Monday, December 09, 2002

The South Korean presidential election is just over one week away. Who will win and what factors are having the greatest influence is critical at this point in time. According to Time Asia, North Korea and the threat of nuclear weapons is the biggest issue. Conversely, NY Times proffers a different perspective. Sure the North is an issue, but not so much nuclear weapons but how policy to the North, in particular, joint South Korea � US policy should proceed. Recent events have made this matter of prime political importance in the lead up to the election.

The recent protests, as the article points out, underlie a long history of protesting and animosity against the US. The death of the schoolgirls has simply been a catalyst bringing to the surface feelings that were already there. While few in political circles would come and say that the US troops should depart, there are clearly points to be scored for being anti-US these days. Both candidates have emerged along a more hardline stance than ever against US presence on the peninsular. Indeed, candidate Roh has got the advantage on this point because he has long been more anti-US than his opponent, Lee Hoi-Chang.

Moreover, the well-known zealousness of Koreans and tradition of rioting make them old hands at this sort of activity. I wouldn�t say it is blas� to protest in Korea but it is not as disconcerting to see a protest in Korea with Molotov cocktails and the like as it would be in another country. Its all relative. Therefore, jumping on the bandwagon to, not condone, but ride along with this kind of sentiment for political motives is not a bad idea. The fact that both candidates have done so would attest to this. But is this the issues that will decide the election? Stay tuned�

One thing though, despite living in Seoul and seeing all the photos of protests and people wearing bandanas and generally looking pugnacious, and living close to the Yongsan army base and maybe I do live in my own little world, but I haven�t seen any of these anti-US protests for myself.

Currently reading:

"Hell" by Yasutaka Tsutsui