[EDITORIALS]Bribery back in seasonThe primary season is upon as, and so, it appears, is bribery. On Thursday, the Grand National Party reported two of its leading members to prosecutors. The two allegedly accepted several thousand million won (several hundred thousand U.S. dollars) from persons seeking the party’s nomination for district heads. It was not so long ago that the party was proclaiming that it would do its best to change its image as a bunch of guys taking bribes by the car-full. Politicians said they would get rid of corruption, but here we have two more bribe-takers on the dock.
If candidates use this huge amount of money for bribery, they’ll probably spend money illegally during the campaign, too. When elected, they’ll try to make their investment back 10-fold. When they appoint people, they’ll choose whoever offers the biggest bribe. They won’t be fair issuing construction permits or overseeing government development projects. As a result, they’ll steal tax money and run districts into the ground.
Other districts or areas won’t be much different. The Grand National Party has reported 200 or so incidents of corruption related to its nominations. Of course, some cases must have been falsely reported by those who failed to get nominated. But a candidate was arrested for trying to bribe a lawmaker, and another assemblyman is under investigation for accepting “outings” such as rounds of golf. Nobody knows how many more incidents will be revealed.
Two incidents in Seoul are in the spotlight because 23 out of 25 district heads in Seoul are from the Grand National Party. Getting nominated by the party essentially assures one’s election to office. It’s even more so in South and North Gyeongsang provinces, where it is almost meaningless to compete against candidates from other parties. In this region, getting appointed by this party is getting elected. There are complaints that mayors are appointed by the party rather than the citizens. If this keeps up, local elections will be meaningless. It is notable that the Grand National Party reported its own members, but it doesn’t free it of culpability. The central party handed the nomination rights to its city and provincial parties, but still, it needs to carry out its role as a watchdog. Rumors of bribery for party primaries had swirled for a long time, but the central party did nothing. If prosecutors investigate these cases first, the Grand National Party will be seen as an old-fashioned oldboys club. Yet the root cause is citizens who cast their votes based only on a narrow sense of partisanship.