The article makes the point that Roh’s unpopularity has little to do with the North Korean issue, which people across the political spectrum recognize as intractable for any political party. The primary issue is the economy, but the article also argues that the reason the economy has come so sharply into focus is that Roh has been largely successful at what he was elected to do: give greater independence to prosecutors in pursuing corruption, stop using tax collectors and intelligence agencies for political ends, and push democratization forward.
Now voters want to use their enhanced democracy to vote for someone else. They’re frustrated by high real estate and education costs, stagnating wages, high unemployment, and President Roh’s fixation despite all this on ideological issues such as collaboration during the Japanese occupation.
What will all this mean for my little corner of the South Korean government? Hard to say, except that I hope a focus on the economy will mean we can at last get some cost-of-living raises.
I do think the article is salutary, however, for making it clear just how little the internal politics of South Korea have to do with the issues Americans associate with the country. This should be a reminder that the politics in most countries is not primarily about us, but about them. Iraqi factions are almost certainly more interested in the politics of their country and region than in our midterm elections, and spikes in violence shouldn’t be read as secret coded messages to us. The Iranian election of Ahmadinejad and the Palestinian election of Hamas likewise were not gestures of defiance aimed at America, but political calculations based on an intimate concern with the politics of those respective countries. Sometimes, an election is just an election.