m a r k a n d e y a

This One Time at Boot Camp…

Posted by Brian on April 6, 2006

If there is one thing Korean political parties do well (besides fisticuffs) , it's gesture politics:

Lawmakers of the largest opposition Grand National Party (GNP), who have been often ridiculed for their slothful and easy-going attitudes, Thursday started a spartan, even somewhat militaristic, workshop in an effort to better prepare the May 31 local elections.

The event is also designed to tide over a series of scandals involving its members, party officials said.

Yes, why tackle the hard issues of reform and cleaning up the party when you can run off to a quasi-boot camp and advertise it as an answer to the party's problems.

Unlike the party’s previous workshops, which were often marred by internal disputes and drinking binges, members of the conservative party decided to follow all strict regulations requested by the Canaan Farmer’s School in Wonju, Kangwon Province.

As shown in its motto “No work, no food,’’ the school located in the barren mountainous region is well-known for its extremely strict and frugal training conditions.

The GNP members will have to follow the institute’s regulations including banning trainees from using more than one meter of toilet paper and three handlings of a bar of soap a day.

The legislators will not be allowed to enjoy alcoholic beverages or cigarettes during the two-day workshop. Their busy cell-phones will also be granted a special break, following the school’s strict rules.

Stressing the program is not just another political show, the party refused to allow reporters to cover the rare event which will feature scenes of party lawmakers standing in line for evening roll call and gymnastic exercises.

No qualms, however, about advertising this non-political show political show before it gets underway. And as you might have imagined, the usual exceptions for the top brass were made:

Ahn added four lawmakers will sleep in a room styled after military barracks, but Rep. Park Geun-hye, chairwoman of the party, will sleep in her own bedroom as the eldest daughter of the late President Park Chung-hee is not accustomed to such group activities.

Such group activities are part-and-parcel of the working life of most Koreans, yet Park can't bother to sully herself by bunking with the rest. I wonder where they'll park her Mercedes while she's roughing it.

But some in the GNP are calling shenanigans on this silly display, including my favorite example of English transliterations of Korean names gone awry Rep. Rhee Q-taek:

Rep. Rhee Q-taek, senior member of the GNP, said, "I’m afraid some party lawmakers will be stressed out by such a bizarre event. What’s the point of holding this sort of old-fashioned activity?"

Time to suck it up, Q. Do you have any idea how many times my Korean friends have complained about similar pointless activities that they're forced to participate in as students or company employees?


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