Assistant managing editor
I remember a former senior colleague of mine once talking about a childhood experience of his that made him eager to be a National Assemblyman. One day, he saw an old man struggling as he walked, taking one step at a time, carrying on his back an A-frame loaded with a mound of branches and pieces of dead wood. Still a young boy at the time, he decided to become a politician to lighten the burden for ordinary people.
To make this happen, he eventually joined an opposition party based in his home province and ran unsuccessfully for a local government office. Now, he runs a private business instead. On another occasion he talked in passing about the low points in black propaganda during his campaigning days and acted as if he wouldn’t ever dabble in politics again. But he took the first chance to get back into the political limelight only to get out of it.
Another former senior colleague also tried to push his way into politics but was checked by allegations of taking bribes and abusing official funds. He was cleared of them but his political ambitions are hopefully put on a temporary hold. I once saw the same uncouth honesty in him as in the late President Roh Moo-hyun. I am sure that, given a chance, he would continue to pursue a political career.
Henry Kissinger captured it well when he observed, “Power is the great aphrodisiac.”
Maybe, Kissinger would be under Freudian influence, connecting every human behavior with sex ― either more or less of it. I believe that the two former colleagues are not power junkies, being separate from other political hacks, although I don’t want to deny that they both possess an eagerness to stand out from the crowd, mixed up with an altruistic sense of duty for others. Borrowing from Freud, just like most human beings, they have an id, ego and superego competing with each other for supremacy in their psyche.
I take it as part of human nature and am willing to settle for whatever Freud said and didn’t say.
However, I feel dumbfounded by the level of exposure, say, two candidates running in the by-election for Seoul mayor, are putting up with during the ongoing campaign for today’s vote.
Na Kyung-won, the candidate from the ruling Grand National Party, is accused of having undergone serious makeovers, some blogs showing her photos before and after at a certain point in her career.
One post appears to be with tongue in cheek, observing, “A law department graduate from the prestigious Seoul National University can’t be so beautifully endowed as well.” This reflects a typical Korean case of schadenfreude against those who are blessed with multiple assets.
In Na’s case, the id may overpower the ego and superego with her driving force being her dissatisfaction about what she sees as public prejudice about her doll-like appearance ― she should be dumb because she can’t be smart and pretty. Ironically, the 48-year-old is struggling to calm down allegations that she gets treatments from a famous dermatologist’s, with membership fees fetching 100 million won. Now, detractors may argue with partial satisfaction that Na owes her pearl-color complexion to the expensive therapy. Being wealthy is not a good ticket for politicians seeking to get elected. Lee Myung-bak, our self-proclaimed CEO president, has been shifting his policy to fit a fair society for ordinary people as part of efforts to extend the conservative rule.
Na was again the target of boos and jeers from organizations of handicapped people for being photographed with a naked child with disabilities she was bathing for campaigning purposes. She has acted as advocate for people with disabilities and her Samaritan work should be taken as a show of noble cause especially considering the affliction of one of her children. Now, attention is being shifted to that child and the rest of her family.
In summary, before she bid to become Seoul mayor, she was a beautiful, a competent Princess Aurora but thanks to negative propaganda and personal frisking by the Internet, she is now portrayed to more resemble a manipulating Queen Ogre.
As for her opponent, Park, former civil activist, is experiencing his moments of dirty laundry being aired for public view. He is accused of lying about his educational background.
He is accused of plotting to dodge his military service from early childhood.
He is accused of receiving donations indiscriminately from conglomerates and foreign private equity funds, using his enormous power as the fifth estate.
He is seen by some as a pawn of Ahn Cheol-soo, Seoul National University professor and successful IT businessman, as Ahn pursues his own ambition to become the President.
If they are asked whether the job of Seoul mayor is worth all the trouble, they will answer yes.
But it is not Na, Park and other political wannabes but we, the voters that are the bigger victims of the whole yards of dirty campaigning and vote mongering.
Above all, we are well aware of the candidates’ flaws but are forced to choose between the two.
Picking one from the other can be taken as our endorsement of the flaws of the candidate we vote for.
Irrespective of who is chosen, we already know from our experience what little impact it will have on the way the city is run. By this time next year, or, more likely, immediately after the new mayor takes office, we will surely start to feel regretful about choosing the wrong candidate. In other words, the voters suffer from the constant trauma of being forced to choose the lesser of two evils.
For that traumatic experience, a new mayor should take psychotherapy for Seoulites as one of his or her priorities. It is a matter of course that the therapy should be provided at City Hall’s expense only for those who want it. I am sure that the cost will be less than that for free school meals and can be raised from savings from the slew of beautification projects former Mayor Oh Se-hoon spearheaded a la Lee Myung-bak during his days as mayor before becoming the President.