bookmark_borderPost-349: On British Rhetorical Superiority

I have had the good fortune throughout life to meet many interesting and amazing people from all over the world, and this trend seems to be accelerating in the year 2016. I ought not to squander my good fortune or shirk the responsibilities that come along with it.

I recently met a British journalist based in Korea, author of several history books, and that meeting has, in part, inspired me to make the forthcoming comments.

Now, in fact, I have actually never set foot on UK soil and have, actually, always felt closer kinship with the peoples of the northwestern European mainland despite shallow language differences with the latter and purported linguistic unity with the former. (I have come to realize two things in recent years [1] On American-British linguistic unity: I cannot speak on “native speaker terms” with people from the UK, as my days regularly playing soccer with British people in Incheon, Korea taught me. Very often I stood there unable to follow their conversations… and [2] I have come to appreciate, after some years away, that culture similarity among the kindred peoples of Europe — despite what we may think or want to think — is very high.)

I admire the British for their highly-cultivated verbal abilities. It is generally always entertaining to hear a British speaker, on any subject. Take a North American and an Englishman of equal intelligence and background. Despite this “base parity” and despite our shared cultural origins as products of that which we call Western Civilization, we all know that the Englishman will likely have a much better apparent way with words. Why is this? I am not exactly sure.

I have also had occasion to listen to an American pastor (in English) and a German pastor (in German), who share the exact same nominal religious tradition, but in whose presentation I found the American somewhat too unserious, readily sliding into a jokey mode, while the German pastor I found more properly dignified and ultimately, then, a warmer and more engaging.

Is it that Americans have a certain anti-intellectualism that has leveling effect on demonstrated rhetorical ability? Is there a cultural pressure in the present-day USA to not appear “too smart”? Has there always been? How then, does one explain the beautiful rhetoric of the Founding Fathers, of Lincoln?

As to whether present-day American civic life suppresses rhetorical ability (or the demonstration thereof), I can say this, recalling my school days: I am certain that it was true of myself in many contexts. I generally wanted to do well in classes, but I remember writing essays around high school that had deliberate mistakes in them, and even deliberatly poor reasoning at times, to avoid intellectual self-aggrandizement at the cost of my peers, many of whom were not even English native speakers.

Some might dismiss the foregoing paragraph’s reminiscence as high school antics by an American boy unsure where he fit in the multiracial maze of a U.S. public school circa the early 2000s. It is also true, though, of adult American sons of privilege, notably George W. Bush, twice elected (once even with a majority of the vote). People mocked him for being such a poor speaker, for fumbling around with words, for saying words that just didn’t exist, for being incoherent. Those of my age and older will remember this well. He presented himself as having a much lower IQ than he actually had/has.

There was also the famous case of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld’s “Unknown Unknowns” speech which has its own Wiki entry now. Rumsfeld was a Princeton graduate and a very sharp man, but he couldn’t spin a proper neologism for what he wanted to say (reading it again now, I still am not sure) and he confused audiences far and wide. If Rumsfeld were a product of the British system, ceteris paribus (as a British writer might write; an American would almost always use “all else equal”), he would have come up with something better than “unknown unknowns”!

Before I break this off, let me say that my occasional reading of old newspapers and magazines suggests the “decline of American rhetoric” may be more recent. I am not sure when or how it happened…

bookmark_borderPost-348: “An Empty Chair is What I Am” (1978) [Korean Pop Song, Translated]

I heard a song on FM radio in Seoul and I’ve tracked it down:

Title: “Empty Chair” (빈의자).
Artist: Chang Jeanam (장재남).
Era: Late 1970s.

I actually like the tune and the optimistic lyrics/message (see below). Koreans of my age would not readily admit to liking such a song. I am not a Korean.

This song hardly registers on the Internet, with really nothing in English at all that I find, so again I find myself blazing new ground on these digital pages.

Below: Youtube of the song; lyrics; my translation; a friend’s comments.


Chang Jeanam

Here is another version:

장재남  /  빈 의자 (1978)

서 있는 사람은 오시오 나는 빈 의자
당신의 자리가 되드리리다
피곤한 사람은 오시오 나는 빈 의자
당신을 편히 쉬게 하리다

두 사람이 와도 괜찮소
세 사람이 와도 괜찮소
외로움에 지친 모든 사람들
무더기로 와도 괜찮소

서 있는 사람은 오시오 나는 빈 의자
당신의 자리가 되드리리다

서 있는 사람은 오시오 나는 빈 의자
당신의 자리가 되드리리다
피곤한 사람은 오시오 나는 빈의자
당신을 편히 쉬게 하리다

두사람이 와도 괜찮소
세사람이 와도 괜찮소
외로움에 지친 모든 사람들
무더기로 와도 괜찮소

서 있는 사람은 오시오 나는 빈 의자
당신의 자리가 되드리리다

Chang Jeanam  /  Empty Chair (1978)

All you standing people, come on over!
An empty chair is what I am…
and I offer myself up as your seat…
All you tired people, come on over!
An empty chair is what I am.
To let you relax in comfort…

Two people want to come? That’s just fine!
Three people want to come? That’s just fine!
All those of you tired of being lonely,
Come, pile on! It’s just fine.

All you standing people, come on over!
An empty chair is what I am…
I offer myself up as your seat…

All you standing people, come on over!
An empty chair is what I am…
and I offer myself up as your seat…
All you tired people, come on over!
An empty chair is what I am.
To let you relax in comfort…

Two people want to come? That’s just fine!
Three people want to come? That’s just fine!
All those of you tired of being lonely,
Come, pile on! It’s just fine.

All you standing people, come on over!
An empty chair is what I am…
and I offer myself up as your seat…

A Korean friend named L. made some interesting comments to me about the song. This is a Korean who majored in German and with whom I communicate in a mix of German, English, and Korean, as the mood fits. (L.’s Korean name, if written in English initials, is the temperamentally-unsuitable S.H.Y.).

These are L.’s comments on the song (in original German):

“In den 70er Jahren lebten Koreaner in der dunklen Zeit der Diktatur. Deswegen sang die viele Folksong über die Solidarität zwischen den Leuten oder die leuchtende Zukunft.” (“In the 1970s, Koreans lived in the dark days of dictatorship. It is for this reason that they sang a lot of folk songs about unity of the people or the bright future.”)

L. was born in 1987 and the above reflects the view of that generation, I think. Few Koreans of our generation would admit to liking the “dictatorship” (which ended around the early 1990s), I suppose.

Is it a stretch to impute a political message to this very simple song? Maybe, but this kind of thing is the bread-and-butter of certain academics, isn’t it. There is also value in the comments for their own sake, i.e., how young Koreans see their own recent history.

bookmark_borderPost-347: “Self-Portrait” by Yun Dong-Ju [Korean Poem, Translated]

I had the pleasure of learning the name Yun Dong-Ju (윤동주) last week. A movie is now out about him and I had the good fortune to see it (the less fortunate part was how little I understood). Yun Dong-Ju is, it seems, one of the most beloved Korean poets of the 20th century. He also has a romantic and “political” (one might say) cachet to the present-day Korean mind because of his early death in a Japanese prison in February 1945 at age 27.

I have decided to translate one of Yun Dong-Ju’s poems called Self-Portrait, though I might prefer to translate the title also as Portrait of the Artist. It was written in 1939 and was included by the author in a collection he published with limited circulation in 1941. The collection was republished in 1948 following the author’s death and the deceased Yun Dong-Ju became a kind of poet folk hero, it seems.

The below is my own translation. I increasingly find Korean poetry beautiful for its disciplined use of language and layers of implied meanings, but this also makes it a real challenge to translate smoothly.

Self Portrait has an air of mystery to it. Two characters. Thick symbolism. In reading it, many questions come up. This is a self-portrait, is it? Which character is the author? Both? I suppose that is up to us to decide…


Yun Dongju [1917-1945] / Poet
[Translated by Me, April 2016]

On my solitary way down from a rocky outcropping,
I seek out a secluded well for a little peek inside.

Inside the well: A bright moon, drifting clouds,
a spread-out sky. A blue breeze blows. It is autumn.

There is also this strapping young lad.
For reasons unclear to me, I feel that I hate this lad.
I turn away to leave and proceed on my way.
Presently, I begin to take pity on the lad.
I go back for another look.
There he is again, still there, just as before.
Again I feel that I hate this lad, and again I take my leave.
Walking away, I come to realize something. I yearn for the lad.

Inside the well: A bright moon, drifting clouds,
a spread-out sky. A blue breeze blows. It is autumn.
As from the recesses of fond memory, there is, also, this lad.

Original Korean:

윤동주 [1917-1945] / 시인

산모퉁이를 돌아 논가 외딴 우물을
홀로 찾아가선 가만히 들여다봅니다.

우물 속에는 달이 밝고 구름이 흐르고
하늘이 펼치고 파아란 바람이 불고
가을이 있습니다.

그리고 한 사나이가 있습니다.
어쩐지 그 사나이가 미워져 돌아갑니다.
돌아가다 생각하니 그 사나이가 가엾어집니다.
도로 가 들여다보니 사나이는 그대로 있습니다.

다시 그 사나이가 미워져 돌아갑니다.
돌아가다 생각하니 그 사나이가 그리워집니다.

우물 속에는 달이 밝고 구름이 흐르고
하늘이 펼치고 파아란 바람이 불고
가을이 있고 추억처럼 사나이가 있습니다.


Poster for “Dong-Ju” (2016). Yun Dong-Ju is on the left, without glasses. The actor bears a strong resemblance to the real person.

bookmark_borderPost-346: Upset Victory in the 2016 Korean Election

Yes, I can say that the Korea election result surprised me. I learned it, or at least the early projections, on the bus on the way back from Paju (Wednesday was a holiday). Most other observers were also surprised.

From my Korean contacts, I sense a new political optimism in the form of breaking the democratic tyranny of the two-party duopoly system.

I have been busy and have no time to do any further in-depth commentary, as I’d like to, and as I will get back to.

Final Score
300 seats allocated (majority: 151+)
122 seats: Saenuri Party [right-wing, so-called, governing] (새누리당)
123 seats: Democratic Party [left-wing, so-called; it and its predecessors have been in opposition for almost all of the history of the Republic of Korea since independence in 1948, both during the military rule period and during the past twenty-five years of quasi-democracy] (I have learned they want to be called “the Minjoo Party of Korea” in English). (더불어민주당).
38 seats: People’s Party [centrist, so-called, but most seats are due to Jeolla region voters punishing their long standy party]. Party leader, Dr. Ahn Cheol-Soo, also easily won re-election.
6 seats: Justice Party [left-wing] (정의당)
11 seats: Independents. Many of these are expelled members of the Saenuri Party.

The big winner, alas, was Ahn Cheol-Soo. He’s got to be a favorite for the presidency now.

bookmark_borderPost-345: K-Pop Says, “Join Us and Vote” [Korea Election 2016]

Election is tomorrow, Wednesday, and is a holiday. Election day a holiday? What a good idea.

The last I’ve heard is that the left-wing opposition Democratic Party (더불어민주당) is looking like it may lose more seats than expected in its southwest heartland. If it can’t sweep that region, as it usually does, that is a major problem for it. The newly-formed People’s Party (안철수의 국민의당) may take many of their seats.

Given the split opposition, a big net gain by the governing, right-wing Saenuri Party (새누리당) still seems possible. Saenuri has apparently set “200 seats” as their election goal (of 300 total seats to fill), up from the current 150. The opposition to the Saenuri Party seems politically discouraged. Both parties have been marred by pathetic infighting.

Here is a frontpage headline story in the Metro newspaper, translated by me. (Thanks to K. from my Korean class for the newspaper.) It was not so hard to translate, but I am unsure what, if anything, is to be “read between the lines”:
With One Day to the Election, Entertainers Urge: “Join Us and Vote”

[Caption:] With the 20th National Assembly Election only a day away, entertainers, too, are doing their part to get out the vote. On Friday, April 8th, AOA girl group member Seolhyeon exercised her right to vote through the early voting system.

“I ask everyone to please exercise your precious right to vote.”

With the 20th National Assembly elections approaching in just a day, entertainers, too, are attracting attention in their efforts to get out the vote.

A number of entertainers took time out of their busy schedules to exercise their right to vote through early voting, and recommended that citizens participate in the election.

Among the entertainers participating in the PR campaign to get out the vote for this year’s election is Seolhyeon, a member of the girl group AOA. On the afternoon of Friday the 8th, she cast her vote at a community center in Cheongdam, Gangnam District, Seoul.

Seolhyeon is voting for the second time. She voted for the first time in the June 2014 local elections. On Friday, Seolhyeon said, “Every time I vote, I’m filled with feelings of excitement and nervousness. I hope that the person I voted for wins,” and “I voted with a sense of excitement in my heart.”  [End translation]

Original Korean:
[사진] 제20대 국회의원 선거를 하루 앞두고 연예인들도 대거 투표 독려에 나서고 있다. 지난 8일 사전 투표를 통해 선거권을 행사한 걸그룹 AOA 멤버설현. /연합뉴스 총선 D-1, 연예인 투표 독려”소중한 안 표 함께 해요” “여러분의 소중한 한 표 꼭 행사하가시길 바랍니다.” 제20대 국회의원 선거가 하루 앞으로 다간온 가운데 연예인들도 대거 투표 독려에 나서 눈길을 끌고 있다. 일부 연예인들은 바쁜 스케줄 속에서 사전 투표로 먼저 소중한 한 표를 행사하며 시민들의 선거 참여를 권했다. 올해 총선 홍보대사로 활동 중인 걸그룹 AOA 맴버 실현은 지난 8일 오후 서울 강남구 청담동 주민센터에서 투표를 했다. 설현은 2014년 6월 제6회 전국동사지방선거 이후 두 번째로 투표에 참여했다. 설현은 이날 “투표할 때마다 설레기도 하고 긴장되기도 한다. 내가 뽑은 서람이 당선될까 기대도 된다”며 “설레는 마음으로 투표했다”고 말했다.

This was in Metro, a free newspaper distributed at subway stations in Seoul (claimed daily readership, 226,000). The article continues by mentioning other entertainers who voted early and/or made similar statements to encourage the apathetic to take part in the civic ritual.

Nothing Seolhyeon said can be read as an endorsement of one party or another. If she has been Gangnam-ized yet, though, she most likely voted for Saenuri. (Her voting precinct is one of the wealthiest in the entire country.)

Why are K-Pop stars, including 21-year-old Seolhyeon, being used as props to promote voting?

Self-Promotion Angle
“Seolhyeon is patriotic; she votes; she cares; she is a good citizen. She also donates money to orphans, holds the door for the elderly, covers her nose when she sneezes, and says her pleases and thank yous, we’ll have you know!” (Sincerely, The Management).

Pro-Opposition Angle
Seolhyeon’s fans are not likely to be Saenuri supporters. Saenuri has low support among those born in the 1980s and 1990s. If she gets thousands more fans to vote and they go many-to-one against Saenuri, that could swing some elections against Saenuri.

Pro-Government Angle
The government has put up “Make Sure You Vote” banners everywhere. Why would the government do this if higher turnout may mean more votes for the opposition?

Voter turnout for National Assembly elections was:
2012: 54%
2008: 46%
2004: 60%
2000: 57%
1996: 64%
1992: 72%
1988: 76%

There is a clear downward trend, here. There may be a fear that low and declining voter turnout could undermine the state’s legitimacy itself. The “Make Sure You Vote” campaign could be a way to reassert the state’s legitimacy.

My “Connection” to Seolhyeon
I admit that I’d never heard the name Seolhyeon (설현) before seeing this article. I have seen her, it seems, in advertisements but I didn’t recognize it to be the same person as in the newspaper photograph above. Seolhyeon is the spokesmodel for the SK Telecom phone company, my classmate in my current Korean class, M.P., tells me.

I also see from Wikipedia that she was born in Bucheon, next to Seoul, and is a graduate of Gyeonggi Art High School (경기예술고등학교). In fact, I lived in Bucheon from 2011-203, and, in fact, I worked just two minutes’ walk from that high school (in a dense urban part of Bucheon New City’s Central District [부천신도시 중동]). Seolhyeon graduated in February 2014, which means she was a student at that school from March 2011 (in accordance with the Korean and Japanese school-year system). I began working in Bucheon in September 2011. I likely passed her on the street many times.

bookmark_borderPost-344: One Week to the Election; Closer Look at a “Political Noise Truck” [Korea Election 2016]

I write this on Tuesday evening, April 5, Korea time. Regular voting begins in this country’s national elections one week from tomorrow morning.

This year, direct elections will be held in 253 constituencies, with a further 47 members allocated proportionally based on party vote totals, for a total of 300 seats.

The current National Assembly has only 292 seats filled (Korean Wiki), presumably because of the expulsion and jailing, in 2014, under charges of treason, of several far-left National Assembly members. The Korea Herald, the right-leaning English newspaper, suggested Monday, disapprovingly, that some of the remnants of this far-left party, allegedly pro-North-Korea, have regrouped and are running again in 2016.

Here is the election outlook, according to the Korea Herald, reporting on recent polls:

Likely to Win (“safe seats”)
82 seats: Saenuri Party [새누리당] (right-wing, currently governing with a slim majority and the presidency)
35 seats: Democratic Party [더불어민주당] (left-wing, heirs to the Sunshine Policy but trying hard to “rebrand”)
20 seats: People’s Party [국민의당] recently formed by Ahn Cheol-Soo [안철수] (called “centrist;” populist) (See post-342)
6 seats: Others and Independents
110: Too Close to Call
253: Total Seats to be Elected Directly (plus 47 proportional = 300).

Here is one of the trucks I referred to in post-343, “Waving Back at the Political Noise Trucks.(This was not the truck I “waved back” at.)

“On April the 13th, Your Vote Can Change Songpa!”


Songpa District, Seoul

Some of these political noise trucks are mobile and some are stationary. This one, being stationary, allowed me to get good shots of it, front and back.

This was in Seoul’s Songpa District (in red), directly east of Gangnam District.

I originally thought that the man standing in the truck bed was the candidate himself, Park Sung-Soo (박성수), a.k.a. “Number 2,” of the Democratic Party. Candidates very often appear personally on their campaign trucks. I am not so sure anymore. The giant picture of him shows him with glasses…

Candidate Park calls himself “The Fool of Songpa” (송파바보 박성수입니다) on his placard, which seems odd. I don’t know what to make of that.

The Fool of Songpa, though, seems likely to lose. I learn from Korean Wiki that Songpa District (송파구) of Seoul, a rather wealthy area, is a stronghold of the conservative Saenuri Party. All three of Songpa District’s current National Assemblymen are Saenuri members. Gangnam District itself is just as solidly Saenuri.

The Democratic machine was clearly weaker in the area. Behold, above, the two-man street-corner operation during prime Saturday politicking hours. The “red team” (Saenuri Party) had a much slicker operation in the neighborhood (See again post-343, at the end, for a further brief account of each side’s politicking tactics as I experienced them in my own small way.)

In Jongno District today, Tuesday, I saw a few more of these sorts of trucks. The one I got the best look at had three people in blue standing in the back, holding a kind of railing, as a driver sped by and one of those in the back jabbered something indecipherable to me, her voice amplified over traffic…

bookmark_borderPost-343: Waving Back at the Political Noise Trucks [Korea Election 2016]

I had occasion to visit an American friend, Z.D., who now lives near Jamsil, southeast Seoul.

The election season is now fully underway (Election Day, April 13) and in Korea that means the “political noise trucks” (as I’ll call them) are out in force. They were on this Saturday afternoon. The infantry was also in the field, political cheering squads on many street corners of large roads. They accosted passersby (the kind of sales pitch I have never understood but which seems to work in East Asia, i.e. the idea that making more noise attracts people rather than repels them).

Sometimes little mini-trucks trucks were stopped at corners and figures in the truck beds thereof shouted at passersby via megaphone to vote for so-and-so. I think sometimes these were the candidates themselves. And then there is the music. This kind of political campaigning all seems gaudy and distasteful to us.

Candidate numbers. All campaign posters have enormous numbers on them to remind people who to support. Too many people have the same family name, or similar names in general, so all candidates are designated numbers within their districts. I even heard one cheer squads shout, “Number One! Number One! Number One!” Why even bother with a name? I have no idea what the man’s name was. I remember “Number One.”

Candidate’s names and numbers, and the noise associated with them, are everywhere. The biggest offenders are the political noise trucks, but I actually find them endearing. I’m just glad that Korean law bans such activity more than two weeks before election day.

Blue is for the left-leaning Democratic Party [더불어민주당], red for the right-wing (and governing majority) Saenuri Party [새누리당].

Blue Experience
One group of blue cheerleaders that day announced their candidate as an “MBC news anchor” (as if that is a legitimate qualification for high office). I observed this blue cheering team for a few minutes, and they observed me, suspiciously, I think. The team was composed of about six middle-aged women in matching blue uniforms. They seemed to go into a set-piece chant on behalf of their candidate whenever someone walked near them, as if the passerby had triggered a motion-sensor light. One of these passersby was my friend Z.D., aforementioned, when he arrived to meet me at Sincheon Station [신천역] in southeast Seoul. Maybe this blue cheering team was bored, because they let this obvious(?) foreigner, a White man, have it. If a war analogy is what we want, it may be the equivalent of a soldier, during a lull, shooting at birds. The chant’s crescendo hit Z.D. right as he noticed what was going on. He was stunned. He wandered over to me. They giggled. I said, “Wow, they actually pitched their guy to you! So does Number Two have your vote now? Did it convince you? ” His reply: “Huh?”

He had been unaware there was an election on.

Red Experience
A few hours later, as we were the sole pedestrians on a particular stretch of road, a truck carrying young women in tight-fitting red uniforms standing in the truckbed rolled by, exciting music blaring. There was more than a touch of “K-Pop” to this effort. Attracted by the loud music, a siren song, before I knew it I found myself looking directly at these women as they were waving at us, mere feet away from us on the road. There were no Koreans around. They waved anyway, and even made eye contact. I waved back and smiled, thinking it all in great fun, if surreal. Why not? To my friend, walking beside me, who hadn’t waved back, I said, “Did you see that? They waved at us! ….And you know what? The truck was covered in red. Those were right-wing women.” [i.e., of the Saenuri Party] at which he laughed. He dismissed the idea that they might have been waving to us specifically. Said he: “Once a wave starts, you’ve got to follow through. There’s no way to stop a wave.”

bookmark_borderPost-342: Will Ahn Cheol-Soo Win Reelection? [Korea Election 2016]

I do not favor any particular side in Korean domestic politics. I am an outside observer. I am interested in all sides and in understanding what’s going on.

One figure who appeals to me, out of sympathy and curiosity, is Dr. Ahn Cheol-Soo, a famous academic before he entered politics during my time in Korea, not long ago. Ahn has formed a new party called the People’s Party [국민의당], after breaking with the Democratic Party [the latter party is currently called 더불어민주당]. (I commented some more on this break in post-340.)

I am not an Ahn supporter, but I do hope he wins. Maybe that means I am an Ahn supporter.

In fact, I’m not even sure of what his political policies are. Why I like him, maybe why most of his supporters like him, is that he has nothing to do with the “boss politics” that seem so endemic to the Korea of today. He is also a brilliant man who has shown himself successful in life in previous ventures. I am an advocate of rule by the capable, far preferable to rule by less-capable-but-more-charismatic demagogues (i.e., the problem of democracy).

The latest opinion poll says that Ahn, in his constituency in Seoul, is barely ahead of some guy called Lee Joon-Suk [이준석] of the right-wing (and governing) Saenuri Party [새누리당]. This Lee Joon-Suk apparently has close ties to the President Park Geun-Hye inner circle. He is young, born in 1985, and a graduate of Harvard University. If this Lee Joon-Suk knocks out Ahn, it could be the end of Ahn’s political career…

Here is the newspaper in which I saw this information (Ahn is at bottom left; his main challenger, bottom right).

I had a Korean teacher, a male in his mid 40s, who, based on occasional remarks he made, I came to see was very likely Saenuri supporter. This teacher disparaged Ahn as being inexperienced.

In 2012, Ahn was running for president but withdrew to prevent a splitting of the vote. He allowed establishment Democratic Party figure Moon Jae-In [문재인] to run unopposed against Park Geun-Hye, but Moon lost.

What if Ahn had been the one running head-to-head against Park in Dec. 2012?

bookmark_borderPost-341: “The Answer to Nuclear Intimidation is Nuclear Armament” [Korea Election 2016]

Korea’s national election is April 13, 2016 (designated a holiday to promote voting).

I have been translating some of the many political banners I’ve seen in Seoul. Through these translations and analysis based thereupon, I hope to gain some better understanding the election. I am posting these here to discipline my analysis.

Previous posts on Korea Election 2016 here:
Post-338: “The Liars are at it Again”
Post-340: Against the “Sleeping National Assembly”

I remarked in post-340 that many of the political banners that I had photographed and posted have been torn down, perhaps surreptitiously by political opponents. As of March 31st, most were gone.

One banner has remained untouched for weeks. If you understand what it says, you may be surprised by its “survival”:


Upper banner: Political banner of the “Christian Party” of Korea (기독당), seen across the street from Yeongdeungpo Station (영등포역) throughout March 2016. Lower banner: Anti-War, calling for ending joint U.S.-R.O.K. military exercises.

The upper banner is an incredible contrast with the lower one here. The lower one — “No War! Stop the U.S.-South Korean Joint Military Exercises! Sign a Peace Treaty With North Korea!” — has also disappeared as of this writing.

Here is my translation of the upper banner:

“국방 개혁”
…핵 위협엔 핵 보유가 답…

대한민국 자주국방 최상의 답은 핵무기 보유 입니다.

[The Christian Party]
“National Defense Reform”
…When Dealing with Nuclear Intimidation,
The Answer is Nuclear Armament…

The best way to guarantee the Republic of Korea’s self-sufficiency in national defense is to possess our own nuclear weapons capability.

This apparently new “Christian Party” (기독당, in long form 기독민주당; it proclaims itself in English to be the CDUK, “Christian Democratic Union Korea” [sic]) is led by a Park Du-Shik (박두식), about whom I find nothing online, except that a film actor by that name was born in 1988. Very unlikely the same person.

This call for nuclear armament is actually quite shocking and troubling.

Most would say that this so-called Christian Party is too small to bother worrying about and that nobody who matters is serious about Seoul developing a nuclear weapons arsenal. On the other hand, here is a story from two months ago in which “a right-wing journalist” is quoted calling for nuclear armament.

I have wondered, ever since 2002, while I was in high school (at which time Korea first came into my awareness), why the United States still maintains a military presence in South Korea. A main reason, or the main reason, I have come to see, is that the South Korean government wants them there. A blackmail threat hangs in the air, maybe, in which South Korea would say, “Okay, Uncle Sam, you can unilaterally withdraw. Just, listen, if you do, we can’t promise, you know, that we won’t develop our own nuclear deterrent.” This would be too terrible to contemplate.

So, what of the Christian Party? They won’t win any seats. What, though, of the fact that the banner remains standing while so many others have been torn down? (There is also an identical banner on the other side of the street, visible to all approaching the main gate to Yeongdeungpo Station. I have seen the same banner in other parts of Seoul, too.)

One more thing. Somebody has scrawled graffiti on this banner. You can see it at the top left. The graffiti says, “Obey the Teachings of the Bible!” [성경 말씀에 순종하시오!]. I interpret this to be meant in mocking derision of the banner’s belligerent message…from the self-proclaimed Christian Party. Would Jesus call for nuclear armament? And so on.