[FOUNTAIN]Honeymoon elections

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[FOUNTAIN]Honeymoon elections

When a newlywed couple entered the bedroom, they ate together. Traditional nuptial ceremonies of the Joseon era observed this ritual, which energized the newlywed couple exhausted from the marriage ceremony; it demonstrated a desire of the couple to be fruitful. In ancient Babylonia, the father-in-law gave his new son-in-law wine made of honey for a month -- it served as a kind of invigorating tonic. The word “honeymoon” originated from this custom.
The recent events of a newly married star couple’s divorce recalls the original meaning of the word honeymoon. Nearly half of the calls to the Legal Aid Center for Family Relation are from newly-married people. According to statistics from the Court of Family Affairs in Seoul, couples filing for divorce who have been married less than a year only make up 4.1 percent of the total because it excluded couples living together -- like the star couple -- who failed to register their marriage.
Honeymoons do not exist only for newly married couples. A newly elected president enjoys a honeymoon atmosphere for the first several months in office. The opposition party and the press avoid criticizing the president, allowing him or her time to settle in. Elections held a year after the presidential election are called “honeymoon elections,” favoring the ruling party because voters pin their hope on the new president. In contrast, a “counter-honeymoon election” refers to elections held a year before the term ends, creating the lame duck phenomenon. Mid-term elections held between the first and last year serve as mere middle tests.
President Roh Moo-hyun’s proposal for a constitutional amendment is a push to hold honeymoon elections. He contends that a president can work effectively when a unified government is in place -- the political party backing the president maintains a majority in the National Assembly. President Roh has grumbled on numerous occasions, pointing the finger for his administration’s failure at a divided government with an opposition-dominated parliament. It is very difficult to accept the logic that the political party supporting the president must control the National Assembly.
The ruling party does not always benefit from honeymoon elections. President Roh’s political party suffered a crushing defeat in the April 2003 by-elections two months after he was elected president. Despite this fact, he enforced the appointment of Ko Young-koo as director of the National Intelligence Service, although the ruling and opposition parties both opposed him. For healthy couples, it matters to whom one is married, not when one is married.

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

by Kim Jin-kook
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