South Korea Has Pride, the People’s Party Has a Scandal: #Shigak no. 49

By | July 21, 2017 | No Comments

A word cloud of the most popular terms in the South Korean Twittersphere. Of note is “최저 임금” (minimum wage), which is set to increase by 16 percent by next year.| Image: Steven Denney/Sino-NK

On April 2, Sino-NK began a series of regular analyses looking at the South Korean presidential election through the lens of the Korean-language media, reviving a series that ran from February 2014 to October 2015. That revival continues post-election, as Moon embarks on the politically all-important first one hundred days in office. 

“Shigak” (시각), or “perspective” uses Twitter to curate sources on the key determinants of the election outcome. Each issue takes the most important tweets posted by Sino-NK analysts under the #시각 hashtag and augments them with essential annotations and a bite-size dollop of concentrated analysis. #Shigak is edited by Steven Denney and Christopher Green. Yongmin Lee is a regular contributor. Back issues can be found on the dedicated page. Importantly, users of Twitter are encouraged to adopt the hashtag and take part in the project

South Korea Has Pride, the People’s Party Has a Scandal: #Shigak no. 49

by Sino-NK

This installment of #Shigak explores the two most popular political stories from the conservative and progressive Twittersphere between 7/15 and 7/20. 1) An investigation into illegal election activities carried out by members of the center-left People’s Party. And 2) interviews with prominent religious figures who support LGBT rights in Korea.

The stories were selected by totaling the number of retweets and favorites from the two most prominent conservative and progressive dailies.1)The Chosun Ilbo and Donga Ilbo are treated as the most conservative. The Hankyoreh and Kyunghyang Sinmun are considered the most progressive. The stories with the greatest number of total retweets and favorites are reported here. Included at the bottom are are graphs showing the most prominent words from both sides during the period under consideration. One salient term that isn’t covered here is “minimum wage” (최저 임금), which the government announced will rise to 7,530 won per hour (a 16 percent increase).2)The interactive graphs were created in Google Sheets by Steven Denney using data called from Twitter in RStudio using the “twitteR” package. “Noise,” defined here as unintelligible findings and redundancies, were removed from the data.

The very public decline of the People’s Party continued this week with the news, widely disseminated via Twitter, that prosecutors will soon complete their investigation into the former head of a party internal committee on electoral transparency, Lee Yong-ju. Prosecutors suspect Lee, a party lawmaker, of, at a minimum, negligence in so far as he failed to scrutinize a fabricated tip-off about Moon Jae-in’s son that lays at the core of an ongoing scandal which has engulfed the party.

That scandal started with Lee Yu-mi, a People’s Party member and party presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo’s former pupil at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, who has been indicted on charges of fabricating a voice recording about President Moon’s son Moon Joon-yong and alleging that he was hired in 2006 by a state agency (the Korea Employment Information Service) solely by virtue of his father’s political influence. Former senior party official Lee Jun-seo is also under arrest, accused of handing over the fabricated recording to the party, which then released it shortly before election day. Kim Seong-ho, who was Lee Yong-ju’s deputy at the time, denies any wrongdoing by the party, asserting in effect that Lee Yu-mi went rogue while the party did what it could to verify the story about Moon’s son.

Despite these travails, which have seen party support plumb hitherto unfathomable depths (just two percent in Seoul, and a less-than credible six percent further south in Jeolla Province, the nominal home turf of the party), the People’s Party has forty seats in South Korea’s unicameral legislature, a little under fourteen percent. The party retains noteworthy influence as its voting block in the legislature can help the Moon administration push through its progressive agenda.

Prior to the 18th Queer Festival, which began July 15, the left-leaning Hankyeoreh conducted an interview with a pastor, a priest and a monk from Presbyterian Church, Anglican Church and the Jogye Order (Korean Buddhist organization), respectively. All three interviewees are known for their support of gay rights in an otherwise conservative society. For example, Presbyterian pastor Im Bora became famous for translating “Queer Bible Commentary” from English to Korean. The interviews focused on each religious leader’s theological and religious reasoning behind their support for LGBT rights.

Just like many other nations, South Korea’s religious organizations vary in their positions on LGBT-related issues. It is difficult to paint various religious organizations with one stroke. The Presbyterian Church (in the ROK), the Anglican Church of Korea, and the Jogye Order have more “progressive” positions on LGBT rights whereas evangelical Christians are, like their Western counterparts, hold more discriminatory positions.

During the presidential election of 2017, the rights of LGBT persons in Korea  became a prominent electoral issue (see: #Shigak no. 36). Although most of the presidential candidates espoused less than accommodating views, today LGBT issues are salient in South Korea’s political discourse. It is unclear whether South Korea will recognize marriage equality like Taiwan did, but as the popularity of this tweet (and broader social trends) indicates, LGBT issues are likely to remain salient topics of social and political concern.

 

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1. The Chosun Ilbo and Donga Ilbo are treated as the most conservative. The Hankyoreh and Kyunghyang Sinmun are considered the most progressive.
2. The interactive graphs were created in Google Sheets by Steven Denney using data called from Twitter in RStudio using the “twitteR” package. “Noise,” defined here as unintelligible findings and redundancies, were removed from the data.