[FOUNTAIN]Korean politics’ Queen VictoriaKorea is not the only country where election campaigns are tainted by illegal funding. At the peak of the Industrial Revolution, Great Britain was an arena of fierce competition among the aristocrats, capitalists and workers to dominate Parliament. Aristocrats wished to keep their vested interests and capitalists-turned-politicians wanted more power based on their financial clout. In 19th-century London, it was not unusual for politicians to buy votes with money. The historical record shows that 850 of 1,000 eligible voters were bribed by candidates in Stamford, England, in 1832.
But England successfully reformed itself with the Chartist Movement, organized by working people. Benjamin Disraeli’s Conservative Party and William Gladstone’s Liberal Party peacefully alternated in governing the country, establishing the tradition of two-party politics. Its overflowing wealth and military strength allowed the country to expand abroad. Advancing to mainland China, acquiring Hong Kong and colonizing India, Britain created an empire upon which the sun never set.
At center stage of England’s glorious golden age stood Queen Victoria, who ruled the empire from 1837 to 1901. She strictly followed the royal philosophy that “the king reigns, but does not govern,” and is remembered as the most beloved ruler of England. By principle, she did not intervene in politics, and the politicians in London both revered and feared the monarch. But Queen Victoria expressed her fury about the dirty dealings in politics at an address to Parliament in 1881. She called the corrupt practices displayed in several electoral districts “lamentable,” and suggested the adoption of a new law to prevent corruption.
Her remarks embarrassed politicians both in the ruling and opposition parties, as well as then Prime Minister Gladstone. The politicians had to come up with reform-oriented legislation that could sever the dark connection between money and votes. The efforts gave birth to the Corrupt and Illegal Practices Prevention Act in 1883, the first legal measure of its kind. The law opened a new world of transparency and accountability to modern British politicians, and became an indispensable part of Victorian prosperity. Let transparent money flow through the veins of politics. We do not have a Queen Victoria figure in Korea; therefore, the citizens should play the role of the queen.
by Chun Young-gi
The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.