[Viewpoint]Waging war with words

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[Viewpoint]Waging war with words

The Lee Myung-bak administration has been overrun in the publicity war.

The Democratic Party has labeled controversial proposed bills as “evil.” Then, in a move that defies understanding, the ruling Grand National Party tried to battle back by calling them “remedy bills.”

The term sounds awkward in Korean, not least because the words for “evil” and “remedy” sound very similar. When there’s confusion over which term to use, “evil bills” always beats out “remedy bills.”

This issue could have been figured out by any run-of-the-mill company rookie, but the leaders of the nation’s ruling party are happy about their choice of terminology.

So, once again, we have an ideological war in Korean society. The liberal side launched the first offensive; their weapons were candlelight vigils, sit-ins and words. As time passed, the candles went out and the sit-ins came to an end.

The words, however, went on attacking their opponents. Demonstrations and sit-ins can be dealt with by the police, but not even water cannons can put out words. Words can only be fought with words.

The opposition party organized its war strategy and began launching rockets early on. It called the administration a “civilian dictatorship” and labeled its bills as evil.

A bill that would allow conglomerates to invest in banks was tagged the “conglomerate bank bill” and one that would let newspapers and conglomerates invest in broadcasters was called the “conglomerate broadcasting bill.” Their tactic in using the word “conglomerate” was to foment division between the haves and the have-nots.

A bill to revise the law governing demonstrations has been changed to omit the ban on wearing masks during rallies, but the opposition party is still calling it a “bill to punish mask wearing.”

Ignoring the need for wiretapping in criminal investigations, the opposition party branded a governing party-sponsored bill on the practice as being aimed at allowing eavesdropping on mobile phone conversations.

The opposition approach is typical populist oversimplification of everything.

The Lee administration has proposed bills to reform the economy, society and the media because they promote development. Of course, not everyone will agree with the bills, but debate must be resolved through discussion. The bills are not evil.

But many naive voters have fallen for the opposition party’s tactics.

Publicity has had a formative influence throughout history. President Park Chung Hee used the slogans “Nation-building through exports” and “Manpower drives modernization,” to placate young laborers at factories.

In August 1976, North Korean soldiers hacked U.S. officers to death at the Panmunjom truce village with axes. Park said, “A crazy dog needs to get the stick,” and began a joint military operation with the United States. The crazy dog then fell silent.

Whether based in truth or not, history is made when publicity moves the people.

In 1987, then-presidential candidate Kim Young-sam shouted, “Let’s end the military regime!” Roh Tae-woo, another candidate, came back with a slogan pronouncing the beginning of an era in which the common people would hold the power.

With that single sentence, the military ruler transformed himself into a commoner, and that commoner was elected president.

When Kim Young-sam pushed for reform in the Blue House as the next president, Kim Dae-jung went to Cambridge University in Britain in order to seek a new opportunity for a comeback. In December 1993, Kim Dae-jung quietly put out a new slogan for his return. It was the title of a book, “For the New Beginning.”

Roh Moo-hyun’s autography was called “Hey, Help Me Out.” Roh’s informal style of writing won the people’s hearts.

Lee Myung-bak’s book was also named effectively. The title, “There Is No Myth,” emphasized his hardworking nature, and another book, “The Cheonggye Stream Runs to the Future,” gave him a forward-looking image.

Park Hee-tae, the GNP chairman, has served as party spokesman for a record time. Not many can compete with him when it comes to words. In 1991, Kim Dae-jung’s party held several massive rallies, but Park’s comments greatly damaged their efforts.

Park decried Kim’s Boramae Park rally for being fruitless. He said the Yeouido rally fell short of expectations, and panned the Busan rally as being nothing more than disorder.

No matter how much truth it contains, publicity is crucial in politics.

And yet, Park’s Grand National Party is lost, only playing the “remedy bills” card in this publicity war.

Perhaps being so well fed has made the Grand Nationals a little too comfortable.

While the liberal party’s publicity is as lively as a dish of fresh sashimi, the Blue House and the GNP have come out with a piece of cold, soggy pizza.

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Jin
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