Fairer economic system
Selections show ruling party’s slogan is just lip service
``Economic democratization” is the buzzword for all political parties, ruling or opposition, liberal or conservative in the ongoing campaigns for April’s parliamentary elections. This should come as small surprise in a country where 99 percent of ordinary people have to worry about their economic future amid polarizing incomes.
Even the governing Saenuri Party, which has mainly served the interests of the top 1 percent of big businesses and wealthy individuals during the past four years, is pledging a shift toward greater public welfare and fairer income distribution.
So much so that voters are finding it hard to differentiate liberals from conservatives by their platforms alone. For good or bad, the Saenuri Party’s selection of candidates has helped them avoid much of the confusion.
There are few, if any, candidates on the center-right party’s slate who are likely to enhance the nation’s economic democratization, which calls for balanced growth, fair distribution and the prevention of market control and abuse of economic power by a few, according to Article 119 of the Constitution. What the conservative party calls the ``warm-hearted market economists” are nowhere to be found.
Almost all of the dozen or so economic experts on its candidate list are preachers of ``MBnomics,” the economic policy of President Lee Myung-bak, who supported tax cuts for the rich and sneered at welfare as populism. Voters were right when they doubted sincerity of worker-friendly policy coming from the ``party of and for the rich.” Many lawmakers of the Saenuri Party are millionaires and even billionaires, who don’t know a thing about poor people’s lives.
Nothing showed the Saenuri Party’s true colors better than its nomination of Kim Jong-hoon, a former trade minister who signed the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement, for Gangnam-B District, a town of the wealthy. Little wonder, again, considering Rep. Park Geun-hye, head of the Saenuri Party’s interim governing body and its standard-bearer for the presidential election, has called for the need to protect small-scale venders when she visits traditional markets, while extolling the Korea-U.S. FTA harder than anyone.
The center-left Democratic United Party is not much better, as it dropped some reform-minded economists from its candidate list, either because of their relative obscurity or because of their radical assertions to turn moderate voters away. This is in part understandable, as the elections should be the realistic game of electability. It is for this reason the leftist New Progressive Party’s calls for dismantling the chaebol does not attract but chase away voters.
Yet voters should not equate this common lack of reformist candidates in the two largest parties to a case of six of one and half-a-dozen of the other.
At least one party appears eager to change the status quo, in which some large family-controlled conglomerates have lived as if they were above the law, bribing officials in all three branches of the government and handing over corporate control to their children paying only a token amount as tax, while the other party is not very enthusiastic to do so.
The choice couldn’t be simpler.