The biggest misconception about the politics in South Korea by the western media, I think, is that the way they portray South Korean “liberal” as liberalism.
Remember! South and North are still technically at war with each other. So, ideologies are still very much popular and alive and play a big role in their politics.
The South Korea’s authoritarian militaristic regimes (such as the one led by Park Chung-hee) in the past(until 1980’s) are characterized as anti-Communism and pro-USA. This party is the right-wing; now the conservatives or neo-liberalism.
The left-wing (so-called “liberal” or “progressive” who fought against the right-wing) party is consist of pro-communism(thus anti-USA, anti-liberalism) and North Korean sympathizers (Juche ideology; anti-everybody; anti-Japan, anti-America) such as Hanchongryun and some socialists. Some of them still consider democracy as merely a way to spread their leftist(socialistic/Juche) ideology. Their slogan is anti-military = anti-america = pro-north. That’s why Korean leftists(including Moon) often mention about Marxist like “revolution”.
You don’t categorize New Left in Japan as liberals, do you? The most of leftists today are influenced by the New Left movements back in 1960’s and 1970’s. And they can be found in the universities and media journalists.
The biggest characteristics of Korean leftist is that he/she never accuse (or try to solve) the human rights violations of North Korea and China while accusing rightists heavily for the human rights abuse. In addition, they tend to look away from North Korean nukes. For example, the ex-president Kim Dae-jung was like “North Korea does not have a will nor ability to develop nuclear weapons”. The ex-president Roh Moo-hyun was “North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons is just a self-defense” And they paid huge amount of money to North Korea.
And the common denominator of the Korean politics is race based nationalism. When internal politics goes wrong, they always resort to anti-Japanism.
So, my point is that Korean “liberals” or “progressives” are not necessarily good ones.
The thing is…. leftists/liberals in Japan are surprisingly similar to those in South Korea. And they, though they are mere noisy minority today, (such as the Social Democratic Party and the communist party) have strong connections with North Korea and China and leftists in South Korea. Funny thing is Japanese conservative parties are more liberals.
Me? I consider myself a realist. I’m a strong supporter of freedom of speech.. so I don’t like neither left-wings nor right-wings. I think most of Japanese are like me in terms of left or right.