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A poverty of choices

May 08,2017
The historic polling day to elect the 19th South Korean president has approached. The record two-day early voting turnout underscores public interest in the upcoming election. Of the 42.5 million eligible voters, 11.07 million, or over 26 percent, cast their ballots. It is unclear whether the heat would continue onto Tuesday’s actual election day.

Early voting turnout in the Jeolla provinces, the stronghold for liberals, was highest, while it was low in Daegu and North Gyeongsang, suggesting indecisiveness among conservative voters. Due to a lack of a strong contestant or a split in the conservative camp, many conservative voters may not head to the polling stations.

Leading conservative candidate Hong Joon-pyo accepted 13 lawmakers who defected to the Bareun Party, which was created after former President Park Geun-hye was impeached, back into the Liberty Korea Party.

He then reinstated six Park loyalists who were partly responsible for Park’s fall. The ruling Saenuri Party was renamed the Liberty Korea Party and stripped of Park loyalists. In less than two months, the LKP has reversed its punitive action, under the pretext of uniting the conservative front. The party has utterly betrayed the conservative hope for change.

The liberal camp equally has not lived up to public expectations. The People’s Party exposed a voice file of someone claiming to be a close acquaintance of candidate Moon Jae-in, insisting that his son got a job because his father helped him. Moon’s Democratic Party has pressed charges with the prosecution claiming that the recording is slander.

Moon should clearly challenge the allegation, just as the People’s Party also must prove its validity.

Expectations were high for the May 9 election as a watershed for Korea to finally end the era of corruption. But instead of setting the stage for an entirely new system, the race has been muddled with negative campaigning, groundless rumors and fake news. TV debates were wasted on personal attacks.

Koreans will nevertheless do their duty and cast their votes to elect a leader best capable of steering the country against a myriad of immediate and long-term challenges.

Each vote must be made after thorough study of the campaign platforms and their feasibility. If we make the wrong judgment, we again will have to pay the price, as we have learned from our previous bad choices.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 8, Page 30