[EDITORIALS]Regional Biases Tough to Root Out

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[EDITORIALS]Regional Biases Tough to Root Out

The National Election Commission deserves the criticism that its revision plans for election and political fund laws presented to the National Assembly Wednesday could cause trouble, since the commission seems to have not planned them carefully. The Election Commission has decided to prohibit the media and institutes from reporting polling results by region, birthplace and family origins starting 180 days before the election in an attempt to prevent regional conflicts during the election. The commission has also agreed that companies paying more than 300 million won ($230,000) annually in corporate taxes must deposit 1 percent of the tax money with it to root out inappropriate relationships between politicians and companies. However, the plans are all very unrealistic.

It is very shortsighted to think that election trends based on regionalism can be fixed by revising an article of the election law. The problems regarding regionalism have been hard to eradicate. Of course we understand why the commission has come up with the plans. It is widely anticipated that the local elections and the presidential election to be held next year will be tainted with regional conflict. The ruling and the opposition parties are already trying to plan electoral tactics based on regionalism, such as Yongnam vs. Non-Yongnam or Honam vs. Non-Honam. Moreover, the three Kims, the major politicians who have solid regional support, are trying various ways to exercise their power in the presidential election, competing fiercely. Does the commission think that it is really possible to prevent voters from exercising regional biases just by prohibiting the announcement of poll results by region!

The commission has also decided that candidates' birthplaces and family origins cannot be inserted in campaign materials. However, this idea is unrealistic as well since the candidates and political parties will definitely try to aggravate regionalism in various methods anyway. And, in fact, there are many ways to evade the laws. This kind of regulation will only encourage manipulation and distortion of public opinion.

Requiring companies to deposit a certain amount of corporate taxes with the election commission could saddle them with extra burdens. The plan was suggested by the opposition party, which insisted that political funds could be delivered more easily in that way. According to the election commission, about 60 billion to 70 billion won will be collected if some 8,000 companies that pay taxes of more than 300 million won a year hand over 1 percent of their tax money as political funds.

The commission says the amount would equal the funds the companies donated to political parties and politicians last year. The commission is arguing that the donations should be replaced with the new scheme. However, no country has such a system, and asking companies to donate political funds, while insisting at the same time that quasi taxes or other payments must be abolished, is ridiculous. Moreover, illegal political donations will not be rooted out by the new system.

The commission has decided to shorten the period for banning the announcement of opinion poll results, giving voters more time to learn about the candidates. Moreover, opening the way for civic groups to lead campaigns to black list candidates in a legal manner and making it easier for new politicians to introduce themselves to the public are noteworthy endeavors.

We hope the revision plans will be refurbished as they go through public hearings before the political reform committee next week.
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