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.