[VIEWPOINT]Wanted: polite-talking politiciansIt seems that some people, men in particular, enjoy using rude expressions just because they belong to an older age group or a different gender. Such a habit bewilders others or puts them at a loss in this class-oriented society. It is even more embarrassing to watch English or French movies with Korean subtitles, films in which male characters say rude expressions to actresses, who always respond politely.
Older Korean men often use impolite words in talking to younger women. It's a habit that has been misinterpreted by age and gender roles for a long time. The misunderstanding of ageism and sexism might have originated during the Joseon Dynasty, between the 14th century and the early 20th century.
A virtue in that society called for women to always be submissive to men, without causing offense with impolite words. This tradition has continued until now and younger women, in general, still have a hard time figuring out when to talk without offending older men's feelings. More powerful people, in other words, older men, will usually cut in or scold younger women if these inexperienced females of an inferior gender are trying to give opinions about what they really think and feel.
This vertical power structure applies in the same way to international society. Strong and wealthy nations speak out loudly and do whatever they want, while basically the interests of weaker nations are ignored. These relatively small and weak countries cannot play major roles in international organizations; they must simply observe what smaller numbers of more powerful nations are doing. It seems hard to bring a true sense of global democratization to this situation. In fact, it would seem to be a ridiculous dream for weaker nations to have opportunities to speak out under this kind of balance of international power.
Presidential candidates in Korea who are preparing for the election next month show the power structure of their organizations through debates on television and in newspapers, or in public speeches. The candidates do their utmost to get one more vote by all kinds of campaigns, using polite and respectful words, phrases and expressions, virtually every means possible.
However, the candidates seem to be accustomed to rude ways of speaking, so their impolite words cannot help but slip out from time to time, which makes the local electorate even more embarrassed.
Some candidates have even lost their tempers in attacks from opponents during live debates on television. Such incidents almost always make voters flee from the short-tempered politicians.
Meanwhile, the eloquent candidates who are skillfully using respectful words might also be good at televised debates and arguments, which also could delude citizens into thinking they might vote for these pretenders on Dec. 19. The articulate ones, though, should be verified as to whether they are prepared to listen to what other candidates or voters say.
Just imagine what it would be like if a rude candidate who cannot listen to other people's opinions actually wins the election next month. The entire nation might be set back about 20 or 30 years, to when democracy itself was nothing more than a daydream.
Politicians and members of the National Assembly have disappointed people since the liberation from the Japanese, and have never lost their rude manner of speaking. Some of them even swear at each other. This has caused some citizens to be politician-phobic, which has generated great cynicism about political affairs and has driven numerous voters away from the polls.
As a matter of fact, young voters in their 20s and 30s don't wish to listen to political news and most of them simply ignore what is going on in the Assembly.
People should support a candidate who is working on an act or a bill that will expel parliamentary members who have rude ways of speaking. One hopes that there will be a heavy turnout of voters responding to a candidate with fresh ideas and a civil tongue.
* The writer is a professor of cinema studies at Dong-guk University.
by Yu Gi-na