Stop the thieves

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Stop the thieves

The ruling Grand National Party yesterday decided to deprive former Samsung executive Hyun Myung-kwan of his candidacy for governor of Jeju Island. The incident is proof of the severity of our immature election culture, which is tainted with illegal money.

Hyun’s sister was arrested at a hotel coffee shop in Seogwipo, Jeju, while allegedly trying to hand out checks worth 25 million won ($21,900), and a list of potential recipients, to people working on her brother’s campaign. But no matter what Hyun says, it’s hard to see the incident as irrelevant to the upcoming local elections on June 2.

First of all, we welcome the GNP’s decision to deprive of his nomination a candidate who was under suspicion of bribing voters. But it would have been better if the ruling party had fully vetted him before granting him the nomination, and checked up on him afterward.

It is regrettable that the GNP has made us doubt the veracity of its earlier commitment not to grant a nomination to any candidates again since its choice for governor of Dangjin County, South Chungcheong, went awry last month.

In this country, it is rare for candidates in larger municipalities, like Jeju, to be under suspicion for bribery. Although our democracy has seen a considerable amount of improvement, perhaps we are seeing more candidates who rely on fraudulent campaign methods than before.

Our bigger worry is about the possibility that such practices are not limited to Jeju or the GNP because the number of people accused of violating the election law has been rising steadily in all nationwide elections since the 17th general election in May 2008. Among them, those accused of handing out money were the biggest contingent this time, taking up more than 50 percent of all the suspects.

This year alone, innumerable campaign workers were fined while providing “favors” to voters, and had to pay fines that were 50 times the original amount given. Some were even indicted for giving and receiving tens of millions of won, doling out hundreds of boxes full of presents, or depositing hundreds of millions of won to midlevel campaign workers.

If candidates are elected by the power of money, they will try to get the money back after the election. The evidence of that lies in the sad reality that 110 out of 230 winners of the elections for small municipalities four years ago were later indicted on charges of fraud and corruption. Any candidates seeking votes through money should be reported immediately and stigmatized forever by the voters themselves. The foolish practice of choosing a thief who will eventually steal voters’ tax money should not be repeated.
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