Regionalism Remains Barrier in General ElectionThe campaign for the sixteenth general election has been evaluated as one of the most corruptwhen compared to other elections in recent history. As a result, the side-effects of such a corrupt election have already raised serious concerns. The election management committee has exposed some 2800 cases of violations of the election laws, a fourfold increase compared to the fifteenth general election.
There could be a number of reasons in the background for the corrupt and over-heated nature of this election. Alliances of citizens' groups started the blacklisting of candidates at the beginning of the election campaign. In addition, the criminal history, military service and tax payment records of candidates have been released to the public based on the revised election laws. The newly released data was not used as a part of the election campaign, but abused to evaluate the candidates' personalities.
Therefore, the really important issues of the general election, including the mid-term evaluation of the Kim Dae-jung administration, were pushed aside as the election campaign moved on. The candidates were exhausted by their participation in an election campaign which was so filled with malicious propaganda and scandals. They gave up fighting a fair competition on issues of policy, and tried instead to take advantage of regionalist feelings as a part of their winning strategies in the election campaign.
The side-effects of this election could well be very serious, since the election campaign was extremely hostile and violent. Uncountable cases of nullified winning candidates are expected if political parties start legal actions against one another. Moreover, it is possible that national political operations might be suspended for a long period if the opposition parties insist on the national investigation of corrupt election cases.
The results of the sixteenth general election urge Korea's political parties to reconsider the election process. None of the political parties presented an improved election campaign and political attitude. In particular, regionalism has still remained as the most difficult barrier yet to be overcome to improve the election process. The political parties must reconsider the limits of their abilities in a more humble way. Furthermore, the results of the general election must act as the catalyst for getting rid of the bad practices and personal connections which dominated Korean politics in the old era, and the opportunity to improve the internal structures of the political parties.
by Koh Hyun-kon