Will star marketing help win votes?
By Kwon Mee-yoo
A number of popular entertainers have been participating in campaigns for the June 2 local elections to win over voters to the candidates they support, while some entertainers are even running for certain posts.
Candidates seek to take entertainers along with them to every campaign venue to attract the attention of otherwise nonchalant voters. They expect a sort of "halo effect" from the stars but most voters are skeptical that "star marketing" will actually lead to more votes.
Among the stars running for the local elections is actor Yoon Dong-hwan who is challenging for a city councilor position at Gangdong-gu, Seoul. He made his debut in 1992 and has appeared in various television dramas including the recent hit "The Slave Hunters."
"Democracy belongs to the people, but I wondered how the people are really playing the role of master. I want to find that out by running in the election directly," Yoon said.
Some entertainers rushed to join the election campaign because of their family involvement. Actor Ji Sung appeared on a placard of an education superintendent candidate of South Jeolla Province, Gwak Yeong-pyo, who is his father. Ji's actual name is Gwak Tae-geun.
Actress Oh Seung-eun is in Daegu, supporting the election campaign of her father-in-law Park No-yeol, who is running for the education superintendent position in the southeastern city. Oh handed out name cards for Park during the morning hours and sang a campaign song for him.
Ji Sang-wuk, the Seoul Mayor candidate of the minor opposition Liberty Forward Party, put his wedding picture in an election advertisement ― his wife is famed actress Shim Eun-ha, who retired after marrying Ji in 2005. Despite her continuing popularity, Shim disappeared from public view to become a housewife and some people criticized Ji for placing his wife on the pamphlet.
However, Ji explained that he had put the wedding photo in the advertisement because it was a part of his life cycle, and assured the public that Shim would not officially support his campaign.
Indeed, some support campaign rallies according to their political beliefs.
Moon Sung-keun, another well-known "politainer," the combination of politician and entertainer, who strongly supported the late President Roh Moo-hyun and his party, joined the campaign team for Han Myung-sook, the former prime minister currently running for Seoul Mayor.
However, most voters say they are unlikely to be swayed by campaigning supported by entertainers.
Lee Ji-won, 29, an office worker, said she does not care about entertainers supporting election campaigns. "I don't think it will affect the voting," Lee said. "Most of them do not seem to have a strong political stance, but simply participate in the rallies because of personal connections."
In Nam-soo, a 48-year-old office worker at a venture firm in Seoul, says, "I think most people know better than to be affected by the mobilization of entertainers."
Experts agreed the effect of entertainers in elections is low as well.
"Generally, politicians have entertainers in their campaign to attract young voters. However, candidates' campaign promises and the parties they belong to are decisive factors. Young voters are unlikely to be swayed by actors supporting certain parties," an official of the Korean Association of Party Studies said.