the president, and the Constitutional Court to lawfully remove the president from the office. What kind of a mob waits for three months for the representative democracy to take its course?

It is absurd to think that after 17 weeks of peaceful protests, the candlelight protests would have suddenly turned violent had the National Assembly failed to impeach, or the Constitutional Court failed to rule in their favor. Actually watching the protest just once would have dispelled that silly notion. The main group of protesters were not the hot-blooded youngsters; they were middle-class professionals, working in the skyscrapers around the City Hall Plaza. Many of them brought their young children, showing them democracy in action. Middle class families with children are not the types of people who are getting ready to throw down when things don’t go their way.

The organizers of the protests also obsessively ensured that the passion of the protest would not spill over into violence. For example, when they met police buses serving as a blockade, the protesters did not attack the bus; instead, they covered the buses with flower-shaped stickers that the organizers handed out, until the buses became beautiful mounds of flowers. Even more impressive—the organizers designed the stickers with Post-It Note-like adhesives, so that the buses would be cleaned up after each protest. It is simply not the case that this was a group of people gearing up for a street fight. (Given this demonstrated effort for non-violence, it is particularly insulting that Euny Hong would use the casualties from post-impeachment, pro-Park riots as some kind of evidence for the inevitable mob violence to come.)

Let us be straightforward about what drives this kind of faulty analysis. It is bigotry, orientalism, culturalism run amok. It is the unjustified sense of sneering superiority that says liberal democracy for me, but not for thee. One can see this plainly from the essentialist bullshit about Koreans with which both Breen and Hong fill their pages—about how “[f]or centuries, they endured the rigors of a caste system” or Korea is about “ruling by the people’s emotions”. In their minds, Koreans are too backwards, primitive and beholden to their old culture to have a proper democracy. (Hong’s non-sequitur about “by U.S. legal standards,” in this sense, is quite telling.) In fact, it is not entirely clear how they expect a proper democracy to behave in a situation like this. Is a liberal democracy supposed to stand idly by, while its elected officials use their power to enrich their friends?

Facing the president who so grossly privatized power for the sake of profiteering, Korea’s electorate spurred the National Assembly into taking the precise constitutional remedy designed for such a situation: impeachment. Then, once the ball was with the Constitutional Court, Korea’s electorate made clear where the nation’s constitutional conscience lay. All of this was achieved in a peaceful and orderly manner over the course of three months, by millions of people who braved the cold, by thousands of organizers who obsessively maintained order. Few other countries can even imagine doing something like this, much less actually pull it off.

In other words, in removing Park Geun-hye from office, South Korea delivered the best example of responding to democracy’s institutional failure that is humanly attainable. It is a shining achievement that firmly established Korea as the finest democracy in Asia, and among the foremost in the world. And only the latent bigotry that occupies the minds of the likes of Michael Breen and Euny Hong would cloud one’s eyes from seeing the brilliance of this victory.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.

32 comments:

  1. You missed the best part of Euny Hong's ridiculous essay:
    "And what that means for presidential impeachment is that you need proof, proof and more proof of wrongdoing."

    She's lecturing Koreans, including the Constitutional Court, of the importance of proof.

    I wonder if she might venture an opinion about the Sewol salvage operation? How about: "I don't know why it's taking them so long. It's important that you lift, lift, lift and drag, drag, drag ashore."

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    1. This was excellent. Well said!

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    2. It's about time somebody finally had the clue to say what was missing: Presumption of Innocence. In another word, you're innocent until proven guilty. Park's criminal trial is still ongoing, so on what evidence was her impeachment based upon? If anything, this was more of a Kangaroo court than a court of law based on the principles of due process.

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    3. It's about time somebody finally had the clue to say what was missing: Presumption of Innocence. In another word, you're innocent until proven guilty.

      LOL no. Referring to presumption of innocence really shows you don't know what you're talking about. Presumption of innocence is a principle for a criminal trial. Impeachment trial is not a criminal trial. You would know this if you bothered to read the Constitutional Court's opinion.

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  2. I have also often noticed a double standard when it comes to Korea and comparing it with others, especially Japan. CNN once had an article on Japan about how eating dirt had become a new culinary experience. I imagine if that had taken place in Korea, people would think it was because they were starving North Koreans.

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  3. Culturalism in 2017 lul

    Sadly it still happens. Michael Breen sounds like a guy who built his career on making clickbait out of Korea, whether it's writing a book on Kim Jong Il or the satirical "What People Got For Christmas" article, to nonsense about mobs.

    As I write this someone added Wikipedia graffiti to Euny Hong's page: "She... possesses a shaky understanding on all things Korean." LOL

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  4. I happen to remember Breen for the article he wrote about 10 years ago during Lee Myung-bak's term. Initially, I thought this article on The Korea Times http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/opinion/2017/03/170_40763.html was some needed critical fresh air as the media relations of Lee's government was increasingly closing itself from public access. Then, I read this: http://news.donga.com/3/all/20090325/8711846/1, basically the same article recycled, but with all the directly critical arguments against the administration gutted. Also, take a look at how it was translated and printed on Dong-A. My guess was that he was just so thirsty of attention and recognition that he was well willing to bend his beliefs to meet the demands of the conservative and pro-administration Dong-A. It's pretty amusing for a guy this lacking in principles or core values to be writing about democracy.

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    1. Oh, forgot the link to the Korean translation: http://news.donga.com/3/all/20090325/8711846/1

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  5. I've lived in Korea for over 16 years, and I find Breen's and Hong's analyses to be dead on. Indeed, there is a distinctly emotional and angry tone to the very criticisms voiced in this piece. I would advise the author not to let pro-Korean sentiment cloud his or her objectivity.

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  6. In reply to aekimchee (strange screen-name; does it have a story behind it?): Koreans have a right to be angry, and lots of them were. But so what? The mere possession of emotion does not disable one from being a democrat and acting in an appropriately democratic manner and making reasonable decisions. The point is other, and it is that most Koreans did not allow their anger to boil over into street violence, the political equivalence of soccer hooliganism. To me, that restraint speaks of a mature democracy. Culturally, it's a democracy different than the UK (birthplace) and different from Canada (residence), and different than the US. But it's still democracy, not angry crowds being whipped up by demagogues selling them lies and half-truths, and promising the moon. If s/he hasn't already, aekimchee might also want to read the previous post, which contains the text of the Court's decision, along with analysis. I found it enlightening.

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    1. I read the text of the court's decision. But Breen is right on the money. It's clear that Choi Soon Sil had inappropriate access to some government documents thanks to her role as Park's friend and confidante - editing speeches, changing the schedule, etc. Should that really rise to the level of an impeachable offense?

      On the major point, Breen is exactly right: "Many Korean sports and cultural foundations are supported by conglomerates acting in their own self-interest—to maintain good “government relations”—and it was not established whether they were exactly forced to donate or just asked to do so." Further, I have yet to see any proof Park had a direct role in any of this. All I can see for sure is that Park is guilty of having a friend who name-dropped and used her connections.

      Anyway, major decisions of courts etc. all over the world are influenced by prevailing public sentiment, but I do find that to be especially so in Korea. Once the collective will is made clear, it is rare for decisions to run against it. It's wonderful that Koreans protested peacefully and without violence. However, I do not necessarily think that the impeachment process itself was a paradigm: I agree with Breen and Hong that the conclusion was rather preordained by the sentiment of the Korean public. And the excessive emotion I refer to is that of the author himself: Breen in particular wrote a well-reasoned piece, and to respond with angry accusations of "bigotry" and "sneering superiority" is, in my opinion, way off base.

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    2. Further, I have yet to see any proof Park had a direct role in any of this. All I can see for sure is that Park is guilty of having a friend who name-dropped and used her connections.

      Hoo boy, you are missing out on a lot of news aren't ya?

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    3. I'm sure that I am missing out on a lot of news, yes. If there is more specific evidence that clarifies Park Geun Hye's direct role in the bribery and corruption scandals, I would like to know about it. I have read every article I've come across in the English media, and I've Googled "evidence against Park Geun Hye" in an attempt to learn more. Everything I've been able to read merely speaks in general terms, including your helpful translation of the court opinion.

      I'd also like to know more about the specific financial data of the nonprofit organizations operated by Choi. Big amounts of money were received. How was it spent? Who got what? Did the organizations actually fulfill their stated purpose, or were they mere shams? Can we prove that Choi was pocketing the money and spending it on herself? Like, did Choi just run the organizations semi-legitimately and pay herself an outsize salary, or was she actually embezzling and stashing the the donations? There's a difference between a slightly shady charity with poor fundraising efficiency and an out-and-out slush fund.

      Without more precise information, I have to return to what Breen said: "Many Korean sports and cultural foundations are supported by conglomerates acting in their own self-interest—to maintain good 'government relations' — and it was not established whether they were exactly forced to donate or just asked to do so." I can totally imagine corporations falling all over themselves to donate to a foundation that "everybody knows" people close to the president support in an attempt to curry favor. Is there more specific evidence that DOES establish whether they were forced to donate and clarifies Park's personal role?

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    4. If there is more specific evidence that clarifies Park Geun Hye's direct role in the bribery and corruption scandals, I would like to know about it.

      Park Geun-hye called the heads of each of the major corporations of Korea and told them to donate into Choi Soon-sil's foundation or her family. This article, for example, describes her meeting with Lee Jae-yong, Samsung's de facto chief: http://www.hani.co.kr/arti/society/society_general/777073.html Also, the prosecutors discovered dozens of notebooks and audio recordings from the former Blue House chief and staffers showing Park Geun-hye's direct involvement in running Choi Soon-sil's foundations: http://news.jtbc.joins.com/article/article.aspx?news_id=NB11375957&pDate=20161211 This information was widely available since December of last year.

      I'd also like to know more about the specific financial data of the nonprofit organizations operated by Choi.

      My explainer covers that: http://askakorean.blogspot.com/2016/12/the-ultimate-choi-soon-sil-gate.html Section D is the most relevant.

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    5. Your explainer is very good. I wasn't necessarily moved by all of the sections, but there is evidence in D that suggests Choi should probably be imprisoned. I'm still not totally convinced of Park's guilt - did she necessarily know that her friend's foundations were shell companies used for personal gain? Even if she did, it would be hard to prove, so I wouldn't personally think she should be impeached or prosecuted over it.

      But then again, that's my personality - all my life, I have distinguished between things I actually know and things I "officially know." If there's no reason I would HAVE TO be aware of something, then to me it's the moral equivalent of being unaware. "I could easily not have known that, as I was never properly informed. So the fact that I DID happen to know is irrelevant." Hence, I have great sympathy for people like Park.

      Frankly, I feel exactly the same way about the Clinton email and Benghazi scandals and the alleged Trump/Russia ties. They're all nonissues to me.

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  7. So The Korean is doubling down on the dick-sucking, which you would kind of expect judging from the previous spats he’s had on this blog. Logic and truth need to be upheld, but only if it doesn’t contradict MY case: typical Korean mentality, sonny.

    As I commented in the previous post, it is not so much whether the impeachment process itself was carried out properly. If you say so, sure, but I’m not all that interested about that. I am interested in why you choose to beat your chest about a dysfunctional system working properly. (“I have a tried and true system of losing money 100% of the time, guaranteed!!”). Do you really believe that the Constitutional Court made its decision independent of the fact that the public was overwhelmingly in favor of the impeachment? I hate repeating myself, but didn’t every single president “use their power to enrich their friends”? Did they all get impeached? No? So if a supposedly impartial court system chooses or not chooses to punish or not punish, based not on the crime, but on public sentiment, do you call that a functioning component of a democratic system? Hong may have carelessly chosen her words when she wrote “by US legal standards”, but you could easily deduce that she meant “by normally accepted standards of rule of law and a mature democracy”. And yeah, I do think calling that bigotry is going a bit overboard.

    The reason that I would never believe this impeachment fiasco a triumph is because the Korean political system seems broken, and this incident did diddlysquat to make it any better. In fact, I would argue that it made things worse, because it reinforced the already lemming-like Korean public into mistakenly thinking that mob-mentality (and here for your benefit, I will mention that mob-mentality is synonymous with herd-mentality, it has nothing to do with violence (or lack thereof)) is good and that it works. It worked in the sense that it brought down the object of your han, and to a Korean, that may be more than enough, but do you know why I am skeptical that it will not bring any long-term changes?

    The “Emergency Citizen Action for the Park Geun-hye Administration's Resignation” the organization responsible for coordinating the candle-lit rallies, stated earlier that it will keep on keeping on. Their current issues, in order:
    Arrest her
    Get to the bottom of (sorry) Sewol
    Undo all political messes that she created
    Arrest the Chaebol leaders and Government officials
    Recall THAAD
    I mean, WTF. How about “improving the democratic system so that not every president leaves in disgrace”? If your org’s name has “Resignation” in it, is it not enough that you succeeded in making that happen? Why not change your name to “Emergency Citizen Action for Everything I Don’t Agree With” for simplicity’s sake? Just a small example but it gets to the core of Korean sickness.

    See, the problem I see with Koreans is that they would overreact and get defensive and combative and hwabyung about everything they disagree with, would not listen to logic/reasoning/truth or follow the rule of law (while insisting that they do), but in the end, they would lack any motivation to fix the problem, or make things better.
    I only need to point to the owner of this blog, who abandoned the duty to make things better in his native country, and chose to offer self-indulgent and biased commentary from a safe distance.

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    1. I hate repeating myself, but didn’t every single president “use their power to enrich their friends”? Did they all get impeached? No?

      I previously told you that the concurring opinion by Justice An Chang-ho addressed this very point. You couldn't read the opinion, because you cannot read Korean--yet you repeat the exact same point. Clearly, you are not interested in having an informed conversation. Bye.

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    2. From the OED: "MOB – A disorderly or riotous crowd, a rabble." In other words, violence is strongly implied. Your stipulated definition seems closer to herd-mentality, and most human groups are guilty of that to some degree. "Man is a gregarious animal, and enjoys agreement as cows will graze all the same way on the side of a hill." – William Golding.

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    3. Well, my argument was that regardless of how virtuous or correct (or not) the court opinion was, it didn’t really matter because the system was built for failure: people (vindictive herd, no motivation for improvement), politicians (corrupt), political system (arbitrary and broken). But I do see your point that I am under-informed without reading the full opinion, so I will refrain from commenting further until I do. I really do wish that there is some golden nugget revelation that would give me hope, but judging from the bits that I have read, and from what I know about the Korean mentality, I won’t exactly be holding my breath.

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  8. I am very happy to read this article, as it explains in what sense the constitutional court found park guilty. That is what was missing in an earlier article I read, published in the Atlantic. Of course, I would like it to go further and say specifically what evidence showed that Park was assisting in Choi's enrichment. Actually, I am an ignorant citizen, and just want to piece this all together. The angry tone of the article is not helpful to those just seeking information. And isn't that what we all want?

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    1. Alex asked my question more elegantly above, and T.K. deigned to respond. Thank you. I don't know why this information is so hard to find in English.

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  10. So many commenters here are willing to comment without having any idea of the vast amount of the evidence presented at the Constitutional Court proceedings. Please at least read the full opinion for the summary of the facts that the Court based its 8-0 decision. If you still think this was yet another typical Korean scandal, I guess facts will not dissuade you from your views.

    Original Constitutional Court Opinion (in Korean)
    https://www.lawtimes.co.kr/Legal-News/Legal-News-View?serial=108631

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    1. Joung W. Hwang – is there an English text yet? Sorry, my Korean sucks, as I am still trying to learn. If there is an English text, can you link for us?

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    2. The previous post of this very blog is the English translation of the CC opinion.

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  11. Thanks for writing this! The response to this crisis is really remarkable, and I don't think it's been celebrated in the American press nearly enough; unfortunately it barely got any attention to begin with (your blog went into far more detail than anywhere else I had seen).

    I don’t know anything about Korea, so I won’t attempt to comment there, but let me give a comparative point of view with another Asian democracy, which much of what you’ve described has reminded me of.

    I'm Taiwanese American, I follow Taiwanese politics pretty closely, and am also often frustrated by errors and laziness I find in reportage on Taiwan. One underlying theme is that the bar for international reportage is simply (much) lower than it is for domestic reportage, but more specifically my sense is that American think-tanks and other experts did not bother to cultivate contacts beyond those established during the old dictatorship, leading to a skewed and outdated point of view. It’s also very clear that most media outlets do not actually have reporters on the ground in Taiwan, so their reliance on these sources is multiplied. I do think it's been improving lately, with more focus on democratic principles rather than "freedom" (i.e. anti-Communism), and some liberal-leaning outlets may occasionally run a piece by activists since their rise in prominence during the sunflower protests.

    In some cases the subtle disdain for their democracy is also palpable. Adjectives like "young" and "free-wheeling" are frequently attached when talking about Asian countries but rarely European ones with similar political histories (say, Spain). One need not go that far: America is rife with examples of officials bending or flouting principles and procedure (was it okay to pardon Nixon? did Clinton commit perjury?). Sometimes one might be in support and sometimes in opposition, but it's rare to hear people in the course of argument denigrate American democracy as a whole. American issues are afforded nuances that Asian democracies are often not (maybe except Japan?). One gets the feeling that political commentary is grounded more by perceptions (biases) than actual fact. That being said, it’s not universal, and I’ve noticed some limited improvement lately, and hope that the trend continues in that direction.

    From reading your posts (and comments to them :P) I get a sense there is still a somewhat substantial conservative streak in South Korea, especially amongst older people. This is true in Taiwan as well, as it’s been surprisingly difficult to remove monuments to past dictators (i.e. Chiang Kai-shek). But even in the last ten years things have changed a lot. The conservative KMT party reacted much more mutedly to recent proposals to repurpose Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall than they did ten years ago, a sign of progress. And while conservative protests might feature some violent or hysterical elements (e.g. gang connections like Chang An-lo), protests by younger groups appear well-organized and thoughtful, cleaning up (and recycling) their trash.

    In any case, I hope that liberals in Asia can find some kind of solidarity in a world where liberal democracy increasingly feels threatened.

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    1. Indeed. Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

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  12. Can't help but wonder ... would the prestigious professorship that Chief Justice Yi just accepted at Korea University (her alma mater) still have been forthcoming if she had voted to not uphold the impeachment? I'd like to think that something like this never crossed her mind. But I think it's a fair question. It's a situation that Supreme Court Justices in the US virtually never face because the US Constitution provides for lifetime appointments.

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  13. Speaking as an Englishman who lives in Korea and is married to a Korean woman, I thought that the behaviour of the protestors and the clear, dignified and sensible opinion of the Acting Chief Justice were a striking contrast to the barbarous ignorance displayed by politicians and the public in Britain and the US (where I lived for nearly 20 years) in recent months. Consider that we have seen the president of the US attacking judges and the legal system for restraining his assault upon the constitutional order of the US, while in Britain there have been cries of bestial rage against the high court judges who attempted to uphold the supremacy of parliament and the rule of law. I certainly don't think that Korea is perfect, but it has handled a potential democratic and political crisis rather impressively.

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  14. I am too stupid to even comprehend this article even though I read over some of the paragraphs twice... I don't really get what the issue here is :S

    But just regarding South Korea's near-perfect herd mentality: It is interesting to note that Koreans can easily form 1 group of a million people because they all carry the same beliefs/social expectations. I can bet that most Koreans in that crowd were too ashamed to display any sort of anger. South Korea IS the only country who can pull such a thing off, but is that really a good thing? To have a crowd of millions of people who can all act the exact same way because they were taught to be? It seemed to be a good thing in this specific case, but other than that, it seems rather uncanny to have a group of people who cannot even fathom what it means to conflict, and even think that conflict and anger is a bad thing. There will be no mixture of beliefs if you can get 2 million people on the same page. Whatever the issue at hand was, its surprising that 2 million people can all follow a general social rule to be peaceful. They will follow that rule because they think anything else would be inappropriate or wrong.

    I think that Koreans often expect themselves to act accordingly at all times with no regards to real emotions. Many of them think, and were raised to believe, that one should try to act "stable" at any given time, and not acting "stable" is something bad or wrong... They are so ingrained in this belief that its easy for them to form a group and not get angry or fall apart. It comes as no question to them.

    Though I agree that its not good for American protesters to react violently (especially since many of them are young idiots who are pretending to be cool), I think that real anger is very important. Sometimes showing your anger is necessary, no matter the chaos that ensues. Anger is a natural reaction to when you find something unfair, and if it doesn't show, the other party cannot see how serious the deal is. Peaceful is good, but sometimes even if Anger doesn't seem good, its better in the end, even if people get hurt. That's how I see it.

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