YTN interview on Ferguson

On November 29, Jay Kim appeared on YTN to discuss various issues concerning Ferguson, which included riots and protests in Ferguson, racism in the U.S., controversies over the prosecutor’s handling of the case and the grand jury’s decision, the possibility of, or the need for, reforms in the police and the legal system, improvements in race relations, and compensation measures for the damage that Korean-Americans had from riots.


Watching North Korea cling to Russia

South Korea seems to be more popular than ever globally. In the U.S., it is enjoying great popularity, and President Park Geun-hye’s popularity is sky high. Nowadays, it is hard to find any country that has hostility toward South Korea anywhere in the world. In contrast, Japan does not have as good a reputation as it had in the past, even though it is economically stronger than Korea, and China is also not as popular as Korea even though it is a country with a huge population and the second-largest GDP in the world. Korea’s rise in international status can be regarded as a result of the brilliant diplomatic efforts that President Park has made so far, but the bigger factor is our people’s efforts and achievements in various areas.

Above all, our young people’s efforts should be counted first as a contributing factor. In sports, our young athletes have put Korea among the world-class sporting powers. Their achievements in the 2014 Winter Olympics and this year’s Asian Games where they took second place in the medals table, beating Japan, proved that Korea was a real athletic power. When I was young, the national focus was on the marathon, a running sport without need for any equipment. But now Korea has become a powerhouse in winter sports that require expensive equipment. Korean movies have also been recognized for their artistic value by the world, and our young people’s dance and K-pop have caught the eyes and ears of young people around the world, as “Gangnam Style” became a global phenomenon. Furthermore, churches have sent several dozens of missionaries to poor countries throughout the world to build churches, schools and hospitals, and to teach agricultural knowhow in countries that have trouble with farming. Now Korea is regarded as a good, beneficent country by developing countries. Kimchi has also caught on, and even in snobbish Europe, Korean food is highly popular.

Tourists who visit Korea to see this attractive country have also increased. Countries that want Korean products are on the rise, so much so that one can find Korean made cars, cell phones, refrigerators and other “Made in Korea” products easily almost anywhere in the world. While Korea is welcomed almost everywhere, only one country still treats our country as its enemy. It is North Korea. The North has been making insulting remarks about our presidents, calling us their sworn enemy and threatening to turn Korea into a “sea of fire” at every opportunity. Sometimes it has not stopped at mere threats, but actually shelled our land to kill civilians, swearing at us that the South should be wiped out. What on earth did we do wrong to the North? It recently freed two Americans that it had held captive, but did nothing about a detained Korean pastor. It says nothing about whether 517 South Koreans that it has kidnapped since the end of the Korean War are alive or not. Looking at the bloodthirsty image of the North staring at the South and pledging to defeat its enemy, I feel only sadness and wonder how things have come to this.

There was a news report that North Korea sent Choe Ryong-hae, the closest aide of Kim Jong-un, as a special envoy to Russia. Many experts expressed their concerns that North Korea and Russia would become closer through this. I think that there is no need to overestimate the effect of sending Kim Jong-un’s letter to Putin through a special envoy, as if the two countries had formed a military alliance. Despite the North’s efforts, including the sudden release of the Americans, to prevent the international humiliation of its mysterious leader, the Third Committee of the U.N. General Assembly passed by decisive majority its resolution that recommended the prosecution of the North Korean leader for crimes against humanity in the International Criminal Court. It remains to be seen whether China will exercise its veto power once again at the Security Council.

North Korea, internationally isolated as its relations with its fraternal country China are no longer what they used to be, is now in a bleak situation and turning to Russia for help. Is it impossible for North Korea to change its thinking and rely on us, as we are all Koreans? Of course, we cannot give up the principle that there is no talk with the North unless it gives up its nuclear weapons program. My suggestion is that we should reach out first and offer economic aid to the North. It is in a dire situation. Its economy is getting worse and worse, and its people are trembling in fear wondering how they will endure the approaching cold winter. With a per capita income of $550, North Korea is even poorer than many African nations. My heart is heavy thinking about this horrible situation, living on 500 won per day, for our brethrens in the North.

The sight of the North Koreans crossing Siberia to go to Moscow instead of South Korea, which is twice better off than Russia, means I feel only sadness for them as someone that shares the same blood. As it is getting cold, my heart is even heavier. I would like to suggest that we could reach some agreement or arrangement just like Hong Kong, one nation with two systems.

Midterm election in US

In the U.S., the midterm election, which is considered an important test of every incumbent president’s popularity and performance, has now ended. The result was, as expected, a victory for the Republican Party. The term “midterm election” is rather unfamiliar to Koreans, and it refers to the fact that a national election is held in the middle of a president’s term. In the U.S., the presidential election is held every four years, and every two years, one-third of the members of the Senate and all of the members of the House are elected. Though the presidential and parliamentary elections are not held at the same time in Korea, the U.S. holds them simultaneously every four years to elect the president and members of Congress, along with a midterm election held after two years from the presidential election to elect members of Congress.

Each midterm election has a big political impact in the U.S. These are regarded as midterm evaluations of the serving president’s achievements during the past two years since he or she was elected. The crushing defeat of the Democratic Party in this midterm election resulted from the burst of people’s dissatisfaction with Obama’s policies. Of course, the Democratic Party has not presented anything as its policy to the people in a satisfactory manner until now, but people’s dissatisfaction is due to the hesitation that the Obama administration has shown regarding various policies. What is unfair from the perspective of President Obama is that his popularity has plunged to the lowest since he was inaugurated even though, for the first half of this year, economic growth rate reached 3.5 percent, much higher than expected, and every economic index has also improved, including the unemployment rate, which is below 6.3 percent

On the day before the midterm election, President Obama met the Chair of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, and they congratulated each other on the improvement in the economic indicators. However, such improvement of the economy was not yet felt by the general public. As a result, Obama got the dishonorable tag of being the first president in 56 years completely defeated in midterm elections twice in a row.

Since the Republican Party has control of both the Senate and the House, naturally, President Obama will quickly become a lame duck, and so he is expected to have a difficult time carrying out the policies that he has pursued, such as raising the minimum wage, immigration reform, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and North Korean policy, and also in dealing with the Iranian nuclear problem and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The problem is that the filibuster system might hold back the Republican Party now that it has become the majority. A filibuster is a legally allowed procedure through which a minority party intentionally blocks the legislative procedure. Korea also adopted a system similar to the filibuster through the National Assembly Act, but it once held back the parliamentary procedure to cause the Assembly to fall into a vegetative state. It will be difficult for the Republican Party, even though it won this election, to make any change with its narrow majority, 55 to 45, in the Senate. Sixty votes are needed to block a filibuster in the U.S. Senate, and 60 percent of votes are needed to change the National Assembly Act in Korea. It is easy to make a bad law, but not so easy to get rid of it. The U.S. Senate has tried several times to get rid of the filibuster system, but it has failed so far to abolish the tradition of hundreds of years.

However, public opinion will not make it easy for the minority party to use a filibuster on every issue, since the Republican Party has become the majority in the Senate. Thus, it is certain that the Obama administration will make changes in its policies. First of all, it will treat illegal immigrants as criminals by strictly applying the immigration law. It will also postpone raising the minimum wage, citing the need for a further study to form the public opinion. Since the Trans-Pacific Partnership is a Republican economic policy, it will continue to pursue that, and will move rather more actively on the policy.

In the past, there was a case where the Democratic Party continued the economic policies of the Republican Party. When Bill Clinton was a presidential candidate for the Democratic Party, he opposed NAFTA, which had been traditionally opposed by Democrats. But, once he was elected, he supported it by making his own proposing the agreement which was an idea put forward by his predecessor, President Bush, during whose term the foundation had already been laid, and claimed to be a “born-again” Democrat.

The victory of the Republican Party will also make big waves in international relations. The U.S., led by the Republican Party, will continue to have trouble with Russia which has a desire for the lands of Ukraine. It is expected that the Republican Party will respond more strongly against Russia and Russia will fail in Ukraine in the end.

Finally, it is highly probable that the U.S. will take an even harder line toward North Korea. The U.S. will claim that North Korea’s giving up of nuclear weapons is a prerequisite for talks to take place between the two countries, and it is expected that the Republican Party, which now controls both chambers, will try to send Kim Jong-un to the international Human Rights Court, which will put him into difficulties. Some hawks in the Republican Party might call for preemptive surgical attacks to put an end to the nuclear issues in North Korea lest the United States be messed around by the country any longer. Rather than immediate reunification through military forces, it is better to have reunification through a peaceful means that maintains two systems in one country, just like Hong Kong and China, through negotiations so that we can enter Russia and the Manchu region through the North. Now, it is the time for us to prepare for reunification. I think that it is the time to issue Roosevelt-style bonds for reunification.

U.S. Midterm Elections on News Y

In his interview with News Y on November 3, Jay Kim discussed various issues concerning the midterm elections to be held in the U.S.

He first explained the difference between the electoral systems of Korea and the U.S., and discussed the strong showing of the Republican Party and its causes, negative public opinions about President Obama concerning the economy despite improving economic indicators, the meeting between Obama and Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen on the day before the election, Hillary Clinton’s distancing from Obama as a factor that might hasten to make Obama a lame duck president, political polarization as a problem of society in the U.S., causes for the worsening of the polarization, negative aftereffects of the polarization, and possible effects on U.S. policies for the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia.