Chin’s brother provides clarification

I received the following in my email inbox today from Ben Chin’s brother:

Dear Mr. Taylor,

I read your article on my brother Ben Chin and was surprised with all the attention. Perhaps I can clear up some of the concerns. There are couple of excellent articles in the internet on Korea’s political situation in the 70s.

http://robots.cnn.com/ASIANOW/time/asia/magazine/1999/990823/park1.html

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/752055.stm

These were turbulent times as indicated in the articles. President Park did wonders for the Korean economy but became more oppressive especially after his wife was killed. Assassination attempt on him by a North Korean agent killed the much loved and respected first lady in 1974. It is generally thought that the first lady brought considerable balance and wisdom to the president’s life. Her death must have been devastating for the president not to mention the enormous guilt that he must have felt that she took his position. President Park became less open, less trusting and more hard line around this time… “many political leaders were arbitrarily arrested, and the security apparatus entered its most draconian period, putting down dissent and becoming infamous for its use of torture” …according to the above article. President Park himself was assassinated in 1979. My father lost or resigned his position around 1974.

Pro-democracy movement in 1980 resulted in hundreds (if not over a thousand) being killed by paratroops under President Chun. If Korea was officially a democracy, it was a fledgling one in the 70s.

My parents and Ben were living in Korea in the mid-70s. When Ben was 13, he left Korea and joined me in Toronto. You could say that my younger sister and I “raised” Ben during his early teens (13 to 16). My sister and I were busy university students and not prepared to raise any teenagers…so I give full credit to Ben for turning out ok.

I suppose that you’re privileged if your dad has a chauffeur driven Mercedes or Cadillac. But my dad struggled all his life getting there and he let us know it. He survived Japanese occupation and the Korean war and slowly worked his way up as a carrier diplomat from the bottom.

Ben doesn’t always talk about his early teens. If the main question is about his car, he is not going to bring up political persecutions of his dad. This is not about deception, lie or double life. He is just being practical and sensible like anyone would.

Thank you, Jik Chin

I have the feeling that that’s all the clarification that one needs to sort out this story which originated over the confusion between the quotation in Ben Chin’s literature and an obscure puff piece on a car website. I have no reason not to take Ben’s brother (and thus Ben) at his word.

While this isn’t a retraction of my original post as that post merely quoted a few sources which were inconsistent with each other, I do regret my tone (“from humble beginnings” and “jet-set”) as we now have a corroborating piece of the puzzle that indicates that things weren’t as easy as assumed for the Chins. As this story developed, my goal had always been a full and fair presentation of the facts.

Now, I hope that the NDP and the Liberals can play nice in Toronto-Danforth because this issue seems insignificant at best.

NDP flip-flops on ethics and partisanship

According to CTV, Bernard Shapiro’s days are numbered. The network has learned that the Conservatives are already shopping around for a new ethics czar and I was happy to see that Ed Broadbent was tapped for the job. Broadbent was one of the most vocal critics of the embattled ethics commissioner and former head of McGill. In his package of Parliamentary and ethics reforms that he promised to implement during the election, the replacement of this so-called non-partisan Liberal appointee with a truly non-partisan officer of government makes a lot of sense.

Unfortunately, Broadbent has declined Stephen Harper’s offer as the NDP elder is caring for his ill wife.

Broadbent would have been a good non-partisan choice, especially in the face of what current NDP MP Peter Julian had to offer yesterday on Stephen Harper’s refusal to cooperate with the Ethics czar’s sham investigation into Emerson’s floor crossing.

I certainly hope that he’ll reconsider his position, that the reaction on the weekend was just a very strong reaction based on partisan motives — Peter Julian, partisan NDP MP

Of course, Peter Julian is part of the BC NDP federal caucus and is voicing his partisan and invested opinion into the matter. You see, this whole “ethics” row has been caused by Liberal and mostly NDP upset into the appointment of former Liberal David Emerson to cabinet by Stephen Harper. The NDP colleague of Julian’s ran second to Emerson in that riding and has been the instigator of much of the public outcry in that riding.

So, now we see a NDP partisan call into starting an ethics investigation by a Liberal Ethics Commissioner into the actions of a Conservative Prime Minister, which acted within the framework of the laws of this country.

Stephen Harper has called for a non-partisan appointment of an ethics commissioner, in the face of partisan opposition.

One should also note that this partisanship over ethics doesn’t come exclusively from the BC NDP MP. On Don Newman’s Politics program yesterday on CBC Newsworld, NDP leader Jack Layton said that he was “shocked” as to why the Prime Minister would criticize Bernard Shapiro.

Now, let’s deconstruct Jack Layton’s partisan silliness about what is supposed to be a non-partisan officer of Parliament. Jack should be working towards matching Broadbent’s legacy.

“I don’t want to impugn his honesty but the way [Shapiro] has handled the office, it leaves open the clear question of his impartiality because of what he has decided to do or what he has decided not to do” — Ed Broadbent, Edmonton Journal, May 11, 2005

Is Jack “shocked” at Broadbent’s criticism?

“He should seriously think about [resigning] … Mr. Shapiro has not performed well. This is a serious political position he’s in, and it’s a complex position. But he … demonstrates a complete lack of understanding about what ministerial accountability means.” — Ed Broadbent, Globe and Mail, June 3rd 2005

Ed thinks Shapiro should have resigned long ago…

“I think it’s totally, utterly, completely unacceptable and Mr. Shapiro should resign … On decision after decision, he’s made simply the wrong decision” — Ed Broadbent, Ottawa Citizen, June 18th 2005

Shapiro makes news again

The CTV headline screams:

Harper to be investigated by ethics commissioner

Ah yes, Bernard Shapiro the Liberal appointee whose resignation has been demanded by no less than Ed Broadbent after Shapiro was found in comtempt by a House of Commons committee:

“Mr Shapiro has extraordinary serious credibility problems. It leaves open the clear question of his impartiality because of what he decided or what he has decided NOT to do.” — Ed Broadbent, NDP MP

Remember the Liberal government? (how could one forget?). Remember all of those allegations of corruption? Remember Adscam, the ITC scandal, the Dingwall mess? The Liberal appointed Ethics Commissioner made a feeble attempt to investigate Sgro (he even mishandled that one)! Hence, quite a credibility issue as decided by a multi-party committee of government.

So, what is Bernard Shapiro investigating?

David Emerson’s floor crossing of course! Was it ethical? This question has the Ethics Commissioner launching a preliminary investigation into conflict-of-interest allegations against the Conservative PM’s appointment.

Did Shapiro investigate Belinda’s floor crossing (hers was certainly more opportunistic than Emerson’s as it came at a time when Paul Martin was facing certain defeat without her)? Did Shapiro investigate Brison’s defection to the Liberals? Shapiro DID NOT investigate eithre Stronach’s or Brison’s floor crossings.

Shapiro once mused:

“between the dissolution of the 38th parliament and the commencement of the 39th parliament, members of the House of Commons as an assembly, as well as its activities cease.” — Bernard Shapiro, Ethics Commissioner

What was the context of this quote? This is what Shapiro said when he refused to investigate the land flip scandal that Tony Valeri was involved in during the election. As Emerson switched parties before he was re-sworn in as a member of the 39th Parliament, why does Liberal appointee Bernard Shapiro feel the urge to investigate now?

The 38th Parliament was led by a Liberal government. There weren’t ANY (were hardly any) investigations by Shapiro into any of the activities of Liberal parliamentarians. Now, we have the 39th Parliament, led by a Conservative government and Shapiro can’t wait to start an investigation.

Is there an agenda here by a supposedly independent officer of Parliament?

Harper spokeswoman Sandra Buckler: “The prime minister is loath to co-operate with an individual whose decision-making ability has been questioned and who has been found in contempt of the House. … This Liberal appointee’s actions have strengthened the prime minister’s resolve to create a truly non-partisan ethics commissioner, who is accountable to Parliament.”

Sorting out the Ben Chin story

(For a review of my previous musings on the Ben Chin story please see this article)

There are two accounts in the public record and the discrepancy between the two has not been clarified.

The first account (source):

I moved to East York as a 13 year old. I left my parents behind in Korea, where they were facing political persecution. I didn’t know if I’d see them again.

The second account (source):

Q: Your Dad retired from government service when you were 16 …

A: Yes. We moved to Canada.

Some facts:

The Chins were in Ottawa from 1970-1974 as the father was a diplomat for the South Korean government. Ben Chin was 6-10 at this time (Chin was born in 1964).

From 1970-1974, the South Korean government sure wasn’t the image of stability (or freedom) as it was led by Major General Park Chung Hee Lee who seized control of the country on May 16th, 1961 in a military coup. According to Wikipedia:

The military leaders promised to return the government to a democratic system as soon as possible. On December 2, 1962, a referendum was held on returning to a presidential system of rule, which was allegedly passed with a 78% majority. Park and the other military leaders pledged not to run for office in the next elections. However, Park ran for president anyway, winning narrowly in the election of 1963. Park ran again in the election of 1967, taking 51.4% of the vote. At the time the presidency was constitutionally limited to two terms, but a constitutional amendment was forced through the National Assembly in 1969 to allow him to seek a third term. He was re-elected in the 1971 presidential election. The leading opposition candidate was Kim Dae-jung, who lost by a narrow margin.

On December 6, 1971, Park declared a state of national emergency. On July 4 of the following year, he announced plans for reunification in a joint communique with North Korea. Park declared martial law on October 17, 1972, dissolving the National Assembly. He also announced plans to eliminate the popular election of the president. The Fourth Republic began with the adoption of the Yusin Constitution on November 21, 1972. This new constitution gave Park effective control over the parliament. In the face of continuing popular unrest, Park promulgated emergency decrees in 1974 and 1975 which led to the jailing of hundreds of dissidents. This period also saw continued dramatic economic growth.

According to the first account, Chin the elder could have been a diplomatic representative of the South Korean tyrant from 1970-1974 and could have been jailed for breaking ranks with the government in 1974. However, Chin said that he moved to Canada (under political persecution) when he was 13. This would have been in 1977, two years after the mass jailing of dissidents.

If we consider the second account which described a 16 year old Chin moving to Canada after his father “retired” from government, this would have been in 1980.

Let review South Korean history around 1980 (wikipedia):

After the assassination of Park Chung Hee by Kim Jae-kyu in 1979, a vocal civil society emerged that led to strong protests against authoritarian rule. Composed primarily of university students and labor unions, protests reached a climax after Major General Chun Doo-hwan’s 1979 Coup d’├ętat of December Twelfth and declaration of martial law. On May 18, 1980, a confrontation broke out in the city of Gwangju between students of Chonnam National University protesting against the closure of their university and armed forces and turned into a citywide riot that lasted nine days until May 27. Immediate estimates of the civilian death toll ranged from a few dozen to 2000, with a later full investigation by the civilian government finding 207 deaths (see: Gwangju Massacre). Public outrage over the killings consolidated nationwide support for democracy, paving the road for the first democratic elections in 1987.

According to the second account Chin’s family moved to Canada after serving the government until 1980 (until Chin was 16). South Korea was ruled by a dictator until he was assassinated in 1979. Was the backlash against this dictator the “political persecution” that the Chins were escaping? Did Chin’s father find early retirement after his dictator boss was assassinated?

Does the political persecution that Chin describes co-incide with the changing of the guard in Korea? Was Chin’s father actually a hero and was persecuted for finally speaking out against the autocratic rule (which he initally served)? When did the Chins move to Canada to join their son Ben? Did the political persecution occur after Chin was recalled to Korea in 1974, after the jailing of dissidents in 1974 and 1975, leading Ben to move back to Canada two to three years later in 1977?

Of course, Ben Chin should not be judged for the political history of his father and the government that he served. However, there are some clear discrepancies in Ben Chin’s story, especially about the political persecution that he claims he endured (one either believes that the Chins were shuttled around in limos as they served a South Korean dictator or one speculates that there is just more to the story that we don’t know about).

If Chin’s father had to escape Korea due to a popular revolt against an autocratic regime which he served then Ben Chin should not paint himself as a political refugee (and all of the pity-invoking images that come along with such a description). However, if there is an interesting twist in the story (that appears nowhere in the printed record) such as a rebellious elder Chin finally speaking out against the autocratic regime, then Chin’s story would have credibility.

For now, the public record shows that Chin came to Canada when he was either 13 or 16 (we know that he lived here earlier from the ages of 6 through 10). We also know that Chin was so priviledged that he didn’t know a life outside of being chauffered in a limo until he finally moved to stay in Canada. We know that this life of priviledge came from serving an autocratic dictator in South Korea. We have also heard of political persecution that occured in around either 1977 or 1980. The elder Chin’s boss was assassinated in 1979 and Chin’s father retired soon after.

Of course, we can also consider Cherniak’s second hand hyperpartisan (from a friend of a friend of the Ben Chin campaign) explanation of the events. Again, remember that this is hearsay and doesn’t appear in any interview of Ben Chin or at all in the printed record. But hey, it could be true (one hopes it is):

Ben Chin’s father was a diplomat. Apparently, at some point in the 1970s he opined that pro-democracy activists should be let out of prison in South Korea. (Remember that the country was not a democracy at that point in time.) Ben Chin’s father was arrested by the Korean secret service and accused of being a communist. In 1976, the secret service visited Chin at school and threatened to end his education. That is when he obtained a student visa to Canada, where he lived with his brother and sister who were in university. In 1978, Ben Chin’s father was released from prison and allowed to move to Canada. His wife (Ben’s mother) snuck out of South Korea and joined her family.

This assumes that the political persecution occured in 1974-1975-1976 with Ben moving to Canada in 1977. After serving the South Korean dictator, did Ben Chin’s father finally speak out against him? There still is that discrepancy in the autonet interview that has Ben’s father retiring in 1980. Remember, in that interview, Ben Chin claimed that they moved to Canada when he was 16.

For all I know, Ben Chin is a helluva guy (he probably is). However, there are clear discrepancies in his backstory and I’d be interested in clearing them up, especially since it is this experience upon which Chin based his introductory literature to his potential constituents. Ben Chin’s life either has a really shady backstory or a potentially heroic one.

I hope for the heroic. I really do.

UPDATE: Looks like I waded into an NDP-Liberal fight. Please go read Born with a tail’s blog for some more important history to consider.

McGuinty calls for re-opening of constitutional talks

Last night, after attending a Ontario Liberal Party event, Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty called for the federal senate to be abolished because Ontario is not adequately represented in Canada’s Upper House.

“My preference is that we eliminate the Senate … We’re 40 per cent of the country by way of population and at least 40 per cent by way of contribution to the GDP … But we only have 22 per cent of the Senate seats.” — Dalton McGuinty, Premier of Ontario

According to the Constitutional Act, 1867, the constitution of Parliament is as follows:

Section IV, paragraph 17:

There shall be One Parliament for Canada, consisting of the Queen, an Upper House styled the Senate, and the House of Commons.

and the makeup of the Senate:

Section IV, paragraph 22:

In relation to the Constitution of the Senate Canada shall be deemed to consist of Four Divisions:

  • Ontario;
  • Quebec;
  • The Maritime Provinces, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island;
  • The Western Provinces of Manitoba, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Alberta;

which Four Divisions shall (subject to the Provisions of this Act) be equally represented in the Senate as follows: Ontario by twenty-four senators; Quebec by twenty-four senators; the Maritime Provinces and Prince Edward Island by twenty-four senators, ten thereof representing Nova Scotia…

So, McGuinty complains that Ontario’s Senate compliment should be represented by population and he muses that we should dump the Upper House all together.

To either redistribute the number of Senators or to abolish the Senate, the premiers and the Prime Minister would have to enter new Constitutional talks.

One benefit of the Senate is that no one region is able to dominate over another (hence the four divisions of 24). McGuinty either wants to shift this balance in our bicameral system or he wants to re-open the Constitution.

From humble beginnings…

Ben Chin is known to most 416/905ers as a former television personality and news host for Citytv in Toronto.

Chin’s now running for the Ontario Liberals in a by-election for the riding of Toronto-Danforth after the provincial seat was vacated by NDP candidate Marilyn Churley when she ran for a federal seat.

As the political game goes for some, it is often advantageous to stress humble beginnings that only help magnify one’s accomplishments.

Chin reaches out to his constituents in this advertisement:

“I moved to East York as a 13 year old. I left my parents behind in Korea, where they were facing political persecution. I didn’t know if I’d see them again.” — Ben Chin, provincial Liberal candidate Toronto-Danforth

However, in this interview we learn a little bit more about Chin’s family background and we get a clearer picture about Ben Chin’s escape from Korea:

Q: As the son of a South Korean diplomat, you travelled the world. Did you notice the different cars in each place you lived?

A: I have always loved cars. I had toy cars and pedal cars as a kid. I used to have a steering wheel with a suction cup. You’d slap it on the dash, sit by the driver and pretend to drive. Because of my dad’s position we always had a chauffeur. The first job I wanted growing up was to be a chauffeur. It’s freaky in retrospect. Everybody’s father had a driver.

Q: Your Dad retired from government service when you were 16 …

A: Yes. We moved to Canada. In Europe the diplomat’s car was the Mercedes. In North America it was the Cadillac. The first car we bought when we moved to Canada was a Chevette and then an Oldsmobile Delta 88. After a life of limos all I saw on the road were cars like these. I was shocked. I didn’t know that such things existed. I was seven years old when I realized my Dad could drive. I gained a whole new respect for him. I thought the car belonged to the guy in the uniform.

Ben Chin was born in Geneva Switzerland and his parents actually moved to Canada when he was 6 years old. When Ben was 10, his father’s diplomatic posting in Ottawa ended and instead of following his parents back to Korea (the country in which the faced “political persecution”), Ben decided to stay in Toronto (source)

From the hard-knock life of a jet-set diplomat’s chauffeured son to the Liberal backbench…

(h/t: Blamb)

UPDATE: In the interests in presenting as much of the story as possible and to be as fair as possible, I present what may be the other side of the story. The following is unverified and 2nd hand from a friend of a friend of the Ben Chin campaign. But, it comes from Jason Cherniak, so it might be worth considering:

“Ben Chin’s father was a diplomat. Apparently, at some point in the 1970s he opined that pro-democracy activists should be let out of prison in South Korea. (Remember that the country was not a democracy at that point in time.) Ben Chin’s father was arrested by the Korean secret service and accused of being a communist. In 1976, the secret service visited Chin at school and threatened to end his education. That is when he obtained a student visa to Canada, where he lived with his brother and sister who were in university. In 1978, Ben Chin’s father was released from prison and allowed to move to Canada. His wife (Ben’s mother) snuck out of South Korea and joined her family.”

So, what’s the true story? Did Ben live in Ottawa until 1974 with his parents until they left him to return to Korea? (source)

Or was Chin in Korea in 1976 and only moved to Canada after his father was threatened? (according to an unnamed partisan source close to the Chin campaign via Cheriak)

I posted this story because it’s about Canadian politics and it has an inconsistancy about a Liberal candidate’s backstory. Could Cherniak’s unnamed partisan source be more accurate than what has/hasn’t been reported in print? It’s possible, but without more credible information I’m going with what appears in the public record.

But, I thought Jason’s post was worth consideration and that’s why I’ve included it.