When an attack is not really an attack

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When an attack is not really an attack


“Gag Concert” on KBS2 has always been a popular variety show, but “The Man Who Clarifies All Things Ambiguous” is its best segment. I am a big fan, and I respect the producers and staff for turning social issues into clever satire. In one episode, a young couple with a child was debating how to share the burden of child care. The Man Who Clarifies All Things Ambiguous has a clear solution: Put the mom in charge of the upper half of the body while the dad takes care of the bottom. Dads can’t breastfeed, so they have to be on diaper duty. What if the baby wakes up in the middle of the night? The dad should answer the call for the first nine months because that is how long the mom was pregnant.

I’d like to ask The Man what he thinks about the Oct. 26 Seoul mayoral by-election. After being beaten up by what could either be an attack or attempt at verification by Na Kyung-won, Park Won-soon has started to strike back. The electoral mudslinging has officially begun. But how can we distinguish attacks from verification? Clearly, “verification” sounds far more positive than “attack,” but Article 58 of the Election Law defines campaigning as activities to have a candidate elected or not. In other words, attacks used to discourage citizens from voting for a rival are part of an election campaign. Now, the distinction is even more ambiguous.

The first thing that comes to mind is whether a claim is based on facts or not. If a suspicion turns out to be true, it can be called verification. But if the allegation is either not true or an exaggeration of facts, it is an attack. Also, if a candidate criticizes a rival publicly, it is likely an attempt at verification. But if the criticism comes anonymously, it can be considered an attack.

Whichever it is, Park Won-soon seems to have suffered the greater damage. This is his first run for office, so he is as yet an untested entity. Meanwhile, his attempt to return the attacks was rather clumsy. He may have thought it would be a blow to Na to charge her with exploiting the disabled, but the attack backfired because she is the mother of a disabled child.

Research shows that an absolute majority of voters are critical of political attacks yet remember the content of the attacks in detail. In the end, the final decision is made by each individual voter, but a candidate can clarify the ambiguity based on how he or she feels. If you are attacked and feel wrongfully accused, you know you are the victim of a negative attack. But if you feel the prick and get nervous, then it is verification.

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

By Noh Jae-hyun
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