[EDITORIALS]Stop illegal campaigning

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[EDITORIALS]Stop illegal campaigning

The National Election Commission did the right thing to close down 10 supporters' groups and the Web sites of presidential candidates. It will seek prosecution of five persons accused of violating the election law. The groups have been charged with pursuing unsavory campaign tactics such as vote buying. It would have been better if the commission's decision had come earlier, as the groups for some time have been waging dirty campaigns and launching verbal attacks against press criticism of one-sided and demagogic propaganda.

Concerns that illegitimate campaigning would escape control must have prompted the election commission to take determined action. It has been alleged that hiking clubs supporting the three main candidates, Lee Hoi-chang of the Grand National Party, Chung Mong-joon of National Alliance 21 and Roh Moo-hyun of the Millennium Democratic Party, were illegally campaigning before the official campaign opens Wednesday. The parties receive 26.7 billion won ($22 million) of government subsidy, which does not include assistance for advertising. Government assistance is handed out to establish clean elections. Unfair campaigning is a treachery against the people. It was a matter of course for the election commission to close the supporter groups by force and block further activities.

Criticism of this decision as stifling political expression disparages state authority and the people. We advise the political parties to respect the commission decision. We urge Mr. Lee, Mr. Roh and Mr. Chung to do some serious soul searching. All three have advocated political reforms that include election campaigns. Mr. Lee and Mr. Roh served in the legal profession and Mr. Chung rose to popularity with the backing of voters who loathed and mistrusted the current crop of politicians. Nothing can excuse the candidates flirting with election law violations.

The people must keep an eye on candidates who would do anything to win an election. Dirty campaign tricks such as trying to influence opinion polls, mudslinging and covert propaganda must be eliminated. We hope the election commission's strict measures will provide such an opportunity.
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