An anti-communism slogan posted on Instagram by a retail mogul in South Korea has swept across social media after presidential candidate Yoon Seok-youl and other conservative politicians shared the phrase or weighed in on the debate.
Chung Yong-jin, head of the retail giant Shinsegae, wrote a series of Instagram posts using the term “myulgong”, which means “crush commies” or “annihilate communism”. The social media platform first took them down before restoring the posts, saying they had been automatically removed as they included words that instigated violence, the South China Morning Post reported.
The posts triggered an uproar amongst South Korea’s political elite and shed light on deep divisions on whether the country should ditch the “strategic ambiguity” policy that enables the government to maintain ties with both the US and China.
The word “myulgong” was a catchphrase that dominated public discourse in South Korea right after the three-year Korean war that ended in 1953, which saw the US backing the south and the Soviet Union and China side with the north.
The war eventually ended when the US and North Korea signed a ceasefire agreement, but never an official peace declaration, which liberal President Moon Jae-in had been pushing to conclude before the end of his last term in May.
Mr Yoon, who served as prosecutor-general until March after being appointed by Mr Moon in 2019, was picked at a party convention to represent the People Power Party in the upcoming 9 March 202 presidential election.
He said if elected, he would end his country’s cautious tread between the two great powers and align his foreign policies with the US. This comes a few days after ruling Democratic Party candidate Lee Jae-myung said China remains an important partner to South Korea and emphasised its role in denuclearising North Korea “can’t be dismissed.”
Mr Yoon on Saturday intensified the debate around the anti-communism slogan after posting a photo on Instagram of himself shopping in a Shinsegae store. He accompanied the photo with a series of hashtags of food items which his democratic opponents interpreted as a call to “destroy President Moon and annihilate communists.”
According to SCMP, Na Kyung-won, former PPP head, posted pictures of herself grocery shopping with the comment: “It becomes an issue only in communist countries for people to say ‘I hate communists’”.
The social media campaign highlighted tactics by the conservatives to wield anachronistic slogans as a tool to boost Mr Yoon in the ballot box, according to democratic opponents.
South Korea’s conservatives are trying to regroup and reorganise after being disseminated in 2017 by the impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye and the following chaotic breakup of the conservative camp. They count this time on public disapproval of President Moon’s policy failures and a series of scandals during his presidency.