Tensions are rising in South Korea as the government's uncompromising stance fuels conflict in an increasingly divided society. The situation could get worse as the country braces for a highly charged general election in April.
A battle is being waged over the Gwanghwamun Plaza, a popular gathering place in the heart of the South Korean capital. The central government wants to erect a permanent structure to fly the national flag in the plaza. But the city government, which has jurisdiction over the area, is fiercely opposed to the "totalitarian" plan.
Some see the standoff as a proxy fight between President Park Geun-hye and Park Won-soon, the mayor of Seoul and a former civic activist who is regarded as one of the front-runners of opposition candidates for the next presidential election.
President Park made her feeling toward flying the national flag apparent during a cabinet meeting. Describing her idea of patriotism, Park mentioned a scene from a movie set in 1970s South Korea in which a married couple instantly stop quarrelling and salute the national flag as soon as they hear the national anthem.
The Ministry of Patriots' and Veterans' Affairs is determined to build the flagpole ."We will use whatever means available," one official said.