Friday, December 05, 2003

Party Politics in Korea

Cathartidae has made some comments on Korea's solons and the political maneuvering between the MDP and the Uri Parties, namely a possible re-merger. The basic premise of th arguement as articulated by the Korea Herald is that the two parties may merge to get a bigger support base for the upcoming elections.
The lawmakers, who are under enormous pressure to win next year's parliamentary elections, argued that coordination of the MDP and the Uri in selecting candidates and its strength as one group would almost surely guarantee victory in the elections, they said.
The article didn't metion this but it seems to me to be a HUGE logical jump here regarding the base of support and the reason for lost support in the first place.

I would argue that factionalism between conservative and reformists in the original MDP party will not be solved by a reunion and also that Roh himself will not be able to gain any popularity by returning to the MDP. Firstly, any rejoining of the parties will come across as a failure of the Uri Party and only heighten the position of the conservatives within the party. Secondly, Roh's floundering in the political arena between parties and declining popularity will not improve by such a retreat back to the original party. The logical leap then, is how do these two parties figure that the people will continue to support them, even return to support them, after all this shfiting and changing only to end up back where they started? I would be inclined to think that any merger would be viewed skeptically and be unlikely to gain support. Perhaps the talks of a merger will not actually lead to any merger at all. In the meantime, Roh's followers are trying to brainstorm ways to win the election, or less ambitiously, let people know who they are.

Jeff in Korea has a LONG blog about *bad* Korea using protectionism, industrial policy, and export promotions and argues that it would be better for the Korean economy to become more open. I think I can pretty much say I disagreed with the argument in its entirity but its definitely worth a read. The back and forth bantering of how trade barriers affect an economy, to what extent, and what constitutes barriers and what is culture , what kind of trade it is, be it FDI, intra-industry, intra-sector, or direct exporting, etc, etc has been hashed out in the Japan-US case and the dynamics are very similar with the Korea case. For example, is Korea really hurting itself by paying extra for rice or is it actually helping itself by providing rural employment and keeping some food growing capacity firmly entrenched for national security, domestic stability, regional balance, etc reasons. I don't think any country would be fool enough to abandon its food growing capacity and let the "market" have a free reign, however inefficient the agriculture may be. The assertion often noted that countries (including Korea but many others as well) should open their agriculture market to "competition" when the main entrants into the market would be America's *massively* subsidised US farmers reeks of hypocrisy. The below cartoon was published in Australia over the proposed FTA between US and Australia that is running into problems because the Australians want greater access to US markets but (not) surprisingly this has been met with resistance.

Currently reading:

"Hell" by Yasutaka Tsutsui