What They Said is a regular series on the quotes Korea is talking about.
Democratic Party under pressure
Since Yoon Suk-yeol’s inauguration on May 10, the Democratic Party has been under a lot of pressure to maintain balance between its hard-line supporters and the rest. When the Office of the President released a photograph of Yun Ho-jung, the co-chair of the Democratic Party’s Emergency Response Committee, laughing while conversing with the new First Lady Kim Kun-hee at an invitational dinner with guests on May 10, angry Democratic Party supporters bombarded the party website and Yun’s social media account with criticism.
On May 16, Yun explained that the general atmosphere at the dinner had been friendly and that he had only laughed when Kim had told him that her father-in-law was in the same generation of the same family clan as Yun (despite a rather large age difference), and this was later also confirmed by President Yoon Suk-yeol. But the hard-line Democratic Party supporters remained angry despite this explanation.
Other matters of contention included the party’s initial lack of reaction to the rallies by extreme right-wing groups at former President Moon Jae-in’s private residence. Moon’s supporters expressed concern that the rallies were too much, particularly with the participants spewing obscenities.
Eventually on May 17, Lee Nak-yon, former Democratic Party leader, pleaded with the protesters to refrain from such rallies:
Conservatives have protested noisily for several days, even at night, in front of the residence of former President Moon Jae-in. Some of them left early this morning, but they have applied for a permit to hold the rally again over the weekend.
The peace of Pyeongsan Village has been disturbed by the noise that has continued for several days. The village residents are unable to sleep. The majority of the village residents are senior citizens. They have asked in various ways for the noise to be stopped, but the issue has not been resolved.
Even if the noise created by the protesters falls short of what is considered noise pollution when it comes to loudspeakers in residential areas, it is difficult to understand the actions of the authorities in granting permission for 24-hour assembly in a small rural village with many elderly people. We urge the police and administrative authorities to reconsider their decision.
The behavior of the protesters in front of the residence is also horrific, swearing, cursing, and singing through loudspeakers all day long. They have played the National Education Charter on repeat to the point that the residents have memorized it. This is not a fair expression of opinion. We demand restraint from the protesters.
As promised to the people, President Moon Jae-in returned home after his five-year term. It is very sad that the former president, who wanted to live “like the sunset” in fulfillment of that promise, has to apologize to the residents on behalf of others.
— Lee Nak-yon, former leader of the Democratic Party, May 17, 2022.
The Democratic Party has now also proposed a bill to ban rallies and assemblies within 100 meters of former presidents’ residences to appease Moon’s (and therefore the party’s) supporters.
A further issue plagueing the party is a series of sexual harrassment and assault allegations, which has resulted in the dismissal of the party members involved and caused a steep decline in the party’s approval rating.
In an effort to turn things around, Park Ji-hyun, the younger co-chair of the Democratic Party’s Emergency Response Committee, held an emergency press conference on May 24.
My fellow citizens,
Recently, I have been traveling all over the country to visit campaign sites [for the upcoming local elections]. I have received a lot of encouragement from the public, but there have also been a lot of reprimands, like, “Why is the Democratic Party not reflecting on their past mistakes as gravely as they should?” And painfully, “Why are the people who should be reflecting on their mistakes all running around the country?”
I feel nothing but shame. We have done very much wrong. I apologize a hundred times and a thousand times more. I am ashamed. But, I ask you one more time to please trust me, Park Ji-hyun. If you give us a chance in this local election, I will take responsibility and change the Democratic Party.
We will faithfully carry out the people’s orders to reflect on our past mistakes and make changes. We will abandon the politics of only risking our lives for our positions, and we will participate in politics that are in line with common sense. …
Also, I would like to say something to everyone who loves our party. The Democratic Party is a party that has defended and further developed democracy. We will continue this tradition. We must not succumb to the forces that accuse those of us with different opinions of starting internal fights. Only when we become the Democratic Party that embraces diverse opinions can we reform properly and innovate completely. We will return to the Democratic Party that was excited about democracy.
My fellow citizens,
Please give our Democratic Party candidates one final chance. No matter how difficult and lonely this road I have taken, I will continue to believe in common sense and the people, and will steadfastly move forward. I, Park Ji-hyun, will be a burning flame for a deeper democracy and wider equality. Please help us. We will become a capable Democratic Party that is loved by the people. Give us a chance. Thank you.
— Park Ji-hyun, co-chair of the Democratic Party’s Emergency Response Committee, May 24, 2022.
Unfortunately, Park’s press conference was regarded by her own party as a personal action taken by an inexperienced 20-something politician, and deemed by the party’s supporters to be a rash apology made by a leader who has lost all will to fight for her party in the upcoming local elections on June 1.
With the Democratic Party’s approval rating falling 14 percentage points behind the People Power Party, the results of the local elections will show whether the party will be able to recover from their slump and be reunited as a party.
Kim Sae-ron’s drunk driving incident
Also making headlines in the past week was a drunk driving accident involving the 22-year-old actress Kim Sae-ron, who rose to fame as a child actress starring in the film The Man from Nowhere. After bumping into several utility poles and railings along the road, Kim crashed into an electric transformer causing a power outage in the area. Thankfully, no one was hurt, but Kim was found fleeing the scene.
After repeatedly insisting that they were looking into the issue, Kim’s agency eventually issued a short statement hours after the incident, saying that Kim had undergone a blood test and been sent home. The agency’s statement provoked anger from the public, as it did not contain any references or apologies to the merchants in the area who had been inconvenienced by the power outage or any apology to Kim’s own fans.
The following day, the agency issued an official apology, and Kim also published a handwritten apology on her social media account:
First of all, I am sorry to inform you of the situation belatedly, after assessing the accident and damage.
Around 8am on May 18, I caused an accident that damaged public property in Gangnam. At the time, I was under the influence of alcohol and made a big mistake.
With my wrong judgment and actions, I have caused damage to so many people, including merchants, citizens, and restoration workers. I should have acted more cautiously and responsibly, but I didn’t. I sincerely apologize for my mistake. I am currently addressing the damage caused by the accident through my agency, and I will do my best to communicate and proactively resolve the matter.
Also, I am very sorry to my fellow actors and staff, as well as the production teams, for the disruption to the production of the work currently being filmed and the work in preparation. Once again, I sincerely apologize for all the inconvenience I have caused.
There is no excuse for my causing this unfortunate incident, and I am disappointed in myself and very ashamed of myself for the wrongs I have committed. I will reflect deeply on this incident so that this does not happen again. I am very sorry.
— Kim Sae-ron, May 19, 2022.
Drunk driving has become a huge concern in Korea in recent years, with incidents being taken more seriously than before, so it is unclear whether Kim will be able to return to the entertainment industry following this incident. In any case, she has withdrawn from the filming of several TV shows currently in production that were scheduled to air in the near future.