Report: Chinese on social media supported embattled Seoul leader

FPI / March 9, 2020

Chinese nationals in South Korea, have been exposed using social media in an effort to thwart a massive petition drive to impeach South Korean President Moon Jae-In, a report said.

Amid massive criticism of Moon’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak in South Korea, a Blue House petition which called for Moon’s impeachment has gathered over 1.4 million signatures. It took about a month for the petition to gather that many signatures, Tara O noted in a March 8 report for East Asia Research Center.

More than 1.4 million South Koreans have signed a petition calling for the impeachment of President Moon Jae-In. / YouTube

Yet, it took only two days for a “We support President Moon Jae-In” petition to reach 800,000 signatures, the report said.

A tech-savvy South Korean netizen noticed that Chinese speakers, including a number of students, were giving instructions online to sign the Blue House petition supporting Moon. About 70,000 Chinese students are enrolled in South Korea. Up to 75 percent of them are believed to be members of the Communist Youth League, which is linked to the CCP.

A photo shows an instruction in Chinese, along with the link to “a petition to oppose the Moon Jae-In Impeachment Petition, as well as a petition to delete the impeachment petition” on the Blue House website. The post says “Amidst the raging epidemic, President Moon Jae-In faces South Koreans’ opposition and the pressure reached the highest point, but he still is giving China masks, protective suits, and support money. Hope the Chinese in South Korea use their votes to block the impeachment of President Moon…” along with a link to the Blue House petition supporting Moon.

On Feb. 27, an online post titled “Chinagate” emerged, causing a controversy, the East Asia Research Center report said.

“A self-described Joseonjok (ethnic Korean who migrated to Northeast China prior to 1945 and their descendants) Chinese claimed that ‘Joseonjok Chinese and Chinese students in South Korea are using social network services to manipulate public opinion on online communities and portals using online comments and other methods’ and that ‘the Moon Jae-In administration and the ruling party are controlled by China.’ The person also posted, ‘Most of the people who are mobilized for this systematic manipulation of public opinion are [Chinese] university students studying in South Korea, and all of the top-ranked comments on Naver and comments on women’s cafes go through our hands.’ ” [Naver is a popular portal in South Korea.]

Another post appeared later the same day, claiming “Don’t think it’s Koreans that drive online public opinion” and “as soon as ‘the impeachment of Moon Jae-In’ appeared as the Blue House petition, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which considers President Moon as part of it, became active and led 500,000 to support the ‘I support President Moon Jae-In’ petition in a period of two days.”

The Korean Medical Association had urged Moon to enact an entry ban from China at least six times since late January, but Moon refused, Tara O’s report noted.

Moon instead spoke of “sharing the suffering” and that “China’s difficulties are our difficulties,” which is also posted on the Blue House website.

According to the South’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Moon administration sent $5 million to China, as well as 3 million masks, 10,000 protective suits, and other medical supplies in a public-private effort in late January. Large conglomerates also quickly sent supplies and money to China in late January/early February: Samsung gave China 1 million masks, 10,000 protective suits, and about $5 million; LG sent 1.2 million masks, 10,000 protective suits and about $450,000; other businesses, including Hyundai, SK, CJ, POSCO, Doosan, Asiana Airlines, also quickly provided China support.

“More masks, supplies, and money were sent to China since then, despite the shortages of masks and protective suits for doctors and nurses in South Korea, as well as nation-wide mask shortages for the South Korean public,” Tara O noted.

“Many South Koreans waited about five hours in line to buy masks. That was March 4. The next day, the government restricted mask sales to only 2 masks per person per week and only on designated days. The government also instructed mask manufacturers to increase production 10 times, increase sales to the government from 50 percent to 80 percent, and that the government will approve (pay) only 50 percent of the production cost. Such central planning is exacerbating the situation, by driving out the mask manufacturers, increasing the long lines for mask purchase, and keeping the mask supply low. Each purchaser must produce identification card or passport, so even a 5-year-old and the sick must stand in line and buy in person.”

The citizen’s petition to impeach Moon “reflects the frustration and fear from the Moon administration’s poor handling of the Wuhan Virus pandemic, including what many in South Korea call ‘China-first’ policy at the expense of South Korean citizens’ health and lives,” Tara O wrote.

Another petition calling for the impeachment of Moon Jae-In went on the National Assembly website, along with a petition that supports Moon. “The key difference between the Blue House Petition website and the National Assembly Petition website is that the latter requires an identification authentication, so one person can only get one account (unless an account is hacked) and the person must be a South Korean citizen, where as the Blue House website does not require authentication, so one person can have multiple accounts (various Google accounts, etc.) and citizens of any country can participate, although that is not the intent,” Tara O noted.

While the petition supporting Moon on the Blue House website garnered 800,000 supporters in just two days, the National Assembly website petition got only 50,000 supporters in two and a half days. By contrast, the National Assembly petition to impeach Moon received 100,000 supporters in about 3 days, “which is more in line with the speed at which the petition on the Blue House website was signed,” Tara O noted.

What explains this difference?

“When the support reaches 100,000, the petition on the National Assembly ends automatically, as it reached the number needed to be considered to determine whether it should be introduced to the Plenary Session of the National Assembly,” Tara O wrote. “National Assemblywoman Lee Eon-Joo, of the Unified Future Party, said she will introduce a modification bill that prevents opinion manipulation by preventing non-South Korean citizens as well as one person having multiple accounts participating in Blue House petitions. Lee pointed out that China-originated support for Moon through the Blue House petition drastically increased. She also said if the Blue House petition is manipulated by Chinese, then these foreigners will weaken the Republic of Korea’s authority and the country’s fate and plunder sovereignty.”

The Blue House impeachment petition ended on March 4. On that day, “the person who placed the impeachment petition on the Blue House website was charged with libel,” Tara O noted. An organization called “Citizens’ Participatory Solidarity to Liquidate Deep Rooted Evil” filed three criminal charges against the impeachment petitioner with the police, stating that the petitioner’s claim that the government supplying China with 3 million masks is false, that the petition defamed Moon Jae-In, and that his petitioning hindered the government from carrying out its duties.

“It is unclear if the ‘Citizens’ Participatory Solidarity to Liquidate Deep Rooted Evil’ also has a Chinese connection, but its effort to suppress freedom of speech and the freedom to petition the government is in line with the CCP’s stance as well as the Moon administration’s record of suing citizens for libel, except in this case, the suing is performed by a third party,” Tara O wrote.

In November 2019, South Korean students posted posters on the campuses of Hanyang University, Yonsei University, and Konkuk University supporting Hong Kong citizen’s calls for freedom and their rejection of the extradition bill. Chinese students showed up and tore down the posters, Tara O noted.

At Hanyang University, there was a 7-hour confrontation. Kim Ji-Mun, a student who put a pro-Hong Kong banner on campus, told Reuters: “They come in groups, cursing and saying they would kill us. They took photos of the students who support Hong Kong and shared them on social media.”

China is also suspected of inserting its students in South Korea into the candlelight protests that led to the impeachment of the democratically elected president Park Geun-Hye and in anti-THAAD protests, Tara O noted.

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