[EDITORIALS]Corporate cash and politics

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[EDITORIALS]Corporate cash and politics

As the two election campaign seasons draw closer, the business community is turning up the volume on the sensitive issues of campaign donations and the direction of business policies. Business has called for the government to refrain from populist policies as bait for votes, and it has enunciated a position that business campaign donations will be made in strict compliance with the law. The Federation of Korean Industries will make these positions official as part of a platform it will adopt at a general meeting on Feb. 22.

The business community's move appears to stem from concern that the local and presidential elections may harm the economy as it wades through a transitional period between recession and recovery. Business has been sending its message through several channels, including a highly visible statement by the chairman of the SK Group, Son Kil-seung, and at behind-the-scenes discussions with the ruling Millennium Democratic Party.

The business concerns are legitimate. Populist campaign promises can end up harming our society, and the government itself should have taken the initiative to speak out against them before the business community had to raise the issue. The same can be said about campaign financing. There is something very unnerving going on if the business community believed it had to publicly announce that it would make only legal campaign donations.

Very few would deny that politicians of all parties and businessmen have been in bed together whispering about swapping policies for money. The Political Funds Act that limits contributions by businesses to 200 million won ($150,000) each to central party committees and local party branches is a joke. The business pledge to stick to the law will be hard to keep unless politicians also decide to honor the law.

The business community has also said that dramatically improved management transparency makes it nearly impossible to raise illegal funds and make illegal political contributions. Politicians must now match that transparency by reforming the way they operate and severing improper ties with the business community.

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