[EDITORIALS]Hope for ending regionalism

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[EDITORIALS]Hope for ending regionalism

The decision by Chairman Chough Soon-hyung of the Millennium Democratic Party to run for an assembly seat in Daegu is meaningful. It can create a critical juncture for Korean politicians who stick to vested interests, and the culture of fanning regionalism.
Taking advantage of their regional power bases, political parties and candidates had long tapped into constitutents’ regional sentiments to win seats in those areas. This divided voters by region, channeling their sentiments against opposing regions, to the point of paralyzing the nation. Lawmakers relished the easily won powers and privileges provided by regionalism, and enjoyed various vested interests such as illegal political funds.
The biggest problem with this division by region was that voters did not give first priority to what a candidate stood for. In some regions, a candidate merely had to fly the party flag to win. As a result, legislative work was put on the back burner, and legislators lined up behind powerful politicians. Small wonder that there is a saying among politicians that “If you don’t have a [regional] base, you could not win even if you fielded Admiral Lee Sun-shin.”
Mr. Chough is well aware of this ― yet he has decided to run in Daegu, where the Millennium Democrats have no chance. We are sure he has thought about this deeply, because his political life hinges on it. He could have listed himself as the number-one candidate for the proportional seats allotted to the party. Surely nobody would have objected.
Against that reality, Mr. Chough’s decision stands out all the more. It shows that political reform cannot happen without politicians willing to put their careers on the line. Regionalism, though currently overshadowed by the illegal political funds scandal, is a detrimental element in our politics. For a while, it looked like we would never be rid of it, but Mr. Chough’s decision has provided hope.
The long-held formula by which certain parties won in certain regions should no longer hold true in this country. That is the only way new blood can drive out corrupt old blood in the National Assembly. We hope Chairman Chough’s decision will be an incentive for other party leaders, and for political freshmen, to move toward the new future in politics.
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