[EDITORIALS]Election corruption beginsAs the calendar winds down to 80 days before local elections, there are signs of murky political dealings. In order to get party nominations, donations are being given to lawmakers, while cases have been discovered in which party officials employed middleman in order to recruit party members so that they could get an edge in party primary elections. On top of all that, there are also incidents in which public servants in the provinces are trying to play a role in the elections. There are also numerous cases in which heads of local governments are making decisions that are more aimed at currying favor with the voters than in line with sound policy purposes. Cases where money has been handed out are also being discovered. According to the prosecution, the number of people involved in election irregularities to date is twice the number of the 2002 elections.
The initial responsibility for making local electons over-heated and murky lies with national politicians. The elections have become proxy wars for the presidential race, as political heavyweights who want their party’s presidencial election nomination make their presence felt in local races.
Part of the reason for overheated competition is that provincial and city legislators elected in May will receive salaries of 40 million ($41,000) to 80 million won, an amount that puts them in the top 10-percent bracket of Korean wage earners.
When grass-roots democracy becomes polluted, the fundamentals of a country are shaken. The National Election Commission and the prosecution have to act. Illegal intervention by central parties and tainted nomination processes must be punished, and whistleblowers should be protected.