Go to contents

[Opinion] Trash-Talk Politics

Posted November. 23, 2005 08:11,   


Whenever politics become brutal, Winston Churchill, the former British prime minister, comes to mind. At times of fierce conflict between the ruling and the opposition party, or at times of personal political hardship, he used humor to find a way out. He once said, “Political prowess is the ability to foresee the events of the next day, week, and year. It also includes the ability to later explain why the forecast went wrong.” Needless to say, politicians and journalists listening to Churchill’s words burst into laughter.

Such a sense of humor is lacking in Korean politics. Politicians leave no space for laughter, as they are too busy criticizing and fighting one another. The spokespersons for the parties play the role of vanguard in political struggles. It is as if they are competing to irritate each other, without any concern over their choice of words. Instead of informing the people of their principles and policies, they seem to be more focused on taking the offensive against political opponents.

Some of the things that party spokespersons have said include: “One press report described the mouth of the opposition party spokesperson as a ‘lethal weapon,’ and it seems very correct”; “President Roh Moo-hyun is like an employee who brags daily about his intention to resign”; and “President Roh, in begging for a coalition government, is playing politics with manners worse than cabaret manners.”

Comments calling each other a “village school dog” or a “house pig” are commonplace. The wordings in their statements and comments are rough, harsh and unfit for children.

Lee Kye-jin, the newly appointed spokesperson for the Grand National Party, told journalists, “In an effort to break the old order among daebyeon-ins (spokespersons), I seek to set a new order of sobyeon-ins (spokespersons). (Notice the use of the Chinese character ‘So’ (laughter) instead of ‘Dae’).” The slight change of nuance between ‘Daebyeon’ and ‘Sobyeon’ is interesting. A while ago, Jun Byung-hun, the spokesperson for the Uri Party, also offered to bring an end to “trash-talk politics.”

Dominating the opponent with clever, witty remarks while accurately pinpointing the opponent’s shortcomings is the genuine way to break either the ruling or the opposition party. But in terms of ferocity, the words coming from Cheong Wa Dae have been fiercer than both parties’. Who will be the one to break Cheong Wa Dae?

Song Young-eon, Editorial Writer, yongeon@donga.com