South Korean conservatives fight back, decry media bias

by WorldTribune Staff, February 14, 2017

Fearing a win by the Left would destroy the country’s alliance with the U.S., conservatives in South Korea are defending impeached President Park Geun-Hye against what they say is a “demagogic mass media,” a report said.

South Korea’s right blames the media for the Park scandal, even though the biggest-selling newspapers are conservative, Donald Kirk wrote for the Wall Street Journal on Feb. 13.

A supporter holds a portrait of South Korean President Park Geun-Hye during a rally opposing her impeachment near the Constitutional Court in Seoul. /AP

“I think every newspaper is lying,” said Kee Woo-tak, a former government worker at a recent pro-Park rally.

As conservatives take to the streets to counter anti-Park protests that have raged since November, many hold up small American flags and thank U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis for recently making Seoul his first overseas stop, Kirk reported.

Related: First foreign trip by Mattis signaled urgency of simmering crisis in Northeast Asia, Feb. 11, 2017

Park’s approval rating “may have dropped to 4 percent in November”, yet conservatives have belatedly organized to defend her against accusations of corruption and block the Left from taking control in the next presidential election,” Kirk, a columnist, wrote.

Conservatives “fear a left-wing government would destroy the alliance and jettison THAAD, the U.S.-built missile-defense system that Park committed to installing this year.”

In South Korea’s media, the massive anti-Park street demonstrations have dominated headlines since the scandal surfaced.

“The snowballing scandal has ensnared a dozen of Park’s aides — a bonanza for far leftists eager to resume dialogue with North Korea after nearly a decade of conservative rule,” Kirk wrote.

Conservatives warn that Park’s enemies could jeopardize South Korea’s democracy and national security.

“Are we witnessing a revolution, a coup or the destruction of our very country?” asks attorney Kim Pyung-woo, shocked by crowds of leftists waving the flags of labor unions and student groups. “I lay awake at night as a series of unnerving scenarios flash before my eyes.”

Some on the “new right” are former leftists who see the anti-Park movement as an elite-driven populist campaign undermining democratic values of free speech and enterprise, according to Koo Se-woong, editor of Korea Exposé

Meanwhile, no candidate has emerged to unite conservatives, Kirk wrote.

“The acting president, Hwang Kyo-Anh, is a possible standard-bearer for the ruling Saenuri Party, soon to be renamed Liberty Korea, which is badly split over the scandal. But polls show Hwang is well behind Moon Jae-In, the likely candidate of the opposition Minjoo, or Democratic, Party.”

Moon lost to Park in 2012 and favors unconditional accommodation with North Korea

Hwang supports the THAAD deployment. Moon wants dialogue with North Korea and says the next government should decide on THAAD, a position that makes him acceptable to moderates uncomfortable with harsh anti-Americanism.

The Constitutional Court’s decision on Park could come as early as next month. If it upholds impeachment, a presidential election must be held within 60 days. If it rejects impeachment, voters will go to the polls to replace Park when her term expires in December.