The rush to the bench

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The rush to the bench

 The Seoul Western District Court has put the brakes on a TV debate slated for January 30 or 31 between ruling Democratic Party (DP) presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung and his rival Yoon Suk-yeol from the opposition People Power Party (PPP). The court accepted an injunction by minor opposition People’s Party (PP) candidate Ahn Cheol-soo to not allow a broadcast of the two-way TV debate. The bench based its decision on a “huge impact of the bilateral debate on the election with only 40 days left before the date [March 9].” The court also cited “apparent disadvantages for a minor party candidate” expected from a two-way debate that would be held during the five-day Lunar New Year holiday, when families get together across the country.

The two-way debate itself is not illegitimate. The Public Office Election Law allows a candidate from a political party with more than five seats or a party that won more than 3 percent of votes in the previous election or a candidate who got more than 5 percent approval on average in polls to participate in TV debates hosted by the National Election Commission as mandated by the law. In the case of TV debates organized by the press, they don’t have to follow the guidelines. And a debate among too many candidates is not ideal. Nevertheless, since a court decision has been reached, each party must fix a date for a three-way TV debate as soon as possible to offer the voters a precious chance to judge their qualifications as head of state.

Our political circles have once again repeated their diehard habit of going to court whenever disputes occur. They could have addressed the issue through negotiations among themselves, but ended up with a court decision again after being engrossed with their own political calculations.

Politicians relying on judicial decisions is a dangerous path. The DP rushed to file for an injunction against the sale and distribution of a book describing a conflict between DP candidate Lee and his brother, but a court rejected it. After the PPP filed for an injunction against MBC’s plan to air a transcript of a sensitive conversation between PPP candidate Yoon’s wife and a pro-government YouTube channel reporter, the court allowed MBC to broadcast a part of the transcript. After watching this rush to the bench, the public is expressing serious concerns about politicians’ inability to solve problems on their own.

The judiciary should not be final arbiters of everything. Politicians should solve their own problems for themselves. Their frequent accusations against rival candidates inevitably move their battlefields into courts. This is a practice that has to end.
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