The opportunity ahead

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The opportunity ahead

Korea holds both legislative and presidential elections this year - in April and December, respectively - for the first time since 1992, when the opposition leader Kim Young-sam became president. The nation should take this election year as an opportunity to make another step toward addressing a mountain of tasks and re-energize the political engine for further reforms. Though elections are called the “flower of democracy,” they are also fierce battlegrounds to grab power which inevitably entail a spate of conflicts, divisions and confrontations.

Yet elections provide voters with a precious chance to exercise their innate rights, which are reflected in election results and embodied by their choice of winners. To put it simply, elections are a mechanism to funnel voters’ rage, systematize it and eventually recover social order and stability.

This year’s elections will most likely be ferocious. As voters’ demands for restructuring the establishment pour forth, particularly through social networking platforms like Twitter, the repercussions will be much deeper, wider and stronger. The Constitutional Court’s latest ruling in favor of the use of social networking services for campaigns will give voters unfettered access to a full-fledged participation in the democratic process.

There is no need to worry about the demerits of new media tools in elections because the more diverse the voters’ political expressions become, the better for everyone, as long as participants play by the rules. But election authorities should keep a close watch on illegal activities and the propagation of ungrounded rumors across cyberspace. Voters must also be ready to make strict judgments on any rule-violating candidates.

More importantly, the winners of the elections must be ready to take voters’ calls for changes and reform and do something about them. Unless they address the causes of our public’s angst and fury, social instability will worsen.

The challenges we face cannot be addressed without building a national consensus, and voters must take part by closely examining all reform agendas proposed by candidates. Winners, too, must take into account the public sentiments that surfaced in the process.

Even though our internal and external environments look tough, it could still be an opportunity to improve our country, as long as we select the right candidates. In the Year of Dragon, we can ascend to the sky - if we make the right choices.

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