The Koreas

South Korean Political Parties’ Newest Weapon: Music Videos

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The Koreas

South Korean Political Parties’ Newest Weapon: Music Videos

The catchy tunes belie intense in-fighting and defections on both sides.

South Korean Political Parties’ Newest Weapon: Music Videos
Credit: Flick/ InSapphoWeTrust

With South Korea counting down to the crucial April 13 elections for 300 parliamentary lawmakers, the two main parties have stepped up their campaigning with slogans to remember.

It’s not so much the pledges that are memorable, but the catchy jingles. This month, the ruling right-wing Saenuri Party and main opposition Minjoo Party released music videos that join U.S. presidential hopeful Donald Trump’s song by a team of adolescent girls among the head-scratching campaign tunes of late.

If South Korean voters were unclear about the parties’ platforms, the music videos may not provide much clarification. The Saenuri’s “Ddwi Ddwi Bbang Bbang” (Beep Beep Honk Honk), which borrows from a 1977 pop tune, urges voters not to waste time in bed and to get up for a fresh change for the Republic of Korea. “Run, National Assembly!” it exclaims, evoking the symbolism of a workhorse party. The camera follows Saenuri leader Kim Moo-sung, a spry age 64, as he jogs effortlessly — hairstyle intact — along a Seoul bridge with the National Assembly building in the background.

The Saenuri Party has also chosen the theme song of a girl group audition show for its campaign.

Meanwhile, the Minjoo Party’s “Deo Deo Deo” (More More More) features dancing letters as the song chants the party’s name with the jazz and flair of a kids’ TV show theme song. “Share your excitement and sadness with the Minjoo Party,” it says, calling people to pin their hopes on the party, which is led by Saenuri defector Kim Chong-in.

Elections traditionally take on a playful tone in Korea, with candidates often hiring trucks with loudspeakers and stages for their supporters to showcase a song and dance. This year, the mood is different. The recent ploys are unlikely to distract voters from the months of infighting that have taken casualties from both parties, with feuds hitting each side after last week’s nomination lists were announced.

President Park Geun-hye’s ruling party has seen nearly a dozen defections by lawmakers, including Park’s former aide Rep. Yoo Seong-min, who are irate with the partisan politics that have fractured the right-wing bloc. Many had been snubbed from the nominations. The approval ratings for both parties have edged down this week as their home turfs fall out of favor with them.

Critics say the parties should not fuss over campaign gimmicks when there are bigger problems to face.

“I understand what each party is doing to promote their election campaign, but there should be a prerequisite for them to do so: Parties should be free from internal trouble. But all the parties are mired in deep trouble right now,” critic Lee Dong-hyung said on a recent TV news panel.

“If problems during primaries persist, who will be in favor of the parties even after they watch such video clips? … The priority should be put on stabilizing themselves, rather than working on such clips. Then an act of attracting voters should follow.”