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Friday, September 23, 2005

times of the common people

When it's been the Full Moon traditional festival of August 15 in the lunar calendar (ch'usôk/han'gawi), and the government is vehement in its plan to raise the alcohol tax for soju, the common people/ordinary people (seomin/sômin) and those purporting to speak in their name are having a day.

Ch'usôk and the lunar new year are the times when the mood of the populace (minsim 民心) gets gauged. People go down to their homeplaces, and politicians like members of parliament get to hear what the ordinary people think - and for that the traditional site is the "traditional marketplace" (chaerae sijang) where the common people (seomin) can be met. And the mind of the people, minsim, was freezing, as conveyed by Ohmynews.

Seeing what the feelings are in president Roh's political homeplace Busan is all the more interesting.
"People in small businesses are all starving to death, so what's the point with coalition government? What's it got to do with us?""
Yi Sang-gwôn of Hannaradang (GGP) whose constituency is Jin-gu, Busan, tells what he heard from a shopkeeper in the Busan Central Market: "president doesn't concentrate on people's livelihood (minsaeng) but takes up all kinds of topics which have nothing to do with common people." Rep Yi added also that many had pleaded Hannara-dang not get too much involved with the president but work incessantly for the people.

If one likes to hear someone say "living is hard", (môkko) salgi himdûlda, the best chances are among people who'd be classified as these seomin. Here are the choice quotes from the Ohmynews piece, this time untranslated:
여야를 막론하고 의원들이 귀에 못이 박히도록 들은 한가위 민심은 "먹고살기 힘들다"는 서민들의 한탄이다.
"'경제가 너무 어렵다', '추석경기가 사라졌다'는 말이 대부분이다." (송영길 열린우리당 의원)
"민심이 말이 아니다. 썰렁한 재래시장을 보면서 서민 생활의 어려움을 절감했다." (맹형규 한나라당 의원)
"이구동성으로 (살기) 힘들다고 하더라. 예년 같으면 같은 날 오후 4시쯤 되면 시장에 발 디딜 틈이 없었는데, 이번엔 한산하더라." (조승수 민주노동당 의원)

Korean sign language for soju.
Such honesty! From the sign language page of the Northern Jeolla Internet Education Broadcasting (?).
The other issue involving the common people is the price of common people's alcohol, soju.

Chosun Ilbo writes of the government plan to raise the tax of distilled liquors (chûngnyuju), like soju and whisky from 72 to 90%. Whisky has few open defenders against price hikes, but soju is different, for it's the drink of the common people (sômin) and a higher price affects the household budget - this are the basis of the opposition to the higher tax from the government party ranks. The government argues that the higher tax is needed not only to alleviate the increasing costs of medical care due to increased drinking, but also to add to the lacking tax revenue.

Hankyoreh has a leader on the topic (also in English), not outright opposing the idea of curtailing alcohol consumption through taxation (now that is something that used to be social democratic welfare statism!) but pointing out that raising the tax on soju in order to fill the void in tax revenue caused by tax cuts for the rich is not the proper way. Seems that the translator of the leader, a certain PMS, has used the word "common people" and added seomin in the brackets. Even Kongjanim would be pleased for such a correct use of language. From the Analects:
The Master replied, "What is necessary is to rectify names."
"So! indeed!" said Tsze-lu. "You are wide of the mark! Why must
there be such rectification?"
The Master said, "How uncultivated you are, Yu! A superior man,
in regard to what he does not know, shows a cautious reserve.
"If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with
the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the
truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success.

Kwon Young-gil of Dem.Lab.Party in the Chosun Ilbo series "Why this person shouldn't become the president"; without taking a position on Mr Kwon, let's see what kind of argument have been used:
위장 서민 논란

권 의원은 재산 및 자녀 유학 문제로 공격 받은 적이 있다. 이른바 ‘위장 서민’ 논란이다. 작년 17대 총선 당시 경쟁자였던 한나라당 박주영 후보 측에서 강하게 제기했던 내용이다. 한나라당은 당시 권 후보에 대해 “시가 9억 원을 호가하는 55평형 빌라를 소유하고 있다”고 주장했다. 권 후보 소유로 돼 있는 서울 세곡동 소재 520평의 논이 시가 12억 원에 달한다며 부동산 투기의혹도 제기했다. 미 명문사학 코넬대 사회학 박사 과정에 있는 딸과 프랑스에서 건축디자인을 공부하는 장남의 해외 유학도 도마에 올랐다.

당시 권 후보는 강남 빌라에 대해 “재산신고 다 했고 호화빌라도 아니다. 파리특파원으로 있다가 돌아와 후배들의 강권으로 은행 부금까지 받아 장만한 기자아파트로, 취득과정에 한 점 부끄러움이 없다”고 해명했다. 두 자녀의 유학에 대해서도 “둘 다 결혼 뒤 맞벌이를 하고 융자를 받아 유학을 갔으며 호화유학도 아니다. 서민층은 유학도 못 간다고 느끼는 것 자체가 문제다”라고 말했다.

There was also a message worth reading (I don't know about other, but for me at least) by a frequent contributor Yu Min-ho at the Jinbonuri message board with the title "Why common people like Park Chung-hee", but I'll leave that for another time.

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