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Tsutomu Nishioka

【#424(Special)】Conservative Rally Outdoes Leftists in South Korea

Tsutomu Nishioka / 2017.03.06 (Mon)

March 3, 2017

     On the afternoon of March 1, the center of Seoul was filled with people attending a national flag rally. Any accurate number of participants in the rally is unknown as police have discontinued the announcement of the number of participants in any rally under pressure from lefties since participants in a conservative rally began to exceed those in a leftist rally earlier this year. Given that police published the number of participants in leftists’ largest ever rally last December as 270,000 and that most participants in the national flag rally were standing in a wider area than for the leftist rally, at least 300,000 to 400,000 people might have taken part in the conservative rally.
     Leftists’ candle rally on March 1 looked like a tiny island in the sea of people attending the national flag rally and was miserable with several tens of thousands of participants put under protection provided by police buses. The day marked conservatives’ complete dominance over leftists in the number of rally participants.

Participants sharing sense of crisis
     December’s leftist rally attracted many ordinary citizens as the radical Korean Confederation of Trade Unions and other groups mobilized their members amid incendiary reports by all newspapers and TV stations criticizing President Park Geun Hye. As all news media criticized the national flag rally as an anti-democracy meeting to violently reverse the Constitutional Court’s coming ruling on a motion to impeach President Park, ordinary citizens angered at such media reports participated in the conservative rally voluntarily.
     Participants in the conservative rally featured wide-ranging generations and remarkably included women, families and young people. They shared a strong sense of crisis that South Korea’s anti-communist liberal democracy could be overthrown if things remain unchanged.
     Instead of criticizing leftists emotionally, conservative rally participants made logical arguments, emphasizing that the South Korean National Assembly’s motion to impeach President Park and the Constitutional Court’s hasty trial on the motion would be unconstitutional.
     Although the president can be impeached only for a grave unconstitutional or illegal act, the National Assembly’s impeachment motion before special prosecutors’ investigations into facts regarding the president’s alleged involvement in a political scandal has been criticized as unconstitutional.
     The Constitutional Court consists of nine judges; three recommended each by the president, the National Assembly and the Supreme Court. Six of the nine judges are required to impeach the president. However, a president-recommended judge retired in January as the term of office expired, reducing the total number of judges to eight. While at least seven judges are required for proceeding with a trial, conservatives have argued that unless a ruling is made by nine judges, it will be unconstitutional.

Tensions growing on Korean Peninsula
     The Constitutional Court is poised to make a ruling by March 13 when another judge’s term of office will expire. What the ruling would be is still uncertain. Whether the impeachment is endorsed or not, awaked citizens who voluntarily participated in the national flag rally will play a major role in the next presidential election. The chance has become smaller for a pro-Pyongyang administration to be established in South Korea to unify the Korean Peninsula in line with Pyongyang policies.
     North Korea’s Kim Jong Un regime has also become all the more unstable. This year may see a major change instead of the maintenance of the status quo. As the chance for the best coexists with that for the worst, breathtaking tensions are lingering on the Korean Peninsula.

Tsutomu Nishioka is Planning Committee Member, Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, and Professor at Tokyo Christian University.