Debating promisesGrand National Party candidates vying for the presidential primary are to hold their first official debate on Tuesday. As will all presidential candidates, the five participating members of the country’s biggest opposition party must prove their worth in terms of character and campaign pledges. The character of each candidate has already come under close scrutiny by the party, and its evaluation committee will soon begin to probe the issue in earnest. As for campaign pledges, all there have been so far are vague promises and one-sided contentions. Since this debate is to be aired live, it should provide a good opportunity for the voters to see what the candidates have to offer.
Campaign pledges often play a big role in campaigns, even if they are not honored later. In 1992, Hyundai founder Chung Ju-young promised to supply low-income households with “half-price apartments.” Had Mr. Chung been elected his promise could have had a drastic effect on the construction industry and economy. In the 1997 presidential race, Kim Dae-jung joined forces with long-time political rival Kim Jong-pil and pledged to establish a parliamentary system. Kim Dae-jung won the presidential election but did not fulfill his pledge. In 2002, President Roh’s pledge to transfer the capital to South Chungcheong was ruled unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court after he took office. Would history have been different if the promise was ruled unconstitutional before the election?
This year’s election has its share of grand promises. One of the GNP’s front-runners, Lee Myung-bak, proposes to build a giant canal across the country. His counterpart Park Geun-hye opposes the idea, and claims that a train-ferry between Korea and China would be a better idea. Both candidates have also promised 7 percent annual growth if they are elected. Legislator Hong Joon-pyo, who officially announced on Sunday that he will run in the primary, has returned to Chung Ju-young’s 1992 promise to supply “half-price apartments.” He also proposes to introduce a French-style presidential government to replace the current American-style system. All these campaign pledges are bound to have a tremendous impact on the country’s economy and the lives of the people if they are implemented.
The primary debate on Tuesday should be an important test for the candidates as they must each try to prove they are right. The voters will judge, evaluating each candidate based on their logic and reason. The debate will be a valuable chance to decide which candidates are telling the truth, which ones are exaggerating and which ones haven’t done their homework.