Der Wahlkampf in Südkorea scheint begonnen zu haben, zumal unter eskalierenden Spannungen zwischen Nord- und Südkorea. Nun ein Skandal um die Frist Lady wegen einer Dior- Tasche. .Ein US-koreanischer Pfarrer , (scheinbar mal nicht von der Unification Church der Moonies oder doch?) als Lockvogel mit geheimer Kamera bei der First Lady und scheinbar die linke Opposition als Correctiv in Südkorea. Vielleicht für eine neue Sonnenscheinpolitik? Geht auch um die Frage der Wiedervereinigung und Nordkoreapolitik. Nordkorea hatte ja zuletzt erklärt, dass es an dieser angesichts der zunehmenden Spannungen nicht mehr interessiert sei. Wer weiß?
Sat, Jan 27, 2024 page13
- The first lady and the Dior bag: the scandal shaking up South Korean politics
With a general election just months away, the party of president Yoon Suk Yeol is in crisis after his wife was accused of improperly accepting a designer handbag
- By Raphael Rashid / The Guardian, Seoul
- South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol and his wife Kim Keon Hee last month walk during a ceremony in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
- Photo: Reuters
It reads like a complex K-drama plot. South Korea’s first lady is secretly filmed as she’s presented with a lavish gift from a pastor who advocates for unification with North Korea. But this is no scripted narrative, rather a real political crisis that has plunged South Korea’s conservative government into disarray.
With elections for the country’s national assembly less than three months away, South Korean media is awash with accusations and recriminations — all of which stem from the alleged gift of a Dior handbag more than a year ago.
The turmoil began with a meeting between Korean-American pastor Choi Jae-young and Kim Keon Hee, the wife of president Yoon Suk Yeol.
Choi has a history of engagement with the North and has visited the communist country several times to conduct prayers at Pyongyang’s handful of state-operated churches.
He says he was motivated by a desire to “share advice” on matters related to unification with the current administration, and so approached first lady Kim, cultivating a relationship with her which culminated in a one-on-one meeting in 2022, just months after her husband became president.
ABUSE OF POWER?
During this meeting, Choi claims that he overheard Kim engaged in a phone conversation which touched upon sensitive state affairs. Alarmed by the nature of the alleged discussion, he decided to secretly record their next meeting, employing a spy camera concealed within a wristwatch.
Accusations of abuse of power are no laughing matter in South Korea: the former conservative president, Park Geun-hye, was impeached and imprisoned for corruption, before being pardoned by her successor.
It was during the course of Choi’s second meeting with Kim that he purportedly presented her with a Dior bag valued at 3 million won (US$2,240). Both the bag and the concealed camera were provided by the left-leaning news site Voice of Seoul, which is known for its staunch opposition to the Yoon government.
Voice of Seoul released the video at the end of November. In it, the first lady is seen in discussion with Choi who tells Kim that he’s brought a present, to which she replies “Why do you keep purchasing such items? Please don’t buy such expensive things.”
Although the transfer of the Dior bag to Kim is not apparent, it continues to be placed on the table in her presence.
Speaking to foreign media, Choi said he was purely driven by the public’s right to know about alleged corruption. He claims that he messaged Kim in advance, notifying her that he was bringing the bag and that there were no attempts to refuse it or return it later.
The potential legal repercussions are ambiguous: anti-graft laws prohibit a public official’s spouse from receiving gifts worth more than 1 million won (US$748) in one sitting, but this must be “in connection with the duties of the public official.”
At the same time, Choi himself is facing criticism from supporters of the president who say the ploy is an attempt to influence the election.
The Guardian could not independently verify the video or Choi’s claims, however the anti-corruption agency said it was investigating the case. To date, there has been no official statement from the presidential office.
CONTROVERSIAL FIRST LADY
Kim Keon Hee is no stranger to controversy, having weathered a series of allegations, including plagiarism concerning her academic writings, resume-padding and accusations of stock manipulation.
The controversies have proven a headache and a source of embarrassment for her husband. Earlier in January, Yoon vetoed a bill that would have authorized a special investigation into his wife’s alleged involvement in stock manipulation.
With South Korea’s general election scheduled for April 10, both major political parties are going all out to secure support. Neither party enjoys significant public favor, and both sides are grappling with their own internal power struggles. It’s within this context that the emerging handbag scandal could not have come at a worse time for the country’s deeply unpopular president.
In a poll released by a local news channel, 69 percent of respondents said Yoon needs to explain his position regarding the controversy around the first lady. Another poll in December showed 53 percent of respondents believe Kim acted inappropriately, while 27 percent said she was caught in a trap set up to embarrass her.
“It is a political bombshell,” said Rhee Jong-hoon, a political analyst. “The Kim Keon Hee risks are only going to get bigger.”
Loyalists of the president have dismissed the bag scandal as a smear campaign. But some members of his ruling People Power party have advocated for an apology and the party’s interim leader, Han Dong-hoon, has acknowledged that the controversy might be “a matter of public concern.”
Last week Han — who until recently served as justice minister and was widely regarded as Yoon’s closest aide — stated that while the Dior bag scandal was a “planned set-up using a spy camera … there were several misdeeds in handling the issues.”
Tension between Yoon’s office and his party threatened to boil over last week when a senior member likened the situation to the notoriety of Marie Antoinette, the French Queen known for her profligacy.
With apparent disagreement on how to handle the problem at the top of the ruling party, the internal disarray came to a head on Sunday, when senior members of Yoon’s office met with Han and suggested he resign. Han refused.
The unfolding drama is not going down well with major conservative media who are typically sympathetic to the president, with the upheaval being described as a potential “risk” for the ruling party in the run-up to the elections.
“As long as it is true that first lady Kim received a luxury bag, she cannot escape the criticism of the people. If President Yoon had apologized from the beginning … things would not have escalated to this extent,” the influential Chosun Ilbo said in an editorial on Tuesday.
“He didn’t, and the problem has now reached the worst possible situation.”
Scheinbar scheint man in Japan nicht nur einen Trump-Putin-Deal in der Ukraine zu befürchten. Sondern bei Trumps Wiederwahl auch einen Trump- Xi- Deal. Asashi Shimbum und andere Japaner überlegen, wie man Tump davon abbringen könnte- unter anderem mit einem japanischen golfspielenden Diplomaten, der ihm Honig ums Maul streicht und bei Golf gewinnen lässt. Obwohl Trump die NATO schon mal für „obsolet“ erklärte, von Multilateralismus, multilateralen Organisationen oder Freihandelszonen nichts hält at er aber am Quad bisher noch festgehalten. Vielleicht entscheidet sich dies aber auch nah Tageslaune beim Golfspielen.Man darf gespannt sein, wer der sich zurückhaltende Tiger Woods unter den japanischen Diploamten sein wird.
Japan’s message for Donald Trump: Don’t cut a deal with China
February 2, 2024 at 13:21 JST
Former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump acts confused on stage as he impersonates U.S. President Joe Biden during a campaign event, in Clinton, Iowa, on Jan. 6. (Reuters)
Japan, America’s closest ally in Asia, has been trying to send a message to U.S. presidential hopeful Donald Trump: Don’t try to strike any deal with China that could upend years of collective efforts to rein in Beijing and risk the region’s fragile peace.
Tokyo has stepped up attempts to engage with people close to Trump in recent weeks, as the 77-year-old’s victories in Republican primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire have seen him emerge in some polls as the frontrunner in November’s presidential election.
The outreach – detailed in interviews with six Japanese officials, much of it previously unreported – comes as Prime Minister Fumio Kishida prepares for an April state visit to the U.S. at President Joe Biden’s invitation.
Japan’s endeavors have included dispatching a senior ruling-party figure to try to meet Trump, and engagement by Japanese diplomats with think tanks and former U.S. officials aligned with Trump, three of the officials said.
Top of Tokyo’s worry list is that if Trump returns to power he may seek some kind of trade or security deal between the world’s top two economies that could undermine recent efforts by the Group of Seven (G-7) wealthy nations to counter China, according to the six officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity.
Trump, who reached a trade agreement with Beijing in 2019 that later expired, has not mentioned any potential deal with China during his campaign for the 2024 nomination.
The Japanese officials said they had no specific knowledge of Trump’s plans, but they based their concerns on his public comments and actions during his 2017-2021 term, in which he eschewed some multilateral cooperation, defended his relationships with authoritarian leaders such as China’s Xi Jinping, and unsuccessfully sought a nuclear deal with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Two Japanese foreign ministry officials said they fear that Trump may be prepared to weaken U.S. support for nearby Taiwan in pursuit of a deal with China. They said such a move could embolden Beijing, which claims Taiwan and has not ruled out seizing the island by force.
A Trump aide told Reuters that no recent meetings have taken place between Trump and Japanese officials. They would not comment further.
Asked in an interview with Fox News in July 2023 whether the U.S. should help defend Taiwan if it means going to war with China, Trump said: “If I answer that question, it will put me in a very bad negotiating position. With that being said, Taiwan did take all of our chip business. We used to make our own chips. Now they’re made in Taiwan.”
Tokyo also worries that Trump may again hit Japan with protectionist trade measures such as tariffs on steel and revive demands for it to pay more toward the cost of stationing U.S. forces in the country, according to the six Japanese officials.
Japan’s outreach is part of a pre-emptive approach to understand whether these issues would likely resurface, and to convey Tokyo’s positions, two of the officials said. Trump said this week that, if elected, he would block the planned $14.9 billion acquisition of U.S. Steel by Japan’s Nippon Steel .
In a statement, Japan’s foreign ministry said it was “watching the U.S. presidential election with great interest”, while noting bipartisan U.S. commitment to the U.S.-Japan alliance.
Ado Machida, a Tokyo-based businessman who served in Trump’s transition team after his 2016 election victory, said Japanese officials were eager to connect with his former boss.
“If he is going to cut a deal with China, Japan needs to try and get ahead of the curve and understand its potential role to support its interests in both the U.S. and in China,” said Machida.
The Chinese and Taiwanese foreign ministries both said they would work closely with the U.S. regardless of the election outcome.
Late Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe was the first foreign leader to meet Trump after his 2016 victory. The pair went on to form a close relationship, forged over hours on the golf course, that helped defuse several contentious issues.
Taro Aso, a leading figure in Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) who was deputy prime minister during Trump’s term, traveled to the U.S. last month to try to meet Trump, though he was not able to see him, according to three of the six officials. Aso’s office declined to comment.
Japan’s new U.S. ambassador, Shigeo Yamada, was appointed late last year with specific instructions to connect with the Trump campaign, according to two of the officials. Japan’s embassy in Washington, on behalf of the ambassador, declined to comment on matters related to the U.S. election.
Complicating matters for Tokyo is that many of Trump’s former cabinet members that were focused on Japan – such as Mike Pence, Jim Mattis and Mike Pompeo – are no longer seen as close to him, said Michael Green, a former U.S. official who heads the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.
Senator Bill Hagerty, Trump’s former envoy to Japan who some analysts say could play a prominent role in a second Trump administration, met with several Japanese officials during a visit to Tokyo at the turn of the year.
He also sat alongside Aso and Yamada at an event hosted by Japan’s U.S. embassy during Aso’s trip to the U.S., according to photos the embassy posted on social media.
Hagerty told Reuters that Japanese interlocutors “know Trump and know he is someone who means business” in the region, adding that Japan’s main concerns – Chinese and North Korean aggression – looked like they did in 2016.
Robert O’Brien, Trump’s former national security adviser, also has connections with Japanese officials, two of the sources said. O’Brien, whose American Global Strategies consultancy counts Japan’s former national security adviser Shigeru Kitamura among its ranks, did not respond to requests for comment.
Tokyo is particularly concerned that Trump’s return could create volatility with China. When engaging with people Japan views as close to Trump, it has been emphasizing the benefits of a multilateral approach on China policy, two of the Japanese officials said, such as the G-7’s agreement last year to counter economic coercion and de-risk critical supply chains.
While Biden has repeatedly said the U.S. would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion – though the White House later walked back his comments – Trump has been less clear about his position.
“We don’t want risky seas for misunderstanding,” said Tsuneo Watanabe, a senior fellow with Tokyo-based policy research organization Sasakawa Peace Foundation, who said he was aware of Japan’s attempts to reach out to Trump.
In a foreword to a new edition of his memoir released this week, former U.S. national security adviser John Bolton wrote that if re-elected, Trump could embolden China to blockade Taiwan.
One challenge for Japan is determining who will try to placate Trump if he returns to office.
Officials and analysts say Kishida, whose ratings have plunged over several party scandals, may not be in charge when the Nov. 5 U.S. presidential election comes around. The LDP must hold a leadership vote by the end of September.
“Clearly Trump is one factor” in the LDP’s choice of leader, said Watanabe, adding that the party will ideally look for a candidate who can speak English, build rapport with Trump and play golf.
“A good golfer is bad. Just needs to be a nice golfer so as not to beat Trump,” he said.
Während man sich in Japan außenpolitisch wegen den US- Wahlen sorgt, ist die japanische fast jahrzehntelang durchregierende Grand Old Party LDP momentan wieder male in einen Skandal verwickelt- über unangemeldete Schwarzspendenkonten, zumal sie ja gerade den Skandal mit der Moon- Sekte hinter sich gebracht hatte, nachdem der Sohn einer der Moon-Sekte angehörigen Mutter den Ministerpräsidenten Abe erschoß. Nun also hat die LDP einen Spendenfondsskandal, der zur Auflösung einiger Fraktionen innerhalb der LDP führt, während andere unberührt scheinen. Der Artikel gibt einen ganz guten Überblick des Innenlebens der LDP
“Motegi faction looks likely to dissolve, but Aso standing firm
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
January 28, 2024 at 15:22 JST
Toshimitsu Motegi, secretary-general of the Liberal Democratic Party, at a news conference at the party headquarters on Jan. 23 (Shinichi Fujiwara)
The ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s Motegi faction is considering disbanding in the aftermath of a funding scandal that shook the party to its core, sources said.
They added that the faction headed by Toshimitsu Motegi, the LDP’s secretary-general, is expected to make a final decision this week after hearing opinions from member lawmakers.
The powerful Abe, Kishida and Nikai factions, whose former accounting officials were charged Jan. 19 with keeping revenue from fund-raising parties off the books, decided to dissolve.
Of the remaining three factions not implicated in the scandal, the faction headed by Hiroshi Moriyama, chair of the LDP’s General Council, decided to dissolve on Jan. 25, leaving the Motegi faction and the Aso faction at the center of attention.
Motegi was initially cautious about disbanding his faction, which originated from one founded in 1972 by former Kakuei Tanaka, one of the nation’s most influential prime ministers.
But member lawmakers, including Yuko Obuchi, chair of the LDP’s Election Strategy Committee, and Masakazu Sekiguchi, chair of the LDP’s Upper House caucus, announced they were leaving the faction.
Some members have also said the faction should dissolve.
“I will put a period to the Heisei Kenkyukai,” Motegi was quoted as telling an associate, referring to the faction’s official name as a policy group.
The faction is known for producing two former prime ministers, Ryutaro Hashimoto and Keizo Obuchi, as well as Mikio Aoki, former chair of the LDP’s Upper House caucus known as the “don” of the Diet’s upper chamber. Yuko Obuchi is Keizo Obuchi’s daughter.
LDP Vice President Taro Aso emphasized on Jan. 27 that he will maintain his own faction.
“We must further invigorate the (faction’s) role as a policy group, or a place where members study policies,” Aso said in a speech in Iizuka, Fukuoka Prefecture.
He said the only way to restore public trust in politics is for lawmakers to study policies more keenly than before, formulate laws and respond to the trust of the people.
At the Aso faction’s general meeting the previous day, member lawmakers left the decision to Aso on whether to keep the group going.
The LDP’s intraparty factions have traditionally provided funds for member lawmakers to fight elections. They also made recommendations regarding personnel appointments to the Cabinet and the party leadership.