The candidates’ lack of vision

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The candidates’ lack of vision

There is a political term called the “median voter theorem.” Politicians tend to present similar platforms because they need to accommodate the opinions of the typical voter. Anyone who strays too far to either the left or the right has less of a chance to win. This election dynamic may explain the platforms of the Big Two - Park Geun-hye of the ruling Saenuri Party and Moon Jae-in of the main opposition Democratic United Party.

On the economic front, it is hard to tell the difference. They promise more or less the same - to resolve income disparity, increase social welfare benefits, realize democratization and justice in economic practices, and create jobs. But both pay little attention to stimulating real growth.

In welfare spending, they both pledge to offer free day care for children under the age of 5, cut university tuition fees by half, make high school education free and ease health care costs. They pledge to deliver the same solutions in labor - guaranteeing a shift in irregular jobs to permanent ones after a certain period, banning discrimination against irregular workers, extending the retirement age to 60 and implementing tougher guidelines on firing workers. There also is agreement on blocking large companies from targeting mom-and-pop stores, imposing punitive damages on unfair practices, toughening criminal penalties on chaebol and protecting small- and medium-sized enterprises.

They merely differ in the details. To ease household debt, Park proposes public funds and Moon says he will lower interest rates on loans and enhance fair lending practices. Their biggest difference is in the policies against chaebol. Moon wants to re-employ a cap on total stake-holdings in conglomerates by major shareholders and ban cross-affiliate investment.

Because their platforms are more or less the same, so are their flaws. The platform booklet is a manifesto by a presidential hopeful to explain to the people how he or she will lead the country. It must clearly demonstrate a vision of governance without a conflict of interest in policies. But they lack vision and come up with more spending. Their platforms are full of contradictory policies. Both promise to make non-permanent jobs permanent, but they neglect the ramifications in hurting corporate competitiveness that would reduce jobs in the long run. Northern European countries have long manifested that flexibility in the labor market is key to sustainability. Instead of promising to cut medical costs, they should have thought hard about ways to reduce unnecessary health care spending. Otherwise, public health care costs will eat into fiscal integrity and lessen the budget to increase jobs and welfare. Their platforms hardly meet the standard of presidential hopefuls running for a country of our status. Or do they believe voters won’t bother to read their pledges? With such poor planning and strategy, the next president faces a tough fight.

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