[EDITORIALS] Stop Pandering to Regionalism

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[EDITORIALS] Stop Pandering to Regionalism

As presidential hopefuls jockey for better position, the specter of regionalism is raising its ugly head again. The main culprit is the theory of a "candidate from Kyongsang provinces," which is being discussed around the ruling camp. To see politicians preoccupied with the next presidential election, turning a cold shoulder to urgent economic and reform issues is not a pretty sight. To make matters worse, it is disconcerting to witness the emergence of an idea that fans regionalism, which could lead the nation to ruins.

The key to the argument of "Kyongsang candidate" is that the ruling camp plans to ride the wave of regional sentiment in a bid to retain power in the next election. Ruling party politicians believe that the votes from Cholla provinces, the base of the current regime, are destined to flock to them. The key is the Kyongsang votes, twice as many as those in Cholla. Since the launching of the current administration, Kyongsang's anti-Kim Dae-jung sentiment has deepened because of their comparative sense of deprivation. Without a special effort, the Millennium Democratic Party is almost certain to lose. The MDP either must draw out surefire support from Kyongsang or at least pull away opposition votes. The backbone of the argument for putting forward a Kyongsang candidate is to take votes from both Cholla and Kyongsang. It is an election strategy playing to regionalism.

Non-Kyongsang ruling party hopefuls and the opposition bristle at this argument, whereas those from Kyongsang are secretly pleased. A ruling party hopeful who is not from Kyongsang invited a Taegu University president to head his organization of supporters. The opposition party's frequent political events in Taegu and Pusan is related with that Kyongsang candidate theory.

It is dangerous and unacceptable that politicians should try to paint the election landscape entirely in regionalism, especially before campaigns begin. As it is, we are swamped with numerous ills deriving from regional bias, a product of previous elections. Going beyond hostility and jealousy, the confrontational structure that divides public opinion by region is firmly in place. Politics of regional hegemony should end with this administration. For this to happen, the fanning of regionalism, like "Kyongsang candidate" theory, should be nipped in the bud.
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