[EDITORIALS]Whining legislatorsThe law penalizing false allegations about opposing candidates during election campaigns may be abolished soon. An Assembly subcommittee dealing with political reform is about to make such a decision and should be criticized for it.
The ruling party and the opposition are in accord for once concerning the revision of provisions of the law concerning election practices; it is too bad that their agreement is on a change to make those practices worse. The law in question was passed in 1994 when the entire act regulating elections was revised. The impetus for the defamation provisions was that regionalism and malicious or false propaganda were a major part of election malpractices. The article in question provides for a maximum sentence of seven years or a fine of 5 million won ($3,800) to 30 million won for persons who slander opposing candidates for office. The law was the terror of all parties, because it was enforced strictly and resulted in the disqualification of some winning candidates for even small violations.
A companion article that prohibits false favorable statements about oneself formerly carried a minimum fine of 2 million won, but that minimum penalty was later abolished. The subcommittee said the minimum penalty for slandering one's opponent should also be removed, on the grounds that it interferes with judicial discretion to levy punishments. But that minimum fine was not touched earlier because of strong public support.
Now politicians say it should go, in the name of reform. There have been plenty of other arrogant acts by National Assembly members, such as raising their own allowances and increasing their staff numbers, but this is too much. The subcommittee claims the revisions will not apply retroactively to the 2000 elections, but with three Assembly members now appealing their convictions for fraudulent declarations about other candidates, one never knows what the Assemblymen will be plotting next.
National Assembly members should learn to abide by the law before complaining about how strict it is.