[Viewpoint] A contract with the devil

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[Viewpoint] A contract with the devil

These days, it’s hard to track down Park Kyung-chul, a doctor and author known for his nickname “the medical doctor of rural villages.” Once, he was considered the alter ego of Ahn Cheol-soo, whom the liberals are so eager to get to run for president. Park is travelling to Greece whenever he has a chance. Captivated by Nikos Kazantzakis, he is traveling in the country freely like Zorba the Greek. Park reportedly has a plan to write massive volumes on Greek civilization.

The transformation of Park shows a man searching for his identity - or keeping a distance from politics. After he spoke up on behalf of Ahn, Park lost his identity in the sinkhole of politics. No matter what he said, his actual intentions were ignored, and everything he said was tied to Ahn and interpreted politically. That’s why he went to Greece to find himself.

Park is more of an intellectual social activist than just a medical doctor. His research and writings about the Greek civilization and spirit are a return to his real vocation. After a short journey into politics, he quickly realized that he had lost his identity and returned to his true calling. Expectations are high for Park’s upcoming work because he has talent, passion, time and money.

The transformation of Park reminds me of the intuition of Max Weber that politics is a process of forming a relationship with devilish powers. In the political arena, unexpected bad things always happen, because politics is violent. Politics is about forcibly altering people who have different opinions. Politics is not necessarily bad, but it is undeniably dangerous. That is precisely why politicians must be great men of principle.

Park appeared to have sensed the devilish powers and wisely stepped aside. On the other hand, comedian Kim Gura, known for his harsh, cruel jokes, and Kim Yong-min, a co-host of the podcast “Naneun Ggomsuda” (“I’m a Petty-Minded Creep”), failed to avoid the devilish powers. Of course, the two Kims’ cases have stark differences. In the case of Kim Gura, the scandal involving him was a pure accident. He had never participated in politics, but he was struck by lightning for standing next to his friend Kim Yong-min as he jumped into politics. Kim Gura was a comedian from the start, and no one paid much attention to his coarse jokes of the past as they were just jokes.

His jokes, however, became politicized only after Kim Yong-min’s remarks became a problem. Kim Gura, who exchanged raunchy jokes with Kim Yong-min several years ago, became the center of attention. More and more people demanded Kim Gura retire from entertainment as criticism snowballed around Kim Yong-min. Kim Gura’s past jokes were tracked down, and among his countless sexist jokes, remarks on the most politically sensitive issue imaginable?-?“comfort women,” a euphemism for Korean women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II?- were revealed.

Kim Gura’s cruel jokes were no longer jokes, and he was no longer viewed as a mere comedian who would do anything for a laugh. It was the natural course that he retire from the entertainment business and give up all jobs on major TV shows. By choosing to step down, Kim Gura was able to escape the devilish powers.

The more intriguing problem is brought up by Kim Yong-min. He has yet to escape from the devilish powers. “Naneun Ggomsuda,” the podcast that built up his reputation, is a B-grade satirical talk show. Mean jokes and insults were somewhat allowed under the justification of trampling on taboos. When the co-hosts urged listeners to send photos of bikini-dressed women to fellow co-host Chung Bong-ju after the former representative was imprisoned, it was possible that their remarks were considered as mere horsing around.

But when Kim Yong-min decided to run for the National Assembly in the constituency Chung represented, it became a different story. It was no longer a joke, because the “Naneun Ggomsuda” host who attacked the powers made voluntary decision to run for office and become those very powers. It was an act of existential self-denial. It was a very serious thing to do, and a serious thing to ask of voters, and suddenly nothing was funny anymore. For candidate Kim Yong-min, the standards were raised. A comedian’s dirty jokes became the opinions of a would-be legislator.

After his election defeat, Kim announced a self-imposed time-out, but he decided to leave politics only two days later and declared his return to “Naneun Ggomsuda.” Will he have a place of return? Because of his foray into politics, the podcast has been robbed of its B-rated innocent dignity. The show that lived to ridicule President Lee Myung-bak has now became a subject of ridicule itself. A parody of the Apostles’ Creed spread quickly on Twitter making fun of “Naggomsu.” “I believe in ‘Naggomsu’ the almighty, creator of fame. I believe in the lawmaker wannabe Kim Yong-min, the youngest son, who spread raunchy, cruel remarks,” the parody read. It showed that the nest of “Naneun Ggomsuda,” to which he wanted to return, was already destroyed.

Although the legislative election is over, there are still lawmakers-elect who are captivated by the devilish powers. Moon Dae-sung from the ruling Saenuri Party was accused of plagiarism while Kim Hyung-tae from the same party was accused of having attempted to rape his sister-in-law.

The fact that they were captivated by devilish powers showed that they do not have the true qualities to become politicians. Weber talked about politics as a vocation involving ethics and morals. Today, just about anyone is becoming a politician.


*The author is a senior editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Oh Byung-sang
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