[News Focus] Firebrand politician Hong Joon-pyo returns as YouTuber


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Hong Joon-pyo, the firebrand conservative politician who is often compared to US President Donald Trump for his outspoken, hard-line rhetoric, is once again causing a stir, this time as a YouTuber.

On Dec. 18, the former chairman of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party launched a YouTube channel called TV Hongka-Cola, and announced his return to politics, saying he believes it is his last chance to “end the crazy wind of the liberals” and “to save the country.”

(Captured from TV Hongka-cola YouTube channel)

As the name of the channel alludes to the carbonated soft drink, Hong said his shows will shed light on current affairs for conservatives — and play a role similar to Coke, which some believe can treat stomach blockage.

“Just like how US President Donald Trump deals with his opponent news outlets with Twitter, I will also use TV Hongka-Cola and Facebook to balance the slanted media industry,” Hong said in a Facebook post on Dec. 19.

Hong has cast doubt on current affairs related to the Moon Jae-in administration and the ruling party in short video clips dubbed “Hong Joon-pyo’s News Coke,” which have drawn flak from other politicians.

Among the issues Hong touched on was the president’s visit to the Czech Republic last month. In two short clips, Hong said Moon’s two-day visit from Nov. 27 to 28 might be linked to a secret deal with North Korea, citing how Kim Pyong-il, an uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, currently serves as ambassador of North Korea there.

“North Korea would never participate in a summit for free. It will not visit South Korea for free of charge,” he said.

Hong also claimed Moon came up with his anti-nuclear power plant policies just from watching the local disaster film “Pandora.”

In addition, he spoke of people who had taken their own lives under liberal administrations, including the late former President Roh Moo-hyun. Regarding the recent case of retired Army Gen. Lee Jae-su, who served conservative former President Park Geun-hye, Hong defended Lee, saying that he had sought to maintain his principles by jumping to his death.

In a panel talk, he also invited a business professor from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Lee Byung-tae, to speak about how Moon’s economic policies are failing.

Meanwhile, opponents have condemned the claims made by Hong on YouTube.

As Hong cuts a conspicuous, but divisive figure, lawmakers from the Liberty Korea Party, of which he is still a member, expressed concerns that he might scare away supporters.

Rep. Park Kwang-on, who leads a special committee on fake news in the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, called Hong’s remarks “social evils.”

“I wonder if Hong should be protected of his right to enjoy freedom of speech. (Hong’s remarks) appear as social evils, defaming and violating the rights of others and intervening with public ethics,” said Rep. Park.

Progressive Justice Party spokesman Choi Seok praised Hong sarcastically, saying he is witnessing Hong’s “potential” once again.

“From the remarks that lack rationality and conscience, we can see his aura of fabulousness. Playing as a hotbed for fake news, I forecast the channel will provide a platform for radical conservatives,” he said.

The minor conservative Bareunmirae Party also criticized Hong, saying that apathy is the way to deal with Hong.

“Hong said there are many Bareunmirae Party lawmakers who will have to give up their political careers if he returns to politics. Hong must be deluded, he is in urgent need of medical care,” said Kim Jeong-hwa, the party’s spokeswoman.

Rep. Chung Woo-taik, the former floor leader who had served under Hong’s leadership, also expressed concerns.

“I have not seen the shows. I heard and I believe it is better to speak about stories that are checked. He is going a bit too fast with unproven stories, and I worry that Hong’s reputation may be damaged more from that,” Rep. Chung said in a local radio interview Wednesday.

However, Hong welcomed such criticism, saying the parties must be afraid of him.

The veteran politician had stepped down from his leadership position in the Liberty Korea Party, and stayed low-key after his party’s crushing defeat in the local elections in June.

He announced his return in November, saying he believes it is “a sin” for him “to neglect the collapsing country.”

Despite opponents’ negative comments, TV Hongka-Cola appears to be attracting attention.

As of Monday, seven days after its launch, more than 108,600 have subscribed to the channel, and Hong congratulated himself on garnering a total of more than a million views Thursday.

Hong is also preparing to launch a think tank called Freedom Korea next week.

“Freedom Korea will become the major think tank of conservatives in Korea, similar to the Heritage Foundation of the United States. It will spearhead efforts to protect the free democracy and market economy of this country,” he said on his Facebook account.

The opening ceremony of the think tank is slated for Wednesday.

Amid mixed reactions to Hong’s YouTube channel, concerns were also raised over similarities between the channel’s visual elements and Coca-Cola’s logo. The channel’s banner is red, with white wavy stripes in the middle, closely resembling the logo of the soda brand. On it is a photo of Hong drinking a bottle of Coca-Cola.

(Yonhap)

Coca-Cola Korea said it had not been contacted by the politician and declined to make any comment.

“We do not have anything to say. We have neither discussed nor been informed by Hong,” Koo Nam-ju, director of Coca-Cola Korea, told The Korea Herald on Friday.

Hong brushed off the concerns, saying he could change the name if it becomes a problem.

“If Coca-Cola takes issue with the name, we could change the name to ‘Hongsi-Cola.’ Then Pepsi Cola will be advertised. Whichever it is, we do not care,” Hong said.

Pundits say Hong’s style of politics may not work out well for him in the end. Professor Yoon Pyeong-joong, a professor of political philosophy at Hanshin University, said Hong’s extreme political messages would hinder his presidential aspirations.

“He may want to check whether what he is doing right now is appropriate. Being elected as a president means one earns the support of moderate voters — his strong remarks may set limits to expanding his base of support,” Yoon said.

Hong ran as a presidential candidate for the Liberty Korea Party in last year’s election, coming in second after President Moon, with 24.03 percent in the final poll.

Yoon also said Hong has regressed Korean politics, explaining that any form of extremism is not appropriate.

“Whichever way it is, extreme politics is not right. US President Trump had his own way to become the president, but US politics has also regressed,” Yoon said.

“Hong is negatively influencing the development of politics here.”

By Jo He-rim (herim@heraldcorp.com)


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