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Member since: Sat Mar 14, 2009, 08:45 PM
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South Korea covid 19 update: Daegu Sincheonji cluster

(Source- Daegu MBC News, 03.08.20, youtube upload)

Here is another late report demonstrating evasion of public health measures by Sincheonji followers:

A cluster of 46 Shincheonji related covid 19 cases was discovered March 8, at the the Han Maeum Apartments in Daegu. Two thirds of cases were reported to be Sincheonji members. The members had been meeting in three separate places ten people at at a time, spreading the infection. Two of the Shincheonji persons were confirmed cases who violated health regulations by not following directions from health officials to quarantine themselves. 9 of the cluster cases had to be hospitalized. Others were moved to an intermediate care center for quarantine, observation and treatment. (Source is MBC News, 3/8/20) The Daegu authorities had given notice that any Sincheonji who haven't yet turned themselves in for examination by tomorrow will be prosecuted.

(Source- Daegu MBC News, 03.08.20, youtube upload)

Daegu public health officials announced that their investigation of Shincheonji members as potential carriers of the Covid 19 virus was "95 percent complete." For the time being the rate of increase in the number of Daegu area corona virus cases seems to be slowing as shown by the graphic above. But for the Sincheonji cluster at the Maeum Apartment complex, the increase in cases today would have been significantly lower.

(Source- YTN News O3.08.20 youtube upload )

So out of 7,134 cases at the start of the day 3.8, cases near the Shincheonji clusters in Daegu and Gyeongbukdo, are 5,381 and 1,081 respectively. This is 90 percent of all cases in South Korea. The cases officially determined to be connected to the cult, directly or indirectly at this point by public health authorities is said to be 63 percent.

Political impact of the Daegu-Gyeongbuk covid 19 cluster (South Korea)

(Source- JTBC 2.24) The overwhelming majority of cases in South Korea are centered in the Daegu-Gyeongbuk area. Daegu, economically and socially is an integral part of Gyeongsanbukdo (province) although a separate administrative region. Of the 833 confirmed cases of covid 19 today, a total of 682 come from this area (484+198). 82 percent of all cases in South Korea. The cluster of cases here have been confirmed overwhelmingly, (75%) directly or indirectly, to be associated with the Sincheonchi activities at its Daegu Church or Daenam hospital.

The Sincheonchi organization has declared it is in cooperation with the government public health effort to contain the covid 19 epidemic. A representative of the organization deplored the hate and discrimination it said it was experiencing as a result of recent events. Yet, As of news reports a several hours ago, the Sincheonchi cult organization in Seoul was uncooperative in providing a complete list of their members in Seoul, Korea. The cult organization there was being encouraged in their resistance to lawful public health measures by the charlatan minister, Jeon Kwang-hoon, who leads the unrelated Korean Christian Conference and directed the unlawful "Taegukki" (Korean flag) demonstration in Gwanghwamun last weekend. After the imposition of a state of emergency by the national government in South Korea, warrants will be sought against the Sincheonchi organisation for the relevant information needed for epidemiological tracking. Assemblies of persons in Gwangwhamun and other large public plazas in Seoul are now declared illegal for public health reasons. A group of persons said to be representing Daegu was present at the Kanghwamun plaza demonstration this weekend. The mayor of Seoul, Park Won-soon, confronted the entire gathered assembly personally as to the unlawful nature of the gathering in light of the public health emergency. He was booed and hissed.

Source- 미디어몽구 Media Mongul (youtube) 2.22. Minister Jeon Kwang-hoon waving US flag at Gwanghwamun Plaza as he addresses unlawful demonstration.

In public statements on the radio, yesterday, the mayor warned that police would blockade the public venues on February 29 when another Taegukki assembly led by the demogogue minister and his far right acolytes is anticipated. A confrontation is to be expected in which physical force would become a likely outcome to remove and disperse unlawful demonstrators violating the new health ban. Nominally, the Sincheonchi and Jeon Kwang-hoon are antagonistic to each other. Jeon Kwang-hoon is goading the Sincheonchi not to cooperate with the government, as well as his own followers. The mayor stated he suspected Jeon was not in his right mind.

If one views the entire situation in context, with the upcoming April 15 elections; US pressure on South Korea to cough up additional billions for defense cost sharing; the continuing thousands of far right demonstrators and Jeon himself, in Gwanghwamoon waving their US flags a stones throw from the US embassy building; the encouragement of resistance to public health measures by the religious right appears to be a concerted effort to take advantage of the public health crisis in South Korea to unseat the democratically elected administration of Moon Jae-in.

DongA.com reported this morning that Minister Jeon was arrested on grounds of violating South Korean election campaign laws.

Seoul- Right wing demonstrators violate emergency health ban

(Source- YTN News 2.22) Thousands of right wing demonstrators in Seoul at Gwanghwamun plaza creating a potential threat to public health. The government administration worries it may result in another cluster of covid 19 cases similar to the New Heaven and Earth outbreak in Daegu and Gyeongbukdo.

(Source- YTN News 2.22) The mayor of Seoul, Park Won-soon with microphone.

The mayor of Seoul, Park Won-soon, personally confronted far right wing Christian fundamentalists and Taegukki members in Gwanghwamun Plaza today for violating the new health restrictions on assembly there. The mayor requested that the crowd of demonstrators exercise self restraint and leave the plaza. The Taegukki members carried their organization's flags and the christian fundamentalists opposing Moon Jae-in carried Taegukki's and US flags. They jeered and booed the democratic party mayor.

(Source- YTN News 2.22) Minister Jeon Kwang-hoon on the flat screen.

Minister Jeon Kwang-hoon, the leader and organizer of the Taegukki demonstrations, said even if he caught the covid 19 virus, he'd still be a patriot. The mayor had apparently determined not to physically force evacuation of the demonstration although police were deployed in substantial numbers. Police posted notices of the illegality of the assembly, and participants were advised by loudspeaker of the fines for violation of the law. The mayor appealed to the crowd to cooperate with authorities in an attempt to control the outbreak of the virus.

In related news, Son Hak-kyu, representative of the center-right bareun mirae party, called for consideration of postponement of April 15 general elections due to the epidemic. At the same time far right groups ignore the new public health ban on assemblies of persons in public plazas in Seoul. At present the Blue House is not considering postponement of the general election. According to the YTN broadcast, such a postponement, by law, is the prerogative of the president in the event of natural disaster which precludes the elections as scheduled. Regardless of circumstances, such a development would be subject to political blow back. Inevitably to be used as evidence of the far right claim that President Moon is a dictator and the tool of the communist north. Other parties might view a postponement of the election as advantageous or not depending on their situations. The analysts on the YTN program felt that the administration still had time to see how the course of the contagion proceeded before being forced whether to consider such a measure.

South Korea: Island State

(Source- VOA News, 2.18)

The night time photo of the peninsula is used to emphasize the backward nature of North Korea's economy and the superiority of the free countries. Secretary Pompeo used this graphic in his recent Munich Security Conference presentation. Yet, at the same time the photo demonstrates how complete the separation of North and South Korea is. South Korea is, because of that separation, reduced to an island state cut off from it's historical land connections to the continent of Asia. This is in keeping with the US and Japanese "island strategy" to contain China's expanding influence and military power. I don't think it could be more vividly demonstrated.

Secretary of Defense Esper's presentation at the Munich Security Conference, on March 15, emphasized the Chinese threat:

"I continue to stress to my friends in Europe -- and just this past week again at the NATO Defense Ministerial in Brussels -- that America's concerns about Beijing's commercial and military expansion should be their concerns as well," Esper said.*

*World must 'wake up to the challenges presented by China,' says Defense Secretary
By Vivian Salama, CNN, Updated 6:59 AM ET, Sat February 15, 2020

The current South Korean administration is really not all that interested in US anti-China policies.

(Source- VOA News, 2.18) Thae bows to Hwang Kyo-ahn, former prime minister for Park Geun-hye's Saenuri Party, and titular leader of the right wing Liberty Korea Party. Both of the opposition candidates are currently running for National Assembly seats.

In the same program, Thae Yong-ho's right wing Liberty Korea Party election campaign announcement received tacit US promotion and endorsement in the guise of another North Korean cyber hacking news item. Thae will apparently be seeking a district seat in the April 15 general election in South Korea. He is a former North Korean embassy official who defected in 2016. VOA reported that Thae's hand phone, among others, had been hacked by North Korea. Clearly portions of this particular broadcast included thinly veiled interference in South Korean domestic politics by the VOA.

The new W76-2 low-yield Trident submarine warhead and North Korea?

William Arkin, one of the authors of the FAS article on the new “tactical” warhead on a strategic nuclear missile (which doesn’t make any sense) appeared on the Democracy Now program. He made it clear the new nuclear weapon is more likely to be targeted at North Korea or Iran.* Firing such a weapon at Russia makes no sense at all. Arkin explores the convoluted logic of theories related to such a limited nuclear attack on Russian targets in the article.

*US Deploys New Low-Yield Nuclear Submarine Warhead
Posted on Jan.29, 2020 in Nuclear Weapons, Russia, United States by Hans M. Kristensen
By William M. Arkin* and Hans M. Kristensen

It's quite likely that a target of the new "tactical" nuclear warhead on the submarine launched ballistic missile is North Korea. The weapon appears to be specifically designed to destroy a deeply hardened target in a tactical environment. The US conventional military tactic of “decapitation” of North Korean leadership has been discussed openly in South Korean media in recent years. It never seemed practical, a special operations tactic to resolve a strategic problem.*

*Shin In-Kyun describes North Korean attack scenarios, May 1, 2019

Some expert observers of North Korea regardless of their political persuasion regarded the "bloody nose," or any conventional military attack on North Korea as completely "off the table." Potentially, the new Trident low yield nuclear weapon is being deployed for the same decapitation mission. Yet, it looks as if the new Trident warhead would elicit the very response from North Korea that it's use is allegedly designed to preclude, a barrage of ballistic missiles on friendly targets. The unreasonable response one could anticipate from the North Korea leadership, in reaction to a limited "tactical" nuclear attack by the US wouldn’t conform, to the logic or illogic if you prefer, of US nuclear game theory. Coincidentally, authoritative sources emphasized that the US carrier strike force recently deployed to the Indo-Pacific had an ABM mission as there are multiple aegis equipped surface warships associated with the carrier.*

*Korean focus on Carrier Strike Group deployment? Jan. 23, 2020

Additionally, General John E. Hyten, Vice Chairman, JCS, made a widely circulated public statement about that time that he had 100 percent confidence in the strike force’s ability to deal with North Korean missile threats. The presentation of a potential first strike by a low yield nuclear weapon combined with a highly effective ABM capability suggests in the case of North Korea, a scenario, where a first strike, such as a decapitation strike, could be undertaken with confidence, if not impunity. This is not the case, because the irregular trajectories and terminal guidance of several of the North Korean short range ballistic missiles fired last year presented detection and tracking problems for the US, South Korea and Japan. This was the observation of media military and intelligence analysts in South Korea, which exacerbated concerns about the temporary South Korean withdrawal from GSOMIA, an intelligence sharing agreement among the three countries directed exactly at just such a threat. For those who may consider discussion of this scenario off base, keep in mind recent events involving the assassination of General Soleimani, which was a type of decapitation mission, and then the apparent absence of any effective defense against the subsequent Iranian ballistic missile barrage. These nominally unrelated events reflect national security thinking in Washington, D.C. and are intended to convey a message to North Korea.

In any case, if one were to consider the response from North Korea due to a “decapitation” attack with a small yield weapon like the W-76-2, let’s assume it succeeds with the precision and accuracy the new weapons are believed to have. Then in the aftermath of such an attack there remains a nuclear armed North Korea with unknown military commanders in unknown bunkers deciding what the response, if any, should be. Perhaps following US game theory they would decline to escalate the nuclear conflict. Or perhaps they wouldn’t. On the other hand, if the location of the bunker, or Kim Jong Un, was not precisely ascertained, and consequently the chairman or his successor survived, even for only for a brief time, a question arises about what would happen at that point. If one considers the desperation of the moment, the uncertainty, the confusion, and the likelihood of total destruction at the hands of the US military's vastly superior nuclear forces, what is the likely reaction of the North Korean leader? This thought arises, “Even though futilely suicidal, would he not respond in kind with nuclear armed ballistic missiles capable of reaching US bases in the region, where US and allied forces and command and control elements were plainly vulnerable?” Is this not in fact, exactly what would occur, given the ideological basis of North Korean communist doctrine and its self conscious role as the sacrificial victim of great power imperialism? Does the current deployment of US anti-ballistic missile forces in the region really give 100 percent assurance that this wouldn't be an effective response?

Conclusion, a “decapitation” attack with a “smaller” tactical nuclear warhead by the US would likely eventuate in a series of nuclear weapons detonating in the region.

Electoral Reform Law Passes in South Korean National Assembly

(Image source- JTBC News 12.27)

The number of seats determined by district elections to seats in the National Assembly is the same as the prior election 253 seats. The number of seats determined by proportional representation is also the same 47 seats. However, the old (Hare) method is applied to 17 of the 47 seats. A new method of selecting proportional representation is applied to 30 of the 47 seats. An interlocking restriction of 50 percent is applied to proportional allocation of the seats to prevent the emergence of "excess seats." It is believed that the reform will most disadvantage the largest parties, namely the ruling Democratic Party and the main opposition party, the Liberty Korea Party, in the upcoming April 15, 2020 election for the National Assembly. The LKP has already registered a satellite party with the election commission in an attempt to field a minor party list which might benefit from the calculations and circumvent limitations in the proportional representation reform law.

(Image source- JTBC News 12.27)

The graphic above is a hypothetical projection of the results of the new fast track electoral reform law passed today in the Korean National Assembly, calculated with numbers from the 2016 general election. Note that some of the parties have changed in their composition since then, particularly the People's Party. So in this simulation, the Democratic Party loses 8 seats and the Liberty Korea Party loses 10. The People's Party (hypothetically) would gain 13 seats and the Justice Party would gain 5. Theoretically, this 13 seat gain would primarily acrue to the Barunmirae Party, the principal offspring of the People's Party in existence now. It is no coincidence that the Barunmirae Party and the Justice Party were the biggest supporters of the electoral reform and had to be cajoled by the Democratic Party to accept a compromise which downsized the proportional representation from 75 seats, as originally proposed, to 47 seats. Another significant aspect of the reform is the lowering of the age to vote to 18 years.

The exact nature and mechanics of all the new changes in the electoral reform law are hard to find. Past discussions of electoral reform changes have included the notion of regional proportionality in representation as opposed to a simple national proportionality. The details of those determinations and their mechanics are not clear as yet. In response to questions, the Justice Party floor leader said "the people don't need to know how it works," believe it or not. One wonders how many journalists actually do know how it works at this point. In the original reform proposal, representation in regional seats more than 30 percent of the total for the region, would limit supplemental proportionate representation. Naturally, this would adversely affect the largest parties.

(Source: YTN News, 12.28) Happening again, "animal National Assembly." The speaker of the assembly's platform is occupied (by a "human wall" of Liberty Korea Party representatives); a physical fight is ongoing. Speaker Moon center being physically assaulted by members of the Liberty Korea Party attempting to stall the passage of the electoral reform bill.

There will be two votes on the ballot in each district, one vote for the candidate to represent the district among the 253 district representative seats. The second vote to select a preferred party list nominating candidates for proportional representation. One thing is for certain, the LKP has been adamantly opposed to the fast track reform of the electoral system but it passed today anyway, in spite of all their illegal demonstrations, violence, threats, and physical intimidation outside the Assembly, and obstruction even inside the National Assembly itself today. LKP threats of a filibuster notwithstanding, the legislation passed. Now only the fast track prosecutorial reform bill is pending. Again this in the face of LKP stonewalling, demonstrations, and threats of filibuster. During the acrimony and disorder in the Assembly today, catcalling from the LKP represenatives was met with one telling response from a Democratic Party member, "we'll see how you do in the next election." The desperation of the far right party is palpable.

South Korea: LKP Thugs Threaten National Assembly

(Source- 닥쳐라정치, 12.16 ) Hwang Kyo-ahn, Liberty Korea Party leader, heads an unlawful demonstration of unruly right wing followers obstructing the entrance to the South Korean National Assembly Building.

(Source- JTBC News, 12.16) Hwang Kyo-ahn stands front and center of a group gathered unlawfully under LKP direction in front of the National Assembly building in Seoul, Korea.

Ambassador Harris, has signaled the US preference for the militarists on the far right in South Korea. The US flags at this unlawful Liberty Korea Party demonstration trespassing on the National Assembly grounds are their symbol of US bona fides. Their thuggish tactics at the democratic seat of government in South Korea are a political disgrace. The trespassers and bullies in front of the National Assembly building aim to shut down the National Assembly because they don't believe in democratic government. The fascist right is out of power and now an element of the opposition. They lost power when Park Geun-hye was impeached in April 2017. There was almost a military coup then imposed by martial law to derail the impeachment and trial of the now imprisoned Park Geun-hye. There appears to be the possibility of a coup now. It's safe to speculate that reactionary right wing governments in the US and Japan would have no problem with that.

Some of the fascist thugs in this crowd being encouraged to fight by the LKP leader Hwang Kyo-ahn allegedly assaulted some thirty members of the Democratic Party trying to go to work inside the assembly building. Hwang encouraged the trespassers, "we're winning. Thank you for your efforts." A former governor of Gyeonggido addressed the group telling them to not feel uncomfortable approaching the Assembly building because it was "their home" and that they should "make themselves comfortable." Demonstrating within a hundred meters of the National Assembly building is unlawful. The crowd also vandalized the reserved parking spaces for specific members of the Assembly, including the Speaker of the Assembly and the leader of the Democratic Party. The right wing supporters of the LKP and Hwang forced their way through the front gates of the grounds ostensibly protected by the police guards there. A small number of demonstrators forced themselves into the building and became involved in a melee.

This is not a popular rebellion, it is groundwork being laid for martial law and a right wing coup d'etat. It's purpose is to create an atmosphere of intimidation and anarchy. The crowd is interfering with the functions of the National Legislature in a unlawful manner and directly threatening members of the Assembly that they don't like and have targeted for intimidation. Hwang had been criticized in the past by his base for not executing martial law in March or early April 2017 when the plans were in place Now he seems to be approaching the moment when he can be the man to trigger such an outcome, or at least create the circumstances where such an action can be entertained and rationalized.

This crowd wasn't that big. There is a cadre of political operatives running it supported by younger athletic men who know exactly what they are doing when they make physical contact with police and assault others.

This is a militarist right wing movement with christian evangelical support that arose out of the prior dictatorships and the prior corrupt administrations of Lee Myung-bak, and Park Geun-hye. Their goal is to overthrow the constitutionally elected government by obstructing its activities with unlawful methods including force. As predicted earlier here, the tactics take on the same characteristics as the movement in Hong Kong. The occupation of the legislative grounds and building was unprecedented. If a larger better equipped and directed police force is not present in the future, we can expect normal governance to cease in South Korea.

The parties of the left, center, and center right in South Korea need to close ranks and govern with resolve or they and their democracy will be destroyed.

US-North Korea: Maximum Pressure Leading to Maximum Failure?

The obstacle to progress in denuclearization negotiations with North Korea is still the fundamental confrontation over the step by step method versus the all or nothing, no concessions, no trust building approach favored by US officials, and the national security establishment. Most Korea "experts" inside the beltway echo chamber just refuse to acknowledge this fundamental shortcoming in the US diplomatic approach which is first a process issue, and then secondarily a matter of great substantial importance. Either that, or they just want regime change in North Korea and can't imagine bargaining with the communist dictatorship under any circumstances other than complete capitulation by the North, often referred to as the Libyan approach.

"Sanctions have reached a point of diminishing returns. It is unlikely, therefore, that more “maximum pressure,” without a diplomatic strategy that offers Pyongyang positive inducements to negotiate steps toward denuclearization, will deliver results."
Richard Nephew

Furious Futility: Maximum Pressure in 2020
NOVEMBER 15, 2019

Town said North Korea has previously indicated a willingness to give up parts of its nuclear program as a first-phase deal, but not to discuss complete denuclearization up front.

“The North Koreans have always preferred a step by step approach rather than negotiating everything all at once,” Town said.
Jenny Town, editor of 38North.org

North Korea's U.N. envoy says denuclearization off negotiating table with United States
Michelle Nichols, David Brunnstrom Dec. 7, 2019

This is also the procedural approach favored by Russia, China, and South Korea.

SEOUL - A senior adviser to South Korea's president expressed a broad range of frustrations at U.S. policy toward North Korea, saying Washington has not adequately empowered Seoul to play a mediating role with Pyongyang.

In an interview with VOA, Jeong Se-Hyun, who advises South Korean President Moon Jae-in on unification issues, also said the U.S. should offer more incentives to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

"Don't act as if you're offering a carrot while really you are using a stick," said Jeong. "North Korea must first be given carrots. Then if that doesn't work, you use a whip."

As North Korea's Deadline Approaches, South Pushes US for Progress
By William Gallo VOA News December 01, 2019 10:04 AM

Achieving security and stability and reducing catastrophic risks on the peninsula will require intensive, expert-level negotiations and comprehensive, step-by-step implementation over many months and years. This broader effort cannot be viewed solely as a bilateral U.S.-North Korean discussion. It also must include China, South Korea, Japan, and Russia and address the security and political concerns of all the parties, including economic and humanitarian matters.

Economic, military, and diplomatic pressure helped bring the North Koreans to the table, but reaching a successful agreement will require carrots as well as sticks.
Ernst J. Moniz and Sam Nunn

Lynn Rusten and Richard Johnson with Steve Andreasen and Hayley Anne Severance, Building Security Through Cooperation: Report of the NTI Working Group on Cooperative Threat Reduction with North Korea (Washington, DC: Nuclear Threat Initiative, 2019), 2, https://media.nti.org/documents/NTI_DPRK2019_RPT_FNL.pdf. (from the forward by Ernst J. Moniz and Sam Nunn)

South Korea: LKP Executive Committee rejects Na Kyung-won as Assembly floor leader

(Source- JTBC News, 12.4) Na Kyung-won, LKP floor leader in the National Assembly. "Today at the regular session, I will not question the matter of my term extension. Floor leader Na Kyung-won's foot steps stop here."

The Executive Committee of the right wing Liberty Korea Party earlier today after an all night long conference, voted not to renew Na Kyung-won's position as the Floor Leader of the opposition party in the National Assembly. It appears the conference where the decision took place was in a tent outside the Blue House grounds where LKP leader and former Prime Minister, Hwang Kyo-Ahn, had been conducting his "hunger strike" until he gave that up last week. However after he left the hospital he returned to the scene of his demonstration where his followers and supporters waited.

At the opening of the National Assembly this morning, Na somewhat bitterly, announced she would respect the decision of the LKP Executive Committee, and not take a further step as the party floor leader. This "in order to ensure the good of the people and the unity of the party." There is a storm of indignation and criticism within the Liberty Korea Party at the step taken by the so called "pro Hwang faction" in the Executive Committee. Expressions of resistance, public, private and on line to the committee's resolution was plentiful. LKP members of the National Assembly questioned the authority of the party committee to make such a decision, and maintained it was the prerogative of sitting LKP National Assembly members. Further, some felt that the committee was without authority to make such a determination when the new session of the National Assembly was not yet convened pending elections in April.

(Source- JTBC News, 11.20) Liberty Korea Party leader, Hwang Kyo-ahn on a hunger strike in front of the Blue House grounds.

The future of the right wing opposition party is in doubt at a critical time in South Korean history as the rift between Hwang and Na breaks out into the open. One wonders what Na and Hwang discussed when she visited his tent in front of the Blue House grounds after returning from her recent US visit. That the Executive Committee's action might portend the end of the Liberty Korea Party as we know it, was a fear expressed publicly by some members. One LKP assembly member openly criticized Hwang's hunger strike affecting a pose as a party reformer, attempting to sanctify the party. His head shaving and fasting reminiscent of traditional ascetic protests, previously used by revered left leaning reformers such as Kim Dae-jung who opposed the prior military dictatorships of South Korea. The omnipresence of Christian conference leaders and their followers at Hwang's demonstration are an indication of where the base of former impeached President Park's predecessor Saenuri party lay.

Hwang's holier than thou effect, is an implied but unexpressed contrast to the alleged corruption and hypocrisy of Na Kyung-won's effort to use her political position during the Lee Myung-bak presidency to obtain her daughter's admission to college. This is the very same type of behavior that was used to drive the former democratic party justice minister from power only several weeks ago. I asked three weeks ago in a previous analysis, how long would Na last?*

*Conservative LKP Leader Na Kyung-won on the Ropes? November 14, 2019

The internal criticism of the Executive Committee's action by Na's supporters within the LKP suggests that Hwang has privatized the party, making it his personal domain, betraying "the interests of the people." Na had just recently declared an all out legislative confrontation with the ruling coalition in the National Assembly by carrying out a filibuster to block all pending legislation before the end of the legislative session unless the proposed fast track reform bills were set aside by the Democratic Party. Democratic Party leaders are attempting to devise a strategy in conjunction with three small minority parties to nullify the filibuster. One tactic would be to declare an end to the regular session next week followed immediately by an extraordinary sesssion of the National Assembly to pass all pending legislation. Filibusters are not allowed in extraordinary session. So the looming constitutional crisis continues. It was hoped on the right that the left would be the victim, but it appears the right may crack first under the pressure.

Hwang Kyo-ahn's hunger strike enters day 6

Hwang Kyo-ahn's hunger strike passes the six day mark. He's got a relatively small crowd of supporters, mostly religious and far right types setting up tents and making noise all day and night outside the Blue House in violation of various laws. There is a similar but smaller group outside the National Assembly. Two things could possibly happen, one, a police dispersal which could become a source of violence. The second could be the death of Hwang Kyo-ahn, the right wing leader, using the tactics of the left and occupy to attempt to thwart the fast track legislative reform legislation that will damage his party's prospects in the next election cycle. Na Kyung-won has been visiting Hwang in his tent in front of the Blue House. After the extension of the GSOMIA agreement, Hwang's hunger strike, had the appearance of some efficacy. An occupy like demonstration has emerged near the Blue House, that is reportedly in violation of different proscriptions, the first a security zone around the Blue House perimeter which Hwang's tent and the assembly nearby apparently violate. The second a violation of noise restrictions in the area. The third a violation of "anti-gypsy" proscriptions which disallow squatting or erecting quarters on public grounds for overnight occupation. The demonstrators claim there is an overriding Constitutional guarantee of political expression which protects them. Some critics dispute this. Hearing a debate on this subject, it appeared that time, place and manner restrictions are not a thing on the right for these purposes. There are similar concerns surrounding a related squatter type operation around the National Assembly grounds.

Moon Jae-in has been out of town the last few days for the ASEAN conference which Seoul is hosting in Pusan. The legal and political dilemna on the plaza and streets in front of the Blue House is apparently being handled by Blue House staff and other party leaders in his absence. Thus far, they have acted with great restraint unwilling to paint the disingenuous Hwang as a "patriotric martyr for the cause," as is portrayed on the new jackets worn by the occupiers in the streets. These squatters and their tents festooned with numerous US flags. Even if the legal grounds exist to disperse them, it would be likely to escalate into an undesirable situation. Thus far, Democratic party leaders have merely asked Hwang to have his followers leave voluntarily. Police have placed notices on the tents of their illegal status suggesting they may be removed by official action. One wonders how long this fiasco will go on.

Placards, banners and signs at demonstrators' scene, say Moon Jae-in is a communist, that he is a dictator ruining the country, that he should step down, etc. Moon's defenders point out that the incredible restraint shown by police is merely evidence of Moon's substantial resume as a defender of human rights and the principles of democracy.
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