Meaningless tit-for-tat

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Meaningless tit-for-tat

The political front remains a sad sight even as the country grapples with an unprecedented national duel with Japan. Rivaling parties have been spending days wrangling over ruling Democratic Party (DP) Chairman Lee Hae-chan’s lunching at a Japanese restaurant and drinking Japanese wine. They are exchanging tasteless statements even in disregard of the perilous economic front after Japan made it official that it would remove South Korea from a so-called white list of trusted trade partners.

Opposition parties are having a field day over Lee’s senseless act. “The fact that the ruling party head dined at a Japanese restaurant was inappropriate and indiscreet,” said the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP). The minor opposition Bareunmirae Party lambasted his “heedless behavior betraying public sentiment.” Even the Peace and Justice Party, which is usually less harsh toward the ruling party, scorned the DP chief for “drinking in daylight.”

The DP also has nothing to be proud of. It claims it is irrational to shun Japanese restaurants run by Koreans that use Korean ingredients. But it was the ruling party that fanned anti-Japanese sentiment in the first place. Many Korean businesses have been hard hit by the spread of a consumer boycott after the Shinzo Abe administration initiated export curbs on Korea-bound chemicals needed for Korea’s mainstay chip industry. Japanese brands and any businesses in relationship with Japan have been suffering dramatic falls in their revenues. Restaurants selling Japanese cuisine have come under target although the food served by Koreans has nothing to do with Japan.

Cho Kuk — who recently resigned as the president’s senior secretary for civil affairs and bluntly called anyone who is critical of strong actions against Japanese export curbs as “Chinilpa,” a derogatory term referring to collaborators with the Japanese during colonial period — criticized the opposition parties for shaming Japanese restaurant owners and staff. His words are contradictory. His self-righteous ways have drawn condemnation, even from his former students at Seoul National University Law School. Students posted a banner opposing his return to the school to teach, telling him to “stay in politics.”

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 5, Page 30
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