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2005 February 19 Saturday
South Korea Has Less Speech Freedom Than America

A fictionalized account of the assassination of South Korean dictator Park Chung Hee is controversial in South Korea.

The film, "Those People, That Time," opened this month amid a firestorm of conservative criticism for its fictionalized portrayal of the 1979 assassination of dictator Park Chung Hee.

A major conservative party in South Korea supported efforts to get the film banned by a court ruling. A court ordered editorial changes in the film.

The conservative Grand National Party supports the campaign against the film, in part because Park's daughter is its leader. A court ruled against a ban of the film, but ordered the deletion of newsreel footage that gives a veneer of historical accuracy.

Park Jin, a conservative party leader in the National Assembly, says he still believes that many who see the film "could easily be confused." And, he says, he could not "exclude the possibility that the message of the film was political."

Leave aside the debate by South Koreans over their own history. What is noteworthy here is that a South Korean court could order newsreel footage taken out of a movie. Imagine a US court ordering the removal of news clips from, say, Fahrenheit 9/11 because the court judge(s) decided the news clips lent too much authority or credence to the political message of the film. It would correctly be seen as a clear violation of speech rights. Yet in South Korea this is obvioulsy acceptable. The judge or judges who made this ruling will not be removed from the bench because they have stepped over the line.

Democracy is oversold (notably by neocon liberals but also by conventional liberals) as the panacea that can solve all the political problems of the world. But democracy does not automatically and reliably produce freedom. Lots of democracies amount to dictatorships by the elite leaders of the majority. Democracy does not always produce political harmony or peace. Some nations have had elections and then immediately plunged into civil war (the United States in 1860 and Algeria in 1992 to cite just two examples). Democracy and a free press do not always produce governments and news media that are friendly to the United States as events in Islamic Turkey are demonstrating. The neoconservative strategy of forced democratization is based on false assumptions about human nature and politics.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 February 19 01:50 PM  Korea


Comments
PacRim Jim said at February 19, 2005 2:37 PM:

It's irrational to expect other nations to like the U.S. simply because we saved their asses, sometimes repeatedly. What is not irrational, however, is to expect other nations to respect us. The simplest expedient is to restrict access to the American market. You bad-mouth us and we don't buy your products. Sometimes kimchee in the eyes will work wonders.

Infidel said at February 19, 2005 5:35 PM:

Its good to recall the difference between democratic and republican government, and that doesn't mean the American political parties. Of course, democratic governments don't automatically promote freedom, because their purposeis to promote the interests of the majority. republics promote law as a means to arbitrate the interests of all groups. republics are much more likely to inspire freedom as a consequence of their wiser administration and broader stability.

South Korea's highest court only compromised between factions, which action is consistent for a democracy. Expecting any other outcome is simpler unrealistic.

As far as encouraging America's friends and discouraging less loyal allies, if America is a republic, than foreign policy is based, not on interest, but on principle. But, lately principle has taken a backseat to interest. If the ROK wants to descend into mere democracy, then America should respond accordingly, not give it importance based on its utility for combatting China or North Korea. The debate over Park's legacy is dividing over utility versus principle. Those who value what he did, like strengthening the economy and military posture, give his regime slack on the egregious abuses of power. Others are less compromising. America's interest-based foreign policy postures risks alienating those democrats in the ascendancy who believe their interests require abrogating US-ROK treaties. If these democrats take the high ground, America will lose an ally permanently.

Randall Parker said at February 19, 2005 6:55 PM:

Infidel,

Why do you claim that a Republic should conduct its foreign policy based more on principle than on interests?

Also, in what way has principle taken a backseat to interest? Which interest is being put ahead of principle?

I'm not agreeing or disagreeing with you (yet). I'm trying to establish where you are coming from. Some of your assertions are not obvious to me.

Also, in what way is South Korea an ally of the US? Allied with us against who or what exactly? To put it another way, in what way is South Korea prepared to act that defends our interests?

Stephen said at February 19, 2005 7:56 PM:

SK has a mutual assistance treaty with the US (ie if any country attacks either US or SK, then the other party guarantees to come to the aid of the victim).

SK fought alongside the US and others in Vietnam pursuant to this treaty - though how they figured out that the US was the victim, I'm not sure...

PacRim, I don't think you get real respect from a person/country by harming them - that is unless you're happy to receive the kind of respect paid to a schoolyard bully.

Infidel said at February 20, 2005 3:49 AM:

Democracies are merely ruled by shifting electoral coalitions usually based on class identification. Domestic and foreign policies will follow from these class and electoral mandates. republics are ruled by law, which function is to balance all factions under constitutional rules. Separate factions' interests have to be compromised, to maintain stability. Therefore, in diplomatic matters, compromises are expressed through general principles all factions can support, before negotiating with foreign powers.

Nominally, the ROK is republican, but there is a strong Korean tradition of narrow minority aristocratic factions, based on family and clan loyalty. Sometimes, these factions adopt ideological poses, such as progressive or conservative, but usually identification is at best regional. At some points, there is coalition-building around a leader, historically a dictator or founding monarch. These days, there is also generational identification, with ideological undertones. Younger members are usually progressive, whereas older leaders are conservative. There is still regional competition as well, but many leaders view these as counter-productive. Progressives enjoy a narrow electoral and aesthetic advantage over the conservatives, who are at a disadvantage paerticularly on social legislation, like gender-related issues. There is very ittle firm support for any ideological program on a national scale, so these broad coalitions are pragmatic. The electorate is also very skeptical about the leaders' abilities, so victories are very important. Therefore, Seoul's politics leaps from one crisis to another, where vast resources are massed in a total war against the other side. President Roh has not been very fortunate in these battles. Conservatives still have a great deal of money and power, but their power has to be used quietly, so as not to anger younger voters. Conservatives are fewere and more powerful, but progressives have numbers and other hidden resources. Into this volatile mix comes the Supreme Constitutional Court, whose justices are not as independent as US justices. If you read opinions, arguments relating to political stability do figure in their deliberations openly. Justices realize that a bad decisions, which angers progressives or causes conservatives too much embarrassment might topple a government. Therefore, in this last opinion on the family registry system, the justices split the difference and left the final decision to the legislature.

On foreign policy, conservatives and progressives are not quite divided over North Korea as they are on domestic issues. There is an entire different set of opinions on foreign policy which do not quite mesh with the domestic ones, and the whole juggernaut sort of fits together like a house of cards. Some conservatives are old school, anti-communist, but others want to adopt a slower version of the Sunshine policy to compete electorally against the progressives. There are also divisions with the progressive camp. But then, there are conservatives who are willing to go along with a deal with Pyongyang for economic advatages from the cost of labor. And then, there's every other foreign policy problem, for which there's a slighter different coalition. There is no national interest, because every faction goes to the electorate at every crisis, and voters are waitng for the stronger side to get results before lending support..

The Bush administration is fighting North Korea one-on-one, standard realist perspective. Its lining up alliances, using shuttle diplomacy, negotiating with factions in countries for maximum leverage over Pyongyang. America's interest is to protect itself and its allies from an aggressor, the DPRK. Instead, America should look at its support for freer trade, military power to encourage trade, and self-determination, which all American parties support in one fashion or another. A realist emphasis fractures American support almost down party lines. Instead of ad hoc negotiations where American negotiators represent American interests in the language of international law, the Bush administration should take the lead to establish a permanent defense structure in the east Asian region, with or without Pyongyang. Instead of one policy for China, one for Japan, one for Taiwan and the Koreas, all washington's capital should be put into locking the five powers into a permanent, trust-building arrangement, as Acheson did for Europe (in order to seal a Korean War coalition). Korea has been sacriifced for Europe before, and now America, before it loses influence in Asia, should leave it with something durable. America in east Asia does best when it balances China, Japan, and Russia, all whom do have very tangible interests in the peninsula. America's interest is less tangible, and its defensve needs are best meant by locking the sixpowers into talking rather than fighting.

Ned said at February 21, 2005 6:02 AM:

I agree with the above comments. Democracy is not perfect and sometimes fails (Weimar Germany, Chile and Argentina in the past, Venezuela right now to add just a few examples). Still,

It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.
Sir Winston Churchill
British politician (1874 - 1965)

Proborders said at February 21, 2005 1:41 PM:

Infidel wrote: America in east Asia does best when it balances China, Japan, and Russia, all whom do have very tangible interests in the peninsula.

Right now Japan is an ally of the United States. China may cooperate with the US from time to time, but I wouldn’t classify China as an overall ally of the United States. US relations with Russia may be better than US relations with China, but I wouldn’t list Russia as an overall ally of the United States either.

In the future things may change. Italy and Japan were allies of the US during World War 1. Things were different during World War 2.

Infidel, I don’t think that there can be any East Asian “EU” that includes North Korea unless the North Korean nuclear situation is resolved.

Infidel said at February 21, 2005 1:58 PM:

I didn't say China, Japan, or Russia was or is aan ally. Japan's recent agreement with the US signed in Washington is temporary.. I said that the US balances them, not is an ally. The three have tengible interests on the peninsula, including natural resoures, railroads, and electricity grids. Also, all three are threatened geographical by whomever controls the peninsula. Historically, the peninsula has passed from one to the other like a football. A country, like the US, which doesn't have tangible interests, in a multilateral forum, can keep the three from pouncing. Perhaps if Washington had not delegated its interests to Japan after the Russo-Japanese War, Korea would not have been colonized, and generations of misery could have been averted. I support Japanese rearmament, because Japan's defense structure and pacifist constitution are unrealistic, but Japan needs watching. The US has to remain engaged to stop either Japan or China from going to war again.

Also, i do not mean a full-blown ASEAN and obviously not an obscene monstrosity like the EU. I mean a permanent multilateral defense forum that meets regularly, say every six months. If need be, Pyongyang can be excluded. The 1943 Cairo declarations and Roosevelt plans included a trusteeship over Korea, but developments started by Russia, and Kim Il-sung, sidetracked multilateral efforts. Eventually, it just became a two-sided contest, with both Korean leaders, Lee Syng-man and Kim Il-sung, begging a reluctant US and USSR to annihilate the other Korean leader. The last 60 years are just a footnote to that tragedy caused by those Korean monsters.

Proborders said at February 21, 2005 5:53 PM:

Clarification:

Infidel wrote: America in east Asia does best when it balances China, Japan, and Russia, all whom do have very tangible interests in the peninsula.

I (Proborders) wrote the following paragraphs:

Right now Japan is an ally of the United States. China may cooperate with the US from time to time, but I wouldn’t classify China as an overall ally of the United States. US relations with Russia may be better than US relations with China, but I wouldn’t list Russia as an overall ally of the United States either.

In the future things may change. Italy and Japan were allies of the US during World War 1. Things were different during World War 2.

Infidel, I don’t think that there can be any East Asian “EU” that includes North Korea unless the North Korean nuclear situation is resolved.


Proborders said at February 24, 2005 7:57 PM:

A majority of North Korea's international trade is with China and South Korea. Less than 10% of North Korea's international trade is with Japan.

Source: Audrey McAvoy's "Japan Tries to Squeeze Info. From N. Korea," which is posted at http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=589&ncid=2181&e=1&u=/ap/20050224/ap_on_re_la_am_ca/squeezing_north_korea

Misteri said at March 10, 2005 7:49 PM:

Australia is vying for position as one of the worlds least free democrasies. You can't say whats on your mind if its politically incorrect, criticise government policies or bring your children up with your own values.


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