“New Republic of Korea with Moon Jae-in. If you don’t vote, shy-shy-shy.”
The familiar tune from K-pop girl group Twice blares from a loudspeaker atop a remodeled truck in a Seoul street, apparently being used for the campaign of presidential candidate Moon. The verse has been rewritten to encourage voters to support the liberal aspirant.
A bigger truck, with a makeshift stage, is parked in the middle of a wide street in Uijeongbu, north of Seoul, with a large crowd gathered in front. On the stage, Moon, the candidate for the liberal Democratic Party of Korea, gives a speech in a thundering voice.
Citizens watch Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party of Korea giving a speech on a makeshift stage truck in Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi Province, Monday. (Jo He-rim/The Korea Herald)
The two scenes represent a typical Korean election campaign, not confined to just the particular candidate or this presidential race. And again, many seem to be asking the same question: “What is the point of outdoor canvassing? Is someone actually persuaded by this?”
For foreign residents and visitors, in particular, the typical scenes of Korean electioneering appear quite different to those of their home countries, they said.
“I have never seen anything like this before,” Peter Dudek, an English teacher told The Korea Herald on Monday, while taking a video of Moon addressing the citizens of Uijeongbu, north of Seoul, from a campaign truck.
His truck speech drew a large crowd of about 15,000 citizens and supporters, creating a scene of a street literally filled with people.
“You can never imagine this with a presidential candidate so close on a random street with random crowds in the United States,” Dudek said.
Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party of Korea bows to his supporters at a canvassing in Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi Province, Monday. (Jo He-rim/The Korea Herald)
The American, who has lived in Korea for about a year, explained that election campaigns are much more chaotic in the US, with security being of the utmost concern for camps in outdoor canvassing. “The presidential hopefuls usually hold a rally in concert venues and stadiums, with heightened security.”
After Moon’s speech, cheerleaders came onto the stage, dancing to familiar and addictive tunes of popular songs to appease the crowd.
The April 26 canvassing of Yoo Seong-min, candidate for the conservative splinter Bareun Party, in Seoul’s Hongdae also started off with dances and performances on a remodeled truck, intended to grab the attention of passersby.
Yoo Seong-min of splinter conservative Bareun Party campaigns in front of Hongik University subway station in Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap)
“The dances are ridiculous,” quipped Paul Venhaus, a tourist from Germany, before asking how the dances and performances were related to the candidates and their elections. “I thought trucks were some kind of an advertisement for a TV program.”
“In Germany, election campaigns are usually very dry,” the 24-year-old added, taking a video of Yoo speaking from the truck stage.
Nineteen-year-old university student Samantha Cavagnaro said she was surprised to see a presidential candidate waiting to shake hands with passersby near her school entrance.
“These people (candidates) are so close to the people, it is different from where I come from, New York,” she said.
But as for the electioneering trucks with promotional advertisements on them or playing songs with changed lyrics repetitively, she was skeptical if they were effective.
Trucks are the favorite choice of campaign vehicles for their great mobility and accessibility to even narrow residential streets, camp officials explained.
With just a few days left to the election, the presidential aspirants are on a hectic schedule of electioneering, sometimes visiting more than half of the country’s nine provinces, including the southern Jeju Island, inside 24 hours.
A 1-ton truck with light-emitting diode screens costs an average of 30 million won ($26,000), but expensive ones can cost as much as 100 million won, people familiar with the industry said.
Moon reportedly has rented some 300 trucks, while candidate Hong Joon-pyo of the conservative Liberty Korea Party has some 270.
For minor candidates, the trucks can pose a financial burden. Yoo, polling last among the five mainstream party-backed candidates, launched a bicycle team to run a cost-effective campaign on their planned budget of 9 billion won.
Some Koreans complain that canvassing with trucks, loud music and crowds gathering on busy streets is a nuisance.
An average of 200 noise complaints have been made daily to police since the official campaign period begin on April 17.
Hong Joon-pyo of conservative Liberty Korea Party appeals for support in Daegu on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
“It is good that the politicians are trying to reach out to people and communicate, but how they are blocking the road and making such noises is really disturbing,” Lee Hye-jin, 31, said as she walked past an election campaign blocking a crowded subway station exit.
“This way of delivering their messages would only arouse antipathy among those who do not support the candidate.”
While the current way of outdoor stumping has proved effective in the past, the candidates should come up with new ways to reach out to the voters, in tandem with changing times, according to some pundits.
“The truck campaigning is an old style. But I see new approaches this year, with more online content and fresh events being churned out by campaigns,” Sung Youl-hong, an advertising and public relations professor at Hongik University, said.
The Korea Herald by Herald Corporation
Copyright Herald Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
Address : Huam-ro 4-gil 10, Yongsan-gu,Seoul, Korea
Online newspaper registration No : Seoul 아03711
Date of registration : 2015.04.28
Publisher. Editor : Jeon Chang-hyeop
Juvenile Protection Manager: Ahn Sung-mi
Tel : +82-2-727-0114