Campaign nastiness

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Campaign nastiness

The final days leading to Election Day have been marred with nasty campaigning and ugly mudslinging by the two leading presidential candidates, who are locked in what appears to be a dead heat. The tense rivalry between the right and left has only gotten worse with few signs of an obvious winner. As a result, the presidential wannabes are hurling malicious and defamatory accusations as their final pitches to voters. Rumors, tirades and all kinds of conspiracy theories are flooding social networking services, the Internet and the message services so beloved by smartphone users.

The final week of the campaign underscored how recalcitrant and backward our political sensibilities are. Unrestrained and unconfirmed statements are repackaged and purveyed as facts, or at least plausible theories. Former podcaster and political satirist Kim Yong-min, who lost in the last legislative election representing the Democratic United Party, claimed Saenuri Party candidate Park Geun-hye had a 20-year-old connection with an unsavoury religious cult in a vulgar attempt to provoke and spook conventional Christians. His former gang, the people at the anti-government podcast “Naneun Ggomsuda” (“I’m a Petty-Minded Creep”), accused Park of spending 150 million won ($139,500) to hire a shaman to conduct rituals and seek spiritual powers to resolve her controversial association with a scholarship foundation established in the memory of her father, former President Park Chung Hee. The Saenuri Party filed defamation charges, but the accusation spread far and wide. Park held a press conference Friday condemning the smear campaign.

Democratic United Party candidate Moon Jae-in also fell victim to the slanderous rumor that he filled 80 percent of the posts in the presidential office with pro-North Korean figures when he was chief of staff to President Roh Moo-hyun. Another rumor said his father served in the North Korean Army during the war. The Seoul branch of the National Election Commission confirmed that a person associated with the Saenuri Party cooked up the rumors and spread them.

Mudslinging and smear campaigns can undermine an elective, democratic system. It is foul play to turn voters against a rival by using false information and deliberate lies. Election authorities should act firmly and quickly against illegalities in the final stage of the campaign. They must closely monitor postings online and off and act on any wrongdoings. Most importantly, voters should use their better judgment. They must turn a deaf ear to slander and calumnies. A new and purer form of politics can be ushered in by voters as well as politicians.

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