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Commoners Dreaming of the Presidency

Posted May. 28, 2007 03:25,   


When Cho Gye-deok, a 47-year-old salary man, registered as a candidate in the upcoming presidential election, her wife bluntly responded that he was “insane.” However, he told her, “Since the ‘sane people’ have caused all this political mess, it’s now time for an insane guy to step forward and correct it.” Cho, formerly a computer programmer, confirmed his strong dedication, saying, “Eligibility for a presidential election is a right guaranteed by the constitution, isn’t it?”

Park Noh-il (52), a farmer running a red pepper farm in Eumseong County, North Chungcheong Province, similarly asked in a provocative tone, “I am an ordinary person, and so is the president. Then why can’t it be me?”

Cho Hwa-hun (55), who had worked as a director for Samsung Life Insurance, said that it was his lifetime wish to go into politics. “I’ve worked in a large conglomerate and made big money running a business of my own. But I couldn’t help feeling a sense of lacking.” Three years ago, when the 17th general election took place, he divorced her wife, who couldn’t understand him. “As I was preparing pledges for the general election, I realized that there is limits I can do as a local government head. So I gave up and started to get ready for the presidential election. I want to carry out policies that will not hamper the economy,” said Cho.

Some candidates have actually made their wishes come true after hanging around the political world for long periods of time since their youth. Choi Sang-myeon (52), who identified his job as a religionist, has been engaged in party politics since his 20s and even completed a course at a graduate school of politics. He was the first to complete the registration process this year.

“I have been waiting for a long time, and when I went to the office on the 23rd last month, there were already five or six people waiting for their turn. We decided to draw lots and it turned out that the luck was mine,” he said.

“Cannot trust professional politicians”-

Shim Man-gu (59), an entrepreneur, made up his mind to run, since he has a deep distrust of politicians currently dominating the scene. Shim has worked as a construction materials dealer for more than 30 years, and also holds some patents for environment-friendly materials he invented. He said that he was frustrated by the confusing bureaucratic obstacles ahead of him when he was applying for a patent.

“The Ministry of Environment would send me to the Ministry of Science of Technology, and again they sent me to the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy. From there, I was redirected to the Ministry of Construction and Transportation. While moving between ministries, I came to learn the reason why we are lagging behind in terms of international competency,” said Shim, pledging that he would “change the culture that underrates the value of technology.”

Jeon Gi-dong (52), a security guard at a district office in Seoul, said, “Although I am affiliated with a local government body, I’ve always been concerned about national politics.” After passing the qualification examination for college, instead of graduating high school, Jeon earned a college degree and has been interested in international relations. Asked about his aspirations, he said, “Our nation is divided into two parts, south and north, squeezed between lots of great powers. I want to concentrate on establishing a unified country.”

People with sacred vocations are also taking part in the race. Jang Gi-man (54), a clergyman, asserted that “It would be a good country to live in, only if we follow the messages of the Bible,” while Lee Jin-seok (54), a monk, argued that he would “solve the problem of South Korea’s national debts by reinforcing the power of our cultural content, and focus on realizing unification.”

The female candidates-

Min Mal-sun (60), one of the six women that registered, is a member of the cleaning staff at a post office in Anyang City, Gyeonggi Province. She said, “After all the sweeping and wiping I do all day long, I end up with only 800,000 won per month. Not a penny has been raised in my wages for the last five years. But when I see public servants, they are so ignorant of people in hardship and are only interested in satisfying their own greed. I would like to sweep those out who don’t work and are idle once I become president.”

Asked about her chances to win, she said, “I know, even my dog would laugh at me hearing upon my running. A cleaning lady running for president… everyone would laugh at it. Nevertheless, I made up my mind to just take a chance and be ridiculed this time.”

Lee Na-kyeong (41), a non-fiction writer, has also registered. Lee said, “What have the so-called ‘able people’ shown us except for maligning and fighting against each other? Now they simply ignore the eyes of the public and insolently fight, while the people take such brawls for granted.”

Her husband Seo Kyeong-seok (42) supports this thought of hers. Seo said, “A fancy career in politics is not what we need as a qualification for a president. When it comes to solving social problems with warm perspectives, my wife would be the right person.”

Asked whether they would finally apply for full candidacy, which requires deposit money of 500 million won, most of these applicants were hesitant to give clear answers.