Archive | November, 2007

Can You Keep a Secret?

30 Nov

Take these two quotes to understand the difference between and generations in ROK:

"Most people believed or suspected this sort of thing was always going on and took it for granted," says Lee Ji-soo of the Center for Good Corporate Governance in Seoul. "The difference this time is that someone has come forward to speak out against it, and there are more people prepared to say that this is not acceptable.

"There is a generational divide in Korea," Lee says. "And the younger generation is saying that Korea can’t move forward unless we overcome that old way of thinking to become a more transparent society."


The whistleblower himself has sought sanctuary. Mr Kim is housed and fed by the CPAJ. Meanwhile a whispering campaign against him is making its way around Seoul. Father Kim In-kook of the CPAJ defends him: “He spent a lot of time thinking what he should do; and he has concluded that uncovering these actions by Samsung will benefit society.” But Father Kim declined to meet The Economist, saying his group had made a collective decision not to talk to foreign reporters about the Samsung allegations. “We don’t want to air Korea’s dirty laundry to the world,” he said. They have that, at least, in common with Samsung.

And, if either article can’t satisfy the urge to see dirt, here’s .

What might itself? Not much, but not surprising for the older guys. One wants to coddle the indebted; another college grads. And, Lee Hoi-chang wants tax breaks for small businesses. How a corrupt culture could exist in ROK barely needs explaining.

"Competition for survival has become ruthless and morality disregarded," says Kim Mun-cho, a Korea University sociologist. "In the competition to be ahead of others, people resort to any means available, resulting in corruption."

Some blame the tendency to shave corners on a cutthroat mentality that developed in the wake of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, which shook Koreans’ faith in an ever-expanding economy. Others contend that South Korea has never shaken off the mutual back-scratching culture of a small society, where the establishment has tight personal connections forged by blood, school or regional ties.

And some suggest that Korean society simply has an unhealthy obsession with success. "Living an ordinary life is not regarded as being successful, and staying still economically is seen as an unbearable retrogression," Kim says. "Korean society demands overachievement."

They forgot those cute white envelopes stuffed full of cash children receive on . And, William Pesek stumbles over another solution, but doesn’t take a good point about (via ) far enough. ROK needs to evolve from a republic by laws into a republic of laws.

(Actually, was antebellum America any less eager to cut corners?)

Pyongyang in a Nutshell

29 Nov

Nukes of Hazard’s Eli Lewine has announced .

Rudd’s Election Signals True East Asian Consensus

29 Nov

At the moment, Australia’s new PM, Kevin Rudd, has limited his conceivable plans for East Asia to (splitting the environment portfolio with former Midnight Oil lead singer, ). But, speculation has raced around the blogosphere about more substantive changes.

Overall, E.J. Dionne, Jr. argues that :

Rudd’s balancing act provides a model for center-left parties that also points to the tensions they confront once in power. Rudd won as a self-described "economic conservative" who would tightly manage the nation’s budget. But he also won thanks to an activated trade union movement fighting for its life in seeking to overthrow Howard’s workplace rules.   

. Yet, with the same resume in hand and a 2004 interview, and (via ) have a polite disagreement about PM .

Emily O’Keefe (via ) argues that .

While fundamental policies should remain the same, Rudd will have a deeper understanding of Australia’s relationship with the U.S. and Japan, and will look to use this to develop more constructive political and economic relations with China, Drysdale said.

But one area that Drysdale predicts will be affected by the change in government is Japan and Australia’s free-trade negotiations.

"I think Rudd will pursue this more vigorously than Howard," he said.

Not only will Rudd refuse any deal that does not reduce agricultural trade barriers, he will be looking for a "much broader than traditional" agreement that would further Australia’s interests on a multilateral level, he said.

"There is a clear understanding in the Rudd policy group that what Australia needs out of the negotiation of a new agreement with Japan is something more innovative . . . consistent with opening up the region and in multilateral negotiations over time," he said.

On India, Labor’s uranium policy looks set to scuttle a smooth relationship with India. Yet, to coax US re-engagement in the region.

With Fukuda Yasuo replacing Mr. Abe, and the Mandarin-speaking Mr. Rudd replacing Mr. Howard, the "deputy sheriff," the "quad" may be no more. Both Mr. Fukuda and Mr. Rudd seem to believe that their power is best spent promoting cooperation in Asia, not deepening security cooperation among democracies conveniently located on all sides of China.

The Economist concurs, but is :

Most of all, where Mr Abe—and Junichiro Koizumi immediately before him—believed that a stronger Japan meant, above all, one rooted in the American alliance, some of his advisers think Mr Fukuda should show that Japan is capable of more independent action as a way to enhance its prestige and protect its interests.

Japan, they say, should lead the creation of regional mechanisms that would ease territorial disputes, enhance military transparency and boost confidence among neighbours—think an Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Asia. Distracted elsewhere, the Bush administration has shown little interest in such ideas.

What then of the much-touted arc of freedom and prosperity? In truth, democratic values were always merely the cover for a hard-nosed desire to confront China’s rise in Asia, which is Japan’s abiding foreign-policy concern. The Fukuda doctrine could easily be adapted to address the same concern, but by aiming to entice rather than contain China.

To judge by his own foreign-policy pronouncements, Mr Rudd, a speaker of Chinese, would approve, while America can see it would be better off if its chief Asian ally had more respect, even influence, in the region. For Japan, then, the same hard-nosed goal, the same allies, but different and possibly more subtle methods—always assuming, of course, that Japan’s dysfunctional politics do not sink this government before its arc has a chance to rise.

I’m afraid US engagement with any part of the world is a far-off prospect, but I agree globalization needs to balance geopolitics. So, it looks like it’s up to Kevin Rudd to make it happen.

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