A critical lack of visionRunning for president four years ago, Barack Obama mesmerized U.S. voters with his positive and bold message that government had helped move America in the right direction and at times brought it roaring back from economic collapse, world wars and social unrest. “Repairing the political process that is broken” and “fixing Washington” were key to restoring the nation, he argued. His fearlessness, values and beliefs were refreshing at home and abroad.
We are missing hope and vision in this year’s Korean presidential campaigns. There is an abundance of sweet talk to woo voters, but a state evolves with connection and interaction. Over the past 64 years, Korea has evolved to reach specific national goals - the establishment of the Constitution, industrialization and democratization, defense of the democratic system, diplomacy, and inter-Korean reconciliation - under the strong guidance and leadership of our presidents.
The three leading candidates - Park Geun-hye of the ruling Saenuri Party, Moon Jae-in of the main opposition Democratic United Party and independent Ahn Cheol-soo - repeat the monotonous chorus of economic democratization, job creation and welfare increases that fall short of moving the hearts of voters with a vision of national strategy. The repeatedly revisited themes are the means to solving today’s deprivations. It is understandable that candidates are engrossed in the topics to win votes. But it is a pity that none of them has presented a bigger picture of this nation’s future.
The three are more or less identical in their platforms - all showing a lack of imagination, creativity and identity. They instead are fighting like children over details such as the timetable for imposing caps on cross-shareholding to revamp the chaebol groups and word games on who is more realistic and reform minded.
As their campaigns run on the same strategy, the contestants primarily resort to mudslinging to entertain their weary supporters rather than inspiring a broader audience. But even loyal fans are losing patience with their flat preoccupation with past issues.
The campaign trail is a preview of what kind of leadership and governance the candidate and the governing party will demonstrate over the next five years. New leaders will be positioned in the U.S., China, Japan and North Korea next year, and we must brace for sweeping changes in the regional and global order. The country also faces unprecedented economic challenges of prolonged slow growth and structural problems. Instead of wrangling over identical topics, candidates should focus on presenting what kind of nation and government they plan to build. They must present viable outlines by setting clear national goals.