Finally: street protests against chaebol corruption!

Moon Jae-in

On this site we’ve been reporting for some time on the lavish vows by South Korean President Moon Jae-in to reform the chaebols, those massive family-run conglomerates that have served as the foundation of that country’s economy since not long after the Korean War – and that have increasingly been viewed with disfavor by that country’s citizens because of their extraordinary levels of corruption, nepotism, and impunity, not to mention their power to choke potential competitors in the cradle.

We’ve introduced our readers to Kim Sang-jo, not exactly intimidating man who was supposedly delegated by Moon with the task of challenging chaebol corruption and who, laughably, calls himself the “chaebol sniper.” And we’ve discussed the chaebol shareholders who, after years of biting their tongues, are finally starting to rebel against the bizarre system whereby clans that own only a small percentage of their companies nonetheless rule them with an iron hand.

Kim Sang-jo

Now comes some encouraging news. On November 21, with the backing of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), more than 150,000 South Korean workers walked out of factories at firms like Samsung and Hyundai in protest against the utter failure of Moon’s government to come across with the chaebol reforms he promised.

The KCTU did not mince words in describing the situation in South Korea. “There has not been any real progress in chaebol reform,” it said. The KCTU added: “We think our labour rights as well as corporate reform have actually worsened under the Moon administration.”

Park Geun-hye

The KCTU further noted that the chaebol kingpins Lee Jae-yong (Samsung) and Shin Dong-bin (Lotte) had recently been arrested, tried, and convicted of bribing former President Park Geun-hye (who left office in disgrace because of the scandal) only to be given suspended sentences. Such special treatment for chaebol top guns is a longstanding tradition in South Korean politics and jurisprudence, and one that is making the nation’s citizens increasingly restive.

Hence the worker walkout.

Lee Myung-bak

That November 21 protest, moreover, was only one part of a growing nationwide uprising against President Moon. Every weekend of late, South Koreans have poured into the streets of Seoul in huge numbers to express their rage over Moon’s failure to keep his pledges. Describing these demonstrations as “raucous,” the Financial Times noted that while President Park and another former president, Lee Myung-bak, have ended up behind bars for corruption, the chaebol masters who were involved in the same acts of corruption still seem to be above the law.

According to FT, the probability that a chaebol boss convicted of corruption will get a suspended sentence exceeds 70% – while the comparable rate among non-chaebol leaders is 40%. As for poor schlubs who are found guilty of “street crimes,” such as petty theft, only 20% of them can expect to have their sentences suspended, even though the scale of their crimes is, of course, outrageously trivial compared to the monstrous malfeasances routinely committed by chaebol royalty.

Capitol Hill’s newest anti-Semite

Ilhan Omar

Among the new Members of the U.S. Congress elected on November 6 is one Ilhan Omar. Previously, she was a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives. She was the first Somali American legislator to hold elective office in the U.S. She is now the first Somali American in the U.S. House. She and Rashida Tlaib, who was elected to the House on the same day, are the first Muslim women in the U.S. Congress. Representing a district that includes Minneapolis and several smaller cities, Omar will succeed another Muslim, Keith Ellison, who left Congress in order to run for State Attorney General of Minnesota, a race that he, too, won.

Now 37 years old, Omar denied during her campaign – specifically, at an August debate at a synagogue – that she supports the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. This was not a minor question, since her district, the fifth, has a sizable Jewish population. It is also by far the most Democratic district in the state, and has not voted for a Republican since 1960.

Rabbi Avi Olitzsky

Since her election, however, Omar has come out of the BDS closet. After the news came out, Avi Olitzsky, the rabbi who sponsored that August debate, expressed the hope that he could “have a dialogue with her” and thus clarify her stance. Ah, dialogue. Credulous persons who have had pleasant encounters with this or that individual Muslim are often shocked to find that that individual actually believes certain things that don’t seem terribly pleasant at all. Their initial response is often to assume that there has to be some kind of misunderstanding, because, after all, the Muslim in question seems so charming. Surely a brief friendly talk will clear it all up.

Such, alas, is the way in which many Westerners are forced to confront the largely dark reality of Islamic belief.

Keith Ellison


To be sure, it’s not as if Omar entirely hid her contempt for Israel during the election campaign. In July, Haaretz reported that she had called Israel’s government an “apartheid” regime. She had not explicitly given a thumbs-up to BDS, but she’d opposed a proposed state law banning BDS. In 2012, Omar wrote a tweet in which she expressed the hope that “Allah” would “awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”

Louis Farrakhan

A halfway sensible observer might have guessed from all this that Omar is, indeed, a BDS advocate, but all too many voters – especially, perhaps, in places like Minnesota, which is known for its “niceness” – are eager to dismiss such suspicions as the product of subconscious Islamophobia, for, after all, such a lovely young woman could not possibly hold such ugly thoughts. Despite the evidence that Omar is, in fact, a nasty piece of work, the national media ran predictably glowing profiles of her, with a particularly hagiographic one appearing in The New Yorker. On Election Day, Omar won her House seat with a remarkable 78% of the vote.

This, then, is the new representative whom the voters of Minneapolis and environs have chosen to send to Washington, and will have to live with for the next two years. Perhaps her constituents can take comfort in the fact that, so far anyway, there is no sign that she is any more virulent an anti-Semite than Ellison, whose longtime ties with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, perhaps the nation’s most prominent Jew-hater, did not prevent him from being re-elected to Congress five times.

More nuttiness from the nut-rage clan

Cho Yang-ho

The chaebol circus continues. On October 15, Cho Yang-ho, chairman of the Hanjin Group, which owns South Korea’s flag carrier Korean Air, was indicted on charges of embezzling $17.5 million from his firm and of using a scam to chisel $136 million out of the state insurance agency. An additional charge of evading inheritance taxes to the tune of $54 million was dropped because the statute of limitations had already expired.

Obviously, these chaebol CEOs aren’t paid well enough. They can’t get by without stealing everything that isn’t nailed down.

Heather Cho

Cho’s name may be new to you. But it’s possible you’ve heard of the older of his two daughters, Cho Hyun-ah, who is known in the West as Heather Cho and who, not so long ago, was vice president of Korean Air. Okay, perhaps you don’t remember her name, but do the terms “nutgate” or “nut rage incident” ring a bell? On December 5, 2014, Heather (as we’ll call her to distinguish her from her dad) was a passenger on a Korean Air flight that was about to take off from JFK Airport when she ordered the plane back to the gate. Why? Because Heather, who at the time was still the airline’s VP, had been served macadamia nuts that were in a little bag instead of on a plate. This outrage, which was in accordance with airline procedure, let her to physically assault the chief of the plane’s cabin crew and to order him off the plane.

Hanjin headquarters, Seoul

At first this episode was covered up by Korean Air. Airline employees, including the cabin-crew chief and a flight attendant who’d also been abused by Heather, were ordered to stay mum about it. Records of the incident were deleted. Authorities who were aware of the plane’s unorthodox return to the gate kept quiet about it. For a while there, a perfect cover-up seemed to have been put in place. But the story came to light anyway because a handful of passengers went to the media.

Heather’s tantrum made headlines around the world. It was especially big news in South Korea, unsurprisingly, where her conduct only served to reinforce the prevailing narrative about the arrogance and privilege of the chaebol princes and princesses and the readiness of authorities to cover up for them. Under pressure, Heather gave up one – but not all – of her titles at Korean Air (an absurd “solution” that seems typical of the bizarro world of the chaebols) and spent three months behind bars for having obstructed airline safety. Because of Heather’s temper, Korean Air ticket sales plummeted – while sales of macadamia nuts boomed.

Emily Lee Cho

That’s not all: it later emerged that the previous year, Heather had attacked a flight attendant because she didn’t like the ramen noodles she was served. And earlier this year, Heather’s younger sister, Cho Hyun-min, a.k.a. Emily Lee Cho, not to be outdone by Heather, was questioned over charges that she’d assault an employee of an ad agency working for Korean Air. (At the time, Emily was head of the airline’s marketing and advertising.) Obviously the whole family could use some treatment for anger management. 

As noted, Cho Yang-ho was indicted on October 15. In November came news that Grace Holdings, the second-largest shareholder in Hanjin KAL, the holding firm that controls the Hanjin Group, was seeking to remove Cho from Hanjin’s board of directors. Moreover, there were indications that other shareholders might join forces with Grace.

In another country, this might not be such massive news. In South Korea, it’s an earthquake. To remove the head of a chaebol family from control of his empire is unheard of. Such a move would be nothing less than revolutionary. It will be absolutely fascinating to see how this pans out.

Only Jew-haters allowed in Berkeley city government

Hatem Bazian

Small world. In July of last year, we wrote here about Hatem Bazian, a lecturer in UC Berkeley’s Department of Ethnic Studies whose CV is, in addition, crowded with Islam-related activities: he’s the co-founder and provost of something called Zaytuna College for Muslim Studies; the founder of Students for Justice in Palestine; the founder of Berkeley’s Center for the Study of Documentation of Islamophobia; and so on. He’s called for an intifada in the U.S., refused to condemn terrorism, and quoted with approval a line from the Hadith calling for the murder of Jews.

Yvette Felarca

Then, last April, we posted an account of Yvette Felarca, who is a Berkeley middle-school teacher by day and a violent “anti-fascist” radical during her free time. Our tale of Felarca’s adventures – including a riot that succeeded in shutting down a planned speech at the UC Berkeley by Milo Yiannopoulos – led us to a fellow by the name of Jesse Arreguin, who happens to be the mayor of Berkeley. Instead of criticizing the violence, Arreguin chose to criticize Yiannopoulos, whom he called (falsely) a “white nationalist.” Within the days that followed, it emerged that Arreguin was a member of the Facebook page of Felarca’s extremist group, By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), which the FBI and State Department consider a terrorist organization; that Arreguin and Felarca were Facebook friends; and that he had a pet cat named Che.

Jesse Arreguin

Recently, Bazian and Arreguin made the news – this time together. In November, Bazian was named to the Peace and Justice Commission of the city of Berkeley; and Arreguin, despite holding political views that are of the sort which usually imply anti-Semitism, opposed the appointment because of Bazian’s “anti-Semitic statements and actions.” Arreguin expressed frustration over the fact that he doesn’t have the power to prevent the appointment, which was the stratagem of City Council member Cheryl Davila.

Cheryl Davila

Having recalled Arreguin’s appalling support for BAMN’s destructiveness, we were frankly surprised by the intensity of his opposition to Bazian on the grounds of anti-Semitism. Arreguin pointed out a couple of crude anti-Semitic cartoons that Bazian retweeted last year, resulting in criticism by the UC Berkeley administration – that move surprised us, too – and an apology by Bazian.

Ben Gerhardstein

Why did Davila pick Bazian, of all people, for that commission? Apparently because, for her, his anti-Semitism isn’t a bug but a feature. As it turns out, this isn’t the first time that Davila has used her position to promote anti-Semitic ideas. In November of last year, she dismissed Transportation Commissioner Ben Gerhardstein “after he declined to state a position on whether Berkeley should divest from companies that do business with Israel.” According to a series of emails between Gerhardstein and Davila, she had indicated to him that his views on Israel and Palestine were important to her, despite their obvious irrelevance to the duties of his job; that, in fact, she was asking a number of potential commissioners about their opinions on the issue; and that she wanted a commission on which everyone supported divestment from Israel. Far from disputing any of these charges, Davila made a public statement that seemed to suggest she was fully within her rights to enforce an Israeli-Palestinian test on Berkeley commissioners and charged that anyone who made a big deal out of this action on her part was part of “the ongoing suppression campaigns to smear anyone who supports Palestine.”

Chaebols: are the “ants” finally rebelling?

The South China Morning Post recently ran a fascinating piece by Geoffrey Cain and Max Kim. Its premise, as stated in the first sentence, was as follows: “The family-run conglomerates that power South Korea’s economy have long been above listening to individual shareholders – or ants. But as the scandals mount, and take down presidents, those ants are fighting back.”

Samsung headquarters, Seoul

We’ve written frequently at this site, of course, about those South Korean conglomerates – known as chaebols – that are notorious for their outsized power and corruption and for the perverse fact that the power is in the hands of families that own small percentages of these behemoths and not in the hands of shareholders.

Just as a certain 2016 presidential candidate called ordinary Americans who work hard and pay taxes “deplorables,” the people who actually inject their own cash into these companies – and are therefore, technically, their owners – are called “ants.”

Hyundai headquarters, Seoul

Cain and Kim noted a couple of the high-profile corruption trials and convictions that have taken place in the last year or so and that we’ve written about here. But they added this highly interesting point: “In fried chicken and beer joints, in coffee shops in Seoul’s financial district of Yeouido, and in mobile app chats where investors circulate industry gossip, individual shareholders – known as ‘ants’ in investment circles – are getting rowdy and putting up a fight.”

LG headquarters, Seoul

About time. To some of us, the passivity of chaebol shareholders has never made a great deal of sense. It can only be understood as a cultural thing, a sign of the near-reverence with which the chaebol families have long been regarded. After the Korean War, these families founded these companies, and these companies, in turn, raised South Korea up from an impoverished Third World land to an economic powerhouse. Hence the family patriarchs came to be viewed as virtual royalty.

Hanjin headquarters, Seoul

But no more. “Corporate shareholder meetings have stretched for more than a dozen hours,” wrote Cain and Kim, “as shareholders barrage CEOs with questions; others have stormed the microphone, only to be removed by security.” They quote one “ant’s” summing-up of the way South Koreans have been trained to think about these things: “Finance is like the written word of ancient times,” he said. “It is the privilege of the ruling class. It is the preserve of the elite.” Well, if these signs of revolt are portents of a new era, then that kind of old-fashioned deference to a handful of powerful clans may well be on the way out. Which, it has to be said, is a healthy sign for South Korean democracy.

Roger Waters, scam artist

 

Roger Waters

Every time we turn around, Roger Waters, the outspoken musician and sometime member of the band Pink Floyd, keeps proving to be worse than we thought he was. On this site, we’ve written at length about his self-righteous efforts to shame other performers into canceling gigs in Israel. In an open letter to Bon Jovi, for instance, he accused the fellow rocker of standing shoulder to shoulder with baby-burners and child killers and, hence, of committing “the greatest crime of all.” In another piece, Waters accused singer Robbie Williams of “showing a chilling indifference” to the welfare of Palestinian children, who, he claimed, are viewed by Israel as nothing more than “grass to be mowed.” In yet another missive, he told chanteuse Dionne Warwick that she was ignorant of Israeli history.

Robbie Williams

Waters has gotten some pushback. In a piece for the Times of Israel, filmmaker Mark Blacknell asked why, if Waters is so concerned about the Palestinians, he doesn’t criticize Arab governments for failing to welcome Palestinians into their countries. He further noted a poll in which seventy percent of Israeli Arabs said they’d rather remain Israelis than become citizens of a fully independent Palestine. Blacknell, who had made a documentary about the Israeli-Palestinian situation, pointed out that while Israelis consistently said they didn’t Arabs, Palestinians made it clear that they despised Israelis. If only the terrorist groups in the Levant dropped their plans to push the Jews into the sea, noted Blacknell, the problem of peace in the Holy Land would be solved. “What is presented to you as innocent victims struggling for freedom,” Blacknell told Waters, “is in reality uncompromising cultural intolerance at a level so antiquated that is difficult for many westerners to comprehend.”

“In Waters’ world,” commented Israeli writer Lilac Sigan, “there is no Hamas, and this terror organization doesn’t live by its sword, doesn’t swear to death and violence, and doesn’t rule the Gaza strip with primitive Shariya law.” As we’ve pointed out, this wasn’t exactly true: Waters knows all about Hamas – and proudly stood up for them in a 2012 U.N. speech. His Jew-hatred is real. He’s a chilling, reprehensible piece of work.

Steven Donziger

And here’s a new wrinkle. During the last few years the media have covered the multiparty effort, fronted by a New York attorney, Steven Donziger, to extort billions of dollars from Chevron. This flimflam, in which several people invested substantial sums in hopes of making millions, has come to be known as the “Chevron Shakedown.” The case is now closed; Donziger has been disbarred. But during the investigators’ mop-up, the names of some of the people who invested in Dongizer’s scheme came to light. One of them was Roger Waters.

Waters, as it happens, has publicly accused Chevron of “greed,” just as he’s charged Israel with child-killing. Consistently, as with his attacks on Israel, he acts as if he’s the voice of morality, occupying the high moral ground. But when you publicly accuse a company of greed even as you privately invest in a sleazy shakedown scheme aimed at fleecing that same firm, there’s nothing remotely high-minded about it. On the contrary, it’s duplicitous and sleazy, period. But knowing what we already knew about Roger Waters, we shouldn’t be surprised by his involvement in this sordid scam.

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.