[Campus commentary]Disappointing politics

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[Campus commentary]Disappointing politics

Korea just went through a
chaotic presidential election
that, like any other election,
could change Korea’s future.
But it definitely left some issues
to think about. A campaign for a
presidential election should be
focused on how well the candidates
will manage society.
In Korea, hot issues —
unemployment, reunification,
education, housing costs, welfare,
the economy, social stratification,
medical services, gender
equality and the environment
— should have been discussed.
That was not what voters
saw during this year’s campaign.
Instead, candidates and
their supporters were busy
denouncing each other. They
actually broke into a physical
fight, with lawmakers from the
United New Democratic Party
and the Grand National Party
clashing four days before the
election at the National
Assembly. As a result, they got
more attention in the news over
other issues.
Candidate Kwon Youngghil
criticized Lee Myung-bak
for ignoring the issue of 15
Hankook Tire laborers’ deaths
that are suspected to have been
caused by toxic organic solvents
used in tire manufacturing.
President Roh Moo-hyun
criticized Lee about his economic
policies at an informal gathering.
Even in their TV debates,
supervised by the National
Election Commission, most candidates
spent their time disparaging
each other instead of
discussing their policy plans
and visions.
The criticism was especially
concentrated on Lee Myungbak.
Lee Hoi-chang made cynical
remarks about Lee. Moon
Kook-hyun sarcastically pointed
out that Lee’s public education
policy was hypocritical
because he sent his children to
special private schools.
The political debate has lost
its meaning.
What was important was not
who was right or wrong, but
verifying their political views
and plans. In this year’s presidential
election, where the
number of candidates was the
highest in Korean history, listening
to them sniping at each
other only made the public lose
interest in the election.
In 2002, the Korea-Japan
World Cup became a great success
by showing our high level
of citizenship. But we could not
find high citizen awareness in
the presidential election that
year. The situation has not
changed much this year.
According to Report World,
a Web site for college students
to share term paper ideas, 71
percent of 208 respondents surveyed
said that they didn’t
know the exact date of the election.
When asked whether they
will vote, only 47 percent said
yes. Over a third, 36 percent,
said they wouldn’t participate,
and another 17 percent were not
sure. Young people’s interest in
politics is decreasing day by
day. If this continues, political
apathy will obviously become a
barrier to the development of
our country. Koreans have
proved the potential of citizen
awareness. We cheered our
national football players passionately
because we trusted
them. If the political parties and
candidates fight fairly, govern
with transparency and show
maturity, trust in each other will
increase the participation rate
and chances for a better Korea.
I hope the next president
and other politicians will think
about these things and act with
more thought to work for the
benefit of all Koreans.

*The writer is a reporter for the Sejong Times newspaper of Sejong University.

by Hong Jung-woo
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