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Campaigning too soon (KOR)

Apr 17,2019
From rumors that the ruling Democratic Party (DP) will recruit Cho Kuk, presidential senior secretary for civil affairs, for next year’s general election, to former presidential senior secretary for public affairs Yoon Young-chan’s announcement Monday that he’ll actually run in the race as a DP candidate, the ruling party seems to be keen on preparing for a political event that’s a year away. It’s a self-evident truth that if governance falls into the black hole of electoral politics, it becomes difficult to effectively carry out government administration. That’s why previous ruling parties tried to restrain themselves from heating up too much ahead of elections. The current ruling party seems to be getting ahead of itself and blatantly creating an election mood by recruiting hopeful candidates.

During a press conference yesterday, DP Chairman Lee Hae-chan stressed that a DP internal committee looking over the planning of a candidate selection process has been at work. Lee continued that the DP was planning to make special party rules for next year’s general election by the end of this month after a vote by all party members.

Lee also mentioned that, from now on, the party would start preparing to “clarify the party’s identity” so that it could recruit competent members. As chairman of a political party, Lee had every right to make such a statement. But the fact that Lee, who holds the right to make nominations, made the remark a year ahead of the election becomes an issue. At a time when the Blue House is already under attack for economic policies and nominations to the cabinet and judicial positions, who would give constructive criticism to the presidential office?

On Monday, the government announced a so-called social overhead capital (SOC) plan, saying it would spend 30 trillion won ($26.5 billion) from the state coffers to increase local community infrastructure to improve people’s quality of life, offering fitness centers, libraries and day care centers. Construction projects that are necessary should, of course, be carried out. But before that, it’s important to set priorities. How is that initiative different from the civil engineering projects that former authoritarian governments announced ahead of elections — promising to build bridges and buildings in return for votes?

The SOC plan goes from next year through 2022. That’s what makes people believe it was intentionally scheduled to overlap with next year’s general election and the next presidential election. Instead of going all-in on the general election, why not focus more on statecraft and the struggling economy?

JoongAng Ilbo, April 17, Page 30