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(EDITORIAL from the Korea Herald on March 8)

All Headlines 07:02 March 08, 2016

Unwelcome distraction
It is sickening to see political bickering over N.K.

The issue of North Korea has dominated local news outlets over the past two months. Though Pyongyang's nuclear test occurred in early January, the national defense issue has become more heated at the National Assembly after the Ministry of Unification shut down the Gaeseong industrial park in February.

A common question raised by the public is why the North Korean issue seems to come to the fore whenever nationwide elections are near at hand. Netizens express great curiosity about the supposed coincidences.

Some point out that the North often conducts provocations when the South is about to hold major events, which includes elections and international sporting events. The practice has had impacts on the political sector, dubbed a "North wind," among South Korean voters.

This time, things are the same as in past years. About a month ahead of the April 13 general election, bickering between the ruling and opposition parties over the issue has deepened.

The liberal opposition, without fail, calls for the ruling Saenuri Party to cease exploiting the national security issue involving North Korea’s nuclear threats or possible attacks on the South. Ruling party lawmakers on the conservative side denounce the opposition for trying to foster a public backlash and create a headwind against progress on the issue.

Supporters of liberals have alleged that conservative candidates quietly welcome the North's provocations. Supporters of conservatives have refuted this, arguing that liberals have always sought to mislead public opinion by misusing national security matters for political purposes.

Considering the political fight over the "wind from the North" has continued the past few decades, a large number of voters could regard it as a soiled electoral campaign.

For the ruling party, its candidates should not dismiss the allegation among critics that the government is fueling inter-Korean tensions in an attempt to distract voters from controversial state policies, such as the deal with Japan over the issue of sex slavery during World War II and the government's plan to publish uniform national history textbooks.

The Park Geun-hye administration and the pro-government Saenuri Party cannot be free from the market assessment that their economic policies since early 2013 have been ineffective in improving the situation for ordinary households.

When it comes to the opposition, many supporters are believed to be disappointed with their fracturing amid power struggles among some leaders, including Moon Jae-in and Ahn Cheol-soo. And they have failed to effectively suggest alternative economic polices during legislative activities.

Inter-Korean policies must be a determining factor in the nation’s elections. Nevertheless, candidates' poor performances in administrative and legislative parts should not be overshadowed by the wind.
(END)

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