bookmark_borderPost-401: Seoul mayoral races, 2011 to 2021, reminiscences and thoughts

The sitting Mayor of Seoul committed suicide in July 2020.

Park Won-soon (elected mayor of Seoul, Oct. 2011; reelected, June 2014 and June 2018)’s suicide triggered an early mayoral election, now set for April 7, 2021. The early phase of the campaign is underway.

The leading candidates in the Seoul mayoral special election are:

  • Ahn Chul-Soo (also spelled Ahn Cheol-soo),
  • Park Young-Sun, and
  • Na Kyung-won.

The first of these, Ahn, is a former software developer, PhD, and professor who spent the 2010s bouncing around politics, and who by now qualifies as a “perennial political candidate,” popping up in races all over. I have a surprisingly long tradition on these pages of writing about him, and he appears as an important feature in Post-66, Post-71, Post-340, Post-342. This post will have the biggest treatment of Ahn Chul-soo yet, and I am writing today with a much more mature understanding (althought still lacking) understanding of Korean politics.

A recent political cartoon of Ahn’s late-December 2020 announcement that he was running for Seoul mayor has him as the champion of the “anti-Moon federation,” trying to see which way the winds are blowing:

(Political cartoon of Ahn Chul-soo, late Dec. 2020, KoreaHotNews.)

Ahn’s competitors are both women: Park Young-sun is of the Establishment-Left (Moon’s) party; Na Kyung-won is of the Establishment-Right party.


This post started as a brief mention of the upcoming 2021 election but has since grown into something more meaningful, correspondingly longer, and more personal. I also meant to write about the 2018 election at the time but never got around to it; it’s good I’m finally getting it done now.

Recorded are thoughts, experiences, and other material on the 2011, 2014, 2018 and 2021 Seoul mayoral elections, during all of which I happen to have been in Korea. There is a mix of personal reminiscence and political analysis/commentary through personal reminiscence, especially on 2018, having dug through old photos, I am posting many of them here. (I’ve come to view the recording of personal reminiscence and thoughts as the purpose of my writing on these digital pages, and those who wish to take the time will find as much below.)

(Original, Jan. 4: 1600 words.)
(Updated: Jan. 5 and Jan. 6; expanded significantly to 7700 words with many pictures and one video taken by me at the time.)


I start with the immediate past (2018), then circle back to the present (2021), jump back to memories of the more-distant past (2011 and 2014), and finish with thoughts on the future (2022, the next presidential election, of which this special Seoul mayoral election is an important stepping stone).


The Seoul Mayoral Campaign of 2018

I was in Korea at the time, in June 2018. In the peak-campaign period I was mainly in Seoul itself, and did soomething of an on-the-ground investigation, the results of which I had not compiled and published in disciplined written, until now.

Continue reading “Post-401: Seoul mayoral races, 2011 to 2021, reminiscences and thoughts”

bookmark_borderPost-388: Virus Panics; the COVID19 panic vs. the June 2015 MERS panic in S.Korea, as I remember it

The COVID19 virus is all over the news. Though it began in the Chinese interior in Dec. 2019, South Korea is again in the news for an outbreak, as if on cue re-earning its sometime-nickname of the Land of Extremes. S.Korea has racked up more confirmed COVID19 virus infections (called in Korea “Corona19,” 코로나19), by a considerable margin, than anywhere outside the epicenter around Wuhan.

I have a few things I’d like to say related in some way to this latest big virus panic and/or to Korea’s place in it, in descending order of how long ago:

(1) My observations on what’s going on around me now with regard to the virus panic;
(2) China’s soft-power problem; COVID19 as a potential serious a blow to China’s image/prestige;
(3) S.Korea and the negative influence of the Shinchonji group [신천지] (my experiences with this group, which is definitely a cult by popular understanding of the term, date to 2014; second-hand as early as 2012; the experiences were through no fault of my own, as they use front groups and all manner of deceptions to get in contact with people, effectively like an intelligence agency);
(4) My memory of the MERS virus panic of June 2015 that hit South Korea.

I’ll do these in succession in separate posts, starting with the last and most distant, the MERS virus panic of 2015 (2015년6월의 메르스 바이러스-감염병 위기).

I remember “MERS” well. What’s strange to me is how few others seem to, or their memory of it as something minor. I doubt it made the news much at all in the US.

Here we go with this MERS memory post.

The MERS crisis as I remember it:

Continue reading “Post-388: Virus Panics; the COVID19 panic vs. the June 2015 MERS panic in S.Korea, as I remember it”

bookmark_borderPost-385: Yahoo Mail deletion and Internet Ephemerality

This was a surprise.

When I created this blog in 2013, I created a new Yahoo email account specifically for the blog so as to maintain some degree of separation from my main email. I logged into it today. I was surprised and somewhat dismayed by what I found, which was Nothing. That is to say, everything was gone. Every single email sent and email received, gone; the drafts folder, empty; spam, trash, everything was deleted.

Right when I logged on, a brief message said something ridiculous like “Emails in accounts subject to inactivity will be deleted.” I think I last logged in in September 2019…

Continue reading “Post-385: Yahoo Mail deletion and Internet Ephemerality”

bookmark_borderPost-376: On “electoral tipping points”: 1618 (the trigger for the Thirty Years War) and the present

New Year’s Day 2020.

For reasons I don’t know, I began to re-read the classic history of the Thirty Years War by C. V. Wedgwood. In it I was reminded of a political point about that war I had forgotten, and one similar to one the US may be, today, at the cusp of.

The crisis began in 1618 because of an electoral tipping point.

There are fairly direct parallels between the Thirty Years War origin and the US institutions of the electoral college system and the nine-member Supreme Court system (see below) and fears about the ‘flipping’ thereof.

The Holy Roman Empire, a nominal political arrangement encompassing most of central Europe for most of the second millennium AD and ruled (in theory if not practice) by an emperor of the Hapsburg Dynasty for much of that time, had seven “electors” (Kurfürsten). These were seven seats which held the right to cast one vote for emperor when the need arose.

Continue reading “Post-376: On “electoral tipping points”: 1618 (the trigger for the Thirty Years War) and the present”

bookmark_borderPost-372: Five (Six) Years and Counting

[Originally written: March 31, 2018. Remained in Draft form, unpublished, until amended and posted September 9 2019.]

The five-year anniversary of Yuletide (a.k.a. Yule Tide) blog came and went in March 2018. (As did the six-year, March 2019.)

The first post was in late March 2013. I recall still today that was an unusually cold March.

A brief retrospection:

Continue reading “Post-372: Five (Six) Years and Counting”

bookmark_borderPost-347: “Self-Portrait” by Yun Dong-Ju [Korean Poem, Translated]

I had the pleasure of learning the name Yun Dong-Ju (윤동주) last week. A movie is now out about him and I had the good fortune to see it (the less fortunate part was how little I understood). Yun Dong-Ju is, it seems, one of the most beloved Korean poets of the 20th century. He also has a romantic and “political” (one might say) cachet to the present-day Korean mind because of his early death in a Japanese prison in February 1945 at age 27.

I have decided to translate one of Yun Dong-Ju’s poems called Self-Portrait, though I might prefer to translate the title also as Portrait of the Artist. It was written in 1939 and was included by the author in a collection he published with limited circulation in 1941. The collection was republished in 1948 following the author’s death and the deceased Yun Dong-Ju became a kind of poet folk hero, it seems.

The below is my own translation. I increasingly find Korean poetry beautiful for its disciplined use of language and layers of implied meanings, but this also makes it a real challenge to translate smoothly.

Self Portrait has an air of mystery to it. Two characters. Thick symbolism. In reading it, many questions come up. This is a self-portrait, is it? Which character is the author? Both? I suppose that is up to us to decide…


Yun Dongju [1917-1945] / Poet
[Translated by Me, April 2016]

On my solitary way down from a rocky outcropping,
I seek out a secluded well for a little peek inside.

Inside the well: A bright moon, drifting clouds,
a spread-out sky. A blue breeze blows. It is autumn.

There is also this strapping young lad.
For reasons unclear to me, I feel that I hate this lad.
I turn away to leave and proceed on my way.
Presently, I begin to take pity on the lad.
I go back for another look.
There he is again, still there, just as before.
Again I feel that I hate this lad, and again I take my leave.
Walking away, I come to realize something. I yearn for the lad.

Inside the well: A bright moon, drifting clouds,
a spread-out sky. A blue breeze blows. It is autumn.
As from the recesses of fond memory, there is, also, this lad.

Original Korean:

윤동주 [1917-1945] / 시인

산모퉁이를 돌아 논가 외딴 우물을
홀로 찾아가선 가만히 들여다봅니다.

우물 속에는 달이 밝고 구름이 흐르고
하늘이 펼치고 파아란 바람이 불고
가을이 있습니다.

그리고 한 사나이가 있습니다.
어쩐지 그 사나이가 미워져 돌아갑니다.
돌아가다 생각하니 그 사나이가 가엾어집니다.
도로 가 들여다보니 사나이는 그대로 있습니다.

다시 그 사나이가 미워져 돌아갑니다.
돌아가다 생각하니 그 사나이가 그리워집니다.

우물 속에는 달이 밝고 구름이 흐르고
하늘이 펼치고 파아란 바람이 불고
가을이 있고 추억처럼 사나이가 있습니다.


Poster for “Dong-Ju” (2016). Yun Dong-Ju is on the left, without glasses. The actor bears a strong resemblance to the real person.

bookmark_borderPost-316: Warning. Live Fire Drills (Incheon)

A pleasant, sunny Saturday in May 2015. We took a few wrong turns and ended up here:

Sign seen near Gyeyang Mountain [계양산], Incheon, South Korea

We were four — Myself, two Canadians from Ontario (Robbie and Heather) and an American from Massachusetts (Sav. C.). The wrong turns were taken near Gyeyang Mountain in Incheon, South Korea.

These others were all new to Korea, such that I was leading them around. I translated the sign:


등산객 여러분의 안전을 위해 우회도로를 이용해 주시기 바랍니다
Shooting in Progress

Hikers are requested to use the bypass road for their own safety.
Commanding Officer, Unit 9100

I proposed a brief reconnaissance in the arrow’s direction, but was vetoed by the two female members of our group.

We’d come down from summit on the right-hand-side path. At the time, I assumed that this side path would lead to a shooting range which would be blocked off by barbed wire or something. I was sure we wouldn’t just walk into a place which had live bullets whizzing around.

Only one time have I heard gunfire in Korea. It was while hiking north of Ilsan in Paju County, which is adjacent to the DMZ. Paju’s hiking trails are full of elaborate and well made but unoccupied defensive positions on hilltops, some small and some big enough for artillery, as well as networks of trenches, covered tunnels, dug-out hiding places big enough for vehicles or tanks, and other such things. Continue reading “Post-316: Warning. Live Fire Drills (Incheon)”

bookmark_borderPost-208: Pyeongchang Olympics 2018

Who’d ever heard of “Pyeongchang” (평창) before the news came out that it would host the Winter Olypmics? Nobody, I think. Not me. It’s a small mountain place somewhere out there.

Here is a billboard I saw about a year ago, while visiting Gapyeong (가평) (see post-15), near Chuncheon (춘천):


Billboard for 2018 Olympics / Spring 2013 / Chuncheon, South Korea

Continue reading “Post-208: Pyeongchang Olympics 2018”

bookmark_borderPost-97: Jiri Mountain Vacation

Today, Friday June 28th, will be my last post in June 2013. I am rounding-out June having made 28 posts. That’s not bad.
Today is also the last day of two foreign coworkers, Matthew R. and Jon. H., both American. I mentioned them in post-93.

This is my last post in June because I start vacation on Saturday afternoon, when a get a bus to a small city near the Jiri Mountain [지리산] area of southwest Korea. I won’t give any details about the trip yet, partly because I don’t yet know what I will do, exactly. I am excited, because this will be first-ever (and perhaps only) “week off” working in Korea. All other so-called vacations have been a day here, a day there. Never more than three weekdays off in a row. After today, I won’t have to teach again till July 8th.

A photo I found of the Jiri Mountains:


Jiri Mountains [found online]
I will be back “home” next week before July 4th.

bookmark_borderPost-71: Ahn Cheol-Soo Can Destroy (Korea’s) Democratic Party

Ahn Cheol-Soo (안철수) [who I wrote about back at the bottom of post-66] may have it within his power to single-handedly destroy South Korea’s major opposition center-left political party, the Democratic Unity Party (민주통합당), the Korea Herald says.

Americans will know South Korea’s Democratic Party as the party associated with the “Sunshine Policy” vis-a-vis North Korea. This party has had trouble for nearly years now. Recently, it failed to win a majority in the legislature in April 2012 despite favorable conditions (see post-66), then it failed to win the presidency in December 2012. It is my impression that Koreans tend to view the Democratic Party as a party of corrupt, grandstanding, political-hacks.

The Herald, on June 3rd, reported the following public support, as found in a nationwide survey in mid-May 2013:
            21% say they support the Democratic Party (the big center-left party)
            40% say they support the Saenuri Party (the big center-right party)
            39% say they support neither of those parties

The poll also asked about the prospect of an “Ahn Cheol-Soo Party”.
            12% say they would support the Democratic Party if Ahn formed a party [-9%]
            29% say they would support the Saenuri Party if Ahn formed a party [-11%]
            26% say they would support Ahn Cheol-Soo’s party, if he formed one [+26%]
            33% say they would support none of the three parties in that scenario [-6%]

Ahn draws support from left, right, and nonpolitical camps. If the above is accurate, then his party, if formed, would obviously be the new “opposition”. The Democratic Party (with 12% support) would flounder and fold, all else equal.

PictureAhn Cheol-Soo
Potential future president of South Korea

The article quotes a Democratic Party functionary who warns: “(Ahn forming an independent power base) could become a development deserving of an award from the [right-wing] Saenuri Party”. He means Ahn would split the electorate, handing future victories to the right-wing. This is plausible, but not borne out by the polling data above: Ahn draws support evenly from all sides of the spectrum, and 40-45% of the supporters of the new party would actually have been former Saenuri supporters! (11%/26%).

This may cause South-Korean politics to move away from the boringly-binary U.S. model which it has been drifting towards.