By National Political Correspondent Han Min-ji
HWAGANG: During this evening’s Question Hours at the National Assembly, Prime Minister Jan van Deventer decided to torpedo his own government. In a bizarre two hour session broadcast to the public over the Haesan News Network, he lambasted members of his own governing coalition, President Kim I-seul, and the Minister of Culture. Additionally, he made the questionable choice to publicly support Xiomeran Empress Calhualyana’s recent threats to Lauchenoiria regarding the terrorist group Warriors of Our Earth (WOE), a decision condemned even by members of his own Liberty! party.
This week’s Prime Minister’s Question Hours was particularly crucial, as it was the last major public avenue for the PM to gin up support before a crucial budget vote on Monday.
First, in response to a question by floor leader Elena Morris (Namhae – Lib Dem) regarding the Prime Minister’s proposed cuts to the culture budget in his proposal, van Deventer slammed the Minister of Culture and the state-supported Hae-pop industry, claiming “Two hundred years ago, Haesan produced beautiful paintings, truly majestic works of art, but today, what do we have? Only this rubbish mass produced music which fails to spark even the faintest hint of a creative drive in the minds of our youth. [Minister of Culture] Yun-chan Lee should be ashamed of himself for allowing this farce to continue.”
Hae-pop continues to be Haesan’s largest cultural export, and it is largely responsible for a recent uptick in tourism and interest in Haesan’s history amongst global youth. The development of the Korean language music industry was one of the great Haesanite cultural successes of the post-democratization era, and van Deventer’s statement directly attacks a significant source of national pride for many Haesanites. Music industry executives, as well as various celebrities in Hae-pop and beyond, have already denounced the Prime Minister’s statements.
Van Deventer also ripped against attempts at Soeyan reunification, calling the initiative “a fundamentally fruitless effort, never to see success in over a thousand lifetimes.” These comments come at the same time as van Deventer’s Liberty! political party is in a governing coalition with the staunchly pro-reunification party One Haesan, who has seen their seat share in the National Assembly triple over the last two elections as the notion of reunification has resurfaced in the national consciousness and seems increasingly feasible due to warming Haesan-Laeral relations.
When coalition whip Seo Yu-jun (Sinhan – One Haesan) pressed van Deventer on this issue, he further attacked, stating, “You and One Haesan are the reason Haesanites have been sold this fairy tale dream of rainbows and hugging their brethren again. This is never going to happen. Laeral won’t let it, and no one in the international community cares. Give up your fantasy, and stop dragging us down with you.” Naturally, Seo and the rest of the One Haesan leadership made harshly critical statements regarding van Deventer’s speech in their post Question Hours media briefing.
Even President Kim I-seul was not spared from the rhetorical onslaught. The topic of issue was the recently signed development programme with Eiria, dubbed “Haesan TechUp!” which offers Haesan’s tech firms and aspiring entrepreneurs access to Eirian training and cheap lines of credit from Eirian banks. This last point was the focus of van Deventer’s ire, where he exploded, “President Kim has sold Haesanite industry up the Sugang (Suyang River) without a paddle. Instead of focusing on giving Haesan’s own financial sector the access to high growth Haesanite development, we exported it instead so only foreigners get to benefit from our own domestic successes. It was an idiotic move, initiated by a inane diplomatic team and a feckless head of state who have clearly neglected the fundamentals of economic policy that bind us all.”
Haesan TechUp! has been widely praised by industry executives and by many aspiring startups, since it gives them the opportunity to gain specialized training from a foreign leader in innovation while Haesan’s computer education science lags behind the rest of the world. Many of those trying to break into the industry have repeatedly said that high-interest rates on domestic loans is a frequent barrier, even after van Deventer’s financial liberalization programme has pressed rates lower over the past 15 months at the cost of steep currency appreciation. The billionaire CEO of Haesanite tech conglomerate and startup incubator Cytron Inc. Alice Burns gave this statement to the Times-Courier: “Van Deventer fundamentally misunderstands the potential of “Haesan TechUp!” Eiria does not seek to push our industry downwards by leeching our profits. The purpose of this endeavour is to encourage innovation so that we, Haesan, Eiria, and the international community, all see the rich rewards of the creative spirit of the Haesanite people.”
Additionally, attacking Kim I-seul is an odd choice considering she has some of the highest approval ratings of any Haesanite politician, hovering at around 70%. Kim is credited for maintaining democratic norms and the rule of law during the revelation of the Seollim bribery scandal in 2021 as she declined to pardon 4-term Prime Minister Choi Da-yeon even though they are both members of the Free Democrat Party. Her steadfast resolve to the legal process, even as a titan of Haesanite politics credited with the wholesale modernization of the country fell from grace, earned her tremendous respect across political divides. Her governing style of focusing on smaller scale, highly-targeted diplomatic initiatives with other nations has been highly effective in diversifying Haesan’s service sector and has cemented her reputation as a fair, competent president. Kim is quite likely the worst possible target to lambast in all of Haesanite politics, but van Deventer powered ahead regardless.
Most shockingly, van Deventer publicly defended Xiomeran Empress Calhualyana’s televised statement where she denounced WOE and the Lauchenoirian government. Even as Calhualyana’s speech contained no remorse for the extrajudicial kidnapping and likely torture of foreign nationals, when young Deputy Mireille Kim (Anfa – New Bargain) pressed van Deventer on potential Haesanite law enforcement reactions to WOE, he shot back, “Xiomera has the right idea. When I heard Calhualyana’s address earlier, I heard a nation in control of its own security. We cannot forget the importance of maintaining our national security, just as we cannot forget what the failure to do so let occur in 1963. Let us follow the example of the Golden Sun Empire.”
While Haesan has maintained warm relations with Xiomera since democratization and maintained high levels of economic integration, typically the two nations diverge on issues of human rights. Haesan has tried incessantly over the last four decades to be fully accepted into the international circle of liberal democracies, and van Deventer’s statement directly contradicts years of policy. When van Deventer endorsed Calhualyana’s speech, the Chamber of Deputies broke out into a chorus of boos, including some from within his own party. A shout of “You have no soul!” was audible from the Lib Dem section. Various high level political officials in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Home Office have condemned his statement, singling out the notion that WOE is somehow equivalent to the Daryan invasion of Haesan, while at the same time engaging in robust dialogue with the Xiomeran government to ensure that the strong economic relationship maintains intact. Additionally, multiple human rights advocacy groups within Haesan have aggressively denounced van Deventer’s admiration for the Xiomeran policing regime.
The Press Secretary at the Office of the Haesanite President has issued a statement on the Prime Minister’s remarks, stating, “We do not condone torture in any form. Haesan supports the human rights of all individuals all around the IDU. We are proud of our cultural exports, especially our Hae-pop industry. We will continue to collaborate with other nations on economic and political issues, and our integration into a global world is critical to our continued development and prosperity as a nation. Most importantly, we will continue to push for political reunification with Soeyan, and support the political autonomy of all citizens there who wish to align with Haesan. The Prime Minister’s statements are simply shameful, and endanger Haesan’s reputation and interests across the globe.”
Van Deventer’s government was already teetering on the edge, and any failed budget proposal was likely to sink his fragile three-seat majority. However, now the question is no longer about whether a no-confidence vote will occur, but merely if the opposition parties will give van Deventer the dignity of waiting until after Monday’s budget vote to call for it. It looks increasingly likely that Haesan is headed for its third election in a two year time span.
Ironically, through this charade, van Deventer has finally succeeded in his stated goal of uniting the disparate political factions of Haesan into one unified front. It just happens that the force he created has the singular goal of removing him from power.
We will continue to provide updates from Hwagang as we get more clarification about this unprecedented sequence of events.