The President Is Whipping up Mobs

      September 30, 2019 13:38

      A strange rally took place on Saturday in front of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office in Seocho-dong, where supporters of President Moon Jae-in expressed their anger at the investigation of Justice Minister Cho Kuk's family over a scandal involving nepotism, corruption and shady financial dealings. Like die-hard supporters of ex-President Park Geun-hye, they seemed outraged that prosecutors were doing their job at all and tainting their idol in the process. "Let's protect Moon Jae-in!" was one of the slogans they shouted, as if nobody within the president's saintly orbit should be touched. Organizers as usual inflated the numbers, from an initial 100,000 participants to 1.5 million as the night set in. Still, it was probably the first time so many people had rallied in central Seoul since the candlelight vigils that eventually ousted Park.

      The president's appointment of a target of investigation as justice minister, who has control over the appointment of prosecutors, was a heavy hint to drop the investigation. When prosecutors still raided Cho's house, the president warned them to "moderate" the exercise of their authority. It was also tantamount to whipping up a mob and setting it on the prosecutors who had exercised their constitutional duty to check the executive. The floor leader of the ruling party was ecstatic at the prospect. "More than 100,000 supporters will head to Seocho-dong holding candles," he exclaimed, and one of the party's lawmakers who attended the rally said, "Civil disobedience achieved by a million candles will overwhelm prosecutors." The prosecutor general, who was appointed by this same president just two months ago, was only following a previous presidential order to "investigate even members of our own side without prejudice." Yet now his party touts obstruction of official duties as "civil disobedience," though presumably only when it interferes with its own aims. The whole thing is turning into a farce.

      Those in power are mobilizing mobs to try and override justice and due process by sheer numbers. Opposition lawmakers are naturally vowing to hold a counter-rally of a million supporters in downtown Seoul on Thursday seeking to oust Moon. Korean politics is reverting to the dark days three decades ago when supporters were paid by the busload to rally in front of the National Assembly, and it is the president and the ruling party who have triggered this development.

      The country has descended into chaos over the last two months over nothing more than the appointment of a justice minister. The president could simply have thrown Cho, who angered the public with his lies and shameless acts, under the bus, and everything would have been fine. Instead, he decided to jettison his own credibility. The president's supporters seem to think that Cho is the only character capable of reforming the prosecution, no matter how dubious his personal conduct. But a bill to reform the prosecution system had already been tabled in the National Assembly, and Cho's appointment had nothing to do with it. What exactly prompted the appointment of Cho, who has become a symbol of cheating and nepotism, remains a mystery that will be solved in due course, but until then any of Moon's reform attempts will be discredited. The president's stubborn insistence on protecting the man has divided the country and paralyzed government.

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