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Roh Moon-hyun's ouster: For whom the impeachment?
Lee Wha Rang

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On March 9, 2004, the National Assembly of South Korea voted to impeach President Roh Moon-hyun on the ground of violation of the election law, illegal election funding, and unethical conducts of his close relatives, which 'crimes' all of the preceding presidents of South Korea, and indeed, of the United States of America are guilty of, but have not been impeached for. Roh had no effective backers in the Assembly who could have blocked the impeachment vote.

The best Roh could come out in his defense was a belated half-hearted 'apology' for his alleged misdeeds. His fate will be determined by the Supreme Court, and indirectly, by the general election of the assemblymen due April 15th of this year. Roh is optimistic that the Court will decide in his favor and that the general election will pack the Assembly with his supporters. If the Court decides against Roh, a special election will be held to choose his successor, and until then, Prime Minister Goh will run the government. If the Court decides in his favor, Roh will be reinstated.

Roh was elected on a paper-thin margin and his opposition dominates the National Assembly, and so, he has been a 'lame duck' since the day he was elected. The Assembly has voted down Roh's policies and nominations, and he was forced to put opposition supporters in key government positions, including that of the prime minister, who has become the de facto president of South Korea.

Roh tried to buttress his support base by throwing his lot with the minority Uri Party, which has been under police investigation for illegal fund-raising practices. Roh hoped that the Uri party would win enough seats in the Assembly in the April 15th election. The opposition parties, too, have been under police investigation for illegal fund-raising, and in addition, their popularity has been plummeting among the voters in the wake of their unwise opposition to a bill to investigate pro-Japanese activities, which would have exposed the past misdeeds of many of the assemblymen and their forefathers. Roh's weakness gave the opposition an opportunity to reverse the trend by voting to impeach Roh and put a 'strong man' in charge.

It is no secret that the National Assembly is dominated by 'conservatives' whose power base dates back to the Japanese rule, during which a sizable percentage of the Korean people supported Hirohito's war efforts. These Koreans had served the Emperor as kamikaze pilots, POW camp guards, cannon fodders, police, informants, enforcers and such, not only in Korea but also in the nations occupied by the Japanese army - Manchuria, China, Indochina, and the Philippines. These Koreans were richly awarded by their grateful Japanese masters and had acquired wealth and power at the expense of the Korean people.

The US Military Government of Korea, which ruled South Korea from 1945 to 1948, inherited and continued the Japanese rule of Korea. The Americans employed and empowered the former servants of Hirohito, and continued Japan's persecution of the Korean nationalists. Nearly half million Koreans, several times more than the number killed by the Japanese in 50 years of its occupation of Korea, were killed under the US Military Government of Korea and Rhee Syngman, a Korean-American dictator whose misrule followed the American rule.

It should be noted that the Japanese planted the seeds of internal dissention among the Koreans - lefts against rights, old against young, rich against poor, and so. In fact, it was the Japanese who drew the 38th Parallel line of division. Hirohito in 1944, placed Korea north of the 38th under the Kwangtung army and the south under the Japanese Home Defense Army. The former army was primed to fight the Soviet Army while the latter was arrayed against the Americans.

The rational for this division of labor was that Hirohito feared the Soviets much more than the Americans and wanted to create a buffer zone in South Korea that would keep the leftists supported by the Soviets as far away as possible from Japan. South Korea would be ruled by pro-Japanese Koreans. Hirohito knew that the Americans would accept his recommendation on how to rule the 'unruly' Korean mobs. The collapse of the Kwangtung Army meant occupation of North Korea by the Red Army.

Today, Korean nationalism is reemerging among the new generations while the pro-Japanese and pro-US forces, mostly in the 50'd or older, are on the defensive and decline. Unlike in the past when the nationalists were ruthlessly hunted down and killed off by the police and 'anti-Red' vigilantes, some degree of law and order prevails in South Korea today and the nationalists are relatively safe from wanton arrests and executions - at least for now.

If the nationalists succeed in removing enough of the pro-Japanese and pro-US elements from the National Assembly in the oncoming April 15th election, the Bush policy on Korea would have to be modified drastically, because it is unlikely that new South Korea will remain a faithful; obedient running dog of the US foreign policy. The new South Korea would want to be truly independent and will plot its own course; it will do what is good for Korea - not what's good for America or Japan.

Roh was elected riding on the anti-US nationalist sentiments of the Korean people, but once elected, Roh betrayed his former supporters and joined the rank of pro-Japanese and pro-US forces as a "progressive". He not only continued the pro-US policies of his predecessors but also strengthened it. Roh has become in effect a bogeyman of the conservatives. Nevertheless, the ultra-conservatives were fed up with Roh's ineptitude and had determined to replace him with a 'strongman' of their own choosing.

What the pro-Japanese and pro-US 'conservatives' want is the resurrection of Rhee Syngman's era of absolute dictatorship and the complete suppression of Korean nationalism. They would welcome Korea becoming either a Japanese colony or a protectorate of the United States. They want the US to attack North Korea so that their power would extend to North Korea as well. Many of the 'conservatives' have already homes and properties in Japan or America, and in case of another war in Korea, they would be safe away from Korea. They are 'ready' for another war.

If the conservative hardliners retain their control of the National Assembly and the executive branch, Bush's hard-line hand in dealing with North Korea will be enhanced and the likelihood of another war in Korea would become more certain. North Korea's determination to expand its nuclear deterrence would be firmed up. The US intelligence community is at last admitting the open secret that North Korea's nuclear program is "more advanced" than they had estimated. The truth of the matter is that North Korea's nuclear program began during the Korean War and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that North Korea has amassed a sizable number of nuclear "primitive devices" by now. Unlike Iraq's Saddam, Kim Jung Il is not bluffing when he threatens a nuclear war with America and to turn Seoul into a sea of fire and blood.

If Rhee Syngman era is resurrected in South Korea, as the conservatives so ardently wish for, North Korea may strike out first, and the specter of nuclear mushroom over the Korean peninsula, Japan, and US homeland may become a reality sooner than Bush and his war hawks may think. It is up to the Korean people to replace the pro-Japanese and pro-US elements in the National Assembly with Korean nationalists in the April 15th election. This is the only way to cut out the cancer of Uncle Tomism (sadai sasang) that permeates South Korea. If the Korean people miss this golden opportunity, another dark age of Rhee Syngman will descend upon Korea, and Korea will be no more.

Lee Wha Rang's article was appears on KoreaWebWeekly.

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