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(EDITORIAL from The Korea Herald on April 14)

All News 07:07 April 14, 2016

What election meant
Parties should reflect on their actions

Koreans have selected 300 people who will form the new National Assembly, with the hopes that it will -- at the least -- be better than the current parliament which many see as one of the worst performers in its history.

Now that voters gave their verdict, politicians -- while trying to grasp what voters’ choices mean -- will say all the fine-looking things: Winners will express appreciation in the most modest possible manner, and promise to work only for the people; losers will express humble acceptance of the people’s judgement and a desire for a fresh start.

Whatever they may say, the 20th Assembly -- given what the major parties have done in the months leading up to polling day -- is unlikely to be different from the current parliament, where partisan strife often paralyzed legislative business and its members failed to meet the expectations of those who elected them.

The first clue to what the new parliament will be like came in the nominations of candidates by the ruling party and the main opposition party. Both failed to live up to their promise to reform the way they nominate candidates.

On the contrary, nominations in the ruling Saenuri Party turned into a chaotic internal war between President Park Geun-hye and her followers on one side and party leader Kim Moo-sung and his associates on the other. In many cases, nominations were allocated based on which faction candidates belonged to, not on their individual merits.

The nomination process at The Minjoo Party of Korea also raised voters’ eyebrows. The biggest fuss came from its interim leader Kim Chong-in, who threatened to quit when he encountered opposition to his own decision to put himself in the No. 2 spot on the list of candidates for lawmakers to be elected through proportional representation.

Having been preoccupied with internal power struggles, the major parties failed to develop key election agenda. As usual, they threw out long lists of campaign pledges, but many of them were old ones and few drew voters’ attention.

There was not a single policy debate session between the leaders of the major parties or their campaign chiefs, which would have offered opportunities for voters to assess each party’s stances on issues like North Korea and the economy.

The parties made one questionable promise after another. Saenuri leader Kim Moo-sung said in Ulsan that he would protect workers of Hyundai Heavy Industries from layoffs; Minjoo leader Kim Chong-in, visiting Gwangju, said he would bring Samsung Electronics’ “future car” plant to the city. It’s regrettable that some voters in the cities must have been duped by such empty, irresponsible remarks that are only aimed at courting votes.

All in all, the campaigns failed to convince the people that politicians will change and the new Assembly will be different from the current one. It is sad that we are likely to have to endure another four years with a parliament as reprehensible and dysfunctional as the one we have now.

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