A good, close look

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A good, close look

 A TV debate among four presidential candidates will be held this evening. The two frontrunners — Lee Jae-myung of the ruling Democratic Party (DP) and his rival Yoon Suk-yeol from the opposition People Power Party (PPP) — insisted on a two-way debate on January 31 during the five-day Lunar New Year holiday. A court disallowed it, citing a lack of opportunity for the remaining candidates. Lee and Yoon failed to have a two-way debate because of their sharp disagreements over the way the debate should proceed. Both Lee and Yoon should be ashamed of themselves.

A four-way debate to be covered live by three terrestrial broadcasters will offer a precious chance for voters to weigh the qualifications of the candidates for the job. The candidates are expected to tackle heated issues such as national security, diplomacy, real estate, economic growth and job creation followed by a tug of war over many suspicions about their pasts and families.

Since there are limits to how long they will get to speak, audiences must pay keen attention to what they say, particularly given a heated competition between the two leading candidates to promise more spending if elected.

The TV debate will likely have an impact on the election given the public’s ever-growing dislike for the two main candidates. Instead of showing mature images, Lee and Yoon have been wrestling with a plethora of controversies about themselves and their families. With barely a month left before the election, the gap in their approval ratings is getting slimmer. As a result, a whopping 87 percent of the public wants to watch the debate. One in four said they may vote for a candidate depending on the results of the debate.

Presidential candidates must not disappoint the voters. We hope they present visions for the country rather than bickering over peripheral issues. Given the challenges the country faces — overcoming the Covid-19 pandemic, arranging a post-pandemic economic structure, North Korea’s endless firing of missiles, wealth polarization and the aging of our population — candidates must come up with effective solutions.

Since the TV debate between Richard Nixon and his contender John F. Kennedy in the 1960 U.S. election, it has become a ritual in Korea, starting in 1997. As TV debates have become an essential apparatus for voters to judge presidential candidates and their worthiness for an office at the pinnacle of our political structure and democracy, anyone wishing to be leader of this country must go through this invaluable public scrutiny on television.
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