Painting on Park causes stir
By Jun Ji-hye
A left-wing painter caused a stir with his piece of art featuring Park Geun-hye having given birth to a child wearing sunglasses who is just like her father, the late president Park Chung-hee.
The oil painting by Hong Sung-dam was showcased at the Peace Museum in Seoul on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Yushin Constitution, an amendment in 1972 that paved the way for President Park to remain in power.
With the title of “Golden Time doctor Choi In-hyuk Salutes a New-born Mr. President,” the artist made fun of the broadcaster MBC, as well as Rep. Park with the painting.
“Golden Time” was a popular medical drama having aired 23 episodes through MBC from July to September this year.
In the drama, Choi was the lead actor who was described as an ethical and professional medical doctor.
In the painting, Park, the ruling Saenuri Party’s presidential candidate, is wearing a patient gown, sitting in the operating table, smiling while looking at her new-born child who wears sunglasses like her father.
Also, there is a notebook on the floor in ridicule of Park’s nickname, “the Notebook Princess,” dubbed by her political opponents degrading her practice of relying on memos when talking about sensitive issues.
Through the satirical painting, Hong alleged that broadcaster MBC tried to curry favor with the ruling Saenuri Party’s presidential candidate.
Hong became embroiled in controversy immediately after media reports detailed his work.
“Even doctors like Choi pays his respect to a new-born baby because he looks like Mr. President Park, the man who had long been in power in the past. I tried to depict the trauma of our age by using Yushin as a motif,” Hong said in explaining his painting.
Some stood by him, saying the artist has the right to express his ideas freely because he lives in a democratic country. But some criticized him, arguing he went too far.
The painting ignited controversy regarding to what extent the freedom of expression can be protected.
The ruling Saenuri Party condemned Hong for the controversial painting.
“Art has to be art itself. If it is used for political motivation, it is not art anymore,” said Kwon Young-se, an aide to Park, on Monday.
“Although many people say Hong’s painting is degrading women’s childbirth, he is just talking about the freedom of expression. The Saenuri Party will take strong legal action on behalf of Park and all women,” he said.
Regarding Saenuri’s response, the painter, who was imprisoned and tortured in 1988 for sending his work of art to Pyongyang, claimed “Even if they sue me, I will fight to the end for the freedom of expression and ask if it is a right thing to take away somebody’s freedom for the election.”