Thursday, 27 February 2014

South Korean politics: Spying trouble

Nguồn tin:

AS PARK GEUN-HYE marked her first year in office on February 25th, her approval rating, at around 56%, was higher than when she came to power: a first for a South Korean president. Polls show that the public is chiefly impressed with her policy towards North Korea. She ended her first year on a high with reunions of families separated for decades. She was also boosted by the reopening last September of the Kaesong industrial complex, where South Korean companies employ North Koreans. For Ms Park and her supporters this is all vindication of her signature approach towards the North: “trustpolitik”, a fuzzy term that doles out carrots and wields sticks according to behaviour.

Ms Park has enjoyed other foreign-policy kudos. She held successful summits in America in May and China in June. And talking tough at Japan, as its prime minister, Shinzo Abe, tacks to the right on history, has earned her points, too.

But her trust-building has worked less well at home, where she has allowed political scandal to fester. Her biggest setback took place before South Koreans even went to the polls in December 2012: in the year before the election, agents of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) were alleged to have posted 1.2m tweets and thousands of political messages on blogs, smearing left-wing candidates as North Korean sympathisers in order to manipulate the presidential election.

Three days before the election, police said they had found no evidence of wrongdoing. But a few months later, under pressure from the opposition, they reversed their findings. It was not until last November that the scale of the meddling became clear. It breached the political neutrality of the NIS and a law prohibiting officials from using their influence to sway voters.

Though Ms Park won by only three percentage points, few think she benefited from the illegal electioneering; even fewer believe she was involved (she has denied receiving any such help). But the saga has prompted awkward questions about South Korea’s powerful government agencies. A former police chief, charged with soft-pedalling the inquiry, was acquitted on February 6th. An activist group of lawyers accuses the government of pressuring the state prosecutor. The NIS has argued that its actions were “routine” psychological operations against North Korea. But the arrest of a leftist MP on conspiracy charges has led some to suspect the renewed vigour in catching “pro-North leftists” is to mask the election-meddling.

The stand-off has blocked the passage of bills, including those for creating jobs and expanding welfare programmes, both campaign pledges. In November Ms Park made a rare direct appeal to parliament to pass a string of bills aimed at revitalising the economy. That imperative has replaced another election promise: “economic democratisation”, to encourage start-ups by reining in the power of the country’s powerful corporations, or chaebol. She has done little of this, passing only mild corporate-governance measures. Ms Park has also scaled back promises to halve tuition fees and boost pensions, riling young and old alike. If she is to maintain her popularity, she will need to do more at home.

Đăng ký: Hoc tieng anh



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