Following Park In-sook and Lee Un-ju, members of Liberty Korea Party, on September 16, Hwang Kyo-ahn, Liberty Korea Party Chairman, shaved his head to fuel the fierce opposition towards the appointment of Cho Kuk as Justice Minister. To boldly express anger regarding Cho’s family members taking advantage of their position, politicians in Korea are on a shaving relay to collectively voice cynical attitudes towards present society.
Shaving heads has once again returned to the National Assembly in Yeouido. It is impossible not to mention tonsure, for it takes center stage when talking about Korean political history. Recently, several Korean politicians gained attention for shaving their heads to display their firm will. Though, the result does not seem to effectively reflect the original purpose as the public is no longer genuinely moved by these outdated performances.
There were a number of notable historical occurrences of the shaving performance where it had been a significant means of the struggle for justice. In 1987, Park Chan-jong, a former member of the National Assembly, shaved his head to protest for the unification of two presidential nominees. Also, in 2004, Sul Hoon, a Democratic Party member, shaved his head to plead for the withdrawal of the impeachment of former president, Roh Moo-hyun. While these two attempts turned out to be failures, they left a searing impression on the public: the unbroken determination of a man.
Then, why do these shavings constantly appear in Korean politics? Koreans, with their culture rooted from Confucianism, have regarded damaging any part of the body as an unforgivable disrespect since ancient times. Accordingly, shaving, which incorporates the disposal of body parts given by parents, paradoxically shows one’s strong and eager determination on certain issues. Therefore, shaving off one’s head has been considered a visually powerful method of delivering one’s message to society.
While head-shaving in the past was deemed influential as it was done by social minorities who had no power but to express their opinions by cutting their hair, the situation is different now. Politicians nowadays are not powerless citizens who only possess a strong will to express their ideas. They rather hold a high position in society, which shows these actions to lack genuine truth.
Accordingly, the response from the public indicated that it was a complete failure. Innumerable media outlets made critical remarks, and citizens mocked Hwang by parodying his shaving performance. Instead of alarming citizens with the true purpose behind the acts, the shaving rather generated meaningless controversy that has no relation to the real intended meaning.
Through the incident, these performances proved themselves to be out-of-fashion, where they are now seen as ineffective political tactics. Instead of barely touching the surface of the subject, politicians should express their voices in other ways that would enable them to get closer to citizens. To truly demonstrate their resolute minds, politicians ought to come up with unconventional methods and refrain from conducting a show to simply gain sudden attention.
Citizens are clever; they are no longer fooled by one-time performances that are hollow. To influence society, desirable political changes should take place. For that to happen, both politicians and citizens should be able to distinguish between tactics and actual change where there should be a better political strategy to resolve situations as well as other political issues that will be raised in the future.