Slow Road Campaign

It’s election time! Today all Korean citizens and—not only to my surpriselong-time foreign residents, too, will vote their local representatives. A new mayor in Seoul is highly improbable, though, despite former Prime Minister HAN Myeong-sook (한명숙) running for office. While she tried to ride high on a wave of sympathy for the late ROH Mu-hyon (노무현, the ex-President of the Republic committed suicide about a year ago and has become an idolised leader of the opposition against [neo-]conservative LEE Myung-bak [이명박]), surveys seem to favor current mayor OH Se-hoon (오세훈), an avid drinker of tap water. (so much for real politics)

While elections usually are preceded by some weeks of political circus, I missed most of the campaigns—despite high expectations. Neither did “endlessly blaring music” wake me in the morning (jetlag-fostered sleep is the sweetest); nor did I run into supporters on speed (this was in 2008, though); also, I did not find name cards of the candidates on hiking tracks (my head up in the sky); and I certainly did not get a day off (off what?)—one reason for that might well be that I had not been in Korea for the second half of May, and then I probably was lucky.

GWAK No-hyeon When I went out yesterday afternoon to run some errants in Sinchon, I finally saw the election trucks. I could not miss these rolling pulpits that already crossed my path almost exactly four years ago (which makes one legislative period, I guess). Little vans, placated with the faces of those they advocate, often featuring large monitors showing promotion clips, would stop for a moment to open their back-stage, a bit reminiscent of Anna “Courage” Fierling, the anti-heroine of Brecht’s “Chronicle”, and her canteen wagon.  See KIM Cheol (김철, find his face!), candidate for headman of Mapo-gu (the part of Seoul where I am living)—the original praying to the motorized crowd, back to back with his larger-than-life grinning counterpart—and imagine some pre-recorded chants made up solely of his name:

KIM Cheol

I cannot really judge the effect of these impromptu interventions on people who actually have a vote. What I saw made me feel pity rather than political persuasion. And even if I could have understood what KIM Cheol spoke about—I just could not hear him amongst the rush-hour traffic. Is it for the media rather than for the masses that these politicians perform, as the following image suggests?

ROH Hoe-chanIf it is neither for spreading the word (like the announcements via speaker) nor for some ecstatic transformation from flâneur to voter (like the mass rallys in downtown Seoul)—why do they take the burden of eating the dust of street politics? Why do they wear lashes like in a beauty pageant? If this is agitprop, where are the cheering crowds? And whoever said that history is made on the streets? Seems like most people are waiting until next week to put on their red shirt and black horns. Or maybe it is just me mixing things up… take a look at this video to see what I have missed—but beware: this is pure propaganda produced by the New Progressive Party (진보신당):

This handheld clip is rather subjective, too, though maybe slightly more realistic:

PS: Seems like a close race after all…

— 2 June 2010 (水)


About Jan Creutzenberg

Jan Creutzenberg, friend of theatre, music, and cinema, comments on his performative experiences in Seoul and elsewhere.
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