Hard to comprehend

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Hard to comprehend


Not long ago, I attended a symposium in Shanghai on Korea-China relations as a panelist. It was a closed-door event attended by scholars and specialists without an audience, and we had relatively frank discussions on current issues between the two countries. The topic that attendees had intense debate over was the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system.

A senior scholar who led the Chinese side said, “Thaad is an issue that China can never concede. When President Park Geun-hye leaves office, there will be a chance for a major change.” I thought the remark contained China’s true intention that is not exposed in official government statements or state-run media. While Korea and the United States are rushing to deploy Thaad, it is likely to get delayed, as usual, and in the meantime, it would be a key issue in the Korean presidential election, and the Korean peoples’ opinion will be asked again, China presumes. But even the senior scholar wouldn’t have imagined that this “major change” would come so soon.

I am wretched to hear about the Choi Soon-sil scandal from China. Chinese media and internet sites deliver the unprecedented political drama happening in Korea with professional translation. President Park, who was once dearly called “big sister,” is now derided as “aunty.” A Chinese journalist said, “The Chinese are very familiar with behind-the-scene dealings in the secret room in the palace. But I simply cannot comprehend this case no matter how thoroughly I read news reports.” Chinese experts don’t treat the scandal as entertainment. Chinese officials and researchers are writing up scenarios on the direction of Korean politics and how to deal with current issues between the two countries, including Thaad.

But no one can be sure how this unprecedented catastrophe will develop and conclude. But one thing for certain is that President Park won’t be effective — not only domestically, but also in diplomacy. The funds that unlawfully flew into the controversial Mi-R and K-Sports foundations should be collected and those responsible should be punished. But foreign policy and security policies cannot be mended or reversed easily. If she attends a summit meeting, what promises can she make with foreign heads of states? A plan to resolve the situation that can convince citizens that it is urgent to prevent the administrative vacuum.

The Global Times, which is known for straight remarks, published an analysis by a Chinese scholar on October 26. “President Park Geun-hye’s foreign policy over the past two years had a tendency of being swayed by impulsive emotion, and it may have been Choi Soon-sil’s influence. Choi reportedly likes to say that North Korea would fall within two years.” He may have gotten a hint from the opposition floor leader’s comment that linked Choi’s influence with the hard-line North Korea policy of the current administration. We are all flabbergasted that all these absurd rumors are turning out to be true. But I desperately hope that this rumor is not true. It can’t get any more pathetic than this.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 29, Page 30

*The author is the Beijing bureau chief of the JoongAng Ilbo.


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