October 04, 2019 13:44
A massive rally was held in downtown Seoul on National Foundation Day Thursday calling for President Moon Jae-in and Justice Minister Cho Kuk to step down. Huge numbers filled central Seoul stretching from Gwanghwamun Plaza all the way down to Seoul Station. The protesters came from all walks of life. When asked why she came to the protest rally, one elderly woman said, "Because Cho Kuk has lied too much," while a middle-aged man said, "I could not stand idly by while my country is being destroyed." Another man in his 30s said, "I got angry watching Cho's hypocrisy and how he had the nerve to criticize others," while one university student said, "I became disillusioned by President Moon who is protecting a liar under the pretense of seeking prosecution reforms."
The last time so many people filled the streets of Seoul was back in 2017, just before President Park Geun-hye faced an impeachment trial. The public could not wait until the next election to vent their frustrations at the corrupt president and chose to hit the streets to protest. But it has taken her successor only two years to turn the country into another mess after he took office, all aglow in candlelight, on a platform of draining the swamp of Korean politics. Moon has not only demonstrated his ineptitude but is also riding roughshod over the public will.
Worse, those in power are whipping up mobs. The head of the ruling party said before a rally by Moon's supporters last weekend that 100,000 people would converge in front of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office. One ruling party lawmaker who took part in the rally claimed, "A civil uprising by a million candles overwhelmed the politically motivated prosecution" of Cho and his family. The lawmaker was working on the absurd logic that sheer numbers should somehow override justice and due process, though of course the even bigger numbers that are now coming out against Moon and Cho can safely be ignored. News media loyal to the government went even further and claimed that 2 million people converged in front of the prosecutors' office, even though only 100,000 people were recorded passing through the nearby subway station that day. Perhaps the other 1.9 million flew in on angels' wings. A second pro-government rally is scheduled for this Saturday, and one ruling party lawmaker has claimed the numbers will double. Pro-government media will no doubt count 4 million this time, because once lying becomes the norm there is no reason it should ever stop.
Whether Cho is fit to serve as justice minister should not be determined by the number of supporters or opponents who hit the streets. It should be determined by an investigation of very credible allegations that Cho and his wife violated the law to shunt their daughter into prestigious universities and thereby robbing more deserving candidates of their chance. It should be determined by an investigation of fraud charges against Cho's family, of how his brother faked a divorce to siphon money from their family-run academic foundation, and of his relationship with a dubious hedge fund that was engaged in suspicious financial transactions and benefited from public projects.
Hundreds of thousands hit the streets because they cannot understand why the president should rally behind such a totally discredited candidate. Even a liberal columnist and long-time friend of Cho's has confessed to feeling "a sense of ethical crisis," and the head of one civic group with close ties to the minister say that Cho's private equity fund "reeks of power-related corruption." These are hardly people who have it in for the government. Moon has not even served half of his single, five-year term, and already the protesters are massing. The crisis triggered by Cho's appointment can no longer be remedied by his resignation and now threatens the presidency. And who is to blame? The president alone, with his stubborn and foolish insistence that his way is the only way. He has grievously mishandled the economy, railroaded through the appointment of a crony against near-universal opprobrium, and launched ill-thought-out tree-hugging policies that have actually made pollution worse, eventually causing public anger to explode. It is simply amazing that a single person can cause so much mayhem.
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