After a long discussion, one reporter became a volunteer for the Hannara or Grand National Party (GNP). As Korea? largest conservative party, the GNP is not very popular with the younger generation. But we thought that the adventure of getting to know a huge but unfamiliar party would be interesting for our students and us.
Contacting the GNP proved to be the first challenge of the job. We tried visiting the GNP website but there was no information on how someone could start doing volunteer work. Instead, the reporter assigned to the task, Lee Youn-seung, called the GNP? Public Relations Division. We thought the division most interested in publicity would greet a reporter from a university press. Despite her fear of rejection, a positive response came, and Lee and the director of the PR division agreed on working from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., from Monday to Saturday for a week with the reporter. Both sides agreed to write an article based on the things she saw and experienced during that week. Everything was set, and the reporter went to the office of former GNP spokesman Park Jin. Here is her campaign diary:
February 2, 2004
On the first day, I headed to the spokesman? administrative office at 9:00 a.m. sharp. I took a seat and was introduced to the director of the office, Park Sung-ho. My first impression was that Park, who became my boss, was rather blunt and had a strong Gyeongsangdo accent. He soon proved, however, to be a generous person, telling me where to go, what to do, and what not to miss. He even gave me a small pad with the Hannara logo on it to use instead of my thick Ewha Voice pocket book.
The first day started with a standing committee meeting at 9:00 a.m. During the 30 minutes of the open to public meeting I stood next to daily newspaper journalists and wrote down notes on my pad. Within a few minutes, I was able to detect people staring at me. As I looked around, I could notice that I was the only person dressed in jeans, snickers, and a pink coat, while everyone else was wearing black suites.
February 3, 2004
On the second day, I was scheduled to attend a forum at the Press Center in Gwanghwamun. It was about the conservative ideology sought by the party. I did not understand the seriousness of the occasion and eventually decided not to go. The next day, however, I had to spend hours making up excuses on why I did not go, and had to endure the disappointed looks fixed on me.
February 4, 2004
After reporting to the GNP for two days, I was physically worn out and finally made a terrible mistake on my third day: I attempted a shortcut to get to the headquarter faster and took a bus to Yeouido from Songpa at 8:00 a.m., at the hour when the traffic jam was at its peak. Eventually, I remained seated in the bus for two hours, was more than an hour late, and missed my chance to attend the extraordinary session of the National Assembly with the rest of the members from the GNP. Without any special schedule at the spokesman? office, I was sent to the Women? Affair Bureau, which was in charge of supervising all female legislators and members of the party. Six women from the bureau and I gathered and had an informal chat during the rest of the day.
February 5, 2004
On the fourth day I finally got the chance to prove that I was not a total washout. I marched up to the National Assembly and made my way through the three security checks and registration papers necessary to get an audience seat for the floor session all by myself. I was so proud that I wrote ?riumphant entry into the National Assembly on my note pad. The highlight of the afternoon was a tour with former chairman Choe Byung-yul as he visited a small downstairs manufacturing company in the Jungu district. The party head shook hands with the women workers who looked tense at their meeting with the high-level personality. In a moment of bewilderment, while standing next to the women, I also shook hands with the chairman and found out he had warm hands.
February 6, 2004
The next day, I accompanied again the chairman in his visit to Bucheon, where two elementary students were kidnapped and murdered. I listened to the reports from the police in the Bucheon district with the chairman and distributed advertisement papers that called for witnesses.
February 7, 2004
On the last day I visited the Youth Affairs Bureau to get an answer to my initial motivation for spending time at the GNP headquarters: to answer the question ?hat can university students do to participate and how? I was able to hear explanations from the executive manager of the Youth Affairs Bureau, Kim Ho-geun, the youngest party member I met until then. He told me that ?olitical fields are great places to experience the society and there are plenty of ways that students can participate in this experience. All you need is a volunteer spirit.
I found out that there are various ways to experience politics. One can simply call a party, as I did, and ask for volunteer work in a certain sector. One can visit the election campaigns and work as a cyber monitor or cyber spokesman. Or, one can attend forums and seminars hosted by the party. Simple inspection visits are welcome as well.
March 31, 2004
Two months have passed since my experience at the GNP. As I think back, the one week I spent at the GNP offices seemed long and complicated, but exciting. I feel that it was worth the effort. Only two months ago, before my experience in a political party, I thought politics were the exclusive possession of upper class people, who wear gold badges on their chests. During my stay, however, I saw hundreds of people working together to reach their goals, either political or ideological.
I suggest that the readers interested enough in politics give it a try and knock on the doors of a political party themselves. It only took a phone call and a week for me. But I experienced more than just a week of studies. Who was it that said politics is ?omposite art?
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