[EDITORIALS]No ‘conversations’?The bottom line of fair election campaigns is not to use money but to use debates. Opportunities for constituents to evaluate candidates should be increased. Only when an event is likely to become partial to a certain candidate should that event be regulated. In this respect, the National Election Commission’s attempt to ban the media from running interviews with the presidential candidates is inappropriate.
The National Election Commission cited Article 82 of the election law as the reason. The article states that conversations with candidates or debates involving them can be held and broadcast beginning 120 days before the election until the day before the election period starts. The commission interprets that rule as saying the media should not have conversations with candidates when there are more than 120 days left before the election day. If the commission sticks to its line literally, it will lead to the absurd conclusion that a person who talked with the media or had debates with more than 120 days to come before the election day would not be allowed to run for the presidency. The commission also said it was proper to have interviews but it was not legal to have conversations. What’s the difference between conversations and interviews? What’s the reason to differentiate them in the first place, to regulate one while allowing the other?
In 1997, the Seoul District Court ruled that the media can have conversations with and hold debates among candidates, despite Article 82 of the election law. The court said the freedom of media outlets to report and analyze news about elections is to be protected. It is hard to understand why the election commission is making an unprecedented attempt to regulate that kind of event. Some opposition parties suspect it is because the political situation is unfavorable for the governing party’s candidates.
The United States has managed national policies in a stable way thanks to sufficient debates among candidates. As presidential hopefuls engage in animated debates during campaigns, it is said that differences among different candidates’ policies tend to narrow.
Korean presidential candidates also should be evaluated by the people over a long period of time through debates on policies. Candidates should not try to win popularity merely by staging events during the campaign. Thus, conversations or interviews with politicians should be encouraged instead of being regulated. If interpretations of the current law vary, it is the law that should be fixed.