Honor neutralityCriticism is mounting on President Lee Myung-bak’s visit on Saturday to the New Town construction site in Eunpyeong District, Seoul.
His closest ally, legislator Lee Jae-oh, is running for a National Assembly seat there. According to opinion polls, his rival Moon Kook-hyun of the Renewal of Korea Party is ahead.
The opposition leadership has asked the National Election Commission for an investigation into the matter, claiming the president tried to help the legislator and thus violated the election law that requires the neutrality of the president.
The commission doesn’t consider that the president’s action violated the law, because he did not speak about the legislative election and only met with workers on site.
The commission’s interpretation should be respected. But with only a few days left before the legislative elections, it is easy to misjudge the president’s action.
The Blue House says that the president was merely checking one of his projects that he had pursued as the former Seoul City mayor. If so, he could have waited until after the elections.
Why visit beforehand and risk being suspected and criticized by the opposition? Furthermore, a day before the president’s visit, the commission asked civil servants to comply with the rule of neutrality.
The commission referred to the recent visit by the minister and vice-minister of the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs to the Korea Maritime and Port Administration in Incheon, where they promised the construction of a new port in Incheon.
We ask that until election day, civil servants restrain from visiting districts or making any statements on developments in districts unless absolutely necessary, so that disputes over election law violations can be minimized.
On the same day that the president visited the construction site, a mid-level official at the Blue House tried to help Lee Jong-koo, GNP candidate for Gangnam-A district, Seoul, whom he used to work for as chief assistant, by writing his thoughts on the opponent’s homepage.
The Blue House fired him.
Former President Roh Moo-hyun was repeatedly warned by the National Election Commission for violating the rule of neutrality. President Lee and civil servants should also refrain from violating the rule of neutrality.