‘Sincerity’ is a farce

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‘Sincerity’ is a farce

“Is Abe’s apology on the ‘comfort women’ issue sincere? Is he a sincere person?” my Japanese friends often ask half-jokingly.

I visited the country during my winter vacation, and there was some debate as to whether Abe’s “apology and heart-felt repentance,” delivered through Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, was indeed sincere. On Feb. 6, opposition Democratic Party leader Katsuya Okada asked in a House of Representatives meeting why the prime minister didn’t directly apologize. Abe simply said that he had expressed the same remorse conveyed by past governments, but avoided discussing the matter any further. Instead, he continues to highlight that the resolution is final and irreversible. It may be meaningless to ask for sincerity from a leader in a diplomatic battle, but we can’t help but feel furious and frustrated at Abe’s insincere face.

And yet, political campaigns using the word “sincerity” is happening right here in Korea.

“Let’s live richly. Young politics! Powerful Politics! President Park Geun-hye has certified me as a sincere man!”

Not a hint of logic or reasoning can be found here - a text message sent to my phone, during my five-day vacation, from a pro-Park preliminary candidate for the general election in April.

This marketing tactic, simply claiming to be “a sincere man as certified by President Park Geun-hye” in order to win support, was conceived by the president’s loyalists in the ruling Saenuri Party and the candidates running in districts in Daegu and North Gyeongsang have faithfully carried it into action.

On Dec. 19, this “sincerity” marketing became more brazen as pro-Park lawmakers rushed to support Lee Jae-man’s campaign against Yoo Seung-min, the party’s former floor leader who had a falling out with the president. They are performing a black comedy, with everyone claiming to be a “sincere man.”

One sincere candidate wanted to run in a certain district but switched to another after his support rating stopped budging forward. Another sincere lawmaker initially welcomed the former Gyeonggi governor’s candidacy in Daegu, but urged him to move back to the capital region when polls showed that he wasn’t as popular as his opposition rival.

The president is supposed to be concerned with the national economy, but a sincere economic official is considering running for a seat in a district that is a Saenuri Party stronghold because the incumbent is not within this pro-Park faction. These “sincere” people think they will win no matter what they do in Daegu and North Gyeongsang, and their arrogance is making a mockery out of Korean politics. There are signs of repulsion in the region already, and foreign correspondents have started to ask what they really mean when they say they are “sincere.” Someday, these “sincere people” may even be mentioned in political science textbooks.

The author is a political news editor for JoongAng Sunday.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 8, Page 30

by SEO SEUNG-WOOK

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