What They Said is a regular series on the quotes Korea is talking about.
It’s only been a month since the late Seoul mayor Park Won-soon was found dead. After a flurry of articles on his death, and the ensuing interviews and press conferences with the Democratic Party as well as the representatives for the sexual harassment victim who had accused Park, the Korean media has been relatively quiet about the incident. Kim Chang Yong, Commissioner General of the Korean National Police Agency, vowed to thoroughly investigate the sexual harassment allegation but progress has been slow. A civic group even filed a lawsuit against Kim Jae-ryun, the attorney for the alleged victim. Shin Seung-mok, head of the Citizens’ Solidarity movement whose aim is for “citizens to lead the elimination of deep-rooted evils and protect President Moon Jae-in with one mind and one accord”, filed a libel suit against Kim for falsely accusing Park, claiming that there is not enough evidence that the harassment has been continuous and that the attorney has distorted the truth through media manipulation. Kim hit back, saying that it was the victim who came to her and that she provided legal aid without considering the identity of the alleged assailant. She argued that Shin should himself be charged with libel for accusing her of something she didn’t do.
Amidst all this, Jung Choun-sook, a politician and women’s rights activist who had been a friend and colleague of the late Park Won-soon, had an interview with SisaIN, where she expressed her conflicting feelings about Park, praising his achievements in the history of the women’s rights movement in Korea yet also acknowledging that the allegations are probably true.
“I stopped thinking like that a long time ago. ‘So-and-so would never do that.’ Working for Korea Women’s Hot Line for over 20 years, I’ve seen too many people ‘who would never do that’ do exactly that, and I’ve also seen too many strange things done by people who are unable to acknowledge it.”
— Jung Choun-sook, National Assembly member, August 10, 2020.
The world is not black and white, although things would be much easier if it were. The allegation against Park is more difficult to understand because of his legacy. But as Jung Choun-sook says, we have to “remove Park Won-soon to see [the truth]”: sometimes giants fall.
Another National Assembly member who recently came under the media spotlight was Ryu Hojeong, the youngest lawmaker ever to serve in Korea. The 28-year-old member of the Justice Party wore a red dress to the National Assembly’s plenary session on August 4, sparking a surprising controversy over the dress code for those working in the legislative body. Explaining that she’d never expected it to be such a big deal, Ryu said, in an interview for Kim Hyeon-jeong’s News Show on CBS:
“I wear casual clothing occasionally because… people say that our National Assembly is centered around men in their 50s. So, it’s a group that has been symbolized by dark-colored suits and ties, and I wanted to break this custom. And because I thought that the National Assembly is a workplace that is no different from others. Plus, I came from the IT industry, where you rarely saw people in suits. So this is what I used to wear to work. All kinds of clothes. … I don’t think that the authority of the National Assembly comes from suits. It comes from working for the people. We don’t wear hanbok (traditional Korean clothing) any more. Customs change over time. I believe that I wore something that I can work well in.
— Ryu Ho-jeong, National Assembly member, August 6, 2020.
Ryu’s dress became the focus of a media frenzy the following day, with various people on social media and in internet communities commenting on her attire, often mixed with insults and sexually explicit language. However, many, including other National Assembly members, supported Ryu’s choice of clothing.
The Democratic Party’s Ko Min-jung wrote on her Facebook page:
“I don’t agree with all of Assembly member Ryu Hojeong’s ideas.
There are quite a number of differences in our opinions.
But I cannot agree with the extreme level of criticism that she has received due to the clothes she wore.
Instead, I would like to thank her for shattering the excessively rigid and authoritarian image of the Assembly.
Because the National Assembly has to be a place where different voices, different looks, and different thoughts are allowed.
— Ko Min-jung, National Assembly member, August 5, 2020.
Apart from these incidents, the political scene in South Korea has been relatively calm over the past couple of weeks, due to more pressing news: Korea’s longest-ever rainy season, lasting over 51 days as of August 13, 2020. Several cities have been flooded, causing over 30 deaths. In the next couple of months, typhoons will be heading this way as well, wreaking havoc in their wake, so Koreans are bracing themselves for more flood damage. The Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA) has been on the receiving end of criticism from the public for a series of erroneous weather forecasts. Most recently, it forecast 150 millimeters of rain from Typhoon Jangmi to fall in Busan around 5pm on August 10, but Busan recorded 8 millimeters of rain at best. For a long time now, it has been called many names, including the Lying Administration (구라청), Weather Broadcasting Administration (날씨중계청), and Wrong Forecast Administration (오보청). Online users have been blogging and posting about overseas weather applications, claiming that their forecasts are more accurate than those of the KMA.
Regarding these criticisms, an official from the KMA said:
“Weather forecasts involve a comprehensive scientific capacity including physics and chemistry. We have to rethink the definition of wrong forecasts. We have to look at it as a kind of fight for ‘probability’. There are bound to be variables that cannot be solved even by modern science.”
— KMA official, August 6, 2020.
But this is not unique to Korea. Around the world people often complain about wrong weather forecasts — probably because people are more prone to comment on wrong forecasts than accurate ones. Hopefully though the prediction of a few more days of rain is wrong, so that people can focus on rebuilding and restoring the flooded areas without having to worry about yet more flooding.