[EDITORIALS]Campaigns start, mud fliesAs we had feared, illegal election campaigning became rampant as soon as candidate registration for the June 13 local elections started Tuesday. The number of people cited by law enforcement authorities for illegal campaigning is already about 10 times higher than the number in the last local elections five years ago. In addition to the illegal campaigning, a major reason that this election season is unsavory is ruthless and sometimes groundless character assassination by candidates. They are taking advantage of loopholes in the laws governing election campaigns; those loopholes hamper policy debates and encourage emotional campaigning.
Tuesday's Korean-language newspapers carried an advertisement in which a candidate for mayor of Incheon, Park Sang-eun, harshly criticized his opponent's past. That advertisement made us pause and think. It said that the opposing candidate, Ahn Sang-soo, dodged the draft, ran a hostess bar and invested in a gambling parlor. Whether or not the accusations are true is not the point. We wonder if such an advertisement can be justified at this early stage of the campaign. Negative campaigning can be a legitimate tactic, but it is certainly not desirable. The election campaign in Incheon is already going off the rails. The opponent's camp said it would sue the advertiser for making groundless accusations. How will voters look at a candidate who starts spitting out abuse as soon as his campaign officially starts? Why didn't he advertise his plans to serve citizens better with his own set of policies?
The National Election Commission approves any campaign advertisement, regardless of its content, as long as it is the proper size under the regulations. The ad in question suggested that its contents were approved by the commission ?that is a cheap trick.
The ad committed a careless mistake of insulting a profession. If the accusation is not for illegal acts such as tax evasion, attacking a candidate for his past profession is not right.
Campaigns are short, and it is difficult to recover once attacked with groundless accusation. The attacker also runs the risk of having his election annulled if the tactics are found to be illegal. Koreans are mature enough to judge a candidate who relies on slander.