Two souls that went astray
A celebrity should watch what he or she says. Anything said heedlessly or falsely could be dangerous because of the potential impact on the public. I had been among the most harsh critics of Ahn Cheol-soo since the software mogul-turned-professor joined the presidential race a few months back. I was angry that he talked about pivotal state issues without deep study or contemplation. He confused the public with misleading claims about the controversy over the Yongsan redevelopment project, the sinking of the Cheonan warship, the construction of a naval base in Jeju, North Korean policy, the government’s four-rivers pork-barrel project and the bizarre idea of moving the presidential office.
The last stretch of the campaign even without Ahn, who dropped out of the race, nonetheless has been noisy with disturbing interruptions from pseudo-celebrity figures. Kim Yong-min, one of the hosts of the popular satirical political podcast “Naneun Ggomsuda,” or “I Am a Petty-Minded Creep,” was nominated by the Democratic United Party in last April’s legislative election to run for Nowon B District in northern Seoul.
But the bold choice of the foul-mouthed Kim backfired against the main opposition party. His reckless outpouring of anti-government comments and vulgar mudslinging cost at least 15 legislative votes for the DUP. If not for his overblown acts and comments, the DUP could have outnumbered the Saenuri Party 142 to 137. Kim proudly calls himself a critic-pig or foul-mouthed pig. I referred to him as a game-changing pig. “Never in modern Korean history has the word ‘pig’ done so much harm,” I wrote.
A day before the vote, a video circulated on the Web showing him emotionally apologizing for the harm he caused. After he lost the election, he vowed to repent.
Nonetheless, he returned to the political scene as determined as ever. Instead of slander, he pumped out fabricated material. He tweeted the totally baseless claim that Park Geun-hye of the ruling Saenuri Party had maintained a close relationship with a religious cult leader for 20 years. He provided no evidence to back his claim. The Christian society criticized Kim for attempting to provoke hatred for Park by associating her with a heretical group.
Popular novelist Gong Ji-young also often causes ripples with her political comments. She attacked veteran singer Insooni and Olympic champion figure ice skater Kim Yu-na as thoughtless on Twitter for their appearances at the opening events of the new TV channels run by the right-wing newspapers JoongAng Ilbo, Dong-A Ilbo and Chosun Ilbo. Gong, an outspoken left-leaning public figure, voiced antipathy toward the three major media organizations.
But her comments have been self-contradictory. She earned money by regularly writing stories and columns for the three papers. Her name was often cited in interviews in the papers. Her 2006 book “My Sweet Home” was released through the JoongAng Ilbo in series form and she had a column in the Chosun Ilbo. She traveled with a JoongAng Ilbo reporter in search of culinary delights around the nation. I wrote a column pitying her “soul that went astray.” I criticized her double standards and paranoid-like dislike for anyone who stands on the opposite side of the ideological axis. I claimed she was trapped in her cage of popularity and delusion.
Gong, who has 500,000 followers on Twitter, is also accused of spreading false information on social media networks. She retweeted a comment claiming Park paid poll service Realmeter 500 million won ($465,000) to fabricate poll results favorable to the ruling party candidate. Gong removed the comment after the polling company declared it would press libel charges against her. Why does she do this to herself?
A presidential election is held every five years and the governing power can change. But there is no tenure on intelligentsia. What is more important - a power serving a particular political group that is not guaranteed for more than five years or universal wisdom that has no limit in time and space? Is it hatred for the opposing political force or pure conviction of self beliefs and intelligence?
A celebrity is free to express his or her political preferences. But their ways need to be more prudent than the common people. The ordinary can talk about hearsay freely over drinks and meals. But a public figure should not.
Regardless of who becomes the next president, the intelligentsia should take a moment to re-examine themselves. Members of the community should ask themselves if they want to sell their souls to a fluid political power or build tougher protections against political temptations and winds that visit them every five years.
* The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Jin