Transsexual entertainer Harisu, right, and actress Kim Boo-seon chant slogans supporting the New Progressive Party during campaigning for the party in northern Seoul. / Yonhap
By Park Si-soo
TV and movie stars, mostly quiet about their political leanings in the past, are more vocal about political issues and actively participating in campaign rallies.
Since the presidential election last December, a growing number of entertainers has started openly supporting candidates in the April 9 National Assembly elections. Candidates and political parties welcome their growing presence in perhaps otherwise dull and boring street campaigns.
More than 15 entertainers have been identified as publicly serving as official campaigners for their favorite candidates and parties, though the actual number is probably much higher.
Comedian Baek Nam-bong, 69, is a key campaigner of candidate Ahn Young-hwan, running in Geumcheon, Seoul, on the ticket of the Grand National Party (GNP). Thanks to prior career experience as a TV reporter, Ahn has relatively a strong group of celebrity supporters, including comedian Bae Dong-sung and actor Kim Myung-kook.
Several entertainers with interests in the rights of people with alternative sexual lifestyles and the disabled are working to promote the left-leaning New Progressive Party (NPP).
Male-turned-female singer Ha Ri-soo and actress Kim Boo-seon are fighting for the legalization of marijuana, and movie star Park Jung-hoon has actively taken part in street campaigns for candidate Roh Hoe-chan, running in Nowon-gu, northern of Seoul, on the ticket of the NPP.
Actress Choi Myung-gil is touring every corner of the nation to encourage voters to support the United Democratic Party.
Political parties speak highly of their performances.
``Entertainers are very helpful in our campaigning,'' Lee Ji-an, vice spokesperson for NPP, told The Korea Times. ``Our party is less known among the general public than other major parties. Entertainers are definitely helping increase voter recognition and attracting people's attention to our party.''
Kim Dae-eun, vice spokesman for GNP, said ``They have done great job in promoting candidates' political images, shedding light on their strengths and drawing more public attention to campaigning.''
Still, some experts expressed concerns the celebrities' campaigning may mislead voters.
``This practice possibly leads voters to choose a candidate in accordance with their favorite entertainers, instead of their parties' policies,'' said Kim Sung-soo, professor at Hanyang University's political science department. ``Of course, having popular stars as supporters could contribute to winning in the election. But I think their participation in campaigning is not that recommendable.''
Kim added celebrity supporters can still help voters understand candidates.