[WHY] Shamanism, phone calls and the presidential electionThe connection between Shamanism, phone calls and the presidential election
What’s the story?
One of the main presidential contenders, Yoon Suk-yeol of the main opposition People Power Party (PPP), and his wife have been questioned for their possible ties to Shamanism after phone call recordings were leaked to the public.
The allegation first arose when Yoon appeared in a TV debate last October with the Chinese character for “king” written on his palm. His campaign spokesman said one of Yoon’s local supporters wrote the character on Yoon's hand. Skeptics, including the head of the ruling Democratic Party (DP) Song Young-gil, called it a type of shamanic talisman.
The issue surfaced again last month when seven hours worth of audio records of phone calls between Yoon’s wife Kim Kun-hee and a YouTuber was released to the public last month.
One of Kim's comments during the call that became problematic: “I hate clubs, period. I am a spiritual person, I like to read books and talk to dosa.” Dosa is the word shamans use to refer to themselves.
I’m sorry, did you say seven hours worth of phone call recordings were released to the public?
Yes, recorded phone conversations involving Kim, as well as those involving DP presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung, were released to the public last month.
As the election in Korea has veered to the all-too common route of mudslinging, the candidates began releasing each others' recorded phone conversations.
Is that normal? Negative campaigning is, but not the way the campaigns this time around have relied on recorded phone conversations.
There are two major examples, both released in mid-January, within two days of each other.
▶ The seven hours of recorded phone conversations between Yoon’s wife Kim and a liberal YouTuber, released by the YouTuber.
▶ The 160 minutes of recorded phone conversations between DP candidate Lee Jae-myung and his family members, including his late brother, many of them filled with expletives, released by a lawyer.
(See the recap at the end of the story for the full overview of these conversations.)
Can’t people go to jail for recording conversations without consent?
It is illegal in Korea to record conversations in which the recorder does not take part, and violators can be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison. The Protection of Communications Secrets Act states recorded conversations where the recorder does not take part cannot be used as evidence in courts.
But even in a case where the recorder does take part in the conversation, the act is illegal if the recorder does so without the consent of the other party, because it can violate the “human worth and dignity” assured by the Constitution.
But courts have ruled in several precedents that recording a conversation without the other’s consent can be legal in extraordinary circumstances, which can include a situation where the act of recording is intended to prove an illegality, or is for the public’s right to know.
Have the courts ruled, then, that the release of the conversations concerning Lee and Kim are legitimate because the public has the right to know?
Concerning the seven hours of phone conversations between Kim and the YouTuber, a local court ruled the release of some parts of the recorded conversations legitimate, citing the public’s right to know what the presidential candidate’s wife thinks about some of the recent political controversies and scandals, including the resignation of former Minister of Justice Cho Kuk and some Me Too scandals of former DP members.
The DP campaign committee said they will report to authorities the lawyer who released the recorded conversations between Lee and his brother and other relatives.
How have the public reacted to all this?
😊 Some say the public has the right to know. Critics of Lee say they are glad to have gotten a look at how Lee dealt with his family matters, calling it a “glimpse of his character.” Critics of Yoon recall the power abuse scandal involving former conservative President Park Geun-hye and her close friend Choi Soon-sil, saying that the phone conversations of Kim and the YouTuber have painted a picture of the kind of influence Kim could wield over Yoon and state affairs if he is elected president, possibly to the extent that Choi influenced Park.
😢 Others are displeased with the act of recording the phone calls at all, let alone releasing them publicly. Some are concerned with what these practices mean for Korea’s social rules and propriety.
▶ Byun, an office worker in her 30s in Seoul, says:
“I don’t think this is a matter of whether the act of recording the phone calls was legal or illegal. There are rules in every society, not all of them outlined by the laws. Recording all calls without telling the other person crosses the boundary of basic respect for the other person. There’s a reason why we have a conscience.”
History repeats itself…
Recorded conversations over the years have been at the center of small and large scandals in Korea.
The power abuse scandal of former President Park Geun-hye: When Choi Soon-sil, the close confidante of Park, denied allegations that she was the puppet master of the president in 2016, evidence to refute her claim surfaced in the form of a tablet PC she was alleged to have used to receive presidential documents. She denied owning the tablet PC, but a recorded phone conversation between her and Park’s assistant proved she was lying.
The political influence over the chief justice: The Supreme Court’s Chief Justice Kim Myeong-soo apologized to the public last February after his conversation with a senior judge, Lim Seong-geun, was leaked. In the conversation, Kim tells Lim, who at the time was battling against impeachment at the Assembly for power abuse, that he cannot accept his resignation because “the Assembly is so eager to impeach [him].” If Kim accepted Lim’s resignation, the impeachment process would have been nullified as the Assembly can only impeach a sitting judge or president. The leak led to a heated debate on the division of power in the Korean government, as it showed the chief justice himself bowing to the unspoken pressure from the legislature.
There could also be a cultural factor behind the phone recording practice.
Students record lectures all the time. See what Lee, a senior student at Ewha Womans University, has to say:
“We record lectures because we can’t pay attention for the whole duration of the class, and we don’t want to miss any details. […] It’s so common that some professors will even say at the beginning of the semester that they don’t want students recording their lectures. Sometimes we share recordings, and there are even posts on the school forum website that ask for these recordings.”
Korea passed an amendment to the labor law in 2019 to protect whistle-blowers of harassment at workplaces. For the purpose of proving a possible illegality, people being harassed at work began recording dialogues between themselves and their bosses or coworkers. See what Park, a designer in her 30s in Seoul, has to say:
“Around seven years ago, I was being severely harassed at my workplace. I recorded around three conversations with my boss, who would verbally abuse me. I heard from a friend that recording a conversation [in such a circumstance] wouldn’t be illegal, so I used my phone to record the conversations. I had intended to submit them as evidence to the government committee for an investigation.”
Then there are those who record their phone calls with family members in case they have to go to court over inheritance matters. See what Yoon, a woman in her 60s, has to say:
“I record my phone calls with my daughters because I am afraid they would go back on their words to demand more inheritance from me than what we had already agreed on.”
O.K. Should I be on my guard next time I call someone in Korea? They could be recording the call without telling me?
Samsung Galaxy phones and LG phones have the option to record calls. After dialing, the user can tap the "record" button on the screen at any time. The user can also adjust the settings so that the phone records all calls automatically, or only calls with selected contacts. Samsung and LG phones exported to countries where recording phone conversations is illegal don’t have this function.
Recap of the recorded phone conversations at the center of the election:
There are some seven hours of phone call recordings between the major opposition PPP presidential contender Yoon’s wife Kim Kun-hee and a liberal YouTuber, released by the YouTuber. Some major excerpts of interest include the following:
▶ Kim asks the YouTuber to take charge in the election campaign for Yoon, and says she can give him 100 million won ($83,000) if he “does the job well.”
▶ Kim mentions Me Too scandals surrounding former members of the ruling DP, including that of former South Chungcheong Gov. An Hee-jung, and says that the conservatives didn’t get embroiled in Me Too scandals because “we pay people well.” She also says she thinks An and his personal assistant were “in love,” though An was convicted in 2019 of raping and sexually assaulting the assistant.
▶ Kim criticizes a man named Jeong Dae-taek, who has openly criticized Yoon in YouTube videos. Jeong worked with Yoon’s mother-in-law nearly 20 years ago and claims to have been scammed by her. He was to stand as a witness at a National Assembly audit in October, but it was canceled last minute. Kim reportedly tells the YouTuber in a phone call, “We canceled the witness selection.”
▶ When questioned about the allegation that she once worked at a bar in Gangnam, Kim says, “I hate clubs, period. I am a spiritual person, I like to read books and talk to dosa [shamans].”
There are some 160 minutes of phone recordings between the ruling DP's candidate Lee and his late brother and other relatives, many filled with expletives, released by a lawyer. Some major excerpts of interest include the following:
▶ Lee mentions in a call the name Yoo Dong-gyu, former head of the Seongnam Development Corporation, who was indicted last year for breach of trust and is a key figure in a land development scandal that took place while Lee was the mayor. Yoo is also a former aide to Lee who worked on his Seongnam mayoral and Gyeonggi gubernatorial campaigns. Lee has denied direct involvement in the scandal. Several suspects in the scandal have committed suicide since the probe began last year.
▶ The voice recordings of Lee swearing at his brother are not new — they’ve appeared multiple times throughout his political career, including while he ran for Seongnam mayor and Gyeonggi governor. After the latest release of his phone conversations, Lee apologized to the public for his “past wrongdoings.”
BY ESTHER CHUNG [email@example.com]