Time to cage the monster againAbout 100 senior members of a Seoul-based association of people from the Jeolla region declared their support for liberal Seoul mayoral candidate Park Won-soon after paying a visit to his campaign headquarters. As it turns out, it was former Democratic Party floor leader Park Jie-won, who is from South Jeolla, who encouraged the visit.
Park told reporters that he has actively sought support for the mayoral candidate by visiting each of the association’s regional committees in person, adding that the association should not act as a bystander in the Seoul mayoral by-election just because Park is running as an independent.
When asked whether he is trying to take advantage of regional sentiment in the election, the former DP floor leader emphasized that the association is a group that basically supports the DP. For that reason, the Jeolla people’s backing of Park Won-soon, who hails from the Gyeongsang region, should translate into regional harmony, not regional conflict, he said.
Regional sentiment has long been a major source of sociopolitical conflict in our society. As such, we have persistently urged Koreans to keep the dangerous monster in a cage, particularly in an election season when conflicts of interest among various segments of society have reached their peak.
When regional sentiment intervenes in election campaigns it only exacerbates divisions among citizens. Therefore, mobilizing regional sentiment for political purposes should be disallowed during elections.
The Jeolla association leaders’ endorsement of Park Won-soon is a clear breach of this taboo. How the association’s main group confirmed the intentions of its remaining members is also in question.
Regional sentiment should not drive campaigns. Support for political candidates must be strictly based on the candidate’s ideological orientation and proposed policies.
Former floor leader Park said that if President Roh Moo-hyun were still alive, he too would support Park Won-soon. But it was Roh who fought hard against regional sentiment in Korean politics - as explicitly demonstrated by his running for a seat in a district in Busan, which is a traditional bastion of conservatism and the stronghold of the Grand National Party.
As campaigns heat up, emotions tend to take the place of reason.
But everyone must act calmly and rationally. It’s time for all of us to cage the devil.