[EDITORIALS]Elections Were a Wake-Up Call

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[EDITORIALS]Elections Were a Wake-Up Call

The ruling Millennium Democratic Party suffered a crushing defeat in the local by-elections in seven districts Thursday. In addition to its dismal failure in Seoul, we can easily predict the level of shock in the ruling party after losing two electoral districts in Cholla province, its political stronghold, to independent candidates. What caused such a defeat? The answer is simple: The government is estranged from the people.

Failure to select good candidates, a malicious propaganda war, North Cholla voter anger about the government's ambiguous attitude on the Saemangeum reclamation project and anger at police violence against Daewoo Motor protesters all contributed to the ruling party's defeat. Yet, if the MDP stops its failure analysis at that level, they are being too simplistic. The election results reflect public distrust of reform policies, including medical and education reforms, rage against the ruling coalition for betraying the people's will expressed in the last general election, and economic uneasiness in households. It is, at least, fortunate that Kim Joong-kwon, the chairman of the ruling MDP, said the party will "read the will of the people humbly," even if most people don't believe him. The president firmly resolved to regain public confidence this year, emphasizing a "strong government, strong ruling party" policy. The follow-up was a media tax probe and reimposed newspaper regulations. The police violence at Daewoo Motor backed up that government policy. Obstinate politics, ignoring public opinion, continues, and calls for the head of the national police should step down are ignored.

The government must put forth solutions to the problems of the Saemangeum reclamation project and the exhausted financial reserves of the health insurance corporation, even though there will be heated debates about any solution offered. There are also other controversial issues like union unrest and rising unemployment. So in order to rally the people behind it, the government must learn to read the popular mood accurately and react to it. If the government only listens to favorable public opinion and ignores criticism by blaming it on a public relations failure, the government and the ruling party will lose their last chance to turn things around.
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