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Going Away To Escape Election Woes

Apr 12,2000
"I have decided to immigrate to New Zealand." These are the words of one disillusioned election candidate who has recently quit in spite of election campaigns being in full swing. Mr. A, his full name not given to protect his privacy, has decided to leave the country, disenchanted and dejected after going through a 3-month campaign trying for one of the nation's congressional seats.

It was last December when he first entered the political scene. However, he was not successful in winning a party nomination for the coming elections. Undaunted, he listed as an independent. As soon as he declared his running as an independent, telephone calls began to flood his campaign office. They were mostly calls asking him to attend meetings and assorted events with "40 housewives" or "important occasions you must attend." Even though he did not have his election campaign team fully organized, he attended all the meetings without fail. He wanted to win every single vote possible.

However, all he heard from the meetings were thanks for his "paying for the meal." Absurd as it was, he had no choice but to pay the check, honour-bound as he awkwardly was. If he was unable to pay on the spot, the bills were conveniently sent to his campaign office; these bills were often artificially inflated to over one million won ($1,110) when they should have been 300,000 or 400,000 won ($270-$360). He refused to pay one bill sent to him which elicited a threatening call demanding an explanation, and daring him "to run without money." Mr. A saw that he had no choice but to pay, again honour-bound, and fearful of bad publicity.

The money he paid out during this three-month period amounted to 90 million won ($81,000) - equivalent to his entire retirement pension.

He is now painfully aware of rumors flying around the nation which assert that candidates are spending tens of billion of won on their election campaigns. Mr. A lamented bitterly that he had served the public as a civil servant for the majority of his life. Yet he wondered, "Who are the people that the representatives have to serve? I am confused and dejected that I am leaving this country. It was a difficult decision I had to make.".




by Lee Chan-ho




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