Korea: Washington Is Picking On Toyota

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
korea washington is picking on toyota

According to popular wisdom, the Koreans have no love lost for the Japanese. And likewise. What’s more, Koreans and Japanese car makers are bitter competitors for foreign market share. So wouldn’t it stand to reason that Korea would jump on the “down with Toyota” bandwagon with their 96 million feet? Just the opposite is true.

The Chosun Iibo, according to Wikipedia “one of the major newspapers in South Korea,” takes the position that Toyota could very well be “a scapegoat for U.S.-Japan squabbling.”

Back home, whenever someone utters the heretic words “cui bono?” (Latin for “a benefit to whom?” and one of the first questions a detective or investigative journalist learns to ask) it elicits gasps. The mere idea that Washington, now owner of two car companies, and deeply indebted to the union vote, could have more in mind than the well-being of John Q. Public, usually triggers a “can’t be, don’t even think about it. Come on – are you on drugs?”

Curiously, the Koreans, who you’d think wish that Japan would go to hell, have more sympathy for the Nipponese devil. Under the headline “Is Toyota a scapegoat for U.S.-Japan squabbling?“ the Chosun Iibo raises some uncomforting points, even more uncomforting given the fact that they are coming from a bitter rival of Japan.

Toyota’s crisis is not solely due to quality and safety problems. American cars have also had problems with defective parts. Ford Motor had to recall more than 14 million vehicles between 1999 and 2009 to fix faulty cruise control switches, but it did not have to face a grilling in Congress. The Congressional probe of Toyota is unprecedented.

Some critics say that Toyota has been unfairly targeted in the U.S. They claim that Washington is picking on Toyota in order to assuage America’s damaged pride following the decline of Detroit’s “Big Three” automakers, and as a way to deal with the U.S. trade deficit with Japan. U.S. sentiment toward Toyota worsened after the automaker decided in August of last year to shut down the joint venture plant in California, threatening 30,000 jobs. GM, which had entered bankruptcy protection, had pulled out of the plant before Toyota, but it was the Japanese company that caught the blame.

Also playing a part is the change in the U.S.-Japan alliance since the launch of the Yukio Hatoyama administration. Just after his inauguration, the Japanese prime minister irritated Washington by overturning an agreement on the relocation of a U.S. military base in Okinawa and calling for an “equal” relationship with the U.S. It seems the U.S. has seized a chance to strike back. Now Toyota is paying for the Hatoyama administration’s policy of prioritizing its pride above national interests.

They forgot to mention that in the U.S.A, the big health reform is going down the tubes (again,) that things aren’t going so well in Iraq and Afghanistan, that unemployment is at record highs, and that Barak Obama could turn into a lame duck come November. A diversion is sorely needed. Personally, I don’t believe in big conspiracies. You don’t just make things up. Politics is the art of spinmeistery: A 911 call. A car in the pond. You grab it, you put it on the political spindle and turn up the revs. There is so much spin on Toyota, it makes you dizzy.

Whenever Paul comes up from his deep data dives, I shake my head. 32 unconfirmed complaints per 100,000 units sold, that’s supposed to be news? 9.5 percent of the adult population suffers from clinical depression. Any hearings? 30 percent of the people die from a heart attack. Any hearings? Staying at home is more hazardous to your life than driving an automobile. Any hearings? Having a baby is murder: 100 percent die. There have been 736 reported UFO sightings in Canada in 2007. The British Ministry of Defense counted 650 UFO sightings in 2009. Swamped with work, they closed down their UFO desk, known as Air Secretariat 2A1, in December. There will be zero confirmed UFO sightings in the UK in 2010.

If the Koreans, Japan’s fiercest competitors, think that something may be rotten in the District of Columbia, then it probably is.

(Rules of the TTAC commenting policy are not in effect for this post. Everybody may fire at will without getting fired.)

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  • The Luigiian The Luigiian on Mar 05, 2010
    The mere idea that Washington, now owner of two car companies, and deeply indebted to the union vote, could have more in mind than the well-being of John Q. Public, usually triggers a “can’t be, don’t even think about it. Come on – are you on drugs?” Really? I don't think the vast majority of Americans trust the government enough to think "Absolutely, Toyota is bad because the gubmint says so". If they did trust their government that much they would be more strongly in support of state-run health care.

  • Charly Charly on Mar 05, 2010

    Maybe it is more a case of hitting two flies at once as Koreans aren't exactly known for their love of America

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