No more reckless promises

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No more reckless promises

Reckless and bloated campaign promises are taking a toll on the political, economic and social order before and after presidential elections. Society often pays a heavy price to turn the illusions into reality. Prime examples include the Saemangeum reclamation project, the world’s longest man-made seawall pledged by Roh Tae-woo during the presidential campaign in 1987, and the half-price apartments promised by Chung Ju-yung in 1992. There was also the 1997 constitutional reform vowed by Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-pil to shift to a parliamentary system, the 2002 administrative capital move by Roh Moo-hyun, and the 2007 grand canal construction by Lee Myung-bak.

This election is no exception. Moon Jae-in from the largest opposition Democratic United Party and independent contender Ahn Cheol-soo have promised to scale down nuclear reactors. They won’t renovate the aging plants or construct new ones. Instead, they plan to increase the development of renewable energy, suggesting revisions in overall energy policy. But renewable energy development is costly. It would sharply raise utility fees, sending up consumer prices and dampening corporate competitiveness.

Ahn, a candidate without political experience, said he would consider removing the dams around the four major rivers. The 16 dams are critical for securing a sufficient water reservoir and preventing flooding. Removing these dams would kill the four-river restoration project and bring with it heavy costs. The mayor of Seoul, Park Won-soon, had to retract his proposal to remove the levees along the Han River after the idea sparked heavy criticism during the campaign in October.

Moon caused further controversy in regard to the decision to move the headquarters of the state- funded Land and Housing Corporation to Jinju, South Gyeongsang. Moon sparked regionalism by criticizing the move in the rival candidate site of Jeonju, North Jeolla, while assuring the Jinju residents of the successful completion of the plan.

Saenuri Party legislators based in Busan are pressuring the ruling party candidate, Park Geun-hye, to promise a new airport in the region. Park has already pledged to re-evaluate the construction of the airport in another southern region, and any new promises will likely be mere rhetoric.

The three candidates must exercise caution when coming up with campaign promises. Reckless vows are not commitments.

Voters must let them know that any irresponsible pledges cannot buy them votes, no matter what.

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