But I’ll get to that in a moment…
I posted awhile back about the then-upcoming elections in Seoul, and how the adult children of two candidates had posted about their fathers–one, to our her (frontrunner) dad as a complete dirtbag and a deadbeat dad, and the other (who was then trailing in the polls) to ask people to consider the issues instead of celebrity (like that enjoyed by his father’s dirtbag competition).
It occurs to me that I haven’t posted an update on the situation, so, for those who don’t know: the guy whose daughter posted lost (miserably), and the other guy won. It seems very likely that the postings themselves–or, at the very least, the first one, which got a lot more attention–helped bring that situation about. Not because voters shifted allegiance: older right wingers just didn’t show up to vote, rather than vote for his a “commie” leftist opponent; a relatively younger and more progressive voter turnout was the result.
In any case, a trend has started in Korean politics now of people writing about their personal experiences with candidates. That’s especially been true in the wake of Candy Koh’s post about Koh Seung Duk: students started openly discussing how useless their professor–a candidate for office–was: bad prof, bad lectures, unavailable to students, plagiarizing student work… you name it.
This is, of course, a ripe field for abuse: candidates can hire people to pose as students–posting in their favor, or posting against them. I also suspect in future elections, sooner or later having one’s kid post is going to become de rigeur: like giving away your album as a Creative Commons download online, this is a gambit the novelty of which has a limited shelf life. What I honestly think is that Korea needs a RateMyTeachers.com-like service (which as far as I know doesn’t exist, and probably legally can’t, as far as I understand Korea’s laws regarding slander/libel and the right to protect one’s reputation); but at least with a public student ratings site, the accounts of candidates could be frozen the day they announce candidacy for anything, and archives of student feedback would be a matter of public record. (And not just the useless “consumer satisfaction” feedback gathered by university administrators.)
But anyway, I saved the best outcome for last: when Candy Koh outed her father Koh Seung Duk as a deadbeat and a prick who didn’t even care about even his own children’s education or lives, his reaction was… well, it makes me wish there were a word that combined the meanings of “histrionic” and “typical”:
The strain of pretending that he gives a shit, or is sorry for anything, is visible on his face as he straightens up after his apologetic shriek. It’s the facial-muscle equivalent of, “I don’t know what to do with my hands,” and truly the quality of middle school variety night dramas. Koh’s “apology,” for those who can’t speak Korean, comes at that moment when he raises his hand in a little fascist salute-looking gesture and screams “Mianhada!” and his voice cracks. (I’m told that the particular syntax strongly implies he is apologizing to his followers rather than to, you know, his daughter.)
The bright news is that this ridiculous moment got intensely parodied in Korea–to a degree I haven’t really seen before for a political figure, anyway. Here are some of the best.
A brilliant Dragonball-Z /Koh Seung Duk mashup:
A hard-rock remix of the apology video, by someone going by the handle “The Hoot”:
A song mocking his histrionic apology:
The video, intercut with Korean political figures, cut to make it look like they’re commenting on it:
(Those with better Korean may offer a better translation–but until I’m corrected, here’s a rough attempt: the first reaction clip is a former president looking incredulous for a while, and then saying, “[He] oughtta be ashamed”; the second is another former President [himself notorious] saying, “Now y’all know that’s a lie, don’t’cha?”; and a female celebrity [I don’t know her name] saying, “Yeah, I really got nothing to say to that.”)
A Greenscreen version for those who want to remix it themselves:
There have been references in webtoons lately, too, like in this one:
And, hell, even though I can’t stand Gag Concert–I literally feel like the IQ drops in any room it’s playing in, and they’ve once again done some blackface minstrelsy (when will Korean networks learn?)–even they worked in a reference:
Of course, nobody’s mocking the current President, even unpopular as she currently is. (Her inability to appoint anyone besides a lunatic for Prime Minister is one reason for that.) When people feel like they’re able to do that–to mock the President–then I’ll be willing to say things have really turned a corner for the better, when it comes to freedom of expression and freedom to dissent in South Korea.
Still, this is still a positive change: five years ago, in the wake of the arrest of the internet celebrity Minerva (and his trial, on a technicality–see my post here) those of my students who had the intellect to be critical of anything political–regardless of their political orientation–described feeling scared to participate in discussions online. They got the message of the Minerva arrest loud and clear, and the chilling effect was quite palpable at the time. Likewise, during protests over the last six or eight years, one of the favored tools of the government is to have a uniformed policeman or soldier with a camera, filming demonstrators–ostensibly for later identification, just in case there end up being repercussions for the protests.
It’s unfortunate if people feel they need to go online (and semi-anonymous, as on Youtube) to be critical at all, but then, Koreans go online for a lot of things they cannot do in real life… including having fun (since especially kids have nowhere outside to play, and are pressured to study instead of having fun) and, apparently, having company for dinner. Still, maybe enough individuals will build up their chops on this kind of mockery, and they’ll end up bringing a kind of political consciousness and satire to mainstream comedy.
It’d certainly be a welcome change from the recurrent racist caricature. Speaking of which, yes, KBS decided it was time for a little more of that good old-timey blackface stuff:
Sigh. For a society so unabashedly obsessed with garnering the attention and respect of the rest of the world, you’d think some thought would go into extending a little attention and respect towards the rest of the world. Alas…