Well, it’s final. Park Wonsoon has won decisively the Seoul mayoral election, mind you, as an independent at that!

This morning I went up to the rooftop of my apartment building (called “officetel” in Korea to denote its dual capacity as an office or a home – I actually live on the eighth and work on the tenth so I guess the description is fair) to do my regular one thousand jump ropes. Down below I had a clear sight into Park’s central campaign office which I had been keeping an eye on every morning. Eerily, on the very first day after his election was confirmed the office looked totally empty and devoid of any spirit. Probably everyone was taking a much deserved breather (including the candidate himself) after the hard-fought battle and was all snugly sheltered in their own beds sleeping in late.

But it did get me thinking…

The actual “doing” part of the campaign, following through on the policies set forth, making Seoul a more equitable and friendly place to live for all, making Chunsei more affordable, these and other myriad issues that the new mayor will have to  contend with are not trivial. And they are fraught with all kinds of Catch-22s. So my worry is this; once the new mayor comes to grips with the complex and often contradictory tasks which he will have to tackle and oversee, might he not feel often induced into “sleeping in late” as much as possible as far as his job is concerned? This is a real worry for me because while the media try often to equate the job of governing to a one-word leadership quality such as charisma, foresight, eloquence, team-building, boldness, and so on, the day-to-day of a leader is much more complicated and involved, and it requires the utmost of flexibility and patience and perspective and will. What worries me is that the mayor who has risen to his office with what he believed are his core principles will be soon faced with the realities of governing and beg to give up trying or less that, abandon following through with said policies with vigor.

You ask why I’m so concerned when he’s just getting started? That’s because you see this happen all the time. Just look at the politicians who sit at our not-so-august island of Yoido. These are supposedly some of the brightest and most highly educated elite of Korea, but once they enter the Assembly, they transform into (please choose the word that seems most apt) idiots, morons, dolts, jerks, liars, thieves, brutes, crooks, thugs, scandalmongers, opportunists, vampires, brown-nosers, leeches, buffoons, jackasses, cry-babies, boors, know-nothings, dunces, primadonnas, louts, rats, hyenas, whores, vipers, etc. In short, they become the worst hypocrites to their until-then integrity and experience. Why? Because they become mired in the morass that is politics and give up trying, that’s why. Realizing that all their efforts hardly make even the smallest dent, they do less and less until they are saying, “What the heck? Might as well benefit me from being here if I can’t benefit the society.” Okay. Before accusing me of being cynical yet defensive of the politicians, please realize that I’m just trying to depict what’s plain in this society. Do you honestly think that the politicians become what they become, thinking from the get-go that he/she’s going to become corrupt one day? I don’t think that’s very likely. Of course there will always be bad apples, but I doubt that’s the majority. My guess is that they do start out with positive, life-affirming principles but in the process somehow get squashed and get their energies sapped out of them. I really do (as much as I revile their “current” them).

So to my fellow residents of Seoul. Please encourage our new mayor to not lose hope, to not lose faith, to not lose his convictions and to not lose touch with the people. For him to succeed, for him to follow through on his promises, for him to truly represent the citizens of Seoul, he will need our help more than ever, and we can do that by giving him plenty of slack so that he can govern according to his morals and ability, knowing that people appreciate the complex nature of his diffcult job ahead. Go get’em, Park!


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