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Birthday ads for president

Posted January. 13, 2018 07:55,   

Updated January. 13, 2018 08:08

During the term of former President Rhee Syng-man, a birthday ceremony for the president would take place at a giant venue such as Seoul Stadium. A mass game involving tens of thousands of high school students was staged, and female high school students would sing a happy birthday song. Regardless of whether the president wanted it or whether his aides initiated, Rhee was projected as the leader of the entire public rather than the leader of a political faction, and everyone was seen as if congratulating his birthday. Such a way of thinking constituted hubris (arrogance) in light of political philosophy, which eventually served as cause for his demise.

This writer watched an advertisement congratulating President Moon Jae-in’s birthday at Gwanghwamun Station in central Seoul on Friday. A large panel with a message reading, “January 24, 1953 is the day when the Moon rose over the Republic of Korea. Congratulations on the 66th birthday” juxtaposed with his smiling face was seen covering the entire wall on a side of the escalators, while birthday song sung by children was streaming. Subway passengers include both people in support of and against President Moon. Some opposed would feel uncomfortable, while others who support but not strongly may as well think that the ad went too far.

President Moon’s supporters who placed his birthday advertisement may argue that an ad for which they voluntarily raised money on their own should not be a problem. However, not all different advertisements are allowed on subway stations just because they are placed voluntarily. Last year, Seoul Metro banned plastic surgery advertisements because excessive ad on plastic surgery could negatively affect teenagers. Subway is a politically neutral space. Advertising congratulating a politician’s birthday should not be allowed. It is believed that those who gave permission on the ad were lacking judgmental capability, or such permission was politically motivated.

In a democratic nation, it is anachronistic for supporters to congratulate the president’s birthday in a public place where people who are supportive of and against him coexist. The president represents the entire public under the Constitution, but also is the leader of a political faction. If this relationship of tension and balance collapses, the society could lose strength and stability. Birthday advertisement for the president might be an act of trivial regression, but such regressive act will not likely help the president after all.