Handle your scandals firstThe race for the 20th presidential election has kicked off with aspirants registering with the National Election Commission. Six made the cut from the ruling Democratic Party (DP) — former Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae, Gyeonggi Governor Lee Jae-myung, ex-prime ministers Lee Nak-yon and Chung Sye-kyun and lawmakers Park Yong-jin and Kim Doo-kwan. The main opposition People Power Party (PPP)’s primary candidates also registered. The next presidency will not only decide an extension or change in governing power, but could also better define better livelihood after the pandemic debacle and a path to a new age of union. Taming runaway housing prices, stabilizing a rent crisis, and honing income after Covid-19 are imperative. Yet the early stage of the race is entirely engrossed in scandals involving the two frontrunners Gyeonggi Governor Lee and former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl.
The contest is stalemated because the concerned candidates have been evasive on several allegations. When Lee was asked about his scandal with an actress during a TV debate among DP candidates, he snapped, “Should I let down my pants again?” In a radio interview, Lee also cut the question short saying the issue should be judged by objective facts. Yet the actress has been upping her voice. The scandal won’t die down as long as Lee treats it as a bygone issue.
Yoon also has been equivocal on the allegations about his wife and mother-in-law. His wife has been accused of plagiarizing her thesis. Still, Yoon pointed to similar suspicions on the papers of Lee Jae-myung, Chung Sye-kyun and Choo Mi-ae. When his mother-in-law was sentenced to a three-year prison term during her first trial for fraud for breaking the medical act, he coolly said, “Everyone should be fairly tried and investigated. Family is no exception.” It sounded like a comment as an outsider.
Every presidential aspirant must go through rigorous judgement.
Governor Lee said Yoon could not be responsible for what his wife did before marriage — as if to build a truce of convenience with his primary rival.
Korea must overcome the fourth wave of Covid-19 and find ways to stabilize the overheated housing market and create jobs. Future industries must be redesigned amid conflict between America and China. A demographic crisis from the world’s lowest birthrate, fast aging, and long-standing North Korean nuclear issue must be addressed. To move onto the contest of policies and vision, the frontrunners must handle their own scandals first.