Coincidence or political guiles?
Starting this month, the country’s drug prices fell by double digit rates as the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) slashed price tags of a total of 6,506 medicines, about a half of total covered by medical insurance.
The policy aimed at eliminating the so-called illegal kickbacks from drug firms to doctors or pharmacists was decided last summer but it went into effect just 10 days before the April 11 parliamentary election.
On top of its administrative procedures, the MOHW says that pharmaceutical firms, hospitals and pharmacies needed the grace periods, which were longer than seven months, to prepare for the step.
Yet, some observers cast suspicious eyes since the measure was effectuated just days before the parliamentary election despite the strong oppositions from pharmaceutical firms, which even brought the case to the court.
Their rationale: the Ministry might pick the date at April 1, not other dates like May 1, because the lowered drug prices would help the governing Saenuri Party, which stages close rallies with opposition parties in the election.
To boost their footing, they also pick up the fact that former Minister of Health and Welfare Jin Soo-hee, also a lawmaker at the Saenuri Party, spearheaded the introduction of the policy.
Without regarding to what is true, Jin would not be happy.
In case the remarks of the critics hold some truth, Jin would be angry because the Saenuri Party opted not to nominate her for the April 11 election in spite of her efforts to underpin the party.
Some even suspect of the North’s expected launch of a long-range rocket that continues to grab headlines of South Korean newspapers of late.
The general belief is that any threats from Pyeongyang tend to generate woes on national security thus helping parties with conservative philosophies like the ruling Saenuri Party.
Similar things happened in the past.
One week before the parliamentary election in April 1996, the North vows not to accept the demilitarized zone (DMZ), which has been maintained during 40 years after the end of the Korean War (1950-53).
In response, the South jacked up its defense readiness. But the atmosphere of South-North standoff disappeared as soon as the election came to an end after then ruling party took 139 seats of the overall 299.
Back then people had no clue what happened but they could guess what might take place behind the scene later when officials in the South asked the North to make a fire ahead of the 1997 presidential election.
Yet, not everybody see the North up-and-coming missile launch under such a perspective.
``In the past, such strategies might work. But now people got far smarter and anybody who adopt the same tactics might suffer from backlashes rather than positive effects,’’ a Seoul analyst said.
``You should know that the North may have determined the timing on their own because their remarks will have more influence during the time of election campaigns.’’