By Publisher Lee Kyung-sik
“I fell for Trot Emperor Na Hoon-a while confined at home due to COVID-19, and I am wondering how everyone else felt!” So exclaimed Governor Lee Jae-myung of the Gyeonggi Province in his facebook on Oct. 1, 2020.
One of Korea’s top two contenders for the Presidential election one and half years later on March 9, 2022, Lee then said, “While young, I listened to Na’s hit numbers with my elder brothers at our small cottage in the countryside under the dim lantern light.”
Na’s concert aired by KBS TV2 that night scored a record high audience rating ranging between 40% to 70%, according to Korea’s front-runner print daily, Chosun Ilbo, on October 1.
On that day, Lee’s top rival in the ruling camp, Chairman Lee Nak-yon of the Democratic Party, visited the tomb of the late former President Roh Moo-hyun in Gyeongsangnam-do Province and met with the late Roh’s widow, Madam Kwon Yang-sook. Incumbent President Moon Jae-in was the chief secretary to the late President Roh who was in office as the President.
Governor Lee’s remarks about Singer Na were special.
“When I was young, I used to follow Na’s songs from the radio with my brothers, which included Goh
yang Mujeong (Heartlessness in the Home Village) and Yujeong Cheolli (Emotional Journey of Thousand Miles) that came from radio. Then TV came and we came to see Na’s face. Then we thought Na’s mouth was unusually big.
“As we grew up, I came to notice a sign of charisma in Na and from that time forward, it has become my dream to see live his performance, which has not yet come as of today.
“Last night, though not fully satisfied, I was able to see Mr. Na, the Trot Emperor, in his actual performance through the medium of TV.
“COVID 19 forced everyone into confinement at home and I was no exception and I had to forgo my visit to my parents’ tombs or to the family of my wife. In this lonely atmosphere, the deep and precious songs of Mr. Na were a great source of relief to me.
Then I concurred with Mr. Na when he chanted, ‘Again Korea!’ ”
After Moon barely a year and half from today, the contest for the Presidential Office of Cheong Wa Dae seems to be between the two Lees, namely the Gyeonggi governor and the ruling DP chairman.
However, judging from the responses of the two Lees to Na’s special performance on that day, it appears that Governor Lee is more inclined toward the people than Chairman Lee—the former listening to Na’s songs while latter visiting the home of the late President Roh Moon-hyun whom incumbent President Moon served as chief secretary.
At the present moment, the Presidential contenders from other political parties and independents are liberally negligible.
However, the latest one showed Governor Lee leading the race closely followed by Chairman Lee with a one-point difference.
Results of the polls conducted by Korea Gallup on September 8-10 were as follows:
Lee Jae-myung: 22%
Lee Nak-yon: 21%
Prosecutor General Yoon Suk-ryul: 3%
National Assemblyman Hong Joon-pyo (conservative): 3%
People’s Party Chairman Ahn Chul-soo: 3%
While Chairman Lee closely follows the political line of President Moon and his followers, sometimes at the expense of his own popularity (e.g., his support of seemingly unpopular incumbent Justice Minister Madam Choo Mi-ae, Governor Lee is more on the liberal site while both are in the same camp of President Moon.
The Korea Times in Seoul said on September 10: “Young people in Korea are growing increasingly angry over a number of scandals involving the son of Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae and the scions of other powerful figures, leading many to raise questions about the fairness in society heralded by President Moon Jae-in.”
‘Trot Emperor’ Na Hoon-a on the night of October 1, obviously unawares, appears to have moved a lot of people in Korea toward the side of Governor Lee vis-à-vis Chairman Lee, although they are both in the same pro-government camp of President Moon.
At the present moment, as shown in the foregoing Korea Gallup opinion polls Korea’s next President appears to be one of the two Lees. At present, Governor Lee appears to be in a better position—although no one knows who the rating will differ between the two with the passage of time.
The clinching, as indicated afore, obviously came with Trot Emperor Na coming to show signs of support for conservatives in Korea vis-à-vis the present situation where things are developing in favor of left-leaning politicians.
Governor Lee was born in the Andong City in Gyeongsangbuk-do Province while Chairman Lee was born in the Yeonggwang County of Jeollanam-do Province. The provinces have long been considered ‘political rival’ regions as many of the political leaders came from the two competing regions. President Kim Dae-jung came from Mokpo in Jeollaam-do province while President Kim Young-sam was born and bred in the opposite province of Gyeongsangnam-do. President Park Chung-hee was born in Gyeongsangbuk-do.
In many instances, political leaders hailing from the two rival Gyeongsang and Jeolla provinces swapped victories—although some came from other localities such as Lee Myung-bak who was born in Osaka (Japan) and Park Geun-hye in Daegu straddling between the two Gyeongsang provinces.
Now back on the topic of ‘Trop Emperor’ Na:
The audience rating was 29% to 30%, the highest in the history of such concerts in Korea, according to Lielsen Television Audience Measurement.
Na appeared at the KBS studio for the first time in 24 years and performed for a total of 150 minutes singing a total of 29 themes of songs before 1,000 ‘untact’ audiences divided into three parts, namely the first (Home Country), second part (Love) and the third part (Life).
Singer Na is widely known for his declining the offer of the National Order of Korea from the government. Na said, “The weight of the times is so heavy and so is that of the name of ‘singer’ and how can I carry the extra weight of the medal?” Then he said, “We the singers must feel free in soul and I think that we cannot do anything if we receive such honors because of their weight.”
The original name of Singer Na is Choe Hong-gi and was born on Feb. 11, 1947. Na debuted in 1966. He won his nickname, Emperor of Trot, due to his charismatic personality and powerful voice.
He was one of Korea’s most popular singers of the 1970s alongside his rival, Nam Jin. Na made international headlines in 2008 when he pulled down his pants on live television to dispel rumors that he had been castrated by a Japanese gangster.
Na is known to have married three times.
The first wife was Lee Suk-hee (the cousin sister of Korea’s top actress, Ko Eun-ha); the second wife was Korea’s top actress Kim Ji-mi; and the third wife was Actress Chung Soo-kyung who debuted in 1976 in a film entitled, Woman Soldier Private First Class.