Photo: Yoon Suk-yeol. Credit: Office of the President.
The word “Cartel 카르텔” has become President Yoon Suk-yeol 윤석열’s go-to description for his political opponents. In Yoon’s telling, labor unions and civic groups opposed to the conservative administration are cartels seeking to leech off of government subsidies.
People complain about the college entrance exam, and Yoon detects the black hand of the for-profit education industry, acting in cahoots with the Ministry of Education 교육부 to make the entrance exam too difficult. (See previous coverage, “Yoon Threatens Hagwons.”) The ruling People Power Party 국민의힘 has picked up on Yoon’s linguistic tic, branding liberal media outlets as a cartel.
Yu Seung-min 유승민, a trained economist and Yoon’s conservative opponent in the 2022 presidential primaries, said the president “seems to have fallen in love with the word, because he’s using it to describe everything regardless of context.” In a column in Hankyoreh 한겨레, sociologist and author Kim Nae-hun 김내훈 offered: “President Yoon is having difficulty navigating presidential politics with his impoverished vocabulary. … Suddenly he learns a new word, ‘cartel,’ and makes up his mind that the cartel must surely be to blame - that there’s a shadowy group that manipulates people into opposing everything I do.”