Shim Jae Hoon at PostGlobal

Shim Jae Hoon

South Korea

Shim Jae Hoon is a Seoul-based journalist and commentator writing for a variety of international publications including YaleGlobal Online, The Straits Times of Singapore, The Taipei Times and Korea Herald. He was a correspondent for Far Eastern Economic Review in Seoul, Taipei and Jakarta. Close.

Shim Jae Hoon

South Korea

Shim Jae Hoon is a Seoul-based journalist and commentator writing for a variety of international publications including YaleGlobal Online, The Straits Times of Singapore, The Taipei Times and Korea Herald. more »

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Tread Softly, Make China Responsible

Taiwan has been effectively independent from mainland China for a very long time, and the islanders should have the right to decide their own destiny. But President Chen should pursue this goal with utmost caution. If he does not give Beijing an excuse for war, China will have to accept the consequences of acting aggressively -- which Japan and South Korea would not tolerate.

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All Comments (27)

to blue sky:

that's a family. we're talking about a whole country idiot. i'm at my computer right now and decide it's mine and i'm going to bid for the un. not the same buddy.

blue sky? what kind of s is that.
RED RED RED SKY. go back to china.



Blue sky:

Speaking of self-determination, let me ask you a question. A Mexican family owns a ranch in Texas, they have brought in more relatives from Mexico. Now they want to have a referendum and declare themselves independent. Can they do that?


i just felt so surprise that so many people care about the taiwan issue even they come from different countries.And i just shake by the fact that mass people claim the present taiwan leader really want to act the independent plan.
do not you know their only purpose is gain success in the coming election of president?shui-bian chen will never dare to make any practical progress while he can not get clear security fact,chen is facing a lot of difficulties including the corruption accusation to heself and his several relatives.he needs some impressive achievement urgently to ease the hardship,and he even want to spot the so-
called independent history of taiwan.meanwhile chen's party is facing difficulties is very popular in taiwan and ma's party has made some agreements with the mainland goverment.chen and his party are just making some shows.
the forgeinors who support the taiwan's independent plan intensively will disappoint themselves.

Anju Chandel, New Delhi, India:

China would do everything in its power to not let go Taiwan from its claws completely. Therefore, though Taiwan needs to tread softly but it need not stop absolutely on its path to total Independence.

reporter, USA,

The Taiwanese are entitled to self-determination. If they wish to be an independent nation, then they have the right to be one.

However, most Taiwanese support eventual unification between Taiwan and mainland China. Read the analysis titled "Taiwan: the Hustler".

If the Taiwanese really wanted independence, they would have already changed their official name from "Republic of China" to "Republic of Taiwan". Yet, the Taiwanese refuse to change the name of Taiwan. The reason is neither Chinese threats nor American pressure. The reason is that most Taiwanese oppose such a change.

For most Taiwanese, being ruled by Beijing is just a mere inconvenience. They are willing to endure this inconvenience if they can earn plenty of money. Indeed, the Taiwanese have voluntarily made Taiwan dependent on mainland China by investing more than $100 billion into more than 50,000 businesses on the mainland. Further, about 1 million Taiwanese (which is 4.5% of the island's population) have already, voluntarily emigrated to China to live and work.

Why should we Americans sacrifice our time, money, and even our lives to prevent a mere inconvenience? We should terminate the Taiwan Relations Act and sever all ties with Taiwan.


As we believe that Taiwan is of the Taiwanese, Taiwan is by the Taiwanese, Taiwan is for the Taiwanese. The most of Taiwanese are in pursuit of Normal Country by building up the Taiwan Constitution through referendum vote which is considered irrelevant to the China. By all means, it will be revealed to the world a peaceful result.

China vs Taiwan
the story is just like a gangster wants to marry a beautiful lady but with poisoned apple in one hand and guns in the other hand. The American people, please tell me will the bad guy win the lady?

Mark Wu:

To Ingrid, Taiwanese expatriate in Shanghi:

Mr. Shim did not state that Taiwanese "enjoyed" Japanese rule, he stated that Taiwanese "preferred" Japanese rule to KMT rule. At least under Japanese rule, no island wide massacre ever occurred.

Taiwan's rule belongs to Taiwanese people, not to China, not to Japan. Taiwan's independence is the most important issue that's plaguing the island right now. The paralysis of the Legislative Yuan, the total mess in the media, the mess regarding education, and all the political disputes right now can be attributed to the conflict between independence vs. unification. Let's give the people the power to voice their opinion, and settle the score once and for all so Taiwan can have some peace and quiet. If they want unification, great, the government can work in that direction. If they want independence, great. Otherwise, the current quagmire of a government will continue on without a real direction. Who knows, maybe the people of Taiwan prefers unification. Then CCP can rest peacefully knowing that Taiwan wants to be liberated from the ROC government and join the PRC.

screw korean dog eater II:

for whom pretending to be a Korea basher.

yes, Although dog eating customs has been changed a lot, I guess that practice should be upheld no matter what dog lovers said about it.

one nation's habits and customs should not be influenced by other heterogenous influences unless one nation's customs are reckless in disregard of the value of humans. Since I have been in the US for a long while, I guess I may be able to understand why so many of people here in NYC love dogs, but it burdens me to see some guys walking big dogs which many times release themselves on the streets. There are much of dungs still remaining on the streets and even in upper east and west side, after the rain is over, you may smell of the reeking odors of canine urine wafting through the air.

if many of people having very good care of their dogs look at the sufferings of the homeless and panhandlers constantly being pilloried by bystanders on the streets or inside the subway, I guess many of those homeless might breathe out less despair-stricken sighs, and they may even live not on the parish anymore.

why do not pay less dotting attention to your dogs and let's heed the sufferings of your abutting neighbors, and less commenting on others' time-honored customs. As other nationals respect US way of doing things in thier own way, I guess US needs to do its own acting part in the spirit of comity and reciprocity.

Ingrid, Taiwanese expatriate in Shanghi:

Mr Shim,
It is Spanish, not Portuguese that have rulled Taiwan! Your knowledge about Taiwanese history is WRONG!!!!!!!
Also, it is humiliating to say that Taiwanese enjoy Japanese rule. I thought it is impossible for Korean to say so, unless they themselves love Japanese.
On the other hand, I personally think that President Chen will be happy if Mainland China invades Taiwan because that might rescue his poor popularity (he only wishes that he himself is not the target.)

Screw Korean Dog Eater:

Hey "Korean Dog Eater"

Keep your racist comments to yourself. Ignorant moron!


I guess it would be a politically win game for Chen now to play referendum game to take advantage of Beijing's awkward circumstances where mainland China has to be more patient with Taiwan's provocation in order to save some international favors not boycotting Beijing Olympics. It is very shrewed political gimmick on the part of Chen. It is sort of two level game incorporated in current Taiwan's valatile political situations.

In my very personal opinion, Taiwan's political system is totally different from that of mainland China which is not yet fully matured yet. It will take time for mainland China to change its instituonal inertia and craft a new course of political instituonalization, but who dares to take that politically very very costly initative. Now there is no Deng Xiaoping or even Chen Yun and no CCP principals. 300-or so force of CCP Central Selectorate would not be in support of drastic political parashuting from one party system into multiple political system.
Until internal explosion or external shock therapy is harnessed, no way out of the current befuddling political system facing mainland China.

There has been some public survey studies done on Taiwanese rigft after Chen was elected president in Taiwan. Many of them supported the idea of Chen's initiave of pro-independecy movement.


I'm not trying to take a cheap shot (too much) at the above, but Germany's post-1936 Olympics democratization process was less than smooth.


Nationalists or DPP, either way these Taiwanese parties represent and prefer governance alternatives to the mainland's CCP. And since Taiwan is effectively a capitalist democracy, the question of independence is therefore one of tact rather than substance. I disagree entirely with the baseless and brief political rants of Druvas and King, but share their interest in the independence issue as the Olympics approach. China's risks would mount exponentially in the preceding weeks/months, to say nothing of the actual actual armed conflicts that would ensue throughout the region. Taiwan - as well as all onlookers - should note, however, that up until now not a single country has failed to democratize after hosting the Olympics. We have yet to see how China's immense wealth and historically unique pragmatism among totalitarian states may challenge this trend.


"Should the U.S. get a little greedy and try to force the issue preemptively"

Greedy? I suspect that the hundreds of thousands of NK political prisoners and the hundreds of thousands more who die of starvation under Kim Jong-il couldn't see the day of reunification come soon enough.


KTC is right.

The main difference between mainland China and Taiwan is political not ethno-linguistic. But identity is permeable and Chen Shui-bian has been working very hard to de-sinify Taiwan, trying to convince the populace that they are Taiwanese, not Chinese, and that the DPP is the native Taiwanese party and that the Nationalists is the carpet-begging Chinese party.

The DPP has had considerable success wielding the identity weapon against the mainlander-heavy nationalist party. But in the years of Chen Shui-bian's presidency, the DPP has achieved little else of their otherwise traditional left-of-center agenda including social welfare and environmental protection. Not all DPP factions are as gungho pro-Taiwanese independence as Chen. The next DPP candidate for the presidency, Frank Hsieh, for example had agreed in 2000 as mayor of Kaoshiung to hold friendly exchanges with the mayor of Xiamen, a city in southern Fujian province on the mainland which shares close cultural and linguistic ties with Hokkien/Hoklo Taiwanese. The proposal, however, was nixed by then-Taiwanese president Lee Teng-hui.

A big reason why native Taiwanese are alone in their relative fondness of Japan among among Asian peoples who've lived under Japanese occupation is their experience under nationalist rule after WWII. The Japanese colonial administrators did help modernize the island as they did in Korea and Manchuria, but they did not treated islanders like colonial subjects. It was not a love-fest and there were local rebellions against Japan in Taiwan as elsewhere. But whatever longing the Taiwanese had for their return to Chinese rule following WWII was dashed by the corrupt and oppressive rule of the Chinese nationalists who took over the island in 1945. These are the same nationalists whose misrule of the mainland caused their defeat by the communists in 1949. They perpetuated the same brand of white terror on the island. Imagine how people in Hong Kong would feel about PR China if after 1997 the Communists took control of all positions of power, seized much of Hong Kong's wealth and rounded up and executed thousands of Hong Kong intellectuals and imposed marshal law. Might Hong Kong people be more favorably disposed to the British in retrospect? That's what the nationalists did to Taiwan and that's how this concept of Taiwanese independence took shape.

It's important to distinguish U.S. support for Taiwan as "Free China" in the past with what Chen Shui-bian is moving toward, which is Taiwan as Taiwan. On this front, there's been a significant difference between the State Dept. and the Pentagon/Cheney of this administration. The former is pro-status quo i.e. explicit recognition of PRC and implicit recognition of ROC. The latter pushed for Chen to declare independence for ROT. So far, this has been one of the few policy areas where State has prevailed over Defense and Cheney didn't get what he wanted.

As for the comment, what do the Taiwanese want? It depends on who you ask. The island's domestic politics have been roiled by a partisan divide between the nationalists and its allies (also known as the pan blue camp) and the DPP and its allies (known as the pan green camp).


As always, people willing to theorize and speak for the people of Taiwan. Why no one ask what they want? Do Taiwanese need to kow-tow to China just because they always make threats?



I think you've got your power/threat dynamics backwards. North Korea is much less of a threat to South Korea than the U.S. is to North Korea. The North Korean economy is on life-support; it can barely keep its army fed and fueled. There's no USSR to stoke that desire to force unification from the North. And China ain't going to be sending a million volunteers to help the North invade, now that its relations with South Korea are so good. North Korea is barely hanging on to survive and relies on its massive military to keep the regime in power. It is testing nuclear weapons and taepodong missiles to deter possible U.S. aggression not to invade the South. Those artillery tubes buried north of the 38th parallel can't be uprooted and moved south for a barrage on Busan. Again, they're meant for deterrence. Should the U.S. get a little greedy and try to force the issue preemptively (a la Iraq) it'll have to think about the collateral damage to Seoul.

The South Korean military is more than capable of repulsing an incursion from the North on its own. The South today is far more populous, wealthy, militarily robust and politically secure than the North. There's no longer fear that the North might win sympathies down South and subvert the regime. The South today is unconquerable and both the North and South know this. The U.S. military presence in the South is a legacy of the past and a reflection our penchant to keep bases around the world. It's no longer the guarantee of South Korea's viability. That's why they're moving the bases out of the border areas and from the heart of Seoul to points further south on the peninsula.

The success of the system in the South today is itself a threat to the North, which has keep its people shielded from this fact lest they get tempted. The South understands this and through the Sunshine Policy basically offers to reassure the North. The South is basically saying, "we feel pretty secure about ourselves and want you to know that in the interest of eventual unification we are not going to try to subvert you and exploit your weakenesses." In fact, the South is trying to get the North to develop like China and Vietnam instead of starving people and keeping them ignorant.

China happens to be supportive of this approach to North Korea. It invited Kim Jung-il to Shanghai and showed him the possibilities of a communist-led market economy. The South is betting that by pursuing such a path, the North will become more unification-compatible in the future and that the authoritarian regime will soften like the dictatorship did in the South.

The Bush administration took a different view. It confronted the North about its nuclear program and tried to browbeat the North into disarmament, and conjured up the "threat" of the North to justify missile defense and encourage militarization of Japan. The North did not wait to see if it'd be the next target for a preemptive U.S. strike. It detonated a nuclear bomb and tested missiles on the Fourth of July.

Finally, Condi pushed aside the neocons from driving North Korean policy and began to ease away from confrontation. Condi unfroze the North's bank account and implicitly assured Pyongyang that the U.S. is not going to force regime change. The North also understands that it ultimately can't feed its people atomic weapons and ICBMs.


Speaking of asking, someone should sit down and ask the Taiwanese. My wife is Taiwanese and I get a somewhat different view from some stated here. I agree with the author that they seem to have a pretty chummy relationship with Japan. My wife speaks Japanese and lived their for several years. She expreses a clear reverence for many things Japanese, but doesn't wish to be like them altogether. And when it comes to political views it seems most young Taiwanese care little for the history but form their view along typical right-wing or left-wing political values. My gut feeling is that most are for not rocking the boat and infurating China would do just that.

Korean dog eaters:

I am suprised that this Korean dog eater dare pretending coy here. Granted he'd like both North and the South Korea join the U.S as part of the unification process. Too bad, we don't like dog eaters, and leave your stinky Kimchi smell at home.


This is rather baffling. 70% of Taiwan's people speak the same language (Hokkien/Taiwanese) as their brothers across their straits in southern Fujian province, 15% speak the Hakka language of Guangdong province, the other 15% hail from other parts of China (mostly arrivals after 1945). Only 2% are so are aborigines, including those who have intermarried with the Han.

There may be a myriad of reasons for Taiwanese to want "independence" from China, but the claim of cultural or ethnic separation from mainland China is ridiculous. Another Chinese island, Hainan, has a far greater claim to separation from the mainland -- it has its own unique language, its aborigine population is much larger than Taiwan, and, quite frankly, it is less Mandarin-speaking than Taiwan.

Shim gets it wrong again.


Taiwan should declare independence while it still has a strong ally in the White House. If Kerry or Gore had won the election, China would have already invaded the island becasue they know an anti-war democrat would not use force to stop them. I like the idea of doing it right before the Olympics.

Melissa Macauley:

Taiwan was not "under Portuguese and Dutch rule before Japan formally annexed it in 1895...." Although the Portuguese explored the island in the 1620s, they never "ruled" Taiwan. The Dutch were pushed out of their fortress of Zeelandia by the Ming loyalist, Koxinga, in 1662. Taiwan was then formally incorporated into the Chinese empire by the Qing dynasty in 1683. It was a prefecture of the province of Fujian, the mainland province immediately across the Taiwan straits. Taiwanese and southern Fujianese share the same language and cultural traditions. The Chinese government elevated the administrative status of Taiwan to a province in the late 19th century (mostly out of fear of Japanese designs on the island). In one of the many wars of imperialism of that century, the Japanese wrested control of Taiwan in 1895, and turned it into a colony until 1945, when the Allies won WW II and returned the island to China.

This is not to make an argument for or against independence. It is merely to set the historical record straight.



I wonder what would happen if we pulled our troops out of South Korea? Do you think that there would be a peacful reunification? I rather think that, certainly a reunification would occur, but under force of arms by the North.

As for Taiwan, I believe that they should go ahead a declare independence from China perhaps 9 months or so before the Olympics.


Mr Shim Jae Hoon,
Please ask Koreans ,both North Koreans and South Koreans what they think the Korea peninsular is seperated into two countries.Are they happy or are they sad?
Please stop spreading your nonsense and misleading American readers at


I'm surprised that you would lump South Korea and Japan together in their attitude toward a possible conflict in the Taiwan Straits. In 2004, after PR China passed an anti-secession law authorizing the use of force to prevent Taiwanese independence, South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun informed U.S. officials in Washington that South Korea would not permit U.S. military bases in Korea to be used for a military intervention in other Asian countries, presumably Taiwan. Japan, on the other hand, has become more favorably disposed toward supporting armed intervention by the United States, particularly as its latent militarist ruling class gains greater clout in domestic Japanese politics.

Furthermore, the notion that China is the only power that stands in the way of a reunified Korea today is antiquated, unless you subscribe to the neocon theory of engineering reunification through a U.S.-induced collapse of the North. Out of all of the six member talks, China enjoys the best relations with both South and North Korea. China has been the most supportive of Kim Dae-Jung's Sunshine Policy and China has acted as the mediator in the nuclear crises between North Korea and United States. I think most Korean people would like to see the peaceful reunification of the peninsula. Having witnessed the post-unification woes that Germany endured, South Koreans realize that a sudden reunion with the North would be difficult and accept gradual opening up and economic development of the North before formal unification. They do not want to see U.S. brinkmanship with Kim Jung-il leading to an outright clash and bloody collapse of the North. China shares this view. It supports economic reforms by the North and linkages with the South. It fears a collapse of North followed by mass refugees flooding into northeastern China. Before you name China as the obstacle to reunification, consider North Korea and the United States.

Finally, on to Chen Shui-bian and Taiwan. This is not the first time Chen has tied a referendum to a general election. He uses this device to mobilize voters in his domestic political competition with the Chinese Nationalist Party, which controlled the island for 50 years until 2000 and still controls the legislature. In 2004, he asked Taiwanese voters whether Taiwan should acquire more advanced weaponry should China renounce the use of force against Taiwan. This referendum question was ultimately ineffective as only 45% of the voters responded, short of the 50% of total ballot cast required. The reason--nationalist supporters refused to answer the question. The ballot did help to energize his Democratic Progressive Party base which helped Chen eek out a razor thin reelection victory over the nationalists -- 48.84% to 48.62%.

The bottomline is that the communists on the mainland and the nationalist in Taiwan agree that Taiwan is part of China. They differ over which China. The communist has ruled the widely recognized People's Republic of China since 1949. The nationalists still cling to Taiwan as the Republic of China, which has remained an independent country since 1911. Chen Shui-bian and the DPP are a third force who wants to call Taiwan just Taiwan. They face resistance from mainland China which we all read about. But within the island, they are locked in a bitter struggle with the nationalists. It is this domestic dispute that's causing him to make all of these moves to de-sinify the island and to provoke the mainland in to making threats against the island which he hopes will divert voters from the nationalists to his party.

In domestic U.S. terms, it's as if the Republicans added an anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment question to the referendum for the 2008 elections to energize the base.

As for stability in the straits, PR China has too much going for it to actually launch a war right now. The nationalists have done much to regain momentum in the island's politics. The communists and the nationalists have had a little entente of sorts. Chen and the DPP are reeling from personal scandal and lack of policy progress on anything. All he's left with is symbolic moves to manipulate voters on the identity issue -- are we Chinese or Taiwanese.

Pro Taiwan, Pro China:

Shim Jae Hoon makes two errors in his superficial analysis of the Taiwan situation: 1) equating conquest by foreign powers with a break in national identity; and 2) assuming that the "people" actually support the combustible notion of a referendum on independence. On point 1), Taiwan has been severed from China by war, and while Chinese rule pre-dating Dutch/Japanese conquest could be termed "tenuous" (Taipei has never been as integral as Beijing), so could the United States' possession of territories ranging from Texas to Hawaii to Alaska. Shim also makes the wrongful assertion that Taiwan culturally is different from China: the native Taiwanese still recognize Sun Yat-Sen as the father of their nation, Mandarin is the lingua franca and the 3-4 generations of moving a few hundred miles from Hakkien and Mandarin-speaking Fujian to Taiwan is hardly a decisive break with the past. On point 2), Shim should consult a few polls to see what the Taiwanese themselves think of an independence referendum, not to mention consulting the Taiwan media on what they think of Chen Shui Bian either personally or in terms of his "policy" priorities.

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