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Toward stricter scrutiny

Apr 15,2017
Television debates are the only platform through which voters can directly compare and judge presidential contestants. If not for TV debates, voters would learn what candidates tell through scripted materials and can never know their genuine understanding of policies and their will to act on them. Needless to say, the debates have become more crucial for the upcoming special election as there is not much time left for voters to scrutinize presidential candidates’ qualifications before May 9.

But TV debates have so far helped little to judge the candidates because candidates merely read from their prepared materials and did not have much time to delve further. When she was grilled by opponents in a debate, former president Park Geun-hye simply answered, “That is why I want to become president.” That helped block further questioning from her opponents.

The first round of TV debates on Wednesday was better than before since there was no time limits on debating. But the candidates were engaged in a tug-of-war instead of sincerely debating issues. Although the debate proceeded for nearly three hours, the five contestants were rushed through various issues ranging from security to economy.

In subsequent rounds organized by the National Election Commission, they fortunately would limit debate themes to political, economic and social issues and candidates debated facing one another instead of seated and on script. Such debates are expected to serve better to help voters’ judgment.

Nevertheless, due to the 18-minute time limit, the candidates should be thoroughly prepared so that they could attack the other based on real facts, not “fake news.”

Negative attacks without evidence are different from groundless slander. We hope the TV debates help voters to judge the candidates better than in the past.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 14, Page 30