Monday, June 21, 2010
About a month ago Daegu had its local elections. I had known this day was coming for months. Why? Because of the giant campaign banner that had hung on my building for the last six months. When it first went up I asked my youngest students what it was for. They told me it was for a man who had "no hair, now hair". I completely bought it. It wasn't until months later that I realized it was for city councilman. As election day drew nearer it became impossible to ignore. Trucks drove up and down all of the major and minor streets with blasting music and slogans complete with middle aged women dancing on the backs.
I have traveled to nine different countries and this ranks up there with strangest things I have ever seen. A small local election was being advertised around the clock. For two weeks I woke up to a woman shouting praises of some local joe. Childrens songs with words substituted for the candidates name, people riding on the backs of trucks dancing or bowing, it was strange. The candidates themselves would be walking around town with slashes with their face on it and the position they were running for.
It gets stranger. One day I was walking out of woke and I see the candidate on my building (no hair, hair). My friend and I attempt to talk with him and end up getting invited up to his base of operations. We can't say no. We are greeted by a small group of supporters who force feed us and dress us up in sashes for photo-ops. He invites us to his victory party the next night and once again, I can't say no. The man had put the picture up of us on his website (tagline- Park Sung Tae, The foreigners choice.)
The next night we returned. I must confess I had fantasies of a massive ritzy party or at least something hilarious happening. If you count awkward as hilarious then maybe it did happen. We were paraded around the room and it was clear Mr. Park liked to show off his foreign supporters. One man attempted to get us tipsy and a woman called her high school aged son over from across town to watch him speak english with me. We stayed two hours too long and escaped before we knew the official results.
The next day the election was over (Mr. Park won) and the trucks were still out this time with the candidates bowing to the passersby to show their gratitude. I tried for weeks to get a video of the dancing women in matching shirts, visors and gloves but I never quite got it.
But this guy did!