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Thursday, October 21, 2021

The Mural of Julie’s Men

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Slut Shaming the Next First Lady of Korea?

A controversial mural has created a political fault line between supporters of the conservative presidential frontrunner Yoon Seok-yeol and his opponents. The painting depicts Yoon’s wife as “Nice Julie” – a characterization of her alleged past as a nighttime entertainment worker. Yoon and his wife have ardently denied the claims.

Nonetheless, the mural, which was apparent commissioned by the building owner, prominently included a list of her past lovers. Is this slut shaming on a massive scale? Or is it a warning to the public that a Jezebel is steps away from the nation’s highest seat of power?

The List:

2000 Doctor X

2005 Chairman Cho

2006 Public Prosecutor 

2006 Prosecutor Yang

2007 BM CEO

2008 Announcer Kim

2009 Prosecutor Yoon

According to Yonhap News: “The controversial rumors spreading on the internet said Kim worked as a hostess under the alias of ‘Julie’ at a nightlife establishment before her marriage with Yoon...

Whether the murals are illegal or not seems to be controversial. An official from Seoul said, ‘Depending on the content of the painting, there may be problems such as defamation or performance obscenity, but it is difficult for the city or ward to prevent painting on their own buildings.’”

The building owner said he wanted the mural out of protest and anger at Yoon. A representative of the bookstore said the owner felt Korea’s constitution was at stake. Yoon was appointed as the Prosecutor General by President Moon to be a cooperative partner in prosecutorial reform. But the president found Yoon to be a bit of a loose canon who didn’t follow the party line and seemed to throw a wrench in plans to rein in the outsized powers of the nation’s 2,000 prosecutors.

At current, the mural has been defaced by right-wing detractors after a heavy clash between supporters and protesters erupted around the building. It has been painted over black, then replaced with graffiti denouncing the current president and the liberal presidential candidates for 2022.


The Music Video

Also to the shock of conservatives around Korea, a singer by the name of Baekja released a music video mocking ‘Nice Julie’.

Rough translation of some of the lyrics:

Nice Julie, goddess of the Renaissance (Hotel)

Volcano (Club) Julie

There isn’t a Julie who gives herself to the gentlemen of Seocho.

Nice Julie is the ace of black bean paste (reference to Yoon Seok-yeol)

Daughter of the Business Queen

But doesn’t give anything away for free

Nice Julie dreams of being the nation’s mother

Even wild boars will keep laughing

If they split their sides there’s no way of stopping it from ripping

Nice Julie

Julie who has no greed

There’s no way of stitching your sides back up.

The music isn’t so catchy, but the concept and the cinematography was smart.


Fearlessness vs. Free Speech Crackdown

Amidst the increasing boldness of the Korean citizenry to express their views on political subjects, the current liberal government is attempting to pass legislation that would hamper free speech. (This came in response to anti-progressive public rhetoric including attacks on the top liberal presidential contender.) It would be ironic for the liberal side to act punitively against democratic freedoms when they were in power, except it’s not.

No matter which party occupies the throne, the mentality of political leadership leans more towards monarchy than democracy. In practice and tradition, Korea’s democracy is operated like a rotating royal family. But since the institutions are also set up to be an actual democracy, the strain between what should be and what is can be like watching a migraine headache in action.

To resolve the pain, those in power reach for the quick fix of setting a blanket non-democratic policy that hurts the innocent like casualties of war just to attack specific enemies in mind. By making broad public policy, they escape culpability of abusing power to target individuals. But the byproduct is wide-ranging side effects and people who have their lives ruined that have nothing to do with the political conflict.

In addition, those wronged are hell-bent on vengeance once they regain power so after a few iterations, public policies and laws become really twisted for ‘no reason’. Those scratching their heads about stupid laws today need to see their origins in a very specific battle between unique individuals who are long gone. Who can recall what they were fighting about? Yet, we’re left with being imprisoned in the shell of their petty battle that no one even remembers.

Therefore, the new limits to freedom of speech won’t work because now that the lines overlap and people don’t stay in place, passing laws to target your enemies is like shooting at a moving target that ends of shooting your own foot. Trying to restrict speech to protect a liberal candidate yesterday means you have to punish your own people today for expressing their satire about the conservative candidate.

Instead of viewing public policy in terms of weapons for personal vendettas to punish one’s enemies, governance should focus on the public good. Governing for the public benefit? In Korea that still remains a position of weakness and foolish naivete. Being elected in Korea means you finally grabbed the ‘precious’ and are expected to undemocratically punish your enemies for all the past losses you suffered while creating new enemies of your own by taking what doesn’t belong to you and making your victims suffer in silence… until one day they do the same back to you.

The never-ending cycle of revenge continues and now has the thin veneer of ‘democracy in action’. Yet, until people let go of the lust to be king and to let power corrupt, then there really won’t be true democratic progress in South Korea. The institutions are still set up to allow too much executive power and subservience to a leader at the top in a world where increasingly one man cannot make all the decisions. He’ll drown in them. Yet he insists on being the only one allowed in the pool.

Perhaps this controversial Julie wall will save us all from the whirlpool of resentment by tearing down the final barrier to true freedom of speech in South Korea. Or not. Let’s see how it goes.

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