The chaebol suicides

Samsung headquarters, Seoul

Another week, another stroll down memory lane. Chaebol memory lane, to be specific. In recent weeks we’ve been recounting the stories of various top-level executives of these massive South Korean conglomerates – men who, as is their wont, have ended up in hot water, and often in courtrooms (and, sometimes, at least briefly in prison cells) because of their corruption.

To be sure, chaebol leaders who get caught with their hands in the till don’t always end up arrested or imprisoned or pardoned. The South Korean shame culture leads some of them to take their lives. You might wonder why, if the shame culture is a powerful enough psychological phenomenon to drive these people to suicide, it doesn’t keep them from bribing and embezzling and so on in the first place. But that question is perhaps beyond the scope of this blog.

Chung Mong-hun

Here are a few examples of high-level South Korean self-slaughter. On August 4, 2003, Chung Mong-hun, the chairman of Hyundai and the son of its founder, jumped to his death from his 12th-floor office window. As the New York Times put it, Hyundai was South Korea’s “economic ambassador to the Communist North”; Chung had played a key role in arranging an historic summit in June 2000 between Kim Jong Il and South Korean president Kim Dae Jung. Afterward, however, South Korean auditors looked into the behind-the-scenes dealings relating to the summit and found that Chung had illegally paid a massive bribe to Pyongyang. He was about to be arrested for this crime when he chose to take the leap from his office window.

Roh Moo-hyun

On May 23, 2009, Roh Moo-hyun, who had served as president of South Korea from 2003 to 2008, killed himself by jumping off a cliff near his home. He had been under investigation for accepting $6 million in bribes from the business sector during his presidency. He had already been interrogated, and his wife was scheduled for questioning by investigators on the day of his death. He had already said that he “was losing face and that he was disappointing his supporters”; in a suicide note, he wrote: “nothing is left in my life but to be a burden to others….Don’t be too sad. Aren’t life and death both a piece of nature? Don’t be sorry. Don’t blame anyone. It is fate.”

Lee In-won


Two years ago it was Lee In-won’s turn. Lee, the #2 man at the Lotte Group, which at the time was South Korea’s fifth largest conglomerate, when he was
found dead in August 2016 beside a walking and cycling path near Seoul; he had hanged himself from a tree with his necktie. Lee, age 69, had spent 43 years at Lotte, where he was the highest ranking official not belonging to the conglomerate’s ruling Shin family. His suicide took place two months after police – tipped off about crooked deals among Lotte subsidiaries that led to the formation of a slush fund – raided the firm’s offices in search of evidence of those crooked deals. At the time of Lee’s suicide, he was scheduled to be grilled by prosecutors about these irregularities.

Lotte has less of an international profile than other major chaebols such as Samsung and Hyundai because its wealth is derived not from high-tech products exported around the world but primarily from apartment buildings, hotels, malls, cinemas, fast-food restaurants, and other such busineses in South Korea. It has about 80 subsidiaries and over 300,000 employees. The New York Times reported that Lee “was one of the professional executives commonly known in South Korea as vassals, for their loyalty to the families that control the business empires. These executives rarely betray their bosses during corruption investigations.”

Ben & Jerry….& Linda Sarsour?

Jerry Greenfield, left, and Ben Cohen

Who doesn’t know about Ben & Jerry’s, the ice cream company founded in Burlington, Vermont – that’s right, Bernie Sanders country – in 1978? Who doesn’t know that Ben & Jerry’s is not just political – goodness knows that plenty of companies nowadays wear their politics on their sleeves – but in-your-face political, aggressively political, Vermont political?

The company was founded by two old hippies, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, who have given politically tinged names to their ice cream flavors for years. They’ve waded into the British-Irish conflict, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a struggle in Australia over dangers purported posed by government policies to the Great Barrier Reef. In 2016, they created a flavor in support of Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign. That same year, both Ben and Jerry were arrested at protests in front of the U.S. Capitol. Earlier this year, they announced support for Afghan asylum seekers in Sweden.

Resist ice cream

Their latest treat is something called Pecan Resist. As in “We can resist.” It is meant to be part of “a campaign to lick injustice and champion those fighting to create a more just and equitable nation for us all.” Get it? You can lick injustice just like you lick an ice-cream cone. If it seems to you that Ben & Jerry have a somewhat overly simplistic idea of politics, and an inflated idea of the importance of ice cream, well, you’re not alone – and you’re way late to the game.

Then again, it could be argued that Pecan Resist – “chocolate ice cream with white and dark fudge chunks, pecans, walnuts, and fudge-covered almonds (formerly known as New York Super Fudge Chunk in a previous incarnation)” – is a step further than Ben & Jerry have ever gone before. In their view, they are defending their progressive values against Donald Trump, and celebrating “the activists who are continuing to resist oppression, harmful environmental practices and injustice.”

To this end, in connection with the launch of Pecan Resist, they’ve donated $25,000 to four “progressive community groups”: Color Of Change (which tackles racism), Honor The Earth (environmentalism), Neta (which is “led by people of color along the Texas-Mexico border”), and, last but not least, the Women’s March.

Ben, Jerry, and (in hijab) Sarsour, celebrating the kickoff of the new flavor

Fine, you may say. Let them spend their profits as they wish. But the launch of Pecan Resist involved something more than just handing out cash to lefty groups. At an event held the day after the massacre of Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue, Ben & Jerry, who are themselves of Jewish background, held an event at which the most celebrated guest was Linda Sarsour, head of Women’s March.

We’ve written about Linda. Who hasn’t? She became famous on January 21, 2017, the day after President Trump’s inauguration. She gave a fiery speech at that day’s Women’s March on Washington. She always wears hijab. She’s friends with Louis Farrakhan. She loves sharia. She’s the face of the radical Islamic Society of North America. She has said that Trump won the presidency “on the backs of Muslims.” She has routinely dismissed the impact of 9/11 and other jihadist acts on their victims and has just as routinely complained that Muslims are the victims of Islamophobia. She has demonized Brigitte Gabriel and Ayaan Hirsi Ali for daring to fret about the Islamic subjugation of women. And she has constantly made clear her contempt for Jews.

But none of this bothered Ben & Jerry. Confronted with her history, they’ve said they were cool with Sarsour. Okay, that’s their choice. But should we be cool with Ben and Jerry’s?

Another chaebol tale

In what country do the heads of the top half dozen or so corporations get arrested for corruption, found guilty, sent to prison, and then pardoned more often than in South Korea? The answer must be: none.

Chey Tae-won

Case in point: Chey Tae-won, chairman of SK Group, one of the half dozen largest of South Korea’s chaebols, the family-run conglomerates that dominate that country’s economy and whose leaders are part of an intricate network of power that ties them inextricably to the people at the very highest levels of government. In 1988, as if to demonstrate this high-level intimacy, Chey, who was the nephew of SK’s founder, married Soh Yeong Roh, the daughter of South Korea’s then president, Roh Tae-woo. The wedding took place at the Blue House, Seoul’s answer to the White House.

Five years later, in 1993, Chey was found guilty in a California court of breaking U.S. money laundering laws and of “smurfing,” which means “breaking up deposits into smaller amounts to avoid reporting cash transactions of $10,000 or more as required by law.”

Roh Moo-hyun

That was just the start. Ten years later, on February 23, 2003, Chey was arrested in South Korea on charges of insider trading. The arrest came only days before the inauguration of President Roh Moo Hyun, who, like many other South Korean presidents before and after, had declared his intention to reform the chaebols – which, while being credited with turning South Korea from a Third World country to a leading economic powerhouse, are also cesspools of high-level corruption. Among the 2003 charges against Chey was that he had plotted to increase his ownership share in SK by nefarious means and thereby to solidify his control of the conglomerate, which at the time consisted of no fewer than 58 separate firms. That June, after prosecutors uncovered $1.3 billion in accounting irregularities, Chey was sentenced to three years in prison.

Soh Yeong Roh


Once a crook, always a crook. In January 2012, Chey was indicted for embezzling over $40 million, which he sunk into personal investments. A year later, having meanwhile resigned as chairman of SK Group (while remaining chairman of the conglomerate’s holding company, SK Holdings), he was found guilty and sentenced to four years in prison. “The ruling,”
reported Yahoo News, “comes as South Koreans demand a tougher stance on crimes committed by bosses of chaebol.” The Seoul court that sent him to jail described his case as an example of how chaebol bosses “treat company assets as personal property.”

Park Geun-hye

In any event, that “tougher stance” against the chaebols didn’t last long. It never does. President Park Geun-hye – who had passionately vowed to crack down on chaebol corruption, but who is now in prison herself for involvement in chaebol corruption – pardoned him in August 2015. In March of last year, prosecutors questioned Chey, who in the interim had resumed chairmanship of the SK Group, as part of their investigation into President Park.

“To many investors,” the Seoul Herald commented a couple of years ago, Chey “seems to embody what’s wrong with Korea’s chaebol-controlling families.” Well, South Koreans are very big on two things: family and continuity. It could be argued that Chey, by retaining the respect of his clan and hanging on to control of SK no matter how many terms he serves behind bars, embodies those values, too.

Juan Cole, jihad apologist

Juan Cole

How can it be that, in all the time Useful Stooges has been around, we’ve never written about Juan Cole? How could we have managed all this time to overlook one of America’s most credentialed “experts” on – which is to say, one of its most shameless apologists for – Islam?

This is a man who, after the Boston bombings, denied that the Tsarnaev brothers could be Muslims because “[b]eing a fanatic is, contrary to the impression both of Fox Cable News and some Muslim radicals, not actually the same as being a good Muslim; in fact, the Qur’an urges the use of reason and moderation.” To get away with writing such things, of course, you have to assume that most of your readers have never so much as glanced at the Qur’an.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev: not a real Muslim!

“If the motive for terrorism is religious,” Cole added, “it is impermissible in Islamic law. It is forbidden to attempt to impose Islam on other people.” On the contrary, it could be argued that the main point of the Qur’an is to explain to believers that their primary obligation as Muslims is to spread Islam to the infidels. “Islamic law forbids aggressive warfare,” Cole insisted. Oh, is this why the Qur’an refers to the non-Muslim part of the world, which the faithful are urged to conquer by the sword, as the “House of War”?

Cole was equally quick to try to de-Islamize Omar Mateen’s massacre of 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. “I don’t think it probably was terrorism in any useful sense of the term,” Cole said. “To put all this on Muslims and Islam in general is frankly absurd.”

Omar Mateen: Not a real terrorist!

This is a man who has routinely blamed Islamic terrorism on America – and, secondarily, Israel. If terrorists attack the U.S. it’s because “the United States is a superpower and is always sticking its nose in other people’s business.” But why, then, do terrorists attack pretty much every country in Western Europe? Why do they attack targets in Thailand and India and even in the Muslim world? He relies on ad hominem nonsense to discredit his opponents: in one lecture, he “insinuated that [Rudy] Giuliani had no standing to use the term ‘Islamic fascists’ because he was an Italian-American” and that Charles Krauthammer “probably doesn’t even know a Muslim and therefore is not credible on Middle East issues.”

Rudy Giuliani: no right to speak about Islamofascism

A writer who attended another Cole lecture noted that if one didn’t know any better, “one would have departed the lecture believing that Iran justifiably protects its own interests; that America is a malignant and aggressive force and Israel its trigger-happy satellite; that Turkey’s Islamist Freedom and Development Party (AKP) is headed by a practical and liberal Prime Minister Erdogan who promotes ‘Middle Eastern multiculturalism’; and that a moderate Islamist party in Tunisia called Ennahda does the same.” While arguing that the term “Islamic terrorism” is offensive, and “Islamo-fascist” even worse, Cole regularly uses the phrase “Zionofascism.”

The Ivy League colleges have hired a great many anti-Americans, anti-Semites, apologists for Islam and Communism, you name it – and we’ve written about several of them on this site. But Cole was a bridge too far even for Yale. When Cole – who has spent most of his career at the University of Michigan – was considered for a teaching job at New Haven, the appointment committee found him too “divisive.”

Cheney-Lippold: fellow Israel-hater

Given all this (and much more), it’s hardly any surprise that, after his UM colleague John Cheney-Lippold was disciplined for refusing to write a recommendation letter for a student who planned to spend a summer term at Tel Aviv University – a case we covered in October – Cole wrote a letter supporting Cheney-Lippold. In defense of Cheney-Lippold’s hard-line support of the BDS movement, Cole noted that that position has been “adopted by the Democratic Socialists of America, an increasingly significant caucus in the Democratic Party.” He proceeded to pile on to Israel, cataloging the ways in which it has supposedly violated UN rules, calling its occupation of conquered territories “criminal,” likening the Israeli system to apartheid, and comparing Palestinians to “slaves.” In other words, more of the usual. Juan Cole may be many things, but he’s certainly not unpredictable.

A chaebol tale

Recently, we’ve been spending a lot of time here covering the chaebols, those economy-driving but corruption-ridden conglomerates that pulled South Korea out of the Third World but are now keeping its economy from shifting into even higher gear. Regular readers of this site will know that the current government in Seoul claims to be making serious efforts to reform the chaebols – but that so far there has been more big talk on this front than productive action.

Daddy Chung

As part of our attempt to educate our readers about this topic, we thought it might be advisable to take a look at some highlights of chaebol history. Today we’ll be harkening back to 2006, when Chung Mong Koo, the head of Hyundai Motor, the second largest chaebol in South Korea and (at the time) the seventh-largest carmaker in the world, and son of the man who had founded it in 1947, was arrested on charges of embezzlement and other forms of corruption.

The sum he had purportedly stolen from Hyundai was no less than 100 billion won, or $106 million. He was also accused of breach of trust for supposedly having incurred over 300 billion won, or $318 billion, in damages to the conglomerate. Moreover, government investigators had apparently uncovered evidence of “slush funds, compliant corporate boards and questionable arrangements involving affiliates that were set up to help Mr. Chung turn over the conglomerate to his son, Chung Eui Sun.”

Sonny Chung

Chung was the most powerful businessman in the country to have been arrested in a long time, and if found guilty of all charges he faced a possible life sentence. Except, of course, that he didn’t really face any such thing. The story of Chung’s brush with the law – he was sixty-eight at the time – ended up falling into the usual South Korean pattern, which can be represented by the formula A-I-R. A: arrest. I: imprisonment. R: release. Sometimes there’s a trial, and sometimes even a sentencing; sometimes these guys are pardoned before a trial can even be arranged or before a sentence can be handed down.

Chung had a trial. In February 2007, he was sentenced to three years in jail. (By this time, interestingly enough, Hyundai was being identified as the world’s sixth-largest carmaker.) The prison term came as a surprise: prosecutors had asked for six months, and it had been expected that Chung would get a suspended sentence. Certainly Chung seemed to expect that. In court, he “appeared shaken after the verdict.” He was, however, allowed to go home, prepared his appeal, and keep running Hyundai.

Hyundai headquarters, Seoul

Sure enough, as it happened, Chung stayed home. In September 2007, a three-judge panel of the Seoul High Court suspended Chung’s three-year sentence. The court’s explanation for this suspension was surprisingly frank. Presiding Judge Lee Jae-hong said that he had struggled with the decision, and had “sought the views of various people, including other judges, prosecutors, lawyers, journalists and ‘even taxi drivers and restaurant employees.’” In the end, he claimed, national interest had won the day: Chung was simply too important to South Korea’s economy not to have to go to jail. “I am also a citizen of the Republic of Korea,” he told the courtroom. “I was unwilling to engage in a gamble that would put the nation’s economy at risk.”

In a way, it was a refreshing admission. There was not the slightest pretense that the South Korean judiciary offers anything resembling equal justice for the rich and poor. No, Lee’s statement amounted to a candid acknowledgment that in South Korea, the chaebols do indeed rule.

If you liked Arafat, you’ll love Campa-Najjar

Ammar Campa-Najjar

On Thursday we met Ammar Campa-Najjar, a former staffer in the Obama White House who, in 2016, wrote a sappy Washington Post op-ed in which he professed his adoration for America – despite what he presented as the American military’s brutal mistreatment of his family in the Middle East. In his op-ed, he noted that his father had been a colleague of Yasser Arafat’s in the Palestinian government. He also mentioned his grandfather, whom he presented in sentimental fashion as having been “gunned down” in full view of his son, Campa-Najjar’s father, when the son was only 11 years old. Significantly, however, Campa-Najjar did not mention his grandfather’s name or describe the circumstances under which he was “gunned down.”

Grandpa

Campa-Najjar is now running for Congress from a southern California district. After he announced his candidacy, enterprising reporters dug up some of the details of his family background that didn’t make it into his Post op-ed. As it happens, Campa-Najjar’s paternal grandfather was none other than Muhammed Youssef al-Najjar (aka Abu Youssef), the head of the Palestinian terrorist group Black September, which kidnapped, tortured, and murdered eleven Israelis and one West German at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

In addition to this, Yousef was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. He was a founder of Fatah (of which Black September was a covert subsidiary) and a leader of its military arm, Al-‘Asifah. He sat on the executive committee of the PLO and belonged to the Palestinian National Congress.

A Black September terrorist during the Munich Olympics massacre

Of course, Campa-Najjar has known all his life who his grandfather was. He chose to keep it a secret, even as he tried to use his grandfather’s killing to win sympathy for himself. And what did he do when the news about his grandfather’s identity became public? He issued a perfectly bizarre statement. “For the sake of the victims,” he said, “I hoped this tragedy wouldn’t be politicized.” What? The Munich massacre wasn’t a “tragedy.” It was an atrocity – a jihadist atrocity committed in the name of a religion whose Holy Book teaches the hatred of Jews. How, moreover, does revealing the hidden truth about Campa-Najjar’s family history amount to “politiciz[ation]”?

Campa-Najjar went on: “But if these old wounds must be re-opened, then I pray God gives purpose to their unspeakable pain. I pray that purpose is to see peace prioritized by my generation of Palestinians, Israelis and the whole of humanity.” More empty words. Note that Campa-Najjar didn’t express so much as a hint of regret for the coldblooded murders his grandfather committed.

Good ole dad

And what about Campa-Nijjar’s dad, who, as Campa-Nijjar had already admitted in his 2016 op-ed, was a colleague of Arafat’s? What was his full story? That came out, too. In 2013, it turned out, Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) had issued a report about Western funding of PLO schools where children are taught Jew-hatred. A PLO ambassador publicly rejected PMW’s findings. And that ambassador was, yes, Campa-Najjar’s father, Yasser Najjar. Another fact about al-Najjar emerged, too: after his terrorist father was killed, he was adopted by the none other than the king of Morocco – a little detail that puts a dent in Campa-Nijjar’s cozy attempt in the Post to depict his dad as having climbed up out of childhood poverty and oppression to “pursue his dreams” in America.

Well, now the truth has come out. But mainstream media, for the most part, have refused to write about it. Either that, or they’ve asserted that the activities of Campa-Najjar’s father and grandfather have nothing to do with him. But of course they do. Only two years ago, in the Post, he was referring to them with obvious pride. Now he’s trying to distance himself from them. But the key fact here is that he hid the full truth about these men for decades. Like Tariq Ramadan, another slick character who pretends to stand for Western values but who is in fact the grandson of an Islamic terrorist, Campa-Najjar is obviously not to be trusted.

Ammar Campa-Najjar, American patriot?

Ammar Campa-Najjar

After the November 2016 elections, the Washington Post ran an op-ed designed to console Americans who had been traumatized by the triumph of Donald Trump. The author, Ammar Campa-Najjar, began his piece by explaining that he was a “Hispanic-Arab-American” and arguing that the prospect of Trump in the White House represented “not only a challenging time for diversity in America but also an empowering one.” He went on to celebrate America as a country where “our individual differences don’t outweigh our common humanity,” and as proof of this statement cited his own life story, which he summed up as follows: “Only in America can the son of a Hispanic woman from the barrio and an Arab man from an occupied territory have the freedom to reimagine his life and pursue his dreams.”

Yasser Arafat: family crony

If you’re curious about his reference to “occupied territory,” Campa-Najjar went on to provide details: his father, Yasser Najjar, saw “both his parents gunned down right in front of him when he was only 11 years old.” Najjar then moved to America, married a Chicana woman, and fathered Campa-Najjar. He then took his family back “to the Middle East…so that he could help Yasser Arafat lead a secular unity government.” Hence Campa-Najjar “spent my early years with my family under siege by American-made helicopters and F-16s that leveled entire buildings on the block where we lived.” But he survived, ending up back in America, where he ended up working in the Obama White House. This, he says, “is nothing short of an American miracle.”

Barack Obama: former boss

Campa-Najjar’s backstory raises more questions than it answers. Exactly why were his grandparents “gunned down”? What’s the deal with his father’s ties to Arafat, whose apparently not inconsiderable role in the family’s story Campa-Najjar glides past quickly, innocuously representing that vile terrorist, anti-Semite, Soviet tool, and cynical profiteer as the head of a “secular unity government.” Arafat is the main reason why the Palestinian territories are now a failed culture, their people so inculcated with hate and lies that there seems to be little if any possibility of them ever being able to enjoy anything resembling peace, prosperity, and true civil society. How, one wondered, did somebody with family ties to the man who created this nightmare of a non-state ever get a coveted job in the Obama White House? 

A screenshot of the faked al-Durrah video

Besides, the more one looked at Campa-Nijjar’s Post article, the more one found oneself asking: What kind of a cockeyed tribute to America is this, anyway? Campa-Najjar, and the Post, offered his article up as a tribute to America. But just beneath the surface was something very different. For example, Campa-Nijjar mentioned that while he was living in the Middle East, he “watched a boy my age, Muhammad al-Durrah, get shot and killed while hiding behind a barrel.” The al-Durrah case, in case you missed it or forgot about it, was an infamous fabrication – a fake child-killing, supposedly committed by the Israeli Defense Forces, that was invented out of whole cloth by Palestinian “news” cameramen and their allies with the sole purpose of defaming the IDF. Why was Campa-Najjar still trying to sell this lie as fact?

Duncan Hunter: the Republican incumbent and opponent in the 50th district election

There’s more. In his Post op-ed, Campa-Najjar mentioned 9/11 –but he brought it up  for one reason and one reason alone: so that he could let us know that he wasn’t able to attend his “Islamic school” in the U.S. that week because it “was vandalized and declared unsafe to study or pray in.” Is this a lie, too? Where was this school? Who, exactly, declared it unsafe? In any event, the Post piece, all in all, was most curious document indeed: while Campa-Najjar kept fervently asserting that he adores, worships, and cherishes America, the parts of his text between these fervent assertions read as if they would fit a lot better into an article savaging America as the Great Satan.

Flash forward two years. Campa-Najjar is now the Democratic candidate for Congress from California’s 50th district, which includes parts of San Diego County and Riverside County. in the earliest part of his campaign, he sailed along smoothly enough, buoyed by his twofer identity as an Arab and a Latino. But the truth will out. And out it did soon enough. The people of San Diego and Riverside were told the real story about Campa-Najjar and his family. And as we’ll see on Tuesday, it’s quite a story.

What the hell is wrong with the chaebols?

Samsung headquarters, Seoul

We’ve been writing a good deal lately about the chaebols, those immense, influential, and staggeringly corrupt family-run conglomerates (think Samsung, Hyundai, LG, and Daewoo) that have dominated the increasingly dynamic South Korean economy during the more than half century since the Korean War. In recent decades, one government after another has promised to tame them, but, as we’ve seen, their power has yet to be seriously diminished.

We’ve wondered: what is it about Korean culture and the Korean sensibility that made the chaebols possible in the first place? How have the same crooked families – who over the years have been caught giving and taking massive bribes and embezzling fortunes from their firms – been able to maintain absolute control of them from generation to generation?

Hyundai headquarters, Seoul

After all, in most cases, these families don’t even own anywhere near a majority of company stock. The clan that runs Samsung, for example, holds just over one percent of total shares in that firm; the family that holds the reins at Hyundai owns about one-thirtieth of it. Indeed, on average, the chaebol royal families own only about three percent of the conglomerates that they run with iron fists.

But that doesn’t matter. As South Korean observers have pointed out, there’s something in the Korean mentality, with its fixation on family, that makes it well-nigh impossible for most citizens to accept the idea that the shareholders in a firm are its actual owners; instead, they reflexively view the chaebol dynasties, however little stock in their own companies they may have in their portfolios, as the real owners.

LG headquarters, Seoul

Yes, the passing down of company management from one generation of a family to the next is a worldwide phenomenon. But family is an even bigger thing in South Korea than elsewhere. There are, as it happens, ancient religious roots – Confucian roots – to this way of thinking. It’s no exaggeration, in other words, to say that in Korea, the idea of family is swathed in a kind of reverence. Especially in a time of rapid transformation in social and cultural structures, family continuity is widely seen as providing needed continuity and even giving those structures a kind of legitimacy that they otherwise would lack. From one perspective, of course, this may be an admirable way of thinking. From another, however, it is a sensibility that can create all kinds of problems for a large twenty-first-century business operating on the international financial stage.

Daewoo headquarters, Seoul

For the fact is that the curious structure of the chaebols renders shareholders all but powerless. Their investments are at the mercy of top executives who have inherited their positions and who may or may not know what they’re doing in those jobs, which are, frankly, nothing more or less than sinecures. Virtually nothing can dislodge these dynastic figures from their perches – not manifest incompetence, not proven corruption, and not an established pattern of business decisions that are obviously meant to serve their own families’ interests rather than the interests of shareholders, workers, or the firms themselves. Yes, the South Korean government is supposedly pushing reforms. But they’re weak reforms, insufficient reforms, and the degree to which the government is pushing for them is, frankly, pathetic. One thing is clear: if there’s going to be anything close to genuine change at the chaebols, the shareholders need to raise their voices more loudly, assert the power that’s rightfully theirs, and demand that these conglomerates shake off their Confucian roots and fully join the modern world economy. 

Fair is foul

Fair is foul, and foul is fair;

Hover through the fog and filthy air.

– Macbeth, Act I, Scene 1

Christine Fair

Warning: X-rated language, and then some.

Back to Christine Fair, a professor at Georgetown University who makes a habit of harassing ideological opponents and calling them Nazis. On Tuesday we revisited two incidents from last year that showed her in her characteristic attack mode. Here’s #3: this past January, at Frankfurt International Airport on her way to India, security officers refused to let her take a Speed Stick deoderant onboard because they classified it as a liquid, she argued with them, accused them of sexism, became “increasingly uncooperative,” and ultimately referred to them as “fucking bastards” and “fucking German Nazi police.” Eventually she was arrested for defamation and fined $260.

Brett Kavanaugh

Which brings us to her latest brush with fame. Tweeting about the Senate hearings on Brett Kavanaugh, she described the GOP senators as a “chorus of entitled white men,” identified Kavanaugh as a “serial rapist,” and wrote that they all “deserve miserable deaths while feminists laugh as they take their last gasps. Bonus: we castrate their corpses and feed them to swine? Yes.”

Abigail Marone

When Abigail Marone of Campus Reform wrote to Fair to ask her to elaborate on the tweet – and especially on the apparent call for violence – Fair replied by accusing her of harassment and, addressing her (for some reason) as “Aunt Lydia,” added:

I will not be silenced. I will continue to Tweet things that make you uncomfortable and I will do this by choice. I will select words and phrases that will make you and your fellow-travelers furious.

My choice of words is intended to make you uncomfortable. Because I—and tens of millions of women in this country—are uncomfortable with the ongoing war on our lives, our bodies, our fundamental freedoms, and our access to social and economic justice. Women—whether we are white, women of color, rich or poor—are potential victims of this war. And some of us have been victimized repeatedly….

And you, Aunt Lydia, are a potential victim of this war as well even though you shill for those persons and institutions who sustain it and seek to perpetuate it. Do you think your potential assailant will care that you enable the patriarchal structures that devalue our lives and the work we do and construct legal structures that privilege the attacker? Do you think complicit women and lousy men will be less likely to slut shame you because you are one of their paid-keyboards? No, Aunt Lydia.

As it happens, Professor Fair posted this e-mail in toto on her personal blog, which is called (we’re not kidding) “Tenacious Hellpussy: A Nasty Woman Posting from the Frontlines of Fuckery.” Let’s just say that the blog fully lives up to its name. To browse through it is to experience the repellent, hateful workings of a deeply disturbed mind. For example, in a recent entry entitled “On the Politics of Language and Women’s Rage and Why My Profanity is Sacred,” Fair dismissed media criticism of her notorious “castrate their corpses” tweet as an attempt “to scare, intimidate, and ultimately shut up those of us who see through conservative lies, ruses, and efforts to disenfranchise women, people of color, LGBTQI, non-Christians and anyone else who destabilizes their infantile Leave It To Beaver fantasy.” Noting that a colleague had suggested she “demur from using naughty words in expressing my rage over this administration’s unending assault upon our lives,” she declared that only obscene words could properly capture her fury over the fact that

[w]e [women] are less likely to be hired, promoted or compensated because of our god-damned tits and snatches. These conservative jackasses want to treat our cunts like a public good, yet we pay tens of thousands of dollars to maintain and sustain our civilization-giving pussies and civilization-nurturing wombs and civilization-feeding breasts.

Yet these motherfuckers have the temerity to deny us health care coverage. They have the audacity to force us to carry children….

And you want me to circumlocute my furor in floridity?

Fuck that.

Oh, one last thing: as of 2018-19, annual undergraduate tuition and fees at Georgetown University come to $54,104.

Georgetown’s not-so-fair lady

Brett Kavanaugh

Everyone in the United States of America, it seemed, had a take on the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. One observer’s comment was more memorable than most. Referring to the Republican senators on the Justice Committee who were expressing support for President Trump’s nominee, this observer tweeted: “Look at this chorus of entitled white men justifying a serial rapist’s arrogated entitlement. All of them deserve miserable deaths while feminists laugh as they take their last gasps. Bonus: we castrate their corpses and feed them to swine? Yes.”

Christine Fair

Who was this observer? None other than Christine Fair, an associate professor of Security Studies Program at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service.

We might say that Professor Fair has gotten her fifteen minutes of fame, except that it turns out this isn’t the first time she’s made headlines. In January of last year, the Washington Post published an op-ed by journalist Asra Q. Nomani entitled “I’m a Muslim, a woman and an immigrant. I voted for Trump.” Nomani explained her vote: for one thing, she couldn’t afford Obamacare; for another, she – a self-identified “liberal Muslim” – had “experienced, firsthand, Islamic extremism in this world,” and thus opposed President Obama’s tendency to “tap dance around the ‘Islam’ in Islamic State.”

Asra Q. Romani

This was too much for Fair, who tweeted that Nomani’s vote for Trump had “helped normalize Nazis in D.C.,” and called her a “clueless dolt,” a “fraud,” a “fame-mongering clown show,” and more. Nomani, in response to this barrage of insults, complained to Georgetown University, where she, too, had once been on the faculty. After Nomani made her complaint, Fair doubled down on the insults, adding a few obscenities and accusing Nomani of trying to strip her of her First Amendment rights. Nomani denied this charge. “I honor the First Amendment, I believe in the First Amendment,” Nomani said. “With all rights come serious responsibilities. Civil discourse is one of those responsibilities, especially for educators. We are models.”

Richard Spencer

That was episode #1. Four months later came #2. Fair was working out at a gym in Washington, D.C., when she noticed Richard Spencer, head of the National Policy Institute, exercising in the same room. Walking over to him, she asked if he was Richard Spencer. He said he wasn’t. (He later explained that he had denied his identity in an effort to avoid conflict.) “Of course you are,” she replied, “so not only are you a Nazi – you are a cowardly Nazi.” She added: “I just want to say to you, I’m sick of your crap….As a woman, I find your statements to be particularly odious; moreover, I find your presence in this gym to be unacceptable, your presence in this town to be unacceptable.”

She went on in that vein, until Spencer, according to the Washington Post, “asked for a trainer – a black woman – to help get him out of the confrontation.” A fellow gym member also stepped in to help him, managing to earn her own share of Fair’s wrath: “Right now you’re being ignorant,” Fair instructed her, “and you’re actually enabling a real-life Nazi.” Eventually, the gym’s general manager got involved, chiding Fair for creating a “hostile environment,” in response to which Fair accused Spencer of creating a “hostile environment” for women and blacks.

The upshot of the incident? Spencer got his gym membership revoked.

Think what you wish of Richard Spencer. But this isn’t about him. It’s about Fair. He didn’t start that fracas in the gym – she did. And she didn’t just provoke him – she insulted an innocent bystander who, not knowing who either of them was, intervened for a purely admirable reason. It would be one thing for Fair to argue with Spencer at a public debate; but when she told him that his views made his presence in a gym – and even in the city of Washington, D.C. – “unacceptable” to her, it was she, not he, who sounded like a Nazi.

We haven’t gotten around yet to Professor Fair’s tweet about killing and castrating senators. Tune in again on Thursday.