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North Korean Missile Test A Non-Factor In South Korean Elections

Everybody appears to be uptight about the North Korean missile launch, except for the South Koreans.
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 4/10/2012, 11:52 PM

Saenuri Rally
Saenuri Rally
Reuters

The United States is pleading with China to halt the planned North Korean missile launch.

The Japanese have authorized their defense forces to shoot down the missile if it comes close to Japanese territory.

Nations in the path of the missile launch have been altering commercial flight schedules.

Everybody appears to be in a tizzy over the North Korean plans.

There is a surprising exception, however-- South Korea. South Korea will go to the polls in parliamentary elections on Wednesday and the issue of North Korea is not on the minds of the voters or the major contenders in the parliamentary balloting. These are the conservative Saenuri Party and the leftist Democratic United Party (DUP). Saenuri is the new name of the Grand National Party.

Not everybody is happy with this attitude  and the Chosun Ilbo criticized the head-in-the-sand attitude in an editorial:

But the public will head to the polling stations in Wednesday's general elections oblivious of the North Korean missile threat, since none of the candidates from either the ruling or opposition parties has raised concerns over the issue. How irresponsible can these politicians be? South Koreans must be the only people in the world whose politicians have no intention to protect them from any security threat.

South Koreans were alarmed by the first North Korean nuclear test, but by the second nuclear test they had internalized things and are rather blase about a third nuclear test.

Part of the seeming indifference can be explained by the fact that the North Koreans, even before the bomb, had the ability to inflict incalculable damage upon the South, with scores of thousands of artillery pieces trained on the South Korean capital of Seoul.

Having tried out different policies towards North Korea, from confrontation to "Sunshine Diplomacy" involving massive unilateral aid from the South to the North, South Koreans believe that they have tried everything.

They have adopted the attitude that one sometimes hears in Israel -  that as nothing can be done for the moment about North Korea, it would be best to concentrate on domestic economic issues, where elections can make a difference. Neither party wants to invoke the North Korea issue because Saenuri fears it will be blamed for failing to make peace. Their opponents fear that raising the issue will drive voters towards the right.

South Korea's 3.5% growth has been offset by rising prices, higher education costs and a tightening employment market. The election is being fought predominantly over these issues.