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(EDITORIAL from the Korea Herald on April 9)

All News 09:37 April 09, 2016

Sugar-coated pledge
Political parties should not meddle in corporate affairs

Political leaders often promise voters the moon in a desperate attempt to win elections. Kim Jong-in, the interim head of The Minjoo Party of Korea, did just that in Gwangju on Wednesday.

Gwangju has long been a bastion for the opposition party. For decades, its citizens have provided overwhelming support for the party's candidates in elections, without bothering to ask whether they are qualified or not.

Not anymore. Many Gwangju voters have shifted their allegiance to the minor opposition People's Party. So much so that the Minjoo Party faces the grim prospect of suffering defeats in all of the city's eight constituencies in the upcoming election.

So Kim traveled to the city to hold what the party called a "special" news conference. There, he offered an unexpected campaign pledge: to create 20,000 jobs over the next five years by having Samsung Electronics set up its auto electronics plants in Gwangju.

Kim's pledge was a reaffirmation of a promise made by Yang Hyang-ja, one of the party's candidates in Gwangju. A former Samsung Electronics executive, Yang is staging an uphill battle against Rep. Chun Jung-bae, one of the People's Party's joint leaders.

Yang pledged to make Gwangju a hub for auto electronics by attracting Samsung's investment, which she said would reach 3 trillion won. She claimed that Samsung was supportive of her plan.

In the news conference, Kim, flanked by Yang, declared that the party would throw its full weight behind her scheme.

Yet Samsung responded to the party's plan negatively. Noting that it was still evaluating the feasibility of the vehicle electronics business, the company said it had not worked out any detailed plans on how to promote the project or how much it would invest.

Auto electronics is one of the businesses Samsung regards as its future growth engines. It is a business in which the company thinks its future is at stake. Fostering such an important business should be left to the company. Intervention by a political party is probably the last thing it needs.

Kim's news conference drew fire from the People's Party. Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo, who leads the party with Rep. Chun, rightly assailed Kim for attempting to twist the arms of a private company to turn the tide of the election.

The idea of relying on Samsung's investment to create jobs in Gwangju goes against Kim's theory of economic democratization. Kim dismisses the notion that Korea's economic growth depends on investments by large corporations. He believes that Korea should shift to a new growth paradigm centering on small and medium-sized companies.

Kim's pledge in Gwangju was nothing more than an attempt to deceive voters with a sugar-coated promise. Voters should beware of unrealistic pledges.

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