Go to contents

[Opinion] TV Debate

Posted November. 25, 2002 23:05,   


Aggressive challenger vs. composed veteran politician. The dramatic TV debate between Chung Mong-joon and Roh Moo-hyun can be summed up this way. It was Roh`s composure not Chung`s barrage of poignant questions that won the people`s hearts in the end. In opinion polls conducted right after the debate, however, a majority replied that Chung did better than Roh. There was a different story then again the following day. According to an opinion poll conducted by Donga-ilbo on Nov. 23, 32.0% of respondents answered that Roh was better than Chung, in comparison to 30.2% who said the opposite. And Roh became the single candidate.

▷Then, what made people change their mind? During the debate, Chung, unlike his earlier image of being incoherent in answers, spoke eloquently displaying his knowledge about a variety of current issues. Watching the discussion, therefore, viewers thought ˝Chung is doing better (than expected),˝ and experts also began to talk about Chung`s taking a lead over Roh. There was something missing in this picture, however. After sleeping over the issue, people began to see it differently. Koreans have thought highly of people who look rather unsophisticated and generous rather than people who speak eloquently in a polished manner. This may be why Chung got high marks from viewers earlier when he made his first appearance in MBC TV`s `A Hundred Minutes` Debate,` where he fumbled making non-sense jokes. At that time, people said that he was much better than `lip-serving politicians.

▷We cannot know how far the TV debate had an influence on the results of the voter survey. Still, we can refer to a well-known episode about the 1960 TV debate between the seasoned Nixon and the newcomer Kennedy, in which the former was knocked out by the latter. ˝In the west, the one who did well in a TV debate has higher chances of winning in the election, but it is quite the opposite in Korea,˝ said media analyst Prof. Baek Sun-gi at Sungkyunkwan University. He cited as an instance the 1995 debate between two Seoul mayor candidates, in which eloquent speaker Jung Won-shik lost to clumsily speaking Cho Soon. Koreans tend to identify taciturnity with prudence and sincerity, while sees words and discussions as something untrustworthy.

▷In an era of TV politics, it is said that images win voters` hearts. Still, the image of a desired politician change as time and voters` demands change. A case in point is that Al Core, a man of wide learning lost to Bush who looks idiotic but somehow trustworthy because of the boorishness. Besides, there is what we call `real politics` that goes beyond the image factor. And we only hope this means that our people are mature and wise enough not to be swayed by what they see and hear.

Kim Soon-deok, Editorial Writer, yuri@donga.com