Criminal Records of Candidates Need Closer Look

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Criminal Records of Candidates Need Closer Look

With the disclosure by the Central Election Management Committee of the criminal records of candidates running for the upcoming general elections, the domestic political scene has become a mess.

The committee released the information in a bid to screen parliamentary candidates and to inform the public on their elected officials. Unfortunately, with the elections just around the corner, the fact that 16 percent or 1178 candidates are ex-convicts has only raised the level of public suspicion in this country.

Among candidates with criminal records, 82 nominees have been charged with cicil misconduct, including adultery, embezzelment, blackmail, bribery, perjury, violation of duty, false accusation, manslaughter, abscondence, and the list goes on. Of the 16 percent, 55 candidates are repeat offenders.

In all this confusion, we should distinguish between crimes committed by individual politicians. Some earned their records by challenging the authoritarian governments of the past. Some have been convicted of supporting Jusa, a group advocating North Korean ideology. Others have been petty thieves. The public should recognize the difference between these crimes and judge them accordingly.

Though the recent announcement by the committee is garnering praise from many circles, there is room for improvement. The report raises issues of fairness and justice. Only those candidates who were imprisoned had their names revealed to the public, while the remaining 80 percent remained anonymous. This means that politicians who committed financial crimes and other non-imprisonable offenses have escaped notice.

The timing of the report, days before Koreans go to the polls, does not allow politicians the time to rebut the commission's findings. The election laws should be revised to allow candidates to submit their personal records early in the campaign and give more time to explain criminal pasts

by Jo Min-geun

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