There’s a special election for the post of Seoul Mayor today. The hotly contested seat is being fought over by the conservative, telegenic Ms. Na and progressive, good-natured seeming Mr. Park. Also telegenic, the predecessor mayor, Mr. Oh, had resigned short time ago over failing to get the votes out to defeat the “free lunch program” proposed by the current Seoul education supervisor, Mr. Kwak, another man embroiled in a scandal who may soon either be resigning or be jailed or maybe even be set free to return to his duties.
These four people are intertwined like a pretzel in some unholy matrimony that is typical of Korean politics. It all began with Kwak’s ambition to lay a daring siege to the education sphere which promptly begat Oh demanding his rightful right of input into all affairs Seoul, including education, which begat a ridiculous and rancorous confrontation between these two Alpha males, which begat Oh calling for a referendum to defeat Kwak’s proposal on grounds of waste, which begat Oh vowing to resign if the referendum did not pass, which begat the actual resignation when the referendum was judged void because the voter turnout was less than the mandated minimum, which begat Kwak crowing about the victory of the progressive movement and the minority party licking their collective chops about replacing the mayoral post with one of their own, which begat (some say) the revelation about Kwak’s alleged backdoor dealing with his opponent during the run for Seoul City Education Supervisor and the majority party licking their collective chops about reinstating one of their own to the mayoral post, which finally begat Na and Park who basically fell out of the sky to contend for the post of mayor to the second largest metropolitan city in the world.
What this makes me think about is how a little flutter by a butterfly in Kentucky can cause a tsunami in Hanoi. Who’d’ve thunk last year that Kwak simply following through on his campaign promise to provide free lunch (yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as free lunch, at least in Seoul) to kids would result in such a cascade, drowning two of the most prominent politicians in Korea only to be replaced by two barely recognized figures who before were kept busy practicing their pirouttes for an audition with the party masters. Ah but Park did not dance, you say. Well that’s because he realized just in time that Seoulites were fed up with anything that had anything to do with any “dahng (political party).” “Dahng, no, I mean, Dang y’all, thank you but I think I’ll go it alone,” he said, and rightly so if he wants to have any chance of winning tonight.
For me I don’t really care who wins. I always think a woman candidate is a huge plus, but I’m also pretty impressed with Park’s credentials. Yes, there are some questions about the honesty of his intention in all of his charitable acts, but honestly, if a man gives all his wealth away (like as even MB did – to those who don’t know, MB refers to the Korean President, Myung Bak Lee) that’s enough credit on his ledger for me to count his overall doings as positive. That he still lives in a nice rental and that he travels a lot, those things don’t bother me. He’s a human being for goodness sakes. Take a chill pill, to borrow my daughter’s very flamboyant lexicon. By the same token I don’t cotton to all the people badmouthing Na about privilege. Of course she was privileged, being from a wealthy, educated family, but did she choose her parents? Of course she’s married well, having gone to the best university in the land and a fox to boot. Of course she’s well placed, she’s whip-smart, smart enough to have been a judge among the elite club usually reserved for Korean male chauvinists.
So what I guess I’m trying to say is that I don’t know how Seoul got here (well, actually I do) as far as having the little known Na and Park on the ballot for the city that I live in (in which I can’t vote, not being a Korean citizen) but I’m glad that these are the two who are on the ballot. Of course, I expect neither to fully follow through on the campaign promises they made, but then it would not be politics otherwise. Would it? And so, it is with a definite peace of mind and a little bit of fluttering expectation that I await the results…. Dum, dum, dum.