The election season is now fully underway (Election Day, April 13) and in Korea that means the "political noise trucks" (as I'll call them) are out in force. They were on this Saturday afternoon. The infantry was also in the field, political cheering squads on many street corners of large roads. They accosted passersby (the kind of sales pitch I have never understood but which seems to work in East Asia, i.e. the idea that making more noise attracts people rather than repels them).
Sometimes little mini-trucks trucks were stopped at corners and figures in the truck beds thereof shouted at passersby via megaphone to vote for so-and-so. I think sometimes these were the candidates themselves. And then there is the music. This kind of political campaigning all seems gaudy and distasteful to us.
Candidate numbers. All campaign posters have enormous numbers on them to remind people who to support. Too many people have the same family name, or similar names in general, so all candidates are designated numbers within their districts. I even heard one cheer squads shout, "Number One! Number One! Number One!" Why even bother with a name? I have no idea what the man's name was. I remember "Number One."
Candidate's names and numbers, and the noise associated with them, are everywhere. The biggest offenders are the political noise trucks, but I actually find them endearing. I'm just glad that Korean law bans such activity more than two weeks before election day.
Blue is for the left-leaning Democratic Party [더불어민주당], red for the right-wing (and governing majority) Saenuri Party [새누리당].
One group of blue cheerleaders that day announced their candidate as an "MBC news anchor" (as if that is a legitimate qualification for high office). I observed this blue cheering team for a few minutes, and they observed me, suspiciously, I think. The team was composed of about six middle-aged women in matching blue uniforms. They seemed to go into a set-piece chant on behalf of their candidate whenever someone walked near them, as if the passerby had triggered a motion-sensor light. One of these passersby was my friend Z.D., aforementioned, when he arrived to meet me at Sincheon Station [신천역] in southeast Seoul. Maybe this blue cheering team was bored, because they let this obvious(?) foreigner, a White man, have it. If a war analogy is what we want, it may be the equivalent of a soldier, during a lull, shooting at birds. The chant's crescendo hit Z.D. right as he noticed what was going on. He was stunned. He wandered over to me. They giggled. I said, "Wow, they actually pitched their guy to you! So does Number Two have your vote now? Did it convince you? " His reply: "Huh?"
He had been unaware there was an election on.
A few hours later, as we were the sole pedestrians on a particular stretch of road, a truck carrying young women in tight-fitting red uniforms standing in the truckbed rolled by, exciting music blaring. There was more than a touch of "K-Pop" to this effort. Attracted by the loud music, a siren song, before I knew it I found myself looking directly at these women as they were waving at us, mere feet away from us on the road. There were no Koreans around. They waved anyway, and even made eye contact. I waved back and smiled, thinking it all in great fun, if surreal. Why not? To my friend, walking beside me, who hadn't waved back, I said, "Did you see that? They waved at us! ....And you know what? The truck was covered in red. Those were right-wing women." [i.e., of the Saenuri Party] at which he laughed. He dismissed the idea that they might have been waving to us specifically. Said he: "Once a wave starts, you've got to follow through. There's no way to stop a wave."