Cable from Korea #6: electioneering

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If you read this blog you probably know I have a frankly unhealthy interest in elections. So I’ve been curious to see some of the campaigning for Korea’s upcoming parliamentary elections.

Before I make any observations, I should note that I am basing them on a what I have happened to see in one place. There may be other kinds of campaigning going on in other places. But what I did see was a lot of people standing on the street. It’s rather different from what I’m used to in the UK. British political parties do occasionally campaign to passing pedestrians. For example, when I was in Oxford the Greens would do street stalls most weekends. But the aim of these efforts was primarily to engage voters in conversations or give them literature. By contrast, the Korean activists I saw seemed mainly to be there to be seen, almost like human poster sites. A few did give out leaflets, an example of which you can see in the photos above, but they were in a decided minority.

The efforts of these campaigners to get noticed could become rather elaborate. One evening the progressive party had its campaigners standing on an illuminated platform complete with large posters and a campaign anthem audible in my flat a couple of blocks away. Then this evening I saw the conservatives doing the same but with dancing:

I don’t really know why campaigning styles are so different from the UK. Some of it may well be that because most Koreans live in flats that are hard to canvass and don’t have gardens to put stakeboards up in. That said I’ve not seen any window posters anywhere or literature in my neighbours mail boxes either. Alternatively, it could be that the long hours Koreans work makes trying to reach them at home less productive than it would be in other countries.

But I’m just speculating. If anyone is familiar with South Korean politics and can explain I’d be interested to hear.

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