Thursday, May 27, 2010

Korean Politics

Politicking fever has spread across the whole of the Korean peninsula in anticipation of local and provincial elections. If you expect simple public canvassing and advertisement, remember, this is Korea.

The little blue pickup trucks you normally see selling produce on the side of road have been plastered with portraits, slogans, and packed with women wearing white gloves that, backed by K-synth beats, perform synchronized hand dances while singing songs about their candidate. I've also heard remixes of "If you're happy and you know it," "Yankee Doodle," and something that sounded like the "Hokey Pokey,"that replace those ever-so-familiar lyrics with catchy slogans and the candidate's name.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you get the vote out.

A few weeks ago, Mr. Lee invited me to the opening ceremony for a campaign in Goryeong, a town in the province to the north of Daegu. The candidate, Jeong Jae Soo, is the father of Mr. Lee's friend, Mr. Jeong. He works at my bank and I went to the driving range with them once.

The event was held at the headquarters. Loads of people showed up, and you could barely move inside. It should be noted that there was free food.
Feeling lonely in sea of Korean dudes...
A modest portrait on the front of the building, complimented by another modest portrait on the side. With a second look, I decided his pose is Fonz-esque: "ay, come on, vote for me, why not, ay!"
Friends and allies gave these flower arrangements as congratulatory gifts. The larger the display, the larger the expected influence? All the Korean guys, presumably business associates, standing around smoking cast an "organized" air over everything if you catch my drift.

A professional entertainment company MC'd the whole shebang and the woman on the mic would periodically shout things to applause. I made a habit of joining the applause. Mr. Lee thought this was really funny, and because I had no idea what I was clapping for it kinda was.
Shortly before we left, the elder Mr. Jeong made the rounds. I got a picture with him. Once we posed, three other professional photographers appeared to snap pictures. I can see the Korean Glen Beck now:

"Jeong is clearly in the back pocket of sneaky Western influences! Unpatriotic trickery, I say! You know, HITLER was from the West!"

I'm pretty used to loud disturbances from the street below my school, but these campaigns have topped all. In the middle of the busy intersection, candidates have been giving introductory speeches. The guy in the video was so loud it sounded like he was in my classroom even from around the corner and four stories up. I was ready to stick my head out the window and give a shake of the fist. Some people stopped to listen, but for the most part everyone just went about their business.

"So glad this soapbox came with a BLASTING P.A.!" Oh yeah, lime green. Totally your color.

Onward marches the parade of democracy!


  1. I really need to get me to Korea sometime.

    I hope your picture makes it into the newspaper, hahaha.

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