[OUTLOOK]Differentiate mayoral candidates

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[OUTLOOK]Differentiate mayoral candidates

With the May 31 local elections drawing near, the election for the Seoul mayor is attracting the greatest attention. Kang Kum-sill, a former justice minister, and Oh Se-hoon, a former Grand National Party lawmaker, are under the spotlight, although they haven't gone through candidacy selections inside their parties yet. They probably attract people's interest because they both have the images of politicians with heart. Ms. Kang has chosen purple as her symbolic color, appearing at official events in a purple suit, scarf, shoes and earrings. Even her home page is mainly purple. Some people have already expressed their worries about so-called “sensational politics” and election campaigns that are focused on image. The real problem, however, is a lack of content, not sensation or image in themselves. Throughout history, it has been nearly impossible to rule out sensation and a focus on image in politics and elections.
In the 1979 British general election, Margaret Thatcher always wore royal blue, the symbolic color of her Conservative Party. In Britain, blue represents the Conservative Party and pink stands for the Labor Party. Ms. Thatcher played by that rule but didn't depend solely on the color image. She portrayed the essence of her campaign with grocery bags, which symbolized the everyday economy.
One day, Ms. Thatcher stood in front of a grocery shop holding a grocery bag in each hand; one blue, representing the Conservative Party, and one pink, for the Labor Party. In the blue bag, she put the groceries one could buy for one pound when the Conservative Party was the ruling party, and in the red one she put the food one could get for the same price when the Labor Party was the leading party. While the blue bag was full, the pink bag was barely half-full. Ms. Thatcher then determinedly asked the voters, "What if the Labor Party wins again? Then we won't even need this grocery bag. A small paper bag will be enough." Ms. Thatcher won the election and became Britain's first female prime minister. Not only did she wear the color of her party, she also used the grocery bags as a way to give citizens a reference they could use in their judgment. This is a good example of sensational politics combined with contents.
Ms. Kang and Mr. Oh should have contents in their campaigns. The former justice minister told the press conference Sunday that she would set up a Seoul Citizens Committee in order to make the city “a corporation” and citizens the owners and stockholders of it. Instead, she should have showed a more concrete agenda. She used phrases such as “breaking boundaries,” “a city of circulation,” and “reconstruction of the living space.” However, when asked about specific ways to carry out those plans, she just said “to be continued,” or “in a theater near you.” This can cause a huge problem. Should she continue this way, it is only a matter of time until her purple turns gray.
Meanwhile, Mr. Oh told the press that for more than two years since he left his parliamentary seat, his biggest concern has been to enhance this nation's competitiveness, which was also the subject of his book “Seeing Hope in a Failure.” He said he was prepared when it came to policies. However, when one of the co-authors of the book, Kim Ho-ki, a professor at Yonsei University, is now helping Ms. Kang as a head member of her task force, we can't help but become suspicious that Mr. Oh's plans and vision are not much different from Ms. Kang's.
Today Koreans want a leader who has vision with an agenda and sensitivity with essence, a leader with heart and willpower whom we can trust. Therefore, Ms. Kang and Mr. Oh should start to equip themselves with tangible policies from which we can appreciate their differences.

* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Chung Jin-hong
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