[Update: The field narrows further, but could Lee Hoi Chang be thinking of sticking it out through the election to lead an opposition group from the right? It’s starting to look that way. If Comrade Chung continues to remain way back in third place, that would allow Lee H.C. to continue to have a (from my perspective) positive influence on Lee Myung-Bak’s governance. On the other hand, by drawing conservatives out of the GNP, it could solidify the GNP’s transition to a more centrist party. I’m sure the GNP would opt for a more centrist platform if it could achieve the kind of one-party rule enjoyed by Japan’s LDP.]
Boy, those North Koreans really do hate Lee Hoi-Chang. How will I know when I’ve arrived in this world? When I earn the most coveted of all titles: “human scum” or “sycophantic traitor.” Really, if it weren’t for the rather substantial monetary award that goes with a Nobel, where’s the honor? Just look at the company you’d be keeping. But to be called a “human scum” by KCNA? Now that would be an honor.
“Despicable guy” is another matter entirely. I mean, “guy?” Yes, they really said it. Maybe with those U.N. sanctions and all, it’s hard to get a thesaurus in Pyongyang these days, though they can still manage to trade in weaponry, launder money, and use official state radio to threaten the neighbors with war:
[I]f such human scum and warmonger as Ri is allowed to win the elections . . .
Stop here for one instant. Remember, now: the official North Korean line certainly isn’t that the South Korean voters decide who is “allowed” to win elections. KCNA may be completely insincere in doing so, but it isn’t calling on people to oppose Lee H.C. by democratic means.
. . . he will escalate confrontation and tensions and increase the danger of war on the Korean Peninsula, reduce the June 15 joint declaration and the October 4 declaration to dead papers and further intensify the suppression of the pro-reunification patriotic forces in south Korea, the forces for the national movement.”
Not direct enough for you? Thanks to NK News, home of the KCNA Random Insult Generator, we can actually search for the number of times the North Koreans used state radio to engage in direct retail terrorism. Just to get you started, try “sea of fire.” But for a classic KNCA rant, I dare you to beat this one:
“Home media of the DPRK come out every day with commentaries and articles bringing into glaring light the flunkeyistic treacheries, anti-reunification crimes, corruption and swindle committed by Ri Hoe Chang. The commentaries dismiss his running for “presidency” as a ludicrous kicking and struggling and a fantastic daydream of a political living corpse preoccupied with greed for power.” “The General Association of Koreans in China issued a statement calling for a stern punishment of Ri, a heinous sycophantic traitor and anti-reunification element, in the name of nation.” [KCNA]
Unfortunately, it looks like by the middle of this month, the Koreans won’t have Lee Hoi-Chang to kick around anymore. One GNP lawmaker did defect to his camp, but there are no signs of the kind of exodus by Lee Myung-Bak supporters Lee Hoi-Chang would need to generate last-minute momentum. The most recent polls are mostly unchanged, and worse yet for Lee H.C., the scandal that he was counting on to kill Lee M.B.’s candidacy might be blowing over. Even Park Geun-Hye is campaigning for Lee M.B., albeit in South Jeolla, where her support won’t do him any good and may even do him harm. If Lee H.C. looks unlikely to win outright, it’s notable that he’s still running well ahead of Comrade Chung, dooming Chung to a humiliating third-place finish. More significantly, Lee Hoi-Chang does seem to be forcing Lee Myung Bak to the right, at least for the moment.
The North Koreans have to know that the party is almost over. They know Lee Myung-Bak is going to win, which is why they’ve stopped attacking him and shifted their fire to Lee Hoi-Chang, an easy straw man for their necessary fulminations. They must be wondering just how much the South’s policies are about to change, and they’re probably more than slightly worried that their clandestine network in the South — a network that may have reached all the way to Roh’s cabinet — will soon be uprooted. What I wouldn’t give to know what North Korea’s top spy, Kim Yang-Gon, was doing in Seoul last week.
Lee Myung-Bak certainly isn’t campaigning as a hard-liner, and he’d probably pursue any policy where he saw political and financial profit. For that reason, he may not shift South Korean’s nordpolitik dramatically, but he may dull down some of its goofier aspects that defy self-interest. That would be a modest change for the better.