Beijing’s bitter reaction

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Beijing’s bitter reaction

The author is a Beijing correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo. 

China’s uncomfortable stance towards Korea’s presidential election can be seen in many ways. On March 10, a day after the election, China’s largest portal site Baidu did not post Yoon Suk-yeol’s election victory on the front page of its news section. As portal sites are also political in China that represents China’s uncomfortable feeling about the victory of a conservative candidate in a neighboring country.

Another portal site ran a related article with a negative nuance. The article can be summed up in three points: Yoon sent two former presidents to prison; he is a “political novice” with no experience; and he likes to use tough and radical remarks about foreign policy. This is an article that ran on the front page among dozens of related stories.

How about China’s state-run media? The Global Times posted an article titled “Most Contested Election in Korea’s History, Attention to New Administration’s China Policy” as the fourth story on the front page at 6:47 a.m. local time. Expressions were harsh. “As controversies and scandals continued through the election campaign, exposures and slanders between candidates tore the Korean society. It reminds China of the desperate ‘Squid Game’ and renews Chinese perception on the world’s top ten economy.”

What the author wants to say is placed at the end. Yoon is quoted as having said, “If needed for Korea’s security, I will expand the U.S.-led Thaad deployment based on strengthened the Korea-U.S. alliance.”

The article concludes, “If Korea wants to defend its political and economic interests, its foreign policy should be established toward the direction of the development.” That is a warning for Seoul to keep neutrality.

Alerts on Korea-China relations are sent by other media as well. Guancha News wrote, “Dramatic foreign policy change will follow,” and Jiemian News wrote, “Korea’s Trump Elected.” The South China Morning Post wrote, “President-elect Yoon Tainted with Anti-China Views.”

What about the general public? On social media site Weibo, #YoonSukYeolKoreanPresidentElect had 120 million mentions in two hours. The comment that received the most likes was “Next candidate to prison,” followed by “Anti-China? Nothing good about him,” “Wicked. Pro-American, Pro-Japan and Anti-China,” “Moon Jae-in in crisis, Chinese people in Korea in crisis, too” and “If that’s the public opinion, ban on Korean culture should be reinforced.” Even considering the exaggerated nature of online comments, I could hardly find any positive ones.

On March 10, China’s ultrafine particulate matter index was nearly 200, when the WHO recommendation is 25. The murky sky seems to be a forewarning for the bumpy future of the Korea-China relations. 

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