Watch your mouthBadmouthing from campaigners has gotten out of control as the April 7 mayoral by-elections in Seoul and Busan near. Rivalling candidates resort to mudslinging and bad language to denigrate and humiliate the opponents, fanning voters’ political apathy.
The opposition People Power Party’s (PPP) candidate for Seoul mayor Oh Se-hoon’s remarks 18 months ago calling President Moon Jae-in “showing serious dementia symptoms” raised controversy. When Oh refused to take back his past comments, PPP head Kim Chong-in warned him to watch his language. On Saturday, Oh still did not back down. “I will use more direct language. The president is a failed leader.” He should be charged of “high treason” for spiking housing prices so high, Oh added.
Kim Young-choon, bidding for Busan mayor from the ruling Democratic Party (DP), likened Busan to a “terminally ill cancer patient.” He claimed that even Grade 3 tumor patients can be cured upon a successful surgery and rehab. Kim pitched that he was the best doctor to cure and save Busan from death risk.
Backing DP candidate for Seoul mayor Park Young-sun, DP Rep. Yoon Ho-joong called her rival Oh “trash.” He accused Oh for “lying about his endorsement of the development area in Naegok-dong,” Gangnam district, where he owned property. “A candidate who lies is garbage. Voters must throw garbage in the trash can on April 7,” said Yoon.
Negative campaigning has not changed a bit despite fast changes of times. Likening opponents to patients shows little regards to those who are pained by illness. The parties are also fiercely engaged in exchanges of rants with the DP accusing the PPP of “being a pathological slanderer” and the PPP calling the ruling party a “poisonous tumor.”
Kang Won-taek, a professor of political science at Seoul National University, pointed out that negative campaigning only deepens cynicism about politics to keep the independents away from the polling stations. Reckless use of tongue can cause serious ramifications on the election results. During the campaigning for the 2004 parliamentary elections, a candidate’s remark advising voters older than 60 not to exercise their vote and stay at home faced strong backlash. Despite warnings from the leadership, language from politicians is turning vicious and foul. If they do not watch their mouths, voters will shun them as undemocratic forces.