With South Korea’s presidential election nearing and the two leading candidates locked in a bitter battle for votes, Yoon Suk-yeol appeared to take a break recently from the cut and thrust of politics for a trip to a local supermarket.
By placing tinned anchovies and a packet of beans in his trolley, however, the leader of the People Power Party was sending a clear message about his attitude towards the nation’s fractious neighbours and his political rival.
The first syllable in the Korean word for anchovy, when combined with the word for beans, sounds uncannily like “myeolgong” – a slogan from South Korea’s military dictatorships of the 1970s that translates as “annihilate communism”.
Equally, it is unlikely that Mr Yoon’s decision to do his shopping at the weekend at a branch of the Emart chain of supermarkets was a coincidence.
The Emart chain is operated by the Shinsegae Group, whose chairman, Chung Yong-jin, is behind the resurrection of a term that is now causing significant political fallout.
In an Instagram post last week, Mr Chung wrote “Annihilate communism”, along with a photograph of Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader.
Instagram quickly deleted the post, Yonhap News reported, for violating its policies on violence, although Mr Chung followed up with another post critical of China’s aggressive policies towards South Korea and Seoul’s left-leaning government of Moon Jae-in for failing to stand up to the pressure.
After an apparent change of heart, another post switched the attention to Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, with the message, “My ‘myeolgong’ has nothing to do with China. My ‘myeolgong’ is solely directed at the kids living north of us”.