[EDITORIALS]False election allegations

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[EDITORIALS]False election allegations

The suspicion that the son of then-Grand National Party presidential candidate Lee Hoi-chang dodged military service was one major factor that could have decisively influenced the election.
The issue, which had been raised during the 1997 presidential election, suddenly resurfaced right before the 2002 presidential race because of Kim Dae-eop. He claimed that Mr. Lee’s associates had collaborated to conceal draft dodging by holding secret meetings.
Recently, the Supreme Court ordered Mr. Kim and media outlets that reported his claims to pay 160 million won ($160,000) in damages.
The Grand National Party is now demanding that special prosecutors investigate three politically motivated allegations from the campaign, including the draft-dodging charges and rumors that Mr. Lee’s aide accepted $200,000 in bribes and also received secret political funds from a construction company, Giyang. The party said such incidents wouldn’t repeat themselves if the truth clarifies the background.
The party’s demand is understandable. Although it can’t be verified whether the allegations contributed to the election defeat, it is clear that they caused damage. It may be natural to think the damage can’t be compensated by only 160 million won.
The defeat is not reversible even if Mr. Kim served his prison term and the media outlets were ordered to pay indemnity. In the backdrop of such falsehoods, there must have been people who directed the scheme from behind. Common sense would dictate it was the rival forces of the Grand National Party.
However, it’s not realistic to demand that the National Assembly investigate the government on this issue, or to include it in the investigation of the past wrongdoings.
The Assembly investigation has its limits: It cannot but end up a political battle between parties. Then, the politicians must focus on supplementing the system to prevent a repeat. We must stop those who spread false rumors. If irresponsible exposures distort people’s political chances, it is unfortunate for the people. The groundwork for money-free elections is more or less established. It is time to punish false allegations as strictly as vote buying. And media outlets must work to create responsible reports without damaging the freedom of the press.

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