[Editorial] Yoon’s red-baiting rhetoric is indistinguishable from far-right YouTubers

Posted on : 2023-06-30 17:05 KST Modified on : 2023-06-30 17:05 KST
The current administration’s far-right colors are only becoming more apparent
President Yoon Suk-yeol stands and greets the crowd at an event commemorating the 69th founding anniversary of the Korea Freedom Federation held at the Jangchung Gymnasium on June 28. (presidential office pool photo)
President Yoon Suk-yeol stands and greets the crowd at an event commemorating the 69th founding anniversary of the Korea Freedom Federation held at the Jangchung Gymnasium on June 28. (presidential office pool photo)

In a recent speech, President Yoon Suk-yeol was outspoken in his antipathy for his predecessor, President Moon Jae-in, and the Democratic Party, labeling them “anti-state forces.” He also accused those critical of his administration of spreading “fake news” and “bizarre rumors.”

It’s the president’s job to unite all the nation’s citizens. Instead, he’s engaging in confrontational politics with far-right rhetoric.

Attended a ceremony on Wednesday to mark the 69th anniversary of the Korea Freedom Foundation, Yoon remarked that “anti-state forces with a distorted historical understanding and an irresponsible view of the state were prone to demanding that the UN Security Council lift sanctions on the communist gang in North Korea despite its efforts to enhance its nuclear arsenal and kept pushing for an end-of-war declaration that would dissolve the UN Command.”

He denounced the idea of such a declaration as an “absurd appeal for a false peace” and claimed that he had normalized diplomacy which had been “beholden to North Korea and mocked by China.”

However, the declaration championed by Moon was a political one seeking to establish lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula and was supported by neighboring countries such as the US and China. It had nothing to do with dismantling the UN Command or withdrawing US troops from South Korea. No previous administration has called for the dismantling of the UN Command. In fact, when it came to the transfer of wartime operational control (OPCON), Moon’s government consulted with the US about the “revitalization” of the UN Command in terms of restructuring functions and roles.

While we’re all familiar with Yoon’s tactic of “Always Be Blaming the Moon Administration,” for him to label a popularly elected president and his administration “anti-state forces” is nothing short of an insult to the Korean people.

Moreover, how can a proposal seeking a formal end to the Korean War, which has been ongoing for 70 years in a state of ceasefire, be “anti-state”? Has Yoon forgotten that the Constitution stipulates that it is the duty of the Republic of Korea to “maintain peace” and “seek unification”?

Furthermore, is Yoon truly claiming that the Korean people voted for a president who is “anti-state”?

Criticism came pouring in immediately after Yoon’s remarks.

“If the government back then was made up of anti-state forces, why did you serve it as high-ranking prosecutor general?” asked Yoo In-tae, who formerly served as secretary-general of the National Assembly, on Thursday.

“Does our current president even know what an end-of-war declaration is?” asked Choi Jong-kun, who served as the vice minister of foreign affairs under Moon, on Wednesday.

In June 2018, US President Donald Trump pushed for a formal declaration of the end of the war between the US and North Korea at their summit in Singapore. Although no such declaration was reached, Trump said at the post-summit press conference that a declaration of the war’s end would be coming “soon,” hinting at the possibility of following up on his promise to establish a peace regime.

President Joe Biden also stated in a joint declaration with Moon in 2021 that he would honor the Panmunjom Declaration and the joint statement adopted by Trump and Kim Jong-un in Singapore, which are consistent with the spirit of declaring an end to the Korean War.

In fact, it was US President George W. Bush, not Presidents Kim Dae-jung, Roh Moo-hyun, or even Moon Jae-in, who first raised the issue declaring a formal end to the Korean War internationally. If we follow Yoon’s reasoning, the US president should be considered an “anti-state force” that harms South Korea’s national interest.

Is the US president an anti-state force, or is Yoon just anti-American?

Yoon also took aim at his political opponents, saying, “There are far too many people who undermine and endanger the free Republic of Korea and deny the identity of the state through fake news and bizarre rumors, along with demagoguery based on falsehoods and fabrications.”

“There are so many people who join those forces for money or career opportunities and engage in anti-state behavior,” the president went on.

This is in the same vein as the government and ruling party dismissing concerns raised by the opposition regarding the release of irradiated water from Fukushima as “propaganda” and “fake news.”

Zero reflection on the self-inflicted policy confusion and unilateral management of the country — is the vision of liberal democracy that Yoon is so insistent on?

In October 2022, Yoon said that “pro-Pyongyang ‘juche believers’ are anti-state and anti-Constitution forces,” adding that it was “not possible to cooperate with them,” using rhetoric mainly used by participants of the Taegeukgi Unit rallies and other radical right groups.

The current administration’s far-right colors are only becoming more apparent.

To lead the Ministry of Unification, Yoon on Thursday nominated Kim Young-ho, a far-right professor at Sungshin Women’s University who views inter-Korean relations as inherently hostile and has called for the “toppling of the Kim Jong-un regime.” Only days earlier, Yoon’s new chief of the commission on police development, Park In-hwan, called Moon Jae-in a “spy” while speaking at a debate at the National Assembly.

With the president making uncontrollable wild statements not grounded in facts, it seems inevitable that this ilk of people will continue to coalesce around Yoon going forward, only fueling even more unhinged rhetoric.

By red-baiting and branding his political opponents and predecessor as “anti-state” forces to rally conservatives, Yoon is essentially declaring half of Koreans the enemy. This may seem politically advantageous in the short term, but ultimately, it’s a political dead end that will only alienate Yoon. The president is so drunk on the applause he’s currently receiving that he’s not thinking clearly.

The Korean people are not stupid, and it is unwise to test their patience. Moreover, the president’s unilateral rush to handle the diplomatic relationship between North and South Korea as well as internal affairs by stoking confrontation will only increase public unrest and social chaos.

Yoon needs to give serious thought to his responsibilities as president.

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