On a “Democratic Integrated Government” — by B.R. Myers

Here’s a thought experiment for my American readers. Imagine it’s 2024. The economy’s in bad shape, and at least half the electorate wants the Democrats thrown out of power. Despite an inept campaign the Republican presidential candidate has the lead in half the polls.

Meanwhile prominent members of his campaign committee publicly blame America’s woes not on the Democrats, but on the presidential system itself. The office is just too powerful, always has been. The German system? Much better.

What’s needed, they say, is a new constitution that would transfer half the White House’s power to Congress. The head of the Republican campaign committee adds that he’d like to see a “democratic integrated government,” with members of both parties in key posts. Then the Republican candidate himself announces he is creating a so-called Power Reform Committee to decide what must be done.

Is your head spinning yet? Now imagine that at the time in question the Democrats have the largest majority of congressional seats in American history.

The above is a transposition of the latest South Korean political developments into American categories. I trust I’ve already written enough about constitutional revision on this blog, and how the desire for it induced the conservative party to turn on Park Geun-hye in 2016.

Yoon Seok-youl shakes hands in November with a cut-out of Kim Dae Jung, whom he described a few days ago as “a saint.” Photograph: News 1 (Nov 2021).

Why would the People Power Party want a weaker president even if he or she is from its own ranks? Because a stronger National Assembly would have more say in key appointments, thus enabling each of the party’s factions to have a turn at the trough.  The key Korean verb here is haemŏkta, literally do-and-eat: to get and patrimonially exploit a post for the benefit of oneself and one’s faction. (Example: “They want to haemŏkta the Justice Ministry.”)

The last time South Korea had a weak president and a strong National Assembly, things fell apart so quickly that right and left initially welcomed the military coup of 1961. The division of power between the president and the prime minister was a big reason why neither fellow put up any resistance, the latter quite literally getting himself to a nunnery. But all that’s forgotten.

The chaebols’ hope for a semi-presidential or semi-parliamentary set-up is easily explained; lawmakers constantly seeking re-election are much less likely to defy them than a strong president who can serve only one 5-year term anyway. But why (you ask) are the conservative media so keen on “integration” after decades of demonizing the left? Because they now make most of their money from their cable TV ventures, which they want to see protected from recurring, ideologically-motivated efforts to shut them down.

Another advantage of “integration” is the depoliticization process that would result, making the electorate increasingly indifferent to public affairs, and giving the power elite an ever freer hand when divvying up goodies and executing policy.

Tourist attraction: the entrance to the Ignorarium

I suppose there’s no point in hoping the Western press will abandon the baleful Luce-TIME tradition of personalizing exotic politics in the simplest terms. But can it perhaps give the disparate family backgrounds of Yoon and Lee a break for a while, and show some interest in these developments? If only for their relevance to everyone’s preferred topic of North Korea?

In negotiations over constitutional revision the Minjoo-held National Assembly would be certain to demand removal or amendment of every article now impeding a “peace system,” i.e. inter-Korean confederation. We also know which key posts the Minjoo would insist upon in an “integrated democratic government”: the intelligence agency, which has always handled all the real work of inter-Korean affairs, and its front organization the Unification Ministry.

I’m sure Kim Jong Un and Xi Jin Ping see much the same advantages in a strengthened National Assembly as the chaebol do. East Germany’s Erich Honecker famously told one of Chancellor Willy Brandt’s officials not to worry about a pending no-confidence vote in the Bundestag; he would make sure his friend stayed in power. Sure enough, two conservative lawmakers were bribed to vote against the measure.

If you’re Kim Jong Un, and you need a man in the Blue House who can wheedle Uncle Sam into an end of war agreement and sanctions relief, you may well consider an ostensibly pro-American fellow on a Minjoo leash preferable to a wayward populist lefty like Lee Jae-myung. Either way this is one election the regime in Pyongyang won’t be losing sleep over.

Source: sthelepress.com

On a “Democratic Integrated Government” — by B.R. Myers