[VIEWPOINT]An ad campaign against SeoulThe government has begun to stress the importance of moving Korea’s administrative capital by putting up subway ads reading, “The quality of life in Seoul is the worst of the 30 leading cities of the world.” In other words, the Korean government has taken the lead in disparaging its own capital.
The subway ad campaign also maintains that “foreign companies choose to invest in Beijing or Mexico City over Seoul.”
If this were a catchphrase being used by the Chinese or Mexican government to belittle Seoul, it would be a different matter. The problem is that the ads have been posted by the government of the Republic of Korea itself.
There is a Korean proverb that says, “Son’s fault is father’s fault.” Whether the government likes it or not, Seoul is the capital of the Republic of Korea, and the country’s foremost “brand.” So it is unthinkable that we should undermine its image.
Even if Seoul has weak points, we should be trying to cover them up as much as we can without distorting the truth. Who will believe in the government when it is busy running a counterpropaganda campaign against Seoul, at a time when promotion of the city’s attractiveness or competitiveness is needed more than ever?
The fact that these ads are part of a larger government campaign to justify the transfer of the capital is infuriating. It is hard to understand a way of thinking under which the relocation of the capital is more important than the welfare of the country as a whole.
The Government Information Agency’s excuse is that the ads are “not an effort to taint the image of Seoul, but, using an ironic expression as a technique, to show the will of the government to increase Seoul’s quality of life and business competitiveness.” The Government Information Agency exists to properly publicize and explain government policies to people at home and abroad. We take this incident as an opportunity to remind the agency that it should not be defaming provinces and cities that it does not like. The agency seems to be having an identity crisis.
The spokesman of the Seoul Metropolitan City Government, Park Myung-hyun, said, “We have to question whether sponsoring an advertisement, based on the results of some research groups, that Seoul is doing worse than its rivals, Beijing or Mexico City, is doing any good at all for the country.”
The Chairman of the Policy Committee of the opposition Grand National Party, Lee Hahn-koo, said, “It is hard to consider the government our own government when it sponsors an advertisement saying that our competitiveness has fallen behind that of other cities. Actually enhancing competitiveness is the government’s responsibility.”
The chairman of the Special Committee for a New Administrative Capital, Kim Han-gill of the governing Uri Party, retorted, “The point [of the ads] seems to be to stress that we cannot afford to fall behind anymore... Our problem is that pointing out the problems of Seoul in a frank and cool-headed manner can be seen as self-criticizing.”
He added, “We need to face the reality: if we continue to go steadfastly just as we are doing now, we can only go downhill.”
Such arguments are unpersuasive compared to those of the opposition party. I think that Seoul citizens’ badly damaged pride will only be smoothed out (more or less) if the Committee for Balanced Development of the Nation, which played a role in publishing the advertisements, changes its name to the Committee for the Unbalanced Retrogression of the Nation, and the Government Information Agency changes its name to the Government Humiliation Agency.
*The writer is the managing director of the JoongAng Daily.
by Shin Joong-don