Credit: Public domain.
One of South Korea’s greatest political slang phrases, naero-nambul 내로남불 is a four-letter hangeul contraction of the axiom, “If I do it, it’s romance; if you do it, it’s adultery.” 내가 하면 로맨스, 남이 하면 불륜. The abbreviated phrase is used to refer to duplicitous characterization of the same wrongful conduct. The term became a theme for explaining the defeat of the Democratic Party 민주당’s loss in the Seoul/Busan mayoral by-elections, which many believe to be the result of the party’s failure to be better than the conservatives that it ousted.
Although similar axioms have existed since the 1980s, the term entered the political conversation in 1996, when Assembly Member Park Hee-tae 박희태 of the New Korea Party 신한국당, the main conservative party at the time, said during a speech before the Main Assembly: “Some things are funny in the world. If I buy real estate, it’s an investment; if you do, it’s speculation. My relationship with women is romance; your relationship with women is a scandal.” (The contracted term, however, did not appear until well into the 2000s, when online political discourse began to emerge.) Park, a six-term Assembly Member who eventually rose to become conservative party chairman and Speaker of the Assembly 국회의장, was a famous raconteur who created numerous political slang phrases that are still used today. In addition to naero-nambul, Park has coined terms like total crisis 총체적 난국 and 9-dan in politics 정치9단 (as 9-dan is the highest ranking in go). Park Hee-tae’s career ended ignominiously, however - he resigned from the Speaker position in 2012 following a bribery allegation (for which he received a suspended sentence), as well as a criminal conviction for sexual harassment of a golf caddy in 2014.