Ko Wen-je

From the SCMP today.

Having trouble finding the appropriate category to put this under. A few ideas that came to mind were:
1)How to win friends and influence people
2)Foreigners just don’t understand us.
3)unwanted gifts - what to do with them

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (right) receives a gift of a watch from British transport minister Baroness Susan Kramer. Photo: AFP
Outspoken Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je Tuesday apologised for his slip of tongue over a remark that he would sell as scrap a precious pocket timepiece given to him as gift by British Transport Minister Baroness Susan Kramer.
“I must admit that was inappropriate and I should pay more attention to diplomatic decorum,” he told reporters when asked about the controversial remark he made.
“What is wrong is wrong and I will express my apology to the British transport minister,” he said, adding he would take some classes about diplomatic decorum soon.
Baroness Kramer also told reporters in Taipei Tuesday that she did not mind and she thought Ko was just being humorous.
Foreign affairs experts, however, said the remarks Ko made were rude and made Taiwan lose face.
“His remarks were as bad as they could possibly be,” said Stephen Chen, a former Taiwan representative to the US. “If Ko didn’t like the pocket timepiece, he could have simply said he valued the gift and would take good care of it,” Chen said.
He said the pocket timepiece is not a clock and should not be inappropriately associated as a clock. “The worst thing to say is to sell the precious watch to scarp dealer,” he noted.
Ko Wen-je, a high-flying surgeon who is a popular figure but known for his off-the-cuff remarks, drew a barrel of criticism from across Taiwan’s political spectrum for his perceived rudeness.
In response, his British guest tried to play down the embarrassment. “I’m sorry. We learn something new each day. I had no idea a gift like this could be seen as anything other than positive.
In the UK a watch is precious - because nothing is more important than time,” Kramer said.
She also highlighted the significance of the watch, which she termed as a “very unique item” from the House of Lords.
Rosalia Wu, a city councillor from the major opposition Democratic Progressive Party, later lambasted Ko on her Facebook page.
“City diplomacy is critical to Taiwan, as the mayor of the capital, he should have taken greater responsibility,” Wu said.
Ko presented Kramer with a miniature model of Taipei 101, once the world’s tallest skyscraper and an iconic feature of the city’s skyline.
An independent candidate, Ko, 55, was elected as the mayor of the capital in the island’s local elections in November, thrashing Sean Lien, son of former vice-president Lien Chan.
Ko sparked multiple controversies while campaigning for the post, including describing a female candidate from the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang party as “young and pretty and just fit to sit behind a [department store] counter”.
Although he was labelled as a “loose cannon” by some critics, he has been tolerated by supporters despite a string of similar gaffes.
A recent survey showed his approval rating one month into office stood at a comfortable 70 per cent, as staunch supporters hail him for pledging to battle corruption and streamline bureaucracy.

How about:
4) Don’t give a Chinaman a timepiece as a gift, because in their culture it is laden with the symbolism that their life is ticking away.

It seems like a really unthoughtful thing to do. You’d expect that some expert on Chinese or Taiwanese customs would have been consulted about the plans somewhere along the line, but obviously not.

Yeah, his response wasn’t great either.

I think having worked as a surgeon, Ko may have accepted the superstition that does with sending someone a watch or clock, as 送鐘 (gifting a clock) sounds the same as 送終 (funeral). Ko probably was simply joking as he would in NTU, forgetting that now he is the mayor of Taipei. In Taiwan gifting someone a watch or clock could be a no no depending on the person receiving it. Same goes with shoes or umbrellas.

I think Ko doesn’t get that his jokes are not terribly funny but are terribly inappropriate.

no he really doesn’t. I think Ko is just a pro-coitus Sheldon Cooper in the medical field.

He’s a very interesting mayor. :ponder:

“How to scrap everything free and insult people: the Ko P story”

Interesting, what is the Chinese translation for pocket watch? I do get the notion of 送鐘 sounding like a death sentence. However it doesn’t apply to watches. I gave my wife a way too expensive watch and she was very happy.
I am overseas Chinese and I learned from a young age to give a penny back to the giver if ever I received something like that rather than throw it away.

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Given he directs most of this at the pan-blue elite whose comeuppance is long overdo, I can’t say I mind.

It was very low imo, but he admitted that he was at fault and volunteered to attend some sort of class about diplomatic courtesy, which makes him miles better than most of the other idiots who call themselves politicians.

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Never a dull moment in Taipei! The media must love this guy (presuming of course they are not on the receiving end of one of his ripostes).


I could care less about this diplomacy disaster that will be forgotten about in a few weeks. Of course it probably would have been turned into a legendary SNL skit if it happened in the US.

I’m interested in what kind of political support he has to get any of his initiatives passed. He has the overwhelming support of the people right now but he has been ripping apart the grafting schemes done by politicians (from both sides). Does he have too many political enemies to get big initiatives passed?

Or in Canada. Recall the glee over Toronto’s infamous crack-smoking mayor Rob Ford!

Indeed. There have been lots of hands in the cookie jar over the years–including in Taipei City. Finally we have someone saying enough is enough. Given the amount of corruption on this island, I sometimes worry about the well-being of Dr Ko.


Ko is a PR disaster. It’s fascinating to watch because it’s one of the things that helped him win the election. He just says what he’s thinking, damn the consequences. This is very appealing in a candidate, but in a mayor it can be really ugly.

A great example was the One Billion Rising campaign against violence toward women. The whole purpose of the event was dancing, but somehow nobody had informed the mayor before he showed up to it. So there he is on stage with everyone dancing around him, and he pulls an aid and whispers something in his ear to the effect of “put me in this position again and you’re fired.” While the cameras are rolling. I can already tell this administration is going to be very busy with news releases apologizing for his behavior.

Politics is complicated. You can have great policies but they mean nothing if you don’t know how to implement them. And even if you implement great policies and do it well, you can become a laughing stock just for your personal conduct.

I suspect few people are laughing at Dr Ko right now. His candor may be disheartening but it also may be exactly what Taiwan needs at this critical juncture.


Remember this here is a charity event. Fast forward to 3:25.

I for one feel sorry for him here. He looks like he wants to get the hell out of there. And I don’t see anyone laughing at him either.


You feel sorry for who there? Ko?


I have no problem if he wants to break with normal mayor stuff and not attend the horse and pony shows, but when you are in that situation at the moment, you make the best of it. You don’t lose your temper on stage at a charity event. You dance, smile, make a show,…and then afterwards you inform your staff not to arrange those type of events.

After a couple of these, I thought “Hey, perhaps it’s good not to have a ‘politician’ in office. He’s more of a normal guy than a skilled politician. Maybe that’s alright.” But now these breeches in etiquette are getting so frequent and large that I’m starting to think that he is going to burn so many bridges that eventually he isn’t going to be able to get things done. It’s gone from “he’s a normal guy, anti-politician” to “there’s something weird about this dude.”

I thought his remarks to reporters after the stage incident were also pretty inappropriate. “I just don’t like that kind of event.” You can’t say that. It was promoting anti-violence. It was promoting finding other physical activities (dancing) to avoid inclinations towards violent actions. How do you think the event organizers feel after the mayor says something like that? Bridge burnt… There’s a point where saying what’s on your mind isn’t admirable.

That was my thought before the election.

I think most of all, he looks unprepared for these types of situations. So, I think his advisers perhaps should do a better job of preparing him? Or he should make clear that he doesn’t want to do certain things, like he did with the New Year’s Eve event? My guess is that he doesn’t like the spotlight that much and that he wants to focus on getting things done. Problem is, his role is also to represent the city, that’s part of the job description, so he might better embrace it. Otherwise people will turn against him and he will have an ever harder time to get things done.