Voters should make clear-headed decisions
With the 19th parliamentary elections just two days away, most voters must have made up their minds by now. The reality seems somewhat different, however. And it seems attributable less to voters’ indifference or indecision than the confusing situation of the ongoing election.
Most, if not all, elections are to judge the incumbent government and its party. In Korea today, however, the governing camp cunningly broke this time-honored frame by spinning out a new ruling party led by a minority faction of the existing one. Henceforth an unprecedented campaign scene, in which the ``new” ruling Saenuri Party is denying its former self, attacking both the old Grand National Party and opposition parties.
Part of the blame should go to the main opposition Democratic United Party. Of all the mistakes the largest opposition party made, the biggest one was also related to self-denial. It called for the cancellation of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement and Jeju naval base, policies started by DUP when it was a ruling party more than five years ago. The party should have stopped at vowing to supplement the projects instead of repealing them.
Its nomination of some radical and/or low-grade candidates, also aimed at forming alliances with splinter leftist parties, provided additional fodder for Saenuri to step up its mudslinging campaign, which is useful for hiding real issues, instigating political apathy and pulling down the turnout of swing voters, which is usually advantageous for the governing camp.
People tend to dislike and disbelieve those individuals and groups who deny themselves for short-term gains. Yet a wise, clear-headed voter would do well to stop and think: which self-denial is more grave, irreversible and damaging to the nation?
Few, even including most leaders of the Saenuri Party, are denying the nation has gone backward in almost all areas since President Lee Myung-bak took office four years ago. The biggest victims is the nation’s democracy, which suffered a painful setback, as government employees conducted illegal surveillance of citizens and tried to cover it up, and the aides of some ruling party lawmakers are suspected of masterminding cyber attacks on the Internet site of the election management agency to keep young voters away from polling booths.
President Lee might want to claim the credit for economic records, namely the rise in per capita GDP and hosting of a few global summits. As the bulk of the increased national wealth went to big businesses, however, the income gap is now wider than ever, making people feel more alienated than proud about large international events held with taxpayers’ money.
No less lamentable and scary is sharp aggravation of inter-Korean relations, which turned the Korean Peninsula from the world’s last remnant of Cold War era into its live stage.
In short, under President Lee’s tenure, a dominant majority of Koreans have come to feel more uncomfortable (about life), unfair (about wealth distribution) and uncertain (about future security, economic and political).
Rep. Park Geun-hye, the de facto leader of the Saenuri Party and its likely presidential candidate, is of course pledging to change all this. But she and her followers have remained silent ― actually helped in most cases ― while President Lee made all those mistakes and wrong decisions. How can they persuade voters who think their transformation in the final year is just for the sake of remaining in power? Renowned scholar Kim Yong-ok was reflecting such sentiments when he said, ``All politicians at the Saenuri Party are rats that gnaw away at the house and desert it in the final hours.”
One does not have to be an academic to realize humans ― and groups of humans with similar interests ― can’t change so easily.