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Here comes the mud

Apr 10,2017
The mudslinging and slander have begun as the snap presidential election is only a month ahead. The heat has gotten more fiery as the race narrows down to Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party and Ahn Cheol-soo of the People’s Party, who fell out so dramatically during the last presidential campaign that they ended up dividing the liberal party they once co-ran. Since the May 9 election has been so hurried after former President Park Geun-hye was impeached and removed from office on March 10, voters barely have enough time to disentangle truth and fiction in the increasingly negative campaign.

Moon’s camp is obviously anxious about the rapid rise of Ahn, who is even being supported by conservatives and centrists because of the lack of a strong candidate on the conservative side. They accuse Ahn of seeking help from the mob to win the election, pointing to a picture the candidate took in Jeonju, North Jeolla. There is a dispute about whether an individual in the photo is a gangster. Moreover, it turns out Moon is featured in a similar photo.

It is a serious matter if a presidential candidate is associated with a gangster. Ahn should have been more careful about the people he meets on the campaign trail. At the same time, it isn’t easy to check the identity of every person who asks to take a photo with a candidate. It is shameful that the legislature’s largest party had to use an unverified photo from the internet to besmirch a rival candidate.

We have impeached a president because we had failed to detect her fundamental weaknesses during the campaign. Candidates must meticulously be studied. But screening and mudslinging are worlds apart. Moon is under fire for using his influence to find a job for his son and also is accused of having covered up the drinking-and-driving of former President Roh Moo-hyun’s father-in-law. These allegations have been made based on substantial evidence.

But Moon has not answered these allegations and annoyingly called on the media to stop bringing up the subject. He should think about why his approval rating has hit a bottleneck at around 40 percent. Negative campaigning doesn’t work with mature voters. Candidates must try to win votes on restoring leadership and national dignity.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 8, Page 30