Wednesday, June 2, 2010

ROK the Vote

Today was election day in Korea. This election was for province officals (do), city offices (shi), and district (gu) and township (dong) representatives. None of these candidates are going to the big green-domed building on Yeouido. So, even though it is not a national election, per se, it still takes place on the same day in every province, district, etc. For most workers, this is a national holiday, present company included.

I live in Deungchon-dong, Gangseo-gu, which is part of the special administrative area of Seoul-shi, which is not in a do. My friend Hwang and his wife came to an agreement one who to vote for, which incuded "six candidates and two parties". In addition to specific seats to be filled on the various councils, there are something like "at-large" seats, as it was explained to me, that are filled by the parties, representationally. I certainly stand to be corrected on this, and welcome input from the better-informed.

Of greatest interest to me, though, was the methods of vote-canvassing that I saw in action during the last month or so. I am very curious about the history of all this, and hope to learn more, and report it to you in a future blog post.

First, color-coded ajumma stand at crosswalks and intersections politely greeting passers-by and attempting to ascertain their interest in the qualities of the candidate they are supporting.

Second, they hand out business cards with their candidate's likeness and a brief synopsis (I assume) of the major planks in his platform on the reverse.

Third, the candidates themselves kiss hands and shake babies in time-honored fashion, roaming among the electorate wearing beauty-queen sashes to announce their fitness for office. And also their Miss Congeniality 2003 triumph.

Fourth, and perhaps most energetic, egregious and vociferous of all the convassing modi, is the annoying truck thing with several devoted ladies on board, blaring a personal message for all within hearing from the candidate, interspersed with a catchy theme song to help potential voters to remember to support you, Gwang Jung Hoon, instead of that scurrilous bastard Gwang Hung Joon. [NB: Those are made-up names. To the best of my knowledge, neither Gwang Jung Hoon nor Gwang Hung Joon is running for office, and in any case, certainly neither one of them is a bastard, scurrilous or otherwise.]

Although these loudspeaker-blaring trucks were pretty common in the last few weeks, I never seemed to have my camera handy when one of them rolled by, or I was too slow (or they were too fast) to capture a sustained video. Still, I did get a few little clips, which I've strung together in the YouTube vid below. First, set the volume as high as possible. Now imagine it ten times louder. Next, play the video repeatedly, at least ten or twelve times. Remember that even if you are Korean, you can only understand at best half of what is being said. There, now you have a rough idea of Korean democracy in action.

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