Small-town thinkingHometown friendship associations have made their appearance again in the presidential election campaign.
On Sunday, at an event for the hometown friendship association of Chungcheong, five presidential candidates, including Lee Myung-bak and Chung Dong-young attended the occasion and deployed the sugar-coated slogan, “The Era of Chungcheong.”
Are hometown associations for each region good for a small country like Korea? This nepotistic culture hinders unification of society and exacerbate regionalism.
The culture of hometown associations is distinctive among Koreans, and even Koreans living abroad have them. This creates more problems in election campaigns. Candidates often make unrealistic or ill-conceived pledges to win more votes, instead of pursuing harmony among the people.
Even though the candidates made few explicit remarks on Sunday, Lee said he hoped that Chungcheong would become the center of the Korean economy. Chung said that Chungcheong’s era as a major actor in the country is approaching.
To hope that a particular area will develop economically is one thing and to promise to work for a certain area to become the center of the country is another.
If the Chungcheong becomes the center of the country, what will happen to the competitiveness of Seoul and its metropolitan area in this era of globalization?
The incumbent administration has pushed for development of the southwestern region. Will that project be put aside in the next administration?
Since the candidates haven’t yet made pledges for big projects such as the Saemangeum reclamation and Honam high-speed train, we think that they made such remarks out of politeness.
If somebody keeps making idle promises, they become a debt in their mind. The debt will become a pledge, and an unreasonable pledge will do harm to the country.
Five years ago, Roh Moo-hyun pledged to move administrative capital to Chungcheong. The project turned out to be unconstitutional, so he changed it slightly into building a city for administrative works.
The chairman of the association said that the people in the area have been seen as dumb and slow-witted but they must work hard now to drop that image.
That probably means that they need to cast their votes for a certain candidate.
The country has been divided because the people in the Gyeongsang area voted for their candidate, and the people in Jeolla area elected their own. Now the people in Chungcheong are being persuaded to cast their votes for a certain candidate.
The culture of hometown associations must end in order for Korea to develop into an advanced country. Small-town thinking never made a great nation.