Keep elections cleanTwo days ago, with only a day left for candidates to register for the general elections, a shocking story involving campaign money broke. A Grand National Party candidate nominated to run for the Taebaek, Yeongwol, Pyeongchang and Jeongseon districts handed out about 40 million won ($39,840) to an election campaign organizer.
The National Election Commission believes the bundles of cash in different amounts were prepared to be distributed to election campaign organizers. It seems the candidate prepared the cash as soon as he was nominated. This region is renowned for its high mountains, clean water and green paddy fields. It is chilling to think that black money was about to sully the region.
Thanks to many reform efforts, chronic money campaigns have mostly disappeared. It was especially so during the last presidential campaign.
Five years ago, there was an appalling massive illegal election fund-raising, but no scandals have surfaced yet relating to the recent election. This is due to improvements in legal systems, monitoring by the National Election Commission and enlightenment among political leadership and their voters. Repulsive money campaigns, however, have not disappeared for good and its ghosts still hover around elections. It was only a few months ago that a candidate running again for a magistrate position distributed money to 5,700 people in Cheongdo, North Gyeongsang, a region famous for bullfights. When an investigation was launched, two of the campaign officers committed suicide and 40 people were arrested. Ghosts haunt the villages.
The candidate who gave rise to the criticism is someone who was once legally convicted for cash lobbying at the National Assembly. Once a GNP member, he had shifted to the Uri Party. He was therefore the epitome of a “migratory bird.” The public is not pleased with his nomination again, nor the meaningless reform claims made by GNP leaders and its nomination committee. In the April 9 general elections, many people will run from various parties. It is not only money campaign ghosts that threaten the election. Equally dangerous are covert propaganda, election violence and the involvement of civil servants in the election. President Lee Myung-bak has asked for neutrality of civil servants and strict monitoring. The court has also decided to hasten the trial of candidates who violate election laws. In dealing with an elephant of an election, we need to build strong fences.