Dig deeper on candidatesThe Grand National Party held a debate for the presidential hopefuls yesterday.
The debate was fruitful in a sense because it brought forth the main pledges of the five hopefuls and revealed the strong and weak spots of their campaign promises.
The overall atmosphere was calm and serious. But the debate had limitations. They did not probe important issues that will have a direct influence on the voters’ lives. Each presidential aspirant wrapped their pledges with rosy words, but rivals failed to rip off the cover to reveal the content.
As to Lee Myung-bak’s plan to build a grand canal across the peninsula, what is most worrisome is a possible surge in real estate prices across the country, along with its feasibility and impact on the environment. There is a possibility that land prices will surge along the waterway, just like housing prices skyrocketed under Roh Moo-hyun’s rule. But other candidates hardly confronted Lee on this problem.
Park Geun-hye’s plan for tax cuts was not examined thoroughly. She plans to cut taxes and reduce the size of government. Other candidates should have asked which government bodies and functions would be abolished and which taxes would be decreased.
Hong Joon-pyo plans to make the Gyeongbu Expressway that links Seoul and Busan a two-tier expressway. A two-tier highway, however, sounds even more unrealistic than the grand waterway in some respects.
Won Hee-ryong pledged to abolish the income tax, to make most Koreans middle class. These pledges should have been probed in depth, but the hopefuls were soft on each another.
Pledges for the presidency must be examined for their feasibility, effects and long-term impact. In the United States, presidential candidates don’t all make empty slogans, such as a growth rate of a certain percent, a target income per capita or a promise of hundreds of jobs. Instead, they present concrete plans that are directly related to people’s lives, such as specific ways to reduce taxes, why they are pro-life or pro-choice, or what their stance is on gun control.
Yesterday’s debate was a small beginning. After presidential candidates are registered, neutral organizations that do not belong to any political party can focus on their major pledges and examine them thoroughly. Illegal pledges must not fool voters again, like the pledge to transfer the capital from Seoul did.