Campaign pledges can do harm

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Campaign pledges can do harm

Iconic liberal economist Kim Sang-jo, a professor at Hansung University, made a candid confession in a recent interview with the JoongAng Ilbo.

“Even a staunch supporter of chaebol reform like me now believes the three presidential candidates went too far in chaebol bashing,” he said. “Even though an aggressive spate of campaign promises for economic democratization may help boost presidential contenders’ possibility of victory in the December election, it will pose a serious threat to their successful governance after being elected.”

The candidates may as well start with the pressing issues of chaebol reform on which most voters agree rather than comprehensive reform, Kim advises.

The vociferous reform-minded scholar took the lead in organizing a movement to protect minority shareholders’ rights, which scared the chaebol big time. Still adhering to his philosophy on the issue, academic and activist Kim strongly advocates the legitimacy of economic justice and chaebol reform. He also remains steadfast in his conviction that economic democratization can only be achieved by confronting two fundamental problems: Chaebol reform and economic polarization in our society.

Given his unyielding posture on the issues, Kim’s latest confession could translate into an argument for controlling the speed of economic democratization and chaebol reform. Yet we take special note of his advice that we need to approach the issue in a minimalist way, as politicians competitively trot out a series of populist pledges ahead of the election even without considering any of their serious ramifications.

We are convinced that our presidential hopefuls have come up with over-the-top promises for economic justice to increase their possibility of victory. The move originates from their obsession with winning the election at any cost. However, such a mindset could drive the whole country into larger divisions. A group of conservative opinion leaders of our society issued a statement yesterday that demands the political establishment immediately stop such an irresponsible attempt to legislate economic democratization.

Even if economic justice and chaebol reform are the right way to go, each presidential candidate should take a different method and approach. They need to polish their economic pledges more rationally so they become feasible. As professor Kim said in the interview, campaign promises can be put into action only when they are justifiable to voters. After that, our society can make real progress.

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