Go to contents

Politicians and a slip of the tongue

Posted April. 01, 2016 07:29,   

Updated April. 01, 2016 07:32


Senseless remarks can be a more painful torture for the listeners than simple profanities. Intended to attack the weakness to show off the speaker’s superiority, senseless remarks are sometimes even despicable. More than often, the speaker completely forgets about his or her slip of the tongue. Such forgetfulness used to lead to the tedious game of truth or lie frequently, but thanks to the advent of an IT era where everything is recorded, feigning innocence does not work anymore.

Controversy is brewing over the degrading remarks made by spokesperson Ju Jin-hyeong of the national economic situation room of the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea, which was apparently targeted at Chief Campaigner Kang Bong-gyun of the ruling Saenuri Party, who is in his 70s. About Kang’s appointment, Ju made remarks such as “Somebody called an old retiree…,” “They are using the old man as a figurehead…,” “Personality-wise, he used to be normal. I feel sorry for the old man…” It is doubtful if his mental health is sound, given that such remarks were made publicly during a national assembly briefing, not even at a bar. It is all the more disgraceful for him as Chairman Kim Jong-in from the same party is four years older than Kang.

A former CEO of Hanwha Investment & Securities, Ju entered the political field in February this year, recruited by Chairman Kim. He has been notorious for his reckless remarks since he was a corporate worker. “Don Quixote” and “Mr. Sharp Tongue” were some of his nicknames. He briefly held the limelight recently when he uploaded a post criticizing his party’s bad old habits on his Facebook account, earning the reputation as a man of integrity. A sharp tongue may be his thing; however, the spokesperson needs to draw a line between frankness and senselessness.

Back in the 17th presidential race, former lawmaker Chung Dong-yeong said, “Senior citizens in their 60s and 70s can rest at home. They don’t have to vote,” and he is still paying the price for it, branded as the first lawmaker to publicly denigrate the senior members of society. During the 19th general elections, Kim Yong-min, a candidate from the then Democratic United Party, said, “In order to stop old people staging protests, we can remove all the escalators and elevators at the City Hall Station.” Moreover, his campaign was derailed as a foot-in-mouth remark that he made seven years earlier in an Internet show was disclosed. According to a study conducted by Professor Park Won-ho of Seoul National University, 32 percent of the supporters who broke away from the Democratic Party cited the controversy over Kim’s foul language as reason behind their change of heart. As the saying goes, it only takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch.

이진녕 jinnyong@donga.com