[EDITORIALS]Election dirt on the rise

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[EDITORIALS]Election dirt on the rise

Korea is being swept with illegal election campaigns, just as we worried might happen. We have been blinded by the presidential election and the World Cup. Meanwhile, illegal election campaigns concerning local elections on June 13 have become more than serious.

One month before the elections more than 4,500 cases of illegal campaigns have been discovered. That figure is more than 10 times the number in the last election. A chief of a police station was beaten by a candidate to head a county office because the officer went to a gathering held by the Millennium Democratic Party. A former head of the Jongno district got violent with officials of the National Election Commission when they investigated him for treating district officials with meals. A candidate for the head of a county office gave 300 million won ($230,000) to a lawmaker in the area. These incidents explain what is going on in the local election campaigns. Furthermore, we will have elections nationwide for members of the educational commitees in late July. More than 10 by-elections for the National Assembly will be held Aug. 10.

The ruling and opposition parties consider the local elections and others as preliminary battles for the presidential election. That is why the parties are doing whatever it takes to win the local elections. Because the remaining days of the government are numbered, legal authorities do not seem to be effective at reining in illegal campaigns. A public watch is also focused on the presidential election. We have nothing in place to keep illegal campaigns at bay.

What darkens the future of grassroots democarcy more is public indifference to the local elections. As the public looks away, candidates and their supporters are engaged in mudslinging. If the elections are held under the public indifference, it would be clear that local governments would be run only by crooks. The other day the National Election Commission assigned 10,217 people to its 243 branch offices nationwide to watch illegal campaigns. We expect them to be very busy.
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