Actions speak louder than wordsThe three presidential candidates have declared their plans to overhaul politics. Their plans largely coincide, indicating political reform is likely regardless of who gets elected. We all know that certain reforms are necessary and imperative, but whether their promises bear fruit remains to be seen.
Real political reform requires key changes to the process of nominating and selecting lawmakers. Political aspirants often have to pay their dues, but in Korea, this is often taken too literally as shown by all the cases of graft meant to curry favor from people in power.
Park Geun-hye of the ruling Saenuri Party wants more civilian participation in the selection of candidates for both the ruling and opposition parties. Moon Jae-in of the opposition Democratic United Party and independent Ahn Cheol-soo believe nominees should be elected entirely through open primaries. Civilian participation would be a crucial experiment, and the parties should discuss this in detail after the December election.
The three candidates have agreed to scrap party nominations for councilmen of local government assemblies, who act like subordinates to lawmakers of the National Assembly, because the latter wield so much influence in nominations. The local assemblies are also often swayed by party platforms and partisanship in making local decisions. Stripping away their party affiliation could pave the way for a refreshing new kind of local governance.
Park, Moon and Ahn have also proposed strong measures to rein in cases of corruption linked to the nominations. Park vowed to make the culprits pay for the cost of by-elections and extend the ban on serving in public office to anyone with a record of corruption dating back 20 years.
Moon and Ahn have yet to discuss how they plan to tackle the issue when they discuss their proposed merger.
The three candidates also share the idea of reducing the president’s power and enhancing the authority of the prime minister. Such changes should aim to stamp out favoritism in presidential appointments without interfering with the president’s power to govern.
Furthermore, Park promised to make lawmakers more answerable to the law. She called on the need to form a legislative ethics committee entirely made up of outside members. But actions matter more than words. We have heard these kinds of promises before. Political reform should be an effective impetus to push the country forward amid a slew of challenges in the fields of security, economy and welfare.