Do parents always know what’s best?
May 14, 2016
JTBC 뉴스룸 캡쳐
Democratic societies live with reasonable protests. But when a protest, hidden behind that appearance of democratic participation, is a carefully orchestrated effort by the government and corporations, to generate a kind of media Trojan horse and exploit ideological allegiance and financial dynamic, then it becomes problematic.
In Seoul, South Korea, a band of seniors in 70s and 80s gathers frequently to attend many demonstrations. Instead of socializing over a hearty meal, playing high-stake bingo, or other recreational activities, they hold their own anti-communist/pro-government demonstrations, and at other times, they show up to counter-demonstrate against progressives or labor unions.
To the public, it may be an encouraging sight of civic participation over reeling back as complacent observers. But this mass of politically engaged seniors has been subject to scrutiny in recent months over the allegations that these were government and corporations engineered rallies.
These elders are members of the Korea Parent Federation (hereinafter “KPF”), a conservative association with extreme right-wing causes. The group’s name is intended to suggest that they are equipped to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the pressings issues concerning South Korea as parent figures.
JTBC 뉴스룸 캡쳐
In the past, the KPF berated attempts to seek truth and demand accountability in connection with the Sewol Ferry sinking tragedy; it supported the state-authored history textbook; it rallied behind for the disbandment of the Korean Teachers and Educational Workers Union; and it praised a landmark agreement between South Korea and Japan to resolve their dispute over Korean “comfort women” who were forced to serve as sex slaves for Japan’s imperial army, when the administration faced a strong backlash for the agreement as nothing but a diplomatic expediency.
Established in 2006, the KPF has a paid-up membership of 1,700, mostly Korean War veterans, including 500 women. Notwithstanding its sizable membership, the members are too well coordinated and too numerous to be mobilizing without running short of funds or outside supervision. The scale reflected a strong suspicion of support from the top, combined with faithfully echoing the administration’s talking points.
Then, last month, aspects of it began to unravel by the weekly magazine Sisa Journal and a media network JTBC, reporting that a significant amount of money was allegedly wired by the Federation of Korean Industries (hereinafter “FKI”), a private pro-business group whose members include a consortium of chaebol – a handful of family-run conglomerates and other heavyweights, to KPF via a defunct Christian missionary agency.
Sisa Journal revealed that, per the KPF’s accounting book, the money was used to recruit 1,259 North Korean defectors, each of whom was paid 20,000 KRW for the day’s work. Then, these defectors were instructed to participate in such rallies to oppose anti-government protests.
JTBC 뉴스룸 캡쳐
According to the same journal, a key KPF official has contended that a Blue House official had ordered the organization to stage a demonstration in the aftermath of the “comfort women” resolution between South Korea and Japan, to push to construct a positive case for them.
Following the media reports, the Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice (CCEJ), a citizens’ movement, has filed a complaint against the FKI on April 21, with the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, alleging violation of the Act on Real Name Financial Transactions and Confidentiality — that is, illicit financial activities.
But, since the filing of the complaint three (3) weeks ago, the state prosecutors have yet to undertake any coordinated efforts to summon and question any suspects or linked individuals.
A spokesman for the opposition Minjoo Party, Park Kwang-on, during his media briefing on May 11, said, “the Park administration appears to be lukewarm at best in dispelling the accusations of funneled money to KPF,” and lodged criticisms at the state prosecutors for less than speedy investigation.
Mr. Park added, “Meanwhile, Choo Sun-hee, the KPF secretary, who most likely holds the key to untying the Gordian knot, has disappeared, and has suspended his cellphone service.” Its implication, if carried to its consistent end, would suggest the inability to track his whereabouts in real time. “There is a growing suspicion over the prosecutor’s invisibility, or what appears to be a stonewalling effort, to stall for time to destroy material evidence and fabricate elements of stories,” said Mr. Park.
Mr. Park went on: “these allegations include, but not limited to, funds sent from the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI), the National Intelligence Service (NIS), and the Blue House. I’m left with no choice but to make outlandish remarks at the prosecutors’ less than prompt damage control,” and urged a swift and accelerated investigation.
The full dimension of this alleged mutual embrace between KPF and these biggest players’ secret campaign to influence and shape media coverage remains at large.