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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on April 5)

All News 07:12 April 05, 2016

Grandpa politics
Recycled politicians front parties, cause cynicism

It's not so much their age but the baggage that comes with it, which causes voters to wonder whether they should take the campaign leaders of the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea (MPK) seriously. The worry is that the voters' skepticism may come true as soon as the April 13 parliamentary general election is finished. The two are Kim Chong-in, 76, the MPK's interim leader, and Saenuri Party Chairman Kang Bong-kyun, 73. First, they partially owe their appointments to their hometowns in the area known as Honam encompassing North and South Jeolla provinces, running the risk of stoking one of the biggest politicial ills ― regionalism.

Kim was brought in after the party was split when Honam-based lawmakers bolted in an internal dispute and joined the People's Party, led by former computer businessman Ahn Cheol-soo. Kim, so far known to be from Seoul, has highlighted his claim that he is Honam's native son, drumming up the support in the region that Ahn's People's Party is expected to be strong in. Moon Jae-in, who recruited Kim, is campaigning in his home base in Yongnam ― the North and South Gyeongsang provinces ― the rival of Honam. Kang was a last-minute recruit by the ruling party, after he had been put in mothballs. A Kim aide derided the Saenuri Party for being out of loop and not up to date. To say the least, the two have turned the nation's political clock back by a generation, at least in appearance, to the era of "three Kims" at the dawn of Korea's democracy. The real problem, however, is that the two are "recycled" politicians who switch their allegiances with the easiness by which one flips a coin.

Kim was an architect of the conservative incumbent President Park Geun-hye. He was credited with the "democratization of the economy," aimed at strengthening the distribution of wealth. But he walked away after obviously losing out in the after-election power struggle.

Kim was involved in one way or another in a succession of governments starting with Army general-turned-strong man, Chun Doo-hwan. He also showed his naked political ambition when he ate his words and awarded himself with secure fifth nomination as a proportional representation lawmaker. Kang had retired after serving three terms as a lawmaker for the liberal parties.

He is well remembered for serving as the finance minister during the Kim Dae-jung administration. Then, he served his first term as a ruling party lawmaker under President Roh Moo-hyun. Since he was regarded as a liberal politician, his joining the Saenuri Party took many by surprise.

There are two other issues for voters. The first is that the two are the "real power" in their respective parties. The likelihood is that after they are used for campaigning purposes, they will be discarded or given a minor position. In other words, even if important campaign pledges such as quantitative easing and minimum wage raises are not pursued, there will be no one to be held responsible. It is another case of the same old ruse by the parties to dupe the voters with false promises ― the politics of irresponsibility. On a bigger scale, what impact do they have on the voters and, more importantly, future generations? It is hard to blame voters for their increased cynicism about these kinds of politicians or partisan politics behind them.

As supposed elders of our society, the two should ask themselves what legacy they want to leave. We are certain that they wouldn't teach their grandchildren to live an unconscionable life. And if this is the case, they should better lead by setting better examples.

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