An insulting mockery of the people

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An insulting mockery of the people

The presidential campaign trail last year had been boisterously swamped with bizarre and wasteful promises. One of the most ridiculous came from former South Gyeongsang governor Kim Doo-kwan, who ran in the primary of the main opposition Democratic United Party. He pledged to cut 500,000 won ($448) in monthly spending in all middle and lower income households. In absurdity, it beat one of other campaign promises to shave apartment prices by half.

He had an outrageous plan. He would make the mobile phone voice and text messaging service free and cut the overall telecommunication costs by establishing a public wireless Internet network. The government would offer housing maintenance allowances to ease living costs and make dentures and dental implants free through public health insurance coverage. If he had been elected, the country’s three wireless operators - as well as the public health insurance - would have gone bust. He was mocked as a dreamer and fool, and, unsurprisingly, lost the primary.

Independent candidate Ahn Cheol-soo would win in the most reckless category. He suddenly came up with the idea of moving the Blue House to a place “closer to the people.” He fell short of explaining why, how, where and when to implement the plan. He simply explained that the idea came from a desire to connect better with the people. He backtracked from the plan when it came under attack and said he would determine the time and place through a public debate after winning the election. If he likes public debate so much, why did he not seek public opinion on his latest plan to run in the Nowon district by-election?

The worst campaign promise could be the DUP’s idea of cutting lawmakers’ salaries 30 percent. DUP front-runner Moon Jae-in and his followers proposed it during a special congressional meeting 18 days before the primary vote. Then-floor leader Park Jie-won explained the party wanted to share economic pain with ordinary citizens. Two days later, the entire membership of the party submitted the bill to the National Assembly.

The 30 percent salary cut pledge is the worst because it insulted voters’ intelligence. Few voters ever thought of suggesting a cutback in legislators’ salaries and spending. Instead, lawmakers volunteered to cut as much as 30 percent. The DUP may have thought voters would be impressed and moved by its self-sacrificing overture. They believed they would score big time with voters. But they were seriously wrong. Voters are not immature children who would follow a stranger who offers sweets.

Money is always a sensitive issue that could demonstrate the real nature of an individual or group. If the DUP had been sincere, it should have made at least small steps to carry out the pledge. The party may say that it made the proposal, but the ruling Saenuri Party has yet to respond. But it isn’t the ruling party that came up with the idea and promised it. The DUP did it, and it alone is accountable for acting on the pledge.

While dragging its feet on its own campaign platforms, the DUP pulled back the president on her steps to carry out her set of campaign promises. What relationship is there anyway between cable network operators and fairness in broadcasting? The DUP improvised on the list of terms to demand from the ruling party and new government in return for endorsing the president’s government reorganization bill. It demanded dismissal of a broadcasting company president and prosecution investigation even though they have no connection with the government restructuring plan.

Cutting back lawmakers’ salaries requires a law revision. But there are many other ways lawmakers can carry out the promise on austerity. They can contribute 30 percent of their salaries to society. If there was a will, there would be the way.

But most lawmakers won’t likely act on their word. In fact, most of them would not have thought hard on what might be at stake when they agreed to go along with the plan. Even if they had known, they would not be able to easily part with their precious money now. We can hardly expect all of the DUP members to return 30 percent of their earnings.

An alternative move would still be a good idea. The figureheads - Moon Jae-in, former presidential candidate; Moon Hee-sang, head of the party’s emergency committee; Park Jie-won, then floor-leader; and Park Ki-choon, incumbent floor-leader - could all honor the promise.

The DUP recently announced a set of party reform plans. But none of them is credible unless the party acts on the 30 percent cut first. They could have regarded voters as naive children. But children have very good memories.

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Jin
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